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Posts Tagged ‘weekly green challenge’

Water Savings Tips

Posted by eemilla on March 3, 2011

For this week’s Change the World Wednesday, please consider water conservation.  I’ve never lived in a house with a garbage disposal so breaking the habit of using isn’t an issue.  We are vegetarian at home so we don’t have much food waste that cannot be composted or dumped in the trash can without causing too much of a stink.  However, my favorite water saving tips are below (quite apropos with the tight economy we’re facing).

1.  Turn the water off when you are washing your hands.  In order to be effective you should rub your soapy hands for about thirty seconds after using the restroom or coughing or sneezing or whatever, and there is absolutely no need to run the water all that time.

2.  Rather than run the shower faucet to heat the water before my shower, I turn on the sink faucet (although my husband argues that it takes longer to heat up thus probably not saving much if any water).

3.  We water our houseplants with the less than fresh water in our dog and cat water dishes.

4.  Rain is the only water than our lawn receives, even if it turns brown.

5.  When I hand wash dishes, I stop the rinse sink so that I can rinse all but the largest items without running any more water.

6.  Our shower has a low flow head (which reduced our bill by about $10 or $5 a month), and when I am not rinsing I use the water pause feature, which doesn’t stop the flow but just cuts it significantly.

7.  For years we have kept three 750mL bottles in our toilet tank to reduce how much water each flush uses.

8.  We only wash full loads of laundry and dishes in our automatic machines.

9.  I only shower when I am dirty.

10.  Even when I’m sick and just want to linger under the hot spray, my showers are less than ten minutes.



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Green Cleaners – Change the World Challenge

Posted by eemilla on January 30, 2011

It’s been a while since I’ve participated in a Change the World Challenge from Reduce Footprints, but I’m going to give it a go this week.

For the most part we aren’t using green cleaners aside from the vinegar and water that my mom always used on windows and mirrors, which by the way is really cheap and works well.  I tried using borax in the bathroom for almost a year, but I could never get the toilet really clean even with soaking overnight and scrubbing so we’re back to using a non-green cleaner with bleach alternative.  I hate to say it, but I love how much easier it is to clean the toilet with the non-green cleaner.  The shower liner remains a constant struggle to keep from molding, even with weekly soaking then washing with vinegar and detergent and line drying; however, I have decided not to resort to bleach because it wasn’t that much better anyway.

For hand washing dishes we use Ecover, and the dishwasher gets Palmolive phosphate free.  I use the Dr Bronner’s to scrub the counters before rolling dough, and my husband used some less nasty than expected oven cleaner.  For the floors, we’ve used hot water and either the dish soap or Dr Bronner’s.  When we camp (mostly only at festivals), Dr. Bronner’s get used for all soap needs, including washing dishes (although of course not the cast iron!)

Writing this post, I decided to Good Guide what we use, and after this bottle we will no longer pay the premium for Ecover Dishwashing liquid.  Much to my surprise, Clorox’s Green Works scores much better than the Ecover although I cannot purchase the Green Works at FBFC.  Our automatic dishwasher liquid also scored poorly on the health side of the equation so we’ll be looking for an alternative there too.

For the laundry, we use Ultra Purex, but I think again we might try Green Works because it has a better health rating.  My husband adds washing soda to his work laundry to help make it smell better (because as anyone who has worked in food service knows even after washing those clothes still have a smell), and of course we dry as much outside as possible (which really works to freshen up his work clothes).

I will be interested to get some more ideas on homemade green cleaners from everyone else participating.

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What’s in your trash?

Posted by eemilla on November 24, 2009

This time of year is the perfect time of year to think about how much trash you produce considering most Americans are gearing up for their annual end of year spend and waste orgy.  The Change the World Challenge from Reduce Footprints this week asked to keep your trash in site; rather than carry the bag around with me I dutifully logged my trash for the week.  Although I ate out more than I typically do, I ended up using and throwing away items that have simple, reusable alternatives like tissues, napkins, paper towels, and to-go containers.  I’ve finally gotten into the habit of taking cloth bags everywhere so now I just need to remember to bring my own to go containers, napkins, and handkerchiefs.

