Friday, December 26, 2008

Our Greener Christmas

My dreams of a green Christmas came true!

So I had to share some of the delightful gifts I received from the Betty Lou's in my life (my mom and mother-in-law) this morning.

Above, you can see my mom (aka Betty Lou) made a corkboard out of wine bottle corks she saved throughout the year. This corkboard can be used for posting notes, pictures, artwork, or even used a giant hotpad. The funny part: I made her the same thing! Us Bettys think alike.

You also see that my mother-in-law sewed crazy-cool crayon packs for my two boys and the 30+ other grandkids! The crayons may not be soy-based, but aren't they beautiful?! They'll be perfect for taking on trips and to restaurants. Mom friends, beware. Craft project.

My mom also gave our family a set of reusable organic cotton napkins and ironed on all our names! So cute. Second-hand shoppers, step off. I'm going to be collecting napkins all year long for this great idea next year.

Most of you know this Christmas was especially challenging for me with my no-new-purchase buying pledge. So here's the scoop. I caved slightly, but managed with less than a handful of purchases which included a microphone for my musical son and Star Wars lego pack for hours and hours of fun building space ships.

Overall, I feel this Christmas was a grand success on many levels.

1. No electronics or batteries were given or received!
2. The kids made their gifts
3. We used things from around the house for wrapping and for giving (old picture frames from the attic for example)
4. I saved tons of paper by foregoing Christmas cards this year (Sorry everyone!)
5. It was a measured, mindful Christmas, rather than consumptive and overdone.
6. We recycled nearly all the packaging/paper wrapping for a virtual zero-waste affair!

I'm ready to turn our VA farm tree into mulch and get on with a brand new year!! Are you?


[Personal note on wine: I don't have it in me to eliminate this yummy, beautiful, nuanced, art in a bottle called wine, so make mine Virginia wine or I buy organic, "eco-frinedly" varieties, though I am skeptical as to how they get that classification. And as for the cork, the staff at Marketstreet Wineshop espoused the use of cork as opposed to rubber and twist caps, siting cork as a renewable resource.]

p.s. (Betty had to leave the kitchen temporarily as she attended to family duties that required immediate attention so blogs have and will be sporadic :-))

Friday, December 19, 2008

On the sixth day...

Why not invest in a brighter future this holiday by choosing to purchase holdings in a socially responsible investment fund!

I know we all want to retire at age fifty so we are still young enough to hike and play the banjo and paint and/or just eat bon-bons on the beach if we want.
But that doesn't mean you have to put all your money in big, bad corporations with the carbon footprint of Shaquille O'Neil!

Introducing, socially responsible investing.

Socially Responsible Investing is a broad-based approach to investing which encourages corporate responsiblity as it relates to a variety of societal concerns: from employee/employer relations, environmental concerns, to animal testing even weapons/defense spending. Check out for more information! Or ask your current financial investor which are the hot new green growth funds or alternative energy funds, ensuring a lighter environmental bang for your buck, so to speak. If you are looking for someone, Ryan Miracle at Krull and Company is ready and willing to help (tell him Betty sent you).

Good luck,

Thursday, December 18, 2008

On the Fifth Day... Shop Preston Plaza

Feel not the pull of cheap, red and white, big box Target this season! Instead go to the one stop shop, Preston Plaza, for all your local, green holiday gift needs.

Integral Yoga
Buy a gift certificate or great local produce for tonight's meal
Shenandoah Joe Coffee
Before the shopping begins, you must partake of their iced chai soy latte and buy a gift certificate so your friend can enjoy later on
Twice is Nice
My prize wardrobe possession which I donned at Live Arts Afterglow Party: a ten dollar sequined blue camo top found here. Fabulous. See what you can find. (Your purchase will also help JABA.
Blue Ridge Eco Shop
The funkiest wreath in town is here - made by a local artist from recycled cardboard. If you already have a wreath, check out the cool Christmas tree. Today we bought nice Plant-A-Seed Holiday cards for my son's teachers. You know your honey needs a new wallet made out of rubber tires!
I love this local bread company with a strong community vision. Pick up a loaf for some weekend French bread or a gift certificate or some baked goods for your favorite secretary.
Mona Lisa Pasta
Terre Sisson's delicious homemade pasta with marinara sauce. What could be more local? (hmmm - does he get his tomatoes from Red Hill? Betty should know...later on that)


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On Giving...

The best portion of a good wo/man's life [are] his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love. ~William Wordsworth

Today I followed my own advice (it's possible!) and I gave the gift of time (see day four in previous blog).

Instead of buying golden rings (FIVE GOLDEN RINGS - Everyone's favorite verse to bolt out), I folded things!

Well not really, but I did clean up my friend's kitchen and played with her beloved ninth month old , while she enjoyed a couple of hours of "ME" time.

Being a mother of three boys, Samantha (my friend and Mom with a capital M) barely remembers how to do that. What a lovely opportunity for a friend to step in and say, "Go! Leave your domestic castle and find a peaceful meadow somewhere. Or at least a hot chocolate. The kingdom will be here when you return. I promise!"

She was the only one who reaped the rewards of this gift. I delighted in the giving because there is nothing like being with a little person to draw you into the present moment.

Oliver and I spent some QT on the floor doing downward facing dog (he's SO ready to crawl!) and building with nursery rhyme blocks and singing and dancing. When Samantha returned, she was energized and beaming and full of gratitude. And so was I! Talk about a win-win.

I know it's been said many times: Actions speak greater than words, my friends (which is maybe why my Christmas cards aren't done).

Seriously that's what it's all about! So fold your friends' laundry, wash his car (at a commercial car wash of course - they use 50% less water), clean her kitchen (ok - I guess that one depends). And see what magic happens.

In-joy, In Peace

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On the Fourth Day... an easy, earthy craft for the birds

Instead of a plateful of refined sugar cookies this year, think beyond the belly (do we really need another sweet temptation this season?) in favor of a plateful of decorative and tastey bird treats.

Easy Ornament for your outside tree (prep time: 15-25 minutes):

1. Take a piece of Mission Home sandwhich bread (or other local variety) and using cookie cutters, cut it in the shape of a tree or a snowflake or snowman.

2. Paint one side with egg white (or a thin layer of peanut butter).

3. Sprinkle bird seed, sunflower seeds, cloves (even tri-colored corn - found in the Whole Foods bulk bin) in a random or symmetrical design.

4. Let dry overnight

5. Poke a small hole through the center and string a ribbon to hang.

6. Hang on your favorite backyard tree for the whole family to bird-watch!

Easy Hanging bird feeder (prep time: 30-40 minutes)

1. Cut one side of a medium or large cardboard milk carton 2/3 of the way down.

2. Decorate the outside by gluing comic strip newspaperlippings cor colorful paper scraps or old wrapping paper.

3. Paint hodge-podge on it to give it that shiny, finished look.

4. Fill the bottom with one rock (for a weight) and sunflower seeds from the local shop Wildbirds Unlimited. Poke a stick through the sides for easy perching.

Voila! Fun for the fowl as well as family.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

On the third day... another green gift-giving idea!

Tip #3: Giving of your time.

When making your list and checking it twice, Betty encourages you to ever expand your definition of gift-giving to include the gift of your time and service. (My what?! Who has more time at this time of year, right?)

Aye, there's the rub.

Simplifying and re-thinking the holidays without the consumer centerpiece may take a little more time. But it doesn't HAVE to. It could possibly be a matter of re-allocating your time and prioritizing. Which will in turn give you a more meaningful, heartfelt experience.

True. This may mean that you don't get your myriad of holiday cards out the door by December 1st. (Maybe not even before Christmas - we're thinking about a New Year's note this year). This may mean that your coworkers don't receive their annual low-cost doo-dad. It may mean that just because Aunt Thelma sent your a Harry and David holiday gift box that she might receive only a thank you note in return.

Here are some ideas Betty came up with:

Friends or Family
*Give a friend with small children a few hours of free time by offering to babysit
*Offer to complete an errand or task at home or at work for a busy working parent
*Make dinner for your friend who is working overtime this season
*Are you a handy-man or woman? Ask a friend to make a list and spend an afternoon spiffing things up (even Bettier: change air filters, repair leaks, install more energy-efficient appliances for him/her)
*Take your single friend out to eat local food and listen to local music

*Donate your time to hosting or cooking for the homeless men or women in our area through PACEM
*Volunteer to ring the Salvation Army bell outside a local retailer
*Sign up to deliver Meals on Wheels
*Offer to read books to kids in our city and county Bright Star programs (a headstart for pre-k age kids who need more time and attention)
*Pick your favorite local park, business, coffee shop and do something nice for them: clean up the area, renew the books and toys with your own, offer a small toy basket for their small visitors if they don't already have one.
*Give Betty an hour or two of your time to implement community green ideas

Whether you celebrate Christmas or Kwanzaa or Hannukah or the Winter Solstice or none of the above this season, I do believe there is an opportunity to participate in the joy of giving. Giving generously, giving authentically, giving with an open heart feels good. And giving your time (which can seem scarce in the hussle and bustle) can be green to!


