Tag Archives: Sustainability

Dollars for Decent Food

One of my colleagues handed out prizes at school recently, saying, “…and if it breaks before you go home today, well, it’s a dollar store prize.”

And that’s a lot of what you find at the dollar store (Dollar Tree in our case) — cheap plastic toys that don’t last long. So why do we keep going there? Well, this time it was because the kids wanted to spend their allowances. Thankfully, they did make some good choices — bubbles for blowing, crayons, a perfectly good water bottle.

I got some supplies for our Girl Scout meeting (you can get cheap craft supplies and school supplies at Dollar Tree, although quality may vary). But I also did much of our grocery shopping for the week!

What?! That doesn’t sound like a recipe for finding decent, sustainably produced foods, right? Well, it’s not like shopping at the farmers’ market or Whole Foods, of course. But I can’t afford Whole Foods right now, and the farmers’ market isn’t open yet anyway. So I looked around for some of the basic items we needed for the week and found: snack crackers, graham crackers, pretzels, tortillas, jam, hot dogs, shredded cheese, chicken pot pies (the husband eats them for lunch), and cornbread mix.

No, that isn’t a lot — but we didn’t need a lot, because we have a fairly full pantry right now due to ordering canned and dry items from Azure Standard. And it’s definitely not organic health food, but these are the same things I would have bought at a regular grocery store anyway. I do buy meat and eggs from local farmers, and I often buy organic veggies, but I don’t buy organic everything, and I do get moderate amount of moderately junky stuff like snack crackers.

The jam is the one thing I normally wouldn’t have bought, and felt rather guilty about — it’s basically flavored sugar goop, not real jam, and I’m usually a little more careful about that.

As a bonus, the cornbread mix was from Marie Callendar’s, and it’s something I haven’t seen at our regular grocery stores for a while.

It’s not something I’d want to do every week, but by shopping at Dollar Tree, I saved money as well as some time (because we were going there anyway). Both of those are good for my sanity.

What’s your experience shopping at dollar stores? Ever find anything really exciting?

Disposable Diaper Sales Are Down. But Why?

According to AdvertisingAge, sales of disposable diapers were down 9% for the 52 weeks ending August 7, 2011. Meanwhile, the number of babies age two and under fell by only 3%, and sales of diaper rash creams increased by 2.8%. AdvertisingAge reasons that this means that parents are letting babies sit in dirty diapers longer in order to save money, and thus babies are having more problems with diaper rash.

I know, yuck, right? I suppose there could be a relationship there. However, my first thought was that there must be more people using cloth diapers now! That doesn’t account for the diaper rash creams (although some people think cloth-diapered babies are more prone to diaper rash), but I bet it’s a factor. If you glance at the comments below the article, you’ll see several other people casting doubt on the article’s conclusion as well.

If you really want to save money, cloth diapers are an excellent option. Even if you have to pay for a coin laundry, you’ll probably be saving money over disposables, which cost around a quarter for each diaper.


Photo by simplyla on Flickr, used via CC BY 2.0 Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Future Economy: Coming Soon?

The New York Times editorial page admitted on Monday that The Numbers Are Grim. Supposedly, we’re in recovery from a recession now, but unemployment is still high (indeed, unemployment is slightly up as of Friday, June 3), and the Times blames slow growth in consumer spending.

More troubling in the latest figures, consumer spending — the largest component of the economy — was especially slow. Stagnant wages and higher prices for gas and food are squeezing family budgets, while falling home equity hurts consumer confidence … When consumers are constrained, so is hiring, because without customers, employers are hard pressed to retain workers or make new hires.

In other words, our existing economy is dependent on people spending money, and not just on necessities. It’s also dependent on growth in that spending from year to year.

Does that seem reasonable? It seems to me that constant growth in spending would eventually result in severe resource depletion. And encouraging consumerism seems like an unhealthy basis for an economy.

I’ve written some ideas and suggestions before around designing a different way to live, and a different economy. But according to Gar Alperovitz in Yes! magazine, there are companies and organizations who are already moving in new directions. That’s good news indeed! And we’re seeing it on the local level where I live — churches, schools, and organizations are opening community gardens and community dinners. New food c0-0ps, food buying clubs and farmers markets have formed. People are working together for healthy local economies.

I hope more people will see that the solutions are there, even if they don’t come in the form of consumer spending.

Earth Day: Do We Really Get It?

