End of the Week Round-up

>> Sunday, January 31, 2010

We have two challenges rounding up this week:

How'd you do on this week's challenge?

I'm a Marathon Runner on this challenge. Except for remembering to take a thermos with me for Starbucks hot chocolate runs (which I didn't have to worry about this month because of the extreme challenge). But my solution is that I'm going to stick a couple clean thermoses in the car, so they'll always be there when I need them. Works for cloth bags, should work for hot chocolate.

a family of water bottles

Thoughts on the extreme challenge:

So if you remember, the point of the extreme challenges is to push yourself a little bit farther than you would normally go so you can find your sweet spot. If you struggled with your challenge throughout the month, you probably need to wind it back a little bit to get to your sweet spot. If you had no trouble at all, see if you can stick with it going forward.

My family had decided to...
  1. Me and the kids - go the full extreme and try not to eat out all month.
  2. My husband - keep up the habit of eating out with his co-workers, but they committed to only patronizing local restaurants for the month.
My big issue with eating out is the quick runs to Starbucks for hot apple cider and Krispy Kreme for hot chocolate (or to Cookout for shakes in the summer). And I admit it was tough sometimes. But I focused on making more hot chocolate at home, and for times that I really want a hot apple cider, I just need to take my own thermos in the future.

I think avoiding fast food restaurants helped us stay in the budget this month - even though we've always paid lip service to avoiding fast food restaurants, a fast food run always sneaks in somehow. I'm really going to try not to go to fast food restaurants in the future (with possible exceptions while on vacation).

I did miss eating out in general and am really looking forward to getting to go out to eat with my husband at some of our fave local restaurants. But we're going to work on bringing our own take-out containers to lessen the impact of eating out.

My husband says he had no trouble at all...except when he was traveling. That's definitely a nice thing about living downtown.

What about you?
____________________

You have hereby been challenged to go green in a year without going broke! Check out the last challenge, or view the whole list of Challengicious Mondays.

Like what you see? Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook! You can also find me over at The Green Phone Booth.

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How to Get the Most out of The Conscious Shopper Challenge

>> Saturday, January 30, 2010


1. Sign up for my RSS feed so you'll always know when I've posted a new challenge.

2. Participate in the Go Green without Going Broke group on Facebook. Don't just join: post comments, add discussions, and upload photos. Let's make it a fun, interactive group of greenies!

3. Use the checklists. You'll be able to find a checklist for each group of challenges on the main Conscious Shopper Challenge page. Keep up with your green changes by printing these checklists on recycled paper OR be extra green by saving your own editable digital copies. I think the checklists will be especially helpful for newcomers and people who fall behind in the challenges. Plus, doesn't it make you feel so accomplished to be able to check things off of a list?

4. Add the Conscious Shopper Challenge button to your blog using the following html:

     <a href="http://bit.ly/8e7hmt">
<img alt="The Conscious Shopper Challenge" height="'131'"
src="http://bit.ly/cImcsv"
width="'150'/" />
</a>


5. Tell your friends. It's so much more fun to go green when you have company. Let's see how many people we can get to go green this year!

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More on My Charlie's Soap Internal Debate

>> Friday, January 29, 2010

I received a response from Taylor Sutherland, president of Charlie's Soap, earlier this week (as I've said before, their terrific customer service is one of the reasons I've always liked this company). Here's what he had to say:

Howdy,

I've attached a note from Charlie that goes to the heart of why we're really hesitant to fully disclose all the workings of Charlie's Soap. Long story short, no one makes detergent this way. It was a breakthrough that has never occurred to the Big Boys so we just don't tell them. If they found out, we'd be out of business because they'd copy it and we wouldn't be able to compete. Butyl celosolve has been the subject of misinformation for years now. It rhymes with methyl and ethyl celosolve and those two are horrible to be around. The amount of Butyl that we use breaks down in the earth completely in a month (97.3% in 28 days) and is non-toxic based on a the recommendation by Duke University. The scale they use is that 50 parts per million in the air (a dense fog of pure Butyl celosolve) is the limit for being non-toxic. We use a tiny percentage in water. If you smell the product you're smelling a microscopic fraction of the 50 parts per million which is the non-toxic level.

On a personal note, we made Charlie's Soap to be safe not only on paper or for a government regulation, but because when it was created, we knew personally all the workers at the textile plant that were going to be using it. Being sued is bad enough, but being made a pariah because you made Mrs. Collins from down the street sick is MUCH worse. We made Charlie's Soap to such exacting standards of efficacy and safety for just that purpose. And 16 years (1976 to 1992) in industry work with no recordable safety incidents speaks volumes. These people were using it 25% strength all day long, hosing down machinery, scrubbing and rinsing. The were soaked head to toe all day long in Charlie's Soap. I personally was bathed in it as a young baby. My brother has MCS and actually makes the product getting raw ingredients all over himself and he's fine.

I hope this helps give you a better understanding just how safe Charlie's Soap is but also give you an idea of just how secretive we have to be, within the law, of course.
According to the document he had attached, here's what's in Charlie's Soap:
  • The powdered laundry detergent (what I use) contains coconut oil based surfactants, sodium carbonate, sodium silicate, and soda ash.
  • The liquid laundry detergent contains coconut oil based surfactants, sodium carbonate, soda ash, and water.
  • The all-purpose cleaner contains coconut oil based surfactants, a natural solvent (this must be the butyl celosolve), sodium carbonate, soda ash, and water.
It also says that their products have been tested for toxicity by Duke University, for biodegradability by Japan Food Research Labs, and for effectiveness by SGS U.S. Testing Labs.

What I Think


I can totally see their point - as a small company, they're worried about losing market share to bigger companies if their formula is revealed. But from a consumer standpoint, how can I decide if a product is safe if I don't know what's in it? Because Duke University says it's safe? There are so many ingredients that companies claim are safe that independent researchers say are not. Think BPA. So how do I know who to trust?

The other problem is with the generic label "coconut based surfactants," which I see on all sorts of "all natural" products. I learned today from Jennifer the Smart Mama that sodium lauryl sulfate is a coconut based surfactant, and that's one of those ingredients that we're supposed to be avoiding. So it almost seems like companies are using the term "coconut based surfactant" to avoid admitting that they're using ingredients their customers might not be happy about.

What Now?

I'm always coming back to the same old questions about non-toxic cleaning products and beauty supplies. For now, there just don't seem to be products in those categories that meet all of my qualifications: non-toxic, affordable, and get the job done.

It's like with my whole shampoo dilemma: the non-toxic products that I tried left my hair a greasy mess, and I'm sorry but I'm no dirty hippy. But the Lush shampoo bar with sodium lauryl sulfate leaves my hair looking normal. And it's affordable and comes with zero packaging.

Or the makeup dilemma: the makeup brands that score really well on Skin Deep are way out of my price range. But I can find organic makeup in recycled paper packaging from my corner drugstore.

For now, does the answer have to be less toxic is good enough?

I'm interested to hear your opinions both on the Charlie's Soap issue and the wider non-toxic/less toxic dilemma!

____________________

You have hereby been challenged to go green in a year without going broke! Check out the latest challenge, or view the whole list of Challengicious Mondays.

Like what you see? Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook! You can also find me over at The Green Phone Booth.

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ECOBAGS Product Review and Giveaway

>> Thursday, January 28, 2010

Do you need a little extra nudge to complete last week's Switch to Cloth Bags challenge? I'm here to help!


ECOBAGS REVIEW

ECOBAGs generously sent me one free canvas tote for my review. When I pulled my tote out of the mailer, I did a little happy dance. After using those recycled plastic green bags from the grocery store for three years now, this bag feels so high quality and chic. It's huge! And strong! (And I'm a total dweeb for getting so excited about a bag...)

The sample I received is an organic cotton tote that says "Nothing on Me is Plastic." The photo does not do justice to how much this baby could hold (up to the equivalent of four or five plastic bags, according to the company). It's machine washable - you should periodically wash your cloth bags - and I love the extra long handles that can fit over my shoulder for easier carrying.

Packaging
  • As you can see from the top photo, my tote arrived in a UPS bubble mailer - not the ideal packaging, but my ECOBAGS contact assured me that typical orders are shipped "in a small cardboard box with rice-based peanuts" and that products are generally shipped via USPS. (My bag came in a bubble mailer because it was shipped from their public relations agency rather than an ECOBAGS warehouse.)
Materials
  • ECOBAGS are available in a variety of natural, organic and recycled fibers.
Manufacturing
Quality
  • One of the first things I noticed about my ECOBAG canvas tote was how strong it seems. Maybe it's just because I'm used to using those aforementioned recycled plastic bags from the grocery store that feel like you could punch a hole in them with your finger nail. The canvas material that the ECOBAG is made of feels very sturdy and long-lasting. My one criticism is that I think the handles could use some extra reinforcing stitches.
Affordability
  • The ECOBAG that I received for review costs $16 each online, which is pretty pricey for a cloth bag, but ECOBAGS carries products in a wide range of prices starting at about $5 for totes and $2.50 for produce bags. You can also get a good deal by buying one of the "E-Shopping Systems," starter kits with canvas, string, and produce bags.
Availability
  • According to their website, ECOBAGS are available in natural foods, gourmet, eco, grocery, and drug stores, and of course you can order them online.
Visit ecobags.com for more information and to purchase your own ECOBAGS!

GIVEAWAY

ECOBAGS is offering a produce bag set to one lucky reader of The Conscious Shopper!

This set includes three produce bags (small, medium, and large) made of unbleached, untreated cotton. The bags are ultra lightweight so they will barely register on the produce scale.

If you're ready to progress from Baby Steps to Jogging Stride, this set would be a great addition to your cloth bag collection!

To enter:
  • Leave a comment on this post with a tip for how you remember to take your cloth bags with you when you go shopping. If you're a recent convert to cloth bags, you can describe how you plan to help yourself remember your bags.
  • You can earn up to two extra entries by sharing this post on Facebook or tweeting it on Twitter and then leaving a comment for each thing that you do. This is completely based on the honor system, and remember that you should leave one comment for sharing it on Facebook and a separate comment for tweeting it on Twitter.
You have until next Wednesday, February 3rd to enter. I will announce the winner next Thursday. Good luck!

Comments are closed. The winner is....KaKi, who wrote:
I have been using cloth bags for several years now. I have one large canvas bag which I received free a long time ago which I use to store all my bags. I hang it over the passenger's head rest and that way it is visible to me and reminds me to pick it up. What I don't have and have been looking into are produce bags. so.....fingers crossed.....
Glad to help you get started with cloth produce bags, KaKi! Please email your address to consciousshopperblog [at] gmail [dot] com and I'll get those shipped write out to you.

____________________

You have hereby been challenged to go green in a year without going broke! Check out the latest challenge, or view the whole list of Challengicious Mondays.

Like what you see? Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook! You can also find me over at The Green Phone Booth.

Read more...

Blah Blah Bottled Water

>> Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I'm over at The Green Phone Booth again today with some reasons to give up bottled water:
While ranting to my mom about my personal peeve with the overpackaging of otherwise green products, I mentioned that I had written a letter to Seventh Generation asking why their paper towels are wrapped in plastic although their toilet paper is wrapped in paper. My mom replied, "I don't even know where to find Seventh Generation paper towels."

