Sunday, December 31, 2006

Feelgood new year's resolutions

I know this is about the least original thing I could post about but I'm going to do it anyway. Yes, it's an exhortation to make green new year's resolutions!

The good thing about going green is not only will it save the planet, save you money (bills and buying less generally), help you lose weight (walking, cycling) and make you healthier (no more ingesting and inhaling nasty chemicals), but, unlike most other new year's resolutions, which as far as I can make out are designed to take all the joy out of life (join a gym, stop drinking, stop eating, stop wasting hours on eBay and buying Marc Jacobs shoes (oh, is that just me?), it is now also scientifically proven to make you happier (see my Dec 26th post).

Hurrah! The new year's resolution that makes you feel good about yourself, a rare thing indeed.

Of course it only works if you stick to it. So here's some ammunition to ponder over your hangover: this week alone saw the first submersion of an inhabited island by rising sea levels (now I'm even more jealous of my brother and sister in law who are off to the Maldives in Feb - I may not make it before they completely disappear (the islands, not the in-laws)) and a chunk of the polar ice shelf nine times the size of London collapsing into the ocean. Pretty sobering stuff for new year's day.

So tonight eat, drink, be merry - and tomorrow go out and build a compost heap, recycle your christmas tree, stop using bleach and walk to the pub. Oh, and read littlegreendot, of course. If there's a break in the weather, that's what I shall be doing, anyway.

Happy new year. xxx

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Right to Reply

Never let it be said that we aren't scrupulously fair here on littlegreendot. So here's what Nick the Teeth had to say on the topic of toothpaste:

Dear Big Sis, Love reading the blog, and big respect for all you're doing raising awareness of green issues. Just to let you know, I have nothing against hippies, I love hugging trees as much as the next man. When it comes to the lack of fluoride in toothpastes however, I think it is just plain negligent to omit it. You only get one set of gnashers, and the intro of fluoride in toothpaste has had a huge impact in reducing tooth decay in the last 30 years. Your Little Green Bro. xx .

Excellent. Point taken, fluoride it is. And Nick, if you're serious about being a little green dentist (or even a reasonably big one), perhaps you might consider encouraging your patients to switch to Tom's of Maine fluoride toothpastes. They're made using all natural ingredients and the company is tres green - wind-powered factories, all recycled packaging, 10% of profits go to good causes, etc. And here's the best bit - I've even found out that they sell it in Green Street Green Waitrose - right next door to your surgery! What's not to love? You too can change the world, one gob at a time. Check it out at

PS Mum's off to buy some now.

And to the rest if my readers, I promise that's all for now on the subject of teeth

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Friday, December 29, 2006

Nick the teeth

We Williamses really know how to celebrate Christmas. Here's an example of a typical holiday afternoon.

Last week, I emailed my brother, a dentist, about the organic toothpaste question. Were they any good, I wanted to know. "The big question is, does it contain fluoride," came the reply. "Otherwise you might as well brush your teeth in dirty dishwater."

On a walk yesterday, he revisited the topic. "I saw your toothpaste on the windowsill and it doesn't contain fluoride," he said.

"Ah yes, I'd been meaning to ask you about that Nick," I said. "So, why is it that you need fluoride in your toothpaste?" "Because it helps prevent demineralization of the teeth and actually remineralizes them when they've been attacked by plaque," he said, helpfully (actually he said something much more complicated and long-winded than this, but I didn't have a dictaphone so have probably got it wrong. The long and short I made of it is that fluoride is proven to not only help prevent decay but also reverse decay that's already underway). "Ah," I nodded, knowingly, "And can you tell me why some people have a problem with it and go for non-fluoride toothpastes?" "Because they're bloody hippies who think they know everything," he responded moderately. "But they don't know what they're talking about." "Ah," I said again, "and any other reason?" "Well, there are concerns about a link between fluoride and bone cancer" my Dad piped up. "But at the concentration found in toothpaste you'd have to eat about fifty tubes and even then it probably wouldn't do you any harm," added Nick. He then offered to compile me a reading list on fluoride and the benefits thereof.

To be honest, I wasn't sad to find a reason to give up on the chalk toothpaste which does indeed taste like dirty dishwater when I'm brushing my teeth with it. So I declined the reading list and went back to the Colgate (I'll get some of the Tom's of Maine eco-friendly but with fluoride when I get back to the US).

I'd like to add for the record that my brother is a brilliant and very patient dentist. He just doesn't have a lot of time for bloody hippies.

That would be me, then.


Well done Mum

Mum's really taken this 'saving the planet for Dot' thing to heart. Everywhere I look there's a bottle of Ecover something-or-other peeking back at me - loo cleaner, shower gel, hand soap, washing-up liquid, you name it... She's even switched to green laundry detergent which for a laundry nazi like her is a major sacrifice (the MIL who's also obsessed with white whites as done the same and so far both are pleasantly surprised with the results).

I have had to have a word with Dad about his lack of compost heap, though. He's working on it. Maybe he, Dot and I can get out in the garden and do it together - a tri-generational green bonding activity. Actually Dot's great-granny also knows a thing or two about composting so hell, let's get her in on the act too!

I hope to have news of compst heaps up and running in a day or two.

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Did you get a camcorder for Xmas?

Then put it to good use. Seventh Generation and Treehugger have banded together for a contest: make a green new year's resolution, video yourself carrying it out and potentially win...a phonecall from Daryl Hannah!!!!! Wow, these people really know how to spoil us. Click here for more info. Actually you could also win a carbon offset trip to Alaska or a solar powered bike (how does that work?). SO what are you waiting for?!

My Birthday Pressie from GWB

Dear old Georgie - he must have known yesterday was my birthday because on the front page of all the papers was the news that his administration has agreed to look into the impact of climate change on the arctic ice cap because of the imminent extinction of the polar bear. From the Times:

In a move that will have profound consequences not only for the polar bear but potentially for America’s polluting industries, the Administration declared last night that the polar bear should be added to its endangered species list because of the drastic melting of its habitat. The move would trigger mandatory legal safeguards that could potentially force US industries to cut their carbon dioxide output.

Apparently they've only been compelled to act because people love polar bears so much but still, whatever it takes. Nothing set in stone yet though, so we'll see...

Of course Fox News says it's stuff and nonsense - polar bears are just fine according to them.

Well, the hubby just gave me the BBC series Planet Earth on DVD for my birthday; apparently it has some pretty grueling footage of a polar bear dying of starvation because he can't get to his food. Maybe I'll send them the footage and see what they think.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

If you're green and you know it...

...clap your hands, because it's official: being green makes you happy.

A masters student at Imperial College London has found that people who live a more eco-friendly lifestyle score high in life satisfaction, personal development and social well-being.

This thoroughly explains why the hubby is so morose and has no mates; it's all those mice he's murdered, trees he's burned and CO2 he's released into the atmosphere. I, on the other hand, grow more gleeful with every plastic bag I decline to take from the supermarket and Dot is the happiest baby ever.

So, gang, go hug a tree. It'll make you feel better.

