Posts Tagged ‘conservation’

Reusable Sandwich Bag Set Giveaway!

Introducing a new Wee Essentials product:  Reusable, washable food baggies!

This week I’m giving away TWO sets of two adorable Easter themed baggies.  Read below for details on how to enter!

Each bag is made with two layers of prewashed, preshrunk cotton quilter’s fabric.  I’ve folded and serged the edges in a way that each baggie can be closed just like a plastic bag; by tucking in the top flap and folding the pocket over the opening.  Easier than it sounds, and it’s very secure compared to the plastic bags!

Perfect for dry and slightly moist foods – crackers, cheese, sliced apples, raisins, cookies, granola, and grapes!  Not pudding, though. 🙂

The bags currently come in two sizes, small (5″ by 5″ when folded) and medium (6″ by 7″ when folded.)  We’ll be adding a larger size soon.

 

ENTER TO WIN!

RULES: This giveaway starts on 3/12/2012 and goes until 3/14/2012 at 11:59:59 p.m. US Central Standard Time. You must be 18 to win and a resident of the US or Canada. Winners will be chosen using random.org to randomly select post numbers.

To enter, simply comment below.

Extra entries:
Tweet this giveaway and leave a comment below (once)
Post on facebook about this giveaway and leave a comment below (once per account, be sure to tag @weeessentials!)
Post on your blog and comment below three times for three entries.  (once)
For every 150 entries we get, I will add another set of bags in a random print, up to 5 winners!

 

GOOD LUCK!

 

 

Can consuming make you healthy and wealthy?

Our culture of consumerism is damaging to both our earth and our wallets.  One of my goals with this blog has been to document our steps away from the greed and gluttony of first world society and toward a more sustainable life – both monetarily and ecologically.  Fortunately they go hand-in-hand.

I haven’t approached this before on this blog, but between student loans and credit card debt from a previous failed business as well as our own poor financial planning, my husband and I have found ourselves deeply in debt – and almost dangerously so.  We have been working the past few years to erase that debt – although in the past few months we have finally become truly serious about it.  We’ve started using Dave Ramsey’s plan, which in theory is brilliant.  With the right attitude, I am confident it will work – because it’s about changing our mindsets about consuming, not just about getting out of debt.

I think that’s the key to changing our ecological habits, too.

If we can overcome the mentality that our self-worth is in what we own, instead of who we are, we can overcome the consumerist mentality.  We can overcome the burdens we’ve put upon ourselves in our search for satisfaction and adoration.

The problem with “going green” in the US is that it’s marketed as a salable lifestyle. Shop at whole foods, buy the right (and expensive) cleaning supplies, cash in your clunker, and install solar panels.  If you buy the right things, you will be so ecologically friendly.

These companies see green alright – in the form of cash.  But do their products really make the world cleaner?  Sure, that organic cotton t-shirt has fewer chemicals in it, but how much water did it take to grow the cotton so you could buy another t-shirt to add to your overflowing closet?  How much gas did it take to transport the cotton to the processing plant, the fiber to the spinners, the spun thread to the weaver, the fabric to the factory, and the finished product to the warehouse, where it sat until the store called for it?  We don’t see anything but the end product, so we don’t think about all of the resources it took just to make those items.  In the end, the fact that the cotton is organic is only an insignificant change in a long series of events that are no better than they ever were.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

But it’s reached a new low. Yesterday a new commercial came on as I was watching a cartoon with the kids, and every time I saw it, I grew more disgusted.  The commercial advertised a book called “The Green Millionaire” by Nigel J. Williams  (Free with a trial membership to their emagazine, which is expensive  and probably impossible to cancel.)

The premise of this book is that there are ways to be green that will make you rich.  Most of the ideas appear to be fairly obvious and require purchases.  Some of the claims from the website:

Would you buy a used car from this guy?


“Get your share of the billions that will go unclaimed in Government “green” money.”

“Learn how to keep your gas tank full for free.”