I thought my mom hit on a major point. Many, many Americans are in the same boat as my parents, who live in a small town in Kentucky. They want to be more environmentally conscious, but the only place to shop is Walmart, and their town doesn't even collect recycling.

Luckily, there are still things they can do, and one of the simplest green steps they can take is to break up with bottled water.

Read more...

____________________

You have hereby been challenged to go green in a year without going broke! Check out the latest challenge, or view the whole list of Challengicious Mondays.

Like what you see? Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook! You can also find me over at The Green Phone Booth.

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Why I Started Eating Meat Again after 12 Years as a Vegetarian

>> Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I'm over at the Green Phone Booth today talking about why I decided to add a very little bit of meat back into my diet:

This post has been in the works for about six months now, but I've been dreading sitting down to write it because of the possible backlash. I know how passionate vegetarians can be - I was one for 12 years. Some of this post also touches a little bit on my religious beliefs, which I generally like to keep personal and private. So please as you read this, keep an open mind, and be kind in your comments even if you disagree.

Read more...
____________________

You have hereby been challenged to go green in a year without going broke! Check out the latest challenge, or view the whole list of Challengicious Mondays.

Like what you see? Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook! You can also find me over at The Green Phone Booth.

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Challengicious Monday: Start Using a Reusable Water Bottle/Thermos

>> Monday, January 25, 2010

Mondays are challengicious at The Conscious Shopper. Here's your next trash-related challenge:

Start using a reusable water bottle/thermos


To complete this challenge, you can...

BABY STEPS
  • Use a reusable water bottle/thermos at work. The office is the perfect place to start this challenge because so many offices provide free coffee, filtered water...and styrofoam cups. A nice gesture, but you can do better. Bring your own mug or thermos to work for coffee and a mug or water bottle for water. (This challenge is based on the assumption that you're using reusable glasses at home. If not, start there!)
JOGGING STRIDE
  • Break up with bottled water. Bottled water is expensive and comes in disposable plastic packaging that could be leaching into your water. Plus, filtered tap water is just as clean as bottled water (in many cases, bottled water is just tap water with fancy packaging). Save money, save resources, avoid toxins...Avoiding bottled water is a Conscious Shopper no-brainer.
MARATHON RUNNER
  • Use your own water bottle/thermos at restaurants. Once you've got the hang of reusing at home and work, it's time to take your new habit out into the world. When you go to a restaurant that uses disposable cups, ask them to put your beverage in your own water bottle or thermos.
I say water bottle or thermos throughout this post, but really the focus is on switching from a single-use product (such as a styrofoam cup) or single-use packaging (such as a water or soda bottle) to a product that is reusable and long-lasting, whether that's a stainless steel water bottle, a thermos, a mug, a glass jar, or even just a glass from your kitchen cupboard.

I debated over which challenge to make the Jogging Stride and which to make the Marathon Runner, and ultimately I think it depends on what's hardest for you. I never got into a bottled water habit, so it wasn't hard for me to give up, though it might be for some people. On the other hand, I'm still working on being brave enough for "public displays of eco-affection," so asking the Starbucks barista to put my hot chocolate in the thermos I brought is a challenge for me. What do you think?

Will you take the challenge?
____________________

You have hereby been challenged to go green in a year without going broke! Check out the last challenge, or view the whole list of Challengicious Mondays.

Like what you see? Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook! You can also find me over at The Green Phone Booth.

Read more...

Introducing Product Reviews and Giveaways

>> Sunday, January 24, 2010

After much soul-searching, I've decided to start doing some product reviews and giveaways here at The Conscious Shopper. In the past, I hesitated to review products because it felt somehow contrary to my definition of a Conscious Shopper as someone who:

  • thinks before they buy
  • is aware of the effects of their purchases on others and on the planet
  • tries to choose the best possible products to meet their needs
  • lives within their means
As we continue The Conscious Shopper Challenge this year, I'll continue to encourage you to find ways to reduce and reuse before buying a new product. I'll also continue to provide tips for DIY projects that can help you save money as you go green. But I've come to recognize that not everyone is keen on the DIY route (I too am getting tired of having to do everything myself), and in those cases where going green warrants buying something, it might be nice if I gave my readers a helpful little nudge in the direction of some of the great products I've come across.

Plus, there will be opportunities to win free stuff. (Who doesn't like free?)

I plan to make my reviews honest and thorough, analyzing the following criteria:
  • packaging
  • materials/ingredients
  • manufacturing (where and how)
  • quality
  • affordability
  • need for the product
Are there any other criteria you want me to include in my reviews? Are there any specific products that you'd like me to look into?

Stay tuned later this week for the first giveaway at The Conscious Shopper!

____________________

You have hereby been challenged to go green in a year without going broke! Check out the latest challenge, or view the whole list of Challengicious Mondays.

Like what you see? Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook! You can also find me over at The Green Phone Booth.

Read more...

I'm Tired, and I Need to Vent

>> Friday, January 22, 2010

Sometimes the purpose of having a blog is to vent, and today I feel like I need to vent...

I've been using Charlie's Soap laundry detergent for four years - ever since we switched to cloth diapers. I've always loved it: It's made by a small company here in North Carolina, and when I've contacted them, I've gotten quick responses from the president of the company. I've been happy with how well it gets my clothes clean - with no added fragrance to cover up any lingering smells. It's a really affordable product - $.10 per load if you buy it in bulk (which is the same cost as making my own laundry detergent and cheaper than Tide, the last time I checked), and I know they're working on getting stores to provide their product in bulk bins. And I thought I knew what was in it...

