Challengicious Monday: More Indoor Water Reduction

>> Monday, May 31, 2010

Mondays are challengicious at The Conscious Shopper. Like last week's water-related challenge, this week I'm challenging you to:

Reduce Your Indoor Water Use


To complete this challenge, you can...

BABY STEPS
  • Defrost food in the refrigerator rather than under running water.
  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and shaving.
  • Don't rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Wipe them off with a dishrag or use the method I describe here.
  • Reuse your towels multiple times to avoid creating extra laundry. Also wear your clothes more than once (not underwear).
  • Don't use the toilet as a trash can.
  • Take baths family style - i.e., Mommy and baby, Mommy and Daddy, small kids together.
JOGGING STRIDE
MARATHON RUNNER
  • If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down.
  • Consider a compostable toilet.
  • Pee on your garden.
Since I'm no Crunchy Chicken, I'm not up for peeing on my garden just yet, but I would like to install the dual flush system on my toilets. I may not get to it this month, but I'll let you know as soon as I get to it.

I'm happy to report that after looking back over today's challenge and last week's, I'm doing better on water conservation than I thought. It's nice to sometimes get a pat-yourself-on-the-back week.

____________________

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. Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook!

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Seven Weeks of No Poo

>> Thursday, May 27, 2010

Last night as my husband and I were getting into bed, I made him listen to me gripe about no poo for 15 minutes, and when I finished, I said, "That was the post I was going to write tonight but I didn't get around to it. So now you can write it for me!" He refused. :(

So now let's see if I can remember everything I told him...

I'm going on seven weeks of no poo. Here are a few of my Twitter and Facebook updates to give you an idea of how it's been going:

  • Day 5 of no poo - my hair looks good but feels nasty. Even hubby noticed.
  • Day 22 of no poo. I bought a boar bristle brush that has made all the difference. Starting to like my hair again. However, the new brush cost $10 - so far no poo has not saved me money.
  • Colored my hair this morning, and strangely, it has done wonders for my no poo hair. Feels so soft and "normal"!
  • Over a month #nopoo, I can go two days between washes but on third day I seem to have dandruff??!!
It hasn't been all bad. Here's what I LIKE about no poo:
  • Saving money - about $60 if I don't buy shampoo or conditioner for a year.
  • I don't have to pay attention to whether or not I'm about to run out of shampoo and conditioner or make a special trip out to the Lush store at Crabtree Valley Mall.
  • I don't have to squint at the back of shampoo bottles or try to translate scientific jargon.
  • I can pretty successfully skip a day between washing my hair now.
This picture was taken on the day I colored my hair.

This is today. On the days I don't wash my hair, I get rid of bedhead by curling it. The grease holds the curl better than any hairspray. :)

A front shot of today. For some reason when I take pictures of myself I get a weird expression on my face.

Here's what I DISLIKE about no poo:
  • Even after almost two months, my hair still gets nasty greasy if I try to go more than two days between washings.
  • Before the grease phase, my hair has a "thick" feeling to it, as if I put hair styling products in it even though I don't. The boar bristle brush helped a lot with that, but the only time my hair really felt good was the three or four days after I colored it. (I'm guessing the harsh chemicals stripped everything out of my hair. Other people who color their hair might know what I'm talking about when i say that my hair always feels softest right after I've colored it, as oxymoronic as that may sound.)
  • When I brush my hair with the boar bristle brush, it gets coated in a greyish white powder. For the past couple weeks, I've been seeing that in my hair. At first I thought it was dandruff (see Twitter post above), but my husband who actually has dandruff says it's not. So now we're thinking it's baking soda residue???
The white residue is most noticeable on the black bristles.

I feel like I've gone so far now, I might as well keep it up for awhile. But unlike a few others of you that I've already heard back from, I am not having the magical results people often describe after going no poo. Here are a few of the thoughts that have been running through my head:

Has my hair returned to it's "normal" state and I just don't like normal?

Does hair really return to "normal" on no poo, or do people just get used to the change?

If this is really more natural than using shampoo, why is it taking so long for my body to adjust? It seems like if it's natural, my body would catch on pretty fast! It would be like, "Finally you've stopped dousing me in unnecessary chemicals and now I can do my job like I'm meant to."

My husband's about out of shampoo. Since my no poo experience hasn't been completely positive, I'll never convince him to go no poo. Guess I have to make a trip to Crabtree Valley Mall...:(

No poo readers: I need your advice. What am I doing wrong?

Final note: There's no use even bothering to lecture me about how I shouldn't color my hair. I know, I know, I know. It's on my list of eco-changes to make eventually, but like cheap chocolate, it's one that's not going to die easily. I've had red hair so long, some people don't even know I'm not a natural redhead! And yes, I do plan to try henna eventually.

____________________

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. Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook!

