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.

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Blog Action Day: Climate Change – Why bother? Here’s why.

Today, Oct. 15, 2009, is Blog Action Day. This year’s theme is Climate Change. I’d like to say I have this highly interesting and educational NEW post put together all about climate change, but the truth is I don’t. Instead I am going to recycle (recycling is good, right?) an oldie, but a goody post of mine from Aug. 28, 2008, that addresses climate change called “Why Bother?

Why Bother?

April 28, 2008

This evening as Jody and Ava were out running an errand for me, I attempted to cook dinner while balancing a miserable Julian (due to his four canine teeth coming in at the same time) on my hip. After much fussing (on Julian’s part, not mine), I took a break from cooking, sat down on the couch, flipped on the TV and, hoping to make the poor boy feel a bit better, nursed him.

In skipping through the channels it became clear to me why I rarely watch TV (with the exception of The Office, LOST and occasionally Oprah). There was nothing on. I stopped on the local public access channel long enough to hear someone talking about global warming. My interest was piqued so I lingered.

veg-garden.jpgIt turns out it was a woman reading Michael Pollan’s recent New York Times article “Why Bother?” For those of you unfamiliar with Pollan, he is the author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food – neither of which I have read yet, but I’ve heard great things about both.

“Why Bother?” is a question I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I’m nowhere near the point of throwing in the towel with regard to the things I do to help the environment, but after reading an article like Enjoy life while you can’ – Climate science maverick James Lovelock believes catastrophe is inevitable, carbon offsetting is a joke and ethical living a scam and watching a YouTube video (which has since been taken down) about Monsanto, you might start to get a little jaded and wonder if all of your efforts are in vain. At least that’s where I’ve been at.

Pollan’s article “Why Bother?” was exactly what I needed to hear (and then read in full on the web since I missed the first half of it on TV) to help lift me out of my funk and I highly recommend you read the whole thing. Here’s just a bit of it.

If you do bother, you will set an example for other people. If enough other people bother, each one influencing yet another in a chain reaction of behavioral change, markets for all manner of green products and alternative technologies will prosper and expand. Consciousness will be raised, perhaps even changed: new moral imperatives and new taboos might take root in the culture. Driving an S.U.V. or eating a 24-ounce steak or illuminating your McMansion like an airport runway at night might come to be regarded as outrages to human conscience. Not having things might become cooler than having them. And those who did change the way they live would acquire the moral standing to demand changes in behavior from others — from other people, other corporations, even other countries.

Pollan goes on to suggest “find one thing to do in your life that doesn’t involve spending or voting, that may or may not virally rock the world but is real and particular (as well as symbolic) and that, come what may, will offer its own rewards. Maybe you decide to give up meat, an act that would reduce your carbon footprint by as much as a quarter. Or … for one day a week, abstain completely from economic activity: no shopping, no driving, no electronics.”

He also discusses how doing something as basic as planting a garden to grow even a little of your own food could make a big difference. This is another thing I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. As the price of food goes higher and higher and we worry more and more about where our food comes from, organic vs. conventional (pesticide-laden), genetically-modified organisms, carbon emissions and climate change, it makes sense to me to try to grow some of our own food.

Pollan says, “It’s estimated that the way we feed ourselves (or rather, allow ourselves to be fed) accounts for about a fifth of the greenhouse gas for which each of us is responsible.” Yikes.

I don’t have a lot of experience in gardening, but I did help my mom in our family garden as a child and, three years ago, some friends and I had our own plot in a community garden. As I embark on growing my own garden for the first time this year, I’m thankful for my friends like Julie of Terminal Verbosity, Melissa at Nature Deva, Heather at A Mama’s Blog, and Woman With A Hatchet, who all have more gardening experience than me (and will hopefully help me out if I need it – hint, hint). I’m planting a small garden not only for the food it will provide to me and my family and to reduce our carbon footprint, but for the experience it will provide us all. Someday in the hopefully not too distant future (like next few years) once we move into a different house with a larger (and sunnier) yard, I’d love to have a much bigger garden. I’d like to know that if push came to shove and we needed to grow some of our own food, that I could do it. I am concerned that that day might not be too far off and Pollan agrees. “If the experts are right, if both oil and time are running out, these (growing our own food) are skills and habits of mind we’re all very soon going to need.”

