Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sustainable Living 11

Last week I tried a new recipe to continue my quest for sustainable living.  I made my own toothpaste!  It was very easy and tasted pretty much like toothpaste.  As the original recipe might be a bit abrasive, the next time I will experiment by reducing the amount of baking soda.  Below is a photo of the end product, as well as the original recipe:

Homemade Toothpaste

5 Tbsp baking soda
4 Tbsp coconut oil
10 drops of essential oil (peppermint
You can also add a bit of stevia or other natural sweetener if you're used to sweeter toothpaste.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sustainable Living 10

A new way I've come up with to be live a more sustainable life is to keep a "sustainable bag" in my vehicle.  This bag contains:

  • a reusable cup for when I'm away from home and want some iced tea
  • several plastic jars marked with the tare (weight) for buying items from bulk bins
  • muslin drawstring bags for buying produce
  • a collapsible container for when I need a doggie bag at a restaurant
In the past, I've found myself away from home without these items and ended up getting plastic bags, plastic cups, and/or Styrofoam containers.  Having this bag in my vehicle at all times will help eliminate all that waste.  I haven't included reusable bags as I've been using them for quite a while now and always have them available. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Quote for the Day

"We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another."

~Jonathan Swift

Thursday, January 26, 2012


This is a photo of my great grandmother Estelle.  Estelle died in her early twenties, leaving behind a husband and three children, one of whom was my paternal grandmother.  Estelle died from a horrible disease called pellagra.  Pellagra was rampant in the South at the turn of the 20th century.  It's cause was unknown at the time and there was very little research going on to determine its cause because of politics.  Southern politicians denied that there was a problem so there was no way to investigate it.  Pellagra was a horrible disease that led to insanity and death.  The cause:  a vitamin deficiency.  Had the politicians admitted the problem, research may have revealed its cause in time to save my great grandmother and untold numbers of victims.  It was the denial that killed.

This last fall, I had two separate conversations about serious issues in my community.  One conversation was with a minister.  She is a survivor of domestic violence and so has a heart for working in that area.  As a pastor, she is often a first responder in domestic violence situations yet she is frustrated with her inability to navigate the complex system of politics and social services.  According to this minister, the clergy in our area, which is mainly male, is in denial about the problem.  Further, a social worker I spoke with said most of the clergy in our area, when approached for help, counsel the victims and their abusers to "work it out."  Again, it is denial that is causing pain, suffering, and sometimes death.

Another conversation I had was with a friend who works with the homeless population.  He said that he was concerned about his friends who live on the streets as winter approaches as they lack adequate clothing and shelter to protect them from the freezing temperatures.  Again, politics comes into play because he said that the leaders in our community don't want to acknowledge that we have a problem.  Despite the fact that we have over 150 registered homeless people (and countless unregistered homeless and semi-homeless people, many with mental health issues), the elected officials deny that we have a problem.  Denying that these people exist means their lives are at risk in the coming months.  Denial is death.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wellness Wednesday

Dangerous goods labels
While many of us are concerned about the foods we eat and are careful to buy organic produce, especially those items that are on the "dirty dozen" list, we often ignore the fact that when we use many conventional toiletries, we are slathering on a potent chemical cocktail.  Below is a list of the worst ingredients in personal care products from the MindBodyGreen blog:

1. BHA and BHT
2. Coal tar dyes
3. DEA
4. Dibutyl phthalate
5. Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives
6. Parabens
7. Parfum (a.k.a. fragrance)
8. PEG compounds
9. Petrolatum
10. Siloxanes
11. Sodium laureth sulfate
12. Triclosan

Go to this link to learn more and to access the full report on toxic chemicals in cosmetics.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sustainable Living 9

One fun sustainable idea is to grow your own green onions.  Although it doesn't save a lot as far as packaging, every little bit helps.  Here's how to do it:

When you purchase green onions, us only the green tops and save the white bottoms with the roots attached.  Place in a glass of water, put in a window, and watch the green tops regenerate.  As the tops grow, you can cut them to use fresh or you can put them in a container in the freezer to use later.  

