Eco-Friendly

Soft Light

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I have a soft spot for handmade lighting, especially those sculpted from eco-friendly materials. Austrian designer, Rainer Mutsch created a series of pendants from recycled fiber cement for Molto Luce using water and cellulose fibers. Natural cellulose fibers are minimally processed. Recycled fiber cement is highly durable and non-flammable.

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Each individual luminaire shade is molded by hand. The shades get stability from their slightly rippled geometry .

Beautiful, wouldn’t you agree?

Photos: via: Contemporist

Life Before Air Conditioning

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I’ve run the Mothership” around here for years, and have lived through a litany of complaints from my kids about the rising heat and the need for air conditioning.

“Why don’t we put in a pool like Rebecca’s family?” Not.
“It’s too hot to go out, we’ll just watch TV all day.” 
Not.
“We can’t sleep upstairs, the walls are melting. We’re sleeping downstairs on the couch.” 
OK.

And like all parents, I pull the generational “before you were born” -thing with my kids:

“When we were young, we ran through the sprinkler…A little sweat didn’t kill us…Have you ever heard of a fan?” 

Then came my final stand, “Do you know Americans use twice as much energy air-conditioning our homes than we did 20 years ago…and more than the rest of the world’s nations combined?” 

Although I live in what is considered to be a cooler Northeast climate, the rising temperature in my neck of the woods has left me sweltering.

I threw eco-caution to the wind and started my own whiny campaign to bring air conditioning into my home. Come hell or high water, and both seemed to be happening, I needed cool air to think straight. I tried rationalizing my case to my ultra-conservationist husband.

Me: “Do you know how much extra laundry I’m doing cleaning sweat-soaked sheets, tee-shirts and towels? Running the dryer day and night will kill the environment. An air conditioner could help!”

Husband: “You’re exaggerating, my dear. And the electricity generated to power air conditioning carries a larger environmental consequence. In burning fossil fuels such as coal and gas to supply electricity to homes and workplaces, power plants discharge clouds of soot and other pollutants into the atmosphere. Among these are mercury and carbon dioxide. Did you know air conditioner use in the U.S. results in an average of about 100 million tons of CO2 emissions from power plants every year ? Also, you emailed me this blog post, 10 Design Tips To Help You Live Without (Or Use Less) Air Conditioning

Me: “Pleeeze, don’t throw posts back at me, I’m a blogger. Bloggers can make anything sound sexy. I can’t work. My keyboard is damp…sticky. I’m sure the Apple manual clearly states, moisture on the keyboard will not be covered under warranty.”

Husband: “Air conditioning is a twisted way to stay cool. If you want to stop warming the planet why would you want artificial cooling? There’s nothing natural about that.”

At this point, guilt got the better of me and I gave up, realizing it was just too damn hot to bicker.

Then it happened. After hours of pushing a hand mower (4 acres of grass and no riding mower…of course) in the latest brutal heat wave, my sweet husband’s defensive brain fried, and he ran to the hardware store and bought one of those portable air conditioners.

Kidding aside, in the age of climate change, can we possibly put air conditioners into the deep freeze? Probably not. My family held out as long as we could, but bucking a culture that is not making the connection that what we’re sending up into our atmosphere is reigning down on us in the form of hot and hazardous weather, is a daunting prospect. But if we adjust our ethos, and take serious measures to power our homes (and air conditioners), using clean renewable energy – wind and solar, and stand with President Obama’s ambitious climate action plan to stop global warming, we have a fighting chance.

Will our leaders compromise and put an end to the warming trend? Or will our kids have to sweat it out hugging air conditioners instead of trees?

8 Reasons To Love Earth Day

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Here are a few reasons to love Earth Day and stay committed to protecting the environment:

  1. According to the Earth Day Network, more than 1 billion people in 192 countries celebrate Earth Day.
  2. Climate Central created an interactive graphic that shows a state-by-state analysis of temperature trends since the first Earth Day took place in 1970.
  3. Dominique Browning’s New York Times interview with Brazilian photographer Sebastio Salgado, tells how falling in love with our planet can show us what we stand to lose.
  4. Earth Day inspired Google to create a fun interactive, animated environmental scene.
  5. Joe Romm from Climate Progress says this about Earth Day: “Affection for our planet is misdirected and unrequited. We need to focus on saving ourselves.”
  6. Antiwar activists in the late 1960s rallied across the country to raise environmental consciousness. It led to the creation of the EPA and passage of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. Watch the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970.
  7. Eco-Activist, Beth Terry, author of My Plastic Life and Plastic Freewalks the walk on Earth Day.
  8. Nature is cheaper than therapy.