Then a couple days ago I read a review of Charlie's Soap on Kitchen Stewardship, and Katie mentioned that the Charlie's Soap all-purpose cleaner contains an ingredient called butylcelosolv. This ingredient is not listed on the Charlie's Soap bottle as far as I know, but Katie emailed the company to find out what was in the product because she noticed that it stinks. They claim that butylcelosolv is a safe, non-toxic ingredient, but when I googled the term, I found some not-too-pleasant results, including this one from The Good Human.

I don't use their all-purpose cleaner because I make my own, but finding out that their "non-toxic and biodegradable" cleaner contains an ingredient that might not be wonderful made me wonder if there's anything in the laundry detergent that I should be worried about. The packaging of the laundry detergent says it contains washing soda, sodium silicate, and coconut-derived detergents and also says that the product is non-toxic and biodegradable. Because I like the company, I accepted that. But have I been a victim of green-washing?

To be honest, I'm not sure I'd stop using Charlie's Soap either way. Even with the butylcelosolv in the all-purpose cleaner - the jury seems to be out on how bad of a chemical that is. I've always been happy with Charlie's Soap, I think they're a great company, and I'm not super strict about possibly toxic chemicals in my life at this point. There's still sodium lauryl sulfate in my Lush shampoo. My make-up is a mess. I color my hair. Let's face it - in this category, I'm falling really short right now (though I'm making progress at doing better).

What's bothering me is that I'm really really really tired of having to try so hard. Why do I have to read the label on every single product I buy? Even for the companies I thought I trusted? And besides that, I'm not a chemist. I don't know very much about chemicals or how they react with each other or what by-products are produced when they're made. And for goodness sake, I shouldn't have to!

I am so tired of not being able to trust any companies and feeling like the only answer is to do it myself. I don't want to have to make my own laundry detergent. I don't want to have to grow all my own food or make all my own clothes. And I don't want to have to be a chemist and a botanist and a farmer and a seamstress and a gourmet chef on top of all my other roles in life.

I just want to be able to go to the store and believe that when a product says non-toxic or recyclable or organic or fair trade, it really is.

I'm reminding myself that my word of the year is PATIENCE, but sometimes patience can make a person really really tired.

Read more...

Avoid Temptation to Eat Out by Donating to a Good Cause

>> Thursday, January 21, 2010

A few days ago on the Go Green without Going Broke group on Facebook, I wrote:

Thought I'd check in and see how people are doing with this month's extreme challenge: Stop Eating Out for a Month. I've been doing great, but I just learned that several of my favorite restaurants in Raleigh are donating all profits on Tuesday to relief efforts in Haiti. I think that might warrant going out to eat. What do you all think?

Almost immediately after I posted it, I came to my senses. If I'd already been planning to eat out on Tuesday, then choosing one of those restaurants would have been a great plan. But since I'm choosing not to eat out this month, going to a restaurant just to help Haiti is kind of backward. Instead, why not skip the restaurant and go straight to helping Haiti?

So that's what I did. I estimated how much I would have spent eating out at a restaurant and donated that amount to the Red Cross.

Why Did I Choose the Red Cross?

There are numerous ways to donate both money and other goods to Haiti. One Green Generation has a decent round-up of ways to help, and Cheri at Renaissance Garden (who has been blogging about Haiti long before the earthquake) makes a good argument for not donating to the Red Cross.

But as I kept seeing mention of the Red Cross and Haiti in the news, it reminded me of a day seven and a half years ago when I came home from work to find police cars and fire trucks surrounding my apartment building and yellow caution tape all around the front of my own apartment. The apartment above ours had caught fire, and though very few of our belongings were lost (thank you so much, amazing firemen!), the apartment itself was completely ruined due to water damage. We weren't even allowed to enter the apartment to grab a toothbrush or a change of clothes.

Enter the Red Cross, which set us up for the night in a motel along with a bag of toiletries and food.

That minor crisis in our life was a drop in the bucket compared to what the Haitians are facing, but I know from personal experience that the Red Cross does good work in times of need, and I'm actually embarrassed that it's taken me this long to pay them back.

How Can You Donate?

If you'd like to donate to the Red Cross's Haiti relief efforts, simply text "Haiti" to 90999. $10 will automatically be charged to your phone bill. (Please note that your phone company takes no money from the transaction.)

If you want to donate more than $10 or if you don't have free texting, you can also donate through the American Red Cross' website.

Read more...

Life without Plastic Bags

>> Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I'm over at The Green Phone Booth today describing how we've survived without plastic bags:

Three years ago, I decided to switch to cloth grocery bags. I didn't know anyone else who used cloth bags and I suspected that the bagboy at my grocery store would throw a fit and refuse to bag my groceries, but I knew it was the right thing to do. And that I could easily bag my own groceries.

I dived right in, collecting a huge stash of bags for my bi-weekly trips to the grocery store, and besides a few rolled eyes from the cashiers, it's been a seamless transition.

Except for one thing...remembering to take my bags.

Read more...
____________________

You have hereby been challenged to go green in a year without going broke! Check out the latest challenge, or view the whole list of Challengicious Mondays.

Like what you see? Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook! You can also find me over at The Green Phone Booth.

Read more...

How to Afford Switching to Cloth Bags

>> Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I knew that I should be using cloth bags a long time before I finally switched. Regular readers of my blog know that this was the story of my life for years: I knew that what I was doing was hurting the planet, but the alternative cost too much. So I stuck with what I'd always done.

Back then, the only cloth bags I'd ever seen cost a fortune. $5 per canvas bag meant $40 to $50 for enough bags to go grocery shopping. Or double that for a collection of those cool European style string bags. It didn't matter how much I wanted to go green...I couldn't afford it. Or could I?

