Sunday, October 24, 2010

Green Festival recap

This weekend was the Green Festival in Washington, DC and, although I was very excited to attend, I wasn't that impressed.  Sure they had at least a hundred booths representing different and innovative environmental ideas, and several of them even had delicious samples to try and take home.  However, my overall impression was that they didn't offer much for those people who aren't already green.  It didn't give me new ways to be more eco-friendly without being very impractical, time consuming or inconvenient.

There were plenty of vendors in attendance to show you how to green your home, but I wasn't in the market for that.  There was a row of booths dedicated to being a green parent for infants and toddlers, but not for older kids like my own.  And then there were a few clothing vendors who sold clothes made of organic cotton or recycled water bottles that were overpriced.  Then there were those EXTREME eco-products like compost toilets and a spray that takes the color and smell out of the urine in your toilet bowl so you don't have to flush it.   I can't make stuff like that up.  

There were only a few select vendors that caught my attention where I actually spoke with their spokesperson or company owner for more than just a few seconds.  The rest of the booths started to blend together after a couple of hours spent there, which was highly disappointing.  If you tried one chocolate sample, you tried them all, you know?  There weren't enough companies promoting things for greening everyday living and that was disappointing.

Another disappointment in the festival was that their ad promoted a children's section that was going to highlight what the new National Children's Museum in DC would feature.  And because of this I decided to take my 9 year old son with me.  It was a waste of time.  They had reserved some open space in the convention center where kids could draw with crayons, make crafts out of plastic bottle pieces, and play bowling with some 2 liters filled with rice.  Thank goodness my son found the rest of the stuff in the other booths interesting or I would've owed him plenty for dragging him through this festival. 

But the biggest disappointment for me was the prices of the things sold.  The chocolate bars being sold, (that we so eagerly tried in the many samples they had shared), cost $4 a bar!!  A 2-year-old's dress cost $45?  Really?  Sure it was made out of recycled water bottles, but it's still for a child who's going to outgrow it in a few months anyway.  Some people are eager to spend this kind of money, and I guess that's great for stimulating the economy.  But for the most part, there are still people struggling out there to make ends meet and I believe the green movement will not go anywhere if it can't be affordable to everyone.  

I already felt a little out of place since I wasn't a Rastafarian, hippy, or LGBT, so it didn't seem like the heavenly place I anticipated the festival to be.  The food they served was mostly vegetarian, vegan, or goat (that one really threw me off!), so we had some curried tofu and rice, and some vegan version of lasagna that was pretty disgusting.  

Sooo, the conclusion of this story is to say that I felt that although I am a proud environmentalist, even I felt excluded from this crowd.  I feel like there is so much improvement to be made in order to get this movement into the mainstream.  I seem to be pretty normal in comparison to some of these extreme vegan, hemp-wearing, patchouli-smelling people and I hope to be able to bring the rest of you normal people into this movement with me.  A few simple steps don't have to cost you your paycheck, and some things will actually save you money.  I was pretty disappointed not to find anything like that at the festival, so maybe I'll set up my own booth at the festival next year.  :)  

Friday, October 22, 2010

6 months of eco-tips!

Hi everyone,

Today marks 6 months of writing this eco-mami blog.  It all started with being inspired by Earth Day 2010 when I wrote 30 days of eco-tips on Facebook.  And through encouragement and support of my Facebook friends, I began writing this blog.  A month later, I started the Facebook site for eco-mami (thanks to all of you who have "liked" the page).  This journey has inspired me to believe this is what I was meant to do. As I learn more ways to make this world a little greener, I will continue to share these tips with you.

I hope that the tips have been easy to incorporate into your every day lives and that you've come to realize that going green isn't that complicated at all.  With the basics of reduce, reuse, recycle, ANYONE can become an environmentalist and advocate for this planet that we all share.

Thanks for all of you who have read the blog, even if just once.  You can't use the excuse that you didn't know any better, and the more you know, the better you live.
I am more than happy to continue sharing eco-tips in the coming months.  My ultimate goal is to make this a full-time business to help everyone become more eco-friendly.  Look for eco-mami, LLC in the near future, fingers crossed.

