Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
I've found a great way to get the hubby to stop driving everywhere every five minutes on spurious errands which could be consolidated to save fuel: get the car engine to blow up so you're stranded in your country cottage in a snowstorm and 20 degree temperatures.
Brilliant, eh? He hasn't driven anywhere all day.
He did, however, cycle to Narrowsburg and back on his BMX in said 20 degree temperatures to pay a check into the bank and collect the mandatory bottle of red (interesting the one he picked is eco-friendly, non-GMO and biodiesel-fueled - fantastic stuff) . That's an 18 mile round trip through the foothills of the Catskill mountains on a bike with no gears. Impressive.
And yesterday, when it was 'real feel' -8 degrees F and the car blew up stranding him halfway between here and Narrowsburg with no coat and no gloves, he actually jogged the five or so miles home (he apologized for having to jettison my cappuccino along the way - his hands were too cold to hold it).
Who knew he was even capable of such athleticism? Though I have a feeling that come tomorrow, he won't even be able to walk.
But he'll have to because we're taking Dot baby sledging (it's beautiful out there now, a veritable winter wonderland).
By the way, further to yesterday's post about eco-sexuals, the hubby stormed into the bathroom this morning. "If I'd known then what I know now you woldn;t have been in with much of a chance, either," he said with a flounce. Fair enough, I suppose, but I know he doesn't really mean it.
A round-up of interesting stuff I came across today
The Bush administration is being investigated for pressuring scientists to cover up evidence of global warming.
Glaciers are melting faster than ever
It's definitive: global warming is now cool, if you see what I mean. Especially if you get a bunch of pop stars together to release a record the lyrics of which are from a never-before-seen poem Jim Morisson wrote in a nostradamus-esque forshadowing of what's going on right now, man. A bit more info on this here. These guys' efforts make ours look pretty tame.
Oh yeah, and I only just noticed this: Bush wants scientists to develop giant mirrors to bounce the sun's rays back into space and release dust into the atmosphere to block them out. Because then, like we could just all carry on doing exactly what we're doing now, only under a cloud of black smoke, and everything will be fine, yo.
Excuse me. I think I might just have to go and break something.
The postman always delivers two parcels
You have got to be kidding me...
According to a 46 country AC Neilsen study, 13% of Americans said they had never heard or read anything about global warming
13%? Who are these people? Where have they spent the last 5 or 10 years?
And of 46 countries, America was the least concerned about global warming.
The US releases 25 % of the world's greenhouse gases.
Is it possible these pieces of information are related?
Labels: global warming
Monday, January 29, 2007
Pics as promised
Are you an ecosexual?
Our trendspotting friend Richard shared this article with us about an emerging new social group - ecosexuals. Ecosexuals are people who judge potential dates according to the greeness of anything from their eating habits to their deodorant and are likely to dump them when they realize their date shops at Safeway not Wholefoods.
I reckon I'm a definite ecosexual but the hubby I'd call more of an ecanderthal. It's lucky for him he met me before this green thing had really taken hold; if I'd known then what I know now (both about green stuff and his relative eco-unfriendliness) he'd never have got past first base.
Speaking of judging people according to their deodorant, I decided last week it was about time to eschew the Mitchum in favor of something a little more eco-friendly. I was hesitant for three reasons: firstly because on the sweat/perspire/gently glow continuum I rank closer to the horse end; secondly because I've heard they're a bit crap and they're deodorants not anti-perspirants (not a big fan of wet patches, me); and thirdly because one of the less-well publicized side-effects of becoming a mummy is that your pheromones ramp up so the baby can easily sniff you in a crowd, an inconvenient side-effect of which is that the rest of the crowd can easily sniff you too (I wake up every morning ponging like an old tramp which at least gives me a big incentive to jump into the freezing 3-minute shower). But, you know, in for a penny, so I bought myself a stick of Tom's of Maine long-lasting calendula deodorant last week and have been trying it out ever since.
It was actually going quite well. The Tom's smells really nice and to be honest it did as good a job as the Mitchum had been, so although by the morning I'm still a bit less than daisy-fresh, at least I'm not slathering chemicals all over an area it just occurred to me is a bit scarily close to the boobs Dot's drinking from several times a day.
Then yesterday, out of the blue, about 30 seconds after I'd applied it, my armpits started really stinging. In fact, it was more like burning. It died down, but then I reapplied after a shower last night (I'd been doing yoga with Dot) and I could barely sleep for the burning. Same again this morning, so bad I ended up washing it off and going barepit today - ouch! So I guess I'm going to have to swear off it.
Of course, just to torture myself, now I can no longer use it, I decided to look into whether conventional deodorants are in fact at all dangerous; I had a feeling I'd read they were linked to breast cancer and sure enough when I Googled it, that was the case. The evidence is far from conclusive - one study found a link, another did not, read about it here - and the link was found between Parabens (chemicals thought to cause an increase in oestrogen all sorts of probs that go with that) and breast cancer cells grown in test tubes rather than people, but really, is it worth the risk? I think not.
Guess I'll have to see if Tom's has a sensitive skin variant and try again, then.
I also found this recipe for homemade deodorant on a UK website:
Grind: ½ tsp
1 tsp myrrh
1 TBS coriander seeds
1 tsp cassia
2 TBS lavender
1 tsp thyme with a pestle and mortar. Use under arms as a deodorant. Some skins are sensitive to dried herbs so test a little first.
Er, anyone know where I can get me some myrrh?
PS there's some prob uploading pics today - will try again in a sec. Sorry to disappoint!
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Anonymous please stand up
As we've mentioned before, we really love getting your comments. But we much prefer it when we know who they're from. Today we received the following comment from an anonymous reader (in full):
"Hello, I have to say I agree with so much of what you say. HOWEVER, you are very extreme and I think that you need to come down to reality QUITE A BIT. Please don't disregard what I am saying, everyhting here is helpfull but if you are going to be green you need to be balanced which It seems you are not. CALM DOWN and BREATH.... A-lot of your suggestions don't seem to work out. you need to be a bit more realistic and live life not being consumed by your eco-paranoia. Why don't you spend some time donating money to helping children in Africa rather than consuming your time writing trivial crap about scrubbing your oven and sratching your face with apple vinegar. You need to get back to the city and blow your wad in Barneys."So Mum says to tell you she's gone shopping and its up to me to write today's trivial crap... ...I'm still thinking about what to write. Lots of love, Dot xxx
Showers and Shops
The hubby came into the bedroom Friday morning. "It's exactly 0 degrees [F] outside," he announced, rubbing his hands together with glee (we Brits are still suckers for this extreme US weather). I, on the other hand, was thinking about the freezing cold 3 minute shower I was about to have to take.
I prized myself from under the warm duvet and scuttled to the bathroom, asking the hubby if he'd time me while I was in there. "I'm not allowed to be in the shower for more than 3 minutes to save water," I said.
"Well, about bloody time," he started, clearly about to launch into a tirade. "Talk about a waste of water. You..."
"Yes, yes, I know," I interrupted. "I take long showers and that's bad and you're a saint, it's all on the blog." I thought to myself, this blog is great - we no longer need to actually have arguments; I can just direct the hubby online to read about why he's wrong (although on this occasion of course he's not).
I hopped into the (lovely, warm) shower and started lathering up. I washed and rinsed the shower gel off, then washed my face. As I was finishing that, the hubby announced my first minute was up. This wasn't going too badly; I'd had plenty of time so far. Then I shaved my armpits. "Two minutes," yelled the hubby. This was easy. As it wasn't a hair-washing day, I was practically done. However I could see that I would've seriously struggled to get my hair washed and conditioned within the time limit so decided that, rather than languish in the shower for my full time quota, I'd save the remainder to put towards a longer shower on a hair-washing day.
I grudglingly turned the tap of with my foot. "Finished," I shouted.
"2 minutes 40 seconds," came the reply, as I hopped up and down with the towel wrapped around me. I rushed back to the bedroom to moisturize and dress myself in the relative warmth of Dot's radiator.
I haven't timed myself since because we went to New York Friday afternoon to check out an apartment in Park Slope. We really liked the apartment, which is upstairs from our friends Greg, Sarah and Dot's mate baby Peggy (she's a littlegreenpeg and gave Dot this giraffe which she's barely taken out of her mouth since).But more exciting to me than living on the gorgeous 1st floor of a brownstone was the prospect of living one block from, and consequently becoming members of, the famous Park Slope Food Coop.
Apparently set up in 1973 (the year I was born; does this account for my neo-hippy tendencies?) the coop is a mostly organic and fair trade supermarket you have to join before you can shop, and every member has to work two days a month in the store, whether stacking shelves, balancing the books or cleaning out the chicken coops (actullay I don't know if they have chicken coops, but anyway). Sounds like heaven to moi. I think we'll take it.
Labels: conserving water
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Thanks so much to those of you who sent feedback on what works, what you liked, etc. Turns out your fave thing is pictures of Dot. And there I was thinking you were logging on for my scintillating eco advice and dazzling wit. Ah well, whatever it takes, but you'll have to wait till the end for the pic. What? I have to get you to read on somehow...
Some readers sent me their best tips (the formatting here has gone bonkers and am too tired to spend any more time figuring out why - soz):
- from Penny: "try washing soda crystals to clean waste pipes from basins and sinks and to clean wash hand basins and baths. It is very effective and does not contain bleach, phosphates or enzymes" [I haven't found any yet, but will keep trying]
- from Looby: "I must recommend
What can I say? I love showers. I know I should be keeping showers short, switching the water off while I soap up and shampoo, and buying an eco-friendly shower head (this I will do when I have some cash) but the fact is our bathroom is fer-eezing at this time of year (no heating in there of any kind. In a wooden house in the mountains! And it's 9 degrees F out there right now!!) and the shower is the rare bit of me-time luxury I get these days (forget pedicures and massages, I now remember even uninterrupted brazilian waxes fondly). And so, every morning I take my dressing gown off, shivering, promising myself this will be the day I start short showers, and then I get under that lovely hot water and I just cave in and stand there, immobilized, for just one more minute, just one more minute....Fortunately it's about then that I hear (or think I hear) a little someone squeaking and I turn the shower off and hastily dry myself and get myself dressed.
To be fair, for the last year or so in our overheated New York apartment, and especially in the summer, I really was turning the water off while I washed my hair; it's just at the moment I can't face it. And at least I rarely succumb to the temptation of a bath. But every time I get out of the shower, I know I've been bad. I wait for the hubby to pick me up on it (this is one place where he, having very little hair to wash and therefore being a very efficient showerer, could claim the mroal high ground) but he never does.
But now you know. And now I've told you I guess I have to do something about it. Apparently 3 minutes is the optimum. I'll start timing myself tomorrow, the coldest day of the winter so far.
God, my timing is off.
Now, in reward for your patience, here's the promised pic: in her littlegreendot suit and matching socks, knitted by her grandma:
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
As you all know, I'm trying to buy as few new clothes as possible, just as I'm trying to buy as little new everything else as I can. Let me tell you this hasn't been easy.
This morning though as I was pulling my favourite Marc Jacobs jeans out of the wardrobe I noticed to my horror a threadbare patch just gone through to a hole in the crotch. Oh no, diaster! Environment aside, not only can I not afford new jeans right now, but these have only just got really perfect - which is when jeans always start to fall apart.
So imagine my delight when, browsing one of my fave green blogs Eco Street, I found this entry about a company in NYC, denim therapy, which reconstructs your jeans for about $20 a pop. I am so sending mine in, along with my all-time favourite Calvins which I've been hanging on to in the vain hope that something like this might happen one day (you see, they could have been in landfill by now, but thanks to my complete inability to throw any clothes away ever, they will now find new life).
I love this - is a great antidote to the awful disposable fashion thing we've all got ourselves into. As you know, I love Top Shop at least as much as the next girl but make do and mend is surely the wave of the future. To this end, this week I've also customised a charity shop tunic for Dot and reviewed the bags of clothes under my bed and resurrected a few items. Applying the same principal to home furnishings, I've also updated some curtains for our living room with lovely red and white striped ribbon the hubby bought in the UK - pics soon. Beats buying a whole new set, anyway. Am now on the lookout for an old blanket or bit of fabric to turn our bedroom curtains into blackout blinds to make Dot's daytime naps a bit less of a struggle. Will let you know what I dig up.