This story pinched from eco-worrier.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Simple Life

We've relocated to the parents' new house in Hampshire - very grand and ideal for playing sardines in - and Dot has received her second glut of lovely pressies. Most not terribly green, I'll be honest, but among them some organic cotton sleepsuits from M&S and Next, of all places (the nearest US equivalent to Next I can think of is...well actually I can't think of an equivalent). Who would have thought it - organic cotton in Next. The last time I shopped there I was in the Upper 4th (last year of junior high) for a kneelength, cowl-neck black cardi. Which, come to think of it, would be rather winter 2006 if someone hadn't nicked it off me at uni...

Anyway, haven't had much time for greening today but over the past few days we've managed to read a few of our favourite Sunday newspaper supplements. This has been a salutary experience.

I've only been through two periods of serious abstinence in my life. The first was when I went travelling in SE Asia in 1998. I took 10 garments in my rucksack for five months away, during which time I spent a total of less than £1000 (including food, hotels, transport - everything). The second is now, when I've vetoed myself buying anything other than essentials (repeat after me: reduce, reuse, recycle), again have a very limited subset of outfits on rotation and am trying very hard to spend no money (for Xmas, I gave Dot a sock puppet I made with the help of the MIL's button tin and some old felt. It's a big hit.) And w
hen I'm upstate in our lovely cottage, (as it was in the butt middle of nowhere in Laos) it's really easy to do - possibly because I'm not reading fashion mags (too much paper), don't have to look good every day for work (though I'm not letting myself go, you understand) and there are no shops to tempt me.

But after a couple of Sunday supplements, you go from being perfectly content with washing your face with Dove and wearing the same five outfits on rotation to wondering if you might not just be able to afford a £200 (that's $400, people) pot of face cream and feeling a whole new wardrobe is more or less essential. There was an article in the Sunday Telegraph magazine comparing what kids want for Christmas to what their parents are actually buying them which made me feel faintly nauseous. Another article in the same magazine talked about how kids' expectations have risen in direct proportion to what's advertised on telly (forty years ago they were happy with a home-made hobby-horse, apparently).
I reckon the same thing has happenned to us all.

So my green behavior for the rest of the trip is going to be to try and avoid the fun bits of the papers so I don't feel tempted to go out and buy things I don't need.

The truth is I think I prefer The Simple Life. It's definitely much better for the environment.


Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Christmas dear readers

Hope you're all having a lovely time. As you can see, Dot overdid it a bit on the Christmas dinner, but after 30-something years I'm still making that mistake so who can blame her.

We've had a lovely English country Christmas - lots of walks in the drizzle and pints at the pub - and tried to keep it as green as possible. For example, we wrapped all our pressies in recycled paper from our stash at home. But don't think this meant they looked crap; wrapping pressies is one of my all time favourite things and I take great pride in it, so recycled or not our pressies looked as chic as ever; see exhibit a for proof.

I also insisted on keeping all the paper which came off everyone's pressies. They looked at me like I was weird, apart from the mother in law who kindly amassed a stash of wrapping for me. When I said that all that paper and ribbon was so exciting it almost felt like an extra pressie, even she gave me a funny look and the hubby said "That's what I meant the other day when I said you have a really geeky side".

Anyway, we're off to my parents tomorrow so undeterred I've now wrapped the next batch of pressies in cast-offs from today. Two Xmasses for the price of one - a bit of a change from the innocent days I remember from childhood when we used to fill a black bin liner with discarded Christmas wrapping (no wonder the media are full of how many extra tons go into landfill around Xmas), and the pressies look just as good.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Xmas Schedule

Dear readers, there's a post from today below. Our plan is to continue more or less uninterrupted over the 'holiday', though we may take off Boxing Day, as we're heading to my parents then, and the 28th because it's my birthday. Happy Christmas to those who celebrate it and happy everything else to the rest of you. xxx

Boys, it's all about boobs today

Our friends have just announced they're expecting a baby and we're thrilled for them (no names here as I don't know who they've told and don't want to steal their thunder...) so I thought I'd take the opportunity to give them an insight into the sheer glamour of what lies ahead by sharing a few marital exchanges from today.

This afternoon, as we sat in candlelight in front of the fire, having just returned from a brisk walk through the chilly English fog, an omninous rumble came from the environs of Dot's nappy. I decided to change her in front of the fire to keep her little botty warm (it's finally got cold this week here in Blighty, after the papers were warning of swallows still flying around and something hatching which should have stayed put till spring. Global warming...). "Can you grab me one of the new [Moltrex biodegradable, purchased at the Organic Farm Shop] nappies, love?" I shouted upstairs to the hubby. "Really - you like these?" he said, waving one as he came down the stairs. "I prefer the white [Nature boy and girl, also biodegradable] ones - they look cleaner and don't have those stupid cartoons on the front." "Yes, but the Moltrex ones are more flexible and they don't have that hard panel which digs into her tummy," I replied. "Fair enough," he shrugged, handing me the nappy before wandering off.

Even more scintillating was this morning's discussion of breast pads. Some background: I've been worrying for some time that the reasons I'm avoiding regular disposable nappies (chemicals next to baby's skin and possibly entering bloodstream, chemicals in production, chemicals and non-biodegradable products in landfill) should really also extend to the breast pads I'm using (boys, I know this is hard for you to read, but to avoid multiple daily wet t-shirt incidents of entirely the wrong kind, breast pads are a neccessary, if deeply unsexy, accessory to breastfeeding (at least they are if you have squirty boobs like me)). The final straw came when, earlier this week, mere moments before Dot latched on, I found a couple of grains of the super-absorbent material had somehow leaked out of the pad onto my boob. I brushed them away, but who knows how much of the stuff she might already have imbibed, plus this also made me wonder if there weren't chemicals from the pads just generally all over my chest which she'd been gobbling up every day for the last nearly four months (I can't think about this too much more or I'll drive myself mad with guilt). So when I spotted some eco-friendly alternatives in the Organic Farm Shop (Natracare - plant cellulose instead of plastic covers, no chlorine, no super absorbents made from petro-chemicals, biodegradable) I grabbed them. This morning I told the hubby I'd bought them and was deeply relieved about it. "Ah but will they work?" he said, knowingly. "Why wouldn't they?" asked the mother in law, who happenned to walk in at that moment. "Well, she got leaky boobs with lots of the ones she tried," the hubby told her. "She's only found one type that works." (He's right, but actually so far the Natracare ones ( really aren't bad, and the peace of mind I've been feeling whenever I feed Dot is worth a little dampness. I'm sticking with them, as long as I can find a supplier back home).

So, daddy to be, see what you have to look forward to? Forget Vogue shoots, Manhattan real estate and West Village eateries; soon you'll be conversant in the finer points of eco-friendly nappies and chlorine-free breast pads.

And let me tell you, you'll never look back. Not even for a minute.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Toothpaste extra

Ha ha, had to share this. So, you know I sad the organic toothpaste tasted chalky? Well, I just had a look at the label, and guess what the first ingredient on the label is? Yep, calcium-carbonate (chalk). Ho hum. Off to have a quick brush again.

