My First Thanksgiving

>> Saturday, November 28, 2009

My husband and I hosted Thanksgiving for the first time this year, and I can't think of a single thing about it that I didn't enjoy. I got to have my mom, dad, sister, brother (and brother's family) here for three days, and I got to cook a fantastic feast from scratch and share it with people I love. So family, I've decided that we're having Thanksgiving here from now on!

I didn't shoot for the 100-mile Thanksgiving this year (maybe next year), but I think we did pretty good at sticking to our values despite the holiday.

(One minor incident...As my dad was setting the table, he passed out paper towels for everyone instead of the cloth napkins we normally use in my house and accidentally ended up using all the paper towels. But now I'm wondering how long I can go before buying more paper towels. Maybe this will be the motivation I need to finally go off paper towels completely!)

My sister and dad, ready to dig-in

On the Menu


November Round-Up

>> Monday, November 23, 2009

I'm way over in a lot of categories here. Groceries because I stocked up on some things - hopefully, it will even out over the next few months. Transportation costs and mileage because I drove out to Chapel Hill to buy some local wheat. Entertainment/miscellaneous because it was my birthday and we've been sick. Trash because I had a purging episode - mostly through Craigslist, but some things went into the trash - and also because I was low on trash last month.

Monthly Spending (budgeted amount in parentheses)

  • Groceries: $799.95 ($650)
  • Transportation: $175.07 ($150)
  • Energy: $90.33 ($150)
  • Utilities: $42.54 ($50)
  • Entertainment/Miscellaneous: $510.25 ($400)
  • Clothes: $0 (no set budget)
  • TOTAL: $1,618.14 ($1,400)

The Numbers:
  • Trash: 6 bags of trash (13 gallon bags); 1 recycling bin with plastic, metal, and glass; 2 paper grocery sacks of paper
  • Miles Driven: approx. 850 (someone pressed the mileage button, so I lost exact count)
  • Average daily electricity use: 22 kWh
  • Average daily water use: 122 gallons

Best of...

Next Month I'll Be...


I'm Hosting My First Carnival...

>> Sunday, November 22, 2009

I'm the host of the December APLS Carnival on Green Journeys. I hope you'll participate!


Make Your Own: Flour Tortillas from Scratch (and a question about wheat)

>> Thursday, November 19, 2009

Although most of our grocery purchases are organic or local nowadays, I've still been buying our favorite brand of cheap flour tortillas. We like the small size, the taste, and the convenience - burritos are my "I don't have time to cook tonight" meal. But I don't like the questionable/processed ingredients or the plastic packaging.

I've looked at Whole Foods for tortillas, but all I could find were some gluten-free things, and frankly, I'm not getting the whole gluten-free fad. I have no need for a gluten-free diet, and although I know many people (including Oprah) who are buying gluten-free products even though they haven't been put on a gluten-free diet by their doctors, I don't really understand why. Maybe someone wants to leave a comment explaining it to me. :)

Anyway, I'm mostly still sticking with our old reliable tortilla brand, but occasionally I make tortillas from scratch. They are sooooo yummy, healthier, and there's no plastic packaging involved.

Flour Tortillas

MAKES 8 tortillas
COST: $0.15 per tortilla

1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. water
  • Combine the flour and salt.
  • Cut in the butter.
  • Gradually add the water.
  • Refrigerate for 4 to 24 hours. (The recipe I have says to do this , but I have to admit that I never have. As I said, burritos are my quick meal, and refrigerating for 24 hours would make them completely not quick.)
  • Divide the dough into 8 to 12 pieces, depending on how big you like your tortillas.
  • Roll each piece very thin.
  • Cook on a hot griddle for about 20 seconds on each side.

And hurray, hurray, I finally got around to looking up that wheat farmer my friend told me about forever ago. I went and picked up some wheat from them last week - brought my own five pound buckets - so if I can get into the swing of grinding my own wheat, that's one step closer to zero waste!

