Friday, April 24, 2009

Edible Landscaping - Landscaping With a Purpose

Beautiful sunny day, hot tomorrow.

I got to thinking about my own landscaping. I have purposely planted some trees and shrubs for the birds to eat. I have also planted some edible things for me to eat but they are down in the fields out of the way, - me beloved blueberries and raspberries. I have also planted some holly so I can harvest it during the holidays. Other things I have planted purely for scent. But I do have a few shrubs that I chose for color or size. What was I thinking?

So besides eating, decorating (as in harvesting for decorating, not just sitting there pretty) and scent, there doesn't seem to be another really necessary category, unless of course I am missing something. I wish I had thought of this 10 years ago when I did my landscaping. I would have chosen to omit some shrubs. But admittedly I didn't do too badly.

In researching the idea of edible landscaping, it became clear that you really can landscape with those 3 categories in mind. - Edible (you and the critters), Decorative (cuttings like hydrangeas or holly) and Scent (lilacs). There is actually a website devoted to such a cause and you guessed it (well maybe not) it is called Edible Landscaping.

You might be surprised by what's listed for eating. I had no idea you could eat Dogwood. But it also begs the question - Why put your blue berries out in the field? Why can't they go along side your house?

The NGA or National Gardening Association also has great ideas about planting your foods.

Now is the time to think about your landscaping, changing it, adding to it or starting new. Think about edible landscaping as a new, greener and purposeful way to arrange your plantings. Happy eating!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day! - Who Was the Original Founder?

Glorious sun after heavy spring rains.

First of all...Happy Earth Day. And what a year for it. Seems like everyone is back in tune with Earth Day, a revitalization if you will. But how did the Earth Day idea get started? What's its history? Who was the original founder and organizer? Who concocted this crazy idea anyway?

If you look up or "google" Earth Day you'll find several sites with historical information about Earth day. Most of the information talks about the troubled times of Vietnam and how the environment was degrading - the Litter Bug campaign was failing. In steps a Senator. The major name associated with Earth Day is Gaylord Nelson Senator from Wisconsin. Denis Hayes was in charge of the event and the rest..well.. is history...almost.

It's kind of unusual that a Senator comes up with an idea like this - a grass roots (let's have a party) and rock against the establishment sort of event. After a little digging there does indeed happen to be more to the story.

Ever hear of Morton Hilbert? Probably not. Well this is the man who actually laid the ground work, no, did the work for the first Earth Day. Gaylord was the one who "proclaimed" the day to get National attention and poor Mort never got much credit.

Morton Hilbert was an associate Professor of Environmental and Industrial Health at the University of Michigan and eventually became Chair of the Department. Here are some quotes about Morton Hilbert's involvement at the time beginning in 1968:

"Earth Day had its beginnings that year in a conference sponsored by the U.S. Public Health Service. "

"Mr. Hilbert served as a consultant at the conference in Washington, D.C., that drew 150 people to hear scientists discuss the effects of environmental degradation on human health."

"He helped several students obtain a government grant and met with them regularly for two years to establish the first Earth Day in April 1970. Former Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson sponsored the federal proclamation of the day, widely considered the beginning of the modern environmental movement."

This was 2 years before the actual 1970 Earth Day. And from his Obit:

"Materials related to Earth Day consist of newspaper articles about the event and Hilbert's involvement in establishing it and a photograph of those who participated in the founding seminar."

"In 1968, Hilbert and the U.S. Public Health Service organized an environmental conference for students to hear from scientists about the effects of environmental degradation on human health. This was the beginning of Earth Day. For the next two years, Hilbert and students worked to plan the first Earth Day. In spring 1970—supported by a federal proclamation from U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson—the first Earth Day was held."

Some of the articles (there aren't many) refer to him as Co-founder perhaps out of respect for Gaylord who really brought the idea National attention. However I think this academic who seems to have done all the ground work and had the passion deserves most the credit.

Morton Hilbert was also a Unitarian.

So the idea of Earth Day did start with a small number of people and grew 30 years later to an eye opening National event. What's that saying about never underestimate what a small group of people can do?

Thank you Morton Hilbert. We'll do our best to carry on your dreams.
Happy Earth Day. Go make him proud.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Turn Off Your TV Week - Yes for the Whole Week!

