Is it Easy Being Green?

My daily adventures in attempting an environmentally-friendly lifestyle

No Impact Experiment, part 2: Trash January 13, 2010

Filed under: composting,recycling,reducing waste,Reuse — isgreeneasy @ 5:56 pm
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The second week of my No Impact Experiment focused on one of my favorite subjects–trash. I think about trash a lot–maybe a little too much. But this gave me a chance to think about it even more! The instructions were to save all of my trash for one day and separate it into piles of stuff I used for more or less than 10 minutes, and then think about how it made me feel. Then I was supposed to put together a no trash travel kit consisting of a reusable water bottle and mug, tupperware, old t-shirt or handkerchief and reusable produce bags. Throughout the week I was to keep track of what I absolutely had to throw away and couldn’t find an alternative for.

So what I found out is a) I’ve been dropping the ball on reusing a durable coffee mug when I buy my americanos; b) I use a decent amount of tissues; c) food waste is definitely, by far, the thorn in my trashy side; and d) the answer to how creating trash makes me feel is: crazy. I weighed my waste one day and had 1.7 pounds, most of which was food waste like vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and egg shells, plus a hefty five pound turkey carcass (it was a couple of days after Thanksgiving and I made turkey soup). Food waste is heavy and takes up a lot of room in the garbage. Since starting my little composting project I’m able to compost some food waste, but because I have a small bin I can only compost a fraction of what I create, which is so frustrating! I looked into how No Impact Man was able to compost everything in the middle of NYC, and he had worm bin for some of the waste and dropped off the rest for a local environmental group that does composting.

I also looked through my recycling bin, because even though it’s not going to the landfill, these are still resources that I used for a short time and will be “down-cycled” to the point of not being able to be recycled anymore at some point. Our recycling bin always fills up fast, which is definitely better than throwing things in the garbage, but it still isn’t ideal. Many of those things could just not be there in the first place. I had one pound, 12 ounces of recycling from two days, and it consisted mostly of paper–newspaper, mail, packaging–and then also included a milk container, apple cider jug and a couple of glass jars.

So where can I make improvements? Since the trash week I’ve been much better at taking my own mug when I buy coffee; I’ve used it probably half of the time which isn’t too bad. I’ve also worked on reusing produce bags when I shop; I’ve been good about using durable shopping bags, but I’ve been pretty inconsistent with the produce bags. I’ve been thinking a little more about packaging, for instance, I’m trying to never buy meat in the plastic or styrofoam containers–instead I’m getting the paper-wrapped meats from the butcher counter. That will still create waste, but it’s not quite as evil as the plastic. Those are a few changes I’m working on so far, and I’m still thinking about other changes I can make. I don’t know if I’m willing to replace tissues with handkerchiefs, just don’t know about that one right now.

The unavoidable food scrap waste is just going to be an ongoing dilemma I fear. I am going to look into giving my food scraps to a local farm at my farmer’s market; I’ve heard that some of them may take organic waste. I’m at least working on wasting less food buy buying/cooking more realistic amounts, so hopefully that will help a bit. Fortunately my husband is a leftover-eating king, so he’s doing his part for the team! More trash-reducing updates to come!


Beautiful Green Thing February 18, 2009

The other day I was feeling a lack of green inspiration. It’s probably because I’m deep into my first winter in Chicago and it’s getting a bit old. I’ve been fantasizing about lush grass and trees, the soothing sound of a creek, the chirping of birds. Sigh. It can feel tedious to live green when you can’t see any green.

So, to fight the eco-humdrums I am starting a weekly series of green things of beauty. This will be something in nature, or maybe an awesome new gadget or a person doing inspired work. I hope you enjoy, and please share any beautiful green things you know of in comments.

My first beautiful green thing is the work of artist Su Blackwell. She takes the concept of reusing old books to a new and amazing level. I am astounded at her creativity, vision and technical skill.

The Lake and the Boat

The Lake and the Boat

Wintry: The World of Ice

Wintry: The World of Ice

Birds of the Open Forest Dawn Series

Birds of the Open Forest Dawn Series

The Old House 2007

The Old House 2007

Alice: A Mad Tea Party 2006

Alice: A Mad Tea Party 2006


Roses are green… February 13, 2009

Valentine's Day

I’ve always been ambivalent about how I feel about Valentine’s Day. Maybe it’s because I spent much of my life single. Maybe it’s because it’s such a commercialized holiday. Back in my more radical days I would go around saying things like “Valentine’s Day is a conspiracy with Hallmark at the helm!” (Yes, I was single at the time.) But, I have to admit that there are so many great green options for Valentine’s Day giving that it’s warmed me up to celebrating. No longer are we stuck with conventional flowers, wasteful glittery cards and chocolates with mystery middles!


