Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The JGM book club launch!

I've decided to pretend I have Oprah's following, and start my own online book club. After all, what is blogging if not an attempt to live out the fantasy of being the next Katie Couric, Oprah, or Anne Coulter (that last one was my attempt at a joke)? To be quite honest, I want to be a part of the green movement, not because it's trendy, not because everybody is doing it, but because it's no longer a choice. Everyone needs to acknowledge that we are not living in a sustainable world. And it's not just about saving the planet. If you focus on something that large, that intangible, it's way too easy to put it off for another day. It's not just a global issues, it's quite personal. Saving the planet is as much about saving the people in it as it is about preserving the ozone. And so far, the best book I have found to outline just how personal (and political) this issue has become is this one here:


And thus, I officially announce the launch of the JGM book club with the book Exposed, by Mark Schapiro. Schapiro is a journalist, and the book is written like a really long Newsweek article, investigative (vs. textbook-y) in nature, meant for the layperson, and fascinating in content. He does a remarkable job resisting the temptation to be polarizing, to take a biased stance against corporate America and the GOP. He presents both sides of the story beautifully, and I can barely put it down (but I have to because, well, I have a job and kids and all of that). I should say that he does not hesitate to make his pro-environmental stance known, but rather than being extreme or sensational, he basis his conclusions on a fairly thorough evaluation of the evidence on either side, while still leaving you enough unanswered questions to make your own conclusions.

Please, please, please consider reading this book. Get your friends involved, maybe ask your parents to join in, too. Even your teenager will find this a great lesson in what is going on in the world around us, behind the scenes of the biggest corporations in the world.

In the interest of pretending that a million of you are reading my blog and are going to rush out to your local library, Barnes and Noble, or Half-Price Books, I will say no more until later.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Quick resource tip

Before you buy anything - make-up, a vacuum cleaner, whatever - check out the Green Guide. Follow the link to Consumer Guide. Invaluable. Maybe the best website I've found so far for buying day-to-day goods.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

New topic for you to munch on

Sitting in your office, wanting to think about something more interesting than what's next on your Outlook calendar? Chew on this:


Thoughts? Reactions?

Good intro article from Newsweek

Last week's edition of Newsweek had a good introductory article on Green Homebuilding. If you're thinking about it as an option for your home, or are just curious, this is a good article. It doesn't go into major depth or anything, but it's at least motivating, and definitely raises some questions, which I'll discuss momentarily. Here's a link to the article:


By the way, if anyone knows how I can legally post the entire article on my blog, please let me know. That way, you don't have to switch back and forth. While you read, I'll go get a glass of wine and some chocolate.

I'm back and feeling much better with my end-of-the-day treat. OK, so let's discuss some issues indirectly raised in this article. The first questions that come to mind are these: Why isn't this kind of building and remodeling standard? Why do we even have the choice of putting stuff in our homes that is full of toxins? Why aren't we all installing cabinets and countertops that are made with recycled materials? Why aren't we all buying water-saving showerheads? Why do we even have the option of toilettes that use a ton of water when there are toilettes available that barely use any water at all? In others words - why isn't this standard?

I asked my husband. His theory is that there isn't a clear and present "pain point." In other words, when we install our formeldahyde adhesive-covered countertops or paint our walls with fume-y paint, or step into our 9,000 gallon whirlpool tub, there is no obvious and immediate negative consequence (unless, I suppose, you drown in your unnecessarily large tub). That, and the message that this stuff is bad for you is still fairly quiet, and oft-disputed. Yes, I think my husband is onto something - human beings don't change unless there's a serious fire under their collective ass. There has to be a clear and present danger, and so far, we have yet to meet the critical mass of environmentally concerned asses to be making lasting, global changes in the way we live our lives. The demand for safe homes is increasing, and my hope is that by contributing to the call for change, I can inspire others to do the same, and we can become one giant ass calling for the elimination of unnecessary products that do way more harm than good.

Please, if you have any thoughts on the matter, post your comments, let's discuss amongst ourselves. Or just keep tuning in for more monologues on the topic, if that's more your thing.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Composting - Desire vs. Action

I don't know about you, but we throw away a lot of biodegrable food waste every day. Banana peels, leftovers-turned-science-experiments, mushy uneaten cereal, coffee grinds, and several hundred apple and pear cores. Every time I toss out yet another mostly eaten banana covered in hair because my little one wandered off with it and dropped it in the bathroom, I think, "We should not be throwing this into the garbage!!" I just don't know what else to do with it.

Ok, that's a total lie. I do know what to do with it: I need to compost it. Of all the earth-friendly steps I should take to reduce my role in trashing the planet, composting is probably the one I am most reluctant about. First of all, I don't garden, I don't even have house plants, and so anything soil-related is completely foreign to me. Secondly, I'm not much of a nature person. Worms aren't really my thing. And third....well, I just kinda don't want to.

But becoming a steward of the earth isn't really about what you want to do, is it? If I throw up my hands that are likely carrying orange peels, egg shells, or frostbitten peas and say "It's just too inconvenient," I'm not really all that committed, am I? I've been telling myself I'll just wait until my daughter starts going to her hippie kindergarten and she can teach us all how to compost. And then I think, um, she'll have just turned five. Is it really her responsibility to learn this stuff before I do?

So today I began researching the process of composting, and I'll admit, while I had hoped it would dispell my belief that turning food into nutrient-rich worm poop is overwhelmingly complicated, it has actually increased my skepticism that I'm cut out for this. First of all, this

is really gross. I know there are other ways to compost, but they seem even more complicated, requiring me to balance nitrogen with carbon and what not. Again, nature and soil things, not really in my skill set.

Nevertheless, I will soldier on in my quest to compost. I'm going to a Living Green expo later this spring, and I may just put it off until then, when someone can hold my hand and walk me through the process. In the meantime, if you'd like to read up on composting to see if maybe it strikes you as more doable and enjoyable than it looks to me, here's a good place to start:


Monday, March 10, 2008

Why am I doing this?

I realized, after re-reading my first post, that I really sounded like some holier than thou tree-hugging perfectionist. While it's probably accurate to say that I have some strong and not always flattering perfectionist tendencies, they're not really related to the environment, and my motivation for this blog is not to preach to all you ignorant polluters who have yet to see the light. This is not just a come-to-Jesus blog, as I am not interested in being the green version of Jerry Falwell. The truth is, I'm actually not all that good at keeping up with environmental practices. I'm passionate about the topic, I love to waste all sorts of time at work reading about it, and I've definitely made progress. But I still forget my canvas bags about 30% of the time, I threw away a plastic bottle (gasp!) in the regular garbage can at work the other day when I couldn't find a plastic recycling bin, and sometimes I'm just not in the mood to take the light rail into downtown, so I drive in, along with the million other energy-consuming, air-polluting commuters who also can't seem to be bothered to let someone else determine at least a few minutes of their schedule. Because let's face it: life is easier when you just go with the flow. And when the flow is considerably cheaper and more convenient, well hell, sometimes the temptation is just too strong.

I was motivated to start this blog as a sort of accountability measure. After all, if I'm publicly decrying the use of plastic bags, I'd better put my canvas where my mouth is, right? It also gives me a forum for researching and thinking through various environmental issues. My plan is to write about toxins in make-up, easy environmentally friendly changes in household chores and products, and some day, a comprehensive how-to for anyone else who, like us, is planning to remodel their home a la Green. Along the way I hope to learn about other areas of living green, as well as maybe throw in a few posts about eating healthy and keeping your kids from turning into overweight computer zombies. As I learn about this stuff, I'll document it here for my own reference, and hopefully help out someone else who is as curious about all of this as I am.

Well, it's time for my (non-organic) nightly glass of (heart-healthy) red wine. I hope you will tune in as I get this blog off the ground. My hope is to add a creative flair and hopefully a little humor along the way. Cheers.

