Compost through the winter with worms in your house!

It’s no secret that I hate to see things go to waste. I have been known to dig recyclable items out of the trash and attempt to Freecycle or otherwise give away some of the craziest stuff before I will consider tossing it in the trash. It makes me anxious when my 3-year-old leaves the water running or stands with the refrigerator door open too long. And I really have a hard time throwing away table scraps and fruit and vegetable peels, especially considering my children eat fruit like there’s no tomorrow. All of that fruit adds up to a whole lot of orange peels, apple cores and watermelon rinds. Honestly, that’s the biggest reason I started composting. I hated seeing how much food waste was going into the garbage and knowing it only ended up in the landfill. Sure, the end result of making your own fertile soil which is great for gardening is an added bonus, but mostly I compost to reduce my family’s garbage output.

I didn’t start out trying to do vermicomposting or composting with worms. We got a composting bin, set it up in a relatively sunny spot in our mostly shady backyard, and got to work. Along the way, I threw in several shovels-full of dirt, hoping it would speed up the composting process. Apparently I threw in some worms too, which reproduced like rabbits. It didn’t take long for my regular compost bin to become a worm composting bin. I think it’s a little freaky, but my kids get a big kick out of all of the worms in there and have been known to fish some out just for fun. :P

However due to the cold in Colorado this winter, my compost bin hasn’t been working very well. In fact when I dig into the pile I find lots of frozen (dead?!) worms. I’m sorry wormies. And my food waste is not being broken down like it is in the summer. As a result, some of our food waste has gone down the garbage disposal (which isn’t a good option because it uses a lot of water and energy to process at the water treatment plants) and I’ve also thrown some into the *gasp* garbage. It breaks my little green heart.

My friend Julie who also lives in Colorado has run into the same frozen composting dilemma this winter and decided to start worm composting in her basement. The idea of having a bin full of worms in your house might skeeve some people out, but the worms are contained and it’s a very practical way to keep your food waste out of the landfills. While I haven’t set up my own system yet, I have started learning more about it. Not only is it a great option for people who live in colder climates, but it’s great for apartment-dwellers or others who don’t have a yard to put a traditional compost bin.

Photo credit: Bramble Hill

Why compost?
Recycling the organic waste of a household into compost allows us to return badly needed organic matter to the soil. In this way, we participate in nature’s cycle, and cut down on garbage going into burgeoning landfills.

What is vermicomposting?
In the simplest terms, “vermicomposting is a system for turning food waste into potting soil with the help of worms.”

What do I need to get started?
According to Worm Woman, you will need:

  • An aerated container
  • Bedding such as shredded newspaper
  • Moisture and proper temperature
  • Small amount of soil
  • Redworms (Eisenia fetida)

Learn more about vermicomposting:

If not for the fact that we are trying to get our house ready to go on the market and I need another project like I need a hole in my head, I would totally set up a worm composting bin in my house right now. But the worm bin project (along with the getting chickens project and what else is there?) will have to wait until we have sold our house and have moved into our new abode.

Cross-posed on BlogHer

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Eco-friendly upcycled holiday crafts for kids

Green or eco-friendly crafts for children using recycled or upcycled (repurposing a waste material into a product of higher quality materials) are plentiful this holiday season. In addition to being better for the environment, crafting from items found around the house has the added benefit of being economical.

No Time for Flashcards is one of my favorite blogs for finding activities to do with young children. No all posts are green, but three posts that do fit that category include recycled Christmas tree using paper from an old catalog, A “Bow”tiful Christmas tree made out of a grocery bag and misshapen present bows, and a Bell Christmas ornament made from an Easter egg. All three are great crafts for toddlers and preschoolers. My kids, ages 3 and 5, and I made some of the recycled Christmas trees using magazine pages earlier this week.

Photo credit: No Time for Flashcards

For little ones who like to paint, why not try painting holiday cards or making your own wrapping paper using paints made from berries and beets! The Green Art Project has a tutorial for making your own natural paints using fruits and vegetables you may already have in the house.

Over at This and That, there’s another idea for making your own gift wrap. Money Saving Mom also suggests having the kids help make homemade wrapping paper.

Here’s a beautiful and easy craft from Maya*Made to hang on the tree – a “snow”-covered pinecone ornament.

Photo credit:Maya*Made

There are a lot of fun ornaments that can be made with a burnt-out incandescent light bulb. It’s upcycling at it’s finest! There’s a snowman face ornament, Rudolph the recycled light bulb, the light bulb penguin, and there are some more cute ideas over at Keep’n the SunnySide. You could also keep it simple and let your child paint and glue whatever they want on the light bulb.