Image via Tumblr

DIY Valentine’s Day Staycation

"How did it happen that their lips came together? How does it happen that birds sing, that snow melts, that the rose unfolds, that the dawn whitens behind the stark shapes of trees on the quivering summit of the hill? A kiss, and all was said." ~ Victor Hugo

“How did it happen that their lips came together? How does it happen that birds sing, that snow melts, that the rose unfolds, that the dawn whitens behind the stark shapes of trees on the quivering summit of the hill? A kiss, and all was said.” ~ Victor Hugo

I once gave my unwavering opinion that staycations were not my idea of a vacation. You can read why I felt I would need a vacation from a staycation here.

Can I change my mind about this?

Although I will not go as far as to say that I would give up a delightfully warm week at the beach to stay home and watch the grass grow or the snow fall, I’m making a staycation exception: Valentine’s Day. All the usual Valentine Day niceties say “stay home.”

Seriously, all you need is love.

Rock found while snowshoeing with my honey after last week's snow storm.

Rock found while snowshoeing with my honey after last week’s snow storm.

DIY Valentine’s Day Staycation

Cards

I am a sucker for handmade cards. I’ve toyed with the idea of making a machine-stitched Valentine card like this, or an easy hand-stitched card. Folding origami valentines has been a suitable alternative. Although, these DIY Alexander Girard-inspired cards are begging to be tucked into a handcrafted envelope.

Home Décor

Along with romantic headboards, like this dreamy lipstick red DIY headboard, I’ve been noticing the allure of bed canopies. Here’s a round-up of DIY bed canopies.

Candlelight

Whenever candles are mentioned, my first response is to ditch paraffin candles (nasty by-products that emit greenhouse gases and soot). Here’s a DIY beeswax alternative.

How about LED tea lights? There’s a bit of a debate about whether or not LED lights pass the snuff test as a viable design alternative to the natural glow of wax candles. I picked up a 12-pack of LED tea lights at Homegoods and enjoy the muted glow of these candles in a candle holder — especially nice in a dark bathroom. This DIY threaded candleholder was created for use with LED tea lights.

Chocolate

I don’t cook much (hubby does), but I like to bake. These healthy chocolate cherry Valentine scones are on this year’s to-make list. Yum. The recipe includes DIY directions for creating a gift box that uses a homemade glue recipe.

Flowers

Unless you give organic flowers, conventionally grown flowers generally get a thumbs-down for eco-friendliness. Most cut flowers are grown in South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. They are heavily sprayed with pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and even DDT, creating problems for workers and florists. Add in the transporting time, and traditional flowers are not so lovely. Instead, create a dozen origami roses. Use leftover holiday tissue paper or cards. Or, how about a button bouquet?

Wine

Did you think my next suggestion would be to make wine for Valentine’s Day? Not. Although, my husband did make wine once for me. Love that guy. We still celebrate with wine, and here’s some organic wine pairing suggestions. I’m a big fan of  a mellow, rosy red Pinot Noir.

Staying home or going out?

Photo of heart rock: Ted Fink

Only Fools Dye Their Young

Sometimes I think I might get arrested for loitering in the grocery aisle. I read every single food label. I’m a food marketer’s nightmare because I can sniff out misleading and meaningless food lingo in a heartbeat. Why? Because I’ve been reading labels incessantly since my daughter was young.

It’s Not Nice To Dye Our Young

It started with an innocent breakfast cereal that made grandiose claims of being “All Natural Berry, Berry Goodness,” “Kid Approved” and “Contains Healthy Antioxidants.” After ingesting bowlfuls of her new favorite cereal, my daughter started to display frightening symptoms. First, she developed a headache. So we gave her Children’s Tylenol. The headache got better. Then she broke out in hives. We gave her Children’s Benadryl. Very quickly after taking the antihistamine, she complained that her throat was feeling weird, like she couldn’t swallow. We rushed her to an allergist, who confirmed what we had already figured out. My daughter was allergic to Blue Dye #2…a common food dye that was an ingredient in the cereal and the two over-the-counter children medicines.

Of course, we learned to avoid food dyes like the plague…reading labels like one would read an FBI file. Everything from lip balm to ice cream became suspect. Who knew?

It’s Not Nice To Fool The Bees

French apiarist Andre Frieh holds a sample of normal honey (right) besides a blue colored one (left) Ribeauville, France, October 5, 2012.

I was reminded of this parental chapter (nightmare) when I recently read that beekeepers were discovering blue honey in their hives. Apparently, bees were harvesting M&Ms manufacturing waste from a plant that processed the industrial runoff from a Mars candy factory.

“The plant operator said it regretted the situation and had put in place a procedure to stop it happening again…The company, which deals with waste from a Mars chocolate factory, said it would clean out the containers, store all incoming waste in airtight containers and process it promptly.” ~ BBC

We’re not innocent bees, we’re conscious consumers who should not be duped by honey-coated claims. Although labels are supposed to say exactly what’s in their product, the food aisle is teeming with misinformation. As parents, we like to fix things like this. How can we fix marketers who aim to make money by poisoning our kids? We can’t.

But don’t be a fool…Real food doesn’t come with labels.

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