Monday, December 9, 2013

It's a Wrap!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wondered why I spend so much time wrapping Christmas presents so carefully with colorful wrapping paper, when all of that beautiful paper ends up in a garbage bag a few days later.

It’s always fun to wrap presents for family and friends, but the amount of waste is frustrating. But, like most situations, it pays to get creative!!

Here are some of my favorite ways to reuse wrapping paper. Something that we think is garbage can suddenly become a valuable material with a little creativity.

Ideas for Reusing Wrapping Paper:

1)      Use the paper to make textbook covers. This could be a fun back-to-school project!!

2)      Use the scraps to make a paper collage. (This is one of my favorites).

3)      Shred the leftover paper to use in gift bags instead of tissue paper.

4)      Cut small paper squares, and use them for gift cards.

5)      If there is enough paper left over, cut out letters to use for labels on other crafts.

6)      And for those of you who love to read, you can create a beautiful bookmark with your favorite wrapping paper.

So, the next time you see a roll of wrapping paper, think of all it can be used for after it’s off the present!!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day!



Monday, November 25, 2013

We Can Decorate!!

As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s always fun to see the different seasonal decorations.

I’m someone who enjoys finding creative ways to decorate, which might explain why the picture on the right caught my attention.

I like this idea, because the main components are aluminum and tin cans, and it just so happens that these are in abundance during the Thanksgiving season.

Not only does this create another use for metal cans, it provides a fun craft for the family. And, as an added bonus, it’s not complicated!!

To prepare the cans, you remove the labels, wash the cans, and get a color of paint that coordinates with your decorating theme. Then, use your imagination!! You end up with a new Thanksgiving decoration that’s made from recyclable materials!!

Fun Fact about Aluminum Cans: According to the Waste Management Website, Americans currently discard about 2.7 million tons of aluminum each year.

Recycling cans can save up to 74% of the energy used to initially produce them.

And before recycling the cans, what's a better way to reuse them than by decorating?!

Thanks for reading, and enjoy your Thanksgiving season!


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Packaging, Plastic, and Picky Eaters

I’m guilty. This week, my trash can is filled with single use pouches from baby foods, wrappers, packaging, and other random plastics.

What is it about convenience that seems to win out over even the staunch environmentalist’s thinking?

I’ll say this: having a two year old who refuses to come inside to eat will make you opt for convenience. I would rather him eat a squeezable pouch of food while playing outside than having the battle that comes with getting him inside. Otherwise, I get him inside and he is so mad that he will refuse to eat. Not to mention he is the pickiest eater I have ever seen.

I am also tired of feeding the ants and whatever else eats the mountains of food he drops outside when I try to do the more sustainable thing and bring a bowl of something out to him. So, excessive packaging it is, right?

One contributing factor in this whole situation is the lack of bulk food buying options in my town. Even at the organic grocery store, there are bins of nuts, candy, granola, pasta, rice, and dried fruits but that’s it. Everything else comes in a plastic wrapping of some kind and/ or plastic bag with a box. This is especially true for things you buy to make lunches.

If you are like us, you try to make and bring lunch to work most days. That makes for a lot of this plastic wrapping and bags. Much of it is not recyclable, so what else do you do?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the time to make my own chips or bread and have no idea how to make fruit snacks. Even buying fresh lunch meat from the deli produces plastic wrapping and wax paper.

I guess there really isn’t a solution to every issue for everyone in all parts of the country. I suppose we can all buy what we can in bulk, recyclable packaging, and try to get the largest packages possible to reduce this waste.

In the meantime, I will be working on how to get a two year old to eat things that aren’t individually packaged. Maybe tricking him into it would work?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Letter to the Editor

I recently read a letter to the editor of my local paper where the writer was outraged by the LEED certified buildings popping up in town. The left wing liberal crazies are trying to push their weight around and make people do things they don’t want to do.

Honestly, I am trying to understand why this person is so upset that the town and business owners are choosing to build LEED buildings. It saves money, energy, and water resources while the green rooftops are creating habitat and cleaning the air.

Why are actions that are taken to help reduce our strain on the environment considered left wing craziness? Does this mean there are no right wing folks who care about the Earth and our strain on it? I know this is not the case as I know many people of all kinds of political beliefs that care for the Earth. In fact it is a growing majority of people.

It is a fact that conservation of our resources is a good management practice; one which conservatives and liberals should be able to relate with. Also, for those that are religious, wasn’t it a teaching of Jesus to rid yourself of material things and not to waste anything?

However, these are not the only reasons for “Going Green”.  Sustainability makes dollars and cents too. Ask any number of companies, big and small, about their sustainability initiatives and most have them. From Patagonia, to Walgreens, Wal-mart, New Balance, Kroger, Jewel-Osco, and on and on, they all have sustainability goals and plans. They have seen first-hand how being green makes business sense for them.

