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March 26th, 2013
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.
photo credit: iandavidmuir via photopin cc photo credit: thecocoacakery via photopin cc
Disclosure: I did receive compensation in exchange for having a one bag party and sharing my experience. The content and opinions are 100% my own and always will be. Promise.
January 10th, 2013
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.
Earth Mama Angel Baby Shampoo & Body Wash . Yes, I still use ‘baby shampoo’. I love this stuff and it scores a big, fat ZERO on EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic database. No toxins!
ECOnapkin Reusable Napkins. Reusable napkins make their way into my kids lunch boxes and onto our dinner table every night.
Better Life No Regrets Hand Soap. You’ll find this hand soap throughout our house. It smells delicious and is sulfate-free.
All-Clad Stainless Steel 12-Inch Fry Pan. We use this pan so much that I never put it away. My kids love to cook eggs, french toast and pancakes. Cleaning stainless steel is a breeze if you follow these simple instructions.
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.
What are your favorite green products?
photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via photopin cc
There are a few affiliate links in this post which if used will put a few pennies in my pocket and help support this blog. All opinions are my very own.
September 30th, 2012
Ask a group of friends to come over for a sustainable garden party and they will come. I know from firsthand experience. Not exactly knowing what they were in for, they showed up out of sheer curiosity and a knowing that food would be involved!
What is a sustainable garden party?
About a week ago I was asked by DailyBuzz Healthy Living (I’m a contributor to the site) to throw a sustainable garden party in honor of Lightlife‘s new Frozen Veggie Burger. I’m a big fan of veggie burgers and try to always keep them in my freezer so I’m prepped and ready for a Meatless Monday meal. I searched high and low for these new burgers, but to no avail. Since they are a hot new product they are just beginning their distribution and haven’t made it into my neck of the woods yet.
Since the burgers weren’t an option I was given the go-ahead to test out any Lightlife product. I’ve always seen Lightlife products next to the tofu and tabbouleh at Whole Foods, but have never tried them. I picked out a few Lightlife products and brought them home-ready to get creative.
Now onto the sustainable portion of the party. In addition to testing out some new products I knew that I was going to keep this party as ec0-friendly as possible.
We started off setting the table with reusable napkins. Reusables were used for the entire party-no plastic cups, paper towels, plastic utensils or single-use plates.
Energy efficient lighting
Throughout our house we’ve gradually switched most of the bulbs to either compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) or light emitting diode bulbs (LEDs). CFLs use 75% less energy and produce 75% less heat than incandescent light bulbs. Our refrigerator, shown in this video clip uses LEDs. LEDs last for years and use only 2-10 watts of electricity (1/3rd to 1/30th of incandescent or CFL bulbs).
There were empty glass bottles decorating my counters from beer, wine and a few fancy drinks that we tested out in our Blendtec blender. Recycling was a breeze and everyone pitched in. We all made the effort to throw anything that can be recycled into our recycle bin.
Now the best part: the food! Everyone brought something to share. We kept this meal vegetarian and I don’t think anyone went home hungry.
I had quite a few boxes of the Lightlife Chick’n Style Seasoned Veggie Strips so we decided to whip up a batch of stir fry. They are made from soy and are vegan, GMO-free, fat free and packed with protein (14 grams per serving).
Lightlife Chick’n Seasoned Veggie Strip Stir Fry
This recipe is extremely simple. Use the veggies you have in the fridge and cut them into bite size pieces. I happened to have broccoli, peppers, carrots, squash, and sugar snap peas. I always love having the opportunity to use my veggie crinkle cutter.
Take your wok and heat up with 1-2 tbsp of oil and add the Lightlife Chick’n Style Seasoned Veggie Strips. Then begin to add the vegetables. Don’t over cook the vegetables. Make sure you add vegetables first that need a little longer to cook.
Stir fry sauce
- 4 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. cornstarch
- 2 cloves garlic, minced (add another clove if you want more)
- 1/4 c. water
Add soy sauce mixture to the the vegetable Veggie Strip mixture and cook until everything is lightly coated.
Serve over couscous. The dish was so simple and a big hit! Enjoy.
Have you ever hosted or been to a sustainable garden party?
This series is brought to you in partnership with Lightlife, Live long. Travel light. To learn more, click here http://www.lightlife.com.
Disclosure: As a part of the DailyBuzz Food Tastemaker program, Lightlife provided me with a stipend and product for sampling.
photo credit: LexnGer via photopin cc, photo credit: greenplasticamy via photopin cc
September 25th, 2012
Usually around October my kids start to complain that their school lunch box selections are boring. The back-to-school thrill has died down and our search for snacks to spice up our lunch routine is on. Then the begging for hot lunch begins. I really don’t get it. Hot lunch at school looks completely unappetizing to me. Quite frankly, I’d rather not eat lunch. Knowing that the complaining and begging is just around the corner (maybe it is for you too?) I thought I’d be proactive and take this opportunity to share a few snacks that may or may not work in your children’s lunch boxes.