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How Many Light Bulbs Do You Need?

Posted by eemilla on November 14, 2009

For this week’s Change the World challenge please remove a light bulb from a fixture with multiple bulbs.  For example, in our ceiling fans we have one out of three sockets filled (with compact fluorescents of course).  At work I am fortunate enough to have a south facing window, so on sunny days I don’t use my overhead light.  If you’re up to it, join the challenge and spread the word; for more ideas check out the honor roll.


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Weekly Green Challenge (triple dose)

Posted by eemilla on November 4, 2009

Last week’s challenge was to give your car some loving, and below I’ve given couple of simple and obvious suggestions.  Check out the honor roll for more ideas.

With the time change and checking your smoke detectors’ batteries, you should also think about getting the car a tune up.  In addition to saving gas money, routine maintenance will either help you over the 200,000 mile threshold or help you get a better trade-in credit.  Of course keeping the air filter and oil changed is important, but also be sure to have the tires rotated and their pressure checked.  Proper tire inflation helps with their wear and your gas mileage.

Our household is into our sixty-second week of being a one car household!  With our one year milestone and our return from walking hilly San Francisco, we decided to park the car one day a week.  If you have public transit, use it!  Not only will it reduce your footprint, but you are also providing a good job to someone in your community and decreasing the congestion for someone else.

This week’s challenge to have zero food waste is second nature for me, thanks to my mom’s super frugal habits.  Dinners’ leftovers became either lunch or a late night snack, and I carry on the tradition in our home.  If I don’t eat it, my husband will most likely throw it in a burrito wrapper with cheese to finish it off.  My biggest problem with food waste are those ingredients I buy to make special recipes then fail to incorporate into our weekly meal plans.  This week I have a portion of cream cheese left over from the super awesome peanut butter chocolate cake I made for our wedding anniversary, but other recipes include my favorite golden sesame tofu that leaves me with pineapple juice or the plethora of recipes that call for just egg whites or egg yolks.

Regarding the reclaimed or recycled challenge, I did go for Marcal’s Small Steps because it was half the cost of the Seventh Generation pack, and I don’t mind it (and my honey hasn’t complained yet either).  Thanks for your thoughts!

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Recycled or Reclaimed

Posted by eemilla on October 25, 2009

This week’s Change the World Challenge from Reduce Footprints is to purchase the recycled option of a product you don’t normally buy the recycled version of, or if you don’t have an item that fits the bill discuss using reclaimed materials.

I have no problem with recycled paper towels or sandwich/bulk item bags, but I do not like recycled paper toilet paper.  It irks me because its manufacturers have the audacity to make it less soft and cost more than conventional toilet paper.  However, I will succumb to peer pressure and give it another go.  Which brands are cushier?

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Climate Change

Posted by eemilla on October 15, 2009

The facts supporting climate change have been widely reported across numerous media outlets; I wanted to post this to add one more blog to the list in support of making drastic changes to our lifestyles.

Climate change is just one of the many ills our society suffers because of our addiction with fossil fuels.  Looking for purportedly cheap coal, we send fellow citizens to work in coal mines; once the vein dies or becomes too expensive, we raze the mountains and dump the top into the surrounding valleys creating wastelands in lieu of forested habitats.  Those stream beds supply someone’s water somewhere in the chain are then filled with poisons and waste from the mining, and during rainy years like this one the fills can create huge landslides (which if it doesn’t kill you isn’t covered under a homeowner’s policy).

Our love of the automobile has lead us to build massive expanses of blacktop.  The power of the car has allowed us to move further and further from work and commercial centers which leads to more traffic congestion then demand for less congested roadways.  The fuel for these vehicles will not last forever, and even if it did, its exhaust is killing us.  Furthermore is the fuel worth the national security risk; what would the economy do if for whatever crazy reason OPEC decided to stick it to us tomorrow?  Public transportation was squashed by domestic automakers, and many people still argue public transportation will never be self-sustaining (thanks for a good jab, Doug Gibson!).  Funny how the sweetheart lease deals we make with big oil doesn’t impugn them.  However, as our population grows the stress on the current roadways will increase while the demand for housing increases, and no one wants to live near the noise and smell of major roadway.

