Saturday, June 26, 2010


How to survive the dog days of summer and stay eco-friendly? It is a challenge, takes some sacrifice maybe, but it CAN be done. Here are some tips on how to save money on that power bill, even when it's 100 degrees outside:

Spend time in public places with AC
like the movies, library, bowling alley, gym, rec center for example. Then while you're out, turn the temperature up on your AC so it's not pumping all day long. Here's a link for things to do in the DC metro area with lots of great ideas:

Spend some time outdoors in your local pool.
If you have young children use a baby pool at home. And if you have the sprinklers going, get the kids out there while you water your lawn. The kids will love it and your lawn will love it too.

Keep the AC set at a high temp anyway.
It's recommended to be set at 78 or higher while you're at home. If you set it at 70 it costs double than it would at 78. Besides, do you really need to wear a sweater inside during the summer? I really get perturbed when stores and restaurants have their AC blasting so high that I have to rush to get out of there. But at least I can control it in my own home. A programmable thermostat can help control this easier, so you can set it higher when you're not at home and then have it cool enough when you get back.

Install ceiling fans in the rooms you use the most.
If it's cool outside you can keep the windows open as well. Your AC uses 100 times more energy than a ceiling fan at medium speed. Use your AC & fans at the same time and it will cool off to your desired temperature and you can set the AC temp higher. For example, if your desired temp is 78, set the AC at 80-81 & turn on the fan. It will use 15-25% less energy.

Use your blinds and curtains to keep the heat out!
The summer sun is so bright that it won't be too dark in your house, but it will keep the heat out and the AC in. Don't forget to turn off the lights, which add more heat!

On code red/orange air quality days, be conscious of adding more pollutants in the air.
DON'T IDLE your car!! Wait to use any gas-powered lawn tools or lawnmower til it's cool out (early morning or later in the evening). If you can use electric tools, even better! Run your errands that you have to drive to in the early morning or evening.

Limit your oven use.
Use a toaster oven, microwave, or grill instead. Use the crockpot for easy meals that take no time to prepare. Or make cold dishes. Who wants to be in a hot kitchen anyway? Think: salads, sandwiches, picnic food, or even gazpacho. Mmmm. You'll be craving these once the winter comes around again. Just google "No cook summer meals" and see what you have an appetite for. check this link out for a few recipes:

Use your appliances when the demand on the power grid is the lowest (early morning, night).
Set your dishwasher before going to bed, or if you have a washer/dryer with a timer then set it for the middle of the night when very little power is being used. Peak demand hours during the summer are 2pm to 6pm (the hottest part of the day), so try to limit use of anything you have to plug in during these hours.

Set your water heater a little lower
since it doesn't have to work so hard to get hot in the summer months. Don't forget to set it to "Vacation Mode" when you go on a trip.

Hopefully, you can apply some of these to help you survive the summer in an eco-friendly way. These tips will save you money guaranteed. And of course, save a little bit of the planet as well. :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Learning the ropes

Hi there,
I'm going to admit that I'm not the most computer literate person, so please be patient as I learn. I just figured out how to post links that you can actually click on to get to your destination. Anyway, hope it helps.

Monday, June 21, 2010

eco-friendly parties

Hi everyone,
Sorry for the delay in posting. I was busy planning my son's 9th birthday and celebrating Father's Day. So this week's post will naturally be about, you guessed it, parties. Throwing an eco-friendly party isn't as hard as you think, but it does take planning.

First of all you need to provide food and drinks for your guests.
Yes, it's much easier to buy a pre-made cake, but if you have the time try making your own. I'm guilty of running out of time for this weekend's party, and although the grocery store-bought cake was delicious, I felt guilty for all of the packaging it came in. I recycled it, of course, but in order to not create more waste I should have made it myself. It's really not that hard to make. Icing may be a little more challenging but I hope to get better with more practice. Cupcakes aren't the most environmental option since you must line them with paper liners, so try the cake if you can.
Then there are the beverages.
What's more eco-friendly: aluminum cans or plastic bottles? Cans, since the plastic bottles require so much more energy to make (and oil), however, cans are made from aluminum which is a limited natural resource. The best solution is to get 2 liters of your assorted drinks. Even though it's made from plastic, it's less of it (bulk packaging).