I took a couple of Earth Day-related polls for Swagbucks* recently. Here’s the first one:

I picked the last answer. I don’t do anything for Earth Day. I try to make overall lifestyle changes instead. Hopefully some of the other people who picked that answer are doing the same! Lifestyle changes, even smaller ones, have a bigger impact than anything you do for just one day.

Now, the second poll:

This one made me sigh (and not just because of the missing word). Reducing, re-using and recycling are great, but I don’t think they have the biggest impact. These activities do happen to be relatively easy, so more people are willing to do them. Plus, we’ve promoted the heck out of those three words in the media and in the school system. Any kid can tell you about the 3 Rs.

My choice was minimizing oil dependency, as that’s a crisis we’re already beginning to face, at $4-5 per gallon for gasoline.  An oil shortage and/or high prices will affect more of our lives than one might think. Besides gasoline for cars, oil is used to grow, manufacture, and transport products we buy, eat, and/or use every day. So if the price of oil goes up drastically, so does the price of everything else. If there’s not enough oil for cars, there’s also not enough for farm tractors or for plastics manufacturing.

I have to admit, though, that I don’t have any hard data on which practices really have the most impact (and didn’t find any via Google search). It’s just my opinion. What do you think?



*referral link

Bicycle Commuting Mama: Getting Started

I’ve chronicled my journey to becoming a full-time bicycle commuter here over the past few years. I’ve even gathered several of my posts into a Family Biking page, so that people who are looking for advice can find them.

Today, I’ve got a post over on Utility Cycling about getting started with family bicycle commuting. Please take a look!

Raw Milk?

Uncle Jack was old when we visited his farm, but he still kept cows. He milked the cows by hand twice a day, squatting on one of those funny little stools, and we were allowed to watch.

I tried some of the raw milk, but I was a city kid, raised on supermarket milk. I didn’t like it at all.

Now raw milk is coming into fashion with natural-foodies.  It’s more difficult to buy; in fact, it’s technically illegal to sell raw milk in Oregon. Some farmers get around that by selling “herd shares” — the customer actually buys a share of ownership in a cow or in the herd as a whole, and is then entitled to receive a share of the milk produced. Farmers usually charge a purchase fee and then a monthly boarding fee for the cow(s) upkeep. Prices I’ve seen range from $50-65 for one share, plus $20-35 per month, and one share usually works out to about one gallon per week (although if the herd goes dry, your share will be smaller).

I’ve read about the benefits of raw milk. I’m not sure it’s all fully substantiated. I do like to support farmers directly where I can, but I still remember not liking the raw milk, and I don’t really want to foist it on my family. I can buy organic milk at the grocery store, but it’s $5.48 per gallon, compared to about $2.oo per gallon for regular milk. I feel guilty every time I buy the regular milk, but that’s a HUGE difference, and it may or may not be local. It’s big-business organic.

Or there’s Noris Dairy. They are local. They pasteurize their milk, so it’s not raw, but they do not homogenize it. That means the cream will float to the top. I’m guessing this would probably also taste unfamiliar to us. However, Noris also sells “processed milk” from their cows. So we could buy the more familiar type of milk from a local dairy — and as a bonus, they deliver. But their milk is $6.00 per gallon, so three times the cost of regular.

So I’m still buying the regular supermarket milk, unless I happen to see a screaming deal on organic. I do try to buy local-ish on other dairy products, like butter, sour cream and yogurt (Tillamook or Darigold). But with milk, we’re not there yet.

Proctor & Gambling

You could call me a mommy blogger. After all, I did put Mama in the name of my blog. But I don’t do some of the things many mommy bloggers do. For instance, I generally don’t do product promotions and giveaways on this blog. I’ve considered it, but most of the time, the promotions offered by the companies are for things I simply don’t use, or even that I would feel uncomfortable using.

I’m also not really into buying Stuff, or promoting the buying of Stuff. I’m more likely to buy used, buy local, make my own, etc.

However, when BlogHer offered me a Proctor & Gamble promotion, I decided to give it a try. They sent me a $25 Kroger gift card, with which I was to buy any four Proctor & Gamble products, and then write about the experience as a comment on a BlogHer post.

Proctor & Gamble makes a lot of different products. I figured I could find something useful to buy. Actually, what I thought was “Proctor & Gamble must have some ‘green’ products — I can buy those and report back on my blog!”

So I signed up for the promotion, and meanwhile went to the Proctor & Gamble website to see what “green” products they had available.