But Pollan doesn’t end his article on a downer. Rather he is hopeful and his message is uplifting.

The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.

So, why bother? Because the future of humankind depends on it. Even if by some stroke of luck climate change doesn’t affect us during our lifetime (wishful thinking), I would hate to leave this huge burden and mess for our children to clean up. After all, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” – Native American Proverb

I think Pollan answers the question of “why bother?” best when he says,

Going personally green is a bet, nothing more or less, though it’s one we probably all should make, even if the odds of it paying off aren’t great. Sometimes you have to act as if acting will make a difference, even when you can’t prove that it will.

Here, here. That is why I will keep on bothering. And I hope you will too.


Since writing this post, for the past two summers I have grown some of my own food – adding to the number of things I grow from year to year. I’ve also become more mindful about buying food locally. And I got to see Michael Pollan speak in Boulder in May of this year. :) I continue to try to inspire others to live more deliberately through my Green Challenges.

If you wrote about Blog Action Day, I’d love it if you’d leave your link below so I and others can read it. Thanks!

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Ditch the Disposables Challenge 2009

Ditch the Disposables ChallengeIt’s been one year since the first Ditch the Disposables Challenge on Crunchy Domestic Goddess which, with nearly 150 participants, was a big success. Let’s do it again and see if we can get 200 participants this time around! For two months, September and October, I’m challenging you to Ditch the Disposables!

We live in a society of convenience, where throw-away products are the norm rather than the exception. But all of the disposable products take resources and energy to produce and then, of course, get thrown away, filling up our landfills. All of this is bad news for the environment.

If you’d like to participate in this challenge, please select one or two (or more! – this can be as challenging as you want it to be) of your disposable products to ditch*, then leave a comment saying which disposable product(s) you will leave behind for two months in favor of an environmentally-friendly reusable product. I will create a list in the sidebar linking to everyone’s blog. Of course, you don’t have to have a blog to participate. I realize that many of you probably are already living without some (many?) of these disposable products, but certainly nearly all of us can find at least one NEW thing we can give up in favor of something better for the earth. If you honestly don’t use a single disposable product, leave me a comment too and I’ll still include you in the challenge and link back to you. :)

Here are some ideas to get you started…

You can make the switch from:

  • Paper napkins to cloth napkins
  • Paper towels to cloth towels or something like Skoy cloths
  • Tissues to handkerchiefs
  • Paper, plastic or Styrofoam plates to your kitchen plates
  • Disposable utensils to regular silverware
  • If you order food “to go” or have food to take home from a restaurant, bring your own container rather than accepting Styrofoam or plastic
  • Inexpensive plastic “Take & Toss” sippy cups to Thermos or Camelbak bottles or the Klean Kanteen
  • Disposable water bottles to (again) reusable bottles like Thermos, Klean Kanteen or Camelbak
  • Plastic sandwich bags or paper lunch bags to reusable containers/bags
  • Plastic straws to glass or stainless steel straws
  • Swiffers (or similar products) to a broom and dustpan or mop (or use reusable cloths like cloth diapers/terry inserts in your Swiffer)
  • Disposable dust rags to cloth rags
  • Disposable diapers to cloth diapers
  • Disposable wipes to cloth wipes (inexpensive plain washcloths work really well)
  • Disposable feminine products (tampons, pads) to reusables like DivaCup, MoonCup, Glad Rags, Luna Pads, Pretty Pads, or New Moon Pads, among others. You can even make your own pads.
  • Grocery store bags to reusable bags
  • Disposable wrapping paper or gift bags to reusable cloth gift bags
  • Single-use batteries to rechargeable batteries

Or, for the really crazy dedicated:

  • Toilet paper to cloth wipes/washcloths (for #1 or #2 too if you are really, really adventurous)

Please feel free to spread the word about the challenge on your blog by adding the button linking back to this post. If you have other ideas for disposable products people can ditch, please let me know and I’ll add them to the list. Thanks and good luck!

