Friday, October 31, 2008

Taming the Candy Monster


copyright Chicobag.com
Your best option to controlling the goodies your child gets on Halloween is to let your child have a Halloween party. You control all the food and beverages and can make up for any deficits with really cool games, decorations and lots of friends to make it fun.

Prizes for the games are abundant. A few ideas, many from Green Halloween, are:

Adhesive bandages with Halloween themes

Beads

Coins from other countries

Feathers

Sidewalk chalk (orange and black, if available)

Jokes

Money

Spinning tops

Halloween themed pencils, preferably made of recycled plastic or money

Polished rocks, skipping stones

Mini pumpkins

Shaped soaps

Halloween stickers

Temporary tattoos, Halloween themes

Unfinished wood items to be painted or decorated

Trick or Treat bags to be decorated, including package of miscellaneous decorations

Whistles

Worry dolls

Cool tricks for Kids cards (1 per child)

Art projects for kids (1 card of instructions per child)

Brain tickling activities for kids (1 card/activity per child)

3-D cat cards

3-D dog cards

Halloween coloring pages

Shells

Marbles

Friendship bracelet kits

Magnets

Seeds for flowers

Door hangers to color

Shoe laces in Halloween colors

Halloween buttons

If having a party isn't an option for you, there are other solutions--good ones. From trades to buy outs, there are many ways to limit how much of those goodies get into your kid. I outlined some on my Tuesday post entitled The Mother of All Halloween Sites. Thanks to Green Halloween for some of the ideas, incorporated with my own.

Meanwhile, if you still need a treat bag, and don't have time to help your child make one, check out your local natural foods store for the Chicobag Halloween bag. All year, this will be a great reusable shopping bag for you or a great tote for your child. What's more, Chicobag will take it back and recycle it when it does "give out." Happy HalloGreen!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dropping the Disposable Water Bottle Habit

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko


I think it was 1996 when I started drinking bottled water. I was at the Atlanta Olympics and discovered that Crystal Springs water tasted wonderful out of a bottle, after having nearly given up drinking tap water from my home. Our city water hits you with an aroma of chlorine as soon as you turn on the tap. How healthy can that be?

By 2007, my water bottle habit was firmly established. I'm surprised I didn't need a bottled water patch to drop the habit. Years ago, I arranged deliveries of water to the house, as all 5 of us consumed an enormous amount of water in our daily activities, and the problem worsened with the kids' sports. They each had 2 athletic activities, making for a total of about 25 athletic events (practices and games) per week to provide water for. If I had only realized...now I cringe at the thought of all the bottles sent to the recyclers.

And I did not know about the dangers of freezing plastic until recently. I can't even count the number of frozen water bottles we used over the years, to keep the water cold until needed later in the day. Apparently, freezing the type of plastic used in water bottles releases Dioxin--a carcinogen--into the frozen water. Last year when I got my cancer diagnosis I quickly pinned it on a long list of sins...Hmmm.

After starting this blog, I vowed to make this change. I sought out a Bisphenol a-free bottle (see Science Daily for an explanation of the dangers of BPA) with a straw that closes underneath a lid to keep it clean, and one that held more than a typical 1/2 liter water bottle. It even has a belt clip to hook it to a backpack, belt or other stationary object. I use filtered water from a Brita pitcher. I know there are better options available, but for now, that is what will suffice. I like it and am still drinking a lot, so that's better than bottled. One of my sons, an environmental science and math major at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is working on moving me toward a water purification system. He has the exact model picked out, and it most certainly will cure cancer and balance the national budget. It will also take a whole closet to hold the thing, so I'm still shopping. Any ideas?

This Thursday's Green Tip Toe: You guessed it! Drop the bottled water habit. It's easy and much cheaper. What's not to like about that? Sure, you'll still need a few bottles around for guests on the fly, and you'll still have to purchase one at the 7-11 occasionally when you're out of town. But that's an improvement, both for you and the Earth. Take the vow with me. I need moral support.

Here's a few ideas to get you started:

  • Take some time to select a bottle that suits your drinking needs and style. How large does it need to be? Do you prefer a small opening, a large mouth, or a straw? Do you need a cup, or is the bottle sufficient? Color preference?
  • Consider whether you will ever use if for milk or pulpy juices, and if so, buy a wide mouthed bottle for easier cleaning.
  • If you prefer plastic, choose BPA-free plastic.
  • Aluminum reusable water bottles are all the rage now, and available online wherever bottles are found. Being dishwasher safe would be a definite plus for me, so I'll probably be choosing aluminum next time I buy one.

Feel free to comment below with anything particularly interesting. Thanks for the input.

Tomorrow's Halloween post will offer a few ideas on how to tame the candy monsters at your house. We'll explore some possibilities on limiting how much of that nasty stuff your kids eat. Come check out some things that I have used with my kids, and ideas from others such as Green Halloween.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Woofing Wednesday: Ready for Howl-oween


© photo copyright Carrie Boyko


Can you tell Tanner likes his profile? I know I used him yesterday, but today I got Oliver in on the action. Still no Xena. She's embarrassed to be dressed like Pamela Sue Anderson, so you'll just have to wait on her. Sorry.

One other site where I picked up a great idea was Tree Hugging Family. Among other ideas, I particularly like the idea of giving out modeling clay. Kids always enjoy the fun of creating interesting things out of clay. Keep it in a Ziplock baggie (I know; they're not green, but they work well to keep the clay soft) and they make a great backseat toy to keep your tots occupied while carpooling, etc. I'm sure you'll find some other ideas there, too, so stop on by.

After a break from Halloween tomorrow, I'll talk about Taming the Candy Monster on Friday: How to get some or all of that traditional junk out of your kids hands--happily. Come join me for some great ploys to negotiate with your kids for their goodies. Hope to see you then.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Mother of All Halloween Sites:


copyright Carrie Boyko

Here I go again. I dredged this site up from the archives, dusted it off and am offering it one last time to all you procrastinators. I know I got a little ahead of you; my bad. I tend to think I'm behind whenever I'm only a week ahead. Anal, I suppose, but at least it keeps me current. You have four days left, so get going.
Green Halloween is by far the most comprehensive site on making this a safe and healthy holiday. You will undoubtedly find a ton of ideas and strategies for making Halloween your own favorite holiday.

So Halloween week is here and like many moms, youre destined to take your child trick or treating around the neighborhood on Friday night. The alternatives aside, discarded after your child’s complaints made you give in, you now have to come up with a plan to get some, if not all of the candy away from your child after the big ‘take” is over.

When my children were of Trick or Treating age, we used a couple of the following ideas. I have to say they worked well. However, the ideas I found on Green Halloween were much more varied, and could potentially be cheaper. When my kids were young, exchanging their traditional candies for healthier options wasn’t as hard, but as they got older, the challenges became greater. I don't honestly know if it was simply the desire to show off their take to their friends or some other reason, however we eventually found that the only idea that worked with our preteens and middle-schoolers was green, but not in the sense that we would have wished. They wanted cash--cold, hard, cash-- and no small amount, either. After all, we were asking them not to eat this wonderful tasting stuff, and to them, there was no motivation to give that up other than cash.

I’d like to think that I could do a better job of negotiating this exchange, now armed with the ideas from the Green Halloween site. Below I will pass along a few of my personal favorites from their ideas for swapping the traditional candy in your child’s candy bag. If you’d like more ideas, you can check in here on Friday for a list of non-candy ideas. Check out Green Halloween if you need even more options.

Before I share my list of preferences, here are a couple of Green Halloween’s suggestion for making the swap happen with younger children:

Invite the Halloween Fairy (or Great Pumpkin—be creative) to come to your home Halloween night. Tell your child a story, weaving a tale about what the fairy will do with the candy to make magical fairy dust. You may choose to allow your child to select a few pieces of candy to keep and then leave the remainder on the front porch. Be sure to make a big deal of the substitutions that the Fairy leaves in this spot, when found by your child the next morning. Tell your child what a good helper he/she is for the Halloween Fairy.

One last idea: You could give your child points for each piece of candy and let him/her purchase a toy or activity to do with you (movies, etc.) in exchange for the candy given in exchange.

Enough ideas; here is my shortened version of the Green Halloween list:

Small bags of Terra Chips or Pita Chips
Honey sticks
Organic juice boxes
Glee gum minis
Spooky S’mores Clif Kid 2Bars
Lesser Evil popcorn
Crunchy Munchies pumpkin seeds
Inidividual jr. packs of organic nut butters, such as Justin’s Nut Butter or Barney Butter
Tundra Trading licorice or gum
Organic Agave sticks

Also, see my earlier ideas at Happy Green Halloween.


Whether you use my costume idea from yesterday's post or another of your own, I'd love to get pictures. If you'd like your child's picture on my site (no last names, please) you can e-mail it to me at carrieleajohnson@gmail.com. I'd love to share your cutie pies on my site. Happy Green Halloween!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Halloween ReRuns?

"Think outside the candy box"
--Corey Colwell-Lipscon
Founder, Green Halloween

I suppose you could call this post a rerun, but an updated version, at least. A couple of weeks ago, in an effort to get the Halloween mood going, I posted twice about Halloween. Rather than send you back via a link, I've updated the posts and am passing along the info again for all you procrastinators. Friday is Halloween. Grab your broom and fly, my little pretty! Fly!


This year I am determined to give away green treats. I have visited every natural foods store in the area and picked up a number of nice goodies: fruit leathers, raisins, a variety of organic breakfast and granola bars, organic lollipops, organic gummy bunnies (Annie's), Endangered Species mini-chocolates, and all-natural sour gummy worms. I'm feeling pretty pleased with my payload, considering I started out thinking I'd only be giving away raisins and granola bars. Halloween has definitely come mainstream in the organic markets, and that's a good thing for the kids. Very good.


I found a wonderful trio of Mom's websites (thanks Charlene, and Frankie, too) that offered ideas, along with another website to visit: Green Halloween. Meanwhile, for all you moms, here are Charlene's sites:

Busy Moms Recipes website
Busy Moms Recipes blog
Busy Moms Daily Tips

In addition to the above sites, a few tips for your consideration:
  • Individually wrapped sugar cookies (pumpkins maybe) made with natural food coloring
  • Pictures to color (Halloween themes), printed on recycled paper, rolled and tied up with orange cotton yarn

  • Similarly, word searches or crossword puzzles
  • Halloween stickers

  • whistles

  • Halloween bookmarks, made on the computer and printed on recycled paper
  • mini toys like party favors (check the dollar stores for multi-packs)


One green costume idea has come to mind; feel free to steal it and make it your own. If you have a large enough box or a small enough child, make a box into a recycle bin. Simply cover it with green wrapping paper or paint it green. Then paint on the recycle symbol; it isn't that tough to copy. You could even sketch the symbol on an 8 1/2 x 11 sticker sheet, cut it out, and apply it whole. Cut holes for the head and arms and you're in business.

