Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Fine Line

I try to be green. I'm far from perfect at it, that's for sure. I try to lead by example. I try to give out information and helpful hints. Above all, I try to not be annoying about it.

Am I succeeding? Should I care about that? Is this issue bigger than my concern that I get on anyone's nerves?

It might seem weird or contrary to the movement, but I tend to stay away from other "greenies". The ones I do meet are few and far between, and very cool. See, a lot of people in this area of interest annoy ME. And besides, I don't need to convert THEM. And they don't need to preach to me. Yes, I can learn things from them, and I do; but, by and large, I mostly avoid. This has its drawbacks. I become overwhelmed with the apathy of people. Being around greenies would probably be soothing some of the time. Or would it?

We tend to be a little preachy, I know. We give disapproving looks. We might come off as a little holier-than-thou. I swear I try to not fall into that. I'm just frustrated, and I have a lot of information to share! And I care! Is that so wrong? Sometimes I want to grab people by the collar and shake them, "Don't you see what's happening? Why are you still using double-bagged plastic bags at the grocery store?? Don't you know better yet???" But I don't. That would be unseemly. Is there going to come a time where we NEED to do that? Is the cause so noble that we should be willing to be a little... annoying every so often? Or do those methods backfire, and turn people off from our lessons?

It is a fine line. I'm not sure how well I'm walkin' it myself. I know I feel as though I am not doing enough. It's a huge thing to tackle, after all... saving the world n'at. And maybe if I stopped worrying about offending people and worried more about the planet, then I wouldn't be so frustrated! What's that about the little tiny earthquakes we don't really feel, relieving the stress so the big ones don't happen... maybe we should let our little quakes out more so we don't blow up at the wrong time, and too much at once. Nothing was ever gained by hiding the light or doing things halfway, right? Hmmm... 2010, what can I do with you?

OK, that's off my chest. I promise, more easy green tips will be coming your way.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Green Gifts: Day 12 - in Summary

The economy sucks. We need to be more frugal. Frugality works well with Green. Start with THIS holiday, and keep it as tradition. Make it contagious. BE the change. Be the example. Actually, in our family, we've stopped giving gifts altogether, and focus on a lovely meal and time together. It takes a lot of pressure off an already hectic time.

If you got a late start this holiday, or you just couldn't pull it together, or you had already gotten all your gifts already, then start planning for next year. It's never too early. Start planning the garden so next year can be a holiday of preserves or cooking oils steeped with your own home-grown garlic or herbs, sealed in pretty re-used bottles. Start sewing or knitting or making pottery, whatever your interest, to have hand-made gifts for next year. Get together with your friends once or twice a month, and encourage each other. Keep the new Green ways going all year. Plan ahead. Look around all year for great green gifts, not just at the holidays. You'll be amazed at what you see with your newly opened eyes!

But mostly, for this year, for right now, just make sure you're not being wasteful. Use these tips I have given you, or go with another idea you might have gotten while reading these. Do a little research. It's so easy to give green that there's almost no excuse not to! I take that back: there's NO excuse not to! Even with kids, think about what you are getting them, and realize that quality trumps quantity every time. Teach them valuable lessons. We didn't have a ton of money when I was little, but we had more than enough, we did not want for things, and I had wonderful gifts under the tree every year. Kids do not need 50 presents. Teach them the value of things. This is their Earth. They'll want us to make it a good place for them.

And, Happy Holidays... I hope you enjoy them more and more each year...

Green Gifts: Day 11

Repeat after me: re-gifting is not a sin. Just don't make the mistake of giving it back to the person that gave it to you.

So you got a perfectly nice gift from your Aunt Mynra, but it's just... not you. You can't return it. What do you do? Throw it away? ACK! Put it in the closet or attic or basement and forget about it? That's pointless. It's OK if you know someone who would just love the scent of that perfume that isn't right on you, or really could use that small appliance, seeing as you already have one of you own, or would go nuts over that sweater that's a little too pink for you... It's a beautiful scarf, but you don't wear scarves. They are precious earrings, but you prefer gold over silver... we have all been giving something that would be... well... better for someone ELSE.

Re-gifting is the ultimate form of re-using. If you can't use that gift, but someone else can, what's the problem? Again, use common sense: were they there when you opened the gift in the first place? Might want to skip it. Is it something unique that might get worn around the person that gave it to you originally? Well... better not.  But while you're thinking about shopping, try shopping for a few minutes at home. Say someone gave YOU a spa gift basket, but lavendar makes you sneeze. Make some nice little adjustments, maybe add some other little items, and give that lavendar treat a new home with a better purpose. By all means, GIVE it to someone who will USE it. Otherwise, you're just going to stare at whatever it is for a few years, then get disgusted and throw it away in a fit of Spring Cleaning. 'Tis better to give, much better, than to throw away!

Say it again, out loud, for all to hear: re-gifting is not a sin. Now go shop in your closets.

Green Gifts: Day 10

Got a friend who is looking to expand their horizons? Another great "service" to give as a gift is a class. What are their interests? What is something they have always talked about wanting to learn, but never quite got around to it? Sign them up for a class!

It can be something VERY green such as organic gardening or composting. Workshops are everywhere for those kinds of things. Woodworking? Great! Soap-making - cool. Knitting, sewing, crafts, cooking, baking... really, the ideas are endless. Ceramics, stained glass, pottery... if it's an interest you share with the person, by all means, go with them. You can start making your own homemade presents for next year!