Thanks again, and keep reading.  :)


Friday, October 15, 2010

The D word

The D word is something that is avoided at all costs in my household.  The D word is Disposable.  AHHHH!!! This includes plastic bags of any kind (shopping, ziploc, etc), one-time use products, and lots of paper products.

This is, no doubt, a very disposable society.  Every time I turn on the TV, there is another commercial of a new disposable product.  The latest one that irks me to the core is the Lysol disposable towels.  WTH?  Can people really not use a real towel and wash it when necessary?

Sure, disposable is very convenient.  Use it once, then throw it away.  No fuss, no muss, nothing to clean up.  Unfortunately, no one really thinks about where this trash goes?  Some things can go in the recycling bin, like water bottles, fruit cups, etc. but the majority ends up in the landfill.

If each of us thought of our individual impact or footprint that we leave on this earth, I think we'd all be more likely to change our disposable habits.

Easy alternatives to disposable that WILL make a difference:
- Cloth napkins instead of paper napkins
- Microfiber cloths instead of paper towels
- Reusable mop instead of Swiffer or similar products
- Reusable water bottles & mugs for water and coffee
- Reusable shopping bags instead of plastic or paper
- Compostable products made of plants instead of those made with plastic that sit in the landfill for years
- Buying in bulk instead of individual servings
- Reusable lunch bags instead of paper
- Tupperware or glass containers instead of plastic baggies
- Refills instead of buying new bottles to replace (like for cleaning products or hand soap)
- Reusable plates and glasses instead of paper or plastic
- Chinese paper lanterns instead of balloons (to decorate)

Try these alternatives and you will notice a significant difference in the amount of trash you produce.  And if you recycle as much as possible, it will be even less.  Not only will you be saving the planet, but you'll also be saving money by not having to buy these disposable products over and over again.

Let's try to change the throw-away mentality of our society, one household at a time.
Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Leftovers: waste not, want not

You make a great meal for dinner, and then have tons leftover the next day.  If you like leftovers, you can have this meal again the next day for lunch, or even for dinner again.  If you don't like leftovers then the food gets thrown out which is such a waste.
Leftovers are the gift that keeps on giving.  Reusing and conserving is very eco-friendly as nothing goes to waste.    Here's a few ideas for what to do with leftovers that you wouldn't really think of using again.

This is one of the more versatile foods to turn into leftovers, by far.  If you roast a whole chicken, you can take the leftover carcass and put it in a pot with water and veggies and make your own chicken stock.  I usually make a chicken tortilla soup with this stock and the leftover meat.  Delicious.  If you make any other kind of chicken, you can cut it up and use it in quesadillas, chicken pasta, or chicken salad sandwich.

This another very useful leftover.  If you get a loaf of french bread, ciabatta, challah, or any other bakery bread, you can cut the leftovers in cubes to make croutons.  Day old bread is perfect for french toast or bread pudding.  And even older bread is great for making your own breadcrumbs.  Also, you can top a toasted piece on your french onion soup.  Mmmmm!

I get the packs of pork tenderloin that come with 2 in it, and after making a roast with it for dinner, I cube it and make pork fried rice for dinner the next night.  Just add some veggies like carrots, zucchini, and green onions and it's a very filling meal.  Another meal you can make of leftover pork is a Cuban panini, with peppers, mayo, and sundried tomatoes.

Don't throw out the bananas that are getting spotty or black!  These are perfect for moist banana bread.  Add some chocolate chips in it and the kids won't even know they're eating something healthy.

Use this leftover in stir-fry, fried rice, or in your kids mac n cheese.  Or you can make a delicious broccoli and cheese soup.

After this vegetable has been made, it's great to add in lasagna (just mix in with the ricotta cheese and layer as usual).  You could also mix it with artichokes and parmesan cheese for a quick dip.

