Saturday, April 24, 2010

Consuming Less Stuff

First, I want to give a big shout out to Beth Terry ( and her post, Earth Day 2010: Buying Green vs. Being Green.  In it, she talks about a subject I have come to feel strongly about - that consuming more than we need is not good for the planet, whether the products are considered eco-friendly or not.  I know that being a consumer is linked with being patriotic in the U.S., but that seems like an outdated and unworkable mindset to me.  I don't want to be called a consumer.  I'm so much more than what I buy.  How about calling everyone Contributers, implying that their unique personalities, gifts, and talents contribute to our society and our world in a positive way?  That feels much more uplifting and inspiring to me.

So in honor of Earth Day (which was Thursday - but really, every day is Earth Day right?), here are a few ways Mark and I have been consuming less stuff we don't need.  I encourage you to comment with your list as well.

1.  We use baking soda for deodorant, cleaner, in our homemade detergent, and cooking.  One recyclable cardboard box instead of many different plastic containers.

2.  I've stopped using shampoo and any hair products, and my hair looks better than it ever has.  (More on that in a later post).  This cuts out shampoo, conditioner, hair wax, and mousse, all of which were in plastic containers.

3.  For our wedding registry, instead of asking for stuff, we asked for well-wishes.  If someone wants to give us a gift, we've asked that they contribute the money they would have spent on a blender toward our European trip.

4.  I'm making my wedding dress out of material I found at goodwill for $15.  It's coming along really well.  You can check out the progress at the Laughing Princess Sewing Diary.

5.  We've stopped using paper towels and toilet paper (more on that in a later post as well).  This saves trees and the plastic these products are usually packaged in.

6.  We make our food from scratch instead of using pre-packaged meals.  Our diet has greatly improved, our fridge looks like a beautiful garden, and we spend time in the kitchen cooking together now, which is really enjoyable.  No plastic, no preservatives, no mysterious chemicals and other ingredients.  All yummy goodness.

7.  We've cleaned out our house and donated the things that didn't have meaning or use for us anymore to Goodwill. This allows us to see what we already have so we don't buy things twice, we've discovered all sorts of treasures, and we have a greater appreciation of our space.

8.  We furnished our apartment with awesome used furniture from Craig's List.  I think it's a great idea to buy used items.  Technically, that's still consumerism, but I think it's better to use what has already been created than use up new resources to create the same thing.

9.  We created a virtual Save the Date and Invitation Video for our wedding.  No paper (and many of the fancy invitation papers are not recyclable), creative and fun, original, and totally free.  By the way, the link to the invitation video sends you to our wedding website, where you can read about how Mark and I met and how he proposed to me.

I'm not anti-consumerism, I'm just not for the needless buying and shopping for "stuff" that is so encouraged in the US. Like do we really need 20 different household cleaners, or can we use items we already have in our home to create great eco-friendly cleaners?  Do we need to use ziplock bags, which are not recyclable in my city and are plastic and quickly thrown away, or can we use reusable containers?  Do we need to use up a hundred paper napkins, or can we use cloth napkins?  Do we need our cookies individually wrapped, or can we buy them all in one bag?  These are questions I've asked myself and continue to explore in different areas as Mark and I are changing the way we live our lives.

What are your ideas?  In what ways are you consuming less and living greener?

(This article is also posted at

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Live Green Expo

Hello Everyone,

Earlier this week, Mark and I attended our very first Green Expo!  We were both very excited about it and were able to learn a lot and meet great people while we were there.

First, we had a great conversation with Suzanne Sutton, who works for The Chiapas Project.  She had a table to collect old cell phones and ink catriges.  There were postage-paid plastic bags on the table that you could take home, put your phones in, and ship them to their organization.  The phones that have value are sold to refurbishing companies who then sell the phones to emerging markets.  The phones that don't have value are recycled.  The money generated goes to provide microloans to women in poverty in Chiapas, Mexico.  The small loans are enough to help them get started in their own business, like "raising animals, growing fruit or weaving fabric" (from the Chiapas Project pamphlet).  The income they generate from their business allows them to provide for their family's needs.  I asked Suzanne if there was an alternative to the plastic bags because we're going a year without using new plastic.  She asked where I lived and said she would personally come by my home to pick them up.  Now THAT's a woman who believes in what she's doing.