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Reuseit.com Review and Giveaway

>> Tuesday, May 25, 2010

We've talked a lot this year about reducing our trash by switching from disposables to reusable products. As I've mentioned, I was recently invited to become an ambassador for Reuseit.com to continue promoting a lifestyle of reuse. Before I signed on for this, I put a lot of thought into whether or not Reuseit.com is a brand I want my name attached to, and I spent several hours perusing their site. Here's what I found:

Reuseit.com Review

Reuseit.com began in 2003 as Reusablebags.com, offering high quality cloth shopping bags to help people move away from disposable plastic grocery bags. Their product line quickly expanded to reusables in general and now includes bottles, lunchbags, cloth towels, toothbrushes, Diva Cups, and much more. They are a leader in their industry and have established themselves as a go-to source for information on reducing consumption of disposable products.

In case you missed my past posts on Reuseit.com, here are a few of their products that I bought recently:



What makes Reuseit.com a great company?

Packaging
  • According to their website, Reuseit.com strives "as a company to continually reduce our eco impact. We consciously reduce the amount of packaging it takes to get your order to you with no damage whatsoever to items. Our boxes are made with 40-60% recycled content and we always choose the smallest one for each order. Whenever possible, we opt for envelopes over boxes we’ve replaced bubble wrap with recycled paper packaging. All packaging we use is recyclable and we never use those nasty packing peanuts"
Materials
  • Reuseit.com seeks out high quality materials and sustainable fabrics, both for their own line of shopping bags and for the other products in their store. To answer concerns some of their customers have had, they've written FAQ pages on BPA, lead, and synthetic materials that I think are worth perusing. They also provide a Materials Glossary as a guide to some of the sustainable materials and fabrics used in products they carry.
Manufacturing
  • Reuseit.com manufactures their own ACME bag line in accordance with Fair Labor/Fair Trade practices and they seek to carry products that were also manufactured fairly.
Quality
  • Reuseit.com was awarded Green America's People's Choice Award in 2007 and 2009 and was a top 10 nominee in 2006. Green America is one of my favorite organizations and holds very high standards for companies in their network.
  • Reuseit.com was also a BizRate Circle of Excellence Gold Honoree for customer satisfaction and is a member of 1% for the Planet.
Affordability
  • Reuseit.com's products range in affordability, but they make it easy for you to shop in your price range by enabling you to search by price or sales.
Availability
Visit Reuseit.com for more information.

Giveaway

Reuseit.com is offering a $25 gift certificate to one reader of The Conscious Shopper. Here's how to enter:
  • Tell me one (or more!) products in Reuseit.com's store that you'd love to own.
  • 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 each comment is a separate entry.
You have until next Monday, May 31st to enter. I'll randomly select a winner and announce the results next Tuesday. Good luck!


This contest has ended. The winner was Abbie - congratulations!
____________________

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. Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook!
  • Disclosure: I am an ambassador for Reuseit.com. Check out my About page for more info on what that means and always remember to be a Conscious Shopper.

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Challengicious Monday: Reduce Your Indoor Water Use

>> Monday, May 24, 2010

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

Reduce Your Indoor Water Use


To complete this challenge, you can...

BABY STEPS
  • Fill up your dishwasher all the way before running it.
  • Conserve water when washing dishes by filling up both sides of the sink - one with hot water to wash in and one with lukewarm/cool water to rinse.
  • Only wash full loads of laundry. Also, fill up the washing machine to the appropriate level depending on the size of your load.
  • Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge for cold drinks rather than running the tap until it's cold.
  • Wash vegetables, fruits, and herbs in a bowl of water rather than running water. Use the collected water on your garden. You can also use cooled pasta water, potato water, and the water from steaming vegetables.
  • Plug the tub as soon as you turn the water on, and then adjust the temperature while the tub is filling.
JOGGING STRIDE
  • Take shorter showers. Shorten your shower time by not shaving in the shower or washing your hair every other day.
  • Use a refillable water bottle to cut down on the amount of glasses that need to be washed each day. Hopefully, you're already doing this.
  • Monitor your water bill to be on the watch for water leaks.
MARATHON RUNNER
  • Turn off the water in the shower while you lather up. Turn it back on to rinse.
  • Keep a bucket in the shower to catch warming-up water. Use it to flush the toilet.
  • Check your city codes to find out if you can re-route your plumbing to use grey water in your yard rather than sending it to the sewage plant.
  • Shower every other day.
If you've been a reader of The Conscious Shopper long enough to remember the post I Need...Water (indoors), you may remember that long showers are one of my eco-sins. I hate baths but have a weakness for very hot, very long showers. Trying to get myself to move faster in the morning was a total failure, but going no poo has helped me reduce my shower time on some days since I have less to do in there without washing my hair.

Another one of the challenges that I mean to work on is washing my fruits and veggies in a bowl of water rather than the sink. I've been concerned about our increased water use with the garden this year, and that would be one way to cut back a tiny bit.

The Marathon Runner challenges are pretty extreme, so don't feel down on yourself if you're just not ready to advance that far. I'll admit upfront that I dream of a grey water system but besides that my green side is a little lighter in this category.
____________________

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. Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook!