Cascadian Farm Organic Ancient Grains Granola
My kids love to use Kids Konserve Stainless Steel Mini Food Containers to pack a trail mix in their lunch. We take Cascadian Farms Organic Granola Cereal Ancient Grains and add mix-ins to it (raisins, nuts, other cereals) to make our customized trail mix. The granola has quinoa, spelt and kamut khorasan wheat. It’s an excellent source of fiber and protein.
NatureBox is a monthly subscription service that costs $19.95/month. Each month a variety of beautifully packaged snacks arrives at your doorstep. The snacks are handpicked by NatureBox and abide by their strict quality standards:
- No high fructose corn syrup
- No partially hydrogenated oils
- No artificial colors or flavors
- No trans fats
If you’re looking for variety this is a great option. Just so there are no surprises-most of the NatureBox snacks I received did contain some form of sugar-agave, evaporated cane juice, but no HFCS.
Late July Organic Snacks
My son grabbed the Late July Organic Snacks Sea Salt by the Seashore Multigrain Tortilla Chips when were grocery shopping together a few months ago. Now we’re all hooked. Every Late July chip flavor is delicious and works extremely well in our lunch boxes. These chips have a lot of good qualities:
- They’re gluten-free
- They’re organic
- You won’t find any GMOs, artificial colors or preservatives or trans fats
- The company donates 10% of their profits to summer camp scholarships
Water in a reusable Klean Kanteen goes into our lunch boxes daily. An Honest Tea drink would only be included as a special treat.
My kids steer clear of any drinks that are caffeinated and thankfully there are plenty of decaffeinated Honest Tea choices. I was a bit disappointed that all of their decaffeinated drinks contained some form of added sugar. Not ideal for three boys with a lot of energy.
My husband loves the organic Honest Tea selections. This selection of tea doesn’t have any added sugar and come in a glass bottle. Keep in mind that they are caffeinated.
Have you seen this candy? I recently spotted it in Staples and CVS as I was about to checkout. UNREAL is a new type of candy with a mission to “unjunk” the world. UNREAL candies contain no artificial flavors, preservatives or hormones; no GMO’s (genetically modified organisms); no hydrogenated oils; and no corn syrup. Instead, they use real sugar, natural oils, and real milk. They make their candy available only where junk food is available.
Candy never makes it into our lunch boxes-our elementary school prohibits sending in any candy for lunch. However, this type of candy does have a place. If there’s a child reaching for a candy bar at the checkout counter no candy is the best option, but UNREAL candy would be a better option.
What are your favorite snacks to spice up your lunch box?
photo credit: kayepants via photopin cc
Disclosure: I did receive samples from Cascadian Farm, Late July Organics, Honest Tea, NatureBox and UNREAL. The opinions are my very own.
August 30th, 2012
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.
2. Reusables instead of disposables
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American produces about 4.4 pounds (2 kg) of garbage a day, or a total of 29 pounds (13 kg) per week and 1,600 pounds (726 kg) a year. That’s a lot of trash. BBQ’s are know for their abundance of paper products and plastic utensils. How about mixing it up a bit this year and adding in a few reusable products in place of those single-use plastic and paper products? Using reusable cloth napkins, stainless steel flatware, reusable plates or even stainless steel straws would be a simple way to make a big impact.
3. Non-toxic bug repellent
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?
Vegetable kebab. | Stock Photo © jura13 #2494373
Linked up with Seasonal Celebration.
August 28th, 2012
Beth Terry and Amber Strocel were not happy with the plastic plates at BlogHer11
Last year I had the pleasure of meeting Beth Terry at BlogHer
in San Diego. We had lunch together with a group of green bloggers and I remember spending a lot of time discussing the disposable plastic plates that were being used for all of the meals at BlogHer11. Beth and Amber
took the discussion to the next level. They took those plates washed them off and reused them for most of the meals during the conference. That should tell you a little something about Beth. She’s passionate, dedicated and committed to ridding her life of plastic, especially single-use plastic.
Beth is the author of the popular blog, My Plastic Free Life, where she chronicles her life without plastic. She recently released her new book, Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too. I saw Beth again at BlogHer in New York City this year and after the conference had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her intriguing, plastic free life and her new book.
You had your “plastic awakening” in 2007 and have been writing about it ever since. What prompted you to write a book now?
Actually, I had been wanting to write a book about my experiences after about a year of deciding to try and live plastic-free, but honestly, fear got in the way. I was afraid that I couldn’t write the book that I envisioned in my head — that it wouldn’t be as effective as I wanted or that no one would want to publish it. I had lots of mental hurdles I had to jump every step of the way. But it was very important to me to write a book and not just keep the information on my blog for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to be able to reach people who don’t read blogs but like to browse actual bookstores. I couldn’t have done that without a traditional publisher. And second, I wanted to take all the information I’ve gathered over the years and distill it down into a format that would be organized very logically and would be easy for anyone who wanted to reduce their plastic consumption to follow, no matter how far along that path they are.