Again, this is a gift that doesn't need to be wrapped, and it feeds into the local economy. And, you are giving that person a nice skill (hopefully a green one) that they can treasure the rest of their lives. This might be a nice pick-me-up for that friend who maybe lost their job or is searching for some hobbby to cheer them up. You might be introducing them to their new livelihood. You never know. But they might just thank you for that Great Green Gift for the rest of your lives!

Green Gifts: Day 9

Who doesn't love a spa day? Being pampered for a few hours or even a day is bliss. And a gift of a spa day is wonderful.

This is green because you are buying a sevice, which doesn't require wrapping! Plus, it helps the economy. Choose a greener spa, though I have to think most of them lean toward natural products. If it's your close group of friends, plan a day for all of you. It doesn't have to be on or around the holiday... make it for when the Winter blahs have gotten to everyone. The certificate can specify a date down the road that you can all agree on. It's a great thing to look forward to after the holidays. Or send your favorite couple so they may spend the day together. Or, just for the one person, if they could use some personal time. Even if it's not a spa, a gift certificate to a lisenced massage therapist is a very thoughtful thing. You can choose a length of time according to your budget. You never know... you might get someone hooked on your favorite therapist, and then everyone wins because they have a new client out of the deal.

If you're sure your gift-recipient won't be able to get away, or just doesn't like to have anyone touch them for that massage (???), put together a spa basket. (Yeah, there I go again with baskets. No, I don't have stock in a basket company.) Find nice natural spa products like bath salts and lotions and oils, and add some candles... maybe some incense... and put in a do-not-disturb sign for them to hang on their bathroom door, so your gift-person can enjoy a bit of uninterrupted "me" time.

Green Gifts: Day 8

Got a cook in the gift pool? Then a great green gift for them in an herb garden!

You can find kits for them everywhere. You can grow them anywhere. From a New York apartment to a Los Angeles condo and all the homes in between... all herbs need is a windowsill and some sun. Get your friends and family in the habit of cooking with fresh herbs (an especially nice thing to have handy in cold winter months), and maybe they'll be inspired to grow their own outside come Summertime.

ChiaPet? No... but the Chia Herb Collection is actually a very nice gift. Seriously! But if that makes you shudder, feel free to find others. This is another chance to put a nice basket together, as well. Almost any gift, especially the green kind, makes a nice presentation in a basket. Throw in some gardening gloves and seed packets to encourage planting in the Spring.

Gift yourself while you're at it with this one!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's a Battle.

So... sometimes it comes up that I am a Green Warrior. (And yes, it is a war. This story proves it. Uphill BATTLE!) When that comes up, I tend to get regaled with stories of wrongs done against the environment. Allow me to share the lastest one with you, because if I don't get it out of my brain... well, let's not find out.

My hair stylist shared with me how good her 5-year-old daughter is at conserving water. Great! Then she told me how bad her brother was. That's where the story gets hair-raising. I shuddered to learn he has kids of his own to pass the badness down.

You know those vending machines that will fill a gallon of water for a quarter? LOVE those things. Reverse osmosis, great clean water, it's wonderful to be able to go to those to fill your containers. I've done it when I didn't have a faucet-mounted filter. Take your empties down and fill a bunch for the week. Great. It never occurred to me that THIS could happen: The brother in question actually said (paraphrasing of course), why go to the gas station and pay $1 or more for a bottle of water, when you can just take an empty single-use bottle and fill it at one of those machines for 25 cents?

...... *blink, blink* ...........

Uh, because of the enormous WASTE of water??? In a state that has a water crisis?? It's gonna dispense a gallon, no matter what. It's what it does. So you fill your little bottle and let the rest run out onto nothing???  This would never ever enter my mind, and I was shocked that anyone would even think to do that. (I hope he's the exception, not the rule, but I don't have that much faith in humanity.) What can we do when faced with such disregard, such willful ignorance, such nonchalance toward the the issues of the environment? How do we fight it? I do not have the answer. I guess all we can do is keep teaching by example, and perhaps when we see wrongs being committed, do our best to educate. Gently. Patiently. I know it's hard. Trust me, I know. But what else can we do?

Green Gifts: Day 7

Get your aromatherapy on!

For those in your friend/family group who just love aromatherapy, it's an easy choice. Get them their favorites. And for those who always have a scent going on in the home but use chemical products, essential oils are wonderful! You can introduce them to a new world of NATURAL scents. Intimidated at trying to pick a scent for someone? Nah. Just think... when you walk into their home, do you smell cinnamon? Vanilla? Or floral scents, maybe? Lavendar? Are these scents products of Dow and SC Johnson, or Nature? If you have to say anything other than "Nature", then a holiday gift is a wonderful way to introduce someone to a greener way of smelling good. They'll be healthier, the planet will be healthier, and that makes everyone happy!

My wonderful friends back in Pennsylvania are steeped in herbology and essentials. (No pun intended!) You can check them out for great information and wonderful products. They know it all. Almost makes me wish I was still back there to learn with them! Visit Ruth and Tom at They rock! You can also check out the wonderful Tina at for information, products, and classes. Tina and Maryanne are the original Twisted Sisters!

On this coast, my favorite essential expert is Noelle of She makes some lovely blends and sells diffusers that are amazing. I have the car diffuser that plugs right in and makes my driving experience a whole lot more pleasant. (Thanks Noelle!) What a great gift for anyone who drives a lot! You can also tune in to the Good Green Witch radio show, when Noelle came in to chat with us about aromatherapy and its many benefits:

I could go on and on about the health benefits of essential oils and aromatherapy, but I'll let you visit these sites and leave it to the experts! I'm just here to suggest the gifts. Suffice it to say, any time you can convert someone to natural oils instead of cans of spray or those Glade chemical thingies, you are helping Green the world.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Green Gifts: Day 6

Candles! We love candles, and they make great gifts, BUT....