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Water Down

>> Sunday, May 23, 2010

We've Trimmed Our Waste Lines and Energized, and now it's time to...

Water Down


There are only two categories in this part of The Conscious Shopper Challenge, but there's a lot to do in each challenge, so I'm stretching it out over four weeks instead of two. Over the next four weeks, I'll challenge you with lots of ways to:
Even if you live in an area where water seems plentiful, it's still important to be conscious of your water consumption. Here in North Carolina, we have a hot humid climate where water seems to flow in abundance. Yet just a few years ago there was a terrible drought, and the greenies around here are in constant discussion about how to protect our polluted and depleting source of water - Falls Lake.

Water is an immensely important resource, both for our own consumption and for the consumption of the plants we depend on for food, and we need to be ever mindful of how we're using it and what we're letting flow into it.

So let's get to it and see if we can water down in 2010. Come back tomorrow for the first water challenge.

**WATER DOWN 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.
____________________

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. Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook!

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The Rest of My Loot from Reuseit.com

>> Friday, May 21, 2010

As I wrote a few weeks ago, I recently bought several items from Reuseit.com during their big Earth Month sale. Besides the Goodbyn lunchboxes, I also bought a new water bottle and some stainless steel straws.

I was so so bummed a couple months ago when I left my stainless steel water bottle at the playground. I tried to go back and get it, but some very thirsty stranger must have found it, took it home, now uses it every day, and loves the stainless steel treasure they found in the park. I'm hoping...

I am such a rebel at heart that it pains me to buy products from brands that are really popular. I didn't want a Klean Kanteen because everyone has a Klean Kanteen. Yet here I am with a Klean Kanteen and all I can say is, "It was a really good deal!!!"

I went with the 12 oz.wide-mouth insulated stainless steel bottle and also bought the cafe cup lid. The reasons I went with this particular bottle are many-fold:

  • My last bottle was ginormous and luggy. This time I wanted something small enough that it could fit in my purse.
  • I wanted something that could be used for both water and hot chocolate so that I didn't have to remember my thermos. Cuz I never do.
  • I wanted something that would keep my water cold so I could leave it in the car and still satisfy my kids after an hour on the playground (instead of hearing them complain "this water tastes weird!")
So far I only have one complaint about my new bottle: If I leave the water in the bottle overnight, it tastes very strange the next day - kind of plasticky actually, which makes me wonder what they used to insulate it. I've also wondered if I'm just crazy because surely the stainless steel would keep out whatever they've used to insulate the bottle. Maybe it's really metal I'm tasting and I'm just clueless about what metal tastes like...


I also bought these stainless steel straws. Not because I don't love my Glass Dharma straws, because I really really do. But glass and a two-year-old, not the best plan. These straws now hang out in my To-Go Kit, ready to save hundreds of disposable straws from a sad, sad fate.

I feel a little sheepish about this particular purchase because I didn't research it at all before buying and have no idea if it fits my usual standards. I'm trusting Reuseit.com's standards on this one.

If you're in need of some lunchboxes, water bottles, stainless steel straws, and much much more, Reuseit.com has a special free shipping coupon for this weekend only. Simply type in the coupon code NEWCUST25 during checkout to receive free shipping on orders of $25 or more. The code is for new customers only, cannot be combined with other coupons, and doesn’t apply to volume or wholesale orders. Happy shopping!

____________________

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. Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook!
  • Disclosure: I am an ambassador for Reuseit.com. Check out my About page for more info on what that means and always remember to be a Conscious Shopper.

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Homemade Applesauce

>> Thursday, May 20, 2010

Organic apples were on sale at Kroger about a month ago for $1/lb, making them cheaper than I've ever seen organic apples and even cheaper than most conventional apples. So I bought 50 pounds.

I bought a Victorio strainer, a water bath canner, and a dehydrator off of Craigslist a few months ago, and this was my first time using them.

Third Son helped by eating apples.

Second Son helped by cutting apples with a special knife that my sister bought for him. I started out cutting and coring the apples, but after the first batch, I discovered that my strainer would remove all of the skin and seeds for me. Best Craigslist purchase ever!

Third Son took a stab at cutting.

The water bath canner was not the best Craigslist purchase ever. It doesn't seem big enough for quart jars (the jars are only covered by 1/2 inch or so of water instead of the 1 to 2 inches in the instructions), which is really weird since I bought about 50 quart jars from the same lady I bought the canner from. The processing still seemed to work anyway - judging by the ol' pressing on the lid test.

I used the instructions from Pick Your Own, and I do believe that for my first attempt at canning, the applesauce turned out pretty well.

Cost Summary

We used about 35 pounds of the apples for applesauce (the rest were dried) and got 10 quart jars worth. I think I could have gotten a little more than that if I had realized at first that I didn't need to cut and core the apples. I already had the jars and didn't need to buy new lids because the Craigslist lady gave me some for free. This puts my cost per jar at $3.50.

I'm actually not sure how much a jar of organic applesauce costs because I rarely buy it, but $3.50 still seems quite high to me. A little Google searching indicates that a lot of people buy conventional apples for $20 a bushel, or less than $0.50 a pound. Wowza!

