Tuesday, September 23, 2008

new local group!

If you live in New England and are even slightly interested in living sustainably consider joining the New England APLS. There are also regional groups in the Great Lakes, Lower Midwest, Colorado and California. Check it out and send your friends!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

and the green grass grows all around all around...

Except the grass isn't green, and it's not growing. My apartment complex doesn't water the grass (yay water savings!) so the open areas are covered with patches of grass, some of it brown; patches of dirt, all of it brown and patches of clover, brilliantly green. Now that I think of it, clover is green, its soft, it feeds the bunnies and it clearly is capable of living in the New England environment far more independently than grass is. There's even the added bonus that some clovers are lucky, so it provides hours of entertainment for industrious children (and maybe some adults) looking for the coveted 4-leaf variety. With all this, clover seems like the perfect ground cover. So, how did we end up with grass? It can be prickly, requires tons of water, you have to mow it and it is the exact same color as clover. I've decided that if I ever have a lawn that isn't entirely covered with edible and decorative plants, I'm putting in clover. The landscaping companies make think I'm insane (can you even buy clover?) but at the moment it seems like an entirely viable option.

Also, if you ever doubted the cleaning power of "green" laundry detergent, doubt no longer. My Arm and Hammer Essentials got out an ink stain, without me doing anything! I always hear about people applying hairspray immediately afterward and a number of other urgently applied remedies. I, on the other hand, happened to notice a slightly faded ink stain on my shirt as I put it on one day (after having washed it) and when I mentioned it to my mother I was informed that the shirt was doomed since the stain had set. Not worrying about it, I threw the shirt in with the rest of the wash and as I was hanging it up to dry, saw to my amazement that the stain had disappeared! So, no pre-treatment, no extra detergent, just two regular washes and the ink was faded and gone. I must say, I'm impressed.

Monday, September 15, 2008

it's spreading!

Tonight I received a call from my friend informing me her father had asked her for my number. He called to tell me of the cool environmentally conscious action he had taken. Apparently my friend has told him some of the things I do, and as the most eco-minded person he knew, he wanted to share with me. Well, that would have made my day in and of itself, but then he told me what he did. He used water from his dehumidifier to wash his clothes! I find this totally amazing because a) I've never heard of anyone doing it and b) it takes some effort to save water and add it at the right time (he used it for wash and the first rinse). Apparently this saves about 28 gallons of water, according to the calculations of his 6th grade class. So, my actions affected my friend, who influenced her parents to change their habits, who engaged 20 something 6th graders, some of whom probably told their parents, some of whom probably told the other parents at the soccer game "You'll never guess what my son told me about his crazy teacher this year..." That's a really large web of people stemming from a few conversations I had. Whenever you fear that you're not having an impact making such small changes, realize how rapidly that impact can grow and see that in fact you are personally causing an exponential ripple effect which is slowing eroding the cultural norms (yes that was 3 metaphors in one, but I'm confident you can figure it out).

In other (now much less exciting) news, yesterday was Christmas. My parents had been wanting to get me a GPS and decided to give it to me early since I was talking about my careful, yet not always entirely succesful, navigation of the Boston roads. Purchasing this device made me realize that there are in fact environmentally friendly technology developments. Yes, I absolutely could get directions to where I'm going, but I can't account for every possible wrong turn, or need to get gas, or other necessary detour. So, having a GPS allows me to find the quickest route where I'm going at any time, thus reducing my driving. It also will work while walking or biking, which I will be more likely to do instead of driving if I know I won't be getting lost as it grows dark. Plus, my device has an excellent feature which allows me to program in a certain speed (I chose 70 mph to start) and it will beep at me every time I pass this speed. So, I'm getting where I'm going the most efficient way possible, using the mode of transport with the least impact and I'm being reminded to drive in a way that will increase my gas mileage (which, by the way, was 39 mpg last tank, which is 10 mpg more than my rather large sedan normally gets!).

Finally, I had a fantastic weekend of resource free fun. My grandmother, mother and I sat down to organize 10 years of photos. We have gone digital, but the last photo album our family has is from '98. It was great to hang out, reminisce and be proactive in organizing everything so that we will be able to do this more often (and without quite so much "when on earth did we do that?").

Friday, September 05, 2008

"fresh" air

So today I was driving home behind a woman who had one of those pine tree shaped air fresheners hanging from her rear view mirror. I never understood the appeal of such odor reducers/masks. Personally I like my car to smell like air, not chemical. And, if there's a gross smell in the car, then I want to clean the car, not camouflage it with another stronger scent. But, that opinion isn't really what made me feel the need to share this sighting. The punch line of this story is, the woman was driving in a..... convertible! Seriously? We were driving past a wooded area and her car was filled with fresh air. Are we that brain washed by commercialization that we need to have a pine scent hovering by our noses, even as we drive down the road with the top down and our noses hang out in the open air? I understand that she probably bought the air freshener for when the top is up, but it makes me seriously wonder what we could be convinced of needing. Maybe I should be spraying Febreze on my balcony or washing the dirt out of my plant containers?

Also, I found out today that "it takes the same amount of energy to produce just four sheets of paper as it does to power a laptop for an hour" from my ideal bite tip of the day. That made me feel pretty good about the number of blogs I read and games I play online. They are suggesting reading books on one of those e-book readers, which I'm not sure I'm quite ready to do, but its nice to know that since my laptop already exists I am actually being more effective playing online rather than buying a book of Sudoku puzzles.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


It is so easy to get caught up in the hype, and to focus on the negative. I am sure there are some great biological explanations for why we often pay attention to bad experiences more strongly than good ones (such as: it's important to not eat the berry that makes you sick, but no big deal if you do or don't eat the one that you felt fine after) but the negativity of the media is far too skewed. I want to hear the success stories, I want to read about people who work together, I want to know what hopes and dreams we have. This happens with everything- war, natural disaster and politics. Currently I'm facing the presidential election news, and all I see are stories about Palin. Yes, I needed to hear that she had been chosen, and I want to know her stance, but that is all. I still want to hear about Obama's speech, which I actually didn't get to read about until today when I made a conscious effort to search the web for it. The Republicans timed things perfectly, and we all fell for it. Now, once I make my statement on who I support, I try to redirect conversations away from the rumors about Palin's family. I want to focus on progress and facts, hear about the issues and not the twisted quotes taken out of context. I hope that isn't too much to ask for.

I want paragraphs like this, a direct quote from Obama's speech, to get the attention it deserves. Here is a candidate who recognizes our differences, but can make some very strong positive statements to unify the country. Progress.

"We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don't know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This too is part of America's promise - the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort."