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Greening Steps

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It's fluffy, it's white, and it's everywhere! This winter has brought quite a few surprises, with frigid temperatures and an abundance of precipitation. Whether you're enjoying the snow with skiing, snowboarding, sledding, days off school, etc..., or wishing it would just melt, the sparkling white blanket remains.

 

Like many others, I'm ready to see green grass again. However, from the recent weather forecast, it looks like we'll see more snow first. When I heard that more snow was coming (fighting back the initial feeling of frusteration), I tried to think of a high point for snow (excluding Mount Everest). And the good news is, snow can be reused as chilled water!

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"Golf combines two favorite American pastimes: taking long walks and hitting things with a stick."~P.J. O'Rourke

 

I was excited to discover that one of America's most beloved sports has a key component that is recyclable. That's right, you can recycle golf balls!

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Whether you prefer it long, short, buzzed, straightened, curly, layered, etc..., most of us are very attached to our hair. Literally!

 

However, there is something that's not commonly known about such a common topic; hair is compostable and recyclable! Not only that, researchers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL, are testing a recovery technique for oil spilled in water. The results show that human hair is an effective material for cleaning oil spills!

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It's the time of year for Christmas cards! Although it can be a bit stressful getting your cards made and ready to send out, it's always fun to receive recent pictures of family and friends. It's also sad how quickly the holiday season passes, which is why I was excited to find the following ideas for how to reuse Christmas cards and enjoy them all year!

 

Do you like using contact pictures on your phone? If so, try taking a snap shot of your friends' Christmas card pictures, and save them to your phone contacts. Then, you will be able to see your friends' smiling faces long after the Christmas season.

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I don't know about you, but I've always wondered why I spend so much time wrapping Christmas presents so carefully with colorful wrapping paper, when all of that beautiful paper ends up in a garbage bag a few days later.

 

It's always fun to wrap presents for family and friends, but the amount of waste is frustrating. But, like most situations, it pays to get creative!!

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As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s always fun to see the different seasonal decorations.

 

I’m someone who enjoys finding creative ways to decorate, which might explain why the picture on the right caught my attention.

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I'm guilty. This week, my trash can is filled with single use pouches from baby foods, wrappers, packaging, and other random plastics.

 

What is it about convenience that seems to win out over even the staunch environmentalist's thinking?

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I recently read a letter to the editor of my local paper where the writer was outraged by the LEED certified buildings popping up in town. The left wing liberal crazies are trying to push their weight around and make people do things they don't want to do.

 

Honestly, I am trying to understand why this person is so upset that the town and business owners are choosing to build LEED buildings. It saves money, energy, and water resources while the green rooftops are creating habitat and cleaning the air.

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My husband and I got the chance this week to attend the national premier of Gasland 2, a film about fracking (hydraulic fracturing). Since the first film five years ago, much has happened in Illinois in this area. Leases are being signed in the Shawnee National Forest, companies have approached my county about fracking here, and the Illinois legislature has bills before it to ban fracking and to allow it with a minimum amount of regulatory oversight. You can guess which groups support each of these measures I'm sure.

 

But whether or not I think this should go on in the state or the world is not what I want to talk about. It's what led us to this point that I am interested in exploring. The consumerism, feelings that it is your right to use whatever resources you want without consequence, desire for cheap goods and services, desire to live the lifestyle Americans live, etc. : all of these things work together to lead energy companies to look for the next boom in the energy supply. First it was steam and wood, then coal, oil, nuclear, and now the big one is natural gas. All of these things made these companies rich at the expense of people, ecosystems, communities, countries, and the entire planet.

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Since Mother's Day is coming up on Sunday, I thought it appropriate to address the common gifts for Mother's Day and possible alternatives that are more Earth Friendly.

 

First – a bouquet of flowers. While lovely, these flowers are cut and will only last a few days to a week. Instead, get flower bulbs or a perennial flower planted in a pot that mom can transplant in the yard. This is the gift that keeps on giving year after year with sweet smelling aromas just like those you smell when mom bakes your favorite sweets. As an added bonus, these flowers will take in CO2 and release Oxygen!

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As we do many a Sunday morning, my husband, son and I walked to the local coffee shop. It is only 4 blocks away and we enjoy walking by the community garden and through downtown.

 

However, this past Sunday, the very Eve of Earth Day, I was troubled by what I saw.

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Did you know that Earth Day is Monday, April 22nd and marks the 43rd Earth Day? What are you doing to commemorate it? Each year I try to think of something to do to celebrate the beginnings of our national movement to a better, cleaner environment. I know we all hear that Earth Day is Everyday slogan and it is true. If you are a recycler, make your home more energy efficient, carpool or take mass transit or bike, and generally be a conscious consumer, you are putting this slogan into action. And that is what Earth Day is all about, action.

 

The first Earth Day in 1970 marked the beginning of a national movement to clean up our air and water (Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act), and establish the Endangered Species Act. Demonstrations were occurring all over the nation in response to polluting industries and the state of our natural environment. Public spaces all across the land were full of people who were concerned for the health and well-being of not only the environment, but themselves and future generations.

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Spring is here! Though you wouldn't know it with the near foot of snow we just received yesterday. Regardless, Spring planting, and planning for planting, is upon us. The snow won't last forever so let's talk about a few things that will help our gardens grow.

 

First, before you mulch- compost! Adding good, organic compost to your lawn, flower beds, and garden will jump start the nutrients and help to feed your new plants. I buy compost that is locally made by a food scrap compost program and it works wonders! Apply a generous amount (half and inch to an inch) and turn it into the soil. Then you can go ahead and put mulch down to keep weeds from emerging.

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What is it about recycling that turns some people off and others get really excited about it? I heard a recent report about interviews with several hundred non-recyclers who gave many reasons for not recycling. Some of these were the usual ones that we recyclers hear all the time about it not being convenient, not knowing what the rules are, and not thinking it really does any good.

 

But the most often stated answer was very shocking to me. They most often stated reason was that they didn't like the attitudes of those of us who do recycle. Saying that we act like we are better than them and it makes them want to throw it away instead of recycle just to spite us.

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I am a terrible DIY craft person. I see all of these awesome ideas and pictures of things people turn their old stuff into and think that I can do that, someday. Sometimes I will even gather the things to do the project, but alas, I never get around to doing it. I can't be the only person like this, can I?

 

Because of my greenie nature, I embrace the idea of reuse and turning things into something else. However, I have to wonder when people have time to do these projects. Furthermore, where do they get all of the froo-foo frilly stuff they decorate their projects with? I don't just have things like that around my house. No, I don't have a jar of buttons somewhere, and I don't have scrap ribbons lying around, or pieces of fabric. Do many people have these things or do they specifically go and buy new things to be able to remake something?

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I was sitting in my living room playing with my son and his new toys from Christmas when he stopped paying attention to me and focused intently on his toy. As I watched him, I could see the gears turning in his head as he connected the dots and realized several things the toy could do that he hadn't noticed before. His brow furrowed and he continued to do these new things over and over again. When he was satisfied that he had mastered this, he looked up at me and gave me a huge smile, looking thoroughly pleased at his ability.

 

I looked on with pride and reaffirmed his excitement with a big smile and a "yay!" We continued on with what we were doing.

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Every evening, I set up my coffee pot to brew just enough coffee for my husband and me in the morning. It is much more sustainable and cheaper than buying coffee at a coffee shop every day. This is especially true if I opt for a fancy designer coffee beverage.

 

My routine consists of making and eating dinner, playing with my son, giving him a bath, reading stories, and putting him to bed around 7:30 (or 8 if he pushes it). I then turn to making my lunch for the next day, setting up the coffee for delay brew, dishes and sometimes laundry.

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My Christmas was picturesque this year. We woke up and watched my 18 month old scoot down the stairs. His first exclamation was "wooooow!" The look on his face was priceless, and the kind of thing you will remember forever. This was really the first Christmas where he could open presents by himself and really notice that the living room was full of things for him.

 

Pretty soon, there was a sea of wrapping paper that resembled a very choppy ocean and if not for the movement I probably couldn't tell where my son was. Amidst this I thought to myself, "I wonder how many trees it took to make this wrap?" Though we recycled everything (except the bows and ribbons of course) it still weighed on my mind.

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This past weekend, my husband and I packed up the baby and went to the tree nursery to pick out the perfect tree for our Victorian home. We walked in the semi-heated outdoor tent where we could get the Fraser Fir of our Christmas dreams. The fragrance kind of hits you in the face when you walk in those places don't it? It certainly seemed to impress our 18 month old who proudly proclaimed "woooow" when he saw the trees.

 

We found our tree, paid for it, and went home to set it up. After about 10 minutes of our son being afraid to go near the tree, he then proceeded to bat at it with his plush baseball bat. Apparently it was not cool with him that the tree was set up in his toy area. After that fiasco was over we noticed another pungent smell that hits you in the face.

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Now that the Turkey is eaten, the leftovers gone, and the house guests have vacated the premises, it is time to start your holiday shopping! Did anyone go out on Black Friday? I have to say that I ventured out but not until after 2pm. At that time, the only places that were crowded were places to eat. Everyone had bought their door buster deal items and retreated to one of the many food establishments to re-fuel.

 

As I was shopping the few small businesses I needed a few things from, I noticed that there is a big difference between them and the big box stores. Oddly enough, the difference is in the name of the comparison.

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Recycling conserves natural resources, such as timber, water, and minerals.

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