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On the second day of Christmas...a Bettier way to send gifts

Welcome to the second installment of Betty's green holiday ideas! Today Betty brings you ideas for greener packing for those of you who will be sending gifts this holiday season. Sure it's what's inside that counts, but don't forget to eco-fy the outside.


*Save the boxes and polystyrene packing peanuts or foam wrapping or "plastic pillows" you may already have lying around the house or patronize one of the local mailing businesses that use recycled peanuts (see Betty's directory).

Eco-friendly Materials:

*Staples does have reusable natural starch-based foam peanuts ($43.00 for a 7 cubic foot bag). They are water soluable (dissolve in water or compost after use)

*The Container Store's Padding Paper is recycled and recyclable ($15 for 30 sheets)

*Use good-old-fashioned wadded up newspaper

Recycling Tips:

*What to do with more polystyrene peanuts that any Better World Betty could handle? Call the Plastic Loose Fill Council Peanut Hotline at 1-800-828-2214 (hey, you know you want a job there!) to find businesses that will gladly take them for you.

*Flatten your corrugated cardboard and recycle it.

*Phone your favorite local business to find out if they could use packaging items for reuse.

*And remember, when Betty cannot answer your LOCAL SOLUTION to recycling, call to find a recycling center.

Hope that helps!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

On the first day of Christmas her true love gave to Betty...

A copy of Unplug the Christmas Machine in a local apple tree...

Welcome to the first in a series of Betty blogs dedicated to helping you make this giving season the greeniest yet (or at least greener than the last). Our motto will be LESS (AND LOCAL) IS MORE when it comes to the holidays. Betty will scour the town for the best local spots for eco-gifts, but also give you some out of the box (couldn't resist), creative gift-giving alternatives.

But first, a primer. A copy of the book, Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season (Paperback) by Jo Robinson and Jean C. Staeheli from a local bookstore, (check Betty's directory for the used book locations and store hours and call first), is a great start.

This book will come in very handy as you tactfully regift and kindly resist the temptation to run out to the nearest Pier One for that obligatory gift. More than removing the over-consumerism of the holidays, this book offers ideas for infusing authenticity and genuineness back into the holidays. I came across it about ten years ago and still like to return to it.

Happy reading,

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Farm-fresh food for ALL: you can help this Friday

Check out Betty's interview with UVA student, Mark Parlette, and the inspiring work he has done in this community to help lower-income families gain access to fresh, local food called Charlottesville Community Food Project. The fundraising event is on Betty's event page: This Friday, December 5th, 6-8, Enoteca, (silent auction of local artist's work and pie sale!)

Betty: Tell me about your work with providing CSA shares to lower-income families in Charlottesville?

Mark: Well, during the growing season, the CCFP operates kind of like an emergency food bank-- we take calls a couple days a week during a designated hour-long period, and then have a pick-up period later in the day. The difference is, we work with the CSA system, so we don't actually hold or distribute the food ourselves. We coordinate donated shares (when people with CSA shares are out of town) and raise money to purchase shares, and then make these 'community shares' available to low-income members of our community. This past growing season we worked with Roundabout Farm and Ploughshare Community Farm and provided over 180 shares (each a box with a week's worth of produce.) People can read more about the specifics at our website: It's been very moving to hear from people who are so appreciative of a box of vegetables, a food taken for granted and generally undervalued by most people.

Betty: What's going on this Friday, December 5th?

Mark: This Friday, we're holding our 1st annual silent auction, called Paintings and Pies with a Purpose. It's a silent auction of artwork (from local artists) and homemade pies, and the money raised will go towards purchasing community shares for the 09 growing season. It takes place Dec. 5th, from 6 - 8, at Enoteca, on the Downtown Mall. We hope a lot of people will come by, show their support, and enjoy the artwork, the company and the smell of fresh baked pies. And of course we hope for some active bidding, and for a lot of people to take home the beautiful (or tasty) works of art.

Betty: How did you get involved in this Mark?

Mark: I started volunteering as a driver (just 3 hours a month) at the Emergency Food Bank here in Cville, and it just got me thinking how people in need don't really have access to fresh, healthy food, and how that ends up compounding their health and economic problems. The EFB and other food banks and food pantries do a great service in keeping Charlottesville fed, but of course the one thing they can't provide is perishable food. There are some exceptions: for instance the EFB provides milk, and sometimes people bring in some produce from their garden; but in general they don't have the ability to store or distribute much perishable food. So I started trying to think up a way to make fresh produce available to people, to make sure that if they wanted to feed themselves and their families vegetables, they would be able to do it. Now, local produce is usually about the freshest you can get; it's often picked that day, or the day before. And when I started thinking about using local produce, I realized there were a couple other reasons why that would be a good idea.

First of all, when we spend money to buy local produce, we're supporting our local agriculture, our local economy, and the environment because of the sustainable practices of the local farmers we work with. We're also supporting the health of the recipient of the food, since the soil is better taken care of than on a industrial ag. farm, and the food is more recently picked. I think in general we (though Betty is an wonderful exception) don't give enough consideration to how the money we spend impacts the world. When we buy something, we give support, and a means to continue, to the people who made it and the process involved in making it. So I thought, even (or perhaps especially) a charitable organization ought to think about how the money it spends can have a positive impact, and not just how what they get for the money can have a positive impact.

Suffice it say, for these reasons and more, I thought that setting up an organization to make fresh, local produce available to people in need would be a wonderful idea; we could support the health of our community in many ways at once. I then set about getting the word out around UVA, and I found several wonderful people (thank you Lucy, Amanda, Elizabeth, Lynn, Weiwei, Mary, and everyone!) who have been working with me to make it possible. The Emergency Food Bank has also been wonderfully supportive-- we've distributed flyers through them (as well as other local food pantries) and serve many of the same families. Our greatest thanks of course go to Tony at Ploughshare Community Farm, for all the help he's given.

Betty: Great! If someone is interested in helping out more, what can they do and who can they contact?

Mark: They can just contact us at 434-202-0603 or and we'll be happy to work out a way, depending on their interest and the time they have available, for them to help out. And thank you, Betty, for helping get the word out on this event!

Mark Parlette from the CCFP and Better World Betty

Monday, December 1, 2008

Betty's version of Cyber Monday

Imagine my surprise this morning when I walked into Cville Coffee to catch up on work, when the smiling face of a CBS reporter asked me if I was going to participate in Cyber Monday. It was the first I had heard of it (I promise I don't live under a rock), but I quickly surmised that it was the online equivalent of Black Friday.

Oddly enough, item number five on my agenda: Write a blog about local vs online shopping.

"I think I'm the last person you want to talk to about this - I took a no-new-purchases pledge, so I won't be participating." Her ears perked up, "Well, I definitely want to talk to you!" So the bright lights of a news camera were shinning on me before I could even say "Better World Betty."

Online shopping may be convenient, as you avoid crowded malls and parking lots, but, my green friends, online shopping is not the Bettiest thing to do.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not eschewing the internet entirely. After all, Betty and the rest of the internet is a marvelous, modern-day, one-click resource connection to green living. It is the number one way I align my values with my lifestyle. Whether I'm looking up the latest environmental policies or searching for a green product alternative or looking up the environmental track record of certain brands, the internet is invaluable in my quest to be mindful.

So here are my suggestions/tips for on and off-line shopping this season:

*According the Organic Consumer's Association: Buying in-store is better because bulk shipping cuts down on fuel costs and emissions.

*Keeping your money here, rather than pay-palling it to a faraway place, allows your money to STAY in your community and feed the local economy.

*Mark Lorenzoni, local business owner of Ragged Moutain Running Shop, told me that is one of his pet peeves: people shopping on line in their living room instead of maintaining a personal relationship with their local vendors and supporting the people and businesses in their community.

*However, if your eco-friendly products (ex the snow boots my mom just purchased for my birthday) are not available in stores, I would recommend going online. But, next time you are in the local shoe store or retailer, mention that you would like to see more green products.

*If you want the convenience of online shopping, while shopping local, try Here you can online shop at numerous local stores in the morning, click and pay, and pick it up on your way home from work (they have a downtown location and a pantops location), saving on gas and emissions!

*Also keep it close to home by searching products at

*Search for local artists who have home-made wares (clothing, jewelry, art, gifts) in virtual shops at This is one of my absolute favorite solutions for mindful gift-giving. You can even search by recycled materials.

Keep it local, keep it green with Betty's help!

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Christmas Wrap...

(This article appears in the December issue of Abode and can also be viewed at Abode)

Let’s face it. The holiday season can be Mother Earth’s worst nightmare, from the plastic toys made overseas to the copious amounts of paper products. This season Betty helps you think outside the holiday box with creative and green gift-wrapping ideas!

If you’re a saver like me, you have a head start. But don’t fret; it’s not too late to start saving all things paper and festive for next year including boxes and ribbons. Include reuse as a part of your family tradition.

My rule of thumb is to begin with what you have, i.e. nothing NEW, especially paper (otherwise known as dead trees). Scour the attic for last year’s boxes, your closet for shoe boxes, or the recycle bin for an appropriately-sized cardboard box. Otherwise, the local Salvation Army or thrift shop should have old tins or baskets.

As for wrapping paper: newspaper comics, old tissue paper, a cut-up paper grocery bag, even a scrap of cloth will work. Next collect odds and ends like old ribbon, feathers, twigs, string, shoe laces, magazines, tea bags, cinnamon sticks, leftover tissue paper, postcards, old maps, even game pieces. Don’t forget to forage in the great outdoors – holly bushes and rosemary twigs make great gift garnishes.

Now you have assembled your supplies, the fun part begins! With scissors, a hole punch, tape, glue gun (optional), and your collection of found objects, the gifts will become recycled works of art. With your imagination, the possibilities are limitless.


Better World Betty aims to be the number one resource for green living in our community. Check out all the many ways to act and buy local this season at

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Busy Week!

Last week made it official: Better World Betty is back! Most of you know I took a small hiatus from Betty this summer, having both my kids at home and this fall, spending time on the presidential campaign. But beginnning with a meeting of the Better World Betty advisory Board on November the 5th, it's full speed ahead! I hope to have the newsletter out within the week and if you're not on that, you should be. It's where you get the inside scoop on events, future blogs, and includes a personal challenge from Betty to you. (email to get on there ASAP)

Tuesday I met with Tom Frederick and Bruce Edmonds and my fellow citizens who serve on the Citizen's Advisory Committee for recycling (which still has a vacant spot open for a city resident, BY THE WAY! Hint, hint). I am averaging about four pages per meeting - lots of interesting recycling info there. Who knew that the wrapping surrounding reams of paper is NOT recyclable and jams the recycling machines, for instance?

Then Wednesday I met with Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris about enjoyed gathering cool prizes given by generous area businesses and organizations for America Recycles Day at UVA! Feast! gave a t-shirt and reusable bag, Twice is Nice gave us a purse and tie, Rebecca's gave us a goodie bag filled with organic trail mix, etc, Blue Ridge Eco-Shop gave us Sigg water bottles exclaiming "You are what you drink - don't be plastic!", 1061 gave us new music sampler CDs, Integral Yoga gave us gift certificates, and Trees on Fire gave us a few of their fabulous CDs (the green room). THANK YOU - YOU ALL ARE FABULOUS!!

Thursday Bruce Edmonds, local recycling guru of McIntire Recycling fame, and I attended the all day event, America Recycles at UVA, joined by the Sierra Club, the Student Council Sustainability Committtee, Habitat for Humanity, the City, UVA Dining, and many others. We were all saddened by the weather, which nixed the ever-popular dumpster dive (especially since I spent the previous evening plastering Betty stickers on shoeboxes to be planted in said dumpsters so students could redeem prizes!). A dorm dumpster is emptied on the Lawn and students dive in finding recyclables, as a visual reminder and awareness-raising about the importance of recycling. Come spring, diving will happen, I trust!

I finished off the week by attending the wearable fashion show at St. Anne's Belfield, which was enjoyable, but not exactly as I expected. For obvious reasons I thought the dresses/outfits would be made of all recycled products, but this was more about creativity, imagination, and design and not necessarily environmental eyebrow-raising. I did love the music accompanied the student models: trash cans and chains and empty buckets were the percussion instruments.

Admist all the green happening my laptop had a technological malfunction (rather that than Betty having a wardrobe malfunction, I guess), so I apolgize for the delayed reporting.

It's good to be back!

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Better World Beagle Strikes Again!

Cross your fingers for me that the "bittering agent" in the bottle of "Earth Pet Training Aid" will stop our beagle puppy, Mugsy, from single-handedly chewing all of our rugs!

Perhaps she is just teaching us the Buddhist tenet of impermanence in all things (and who couldn't use a lesson in that), but I honestly don't think we can abide with having another rug ruined beyond repair!

These are not antique rugs or anything, but they do valiantly protect our hardwood floors from scratches induced by chair legs and lovingly warm our bare feet.

The remaining two rugs seemed to beckon me this morning to take action, as they lay waiting for their own unraveling.

So with hope and a healthy amount of skepticism, I purchased the aforementioned earth-friendly "training aid" from Paige at the Eco-Shop on Preston.

With any luck Mugsy will be entirely repulsed and fall into a deep sleep dreaming of Better World Bassetts or something, so I can get some work done around here!


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Turning the tide on the e-waste tsunami!

Did you know that estimated 2.2 million tons of computer, televisions, and other electronic equipment are discarded into US landfills each year? The upcoming conversion of analog to digital will likely add to this e-waste tsunami. To avoid mercury, lead, and other known carcinogens contaminating our local ground water supply follow these easy e-tips from Better World Betty:

For businesses, Computer Recycling of Virginia will pick up all electronics for a fuel fee. After refurbishing, they donate equipment to schools and non-profits throughout Virginia, or sell them in their self-sustaining store in Harrisonburg. Icing on the cake: a no-landfill guarantee (check or call 540-564-1990)

*Computers for Kids ( or call 817-1121), a local non-profit dedicated to mentoring disadvantaged kids, gladly accepts a variety of computer equipment (sorry no TVs) including laptops, desktops, and monitors. Note: both offer to properly wipe out your hard drive.

*AmVets will pick up TVs and other functioning electronics, transport, and sell to Richmond’s Fantastic Thrift store, then donate the money to Vietnam Veterans (call 1-800- 448-9870).

*Both Goodwill stores accept computers (no TVs).

If all else fails, Crutchfield will recycle for a nominal fee; however, after transporting, dismantling, recycling, and refurbishing, “some” parts may end up in a New Jersey landfill.

Two more computer recycling options: Staples will e-cycle for a $10 fee and at Office Depot you purchase the e-cycle box (sizes and prices from $5-$15) and they’ll do the rest.

Now those old electronics can stop collecting dust in your valuable storage space!


{Many companies have begun to offer free take-back programs, unfortunately Betty’s sleuthing found that none of the local big box companies participate.}

Monday, November 3, 2008

The day has come...

I hear much talk of nervousness and anxiety and what ifs leading into tomorrow, but I am excited. And filled with energy and hope. So I had to share this picture with you. The kids and I saw it on the way to recycling this morning (on Cherry Avenue, Charlottesville) and had our camera with us! I trust all you Better World Betty readers will make the decision you feel is right for our world, our planet tomorrow, which includes every man, woman, child, beast, butterfly, and daisy who lives and breathes on it.

Before you go:
The Board of Election rules are such that campaign material cannot be displayed within 40 feet of the polling place. That means clothing, pins and stickers. I do not want you to be inconvenienced by displaying campaign material and then having trouble entering the polling place. Be wise with your attire. (Or bring an article of clothing to cover up the campaign material when you enter the polling place). It's important everyone in every precinct in Albemarle County is able to vote.

The second is that the polls open at 6AM and close at 7 PM. If you are in line at 7 PM, you will be permitted to vote. Just stay in line. Bring a book or a magazine. Secondly, don't forget your picture identification like a drivers license or passport. You will need it.

It certainly will be an exciting day, and I hope your voting experience goes well.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Moving beyond the 3 R's into the 3 P's

Recycling, reducing, and reusing efforts are going on everywhere. I see people carrying their reusable bags into stores, I hear about people opting to consign, my own neighborhood in the county recently signed on for community-wide curbside recycling now offered by Allied Waste. So perhaps it's time to move beyond the 3 R's into what I believe can be just as powerful: the 3 Ps: Process, Pace, and Pragmatics.

As with any new endeavor, remember being greener is a process and a practice. One day maybe you fell you've taken step forward, then you come home to find your kids left all the upstairs lights on while you all were gone. In meditation it's called the return movement - the most important thing you can do is return and not give up! Keep coming back. Practice makes... permanent. It's not always easy: the same day we started recycling in the 'hood, I drove by a house who was pitching two relatively new looking twin mattresses! Ugh. Stay on YOUR path, keep doing what you're doing. It's worth it (the Planet told me so).

Once you slow down, you can see the folly of fast. This fall I have made a conscious effort to slow down. When I slow down, becoming mindful of each choice and savoring each moment, "smelling the moment" to quote my Nia teachers,I am greener.

Laundry is a perfect example. My mother always tells me to check the pockets - who has time for that?! Sunday I dump the newly-dried laundry on the dining table for folding (later, of course) and begin to see brown flecks on the clothes everywhere! On white collars, my blue sweater, dad's underwear - and there's the offending object: a pack of halloween three whoppers that I confiscated from my four-year old (I have to call out my husband here - he brought these home)! Chocolate specks abound. So I pull out the bio-kleen and my bleach pen that I keep in a far-away closet for emergencies of this type and have to rewash the entire load. You can see where I am going here - if I spend the seconds it takes to clean my pockets, I wouldn't have to spend the minutes and the resources of trying to repair it!

Shopping. The same goes for grocery shopping, now that the farmer's markets have ended and the CSA season is done, we are back at the local grocery stores, searching in vain for local, organic produce. So it takes a bit more forethought and planning and pace. Rather than donning the mentality of "I'll just grab something for dinner on the way home" like I did last week (I had 10 minutes before I had to be home to meet the school bus so I grabbed Salmon and Broccoli - cost of that one in carbon footprint terms: thousands of miles and complimentary color added), make a menu, and take a seasonal approach (with Simply in Season or a similar cookbook's help).

Mail: What do you do with the mail after you've checked it? Taking a couple of minutes to call the catalog that for some reason wasn't taken off the list (even though you've followed Betty directions on the website and sent all your letters) is worth the trees. Also, you can recycle those envelops with the film screen (this was news to Betty from UVA's recycling guru "Sonny" Beale) rather than "toss" them in the landfill.

My car: There is no single object I own that gets the worst of me when I hurry, rush, speed through life as my car: the tires need pumped up - who has time for that? Well-maintained tires save you money at the pumps. I also use my car as the ultimate storage unit: container of trash, clothing, equipment, books, where things get lost and things get spilled. So for two months running we are trying on a friendly relationship with the family car. Kids, don't RUN out of the car leaving everything in. We slow down and bring things in.

I 'm really starting to get it: if you treat your stuff nicely, it will last longer and therefore you won't have to buy another new one!! (Especially helpful with the no-new-buying pledge)

Exception to the pace tool: water use. Please don't slow down when it comes to the dishes, shaving, showering, etc. Short, but sweet is in order here.

PRAGMATICS: Streamline your home, work, school strategy for recycling and reusing and donating. Designate a place for these things in your home. If it's not working, change it. Give yourself a deadline. Make a weekly or monthly date for distributing your donated items or hire Cville Concierge to do it for you!

I hope these 3 P's can serve you in the ways of green!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Meeting with the young and the seasoned...

It's been my privilege to get out into the community in recent days and work with two great groups who are trying to move in greener directions in the past two weeks (unfortunately I forgot to take pictures BOTH times!).

Week before last I went to Buck Mountain Church in Earlysville - a beautiful church nestled in the Blue Ridge, teeming with enthusiastic ladies (and one older gentleman), who listened to me speak about methods of going green and ways to sustain the effort. I told them Betty's story (which is almost 10 months old!) and we exchanged green recipes.

One thing I am quick to acknowledge is that many women in the 50+ age range are really the first generation of Better World Bettys. After all, Betty is modeled after women of that era who tended to the kitchen in ever-resouceful ways, canning in the fall, make your own bread, it takes a village of strong women sort of people! The Betty of this century is an apropos re-invention of the former, but with a broader, more global focus. (The earth as kitchen is the extended metaphor here)

Last week a fellow parent and I spoke to 50 third graders at Stone-Robinson Elementary School in the county. Our parent-led green group there has instituted school-wide and student-led recycling and increased overall awareness on reducing consumption as a school. This year I hope to pilot a program of inquiry/activities which could be expanded next year. Lots of work ahead!

Currently, though, if you are reading this and have an elementary-age student in the city or the county schools or are a teacher and would like me to come speak about protecting the earth/read my favorite earth-friendly picture books/roll around the floor pretending to be water that is choking on pollution/conduct a recycled-art workshop, just let me know! I am ready to roll.

Last week's presentation reminded me how much I miss working with kids. I really love working with them partly because I wish I was still one and they can sense that. But most of all, kids really appreciate when you CARE and LOVE them.

The talk was a springboard for environmental action, so the kids brainstormed in small groups, ways they can lower their school-print. My favorite contribution was a group who wrote all their ideas on ONE stickie note, their first piece of advice was "Use less paper by always using both sides!" Following their own words, nice!

I can't wait to get in there again to do some recycled art for the holidays!


Friday, October 24, 2008

A Greener Halloween

How to Green your Halloween?

* Raid your closet and local consignment shops instead of heading to the nearest store for the cheap and easy one-use costume. My son's Frankenstein suit coast set us back 5 dollars with a little hemming by yours truly and my Mary Poppins outfit is coming together splendidly with the help of Ike's Underground on the downtown mall and the local Goodwill Thrift Store. After spending a mere $20.00, I'm feeling supercalifragalisticexpealidocious this year!

* Check the "skin deep" safety guide put out by the environmental working group at

* Avoid the vinyl teeth and masks that are made overseas and are neither recyclable nor healthy for you and your kids.

* Check out the organic lollipops at Whole Foods or be radical by giving away apples and preserve toothbrushes (Hey, at least your fellow parents from the 'hood will appreciate the gesture!)

* Take your UNICEF trick or treat donation boxes. $44 dollars provides school supplies to 20 kids. $200 dollars immunizes 550 kids against measles. Learn more at

* Make a pumpkin pie FROM SCRATCH. You heard me! Follow the recipe below from my latest favorite cookbook: Simply in Season p. Hands-on time: 5 minutes
Time to table: 60 - 90 minutes

1 sugar pie pumpkin (or any pumpkin OTHER than one for Halloween jack o' lanterns)

Set oven to 400F. Wash pumpkin well. Rub skin lightly with olive oil. Just in case, put a baking sheet on the lower rack below the pumpkin to catch any juice that might squeeze out, then put the pumpkin directly on the rack above - no need to wait for the oven to preheat. Roast for 60 - 90 minutes. The actual time will vary based on the oven's actual temperature, the moistness of the pumpkin, the variety of pumpkin. But it's done when a knife slips into the flesh like butter. Let it cool a bit before slicing open - and even then, be careful when slicing open for the steam will rush out and could definitely burn. Then beat together the following and pour into your homemade 9" pie shell and bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes.

Pumpkin Pecan Pie
*1 cup pumpkin (pureed)
*3/4 cup light corn syrup
*1 cup chopped pecans
*3 eggs beaten
*1/3 cup brown sugar
*1/4 cup butter
*1 tsp vanilla
*1/2 t salt

* Kitchen Centerpiece: Draw ghost faces (two eyes and a mouth in the shape of a letter "O") onto three Butternut Squashes of varying sizes.

Enjoy your Green Halloween!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Important findings in the first study on Virginians opinion re: climate change

Last night I attended the presentation of the results of a study "What do Virginians think about Climate Change?" and subsequent panel discussion. I sat next to Mike Kruse, owner of Evergreen Recycling and volunteer for Appalachian Voices. I would say around 50-60 people were in attendance at the Miller Center.

The study was divided into four sections and was conducted via phone interviews all across the state in September (660 residents responded):

I Perceptions
II Factors which shape beliefs about global warming
III Governmental Responsibility
IV Response to Policy Alternatives

I have taken the liberty to share my personal summary of the findings with you:

*The study wanted to find out the level of concern among residents and also public opinion on solutions. The study found that 75% of Virginians believe in climate change.
*Personal experience drives people's beliefs more than anything else (i.e. rather than scientific fact)
*Virginians believe that state and local governments have a shared responsibility with the federal government on how climate change should be addressed
*Dr. Barry Rabe, one of the authors of the study, noted that the study seemed to point to a discrepancy between policy analysts and citizens in the approach they envision will work in producing solutions. He commented that policy analysts believe some kind of market-based approach is necessary to achieve measurable reductions, whereas the citizens seem to be requesting a variety of regulatory strategies as well.
*[I would like to add, I thought one important facet of this issue was overlooked, and that is personal responsibility (and perhaps that was out of the intended scope of this study). I would like to hear what citizens are ready/willing to do on a personal level. I believe an essential piece of the solution puzzle is not only market-based solutions, local/state/federal government regulations and incentives, but personal action and responsibility when it comes to our day-to-day behavior.]
*One dramatic percentage was the number of Republicans who believe in global climate change 57% compared to Democrats 88%.
*Virginia has seen an increase of 38% emissions -between 1990 and 2005- more than double the national average - meaning we've got work to do.
*In 2006, Governor Kaine passed the first every Energy Plan for Virginia which included 30% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as a goal, as well as the formation of the Virginia Climate Change Commission which will deliver their report this coming December.
*After an audience member called into question the scientific validity of climate change, the author reminded him that the study was on public perception. Speaking for himself, he reminded the gentleman that evidence for climate change found by scholars all around the world at this point is "voluminous." Indeed.
*Rabe noted that the state leaders on reduction of greenhouse gases and other policies come from both Democrats and Republicans.

For more in-depth analysis of this study and a national study, stay tuned. Coming December 11-12, the National Conference on Climate Governance will be held right here in Charlottesville at UVA's Miller Center (by invitation only) but will also be available via webcast.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

What do you think about Climate Change?

The results of the first survey of public attitudes toward climate change among Virginia residents will be released at this special panel on Tuesday, October 21, 2008 at 5:30pm. Funny, Betty doesn't recall anyone phoning her Earth kitchen sometime in September. harhumph.

The panel includes Vivian Thompson, Assistant Professor of Politics and Director of Environmental Thought and Practice at UVA, L. Preston Bryant, Jr. Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources, and John H. Gibbons, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy under President Clinton.

This is free and open to the public and will be held at the Miller Center of Public Affairs. 2201 Old Ivy Road, Charlottesville.

Hope to see you there,

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lessons in remaining curious and creative

This is from a personal blog of mine from last fall entitled Lessons in remaining curious and creative. I share it tonight because I am reminded of the importance of being there when life happens. Even amidst frantic work on the website (I was working until midnight most nights on my computer course and the website simultaneously after the kids were in bed), I was able to find pause and go back to one simple truth: The only moment you ever have is now. Embrace it. Be present. Find joy...

"Today 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 no-driving 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.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Are you getting crankie about catalogs? Here's how to say no to all that junk mail

The "green recipe" that people continue to request from Betty is "How can I stop my junkmail?" BWB has made it very easy, by clicking on the link below:
but I've also reprinted below this comprehensive list straight from the Federal Trade Commission's website ( of stopping the relentless retail that happens via mail and phone. I love this list on how to "Just Say No" to junk mail and junk solitications by phone.

As a side note: Betty is full of grace and tact when it comes to politely declining plastic bags or junk mail or (just recently) a "free Disney DVD" from Circuit City, but it is not always easy as she battles with Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn direct mail marketing: after FIVE REQUESTS over the past TWO YEARS, I am still receiving the catalog.

So Betty's research unearthed this call line: 1-877-FTC-HELP to report egregious abuses of marketing companies who ignore your requests to JUST SAY NO. Hope it helps!


FTC Consumer Alert
Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection Division of Consumer & Business Education
Unsolicited Mail, Telemarketing and Email: Where to Go to “Just Say No”
Tired of having your mailbox crammed with unsolicited mail, including pre-approved credit card applications? Fed up with getting telemarketing calls just as you’re sitting down to dinner? Fuming that your email inbox is chock-full of unsolicited advertising? The good news is that you can cut down on the number of unsolicited mailings, calls, and emails you receive by learning where to go to “just say no.”
Credit Bureaus
The credit bureaus offer a toll-free number that enables you to “opt-out” of having pre-approved credit offers sent to you for five years. Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (567-8688) or visit for more information. When you call, you’ll be asked for personal information, including your home telephone number, your name, and your Social Security number. The information you provide is confidential and will be used only to process your request to opt out of receiving pre-screened offers of credit.
In addition, you can notify the three major credit bureaus that you do not want personal information about you shared for promotional purposes — an important step toward eliminating unsolicited mail. Write your own letter or use the sample letter on the last page of this Alert to limit the amount of information the credit bureaus will share about you. Send your letter to each of the three major credit bureaus:
901 West Bond
Lincoln, NE 68521
Attn: Consumer Services Department
Name Removal Option
P.O. Box 505
Woodlyn, PA 19094
Equifax, Inc.
P.O. Box 740123
Atlanta, GA 30374-0123
Direct Marketers
The federal government has created the National Do Not Call Registry — a free, easy way to reduce the telemarketing calls you get at home. To register your phone number or to get information about the registry, visit, or call 1‑888‑382‑1222 from the phone number you want to register. You will get fewer telemarketing calls within 31 days of registering your number. Telephone numbers on the registry will only be removed when they are disconnected and reassigned, or when you choose to remove a number from the registry.
The Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) Mail Preference Service lets you opt out of receiving unsolicited commercial mail from many national companies for five years. When you register with this service (for a $1 fee), your name will be put on a “delete” file and made available to direct-mail marketers. However, your registration will not stop mailings from organizations that do not use the DMA’s Mail Preference Service. To register with DMA’s Mail Preference Service, go to
The DMA also has an Email Preference Service to help you reduce unsolicited commercial emails. To opt out of receiving unsolicited commercial email from DMA members, visit Your online request will be effective for five years.
Department of Motor Vehicles
The Drivers Privacy Protection Act allows states to distribute personal information only to law enforcement officials, courts, government agencies, private investigators, insurance underwriters, and similar businesses — but not for direct marketing and other uses.
If You Have a Complaint
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit or call toll-free, 1‑877‑FTC‑HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Sample Opt-Out Letter (Send to addresses on first page of this Alert.)
To whom it may concern:
I request to have my name removed from your marketing lists. Here is the information you have asked me to include in my request:
(List all name variations, including Jr., Sr., etc.)
(Fill in your previous mailing address if you have moved in the last 6 months.)
Thank you for your prompt handling of my request.
July 2008

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Betty's October column in Abode: Reduce your driving!

Enjoy this column here at Betty's blog or read it in this month's Abode:

Charlottesvillians everywhere are finding ways to downshift their driving. To skip a trip, choose a ride you take on a weekly basis and get creative.

To maintain your level of awareness, keep a fuel log.

Then trade your four wheels for two and bike or walk.

Not viable? Jeff Greer, Senior Systems Engineer at LexisNexis, saves up to 35 miles a week using the Charlottesville Transit System bus or free trolley.

Our local rideshare program ( makes carpooling easy. Commit to once a week and the “guaranteed ride” program ensures you won’t be left stranded. And parents: check to see if your school is registered with the schoolpool which matches drivers for you.

Have you heard of hypermiling to maximize fuel efficiency? Consider making small adjustments in your driving techniques for a week: shifting into neutral when reaching top speed, staying within speed limits, eliminating quick starts, and turning off the engine when idling for more than a minute and see the positive results.

Talk to your boss about the possibility of four-day work week or working from home. Select departments at UVA and Charlottesville City have promoted this fuel-saving change.

Marleigh Baratz, a county resident, began a “call before you go” system on her block. Before going to the store, she phones neighbors to see if they need a couple items (to be reimbursed), helping others to avoid unnecessary trips. Better yet, take advantage of retail relay ( a newly launched online service, where you click, pay, and make one trip to pick up your local goods.

Eliminating one weekly ten-mile trip will save you over 2,000 miles a year and up to $550 in gas.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sitting around the dinner table...

Today was just one of those days. Totally off balance. Too much "running around." That's when I think Kermit was right, it's not easy being green. I am finding that the pace of your life plays a huge role in earth-friendly behavior. Going slow helps me to go green. The nice thing about my friend, Betty, is that she realizes that some days are like that, especially in the lives of working families with young children.

So when the kids and I sat down together at the table tonight, we finally had time to reconnect.

One way we begin that process is to take a moment's pause to show gratitude for our food. My son loves to lead this:

"Earth, who gives to us this food, Sun, who makes it ripe and good,
Dearest Earth, Dearest Sun,
We won't forget what you have done."

After we share each other's best and worst of the day, we start to talk about what we are eating. Since we've done a farm share and worked in our garden as well as friends' gardens, my kids are getting pretty good at the "Where did this come from" game.

I think this is a great way to talk about not only how food came about (the farmer planted the seed, the seed grew with good soil, sun, water, and then ripens and is ready for harvest), but also helps kids learn that food grows in all different conditions. Our potatoes and garlic came from the dirt. Our green beans came from a vine. Our rice is a grain, which had to be hulled. And we chose to eat something that was once living: a fish.

It's also fun from a nutrition standpoint. If I've learned anything from kids, they really love to learn and know the right thing to do. My four year old asked for broccoli first at the bakery the other day!

The discussion doesn't stop there, because it's very likely the food took an extended journey to us. Today I bought a small filet of farm-raised fish (aka "brain food") for the three of us, but it was not from the U.S. - an unusual purchase for us these days in our desire to lessen our "foodprint", but again today's pace played a role: I hadn't pre-planned dinner so I rushed the selection process.

My green lesson for today for myself and you all, my friends:

Dinner is a great time to reflect on food as a family and connect with where our food comes from.

Gratitude feels good and helps us tap in.

It's not about perfection, it's about practice. Today we did too much, so tomorrow we will slow down and be more mindful of our choices.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Ruby takes her first ride in a long time!

I finally got on my bike (Ruby) today!

My bike and I, we have taken an extended hiatus from each other since my college years in Salt Lake City, where we would head to the foothills or mountains or southern Utah (you may have heard of Moab) any chance we could get.

Being in a period of expansion, having two kids and pets, has derailed my bike adventures for the most part with exception of riding the neighborhood or renting bikes on vacations. But Betty continues to inspire change in me (and I hope you as well), as I utter a Betty mantra: "Are you doing something better today than you did yesterday?" Step by step.

Just like most things in life, starting is half (if not more) of the battle.

After telling myself I "should" get on my bike, then the pep talk from Howell, and the adornment ceremony, using various bumper stickers (Trees on Fire, Burn Gas AND Calories, and Better World Betty) and the purchase of the perfect dinger (which can warn other riders, pedestrian, and cars that Betty is on the loose), not to mention the shift in clothing mindset (I mustered a pair of my mom's old running tights and a bright colored t-shirt), I was ready.

So last week I show up and in my rush to drop my preschooler off on time, I've forgotten my helmet and realize my bike seat is at home on my front lawn and the ACCT map of Cville is in the kitchen! Back to the drawing board. (The return movement is important too. Don't give up - stay engaged)

Today the stars aligned (and my mindfulness arrived), though, and I found a beautiful bike path from my son's preschool to my work station - the downtown mall. I find I mostly travel to the same local shops in close proximity to each other: Preston Ave Shops, Cville Coffee, ACAC, and the downtown mall, all bikeable. I'm lucky. The real question for today was could I stay off the 250 bypass (ever increasing traffic of free bridge) and the wonderful answer is yes! The even better part of that answer is that the path includes beautiful views of the rivanna and centuries old birch and oak trees as well as wildflowers. Though the path is circuitous and thus will take longer (like the green-living path in general), it will be well worth it. Especially as the leaves start to change: one of my favorite times in Virginia.

Howell said the next time I should take you all with me on the ride - strap a web-cam to Ruby's handlebars! Hmmm. That could be interesting.


From me (a novice) to you:

*What to wear: Safety first, be seen! (Sorry eco-fashionistas!) I picked out the brightest piece of clothing I could find (which didn't exactly work - it's a tank top the bright happy yellow of Sweden's flag). Also my usual attire was posing a slight problem: I noticed this morning I don't have anything that isn't too tight to ride a bike in or jeans with too flappy bottoms (turns out Howell was ready with his rubber bands, I mean special techno-geek pant-leg ties)

*Planning: It's important to consider your commuter path. Howell suggested to drive that path first with new eyes. Considering the visibility and accessibility on a bike. Note: ACCT (Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation) has a bike mentor program ready and waiting to help you.

*Trial run: It's important to get out there and try it, preferrably with a biking buddy. See what routes work, what routes don't depending on what your needs are. Find the safest routes. Time your trip to see how commuter biking can fit into your schedule.

*Have fun: the more fun we have doing something, the more likely we will continue to do it.

*Most important: stay alert and defensive and present while biking!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Your favorite green thing to do...

The Veggie Fest was an absolute joy of an experience. Cville Weekly graciously sponsored Betty's booth and the event was a grand success. Adrienne and I talked to so many people, gave away lots of "green recipes," shared information about how to use the website as a tool for your green life, and above all enjoyed the beautiful rain on/rain off day. We also encouraged people to share their favorite green thing and here are the results from you all (I'm sorry I didn't get first names and ages).

*I plant trees and gardens
*I use cloth diapers
*I use fecal waste from my pet to enrich both the compost heap and garden plot directly. Turning compost frequently and breaking matter up to better enrich garden soil.
*I wash out and reuse ziplock bags as containers
*I dry clothes on the clothes line
*I decline a bag in the store when purchasing a handful of items
*I follow a vegan lifestyle
*I am a veg head!
*I recycle (from Bohden)
*I play in the rain (I do too!)
*I am careful not to waste water
*I use a tankless water heater (check American Tankless)
*I don't use plastic or paper bags
*I compost
*I use 1/2 c baking soda, followed by 1 cup vinegar and shut drain for unclogging. When the fizzing stops, I add hot water for 1 minute
*I don't cut down trees (Bohden, 4 yrs old), Please save the land for animals and don't build lots of houses
*For my automatic dishwasher, I fill half-full with a detergent and then shake baking soda over dirty dishes, then start!
*I unplug all appliances and things including the coffee pot when not in use. I also burn candles and use night lights instead of other lighting.
*We recycle!
*I don't receive bank or store receipts anymore!


Monday, September 22, 2008

Update on the No-Buying Pledge: Month Nine

This post is dedicated to the first (non-family member) fan and supporter of Better World Betty, my dear friend Eva out in Colorado. She is a continual inspiration to me. We had our phone date today and she wants an update on the no-buying pledge. So, here goes.

I left you on June 6 - a post describing my minor infractions (around six in number), the last one being couple of beach goodies. Aye, there's the rub. I have two kids with gear needs! So far we've managed to utilize last season's baseball pants, my mom's free body-for-life bag (for his baseball equipment), and gently used toys and books for bday gifts (ah the birthday parties).

Here are August and September's divergences:

#7: I didn't buy everything on the back-to-school list (four dozen pencils!! no way), but did need some new items that we considered essential: two new outfits, new tennis shoes, new art supplies (we shopped the best Michael's alternative: Studio Art and Craft House), and a couple of required folders.

#8: Orange baseball socks and a protective cup for being catcher (dad's didn't exactly work). Plastic does have its place. :-)

#9: This month my prison pen-pal requested new clothes she could wear for a job interview (huge step) and they will allow me to send her some! I went to one of the local discount shops and bought her two versatile outfits and a sweater for the winter. Difficult not to go hog wild here, knowing the rough road she continues travel. I trust these clothes and the love and compassion accompanying them will serve her well.

So Eva wants to join me in this pledge. She asked if I've started a no-new-buying club. (cool idea) She also offered to design a sticker I can put on my car after the year is up. I told her to start designing it (she's an amazing artist). "This is so huge!" She is so sweet. "You need some way to proudly display you accomplished this at the end of the year."

So what are the guidelines? They started out hard and fast: Nothing new for a whole year. Just the essentials - food and shelter needs. The only minor tweak I discovered once our dishwasher stopped working was that it was important to allow for tweaks in the green direction. This fall we will be purchasing a new energy-efficient, water saver clothes washer. Surely an eco-smart thing to do in lieu of our old one that keeps tearing our clothes and likely uses too much (cold only) water.

It's so interesting because at first I would be at a shopping place and see something in a window and go ooohh, I "need" that. (kind of like what used to happen when I got all those catalogs in the mail) And then I would think "aahh - the no buying pledge strikes!"

But now I don't even notice. It's quite liberating. It only comes up when someone says, "Oh just go to Target and buy another one," which is quite common notion in our culture. Just go buy another one.

And when I feel the retail therapy urge, I might head into one of my favorite consignment shops and buy a new top. Everyone likes to have something new every once in a while. Balance and perspective is so important from a personal sustainability standpoint.

The other tool I have utilized since the pledge has been giving the gift of services - instead of giving my pregnant friend new baby gear she doesn't need (this is her third), I'm giving her a triple deluxe interior/exterior car wash (commercial car washes use 50% less water than home washes).

I do have one purchase I am really struggling with: a new ipod. My beloved husband ran over my ipod accidentally when we were unloading the car from a vacation and I inadvertently left a tote in the driveway ("I thought you got it" - "I thought you did!") It's worked since June, but died two weeks ago. I ask Betty, how am I supposed to cook and do dishes without music? That's essential, right? I wonder how much recycled content they are putting in Ipods these days anyway. (That's another rule: recycled and gently used items are fair game). Hmmmm. What's a Betty to do?

Eva asked about Christmas. That should be interesting. Stay tuned...


p.s. One thing I would do if I were starting new with the pledge is to track the money saved. All those times I thought - ooh I want this. And walked away. I used to be a sucker for the colorful little notepads in the grocery store or cutesy stickers. (I found an eco-jot 100% post consumer recycled cutesy notepad at Studio Art a few weeks ago and I'm using that)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Easy like Sunday morning...

Lionel Richie (and Maroon Five's Sunday Morning) are really onto something. Sunday is a wonderful day to slow down. Pause. Reflect. Recharge.

Next Sunday I hope you will join me in a Slow Sunday celebration by baking bread at home. If you haven't heard, the editor of Resurgence last month began a campaign called Slow Sunday and it really is a beautiful (and Betty-like) notion.

Think Globally, Bake Locally (see The intention is to spark a resurgence in local production and to commit a small act of defiance against highly processed bread made far from home.

Satish Kumar says, "Small is beautiful. When we bake bread, we are in touch with ourselves. Bake bread to save the planet." The aim is to encourage people to take part in small acts of defiance for the environment within their own communities.

"The Resurgence Slow Sunday is inspired by two of the most profound philosophies of our time – Schumacher’s ‘Small is beautiful’ and Gandhi’s ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’. Big change is possible though small, meaningful actions at a local level (Betty's Operating Philosophy #1). It is only by changing our immediate environment that we can pave the way for change on a larger scale. In other words, we can make the world a better place, but it will only happen when large numbers of people join together and practice what they believe in.(taken from his you tube segment) And when thousands upon thousands of people do this small thing all around the world, change begins to happen." (end quote)

I have been playing with the notion of "slow" myself. I am consciously slowing my pace down, which feels counter-intuitive, but so much healthier.

This time last year I was running full speed ahead trying to get Betty's website complete. I missed my son's Back to School Night, bills weren't getting paid, my house was a mess, I missed the fall ball deadline, and I eventually ended up on crutches with the worst sprained ankle I've ever had. I was going too fast. So this September I have embraced "slow,"

Some people are even choosing to make Sunday a no-purchase/consumption day. A day infused with more being and relating, rather than the usual work-week habit of doing. A day to lower our consumption, reduce our carbon footprint, commune with friends and family, incorporate nature into our lives, and reflect on how we are being.

I hope you will join us,

Monday, September 15, 2008

What are the presidential candidates views on issues related to the environment?

It can be difficult to muddle through the spin and rhetoric of such a hotly contested election.

Betty wants to link you to the facts and I trust you will be able to draw your own conclusions. As a a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, Better World Betty cannot and does not endorse individual candidates or political parties. While we advocate on issues, support or oppose proposed laws and regulations, and speak out about actions taken by public officials, we do not support or oppose candidates themselves.

If you would like your leaders to seek solutions to global warming; if you believe in conservation, rather than exploitation of our wildlife and environment; if you want the United States to take a lead role in renewable and clean energy and increasing the fuel economy in our fleet; if you believe we can live a better, cleaner, greener life with the help of our government, check out these sites:

Find out how your candidates answered questions to key environmental questions at

Check this easy to navigate site, where you can search by issue:

Then tell your friends, family, neighbors, strangers in grocery lines, to check the facts. And if you are willing and able between now and November 4th (tomorrow it's a mere 50 days away), find a way to ACT on these convictions.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Saturday Night Surfing...

This week I came across the following cool sites:

An eight page guide on how to recycle anything (of course consult this AFTER you check Betty's recycle search tool which will give you the best LOCAL options. Example, please give your backpacks to Boys and Girls's Club):,21770,1835098,00.html

Check this cool local resource from Montfair Resort:

Do you know anyone who is planning a wedding anytime in the next year?

Check out these sites to green your wedding:

Buy a Recycled Dress:
The Green Bride Guide:

Also remember that we have lots of great local bands to perform your music and an amazing flower farmer, Megan Weary (Roundabout Farm). I recently got a sneak peek at the flowers she did for a Cville wedding (I do my CSA work share there), and they were amazing!

I also know a local artist/silversmith named Annie from Sante Fe who just moved here and likes to do wedding bands for people (just email for her contact info).

Happy surfing,

Friday, September 12, 2008

Betty's Getting Herself in Gear - Bike Gear

Ok, so I've been telling myself that once my second son started preschool that I was going to start biking to my meetings and errands. This year will be my son's third year of preschool and I've gotten on my bike once. And that was a five minute ride to a neighborhoord PTO meeting.

Eco-guilty as charged.

But the recent article in Cville Pedal vs Metal including the inspiring article about the bike mentoring got me on the phone Tuesday morning, inquiring about how I can get a bike mentor ASAP!

I am a little frightened. My husband didn't help by blurting out, "I don't want you riding the hellacious bypass!" And it doesn't help that a close friend of mine was hit last year by an SUV, which outweighed her by a couple tons. She fared well, luckily. But it makes this Betty a little nervous.

The last time I was regularly on my bike was in the Rocky Mountains. And I gotta tell, I'd rather brave a few wild animals than the wild drivers.

That's where the mentor will come in handy.

I told my avid biker (doesn't own a car)/buddy, Howell, and he had a fresh perspective on my plan. Make it fun! He's not saying don't be mindfully aware of things that outweigh you by tons. He's merely invoking that important component of human nature: we like to do things that are fun, so make this fun. If you have fun doing it, you will want to do it some more.

Then he highly recommended I do a bike wardrobe makeover. He told me where to go buy a bright yellow bike shirt and suggested I coordinate it with other hip pieces (you mean rubber bands over my lower pant legs?).

"Include the bike," he then advised.

Betty definitely needs a dinger. Or at the very least a honker horn. I can't wait! He also recommended adorning my bike with stickers. Of course, right after Betty's sticker, will come my Trees sticker and then unmentionable stickers (of a political nature - all positive of course), and of course who can leave out the ubiquitous Buy Local, Buy Fresh sticker. Yipee! (my love of stickers goes way back)

My friend is like the biking eye for the driving guy or something, he really knows how to sell this. I tell him he needs to become a bike mentor himself. (in fact, he's already one, just not officially)

So stay tuned (I promise to include pictures) and keep out of the bike lanes. Don't be hitting any Betty wannabees.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

As the recycling world turns...

When Betty first found me (or I found her, I'm not totally sure which)a year ago I couldn't understand what was so hard about having curbside recycling in the county and I didn't believe any of the claims that it wasn't making money. So I joined a citizen action committee in the hopes that I could help drive positive change (a la Betty's mission and my own personal mission).

Though I'm still surprised that recycling facilities can't make more money doing what seems to me such an important and responsible human act, it's not as easy as one would think. I keep learning about the collecting, sorting, hauling, single-stream vs co-mingling, transporation costs, and market values which make recycling more complex than just tossing your recyclables into a bin.

Today I took a tour of the UVA recycling facility compliments of Sonny Beale with the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority CAC (citizen action committee) of which I am a part.

The sheer volumes of waste and recyclables that UVA hauls and sorts and redistributes is difficult to comprehend. We sat around the loading dock and listened to Sonny spew amazing numbers - in the tons. Here are just a few:

UVA recycles over 2000 tons of paper annually
UVA recycles over 700 tons of cardboard a year
They run the R.O.S.E program: the Reuse of Office Supply Exchange, which is open to the public. Who knew? (Well now you do!) Attention non-profits and schools and small business owners and anyone else interested - they have a section of free office supplies. As long as you don't mind used manila folders, they are yours for the taking.
They support a medical equipment reycling program (M.E.R.C.I. is the acronym for Medical Equipment Recovery of Clean Inventory which is run by volunteers from the OR and other medical center employees and students). Useable medical equipment is sterilized and then sent out to remote areas and disaster relief organizations.
They collect inkjet cartridges (photo above is just from the past week)
They recycle all sorts of media like CDs, disks, cell phones, etc.

Interesting note (this is news to Betty): the paper that reams of paper come in - even if it's recycled-content paper - that paper itself has a plastic in it and gums up the machine. Please don't recycle that paper covering. Same with the paper that labels come on. The labels (even though they have stick) are fine to recycle, but the paper they stick on (that waxy looking kind) is non-recyclable.

The most depressing thing Sonny told us was that in a recent study of trash collected at UVA a total of 40% was recyclable materials!

The other depressing piece: the improved Scott stadium was promised to have 50/50 recycling/trash all throughout the arena, but in reality it came out 60/40 and the John Paul Jones Arena, which seats almost 16,000 per event, is still working out the details of how, where to allow their patrons to recycle (it seems that "aesthetics" place a big role in recycling over there). He didn't give me any numbers, but I felt a little ill thinking of the major consumption/waste generated over there that is headed straight to Ivy Landfill. (I complained the last event I went to there because I had to search for ten minutes just to find their recycling receptacles, which as optimistic as I am I know not everyone will do)

Sonny reported that keeping everyone at UVA informed and aware of the broad range of recycling there is an uphill battle with staff and student flux.

Nevertheless they are doing an amazing job. For more details see:

After the tour, we had an interesting discussion about Van der Linde's new recycling facility at Zion Crossroads that is supposedly 60-90 days away from opening. 12 million big ones have gone into that project. We all look forward to seeing what we could do as a community (the city, the county, uva, and however many surrounding areas) to make it a win-win for everyone (rumors of rent-free containers abound. The question is who will bring all those people to the recycling table? I hear Betty can host a pretty decent potluck!


Friday, September 5, 2008

It's go time: less than 50 days...

The election is less than 50 days away and it promises to be the most important one certainly of my time and perhaps yours as well.

Better World Betty, grateful for the support of the Virginia Organizing Project, is a 501 3(c) and therefore must remain non-partisan, so I can only say this: If you consider the environment an important piece of your decision process, please take an active role between now and November 4th in this historic election by doing the following:

*Register to vote (
*Participate in canvassing events, phone banks, or "get out the vote" activities for the candidate you feel places climate change solutions and the protection of our environment among the top issues facing America
*Walk your neighborhoods
*Make your voice heard to your friends, family, neighbors, and government representatives about your desire to see green incentives, green jobs, renewable energy (which means NO to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge!), increasing the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy), preserving our natural resources, staying out of our national parks, forests, and sacred places (like places I formerly called home: Utah's wilderness) honored in meaningful legislation.

In today's world it's not an option to be a political bystander. The time is now to be informed and participate in local, state, and government politics.

It's hip to be heard!

So if you feel a slight absence in the local kitchen of green-consciousness (i.e. fewer Betty blogs until November 4th, for example), realize it's not for lack of caring. Better world action is just taking place in a different and equally important arena until Election Day.

Peace on Earth,

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

On Being Waterwise

Betty's Green Tips appear monthly in Cville's ABODE. Check it out here, or online

Baby, it's dry outside
With the last measurable rainfall having happened in July, we all need to get more water-wise. Local water expert Jennifer Watson at Charlottesville's Public Works recommends spending a day pretending that a gallon of water costs the same as a gallon of gas. (Your five-minute shower just got very expensive!) Other strategies:

Don't leave water running while washing, brushing, or shaving. Each minute saves three to five gallons.
Stop the flow. Pesky leaks still top the list of EPA's biggest home water-wasters. To find a toilet leak, drop food coloring in your tank and wait 15 minutes. If the toilet changes color, you've got a leak. Speaking of toilets, did you know that commodes made before 1980 consume five to seven gallons of water per flush? The city (970-3211) and county (977-4511) will give you a $100 rebate to replace your old toilets, plus a free water-saving kit.

Don't let water (and money) evaporate by daytime watering. Corann Ley, a local horticulturalist, offers this lawn trick: If your handprint stays in the grass, water. If not, leave it. Plant native and drought-resistant plants and don't forget to mulch. Thorough watering, rather than daily watering, promotes stronger root growth and therefore healthier plants. Drip irrigation hoses can save you 70 percent on water use.

Our community
Find a way to connect to our local water this month: Hike at Ivy Creek, fish the James, or volunteer to monitor local streams ( or

Saturday, August 30, 2008

First Annual Betty Picnic Photos!

The First Annual Betty Picnic, held earlier in the month, was a grand success!

As you can see from the photos: Blake and Rob of Trees on Fire played a fabulous acoustic set amidst a friendly crowd and glorious summer breeze, funds were raised, kids' faces were painted, trash was hunted and collected, local food was graciously eaten, and green-consciousness was raised! Everyone wanted to know when the next event is planned. You shall know when the leaves fall to the ground, my friends.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Lesson on Lids

Here I was thinking that I could do a lengthy blog on the ins and outs of recycling lids, but Bruce Edmonds, local guru of recycling says "Lids are easy!"

*Metal lids of any kind go in the metal bin (steel/aluminum)

*Plastic lids from the Number One and Number Two plastic containers are removed and then tossed into the plastic machine after putting the plastic bottle/container in the compactor (I need to go check this out because last time I recycled a few weeks ago it was still just a giant bin). That leaves out the lids of the 3-7's, which still require back door methods to recycle. Hmmm. (I guess we'll continue to use them for recycled crafts?)

(BTW: Lots of great improvements over there at the McIntire Recycling Center: they now recycle CFLs and cell phones and household batteries. Thanks Bruce!)

I say that with all sincerity and with the same sincerity wish for curbside to come back to the county!

And why not take a minute to fantasize how nice it would have a "pay-as-you-throw" system. Friends who just moved here from Ann-Arbor commented to me, "For a community which touts itself as so green community I can't believe they don't have curbside." I agree (which, incidentally is why as a citizen of the county I serve on the recycling action committee).


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Americans are driving less, are you?

The Federal Highway Admininstration reports that Americans drove 42 billion fewer miles during the first six months of this year compared with the same period last year. I can't help but believe that people are making good on their New Year's resolve to "go green" employing a variety of ways to do that, including lowering their driving. Of course higher gas prices have been an added impetus. Excellent.

The average American takes TEN car trips to and from their home. And I know it can be tough - if you have a pet at home who needs walking, if you have appointments after the kids come home on the bus, if you have kids who need to go to a sport or instrument practice.

So here are some tips for reducing your driving this fall:

*A FRIEND IN NEED: Call you neighbor before leaving the house and see if he/she needs one or two items from the store; ask he/she to do the same for you

*LOG IT TO LESSEN IT: Keep track of your weekly miles in a notebook or in your calendar you carry around. From there, challenge yourself to figure out ways to reduce the miles.

*SKIP A TRIP: Make a committment to car pool to one practice a week this fall. New American Dream tell us that "Taking alternative means of transport for a weekly 20-mile trip represents less than a 10 percent decrease in the average American's driving but can reduce your weekly carbon dioxide emissions by more than 18 pounds."

*FOOTLOOSE AND CARFREE: Work or play at home for a day. Some of the best times I've had with my two boys is when we've stayed at home for a day and been crafty and creative, finding things in our own home and in our backyard.

*HIT TO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE: Metaphorically speaking, of course! Consolidate your trips, but most of you do that already. :-)

*FAMILY FUN: Walk or bike to your nearest park this weekend.

*DIFFERENT IS GOOD: Choose a trip you take on a weekly basis and experiment with getting there using alternative transportation: the bus, bike, walk, rollerblade, skateboard. Check Betty's friends over at Cville's best alternative transportation advocates.

When you do:New American Dream tell us that "Taking alternative means of transport for a weekly 20-mile trip represents less than a 10 percent decrease in the average American's driving but can reduce your weekly carbon dioxide emissions by more than 18 pounds."

*CARPOOLING IS COOL: Join a carpool or schoolpool or start your own. see for all the local info!

When you do:If you are signed up in any type of pool at least two days a week, you are eligible to register for a "guaranteed ride:" if you suddenly need a ride, the people at rideshare are happy to help. Either via free taxi service(within a certain distance) or even a short-term rental car option!

This year my preschooler is starting his five-day program, so I am organizing a "school-pool" with parents on my side of town. My son's school is not currently listed on the site, but Baker-Butler Elementary School, both Covenant schools, Greenbrier Elementary and others are listed as participating. Again, check it out Albemarle and Cville area commuters, parents, riders:

And certainly you won't forget your manners with this great link to carpool etiquette:

Keep up the good work, everyone!

Note: See my previous post No More Excuses, Commuters:

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Back to School Challenge: be an advocate for change

Whether you're the mother of a preschooler or a high schooler or taking a Spanish class at night, practice moderation and give voice to better world practices when it comes to school.

I found my son's supply list pretty standard, the usual notebooks (though I missed Whole Foods big sale on 100% recycled paper notebooks), scissors, glue sticks.

However, I was shocked when I read that it listed 4 dozen pencils. 48 pencils which add up to almost 1,000 pencils per classroom if every 2nd grade parent follows the list. I thought it was a misprint, but when I called, the school secretary confirmed the amount. Who decides on the list, I asked. Collectively all the teachers do, she informed me. Though I was tempted to make an angry phonecall about deforestation concerns, I used my better judgment and will wait for the dust to settle (I was a teacher myself once).

The only guess I can make on why a classroom would need this many pencils is that I think many of us still have the disposable "I can just buy another one" mindset. (But really, 960 pencils?) So I bought one box of 12 FSC certified pencils, along with the twelve we gathered from various junk drawers around the house, and hope that will last. Given the current economy and the current necessity to be more sustainable in America, this type of shift in consciousness must take place on a wide scale.

I urge you to make your voice of moderation and wise-buying heard at your son or daughter's school this year.

First, let me go off-topic for a confession: pre-Betty, pre-no buying pledge my attitude about sunglasses, goggles and other popular one season items was why buy expensive ones when I'm just going to lose them? (My reputation proceeds me) The draw of cheap stores like Old Navy and Walmart or Target can be difficult to pass up.

But it is amazing what can happen when you consciously set an intention in your life. This one-year no new purchase buying pledge has helped me shed my disposable mindset and embrace the finer art of "keep your things nice." I still have my sunglasses from last year. And I was pleasantly surprised that my kids have made it all three months, swim practices, and pool visits, and even an away trip to Grandma and Grandpa's community pool, and they still have their swim goggles, unbroken! When we purchased these in May I told them, "These are it, guys! Keep track of them." So we brainstormed together the best way to do that. They decided putting them back in the same place every time would do the trick. Still going strong. I feel like I'm also more careful with my things, knowing I'm not going to rush out to buy a new one (thus sending my jeans in for "denim therapy" see previous blog, which by the way came back. They are good as new!)

So this school year, be an advocate for moderation and better practices. Here are just a few ideas:

*Buy the recycled paper tissues for the class.
*Encourage reuse of school supplies.
*Bring cloth napkins in for the next class party.
*If you don't see a recycle bin within easy reach, volunteer to bring one in. (All County Schools have paper recycling, plastic 1s, 2s, cardboard, and aluminum)
*If you see excess, ask questions and share your desire to see a "less is more" attitude
*If your school is using all disposables for school lunches, question the principal and the head cafeteria director.