30 December 2009

you say you want a resolution

Well you know, we all want to change the world - and what better time to start than at the start of a new year? A fresh year can be a great way to take fresh approaches that you might not have considered before, allowing you to make wiser, healthier, greener choices in the coming year. Plenty of products and services on the market are boasting their 'greenery' - but how can you verify their claims without extensive research?

Turns out there are a few wonderful websites that have gathered up the background, source, and policy information on a number of products and companies to help you make the most informed choice you can. Sites include:

Ecolect, which describes itself as "a place that stimulates discussion about defining sustainability and is a source of accurate information". Ecolect covers only materials with sustainable attributes, and provides case studies and consumer reports to back up their information.

Environmental Leader may be a trade magazine for corporate big-uns, but they have a running feed of all the latest in green business news. From Starbucks to EnergyStar, if it's business and green, EL has got you covered.

The Greenwashing Index posts advertizements from around the world, then breaks down their 'eco' claims. Visitors are encouraged to participate by posting ads they find and rating the authenticity of existing posts.

CorpWatch is written by a team of independent journalists and researchers to provide transparent information on the actions of corporations across the world. In September 2007, they launched the Wiki project Crocodyl.org, an open-source site allowing small, independent activists an opportunity to meet and share information they might otherwise have had difficulty finding.
Aside from surfing the net, you can prevent being "Greenwashed" by taking the following discerning actions:
1. Be conscious of all the ingredients in your product.
2. Bust out the glasses and read the fine print!
3. If in doubt, check the company’s website. A company with nothing to hide won't have a slew of caveats across the label.
4. A “natural” product isn't necessarily “green.” No laws govern the labeling of natural ingredients or materials, and many companies are all too eager to slap on the friendly sounding labels.
5. When it comes down to it, if you don't need it, don't buy it. The less you consume, the less you dispose.
Have a happy, healthy, and wholesome new year, everybody!!
Image via Skydeckcartoons.com

28 December 2009

if you can't beat 'em, join 'em

'Tis the season for sweet treats and as I am now in the middle of my "winter break" (and enjoying myself immensely, thankyouverymuch), I find myself ready to cuddle up with a movie, but craving dessert to accompany me. This really shouldn't be the case as I've already had dessert (thank you, Joann, for bringing and sharing your delicious leftover ginger-pear-cranberry cobbler), and a gluten-free blueberry muffin (fine, I had two) earlier today. I searched my cabinetry, which was slyly ridden of all tempting sweet edibles, certain that there must be something something something. Alas.

But then! What do I see but some leftover brown rice in the fridge! The gears quickly turned and then I whipped up this...

Leftover Brown Rice Pudding
In the fervor of my dessert craving I improvised and didn't measure a thing, but this recipe should get you close.

Serves 1-2

1 cup leftover brown rice
1/3 cup rice milk (or milk or non-dairy substitute of your choosing)
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon grade b maple syrup
2 tablespoons raisins
dash cinnamon
1 teaspoon arrowroot dissolved in 2 teaspoons cold water

1. In a small pot over medium-high heat, stir together rice, milk, oil, syrup, raisins, and cinnamon.

2. Once the milk is bubbling, stir in the arrowroot mixture until the pudding thickens.

3. Pour it in a bowl and eat it up!

27 December 2009

earth rocks!

In my procrastination of wrapping up my 2009 bookkeeping, I came across this video. You're never too old to learn something from Sesame Street (a show I will always love!), and you can never been too young or too cool to love the Earth.

23 December 2009

think less, do more: a better way to give

Charlie Brown was right when he said that Christmas had become too commercial. From senseless stocking stuffers to screams of "Gimme! Gimme!", the sense of sharing, thanks, and fellowship that should be associated with the holiday season has long since been replaced by Tickle-Me-Elmo's and Twillight action figures. If you're as exhausted as I am by the needless waste of these many toys, here are a few wonderful ways to help make the world we share a better place this season:

  • Volunteer: Volunteering is the single easiest, more selfless thing you can do to help your fellow (wo)man. Whether it's an hour a week at your local soup kitchen or making a serious commitment to spend months or even years giving back, working with and for humanity improves the lives of strangers, strengthens communities, and betters the quality of the world we share. You can find a slew of opportunities at websites like Idealist and VolunteerMatch.

  • Give: Donating helps in immeasurable ways, as many helpful organizations struggle to make ends meet. Strapped for cash this season? Give what you can! Whether it's canned goods, old clothes, or even blood, you'll be surprised at how far little things can go. Check out NYC WasteLe$$ for more giving options.

  • Care: People, places, and creatures are in need at all times of year. Adopt a rainforest. Or an octopus. Or, if you truly have the time, energy, and means, a creature from your local Humane Society. Remember that no matter what it is, adoption is a commitment to care - yes, adopting a well might require slightly less devotion than a puppy, but the premise is still the same: you are giving some of yourself to make better something else. And that, truly, is the best thing you could ever do.
Check out Changing the Present for a wide range of other amazing alternative gift ideas.

