Archive for the ‘Green Thoughts’ Category

Another Sad Day for Recycling

Last Saturday, Steve and I met up with another couple at the Lincoln Financial Field for the Kenny Chesney/Tim McGraw concert.   The concert started at 4:30, and we got there around 3:30 to do a little tailgating.  Apparently, tailgating at this concert started very early in the morning, and we ended up parking a good 15 minute walk from the stadium.  We hung out for a while, catching up with our friends before actually going into the concert.  I particularly enjoyed sitting in a chair the whole time and not once having to chase a little kid.  It was a nice break from parenthood.

Let me gave you a little background  on country music and Philadelphia.  It isn’t all that popular around here.  We only have 1 country music station, and I don’t readily advertise that I am a country music fan.  Steve is not.  He is a great husband who does indulge me by being my date to these concerts.  However, Kenny Chesney regularly makes a stop for a performance in Philly, and the event is usually sold out.  Why not?  It’s an all day party fueled with lots and lots of alcohol (water for me, of course). 

As we headed over to the stadium, we witnessed the craziness of the day first-hand.  I regret that I didn’t take any pictures!  What was I thinking?!  The parking lots near the stadium were filled with people, most of who couldn’t walk a straight line, stand at all, or even stay awake.  The ground was covered in unidentifiable liquids.  Beer bottles and water bottles littered the pavement.  There were beer pong tables erected in parking spots.  Porta-potties constructed out of plywood in the back of pick-up trucks.  But above anything else that was overwhelming was the smell.  The smell of urine baking in the sun made me so grateful to have parked far away from this madness.    

Maybe my reaction is a yet another sign that I am getting old.  Maybe it was because I was stone-cold sober, but it was still disgusting.  We went in to enjoy the concert, despite drunk people being escorted out by security and a fist-fight behind us, but when we left, the trash all over the ground was still shocking.  I just looked at all the empty bottles thinking that they will never be recycled.  They’ll be thrown out and left to take up space in a landfill for a million years Yes, you heard me right.  It takes a million years for a glass bottle to biodegrade.  So next time you’re planning a tailgate, please try to have a recycling plan in place for the day too.  Drinking and recycling can go together.


Do You Know Which Cow Your Milk Came From?

Unless you’re a dairy farmer, you probably don’t know. I don’t know either, but I do feel lucky that I can at least check out the cows that provide my milk.  I buy my milk from Merrymead Farm. It’s an adventure when I take the kids with me to buy milk.  You can walk around and check out a giant hog, some rabbits, donkeys, goats, peacocks, chickens and all the cows.  Sometimes the cows are out grazing in the field.  Sometimes they’re in the barn eating.  You can watch them line up to be milked.  You can even watch them during the milking process.   5 feet stands between you and your potential milk source.  If you’re lucky, they might even amble up to the window and moo at you. This scenario is more than enough for me to feel comfortable with how the cows are treated that produce my milk. 

All that aside, the real goal of any dairy farmer is to get his cows to produce as much milk as possible.  That can be accomplished with rBST injections, with painkillers do dull any discomfort, and unnatural diets that increase the amount of physiological issues requiring medication.  All bad methods, and yet common practices in the commercial production of milk.  Remember – rBST, painkillers, antibiotics all end up in your milk.  Research shows that cows will naturally produce more milk when they are happy and content.  I can’t even cite one source because there are so many out there.  I dare you to google it.  Any woman who has ever breastfed probably understands this fact.

Yesterday, I read an interesting and somewhat entertaining article about alternative approaches that some dairy farmers are taking to keep their cows happy, and they are seeing positive results.  Chiropractic sessions to avoid painkillers.  Water beds to take some of the pressure off their joints.  Misting in the barns to cool down the animals.  Even naming the cows can help them produce more milk. 

Cows may not be the smartest animal on the planet, but they too feel pain and discomfort.  They respond positively to human interaction and good treatment.  While I’m not suggesting that we all run out and find a dairy farm that gives its cows daily massages, but it can’t hurt to know what kind dairy farm is producing your milk.  A little education might change your mind about where to invest your milk money.