I have to be honest, here. My husband thought this idea was seriously corny. I got a big thumbs down. I've included it again, though, since it won't take long to make, and your kid is probably a good 40 years younger than my husband, so taste is relevant. PLEASE let me know if you do use this idea. I'd just die for a photo!

Let me know your ideas. Wouldn't it be great if we could get the word out all over the country, and lots of children would dress up like wind farm fans, smart cars (there's another good box costume possibility), recycle bins, and other green icons?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Disney Working to be Earth Friendly

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

Dinner at the Contemporary Hotel at Disney this past week was exciting in more ways than one. Although I hadn't been there in 30+ years (I'm giving away my age), the hotel was well-preserved and still contemporary looking. Our reservations with family in town for a Disney week were at The Wave restaurant, just inside the parking lot entrance.
My first thrill was when I opened the menu and saw numerous Organic offerings, from coffee to food options, organics were visibly a significant part of the menu. It was truly a pleasant surprise to be able to order an Organic Capuccino.

When water and cold drinks arrived, the straws boasted another green statement--Environmentally Friendly Paper Straws--from Aardvark Straws. Unlike the paper straws of my childhood, these appear to feel and look more durable.



Those of you who have been to any type of animal park or zoo in recent years are probably aware that most of those venues have abandoned plastic straws because of their danger to the animals. Paper straws, however, do not present the same hazards, and are biodegradable if they end up in the moat around the lion's den. During our visit around Animal Kingdom, I saw Aardvark Straws in every restaurant, and was happy to see no plastic substitutions jeapardizing the safety of the animals.

As for my preference, their compostable quality, coupled with the fact that they aren't plastic, makes them more Earth friendly than the plastic versions. Anything we can do to eliminate plastics is fine by me, even if we're doing it for the animals, instead of the people. Hmm...Has our concern for the animals' health and safety become more important than our concern for humans? Maybe we need to get the animal rights activists involved in our green lobbying activities. They are obviously doing something right.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Knowledge is Empowering

Thursday's Green Tip Toe is all about not relying on recycling to deal with your plastics "habit". Recycling isn't always the answer. Understanding a little about what goes into the recycling process has had an effect on much of my decision making. Take this video as an example. Despite the sometimes difficult to read wording, you'll get enough out of this to want to switch up to reusable water bottles and limit your plastics exposure. Take a few minutes to watch this, and let it empower you.





Tomorrow I'll be sharing an interesting discovery at Walt Disney World. Come take a peek into one small way that Disney is going green.

Next Thursday I'll be offering some tips to help you kick the disposable water bottle habit. If I can do it, so can you. Join me for 10 minutes of simple ideas.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Woofing Wednesday Goes to Earth 911

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

How can you resist this darling little fella? He had his first birthday last week and got a doggie ice cream sandwich from Ashley. Oooh! That was yummy.

This week my project was to find out where to recycle CFL's (the new compact fluorescent light bulbs). Although they last for years, I do have one that was dropped and is dead. I've been aware for some time that because they have a small amount of Mercury, they cannot just be tossed in the dump. My first stop was Google, and then I hit Earth 911. There are plenty of options, with Home Depot appearing to be the most widely available. They get an "Atta Boy" from me and Oliver.

Earth 911 was a fun sight to investigate. You can find out how to recycle just about anything there. It has a search function where you type in the item and your zip code, and it gives you the name and information on recycling. The site also has a blog with a minimal number of posts. I suppose this will grow with time. I don't know how long the site has been in existence, but the site itself is great. Check it out. You're bound to learn something that will help you live more green.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Solar Tips from the Big Green Expo

©photo copyright Carrie Boyko
Thanks to Michele B. for her artwork
The sun is up on a brand new day at Organic Journey Online. I hope you enjoy our new look. Comments are welcome; there is a purple link at the end of each post for comments.
As I mentioned yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised by the quantity of products and services to learn about at the Big Green Expo in Orlando. I would have liked to spend an hour with each vendor. Since Solar Energy is of particular interest to me, I'll offer some Tuesday Tips that I learned on this topic:


  • Three Solar Today Magazine issues are available free online at this link, including the latest news and advice about solar energy, energy efficiency, and other sustainable technologies.

  • The Fall, 2008 edition, which I received at the Expo, includes an article of rebates and financing your solar renovation.

  • A Buyer's Guide to over 1,650 vendors Nationwide is included in this issue, to help you find an installer and supplier.

  • Virtually all vendors I spoke with suggested that Solar hot water heaters are the place to start, for Florida homeowners.

  • The American Solar Energy Society (ASES) can help with your questions. A list of these is in the magazine above, or check with ASES or Solar Today.

  • Here are the questions you need to ask to get started:
  1. Which renewable energy technologies work best in my climate?