Oh dear. Not yet 9am and already an eco row in the Delaney Lethbridge household. Basically, Wednesday is dump day (as is Saturday) - we don't have garbage collection - so on Wednesdays the hubby has to drive to the dump to get rid of our trash and do the recycling. An early starter, he usually has this done and dusted while I'm still upstairs with Dot.
This morning, however, Dot and I were at the kitchen table as he readied himself. Out of the corner of one eye I sudennly noticed that not just the garbage, but also the plastic and even paper recycling were being thrown in black plastic sacks (one for each type of waste). Since the plastic was already in a plastic bag and the paper in a paper bag, it was pretty obvious to me that the additional bags were completely unneccessary. Not only that, but since he tied about eight knots in the top, these bags were not going to be reusable.
I couldn't let it pass. "What is the point of that bag?" I said crossly.
"Well, the bag in the bin is full, and I need to combine it all so I don't have to do three trips to the car" he said.
It's pretty cold outside, granted, but still, the car is a grand total of about 10 feet from the front door. This didn't strike me as a brilliant excuse. Garbage is one thing, but recycling? Basically, a whole huge bin liner was being used simply to double wrap and transport the paper and/or plastic 10 feet, then being chucked. Was it just me, or was this completly inexcusable? He'd obviously been carrying on like this for months, and had I not got my arse out of bed a bit earlier than usual this morning, would have continued on indefinitely.
"I do then throw the bags into the recycling," he said defensively.
"Yes, but you can't recycle plastic bags," I sighed. "Do you know what 200 bin liners a year in landfill looks like? If you didn't tie those knots you could at least reuse the bags every week - that would be better."
"What, reuse the bag that's been used for the plastic recycling that has dirty bottles and beer cans in it?" he said scornfully.
"Well you're supposed to be washing them out before you throw them," I said not meaning to catch him out, but really.
I knew exactly what was coming next.
"Alright then, YOU take over dump duties."
Ah yes, that old chestnut. "Well I will if I have to, but how hard is it really?" I said resignedly. "I'm not saying all this to be annoying, I'm saying it because it's really important."
He strode out of the room in a huff. I sat there wondering why it is that I still have to tell him this stuff. I mean, this is not a stupid husband (I don't think...). Could he not see the complete wantonness of using a bag just to get the paper from the bin to the car in one trip instead of two? Or am I just an evil wife making up excuses to nag my poor well-meaning husband (let's face it, I'd rather not be the one heading out to the dump in the freezing cold to dispose of Dot's dirty - albeit biodegradable - nappies).
Two minutes later he came back.
"Alright, well now I know what I'm supposed to do I'll do it differently next time," he said. "But there are limits."
"No, there are no limits," I replied firmly.
"Grrr, bloody green goddess," he said in a tone which implied 'you are impossible', and swept off to the dump.
While he was out I received an email from a friend of Sally's (she of carry-a-bag fame) who lives at this amazing eco-community in Ithaca, upstate NY not a million miles from here.
I forwarded the link to the hubby with a note saying, "At least I'm not making you live here."
He got back and read his email. "I'd actually quite like to live there," he said.
Weird. He'd really have to brush up his act or he'd have many more people than me nagging him there.
Actually might be quite good for our marriage to let someone else be the baddie for a change. Maybe I'll look into it...
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Cheating, AKA accidental greening
I love accidental greening - when I realize I've done something green but without really meaning to.
Like today. It got to around noon and the cupboard looked a bit bare, but I figured I could conjure some pretty passable burritos from a packet of tortillas that had been lurking in the fridge for weeks, a tin of black beans, a frozen tub of fresh salsa and the organic avocados which had been ripening on the kitchen windowsill. A squeeze of lime that was lying around and a carton of sour cream from the village store and we were in business.
My sloppy housekeeping caught up with me again this evening (still haven't entirely got the hang of this weekly shop thing; old NY habits die hard). As the hubby picked me and Dot up from our walk on his way home from Narrowsburg, I realized I'd forgotten to ask him to grab something for supper while he was there. Because of the petrol implications there was no way I was going to ask him to go back. Luckily he remembered we had some pasta and fresh puttanesca sauce left over from the other night, so that was supper.
What's so green about this? I'd managed to hoodwink the hubby into a meat-free day without his noticing (what is it with men and meat?). And, per Ideal Bite, eating no meat is so much better for the environment. To wit:
- It takes 300 gallons of water per day to produce the food in a vegetarian diet, while a meat-eating diet requires more than 4000 gallons of water per day
- A vegan’s diet consumes just 219 gallons of oil per year, while a vegetarian diet uses 303, and a meat-eater's uses 401
- If the USA reduced meat consumption by 10%, we would free more than 12 million tons of grain a year – enough to feed 60 million people
For her part, Dot's decided to subsist solely on a diet of the New Scientist:
Oh damn, I better go - I think I just missed the one line dedicated to 'global climate change' in the president's hour-long State of the Union address - the first time he's ever mentioned it. Wait, here it is, courtesy of thinkprogress.org:
He mentions it in order to scare us even more about the bloody terrorists. Plus ca change...
Bush said: “For too long our nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And
this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists
who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments … raise the price of oil … and
do great harm to our economy.”
Monday, January 22, 2007
Am trying to include pics every day. These are not especially exciting but Dot fans will appreciate nonetheless. In the first Dot looks a bit worried by the fact the garden's gone all white. Note the lovely cardi her granny knitted her (am sure homemade clothes are v. eco-friendly).
The second is Dot looking bonkers after her bath in her organic merino wool PJs (these can be found on one of my fave organic baby sites Nature Baby (full disclosure: it's in New Zealand so the air miles incurred almsot certainly negate the good done by buying organic wool clothes. But you'll have to let me off because I got the stuff before I knew about all this)). See? Bonkers. Bless her.
