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.

Continue reading

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

Green Tip #7 Reuse Your Old Calendar!

Some days….

Some days you realize how much daily disorganization can build up, and then you stress eat too many almonds (why does it seem like I’m overindulging always on a Tuesday?). Some days your stomach is full of too many almonds and it makes the afternoon a little harder. Some days you come home from work, crank a youtube playlist, and dance around your apartment until you feel like conquering your commitments.

Some days you realize, yet again, that simple is best. You don’t need to tackle the whole world at this moment, but you can make tiny improvements – for yourself, your surroundings, your relationships.

I get really excited about sharing different green tips with you guys, and I then I end up throwing a bunch of stuff at you all at once. So I am re-committing to making the Tuesday Green Tips simple simple simple – something you can do in ten minutes, day after day, until you don’t even realize how awesomely eco-friendly you are because it seems so natural!

I love beautiful calendars, but I don’t want to contribute to the over-use and abuse of paper in our society. I receive calendars in the mail, and luckily they are printed on recycled paper with soy-based ink. Right now I’m decorating my sparse, somewhat dingy apartment walls with scenes from last year’s calendar. My work gets really fancy calendars and the teachers have no problem letting me take them home once the month is over. The other calendars I have I use instead of contact paper.

Contact paper is… well I don’t know exactly, but I feel like a lot of savvy household ladies use it. I’ve seen it lining kitchen drawers and cupboards, under bathroom sinks, and believe it is sold at places like Target. Lord knows my kitchen cabinets and drawers need all the help they can get. I seem to be able to fling even the least-flingy food into far corners of my apartment.

So I cleaned out the cabinet under my stove and laid down some old calendar pages. It’s a cheerful reminder to try and keep things clean and less flingy…

underneath my stove

[I’m having some computer trouble right now, so as soon as that is resolved I will share some pictures. Thanks for your patience!]

calendar pages barely peeking through all the stuff on top of my shelf. This is real life, people.

Green Tip #6: Turn It Off & Book Winners Announced!

I had a big post prepared to go today, but it didn’t feel right. So instead I thought up the simplest green tip possible. If you aren’t using it – turn it off.

Why do you need to have a room light on if you are not in it?

Why should you leave the tv on if you are running an errand?

Why leave your charger plugged in if you are not charging anything?

Why leave your computer or other office machines on if you are going to bed?

I turn on the light only in the room I am working in. It saves energy and saves me money. Whenever I go out, I make sure everything is turned off or on power save mode. Bill Bryson made a wonderful point in his book At Home: “…is how much energy and other inputs we require now to provide us with the ease and convenience we have all come to expect in our lives. It’s a lot – a shocking amount. Of the total energy produced on Earth since the Industrial Revolution began, half has been consumed in the last twenty years.

I think of this every time I wonder – does it matter if I turn this light off for the fifteen minutes I will be gone? Oh it does.

Congratulations to Lee Ra and Liz! I decided to go with my original plan of giving two books away. Check your inboxes tomorrow for details on how to receive your book. Thank you to all those who participated – your comments were very heartwarming and fun to read.

Green Tip #5 “Prescription for Clean Water” + Garlic Oil

This may seem like a strange subject, but I learned something totally new a few weeks ago and had to share. I don’t have a lot of spare prescription medications floating around my house, in fact I have none, but many people do. And what happens when you no longer need them? Conventionally the tradition has been to flush them down the toilet, along with carnival goldfish with tragically short lifespans and Calvin’s toy boat.

But flushing medications means that trace amounts of pharmaceuticals end up in our ground water. From Michigan Medical and Veterinary Care Facilities, “Pharmaceutical contamination of water has a negative impact on the aquatic ecosystem, including fish, birds and other wildlife…Experts believe that an increase in anti- biotics in water may lead to antibiotic resistance in pathogenic organisms.” That means more superbugs in our food supply and therefore our bodies!

Look for community programs that take back leftover medications or try a website like Another reason not to flush? It can ruin your septic system through buildup!

It may not be totally relevant for all of you, but it is a good reminder to think about how you dispose of anything, not only for the environment’s sake but for your own. We all learn in school that any ecosystem is a cyclical feature, so what we put in is what we get out of it. We want good things to come around back to us, not hazardous medical waste or polluted food supplies.


If you want something good to come back to you, try a new vegetable or preparing your own infused oil. In another variation on the Anatomy of a Salad, I enjoyed this scrumptious, light yet satisfying dinner yesterday.

I bought a bunch of marinated or pickled veggies from the local markets yesterday, some totally unfamiliar. I love to branch out and try new foods anytime, especially when they are allergen-free and super delicious veggies! And it is the preciously short spring fava bean season. I simply shelled and steamed them for a few minutes before tossing them in with the rest of the bunch.

next time less hand and more bean!

I really enjoyed sitting at the kitchen table, shelling these beans while watching the sunset and listening to a Here on Earth podcast. It is these small moments in the kitchen that really make things worthwhile for me: tranquil, present, with the anticipation of really good food.

I drizzled the cabbage with some homemade garlic oil. You don’t need to buy the fancy bottles at the store (or create more recycling with another glass bottle!). I washed out an old sesame oil bottle and poured in some olive oil. I then added about 5 cloves of garlic, sliced, which needed to be used up before my trip to America. I then stored it in a cool, dry place away from sunlight for 7-10 days. Now it is in my fridge and waiting to be drizzled on salads, fish, roasted veggies, and whatever else I can think of! Maybe some gluten-free pasta or the finishing touch on a soup.

You could also personalize your oil by adding herbs like rosemary, oregano, or thyme, or ginger – really whatever flavor suits you! Sometimes the dead simple things are the best.

So, try something new – be it something at the market, making your own oil, or sharing a green tip with a friend. Or for the best of both worlds, share a green tip AND a meal.

Take care,