I’ll host a few check in posts (every other Sunday if I can remember) throughout the two months so everyone can stop by and say how they are doing, and offer support and/or tips to others as well. Together we can Ditch the Disposables!
*When I say “ditch,” please know that I don’t mean throw them away. I want you to try making a lifestyle change from a disposable product you use regularly. If you want to save your disposables until the challenge is over, that’s your prerogative. You might also consider Freecycling them or donating them to a local charitable organization. I do suggest that whichever product(s) you choose to give up, you pack away until the challenge is over, lest you be tempted to use it/them.

Also, I WILL have a few giveaways along the way to help you out with this challenge. Stay tuned! :)

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Turning back-to-school lunches green

This post is part of the Green Moms Carnival, which, this month, is focusing on greening up your back-to-school routine.

People often think “going green” means you have to spend a lot of money. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Making school (or even work) lunches green doesn’t require a huge outlay of cash. In fact, by packing eco-friendly lunches, you are more likely to save money, your children are more likely to eat healthier foods, and you are taking care of the earth by producing less waste. It’s a win-win-win!

Time is often an important factor when it comes to packing lunches (at least it is for me). And while some of the following suggestions take time to prepare, if you do your prep work on a weekend, you will have food conveniently ready to toss into lunch containers throughout the week(s) ahead.

When shopping for school lunch foods, be mindful of greenwashing – “a term used to describe the practice of companies disingenuously spinning their products and policies as environmentally friendly.” Just because a product claims to be “natural,” contain “whole grains” or even “organic” doesn’t mean it’s healthy or what it claims to be. Read labels carefully. The more processed food is and the more ingredients it has, the less likely it is to be healthy whether it’s organic or not. I mean seriously, organic Oreos? Give me a break!

If you buy individually packaged foods, like organic fruit snacks, how green are you really being? Think about how much plastic and packaging is involved there. A great alternative is to make your own organic fruit snacks. If you can use locally-grown fruit from your own garden or farmer’s market, all the better. Package them in a reusable container like these reusable sandwich bags found in the Cool Mom Picks Back to School Guide and you have a tasty “green” snack ready to go!

Far better than buying food that contains a label is to buy label-less food, like fresh produce! Chopped fruits and vegetables, paired with a dip or nut butter, bring color, taste and healthiness to every lunchbox. Try to choose fruits and vegetables that are in season and grown locally whenever possible. You can even buy large quantities of in-season fruits or veggies and then dehydrate them to throw into lunches year-round.

Granola bars are another great snack, but when you buy them from the store they are often full of unwanted ingredients, additives and preservatives and come with excessive packaging and waste. When you make them yourself, you control what goes into them and you significantly cut down on trash or eliminate it all-together. Check out these tasty do-it-yourself granola bar recipes below. You are sure to find at least one that your kiddos will eat. Some don’t even require baking! Make a batch on the weekend and you are set for lunches for the week. Put them in a reusable container and they are good to go.

Nuts are a great protein-filled food that can easily be packed into lunches. I just read a post by a woman on Freecycle asking for used Altoids containers. She said she uses them to pack nuts in her kids’ lunches. What a great idea! If your school has a no peanuts policy, ask if other nuts such as almonds, cashews, pecans or walnuts are acceptable.

Does your child like yogurt but you don’t like all of the waste (recyclable or not) produced by individual cups? Here’s another thing you can make at home (even in your crockpot), then scoop into your reusable container and you’re set. If you run short on time and have to buy yogurt from the store, buy it in the larger containers, then scoop out the desired amount into your child’s reusable container. Again, less waste.

If your child’s school doesn’t have the option for them to compost their leftover food (perhaps you can inquire about it and get a system started), ask them to bring home their leftovers rather than throw them into the trash so you can either save them if they are salvageable or compost them yourself. This will also allow you to gauge how much and which foods your child ate for lunch.

Along the same lines, check with your child’s school to see if they have a recycling system in place. If not, find out how you can get one started.