Labels: green baby
I know you're a bit of a coy lot when it comes to the comments (come on, what did you think of that ad I posted yesterday? Anyone?) but am going to ask you a favour - could you step forward and let me know what your favourite green activity of ours to date has been please, and/or which if any you have done too (after reading about it)?
Just wondering as someone has asked me about which green tips people actually find inspiring and achievable.
It would really help us you know. Cheers readers. We love ya.
Last night as I was getting ready for bed the hubby came into the bathroom.
"It smells like a fish and chip shop in here. What are you doing?" he said. Then, looking at the grotty old bottle of Shure Fine apple cider vinegar on the counter, "And what's this doing in here?"
"Well, I read on a website of alternative home remedies that it's good for acne, so I'm using it to wash my face," I replied.
"You are joking, right?" he said.
I shook my head.
"There are limits, surely you have to draw the line somewhere," he said.
I guess from my expression he gathered I didn't agree.
"Fine, suit yourself," he said, "but I'm not coming anywhere near you."
But in fact, the smell was indeed so strong and so reminiscent of a fish supper that I had to rinse my face before I went to bed.
I gave it another go this morning. It stung as I applied it with an organic cotton wool ball (purchased in wal Mart, would you believe?) and by lunchtime my face was red and blotchy.
Maybe the middle of a cold snap in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains in a house heated by a fire and forced air is neither the time nor the place to be experimenting with extremely drying facial treatments, even if they are sort of eco friendly (especially since my hands are still like sandpaper from Saturday's cider vinegar oven door debacle). I'll give it one more try tonight and see how it goes. But otherwise I'll be sticking to my Neutrogena Healthy Skin facewash, of which I have almost a full bottle to use up.
By the way, I had been planning to blog about the following today: we do our laundry at the Narrowsburg Laundromat and Carwash (there seems to be some fascination with combining the two round here. I have to admit it's a good idea - wash your car while you wait for the laundry to spin). I was tempted to have a go myself yesterday but given that the 'real feel' temperature was 8 F (that's apparently -13C) and I was on a very windy patch of riverbank, I decided to leave it for the hubby to take care of. I also remembered that using a hose to wash the car was singularly wasteful and that I could achieve the same result at home using a bucket and sponge. So then I decided I'd do that at home today and blog about it, and went to bed feeling very pleased with myself.
Well, you can tell I grew up in England, not the aforementioned foothills of the Catskill mountains. Today we awoke to a sprinkling of snow and the thermometer hasn't crept above 22F all day. Leave aside the very real prospect of frostbite I'd incur if I'd gone ahead with the plan; I'd also have turned the driveway and road outside into a skating rink.
So the car will have to live with it's coating of salt for another few days. And we may have to settle for eco-unfriendly car washing till things warm up a bit.
So maybe I do draw the line somewhere, after all.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Where the Hell is Matt?
Just because it'll make you smile: this bloke just got Wrigleys to pay him to do this. How cool is that? Find out more at www.wherethehellismatt.com
Chocolate as a political statement - brilliant
You might have noticed a higher than average number of pictures of Dot today. I don't want you to think that's because I'm trying to distract you from the fact that we haven't really done anything green. Ahem.
In fact, the greenest thing we've done is to stock up on Green and Black's Organic 70% dark chocolate and eat it. Yum. I've decided this counts. Just think of the pesticides not going into the ground. Plus, it's fairtrade - find out more at greenandblacks.com.
Actually I can't believe we've got this far into the blog without me mentioning Green and Black's. I love the stuff. Eating it is the green (but not black) thing I've been doing longest.
In fact, I'm more or less addicted. I've always been a dark chocolate girl (although the G&B milk is pretty good too) and for me, this is the one, although I was nearly persuaded to switch when I got a mouthful of another type of organic dark chocolate while I was in the UK - Montezuma's. It was smoother and creamier than the G&B but didn't have that bitter edge I love. And since you can't get it here, and since my friend Anna has started stocking G&B at Nest in Narrowsburg down the road (oh dear), I'll be sticking with it.
Actually, as an aside, I was thinking it was really interesting how widely G&B is now available - a bit like Horizon milk and Ben and Jerry's ice cream, it's everywhere. Turns out, per their website, they were recently acquired by Cadbury Schweppes - which explains it.
But anyway, it is a bit of a double whammy - chocolate being so yummy and also good for the planet. Turning vice into virtue etc.
And just before I go to bed, I've also come up with another green-ish thing to do involving the apple cider vinegar which didn't go into cleaning the oven. According to this home remedies site (for which I have to thank Bowery Babe Katya) apparently it's great for acne, and since my skin seems to have decided to take a turn for the worse lately, I'm going to give it a try. I have a feeling it'll have a similar effect to the homemade face packs Emily and I made when we were 11 (we misread the instructions - it called for a teaspoon of lime juice and we thought it said tablespoon. Ouch) but I guess it's no different from a salicylic or glycolic acid treatment, except much cheaper.
I'll try not to think too hard about the fact that I just used this to get the really stubborn baked on brown crap off my oven door.
For those of you who like your daily fix of Dot, here she is, having lunch in an organic cafe in Andes (in the Catskills, not S. America), then going for a walk in the woods in Patagonia (her smurf suit, not S. America, ha ha). By the way, these terrible S. America jokes are courtesy of the hubby. He made me write them. He thinks he's really funny. At least his daughter's cute, eh?
What do you all think of this ad?
Would love to know what you all think of this. Can you add comments, please? (Full disclosure: made by people I know)
There have been complaints about a recent lack of Dot pictures so I'll try to post her daily. Here she is this morning - note the organic wool hat and bib, the charity shop trousers and er, the Zara cardi and pressie Ugg boots....
Also we recycled that sofa but putting a couple of throws over it. Nice, eh?
You see, I can justify anything if I try hard enough.
Labels: green baby
Saturday, January 20, 2007
This is good
Tesco (UK supermarket) is going to introduce a carbon footprint label on each of its products "so that so that shoppers can compare carbon costs in the same way they can compare salt content and calorie counts". Very handy - hope the US follows suit some time soon. From the Guardian.