Our food is tied closely to energy prices because almost everything Americans eat is soaked in oil starting from the time the seeds are delivered from Monsanto to their drive to your home in plastic bags in the back of your car.  If you are eating processed foods then you have even more oil on your hands not to mention the spare tire around your middle.

Even if our elected officials refuse to act, we can each do something small like grow some food, bring your own boxes and bags to the store, do without the car, or insulate your home.  These little things when compounded will help, but a phone call or email to elected officials can’t hurt.

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Recycling, Composting, Worms, and More

Posted by eemilla on August 30, 2009

Before recycling was so widespread and typical, my parents supplemented our family’s income by recycling our glass at the old Ball plant, and my dad collected aluminum cans to exchange for cash at Biltmore Metal.  This early exposure ensured that recycling has always been second nature.  My work study was campus recycling coordinator, which was a nice inflated title for the dirty work of sorting recycling on a college campus (albeit a small one).  I’ve started the bin at every place that I have worked, and I still remind my colleagues to recycle (even though they have to pass the bin on their way to the main trash can).  With our recycling at home, we produce a bag of trash a week thanks to the cat litter, and my honey drives two trash cans and a printer box of shredded and mixed paper once a month to the recycling center on the North side of town.  Although we could have the recycling picked up, we would have to put it in a disposable blue plastic bag.  I have lobbied the Hendersonville Rd Earth Fare (the “healthy” grocery store) to replace the recycling trailer that used to reside there (incidentally, the old Ball plant used to stand there too), but they advised the annual cost, $60,000, is more than they wish to spend.  With the mark up on everything in that store, surely they could spare that much a year!

Composting, on the other hand, scared me.  It seemed gross with a huge potential to become a mess and an attractive nuisance for rodents and vermin.  My mom started a compost bin one summer, and it really stank.  It also become a bee hive, for yellow jackets.  Once I did some reading my worries were assuaged, and when we moved into our first apartment (a duplex with a yard and flower beds!) together we started a compost bin.  The first bin did succumb to my inherent laziness, but it was far enough away from the windows and the neighbors to not bother anyone.  The fencing I installed did little to keep the neighbor’s dog from eating scraps, but it did make turning it difficult.  Our current pile is a free form pile on the ivy covered far bank of the drainage ditch stream that divides our little lot.  It doesn’t smell even though it almost never gets turned, and I cannot figure out why.  However, the soil on the bottom is the prettiest, blackest soil.  We used copious amounts to amend the soil of our shared victory garden last year, and we grew some awesome herbs, tomatoes, arugula, and cantaloupes.  We don’t put any cooked food in, but it does get plenty of peelings, leaves, twigs, and grass clippings.

I am also interested in starting a worm bin to produce house plant food as well as worms for the compost pile.  I have been mulling over the worm bin for about a year or so, so maybe by the end of this calendar year I will have one going.  I will even post photos of its supplies and construction, which will hopefully goad those with limited space into starting some form of composting.

As we all know, recycling is one only part of the environmental trinity.  Reducing and reusing come first.  The first part of this post address last week’s Change the World Challenge from Small Footprints, and this second part is in response to the current challenge.  Think about all of the things you have plugged in that draw phantom loads, or even worse all things that you might leave on when you leave a room.  When we were kids, my parents were always harping about leaving lights on when we left the room, but now when I visit my mom I’m the one walking through cutting all of the televisions and lights off.  I call my husband a Progress Energy agent (after our local power plant) for his habit of cutting on a light in every room.