On the commercial, the author talks about “making your electrical meter flow backwards” and getting cash for greening up your automobile, your appliances, and your home.

First of all, many of you have probably figured out exactly what he’s talking about with a lot of this.  The electrical meter – installing solar panels or wind generators may mean you can sell energy back to the electrical company.  But installation on that scale is still expensive and requires a good investment of money.  You won’t get rich on that, though I have heard of people making a small profit.  And what about the manufacturing process for the panels?  And disposal of old electric systems?

Gas for life?  Complaint boards are full of explanations – the book tells you to buy a diesel vehicle, install a biodiesel converter (more buying), and find a source of free used vegetable oil.  Where do I start?  Raw vegetable oil is not a legal motor fuel and will cost you in expensive government fines if you got caught using it.  It has to be converted to biodiesel to be truly efficient, which for the average person, could be costly as well.

Cash from the government for your clunker?  That program is over, and even when it was running, you wouldn’t see a dime of the money in your pocket.  It was a rebate – a discount, basically – off a brand new car.  When we bought our Chevy back in August, it simply meant we got a better deal. But we still paid $18,000 out of pocket in the form of a loan.  We aren’t getting richer, my dear readers.

We won’t even head in the direction as to whether or not the program was effective – considering an estimated 25% of the lifetime emissions on a vehicle is from the manufacturing process, it probably wasn’t.

And cash for your appliances?  That’s over, too, though the story is the same.  You may save some electicity, but the manufacturing and transporting process probably required a lot more than you will ever get back in green brownie points.

The book appears to talk about government grant money for “green” improvements.  You don’t need Williams’ book to get that information – it’s right here. And it’s free.

I could go on and on, but that’s not my point.  Everything this man advertises is scammy – not only is the internet fraught with complaints from consumers about this guy and his book, but nothing he says seems to come close to actually helping the environment or his readers’ wallets.  Every suggestion from the book that has been publicized requires buying stuff! Stuff that the average person doesn’t need to buy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The most “green” thing a person can do is not consume unnecessarily. Buying new things when what we have is perfectly serviceable is not ecologically friendly, and it’s not frugal.  (I also don’t think it’s morally wrong, just for the record.)

Here’s my plan to help the earth and grow my wealth:

1. I’m going to remove my financial obligations to others by paying what I owe so I can put future money in the bank.

2.  I’m going to buy what I need, and only a little of what I want, so that I have more cash to put towards those debts/savings and so I have less that requires manufacturing and disposal.

3. When I do buy, I’m going to buy mindfully – buying used when possible and choosing products that have a minimum of packaging – particularly packaging that can’t be recycled or reused.  I’ll also try to choose products that are as whole as possible – that is, they are as close to their natural state as possible, with fewer chemicals, dyes, chemical fragrances and preservatives.

4. And I’m going to consider whether or not I really need it.  Can I do without?  Can I use something else? Instead of buying the $10 all-purpose cleaner, can I use vinegar?  Baking soda?  Can I use potent essential oils to scent my house instead of buying fake smelling air freshener?  Could I use cloth napkins instead of paper or cloth menstrual pads instead of tossing away uncomfortable paper ones every month?

Ultimately, I know there will be purchases I make that will be unnecessary.  And that’s okay with me, as long as I’ve considered the things above and made a purchase bought with thought rather than compulsion.  And we must think about these things – our society is capable of change only when we change our minds about the necessity of consumption!

Waste Not, Want Not – Phantom wastes that suck you dry…

Tuesday I received both the quarterly water bill and a shock.  For the month and a half since we turned on the water – and a month of residence – our water bill was nearly $130!  This is only for the city water that comes into the house – it’s disposed of into a septic system we own.

I immediately picked up the phone and called the Local Water Company.  The kind woman on the other end agreed – this water bill was enormous!  She sent out a water meter reader, who told us we had a leak.  A bad one.

Next up – a plumber.  He and my husband immediately found the problem – an outside spigot was cracked so badly it was basically running like a faucet.  Another $129 later, and the spigot has been capped until we make some changes to the location.  Thankfully, the current location was several feet from the house (it was put in early on in the house’s life, around 1905, and still has the original pump handle.)  So we don’t anticipate any foundational water damage.