I imagine the local businesses and the town buildings that became LEED certified have made their business case for doing so and are achieving their goals through this. Maybe we need to stop labeling and being outraged over so many things that are completely out of our control. Then maybe, just maybe, we will be able to jump outside of our boxes and see all sides.  

Friday, May 24, 2013

Changing the Norm

My husband and I got the chance this week to attend the national premier of Gasland 2, a film about fracking (hydraulic fracturing). Since the first film five years ago, much has happened in Illinois in this area. Leases are being signed in the Shawnee National Forest, companies have approached my county about fracking here, and the Illinois legislature has bills before it to ban fracking and to allow it with a minimum amount of regulatory oversight. You can guess which groups support each of these measures I’m sure.

But whether or not I think this should go on in the state or the world is not what I want to talk about. It’s what led us to this point that I am interested in exploring. The consumerism, feelings that it is your right to use whatever resources you want without consequence, desire for cheap goods and services, desire to live the lifestyle Americans live, etc. : all of these things work together to lead energy companies to look for the next boom in the energy supply. First it was steam and wood, then coal, oil, nuclear, and now the big one is natural gas. All of these things made these companies rich at the expense of people, ecosystems, communities, countries, and the entire planet.

There has to be a better way and there is. It is more difficult than I will make it sound here due mostly to politics, lobbying and money, but renewable energy technologies have been proven to be able to readily supply the world’s energy needs. Between wind, solar, and hydro-power, there is enough supply to exceed the current demands when used together. Add to those: geothermal, wave technology, biogas, bio-fuels, and others and you have a diverse and capable range of energy sources.

So why not? Why not build up the energy grid over the next 5 years and develop these resources and change things over? A lot depends on us. How we consume affects more than how much garbage we make. Our lives are connected to more than our little bubble and every seemingly insignificant decision can have a butterfly effect to many other things including the energy booms and busts.

I know this is a heavy topic for a Friday but someone has to say it right? We have made many strides toward good environmental stewardship since the first Earth Day and there is no reason to stop now.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Green Moms

Since Mother’s Day is coming up on Sunday, I thought it appropriate to address the common gifts for Mother’s Day and possible alternatives that are more Earth Friendly.

First – a bouquet of flowers. While lovely, these flowers are cut and will only last a few days to a week. Instead, get flower bulbs or a perennial flower planted in a pot that mom can transplant in the yard. This is the gift that keeps on giving year after year with sweet smelling aromas just like those you smell when mom bakes your favorite sweets. As an added bonus, these flowers will take in CO2 and release Oxygen!

How about Jewelry? Lots of moms get Jewelry for Mother’s Day but there are more sustainable and conflict free jewelry options out there. Like making mom jewelry from seashells and beads like is suggested here on Or, there are companies like Brilliant Earth who sell sustainably harvested and conflict free diamonds and everything to go with them.


Of course there are always the hand-made coupons for mom to use that say things like: 1 hour of alone time, free week of Daddy and kids making dinner, mom’s choice movie night, 1 free breakfast in bed, 1 night out with mom’s girlfriends, etc. Pick out what your mom likes and start crafting these great coupons.

What are some of your Earth friendly ideas for Mother’s Day?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Litter, Litter, Everywhere

As we do many a Sunday morning, my husband, son and I walked to the local coffee shop. It is only 4 blocks away and we enjoy walking by the community garden and through downtown.

However, this past Sunday, the very Eve of Earth Day, I was troubled by what I saw.

Litter. Everywhere. In the streets, in the grassy right of way, in yards, on steps up to a porch, just anywhere you looked, there it was.

We generally will pick up cans or bottles on our walk back and had more than our bag could handle. And we didn’t even come close to getting 25% of it. I realize trash accumulates over the winter when people aren’t out and about to pick it up, but this seemed exceptional. Have people forgotten the proper place to put trash and recyclables? Or could it be the ever growing population of folks who throw their trash out at the curb loose or worse yet, out their car windows that are contributing to this mess?

I do live in a trying neighborhood, I’ll give you that. However, I see a lot of litter everywhere. Suburbia is not exempt from this. However, those people in suburbia seem to be doing a much better job at keeping their streets and lawns free of litter. The first nice day comes and you see them out in droves, cleaning up their yards.

Is it maybe that many of the people who live in my neighborhood are renters and therefore don’t care what the property and neighborhood looks like? Possible. Yet, where are the owners or management companies of these properties? Why don’t they care enough to clean it up and fine their residents for their disrespect of the property?

These are all things I will probably never know the answers to but certainly will keep searching. In the meantime, I guess we need to start bringing a few bags with us every time we leave the house. That’s our baby step toward a greener city center. What’s yours?