This dilemma has teeth...

Another thing I've been wondering about is beauty products. Until very recently - until I got pregnant with Dot, actually - I was merrily using any old shower gel, shampoo, moisturizer or body lotion as long as it was unperfumed (I'm a bit of a delicate flower, don't you know). Then I read something telling me almost all lotions are petroleum-based so shouldn't be used during pregnancy, which made me think it might be best not to be using them at all, then. I did a bit of research on who make lots of lovely organic products and apparently loads of the ingredients in the beauty products we use might be carcinogenic, contain oestrogen or irritate the skin.

Rather than try checking all my products for complicated-sounding ingredients like 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (contains formaldehyde, apparently) I've started switching to organic stuff. I now use organic shampoo (can't remember the brand), body lotion (Alba - the hubby says it makes me smell like an old lady but as I keep telling him I thought it was unscented when I bought it, and now I have to use it up before I switch to avoid waste. This is an occupational hazard of experimenting after years with your old staples, I will warn you) and eye cream (Dr. Hauschka) and once I run out of my Neutrogena will switch to organic moisturizer too. They aren't all fiercely expensive, Dr Hauschka notwithstanding.

So, while I was at the Organic Farm Shop the other day, i decided it was time to try organic toothpaste again. (I'd given Tom's of Maine a whirl before, but it wasn't a big hit; the hubby refused to use it, saying it tasted of sick and I found it didn't foam up and left a nasty taste in my mouth). This is a big step for me because I come from a family of dentists and am obsessed with oral hygiene, constantly brushing and chewing gum, and am also neurotic about fresh breath. I bought some from Green People and left it in the bathroom.

Driving along yesterday, the MIL said 'I wasn't sure about that toothpaste. It didn't really feel like it was doing anything, although my mouth did feel clean afterwards'. I had to agree with her - it feels a bit like when you haven't put enough toothpaste on the brush, and I just don't feel confident about my minty fresh breath. In fact I've already brushed four times today (it's not 1 o'clock yet) and still my mouth feels a bit frowsy. I know my brother will be down on me like a ton of bricks for overbrushing - which can erode enamel or something like that - so another dilemma arises. Do I continue with this or go back to the Colgate?

To help me decide, I did some research and found out the following on

"Sodium Lauryl Sulphate is used for the same purpose in toothpaste as it is in bubble-bath - as a foamer and detergent. BUT SLS is a particularly strong, harsh detergent as well as having good foaming qualities. Indeed SLS is used to clean oil spillage from petrol forecourts, it is so effective...Plus it is especially preferred by personal care products 'manufacturers' because it is very cheap.

Technically SLS is a 'surfactant', an 'emulsifier', and a 'denaturant'. It is well KNOWN to be a harmful skin irritant that is particularly nasty in contact with the delicate eye, and mucous membranes (this is the main reason for instructions to 'flush your eyes with plenty of water' if you get shampoo in them – because SLS is known potentially to cause damage to the eyes).

SLS is just an unpleasant chemical that should just NOT be used on (or in!) the human body! – Due to growing negative media coverage in the last few years SLS has been removed or 'replaced' in SOME products (but you have to check 'what with' - see below!!). However, it is still very widely found in many well known, off-the-shelf, big-brand products...even though it is known to be:

Toxic to the liver and kidneys,

Toxic to aquatic animals/fish (remember many tons of this stuff washes-off down our drains!!)

On the NIH hazards list

Known to trigger eczema and skin problems

Known to cause mouth ulcers [mouth ulcers? what?]"

Er, ok, well, I guess it has to be worth persevering then. Anyone have any toothpaste success stories for me?

By the way, just so you know, apparently to be labeled 'natural', a product need only contain 1% natural ingredients. So don't be fooled...

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Emiliano v. Epson

One of our readers, Emiliano emailed me a recent exchange with Epson about recycling his printer cartridges. Here it is:

what should i be doing with my printer ink cartridges? is there an
environmentally sound way of recycling them? i have a stylus photo r2400.

-----Original Message-----
Date: Wed, 20 Dec 2006 07:52:19
Subject: Re: ink cartridges

Dear Emiliano,
Thank you for your interest in recycling used Epson inkjet cartridges.  Due to the design of our inkjet cartridges, we do not refill or remanufacture them.  Neither of these alternatives is cost effective.  Nor do we have a program set up to receive them for recycling at this time.  We are continuing to search for the most cost effective, consumer friendly and
environmentally sound program available for disposal.

In the meantime, we recommend that you contact your local City Government and participate in their recycling and e-waste efforts whenever possible. We appreciate your support of Epson products and we thank you for bringing this to our attention. Please contact us if we can be of further assistance to you

Margaret C
Recycle Support

From: egranado@....>
Date: Dec 20, 2006 11:43 AM
Subject: Re: ink cartridges

Hi margaret,
Thanks for your reply.
However, that answer leaves me quite unsatisfied. I think epson should be doing more to offset their impact on the environment. Especially since your business model calls for consumers to continually purchase new cartridges.
I'm not sure of the chemical makeup of the cartridges, but I'd bet that they require lots of petroleum to manufacture and take many decades to decompose. How are we ever going to decrease our dependency on foreign oil and clean up our landfills with corporate policy like yours?

I encourage your company to try harder and rethink your "buy and throw away" inkjet business model.
Until then, I will begin contemplating using other printer brands with a more comprehensive understanding of their environmental impact
Thank you,

'Neither of these alternatives is cost effective'? Oh well then, better forget all about it, even if:

- Stacked end to end cartridges thrown away in one year would cover a distance of over 24,000 miles = enough to circle the earth.
- Every year 1 billion ink-jet cartridges are sold worldwide.
- Only 3% of those cartridges are recycled.
- 95% of all ink jet cartridges were taken to landfills. 5000 metric tons of plastic and metal every month. (from

Bloody hell, US corporations need a stern talking to. Luckily lots of other organizations have taken matters into their own hands. Many collect them for charity (try and choose the charity you weant to support). Or you can get cash back for your cartridges: in the US, offer up to $3.60 per cartridge. And if you want to boycott companies like Epson until they start doing more, you can buy reused and refilled cartridges from for much less than the big corporations so you never need use a new cartridge - or give them your money - again. I just don't get how all these people can make money for charity if it's not cost effective, but anyway....Emmy wants you to email the lady at Epson. Go for it.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

More falling off the wagon

So, I had a plan for today’s blog entry. There’s a shop in the UK called Primark which, when I left, sold cheap nylon clothes you wouldn’t be seen dead in and now sells cheap nylon clothes which suddenly all my friends keep turning up at the pub in, saying with a triumphant smirk ‘£3.50 at Primark!’ [that’s $7 to you and me]. So for a while I’ve been planning to just go and just have a little look.

Obviously once I started this blog, I vowed to eschew the kind of cheap disposable fashion Primark sells. Then, yesterday, my mother-in-law told me that, along with Tesco and Asda, Primark had been in the news for paying workers in India £8 a month ( and therefore having one of the worst human rights records in retail. Clearly actually buying anything there was now completely out of the question.