Then and now, there are plenty of low-cost options for people who want to switch to cloth:

  • The ubiquitous recycled plastic cloth bag. You can find these at any grocery store, in every color imaginable, with every logo you could desire, and they only cost $1. If you shop at a grocery store that rewards you for bringing your own bag, you'll make up the investment pretty quickly. These are the bags I went with when I finally made the switch several years ago, and I've been happy with them. But they aren't the perfect bag - they're not as strong as other fabrics, and they're still made of plastic that will end up in the landfill eventually.
  • Free canvas tote bags. Long before those recycled plastic bags were the big thing, every event passed out free company-logoed canvas bags. I'm sure you've still got a few stuffed in the back of some closet somewhere. Condo Blues has a great post explaining why she likes the swag canvas bags.


What kind of cloth bags do you use?

____________________

You have hereby been challenged to go green in a year without going broke! Check out the latest challenge, or view the whole list of Challengicious Mondays.

Like what you see? Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook! You can also find me over at The Green Phone Booth.

Read more...

Challengicious Monday: Switch to Cloth Bags

>> Monday, January 18, 2010

Mondays are challengicious at The Conscious Shopper. Here's your next challenge:

Switch to cloth bags.


To complete this challenge, you can...

BABY STEPS
  • Bag your groceries in cloth. Gather a collection of cloth bags and take them with you every time you go to the grocery store. Paper or plastic? Neither for you!
JOGGING STRIDE
  • Bag your produce in cloth. If you're already using cloth to bag your groceries, take it to the next level - say byebye to those thin plastic produce bags by bringing your own cloth produce bags. These bags are also useful for the farmer's market.
MARATHON RUNNER
  • Become a full time cloth bag user. Never bring home a plastic bag again! Take your cloth bags with you every time you shop.
This is one challenge where I'm happy to say I rock! Check out The Green Phone Booth later this week, where I'll tell you about the end of plastic bags in my home.

Will you take the challenge?
____________________

You have hereby been challenged to go green in a year without going broke! Check out the last challenge, or view the whole list of Challengicious Mondays.

Like what you see? Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook! You can also find me over at The Green Phone Booth.

Read more...

A Peek into My Trashcan

>> Sunday, January 17, 2010

I spent the afternoon digging through my trash. On the one hand, it was pretty fascinating since, like most people, we toss things in the trash without a second thought and promptly forget what's in there. On the other hand, it stunk.

I tried to make a conscious effort this week not to purposely censor my trash just because I knew I'd be showing everyone, and I thought our trash was looking pretty good. Then I woke up on Saturday morning, walked into the kitchen, and said, "Oh, crap."

You see, my husband hosted a poker party on Friday night, and several things found their way into my house that wouldn't normally be there. Like a Velveeta cheese package. And beer bottles. There were also two tortilla chip bags, a styrofoam cup, and some cans of Monster, which wouldn't normally be in our trash but still manage to find their way in on occasion.

We also didn't get a CSA pick-up this week, which unfortunately meant we ate a lot fewer vegetables. I think our food scraps are normally twice what is pictured here, and it's definitely more than our worms can handle - especially during the winter when they don't eat as much.


A Week's Worth of Trash

Disposables:

  • diapers
  • toilet paper (used as facial tissue)
  • food scraps
  • milk lids
  • random scraps of paper
  • plastic packaging
  • 2 superglue dispensers
  • 1 nightlight bulb
  • clementine box
  • 3 cereal bags
  • 1 cheese package
  • 1 sugar bag
  • 1 tortilla bag
  • 2 tortilla chip bags
  • 1 velveeta cheese wrapper
  • styrofoam cup with lid and straw
  • cocoa tub
  • broken belt
  • tie from sweatpants
  • broken sunglasses
  • dried-out marker
  • random craft pieces
Recyclables (not pictured):
  • 2 milk jugs
  • 3 soymilk containers
  • 3 fruit cans
  • 1 olive can
  • 1 tomato can
  • several beer bottles
  • several Monster cans
  • 3 cereal boxes
  • 1 velveeta cheese box
  • random pieces of paper from First Son's school, our art projects, and junk mail.
Compostables (not pictured - fed to worms)
  • 3 yogurt containers of carrot peels, apple cores, sandwich crusts, and other miscellaneous food scraps

A few notes about some of the items:

Diapers: We use cloth during the day and disposables at night because my kids get terrible rashes when we try cloth at night. The babe that's in diapers now has about six more months, I think, until we'll be done with diapers for good.

Random scraps of paper: This included colored paper (which our recycling doesn't accept), nonrecyclabe Christmas and birthday cards, and various other bits that somehow got dirty or oily.

Broken sunglasses: Second Son got these from the doctor. They broke the next day.

Milk jugs: Normally we buy milk in returnable glass bottles, but Whole Foods was out of stock last week.


Brainstorming Solutions
  • Diapers: Try cloth at night one more time. If that doesn't work, prepare to potty train.
  • Toilet paper: Make handkerchiefs.
  • Food scraps: Start another worm bin or try traditional composting.
  • Random scraps of paper: Try harder not to get paper dirty, making it unrecyclable.
  • Plastic packaging: Be more mindful of the packaging on products I buy.
  • Cereal bags and boxes, tortilla bag, tortilla chip bags: Make food from scratch.
  • Sugar bag, cocoa container: Check the bulk bins.
  • Food cans: Can at home in glass jars.
Now I have a plan of action for reducing my trash.

How is your trash exploration going? Did you keep track of your trash for a week?

If you took pictures of your trash, you can add them to the Photos page over at the "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook.
____________________

You have hereby been challenged to go green in a year without going broke! Check out the latest challenge, or view the whole list of Challengicious Mondays here.

Like what you see? Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook! You can also find me over at The Green Phone Booth.

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Happy 101 Award

>> Friday, January 15, 2010

Lisa at Retro Housewife Goes Green awarded me the Happy 101 Award. She has a great blog and an amazing following - you should check her out. Thanks, Lisa!


