Have an eco and wallet friendly Valentines Day

How do you stay green and celebrate a holiday that is as artificially created as cubic zirconia? I’ve been asking myself this question for a couple of weeks prompted by facebook posts and tweets about Valentines Day gifts. I’ve fielded questions from people asking what my boyfriend and I are doing for Valentines Day or even worse what I’m planning on buying him…which by the way, I am clueless and have no answer for…or do I?!

Don’t get me wrong I’m a fan of romance—when it’s genuine, heartfelt and thoughtful. Romantic gifts do not include a teddy bear wearing an ugly heart shaped necklace—unfortunately large advertising jewelry stores will lead thousands of men and women to believe that it does by cramming poorly acted commercials conveying so down TV viewers throats every five minutes…but wait it comes in an extra fugly jewelry box!

While the greenest way to celebrate Valentine’s Day would be to stay in, cook a meal made from fresh locally caught fish, grass fed beef and produce from within 250 miles of your home, I do realize that there are folks out there who still like to shower their significant other in gifts.

Here are some of my favorite gift ideas (which are in no way hints for my boyfriend, thankfully he is 100% competent in his gift giving abilities) that I also think are affordable, green and cool!

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The Green Glass Company makes beautiful tumblers, vases and even candle holders out of re-used glass bottles of all types.

If you live in a state where you can actually by wine in the mail (boo to Rhode Island for not allowing it…) there are a few Organic Wine Companies that do wine of the month clubs. This would be a great way to make Valentines Day last all year!

Any of you absolutely dread or even loathe the greeting card section of any store like me… Well how about shopping online for a gorgeously handmade card that is crafted with love like those found at Designs by Becca at my favorite online store of all time Etsy.com. What about those that aren’t quite “In Love” with their Valentine but in a serious state of liking…even adoration…? These cute witty cards from UpUp Creative can help you express yourself in a non-dramatic over the top kind of way.

Chocolate is always a great idea, how about putting a little extra effort in and make them at home…they’ll be fresh, local and your Valentine will adore you for making them by hand.

Instead of over-priced roses, how about a small rose plant—or if you know your Valentines favorite flower, shrub, fruit tree, etc. how about buying a baby one that they can plant outside in the warmer months?

Of course for those of us who are great procrastinators it may be too late for this year, but you get the idea…you don’t have to spend a ton of money, or buy useless senseless things to show your Valentine you care. Instead make wise choices that are not only eco friendly…but are wallet friendly too!

Posted by Amanda| follow me on Twitter

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Some no-no’s of taking it to go

The other night while sorting through the mounds of bills and junk-mail one glassine window in an envelope sparked a discussion about how such things including to-go containers can now be recycled and composted thanks to companies developing materials from plant fibers, sugar cane waste, and corn.

It dawned on me that since I eat, breathe, and live as green as I possibly can maybe it’s not as common knowledge as I thought that there have been great advances in the worlds to-go options.

I am always amazed when eating out when my leftovers are brought to me in some kind of awful Styrofoam container…in fact many U.S. cities like Seattle and Oakland have begun to ban the use of Styrofoam in restaurants and grocery stores. It’s like come on people it’s time to get with it and use an environmentally friendly package, it not only becomes a permanent part of our universe, but according to the EPA it’s a hazard to your health! It makes me think twice about bringing my own container with me the next time I visit that restaurant, or asking them to just wrap my leftovers in foil—if it won’t make a huge mess on the ride or walk home.

I’ll admit that it does slip my mind quite often to ask what kind of containers they package to-go items in, but it’s something I’m trying to get better at and be more conscious of. It’s being more away of little things like this that can help you reduce your footprint and tread a little lighter.

Posted by Amanda | follow me on Twitter

Disposable dinnerware is no longer trash.