What to serve these drinks and cake in/on?
The most cost effective and eco-friendly way is to buy reusable plates, cups & utensils. Places like Bed, Bath & Beyond sell party kits of glass plates, glasses & utensils in sets of 12. I bought mine 10 years ago and it's eliminated having to buy paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils. This is all dishwasher friendly so no clean up time really. And for the kiddos, go somewhere like Ikea to buy their plastic plates, cups & utensils. These are one-time purchases that will last for years and years.
If you'd rather use disposables, try products made out of corn, potatoes or sugar cane that will biodegrade over time. They don't use plastic (less oil), and won't take up space in the landfill. They are just as effective as your paper/plastic options and don't cost much more. They're available in most grocery stores and CVS has a whole line that is just as cheap or cheaper than your usual disposables.
And don't forget your recycled paper napkins!

Party decor
Get a cloth tablecloth that you can use year after year. Use paper streamers, which you'll recycle when you're finished, of course. I've reused the same cloth "Happy Birthday" banner since my son & daughter were born, which I purchased from Pottery Barn kids. Balloons are NOT eco-friendly since once they pop they are harmful to wildlife, and they are made of latex (oil). Try an alternative like Chinese paper lanterns, or string lights instead. If you buy centerpieces or any themed party pieces that can be reused, put these items on freecycle, or give to a friend to reuse so it doesn't end up in the landfill.

Party favors
This is the most difficult to incorporate because if you go to any party store, most of what they have as favors are little pieces of plastic crap that will only clutter your guests home or end up in the trash. Finding something that the guests will reuse takes a little creativity but it can be done. My son's party was a Karate Kid theme, so the favors were put in paper Chinese takeout boxes filled with tattoos, stickers, silly bands, & movie candy. In past years I've put things like crayons, water guns, sunglasses inside plastic buckets or cloth bags. I've also done crafts such as magic wands for my daughter that they could use later for dress-up. You could have kids make barrettes (as a friend of mine did), or give homemade playdough. Get creative!

A few more tips:
Use paperless online invitations which include reminders for those late RSVPers.
Don't forget to set up a "recycled bin" for anything to be recycled. Contact your local sanitation dept. for special containers if you're having a large party. In loudoun county the website is:

The internet has plenty of options, so search for eco-friendly ideas to help you plan your next party. Check out for eco-party products for your next shindig.

Hope this gives you some green ideas to make your par-tay earth friendly and fun!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Less plastic, less oil

Day 53 of the oil spill and they can’t get the accurate amount of how much has spilled or is spilling every day. Only thing we know for sure is that it’s coming on shore, putting lots of people out of work, and killing even more wildlife. They are still considering continuing offshore drilling which is a debate for another forum, I suppose, but one thing is for certain: we need to wean ourselves from oil dependency (foreign or domestic). Sure, our cars are fueled by oil, but one oil product we tend to overlook is plastic. This country (as well as many others) is addicted to plastic.

Could you go a week without buying anything in plastic? As a friend pointed out, unless you’re vegetarian and make your own toiletries & beauty supplies, you probably couldn’t do it. Bare essentials, such as toilet paper, are wrapped in plastic. The butcher paper wrapping your meat is lined with plastic. Your shampoo bottles, toothpaste, juice, milk, laundry detergent, and almost anything else in your house is plastic!

So what do we do about it? Try to buy less of it. Be aware of the packaging of your products. Buy in bulk and avoid individual servings sizes, like in yogurt, juice bottles, or snacks. Avoid those processed foods that tend to be individually wrapped, such as fruit roll ups, or yogurt-in-a-tube, or even flavored ice. Buy sliced cheese that’s not individually wrapped. Don’t buy bottled water and get a filtered water pitcher and reusable water bottle instead. These are just a few ways to reduce your plastic purchases.