Now, inside the house we were clueless.  The plumbing inside is working beautifully.  That water bill, though, was a wake up call.  What else are we missing?  What else is draining our financial and physical resources?

Since then, we’ve made some changes to our house to curb electricity use.  To be honest, much of this house, including the heating system, is so well ventilated that you could blow out a candle from one end to the other.  (Our bill last month for electricity, which includes all systems, was about $335.  If you remember this post about the house, you’ll understand how much work we’ve already done!)  So this weekend, my husband got under the house and taped up a lot of falling insulation and weak spots in the tubing, my father shoved insulation in the back door jamb and put a rubber threshold on the bottom where it was still drafty, and we closed a sneaky upstairs window that managed to open itself up when we weren’t looking.  We need to remember to lock those windows, especially when we have wind storms!  The guys also worked on some areas that needed to be spackled and painted where there used to be doors to the outside, which added a more effective layer of insulation against the cold.

Already that’s made a lot of difference in just the feel of the air.  Our bedroom isn’t as cold as it normally is, despite nearly record-breaking cold outside.

We’re already looking for more “phantom” wasters – those things you don’t even notice that suck energy or money from your wallet.  Other random phantom wasters?

* Paper towels (put your cloth towels in an easily accessable place with a designated bin for dirty rags)
* Uncaulked window frames  – it’s amazing how much air can come through between a frame and the wall if the window is improperly insulated or on a windy side of the house!
* Hot water heaters set too high – they should be set at 120 degrees F.  Better yet, buy a water heater timer that will turn off the heater during times you never use hot water – like while you sleep.
* Disposable diapers and menstrual pads – name brand can cost up to $0.30 a piece – and you may use several a day!
* Commercial floor cleaners – many of them, like the Swiffer Wet Jet, use a solution that never rinses completely clean.  That means that it feels sticky and collects dirt quicker.  Not to mention the disposable pads!  Instead, use a vinegar and water solution with your own homemade wet jet cleaning cloths.
* Warming up your car – unless you have a very old model, it’s not necessary to warm up your car more than a couple minutes.
Sometimes the phantoms can be hard to find because they are just that – phantoms.  If our water bill hadn’t been so shocking, I would never have questioned it, and I could have been wasting both water and my money.  Sometimes we just need to have it pointed out to us – do any of my readers have any stories to share that will help us all find those phantoms?

If you do one thing today…Christmas edition!

If you do one thing today…

I’d bet you’re wrapping those last minute gifts.  And if you are like me, you are running out of wrapping paper – fast!

Today, get creative with your gifts!  Wrap them in fabric, in tulle, in newspaper comics or brown paper bags.  Throw Santa’s gifts in a pillowcase, tie it with a red ribbon.  Get your kids (or some kids?) to color or paint on butcher or kraft paper.

You could even host a scavenger hunt for the best gifts, hiding them unwrapped with clues to help find them.

Forget going out on some of the busiest shopping days of the year, forget buying more paper meant to just be thrown away.  Use up what you have in the house, and best of all, use things that you can use again!

Why I’m an Environmentalist

This is a blog post that has been long in coming.  I’ve been thinking about my motivation for what I do for several months, and composing this post in my head over and over, hoping that when I finally write it down, I get it right.  Even now as I hit “publish” on this post, I’ve been working on writing it for over a week.

You have to understand that my reasons for being concerned about the environment are not the traditional ones.  I feel like I come from a fairly unique perspective because I neither consider myself a liberal or a democrat.  I also realize that this post may offend some people because of the nature of what I am about to say.  It is certainly a controversial topic, but I am not trying to convert anyone.  I am only explaining why I do what I do when it comes to trying to be “green.”

So…why am I an environmentalist?

