Sunday, July 5, 2009

Goals & Accomplishments

Last week's accomplishments:

-Mailed styrofoam packaging to a place in Erie, PA, the closest one to us, for a mail-in recycling program.

-Mailed old books to one of those online places that buys used books. Not a way to get rich, certainly, but a nice way to pass on books to other owners.

-Bought a plastic barrel, out of which we are going to make a compost tumbler. Just need a few more supplies to complete the project.

This week's goals:

-Make the compost tumbler. This is primarily Ryan's area of expertise, but I've been helping find materials to keep the cost to a minimum.

-Buy some environmentally-friendly paint & paint stripper. This will take some research, but I'm confident it won't be too hard to find. Our bathroom is in desperate need of a makeover, and the previous owners of our house painted over the fabulous gumwood trim on the second floor. We want to strip it and return the wood to its natural charm. More our style.

-Buy our fruits & veggies, and who knows what other surprises, at the local farmer's market on Thursday night. We keep missing it but it's such a great way to support local growers, and get good food for cheap.

-Investigate & experiment with giving up paper towels. I read it on another blog, and found the idea intriguing. Ryan isn't as thrilled, but I'm convinced we can make this work.

Four goals is realistic, I think. I'll let you know how it goes!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Weekend Reflection

We had a long weekend traveling to Albany for a family gathering. It was more fun because we drove some friends to Syracuse, where they met their ride for their own family event, and then we picked them up again on the way back. Bonus points for carpooling!

We've been talking about cutting down vines in our backyard that have grown over the neighbor's fence, just to tidy up a bit. We thought this was one of the easier projects, which is why we decided to do it now. I even thought I could do it myself. So I went out this afternoon to tackle it. Well, it turns out that it's not our neighbor's plant, it's ours. And it's huge. I'm not sure what it is, but it's spreading and invasive like the ivy.

So I pulled some of the vines from over the fence to get them off the neighbor's side, clipped off a portion, and discovered the huge stem and all the dead branches underneath. It's still very much alive but as it spreads, the stuff on top is the only part that gets sunlight. This is not a job that I can handle on my own. We'll probably remove the whole plant, because we're not interested in high-maintenance shrubbery.

I discovered also that the plant is growing between the planks of the fence. So the green in this project is that when we take it out, it will prevent our neighbors from having to repair, or even replace, the fence, which is a big cost & labor expense, plus not very environmentally friendly.

One other note: I recently purchased a gift for my mother-in-law, and that's all the details I'll give to prevent spoiling the surprise in case anyone in the family reads this! It was a specific item, so I Googled the item to find places to buy it online, and came across this site. Ryan & I picked out what we wanted and purchased it, and it arrived last week. I was delighted when I opened the package to discover that they used all paper packing to keep it from breaking. No plastic, no styrofoam.

So today's environmentally friendly website recommendation is Classy Option. It's a unique site where you can find really great products. They act as a personal shopper but they feature vintage items so you can get one-of-a-kind presents for yourself or someone else. Check it out!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Enemy, thy name is plastic

Today's grocery trip was a bit of an experiment. I read on another blog (sorry, I can't remember which one, so no credit here, just not my original idea) that they were trying to reduce their dependence on plastic. So my goal was to buy the least amount of plastic that I could.

Well, this was a more daunting goal than I anticipated, because once you start paying attention to how much plastic there is at the grocery store, it's virtually impossible to make a regular trip without it.

I have some plastic produce bags saved that I reuse, so that reduces one section of the store. However, it is more difficult to find organic produce. Normally Wegmans has organic lemons, but today I couldn't find any, so I had to buy a regular one. Next dilemma: organic tomatoes in a plastic container, or local tomatoes from a bin? That's a tough choice. This also comes up with milk. We have several great dairies around here, that sell milk in glass bottles. Not organic milk though. So today I bought organic tomatoes & organic milk, both in plastic. Sigh.

Next stop, the aisles. Here are some items for which a consumer has no choice but to buy plastic, at least at the store I was in:
-lemon juice
-organic eggs
-cheese (except shredded parmesan, which I managed to find in a glass jar!)

Now I realize that there are certainly alternatives to many of these items, and today for various reasons I wasn't able to utilize these alternatives. However, it's to my advantage to have learned this firsthand, so next time I can plan a little better.

One of the reasons that I want to reduce our dependence on plastic is that it's not all recyclable. Last week a friend watched me put a plastic container in our recycling box and asked incredulously, "You can recycle 5s here?!" Another suburb where she housesits only takes 1s & 2s. I told her that I wasn't sure if there were restrictions on the plastic numbers, but the truck picks up whatever I put out. It doesn't get sorted by the guy driving the truck. So I'll have to look into that. What do you do with the plastic that your town won't recycle? Any ideas out there?