So I decided I’d go to Primark in Cheltenham today, look around, find it all really tacky, then leave and blog about how virtuous I’d been in resisting the lure of the cheap sinful fashion.

Can you guess what happened next? Yes, it’s true, I somehow found myself walking out of Primark with two £6.50 tops clutched in my sweaty paws (they were in my paws – at least I managed to insist on no plastic bag). I put it down to the preceding six weeks during which I’d forbidden myself, a self-confessed clothesaholic, to even enter a clothes shop. Against this background, Primark was like an open wine bottle to an AA member – just a bit too easy.

The good news is, I tried the tops on when I got home and they look really synthetic and cheap – which is exactly what they are. So I’ll be returning them tomorrow for a refund. Hopefully that’ll get rid of the dirty feeling. And at least I’ll be able to look Dot in the eye when I pop her into her organic cotton babygrow in the morning.

And actually, now I've just read the website, I don't think it's funny that I gave in so easily. It talks about women being paid a third the living wage in Bangladesh to work 96 hour weeks. So that's it. Really this time.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Green and pleasant land?

Loyal readers, apologies for the missed days. We've been at a family funeral. We're back now.

Sooooo, here we are in the UK. I have to admit that after reading about the UK being the second greenest country in the world (beaten only by Sweden) Dot and I imagined ourselves coming to the land of milk and honey, and in many ways England has not disappointed.

Instead of yet more credit card solicitations, the junk mail my mother-in-law receives through the post is a catalogue called Send a Cow (no links today - bloomin software - but it's - a catalogue full of ideas for ethical Xmas pressies (including buying a cow for a third world farmer). On Saturday, I bought eco-friendly (biodegradable) nappies in Sainsbury's, your bog-standard supermarket, in grotty Camden (last time I shopped in Camden it was for Soul to Soul Vol 1 Club Classics and a pair of dungarees. Aaaah how times change). Yesterday evening we picked up a bottle of organic wine at a rural BP gas station (the US equivalent would have stocked nothing but Marlboro Reds, radioactive ice pops and beef jerky), and today we had a wonderful experience at The Organic Farm Shop in Cirencester ( - they basically sell absolutely everything a regular supermarket would, but unlike e.g Whole Foods where not all the produce is organic, everything they stock - from jerusalem artichokes through sausages to breast pads (boys, unless you've had babies you won't know what these are and probably for the best, really) - is. If I lived here I would never shop anywhere else. It was heaven. Oh yes, diesel cars are ten a penny here, too, and diesel is sold on the main forecourt, unlike in the US.

But there have been some disappointments. On Sunday morning at brunch in Primrose Hill (London's answer to the West Village; locals include Jude Law and Kate Moss), the hubby texted me 'Pls pick up wrapping paper'. I texted back 'What for?'. 'Family Xmas pressies,' came the reply. I called him to discuss. "I am not buying wrapping paper. We'll wrap them in used newspaper." "We can’t wrap the family presents in newspaper," he objected, scorn dripping from his words. I knew he was thinking, 'stupid woman, how embarrassing, we'll look totally pikey and the family will not see the funny side' (his enormous family somehow all happen to be incredibly cool and style-conscious). "Well I'm not buying wrapping paper. The family read my blog and will get it," I replied. He huffed down the phone. "Alright, if I can find recycled paper, I'll get that," I offered as a compromise, "OK," he sighed.

So I trawled every last shop in Primrose Hill’s ‘village’. But my quest turned up nothing more than a few 'I dunno's and 'sorry, love's. I expected more from one of London's most chi chi, affluent, supposedly trend-setting neighbourhoods (after all, they have a fab farmer's market and a great deli stocking almost exclusively British produce). Instead, I went home empty-handed.

The wrapping paper stalemate was resolved when I agreed to some spare paper our hosts Theo and Sally had lying around - on the basis that if it had already been bought, it was ok to use it up (in fact one of the Xmas tips I was going to give on here was that you should see what hilarious bits of paper your Mum might have lying round from when you were a kid. I remember some classics like Donald Duck in a father Xmas outfit – sort of vintage 80s chic).

Which brings me to a dilemma the mother-in-law and I were discussing today – which is, when you decide to switch to the eco-variants of stuff, do you use up the bad stuff first, or switch right away and chuck the bad stuff in the bin (you’ll remember I had this same question over the eco-friendly lightbulbs)? My POV is you might as well use it up first because once the pollutants are out there, they’re out there, so they might as well serve a purpose before they head to landfill or waterways, otherwise the damage really is wanton

Actually, what I do is get the eco version, then keep the other under the sink in case I run out because I really can’t bring myself to use it. Or, in the case of laundry, you could do a wash every few weeks with the biological powder if your whites are looking a little more Magnolia.

Anyway, before I go, had to drop in a quote from Jon Bon Jovi, discovered in an article in this month's Q magazine about musicians going green:

"I think Gore is the smartest man I have ever met," Bon Jovi explains. "But if you really want to know why I'm doing this [showing trailers for An Inconvenient Truth at his recent tour], it's because i feel guilty about the huge hole in the ozone layer my haircits created. It is my responsibility to get right all the wrongs of the '80s"


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Friday, December 15, 2006

Subtle Hints?

The hubby tore this out of
the Guardian for me yesterday:

"And so to our coveted award for the season's Crappiest Advent Calendar, which goes this year to the admirable Landmark Information Group, which offers "complete environmental due diligence" (though not, sadly, on the chocolates contained in its calendar, which are noxious). Along with said confectionery, each new day brings a bright new factoid, including: "500,000 homes are on or near toxic waste in the UK"; "Radon is the second highest cause of lung cancer in Britain"; and (our personal favourite) "More than 700,000 households could be affected by past industrial activity around Birmingham". Happy Christmas to you too."

He said it was an example of environmentalism gone mad. I think he might have been hinting that I need to calm down.

In fact I have noticed people acting slightly awkwardly around me lately, a bit like how I am around vegetarians (bristly because I think they're judging me, but at the same time sheepish and apologetic because deep down I know they're right).

While I would like to say they really shouldn't because I'm not here to judge you, the truth is I do inadvertently find myself sizing up friends' houses for green-ness. Ecover washing up liquid by the sink? Brilliant. Need to take my jumper off because it's so hot in there? Hmmm, do they know how wasteful that is? Glass and plastic in the trash? Etc. Then ensues an internal conflict - do I say something or keep schtum?

My tactic has mainly been to direct people here so they'll hopefully be motivated to take action by our fascinating stories, rather than browbeaten into submission. This is partly because I don't want to be seen as a hectoring zealot/smug, self righteous old cow (a bit late for that, I know) but equally because people in uninsulated old wooden houses really shouldn't throw stones (people delight in nailing me on eco-crimes, by the way. For instance, last night I saw my brother for the first time in ages. "You know how it said on your blog that T drives off to get your wine every night around six?" he said, with the look of someone about to move their bishop to check. "I know, you're going to say we should buy a case so we only do one trip every twelve days and save petrol," I pre-empted. "Bingo!" he said gleefully. (Truth is, the hubby needs to get out of the house at least once a day and we live in the middle of nowhere, but I am working on it)).