The hubby had to nip to the city for work yesterday which meant Dot and I were stranded at the cottage without a car. I used to be vehemently anti-vehicle but when you live somewhere like this, I hate to say it but it’s more or less essential. Without one, Dot and I had to find a way to entertain ourselves using only those resources to hand.
Fortunately my old mate Catherine saved the day by emailing me a long and detailed article from the Guardian (UK newspaper) about homemade cleaning products (you can read it here). This day seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally get round to our long-awaited experiment.
Nothing if not ambitious, we began with the oven - people were coming for dinner and I’d been noticing how filthy the oven door was getting (where do those revolting brown drips come from?). The article said to mix a paste of salt, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar, so we did, although cider vinegar had to stand in for the white that was called for (I can’t imagine it makes any difference). The concoction fizzed in the manner of a GCSE chemistry experiment when the vinegar went in - definitely more fun than just squirting a bottle of something. I spread it over the oven door with a spoon and set to with a scrubbing brush.
Things got off to a fabulous start. The grime was really shifting, especially from the glass window. “That’s pretty impressive by anyone’s standards,” I said to Dot, who was watching the exercise keenly from her bouncy chair.
Then it was time to clean the paste off. I cut up an old t-shirt of the hubby’s to make a cloth (feeling very pleased with my own resourcefulness and also foresight in having kept it for just such an occasion), dampened it and started trying to remove the now very brown paste from the oven door. This was easier said than done. Firstly, there was tons of it. And secondly there was, I now realized, salt caked all round the inside of the window and stubbornly stuck in the gulley round the door seal (I also noticed that my knees were frosted with white grit which must have sprayed off during the vigorous efforts with the scrubbing brush). I wiped, rinsed the cloth, wiped, rinsed the cloth, and so on about seven times, and still I hadn’t got it all by any means. Neither had all the brown drips gone – about half remained and there was now salty brown gunk dripping down the outside of the oven and brown puddles forming on the kitchen floor. I was getting a bit frustrated (and had the distinct impression Dot was sniggering at me) so I decided to settle for a slightly smeary finish and a slightly cleaner oven and move on (my leggings meanwhile came clean only after brushing with the implement I normally use for exfoliating my legs).
Undaunted I decided to tackle the hob. I went at this with one of the e-cloths the article mentioned. These were introduced to me by my mother and are pretty amazing: you can clean even quite stubborn stains with no product at all, just water. All evidence of my homemade curried carrot soup was soon dispatched, as was the residue of the hubby’s boiled milk from earlier.
So impressed was I with the e-cloths that I decided to give the bathroom a quick once-over. The results were similarly gratifying. I also gave the loo a scrub with the brush and no product, as the article suggested, but then while my back was turned Dot, who was resting on my knee and is now scarily good at grabbing, seized the toilet seat and I realized this no-product loo cleaning wasn’t going to give me the peace of mind I needed as the mother of a child whose hands spend most of the day in her mouth. I washed her little mitts with soap and water and then prodded a bit of Babyganics cleaning spray around with the loo brush. That would do it.
Next up: the kitchen floor. The article recommends bicarb in warm water; I just used water, a bit of old t-shirt and some elbow grease and it seemed to do the job. Mind you, it made me realize how unfit I am – I was panting and sweating by the end of 10 minutes groveling about on my hands and knees.
I finished by sweeping the stairs and landing – no vacuum cleaner to save electricity. (In fact, I do this every day because having just had a baby, my hair is falling out in handfuls; keeping on top of this when your hair is dark brown and all your floors are either white tiles or cream boards is a full time job.)
Overall, the experiment had gone pretty well. No dirt our eco-approach hadn’t been able to tackle. We decided we'd do it again and get a bit more fancy with essential oils next time.
Cut to 8 o’clock last evening and me checking up on the two organic chickens roasting in the oven. I opened the oven door to find it streaked with salt and the window caked with a brown crust like the porthole on a rusty old ship. “What’s THAT?” asked the hubby, aghast. “Er, my eco-friendly cleaning paste?” I said. “BLOODY HELL” he said back.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Wal Mart: in the bag
The postman had an exciting package again this morning:
No, not the baby (she came from somewhere different) - the rather lovely Dot-sized Carry-a-Bag.
Understandably, Dot was keen to show it off and demanded a shopping spree so we set out to visit Wal Mart in Honesdale to see if anything organic had arrived since our last disappointing visit.
We started in the babywear section, hoping to track down some organic cotton onesies, seeing as Wal Mart is now the biggest purchaser of organic cotton in the world. Unfortunately nothing doing.
Nothing either in the way of eco-friendly diapers - and, especially when we thought back to Waitrose and Tesco with their full complement thereof, we found this distinctly disappointing.
But things began to look up in the baby wipe aisle - we found wipes made of organic cotton. Actually, on closer inspection they contain 'minimum 15% organic cotton' which is pretty crap, and I now realize they're not biodegradable or unbleached like the ones we normally buy, but they are the best thing we've found outside the city so they'll tide us over till we're next there.
And things had definitely come along since we last ventured into the grocery section. Admittedly mostly it was still radioactive-looking chicken, a terrifying array of luncheon meat-esque cold-cuts, a million different permutations of refined sugar and lots of styrofoam. But a bit of careful foraging yielded bread made from organic wheat (the hubby scoffed it down, declaring it 'great' though I found it a bit sweet), organic salad, broccoli, garlic, avocados, carrots and spring onions, pesticide- and herbicide-free tomatoes, two brands of organic milk and yoghurt (Horizon and Stonyfield Farm) and so-called 'all-natural' Al Fresco chicken sausages (we subsequently discovered that while these are made with no additives, it isn't clear whether the chicken used to make them is free range or stuffed full of antibiotics and hormones so we've emailed the company to find out. Watch this space).
We forgot to check for paper and cleaning products, having just stocked up on our Ecover at the health food store down the road, but this was all very reassuring stuff and actually gave us enough material for a pretty decent weekly shop. I was reasonably impressed - if anyone can change the tide in America, Wal Mart can. So, more please, Bentonville.
