Paying attention during March Madness is not high on my priority list, but if Wisconsin is playing and there’s a way to combine the games with good food and good friends I’m in. The Badgers didn’t last long this year, losing in the second round of March Madness to the Ole Miss Rebels. That didn’t stop us from having a dinner with friends and their families.
Our dinner was fantastic.
Everyone brought something to share.
Aren’t these basketball cupcakes da bomb?
We were given a challenge-to host a March Madness party with only one bag of trash at the end of the night.
That might sound easy on a regular day, but when you have 8 adults and 8 children eating together it becomes a challenge to stick to greener habits. Many times when entertaining takes place eco-friendly habits fall by the wayside. According to the Clean Air Council, 43,000 tons of food are thrown out every day in the United States, and each year Americans toss out enough paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons to circle the equator 300 times. Those are some scary statistics.
Considering composting and recycling before throwing something in a trash bag makes it easy to reduce overall waste. During our party our guests were instructed to place all of the food scraps into this Simplehuman Compost Pail. We also had recycle bins available. Making small eco-friendly tweaks to your party planning can ultimately have a big impact on the environment.
Here are a few tips for keeping it green when entertaining.
Email your invites. I actually didn’t use formal invitations for this party. We just kept an online dialogue going about timing and menu.
Buy what you can in bulk. Buying from the bulk bins at the grocery store can be a great way to save money on your grocery bill, but that’s not the only reason to shop the bulk bins. I like the ability to buy only what you need and decreasing the chance of creating excess waste.
Use reusable napkins. We have 5 people in our family-if we eat just one meal a day at home using paper/disposable napkins we are using 1,825 paper napkins per year. That statistic was enough to make me switch to reusable napkins. Making the switch is a simple way to help the environment and save yourself a few pennies in the long run.
Go for real dishes, reusable water bottles or cups and flatware. Not only do they look nicer, but you’ll be doing the earth a favor. Using reusable dishes, cups, water bottles and utensils prevents disposable paper or plastic from unnecessarily entering a landfill. If you don’t have enough dishes for the party consider borrowing from a friend.
Donate leftover food. This never seems to be an issue for us. We have a family of healthy eaters! If you have leftovers check with your local food pantry for donation options.
Have recycle containers and a compost bucket ready for action. Show your guests where to place their refuse. Every city and town has their own recycle system in place, so follow along with their guidelines. We are novice composters over here, but we have a compost bucket that can handle any food scraps.
Use a compostable garbage bag to collect your one bag of trash. As most of you who follow this blog know I’m on a mission to reduce the amount of plastic in my life. With 5 people and a dog our garbage bags can get pretty messy and runs the risk of leaking. The best alternative I’ve found is a compostable garbage bag by Glad which is made with a vegetable-based material that’s 100% biodegradable and compostable. If a plastic bag is needed for garbage, they’re a much better option than true plastic bags.
Here’s what we were left with after everything was recycled and/or composted. Not bad for 16 people!
Do you think you could have a One Bag party and throw away only one bag of trash?
Stay tuned….I’ll be posting a giveaway in the next few days for a One Bag party kit so you can give it a try. You can also enter for a chance to win $10,000 toward your own personal One Bag party through March 31, 2013 HERE.
I don’t watch the news that often. I find most of the stories depressing and a sad commentary on the state of the world-something that I’m already well aware of. This week was a different story: on Wednesday night I watched the news from start to finish.
Let me back up for a minute before I get to why I watched the news. As many of you know I started a petition over at Change.org demanding that Procter & Gamble (makers of Tide) strip a harmful cancer-causing chemical out of Tide Free & Gentle®. The petition went viral. Over 78,000 people signed, demanding that Procter & Gamble change the formulation of their Tide laundry detergent. After almost a year Procter & Gamble realized they could no longer ignore our concerns. Victory! Procter & Gamble agreed in a California court to reformulate its detergents to reduce levels of 1,4 dioxane by September of 2013!
Now I can tell you why I watched the news.
I received an email on Wednesday from Amalia Barreda, (a local Boston reporter shown with me in the photo above) asking if she could interview me about the Tide victory.
I remember from my last two television interviews that the turn around time was very quick. This was no different. They showed up at my doorstep in an hour an a half. Somehow I managed to pull it together by shoving a lot of stuff in cabinets and closets. My house had the outward appearance of being somewhat clean .
They came in and we began casually discussing the Tide petition. I barely noticed when the cameras started rolling.
What I loved most about this interview was the casual tone that Amalia set. It was as though we were having a friendly conversation. Her questions were insightful and clear. We spoke for a bit and then they filmed some footage of me doing my bloggy thing-working on my laptop!
Here’s the clip if you missed it. The quality isn’t fabulous for now, but hopefully you can hear most of it!