I have to admit by the end of holiday dinners at my house I am exhausted, a huge thank you to my mother and mother-in-law for helping clean up all the dishes after Thanksgiving this year.  I was however scared at the thought of adding one more dish to the dishwasher so we used paper plates for dessert.  Afterwards when cleaning up I was disappointed with the fact that I chose to use them.  I get made fun of and even dismissed at the fact that I rarely ever use paper plates and napkins, except in the summer time when it almost seems unnatural to eat that grilled hotdog off of a glass plate and not a Dixie plate with the pretty summer motif that I so carefully selected.

I then decided on researching and finding affordable, tasteful, fully biodegradable disposable tableware.  There are so many products now and you are no longer limited to the overpriced set of four biodegradable products at whole foods that I really economically could not realistically afford with the large gatherings at our house, I would much rather run the dishwasher twice.

Branch is a great company that offers an array of products that are made from recycled materials.  They also have a huge selection of biodegradable dinnerware which is made from 100% sugar cane fiber.  They are unbleached and FDA approved making them a great selection for anyone’s next dinner party.  Branch also has a new line called Wasara which is made from 100% tree-free renewable materials (sugar cane fiber, bamboo, and reed pulp).  It is a very attractive and modern twist on the traditonal boring paper plate.

There are many other biodegradable, compostable and even recyclable replacements to the more common paper plate.  It is a wise choice for the environment as well as the consumer who gains the effort of recycling as well as a beautiful addition to any dinner party.

Some other great companies who make wonderful eco friendly disposable dinnerware are:

LetsGoGreen.biz

Primeware

ECO products

By: Kate Kiselka, Follow me on Twitter

Paper towel challenged

While making lunch this afternoon (well if you count opening the can, pouring soup into bowl and heating for 3 minutes “making lunch”) I spilled a little of my soup on the counter. Immediately without looking up I grabbed for a paper towel, wiped up the spill and threw the towel away. The little hippie on my shoulder screamed at me for what I had just done. A mere tablespoon worth of liquid had spilled so why didn’t I just grab the sponge and clean it up the old fashioned way–well for one…this tree hugger is also a germophobe and sponges are known for being breeding grounds for bacteria!
In my head I began contemplating the great paper towel versus a sponge or dish towel debate. Quite the conundrum a germaphobic hippie…don’t get me started on how I feel about the shower curtain liner touching me…or friends whose toothbrushes are stored on the backs of toilets. Now there are certain things I must use paper towels for like patting down mapley deliciously smoked bacon on Sunday mornings, but mainly for picking up the more than occasional doo poo (I have two vindictive Mini Schnauzers who despise my social life and like to leave love notes in front of the kitchen door) or the freshly barfed up grass. But for the most part my large collection of bar mops and dishtowels should suffice–right? I mean as a child I didn’t die from my mothers and Grandmothers use of a dishcloth or dishtowels..right?

Now some of you are saying oh you aren’t a real tree hugger if you are using paper towels man…WRONG, first read my license plate — TREHGR — second, any educated person or forester will tell you that we need a healthy and sustainable forest product industry, yes folks that means hugging trees while they are standing up or laying down! We do need to harvest our forests to keep them vibrant and healthy. The key word is sustainability here, we have to find that balance within our homes.

I am not saying in any way you should ban paper towels or toilet paper use in your home (I need more than two squares unlike Sheryl Crow!) but be more conscious of your usage. If you have the ability to start a compost pile please do it and then you can enjoy the game of how little waste you throw out each week. Food scraps can be turned into free dirt for your own homes, friends and neighbors. Those paper towels will biodegrade nicely as long as you haven’t been using them to bleach your sink!

We should all remember that first we must reduce before we reuse and recycling should be our next option because there is no place called away where we can magically throw things.

That being said I’ve realized that even the green can get a little greener, and it will help my wallet not be so lean as well — have you noticed the high price for something you’ll only throw away?! I’ve challenged myself to use less and only when the situation calls for it, I challenge you all to do the same and get comfortable with being uncomfortable!

To help you get your creative reduction juices flowing visit some of my favorite places:
Paper Towel Alternatives
Paper Towel Challenge!

Posted by: Amanda

Did you know…you could shop for the Earth?