The only hitch was that I got to the checkout to discover I'd left my (and Dot's) bloomin bags at home. Dur, how stupid actually am I? So I had to cram as much as possible into the buggy basket and balance the rest between the handle and my chin while steering with the other hand. However, I hate to say it, but while our local farm stand is closed for the winter, we may be finding ourselves shopping at Wal Mart more often. So next time we'll bring our statement bags and parade around the store to see if we get a reaction.
I forgot to mention this trip was also a bit of a test drive for the wooly breast pads. I'm unhappy to report that, as such, they rained on our parade. As we were driving back from Wal Mart (it's still hard for me to type that) in the full flush of a successful green foraging trip, I felt the familiar tingle which means squirty boob time. Almost immediately afterwards I felt a cold patch spreading down towards my stomach - a sure sign that yet again a failing pad had left me looking like a wonky Girls Gone Wild wannabe, and not in a good way (not that I think there is a good way, though some readers of the male persuasion might disagree). I am absolutely gutted because I so wanted these pads to be the answer. Since they're not, I'm now improvising a double-pad system - a Lansinoh pad behind the wooly pad, one to stop embarassing leaks, the other to keep the chemicals away from me and Dot. I know this is getting ridiculous. I guess I should maybe do more research into the disposable kind to double check it really is worth all this fuss (I think it is, though). But for now I'll settle for looking like I've had a lumpy boob job (with my clothes on only, of course).
Finally, a bit of good news: we had over 60 readers yesterday, which for us is a big deal. Is it really interesting reading about me and Dot bumbling about trying to be green? Evidently somebody must think so, so whoever you are, thanks for reading. And please carry on.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Making a stand
This was yesterday’s post but we had to pop to the city, so it’s going up today instead. Sorry regular readers.
Well it has been an exciting day. Dot got us up bright and early so I decided to carpe diem and got on the phone to Pecks.
As I listened to it ring, I got a bit nervous – never have been massively confident on the phone – but before I could get cold feet, someone picked up.
“Er, hello, I’d like to speak to the manager about some ideas I have for the store, please,” I said.
A man came on the line.
“Oh, hello, I was wondering if I could set up some time to come and talk to you about a few ideas I have for the store?” I said.
“Go ahead,” he said.
“What, now?” I asked, caught off guard.
“Sure,” he said.
“OK, well, er, yes, the first thing is, did you know that Kleenex cut down 10,000 year-old forests to make their toilet paper? So, I was just wondering if you’d consider not stocking their products,” I began.
“No can do I’m afraid,” he said, “Or I’d have the other lot complaining to me to put it back. It’s what they’ve used all their lives and it’s what they like. I have to sell it.”
“Oh,” I said, trying to think fast.
“We used to stock Green Tree or something but they went out of business,” he continued. ”Now we stock Marcal, but it’s our worst seller and I heard they just declared Chapter 11, so I don’t know how much longer we’ll even have that. And our warehouse doesn’t carry other recycled ranges because they’re more expensive and people just won’t pay. They want what’s cheapest.”
Bugger. He'd pretty much covered all arguments.
“Oh, I see, but it’s just, well, it’s really bad about the forests,” I said, lamely.
“Hm,” he replied with an air of finality in his voice. Clearly the paper conversation was closed.
I decided to change tack. “Er, ok, well, in that case, you know how all your vegetables are packaged in Styrofoam?” I ventured. “And as you know, Styrofoam is horrible for the environment. So I was wondering if there was another option.”
“We looked into it, but paper trays are 3 cents apiece whereas the Styrofoam is only a penny. We’d have to pass the costs on to the consumer and when it comes down to it, people round here just want whatever’s cheapest,” he said patiently. “We tried it with the egg cartons but people complained so we had to change back.”
“Oh,” I said again, not knowing how to argue with this straightforward lesson in marketplace dynamics (of course cost-cutting, along with that other pillar of 20th and 21st century consumerism, convenience, is at the root of most of our environmental woes).
“So no chance of ditching the styrofoam, then.”
“’Fraid not,” he said.
By now I got the feeling I was sounding either naïve or like a total crackpot (or both) but the manager didn’t seem to mind chatting, so in a last-ditch bid I said, “There was one other thing. There are some great farmers’ markets and farm stands around here, and I was wondering if you would be able to stock more local produce, or is that cost-prohibitive too?”
“Actually we do that in the summer, we have local corn and apples,” he said.
“Oh, er, ok then, well that’s great,” I said, thinking I had seen little evidence of local produce this summer, but whatever. “Well, thanks for your time, and sorry for chewing your ear off.”
“Oh, that’s ok,” said the manager, as if humouring someone simple.
We hung up. I was disappointed to have made absolutely zero progress and completely nonplussed as to what my next step would be, but pleased I’d had the balls to at least try.
As I pondered how I was going to convince the people of Narrowsburg to boycott Kleenex (placards? I have a feeling the locals might not go for it), an exciting package arrived: the wooly breast pads. What a relief: no more disposables. Mind you, I got a bit of a shock when I opened them – they’re as big as saucers and thicker than a...thick wooly blanket. They do make one look a little matronly, but the temperature dropped to 20 degrees by this afternoon so I’m sure I’ll be glad of the extra insulation.
Once I had them installed, Dot and I headed out for a walk in the woods. No bears spotted today; instead something much rarer in these parts - a Prius. The driver turned out to be Barbara (she of the local conservation society and vegetable patch). We hope to be seeing more of her soon.
The day ended in the city with a lovely dinner at Jamie and Kim’s.
“It’s terrible about the trees,” said Kim, who's a reader.
“It’s worse about our loo roll,” said Jamie forlornly. “Bloody green bloody crap.”
He didn’t mean it. He’s having his new house outfitted with the latest energy-saving devices and natural gas. And I’m sure his tender bottie will soon have forgotten what Charmin even felt like. Cheers Jamie. The boreal forest will thank you.
Monday, January 15, 2007
Green fingers; cold feet
Look, I know I said I wanted to be Barbara from The Good Life (or did someone say I reminded them of her - I can't remember) but you may have noticed that one thing I've been trying to avoid dealing with is the 'grow your own' food bit.