Now, here are the award rules, copied and pasted from La Mama Naturale’s blog:

First: Copy the award image in your post.

Then, list 10 things that make you happy, try to do at least one of them today, and tag 10 bloggers that brighten your day.

For those 10 bloggers who get the award, you must link back to my blog!...(As usual, I'm cool if you don't feel doing this on your blog or linking back to me.)

Let’s get started, shall we…

1. hot chocolate

2. thick blankets

3. warm weather

4. fireworks

5. good, clean books

6. patterned tights

7. long walks

8. snuggling with my hubby

9. blogging

10. These fabulous fellows:


Bloggers that Make Me Happy:

(I've already mentioned many of the green bloggers I enjoy a few times, so I thought this time I'd list the crafty, artsy, and food bloggers I read. They always have the most amazing pictures.)

1. Imagine Childhood
2. Progressive Pioneer
3. SouleMama
4. The Crafty Crow
5. Smitten Kitchen
6. Sweet Eventide
7. The Artful Parent
8. Quince and Quire
9. New Green Mama
10. fresh365
11. peppermags
12. maya*made

I know there's 12. I couldn't leave one out - they're all wonderful!

Read more...

The K.I.S.S. Method for Saving Time in the Kitchen

>> Thursday, January 14, 2010

The kitchen is usually my domain, and I have a hard time giving up control. But my non-vegetarian husband and I have had an agreement since the early days of our marriage that if he wants to eat meat for dinner, he gets to cook it himself. And that is why one night after I had remarked in passing that we needed a side dish to go with dinner, I sat down to a meal of sausage, eggs, and cucumbers.

My first thought: "Cucumbers are not a side dish..."

My next thought: "Cucumbers as a side dish!"

Ah, the beautiful simplicity of it. No chopping and steaming and seasoning broccoli. No peeling and cutting and mashing potatotes. No husking and boiling and scraping corn. Just a simple plate of cucumbers. Which weren't even peeled.

So the credit for the Keep It Simple, Stupid Method for saving time in the kitchen goes completely to my husband.

The idea is basically that you do things in the kitchen to keep your meals simple and therefore save time.

I know...duh, right? But when you're cooking from scratch and you enjoy cooking like I do, it's easy to let meal preparation take over your life. You thumb through cooking magazines and scroll through cooking blogs and your weekly menus get more and more complicated and then dinnertime rolls around and you've only got 30 minutes to prepare a meal that takes an hour or more.

And that's when it's time to take a breather and remind yourself:

Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Here's how:
  • Simple Sides. As I mentioned above, fresh vegetables make a perfectly good side dish - especially with a heavier meal - and require almost no preparation. Fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower...Mmmm.
  • Simple Potatoes. There are a billion and one ways to cook a potato, but I'd wager the simplest is to bake it. If you've got your oven on for any reason, toss a few potatoes in, bake for an hour, and serve them as a side dish later in the week. No peeling, cutting, or mashing required.
  • Simple Bread. Bread by any other shape is still just bread. If you've got a perfectly good loaf of bread sitting around, don't waste time making rolls, breadsticks, biscuits, or flatbread (unless you're ultimate goal is to impress your kids). It might be shaped differently, it might even be a little boring, but it's not going to taste much different.
  • Simple Stews. The simplest of all meals is the one where you throw a bunch of ingredients into a pot, simmer, and serve. It's extra nice if you can get your crockpot involved. As in this recipe for chili:
Vegetarian Chili


SERVES 4
COST: $1.17 per serving *

2 cups black beans (or 1 can)
2 cups kidney beans (or 1 can)
2 cups butter beans (or 1 can)
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup frozen corn
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. parsley
1 Tbsp. oregano
1 Tbsp. basil
  • Drain and rinse beans if using canned.
  • Combine beans, tomatoes, corn, green pepper, and onion in a crockpot.
  • Season with chili powder, parsley, oregano, and basil.
  • Cook on high for two hours.
*Note that all costs are estimates based on prices in my area. Your costs may vary.

How do you keep it simple in the kitchen?

____________________

You have hereby been challenged to go green in a year without going broke! Check out the latest challenge, or view the whole list of Challengicious Mondays here.

Like what you see? Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook! You can also find me over at The Green Phone Booth.

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I have a guest post at Kitchen Stewardship today!

>> Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Check out Katie's post on Homemade Yogurt Recipes (So You Can Eat It All the Time), which includes all of my suggestions for how we use yogurt in our house:

When I started making my own yogurt, I quickly learned that the key to making yogurt from my own starter is to make a lot of yogurt. If I make a quart of yogurt a week, my yogurt always turns out great. If I make it every three or four days, even better. But if I go too long between batches of yogurt, my starter loses its "starting power:" I get runny yogurt, or the yogurt doesn’t set at all.

But unless you loooove yogurt, a bowl of tangy, thick milk with fruit gets old fast. So I’ve come up with lots of creative ways to use up our yogurt so I always have a fresh starter…

Read more...
If you're not making your own yogurt yet, here's the method I use for making yogurt (though I should update that post to clarify that I make it in a glass jar now rather than the plastic container that came with my yogurt maker because of the problems with heating foods in plastic).

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Three Reasons to Care What's in Your Trash Can

1) Trash is a waste of money. You pay for the packaging your food and other products come in. Then you immediately throw that packaging away. And you pay for the garbage bag you put it in, and then you pay for someone to come take those garbage bags away. Everything about trash is a waste of money.

2) Your trash is the window to your soul.
What would someone discover about you by looking in your trashcan?

3) Trash is taking over our oceans.
There's a spot in the Pacific ocean where so much plastic has accumulated, they call it the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It's an island of plastic the size of Texas, where plastic is choking out all the sea life.




Who cares about trash?


