Tons of Change Thursday

“Tons of Change Thursday”

Tweenie’s Greenies: Thursday Edition

Look at that title in beautiful green “heading 2” font!  I am using it again.  Well, at least for today.  It’s that schedule that I set up for blogging that I think I ditched after a couple weeks.  Things came up, my fingers were gnawed off…whatever other excuse I could come up with at the time.

Well, I just remembered this lovely idea to save money on your water bill this summer.  If you live in a potentially high humidity area, such as Michigan in the summer, you probably have a dehumidifier.  Ours is running at full tilt since Noah floated by last week.  Sidenote: taking all the old musty carpet out of our basement last year and replacing it with hard flooring, was one of the best ideas we ever had.  My mold allergies are basically non-existent now. 

Anyway, if you have a dehumidifier you know that you have to empty that collection tank of all the condensated water every so often.  Why not put that water to good use?  Heck, you burned all that fossil fuel running it, might as well make it worth something!  I have been using that water to water my flower gardens, my potted plants, anything that needs some nice condensated water gets a little treat from my humidifier tank.  The nice part is, my tank also has a wonderful little spout for pouring out the water, so “no muss, no fuss”!

Here’s another idea for saving water in the summer.  Fill up your little kids swimming pool in the morning with water so that it warms in the afternoon sun.  They can play in it, do what ever, a little grass in there only makes this grand idea a little greener.  When they are finished in there for the day, you can either use that water to water any gardens OR you can take some eco-friendly soap, bath/wash your children in it, and then use that graywater to water your plants.  The eco-friendly soap won’t harm your grass or plants (or children for that matter).  Now you just accomplished three things and recycled your water for 3 important uses:  entertaining the children all day outside of your house, bathing your children, and watering your organic gardens.  You should hear trumpets as you complete this task.

I can’t get more savings to come out of my head at the moment.  Except for this thought of somehow collecting the condensation off of my families cups/glasses.  That’s another untapped water resource (get it..untapped…as in not from the tap!  Ha!).  Maybe I can design a little collection tray that attaches to the glasses.  You could collect the condensation from several cups throughout the day and use it for all of the before mentioned activities as well.  I will get back to you on that.  I have to work on the design of this little gem of an invention.  I think it will be a HUGE hit because of the “green” buzz everybody has going right now.  I could probably sell it for $50 a pop in water restricted areas.  Off to my research lab!!


Go to fullsize imageThe rain has stopped for a couple days which means that I can go back to greening up things around the house.  I have been experimenting with fabric softeners since I am line drying about everything possible thanks to the clothes line challenge.  A good friend of mine, was sure to recommend use a really good fabric softener to keep things soft and supple.  I tried some “homemade” recipes for softener.  They worked, but didn’t make my clothes smell as lovely as I wished.

So far, my favorite smelling environmentally friendly fabric softener is Seventh Generation.  The blue eucalyptus lavendar scent is heavenly (since I love both of those scents).  It makes me want to roll in a big pile of my clothes.  Or maybe, I could just take some all natural cotton material, wash it with the fabric softener and tear it into smaller strips.  Once I have made the strips, I can roll them up into a small tampon like shape and shove it up my nose.  I figure, that way, I can smell it for hours and still get work done (since I won’t have to stay situated in a pile of clean clothes).

Has anybody else found a great smelling eco-friendly fabric softener?  Let me know because despite my love for Seventh Generation, it is a little pricey and that may be a problem if I use it all the time.


Go to fullsize imageAah, delicious water!  It’s cool.  It’s refreshing.  It’s easy to serve.  With a lemon or ice, it always tastes nice. (You guessed it, we are working on rhyming over here at our house.)  As much as I love sodas, wine or juice, there is nothing that I crave more when I am really thirsty.  I just go to the sink and turn on the tap.  It is seldom that I think of how lucky I am to have the priviledge to just immediately quench this thirst for water. 