When the computer isn’t going to be used for over two hours, we turn it off, but otherwise we sleep it (I use the same standard at work for my lunch break or when I have to be in the field, always turning the monitors off).  When we are listening to music, we sleep the computer screen (our Mac has one power button which is why we don’t turn the monitor off).  We do not use standby mode for our DVD player, and we always turn the TV and the cable box off.  One thing we failed to consider when we purchased our dishwasher is that every time you open the door, the display comes on and it stays on for a several minutes; even with this irksome feature, it still had a strong Engery Star rating.  The best thing about power strips is that you can unplug all of the appliances with one fell swoop, thereby eliminating the phantom loads from several appliances all at once.  Although the appliance with the largest phantom load, our computer, we have a battery back up due to the numerous power surges our area experiences so it cannot be unplugged (it will beep).  We do be sure to always unplug the phone charger as soon as the phone is charged; not only does it suck plenty of power, it can be a fire hazard.  Although my parents always unplugged everything when we went out of town, it is a habit that I have fallen out of so I will endeavor to bring the tradition back for our travels.

Small steps and changes add up to bring big changes in our lives, especially when we add up all the small steps our friends and neighbors are taking.  A few years ago a peak power plant was proposed, but community outcry shut it down.  By reducing our electricity consumption, especially during peak hours, we can help prevent the need for another power plant.  One of the cheapest ways to reduce your consumption is a clothesline; the line itself was about fifteen dollars (but if you don’t opt for retractable one that I did for ease of installation you could probably put a line up for less than ten dollars) plus a few dollars for braces and extra clothes pins. Check out  250 Megawatts of Community Action; I am lobbying my husband to change our rate plan to the peak power plan, but thus far he isn’t convinced.  At least we’ll be unplugging those power strips on our next trip.

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Clean and Green

Posted by eemilla on August 19, 2009

I have successfully procrastinated cleaning the bathroom for three days now!  One of the reasons I hate cleaning the bathroom is that I haven’t greened up with the cleaning products.  I have stopped using paper towels for most cleaning, and I now have a nice collection of rags and dog towels.  However, I still use chemical surface cleaners, even as I soak the shower curtain in the washer with vinegar and use old newspaper to clean the mirror.  Small Footprints from Reduce Footprints is challenging everyone to green up the cleaning routine.  Over the past year, many a green cleaning tip has appeared, and this week there are some handy links for homemade green cleaners.

My favorites is one my mom used: vinegar water in a spray bottle for glass cleaner.  My husband worked in a restaurant that cleaned their bathroom mirror with old newspaper, and I love that one too!  I have used baking soda in lieu of abrasive powders, but it isn’t something that has turned into a habit yet.  I guess I cannot procrastinate any longer so later today I will employing some of the suggestions along with plenty of elbow grease.

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Change the World Wednesdays

Posted by eemilla on August 9, 2009

I’ve been slack about posting the Change the World Wednesday Challenges from Reduce Footprints, but this week the challenge involves food.  This week if you are an omnivore then go vegetarian one full day, and if you regularly eat veg then go vegan one full day.  Our household will go vegan as much as possible this week (cheese is something I cannot live without).

My extended family and the other meat eaters in my life seem to get hung up on the “missing” protein and fear of tofu.  Just like chicken that isn’t properly cooked and seasoned, tofu will not taste good.  Another issue with tofu seems to be texture; we use extra firm almost all of the time even for marinara (it gets pureed in with the rest of the veggies using the immersion blender).  To make tofu more firm and chewy, press it to remove excess water (between your hands or with a weight) then freeze it.  My husband also likes to bake it for 30 minutes on 350F in a flavorful liquid then add it to the stir fry or salad.

Earlier this week I threw together a nice fresh little meal of quinoa and baked tofu; I messed up by not making enough for lunch the next day.  We had two servings each for a dinner.  Below is the recipe.

Papaya Quinoa

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 cup papaya juice (feel to substitute the fruit juice of your choice)
  • .25 cup water
  • 1 pound extra firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 gloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1″ fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and minced
  • 6 or so leaves of kale, de-stemmed and chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Pour the quinoa into a strainer and rinse it for a few minutes to remove the bitter coating (better safe than sorry on the rinsing because if you skimp you will ruin the entire dish; I speak from sad experience).  Move into a medium sized saucepan and toast for a few minutes over medium heat.  While the quinoa is toasting, slice the tofu into four slabs and press the excess water.  Back to the quinoa, add .75 cups of juice and the .25 cup of water to the pan then increase the heat to high and bring to a boil.  Once it boils, stir it once or twice then reduce heat to medium and cover and allow to cook until the liquid is absorbed (twenty or so minutes).  Once done set aside.