  2. Which local installers do you have experience with?

  3. Does my local utility offer any special programs I should know about?

  4. Is there a chapter member who might be willing to mentor me while I'm learning about energy technologies for my home?

  5. When and where is your next chapter meeting, and is it open to nonmembers?

Thanks to Solar Today Magazine for this information. It ought to get you and ME started. My plan is to start with Solar water heating, when my current water heater dies, which I am anticipating will be shortly. The thing is ancient, and they don't have lifetime warranties. So, armed with the above info on getting the ball rolling, I'll hopefully be able to pick a replacement model before I need to make the switch. Happy Solar shopping, and keep me informed on any interesting finds. I'd love to hear from you.Tomorrow is a very important post. I urge you to join me to learn about the most important place on the web to find out how and where to recycle toxic items from your home. Hiding toxic discards in garbage bags and sending them to the dump is simply poisoning the Earth. I hope you'll stop in tomorrow and find out just how easy it is to avoid this toxic solution to your waste disposal problems. It's one simple website visit.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Big Green Expo Focuses on Saving the Earth



While an exposition for businesses of all kinds under the green or organic umbrella, the Big Green Expo in Orlando brought us a wide variety of products and services.

I was pleasantly surprised to have the opportunity to check out a traditionally sized electric car, talk solar options with various vendors, hear more about the positive effects of alkalinized water on our bodies, visit with the animals at Critter Encounters, and collect information on a multitude of green topics, products and services. I was especially pleased to find booths with various local organic, all-natural and holistic pet products and services, and excited to come home with a bundle of samples to try out on my furry friends. My pups particularly enjoyed an afternoon snack of Canine Caviar (cool name, huh?!), provided by Pookie's Pet Nutrition and Bow Wow Bakery.

I had a nice conversation with DeVonna Craner, a new business owner, who was there to promote recycling in a fun way. You can visit her at Hot Chicks Recycle. Kudos to DeVonna's daughters, who were instrumental in conceptualizing and planning their business idea--Make Recycling More Fun--and don't worry guys, you weren't left out; they have stuff for you too!

The Big Green Expo is an event sponsored by the Not for profit Harvest For Life program, whose goal is to heighten awareness, serve as a resource and promote projects and services that serve the community to sustain our planet. In addition to Big Green Expos, they also sponsor job fairs and provided a printed job resource guide inside their Calendar of Events for the Expo.

During the two full days of Expo weekend, well over a hundred organizations touted their offerings while live music alternated with speakers, whose topics included sustainability, eating vegetarian, eating according to the seasons, and a definition of "Green", a nice touch to help define the goal of the whole event. Upcoming Big Green Expo events are scheduled in Jacksonville, Florida for January 8, and in Tampa, Florida for March 14. At the door, entrance to the Orlando show was $10; however a $5 coupon is available on their website, as well as in their advertisements in various publications such as Orlando Woman. The expo in Orlando was well worth the $5, as you could easily spend the entire day exploring their many green options.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What Do I Do with Large Quantities of Material to Compost?

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

Good question. This scenario can play out in so many ways:
  1. You've just pulled out an entire row of dying shrubs.

  2. You had 2 weeks worth of company over the holidays and the leftovers are overwhelming.

  3. You suddenly had to urge to weed, and the next thing you knew it was evening and you have piles all over the yard.

  4. Your husband finally gave you permission to clean out his old clothing, much of which is in no condition to donate.

  5. You went on a shredding binge with your new paper shredder. (Wasn't that liberating to destroy all those pre-approved credit card forms?)

  6. You gave your English Sheepdog his summer crew cut.

  7. Yard clean up day turned out to be more of a demolition.

  8. Your annual crop of Fall leaves is enough to fill a dump truck.

I think you get the idea. In little over a month of my composting program, I've already experienced 3 of the above possibilities, with more looming in the near future. Determined, not to succumb to the ease of sending bags to the landfill, I've sought out how to cope with these situations and have quickly located three feasible options that will suffice until others come along.

  • First, for yard debris, your cheapest and greenest option is the wheelbarrow and some healthy physical exercise. Toting the wheelbarrow around the yard to the compost pile or bin a few times, probably won't be as taxing as the actual yard work was to begin with. If you are too pooped, there is always tomorrow.

  • For scenarios 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 (all but scenario #2) the Home Depot bags (made by Vigoro) pictured above are perfect, and economical. A package of 10 cost me less than $2, and they hold a whopping 30 gallons. They have a boxed bottom, so they stand up on their own, and when the bag is full, just place it in your compost pile or bin. The double layered heavy brown paper will compost right along with your other materials.

  • For scenario 2 above, I might consider using the BioBag Tall Kitchen garbage bags (13 gallon capacity), also featured in my recent post, Composting 101: Part I of V. These bags are made of recycled materials and natural fibers and feel like plastic, yet they are biodegradable and compostable. Although the Vigoro bags from Home Depot indicate they can handle some moisture, company and food could equate to dumped drinks and melted jello salad. I'd go for the more plastic-like bags on these occasions, personally, while opting for the Home Depot bags for larger, less wet loads. When I clean out my rabbit's crate, I am able to put all of his litter (pine shavings) and droppings (vegetarian) into the paper composting bag. The new, compostable wheat and corn cat litters would be good for this also, keeping in mind that you should scoop out the cat's poop and dispose of it separately.

So there you have it. All your problems are solved, right? Ha ha. I can think of another. Last night I had a raccoon raid one of my compost piles. He wasn't able to get in through my fencing, so he appears to have been a creative thief. There are broken branches in the bushes alongside the pile, so I suspect the wiley critter climbed the bush and jumped in. He had a bit of a feast from the top of the pile and then had to figure out how to get out. I'm not sure what his method of accomplishing this was. Wish I could have filmed it! Anyway, no harm done and I rather suspect he won't want to go through all that trouble often. I'll keep you posted on the Raccoon watch.