Anyone know where I can find organic apples for cheaper than $1 per pound for next year's canning?

____________________

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. Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook!

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Biking...with Kids

>> Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I'm over at the Green Phone Booth today dreaming about family bikes:

As Envirambo wrote about yesterday, it's Bike to Work Week. I haven't been on a bike in years, but still I dream about being able to bike around town instead of driving, hauling my three kids and our groceries in our bicycle "minivan." Does such a thing really exist? As a matter of fact, yes. Bike designers around the world have taken away that age old excuse "but I've got kids!"

With three kids under six, I've had my eye on the ingenius Madsen - the only bike I've seen that can fit more than two kids. In fact, the Madsen can carry four kids, or two adults, or two kids and lots of groceries.

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Worm Bin versus Compost Tumbler

>> Tuesday, May 18, 2010

When we did the Start Composting challenge a few months ago, I decided to put my worm bin out of service for awhile and try a different composting method. I'd been eying a compost tumbler at Home Depot (Lowes?) for $100, but then decided to try Craigslist, where I found this bad boy:


It's twice as big as the one from Home Depot (Lowes?) and cost half as much, though perhaps it's not quite as quality. I'm pretty sure the people I bought it from made it themselves, and after we got it home, we had to do some minor repair work to the frame. All in all though, I've been satisfied with the purchase.

So now that I've tried both methods, which do I like better? To be honest, both have their downsides:

  • The compost tumbler takes up a huge amount of space. It's as big as our trash can, but with the frame, sits much farther out from the wall.
  • The compost tumbler stinks. I don't remember ever noticing a stench coming from the worm bin, but if I did, it definitely wasn't as strong as the tumbler. Luckily, the smell is mostly contained inside the tumbler and is only really strong when I open it up to add food scraps.
  • Because it's so large and stinky, the tumbler sits way over on the side of the house by the trash cans - not nearly as convenient as the porch where the worm bin was.
  • Food takes much longer to decompose in the tumbler.
  • The worm bin leaked! And attracted fruit flies!
The Verdict: I hate composting!

I've heard so many people wax poetic about the joy of watching their waste turn into useful compost that I really expected to like it. But the truth is that I really really wish my city would start collecting food scraps, turn it into compost for me, and sell it back for a cheap amount. They already compost yard waste - why not food scraps?

In the meantime, our plan is to continue using the tumbler until it's full, and then go back to using the worm bin while the compost in the tumbler finishes. According to Pragmatic Environmentalism, we could solve our fruit fly problem with the worm bin by freezing the food scraps before putting them in the bin. And I've also read that we could solve our leaking problem by putting the bin up on bricks with an extra lid underneath to catch the dripping worm tea.

The compost in our worm bin is coming along nicely:

And here's a bonus picture of our garden:


How is your composting going?
____________________

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. Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook!

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Challengicious Monday: Support Renewable Energy

>> Monday, May 17, 2010

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

Support Renewable Energy

This is the final challenge in the Energize challenges, and like the last one, it's Marathon Runner only. In most of the energy-related challenges, you invest money to save money. This challenge also pays you back...but not with money. By supporting renewables, you help create a sustainable future with less damage to the environment and a secure source of energy.

Renewable energy sources include:
  • solar
  • wind
  • tidal
  • geothermal
  • biofuels
  • hydroelectric
Each of these sources has its downsides, but the overall net benefit of using renewables far outweighs the negatives when compared to using fossil fuels.

Three Ways to Support Renewable Energy
  1. The easiest way to support renewable energy is through your power company. Typically, you'll pay a premium on your regular energy bill supporting renewable energy and the development of renewable technology. To find out if your power company has a green power program, search this chart from the Department of Energy.
  2. If you're lucky to live in a few select states (Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, and the District of Columbia), you may be able to switch to a green electricity provider. Check out this chart from the Department of Energy for more information.
  3. If neither of these options work for you, you can buy a Renewable Energy Certificate to support the production and development of renewable energy.
This is a Marathon Runner only challenge because I personally think that improving the energy efficiency of your home is a much better first step than turning straight to renewables. If you can reduce your energy needs by 30%, that's 30% less renewable energy that we need to produce. Plus, the technology for energy efficiency already exists while we're still working on improving the technology of renewables.

When you've gone as far as you can on the other challenges, that's when it's time to turn to renewable energy. I pay an extra $4 to NC Green Power every month - a small amount, yes, but I think every little bit counts. If you can afford more, please do!

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. Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook!

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Overshare

>> Friday, May 14, 2010

Hope you all enjoyed the interview with Eco Yogini yesterday. I especially love her answer about why she "overshares" about her experience with the DivaCup, among other subjects.

So in the spirit of Eco Yogini, I thought we'd have ourselves a little overshare session today. First, I'll share a few things, and then it will be your turn to share in the comments - something you've learned on your green journey that you think would help others to know or something you've been embarrassed to ask, now's your chance. If you're not keen on the idea of an overshare, feel free to comment anonymously.