22 December 2009

o christmas tree

Whether it's passing the figgy pudding or peeling Great Uncle Filbert off the driveway, every family has their own special holiday traditions. I know many families that have a yearly ornament exchange, passing keepsakes around that will be hung and treasured for years to come. Maybe this sounds like your family, or maybe you're just getting started decking your very first tree - either way, Alpha Mom has a do it yourself ornament idea that comes from the heart and hands, rather than the pocketbook:You'll Need:
· Felted sweaters (surely you've some left over from all those Ugly Sweater Parties!)
· Tapestry needle (a big, thick needle with a jumbo eye - you can find them at any craft shop)
· Heavy-duty coated cotton thread
· Twine or ribbon

Cut your sweaters into squared roughly 1" in size. (It takes about 50 squares for each ornament, sometimes more, sometimes less. THE MYSTERY IS PART OF THE FUN.) Thread the needle with the heavy-duty thread (around 30") and string on yer squares.Pull the floss and squares together tightly so that they form a circle, then make a sturdy knot. Tie the ends together and loop another piece of ribbon around the top for hanging. BAM. Crafty keepsake.

This is a great craft to do with older kids who can handle knot-tieing and needles. It takes a little time, so patience might become an issue - show the kiddies how hip and with it you are play playing some music while you work. What do kids listen to these days, anyway? Remember Sisqo? He was big...

For an overwhelming assortment of other crafty ornament ideas, check out the Craftser Forums, where how-to's range from bacon to brains. My personal favorite? The Quidditch snitch. Happy Crafty Holidays, everyone!

Images via Alpha Mom

21 December 2009

wrap your presents to your darling from you

The clock is winding down on the holiday season, and gifts are being passed about, opened, and adored near and wide. Before you bust out that pretty paper (and pretty ribbons of blue, of course), consider how much of it turns into little more than trash once the festivities of the season are over. Instead of adding to the pile, why not use one of these creatively crafty (and, yes, pretty) wrapping paper alternatives for the gifts you'll be giving this year? (And next year, and the year after that, and after that, and after that...)

  • Paper grocery bags are probably the most obvious alternative choice. And, since they're blank, they make great canvasses for kids (or you) to decorate! (If your local shop has printed their logo on the outside, simply turn them inside out to the blank side.)

  • When was the last time you pulled out a map? Yeah, that's what I thought. Use up the old ones lying around your house - they're especially great for any sort of 'themed' gift giving.

  • Empty cereal boxes and other cardboard food packages are just the right size for gifts of clothing or for sending goodies through the post.

  • A beautiful scarf is not only a unique way to wrap a gift, but is a whole other gift in and of itself!

  • Glass jars might not seem like a typical gift encasement, but the surprise is part of what makes it beautiful. Stuff the inside with cloth or shredded paper (the maps mentioned above might be a good idea) or decorate the exterior with paints or stamps. The lid can be decorated, too!
What alternative wrapping solutions can you think of?
Image via The Daily Green

10 December 2009

seasonal slowdown

Ah, the pre-holiday mania. If you're too overwhelmed to even begin tackling your To Do List, then enjoy these links as mindful bit of web-surfing relaxation!

Man, I'm spent. Who's up for a drink?

09 December 2009

locovore locating

Here's a math equation for you:

A = [1 7th Generation Fruit Farmer + 1 Business Partner = Sustainable Agribusiness]

B = [xPersons interested in supporting local, sustainable agribusinesses * (Tools available to help them) = 0]

What do you get when you put A and B together?
You get You Are What You Eat, a location based, open source search engine that allows people from all over to find local farms, markets, and CSA's anywhere people live. The site costs nothing to farmers, and even offers you a chance to contribute a location that they may have overlooked. A brilliant idea from some brilliant people helping to make our world a little better, mile by mile.

08 December 2009

wining about it

It's around this time of year that we find ourselves sitting around a table with some close friends, catching up over a bottle of wine (or three). But as you quaff your vino, remember that, even among wines, some are a bit greener than others. Boxed wines, for example, leave 85% less waste behind than their glass-bottle counterparts.

You should also be aware that not all wines are grown in on the bucolic estates that the labels would have you believe. Recently on NPR, Michele Norris and Daily Beast writer Keith Wallace (founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia) discussed the dirty truth about "fast-food wines" - wines that, in all likelihood, are sitting in your kitchen (or cellar, if you're the type) right now. Due to high demand, many wineries have outsourced their production to factories where wines are, like cars, mass produced far away from real wineries; you can tell which is which from the legal writing on the label - if your bottle says "produced and bottled by", then that wine is actually made by a real winery. However, the words "vinted" or "cellared and bottled by" means you're drinking a factory wine. Wallace insists that there is no danger in consuming factory wines and that many, many famed companies engage in this practice, but this, as is so very common an issue in America, is more about letting consumers know what exactly it is they are consuming.

Interested in finding a greener or locally vinted wine? Check out this resource from Greenopia rating 25 different wines in order of their eco-friendliness and distribution size. You can also read the original Keith Wallace article from The Daily Beast here.

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