As my composting experience continues, I will occasionally be passing along new tidbits. In the meantime, if you're interested in checking the earlier posts in this series on composting, here they are:

Composting 101: Part I -- Composting: What Is It and Why Do It?


Composting 101: Part III-- Healthy Choices for Your Compost Pile



You can help by sending me your own discoveries. I'd love to hear from you on any green or organic topic. Feel free to share, and I will pass along the best of your tips to my readers. I've started a list of household things that can be composted, and have surprised myself at its length. Perhaps it will turn into a Composting Dictionary or some such thing for my blog. Any ideas on a title for this topic?
In the next couple of weeks my posts will turn toward a variety of topics including recycling, Earth 911, getting off the disposable water bottle habit, Halloween tips revisited, and some ideas on how to limit your kids' consumption of that big bag of loot they bring home on Halloween.

After Halloween comes the holiday season and I'll be cooking and shopping and talking about ways to save money on all of this. Join me for a few ideas, and PLEASE submit some of yours at the COMMENT link below each post. I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Kitchen Compost Storage, Saving Paper Towels and More Ten Minute Tips

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko


What do I do with kitchen compostables until I'm ready to take them outside? I know there are all kinds of compost buckets and the like available. I've explored some of the options on the Internet, but found that for my available under-sink space, a large plastic container (like Tupperware, with a tight fitting lid) works well to contain my daily leftovers until I'm ready to take them to the pile, usually once each day. Better yet, use what's going into the compost pile, when available. Things like shoe boxes to be disposed of, cereal and cracker boxes, paper bags from things like cat litter, dog food (not plastic lined ones), etc are perfect. Just one tip on this note: Wrap wet items in a sheet or two of newspaper before placing them in the box; this will help prevent them from wetting through the box. We don't want the bottom falling through as you carry it to the compost pile.

I keep most of my paper for the compost bin in a paper shopping bag in the bottom of the pantry. Every day I pitch the junk mail and other paper products for composting into this bag, and then include this all with the compostable food products, when I visit the bin. As often as possible, I pick up a bag of coffee ground from Starbucks to add on top, totally diminishing any food odor. You can read about the Starbucks free Grounds for Your Garden program in my post at this link.

I'm just beginning to see what Vicki meant when she told me that the compost pile should always smell like a Rain forest when I pull back the plastic. In spite of the fact that my piles are not yet far enough along to be called compost, apparently the microorganisms are doing their job. As instructed, if I find a bit of a foul odor, I add brown material (paper, leaves, pines needles and yard clippings). This seems to take care of it. Since brown material includes newspaper, I'm always in stock. I gave up sending it to the recyclers, as I'm using all of it for other purposes now. Check out my post on Mulching Tips to Prevent Weed Breakthroughs, for my favorite.

Now, I'm on a roll:

When peeling and cleaning vegetables, open a section of the newspaper and peel and discard vegetable ends onto the paper. When done, roll it all up and it goes right into the compost bin as is.

Newspaper is a wonderful medium for cooling cookies on. If you're making lots of cookies for the holidays, instead of buying a bunch of cooling racks, just layer sections of newspaper on your counters and the paper will absorb heat and fat, cooling the cookies quickly. When finished, just toss the papers into your compost and clean up is done.

Newspaper also works well for cleaning windows. Skeptical? Just put on a pair of reusable rubber gloves. Tear sections of the newspaper at the folds. Use a bucket of warm water with a cup of vinegar added and you're ready to clean windows on a budget, with no chemicals. Toss all the paper in the compost when you're done.

So what are some other ways to save paper towels? Keep a supply of lightweight, reusable kitchen towels around to clean up spills and messes on the counter. I also wrap washed veggies in light weight kitchen towels before storing them, to reduce spoilage caused by too much moisture. No need for Ziploc bags either. Just secure the towel with a rubber band and toss it in the crisper.

Berries and vegetables that stain can be placed into containers to avoid staining the towels. I keep a couple of stained, but clean cloths to store on top of berries; they seem to mold quickly without something to absorb moisture. If you have discovered other solutions for this kitchen problem, I'd love to hear them. Just Click the COMMENT link at the bottom of the post, and tell me about it. Thanks!


If you'd like to check out the other recent articles on composting, here are the links to my series:


Composting: What Is It and Why Do It ?

What Goes Into My Compost Pile?

More Composting Options and Information

Composting Your Doggie's Doodie and Other Solutions


If you're still eager to learn more, tomorrow's post will cover What Do I Do With Large Quantities of Material to Compost? I found more solutions to common problems and will share these in this helpful post. Hope to see you then. Happy Composting!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

More Green Halloween Ideas from Happy Tanner



Happy Tanner is inviting you all to have fun on Halloween. Of course, his idea of fun is jumping into the pool.


Here is a great site to find some green and organic ideas to complete your Green Halloween. This site is so vast that you should be amazed at the shear amount of information. I know you will find some good ideas there. Also, please visit yesterday's post on this topic at Happy Green Halloween.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Happy Green Halloween!