Okay, deep breaths, I think I'm going to die here...

Menstrual Cups

It took me forever to figure out how to use my Keeper properly. Several months, honestly, before I realized that my cervix sits low so where the diagram says my Keeper should be is not where it is on my body. If you're new to menstrual cups, figure out where your cervix is and realize that every body is different!

Crystal Deodorant

Some days the rock deodorant works better than others, and it doesn't seem to have anything to do with physical activity. Thankfully, even on those rare days where my pits fail the discreet sniff test, I don't think it's strong enough that anyone else would notice. At least my husband hasn't said anything.

Birth Control

We're still using condoms. I hate the pill and have contemplated the IUD but I'm just not sold on it. I'm intrigued by the idea of the Fertility Awareness Method (I even have the book on request at the library), but my husband says no way based on the fact that we got pregnant with each of our three boys without even trying.

Dandruff

A certain special someone in my life says he won't try the no poo method because of dandruff. Anyone have tips for natural remedies for dandruff?


Okay, your turn! Don't be shy! Don't let me be alone in this overshare!

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An Interview with Eco Yogini

>> Thursday, May 13, 2010

Today I want to introduce you to one of my favorite bloggers, Lisa at Eco Yogini.

Unless you know me well, you may not know that in one of my spells of career ADD, I considered becoming a yoga instructor. In college, I was a yoga fanatic, practicing every day. Sadly nowadays I only get around to it once every couple weeks (and that's only thanks to the kindness of a friend who provides a free yoga class at my church). But I still love the yoga lifestyle and philosophy and think it ties in so well to living green.

Eco Yogini is a fantastic mix of information about practicing yoga and living an eco-friendly life. Since I started following her blog, I've learned both how to solve my slipping problem in downward dog and how to not be afraid of a menstrual cup! She's so honest and open, I'm sure you'll enjoy learning more about her:



Q: Can you give me a little background info about yourself, how long you've been practicing yoga, and why you decided to go green?

A: As a rural Canadian gal, I grew up in a pretty traditional (and loving!) lobster fishing family and I'm currently a Paediatric Speech-Language Pathologist. I've been practicing Yoga for about 5 years now and began my practice while completing my Masters at McGill in Montréal.

I think the eco-kicker was Al Gore's an Inconvenient Truth, as cliché'd as that sounds. Although I now realize he was a bit off in his claims, I do give him props for effectively mobilizing a new generation and causing a stir.

Q: I love how your blog blends yoga, feminism, and living an eco-friendly lifestyle. How do you think those topics are related?

A: Thank you :) Yoga essentially means 'to unite' and my yoga practice inherently strives to increase my connection with what I see as the Divine, myself and the world around me. There are many aspects of yoga, asana (or postures) being only one small part. Ahimsa, meaning 'non-violence' is one of the 8 limbs of Yoga. I just couldn't justify practicing Yoga, moving through that spiritual Journey on a mat made from PVC, surrounded by chemicals and contributing to what our scientific climatologist community is stating as the irreparable damage to our Planet's fragile Eco-System. Our Yoga practice should continue off our mat and I truly cannot separate the practice of connection from being 'green'. I am not yet at a place where I can accept that a person could truly call themselves a 'Yogi-ni' and not be a firm environmentalist. In Yoga everything is connected and we are all part of the Divine. As for feminism, I guess that's just a part of who I am and my spirituality (The Divine Goddess)...

Q: I have to admit that the first time I found your blog, I was doing a search about menstrual cups, trying to figure out how to use the darn things. (You were very helpful!) Why do you choose to "overshare" that type of information on your blog?

That first 'Overshare' almost made me pee my pants, I was so nervous. I guess the real reason why I wrote that post was because I wished someone had told me those things were normal with the DivaCup. I didn't have a lot of friends who were using it, and the instructions weren't very encouraging (call their 1800 line?? lol).

I am a firm believer that women in my generation (20 somethings- which is all I can speak to) retain this antiquated culture of 'menstruation=dirty'. We don't talk about it, we don't share or connect with each other. It's one of the tenants of Feminism- take away a sense of community and connection, isolate women from each other, and you take away their sense of worth, of power.

If 50% of the entire planet's population between the ages of 11 and 55 are menstruating... then I see no reason why we should be shocked to read about it.

Q: At the Conscious Shopper, I divide a lot of my going green tips into Baby Steps (easy), Jogging Stride steps (medium), and Marathon Runner steps (hardest). What are your favorite easy, medium, and hard tips for practicing yoga, and easy, medium, and hard tips for going green?