I tend to forget that more than 1 billion people worldwide do not have access to clean and safe drinking water.  How would it affect your life?  You couldn’t just turn on that tap.  You couldn’t get one of those bottles of water that you pay the big bucks for.  You have NO access to safe drinking water.  What would you do?  How would you feel?  What if where you lived lacked basic sanitation needs?  Would you worry constantly for your children’s health and safety?

 Well, there are many who live without.  More people than you might think have to worry everyday about obtaining water and basic sanitation.

How many people know that, in 2002:

1.1 billion people lacked access to improved water sources (tap water in the house or yard from public distribution systems, protected wells and springs, public stand posts, rain water collection), which represented 17% of the global population.

2.6 billion (42% of the world population) lacked access to basic sanitation.

Of the 1.1 billion without access to improved water sources, nearly two thirds live in Asia.

1.8 million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases (including cholera); 90% are children under 5, mostly in developing countries.

80% of the population without access to drinking-water were rural dwellers, but future population growth will be mainly urban. 

How many of us know that we are now in a “Water for Life Decade” or that March 22, 2008 is “World Water Day”?  Yes, that’s right.  The United Nations has adopted March 22 as World Water day and the decade of 2005-2015 as Water for Life Decade.   Now is your chance to raise awareness for an issue that reaches into every corner of the world. 

We are ever aware of water issues in my home.  For one, our water bill keeps going up, up, up since we keep adding to our family numbers.  Secondly, we have always lived within a short drive or walk to Lake Michigan, one of the most amazing bodies of freshwater ever.  Third, I am a biologist who has a special little spot in my heart for plants and ecology (especially wetland ecology).  Fourth, Tomas majored in Hydrogeology (ground water stuff) and sees groundwater issues everyday from his environmental consulting work.  He loves to go into schools and teach kids about pollution and the water supply.  We just love water and HATE to see it wasted or misused.  Over the next couple days, I am going to help to explain how our water supply needs attention and also how you can go green, green, green when dealing with the blue stuff.

Surfs up dude!  Let’s hang ten together on this one!

Find out more about World Water Day here:

“Tons of Change Thursday”

Tweenie’s Greenies: Thursday Edition

High Fashion

I admit that our family is a little “clothes snotty”.   I have a strong affinity for brands like J. Crew and J. Jill.  Tomas’s side of the closet is filled with logos of oars and little horses.  Gret’s closet is becoming filled with the likes of Hanna Andersson (thanks to Good Idea Momma’s influence), Ralph Lauren, and Tommy Hilfiger.  The 2 boys seem to also enjoy Ralph’s company along with Nautica, Gap and Osh Kosh.  Not the easiest “wants” to fill when you are living on one person’s income and they happen to work in the environmental field. (People who work in the environmental field are seriously underpaid for what they do.  And I am not just saying that because I am directly impacted by this fact.)

Yes, like many of you, I have had to become a little creative with my spending since Tomas and I suddenly decided that I should stay home full time with the children.  This creativity and change of income eventually led me from the “Drop Off” door at the local Goodwill, to the “Enter Here to Shop” door in the front.  This is where I was able to balance my love of shopping for great deals with my love of name brand clothes.  By visiting my local second hand and consignment stores regularly, I have been able to get several namebrand outfits for under 10 buckeroos.  Yes, under $10!!  Whole outfits, I swear.  You would never know that my J. Crew “deconstructed” jeans and Ralph Lauren Merino wool sweater were not new purchases.  After all, if you are a “selective” shopper you can find new to almost new clothing at a fraction of retail prices at second hand stores.

What’s even better than saving the big green dollar, is saving the big green earth.  You are doing this as well, every time you “recycle” or purchase clothing or textiles at second hand storefronts.  Which makes me feel even more warm and fuzzy as I cuddle up in my sassy Gap holiday outfit that I bought off of ebay for $15 (yes, that does INCLUDE shipping).  “It is estimated that in 1 year, 7 million TONS of clothing and other textiles are thrown away.  Only 12% are reused or recycled.”  Doesn’t that seem so wasteful??  No wonder landfills are swelling and natural resources are regressing. 

