Wash away my sins

I used to take hot showers.

Heck, I didn't just take them, I relished every darn second of them, feeling the heat wash through every part of me as it washed valuable resources (and my skin's moisture!) down the drain.

I consoled myself with justification. I bought a low flow/high pressure shower head. I cited studies which showed that filling up a bath tub wasted more water than a shower (however, this is totally dependant on the LENGTH of your shower, as one site explains). But both of those measures are negated if, like me, your showers tend to top 10 minutes on a regular basis.

Last week I was in the shower brainstorming a few ideas for this blog when it hit me - this is ludicrous! Hypocritical! How could I stand there, steaming up the mirrors, and think about environmentally friendly posts? Without thinking, my hand shot out and adjusted the water temperature. Perhaps I SHOULD have thought a bit, because I was instantly soaked with icy water. Once I got over the jumping and shrieking, I was able to adjust it to a more humane temperature and while it wasn't the sauna-like experience I was used to, it wasn't so bad! Additionally, without the hot water zoning me out, I was able to take a shorter shower and use less water.

I decided to stick with this model for a couple of days, shorter showers at a lower temperature. In doing so, I discovered a whole list of benefits!
  • Environmental - less energy expended to heat the water and less water used
  • Comfort - it's a lot easier to step out of the shower and into the cooler air in my apartment
  • Moisture - I'm no longer 'steaming' the natural moisture out, so my skin feels better
  • Hair - rinsing with cool water helps seal your hair, mine looks smoother
  • My apartment - we're still battling moisture issues here. The cooler water doesn't steam up my windows and create more work for my poor exhausted dehumidifier
I know a lot of us know this stuff already, but it took really putting it into practice for a little while for the benefits to truly sink in. So here's my challenge to you... switch to cool showers for a week! It doesn't have to be cold, just cooler than your normal temp. At the end of your week, check out this water and energy use calculator and figure out how much you saved! Then, come back to Greener Alice and let me know how your week went :)

Happy showering!





Save Homemade!

Yesterday, I posted about "Saving Handmade" on Through The Looking, my knitting blog. Forgive me for doubling up, but I think the subject deserves at least a passing mention here, too!

I'm not going to copy and paste the information about the bill, again, so the short version is... a new act has been passed requiring stricter testing and evaluation for children's toys which looks like it will impact small businesses (Etsy sellers and the like) far more than is necessary.

Now, this is just my humble opinion, but part of my idea of "greener" is buying local or handmade whenever possible. I would MUCH rather have my (theoretical) child pushing around a handcrafted wooden train made without any toxins or petroleum-based products than another piece of made-in-china plastic crap. To replace a polyfiber stuffed bear with one made from organic cotton and stuffed with re-purposed fabric scraps.

If that becomes impossible due to this bill, it'll be a very sad day.

Save Handmade Toys


Cleaning house - recycle!

If I have something large to get rid of (old computer parts, a treadmill, etc.), I jump RIGHT on the Suffolk County Freecycle Yahoo group and list that sucker as fast as I can. However, what if that something isn't really worth the trouble?

Last fall, my tv took a sudden turn for the worse. Now, I'm not complaining. This tv was rescued from the side of the road almost 2 years earlier, so I think it earned its rest. I attempted to list it on Freecycle, but... somehow that just never panned out.

My dad's tv died around the same time, so here we were with two big ol' clunkers on our hands and no one to take them. So we did the traditional Glass family thing and... put them aside to "age" for a bit.

Last week, my dad came home from Vermont with a replacement tv for me (yay!) which meant... it's time to get on the ball and get those dead machines gone!

After some searching, we discovered that Best Buy has a VERY easy recycling program for electronics and tvs up to 32". All you have to do is bring your items into the store and pay $10, then you get a $10 gift card back! It doesn't actually cost you anything, but now Best Buy has a guarantee that you'll spend at least a little money in their store. Seems pretty fair to me.

So, tonight, a friend and I wrestled (quite literally) the two tvs into the back of his car and headed off to Best Buy! Nothing makes you feel productive like cleaning house AND recycling at the same time :)


Greener pets: Welcome home!

Today, I:
brought home Maggie! (Edited to include actual name, now that "Dioge", her slave name, is officially gone.)

As much as I love my cats, nothing's quite the same as the love of a dog. The only thing better than THAT is the love of a rescued dog.