Not all candles are created equal. Some are "greener" than others. For instance, candles made from soy will last longer that paraffin candles, and they are made from... well, SOY instead of paraffin, which is petroleum-based. I cannot say soy candles are healthier for YOU than regular paraffin, as some will claim, but they hold a scent better, and avoiding petroleum products is always preferable. That IS healthier for everything and everyone, I think. Plus, soy comes from the US. It's grown right here. So there's that. Plus, my good friend Michelle "Green Coach" Carroll says that you can use the melted wax as a moisturizer for your hands! She has some very nice gifts and suggestions on her site: Please check her out!

Pure beeswax candles are also a nice choice. I've seen claims that 100% beeswax candles actually help the air around feel better and cleaner. I'll let you decided for yourself on that one. They might seem pricey, but they last MUCH longer than paraffin candles, and besides, these are gifts! There are some truly beautiful beeswax candles out there. Beeswax is a by-product of honey, so it's not like your harming bees to get a candle. Also, this is a good way to spread the appreciation of honeybees. They are in trouble, and awareness is always a good thing in my book.

There you have it: some good suggestions for the candle-afficianado on your list, or for that host/hostess gift. Green gifts are so easy that you barely need to think about it!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Green Gifts: Day 5

Before we go any further with gifts, I want to address an important part of being greener in your gift-giving. Wrapping!

When you think about it, doesn't it seem silly to buy a product that is specifically designed and meant to be torn up and thrown away? Downright crazy! It makes me wonder what other thing out there with which we do the same.... hmmm....

Anyway. Get creative! use the comics from Sunday's paper. That's fun and colorful! Use the paper shopping bags from the grocery store and let the kids decorate it! That's a good, fun rainy-day project. Use the colorful mail flyers. Even take-out menus make interesting wrapping. For small gifts, you can use magazine pages.

Another great idea for green gifts are pretty bags which can be re-used. For larger gifts, a reusable shopping bag is ideal. Shred some colorful junk mail for filler. Fabric bags are also a very nice touch. Or, get some fun bandanas from the dollar store and use those.

There are many options which do not require and waste to be created, or any trees to be destroyed. Make this a holiday for as little waste as possible, and create a new tradition for you and your family and friends. All it takes is a little time and a little bit of thought to be greener this years and the years to come.

Plus, you saved a few dollars by not buying something that will just be thrown away.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Green Gifts: Day 4

Let's hone in on a specific gift today. Jewelry always makes a nice present, and you can be green with that as well. You can find lovely things at fair-trade stores, such as Ten Thousand Villages ( for store locations) or at your local farmers' market. You can find beautiful things at antique stores... and of course that's green because it is something that is being reused. AND it'll be unique.

Recycled product jewelry is also all the rage! These are super-cool, super-cute items that don't just look pretty, but also raise awareness. Your gift-person can then go out in the world proudly sporting the jewelry and raise even more awareness. Look at Green with Envy ( for some good suggestions and ideas!

You'll be the hit of the gift-giving crowd by being the green-gift giver! (Say that 3 times fast, I triple-dog dare you) Hopefully you're starting to get some great green ideas of your own... :)

This was a quick one, but it really is THAT easy.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Green Gifts: Day 3

There was a "Friends" episode in which the girls were broke, so they baked for everyone as the holiday tips. Of course, zaniness and hilarity ensued. Their newspaper guy tore up their newspaper and their mailman smashed their mail and Ross blamed their "bad" gift as the reason their Super wouldn't fix their heater. The joke of course was that the super LOVED the heart-felt-ness of the gift.

Baking some yummy treats show that you took time out of your life to put love and care into the gift. Put them in a cool reusable container or tin or basket, again with those nice cloth napkins. Baking doesn't have to be a big bad chore; make it fun and involve the family too. Warm up the chilly home! There are all kinds of benefits! You can control the ingredients, in case anyone has allergies. You can go to the farmers' market to get local ingredients. (That's a two-fer!) For those people that just love cookies, and maybe do not have the time or wherewithal to make them themselves, this is a GREAT gift.

They don't have to be cookies. Do cupcakes. Do banana bread, zucchini bread, whatever. Make it your signature. Make it something the recipients look forward to! There is a lot to be said for the homemade gifts. It's time we got back to things like that. Let's make this mean something again. It's what the holidays are about, or used to be anyway. Let's turn it around, and make life a little greener at the same time.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Green Gifts: Day 2

The cool part about green gifts is you can get really creative. Your family and friends are cool like 'dat, and already have water bottles. What then? Well, step it up a bit! Let's go for the whole serving package in today's gift idea!
Create a green basket full of things for in the kitchen, at work, or on the go. Start with a great re-used basket from a thrift store or your garage or closet, or find a beautiful fair trade, locally crafted basket. (Green gifts are also all about local and fair trade!) You can even dress up a box if you are feeling creative. Then, fill it with cool reusable products that encourage your gift recipient to use fewer disposable products. My best and favorite product for this is To-Go Ware, utensils made from bamboo that come in a great carrying case. With these in the desk at work or tossed in the purse or backpack, we can avoid using plastic forks and spoons and knives completely! They make a great gift even by themselves. Learn more about them here: Add some bamboo plates and bowls. Toss in a cool coffee to-go cup for the hot beverage fans. Find pretty cloth napkins to dress the whole thing up a little more.
Voila! A nice addition would be some organic wine or some homemade treats, or fair-trade chocolate. I'd like to say it needs to be bigger and more complicated than that, but it really is this easy.
Let's bring back a little more of the meaning to the holiday. Use this time to care, and to help the Earth, and to help your loved ones help the Earth.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Happy December...Let's DO This, #1

Ahhh Winter. Holidays. Fireplaces and sweaters and snuggling. December brings a lot of good feelings. It's the last month of the year and it might seem like it's a better time to wind down, but I believe it is a great time to START some things.