Plastic bags - the scourge of the earth

Ok, people, it's time to stop burying your head in the sand when it comes to plastic bags. Soon that sand will be littered with pieces of plastic bags anyway and you'd probably suffocate. So let's talk about your next trip to the grocery store.

Of all the "green" steps you can take, reducing or eliminating your use of plastic bags is probably the easiest one. Americans consume 370 BILLION plastic bags per year. Need to read that again?

American consume 370 BILLION plastic bags per year. 370,000,000,000.

Only 1% of them are recycled. Recycling them is expensive, and many environmentalists suspect that even the bags in many of the plastic bag recycling stations at your local grocery store end up in the landfill. The list of negative environmental consequences is lengthy, so if you think I'm just being melodramatic to make a point, Google "plastic bags and environment" and find out for yourself what we're doing to our planet just so we can carry our carton of eggs to the car. If you don't have a lot of time to do the legwork, here's a nice article from CNN: http://edition.cnn.com/2007/TECH/11/14/fsummit.climate.plasticbags/index.html

Of course, there's no use bringing up a problem if you have nothing to offer as a solution. Which is why I have a solution. As I said earlier, reducing your usage of plastic bags is really, really, really simple: BRING YOUR OWN BAGS. I bought some simple canvas bags last year, like so: http://www.ecobags.com/Our_Products/Canvas_Bags. Now when I do my weekly grocery and Target shopping, I bring these along. Because I have a hard time just remembering to bring my wallet to the store, I keep the bags in the trunk of my car at all times. Besides, you never know when you'll make an impromptu stop at Whole Foods (danger! danger!). Not only are the bags environmentally friendly, but they hold a lot more food and are so much stronger than either plastic or paper bags from the grocery store. Trust me, it's a win-win situation. OK, so you may feel like a dork handing over your glob of semi-dirty canvas bags to the perplexed check-out girl, but she'll eventually figure it out, and if you're not me, you can always wash them regularly so at least they're clean.

Please, people, I'm bagging you (tee hee), get yourself some reusable bags and reuse them! Whole Foods is selling reusable bags for 99 cents now - you really are running out of excuses. Do you honestly want to be responsible for that poor dead turtle who suffocated on the Wal-Mart bag you used to carry your fish food?

The inevitable becomes a reality

Friends, family, colleagues: you knew it would eventually come to this. In high school, my friends fake-voted me "Most likely to be an aerobics instructor and own a health food store." My oldest child tells people she doesn't eat at McDonald's because "it's not good for [her] tummy," and that Old Country Buffet "makes people get too big and then they die." tee hee. I'm currently sitting on my fitness ball in my very corporate office because I haven't successfully talk our HR people into investing in those treadmill work stations developed recently by Mayo (I haven't given up yet, so stay tuned) and I refuse to let my body rot in a cushy office chair. Besides, I look so freakin' cool, like so:

Who knew office workers could be so hot?

I'm one of those moms who brings her own canvas bags to the grocery store and lectures her parents about the importance of recycling and buying fragrance-free hygiene products. I bought the whole family SIGG bottles and tell anyone who listens that plastic will bring about the death of our planet. We just registered our eldest child for kindgarten at the nearby environmental magnet school, where each classroom has a composting box, and the kids sell notecards they made out of bark in order to raise money to buy a sheep (or other sustainable living item) for a poor family in a Africa. My youngest will soon attend a daycare that makes all their food from scratch - using mostly organic and locally grown food - uses cloth diapers, and cleans with all natural cleaning products.

It should be no surprise to anyone, then, that I have decided to create a blog dedicated to informing anyone who will visit it about the joys and necessities of green and healthy living. In the process of researching material to post here, I hope to reduce my own negative impact on the planet, improve my family's health, and motivate myself to get started on the green home remodeling project scheduled to commence within the next year, or twenty, depending on if and when we sell our other home (long story and not all that interesting; to summarize, I hate the housing market of 2008).

So stay tuned, dear reader, as I do my best to make this the best of the 9,354,001 blogs currently in cyberspace dedicated to this trendiest, yet highly relevant and important, of topics.