Maggie is the only survivor of a house fire, and hasn't been feeling too social since shelter-life began. She doesn't have any problems with aggression, she just needs some socializing and love. She's coming home with me as a foster for a little while to try and coax out the great dog we all know is inside. She's only been with me for a few hours now, and she's already made some AMAZING progress!

And... little does she know, but as long as she's in my house, she's going to become a Greener Maggie! Stay tuned :)


mini-post: (red)uce

Today, I got an excellent birthday present, the the starbucks (red)uce travel bottle!

My mom was the first person I knew who told me that re-using plastic water bottles might not be the best idea, what with the propensity that plastic has to share unwanted stuff with your water... and since then, I've been keeping my eye out for an aluminum bottle that was "just right" for me. Well, seems I didn't have to look too hard, the Just Right bottle found ME!

Btw, this bottle is all about the 3 "R's" all at once... pretty cool, huh?


Day ? - First CSA pick-up

Today, I went with mama to pick up her first CSA (community supported agriculture) haul. Boy was that a trip! Here’s the scene… grey sky, light rain… car pulls into a parking lot, empty save for a box truck and a few other ‘customers’. We’re invited into the back of the truck (air: pungent. Smells like sheep and chickens…) to collect our grab-bag of produce for the week… our name is crossed off the list, the “goods” are loaded into our car, and… the deal is done.

The COOLEST thing about this program is that each week’s items are determined by what is currently being harvested. It’s like ULTRA-seasonal eating. This weeks goodies included:

Two baskets of strawberries
A bag of pea shoots
A hand full of radishes
Two rhubarb stalks
One head of lettuce, red or green (we went green, mom already has a garden full of red)
A bundle of asparagus
Three leeks
Half a dozen eggs
And… SOMETHING I’m forgetting, but… I lost it.

Mom and I are really embracing the challenge of planning meals around these pick ups., and the asparagus looked SO good… we knew we had Friday’s dinner right there!

Whole-wheat pasta (we used rottini, I don’t think it really matters though)
A whole bunch of garlic, peeled and chopped
A handful of basil from mom’s garden
Some slightly wilted grape tomatoes
A bundle of asparagus

• Cook up the pasta according to the directions on the box. You may want to put the water on now, and wait until the asparagus is in the broiler to start actually cooking.
• Trim and wash the asparagus and oil/steam for approx. 5 minutes, then IMMEDIATELY immerse in cold water. This helps to retain their green color and halts cooking.
• Line a small pan (one with about a ½” lip – something like this frequently comes with a toaster oven) with tin foil. Lay out the asparagus on the bottom of this pan and top with the tomatoes. Spray or drizzle lightly with olive oil.
• Pop this pan under a broiler for 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft and browned.
• This is a good time to peel and chop the garlic. Heat up a little olive oil in a large pan and sauté the garlic until soft. Put aside.
• Chop/cut the basil. Put aside.
• Remove the tomatoes, and put the asparagus back under the broiler for an additional 5 minutes until browned on top.
• Cut the asparagus spears into 2” sections, toss in a bowl with tomatoes.
• To serve, we do it make-your-own style. Fill your bowl with a few scoops of pasta, drizzle with olive oil, top with some sautéed garlic, sprinkle on some basil, throw on some asparagus and tomatoes, garnish with a little bit of parmesan cheese, and… dig in!

Today, I:
ate locally!
cranked out a few balance-ball sit ups. BOY does that thing make them more challenging!


Day Twenty One

I was sitting at work today thinking that just about the only green thing I'd be rocking today is my head full of snot... when a representative from Office Depot came in and saved the day!

Despite the "No Solicitors" sign on our door, we get a lot of people who show up and try to sell us stuff. Luckily, I was the only one in the office when this dude popped in, so I was able to pull the old "I'm sorry, I'm not in charge of purchasing, I'm just filling in for the day. Can I take your card?" It's the politest brush-off I can think of :) Now, imagine my surprise when, instead of a card, he handed me a zip-locked bag. What, you ask, was in this bag?

Check it out!

Yep, that's a zebra pen and pencil set made from over 70% recycled materials. This pen/pencil set is made of discarded CDs, headlights, LCD screens, car battery cases, and shopping baskets. Pretty neat :) Not only do I have my "little something" for the world right there, but it also makes a nice segue into the topic I wanted to address today,

Green Consumerism

Once again, this is sparked by stumbling across something in my online travels, a fantastic GOOD article called "Don't Buy Green".