The First Day of Winter, the Winter Solstice, is the shortest day of the year, and while there is a whole lotta winter to go after December 21st, this day marks a time of rebirth. So I say, let's start some great new practices and traditions this holiday season to take into the new year!

A wonderful way to start is right along the vein of the holiday: give gifts. But this year, give GREEN gifts. In the spirit of the 12 Days of (insert holiday here), I'll be giving 12 examples of great green gifts. I'm starting early because, well, you'll need time to shop!

Think not that this is some way to be pushy about green, and forcing your ideals on to your gift recipients. No, no. Instead, think of it as an extra special gift. After all, a green gift means you really put some thought into it. It means you care enough about that person to help them help the Earth! (Rationalize it however you want.) Really, though, what's better: a tie or some knick-knack, or something that can be used again and again? A practical object IS a good gift. And, when you think about it, you realize that the receiver of the gift will think of you every time they use what you have given them. Isn't that the point of a gift? Would you like to be remembered as the person who gave them that really cool and useful thing, or the idiot who gave them that stupid useless thing that either sat around gathering dust or got re-gifted the next year?

So. Where to begin? Let's start with the best and most obvious: water bottles. We all know someone (or lots of someones) who are still in the SUPpy (Single-Use Plastic) habit. Why are they still using those? Maybe they just haven't stopped to get one of their own. There are so many styles and varieties out there that you can find the perfect one for everyone on your list. Personalize them. Get enough for the whole family. Get them for co-workers. Get insulated ones for those who love their hot tea. (My fave even has a little strainer in it and can hold hot or cold.)

It's early enough to order them from some great sites (see below). If you think a bottle is not enough of a gift, then get them a filter for their faucet too. Again, if these seem far too practical to be "cool" gifts, then just remember that you are helping your friends and family be greener, and that is an ULTIMATE gift!

Here's a wonderful site that sells bottles and all kinds of cool things, including a filter that goes IN the water bottle, so they can be filled from the garden hose if need be! Look around the entire site; it's pretty cool. And tell Mark the Good Green Witch sent you!

This site has wonderful green gifts, including a GREAT bottle: Marilyn is the best!

Here's a site I can mention again and again in the gift department, a one-stop shop online: Ricky and Steven, you guys rule!

Those are a few of the people I really really like. You can also check out local green stores and other green companies. Heck, for last minute, you can find these things in your local Starbucks or grocery store! Just DO IT!

Be ahead of the curve. Be the person who start4ed it in your family. BE the change. Green gifts are the way to go. And don't worry, I'll have plenty more suggestions in the upcoming days!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Time to Sweat the Small Stuff?

It's nice to give out green tips, and feel like we're helping the world. But sometimes, we just have to let loose and get it off our chests. Guess which I need to do now?

I say it's easy being green, and I really believe it is, but a lot of times it's hard to be a Greenie. Awareness is a terrible thing sometimes. I'll be honest, I get plowed under by the problems of this world really easily. How can we possibly fight the clean coal people? What about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?? Oh no, is that ANOTHER picture of a polar bear on a tiny piece of melting ice??? It's big stuff out there. And I get discouraged.

And then, I see something close to home that REALLY makes me question what the heck I'm doing. I had a "Why Do I Bother" moment just yesterday. Driving to work, I observed 3 teenagers walking somewhere in Hollywood. 2 guys and a girl. The girl pulled an opened bag of Spicy Cheetos out of her massive purse. Mmmm, I love Cheetos. I smiled. Then... THEN... then, she took her gum out of her mouth and, instead of wrapping it in a tiny piece of paper and saving it to throw away later, instead of having made use of one of the millions of trash cans all over Hollywood, 5 of which they just passed, she flung her gum to the sparse grassy area between the sidewalk and the street. She smiled as she did it. She kept chatting as she did it. She didn't think twice. He companions didn't even flinch, didn't even look.

But Green Witch, you ask, why get so bent over such a little thing? I'll tell you why. It's a symptom. It's a tiny little thing that points to much much bigger issues. The complete disregard with which this child littered tells me that she might just throw that Cheetos wrapper on the ground too. Had I been walking and not on my way to work, I might have just followed her to see what happened next. (I know, I know, a little much, a little creepy. Sue me.)

I'll tell you why. Because such utter lack of concern for that piece of gum tells me that she doesn't think anything of what she uses, what she throws away, what is important. It tells me her parents, her school, etc aren't really impressing anything onto her impressionable mind about what manners are and what littering is. The way in which she did it told me she chews gum a lot and this isn't the first time she has flung it heedlessly to the ground for someone to step in. It reminds me that millions of people everywhere every day fling their gum to the Earth without a care. And THAT leads me to realize that it doesn't end with tiny little innocent pieces of gum. No. It STARTS with tiny little innocent pieces of gum. And, because if these kids don't care, these ones that we are working to save from all our bad practices, if they don't care, then why do I bother???

So yeah. It may have been the tiniest littlest thing and it really shouldn't have bugged me so much, but welcome to my head. Sometimes when you keep telling yourself, don't sweat the petty stuff just pet the sweaty stuff, you keep trying and trying... and then the little things, the petty things, sneak on in and just blow the lid off the carefully contained vat of angst/rage/fear/disgust/hopelessness mixture that was only barely controlled anyway....