And the answer is? They don’t. While many companies have developed “green” product lines in recent years, Proctor & Gamble says that instead they have been working on “greening” their overall operations. Here’s their overall sustainability vision:

As part of our strategy to grow responsibly, we will work toward a long-term environmental sustainability vision that includes:

    • Powering our plants with 100% renewable energy
    • Using 100% renewable or recycled materials for all products and packaging
    • Having zero consumer and manufacturing waste go to landfills
    • Designing products that delight consumers while maximizing our conservation of resources

I’m actually intrigued by this. Could this actually be more effective than “greenwashing” by developing a so-called “green” product line? Or is it just another form of “greenwashing?”

Proctor & Gamble acknowledges that this is a very long-term vision, which may take decades to reach. But according to their own statistics, they have made progress — for instance, they claim that 30% of their plants are now powered by renewable energy.  They also claim to have reduced energy usage at their plants by 50% since 2002, and to have reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 53%. And GreenBiz.com points out other areas in which Proctor & Gamble is walking the green talk.

Now, there’s also the issue of whether Proctor & Gamble products contain chemicals that could be harmful to humans and/or animals. There’s a lot of information on the company website about this, too. Basically, they say that they work hard and do the science to make sure their products are safe to use, even if they do contain unpronounceable chemicals. And they have a last-resort policy on animal testing — they use other methods like computer modeling first.  And I’m not totally against chemicals; I think they have their place. Which brings me to my actual purchases!

I ended up buying Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Bath Scrubbers, because our bathtub needs help. I prefer more natural products (and re-usable cloths) for everyday cleaning, but sometimes you need a chemical intervention. I also got a roll of Bounty Basic paper towels; we don’t use paper towels on an everyday basis, but we do need them for things like sopping up bacon grease.  And I got a package of Duracell batteries and a bottle of Pantene shampoo/conditioner for curly hair.

I didn’t buy the Mr. Clean all-purpose cleaner, even though we needed some, because I couldn’t remember what sodium hydroxide was (it’s just lye, d’oh!). I actually picked up a concentrated cleaner from the natural foods aisle which I can dilute to make ELEVEN bottles of all-purpose cleaner. I often just use vinegar and water, but my husband likes to have something more official around. And the concentrate only cost $5.99.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the experience. I didn’t buy anything we don’t ordinarily use (yes, even the bathtub scrubber; I’m OK with occasional interventions like this), I got free products, and I don’t feel dirty about it.

By the way, BlogHer is giving away more $25 Kroger gift cards; to enter the drawing, just comment on their blog post about this promotion.

Disclaimer: Yes, as you’ve already noted, I did receive a free $25 Kroger gift card as part of this promotion. I wasn’t required to write this blog post in exchange, but I did anyway because I found the experience interesting)

Two Worlds: 10/10/10

I’ve been hearing chatter about 10/10/10 for months now. People on the internet often take note of interesting dates like, well, 8/8/8, 9/9/9, 10/10/10. And 07/08/09, 08/09/10, etc.  It’s cute, but not terribly important. But more and more people kept mentioning 10/10/10, and well ahead of time (usually you don’t hear about it until a day ahead of time, max), and I didn’t understand why it was so important. It seemed contrived. Eventually I did find out what was going on.

In the geek world, 10/10/10 is important because it’s a binary number. Or at least we can pretend it’s a binary number. Binary numbers are made up entirely of 1s and 0s. So 10102010 is NOT a binary number, but if you use the two-digit format for the year, you get 101010, which is binary. And 101010 is the binary equivalent of 42, which (according to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) is “the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.”

So that’s the geeky reason for recognizing 10/10/10. There is another.

Another (possibly overlapping) segment of the population has designated 10/10/10 as an International Day of Doing, especially in relation to reducing one’s carbon footprint.  I knew there were plans afoot, but I didn’t know why 10/10/10 was chosen as a significant date.  Here’s how Green.Blorge explains it:

10:10 is the name of a movement to decrease carbon emissions by 10 percent a year starting in 2010.  October 10th, 2010 is also a day similar to Earth Day when individuals and companies are asked to engage in activities to reduce their carbon footprints.

Ohhhhh…I see what they did there now! And you can find out more about it on the 10:10 website. Or on the 350.org website.

So are we doing something for 10/10/10? I have nothing special planned. Actually, when I think something is important, I tend to devote more than one day to it, so I ride my bike every day, and I grow/buy/preserve local food, and I keep turning the thermostat down when other people aren’t looking.

But I know that awareness and action days do help draw more people in, so I am glad to see that people are taking action throughout the world.

Happy 10/10/10!