But sometimes I just can't help myself. Come to think of it, I have even found myself quoting this that I read on the
Seveth Generation website:

A 15 year study in Oregon, comparing women who didn't work outside the home with women who did, found a 54% higher death rate from cancer in the women who stayed home. The study suggested that chronic exposure to cleaning products played a role.

Scarily similar to the advent calendar; oh dear, am already a walking 'harbinger of doom and gloom' cliche. TIme to lighten up. But then, I'd want to know this stuff so I just figure you would too...

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Retracting my previous statements

Oh dear, my appalling math skills have let me down again. Basically when I wrote about switching to wind power recently I said it was cheaper to go direct to Community Energy than to go through ConEd. However now I've done the math, I think I was wrong. Here's my new reckoning, in answer to an email received via the Bowery Babes email group list as to whether NYC peeps are better off going direct to Community Energy or through ConEd:

"From the research I've done I think it's a pretty close run thing but in the long run you're probably slightly better off staying with ConEd and switching to their wind power option. Your alternative is to go direct to community energy, which is the company which supplies ConEd with wind power, but ConEd offers a good deal with them.

Basically, if you go direct to Community Energy, they charge $2.50 per block of 100 KwH (min 2 blocks) and if you go through ConEd they charge 2 cents 50 per KwH - i.e. exactly the same. Both charges are on top of your current electricity charge as renewable energy is more expensive.

However ConEd also offers a $25 sign-up rebate and NY state taxes are waived once you've signed up (this might also be true going direct to Community Energy but am sure would be a pain to organize). You also pay for exactly what you use with ConEd as opposed to having to buy blocks which might be innaccurate.

So from what I know, which of course is not loads, it seems ConEd might be cheaper over the long term (when I wrote my blog on this I actually thought the opposite - but think I was wrong). Community Energy are very nice and easy to deal with, though!"

Sorry. Repeat after me, 2+2=4, 4+4=8....

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Offsetting our carbon

The good thing about having this blog is it's making me feel compelled to actually do all those worthy things I've been thinking and talking about doing for years but hadn't. For example, we flew to the UK last night (lots of fun, flying with a 3 month old baby. Actually she was doing just fine till we had to sit on the tarmac at Heathrow for an hour with Dot restrained by a seat belt, poor little love). I found out it's 3,458 miles one-way from NYC to London, so this morning I went onto and paid $20 to offset 20,000 miles-worth of carbon emissions. You get to choose how they offset the carbon, so I chose reforestation - it's the easiest to get your head round and I like the idea of planting trees (actually I've just realized that I thought I'd totally overbudgeted but that's because I forgot that was a one-way trip till I wrote it down here so I'm about 700 miles short - will plant own trees when we get home to make up for it. Doh).

I really can't believe how easy and cheap it was to do this. Makes me wonder what took me so long.

Right, I have a very important date with a pile of back-issues of my favourite UK gossip mag Grazia to keep before the jetlagged bubba wakes up. Don't worry, they're ones our friend Sally has finished with. So technically this counts as recycling and as such could be considered greening.

Oh, by the way, if you were thinking of getting me the carbon offset for Xmas, no worries - there are plenty of other bad things i do which need offsetting too so it won't go to waste.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Xmas pressies

(Sorry, something up with the formatting again so no links and no text effects, most annoying. Anyway:)

Every green website and blog has done nice features on green Christmas pressies to buy people so I decided to do it differently and just tell you what green pressies I want for Xmas – in case anyone out there was thinking of getting me one (oh, and don’t forget it is my birthday on December 28th too). So here goes:

- I’d love this gadget that turns household waste into logs you can burn. Apparently better than recycling because you make your waste lighter and that reduces the petrol for transporting it. My mother-in-law told me they’re a bit crap but I still fancy giving it a go

- Getting someone a service instead of a thing is much greener. So, I’d like a Brazilian wax, a pedicure and my chimney swept (no, that isn’t a euphemism you naughty people – our wood stove chimney is in need of a clean, and a clean chimney is a more energy efficient one)

- A new jacket – not for me, for the hot water tank

- I’d love someone to do the trees to offset the carbon emissions from our flights to the UK…
…or, on a similar vein, we want to plant a load of conifers along the edge of our land, so trees themselves would be good. Think of all the CO2 our tree-fence would gobble up

- My friend Anna’s store Nest has green goodies I love, like Pangea organic soap – plant the box and flowers grow – and a beautiful minimalist dustpan and brush (weird to be asking for cleaning products but this is made from natural materials by blind people in Sweden and anyway, if you are getting someone a material good, something practical they’ll actually is much greener than some old knickknack they won’t)

- If I had a fairy godfather, I’d ask him for solar panels so we could generate our own eleccy ‘off the grid’ or to have the house insulated with eco-friendly insulation

- I’d love a new pair of Marc Jacobs shoes. Oops, sorry, that just slipped out. Er, scrap that one…

And as for Dot, well, she’s been spoiled so rotten this year she says all she wants for Xmas is her two front teeth. But since she won’t be getting those for a few months yet, I said how about a couple of nice long-sleeved organic cotton onesies and she seemed fine with it.

We’re off to England in the morning so we probably won’t get a chance to post tomorrow, so happy Wednesday, we’ll be back in a day or two. xxx

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The Nest nexus

Dot and I did some good work this weekend. We'd been thinking for some time that we needed to do our bit towards greening our local PA community but were't sure where to start (recycled loo roll in Pecks aside).

Well, our friends Kelly and Anna just opened a lovely shop, Nest, in Narrowsburg (go visit!) and it's turned out to be a bit of a magnet for the local liberal arts contingent. On Saturday night they had an opening party where we managed to get at least three people to listen to our sermon about switching to wind power, had a great conversation with Will (who owns the coffee shop next door to Nest) about making Narrowsburg the first completely solar powered town on the Delaware, and promised an NY-based artist Daria Dorosh ( we'd look into whether such thing as a reliable biodegradeable plastic bag exists (Daria, we're working on it). Daria is also a member of the local nature preservation society (I think - need to confirm!) so all in all we felt we'd met some good contacts.

It all seemed really easy after a couple of glasses of pink champagne. Well, we've made a start and we mean to continue. Mind you, we're off to the UK tomorrow so Dot can hang with her grannies (and her great granny) so upstate greening will have to be on hold till the new year.


Plastic not fantastic

How cool is this? After my post about hanging a hook on the kitchen door for plastic bags (have you done it yet?!) I heard from the fabulously named Truffula Tuft who has a blog entirely dedicated to eliminating plastic bags called, appropropriately enough, No more plastic bags please ( Check it out. Truffula manages to find at one news item related to plastic bags every day - amazing, and pretty salutary. Her blog says 'what's the simplest thing you can do to save a sea turtle, stop the need for oil wars, preserve a river, protect our childrens' future? Bring a reusable bag to the store!' Hear hear, Truffula.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Good Husband

So, I caught the hubby going behind my back.

