Posted in Environment, Gardening, Lists

Earth Day 2022: Sustainability

I haven’t blogged much lately, but I am committed to my Earth Day environmental check in. 2022 has brought a lot of challenges for me, and well, pretty much everyone else. I still haven’t managed to kick the plastic habit, but I have been taking steps toward living more sustainably. Some have worked out better than others.

Step 1: Mending clothes. I worn second-hand jeans exclusively for over a decade – ever since learning about the environmental cost of producing new denim. I save money and the earth. It’s a win-win. When fitting rooms closed during Covid-19, I wondered what more I could do to prolong the life of my denim. Enter the sewing machine. I learned how to reinforce weak seams and do two types of patches. I haven’t figured out how to do a good hem, but I love how cute these butterfly patches turned out.

2. Native plants: My backyard is often soggy, the side effect development and living near a marsh. With carefully selected native prairie grasses and flowering plants, I turned my sump-pump runoff into a faux riverbed. The rocks redirect the water, sending it away from the lowest part of the yard. These native plants are absolute sponges with deep root. Plus they give me something pretty to look at, pollinators a place for a snack, and my family a place to play bocce or croquet. This was an absolute win. I shopped at Minnesota Native Landscapes, but that won’t help you if you live in say Phoenix, AZ or Cardiff, Wales.

3. I tried toothpaste pellets. I won’t say which brand, but it was a no-go. I was disappointed. I still love the idea of toothpaste in a refillable glass jar. If you have a favorite brand, I’d love a recommendation.

4. Bambody Period Underwear. Maybe this is TMI, but between the plastics, adhesives, and bleach used in traditional feminine hygiene products, I made the switch to more nature friendly products about 8 years ago and FINALLY I have found one worth talking about. Other brands I have tried either fell apart after two washes, fit poorly, were itchy, had a funk, or (again maybe this is TMI) made me sweaty. Bambody is the opposite. They are so soft and comfortable, that I wear them on days I don’t need them. I bought my first pair eighteen months ago. My most recent purchase was two months ago. If I put the same color pairs side by side, you would not be able to tell the difference. No fading, no weird stretching, and best of all no funk or sweat. Click here to see more.

To sum Earth Day 2022: Try the Bambody, add native plants, patches can be cute, and please let me know if you found a decent toothpaste pellet.

These endorsements are entirely my own. I have not received compensation for any product mentioned. However, some items may contain affiliate links.

Posted in Environment, Family life, Gardening

Earth Day 2021

The past 12 months have been challenging for this lazy person committed to both supporting local business and adopting small changes to help the Earth. The pandemic caused me to discard the old syllabus. I hope Mother Nature is grading on a curve.

In an effort to support local restaurants, my family and I got takeout at least once a week. That generated a lot of takeout containers, most of which were not recyclable. Some got repurposed into craft projects or places to start seedlings, but eventually, they went to the trash.

On the other hand, my takeout dollars went to small businesses in the area. Not every place survived, but I banded together with a group of moms in my area and we shared information about struggling small businesses, especially those owned by women and BIPOC communities, and those who used locally sourced ingredients. Owners of five restaurants and three other businesses have acknowledged the moms as the reason they made rent and kept doors open.

Even if I don’t like the accumulated takeout containers, I am making a difference for people in my community and that feels pretty darn good. Fingers crossed these “Foreverwear” containers become wider spread.

When I look at this year and how my baby steps worked there are plusses and minuses.

The bad and the ugly:

Takeout containers use increasing.

Overall increase in packaging – from deliveries to not using reusable bags, it all adds up.

The hubs “cleaned” a garden bed and got rid of my swamp milkweed patch.

Swamp Milkweed – the pinkish purple flowers are prettier than the name.

What went well

Reduced carbon emission from travel. No flights, and not too many miles on the car.

Increased the number of native plants in the yard. Got promise from the hubs he will restore the milkweed.

Better meal planning meant less food waste and fewer trips to the grocery store.

Reduced impulse purchases. We tried to reduce packing by ordering only when we had a list. There was no “Oh this looks cute” or “that smells great” items dropping into the cart.

More clothing repair. The kids are still growing – we cannot stop all clothing purchases, but I learned to patch jeans and reinforce seams.

My Green Living goals for the next year:

Collage of flowers and landscapes with the words Plant Kindness

Grow more vegetables and herbs. Buy plants from the local greenhouse.

Add more native plants. How cute are these Pocket Prairies? Very, in my opinion. Maybe there is something similar in your neck of the woods.

Be intentional in my purchases and my travel. Both will happen again at some point.

It’s a short list. Share your green living hints to give me inspiration.

PS – I added an image after a reader mentioned needing to look up Swamp Milkweed. I guess I’ve lived in Minnesota long enough that I forgot how uncommon it is elsewhere.

Posted in COVID-19, Environment, ethics, Food

Earth Day 2020: The Covid-19 edition

Reusable shopping bags are now biohazards. Plant based cleaners don’t necessarily kill viruses. Recycling has stopped in some communities. I’ve had to quickly unlearn habits that took years to master.

It would be so easy to use Covid-19 as an excuse to give myself a pass on taking steps toward sustainability, and to do nothing to recognize the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. And yet the steps I’m taking to protect myself, my family, and my community have brought food and my personal food waste into much sharper focus. That wrinkled red pepper that I once would have composted because no-one would eat it is a precious building block of a stir-fry. That soft apple gets cooked into a quick applesauce. The strawberries my kids thought were over-ripe were perfect for strawberry-lemon cupcakes. The fresh spinach that accidentally froze was fine in soup.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how to keep food fresher longer. I used to buy asparagus to use within 48 hours. But that is too many trips to the grocery store. I kept two pounds fresh for a week by storing the stems in water and ice.

The silicone Stasher bag that the kids no longer use for lunch have proven themselves handy. They are the best way I have found to keep an avocado fresh. When the kids start school again, they won’t get their Stasher bags back. Plus they are dishwasher safe.

I’m not sure who to credit for the tip of storing lemons in the fridge in a sealed plastic bag, but it’s worked like a charm. My sister sent me a box of lemons five weeks ago. The one we used last night was as fresh and juicy as the one we used the day they arrived.

Covid-19 and the accompanying stay at home orders and devastating loss of lives and livelihoods is overwhelming. Someone in my local paper mocked those of us who had to give up our reusable bags as “proof” that those bags were foolish “feel good environmentalism.” Personally, I need those “feel good” moments more than ever during this Covid-19 crisis.

With so much feeling out of my control, trying to reduce my food waste and limiting trips to the grocery ARE actions I can take and, yup, feel good about.

What are your favorite ways to keep food fresher longer and to reduce food waste?

P.S. – Wash your hands.

P.P.S. – I dislike the block editor – Getting pics to line up right takes WAY too long. My newsletter is more aesthetically pleasing. Sign up here.

Posted in Environment

Earth Day 2019

If you’ve seen my previous Earth Day/ environmental posts, you might remember my commitment to small steps every year that are beneficial for the Earth. If I can figure out the new blog format, I’ll share links here otherwise, search for EARTH DAY in my search bar.

Change 1: Bees Wrap

As much as I love baking bread, I’m uncomfortable with all the recipes that say “cover with plastic wrap and let rise.” My grandma used a damp cotton towel and if the bowl is big enough, that works pretty well, but if the dough gets into the towel, it’s a mess. I got Bees Wrap at Christmas and WOW! Bees Wrap is perfect for covering bowls. I also use it to keep the bread fresh on the counter. It washes up easily with cold water, and dough doesn’t stick! We still keep plastic wrap in the house but we’ve cut our household use of plastic wrap in half, thanks to Bees Wrap. They have an Earth Day special, which is a great excuse to check out Bees Wrap for yourself.

Change 2: Reusable Straws.

My kids are hooked on straws and they love sea turtles. After learning about the sea turtle found with a straw in its nose, they wanted to make a change. I bought stainless steel collapsible straws with fancy silicone covers so a) you could identify your straw and b) you could protect your lips from overly cold or hot drink temps. Frankly, this change has been a bust. We haven’t used straws at home for years and for the reusable straws to work away from home, you have to take the straws with you. We have remembered to carry them exactly twice. We’re not big straw people, so for us, it’s easier to decline straws at restaurants and other venues rather than carrying our stainless steel ones. If you are a straw fan and want to make the change to reusable straws, there are plenty of choices in various widths and most are dishwasher safe. For my family “refuse” turned out to be a more sustainable choice than “reuse.”

Change 3: Less Liquid Soap

I’m not going to lie, I love my health and beauty liquid soaps. Shared bar soap creeps me out. I picture little germs dancing on the bar and I hate picking up a slimy bar. It’s a tactile thing for me. Yet somehow, we’re making progress. Instead of traditional hand soap, we make our own foamy soap using liquid dish detergent. I found a pump at TJ MaXX that has lines for the right dish soap to water ratio. I cannot imagine giving up my favorite Redkin shampoo, but I am using less because I wash my hair once a week.

The biggest switch for me has been using bar soap in the shower. My household has to be careful with naturally made soaps because my daughter is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. Almond extract may sound wonderful to you, but it could trigger an allergic event in my house. If we can’t find an ingredient list, we won’t get it. My local grocery (Fresh Thyme) carries a fantastic line of bulk bar soap that is free of nut oils. My favorite has crushed up mint leaves for an exfoliation bonus, but other family members prefer different scents.

