The Cost of Litter

I’ve written before about my mom’s habit of picking up trash and how it has rubbed off on me. I’m not as agro as she is (yet?), but I try to do my part. I find it’s especially hard to ignore garbage when it’s in the street or on the sidewalk in front of my house or when I’m out somewhere in nature surrounded by beauty and wildlife. I feel compelled to pick up trash in nature. I can’t stand it marring the scenery or the thought of it ending up in an animal’s stomach.

This weekend, the fam and I took a hike to St. Mary’s Glacier outside of Idaho Springs. It was so picturesque, but I ran into a stray piece of garbage here and there (mostly wrappers from “convenient” individually-wrapped foods), which I pocketed and threw into the trash when we returned to the parking lot.

It’s hard to ignore garbage when the view looks like this:

Or this:

Or this:

And especially when I look at these two and then see a piece of trash. It’s really hard to look the other way.

Over at One Million Acts of Green, one of the Acts (under Everyday Habits) is Pick Up Garbage. The carbon dioxide reduction of this particular Act is low, but it’s important for many other reasons.

The Cost of Litter

Garbage littering our neighborhoods, waterways, nature areas and more:

  • Creates an eyesore.
  • Creates potential environmental damage.
  • It can be a health hazard to humans and animals.
  • It’s killing marine life.
  • It’s killing animals in the wild and even in a zoo.
  • And it’s costly to humans in the dollars and cents sense of the word too.
  • In the United States, state governments spends millions of dollars (yes, millions) each year picking up garbage.
  • They also drive millions of miles each year to collect that trash. Think of all of the gas that is used to fuel their trucks!

If we all did our part and picked up after ourselves and others — including our DOGS — (and for the love of God, try to stay away from those “convenient” individually-wrapped foods in the first place) we could make a big impact.

If you complete the Pick Up Garbage Act, you’ll be well on your way to completing 3 Acts of Green which will earn you an entry into the 3 to Green Contest where one very lucky winner will receive a $5,000 spending spree at To enter for your chance to win, just register and complete three acts of green! It’s that easy! And for every additional three acts of green you register, you’ll earn another entry. Not only will you get a chance to win some cool green stuff, you will be doing your part to clean up the Earth. Our children and our children’s children will thank you for it someday.

As we were on our hike, I paused by the lake to gaze out at the water where I saw ripples — first tiny, then bigger, and bigger, and bigger — which made me think of the ripple effect.

Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end. — Scott Adams

Let’s start our own little ripples and see how big they become. :)

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.

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

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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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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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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Decluttering your house, the green way

I’ve been on a spring cleaning kick around here lately and it’s a good thing since my house is sorely in need of it. Not only will decluttering hopefully help my mood (who can stay positive looking at clutter day in and day out?), but getting rid of our superfluous stuff will be helpful when it comes time to pack it all up one day (I hope in a year or two) and move to another house.

When ridding my home of stuff we no longer want or use, I try to be as green and eco-friendly as possible. How do I do it?

  • Listing my items on Freecycle is often my first choice because it can be the fastest way to move stuff out and get it into the hands of someone else who can use it. The only rule to listing on Freecycle is that you have to give the item(s) away for free. Personally, I love it.
  • If I have a more expensive item that I don’t want to give away for free, I turn to Craigslist – it’s like a huge classified system where you can list items free of charge. As opposed to something like Ebay, Craigslist is organized by city so there’s a good chance you can find someone in your area that can come get it directly from you and pay you cash, and you avoid having to spend money on shipping and making a trip to the Post Office.
  • Our curbside recycling bin is also my best friend when cleaning house. If something isn’t accepted in the curbside bin, sometimes it can go to the local recycling center which is just a few miles away. Check with your local recycling center for more information on recycling in your area.
  • If it isn’t wanted on Freecycle, can’t be sold or can’t be recycled, and provided it’s something others can use, then it usually goes into a donation pile to be given to a local charity.
  • If all of these fail, then as a last resort it goes into the trash. I try to use the garbage can as sparingly as possible, but even I must admit that sometimes the trash is the only place for it.

Even if I know the garbage can is my last option for stuff, I still feel bad about throwing it out. I hate to think about it ending up in a landfill and staying there forever, but then I also have to be realistic and not completely beat myself up over it. It’s a good reminder to make wise choices when buying things and think:

  • Do I really need this?
  • Is it good enough quality that it will last for years or will it break after a year and have to be replaced?
  • Should I save my money for a little while longer and buy a better quality item that will last me longer?
  • What will I do with it when I no longer need it (or when it breaks)?

Of course this is a bit harder when you have kids (and toys) and it’s not always practical to go through this list every time you buy something, but it’s a good practice to get into and will help to avoid unnecessary purchases in the future. It can also help you avoid buying cheap, plastic toys that might as well go directly from the assembly line to the landfill for as long as they are usable. But don’t get me started about those. ;oP

As for my decluttering today, I cleaned out and reorganized the pantry/laundry room. I should’ve taken before and after pictures, if not to post on my blog, then for my own satisfaction. ;) I still have a bit more work to do in there and Jody is going to put up another shelf, but already it feels so. much. better.

I also worked a bit in my kitchen today to clear off one of my countertops. My countertops end up being a breeding ground for kid artwork and my/Jody’s paperwork. Does this happen to anyone else?? I’m trying to get a system in place so that we can avoid future paper explosions on the counter, but some more reorganizing and implementing a filing system (as well as having a desk to use) is definitely in order first. Anyone have a cute rolltop desk they want to sell me or give me? C’mon, Freecycle, baby. ;)