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sustainable Living 8

One of the easiest sustainable living projects I've done to date - and one that is very kind to the environment - was making liquid hand soap.  It took about 10 minutes to make the soap!  No nasty chemicals and no plastic bottles.  A very good result.  Here's the recipe I used:

Hand Soap
1 bar grated soap (any natural soap)
1 gallon water
2 T vegetable glycerin

In a large pot, mix the grated soap, vegetable glycerin, and the gallon of water.  Slowly melt over medium heat until all of the soap is dissolved.  Remove from the heat and let sit overnight.  May need to be stirred before decanting into a container.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Quote for the Day

"It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder."
~Albert Einstein

"Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders."
~Albert Camus

Saturday, January 21, 2012



This past Tuesday I had the opportunity to see a heroine from my childhood - Gloria Steinem - and I loved every minute of it.  Ms. Steinem spoke at a local private girls' school and fortunately the evening event was open to the public.  After introductions, Ms. Steinem gave a definition of a feminist.  It was very similar to this one found on dictionary.com:
"feminist:  advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men"
Living in the Bible belt, I often hear people demonize and twist the definition of this adjective.  I hear people say that feminism has "ruined it for women."  It seems as if it is a threat to Christianity when that couldn't be further from the truth.

First, when one looks at the life of Jesus, one sees how he went against the status quo and treated women as equals.  Religious Tolerance gives some great examples of how Jesus defied tradition in his treatment of women:

  • he ignored religious impurity laws
  • he talked to foreign women
  • he taught women students
  • he used terminology which treated women as equal to men
  • he accepted women into his inner circle
  • he told parallel male/female stories
That kind of behavior tells me that Jesus was a feminist. 

Second, I'm afraid these people don't know their history or else have a short memory.  Women were treated as second class citizens and routinely discriminated against before the feminist movement.  Ms. Steinem pointed out that in order for a woman to be believed when she accused a man of rape, she had to have a witness to the event to testify on her behalf.  When Connie Chung, one of the first female news anchors, got her start,  I heard men complain how wrong it was for a woman to fill that role.  My mother told me that when she was pregnant with me, she had to quit her job at the bank where she worked as soon as she started "showing."  Apparently, it was scandalous to be pregnant in public.  And the feminist movement put domestic violence on the radar.  Up until that time, it was considered a "private" matter between a man and a woman, even if the man chose to beat and rape his wife.  The idea of a domestic violence shelter was unheard of.

And I think of all the conservative Christians, especially women, who were thrilled when Sarah Palin was selected to be John McCain's running mate.  If not for the feminist movement, she would not have had that opportunity.  Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court could not even get a job as an attorney after graduating from Stanford Law School, one of the top law schools in the country.  She was forced to begin her career as a secretary, a job for which she was not actually trained but it was considered the only acceptable job in the legal field for a woman.  Of course, politics was out of the question.

The conservatives that I hear complain about feminism do not understand what the world was like for women.  They seem to accept the freedom and benefits that their wives, daughters, mothers, and sisters have received from the movement without giving credit to that movement.  And then they focus on any and all perceived negatives they can attribute to it.  I submit that, while many conservatives like to find fault with the feminist movement, they are really the beneficiaries of that movement.

I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Gloria Steinem talk.  She was charming and funny and engaging and optimistic and does not at all show her 77 years of age.  At the end of her talk, she gave the audience a challenge for the next day.  She asked that we each go out and do something outrageous.  Not only could we help change the world, but she said it would be fun.  I can't say I had the opportunity to do anything outrageous that day (although I wanted to). However, I did sign an online petition protesting the attempt to censor the internet and then posted information about it on facebook.  I suppose that's a start.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sustainable Living 7

A couple of weeks ago I set about making a batch of homemade lotion.  I found a recipe for "Easy Beeswax Lotion," gathered the materials, and set about making the lotion.  I have to report that it was a semi-fail.  The end product was too thick and greasy (too much olive oil), and I used wrong kind of jar so it's difficult to scoop out.  But I'm not giving up, my plan is to remelt the lotion and add some grapeseed oil to liquefy it somewhat and to reduce the greasiness.  I will also put it in a more accessible container. 