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

This year I am determined to give away green treats. I have visited every natural foods store in the area and picked up a number of nice goodies: fruit leathers, raisins, a variety of organic breakfast and granola bars, organic lollipops, and organic gummy bunnies (Annie's), but my basket is still not full enough to handle the traffic I get every Halloween.
Today, through a friend, I found a wonderful trio of Mom's websites (thanks Charlene, and Frankie, too) that offered ideas, along with a website to visit. I'll check it out and pass it along tomorrow, as my Woofing Wednesday offering, if it is worthwhile. Meanwhile, for all you moms, here are Charlene's sites:
In addition to the above sites, a few tips for your consideration:
  • Individually wrapped sugar cookies (pumpkins maybe) made with natural food coloring
  • Pictures to color (Halloween themes), printed on recycled paper, rolled and tied up with orange cotton yarn
  • Similarly, word searches or crossword puzzles
  • Halloween stickers
  • whistles
  • Halloween bookmarks, made on the computer and printed on recycled paper
  • mini toys like party favors (check the dollar stores for multi-packs)

One green costume idea has come to mind; feel free to steal it and make it your own. If you have a large enough box or a small enough child, make a box into a recycle bin. Simply cover it with green wrapping paper or paint it green. Then paint on the recycle symbol; it isn't that tough to copy. You could even sketch the symbol on an 8 1/2 x 11 sticker sheet, cut it out, and apply it whole. Cut holes for the head and arms and you're in business.

Let me know your ideas. Wouldn't it be great if we could get the word out all over the country, and lots of children would dress up like wind farm fans, smart cars (there's another good box costume possibility), recycle bins, and other "green icons." Send me your ideas and I'll include them in more Halloween posts. Thanks much.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Composting 101: Part V


Composting Your Doggie's "Doodie" and Other Solutions

In recent posts, I have mentioned that meat, fat and dog and cat droppings are not compostable. There are options to sending this stuff to the dump, though. The most green solution is the Doggie Dooley, is an in-ground dog poop (I suppose cat poop, as well) digester, which dispenses the digested material into the ground in liquid form when it is totally transformed. The Dooley is buried, so that only the lid is visible, and this is flush with the ground and has a built-in foot pedal for opening, so you don't have to handle the door. I found it available in a wide variety of places on the internet, including the larger pet supply stores and the organic gardening sites I have shared recently. There are other brands, as well, starting around $30 and going up depending on size, material and other options.
The downside to the Dooley could be the cost and availability of the enzymes and the maintenance required, which may differ among various brands and models. Enzymes and water must be added periodically to all that I found, so I suggest you check out the specifics on the model you choose.

If burying the droppings in your yard isn't to your liking, there are two other good solutions, that I have found. First of all, if cost isn't a factor, you can hire a pet poop picker-upper, by various names in each area. I found more than one company serving Central Florida, and charging rates in the range of $12-15 per visit. I suppose you would have a choice of how often you are visited, based on the number and size of your dog(s). My one suggestion, if you decide to explore this option, is to find out where the poop goes. If you're trying to avoid sending it to the dump, it would be good to know that's not where they take it.

While biodegradable poop bags have been around for a while, a better solution is on the horizon. This latest solution is Flushpuppies. Flushpuppies are a new dog poop disposal bag which dissolve upon contact with water, an are completely flushable. The company's founders, two graduate students from University of Florida, discovered this material being used for a medical application, which works wonders for dog poop as well. They contend that since our city sewer systems are set up to handle carnivorous and omnivorous digested material (i.e. poop) that flushing our pet's poop in the flushpuppy bags allows us to pick it up without touching it, and the bag dissolves when it hits the water in the toilet.

I'll be testing this new product out as soon as I am able to find them. The company is brand new, and product availability is slim, so far. Keep your eyes out, though. If you have any input, I'll be ready to hear your product review.

If you'd like to be sure to catch all the posts in this series on Composting, the schedule is noted below. Of course, you can always click on the composting label in the right sidebar. Remember, too, that you can subscribe by e-mail or RSS at the top right of the blog, and the headlines will come right to your mail box. Just click to open and read. This is the easiest method. First class delivery of your Organic Journey Online articles; no stamp required. Thanks for your support.

One final note: COMMENTS, please! Click the purple COMMENT link following the post and leave me your questions or ideas. If you are already a composter, I would love to hear from you. What can you teach me?

Composting 101: Part I -- Composting: What Is It and Why Do It?
Composting 101: Part II-- Selecting a Spot & Setting Up a Compost Pile
Composting 101: Part III-- Healthy Choices for Your Compost Pile
Composting 101: Part IV--More Composting Options and Information
Composting 101: Part V-- Monday, October 13, Composting Doggie Duty and Other Solutions

Friday, October 10, 2008

Composting 101: Part IV:



More Composting Options and Information



You may be wondering why I have not included phone books. They're newsprint, just like the newspaper. Yes, they are compostable, but I have a better idea, inspired by one of Jolly Green Planet's suggestions. I'll save this for another Thursday Green Tip Toe. Check back, and meanwhile, save those old phone books, catalogs and newspapers.




So here we go...the blind leading the blind. I am really hoping some of you will comment and give us some more tips. So, for now, all I can tell you from experience is the stuff that deals with setting up and starting a compost pile. My first pile is only about 4-5 weeks old and hasn't yet turned into compost.