Same goes for styrofoam. That doesn't come through too often, but occasionally a package will get delivered with styrofoam packing. I just unpacked a box of dishes we got for our wedding (a lot of our wedding presents were in storage because our apartment had no space for them) and there was styrofoam between the dishes, so right now there's a small pile waiting for someplace to go that's not the garbage.

So today's lesson, plastic is everywhere. Tomorrow, getting an estimate for a new efficient furnace, and converting to gas from oil. I'm sure there'll be a post to come from that experience!

Sunday, June 14, 2009


This weekend, Ryan & I spent probably 8 hours working outside on our yard. The previous owners did a LOT of landscaping all around the house. In the front it was for show, and in the back, about half is for show and the other half was to create a natural privacy barrier from the neighbors.

There are several problems with this. The first is that we don't like it. We want yard space, not flowers & plants all over. In the back, they used landscaping to split the yard in half. Granted, they were an older couple and most likely used the yard differently than we want to. But it's a lot of work to take out and trim back this stuff.

Back of house, before:

And after. Those trellises are holding clematis, which we would like to transplant away from the house.

The second problem is that they used ivy as ground cover. Ivy is a very aggressive, invasive plant. It surrounded three sides of the house and it took us all of those 8 hours to take it out. We filled 12 lawn bags and a garbage can with it. Waste Management is going to love us, come pick-up day. There's still a lot of it to take out too. The root system is extensive and there's a lot buried still.

For the side yard, we threw down grass seed and once that takes hold, it'll kill the roots left so we won't have to worry.

In the front, there are plants and bushes we don't want to get rid of, so we will have to be vigilant about the roots out there. There's also a large root that's growing under the porch, and we're going to have a landscaper come out to look at it.

Along that line, the third problem is the trees in the backyard. The yard is skinny, about 30' across. The previous owners planted 4 evergreens along the driveway. Two are right next to each other, and one is right next to the house. We're probably going to take all 4 of them out, simply because there isn't room. In time, they will become destructive to the driveway and the rest of the yard to find the room they need. So we'll have the landscaper look at the trees as well.

We could have had a landscape company come to take out all the ivy (well, in theory; we certainly can't afford that kind of labor) but we saved the cost of a crew coming, and the gas & emissions they would have used in their transportation and their tools. We also saved all the electricity we would normally have used around the house by being outside for several hours. It's small stuff, but it's better than nothing. Plus it feels so good to see the work that we did ourselves.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Walk to the grocery store? What a concept!

One of the best things about our new house is our proximity to Wegmans, the greatest grocery store ever. It's about a 6-minute walk so when I don't have a ton of stuff to get, I walk. It's good for me, it's good for the air, and I can avoid the road rage & parking lot stupidity. It's finally getting to be nice here in Western New York, but walking in the winter is going to be a problem. We'll just have to see how it goes.

I actually just walked there for a few things. I've noticed that a lot more people are shopping with their own bags. Wegmans has their own line of bags which are displayed at the checkout lines, and it's primarily these bags that I see people carrying. We have a few, but I also purchased a 5-bag set from envirosax (I got the Flora series) and I like them a lot better. I think they're made really well and they hold a lot more than it appears they can hold.

But then there are the people who buy one item and walk out with it in a plastic bag. I want to shake them. That is so wasteful! Especially when it's another bag. I saw a woman today carrying a bag of hamburger buns in a plastic bag. That's just redundant!

My husband used to be one of these people. He's learned to politely refuse a bag when he has just a few things he can carry on his own. I keep bags in my car, and he did for a bit but he forgets to put them back in the car after he brings them inside. I do most of the grocery shopping now, so it's ok.

There's a local place called Lori's Natural Foods, that takes 25 cents off your order if you bring your own bags. I love Lori's, but unfortunately after moving we're about 25 minutes away. There's a chain that's relatively new here called PriceRite that charges you for plastic bags. I read recently that in Australia they charge for bags, and I think it's a great idea. That would certainly be an incentive to get people to carry their own.

Next step will be getting produce bags. Thank you to Heather at for this! I had no idea until I read her blog, which is full of great ideas.


This is my first blog post ever! I was reading other "green" blogs the other night, looking for ideas to make changes in my life, when I got inspired to create this. (Will give credit to the other blogs, once I go back through my history and find them.)

My husband and I got married November 1, 2008, and on May 29 we closed on our first house and moved in. Going from apartment living to owning your own home is a huge change and we love everything about it, even the extra responsibilities. I see this as a chance to make bigger decisions on the way we impact the environment.

I've got a whole list of ideas for future posts, but for now, here's a fun story.

Last night we discovered our basement tenant. We've named him Frank. He is a house centipede and while he looks scary, he does great work. He eats bugs, so our house is bug-free thanks to Frank. This is important because the exterior door frames are pretty shabby so I keep seeing ants wandering around. Frank must have seen them too because he's quite large so he's well-fed. Check out wikipedia's article on house centipedes for more info. The best part about this, though, is that we don't have to use any chemicals to kill bugs.

Thanks, Frank, for helping us stay green!