Our next great learning opportunity was at our local Allied Waste table.  Allied Waste is the company Plano uses to handle the recycling, landfill, and city composting programs.  We asked them many questions.  Here are just a few of them:

Are ziplock bags recyclable?

Even if we take the zipper off?

Is it true that you should take the tops off the plastic bottles before recycling?
This one is tricky, according to Brenda, who was the woman who graciously answered a list of our questions.  If the recycling facility workers see a bottle with a cap on, they will unscrew the caps.  Otherwise, they go to the buyer for those plastics, and the buyer has a laser that chops off the top part of the bottle.  (We weren't clear on whether it was then recycled or not).  However, some buyers will not take plastic bottles that have lids on them.  If you unscrew the lids, the caps may fall through the filtering screen at the beginning of the process, meaning it will not get recycled.

I was kind of bummed when I heard this because I had just recently posted that they couldn't be recycled with the lids on, which I now understand is not the whole truth.  It seems like it's iffy either way.  The best option, my friends?  Not buying plastic bottles, of course!

We also learned the big role that education plays in recycling.  It's not as easy as getting new equipment and using it.  The public has to be educated that another recycling option is available, what materials are now recyclable, and how to prepare the material for recycling.  So much great information!  Mark and I are both so thankful to the people at the Allied Waste booth for taking time to answer all our questions.

There were so many other cool things at the expo, too, like the bio-diesel truck and the green housecleaning booths.  There was also wonderful live music and a step-by-step composting tent.  A huge thank you to all the hundreds of volunteers who made the Expo possible.  If you didn't come, you really missed out on some great information.

As great as the Expo was, I feel there is room for improvement.  I was pretty disappointed when I saw that one of the sponsors was Culligan water company.  Throughout the expo, there were large bottled water stations for people to use for free.  When I turned around, there were at least 10 water fountains not being used.  I'm surprised the city would even let Culligan and the other water companies there, some of whom had signs implying that public water was bad and unhealthy, at a city-sponsored event.  Plano has excellent water.  Water in plastic bottles?  That's just tacky.  That plastic will be around forever, whether it's recycled or not.  It's just tacky and not good for the environment at all.  If you want to know more about the history of bottled water and its effect on the environment, check out the this video, from the Story of Stuff.

Also, at the concession stands, there was a fridge filled with plastic soda and water bottles to choose from as well.  Plastic plastic plastic.  It's just crazy, especially at a green expo.

Maybe you're thinking, "Isn't plastic recyclable?"  Plastic is downcycled, which means it reduces in quality every time it's recycled.  It's also using up a lot of energy to turn it into something new.  If all the bottles were made out of recycled plastic, that's great!  It creates a market for recycled products and uses the material that will be around for over 1000 years anyway (none of the plastic ever created has biodegraded yet, so 1000 years is a common guess, but we don't know if it ever will).  All the plastic that's ever been made is still here, whether in oceans, littering the ground, in landfills, or being recycled. What's convenient about a bottle of water, whether it's recycled or not, that you will only use for an hour but will be around for generations to come?  Nothing.

Despite my disappointment with the plastic water bottles, Mark and I had an awesome time, we learned a lot, we met a lot of great people, and we're so glad Plano decided to host a Green Expo and make it free for everyone to attend.  

Did you go to the Expo?
What did you learn?
What was your favorite part?
Share your comments!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pictures from the 2010 Live Green Expo!

The Live Green Expo was a new and exciting experience for many people this weekend, including me! Here are some pictures from this fabulous event!

I hope you had as much fun as I did! My favorite part was the eco-friendly fashion show. That newspaper dress was AWESOME!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Things to Know Before the Expo (only 8 days left!)

(from City of Plano press release April 9, 2010)

The Live Green Expo, presented by the City of Plano, offers North Texans a few important reminders to consider before the big event. The Live Green Expo will be held from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Apr. 17 at Plano Centre located at 2000 E. Spring Creek Pkwy. in Plano.