:: Fake Plastic Fish writes about one specific aspect of our trash: plastic. You should also check out the other plastic free bloggers and her plastic free posse listed on her site here, and take her Show Us Your Plastic Trash challenge.

:: My Zero Waste helps people reduce the amount of trash they produce.

:: The Story of Stuff describes the sale, use, and disposal of all of our stuff.

:: Catalog Choice helps you reduce your junk mail.

:: Earth911 tells you everything you could possibly want to know about recycling - including where to recycle.

:: Garbage Land by Elizabeth Royte describes the intriguing journey of trash from your own bin to the landfill.

Why do you care?

____________________

You have hereby been challenged to go green in a year without going broke! Check out the latest challenge, or view the whole list of Challengicious Mondays here.


Like what you see? Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook! You can also find me over at The Green Phone Booth.
  • Photos from http://algalita.org/

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Challengicious Monday: Keep track of your trash for a week

>> Monday, January 11, 2010

Monday's are challengicious at The Conscious Shopper. Here's your next challenge:

Keep track of your trash for a week.

To complete this challenge, you can...

BABY STEPS
  • Count the number of trash bags you fill in a week. For example, my family fills approximately 1 13-gal bag a week.

JOGGING STRIDE
  • Keep track of what you throw away. Put a notepad near your trash can, and every time you toss something in, jot down what it is.

MARATHON RUNNER
  • Dig through your trash. At the end of the week, pour out your trash bags (a plastic sheet and some rubber gloves might come in handy), take some pictures, jot down some notes, and really get hands on with your trash. This is the absolute best way to become familiar with what you're throwing away.

What's in my trash can? Come back at the end of the week to find out!

____________________

You have hereby been challenged to go green in a year without going broke! Check out the last challenge, or view the whole list of Challengicious Mondays.

Like what you see? Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook! You can also find me over at The Green Phone Booth.

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Trim Your Waste-Line

>> Sunday, January 10, 2010

For the next eleven weeks, The Conscious Shopper will focus on ways to help you:

Trim your waste-line.


We'll be cutting back on our trash production with the following weekly goals:
Why start with trash?

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the top three aspects of our lives that make the biggest difference to planetary health are transportation, housing, and meat-eating. So why are we starting with trash?

Because trash is easy.

Reducing the amount of garbage you produce requires very minor lifestyle tweaks - bringing your own bags to the grocery store, requesting that your coffee be put in your own mug, filling up your recycling bin. The hardest part is remembering to do it.

**TRIM YOUR WASTE LINE CHECKLIST**
Keep track of your eco-changes by printing this checklist on recycled paper OR be extra green by saving your own editable digital copy.

So let's get to it and see if we can drop a few pounds in 2010. Come back tomorrow for the first trash challenge.

____________________

You have hereby been challenged to go green in a year without going broke! Check out the latest challenge, or view the whole list of Challengicious Mondays.

Like what you see? Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook! You can also find me over at The Green Phone Booth.

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January Extreme Challenge

>> Thursday, January 7, 2010

Here's your extreme challenge for January:


Stop Eating Out for a Month



To complete this challenge, you can...

BABY STEPS
  • Give up fast food for a month. Fast food restaurants are the biggest culprits in eating out - from the napkins, straws, and wrappers to the over-sized food choices, sodas, and factory-farmed meat. Try opting out of fast food just for one month.
JOGGING STRIDE
  • Only eat at locally-owned restaurants for a month. Even if you're dining habits still result in lots of trash and food waste, at least you'll be supporting the businesses in your community and maintaining your city's individuality. You could also take this challenge a step further and support only restaurants that serve local, sustainable, and organic dishes by searching the Eat Well Guide.
MARATHON RUNNER
  • Only eat home-cooked foods for a month. You can do it! Go a whole month without eating out.
As always, you can modify these suggestions to meet your family's needs. Just make sure you:

Make a plan.
Write it down.
Post it somewhere you'll see it.

My husband and I have completely different weaknesses when it comes to eating out. Of the two of us, I'm a billion times more likely to be in the car with three grumpy little people and suddenly realize, "Oh, crap, it's lunchtime." My husband, on the other hand, goes out to a sit-down restaurant once a week with his co-workers and orders something meaty. That ritual is one of the few times my non-vegetarian husband gets to eat meat, and it's important to him. I like to see my man happy.

So our plan is...
  1. I'll be going the full extreme and trying not to eat out all month.
  2. My husband will keep up the habit of eating out with his co-workers, but they've committed to only patronizing local restaurants for the month.

Will you accept the January Extreme Challenge to stop eating out for a month? Let me know in the comments what your family will be doing.

____________________

You have hereby been challenged to go green in a year without going broke! Check out the latest challenge, or view the whole list of Challengicious Mondays.

Like what you see? Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook! You can also find me over at The Green Phone Booth.

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Find the Sweet Spot

>> Wednesday, January 6, 2010

One of my green blogger heroes is Colin Beavan aka No Impact Man, who spent a year trying to produce no environmental impact. He conducted his experiment in phases, starting with trash and then moving on to transportation, eating, shopping, etc. in an attempt to move gradually toward zero impact.

At one point near the end of his experiment - when his family had turned off the electricity, given up toilet paper, and were washing clothes in their bathtub - his young daughter got sick and threw up in her bed. Beavan stripped off the sheets but (understandably) couldn't bring himself to wash them in the bathtub, so down into the basement washer and dryer they went. With that, Beavan realized that there was a point in going green that was too far - a point where a green lifestyle feels too much like a sacrifice.

Beavan later noted in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor that "with either extremely high or very low resource use, quality of life was poor. But there was a virtual sweet spot, right at the peak, when they had enough to be happy but not so much that they were weighed down."

The point is to find that sweet spot.