If the re-do works, making my own lotion will be more sustainable as there will be less packaging and no chemicals involved.  The beeswax comes from our local bee supply store just as you see it, no wrapping whatsoever.  The olive oil and coconut oils are products I already purchase for cooking and I already had the lavender essential oil that I used for fragrance.  I did have to purchase some vitamin E in capsules but the bottle should last me a very long time.  (However, I wonder how necessary this ingredient is).  When I get around to fixing my fail, I'll report on the results.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wellness Wednesday

This article from the New York Times was a real eye opener for me.  Although I was aware that a common serving size mentioned in the nutritional information box on prepacked foods is rarely realistic - I mean, how many people actually only eat three Oreos?  And the amount of sodium in some prepackaged foods is scary when the typical consumption rate is taken into account.  However, what shocked me was the "serving size" for cooking sprays.  In order to get the zero-calorie/zero-fat serving size, one must spray for a third of a second.  I'm sure when I spray a pan, I spray for far more than that.  The article points out that about six seconds is more reasonable and that gives you 50 calories and six grams of fat!  
Misto Olive Oil Sprayer
I don't know about you, but I prefer using the real deal since we don't really know what is in those cooking sprays.  One alternative to cooking spray is to purchase an oil spray bottle, such as those sold by Misto, and fill with your own cooking oil.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sustainable Living 6

Another way I am both living more sustainably and also moving closer to veganism is by making and using rice milk.  This recipe is super easy, inexpensive, and helps eliminate the plastic and plastic-coated cardboard cartons that cow's milk comes in.  

Rice Milk

1 cup cooked rice
4 cups water
dash of salt
1 Tablespoon sweetener (if desired)
Vanilla to taste (if desired)

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend for 4 minutes (2 minutes if using a high-speed blender).  Can be strained to remove some of the rice particles that didn't blend well.
(Based on recipe found at:  http://moneysavingmom.com/2011/09/do-it-yourself-homemade-rice-milk.html)

I've used this recipe over homemade granola and in baking cornbread and I liked the results.  Plus I'm glad to be able to reduce the number of cartons that go to land fill.  My husband still likes milk in his cafe con leche so I'll have to continue to buy small quantities of milk.  I'm going to look for milk sold in glass jars next time I'm at the health food store.

If you try it, let me know how it works out for you.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sunday, January 15, 2012

"At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love."

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Quote for the Day

“Let us remember, always, that we are the consumers. By exercising free choice, by choosing what to buy, what not to buy, we have the power, collectively to change the ethics of the business of industry. We have the potential to exert immense power for good – we each carry it with us, in our purses, cheque books, and credit cards.”

~Jane Goodall, “A Reason for Hope”

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sustainable Living 5

One thing I do on a daily basis to live more sustainably is to use cloth napkins.  Whenever we use cloth napkins, that means we aren't using paper napkins - paper napkins that come wrapped in a plastic wrapper.  Typically, I use cloth napkins at dinner and still use paper napkins for breakfast and lunch.  I need to get better about using cloth napkins at every meal. One thing that keeps me from making this a habit at every meal is the need to iron the napkins after they've been laundered.  I'm going to work on fitting ironing into my regular schedule so that I can all but eliminate the need for paper napkins.

Helpful Download


I stumbled upon this free download that I wish I had known about when I went out and purchased a magnet for my dishwasher.  Frustrated at times with finding the dishwasher empty and the sink full of dirty dishes, I realized I needed some way to let family members know that they could put dishes in the dishwasher.  I found a nice little magnet that said "clean" and "dirty" that I could affix to the front of the dishwasher to indicate the status of the dishes inside.  However, a free download from Carina Gardner would have been better as so many companies promote their businesses with magnetic business cards and calendars.  It would have been simple to print out the form, glue it to a free magnet, and then cut it to size.  Get your free download here.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sustainable Living 4

Woman Shpping
Continuing with documenting the ways I try to live a sustainable life, I want to emphasize the need to stay out of stores.  During my no shopping challenge last year, I only went to the store when I knew I needed something; I never went to just "browse."  Browsing leads to desire for things you don't need - and really don't want - all because you are suddenly aware of these new things.  And the desire and purchase of said items adds to the waste stream.  