What are the three most shocking items that contain plastic?
The one that shocked me the most was chewing gum. Most chewing gum contains plastic in the gum base — even “natural” chewing gums like Glee.
In the beginning, I was surprised to learn that almost all paper and cardboard that contains food or liquids is lined with plastic – like plastic milk cartons, ice cream containers, coffee cups, frozen food trays — if the paper is leak-proof, it is lined with plastic.
And third… hmm… facial scrubs. Many facial scrubs contain tiny polyethylene beads for exfoliating your skin, and those beads just get washed down the drain and into our waterways.
I’ve seen you in action Beth and I have to say that I’ve never seen anyone as dedicated and passionate as you about becoming plastic free. I’ve always wanted to ask if you are truly plastic free? Do you have any plastic in your life?
Oh, I absolutely have plastic in my life. When I committed to stop acquiring any new plastic, I didn’t say I would get rid of the plastic I already had. The only things I gave away were plastics meant to hold food and drinks. I don’t want to eat or drink out of plastic because of the hormone-disrupting chemicals and other additives that many plastics contain. But I still use a computer, mobile phone, and lots of other durable plastic items. I just don’t buy them new, and I try to maintain and repair the things I already have to make them last as long as possible. Also, there are still some disposable plastics I can’t avoid–like prescription bottles, for example. I keep all of that plastic and tally it up and post it on my blog each week.
What are your thoughts on recycling? How can we make it a better system?
First, recycling should be a last resort after we have reduced our plastic consumption as much as possible. Recycling is problematic because first, it doesn’t close the loop. For example, a plastic bottle generally gets recycled into something like polar fleece or carpet or other polyester produce, so virgin plastic must still be used to create new bottles. Second, most of our plastic recycling is shipped overseas to countries like China, where it is processed in some environmentally-unfriendly ways, and third, plastics can only be recycled so many times. When plastic can no longer be recycled, those non-biodegradable molecules linger in the environment virtually forever. Plastic recycling is necessary, but we should first focus on turning off the spigot of new plastic products and packaging.
If someone wanted to cut back on plastic in their home what are the top three ways you would suggest tackling becoming plastic free?
Start with the low-hanging fruit: What are the changes you can make that are the easiest and will have the biggest impact? For me, that was giving up disposable plastic shopping bags and bottled water. I got my own reusable bags and a reusable stainless steel water bottle and developed the habit of bringing them with me wherever I went. And I didn’t let myself off the hook when I forgot them. I even carried out produce in my shirt one time when I forgot my bag!
Second, take a look at your plastic waste for a week and see what your personal plastic footprint is. You might consider joining the Show Your Plastic Trash Challenge. That way, you can decide what areas are most important to focus on.
Take it step by step and don’t try to do everything at once. I repeat this throughout my book. It’s better to be methodical about it than to get overwhelmed and give up. I didn’t get to where I am overnight. It takes time, but it also takes commitment.
What do you think? Could you live plastic free?
There are a few affiliate links in this post. If you use them the few pennies will help support this blog. Thanks!
August 27th, 2012
A challenging piece of my ongoing green journey has been to reduce the amount of paper used in my home. Let’s just say upfront that I draw the line at toilet paper. There will be no reusable toilet paper in my house. Ever.
I have the reusable napkin piece down. We have a drawer in the kitchen dedicated to all different designs and sizes of reusable napkins.
The paper towel switch to reusables has been a bit more challenging. Thanks to our dog and three young boys we are constantly in need of something to clean up the messy trail left behind.
Now there’s a one-stop shop for paper towel alternatives and green kitchen products: Paperless Kitchen. The founder of Paperless Kitchen, Sachin, grew up in a household obsessed with paper towels and was shocked by how easily as a culture we become used to using something once and throwing it away. The company was formed to help all of us adopt greener lifestyles by offering alternatives to single-use kitchen paper products. Here are a few of the products that Paperless Kitchen offers-
I have been testing out SKOY cloths from Paperless Kitchen over the past few weeks. The cloth is great for everything from wiping the table to cleaning up dog disasters. The SKOY cloth is a European created product which is completely 100% biodegradable. Using one SKOY cloth is equal to using 15 rolls of paper towels in an average house. My only complaint is I wish the cloth came in a variety of sizes.
I have been a fan of PeopleTowels for a long time and thanks to the generosity of Paperless Kitchen I now have my very own. They are reusable personal hand towels and are a fantastic alternative to paper towels. Made of 100% organic Fair Trade Cotton, they are an easy way to go green, save trees, reduce landfill waste, cut CO2 emissions and conserve water. An added bonus: there are so many adorable designs to choose from.
Paperless Kitchen is generously offering the Paperless Kitchen Starter Kit to one Groovy Green Livin reader. This kit is valued at $130 and includes:
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Disclosure: Paperless Kitchen generously sent me SKOY clothes and PeopleTowels to try out. The opinions are my very own.