Walking up and down the bulk food aisle at your local supermarket can be somewhat overwhelming. There are so many bins to choose from filled with grains, cereals, dried fruits, nuts, spices or baking ingredients. I’ve learned the hard way that I should never head down the bulk food aisle when I’m hungry-that generally leads to a lot of extra bags filled with chocolate and candy!
Why shop the bulk bins?
Buying from the bulk bins at the grocery store is a great way to save money on your food bill, but that’s not the only reason to shop the bulk bins. Here are a few more:
Get more bang for your buck
Bye bye wasteful packaging
Buy only what you need
Ability to test out new products without a big investment
Why are bulk bins less expensive?
Bulk foods are generally cheaper than pre-packaged foods because-
No packaging needed. All that plastic and paper needed to wrap and protect food is very costly. Bulk foods have no packaging, which in turn reduces the cost of the product.
No brand name. There are no marketing or advertising costs needed to sell the products.
Less cost for transportation. Bulk products are less expensive to transport since they can be carried in large containers.
How to save big when bulk food shopping
A little planning is needed before you hit the bulk bins.
Make a list before you head to the market. Buying in bulk allows you to buy just what you need. Make a list and stick to it.
Bring your reusable bags or containers. The stores generally have plastic and/or paper bags available for carrying your bulk food home. Bring your own reusable bags or glass containers to cut down on waste. Glass Mason jars are a good option.
Save on cost by determining the tare weight of your container before filling it. Stores will allow you to deduct the weight of the container (tare weight) from the total weight. Check with the customer service department regarding the stores procedure-they may want to weight the jar or bag for you.
Bring a measuring cup or spoons to ensure that you don’t buy more than you need.
Look for organic ingredients (generally clearly labeled). Organic products in the bulk bin are generally much less expensive than their packaged counterpart.
Take time to compare the bulk bin prices to the cost of prepacked products. In most cases bulk bin prices will be much less.
Do you use bulk food bins? Do you bring your own containers?
Organic bedding has come up a lot in conversation lately. Seems strange I know, but here’s why. A few weeks ago I had some time to myself so I headed to the store. My youngest son needed new bedding-the cars and trucks weren’t cutting it anymore now that he’s nine. I brought home what I thought was the greatest bedding set for his room. Just as we were about to break open everything we started to talk about chemicals in the bedding.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while you know that I’m all about everything in moderation. I know that we can’t be perfectly bright green all the time (at least I can’t). We do the best that we can to keep our families safe. I began thinking about how much time we theoretically spend in our beds. My kids spend a good 10 plus hours in their beds each night. I shoot for a solid 8 hours of sleep or I’m a frightening force to be reckoned with.
Toxins in sheets?
If bedding has been treated so it’s permanent press, no-iron, crease resistant, shrinkproof, stretchproof, stain-proof, water repellent, water-proof or flame resistant it could be emitting toxic chemical vapors.
Now I’m on the lookout for organic bedding. It’s not easy. There are very few cute patterns or colors. Everything seems very neutral. But I decided that was the route I was going to take. So slowly, over time I’ve been replacing our bedding with organic sheets, covers and pillow cases.
Magnolia Organics offers organic bedding (including crib sets), towels and reusable bags. The company is committed to fair labor, sustainable materials, minimalist packaging, and they keep a close eye on the carbon footprint of each product.
The timing was perfect. The nice folks at Magnolia Organics were kind enough to send me an organic sheet set to try out on my own bed. The sheets are 200 thread count percale and come in a variety of colors, which is unusual for organic sheets. I chose the sheets in a neutral Ecru color.
After washing the sheets I crawled into bed, excited to test out them out. My initial impression was that the sheets weren’t as soft as my previous conventional sheet set.
I’ve been using the sheets for about a month and they are finally feeling much softer. Several times through the washing machine has really helped to break them in. The sheet set is well made and I’m guessing it will be around for a long time.
The price point for these sheets is pretty reasonable as far as bedding is concerned- ranging from $64.99 for a twin set to $79.99 for a king set.
Now on to replace my kids bedding. All in good time.
Many of us have those few tried and true green products that make their way into our lives on a daily basis. We’ve tried other green products, but they just don’t compare. Once we find a green product that works it becomes ingrained in our routine and we become somewhat dependent, knowing they are safe, non-toxic and environmentally friendly.
We learn from each other
Most of the green products I use come from recommendations from others and brands I trust. Here are a few of my favorite green products that somehow work their way into my daily routine.
Klean Kanteen. This stainless steel reusable water bottle comes with me to the gym, meetings and sits by me in my office while I’m working.
Reusable Shopping Tote by ChicoBag . These are fantastic! They hold up to 25 lbs and easily stuff into a small pouch for storage. I carry a few in my purse so I have no excuse for forgetting my reusable bags.
I’m sure there are more, but these are things I’ve already used today.