As I said, I don’t consider myself a democrat or a liberal, which are both generally affiliated with the environmental movement.  I tend to fall in between the cracks, really – I don’t like either major political party, and I don’t like the policies of both the liberals and the conservatives.  I guess I like to make my own way!

I do define myself by the fact that I am a follower of Jesus Christ, however.

Wait!  Come back! 🙂

I realize that is an immediate turn-off for some people.  I realize there are readers who have already closed their browser window without hearing me out.  They’ve made assumptions about what I’m about to say or do. Tat’s a dangerous thing, whether you’ve made them about a Christian, a Muslim, a Scientologist, or even an Atheist.  There are also those who will stir up controversy in comments and emails.  And it will be about my “religion,” rather than my desire to take care of the planet on which I was born.

But enough about that – that’s not my point.  For those of you left, you might be wondering how I could be a Christian – a “born-again” Christian (oh, how I hate that term and its stereotypes!) and still believe strongly in the Earth movement. Especially since I am a bit of a traditionalist and I do believe in creation in seven literal days and the End Times (no, this is not it) and all those things that usually go against Global Warming Theory at its core.

So let me explain.  This is going to sound a little like a Bible lesson, and I guess it is, but I need to put my thoughts in context for you, my readers:

When God created the world, according to the Bible,  he created the first man shortly after.  He put this man, and eventually his wife, in charge of the Garden of Eden.  The first book of the Bible, Genesis, is the story of creation and the early days of Judaica, and Genesis 2: 15 says, “God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”  Just a few verses later, God has Adam (“man” in Hebrew) name all the animals.

But let’s go back a little bit, because I want to point out one more verse before I get to my point.  Genesis 1:26 talks about God creating man, and God says in this section, “Let [man] have dominion over…all the earth…”

I’ve seen this verse taken out of context quite a bit, used as an example of God allowing the destruction and rape of the earth.  That word – “dominion” – is a scary word.  But it’s not as bad as you think!  Merriam-Webster defines dominion as “supreme authority” and “absolute ownership.”  If the authority is not corrupt, what is there to fear in that?  We have seen good rulers and bad rulers throughout history – all had dominion over their territory.

Think about that argument for the destruction and rape of the planet for a second – does that make sense?  First of all, a few verses later, God instructs man to tend the earth and care for it – a direct contradiction if “dominion” is another word for “destroy.”  Second, does it make sense that someone who just created something, in this case the earth, would immediately put someone on it and allow them to destroy it?

No, I have to conclude that it is our responsibility to care for the earth – to “work it and keep it,” as Adam was told to do in Eden.  God placed Adam on the earth to do just that, and that responsibility has been placed on us as his descendants.

So enough of the Bible lesson. Now you understand (hopefully) where I’m coming from.  Do I believe in global warming?  Yes, actually, I do.  There is enough evidence that the earth cycles through different temperatures throughout time.  Do I believe that this episode of global warming is entirely man-made?  No.  I haven’t seen enough evidence proving this.  Do I believe that our actions have an effect on this episode of warming?  Absolutely. Our actions have consequences on every level, in every scale.

So what do I think we should do?

We should respect our fellow humans – both current and future – by being responsible and resourceful in our use of non-renewable materials.  We should continue to find sustainable ways of life, so that our great-grandchildren don’t suffer when we run out of materials but have no new technology.

We should respect those fellow humans by avoiding waste and taking responsibility for ourselves – through gardening and raising our own food to reduce pressure on the food systems, by buying from companies that treat their employees with respect, by not using companies that have their profit margin in mind more than their effect on the environment and small local economies.

For me – it comes down to respecting and taking care of each other and taking care of the world we’ve been given.  I may be coming from a distinctly different viewpoint than most environmentalists I know, but our goals are the same!

Anyone still here?

LOL

If You Do One Thing Today – Visit a Farmer’s Market

If you do one thing today…

Visit your local farmer’s market, produce stand, or flea market.  You’ll be supporting locals and buying fresh, yummy produce and foodstuffs all at once!