Sure, you can buy compost bins and tumblers all over the internet, if you're willing to spend $50-$400. The one pictured above, The NatureMill, is available through Jolly Green Planet, and produces compost in about 2 weeks--amazing! There's a wide range of sizes and types available, with an equally wide range of prices. If you don't have a yard (apartment, condo, etc.), you'll have to decide between a compost bin or a worm bin for inside. I was surprised to learn that they make models for inside your home. They look rather like a trash compactor, and can be placed in a closet, laundry room or garage. According to Vicki and Jolly Green Planet, some truly green homes, have them installed under the cabinets in their kitchens. After all, why tote the garbage outside, when the job can be done in the house, and still smell like a rainforest. For complete information and a thorough explanation of all the things you can do to speed up your production of compost, you can visit either of these sites. They will go into things like nitrogen to carbon ratios and optimum moisture and oxygen--all that stuff that I'm too lazy to worry about might be a barrel of monkeys for you. Clearly, focusing on all the details will speed up the time it takes to actually have compost that you can use to fertilize your plants and yard.






If you'd like to be sure to catch all the posts in this series on Composting, the schedule is noted below. Of course, you can always click on the composting label in the right sidebar. Remember, too, that you can subscribe by e-mail or RSS at the top right of the blog, and the headlines will come right to your mail box. Just click to open and read. This is the easiest method. First class delivery of your Organic Journey Online articles; no stamp required. Thanks for your support.


One final note: COMMENTS, please! Click the purple COMMENT link following the post and leave me your questions or ideas. If you are already a composter, I would love to hear from you. I have a lot to learn. What can you teach me?


Composting 101: Part I-- Composting: What Is It and Why Do It?
Composting 101: Part II--Selecting a Spot & Setting Up a Compost Pile
Composting 101: Part III--Monday, October 6 Healthy Choices for Your Compost Pile
Composting 101: Part V-- Monday, October 13 Composting Doggie Duty and Other Solutions

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mulching Tips to Prevent Weed Breakthroughs

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko
I've been in the process of re-mulching my yard recently. It wasn't really that bad--just needed a touch up along the edges of the beds--but armed with new information from Jolly Green Planet, I am more motivated. I learned the coolest tip ever for staving off weeds. My organic lawn care mentor, Vicki, made this suggestion and I quickly found it works great.

When replanting or re-mulching an area, layer thick sections of newspaper, catalogs, magazines and 1/4-1/2 inch sections of phone book (torn off, of course) snugly around the base of all plants. Covering all soil areas, this paper layer will block out light, thereby reducing weeds considerably. Because all these layers are made of paper, they will collect and hold water, serving as additional mulch to keep your plants and trees hydrated during dry times. Mulch heavily over the layers of paper and sprinkle generously with water to secure the position of all the paper and mulch. It will absorb considerable water, keeping it in place, and providing much needed water to the plants beneath. The insulation for the plant's roots will also be helpful during Winter freezes, as well, or so I've read. Winter freezes happen about every 3 years here in central Florida. No white Christmas's for us!

Of course, there are products at the home supply stores that are designed to reduce weeds. Two problems: Most are made of synthetic materials which could leach unhealthy residues into the soil, and they are expensive, particularly when compared to my suggestion above--newspaper. And of course this is not to mention the trouble it is to lay out and trim the stuff to fit over all your plants. Layering sections of newspaper, etc. is much easier. I guess that means that this budget-oriented tip is also a time saver. I'll be taking the dogs for a walk after I finish mulching this Pine tree. What will you do with the extra time?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Throw Up Your Paws and Cheer for No More Tear Duct Stains

Happy Woofing Wednesday!

Oliver, the Papillon, is here today to bring you news of our recent research results on doggie tear stains. If you own a toy-sized dog, you may have, like us, battled this problem. Small dogs, with even smaller tear ducts, often have tears frequently throughout the day. These tears tend to stain the fur under the eyes of white or light colored dogs. When we first got Oliver, he had this problem on his snout, where he is white. We heard from another small dog owner that she cured her dog of this problem by switching to organic food.



Up until hearing this, we had been using a product called Angel Eyes, which helped some, but didn't completely take care of the problem. On top of that, Angel Eyes is rather expensive, so I was glad to be able to give it up. Oliver's tear stains cleared up within just a few weeks of starting organic food. What's more, we've heard that other dogs have had the same results.



So, this makes me wonder; what is in conventional dog food that causes tear stains? I had previously been told that tear stains were caused by a bacteria in the tear ducts. If that is true, then it follows that the bacteria must come from the dog food. Does anyone out there know more about this? If you do, clue us in. I'd like to know more. Meanwhile, we're staying on the organic food to prevent the tear stains and limit toxins in little Oliver.


As promised, every Woofing Wednesday post includes another website for you to check out. This week's website is Eat.Drink.Better. Great name, huh?


One last thing. If you're in the mood for a Fall pound cake, my recipe for organic pound cake can be found at Blake Bakes . The recipe makes 2 large loaves, or 4 mini ones--great gifts for the upcoming season. Hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Reflections and Reminiscences


© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

I suppose the theme of this post is that tired old standard: Don't forget to stop and smell the roses. My dogs often help me with this, and my short tale for today is a tip on remembering to enjoy the little things in life.