It's true. When I'm not looking he's been - wait for it - being green. For example, yesterday, I offered to go to the garbage/recycling centre, usually his job. "Oh no," he said, "It takes ages because you have to separate out the glass, metal and plastic [we put all three into one bin]. I'll do it." "What," I asked, taken aback, "So you've been doing that every Saturday for the past eleven months?" "Well, bar once or twice, yes," he said with an air of faux nonchalance. Who knew?

Then this morning, he got back from doing the laundry (see, you're impressed now, aren't you - a hubby who always does the trash and the laundry (today he even did the shower curtains)) and as I passed him unpacking it, I noticed a bottle of the eco laundry detergent they sell at Pecks, which I knew I hadn't bought. I held it up. "Did you buy this?" I asked. "Yes," he replied (that faux nonchalance thing again). "Hm, I'm impressed," I said. "What, you didn't think I'd buy Tide, did you?" he said indignantly. "I'm insulted."

And finally, this evening, after those Huggies we bought (which are nearly all gone at last) had failed to contain yet another of Dot's pant explosions, I said to him, "These Huggies are crap." "Yeah, don't worry, we'll get some Seventh Generation ones in the city tomorrow," he replied. Blimey! I'm hoping my Nature Boy and Girl delivery will arrive, but still.

So I don't know what's got into him, but I like it. Except who will I take the piss out of on this blog if he goes getting all good?

Friday, December 08, 2006

You are out there!

Dear readers, firstly a little thank you. We're now able to see how many site visits we get and it seems we're averaging about 50 at day - really not bad for a new little blog.

However, my and Dot's ambitions are not modest, and we're worried that though 50 good people is amazing, it'll take more than us 50 to save the planet.

So please hassle everyone you know (again) to make sure they're reading. And if you have tips for optimization, send them in. Look, Dot is raring to go:

So let's do it! Thanks gang, we love ya!

Get hooked

I really don't know what's wrong with me. I mean, I care so much about the environment and I know damn well that plastic bags are a bad thing, and yet four out of five times, I'll get to wherever I'm shopping and realize I've left my cool string bags (purchased at a jumble sale), or the plastic ones I've assiduously been accumulating, at home. So I cram as much as I can into my handbag (and when I was still in NYC I was often to be seen crossing 6th ave with a pile of unbagged Citarella items balanced under my chin) or the basket of the baby stroller, but usually end up needing to take a bag or two.

So today I took a tip I found on eco-worrier and hung lots of bags on a hook by the front door. Surely even I won't manage to forget them if they're right there?

To be fair, the farm stand and health food store where I mostly shop up here offer recycled bags, and when I remember, I take along a big pile for them to reuse. But having just accumulated the following factoids, I don't think even the occasional slip is excusable. Check it out:
  • it takes as much petroleum to produce 14 plastic bags as it does to drive a mile (and here's something I didn't know - paper bags take even more) - via Laurie David.
  • plastic bags take 1000 years to decompose - via the EPA
  • only 1% of plastic bags in the US are recycled - via the EPA
  • when one ton of plastic bags is reused or recycled, the energy equivalent of 11 barrels of oil are saved - via the EPA
  • in New York City alone, one less grocery bag per person per year would reduce waste by five million pounds and save $250,000 in disposal costs - via the EPA

Who knew that if we all stopped using placcy bags, we might stand a chance of bringing those troops home from Iraq, among many other benefits? (Until I started this blog, I had no idea how many things I do every day increase our reliance on oil - water bottles, most regular body and face creams, scling film/saran wrap, washing up liquid, buying non-local products and now the grocery bags too.)

So let's just hope I don't fall foul of my own idiot-proof system.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

S'no joke

As I type, my windmill should be brewing up lots of nice zero emission electricity - it's currently 17 farenheit up here (that's about -10C, UK readers), windy and snowing. Snowing, hurrah!

At dusk, we took Dot for a walk to the river. It was snowing gently, the clouds were pale pink and everything was beautifully quiet. We chatted easily about local topics, like what we'd do if a bear attacked while T was wearing the baby bjorn (he'd only planned for the other scenario, in which case he'd fight the bear while we girls backed off slowly then ran for our lives. I suggested he get me a bear bell for Xmas).

Then the wind got up, the temperature went through the floor and we could barely see our way home across the field for snow. T had told me I was being neurotic, bringing the extra baby blanket just in case. He soon changed his tune (I made him acknowledge it, too).

Don't worry, she slept through it all and her little hands were even warm when we got home.

Tilting at Windmills

I'm proud to announce that the Williams Delaney Lethbridge household is now powered entirely by wind. This will come as little surprise to those of you better acquainted with my husband. In fact, you may be wondering what took us so long. Ho ho!

OK, crap jokes aside, I'm feeling extremely smug because after an excellent morning's work, I've converted our house to run entirely on green energy generated by windmills. I'd like to tell you I've got my own one in the back garden, but actually it was easier and much cheaper, if more prosaic, than that.

I got the idea from an email I was sent last month encouraging me to go to www. and sign up, but I was leaving New York and ConEd isn't our supplier up here, and me being of little faith, I was convinced Pennsylvania wouldn't be enlightened enough to offer the option. Well, there I go again with my NY snobbery. After only an hour or so of the type of research I can't normally be bothered with, I was all signed up with the exact same supplier Con Ed uses in NYC, but by going direct to the source, even more cheaply (am becoming a real little Consumer Reports shopper out here. Next thing you know I'll be clipping coupons).

So basically I went to my electricity co (PPL)'s website and learned that since the eleccy industry was deregulated , you can now choose your supplier (you can't change the grid, just the energy source, I think). From there, like a good eco-geek, I clicked through various consumer reports until I figured out that my only green option was to sign up for wind power with
Community Energy.

It says on the website that they charge $2.50 per block of 100 kWh (you have to buy 2 minumum) and that you pay this direct to them on top of your usual eleccy bill. I found this a bit confusing so had to phone them for an explanation. The friendly bloke on the phone did his best. "You buy the power and we tip it into the grid you're connected to," he said. "What, so I'm paying but I don't know if the green stuff is coming to me?" I asked. "Well ma'am, we can't control the electrons, so no," he replied patiently. "Oh," I said, deflated. But then the light dawned. "It's a bit like when you buy those vouchers to offset your carbon emissions from a flight" - which I will do before I head to the UK next week- I said, deciding I quite liked the socialist feel of it all. He confirmed it was something along those lines.

The next step was to figure out how much eleccy we use a month so I'd know how much wind to purchase. I phoned PPL and apparently in the last 30 days we used 351 kWh (compared to a national household average of 500 kWh a month).