A Little Lead in Your Lipstick

The FDA examined 400 lipsticks to determine their lead content.  The average content was 1.11 ppm (parts per million) with a range of <026 ppm – 7.19 ppm.  To give some perspective, the FDA’s limit for lead found in candy (why is there lead in candy?!) is .1 ppm, and California states that 5 ppm is the maximum safe limit for lead in personal care products.  Products in lipstick are absorbed through the skin and ingested every time you lick your lips.  We may be talking miniscule numbers, but if you’re using a high lead content lipstick, consider how often you reapply throughout the day or how many times you may lick your lips.  Maybe you should find out how much lead is in your lipstick.  While organic may not be in your budget, you can at least use the results from this study to make healthier lipstick choices.

The New Price of the Light Bulb

Everybody has heard that incandescent light bulbs are going away.  For many years, we have seen compact fluorescent light bulbs in the market and now there are many options for LED lights.  If you are still buying or even stocking up on incandescent bulbs, you’re throwing away your money.  CFL and LED bulbs use only 25% of the energy of an incandescent bulb.  CFL bulbs last 10 times longer than the old bulbs and LED lasts 25 times longer.  With the lower energy usage, you can save about $6 per bulb if you leave them on for about 4 hours a day.  The industry estimates that by switching to CFL or LED bulbs, you can save approximately $50/year.    Check out the analysis below of a comparison of a CFL and incandescent bulb.

$16.45 to buy and operate a CFL for 10,000 hours:
13 watts x 10,000 hours = 130 kWh
130 kWh x 11.5 cents per kWh of electricity = $14.95
$14.95 + $1.50 for bulb = $16.45

$74 to buy and operate 10 60-watt Incandescent bulbs for 10,000 hours
60 watts x 10,000 hours = 600 kWh
600 kWh x 11.5 cents per kWh = $69
$69 + $5 for 10 bulbs = $74


My husband is all about cost efficiency when it comes to electricity usage, especially since we have gone solar.  We don’t generate electricity to waste it, so believes in energy-efficient lighting.  Our house has been outfitted entirely with CFL bulbs (except for our foyer chandelier that is quite difficult to reach).  We are in the middle of renovating our kitchen and put in new recessed lighting.  We went with LED bulbs.  At $40 a bulb, it was a little difficult to pay that bill, but I know that in the end they’ll save us money, and the lighting is gorgeous!

Now there is a new light bulb coming on the market.  Philips won a $10 million government contest to generate a replacement to the 60 watt incandescent bulb.  The goal was to create a bulb that more closely resembled that glow of the incandescent bulb while being energy-efficient.  It will use only 10 watts of power and lasts 30 times longer than the comparable 60 watt incandescent bulb.  At a price tag of $60, I doubt many consumers will be buying them, but Philips promises to reduce the price using utility rebates to bring that price down to $20-$30.  Utility rebates seem to be a pretty common way to reduce prices of these new bulbs.  You’ll have to shop around to find a good deal, but they’ll be out there.  I’m sure we will buy some too, although we’ll either have to wait 10 years until a CFL burns out or buy a new lamp.

Would you Buy a Hybrid Car?

I would – in the right circumstances.  With a family of 4 (soon to be 5), a Toyota Prius or a Honda Insight aren’t really options for us.  The SUVs that could accommodate our family are out of our price range.  For example, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid runs about $10,000 more than the non-hybrid.  The Chevy Tahoe hybrid is $13,000 more, and the GMC Yukon hybrid is $12,000 more than its non-hybrid counterpart.  More importantly, I couldn’t find one mini-van, which is what fits our needs the best, in a hybrid version. 

What is interesting is that recent review of hybrid registrations by Polk has shown that only 35% of hybrid owners are replacing their hybrid cars with new hybrids.  If you factor out Toyota Prius owners, who show the highest brand loyalty, that number drops to only 25%.        