As always, the Live Green Expo and parking are absolutely FREE! General parking for the event is located at Collin College at Jupiter Road and Spring Creek Parkway (2800 E. Spring Creek Pkwy.). Shuttles run every 15 minutes from Collin College parking areas to Plano Centre. Shuttle service is available all day. Parking for volunteers, officials, media, special guests and the handicapped is located in the east parking lot of Plano Centre. Entry to the east parking lot will require an event pass. No general parking is available at Plano Centre. General parking is conveniently located across the street at Collin College.

Water stations, sponsored by Culligan, are located throughout the Live Green Expo event area. Remember to bring your reusable water bottle and enjoy FREE water all day. The water stations are easy to find, just look for the Zero Waste stations.

Pre-register to learn how to make a rain barrel. The Rain Barrel Workshop (available for Plano residents only) provides the opportunity to learn all about rain barrels and participants take home their own 55-gallon rain barrel. The class is available at the Live Green Expo. Pre-registration is required and is easy to do online. There is a $20 registration fee. To register, visit
Interested in starting your own grassroots environmental movement? Pre-register for Conversation Café and learn more about local foods, a farmers market, zero waste at public events, eliminating polystyrene and plastic containers at restaurants, organic composting, and recycling opportunities for people in multi-family residences. Register at or contact

The Live Green Expo initiated a recycling collection for new and gently worn athletic shoes for the people of Haiti last month using social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The “Shoes for Haiti – Healing with a Sole” shoe collection campaign has shipped over 5,000 shoes to Haiti since its inception. The largest one-day collection event is at the Live Green Expo. Collection containers are located at all the shuttle stops in the parking areas at Collin College.

Be sure to bring your plastic shopping bags to the Live Green Expo and exchange them for a FREE reusable bag at the “Got Your Bags?” booth in the DIY Room. Recycling plastic shopping bags is good for the environment, reduces landfill waste and the material is used to make things such as lumber for park benches and playground equipment. Don’t forget to pledge to remember your reusable bag when you shop and always recycle plastic shopping bags at your local retailer.

For more information about the Live Green Expo, visit

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Simple Steps Series: Reusable Water Containers

Going green can seem like an enormous task to some people. It's not always an easy choice to make because it seems so huge. Just trying to sort your recycling for the city can sometimes be a bit confusing; an entire green lifestyle is something else altogether.

Enter the Simple Steps Series. Going green can be a lot easier if you just take small, simple steps forward. My husband and I are taking these steps together in our first year of marriage, hoping to grow greener and greener as we go along.

Simple Step 1: Get a reusable water container

I drink a lot of water, whether I'm working out, working around the house, or just plain at work. When I'm on the go, I need a water container of some kind to come with me. Like most people, I was originally drinking out of plastic water bottles; I would buy them, drink out of them, and toss them. Later, thinking I was doing something good, I started to reuse plastic water bottles. This was a bad idea because the more reuse they get, the more likely they are to collect bacteria (yuck).

So, obviously, you don't really want to be drinking out of the plastic water bottles that come from the grocery store or vending machine. Yes, they can be recycled, definitely, but there are greener (and healthier) options. Originally, I thought a reusable plastic bottle would be good, but, geez, more plastic? There's got to be a better choice.

Enter the metal water bottle--aluminum or stainless steel. They don't break easily, and with a quick wash, they can be used again and again. They can also be used to make a fashion statement if so desired. The above picture is the bottle I ended up getting from Dick's Sporting Goods. There were so many options though: colors, patterns, causes, sports teams, the list goes on.

So if you're a big water drinker like me, your first green step is to purchase a metal water bottle. They're not too expensive, and they last as long as you need them to. It'll be your first simple step to a greener life.

Joel Salatin to visit Plano

The night before the Live Green Expo Joel Salatin will be in Plano at the Art Centre of Plano talking food and farming.

Tickets are limited and priced at $50/person or $80/couple. Food will be served, created completely from the North Texas food shed and made by local chefs.

Contact Tiffany Stephens by Monday, April 12, by phone at (972) 796-4264 or by email at

Proceeds will benefit the future Plano Farmers Market featuring local providers. Check it out!