On a recent outing to Target to purchase some necessities, I found myself drawn to all sorts of bobbles and began mentally justifying purchasing those items.  All those shiny new items seemed to call to me from the shelves.  I could have easily filled my cart with things I didn't need, that were probably made overseas by individuals in virtual bondage, using our precious resources, and that would just contribute our already toxic world via the chemicals in the manufacturing process, and would ultimately go to our already clogged landfills.  

One might argue that the products already exist and, therefore, my decision to not purchase would not change anything.  However, by refusing to buy frivolous items means those items end up on clearance, meaning the store would not realize the expected profits and would not order as much the next season.  Remember supply and demand?  If we don't demand as much, the manufacturers and stores won't supply as much.  So, one of the most important steps in living a sustainable life is to avoid recreational window shopping.  Looking leads to buying.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wellness Wednesday

Here's a visual reminder of how calories can add up quickly, even when one isn't eating a lot:

That's approximately what an averaged size, sedentary woman should consume in calories all day!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Human Trafficking Awareness Day

President Obama has declared January Human Trafficking Awareness Month and Congress has designated tomorrow, January 11, as Human Trafficking Awareness Day.  There is an estimated 27 million slaves or individuals living in slave-like conditions around the world.  13 million of these are children.  Although slavery is illegal in every country, many turn a blind eye to the plight of those suffering in bondage.  Slaves can be found in the US in the sex trade and labor market and around the world in places like coffee, tea, and cacao plantations and in garment factories.  For more information on modern day slavery, go to the Polaris Project

If you live in the first world, you are in some way culpable in the exploitation of other human beings.  Go to Slavery Footprint to see how many slaves you keep in bondage through your lifestyle and purchasing choices.  Then, if you live in the US, go to Fair Trade USA to learn about food products made without slave labor and to Green America to learn about sweatshop-free clothing.  Or do your own internet search to find resources to help fight human trafficking.

Monday, January 9, 2012


Cheese Wedge

One of my goals this quarter is to move toward veganism.  Once again, I'm joined on this quest by my friend Shona of LALA dex press.  We're both huge cheese fans but know that, for us, the right thing to do is to move away from regular (or at least daily) consumption of this product.  Go here to see how Shona is approaching this topic.

For me, moving towards veganism will not mean completely eliminating animal products from my diet.  First of all, I will continue to eat eggs as we have chickens who are very well cared for so our eggs are cruelty free.  Secondly, eating vegetarian away from home has enough challenges.  Many restaurants in my area offer very few entrees that don't have meat in them; those that don't have meat almost always contain cheese.  Finally, when I eat at the homes of friends or at other social functions, most people who know me are kind enough to go out of their way to accommodate my vegetarianism; telling them I'm a vegan would be too much for them to handle.  However, in my daily life, I'm giving up cheese and dairy.  

I'm not going to purchase any more cheese at the store.  I have a small stockpile of cheese in my refrigerator that I'm working through but once it's gone, I won't be replacing it.  I will be buying small amounts of milk for my husband as he drinks Cuban cafe con leche and it wouldn't be fair for me to force my choices on him.  As for cheese, he's not a big fan so that won't be a sacrifice for him.  Also, I won't be using milk in my cooking anymore but will be substituting rice milk where appropriate in recipes calling for cow's milk.

Giving up cheese also goes along with my sustainability goal.  Since I like to eat a variety of cheeses, that always means a variety of plastic packaging.  Now that I'm giving up cheese, that means less waste that will go to landfill.  So giving up cheese and dairy is really a part of my sustainability goal.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Quote for the Day

"God is more within us than we are ourselves."