Make your own! Granola bars, bread, mayo, dressing, marinade, cookies, and popsicles can be easily made in no time, and you save money while you’re at it. An added benefit: these foods are natural and healthy! Cleaning products can be made with simple ingredients and are non-toxic, saving you trips to the store which means saving money, less plastic packaging, (and gas!).

Grow your own. I do not have a green all. However, I have managed to keep a basil plant alive for over a month now and just planted tomatoes as well. If all goes well, I’ll try something new but there’s nothing fresher and more local than your backyard! My neighbor has enough in her vegetable garden that she’ll never have to buy produce again. Try growing a few herbs, vegetables, or fruits and you’ll avoid having to buy it at the grocery store, which means less fuel to transport, & saves you money!!

No more plastic bags!! Bring your own reusable bags or even paper is better. Plastic bags tend to end up in the ocean and are harmful to wildlife, regardless of their connection to oil production. It’s no longer strange to bring your own bags to the store so show that your environmentally responsible and say no to plastic bags. If the product you’ve purchased can fit in your purse, then forget the bag all together! Do you really need a bag for that lipstick you just bought?

RECYCLE & buy recycled! Most of the plastic we buy is recyclable so please recycle it so more products can be made out of it. The more demand there is for recycled products, the less they have to start from scratch to make them. Plus, you really can’t tell the difference and it’s better for the environment in the end.

So besides the tips from last week regarding saving gas, try these tips to reduce your plastic usage and we can collectively reduce the demand for oil. Less plastic, less oil, better environment. :)

Granola bar recipe:
Cleaning recipe:

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Buy local!

Have you ever stopped at one of those roadside vegetable stands? One of my favorite childhood memories is when we would stop at a stand on the way back from the beach in North Carolina to pick up fresh shrimp and veggies for dinner. It was the perfect meal to end a great day by the ocean. Now I live in almost-rural Virginia, where roadside stands are everywhere, and the produce is always so fresh and delicious.

I look forward to Saturday mornings when I go to the farmer’s market to buy fresh produce, and especially the fresh bread from the local bakery. They have this chocolate chip ciabatta loaf that is so good that I’m lucky if any of it makes it home! They also have meat vendors and dairy farmers with stands who have quality products that I’ve used many times which enhance the flavor of whatever meal I’m making. I often take my kids so they learn about all the different vegetables that are locally grown. They even had baby goats once that the kids went crazy over. So cute!

There are several farms still working that sell everything from honey to mozzarella cheese to chicken legs. Several farms have CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) where they deliver a basket of fresh produce, meat or eggs/dairy weekly to your door. Living in the foothills there are also several wineries not far from our house that we’ve enjoyed with friends and family.

Visiting a local farm is also a great way to spend the day with the kids, family or friends. Some farms charge for you to pick produce, or you can become a member, and others simply charge you for what you buy and nothing else.

My personal local recommendations for the Northern Virginia area are:
Great Country Farms
Fields of Athenry
Bluemont vineyard
Southern Season
Farmer John’s Wayside Stand on route 15
And there are still several I have to try!

Buying locally produced products is good for the environment. Why?
1. You are supporting your local economy, which helps your community thrive.
2. You are supporting local farmers, who need all the support they can get as so many can’t afford to keep running and shut down after several generations in business.
3. You are reducing oil usage by reducing the distance these products have to be shipped. (This is one of many ways to curb your addiction to oil in the wake of the Gulf oil disaster.)
4. Many local farms are also organic yet aren’t as expensive as the grocery store since you’re cutting out the middle-man and buying directly from them.

I live in a great location of the country with lots of options. However, I’ve lived in New Jersey, Utah, California and North Carolina and every single place had farmers markets that were so much fun to shop at. It’s a great way to spend a Saturday morning and get to know people from your community as well.

Here are a few websites to find a local farmer’s market, farm or CSA near you:
Or just google “farmer’s market” with your zip code and tons of options will pop up.

So check out your local farmer’s market or farm, and don’t forget your reusable bags!
Good for your health, the economy, and the environment! J