Green Tip #11: Add tea to your floors

This week, not for the first time, but for the first time intentionally – I upended a beverage all over my floor. My consistent penchant for knocking over all sorts of beverages – infused water, tea, carbonated water, what have you – has left my 30 year old wood floors looking rather, ahem, aged. So when I saw a random old calendar tip for cleaning your floors with tea? I thought, hey, I’ve already DONE this! Continue reading

Shop With a Cause: 5 Favorite Eco Things

Added bonus – my five favorite things are available at a local business too!

Just Act Natural at the hub of the Appleton Saturday Farmer’s Market

This is my favorite store, period. It’s called Just Act Natural and it is located in lovely downtown Appleton, WI. The owners, J.C. and Dianne, are my inspiration for easy, green living. I love going in and checking out the fun new products, chatting with the staff, and spending money! But I can shop guilt-free, because I know I’ll get a great product, help out an eco-friendly company, and support a local business that truly cares about it’s community.

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Shop with a Cause #2:

Like most things, I jumped in headfirst last week in introducing my “Shop with a Cause” idea. That usually happens when I am super excited or feel strongly about something. I thought I’d take a post and introduce the mentality behind my idea before diving any further.I have several rules for myself  regarding shopping. I try to buy things only when I need them, and avoid impulse buying at all costs. I think to myself – would I rather have another bag, or this throwaway container of takeout food, or save those few dollars to go towards a trip (or another iHerb care package to myself)? Secondly, I donate 10% of whatever I buy for myself: clothes, body treatments, any small luxuries or trips, to support causes I care about. But you don’t have to make monthly donations to improve green solutions. In fact, I think it is better to make smaller donations in the form of consumer prices and still get something in return.* That is why I say “buy with a cause”.

So here’s an easy way to integrate green living into daily life: go shopping! Rather than bend over backwards to scrape up enough money for a donation or do large sum donations (not that I am discouraging that at all, but I realize it isn’t always possible to be as generous as you wish), you can easily support local and/or fair quality businesses and the products they produce by choosing carefully what you really need to buy and where you want your money to go.

When consumers let companies or businesses know that they want goods that are made sustainably and in a way that protects workers and the environment, companies respond to that consumer demand. Do yourself, your community, and your planet a favor and look for better options when shopping. Speaking of options, Japan has some amazing recycle shops (secondhand stores) where I can buy things I need for my household at a fraction of the price. As I’ve learned with the number of hand beaters and irons my family went through, after my mom’s original wedding gifts from 1981 crapped out a few years back, new is not always better. So check out your local secondhand stores!

Last weekend I bought myself a “new” dress for about $6. It’s a great way to recycle and avoid contributing any more waste materials by consumption.

Check out the Story of Stuff for a compelling reason to examine your levels of consumerism.

For any one who is interested, I just made last month’s round of donations to these organizations:

Oceana.orgsaving our oceans from being treated like a toilet (my words, not Oceana’s) and spreading the word about sustainable seafood
The Central Asia Institutecommunity-based education, especially for girls
Concern Worldwiderelief for the current food crisis in West Africa
Returning Veterans Projecthelping veterans address the physical, emotional and psychological challenges of coming home

Next Month:
Partners in Health – providing a preferential health care option for the poor
Henry Vilas Zoo, Madison, WI – one of the few FREE zoos in the country!


Green Tips: Buy Local & Shop for a Cause

Over the next few weeks I’ll be covering a theme I like to call “Shop with a Cause”. It’s about supporting local businesses, companies, and products that work for you, your health, and are sustainable or provide opportunities for others to lift themselves up. I’m all for donating to a good cause (here are many of my favorites), but in the words of the much more eloquent Nick Kristof: Because trade often benefits a country more than aid. I’m a strong supporter of foreign aid, but economic growth and jobs are ultimately the most sustainable way to raise living standards.
Today I want to focus on supporting your local community. Why buy local? Think about what you want to put your money towards – the CEO of a giant big box chain or the local family-owned store that has been a landmark in your town for generations? The prices may be a little different, but think of it as making a donation to improve your community, and you still get your goods or services on top of it! I always choose to buy local, and you can get more information from the 3/50 project here. When you buy local, everybody wins.One striking fact from the 3/50 project stays with me: For every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through payroll, taxes, and other expenditures. If you spend that in a national chain, only $43 dollars stays here. Spend it online and nothing comes home.

So there you go. You can help out your local community, support sustainable products and solutions, and contribute to businesses and companies that work to improve the situation of everyone on the planet. All by shopping! Keep an eye out over the next month as I cover shoes, chocolate, clothing articles, and, as always, whole foods!!!

More reading: Africa on the Rise, by Nicholas Kristof
The 3/50 Project: Saving the Brick and Mortars Our Nation is Built On

Green Tip #10: Be a Barista

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a beverage person. I go through lots of water, infused water, carbonated water, and unsweetened tea. In Japan, tea is everywhere, and it is really easy to buy pre-made iced tea. BUT that comes at a price: all kinds of plastic and cardboard containers. I’ve made a commitment to stop buying plastic bottles because, well, we just don’t need them. We’ve survived the last tens of thousands of years without them, and frankly, I think they are just bunk.

Also, buying beverages adds up. Think of the cost of a fancy coffee at Starbucks, or even spending $1 per day on iced tea. I’d rather use that $365 (or quadruple that if you’re a frequent Starbucks-er) to go on a trip. I’m not trying to hate on Starbucks here, because I usually treat myself once in a great while to a passion iced tea, but for everyday usage, it is way cheaper and more eco-friendly to start making your own bevvies! Continue reading

Green Tip #9: Don’t overwork your fridge!

I’m late. And guilty. Guilty of treating my fridge like a revolving door, especially in this hot summer. Dead simple green tip? Open your fridge and take out/put away everything at once.

Green Tip #8 Save a Bottle, Make Infused Water!

I’m a beverage person. Often I head to work with my bag clinking with all sorts of bottles – reusable water bottle, tea thermos, the occasional glass bottle of carbonated water. I drink tea or iced tea because I like it and because it keeps me from eating mindlessly. But tea does not leave me feeling very hydrated.

Summer is here in Japan, which is notorious for muggy, hot, extremely humid weather. This may not phase some of you living below the equator or in the Southern United States, but for this Wisconsin girl it takes some getting used to. I have to pay special attention to make sure I am hydrated and drink even more water than I usually do.  However, I have to admit, I get bored with just plain water sometimes. Continue reading