I think it's time we started sweating the petty stuff. I believe we have ignored it for too long, and now all the little things have landed us in a real big mess.

Monday, November 9, 2009

It's getting cooler. Be greener! Easy Tip #2!

Ahhh, Fall. Falling leaves, falling temperatures. Rising heat and rising heating bills. There are ways to be a little greener, and to save energy, and to save money all at the same time.

The first easiest way to keep the heat turned down but not freeze is super-obvious and easy: layer some clothing! Make sure you have nice warm socks or slippers on your feet, and pull on a comfy sweater or hoodie. Yes, it is that easy! Before you touch the thermostat, take stock of what you have on and decide if maybe you can't skip the energy bill and bundle up a little. Now, I'm not suggesting you look like the Michelin Man and lose the ability to move your arms or fall over and can't get up like "A Christmas Story", but be reasonable. if you're cold and you have on a t-shirt... well... c'mon.

Another easy way to warm the home and hearth a little: bake! This is a really good way to warm things up without cranking the heat. It helps for a few hours, anyway. And who doesn't love cookies or pies or nice hot yummy casseroles? Banana bread? Pumpkin bread? You'll be the hit of the office or the neighborhood if you gift these things you lovingly baked. You can prepare meals or soups for the coming week, thus being greener with your cooking and better with your time and money... no take-out all week. No use of plastic forks and Styrofoam and take-out plastics. (See how many ways you save by the littlest of actions? It really is a domino effect.) And get the kids involved with the cookies. It's great family time that they will treasure all their lives, and it gets them off the computer or gaming systems for a time, thus saving MORE energy on the electric bill.

It's the little things. A lot of good stuff snowballs when you do green things. So get out there and do it!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Get Started - Easy 1st Assignment

Winter is coming. In many cultures, it is a time to settle in, to gather in, to reflect about the coming year. To me, that seems like a heckuva good time to think about how we can be a little greener.

I'll start you off with a quick and easy one: stop using straws. This is one of my favorites and I am guilty of harping on it. (I'm OK with that, though.) Think about it: YOU use a straw. You throw it away. Seems pretty small and harmless. It's just a tiny little thing. But how many other millions of people are doing that exact same thing in this same day? That's millions of straws. In just one day. Going into the landfill, never decomposing, never biodegrading... just sitting there. And that's just the end result: think about the production of all those plastic straws. That takes energy, oil, and lots and lots of water. All that can be saved by not using straws. There are the paper wrappers and the boxes they come it... it goes on and on. All for the simple use of a straw that we never even give a second thought.

It's time to start giving these things a second thought. And third and fourth if we need to. Start with just that one simple little easy nearly effortless tip. Give up straws. It's not hard. It's a great start. Go ahead and feel good about it. You're allowed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Personal Progress Comes in Tides

Sometimes, it's nice to discover that there's no going back. I find this happens a lot for Greening. It literally hit me in the face today. Or, more exactly, in the olfactory. I, the Good Green Witch, am an apartment dweller, and, as such, I share a laundry room with a handful of others. We're a small building... we don't get in each others' way much. I only needed one machine this morning, and loaded in with my soap nuts and cold water. Upon going down to check on the progress of said laundry, I realized someone was in the other machine before I even got to the doorway. The chemical-laden smell of fresh mountain flowery Tide hit me like... well, a tide. (Maybe THAT'S why they call it that!) It wrapped me from head to toe. It enveloped me. I think my clothes got the smell by proxy, just by being in the next machine.

I won't get started on the fact that this neighbor uses HOT water. HOT water?? In this day and age? With the super-almighty powerful Tide doing the work already? I have accepted that's a battle I cannot win with that neighbor. (It might be evil that, once, I actually changed it to warm after Neighbor left the laundry room, but I was hoping Karma was looking upon the real justification and wasn't going to punish me TOO badly....shh, don't tell anyone) I can't knock on Neighbor's door and lecture on detergent choices. (Can I?) No... all I can do in this case is make sure I'm doing what I need to do. I can try to teach by example. I can accept the fact that marketing works on some people and that I can't change everyone.

What I CAN enjoy is the fact that I need never go back to using those chemicals. Our laundry has been smell-free for months, and we love it. We don't miss dryer sheets, we don't miss soapy residue, and we most certainly do not miss shelling out way too many bucks for so-called concentrated detergent, for which they charge more even though they are SAVING money by not filling extra space with water and have lower shipping charges because the product weighs less.... BUT I digress. These things, I can enjoy. And I do. I like that I am not contributing to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch with yet another plastic bottle. There is no going back for me, and I am great with that. This is my Progress... to reject other people's idea of progress with their bigger badder more concentrated super-smelly stuff....

I wear my preferred essential oil. My clothes do not need to be perfumed too. My bedsheets are fine. I don't need to breathe deep into my towels. And, I laugh at commercials for these products. I laugh, because I am NOT falling for it any more! I'm as free from their mind-games as my laundry is from chemicals!

That feels pretty good.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Keep 350 Day Going

Saturday, October 24th, was 350 Day. Not quite sure what that means? Lemme 'esplain. Scientists say that 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere is the safe limit for humanity, according to We currently stand at 387. Boo. Not good. The 24th was an international day of action, to get the awareness out there to the whole world.

Sooo.... it's over. OK. Now what? Now, we work on things to actually achieve getting that number down. What can you do? I'll try to help as much as possible on that with future posts! We'll just do a quick one for now. Consider it your first assignment! I promise I'll be easy on ya. I swear it. It's my philosophy that green is actually pretty easy! So here goes....