Question though - does anyone know anything about soft wheat? I bought two buckets of hard wheat, and one of soft. Hard wheat is what most of us are used to, but the soft wheat is supposed to be good for things that don't rise like cookies and pancakes. But I always do half white half wheat in all my baked goods. Could I substitute the soft wheat for the white flour, eliminating the need for all-purpose flour?


Noteworthy Green: Trees, Recycling, Indoor Shoes, and More...

>> Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Check out my latest posts at The Green Phone Booth: Make Like a Tree, and Leave...

"My husband spent three hours getting the leaves out of our yard last weekend," a friend told me. "An hour to blow them all into a pile, and then two hours to bag them all up."

"Wow!" I replied casually, but inside I was screaming. Why, oh why, did he waste time getting the leaves out of his yard??? I want more leaves in my yard! We don't have any trees, and although we got enough leaves from our neighbors' trees to do this...


and Are You Smarter Than a Tenth Grader?
My mom runs the virtual lab at a high school (that's the computer lab where students can take online classes), and she sent me the following email today:
I've got a student assignment where they have a list of products that can be recycled and have to tell what those products can be recycled into. I've spent a half hour on google and can't find a good website. I'd like one that covers most of the products. Know any? The products are--food waste, yard waste, plastic, metal, glass, paper, and cardboard.
I sent back a quick reply and then started thinking...Do I know what those products are recycled into?


And elsewhere on the Internet:

:: Time magazine reports that Sesame Street taught children to be conscious TV viewers - and oh yeah, their ABCs.

:: Maya*made is a genius! Napkin holders out of security envelopes. I would have never thought of that.

:: The Simple Dollar flashes back to his reader's 25 best actions for saving money.

:: The Scrap Exchange has four fun videos with ways to reuse cardboard.

:: Tom Philpott discusses ways and whys the government needs to rebuild ag infrastructure for small farmers.

:: Kitchen Stewardship suggests having a pair of shoes only for indoors. Interesting idea. I usually wear slippers in the winter, but Katie suggests that shoes keep your feet from hurting and keep you productive.

I'm now using Twitter to keep track of my noteworthy green reads. If you'd like instant knowledge of what I find interesting, you can find me on Twitter as consciousshoppr.
Photo by


I Need...Shoes

>> Sunday, November 15, 2009

First off, let me say that on the spectrum of Things That Make a Big Difference to Saving the Planet, shoes are pretty far down there. But if you, like me, are trying to live as sustainably as possible, shoes do matter. Because we all own a pair (or two or three or four).

So why should you be conscious about your shoes?

1) Because of what shoes are made of...

Tanning leather uses many toxic chemicals such as mineral salts, formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, and various oils and dyes, some of them cyanide-based. Also, the leather usually comes from animals raised in factory farm settings.

On the other hand, fake leather shoes are made of plastic - generally PVC, the evil king of all plastics.

2) Because of how shoes are made...

Most shoes are produced in countries with poor environmental and labor standards (or with less enforcement of those standards). Workers labor under harsh conditions for little pay (in many places, well below a liveable wage) and are often exposed to toxic substances.

3) Because there are so many shoes on the planet...

According to Simple Shoes, 12 billion pairs of shoes were produced worldwide in 2004 with a projected production of 20 billion shoes in 2010. In 2005, Americans purchased 1.4 billion pairs of shoes - approximately four and a half pairs of shoes per person. That's a whole lot of shoes!