Photo credit: Crafts by Amanda

Summer at Wired for Noise suggests embroidering pictures on old pillow cases and had fun teaching her son the handicraft.

Another craft idea that we’ve tried in our house is transforming old, broken crayons into new crayons. The Red, White and Green says you don’t need to spend $30 on a Crayola Crayon Maker (made of nearly four pounds of plastic) to do it either. If you want to make holiday-themed crayons, you just need some holiday candy molds. Zakka Life has a tutorial on how to recycle old crayons into new crayons using candy molds. You can also just use muffin tins for round crayons. Raising Maine also suggests making the recycled crayons into ornaments.

Photo credit: Raising Maine

Older children may enjoy stringing popcorn or cranberries on wire or thread as garland to be hung on the Christmas tree. When the tree is taken down, the edible garland can be strung outside for the birds or put into your compost bin.

Another fun idea for a craft and/or gift for older children from Little Birdie Secrets is felted soap. “You cover a bar of soap with this fabulous wool fiber, then felt it, and you have a soap and washcloth in one!”

Photo credit: Little Birdie Secrets

Celebrate Green Blog recently came across some eco-friendly holiday crafts from Family Fun magazine using upcycled materials, including retro ornaments made from toilet paper rolls, Christmas carolers made from toilet paper rolls, holey socks and old sheet music, and a Flame-free menorah.

Photo credit: Family Fun

Lastly, there are some creative recycled craft ideas over at Monkey See Monkey Do including a milk carton nativity or Christmas village and a mop-head Santa, as well as coat hanger snowmen and reindeer and a trash bag wreath.

Looking for more green craft ideas? Check out Books make great gifts for green crafters over at Crafting a Green World. She suggests Green Crafts for Children: 35 Step-by-Step Projects Using Natural, Recycled, And Found Materials by Emma Hardy especially for green mamas and their green girls.

Have more eco-friendly holiday craft ideas for kids? Please share them in the comments.

Cross-posted on BlogHer.

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10 Simple Ways to Green Your Thanksgiving

First there was 10 Simple Ways to Green Your Halloween. Now here are 10 Simple Ways to Green Your Thanksgiving and reduce your impact on the earth. Pick one or two or do them all. Every little bit helps. :)

1. Be aware of the amount of packaging in the foods you purchase. For example, instead of buying a can of pumpkin to make a pumpkin pie, buy a pie pumpkin. Instead of buying a ready-made pie crust, make your own from scratch.

2. Just say no to environmentally destructive factory farms. Buy a free-range Heritage turkey or go meatless.

3. Buy organic. Buy local. Whenever you can, buy organic foods. Organic foods aren’t just better for your health, they are better for the earth and animals as well. If you can buy local foods and reduce your meal’s carbon footprint and support your local economy, all the better.

4. Use a cloth tablecloth and cloth napkins. No disposable paper products.

5. Use real plates, glasses and silverware. If you don’t have enough place settings for all of your guests, ask them to bring their own. Again, the trick is not to use any disposable paper/plastic products.

6. Centerpiece. Use things from around the house to make a one-of-a-kind Thanksgiving centerpiece. Have your kids help! Or if you must buy flowers, make sure they are organic.

7. Eat your leftovers. Make sure you put away leftovers in a timely manner into the refrigerator or freezer. If you don’t think you will eat them all, send some home with your guests.

8. Compost your table scraps.

9. Recycle anything that can be recycled.

10. Be thankful. Don’t forget to express your gratitude for all that you have, including the earth.

Related posts:

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Save the leaves! (for your compost bin, of course)

At my house there is never a shortage of green material (also known as wet or nitrogen-rich matter) – orange peels, corn husks, dinner food scraps, yard waste, etc. – for my compost bin, but when it comes to finding brown (also known as dry or carbon-rich) material, in the past I’ve often ended up coming up short. The trick, of course, to getting compost to work and breakdown into that coveted nutrient-rich soil is to have the right combination of both green and brown matter.

Two years ago, however, I posted my first Green Tip of the Week suggesting that my readers keep a bag or two (or three) of their dry fall leaves to use throughout the coming year as brown material to add to their compost pile or bin.

If you don’t have a lot of leaves in your yard, chances are you can find a neighbor who’d be more than willing to part with a couple bags of their leaves, especially if you agree to rake and bag them!