So I was going to round down to 300 and buy 3 blocks in anticipation of our reduced consumption, but then I figured that was like buying those size 8 trousers (that's a US size 4 people) before you've been on the diet, and you know damn well they'll be in the cupboard till they go to the charity shop unworn (not to mention being also terribly cheap), so I signed up for 4 blocks of wind, 400KwH, a month, at a total cost of $10. The online calculator let me know this would save 5266lbs of CO2 per month - equivalent, apparently to 4568 miles not driven or 358 trees not planted. Not bad for $10, eh? And really ridiculously easy - though I have to admit that if I was working at the moment, I would probably have given up before I got it all figured out. This being green is a full time job.

But now I've done the figuring out part for you, what's your excuse? Join me, friends! You can do the same thing in most US states (all on
the same site) . If you're in NYC, you can go through ConEd and get a $25 rebate, they waive the NY sales tax and they only charge an extra 2.5 cents per kWh (though I think it's cheaper still to go direct to Community Energy and cut out ConEd). If you do this, by the way, make sure you go for the 'wind only' option because they also offer a 'green power' option which is 60% hydropower and I heard on the radio yesterday they now think hydroelectric damns somehow cause methane to be released into the atmosphere which is even worse for the greenhouse effect than CO2 - bad! Oh, and in the UK you can do the same at

So join me and my windy spouse - if nothing else, it'll also give you endless opportunities to make truly appalling jokes. (and by the way, if you do, please would you let us know? Would be good to keep track of any +ve changes made as a result of this blog. One day I'll figure out how to have a running tally on the site - the opposite of naming and shaming. Also please share this tip with anyone and everyone you know. Think how much CO2 we could save.)

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Happy birthday for yesterday Emily, love Dot

Or, me looking for any excuse to post a picture of Dottie looking cute.

Mother's Ruin

Dot is an extremely easy baby. She sleeps for nine hours straight at night (she said, tempting fate), she almost never cries and she's generally speaking a smiley, giggly, scrumptious little thing. But even so, by the end of a day keeping her happy, mummy is jonesing for the one (ish) glass of wine a breastfeeding woman is allowed. So around 6 o'clock most evenings, T offers to hop in the car and pop to Michael's wine shop in Narrowsburg to pick me up a nice bottle of red.

Tonight I wanted to drop in on my friend Anna who's just opened a fantastic store, Nest, there (you'll here more about this anon but basically it's a fantastic assortment of home stuff, toiletries, clothes, books, linens, candles etc. and lots of it is either fairtrade or organic. Dangerous), so I thought I'd go to the wine shop myself. I also had my own agenda: I wanted to see whether Michael stocked organic wine.

Why? Well, last week, I sudennly realized that wine is really heavy so is probably horrendous from a carbon dioxide perspective, especially since we live nowhere near the places our wine is produced (you UK readers are fine - France is just across the pond). So I figured if I was boycotting Mexican Butternut squash, it was a bit hypocritical not to give up the Auzzie and French vino too (god this being good is a Pandora's box).

So we'd been sticking to the slightly less long haul Californian stuff, but I figured we could do better and last night got on Google. I discovered there were in fact a couple of vineyards within 60 miles of here (one in Hunter in the Catskills) so was planning a nice little tasting day trip today, till I discovered they're closed for the week - bummer! Undaunted, I decided to research organic wines. Since organic farming uses half the energy of traditional methods (via Ideal Bite), I figured the same had to apply to viticulture, and apparently I was right (I can't find the evidence now, must have been that glass of wine going to my head so you'll just have to trust me on this).

Hence the Narrowsburg mission. Michael didn't look impressed when I told him what I was after. But to my surprise, he graciously showed me his selection of five organic reds. He said he had them because some people are allergic to the sulphates in normal wine. He shrugged when I asked what he'd recommend - clearly not his favourite section of the store; we settled on Oreleans Hill, a Californian Zinfandel with a hippy-ish label. Thought that way I could do a fun taste-test with the remainder of last night's Zin when I got home (listen, you have to make your own fun in Milanville and oh god, I am turning into my parents). To add insult to injury, I then tried to bring up the topic of local vineyards. Michael was having none of it. "When your palate gets used to a certain calibre of wine, it's hard to go back," he said. "Your husband and I have very similar taste." Which I took to mean, 'if that's what you call wine, you should leave the wine choosing to the men next time love'. Fair enough, good wine is his business but saving the planet is mine, so I'm prepard to try anything once. Well, almost. And you have to agree it's impressive he even had the stuff at all.

I brought Anna and her husband Kelly by and we had our little tasting. The verdict? Oh god, how do you write about wine without sounding like a pretentious twat? Er, in a blind test, I reckon I'd pick the non-organic. But it really isn't half bad and apparently you don't get hangovers from it. So I'll keep working my way through the selection and keep you posted.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Fiery Furnaces

I'm not big on basements, especially ours which is small, dark, cobwebby, full of strange junk belonging to the previous owner and reminiscent of nothing so much as a scene from Silence of the Lambs. That's why I've been putting off implementing a top tip for energy efficiency I'd read about in a number of places: cleaning the filter on your heating furnace once a month. But it's getting awfully chilly up here so I figured today was the day to seize the basement by the horns.

Over breakfast I told the hubby my plan. "I'm going to clean the filter on the furnace," I said. "Right," he said, "And do you know what that means?" (In England we have electric central heating, so I've never come across a furnace before. Neither, evidently, had he). "No," I replied gamely, "But I'm about to find out."

As soon as Dot went down for her lunchtime nap I grabbed the torch. I approached the basement trapdoor. Then I went and got the hubby (let's call him T from now on) to hold my hand. He sighed and acquiesced.

After we'd hacked our way through the cobwebs (not really) we looked at the furnace. T started pulling bits of metal off it. None looked filter-ish. Then he found a bit of dark green meshy stuff which did. It was slightly dusty, so i took it outside and bashed it about a bit. And that was it.

I find it hard to believe that this will increase the efficiency of our furnace by up to 10% but there we go. At least I tried.

While I was replacing the filter, I also turned the hot water heater down a notch or two. Apparently this too is an easy way to save fuel. After six years in Manhattan apartments it's novel to be able to control your own heat and water. If it weren't for the basement, I might be tempted to twiddle my knobs more often. If you see what I mean...

I did notice though that although we're doing our little bit for the planet, certain other people are not doing theirs. Apparently the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, 'Smokey' Joe Barton (Republican from Texas - mm, surprise!), says he's going to continue to block any attempts by the Democrats to place mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions because he says the global warming science is 'shaky' (from "Barton added, “But for us to try to step in and say we have got to do all these global things to prevent the Earth from getting any warmer in my opinion is absolute nonsense. It’s not going to happen.”" Gosh, he sounds lovely and also jolly clever.

You might say it makes banging a filter about in the back garden seem a bit futile, but he and his ilk will only encourage littlegreendot and me to redouble our efforts.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

She's not called littlegreendot for nothing...

Here's Dot earning her green stripes by washing up in the washing up bowl using the Ecover washing up liquid:

What? She's 3 months old now - that's quite old enough to be helping out with household chores. You have to earn your pocket money round here.