This Earth Day, I hope you commit to making a small change to help the earth. We are the stewards of this hunk of the solar system. Few of us are saintly enough to live a zero-waste lifestyle, but all of us can make more earth friendly choices some of the time. I grew up with the mantra “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” but in the wake of straw and bag bans, I’ve learned of a new version “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refuse.”

Posted in company, Crimson Romance, Environment, Guests

Happy Earth Day (with guests)

I’m a nature loving girl, as is my daughter and my mother.  I think we inherited our love from my Grandfather, who was a steward of the earth long before Earth Day made us more aware of the special place we live.

To  honor Earth Day I invited a couple of friends to share some ideas on how to take care of our planet.  Please welcome Kenyatta Copeland, project manager with Jordan and Burke an environmental consulting firms that specializes in watershed restoration, and her husband, Malcolm Patterson, Senior Project Manager with H20 Environmental. H20 also specializes in watershed restoration, water quality planning and regulatory compliance.  I first met them in Synithia Williams’ You Can’t Plan Love.  Even though I’m convinced the heat between them is partially responsible for global warming, I couldn’t think of anyone better to take over my blog for a day.  Without further ado, may I present Kenyetta and Malcolm.

Kenyatta: Lola invited us here on Earth Day to talk small steps you can take to celebrate Earth Day every day.

Malcolm: One of the reasons I work on environmental initiatives is because I’m an avid fisherman. I see firsthand the impact of pollution on waterways and I like the challenge that comes with finding ways to protect a resource I use.

Kenyatta: And I like making a difference in my community and seeing results first hand. But you don’t have to work at an environmental firm to make a difference. Making small changes in your daily life can not only improve water quality, but have multiple environmental benefits.

Malcolm: For example, switching from a gas mower to an electric mower not only prevents the possibility of leaks and spills during oil changes that can be washed into the storm drain and ultimately our local waterways, but it also reduces air pollution.

Kenyatta: Conserving water in your home saves this valuable resource, and reduces the amount of energy needed by water providers to treat and supply water.

Lola: Reading between the lines, does that mean sharing a shower is good for the planet?

[Awkward pause.  Kenyetta blushes.  Malcolm clears his throat.]

Malcolm: My job requires lots of travelling, so carpooling with co-workers saves gas and reduces air pollution. I also make a habit to book hotels that offer environmental services such as recycling for their guests.

Kenyatta: I love going out to eat with my girlfriends, so looking for restaurants that serve local food is something we do to not only support local businesses, but gives me assurance my food is fresher since it wasn’t shipped halfway across the country.

And since Malcolm also can’t cook, we eat out a lot but never sit in the drive through line. It’s faster to go inside and it reduces pollution from our vehicles idling.

Malcolm: I though this interview was about Earth Day, not my lack of culinary skills.

Kenyatta: Sorry, baby, just making another “green” point.

Malcolm: Because I love you, I’ll let it slide. I hope you enjoyed our simple tips on ways that you can go green.

Kenyatta: We wanted to touch on things you may not have considered before and hopefully our information gave you something to think about. You can learn more green tips at http://earth911.com/, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Earth Day Page http://www.epa.gov/earthday.

Thanks, Lola, for having us hang here today and spread our green message. Maybe next time Malcolm can sing the Captain Planet theme song.

Malcolm: You had to bring that up, didn’t you?

Kenyatta: Only because I love you.

Lola: Awwwww. Thank you both for coming and sharing some great ideas with us. Next time I’ll figure out how to imbed songs.  Malcolm’s singing is something I want to hear.

You can get to know Kenyetta and Malcolm in You Can’t Plan Love by Synithia Williams

Knowing firsthand the heartbreak that comes when desire and emotion rule a relationship, Kenyatta Copeland assumes marrying Brad Johnson will lead to a safe and secure life. But as much as she believes she can plan her future, it’s hard to ignore the way her boss, Malcolm Patterson, ignites her passions with just one look.

After Malcolm learns of her engagement, he makes a play for her heart and reminds her that passion between a man and a woman has its perks… but also its costs. When Brad confirms his suspicion that there’s more than work between Kenyatta and Malcolm, he devises a sinister plan to keep Kenyatta by his side.

Torn between her promise to marry Brad and her irrepressible longing for Malcolm, Kenyatta must decide if she can live her life in a passionless marriage of convenience or once again trust her heart. Yet Brad does not intend to let her go easily, and by the time she realizes the depths of his treachery, it may be too late.

Synithia Williams is also the author of Worth the Wait and the forthcoming Heart to Heal.  You can find her books at Amazon, B&N, and more.