Michelle at What’s Cooking blog has an entire post chock full of ideas to help your child eat healthy school lunches. Some of her tips include:

  • Keep in mind that your children don’t have much time to eat…so pack foods in small portions that are easy to eat, so they have time left to play.
  • Let your child help you select a cool lead-free and reusable lunch bag or lunch box. Pick up a few reusable containers that will fit inside – this will prevent food from leaking and getting smashed, and will help you avoid using disposable items like plastic bags and foil.
  • Pack a reusable drink container instead of juice boxes, juice pouches, cans, and disposable plastic bottles.
  • Buy in bulk instead of purchasing pre-packaged items.
  • Whenever possible, pack lunches the night before.

Michelle also has some great tips for sandwich alternatives, thermos treasures, and container combinations that kids can assemble themselves.

Looking for more lunch container ideas? Check out:

  • Lunch Bots Uno and Duo
  • Kids Konserve which contains a page with a lot of information for schools, including a waste-free challenge to earn or save money for their schools. (Use code: crunchy for 15% off your Kids Konserve purchases through Sept. 30, 2009)
  • Retro Housewife put a list of cute reusable containers, utensils and cloth napkins for back-to-school waste-free lunches
  • Kellie at GreenHab has also put together a nice selection of lunch boxes

There ya have it. Turning your school lunches green is healthier, less costly and better for the earth, and probably even more fun. If you have money-saving green lunch tips or kid-friendly recipes, please post your links in the comments.

Related posts:

Cross-posted on BlogHer

Make sure you head over to Organic Mania on Monday, Aug. 10, to find out how other Green Moms are greening their back to school routine in this month’s Green Moms Carnival.

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Questioning Earth Hour and a reminder to beware the candles

It’s that time of year again. Earth Hour 2009 will be celebrated from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. (your local time zone) this Saturday, March 28.

Last year I wrote about Earth Hour and asked everyone to participate and turn off his/her lights for just one hour. I also gave tips for making it a fun family event, and, without giving it too much thought, suggested lighting candles as an alternate lighting source. The problem with this idea has come to my attention since then on more than one occasion, but most recently Crunchy Chicken wrote about the negative impact of paraffin candles in her Earth Hour bashing post.

For those of you not intimately knowledgeable about standard paraffin candles, paraffin is essentially hydrocarbon, or a heavy alkane fraction distilled straight from crude oil. Even if 80% of your electricity comes from coal and fossil fuel fired power stations, burning candles is very polluting and certainly very greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide emissions intensive, even more so than electric lighting. In other words, for every paraffin candle that is burned to replace electric lighting during Earth Hour, greenhouse gas emissions over the course of the one hour are increased by 9.8 g of carbon dioxide.

That’s a rather disturbing thought, no?

She continues,

Beeswax candles, on the other hand, can be considered “carbon neutral” in the sense that, even though it produces carbon dioxide when burned, it’s carbon that is naturally cycled through the ecospheric carbon cycle – not from fossil fuel.

So if you do plan on burning candles this year while participating in Earth Hour (or really if you plan to burn candles at all anytime), please make sure they are beeswax candles. An even better option though is to just hang out in the dark for an hour. :)

Aside from the candle issue, I have to admit I’m torn on the efficacy of Earth Hour. While I believe it has the power to affect change, I think if people, businesses, corporations and governments just do this one thing – turn out their lights for one hour – without changing any other of their habits, it’s really moot. And I question how many people are doing it just to be a part of something trendy and make themselves feel good. Turning out our lights for an hour isn’t going to solve global warming. However, if everyone uses Earth Hour as a springboard to take another step and another step and find little changes they can make to live greener and more sustainably, then it’s a great thing.

I’m trying to lean towards optimism rather than pessimism and keep the hope that each and every person who participates in Earth Hour is not doing it just to pat them self on the back for one evening, but that he/she realizes this is only the first step of many (MANY!!) to make a real difference in the future of our Earth.

Like I said in my post last year,

Earth Hour doesn’t have to end at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, you can incorporate it into your everyday life by doing little things like:

  • turn off lights when you leave a room;
  • switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs;
  • turn off appliances when not in use;
  • unplug things like cell phone chargers, the toaster, microwave and TV when they aren’t in use;
  • use less hot water;
  • switch to green power.

So what say you? Are you in? And what steps do you/will you take beyond turning off your lights on Saturday night?