This article brings up some very relevant points about the relationship between "green" goods and consumerism. The most important things I took away from this article are:

Buying eco-friendly versions of things you already use/need/etc? great!
Buying extras "just because" they're green? wasteful. I replaced the light bulbs in my house with energy-efficient ones, but only as the conventional bulbs burned out over time. It's not "green" to toss a good bulb in the name of efficiency!

As a final note, this article is quite helpful in sorting out the good, the bad, and the false when it comes to carbon footprint offset programs.

Today, I:
Wrote phone messages with recycled shopping carts.
Gave up and took some Tylenol severe sinus stuff... I'm pretty much miserable today. Today's a wash in terms of "me" stuff, but everyone deserves an off day every now and then.



Going Loco(motive)

This entry introduces a new facet of the Greener Alice blog, greener topics! I'll be tackling things such as eating locally, gardening greener, "recycled" crafts, and lots more!! Today's topic, as you might have guessed from the subject, is about... cars!

Having just bought myself a "gas guzzler" (see Day Nineteen), I spent some time online today looking at "hypermiling" tips. Ok, it didn't start that way, but it never does.

I was doing some research pricing repairs for the new monster, and one of the links that popped up sent me to a forum at ecomodder all about driving tips and modifications to improve gas mileage. That got me thinking... my truck's always going to be a truck, but I can at least do something to coax better mileage out of her.

For the geek minded, there's some really fascinating information over at this cleanmpg page. It includes some great driving tips on how to get the most out of your gas, and a lot of graphs and charts explaining the aerodynamics behind several of the tips and modifications. A warning, though... the basic tips are great, but some of the more "advanced" ones are dangerous! Some of the advanced tips are even illegal in certain states, so use your common sense.

Some quick tips I've gleaned from the various articles I read today:
  • Check your owner's manual and use the lowest kinematic viscosity oil that is recommended for your car. Most cars can even take a lower number than what is "suggested", make friends with your local auto supply and talk to the folks there. Mobile1 0W-20 was highly recommended in several of the forums, it's one of the lowest-viscosity synthetic oils on the market.
  • On a related note, regular tune-ups and filter changes can save you tons in gas mileage! 
  • When your car goes in for a tune-up, ask your mechanic to check the oxygen sensor. Engines run on gas AND air, and having a working oxygen sensor is essential for a proper mix in the fuel injection system.
  • "Hypermiling" driving techniques look a lot like Sunday driving... accelerate slowly, brake slowly, coast when you can, and try to avoid roads with a lot of stop signs. You don't have to drive like this all the time (especially if it would be unsafe to do so!) but just keeping a few of these ideas in mind can help you stretch your gas tank a little further.
  • When running errands, drive to the farthest point first, then work your way back. Cars run best when the engine is warmed up, and you defeat that each time you drive a short distance then cut the engine. Driving to the farthest point first then making stops on your way home helps make the most of your driving time to warm up the engine.
Hope you enjoyed part one of greener driving!


Day Twenty:

In the next few days, you'll see the dates behind this start filling in as I post the drafts from the last week and a half... I have a connection at home again!

Today was a very *eh* day. Woke up feeling yucky somethin' fierce, but I hauled butt to the office anyway... had some MAJOR editing to do, and didn't want to be hit with a double-load on Wednesday. Did battle with a barely-working computer, tried to swap it out with another computer in the office only to discover that one was even worse, tried to explain the situation to the computer-illiterate boss... oh that was fun, hehe. "This is running Windows 2000, it doesn't support your network. And it's wicked slow." "But it was only used for two months! It's barely used!"

* Side story, when my computer started acting up, I told boss-man about it. He said "ya know what the problem is? We all spend too much time online. If we use the internet less I bet that wouldn't happen. Try it, you'll see I'm right." That's like... if I said my car wouldn't start, and someone told me "you should just change the light bulbs, that'll fix it!"

I won one little battle today, though. I convinced boss-man to put energy-efficient bulbs in the bathroom! He won't use them in the rest of the office, because they give off the "wrong" light, but he conceded that it couldn't hurt to have them in the bathrooms. Yay for me! Next step, teaching the boys to recycle... ug.

Off to end my night with a netti pot and some Olbas herbal tea, one of the most sacred things in my house.

Today, I:
Won a small battle for energy efficiency!
Ended my evening with some yoga stretches and breathing... mmm, feeling a bit better already.