~St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Founder of the Sisters of Charity

Saturday, January 7, 2012


On Thursday, my daughter and I decided to give our scarecrow, Georgia, a much needed and much deserved makeover.  For several months, Georgia had been rocking a 70s short-sleeved denim jumper, macrame bag, and felt purple hat.  But given the season and the fact that she was looking a little too shabby, we went shopping.

We ended up dressing her in a satin orange gown with a beaded neckline, a modified black stretch lace top to cover her awkward shoulders, a black tasseled velvet evening bag, and a black hat with assorted coordinating ribbons.  And voilĂ :
As you can see, Georgia is now ready to make the rounds at all the krewe parties for Gasparilla and Mardi Gras - all along the Gulf Coast, from Tampa to Mobile to New Orleans.  (Our black lab Ginny is thinking about joining her in the festivities.)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sustainable Living 3

Of course, since I've decided to make the switch from liquid shampoo in plastic bottles to bar shampoo, it only follows that I do the same with hair conditioner.  Bar conditioners are more difficult to find than bar shampoos.  I used Lush's bar conditioner for a while but decided to make a switch to support an indie company.  A search on Etsy revealed several choices.  I made a selection and placed an order with BallyHoo Bath  and here's what I received:
Clockwise from upper left:  solid lotion bar (that's for another post); solid hair conditioner bar; and a soap sample
I received my products with minimal impact packaging.  There was a plastic bag, that might have actually been cellophane, but the conditioner bar comes in a cardboard box.  (More later on the solid lotion bar.)   I was pleased with the size of the bar and, as I had just run out of hair conditioner and didn't have a replacement bottle (part of my "use it up" challenge), I put the bar to work.  So far, I'm pleased with the results.  If you're interested in trying bar shampoo and conditioner, Ballyhoo Bath offer samples of each for $3.00.

After using up the last bottle of hair conditioner, I can now boast that my shower is plastic free!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sustainable Living 2

Another area where I felt I was lacking in sustainability was with my shampoo.  Between the chemicals in the shampoo and the plastic bottle (and cap), I knew I had room for improvement.  As with laundry detergent, I tried to buy ecologically friendly shampoos to at least reduce some of the chemicals.  However, the bottle issue still bothered me.  Although the bottles can usually be recycled, that's not good enough for me.  

A few years ago a friend mentioned that she used shampoo bars and so I ordered from the company she recommended.  The shipping was expensive so I ordered several bars that lasted quite a while.  When my last bar was almost gone, I looked up the web site to order more and found that the online store had closed.  My research had revealed that Lush made shampoo bars.  Unfortunately, they don't have a store near us and the shipping can be expensive.  Again, I used up my Lush shampoo bars and started looking for a new source.  Thus, I stumbled upon Chagrin Valley where they ship the bars in a $5 flat-fee envelope and say they can get as many as seven bars in a package!  So, I ordered from them and this is what arrived:
[sorry about the poor quality photo]
They arrived packaged in paper bags, so no plastic bottles or bags.  These bars are a good size - about 3 x 3 1/2 inches - so I'm going to cut them in half for use.  I ordered three different types of bars to get an idea which I like best and then will order more of my favorite once they're all gone or perhaps try a new variety.  Although I was pleased with the Lush bars, I like the idea of ordering from a small company rather than a major corporation.  However, it might be a while before I need to place another order.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wellness Wednesday

Snow hikes 1

Winter seems to be the time of year when our health can be at it's worst.  Often, it's not the weather but it's poor habits we have acquired that cause many of our health problems.  MindBodyGreen offers the following ten things to avoid to stay healthy over the winter season:

  1. Sugar and artificial sweeteners
  2. Being a couch potato
  3. Stress
  4. Drinking
  5. Smoking
  6. Processed foods
  7. Cold medication
  8. Staying up too late
  9. Negative attitude
  10. Artificial heat

For more details on why to avoid these behaviors, go here.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sustainable Living 1

My first post on sustainable living covers laundry detergent.  My journey to sustainability with laundry detergent has taken many turns over the years.  Originally, I used powdered laundry detergent because that's what my mother always used.  Then I learned about how bad phosphates were for the environment and that liquid detergent didn't contain phosphates, so I switched to liquid.  A few years ago, I started buying Seventh Generation laundry detergent to avoid the other nasty chemicals found in your typical laundry detergents.  However, I knew that even Seventh Generation was not perfect and that the plastic bottles were not good for the environment.  So now, this is what I use:

Soap nuts!  Soap nuts are entirely organic in the sense that they grow on a tree, the sapindus tree to be specific.  There is minimal packaging and a few soap nuts go a long way.  As you can see from the packaging, I should be able to get 330 loads out of a bag the approximate size of a typical laundry detergent bottle.  All I need add is boiling water, some essential oils, an upcycled bottle, and my time.  And the used soap nuts go to compost.  It's a win-win situation.

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 Goals

Check list

Rather than doing New Year's resolutions, I prefer to set goals - usually monthly or quarterly.  This year I have two goals for the first quarter of 2012:

I'm going to recommit to my Quaker testimony and will be focusing on the concept of sustainability.  In doing so, I will be blogging regularly about the ways in which I attempt to live a sustainable life.  When I say sustainability, I look to the environmental science definition which, according to Dictionary.com means "the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting the long-term ecological balance."  My goal is to both share with others how I attempt to do this in my everyday life and to also learn new things to reduce my own environmental damage.

My other goal is to eliminate dairy from my diet.  Except for the eggs produced on our farm and when I eat away from home, I want to go vegan.  The main reason I am a vegetarian is because of the cruelty visited on animals in order to provide food for human beings.  Although I refuse to eat animal flesh, I've turned a blind eye to the truth behind the dairy industry.  Milk and cheese comes from the production of milk by cows and goats who have given birth.  While the female offspring of these animals will become producers of milk themselves, the male calves and kids are useless to the industry.  Therefore, they are removed from their mothers shortly after birth and become the veal and other types of meat that are consumed by others.  Thus, I have been helping to perpetuate cruelty to animals.

Although I dearly love cheese, it is wrong for me to continue to be a part of this cruel industry.  So, I'm going to use up the cheese that is already in our house and then no more cheese for me except when I'm away from home.  If I could, I would go entirely dairy-free.  However, it is very difficult to eat a healthy vegetarian diet away from home (at least where I live), so meat- and dairy-free would be impossible.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Year in Review

Hourglass 7

It's hard to believe 2011 is over and 2012 is here!  So much has happened this past year that I had to go over past blog entries to help refresh my memory.  Here are some highlights of my year:
  • visited Haiti and saw old friends and made new ones
  • began my second year in my volunteer job for Danita's Children
  • went vegan for 21 days
  • began a cookbook project for low income families [close to completion]
  • completed 4 grad school classes
  • started shopping more consciously - no bananas due to environmental degradation; fair trade chocolate, coffee, and tea due to child slavery
  • worked on the CROP walk for the first time
  • got involved with Grace and Main, a great homeless ministry
  • hosted two of the children from the His Little Feet Children's Choir Haitian group when they were in town
  • Bill retired from the practice of law
  • finished reading the Bible in a year
  • worked on ways to refuse/reduce/reuse/recycle
  • continued my "use it up" quest to use what I already have before buying replacements for food, cosmetics, etc.
  • successfully completed a 3-month no shopping challenge
  • attended Wild Goose Festival where I got to see a lot of progressive/liberal Christians - some heroes of mine, such as Jim Wallis and Brian McClaren, and some new to me, such as John Dear, Jay Bakker, Nadia Bolz-Weber, and Jennifer Knapp
  • saw Sister Helen Prejean (of Dead Man Walking fame) speak
  • saw student production of Dead Man Walking and heard a first-hand account of a man sentenced to death for a crime he didn't commit (he was since exonorated)
A very busy and fulfilling year.  Can't wait to see what 2012 has in store!

Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year,