Rain... We need it.

Yes, there is a whole week devoted to turning off your TV and it happens to be this week. Mostly to spur some imagination, family time etc. But I like to think of it in terms of energy savings. Sort of like Earth Hour. Imagine the energy saving for a whole week!

Give it a try and who knows, you might like it. Kids love these kind of challenges and they love to play with Mom or Dad.

For more info: Turn Off TV

Monday, April 20, 2009

Safest Coffee Maker - Glass

Still morning until a robin thumped into my window - its ok and flew away.

So I got to thinking as I sip my morning coffee... about coffee makers. I like my Bodum glass french press with its reusable filter. I feel pretty good about it because glass does not leach and I don't have to buy filters.

But what about other types of coffee makers? How is the water heated in the chamber? What is the type of plastic used that holds and heats the water? What about the tubes that carry the water around internally? What are they made from?

Some french presses are made from plastic; Bodum has some made from polycarbonate, ouch, number 7 plastic. So unless they have come out and said BPA free, it is probably safe to assume it leaches BPA. I think switching to glass is a good idea.

I wonder what all the big coffee places use to brew their coffee in? Anyone know? Starbucks, Dunkins etc, is it glass? Stainless steel? or plastic?

Just food (coffee?) for thought. I would love to hear from anyone who has answers to these questions.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Are You Hanging Out Today?

Beautiful day, sunny following a night time rain.

Today's the day, April 19th - National Hanging Out Day. Its about laundry today and letting your dryer go to rust. If someone said you could save 10% of your money, you would do it, right? Well, that's what hang drying your clothes instead of using the dryer does.

And if I'm not appealing to your wallet, how about the environment? The frig is the highest energy consumer in the house and in second place is the dryer. The dryer is the single most unnecessary appliance that allows us to save CO2 provided we put it to rest. With a savings of literally tons of CO2. I won't go into all the details about why, blah, blah, blah...I've done that before and you probably know by now we need to take this all very seriously as we watch snow caps around the world disappear for the first time in hundreds and thousands of year. (man, I just can't help myself)

So, hang it up, hang it out and lite the barbie and hang out.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Earth Day Events - What will you be doing?

Looking for something to do for Earth Day? Earth Day comes only once a year so make the most of it. Here are some Earth Day Events links to get you started:

Happy Earth Day!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

National Hanging Out Day - It's All About the Laundry!

Not a cloud in the sky.

National Hanging Out Day first appeared at that renegade college in Middlebury, Vermont, back on April 19th, 1995. The idea was to spur people on to hang their laundry to dry instead of using the energy guzzling dryer. That was 14 years ago. Hmm. The idea certainly hasn't transformed the country - yet.

And it's too bad really. We are headed for some pretty awful, predicted scenarios when it comes to climate change. In fact, in the last 2 weeks, those predictions are worrying scientists (real climate scientists, not side liners) - that the climate is crashing even faster than they thought. The number one way to alter the degree of crashing (the sea levels are rising) comes down to (it's more complicated but this is basic) CO2.

CO2 is mostly a by product of the energy we humans like to use. Some of it we have deemed necessary (like the refrigerator or running hospitals), but there are many areas of energy use that we don't need. Those are the areas that we can shut off today, right now - those wasteful energy users that unnecessarily add CO2 to the atmosphere. (and yes they do add up and make a difference) Like unnecessary lights, idle power and... the clothes dryer. (the dryer can use as much as 10% of the average household energy.

Some people love to hang laundry. To them it really is like hanging out. They find it meditative, relaxing and refreshing. Besides, hung dried clothing (is that okay language?) smells better and lasts longer.

Not me. I still do the "ugh" when I pull the wet clothes out to hang to dry. My laundry rack is right by my washer so it is pretty darn easy. I'm not too fussy about how it hangs. The bottom line, is it takes less than 2 minutes to hang an entire load of laundry. (no, I don't live alone and I have 3 kids)

That gets us to the current modern day excuse of time - you don't have the time to hang your clothes. Really? You don't have 2 minutes that can come from something else? So are you saying all the other people in other modern cultures who are hanging their clothes to dry have more time than we do? I think that is an insult to other modern cultures. Other people have "full" days too. Let's face it, some folks are hung up on this issue and use time as an excuse. Ouch.