Since I have this pic, I may as well use it as a way to put in a plug for using eco-friendly washing-up liquid. If just being all cuddly and nice isn't motivation enough for you, how about undermining George Bush and his oil buddies?; this from the Seventh Generation website:

"If every household in the U.S. replaced just one 25 oz. bottle of petroleum based dishwashing liquid with our vegetable based product, we could save 118,700 barrels of oil, enough to heat and cool 6,800 U.S. homes for a year."

To take away the nasty taste of that preaching, and apropos of nothing, here's Dot rowing her chair across the kitchen table using wooden spoons. (No prizes for guessing who came up with this brilliant way to keep himself amused.)

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Festive Cheer

I'm struggling to stave off a cold that's threatening to lay me low so to cheer myself up, I decided to get going on the eco-friendly Christmas decorations. First some pine branches from the garden rigged up on the front door with a piece of ribbon recycled from last year:

We also fashioned a 'tree' from those felled treetops I mentioned I'd spotted down the road. The hubby hacked a few branches off with his axe, tied them together with string and suspended them from the ceiling. Dot seems not to have noticed the difference and we're pretty chuffed with the results:

Don't worry, we're rationing ourselves to two hours a day for the lights (I'll be keeping an eye on that light-happy husband of mine; I've also replaced the most-used bulbs in the house with the eco-friendly variety (nb Damian) which should offset any incremental power and they're in place of the lamp usually in that corner of the room - ah, the debit/credit eco-reckoning we go through...). Am feeling rather smug about the whole thing: no trees cut down especially, no transport required to get the tree to us (all materials collected on foot), no new decorations to add to the plastic in the world and no Canadian person on 6th avenue charging you $60 for a tree that comes up to your kneecaps. Brilliant! Also because I live in the country, I'll be able to easily compost the tree (though if you live in the city you can take trees to lots of the parks and to the Union Square greenmarket for mulching. I know it's a pain but it'll help you feel purified after all the seasonal excesses).

Now, you'll notice the tree has little in the way of decorations (besides some origami cranes my Mum made last year). That's because when I opened up the bag of decorations, I found them all covered in sticky mouse droppings - and an empty bag where a forgotten Christmas cookie from last year had been. How the hell do they find these things? So I guess it's time to come clean on the mouse front (and please don't hate me): the hubby put down posion. Lots of it. In fact he kept putting it down, and it kept going which leads us to believe we were dealing with an army of the little blighters. Well, they've gone now. RIP Mice of Milanville. I just wonder for how long I'm going to continue to stumble upon pleasant reminders of our cohabitation...

As for the decorations, like a good eco-worrier I haven't thrown them out: I have them soaking in warm soapy water with a few drops of tea tree oil to disinfect them.

And just before I move off the topic of festive stuff, I must give a big shout out to Paul, Tara and the gang who made sure we had a totally organic Thanksgiving. The turkeys might have left you bankrupt but they were worth it. A belated thanks kids!

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Wot no loo roll

The hubby just checked and there's no recycled loo roll in Pecks as yet. Hm, I'll have to stop by tomorrow and find out what's up.

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Is there anybody out there?

We do love getting your comments - it makes us feel like we're not just talking to ourselves. So for today's entry, we're going to address a bit of reader feedback. Fun!

Firstly, further to my grievance with the village store customers over idling versus cutting the engine, a couple of readers responded to query and whether it wasn't in fact worse for the planet to stop and start the car. My initial reaction was to thank them for saving me from an awkward conversation with a man who kills bears with his bare hands (well, almost), mind me own business and get back to me cup of tea. But then I thought, no, that would be lazy, I really need to do my homework.

So I googled it. Luckily a blogger in Hiroshima recently dealt with exactly this conundrum. And, Alexena and Anonymous (who are you? reveal yourself!), his extremely thorough research overwhelmingly suggests idling bad, stopping and starting good. In fact, so insidious is idling thought to be that in Japan, they ran a whole public service campaign to stop idling (Canada and Oregon are doing the same). Here's their natty poster:

Do you think I should print it off and stick on the railings outside the shop? I'd be doing them a favour because apparently idling not only wastes fuel and harms the environment, it's actually bad for the engine!

While I was at it, I could also give them my Grandpa's top petrol-saving tip: coast down hills in neutral and only stick the thing in gear when it's about to give up on the upward slope (he nicknamed his Ford Capri Rollscnardly - rolls down hills, cnardly get up the other side). I'm sure I'd make their day.

Next up: eco-friendly Xmas cards for those relatives who don't understand the e-card thing. Alex, I hope this isn't too late to be of any use to you. A lot of eco-friendly cards are a bit naff but with a bit of help from Ideal Bite and Google, I came up with the following:

  • Greene Sreet Greetings: cool vintage photo cards, whiter than white credentials (100% post-consumer paper, soy-based inks, carbon-free messenger delivery optional) and
  • Girly Whirly: cute, 20-30% post-consumer recylced materials (if you're wondering, post-consumer is better than plain old recycled). Very Alexena, I reckon
  • Kid Bean grow-a-note: not so keen on the designs but not only are they all handmade from post-consumer recycled stuff, you can also plant them in the garden when you're done and they grow onto poppies and cornflowers. Lovely!
  • Speak Peace cards: recycled paper, PEACE spelled in sign language on the front, proceeds to kids who are hard of hearing.

So there we go. By the way, here's a stat for you: if the Chrissy cards sold in just one year in the UK and US were laid end to end they'd stretch round the world 54 times. Who the hell is sending all these cards? I'm so disorganised I barely get round to sending one to my Gran. Still, at least this year I can plead ideology - think of the trees!

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Visions of our future?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Other cities make me feel like a dork

I love New York. There’s nothing like the view of the New York City skyline as you approach it at night. Whenever I’ve been away, even if only for a day, I still get butterflies when I catch sight of the skyscrapers all lit up. My favourite is the view as you approach from JFK, down the BQE, across the Williamsburg bridge; this gives you the iconic perspective immortalized in the opening credits of so may TV shows and movies. Blah blah blah blimey, and clearly New York is also the city that makes me take myself far too seriously, because I was about to come out with some pithy epithet like ‘but the city that never sleeps is also the city that’s bleeding the planet dry’. Ahem.

Anyway, as we greenies retreated up the West Side Highway tonight after a wonderful two-day whistle-stop visit, I was overcome with ambivalence, half misty-eyed about my fab city, half thinking how bad all those lights needlessly left on are for the planet. (Were any of you around in that big blackout in 03? It was creepy. Made you realize how much New York kind of is electricity. I lived on the 11th floor and had to walk up and down the emergency exit stairwell lit only by a tea light (talk about claustrophobia). I had no water because the water was pumped up to my apartment by an electric pump (nothing to drink, no shower in August heatwave, couldn’t flush the loo – yuk). Of course no AC or fans, no phone, and I had no money and couldn’t get any because the ATMs were out, so I couldn’t buy water or food. Mental. But the weirdest thing was the skyline just disappeared.)

So I would really love it if New Yorkers would get better at turning the lights off. But the question is, would it still be New York if we did?

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