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Just a heads up to all you Rhode Islanders! If you haven’t seen the commercial yet, there is a new store offering eco friendly alternatives for shopaholics in Wakefield and East Greenwich. It’s called THE Did You Know? STORE. Here is their mission:

  1. To give consumers an environmentally conscious alternative to everyday products
  2. To support recycling and reuse, organic farming, fair trade, and less waste
  3. To allow consumers to be able to choose affordable eco-friendly products without sacrificing quality and without having to completely change the way he or she lives.

 It has some great apparel (really cute t-shirts), and stuff for your pets babies and kids, among other things. The founder, Claire Hall (a URI graduate) is quoted on her website saying “I want a store that is about more than just selling green products. I want to provide people with information that will help them make eco-friendly choices in their everyday lives.” You can take a look at THE Did You Know? STORE here, or check our their blog here. Happy Shopping!!

Posted by: Ashley (intern)

URI teaches the basics: REDUCE REUSE RECYCLE

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Are you a master composter and recycler? Would you like to be? Well if youre a Rhode Islander you should check out URI’s Master Composter and Recycler Program. It not only teaches you how to compost and recycle in RI, but also the ins and outs of Rhode Islands trash systems. The class takes place in a green house at Roger Williams Park, and includes 30 hours of Volunteer work and field trips to landfills, and the Earth Care Farm in Charlestown. The basic goal of the class is to teach you the many ways to reduce what is making it into the landfill. This class is perfect for those of you who, like myself, want to recycle and compost but dont quite have the hang of it or arent sure where to start. I talked with a super cool dude and Master Composter and Recycler student, Mr. Robert Redinger, about his experience with the class and I found what he said about the trip to Earth Care Farms to be especially interesting…

 “The trip to Earth Care farm was fascinating and Mike, the owner was very happy to teach, show and explain to the class.  All of the zoo waste along with local landscapers waste is taken, then a couple times a week, all of the fish waste and clam waste from Point Judith is shipped to the farm and buried for compost.  Every three weeks the pile is turned in on itself and the pile reaches 160 degrees and kills all seeds, weeds, and almost anything other than micro-organisms.  Eventually after 6 months or so, the compost can be screened and sold to the public and to landscapers at $60 and cubic yard.  Katherine Hepburn bought some and the owner had just shipped 3 semi trucks full to NY.  All of the organic stuff can be turned into fine fertile compost, mixed with our poor RI soil and we can all have lush lawns and gardens, healthy plants without chemicals, and we can all reduce the waste stream. “

That’s just from one farm, composting at home is alot less effort that composting on a farm. Imagine if we all did this kind of thing in our own yards? No more money on fertilizers, beatiful lawns, no chemicals, less trash in the landfill, and no more guessing what to toss in the recycling… its WIN WIN people!! Click to check out more about the class, Earth Care Farms, and the landfill. Thanks for the heads up Rob!

Posted by: Ashley (intern)

Abby’s Blog: Kids Helping the Earth – My Earth Week

Earth Day was this week and we got to do a bunch of fun projects for school. My two favorites are my Earth Book and our recycling craft.

For my Earth Book (See my picture) we cut out construction paper. Our book had seven pages, and each page was a different color. The first page had a big cicrle and you can see all of our cut out designs. The first page is a tree cut out, the second page was a wave, the third page was the sun, the fourth was mountains and the fifth page was the sky. Our teacher then asked us to list ways I can save the earth. This is what I put on my list:

1. Recycle

2. Plant seeds

3. Don’t waste

4. Re-use

5. Tell people to recycle

Recyled Castle and PrincessMy second project was really fun. My teacher asked us to create anything we wanted out of our recycling. I made a castle and a princess. I used a strawberry container, a plastic cup, a soap dispenser, a straw, a vitamin water bottle and scraps of paper to decorate them. I love putting the pieces together like a puzzle and being proud of myself that I did it. See what you can make from your recycling container this week and then give it to someone you love or someone who needs to smile.

Recyled Castle and Princess

 Posted by Abby: age 5 years 11 months 2 weeks 3 days…and counting