Nail polish sparkled on my fingers and toes for many years. And where’s there’s nail polish there’s a need for nail polish remover. When I was working as an attorney I allowed myself a weekly escape from the office for an hour or so for some needed pampering-a manicure was generally the pampering of choice. Looking back at those weekly appointments it’s hard to forget the smell of that nail salon. The fumes literally took my breath away each time I walked in. I also remember the salon employees wearing surgical masks as they removed the old polish and applied the new. In hindsight that probably should have been a red flag, but I never really gave it much thought.
Once I started a family I stopped wearing nail polish altogether. I was a new mom of three and barely had time to comb my hair, let alone apply nail polish. A few years have passed and now I’m enjoying wearing nail polish again-mostly on my toes. However I like to think I’m a bit wiser and now pay closer attention to what goes on my little piggies. I’ve discovered that not all nail polish removers are created equal.
When the time comes to take off the polish, either at home or in the salon, the smell of conventional nail polish remover can knock your socks off-and not in a good way.
Many polish removers and artificial nail products contain a host of toxic chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer, reproductive harm, asthma and other negative health effects. Many conventional nail polish removers use acetone and other chemical liquid solvents (ethyl acetate or butyl acetate, and alcohol) to dissolve your polish. Acetone is a clear, strong-smelling and highly flammable liquid solvent. This stuff is so strong that it can even disintegrate plastic and other solid materials. Hearing “liquid solvent” is enough to make me run the other way. Should we be putting this stuff on our bodies? I think not.
A safer option to acetone in nail polish remover
If you’re in the market for a safe nail polish remover use these tips to help:
Don’t use nail polish remover that contains acetone.
Exposure to high levels of acetone can cause death, coma, unconsciousness, seizures, and respiratory distress. It can damage your kidneys and the skin in your mouth. Breathing moderate-to-high levels of acetone for short periods of time can cause nose, throat, lung, and eye irritation. It can also cause intoxication, headaches, fatigue, stupor, light-headedness, dizziness, confusion, increased pulse rate, nausea, vomiting, and shortening of the menstrual cycle in women.
If your nail polish remover doesn’t contain acetone read the label and make sure the other ingredients are safe. Generally non-acetone removers usually contain ethyl acetate. Made from ethanol and acetic acid, ethyl acetate is colorless and also flammable. Not a great alternative.
Find a nail polish remover that’s water based, not solvent based.
BYOP-bring your own polish and nail polish remover to the salon.
Remember: Traditional nail polish removers take the polish right off. Be prepared with a water- based nail polish remover to spend a bit more time and a lot more muscle to dissolve the polish. It’s worth it.
Do you wear nail polish and use nail polish remover? What brands are your favorite?
Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of summer and this year it’s bittersweet. Over the past few weeks our summer groove has finally fallen into place and I’m not ready to let it go. I admit there’s a slight craving for a routine-normal bedtimes, some sort of schedule and consistency. But I’m still not ready. Thankfully we have a few days and a few BBQ’s planned before school kicks in. If you’re planning to head to or host a barbeque this Labor Day (or any other day) there are a few simple ways to make it eco-friendly.
1. Green your grilling
As delicious as grilling is, research has shown that cancer-causing compounds are formed when meat, poultry or fish are cooked at high heat. Try cooking your food at low temperatures, flip it frequently and don’t leave it on the grill longer than necessary. While grilling your food make sure to use green accessories to help you create a delicious and safe meal.
The bugs can be fierce this time of year. DEET bug repellents can be toxic if we apply too much and leave it on our skin too long. Thankfully there are a quite a few bug repellents out there that are DEET-free. There are even plants that can be strategically placed around your yard that act as natural bug repellents. Our DEET-free bug repellent of choice this summer is Buzzaway.
4. Recycle bottles and cans
I cringe at the number of bottles and cans tossed into the trash at a barbeque. If you are hosting the party take the time to set up a extra bin or two for recyclables. If you’re headed to a BBQ and there’s no recycle container you might just have to carry it home.
5. Use fresh, seasonal and local food
Safe for you-Grill and prepare organic and hormone-free meat, poultry and wild fish whenever possible.
Safe for the planet-Buy local food whenever possible. When the food is locally grown or produced it doesn’t need to travel far to reach you-which means less fuel is needed to transport.
Looking for something delicious to bring to your barbeque this year?
My friend Amie over at The Healthy Apple has a spectacular recipe for your Labor Day BBQ. It’s a gluten-free twist on a traditional pasta salad and one that you won’t want to miss: sweet orange n’ grape pasta salad. This lovely recipe has no added sugar, no processed dressings and takes about 20 minutes to whip up. Hope on over to The Healthy Apple to check it out and while you’re there make sure to spend some time reading about Amie’s awesome approach to clean eating.
How are you spending Labor Day weekend? Any BBQ’s in your future?
Lori Popkewitz Alper, Founder and Editor of Groovy Green Livin, provides eco-wellness consulting for businesses, schools, homes and individuals; and inspiration for a greener lifestyle through her Groovy Green Livin blog and website. Read more….