Sustainable Living

It’s Not Just What You Buy, It’s What You Don’t

buyerarchy
With Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday almost safely behind me, I’ll admit, the merry madness threatened to sweep me away — I nearly lost my eco-consciousness.

Black Friday is most definitely not my thing — and the mighty Hudson River stands between the malls and me.

Saturday, I cruised the shops in my vibrant small town, and hit the Farm and Flea on Sunday.

So far, I’ve made it through today without a purchase. With so many cyber-deals flying furiously past my screen, it’s a miracle the credit card hasn’t shimmied its way out of my wallet.

I have a new strategy for not shopping. Every time my mouse gets twitchy, I grab a snack.

It’s Munchy Monday!

Not so fast…

It’s not just what you buy (or eat), it’s what you don’t.

How do you get through the holiday shopping season hoping to save a buck, save the environment, save yourself?!?

Image: Long Live Irony

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?

Why I Marched For Climate Change (video)

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I joined with nearly 50, viagra 60mg 000 protesters who endured freezing winds to express their fervent desire that President Obama take bold action on climate change. For my husband, viagra Ted and I, the Forward on Climate rally was a culmination of years of living a green lifestyle. It was time to move beyond the recycling bin and compost pile to fight for climate justice. Sunday’s rally gave us an opportunity step up our commitment. It put the wind in our sails to demand urgent action on climate change. We chose on the ground activism because we’re not prepared to accept the inevitability of our children’s future without a fight.

President Obama had strong words to say in both his inaugural address and State of The Union about the need for urgent action on climate change. Before the SOTU, I was interviewed along with other environmentalists and asked what I wished President Obama would convey during his speech. I said it was time for him to address our climate concerns – the people’s concerns, not the oil, coal and gas companies that so many politicians on the Hill are beholden to. I said, “The political is personal.”

It was this singular focus that drove me to take to the streets of DC on Sunday and raise my voice with tens of thousands from all generations. It’s why I took bold action and pushed Ted and my friends, Dominique (who does not like crowds), and Kerry and Matt to join me.

I knew the rally would thrust us out of our comfort zone. I hadn’t protested in the streets since I boarded a bus to DC in high school with a bunch of bell-bottomed teenagers wearing peace buttons to oppose the Vietnam War. We were fighting for our future. I was wearing a tee-shirt my father printed with the slogan, “War is not healthy for children and other living things.”

On Sunday, being part of the climate solution meant going beyond green and marching forward. One of the handmade rally signs summed it up with a photograph of the Earth and these four words: “Too Big To Fail”

View more photos from the Forward for Climate rally HERE and HERE.

Catch a glimpse of the speakers and the energy of the rally in this video:

Photo: Ted Fink

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

Preserve, Conserve and Shop Small

It saddened me to learn that many large-box retailers opened their doors yesterday…on Thanksgiving. Here’s Walmart’s rational:

“We bought deep, very deep, and we bought deep on items that matter to our customers,” said Walmart U.S. Chief Merchandising and Marketing Officer, Duncan Mac Naughton.

What’s deeper than spending time with loved ones on Thanksgiving? 

“Walmart’s offers will include video games starting at $10 and home appliances such as a Crock Pot slow cooker for $9.44 each.”

There’s an underlying disconnect…and discontent in this deep thinking that inherently weakens communities.

But who am I to tell Walmart, the largest US employer, what to do? I live in a thriving small town that flourishes over the holidays. Local holiday shopping starts today and helps keep the merchants afloat during the less lucrative winter months. Shopping local during the holiday season creates jobs, boosts the economy, and preserves our neighborhoods. Keeping with peaceful holiday tidings, being a “locavore” matters because it conserves precious energy (the malls are often quite a driving distance away), and preserves our small towns.

In the spirit of the season, let’s be conscious of where we shop. It matters more than saving a few cents on video games and Crockpots. In fact, it matters because shopping local is the glue that holds communities together.

Photo: Fickr