Okay, now here's what you can do:


  • Donate your oldie-but-goodie shoes to a thrift store.
  • Recycle your athletic shoes through Nike's Reuse a Shoe program. Says Nike: "Since we started the Reuse-A-Shoe program in 1990, we've collected more than 24 million pairs – in other words, enough to create a chain of athletic shoes that goes all the way around the world more than five times. That’s a lot of kicks kept out of the landfill." And that's just the number of shoes collected, a minuscule amount of the number of shoes that are bought (and tossed) every year.
  • Purchase fewer shoes. I have to admit, I've never been the type of girl to go ga-ga over shoes, so I really don't get the shoe hoarding habits of so many women. I'm not going to judge you if you're that type of girl - I have my own questionable habits (Diet Coke) - but maybe you could cut out one or two pairs?
  • Buy quality. Investing in good shoes is not only eco-friendly (because you'll be shopping for shoes less often) - it's also a money saver. It might seem counter-intuitive, but in general, spending more for a quality product will save you money in the long run. Think of your shoes as an investment for your feet.
  • Repair, not replace. Locate a good cobbler and make your quality shoes last.
  • Look for shoes made from eco-friendly materials. Many conventional shoe companies have started manufacturing a "green" line. Or you can look for a sustainably-commited company like Simple Shoes, which produces shoes with recycled tires, recycled plastics, organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, and other earth friendly materials.
  • Buy used.

Tips for the Budget Conscious
Quality or eco-friendly shoes can be pricey, so I've got one important tip for you: Shop the sales! A couple months ago, I bought some flip flops from Simple Shoes for $10 (regularly $40). I wish I'd waited to buy my hemp EcoSneaks, which I bought at full price but saw on clearance a couple weeks ago for half price!

The other budget conscious route is of course to buy used. But I've found that finding used shoes can be touch and go. Shoes are an item that people wear until they're falling off their feet, so good shoes don't usually end up at the thrift store. I've found better selection at consignment stores, but they're also more expensive - often the same price as new shoes on sale but not in new condition. I've had much better luck with used shoes for my kids.

Where I'm At
I've been able to get my dress shoes at the thrift store, but my everyday sneakers I bought new from Simple Shoes. I've also got my eye on some TOMS. My kids almost always get used shoes.

Photo by Ella's Dad

Related Posts:


Defeating a Swarm of Fruit Flies

>> Thursday, November 12, 2009

A few people have asked me how the worm bin is going, so here's a little update...

I definitely made the mistake of putting too much food in the bin when we were starting out. One of the many advantages of a worm bin over a traditional compost bin is that it's not supposed to stink, but our bin started getting pretty rank. We also got a major gathering of fruit flies, and some of the worm tea started leaking out of the bottom holes.

There came a week when the weather was going to drop down really low, and it would have been best to bring the worms indoors for the night. But there was no way I was going to bring that rank mess of flies and worms into my house.

Luckily, the worms survived the cold, and they seem to be multiplying. In the meantime, I've cut way back on how much I was putting in there. I think I've gotten better now at telling how much I can feed them, but it sure isn't as much as I was hoping. At this rate, we're going to need several more bins to be able to compost all of our waste.

Warning, gross pictures ahead...

Even though the worm bin is out on our porch, a swarm of sneaky fruit flies snuck into the house. If you ever have the same problem, here's how you get rid of fruit flies:

STEP ONE: Keep your counters cleared of anything that the fruit flies might find appetizing.

STEP TWO: Put a small bowl of apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar on the counter. Apparently, fruit flies can't resist the stuff. Leave the bowl on the counter for a few days, and pretty soon, you'll see this:


Noteworthy Green: Walkable Cities, Glue Sticks, Sesame Street, and More...

>> Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Check out my latest post at The Green Phone Booth: These Cities Weren't Made for Walking.

My butt is mad at me tonight.

Earlier today, I had a meeting downtown, so I loaded up the stroller - three umbrellas, two kids, one backpack, and a partridge in a pear tree - and hauled all 100 pounds of it up and down North Carolina's hills to the bus stop a half a mile away. We took a quick trip on the bus to my husband's office, and then I deposited the load in my husband's safe hands before heading off to the meeting.

And elsewhere on the Internet:

:: As if to prove the point of my Green Phone Booth post, New Raleigh points to a study listing Raleigh as the sixth most dangerous city for pedestrians.

:: Loving Nature's Garden has ten tricks to get kids outdoors.