It's funny how the smallest, most imperceptibly, unimportant occurrence can trigger something in my brain that takes me back to a long ago memory. These odd little surprises seem to happen almost daily, when I suddenly find myself back in third grade, remembering a teacher's comment or the chide of a classmate. Most times I am able to connect an emotion that triggered the time travel in my head to whatever I am experiencing in the present. Although Tuesday's tips are usually relative to food, I couldn't leave this topic unwritten, so you'll have to forgive me while I take this opportunity to reflect, reminisce or, well, just think freely as my fingers fly over the keyboard. It's good therapy.


Today Oliver, my Papillon puppy, did a shoulder stand while outside in the grass, just after I praised him for taking care of business. Suddenly I was back in about 1996 when Xena, our first dog, began to do this same acrobatic move. I remember asking vets, trainers and friends what this silly maneuver meant in dog communication, learning nothing from anyone. Finally, I purchased a book called How to Speak Dog, which had just been published and was being advertised. Sure enough, the answer was buried within. A doggie shoulder stand, according to this author, means something akin to "I'm enjoying what just happened" or "I'm happy about what's going on". Bottom line, it is a communication of pleasure and happiness. This immediately made sense, since I was aware that Xena often displayed her shoulder stand when given affection, a treat or praise. So, now I wonder, why doesn't Tanner employ this cute move, if only to get the affection or treat that his playmates earn for it? Is he too tall and awkward to perform this pose? Perhaps this is it. He is still built like a lanky teenager who hasn't yet filled out--tall and thin. Highly active, he runs 2 miles and swims every day of the year, along with Agility (obstacle courses) classes and dog park visits. All this makes me exhausted, and yet seems to leave him wanting more. The picture of Tanner above is a typical one for him...goofy and playful. Back to my question, though. Is Tanner happy? I guess the answer is in his tail. It is constantly wagging happily, so I'll accept this as his doggie smile and move on. How is your doggie shoulder stand today?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Composting 101: Part III







What Goes Into My Compost Pile?







© photo copyright Carrie Boyko




Thanks to Starbucks



First, you'll need a couple of days' worth of food waste--leftovers, spoiled food, vegetable ends, peels (even banana peels!), coffee grounds, teabags, crusts of bread. The only thing you shouldn't include is meat and fats. These will hamper the composting process, so send them to the dump. All this stuff is called green matter.

All paper that doesn't have a heavy coating on it, like a magazine cover does, can also be included. This just about covers all the paper you discard: tissues, toilet paper tubes and paper towel tubes, receipts (with no account numbers on them), newspaper, magazines (with the covers torn off), catalogs, junk mail (no plastic windowed envelopes), used napkins and paper towels, lint from your dryer, all cardboard and paperboard from product packaging and boxes, and the list goes on. This is called brown matter, as is the next category.


Yard trimmings, grass clippings, pine needles, pine cones, leaves, sticks, etc. from your yard. This is also brown matter.


You can get creative with your composting also, as long as you stay away from non-biodegradable stuff and synthetics. For instance, my bunny's litter is made of pine shavings, and his diet is totally vegetarian, so his bedding, including his droppings is totally compostable. No more bags of bunny litter at the street. Yeah! (Sorry, clay cat litter and its contents are not compostable).

Rags, old cotton, wool or hemp clothing that isn't suitable for donation, dead flowers from the florist, untreated wood scraps, discarded cotton rope and string, greeting cards and gift wrap (unless heavily coated with "varnish"), and dead or dried plants or flowers.
If you layer the above ingredients (green and brown matter) into your pile in fairly equal quantities, you should be relatively close to balanced to start. I have found that I almost always have more brown matter than green, so I save up the newspaper, boxes, and catalogs. I have another great use for these, which I'll share in an upcoming post.


I'll wrap this up with one final tip that I've learned in my mere 5 weeks of back yard composting. Until the biological breakdown process really gets cooking in your new pile, you'll need to keep adding more brown matter. But there is another ingredient, which is actually green matter, that will impact your compost pile's "scent" immediately upon impact--coffee grounds--lots of them. Don't drink coffee? No problem. Stop by your local Starbucks, where you will find a large potted plant container with a garden sign saying "Grounds for Your Garden". They're free! Kudos to Starbucks for finding a way to reuse the thousands of pounds of grounds they produce each day. I pick up a bag (about 10 pounds) each time they are available. Surprisingly, I am beat to the punch quite often, so I am apparently not the only suburbanite who likes the grounds for my garden or compost. Check it out and grab an iced vanilla latte for me while you're in the store. Happy gardening.

If you'd like to be sure to catch all the posts in this series on Composting, the schedule is noted below. Of course, you can always search by clicking on the composting label in the right sidebar. Remember, too, that you can subscribe by e-mail or RSS at the top right of the blog, and the headlines will come right to your mail box. Just click to open and read. This is the easiest method. First class delivery of your Organic Journey Online articles; no stamp required. Thanks for your support.

One final note: COMMENTS, please! Click the purple COMMENT link following the post and leave me your questions or ideas. If you are already a composter, I would love to hear from you. I have a lot to learn and your experience will be invaluable to me and everyone who reads what I write about this project. Please COMMENT!

Composting 101: Part I--Friday, September 26 Composting: What Is It and Why Do It?
Composting 101: Part II--Friday, October 3 Selecting a Spot & Setting Up a Compost Pile
Composting 101: Part III--Monday, October 6 Healthy Choices for Your Compost Pile
Composting 101: Part IV--Friday, October 10 More Composting Options and Information
Composting 101: Part V-- Monday, October 13 Composting Doggie Duty and Other Solutions

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