Going Green = Being Happy

I've always maintained that going green shouldn't make you miserable. If you're sacrificing to save the planet and it's making you unhappy, you've gone too far. But on the other hand, I also think we can get complacent about certain behaviors that feel comfortable to us - certain aspects of our lives that we're not as willing to work on or give up because we're so used to them.

It's possible that giving them up might be too uncomfortable - as handwashing clothes turned out to be for Beavan. But it's also possible that we're holding on to those things out of habit rather than need, and that we could actually give them up and still be happy.

In fact, except for occasionally feeling like my green lifestyle changes are more time-consuming, every change I've made so far in the name of going green has either made me happier or made no impact on my life whatsoever.



Push Yourself to Find Your Sweet Spot

So in addition to the weekly challenges in the Conscious Shopper Challenge, I will also be doing a monthly Extreme Challenge to work on some of those habits that are dying hard.

The basic idea is just to give up one thing for one month (but nothing as extreme as turning off the electricity or handwashing clothes!) and then at the end of the month, analyze how we felt. If we didn't mind the change, we'll stick with it, but if it was too much of a sacrifice, we'll know we went too far.

Here's the list of Extreme Challenges, I'll be working on this year:

The point is not to make me or my family miserable but to push ourselves so we can find our sweet spot.

As with all of my challenges, there will be varying degrees and ways to modify the challenge to fit your lifestyle. I hope you'll join me!


Come back tomorrow to learn more about January's Extreme Challenge!

____________________

You have hereby been challenged to go green in a year without going broke! Check out the latest challenge, or view the whole list of Challengicious Mondays.

Like what you see? Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook! You can also find me over at The Green Phone Booth.

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Three Reasons to Care about Your Carbon Footprint

>> Tuesday, January 5, 2010

1) Climate change wrecks all the fun.

2) Climate change is a human issue.

3) Climate change is a national security issue.


Who cares about carbon footprints?

:: My Low-Carbon Diet: From gas gluttony to fuel fitness in three weeks @ The Sierra Club: The author attempts to shrink his carbon footprint in three weeks.

:: Shrink Your Impact, Offset the Rest @ Green America: The low-down on the most reputable ways to offset your carbon footprint.

:: The Low Carbon Diet @ Time Magazine: Another look at one person's attempt to reduce her carbon footprint.

:: Reduce Your Carbon Footprint by Half in Three Easy Steps @ Planet Green: Become a weekday vegetarian, buy green power, and cut three flights a year.

:: In Which I Argue that It's Okay to Compromise @ arduous blog: Arduous reminds us that we shouldn't forget our relationships as we try to reduce our carbon footprints.

:: Climate Change: Life's Little Convenience Charge @ The Green Phone Booth: A look at "the enormous convenience fee called Climate Change that Mother Nature has put upon us for all of the things we think are supposed to make our lives easier."

:: Lessening Your Family's Footprint: Goal Setting @ EnviroMom: Set goals to reduce your carbon footprint.

:: Your 'family footprint' in the midst of chaos @ Going Green Mama: Make an impact on our carbon footprints by working on our family and community relationships.

:: Do You Have to Change Your Life Entirely in Order to Stop Climate Change @ One Green Generation: Have you found your reason to make a change? Any change is better than no change.

:: Why I Drive a (Very Small) SVU & Why It's Still Sort of Green @ The Greenists: Green decisions are rarely easy.

Why do you care?

____________________

You have hereby been challenged to go green in a year without going broke! Check out the latest challenge, or view the whole list of Challengicious Mondays.

Like what you see? Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook! You can also find me over at The Green Phone Booth.

image by Edu Alarcon

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Challengicious Monday: Calculate Your Carbon Footprint

>> Monday, January 4, 2010

Here's your first challenge from The Conscious Shopper:

Calculate your carbon footprint.


There are a gazillion carbon calculators on the web. My personal favorite is the one over at The Nature Conservancy, for no other reason than that it's aesthetically pleasing (although it does score my household with a much higher footprint than the other calculators). Here are a few more for you to choose from:
All carbon calculators have their weaknesses, and we could quickly fall into a debate about the effectiveness of calculating your carbon footprint at all. The point here really isn't to get an accurate assessment of your footprint but to get a general idea of where you are on your green journey so you can compare how far you've come at the end of the year. Think of The Conscious Shopper Challenge as kind of like yoga - it's not a competition...you're only comparing you to you.

But if you like a little competition, you can also compare yourself to me. Here's where my five-person, one-car household stands on several different carbon calculators:
  • Nature Conservancy = 44 tons
  • Conservation International = 14.1 tons
  • EPA = 31,203 pounds
  • Earthlab = 14 tons

What's your carbon footprint? Take a minute, pick a calculator, and tell me in the comments!


NEXT CHALLENGE...Keep track of your trash for a week.

____________________

You have hereby been challenged to go green in a year without going broke! View the whole list of Challengicious Mondays.

Like what you see? Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook! You can also find me over at The Green Phone Booth.



Thanks to Greencolander for the lovely image.

This post was shared in the All Things Eco Carnival #84 and Carnival of the Green #210.

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Copyright

© 2008-2010 The Conscious Shopper

You're welcome to link to any posts at The Conscious Shopper, but please do not use images or content from this site without my permission. Contact me at consciousshopperblog@gmail.com.

Disclosure

I do not accept money for writing reviews, but I do accept products for review and to giveaway. When posting a review, I fully disclose any free samples received from the company. I include information provided by the company in my reviews, but all opinions about the product are my own and I will not provide a good review for any product or company just because they sent me some free samples.

Disclaimer

The ideas on this blog are my opinion and are provided for informational purposes and entertainment only. I am not a financial advisor or medical professional. Please do not misconstrue the information on this blog as advice.

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