It's not that I don't love the idea of it - I absolutely do, and I grew up with Dad coaxing raspberries, carrots, shallots, broccoli, beans and apples from our suburban backyard (I just wasn't paying attention) - but how the hell do you do it?
My one experience of gardening up here was enough to put me off for life. It was a day in late spring; I must have been four or five months pregnant. I decided I'd weed a couple of big beds then head to Home Depot for some seeds to plant pretty flowers and vegetables - easy.
A couple of hours later I'd cleared at most a square foot and all I had to show for it was a trug of roots, a sore back and a sunburned neck.
Eventually I did clear the two beds I'd meant to (from one I pulled a mirror, several screwdrivers, 2 plates, multiple beer bottles and a Kinder egg toy) but during the week it rained, and by the time we came back up they'd been completely overgrown again. An English country garden our three quarters of an acre of vigorous PA wilderness is not (did I mention we also have a couple of gopher and chipmunk clans living in our garden walls and under the barn and deer patrolling the lawn?).
However, today it became increasingly clear that if I'm going to put my money where my mouth is and be in any way self-sustaining I'm going to have to at least give it a try.
First, there was the promo video from Garden Girl, a perky lady from East Harlem who will soon be showing us how to make ourselves self-sustaining from the confines of your average urban backyard. Since I have a whole garden, she rather puts me to shame with her portable rabbit hutches (to manure the putative vegetable patches, natch). Check her out here:
Then we went to visit a neighbour, Grady, who promised to introduce us to his neighbour who runs the local nature conservancy project and grows all her own fruit, veg and eggs (if you know what I mean). She's 80. And my excuse is?...
One of the lessons I'm learning from motherhood is that, once you get going, things are rarely as bad as you think they're going to be (my MIL told me this last week vis a vis getting Dot into a cot and she was right - she's put herself to sleep in there 3 nights running now, touch wood), so it's best to just get on with them. So after I've been to Pecks tomorrow I guess I'd better start trying to figure out where to start on the vegetable patch. Martha Stewart Living, perhaps?
Preparing for Pecks
So, I didn't actually make it to Pecks today but I did get a bit closer to sussing things out. Turns out Pecks stores are owned by their employees so there's no corporate buying policy to be got through; it's therefore possible that if I speak to the right person, they'd go for the KC thing with no need for me to stand outside in the not-so-freezing cold with a placard, clipboard and a picket line chanting "Down with Kleenex". Dot and I did take our 'say no to plastic bags' bag in there the other day and the checkout girl said "I hear that", so things look promising. I think I'm going to head in there tomorrow and see what they say. Wish me luck.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
David Attenborough and your bum: six degrees of separation
Ahem, here goes. We humans are, according to the New Scientist, by the far the most dominant species that has ever existed. Because of us, per the Stern report, 40% of the earth's species will be dead by 2040 (actually, given that today here in PA it's been 45 degrees F and drizzling lightly, compared to the same time last year when it was 0 degrees, several feet of snow on the ground and the river frozen solid, I'd say 2040 is a conservative estimate for this damage).
I'd say it's the 'heart' to An Inconvenient Truth's 'head'. You have to
Right, impassioned cri de coeur over. So what have we done about it today? Funnily enough, one of the things shown in the documentary was the Boreal forest, a forest that rings the earth just below the arctic circle. It is ancient, at least 10,000 years old, and contains a third of the world's trees. It is so powerful that during the summer, it's responsible for global levels of CO2 falling and of O2 rising.
So, today, we had a minor victory in Narrowsburg. I was wandering round Pecks doing the grocery shopping and got to the loo roll aisle, fulling expecting to find they still hadn't got any recycled paper in (regular readers will recall that we asked them to start stocking it back in early Dec). I wandered up to the guy who was stacking shelves.
"A while back I asked the manager to get recycled toilet tissue. Don't suppose you've had any success?" I asked.
Imagine my surprise when he said "Well, I'm afraid we only have this one," proffering a huge multipack of Marcal.
Marcal, eco-friendly? I couldn't believe it. I've been walking past Marcal in NY delis for years. But there on the pack was a 'recycled' logo and the legend "paper from paper, not from trees". I couldn't work out whether they'd got the Marcal because of me or whether it had always been there and I just hadn't noticed, but either way, this was fabulous news.
Still feeling a bit suspicious, I thought I'd just do a bit of research when I got home. It seems kosher; Marcal has min 75% recycled content and min 40% post-consumer content, which isn't terrible (though by way of comparison the equivalent figures for Seventh Generation are 80% and 80%, which is obviously preferable, but Marcal is much better than nothing and up here it's the best I could find).
In the course of my research I also discovered some things about Kimberley Clark. Like the fact that less than 19% of the paper that goes into KC products (market leaders in the US) is recycled. The rest comes from...you guessed it, virgin forests, including the Boreal forests.
And god only knows what that's contributing to global warming. In fact, KC is so proud of this work that on their website they have the following to say (I piched this from Greenpeace's Kleercut anti-KC campaign package:
KLEENEX Facial Tissue is made from 100 per cent virgin fibre and contains noOh, well then, if consumers expect it, what choice do they have? And if the consumer told them to jump off a cliff, you can be sure they'd do that too.
recycled fibre. Virgin fibre is used in our tissue because it provides the
superior softness consumers expect from a premium facial tissue product.
Well guess what gang, you are the consumer. So if this isn't what you want, let KC know by boycotting their products. Then they'll listen and stop chopping down trees. It's really that simple.
OK, I sound like Swampy so it's time I went to bed. But here are the products it's safe to buy (via travelingpants):
Ancient Forest Friendly Tissue Products - USA
Toilet Paper: CVS Bathroom Tissue 1000, Cascades, Marcal, Natural Value, Earth First, Seventh Generation, Trader Joe's, 365 Everyday Value
Facial Tissue: Marcal Fluff Out, Seventh Generation, Trader Joe's
Paper Towels: Marcal Bella, Natural Value, Seventh Generation, Trader Joe's, 365 Everyday Value
And goodbye Kleenex, Cottonelle, Andrex - Charmin is a no-no too.
Go tell everyone you know. My next step: to see if Pecks will stop selling it...