Stop buying tissues. Go cold turkey on Kleenex. Just stop. Hankies were good enough for our grandparents, so they're good enough for us! I tend to favor the brightest loudest most colorful bandanas, personally. But there are the cute frilly lacy ones... there are the monogrammed ones... there are the plain whities! Choose your weapon! You can use organic cotton to be even better. You can make your own to be super-green and crafty. You can give them as great green gifts.

There are multiple benefits to this simple action. You save money, because you aren't buying boxes of facial tissue anymore, and because these last forever. Well, they last a really long time, anyway. And the more you wash them the softer they become. Yay! You save trees. That's good all around. You save water. I know you might think you are using MORE water because you have a little extra laundry, but that's not the case. It takes a lot more water to produce the boxes and boxes of tissues than it does for you to wash a tiny little bit of fabric. After all, you were doing laundry anyway. These fit. It's not like you are doing a special load of just hankies.

That's it! And if you can't do cold-turkey, that's OK. I still grab a few pieces of TP to blow into on rare occasion. But really work at it. And lead by example. Be the change. I can't say that enough! And with this simple start, YOU can help get that magic number 350 back to reality. YOU can help.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Disposable" just means YOU don't see it anymore.

"Disposable: Made to be thrown out ofter use." Let's think about all the things we throw out. We have disposable razors. We used to have disposable cameras before digital came around. There are disposable forks spoons knives plates, napkins, etc. Some people think cell phones are disposable. And there's the big one that I hate: disposable diapers.

When something is "disposable", that doesn't mean that once you are done with it, it goes into magic garbage land far far away on another planet in another universe. It goes into the landfill over in the next county, or the next state, or the next country; and it especially goes into the ocean. ( This is not OK. It's not OK for the planet and it's really not OK for your kids and their kids. Sure, when you throw that diaper out, it's gone from your mind, your home, your life. Right? Wrong. That little plastic poopie-bomb will be around for the next 3 or so generations of your family. At least. Nice legacy to leave for them.

Do we really NEED disposable things? Razors: nope. The replaceable heads on a non-disposable razor not only work better, they last longer and mean much less waste. Remember, waste doesn't just happen when you throw it away; there is the waste of producing the products in the first place. There's a whole lot goin' on there. Plates and utensils? Nope. These are next-to-never necessary. (Ever?) Some would argue that the water needed to clean regular plates etc. makes up for the waste caused by throwing the paper or Styrofoam plates and plastic sporks away. Nope. There is much more water used in the production of these products that we use washing the real stuff. Do you want to argue convenience at a picnic or time saved because you are too busy to wash? Nope. Not worth the price to the planet. Single-use plastic bottles? Covered that one in a previous blog! And as for the big one: diapers. NOPE. Disposable diapers should be the extreme exception, NOT the rule. Again, the water needed to wash cloth diapers makes up for itself in the water saved by not producing plastic diapers. Cloth diapers are made so well these days that there is no excuse. The smell, the gross-factor? Guess what: you had a baby. Babies poop. Babies smell bad sometimes. Babies need changing. You knew this when you signed on to have one. If you don't want to deal with the mess, you shouldn't have HAD a baby. Babies are messy. Deal with it. Remember the legacy I mentioned above? Is that really why you had a child -- so they would have to deal with the after-effects of YOUR wasteful ways? I hope we can say, "Of course not!" Do we want to leave them a nice clean healthy planet, or one where the Oceans are full of plastic and the landfills are taking over and cancer is everywhere because of what we've done to the planet?

Guess what: that's what's happening now. We have to change. We have to quit being so disposable. Because "disposable" doesn't mean it goes away forever. It just means it goes away from YOU.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Change is Scary. Apparently.

Being a little greener in our everyday lives is actually a very easy thing to do. Heck, I have a book out about it. It just takes the tiniest little bit of change in thinking...

AHA. There's the problem. "Change." For some reason, we are reluctant to change. Oh, it's OK so long as it comes slowly and we barely notice it. But active change? That we have to think about? Nah. I get it. I was reluctant to learn my new cell phone when I got it. I was comfortable with my "old" one, even though it was becoming a cumbersome brick. Change can be hard. Heck, just this morning I had to force myself to take a different route up my hiking path. We become accustomed to certain things in our lives, and we hit a comfort level that we think we like. And if we change one thing, maybe we'll lose control in other areas? Is that what it is?

The changes we need to make really aren't so significant. A lot of it is remember the things we have forgotten how to do. Things like, washing tennis shoes when they get dirty, rather than getting a new pair. Turning off lights like Dad told us to when we were little. Not flushing after #1 because we saved water where we grew up with the wells and the septic tanks. We USED to do things, but we CHANGED... it's just that we changed so slowly that we didn't notice. We call this progress, I guess. Is it really? (That's a topic for another day!) I just think that some of the change we have to make to be greener is to change BACK to things we used to do. And that's not so scary. After all, we've been there. Is it the fear of going in the wrong direction? Does the Green movement make us think we aren't making progress? That's a deep thought... hm... more on that one later!

Back to Change. Here are some of the super-easy changes we can make every day, tiny little things that take the tiniest tweak in thinking, and that will lead to easier changes every week!

1) For the love of all things holy, TURN OFF the running water while brushing your teeth. I have lost count of how many times this gets put out there and people still don't do it. I don't know how it gets any easier than that.

2) Follow that up by not wasting a lot of running water while doing the dishes. See how easy these things are? And by doing them, we're just a little bit greener!

3) Skip the straw in your beverage. All the time. Just forget it. No straw. Give yourself a no-straw law. You can even start small, with just a few days a week. I'll wait.