Check out these fun ideas for reusing materials to make adorable cards on Crafting a Green World. I don’t know whether I like the comic book or music sheet cards better! A quick trip to a thrift store could conjure up a bunch more ideas, I’m sure. There are a lot of great graphics available free online that you can download; both images above came from a clipart gallery. I’m going to do this for other holidays and birthdays as well; making cards could be so fun, plus I’m already counting up the money I’ll save. I saw Valentine’s Day cards priced at $7! That’s outrageous.

I love chocolate as much as anyone, but not so much that I need chocolates in unnecessary packaging, with all kinds of weird additives and that involved unfair labor conditions in making it. Fortunately, there are some beautiul options for buying organic, fair trade chocolates in recyclable packaging. Some of the brands below can be found at local retail stores (hopefully locally-owned stores) so check out their websites to find out where you can buy their products. I’ve seen some of these brands at Whole Foods, a local non-profit fair trade shop called Green Heart and several other local specialty food shops. Trader Joe’s has a good selection of quality chocolate too. All of this chocolate research has got me craving it! Maybe I’ll get some chocolate for V-day. Husband, are you reading this?
Divine Chocolate

Dagoba Chocolate

Coco-Zen — So cool-their truffles come in metal tiffin containers!

Equal Exchange

Lillie Belle Farms

Sweet Earth

Theo Chocolates — They have vegan too!

Divine Chocolates

Who isn’t a sucker for a lovely bouquet of flowers? Unless you’re highly allergic or maybe if you’re a wedding planner, we all are. But, the flower business wreaks some environmental havoc. A lot of energy and resources are used to grow perfect flowers that will be around for maybe a week and then are thrown out.
Fortunately, more sustainable flowers are becoming easier to find. I’ve been hearing about and seeing a lot of ads for Organic Bouquet, which has been around for awhile but seems to me to be getting more attention these days. 1-800-Flowers has fair trade bouquets (as well as organic tea and snack gift baskets). When I went to the FTD website, I was skeptical, but I found a really nice, certified sustainable (although cheesily named “Protect Our Earth Bouquet”) bouquet. The super cool part is that it comes in a recycled wine bottle vase!

The superior option to cut flowers, though, is getting something living that can grow inside in a pot or be planted outside in the spring. That being said, I can’t help but appreciate a special bouquet presented to me by my groom once a year.



If you’re looking for other gifts, Global Exchange and World of Good both have a nice selection of heart-shape swag. The Daily Green has a ton of ideas too.

Ok, so what will I do? I’ll be baking up some chocolate-y goodness, making a card (nothing too ambitious though) and husband and I will be going to dinner (a regular dinner at a local spot–not an overpriced Valentine’s Day event) and a play put on by a local troupe. That’s more than we’ve done in years!


Swap Shop January 30, 2009

Filed under: Reuse — isgreeneasy @ 5:53 pm
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halloween1Ah, I remember the good times when my trick-or-treating gang would dump out our loot and trade the candy we didn’t want. “I’ll trade you one Milky Way for two Blow Pops” was the kind of wheeling and dealing going on. Everyone won, and it was a thing of beauty. No one ever wanted those little boxes of raisins though.

Trick-or-treating days are long gone, but that old rush has a chance to come back even stronger–just with with the more grownup goodies of books in place of candy. Thanks to my book-loving eco-maven friend Bridget, I found out about PaperBackSwap. PaperBackSwap is an ingenious idea: You register, send in some books, earn “credits” for those books, and then use the credits to have the books of your choice sent to you. It’s the kind of reuse synchronicity that only the web can bring. Check out this video where Bridget explains how it works really well.

But oh no, it doesn’t stop at just books. There’s also SwapaCD and SwapaDVD, which work in the same way as PaperBackSwap. All of these services not only can save you a ton of money, but they promote not accumlating more stuff, and consequently conserving natural resources and energy.

I’ve been hearing about other swapping opportunities too, like clothing or household goods swap parties. I once had a spa party and everyone brought unwanted make-up, lotions, etc. that were perfectly good but just weren’t getting used. It was so fun to get some new products and see friends excited about things that I wanted to give away!

Although I’ve given away and even sold books online in the past, I still have a lot of them piling up on our sagging bookshelves. So now, I just have to let go of my unidentifiable need to hold onto them. Some of course are worth keeping, but do I really need to keep so many old books that I’ll most likely never look at again? No. Definitely not.