A: Yoga:

  • Baby Steps- Borrow a DVD for beginners. I like Seane Corn's vinyasa flow DVD. She's practical, gives fantastic instructions and you can try it at home without anyone watching!
  • Jogging Strides: Yoga with friends while following along a DVD. This way you're practicing around other people, but they're your friends... so they *shouldn't* judge.
  • Marathon Runner: Once you're ready, a real class with an instructor is best. When it comes to type of Yoga, each person will prefer a style that is best for them at that time in their lives (it can change!). No one type of Yoga is better, they are just different. Except Hot Yoga, I would strongly caution new yogis to perhaps try other styles first. ALWAYS listen to what your body tells you. Pain does not equal progress in Yoga. Also, you are never 'more advanced' at yoga if you can achieve ridiculous gumby postures. Yoga isn't about 'advancing' but connecting with yourself. Finally, you do not have to be flexible or strong to practice yoga. It took me two whole years to touch my toes :)
Going Green:
  • Baby Steps- I started with switching over all my household cleaning products. Eco-alternatives are so easy to find now, and are affordable! (The switch to vinegar and water took much longer!)
  • Jogging Strides: Try walking to more places, take steps to reduce your water usage, compost and recycle.
  • Marathon Runner: Cut out plastic from your life (storage, bags, new products), try shopping local and organic for food, search for ways to get your electricity as renewable as possible (solar panels etc), and speak out! I think activism really plays an important part in being a part of Change.

Q: What blogs and resources do you think would be helpful for all the eco-yoginis out there?

A: I read a lot of eco-blogs; like your lovely blog, Fake Plastic Fish, No Impact Man... inspiring people that make a difference. I also really love A Green Spell, Elephant Journal. My favourite resources include: Ecoholic by Adria Vasil, A Sacred Balance by David Suzuki (anything David Suzuki is awesome), The World Without Us by Alan Weisman and The Earth Path by Starhawk.

My fav products:

I hope you all enjoyed getting to know Eco Yogini. She is currently challenging herself to practice yoga every day in May to raise funds for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. You can support her by visiting her sponsor page.

____________________

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. Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook!

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Packaging Versus Price: How Do You Decide?

>> Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I'm over at the Green Phone Booth today debating about packaging versus price:

Admittedly, there are times when avoiding plastic costs more. For example, I could run down to my local Walmart and pick up an insulated PVC lunchbag for my kindergartner for about $10. Or I could buy a stainless steel PlanetBox for $60. That's a big price difference, but when I feel like I'm investing in something that's going to last a long time, I'm generally willing to pay more.

But what about when the plastic-free item costs more but isn't necessarily better?

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Wrapping Up My DIY Audit

>> Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The house we owned in Maryland was built in the early eighties, so by the time we moved in, it was more than twenty years old. Houses last much longer than twenty years, but oh man, that house felt so old. The baseboards were all pulling away from the wall, there were cracks in the walls and ceiling, and every month it seemed like something else broke. When we moved, my husband and I swore that we would never own an old house ever again.

It's probably not the most eco-friendly thing to say, but after doing my DIY audit the past few months, I stand by that statement. The house we're living in now is approximately five years old and well-constructed, and that has made my job so simple.

Locating Air Leaks

Last month, I sealed the air leaks on all of my electrical outlets - so simple but makes a big impact. A couple people told me I should also put childproof plugs in all of the outlets, and that's on my list of things to do...if I can figure out where I stored them.

To finish up the "locating air leaks" step of the U.S. Department of Energy's DIY audit, I crawled around my house examining the baseboards, windows and doors for any cracks or possible air leaks. In the whole house, I only found one spot where there was a space between the baseboard and the wall (is it worth buying caulk for that one little spot?), and the weather stripping on the back door might need replacing. I also know because I recently cleaned behind the stove that there's a very large gap between the flooring and the drywall with no baseboard. As renters, I'm not sure how we'd fix that.

The biggest air leak in our house is the attic hatch/pull-down stairs. Eventually, I'd really love to add an insulated cover there, but we're not quite ready to make that investment yet.

Insulation

As renters, there's little we can do in this category, but I can say that the house does seem to be well-insulated with thick blankets of insulation in both the attic and crawlspace with no obvious gaps.

Heating/Cooling Equipment

Again as renters, we're kind of stuck with what we've got, but we can make sure we change our filter regularly. I also plan to go out later this week and trim the bush that hides the air conditioning unit.

Lighting

We've already switched our bulbs to CFLs where possible, so not much left to do in this category.

So this is it for us:

  • Add childproof plugs to the outlets.
  • Caulk the small gap between the baseboard and the wall.
  • Insulate the attic hatch.
  • Change the air filter.
  • Trim the bush by the air conditioning unit.
Pretty simple and straightforward.

How'd your audit go?

____________________

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. Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook!

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Challengicious Monday: Upgrade to Energy Star

>> Monday, May 10, 2010

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

Upgrade to Energy Star

We're at the winding down phase of the Energize challenges, and these last two are Marathon Runner only. If you're in the market for a new appliance, HVAC system, or household electronic, consider looking for the Energy Star rating, "a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices." Although Energy Star products tend to be a little more expensive than their conventional counterparts, they should earn their keep through savings on your energy bill. And you can get federal tax credits for many Energy Star products!

