Monday, November 26, 2007

Green Diary #4: it starts with the kids...

My 1st grader came home from school the other day and said, "Guess what, Mom? My school is not that friendly to the Earth. You know why? (If you've guessed he's my rule-bound eldest, you're right!)" "Why?" I reply. "They use plastic forks instead of real ones at school lunch." " Really?"

It sounds like my son's school and perhaps your child's school in Albemarle County and the City could use some consciousness-raising in the green sphere as well.

But I was surprised to find out, in my research for Betty, just how much Albemarle County schools are already doing to lessen their impact. I've had the privilege of meeting with two empassioned women, Lindsay Check, environmental compliance manager for Albemarle County Schools, and Sarah Temple, environmental compliance manager at the County, who are working on a wide range of green goals. Everything from lowering thermostat temperatures to installing compact fluorescent bulbs to integrated pest management to co-mingled recycling to running the buses on biodiesel! Some of which have already been implemented.
It's exciting!

Of course, given my son's observation, there is still much work to do.

I am happy to report that this very evening the first
Stone Robinson green group of parents met at my home. For an hour we brainstormed all kinds of exciting ideas. We talked about getting recycling bins in every classroom and workroom, drafting a no-idling policy for the drop-off/pick up car loop, school beautification, and raising awareness among the kids about water conservation (you ever seen a 7 year old wash their hands? I sound like a broken record trying to train my kids not to leave the water running while they fumble with the soap dispenser or put their toy in their pocket!). The easy part, of course, is coming up with the important ideas and actions, now comes the hard part: putting them into action.

I am hopeful we can do it. W
e made the first step of many tonight and that feels good.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Going Green Diary: entry #3 Happy and Hairless

I don't want this diary to be a venue for product endorsement, but I have to share some great news. Though some out there may say they are "going totally green" in their lifestyle. I refrain from making that claim. It's a challenge in some areas. I am doing what I tell my kids to do all the time: do your best!

In the madness that was Whole Foods three days before Thanksgiving, I was actually able to focus for a few minutes (this was before my son started his relentless whining to go home) to find a new product: the Preserve Razor.

For those Bettys who want to continue to shave (as opposed to taking the big step of going au naturale (sp?) - hey some of us grow some serious black hair), this razor is made from 100% recycled plastics, with at least 65% recycled Stonyfield Farm yogurt cups. The paper insert is 100% recycled, printed with soy inks, and the case is made from renewable wood sources. The company, Recycline, was born out of a desire to help promote the use of recycled products. You can also recycle the razors and razor cartridges through their postage-paid mail-back program. They also have a line of toothbrushes.

In my mind it's a win-win. This promotes recycling and reduces the perpetuation of products made from virgin materials. Check out their website: for more info.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Going Green Diary: entry #2

My friend asked me a very legitimate question the other day - why can't the County (and the Rivanna Waste Authority) offer more than just the recycling of number 1 and number 2 plastics?

A-ha. Great question. One that I plan on pursuing. (Hopefully details on that will follow in later entries)

One way I intend to do that is to attend the December 4th meeting of the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority at the City Council Chambers from 6-7:30pm. The waste authority wants to get residents' opinions on recycling and other solid waste services in the County and Charlottesville. And I will be happy to share mine. (Mabye I'll take my low-VOC paint and put "Albemarle County wants curbside recycling!" on a big piece of cardboard) The consultants will then draft a waste management plan and deliver it to the RSWA board.

Many of my neighbors and friends have expressed a sincere desire to recycle, but find themselves bogged down by the time and space it takes to haul their items, and sometimes just give up.

I would like to see the county take as concerted and committed effort as we have seen in the city with their new their extended curbside recycling service (see and lofty recycling goals (50%).

Currently I am trying to avoid plastics #3-#7, but when I can't I take them to UVA's recycling park, which accepts them and hope that's ok with them. :-)


Friday, November 16, 2007

going green diary: entry 1

Over the course of the next few weeks, I plan to track my own personal efforts in "going green." Which, to me, means living more lightly on the planet today than you did yesterday.

I'm a stay-home mom of two boys and I know it's probably not the "green" thing to say or do, but today I praise Hasbro's play-dough and all of the fun plastic do-dahs that go with it. These toys have been a main-stay in our house.

See, I grew up on play-dough. That distinct salty smell and the perfect mushy feel of it in your hands. My fondest Christmas memory growing up is when I received the hairstyling studio where you could pump the playdough in, press firmly, and like fast-film photography out pumps the sweetest play-dough doo that I would promptly cut off in friendly fashion.

Recently all of our play-dough has been mixed to form primordial black, so I figured it was time to invest in new dough.

In our ongoing effort to minimize consumption and needless trips to the toy store, we decide to make our own.

It was a disaster. My three-year-old decided on a bright blue color and despite following the directions to a tee, we come up with a weird soupy mixture which I tell him will surely harden into perfect play-dough by morning.

I wake up to a kitchen full of little blue splatters (on the white fleece my friend let me borrow, no less) and still soupy play-dough my son has just finished "inspecting". (Apparently he checked it at 6:00 am without telling anyone).

Forget this , I head to my locally-owned toy store and to my dismay, no play-dough there. Toys R Us it is (audible gasp). I manage to b-line it past the eight-foot displays of the High School Musical stars and the new pop-star Barbie figures on sale and sneak on out of there with just my four new pastel colors - $1.98! (I probably spent that much on resources driving around to find the play-dough, not to mention the water consumption I used to scrub out the sticky blue bowl used in our homemade blunder).

I've banned plastic in my home (the grandparents apparently missed that memo) - everything from plastic water bottles to the kid-size yogurt we used to buy- because we Americans consume roughly 2.5 million water bottles alone EVERY HOUR and the majority of those never get recycled. That's a problem.

On the other hand, there are certain things I'm not willing to give up. Today my sons and I played playdough for almost two hours - making purple pancakes, and orange spaghetti, not to mention green caves for the bad guys and blue bridges for them to cross over. I appreciated the plastic shape makers we kept from my pro-plastic days of yore.

I keep going back to this: it's about balance. And less is more. And if it gives my boys an avenue to create pink trees and purple lakes, let them have at it.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

lessons in being curious, creative and car-free

Today (Fri, Oct 26) was one of those dark rainy days that can make you want to stay beneath the covers and pretend you don’t have a reason to get out.

Fortunately, that delusion never entered my mind thanks to my two young boys. My three year old has already woken me up twice with bad dreams about witches chasing him (bless him) and is now sleeping on my forehead, crowding me into the far corner of my bed. (Keep in mind you could have a small dinner party on this thing)

I just get back to sleep when my older son enters at 6am and says loudly, “Oh yeah - I don’t have school today - I could have slept in.” EXACTLY! Insert curse word. Of course this always happens when their dad is out of town.


But it’s 8am and we are carving a pumpkin. Rather unorthodox I know, but our first one has long since rotted and, well, they asked so nicely. Also yesterday was our 1/2 share produce pick up and this is our third pumpkin - what else are we going to do with it?

While our spiced pumpkin seeds are roasting, we spy the bag of dried corn for popcorn and chestnuts.

Now I know some people don’t like the whole “you never know what you’re going to get” aspect of buying a share in a local CSA, but for us it’s been a lesson in curiosity and creativity. (How many different ways can you cook green beans and still have your kids not eat them? Can I make a white eggplant taste good?) And this morning, can I pop popcorn without one of those electric poppers?

It turns out all you need is a pot, a cover, and some oil over high heat. After I drizzle butter and salt over the bowlful, the eldest declares, “This is the best popcorn I’ve ever had!” So we move on to the chestnuts (sorry we used the oven, not an open fire). Easy and tasty as well.

By this time the house smells delicious and I feel like the triumphant captain of the Mayflower; I’ve launched this culinary ship into previously unchartered waters and succeeded!

By this time, we decide this is our car-free day and we hunker down.

We color; we play Star Wars; we rock out to the Romantics “What I Like About You” while we pick up the 30 or so books that are strewn all over Ian’s room; we play hide and seek.

We all agree that a “family bath party” is the perfect ending to a perfect day. With our three-inch layer of bubbles we make beards, snowballs, glaciers and marshmallow cakes! My 6 yr old begins putting “red hot fire cream” on my legs because “your blood is evaporating!” That cannot be good. But after a few douses of “the best cream I’ve ever come across” I seem cured.

Of more than just the dreary day.

Kids have a wonderful way of keeping you in the moment.

I know these days of family baths and pretend potions are disappearing fast. So before I lay my weary head to sleep, I enjoy them, and hope for no mean witches tonight.