Halloween is just around the corner and there are always bags and bags left at my house, which starts the 6 month binge of eating candy for holidays every month until Easter.  If you don't want it just sitting in your house all that time, how about chopping up the candy and adding it to cookies, frosting, or even a milkshake.  Candy canes are especially great to mix your hot chocolate for a minty treat.

The holidays are coming sooner than I'd like, but one guarantee is leftover turkey.  There are a million and one recipes for leftover turkey.  My favorite is turkey tetrazzini or turkey panini's.

Make a sausage roll up for breakfast the next day by wrapping the pancake around a sausage link.  Better than McD's.

Flake the salmon to make salmon cakes by mixing it with eggs and breadcrumbs from your day old loaf of bread. :)

Slice thin the next day and top on a salad, or add bell peppers and onions to make fajitas.

Hope these ideas will give your leftovers a second life and keep them out of the trash can.  Bon appetit!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Plan your weekly menu

You wouldn't think that something as simple as a chalkboard in the kitchen could be an environmental tool, as well as a time and money saver, but it is.   On this chalkboard, I write the meals that I've planned to make for the whole week.  There are many practical and useful reasons why this is a great tool to have in your kitchen:

Stick with the list:
This helps me think about what I'm going to make that week, then make the grocery list.  When I go to the grocery store, the list keeps me on track, which is great for eliminating impulse buying, (and it seems like I'm always starving when I go to the grocery store-- a definite no-no).  All of this planning saves me time and money.  I can also check to see if any of the things I need are on sale or if I have coupons for them and save even more money.

Mom, what's for dinner?: 
This menu keeps the kids from wondering what we're having for dinner and asking me a million times.  Now they don't ask and simply look at the list.  :)

Another great use from this menu is that I know how long food has been sitting in my refrigerator.  Leftovers have a 3 day limit in my house, so anything older than that gets thrown out (and will be composted when I get around to that project).

Waste not, want not:
I often forget what I've bought at the grocery store, so the menu keeps me on track to use everything I've purchased and nothing goes to waste (most of the time), which saves more money.

So, what to eat this week?

One meal with red meat:
Although eating meat isn't the most environmental way to live (because of the pollution and energy it takes to produce),  I will probably never be a vegetarian because I like it too much.  However, I only eat red meat once a week since I've read that it's not great to eat too often.

One vegetarian meal:
One meal is vegetarian, which saves money since meat is usually more expensive than a vegetable-based dish.  I look at this as my cleansing meal.

Easy-peasy, or Crockpot Meal:
At least one meal a week is a quick and easy meal to put together since some of my days are crazy busy shuttling the kids to their activities, and sometimes soccer runs into dinnertime.  If I have a meal ready for me at home, or only takes minutes to prepare, the less likely I am to get fast food on the way back from soccer, which saves me more money.
This meal could be something where the ingredients are already chopped and ready to put together.  Or it's a meal put together in a crockpot, cooked and ready to eat when we get home.  Crockpots save lots of energy and time and are great for the cooler weather we're finally starting to get.  Think stews, pasta dishes, pulled pork BBQ sandwiches.  Yummy.  Here's a link to some crockpot recipes:

Let someone else cook for a change:
I reserve one day to go out to eat since I'm usually sick of cooking by the end of the week so that takes up another slot on the weekly calendar.

I understand that this may not be appealing to everyone since not everyone enjoys cooking as much as I do, but it's worth a try if you're watching every penny you spend.  I recently saw "America's Cheapest Family" on the Today show and this was one of their tips, to plan a weekly menu before grocery shopping in order to save money.

An example of my weekly menu would look like this:
Mon:  Vegetarian
Tues:  Crockpot
Wed:  Beef
Thurs:  Chicken
Fri:  Pork or Fish
Sat:  Pasta
Sun:  Go out to eat

And if you think that a menu looks tacky in the kitchen, they have some decorative framed chalkboards at places like HomeGoods or similar home decor stores that look great.  I've received many compliments on the chalkboard in my kitchen since it looks like just another home accent.
Hopefully, this is useful and helpful information that will save you time and money, as well as save a little bit of the environment.  Thanks for reading!