Friday, January 12, 2007
Bad Bad Freya
There's nothing like sleep deprivation to make one's ethics fly out of the window.
Basically, as I've hinted, Dot's usually wonderful sleeping has been patchy at best the last few weeks. At first I assumed it was being in the UK, but she's gone from sleeping sometimes 10 hours straight to waking first once, then twice, and now three or four times in a nine hour stretch and it's gotten no better since we got home. Aaargh.
I've been resorting to anything to try and get her back off when she wakes. At first I was just using the tried and true, completely eco-friendly boob method. But she'd wake again as soon as I got her down so I'd be up and down like a yoyo to no avail.
So then we started using the buggy - pushing her up and down till she went off and then doing a quick transfer to the hammock once she was well and truly zonked. But not only was that ridiculous, it was only really feasible in Mum and Dad's house which has a hallway twice the size of our entire cottage.
So finally I found myself following the advice of a friend, Sally, to blow the hairdryer to settle her - the white noise, apparently, worked like a charm for her baby Agnes. Although I knew I'd be burning tons of extra electricity, I tried it, telling myself it'd be a one-off and I'd never come to rely on it. Well, that was then. Of course, it worked pretty well the first time, and it's also possible to get her off while lying under the warm duvet instead of huddling over her in the freezing cold so I've found myself plugging that baby in and letting it go on for 5, 10 or more minutes - as long as it takes for the hammock to stop wriggling - several times a night, and during the day too.
And I even found myself the other night, in the W on Lexington (where Dot's hammock was hanging over the shower rail in the bathroom) running the tap until she went back to sleep. This from the woman who gives her husband a hard time for leaving the tap running while he brushes his teeth (apparently that wastes 5 litres per minute - and I was doing this for at least 5 mintues - oh dear).
And I haven't even counted the unneccessary car trips the hubby's taken with her in the back when all else fails.
No wonder sleep deprivation is used as form of torture. Within the space of a few days I've descended into weak-willed hypocrisy and eco-villainy, and who knows how much lower I'll stoop if it doesn't stop soon.
Hopefully tonight will be different and all this will become a distant memory.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
One step forward, two steps back...
Hi there, sorry about yesterday - another day of Dot getting up at five so I just had to have an early night.
So, I was absolutely thrilled when I got home to PA - the hubby had headed home a week before us, and Dot and I returned to find the house sparkling like a new pin. It was amazing - the kitchen sink and the bathtub had never been cleaner.
And then I got suspicious. How had he got everything so much cleaner than I ever could? There was only one possible explanation... "You used bleach!" I said accusingly.
"Yeah, and?" he replied, "it was under the kitchen sink."
"That was there from when we moved in, left over from the old owner and you know we're not supposed to use bleach," I said.
"That's ridiculous, it got everything clean which is more than you can say for all that weird shit you use," he countered, not entirely erroneously. "So, what, we're never meant to use bleach again?"
"No," I said, "never."
You know what this means: it means I'm going to have to start experimenting with homemade concoctions pronto as the only way I'll win this argument is by proving I have a valid alternative. So thanks to Pen who posted the following handy hints in the comments:
1. For baths and basins, use bicarbonate of soda - it's ideal for tougher stains. You can mix a paste or use as a diluted solution depending how bad the problem is.
2. Tea tree, citrus, sage and eucalyptus oils are natural disinfectants. Great for floors, work surfaces and shower tiles. Use 2 - 4 drops in a bucket of boiling water.
3. White wine vinegar cleans glass and tiles and removes stains on cups and teapots.
4. Table salt works as a mild disinfectant and makes a fantastic mild abraisive. Mix into a thick paste for better results.
5. Use hot water and plain soap flakes with a little washing soda as an all pupose cleaner. Simple but effective.
I'll get to work with the bicarb tomorrow and keep you updated.
Regretfully the re-emergence of bleach in our lives was not the only backward step. I suddenly realized I'd spent the first two days back switching off lights, heaters, the computer printer and the TV, and that like some bad French farce, they were being switched back on again the minute my back was turned. I found this deeply depressing not just because I felt a bit like I was dealing with a small child and I hate being a boring old nag, but also because if my own hubby is still leaving the house lit up like the Brighton Pavilion, what hope is there for the rest of us?
I was brooding on all this as we drove to the city (I know, more driving) yesterday for a quick bit of work I needed to do. The hubby must have noticed my morose demeanour because he asked what was wrong.
"I'm depressed," I opined, a bit melodramatically.
"Anything I can do to help?" he asked kindly. Oh dear. Wrong question.
"Well actually, as a matter of fact, yes," I said. " You can tell my why it is that I still have to go round the house turning off lights when you know how bad it is for the environment and you know the environment is my thing."
"I turn the lights on because when I get up with Dot at 6.30 it's still dark and the lights make it cozy," he replied, defensively.
"Well that's fair enough, and you are amazing for getting up early with Dot, but I'm talking about them being on when there's sun pouring in through the windows at 11 in the morning in rooms we're not using," I said.
"Well maybe I don't get round to turning them off, and anyway I just like having lights on, I think it makes the house cozier and I like it to be cozy," he said.
That was it for me. "What are you talking about?" I said, getting up on my soapbox. "Cozy?! Do you not realize what's going on here? Did you not read about the ice shelf collapsing and the polar bears becoming extinct and all the rest of it? When are people going to realize how serious this is? Well, soon enough we'll have electricity rationing and then you'll be buggered."
"Or we can get solar panels on the roof and then I can have the lights on all day, and anyway I thought we'd bought wind power" he countered in a tone which implied he thought he'd caught me out.
"But solar panels are yet more stuff in circulation which one day has to be disposed on and will end up in landfill," I said. "And we do have wind power but you can't cover the entire surface of the planet in windmills, so we have to cut consumption too."
I remembered my mother in law'd told me I was onto a losing battle with this one, and my sister in law had emailed to say T had always liked the lights on, even since they were little children. I sighed and closed the discussion the way I always close it, with the biggest insult I can think of.
"You're as bad as George Bush," I said.
But actually, after today's news I take that back. Very few people are as bad as GWB, least of all my husband.
But if he could just try to turn the lights off now and then....