Plastic Wrapped Bananas: Guest Post

I’ve decided to take a little break from blogging (read more about the reasons why), but wanted to continue to provide interesting and insightful content on my blog in the meantime. I asked for help and my tribe answered my call, so for a while I will have guest posts from various bloggers interspersed with posts by me when I am moved to write. Thank you for your understanding. — Amy (CDG)

Today’s guest post comes from Amy who blogs at An Aussie Mum’s Guide to Eco Friendly Babies.

Plastic Wrapped Bananas. Yes, I’m Serious!

Despite so many people attempting to make a difference for the better, some companies have other ideas. Del Monte have bought out a range of plastic wrapped bananas — to save the environment. Say what? Yes, they claim that the plastic wrapping on the bananas in plastic is “...Designed to provide significant carbon footprint savings by reducing the frequency of deliveries and the amount of waste going to landfill. The packaging is also recyclable.

Looking at the company website suggests the packaged bananas are going into vending machines and convenience stores and will potentially make it easier for people to grab a healthy snack on the go. Surely, there is a better option than non-biodegradable plastic? Even here is Australia, where life is a little slower and so much of the land is still pristine, we are succumbing to the mantra of ‘buy, use, discard’. You can buy ‘healthy’ apple slices from McDonalds- packaged in plastic and dipped in some foul tasting substance to stop browning. Wouldn’t it be cheaper (and eco-friendlier) just to use a whole, unpackaged, untreated apple? There is also the prevalence of cut and packaged vegetables in the supermarkets- celery, carrots, gourmet tomatoes, Asian vegetable mixes and pre-made salads. Are people so inept in the kitchen these days they can’t slice celery? Is there some sort of social benefit to saying “Look, these are upper-class Tomatoes- they come in a packet!”

It’s not just food. If you buy a toaster, you get a whole bunch of Styrofoam, plastic, tie-wires, bubble wrap, warranty cards, brochures for other products (want to buy a coffee machine with that toaster?) and instructions that are 18 pages long because they are in 7 different languages. Retailers receive deliveries that are in boxes three times the needed size and packed with plastic and puffed rice, and usually yet another copy of this months deals (you know, the ones that were sent in the mail, and with the last four orders). The bank who offers e-statements to save paper sends you a quarterly offer for insurance that you already have. In a world where email is so quick and easy, where technology is so advanced, why can’t we start using it for something good? We could email statements, bills, special offers and all the other rubbish that comes through the mail. We can come up with biodegradable, renewal, ecologically sound packaging, or just use some sense and pack smaller and transport less.

Can a single person make a difference? I like to believe so. We can email companies like Del Monte, asking them to come up with a better solution. We can tell suppliers that unless they pack smarter, we will no longer buy from them. We can pressure our schools and encourage our workplaces to adopt ‘nude food’ policies. We can slice our own celery and not buy food with unnecessary wrapping, packagings and labels. We can reduce, reuse, recycle and above all, teach our kids to do the same. After all, it may be one of our kids who eventually heads up a company like Del Monte and finally makes a change… for the better.

Photo credit: Friends Eat

Amy is a working mum of two from Australia. Between her kids (who are nine years apart) she’s been working in the natural health industry, which has opened her eyes to the down side of many aspects of modern life. Since having a new baby she started a journey to find a more natural, holistic way of living. Amy wants to share what she finds with other mums who are looking to change their way of thinking and have happier, healthier, more eco-friendly lives! She blogs at An Aussie Mum’s Guide to Eco Friendly Babies.

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Last Minute Green Holiday Gifts

I have to admit I’m freaking out a little bit that there are only 10 days until Christmas! I felt like I had so much time and suddenly Christmas is right around the corner! I think I’m pretty set on gifts for the kids, but still need to mail a few packages and figure out what I’m getting for my husband.

For those of you who are still wracking your brains, check out the suggestions below. You’re sure to find a green idea or two to help you on your merry way. :)

Last Minute Green Gifts

Now for some Eco-friendly Gift Wrap Ideas

Do you have tips for other last minute green gifts or eco-friendly wrapping ideas? Please share them in the comments. :)

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation. See what the other ambassadors have to say about One Million Acts of Green: Green and Clean MomGreen Your Décor and Condo Blues.

Photo via Perspicacious.org: Paper bag gift wrap

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Green Your Halloween with National Costume Swap Day – Oct. 9

I have fond memories from Halloween when I was a kid. My crafty mom made a point of sewing costumes for me and my siblings, often creating a theme for all three of us. One year we were Princess Lea, Darth Vader and an Ewok. Another year my brother was Superman and I was Batgirl. Our little sis was a clown. Not exactly sure how that tied in to our super hero theme. Oh yeah, it was a costume my mom made years prior that both me and my brother had outgrown. ;) I’m not giving you grief for reusing costumes, Mom. Really, I’m not. :) I actually love it and would totally do it myself! Actually, I am this year. ;)

As a kid, I loved having costumes that were unique and now that I’m older I appreciate even more that they were made with love and care and have lasted through the years. My kids might be able to enjoy wearing them too!