:: Kelly at The Green Phone Booth gives us the scoop on recycling glue sticks.

:: Planet Green lists 45 foods you can make yourself (but didn't know you could).

:: The Greenists celebrate Sesame Street's attempts to help children go green.

I'm now using Twitter to keep track of my noteworthy green reads. If you'd like instant knowledge of what I find interesting, you can find me on Twitter as consciousshoppr.

Photo by Suzie T


Still here...

>> Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It was my birthday this weekend, and I unintentionally unplugged. But it's been good...A yummy dinner at a local restaurant. Homemade cookies (no cake for me, thank you!) Binge reading an entire novel in one day. And this:

I'll be back to blogging soon!


I'm sick...Screw the planet!

>> Friday, November 6, 2009

Anyone else feel this way?

Thankfully none of us have gotten the flu yet. But I've had a cold for four weeks and it sucks.

Today I forgot to eat breakfast (you can tell I'm sick - when have I ever forgotten breakfast?). I didn't remember until we were already out and about, and I just felt like, "Screw the planet. I'm going to Starbucks."

Here was my order, in all it's lovely overpriced trash-filled glory:

I think we all have days like this.


Noteworthy Green: Kind Giving, Dinner Co-ops, Meatless Mondays, and More...

>> Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Two posts at The Green Phone Booth this week...

Giveaway: No Impact Man

I was the super happy winner of Fake Plastic Fish's No Impact Man giveaway a couple months ago. I've now finished the book (and loved it!) and am ready to pass it on to someone else! To be entered to win my gently used copy of this book, simply leave a comment on this post. I'll announce the randomly selected winner next Wednesday.

and A Season of Kind Giving

Around this time last year, I wrote a post on my personal blog called "Thank You, Dear Stranger" about gratitude. I explained that my husband and I were trying to teach our sons that gratitude is meaningless without action. It's useless to feel grateful for someone if you don't tell them, or even better, show them. I concluded: "Wouldn't it be wonderful if the holiday of Thanksgiving were accompanied by a season of kind-giving?"

Well, this year, I've decided to do just that. In the next couple of weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, my family will be making a gratitude tree:


And elsewhere on the Internet...

:: One Green Generation describes how and when to plant garlic.

:: Amy at the Simple-Green-Frugal Co-op explains the benefits of starting a dinner co-op.

:: The Atlantic discusses the meat industry's reaction to Baltimore school's Meatless Mondays program.

I'm now using Twitter to keep track of my noteworthy green reads. If you'd like instant knowledge of what I find interesting, you can find me on Twitter as consciousshoppr.


To My Green Triangle Readers

>> Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I would like to start a group blog focused on sustainability in the Triangle, and I'm looking for other writers who might be interested in joining. The blog would cover sustainability issues in the whole Triangle area (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Cary, Apex, Morrisville, Holly Springs, Garner, Fuquay, Knightdale, Carrboro, Pittsboro, etc. if I'm leaving anyone out). I'm also hoping to put together a group that spans the green spectrum and with interests in a variety of environmentally-related topics, such as the following to name a few:

  • transportation
  • water issues
  • supporting local agriculture
  • supporting local restaurants and shops
  • energy efficient building
  • gardening (backyard and community)
  • healthy and seasonal cooking
  • enjoying nature
  • environmental organizations
  • recycling
  • raising eco-friendly kids
Basically the kinds of topics I cover on this blog but with a local focus. I've tried to write several posts a month focused on Raleigh, but in my experience, group blogs are a) more fun to write for, b) easier to write for and c) more popular than individual blogs. Plus, I'd like to create a central place on the web where people in the Triangle can find information about going green and getting involved in making the Triangle a more eco-friendly place to live.

All blogging experience levels are welcome.

(And I really want to hear from all you Carrboro and Chapel Hill residents! You need to share your wisdom with those of us in Durham and Raleigh!)

If you're interested in this project, you can email me at consciousshopperblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

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