If you're not planning on upgrading already, I personally think it's better to hold on to your appliances and repair them until they bite the dust, but I've seen other sources that disagree. Either way, you should definitely not go into debt just to complete a Conscious Shopper Challenge. So when you're ready...

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. Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook!

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Vegetarian Recipe: Baked Pasta Casserole

>> Saturday, May 8, 2010

I've always been the type of cook that says, "I'm making what I want. If you don't like it, you can have a peanut butter sandwich." But recently, I decided that although this philosophy has led to kids who will eat kale and collard greens, it has also led to a lot of food waste. And while I don't want to stop offering them kale and collard greens, perhaps I could offer them foods I know they don't like a little less often.

So recently, I went through my recipes and cut out the ones that only my husband and I will eat. Out with the spicy, out with the "weird," in with a lot more pancakes for dinner.

Strangely, none of my boys like pasta. Hoping that it was just the recipes I was using, I decided to cut out most of my pasta recipes and try out some new ones. My first attempt was this Baked Pasta Casserole from 101 Cookbooks with only slight modifications (I used kale instead of spinach and rotini instead of shells because that's what I had on hand, and I didn't bake it because I was in a rush...Next time, I'll definitely bake it.)

Baked Pasta Casserole


Serves 8
Cost: $1.70 per serving

extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound whole wheat pasta shells
sea salt
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups well-chopped fresh spinach
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds, lightly toasted
zest of 2 lemons
8 ounces shredded mozzarella
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a large casserole dish.
  • Cook pasta according to package directions.
  • Saute the onion in olive oil. Stir in garlic and spinach. Cook just until wilted.
  • Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of almonds and half of the zest. Add to pasta and mix extremely well.
  • Sprinkle the bottom of a casserole dish with the rest of the zest. Add a layer of pasta, a layer of cheese, and so on, finishing with a layer of cheese.
  • Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, until cheese is melted.
  • Top with remaining almonds before serving.
I thought this had a very surprising mix of flavors - in a good way - but my boys still wouldn't eat it. It was one of those strange meals where they pick out all of the pasta and only eat the cheese and kale. Weirdos.

Do you have a favorite pasta recipe? Include it in our Meatless Monday link-up at the Green Phone Booth every Monday!

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Goodbyn Review

>> Thursday, May 6, 2010

Reuseit.com was having a huge sale last month in honor of Earthy Day, so I finally broke down and bought some lunchboxes. We've been using some plastic containers with lids along with some reusable bags Subway was kind enough to provide for us (see side story at the bottom of this post), but with another son starting kindergarten next fall, my husband packing lunches also, and me using those same containers for leftovers, we realized that we didn't have enough lunch containers to go around. So I bought these:


Goodbyn Lunchbox

When my oldest started kindergarten last fall, I shopped around for a lunchbox for him, and eventually narrowed it down to the PlanetBox and the Goodbyn. Because it's made out of stainless steel, the PlanetBox edged out ahead. But the PlanetBox is also very pricey, so when I saw these Goodbyns on sale at Reuseit, I decided to go ahead and buy a couple.

What I like about them:
  • Packaging: A simple, recyclable cardboard sleeve.
  • Materials: The lunchboxes are made of #5 polypropylene plastic and the bottles are made of #2 high-density polyethylene. All are lead, BPA and phthalate-free.
  • Manufacturing: Goodbyns are manufactured in the U.S.A.!
  • Affordability: Although they regularly cost around $30, I was able to get mine for much less because of the sale and an extra discount I had.
  • Extras:
    • Except for the bottle, it's all one piece - no lids and containers to keep track of.
    • The food compartments are designed cafeteria-tray style so the food doesn't touch or leak onto each other. I filled one up with water, shook it around awhile, and it held up fine, but Goodbyn recommends not putting really runny things in them.
    • It's recyclable at the end of it's life.
    • It's dishwasher safe.
    • The kids can use stickers to individualize them.
A few complaints:
  • Getting the lids on tightly takes some technique. Goodbyn says the lunchboxes are designed for K-4, but I'm not sure my kindergartner could handle it without help. I'm holding on to these until he starts first grade next year.
  • These lunchboxes are huge. They're like half the size of my little guy, and though not heavy, they are bulky.
  • Plastic is not the same quality as stainless steel. I'm hoping these lunchboxes will get my two oldest through fourth grade, when they'll be passed down to my youngest. But I don't see them lasting longer than that, if they even last that long.
  • They are very cutesy. Will a fourth grader find them too uncool?
Unfortunately, I don't have a Goodbyn to giveaway today, but in a couple weeks, I will be running a giveaway from Reuseit.com so you may be able to buy your own then!

You may have noticed the new Reuseit.com Ambassadors logo over in my sidebar. I recently joined their ambassador program because I think they're a great company with some great values and I'm happy to help them spread the word about the reusables movement (and hopefully you all will get to reap some great rewards as well). If you're new to this blog and are interested in trimming your waste line, you might want to spend some time reviewing the posts tagged "waste" for ideas on storing produce without packaging, packing waste free lunches, switching to cloth bags, and more.