Luckily (I guess) for us, we have a tree-filled back yard and never have a problem accumulating several bags of leaves to hold onto, which is exactly what I did last fall and was so happy to have the dry material whenever I needed it. The only problem is that I sometimes still forget to add it (oops!) and then end up with a huge fruit fly problem at the end of the summer (which I thankfully found a remedy for).

After letting the kids spend a good deal of time burying themselves and sliding into the leaf piles, Jody and I got them all raked and bagged. Right now I have about 12 bags of leaves out on the curb for the city to pick up (and mulch), but I’ve also saved three bags in my back yard to add to my compost bin as needed. :) Over at Terminal Verbosity, you can learn more about how to compost.

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10 Simple Ways to Green Your Halloween

The commercialism surrounding Halloween seems to be growing every year. Instead of putting out a jack-o-lantern on your front porch and calling it good, nowadays its not Halloween unless you have jack-o-lanterns, cobwebs, skeletons, ghosts, lights, scary music, zombies… (you get the picture). There are entire “Halloween stores” devoted to selling cheap costumes, accessories, and decorations galore – the majority of which are likely manufactured in China.

Halloween doesn’t need to be so over the top though. You can still dress up and decorate and have fun doing it without contributing to the landfills! Here are 10 simple ways to green your Halloween.

  1. Turn costume making into a creative and fun experience for your child. Hunt through the house, at neighborhood garage sales, thrift stores or consignment shops for costumes or costume-worthy items. Enjoy the process and the product! If you’re not feeling creative, host a costume exchange.
  2. Many store-bought costumes and accessories contain toxic chemicals that not only are a potential hazard to your child, but also to the environment and the people who helped to make them. Choose fabrics such as cotton, wool and silk or make costumes yourself from materials you know to be safe.
  3. Make your own non-toxic face paints (another tutorial @ Green Halloween) or your own fake blood, scars and special effects
  4. Give your child a shakable flashlight (which uses no batteries and is powered by the shaking motion) to light his way. For the adult trick-or-treating with the kids, use a crank flashlight to illuminate the way for the kids.
  5. Use a reusable trick-or-treat bag. When I was a kid, we just used a pillow case.
  6. Reverse trick-or-treat to promote fair-trade chocolate and protect the environment or collect pennies for UNICEF.
  7. If you are passing out treats, check out my Halloween Candy Alternative list for some fun ideas (and don’t forget to check out the Nestle boycott list before buying any candy).
  8. Decorate using homemade crafts such as egg carton bats, pumpkins and cats from laundry soap bottles, cereal box luminaries, jack-o-lantern candle craft, or use decorations that can be eaten (pie pumpkins, squash) or composted or used in the garden (hay bales).
  9. Visit a local pumpkin patch to pick out your pumpkin(s).
  10. Turn your pumpkin into a solar-powered jack-o-lantern and use all of the pumpkin. You can make roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin bread, pumpkin spice cookies or pumpkin black bean soup, and compost your pumpkin when you are done with it.

A few of the above tips came from Healthy Child, Healthy World – 25 Green Halloween Tips!

Related sites and posts:
Green Halloween Costumes
Green Halloween
Green Talk: Halloween leaves me Hollow
@LisaBorden‘s Guide to being eco-ish over ghoul-ish this Halloween
Chic Mommy: DIY Halloween Costumes

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Pee in the shower to save water

A new ad campaign is running in Brazil asking people to “Go Green – Go in the Shower” – urinate in the shower to conserve water.

Brazilian environmental group SOS Mata Atlantica says the campaign, running on several television stations, uses humor to persuade people to reduce flushes.

The group says if a household avoids one flush a day, it can save up to 4,380 liters (1,157 gallons) of water annually.

SOS spokeswoman Adriana Kfouri said Tuesday that the ad is “a way to be playful about a serious subject.”

The spot features cartoon drawings of people from all walks of life — a trapeze artist, a basketball player, even an alien — urinating in the shower.

Narrated by children’s voices, the ad ends with: “Pee in the shower! Save the Atlantic rainforest!”

What do you think? Do you/would you pee in the shower? I’ll fess up and admit to doing it myself from time to time. I really don’t see what the big deal is.

If you are looking for other ways to conserve water, you can let it mellow if it’s yellow OR save your pee to water/fertilize your garden.

Hat tip to my cousin Rebecca for posting this video on Facebook, where I discovered it.

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