4) Use less toothpaste, shampoo, dish detergent, etc. Scale back until you find the level of the least amount that works. You might be surprised to find how much less you really NEED.

5) Lower your thermostat/air conditioning. Instead of making it super-toasty during the winter, lower the heat a few degrees and throw on a sweater. In the summer, put the a/c up a few degrees. Do you really need to freeze? Put on a tank top and shorts. You're at home. No one cares how you are dressed.

Look at that! There is a week's worth of ways you can be the eensiest-teensiest bit greener, with SO little effort, and I've even given you the weekend off! Green does NOT have to be hard. What it is, is paying ATTENTION, and making some changes. That's not really so bad, is it? And you don't even have to preach to others. Just lead by example. BE the change. We can do this.

We have to.

Monday, October 19, 2009

It's Not OK. It's Poop. Scoop it!

Roughly 6 out of 7 days, I enjoy a nice power-walk up the nearby Hollywood Hills. My Runyon Canyon. I can walk to it, and I love it. It's a beautiful city park, mostly wild, not a lot of pavement, home to snakes and, I'm sure, more than a few coyotes. It is also an off-leash dog park, which I love, even though I don't have a dog. I get to see dogs of all shapes and breeds and sizes, and all of them are just happy to be out and walking and not one of them ever bothers me. They make me smile.

Dogs are great. I love dogs. What I do not love is their people. Not all of them... just those who feel they do NOT need to scoop the poop. What gives?? It's poop. It's gross. I don't want to smell it. I don't want to look at it. And, let us not forget, it is actually the LAW to pick it up. So why? Why the complete and total lack of compliance? Just because I have the audacity to want to walk where dogs also walk, that means I have to be the one who avoids the doggie-bombs?

"So what? We're outside." Yes we are. We ALL are. I'm here too. And I am not here to look at/smell your dog's excrement. I'm here to get some fresh air and exercise. YOU chose to have a dog. Part of having a dog is picking up the poop. You knew it pooped when you got it. "Outside", contrary to being a reason to leave it, is actually a reason to scoop it. It's poop. We are not that far from the ocean. So much poop was not meant to wash into the eco-system. And do you really want to think about swimming in poop run-off when you're at the beach? Um, ick.

But back to the more immediate issue: it's poop. Is there a reason you think it is OK to leave it lying there in a pile for all to see/smell/step in? "It's natural. It's biodegradable." So's my poop. You don't see me leaving a crap by the side of the trail. Is it really that much more acceptable to have dog poop there instead of human poop? (If you say yes to that, you have to show your work, BTW.) Yes, yes, it's biodegradable, but in the time it takes it to biodegrade, it attracts flies and puts off a lot of smelliness. This is not OK. It is unsightly, it is unsanitary, it is unhealthy. Above all, it is unnecessary.

I go back to an earlier point: you knew the dog produced crap when you got it. You know that when you take it for its walk, it is going to poop. You know it's the law. (You'd better, there are signs EVERYWHERE.) It is your responsibility, not only as a dog person but as a fellow human to the rest of us, to scoop that poop. There is absolutely no excuse to do otherwise. None. Nada. Nope. Nothing. Scoop it. Period.

Obviously, making it a law to "curb your dog" has no effect whatsoever. What's the answer? Can we shame people into cleaning up after their dogs? Unlikely. More vigilance? Hard to do. Personally, I dream of installing a doggie poop composting system at Runyon, because if even half of what is left is no longer left, it's an improvement. I fantasize of banning the irresponsible from having dogs at all. But that's just me. I tend to be extreme.

I have no solution. All I can do is try to catch people in the act, one at a time, and hope to make a tiny change.

Oh, and make sure to watch where I step.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What'll it take to give up our SUPpies?

I have made the change. It wasn't hard. It took a little thought and some action, but otherwise, it was next to effortless.

I have stopped using Single-Use Plastic Bottles. SUP's, for the catchy title peeps out there.

The worst people are the reformed, and I fall right in there. Ex-smokers make the most militant anti-smokers. Converts to religions are quite frequently the most gung-ho in the building. So that's me. I am a converted, reformed, SUP-user and I am here to say C'MON!!!! WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!

The warnings are all there. Icky things are leaching into your water from the bottles. Sure, you won't drink from it after it has been sitting in your hot car, and you don't dare re-use it like you could/should because, well, "ick". Don't you realize that bottle has ALREADY sat in a hot warehouse or hot rail car or hot truck, and has already leached ickiness before you even paid way too much for it? It's like when you use a straw at a restaurant because, ick, you wouldn't want your lips to touch the glass, but funny how you can use the silverware that got washed the same way as the glass. We need to THINK about things beyond what's in front of us!

I digress. Back to the point: it really isn't hard to NOT drink SUP bottled water. Tap filters are sold everywhere and are easy to install and are simple to use, and you can't spit without seeing reusable bottle for purchase. When you break down the costs, it evens out just fine. Plus you aren't lugging those pallets of water around. So. We see that is is simple to replace SUPs in life. Why don't we DO it?

Is it convenience (that evil word again!)? Is it status? "I have to be seen drinking better water that YOU." That can't be it. We can get so-called status by having a better reusable bottle, if that's what it takes. Seriously, folks. Is it that our tap water is THAT scary? In many, many places, it is not. And, again, a tap filter will easily cure that. There are exceptions, but not to the point that we use SUPs. So, what's the fascination?

I have no answers. I don't know why we are so stubborn, why it is so hard to break the SUP habit. Maybe we feel we are entitled to such "luxuries" as bottled water. (After all, tap water is so... pedestrian.) I don't understand why seeing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch doesn't send people screaming to the hills, the way it does me. I can't wrap my mind around the concept that people think, just because the SUP goes in the recycle bin, that it actually GETS recycled. Or that, if thrown in the garbage, it will magically get transported to a recycling facility on its own. I just don't get it. I may never get it.