These days, as Halloween-themed stores pop up across the city in buildings that usually lie vacant, you can buy just about any disposable costume imaginable. But instead of shelling out the cash for something you or your child is likely to wear for one night, why not participate in a costume swap? National Costume Swap Day — “a country-wide event encouraging local kids and families to trade Halloween get-ups instead of buying new ones to reduce waste” — takes place this year on Saturday, Oct. 9. The event is being promoted by KIWI Magazine, Green Halloween and Swap.com.

According to Green Halloween, if just half of the children who celebrate Halloween swapped costumes instead of choosing new ones, annual landfill waste would be reduced by 6,250 tons, which is equivalent to the weight of 2,500 midsize cars!

To find a swap near you, register a swap or get information about how to host a swap, visit Green Halloween’s Costume Swap page.

Kellie Brown, who organized the online Colorado Costume Swap, said, “While many are trying to cut costs and pick up a second hand costume, others just want to avoid making new purchases. Motivation aside, gently used costumes are the way to go for a green Halloween.”

On Inhabitots, Julie Knapp points out the benefits of costume swaps.

Swapping costumes means that fewer costumes need to be produced by manufacturers each year. In turn, fewer resources are needed to make those costumes, less packaging is required, fewer costumes need to be transported from other countries or to your local store, and less waste will be produced since many consumers trash their Halloween costumes once the fun is over.

Cool Mom Picks asks, Halloween costume swaps – Frugal or just plain smart? Personally, I vote for both. CMP points out that even if there isn’t a costume swap in your ‘hood, you have options to participate online instead.

CMP favoritethredUP has even developed a way to participate in this swap online: Put together a box of outgrown clothes to swap and include a Halloween costume in that box. Label it as a “Halloween Box” and then offer it to their members. Then, search their database for a costume for your child.

Over at Confessions of a Psychotic Housewife, Storm points out this swap doesn’t have to be just for people who celebrate Halloween. “Even if you don’t celebrate Halloween, it’s a great chance to fill up your child(ren)’s dress-up box, or to get costumes for plays and Church functions.”

Whatever your motivation is — being frugal and saving some green, wanting to keep stuff out of the landfills and being green, or just wanting to stock up on dress-up clothes for the kids — this costume swap is a great option. Visit Green Halloween’s Costume Swap for more information. Happy swapping!

Related posts:

Photo via Crunchy Domestic Goddess. (Yep, that’s me up there! Batgirl to the rescue!)

Soon-to-be cross-posted on BlogHer

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Go Meatless One Meal Per Week

Last week I introduced you to a cool project I’m participating in called One Million Acts of Green (OMAOG). If you haven’t yet read my intro post, I invite you to check it out.

Today I want to talk briefly about one of the ways we’ve chosen to “Go Green” in my house and that is by rarely, if ever, eating beef. Here’s a weird but true fact from OMAOG about cows:

Cows are a major contributor to greenhouse gases. As the old adage says, what goes in must come out, and for cattle, a lot of what comes out is methane gas. And just like carbon, methane gas gets trapped in our atmosphere. Since the 1960s, the amount of methane in the air has increased by 1% per year—twice as fast as the build up of carbon dioxide. As worldwide demand for beef increases, so do the number of cows and the methane they produce. Also, in many countries around the world, forests are being clear cut to make room for growing beef. Cutting down trees reduces the planet’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide.

GO MEATLESS ONE MEAL PER WEEK

Also, if you haven’t yet heard of Meatless Monday, you might want to schedule your vegetarian meal of the week for Mondays to coincide with it (and maybe even plan on going meatless for the entire day). Meatless Monday is a non-profit initiative (totally unrelated to OMAOG) that provides recipes and info to start each week with healthy, environmentally friendly meat-free alternatives. The goal of Meatless Monday is “to help you reduce your meat consumption by 15% in order to improve your personal health and the health of the planet.”

At our house for dinner tonight we had eggs with spinach, salsa and cheese. We tend to eat about 50% of our meals without meat and although I don’t always schedule them to coincide with Meatless Monday, today it just worked out. (In other words, I was feeling lazy and eggs were a quick and easy dinner. *wink*)

If you eat meat, do you take a meal or day (Meatless Monday) off from it each week? If not, would you try it?

  • Register at One Million Acts of Green and log your first Act of Green: Eat a Vegetarian Meal This Week. Remember, you can see the impact of each of your Acts of Green. They all add up and will help the United States reach its goal of completing one million acts of green (and beyond!). :)
  • For more simple ways to go green, check out Green U: Simple Ways to Be Green (for beginners and experts).

Photo via CALM Action on Flickr.

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation.