You can make a lot of assumptions with this statistic.  The cost differential could take too long to make up.   Previous hybrid owners could be turning to electric or natural gas cars.  Maybe the recent improvements to fuel efficiency in vehicles are more appealing than paying the extra costs related to hybrid cars. 

Whatever the reasons, the number of hybrids being purchased is declining.  I find this disheartening.  I had assumed that as the popularity of hybrids increase, the costs would drop for these vehicles.  There would be more hybrid options, and they would become more main stream, thus reducing our dependency on gasoline as a nation.   It doesn’t look like this is what is happening.  Hopefully, automobile makers will continue to inject some ingenuity in car design to make even further advancements in fuel efficiency to help the average consumer like me.

* Photo from Toyota’s website

Making Stainless Steel Look Like New…Without Chemicals

In December, we purchased new stainless steel appliances.   They look beautiful, but the fingerprints that accumulate on them is ridiculous!  My son and daughter like to help close the doors, so there are always handprints starting around 2 feet from the bottom of the fridge.   I have tried everything to clean them and make them look like new with no success.

From previous posts, you may remember that for the past few years, I have been trying to use non-chemical cleaners.  To combat the handprints, I have tried my all-purpose cleaner, wet rags, straight vinegar and baking soda.  Nothing worked, except for the baking soda but what a mess!  I broke down and bought some pledge because the guy at the store told me that is what they use to clean the appliances on display.  That didn’t work.  I’ve even tried some Windex with no luck.

Yesterday I did what I should have done a long time ago.  I googled it.  I found this link and decided to give it a try.  All you need to do is wipe down the fridge with olive oil and then wipe it down with white vinegar.  Sounds easy, but I admit that I was skeptical. I was shocked to see that it worked perfectly.  My fridge looks brand new!  I went to bed and that fridge had zero handprints or fingerprints anywhere on it.  Of course, this morning all of that changed, but at least now I have an easy way to clean my appliances without using chemicals.

All I Want is Fish for Dinner

We’ve all heard about avoiding certain types of seafood because they contain high levels mercury, but there are several other reasons to avoid certain seafood as well. This information makes seafood buying complicated and consuming, especially since most of the products that we shouldn’t eat is what is sold in the typical grocery store.  Here is an interesting link to describe what fish we should avoid in detail. I’m highlighting my favorites.



Imported Shrimp – Imported shrimp are typically farmed shrimp where their growing environment is very dirty. They contain antibiotics to fight diseases and parasites, chemicals that were used to clean their pens, and even mouse and rat hair. Yuck. Eat domestic shrimp instead.
Atlantic Flatfish (includes flounder, sole, and halibut – one of my favorites!) – Avoid these fishes because they are so extremely over-harvested that some only have 1% of the population needed to support sustainable long-term fishing. A good substitute is Pacific Halibut.
Atlantic Salmon – Wild caught numbers are too low! Fish farms are crowded making them ideal conditions for diseases which require antibiotics to keep the fish healthy. Opt for Wild Alaskan Salmon.
Orange Roughy – Very high in mercury but more importantly, it can take 20-40 years for these fish to reproduce! This fact makes it impossible to sustainably harvest even though some Orange Roughy is sold with that label. Even Red Lobster  won’t sell it.
Chilean Sea Bass – This fish which almost always seems to be a special at your favorite restaurants has the same fate as the Orange Roughy. It reproduces late in life and most of what is sold in the US has been illegally caught. Greenpeace has reported that if people don’t stop consuming this fish, it could be commercially extinct in 5 years.

What can you do to make sure you are consuming healthy, sustainable seafood? Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch has a helpful, printable list that you can take with you grocery shopping to help you make good choices. Shop at Trader Joe’s , Whole Foods or Wegman’s who have all made a commitment to selling fish from sustainable sources. If you’re still unsure, ask where the seafood came from. If you’re grocery store can’t answer that question, why would you want to eat it in the first place?

Any other tips, please share.  This topic is new for me and the guidelines are so extensive that I feel like I’m navigating tricky waters (no pun intended!).