____________________

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. Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook!
  • Disclosure: I got a discount on this product for being a Reuseit.com ambassador, but I still bought them myself. Most of the information in this review comes from Goodbyn's website, but the opinions are my own.
  • Side story: While vacationing, I stopped at Subway for lunch because it's a pretty good place to get a low-waste, healthy meal. Unfortunately, my kids were being completely insane, and the cashier was old, incredibly slow, and totally clueless. I wanted to shout at her, "If you would just hurry up, my kids could start eating and then they'll be good!!!" But instead she kept pausing in ringing us up to bribe my kids with straws and soda...and finally the reusable bags the kids meals come in (even though we hadn't ordered kids meals). Bless her heart, she was just trying to help. But so much for my attempt at a low-waste meal!

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Dear Mother, All Flowers Remind Me of You

>> Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I'm over at The Green Phone Booth today with a post for Mother's Day:

Thanks, Mom, for teaching me to know and love green. Thank you for taking us camping. Thank you for letting us run wild. Thank you even for the blueberries. Because if I love blossoms and meadows and walking enough to spend countless hours every day trying to get others to love them too, I owe it all to you.

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New Winners of the Magic School Bus

I waited a week and haven't heard from two of the winners of the Magic School Bus, so I've picked new winners. The new winners are:

The grand prize winner of the Magic School Bus giveaway is Mia J, who already contacted me. Thanks!

The next winner is Colleen, who wrote:

Spencer right now loves the Winnie the Pooh books (not cartoon but the books by AA Milne). Also we re enjoying Tales of Beatrix Potter.
And the final winner is Miss Anita, who wrote:
My favorite children's book series is The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.
I'll be in touch with both of you. Congratulations!

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May Extreme Challenge

>> Tuesday, May 4, 2010

It was 88 degrees in my house on Sunday. We had all windows and doors open, shades closed on the sunny side, fans whirling. It didn't help. Our house is not well designed for no air-conditioning. The windows aren't well positioned, and there's no way to get a good breeze going. The one thing I can say for it is that it has porches on both the east and west sides, and the east porch has a fan, making it a good spot to sit and read on warm afternoons.

An 88 degree house in humid North Carolina is not fun. An 88 degree house with three whiny boys is miserable. Trying to sleep in an 88 degree house in a bed with a very sweaty husband is torture.

And 88 degrees isn't even close to how hot it can get around here in the peak of summer.

I had originally planned for May's extreme challenge to be the "no car" month, but after Sunday I decided to be realistic. I might be able to make it through May without turning on the A/C, but I'd suffer through June, and I'm not going to make it through the whole summer. I'm sorry, people, but I live in the freakin' South.

So your extreme challenge for May is...

Go Without Air Conditioning


As usual, you can modify the challenge to fit your family's needs, but try to push yourself. See how long you can go without turning on your A/C this year. For many of you up north, the month of May should be no problem, and you might even be able to go longer. You might be able to go the whole summer. I remember one summer I spent with my grandparents in Utah where it would get so cool in the evenings, I would have to wear a jacket.

For those of us in the humid parts of the country, one month might be enough. My family is committing to May, and we'll see how it goes from there.

Will you accept the May Extreme Challenge to go without A/C for a month?

____________________

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. Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook!

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Challengicious Monday: Slay Your Vampires

>> Monday, May 3, 2010

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

Slay Your Vampires


To complete this challenge, you can...

BABY STEPS

  • Unplug, unplug, unplug.
    • Unplug the adapters when your cell phones, laptops, and iPods are finished charging.
    • Unplug your microwaves, coffee makers, and toaster ovens when you're done with them.
    • Unplug your TVs, DVD players, and stereos when you're not using them, or at least at the end of the day.
JOGGING STRIDE
  • Use a power strip. Since power strips don't draw energy when they're switched off, you can cluster like-groups of appliances and electronics around power strips so you only have to flip one switch to turn them all off. If that's still too hard, you can get power strips with timers or even special sensors that detect when your electronics are not in use.
MARATHON RUNNER
  • Buy fewer products that require electricity. Keep it simple by avoiding products with bells and whistles. For example, do you really need a toaster or coffee maker with a digital display? Could you get buy with a traditional phone that plugs into the wall rather than a cordless phone?
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the extra energy use from vampires "represents a relatively small but growing percentage of an individual home’s electricity use (about five percent), but taken across all U.S. households, adds up to an estimated 65 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year. This extra electricity costs consumers more than $5.8 billion annually and sends more than 87 billion pounds of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year."

Just to clarify: you only need to unplug products that use electricity even when they're off. One easy way to tell is if it has a digital screen, if it uses a remote, or if it charges. VCR? Yes. Hair dryer? Probably not. TV? Yes. Toaster? Probably not. Cell phone? Yes. Lamp? Probably not.

Have you ever wondered how much electricity your appliances and electronics actually use? Have some fun with a Kill-a-Watt at Pragmatic Environmentalism.

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. Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook!

Read more...
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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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