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Dyeing Easter eggs naturally – a tutorial

Easter is right around the corner and since I’ve been totally immersed in house prep/selling stuff for the past month and I haven’t had time to do much blogging, I’m going to recycle this egg dyeing post from last year. Hope you give it a try! :)

Originally posted: 4/4/09

So you want to dye your Easter eggs naturally – without chemicals and artificial colors? While it takes longer than the commercial egg dye kits you buy at the store, dyeing your eggs with natural foods is better for you and your child(ren)’s health, produces much more interesting colors and is, quite arguably, more fun!

Why dye with natural colors instead of artificial?
According to Organic.org, “Many food colorings contain color additives such as Red No. 3 and Yellow No. 5, which, according to a 1983 study by the FDA, were found to cause tumors (Red No. 3) and hives (Yellow No. 5).” I wrote about the drawbacks of artificial colors a while back if you’d like to read more on the topic.

It is more time-consuming than using a store-bought conventional egg dye kit (and I highly recommend preparing the egg dye baths a few hours before you plan to dye the eggs with the kiddos), but it is healthier for your kids and the environment. “Dyeing eggs the natural way gives you the opportunity to spend more time with your family, teaching kids to use alternative project methods that are healthier for them and the environment.” I think it will be a lot of fun and a great family project.

To get started you will need:

  • Hard boiled eggs (preferably white eggs since they take on the dyes better than brown eggs)
  • Ingredients to make your dyes, which I will discuss in more detail below – As a guideline, use up to 4 cups for vegetable solids and 3–4 tablespoons for spices per quart. Mash up fruits.
  • White vinegar (2 Tablespoons for every quart of water)
  • Several pots and bowls
  • Optional: stickers, rubber bands, and crayons for decorating the eggs and making interesting patterns
  • Egg cartons for drying the dyed eggs

Natural egg dyes can be made from a variety of ingredients. Here’s a list of what I used last year along with comments on the colors that resulted.

RED

  • 3 cans of beets in cranberry juice (instead of water) – produced a dark reddish hue

PINK

  • Frozen cherries – made a very light pink

RED-ORANGE

  • 3 tablespoons of chili powder produced a nice reddish-orange color

YELLOW

  • 3 Tablespoons of tumeric produced a great yellow

GREEN

  • A mix of spinach leaves, canned blueberries and their juice and a few tablespoons of tumeric produced a gorgeous earthy green color – I think it would work without the spinach leaves, but I happened to have some that were wilting so I threw them in.

BLUE

  • 3/4 of a head of red cabbage (chopped) made a beautiful blue

GREY BLUE

  • 2 cans of blueberries and their juice made a grey-blueish color

GREY

  • Frozen cherries mixed with blueberries yielded a grey color (not the purple I was going for).

Instructions:
Last year I found a couple great web site with tips on “Natural Easter Egg Dyes” and Natural Dye from Organic.org. The natural dyes come from spices like paprika, tumeric and cumin; vegetables like spinach and red cabbage; fruit juices and even coffee. All of your dye ingredients can (and should) be composted after you are done.

On Organic.org, there is a boil method (which produces darker results) and a cold-dip method, which is suggested for children or if you plan to eat the eggs, which is the method we used last year.

The two methods are:

Method 1—Hot
Place eggs in a single layer in a large, nonaluminum pan. Add the dyeing ingredient of your choice—it’s best not to mix until you are comfortable with experimenting. Cover the eggs and other dyeing “agent(s)” with one inch of water. Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar per quart to help the color adhere to the egg, and bring to a boil. Next, simmer for 20–30 minutes or until the desired shade is achieved. If you cook the eggs longer than 15 minutes, they will become rather tough.

Method 2—Cold
The cold method is the same as the hot method with the following exception. Once ingredients have simmered 20–30 minutes (depending on desired shade), lift or strain the ingredients out of the water and allow the water to cool to room temperature though you may wish to try keeping the ingredients in the colored water to give the egg more texture as the dye will become concentrated in areas where the vegetable touches the egg. Submerge the eggs until the desired color is achieved. You may keep the eggs in the solution overnight as long as it is refrigerated.

The longer the egg stays in the dye, hot or cold, the deeper the hue will be. Using vinegar will also help the color deepen.

Definitely feel free to experiment and try out other foods and spices. For me, that was a big part of what made it so much fun, trying out different things to see what colors would come from them. For example, the dye from the spinach, tumeric, blueberry mix looked orange or brown, but the eggs came out green! And the red cabbage dye was purpley-pink, but the eggs came out blue. It was like a fun science experiment that the whole family could get involved in. Happy egg coloring! :)

Pictures:
The process of making the dyes:

The egg dyes on the stovetop Beets in cranberry juice
Red cabbage Tumeric

And the results:

Red and pink eggsYellow and orange eggs
Green eggsBlue eggs

Links to other people’s natural egg dyeing results:

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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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