It’s because of all those fashionistas out there.  I have a friend that literally buys a whole new wardrobe every season.  No lie.  She doesn’t want to be seen in the same clothes because “styles change”.  Think of how much waste that is from one person alone.  Now think of what a find that is for whoever is shopping at the second hand store.  You could pay $3 for a Banana Republic shirt and $4 for the matching pant that was only worn once to her work party!  Unbelievable!  I would be dancing in the racks if I found those.  Just like the day I got 2 pair of Ann Taylor pants, a Ralph Lauren button up shirt with tags still on it for Tomas,  and a brand new North Face shirt for a grand total of about $11.

So here’s my advice for how you can save the planet and your budget by shopping at second hand stores:

1.) You need to find out what day the new items are put out on the racks.  Usually it’s going to be a weekday morning or evening, when the store has less traffic.  Ask the store what time they stock, go browse at those times.  I literally followed the girl with the cart around the store one time to see what she was putting out.  She finally just stopped and let me dig through it before she continued.

2.) Visit regularly and don’t go with the intention of getting something really specific.  If you go to a second hand store looking to buy a red Ann Taylor sweater with pretty embroidered trim around the cuffs and collar, you will never find it and be disappointed.  If you go looking for a sweater to match your navy pants or a pair of jeans, you will have a better chance of finding a great deal.

3.)  Don’t go with your children!  Most of the time, the racks are a little mixed up and it’s going to take a little time to scan through the items.  On that note, if you are looking for a size 10 pant, don’t forget to look a little ways into the size 8’s and 12’s.  Someone always puts things back in the wrong section.

4.)  Always try on what you plan to purchase before you leave.  There is nothing more frustrating than thinking you got a great deal on a size large sweater, only to bring it home and find out that someone washed it so the sleeves are a size small.

5.)  If you don’t try it on at the store, keep the tags on and the receipt until you try it on at home.  If it doesn’t fit or you just don’t like it, bring it back and return it.  There’s no point in spending money on something you are never going to wear even if it is second hand.

6.) Be selective.  Do your research on what brands hold up over time and what the normal cost of an item is.  I would never buy an Old Navy Tshirt that shows signs of wear for $3 at the second hand store, when I could go down the road and get the same shirt new for $5 on sale at the store. 

7.)  Wash before you wear.  This is just my little habit because lice and cooties do not adhere to social boundaries.  They have minds of their own, tiny as they may be.

8.)  Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.  The only difference between some of the clothes at second hand stores and those at the mall is that they were hanging on different racks.  Many major retailers will send their clearance items straight to second hand stores anyway, so they are brand new to you for several dollars less.

Shop on, my friends!!  Shop on and save the world!

Oh, and if you are really worried about looking like you are living below the national average for a family of 5, just remember what my momma told me: “No one will ever think you don’t have money, as long as you are neat and clean.” 

 “Tons of Change Thursday”

Tweenie’s Greenies: Thursday Edition

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My family has about 20 million birthdays in the month of November and I am trying to plan ahead for gifts.  Not only that, my lovely frugal group (a smaller group of ladies in my Mom’s group) is talking about saving for Christmas gifts by planning/shopping now.  Gift overload!!  What’s a girl to do? 

Well, we have been giving it some serious thought over here.  We would love to wrap up a big box of love for everyone because that’s what we want to give them, everyday.  That’s what we would love everyone to give our kids too. Isn’t that sweet??  Actually, it’s purely selfish.  Our kids have more than they could possibly ever need.  Our families are always so generous at holidays and birthdays.  I don’t even know what to put on their Christmas lists when they just had their birthdays and received everything under the sun!  Our playroom is bursting with primary colored plastic from the past 4 years of gift receiving.  So, we are going to try and support “alternative gift giving”.  It’s a little greener in that it won’t provide more plastic trinkets that are either covered in lead paint or end up in the trash in a couple years.