Most of us don't like to feel guilty about things but guilt can be a red flag for your internal voice saying that you might be doing something you shouldn't be. Maybe you know that hanging your clothes to dry can save lots of energy..CO2... (and you money) and that for a small amount of effort (less than 2 minutes per load) it can make a huge environmental impact. But you just don't want to. So you make the time excuse and call writers and bloggers holier than thou.

Come on folks. We're all in this together. I'm not suggesting you give up your frig or burn candles at night. But I am suggesting that you really can fit in a little time to hang dry your clothing and stop using the number 2 energy hog in the house (next to the frig) and save lots of unnecessary CO2 going into our already gasping atmosphere. I am suggesting this is one of the very few lifestyle changes we can make that makes a huge difference.

So, this Sunday, April 19th, commemorate National Hanging Out Day by doing just that - hang out your laundry, have some friends over, do a cook out and ...just hang out.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Natural Eco Easter Eggs - Old Traditions Are Now Green

Cloudy and cold, but the sky is clear.

Creating a natural eco friendly Easter Basket might at first seem daunting but it's more about simply learning a new way, a greener way. Who would ever guess that the old traditions of dying Easter Eggs would make a comeback as the new green way.

We (our society) haven't always had red dye number 40, or 2, or all those other not-so-good-for-you dyes. Yet folks world wide have been decorating eggs for thousands of years. Like dying other things such as fabrics or rugs, people used dyes from nature (they didn't really have much choice). Imagine a human long ago eating a pomegranate, and noticing the beautiful stain it produced. Eventually the light bulb went off, and people started "staining" their belongings.

Eggs have been associated with special "events". Humans have this relentless desire to decorate. And so we have, the special event decorated egg, i.e. the Easter Egg.

My Aunty grew up Pennsylvania Dutch Country so I was used to eggs dyed from beets and onion skins. I always thought they were "old fashioned" and maybe a little boring. But not now. There are also a lot more options for dying besides beets and onions.

Before you get started, it's best to start with fresh white eggs, preferably local farm eggs (otherwise you could get eggs that have been stored for months). That way, once they are cooked, you can keep them for a long time to snack on. (keep in the frig aside from the quick decorative day)

Natural dyes do work best when boiled to help set the dye to the egg, a splash of vinegar in the water helps too. So for each dye batch, you will need to boil the eggs covered with water, the dye and vinegar. This can be the initial boiling of the eggs, so you will want to boil them for 5 minutes. Then just let them sit to cool for several hours for best dying results.

Here is a list of natural dyes that you can use for your eggs:

Blue - blueberries, red cabbage

Pink - Beets

Reddish - red onion skins

Yellow- onions skins, turmeric

Green - spinach, fresh, tear up leaves

Brown - coffee, black tea

And what to put them in? Who doesn't have a stash of old baskets around some where? Or a pretty bowl, or anything that can seem "nesty". This definitely can be a time to "reuse" (remember the 3 Rs, reduce ,reuse, recycle). If you really don't have a nesty looking appropriate basket, there are many wonderful fair trade, hand made grass baskets on the market.

You can get creative with the nesty bit too. There is shredded brown paper or you can shred your own. Or you can roll up fabric, a new organic t-shirt, and create a nest. (make sure the eggs don't stain it) There are many creative options. (The plastic grass has only been around a couple of decades.) So...

Happy Easter - Naturally!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Down 2 Earth or D2E, Either Way Try To See It

A little fog, a little rain, more of the same.

I love this name! Down 2 Earth, id est D2E, is what's happening in Boston this weekend. Boston is up there in the greenest of cities (3rd I think) and this is their biggest green event of the year. So if you are within a couple of hours of the Bean City (who would ever guess its nick name would have new green vegan meaning?) spend a day at this event. They have a lively kids section too which is out of the ordinary for a green show. Kudos.

If you can't make it, the website is full of good eco links and resources. For more information , visit their website: D2E

So no go green, or green expo, just getting back to basics. You know, like down to earth. Oops, I mean Down 2 Earth or simply D2E. I love this name!