For now, I'll just have to content myself with glaring at people with their SUPpies. Who knows? Maybe if enough of us glare hard enough, we can make the change happen.

The Price of Convenience

We got it so easy these days. Think about it: our water comes conveniently pre-packaged and sanitized for us. We don't even have to turn on the faucet. Our cleaners do the work, so we don't have to. Our dental floss comes on nifty little plastic handles so we don't have to work at flossing. Our little prunes come individually wrapped (???), and all kinds of foods come in perfect little serving sizes in perfect little plastic containers so we never even have to worry our little heads about portions. Heck, even dog food comes that way.

There is a price to pay for all this convenience. Our landfills are filled, our oceans have giant swirly patches of garbage (visible from SPACE!!!), our kids are slowly being poisoned with BPA... should I even mention the oil needed for all this stuff? Our cleaners are so strong that we can't breathe when we spray them. We don't want to have to scrub. I have to wonder, what is so wrong with using a little elbow grease? We are so consumed with being fast, easy, efficient, that we have forgotten that it's OK to have to WORK once in awhile. "Our grandparents had it so hard." Really? Actually, I think they had character and knew how to DO stuff. They were pretty cool. They were tough. They weren't afraid of a little hard work. They didn't need products to do their work and thinking for them.

So, have we made a better world for ourselves? Or have we just fallen prey to what the leading companies want us to buy? I can't help but feel that our values have fallen off target amidst all these "modern conveniences". I see a lot of mentality that we don't want to have to work as hard as our grandparents did, and we want our children to have it easier than we did. I'd like to challenge that mentality. Weren't our grandparents pretty cool people? My grandpa was a guy I really wanted to know. He died when I was a little too young to appreciate him, but from what I know of him, I wish he could have been around a lot longer. He had the best garden I have ever seen. He built his own house, and it was a GOOD house. He could go into the woods and find all the food he would ever need to survive. Not that he would have ever gotten lost. And he didn't need a cell phone or a GPS. I'll bet he had forgotten more than most people today know how to do.

I think about this a lot. It occurs to me that perhaps we should never have forgotten these things that we "used" to do. We need to get back to them. I understand, it's all in the name of progress, and it is a necessary evolution. But I wonder what progress has brought us. We are fatter, we are lazier, and we are darned near helpless without all our "stuff". The little bit of fresh water on the planet is polluted with all our super-chemicals. Our immunities are shot because we think we have to use antibacterial soap everywhere and we don't dare expose our kids to the germs they NEED to be exposed to. Allergies, asthma, autism. THESE are just a few of the prices we have been paying, and our kids are holding the bills.

Why rake? We have leaf-blowers. It's easier. Why shovel snow? We have snow-blowers. It's easier. Why scrub? It's easier to spray down the shower and walk away. We sure don't have time to do any of that anymore. After all, we have to spend much more time at our jobs... we have pallets of bottled water to pay for. And gym memberships, to make up for the exercise we aren't getting anywhere else.

I think I'll go unwrap me a prune now. They're just so darned convenient.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Clothesline = Poor. Seriously???

Back East, when the Good Green Witch was small enough to duck under the clothesline, Spring and Summer meant we could hang clothes out to dry. We had the room in the back yard, and hanging the bedsheets out there just made sense. Why use the dryer when it was already too warm in the house? It was our yard, no one could really see behind our house, and pretty much everyone did it. Did we equate it with being green? Nope. It just made sense. Did we equate it with being "poor"?? Nah. It was the sensible way to do things. That's all.

Nowadays, people dwell in condos and apartment buildings and pay dues to the neighborhood associations. Such a thing as hanging clothes outside is simply not acceptable. It is unsightly! It would bring down property values! It's downright unseemly! Proper folks just don't do that! Do we want people to think we are poor??? Don't only the "poor" hang out their clothes to dry??

Whoa. Wait a minute. There's something behind this mentality. It is true: it has become a sign of "lower income" to think that one must use a clothesline. Where does this come from?

We have fallen pray to advertising for many years. Think about it: companies don't care how clean your home is or how sanitary your toilet is or even if you have e. coli running around your kitchen counters. They want to SELL you their products. They sell ideas, they sell fear, they sell status. That is how they sell products. Way back whenever, people who were hired to sell dryers had to compete with all the Great Outdoors... However can a drying machine compete with FREE? Challenge the status, of course! If you were well-to-do, you bought a newfangled washer and dryer, which meant you didn't have to work as hard at your laundry and had the leisure time and luxury afforded to such wealth. Only those poor families down the street had to work so hard, because they couldn't AFFORD a dryer. See? Clothesline = poverty.

But today, we can see around and beyond that mentality. We can think for ourselves, and not be ruled by advertising. We realize that hanging clothes outside is better for our electricity bill, gas bill, etc. It's not a sign of poverty, but rather a sign of sustainability, of Green-ness, of concern. Dare we say, frugality? These communities that forbid clotheslines... we need to change that way of thinking and realize why we are bound to these incorrect beliefs. We need to remember that our grandparents really knew what they were doing. We need to realize that convenience is not our best friend.

We need to open our eyes and ears, and start questioning what we see on TV. We can start to ask. "Hmm. Do I REALLY need that?" Sometimes it's OK that the answer is no. We don't need that! And no, just because we like the fresh smell of Sun and wind-dried clothes and to save a little energy, doesn't mean we are poor. It means we're trying, and we are Green.