Thanks to Green Mommy Thoughts, I found this website for Alternative Gift Giving Ideas for Weddings and Baby Showers.  I LOVE their ideas and the fact that you can still have central registry for people to peruse.  “LOVE IT!” (You must say this in your best Oprah voice to get the full effect.)  Even though this site doesn’t have a registry for kids gifts you can get plenty ideas from their sample lists to modify for children. 

Here are some of my ideas for alternative gifts/green gifts for children:  Playdate Certificates (take the birthday boy or girl out to enjoy some individual attention and to give the parents a little break), gift Certificates to take an exercise or sports class, memberships to museums or other kid friendly “cultural” places, great hand-me-down clothes (Especially anything that can be used for dress up, such as used Halloween costumes.), and money towards a college fund (your green rewards can really double on this one if they go into environmental studies :)). If you want something for the kids to unwrap, buy toys that are eco friendly or made from sustainable resources.  Here’s some ideas of activities and toys for children.  I think that with some creativity and thought, anyone can be more eco-friendly in this area.  You may just end up with a cleaner toy room and a trash can that’s not overflowing with excessive packaging after Christmas day.  That would be a saving grace in more than one way.

“Tons of Change Thursday”

Tweenie’s Greenies: Thursday Edition

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It’s fall and the leaves are turning into deep reds, yellows and oranges.  I love fall.  The crisp, fresh air is such a welcome change from the Michigan humidity that often accompanies the summer days.  It may also be time to start thinking about that heating bill again as some of you begin to turn the thermostat up.  However, before you turn on the heat, I would like to urge you to stay cool this year.  

I think this is one of the easiest ways to cut home energy costs and to green up your home at the same time (heating and cooling accounts for about 1/2 of an average homes energy bill).  The fuel sources for most of our homes (75% of U.S. Homes) are either coal, oil or natural gas.  All of these are fossil fuels will impact the environment in some negative way (air pollution and greenhouse gases) and they are non-renewable to boot (can’t be replenished in a relatively short amount of time).  So, I know you are all thinking “Yada, Yada, I have heard it all before.  Use a programmable thermostat (save about $150 per year doing so).  Check insulation in my home and improve as needed (Save up to 20% on heating costs by caulking, filling, and insulating).  Be sure to clean and keep my furnace maintained properly (Save up to another 20% by using an Energy Star Furnace and keeping it properly maintained not to mention the tax incentive).  Blah, Blah, Blah. ”   Well, I might say things like that to you but I am going to go one step further and suggest that you explore an alternative renewable energy resource for either part or all of your residential needs.

So, how about those renewable energy resources….solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal.  I know that these sources can be hard to find depending on where you live, but give it a shot.  You never know what you may find.  For example, you may find that your natural gas provider has a program called “green currents”.  Pay attention here all you Michigan DTE Energy costumers.  About 20 states have renewable energy portfolios.  In Green Currents, you can pay a little bit more to receive a portion of energy (a percent) from wind energy.  Therefore, you would be supporting renewable energy sources and the Michigan economy.  Link to the FAQ page for questions regarding DTE Michigan’s program.  It is a little confusing to understand how they use this money but the FAQ clarifies it for you.  The nice part about Green Currents, is that you can “receive” more renewable energy without setting up large solar panels or wind turbines around your home.

I am also going to challenge you to follow me in keeping a cool house.  If you simply set your thermostat a degree lower you will save big over the course of the cold season.  For every degree you lower your thermostat, you can save up to 5% of your heating bills.  Who couldn’t use that extra cash over Christmas?  OR you could try to not turn on your heat at all.  Well, at least not for a while.  The weather here in Michigan is nice and warm right now.  It’s already October and we still haven’t turned on any heat since spring.  I am going to see how long I can hold out on turning on the stinky furnace.  I have 3 little ones and I am not going to turn them into popsicles, but I will layer them with shirts and sweaters before I turn on the heat.  I will let you know how long I can hold out on turning on the heat.  Perhaps I should offer a prize for any of you Michiganders who dare try to last longer than I.  Hmmm…I should have some extra money after saving it on the heating bill or lack there of.  I am the Master of my Domain 🙂

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