In the meantime, place the tofu in a glass baking dish and cover with the rest of the juice, tamari, garlic, and ginger.  Turn the tofu to be sure both sides are exposed to the liquid.  Bake for about thirty minutes, flipping the tofu halfway through.  It is done when it has a nice crust and smells yummy.

After you turn the tofu at the halfway point, heat the oil over medium heat in your favorite skillet (we can’t live without our seasoned cast iron one). Begin preparing and cutting your vegetables then add them as you cut them.  Grind the pepper over the veggies and allow to cook over medium-low.  By the time the kale’s green has brightened, your tofu should be done.  Cube it and add the entire baking dish to the veggies.  Stir in the coriander and the quinoa and serve.


The next vegetable protein I discovered was tempeh.  While it is still a soy protein, it has a solid texture and more of its own flavor (although still very mild).  We usually get the flax seed flavor for its omega-3 punch.  The first tempeh dishes I cooked I just subbed tempeh for tofu in stir fry.  However, I think tempeh lends itself to sandwiches since it comes in nice square or rectangular packages, and I would much rather have tempeh in my burrito than tofu.

Tempeh Sandwich

  • 2 tablespoons miso (I prefer something milder than red, like chickpea or white)
  • 4 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 pound tempeh
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1-3 cloves garlic
  • eight slices of thick, hearty bread
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • half of a red onion (or less depending on taste)
  • 1 cup spinach

Combine the miso, water, and lemon juice to make a paste.  Stir in the tahini.  This is a riff on a dressing recipe from Miso Master, and I usually don’t measure it but rather taste it.  Slice the tempeh into half crosswise, making two rectangles then divide those into four thinner pieces (like dividing a cake layer).  Cook these in a skillet with oil and garlic until they have a nice crusty exterior or bake or grill them.  Divide all of the ingredients for four sandwiches and assemble them without the miso spread as heat kills the beneficial bacteria in miso.  Toss as many onto a panini press as it will hold and toast the bread for a few minutes.  For our wedding we received a Forman grill which works great as a panini press, but before that I would’ve tossed the sandwich into the skillet and used a spatula and some elbow grease and flipped it to toast both sides.  Once it has been toasted spread the miso spread on the top slice then reassemble and cut diagonally for eating ease.  For a vegetarian option, I love this with manchego.


My most recent vegetable protein find and probably my favorite is seitan.  It is the meatiest of the vegetable proteins, and as such it lends itself to more fine dining applications, although I think it is just perfect in my lentil and peanut butter stir fry and seitan phillies (even without cheese).  The Laughing Seed works magic and turns seitan into soysage, which I think is so similar to grocery store sausage patties from my childhood that they are perfect for someone scared of vegetarian cuisine.  In the winter I make a delicious stew that I envision should be made with game, but between the mushrooms, seitan, rosemary, and red wine there is no need for game.  The Co-op has had some amazing shiitakes for the past few weeks, so for my honey’s birthday I made him the mushroom bourguignon from SmittenKitchen (I didn’t take any photos, though).  With shiitakes being a bit pricey, I added much cheaper seitan to fill the dish out.  Homemade seitan is really easy to make, especially if you purchase the wheat gluten rather than make your own, but unless you have a pan and the storage to make pounds I think it is more cost effective to purchase it.

mushroom bourguignon

mushroom bourguignon from the archives

When thinking about vegetable protein, please don’t limit yourself to the “meat substitutes”.  Lentils, chickpeas, fava beans, mung beans, and quinoa among other grains and beans are fairly good sources of protein with none (or substantially less) of the fat found in animal protein (not to mention the cost benefit).

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