We have a lot of Amish and Yankee gardeners in our area, and during this time of year, there are always produce stands on the side of the road.  Some of them are big productions – the owner is actually a farmer, and might get veggies from several gardeners as well.  Others are just a wooden, handpainted sign – “Brown Eggs” – and a request to take a dozen eggs from the cooler by the mailbox and leave the money in a small box nearby.

Farmer's Markets are great places to get local food.

Mmm, fresh fruit!

We also have a great flea market that offers not only locally grown produce, but many fair-trade and organically grown foods from around the world.

And our farmer’s market in Chardon is still growing, but you can find local honey (great for seasonal allergies!) and homebaked breads and cookies!

When you buy locally, you keep your money in the hands of your neighbors.  You also use fewer resources getting the products to you.  The half-pint of honey I bought from a local beekeeper at the farmer’s market was driven in with all the other products from a couple miles down the road, not all the way across the country.  The $5 I spent to buy it will be used by a family who lives just a few miles from me!

Waste Not, Want Not? Food Edition

Today for lunch I made organic mac and cheese with hot dogs sliced into it for the boys.  E, being the little trash disposal he is, ate and ate and ate and ate.  G, on the other hand, did better than he usually does, but ate enough to sustain only a small animal – probably one in hibernation!

I cringed when I threw the food in the trash. I usually save it in the fridge, but supper was planned (leftovers from last night…and Sunday lunch), and I knew it probably wouldn’t be eaten tomorrow, either.  After G gets done playing with his food, it doesn’t look or taste appetizing at all!  But what a waste!

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Waste not, want not,” but does it really apply to us in first world countries anymore?  The phrase, in some form or another, has been used for centuries (it was recorded in 1572 as “willful waste makes woeful want,” according to this post at dictionary.com.)  Throughout the centuries, most people had to work hard for the things they had, and to be wasteful was to use up limited resources – resources that, once gone, were difficult to replace.

On the other hand, in the US, most of us don’t even think about running out- except that it might mean another trip to Walmart or Food Lion to pick up more. I don’t worry about running out of milk, clothing, or soap.  There’s more to be had cheaply and easily at the store, and it will take me a bit of cash and about 30 minutes to get it.  And I get to look at other pretty things to be had – and maybe even take some of them home.

So we’ve learned that being wasteful is rewarded with a trip to the store.  It doesn’t have serious consequences to our lives.  There’s no pain, no problems, in throwing away something just because we don’t want to reheat it later or we’re “tired” of the same thing.

We just don’t consider the impact we have when we are wasteful.

Obviously, the food we waste in our kitchen is not likely to have fed starving children in other countries, but what about the money we spend on that food, and the food to replace what we’ve wasted?  It could easily have been sent to help those who still struggle with the daily necessities of life. Or it could have been saved up for a vacation, a home, a car to replace the one that is on its last few miles.

And what about the trash we generate when we throw food and other biodegradable resources away?  It sits in plastic in landfills – taking up space and never returning to the earth.

If we must throw something away – if it’s inedible – are we in a situation in which we could put the food outside for the animals and nature to take it’s course?  We have a fenced compost, but many times I bring the food out into the fallow field and let the animals have at it.  (Please don’t do this if you are in a heavily populated area unless you have a compost bin!)

But before we even get to the point of throwing food away, there is a way to prevent having so much waste in the first place.  Part of living carefully and thoughtfully requires that we make the most of our resources, limited or unlimited.  Part of living simply is making do with what you have, of carefully knowing what will be good to eat and what will soon be bad – and not buying more food until you’ve eaten what you have.

Today I want to challenge you to clean out the fridge and cupboards.  When it’s clean – when all the moldy leftovers, the buggy flours, the swollen cans of fruit are gone, find a way to eat things before they go bad. Sometimes that means you have the same leftover roast for several days.  This is what we’ve done – roast and vegetables on Sunday, roast with gravy on Monday, and today it was cooked down to a delicious stew that my husband made extra good with just the right seasonings.  We kept it interesting by not having the exact same thing every day – it morphed from one food to another!

%d bloggers like this: