Thursday, January 31, 2008

Behold the toothbrush!

You bright green friends out there may have noticed that there are some items in your household that seem next to impossible to find a greener, earth-friendlier alternative.

Personal care products fall into that category. They are often the ugliest offenders of consumption and environmental waste - disposable razors, plastic containers for lotions of all shapes and sizes, and the one that we find needs replacing at least every six months (with our kids at least)- our toothbrushes. And with a family of four that adds up to hundreds of toothbrushes by the time these kidos flee the nest.

A company that has done an amazing job of closing the loop (which is rare, my bright green friends) is Recycline. A Massachusettes-based company founded by earth-lover Eric Hudson, this company is doing their part and then some. Get this: they actually provide the postage-paid envelope at the store for sending back your used recycline product. How's that for easy?

Back in December I blogged about one of their most popular products - their razors.
Today I was thrilled to find their toothbrush at Whole Foods.

Their toothbrushes are made with recycled Stoneyfield yogurt cups; in fact, 2 million recycled cups have been reused so far. And, bless them, last year they finally turned a profit!

This is just a simple way to make a difference with our dollars: buy your personal care products from Recycline sold at Whole Foods and talk it up to your friends!


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Because Mama said so...

I'm going to tell you something that you mothers out there already know... Mothers Rock! We are a powerful force to be reckoned with and if we tap into our tremendous powers of creativity and caring and desire for change, we can move mountains!

Are you wondering what I put in my shade-grown organic coffee this morning?

Nothing in the coffee, I promise. Just a bit of internet inspiration.

My friend sent me a great article about Amy Tiemann, the woman/neuroscientist/high school teacher/mom behind the fabulous MojoMom: her term for an action-oriented, educated, confident, mom who nurtures her own passions, not just the kids'. Her book and website ( give women who are at home, busy navigating sibling rivalry or the dirty laundry, yet have a sincere desire to make a difference, a tool for taking action. She dubs them "naptime activists." You can sign up to attend Senate meetings on fair wages or sign a petition to give children adequate health insurance.

These women make it easier to stay engaged in the issues that affect mothers and families every day. Amy of and the folks at MomsRising have given women a tool to stay engaged and make a difference. Mojomom hats off to you!

Personally speaking, I love anything that helps us stop talking so much and start acting! I love the mojomom concept because I feel I qualify! One among many of this new generation of empowered moms. Moms who have moved well beyond the mother martyrdom of past generations.

Another good site, though I feel a bit text heavy is a group of east-coast moms got together to promote a way to incorporate environmental stewardship into everyday mom activities. Sounds like Betty's kindred spirit.

Consider this from the site: "According to the 2003 U.S. Census, there are nearly thirty-six million families in America. Imagine if the mothers and caregivers
of those children practiced more environmentally friendly ways of living. Now imagine if the children modeled that behavior. With those actions, in just two decades America would have a new generation of environmental stewards, protecting our natural resources and the health of generations to come."

Bettys of the world out there, UNITE!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Musings on the art of re-gifting...

For the sake of the planet (and my no-new-buying pledge), please, Betty, can you make the art of the re-gift not only socially acceptable, but hip?

Because the first stumbling block on the road of my "1 year of no-buying pledge" came just three weeks after my pledge was official (Jan 1).

I had neglected to consider gift-giving.

Am I actually going to find recycled items or re-gift items I already have at home for an entire 12 months for every birthday, holiday, special occasion, or baby shower?

The prospect is especially challenging when you gaze out at the landscape that is the raising of two young children. Look closely, you can see a lot of store-bought cakes (hello artificial sweeteners), balloons (the favorite choking material of the beloved brown pelican), toys and gifts (can you say large department store that enjoys bright plastic, over packaging and massive life-size posters of Hannah Montana?!), and cheap goody bags (with made in China written all over them). It looks dismal indeed for the parent who is trying to green even the most un-green of events: the birthday party. Luckily, we don't have to worry about giving one until next month. But this month we were invited to one. What to do?

I hark back to my own 30th birthday party, when my good friend gave me a full set of plastic summer tumblers that she had clearly regifted to me in perhaps a last-minute gift panic.

Did I keep those hideous tumblers for an obligatory amount of time thinking I would one day use them? YES.
Did I donate them to the local charity soon after realizing that day would never come? CERTAINLY.
Do I love her just the same, whether she buys me something for my birthday or not? YES.

Ah, there's the rub, my green friends!

Easy for me to say.

I have to admit -- I am a little gun-shy of the re-gift because I have experienced the awkward and embarasssing situation of being outed.

I'll tell you the tale. We were at my friend's son's birthday party having a grand time managing the chaos, when all came to a hush for the concluding activity: the opening of the presents. When Johnny (names have changed to protect the innocent) opened up our gift, my precocious three-year old yells, "We got that last Christmas, but we're giving it to you!" Ouch. I was speechless with my smile suddenly frozen. It hurt.

But you know what? Life went on. Will my friend likely donate or re-gift this present? Probably. And does my friend love me just the same? Certainly.

So Johnny's birthday arrives this year and I mentally eliminate re-gifting as an option given last year's outing and I ask her what Johnny wants for his birthday this year. Answer: a ten-dollar bionicle. Simple and it's what he wants. Great.

Then I remember my no-buying pledge. Hmm. Searching for a loophole... And here it is: this is one of those times I made a choice to take the path of lesser evil.

On the one hand: re-gift an item that I know he really doesn't want. On the other hand: choose something that he will at least appreciate and use. On the one hand: give in to the magnetic pull of Target or Toys R Us vs. smaller locally-owned toy store Shenanigans with familiar, friendly faces. On the one hand: gobs of overpackaged bright plastic testorone-laden toys. On the other hand: one bionicle wrapped in a reused party bag with our recycled paper gift tag.

Given the options, I do not regret sending my husband in (;-) to purchase of one uber tough-guy bionicle. Besides, I even managed to play clean-up crew and brought the bag back home from the party unnoticed.

Green report card: B for the effort.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

First Thermasteel Home Tour

Last week eco-broker Roger Voisinet was gracious enough to give me a personal tour of a cool new environmentally-friendly home in the Charlottesville Woolen Mills area: 102 Chisolm Place. This is the first ThermaSteel home in the city. (Sorry. It's sold, but I believe the lot next door is ready to build another!)

What is ThermaSteel? It's an alternative to traditional SIPS (Structurally Insulated Panels) which uses 2-steel studs every 16" or 24" and polystyrene (not perfect, but given the other options, a good step, especially considering the results in terms of energy efficiency)

One way you can look at energy efficiency in a home is its R value. (The higher the number, the better insulated the home is, which therefore means more energy efficient). A traditional frame has a R-value of 15.

Other features include Sally Fretwell's ( calm, cool no-VOC painted walls and nifty, (but pricey) blue Marmoleum: a product made of recycled plastic.

My favorite feature is the beautiful reclaimed wood floor: it's made from a sunken ship!

Great things afoot in Charlottesville.
(I couldn't resist).


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Looking for locavores

We are looking for a "locavore"* family to be placed under the Betty microscope for a period of four seasons: the remaining winter, spring, summer and fall, in a spirit of better understanding the challenges and joys of local eating.

This food journey would be chronicled monthly in the cvillebetty blog.

Who knows? You may inspire those of us who still feel the pull of Annie's frozen pizza pockets and Maharaja's take-out to buy more local. Or help those who already purchase shares in a CSA farm (community-supported agriculture) and occasional buy local meats to make a bigger leap. Whatever happens the journey will be worth the ride, I'm sure.

Warning: this may induce an increase in self-awareness in the community, help the environment, and impact hundreds of Charlottesvillians and Albemarle County residents! Sounds like a win-win to me.

*(one who eats as much local food as possible)

Today's Tip: In the spirit of reusing and eating local, why not make a homemade bird feeder out of that funky plastic netting that your (not-so-local) fruits sometimes come in? Just combine peanut butter, lard (optional), finely chopped cranberries or raisin and oats (that's my recipe) or check out others at this site


Tuesday, January 15, 2008


This blog is dedicated to Betty Lou (a.k.a my mom).

We, the kids and my husband, have been enjoying the old school Looney Tune cartoons on these cold, winter days - a Christmas gift from their Nana and Papap. We were disappointed to discover, however, that the collection included only one or two of our absolute favorites: The Roadrunner. My older son's birthday is coming up so my mom ordered a "Best of the Roadrunner" CD from Ebay.

I really should back up and say my mom did a very nice job greening this Christmas by not purchasing a single piece of bow or ribbon or wrapping paper in which to wrap the presents (which were tame in number this season and relatively earth-conscious).

The "green" gift wrapping was a riot. She used old photographs, reused old wrapping paper, comic strips, even a used tissue box and Scrabble pieces. I can't wait until she is doing "Betty Lou" workshops down in North Carolina to the potential Betty blue hairs down there!

So when I got a small package from Singapore today I tilted my head in surprise. I thought maybe it was our former babysitter Anna who is teaching abroad.

I laughed out loud when I saw that the Roadrunner CD was from, where else, SINGAPORE!

Mom, you are so busted by Better World Betty!

Can you say 1.8 tons of CO2 in that little CD (I calculated a flight from Singapore to Charlottesville at!)? Yikes. I guess we better makes plans to plant a tree in our backyard come spring or buy some RECs (Renewable Energy Credits) ASAP. And in the future, I think the kids will be watching the Roadrunner on You Tube!


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Good news!

Good news from Seth at Crazy Horse Studios!

After I sent him a note about what I found to be the blatant irony of the " tote", he sent me the following link to their values. The company assured him over the phone that they have stricter manufacturing conduct codes than the international fair trade organization.

But the better news is this: Seth believes there is a company out of Appomatox, Virginia that could begin supplying a more local environmentally friendly bag to Charlottesville that is comparable in price!

And this confirms my decision to go local. 1- Demonstrate a desire to use a local company (keep the green here in the 'ville when possible) and 2- express a desire to see better, greener products. End result: this will make a difference.

Before now, the only bags to be found to be printed on in Charlottesville were organic cotton and canvas (both new, resource intensive material)from far away places.

We'll see what this Virginia company has to offer for what will hopefully be future betty bags. Select stores, including Integral Yoga and Rebecca's will have a limited supply of them, so check them out!


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Betty's Big Day

Thursday, Jan 10th was a big night for Betty and the City of Charlottesville.

Betty supporters from all around Charlottesville met at South Street to talk green, enjoy some local brew, and meet other e-conscious members of this community.

Mayor Dave Norris said that Charlottesvile is fast-becoming recognized throughout the state for our innovative (green rooftop on the city council building, for example) and far-reaching green initiatives (recycling goal of 50%!).

Check out more of what the city is doing at their new green page (brought to you by the Citizens Committee for Environmental Sustainability).

Matt Renic and WCAV Channel 19 showed up to find out what all the Betty Buzz is about! See the segment here.

Now that the launch is over, it's time to get back to work: Betty will continue to make it easy and fun for people to go green. Betty's future plans are a dining guide for Charlottesvillians and possible panel discussion or workshops. But she cannot do it without the help of donations.

If you find Betty's information useful, please donate.

Thanks all,

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

It's not a perfect world...or a perfect bag

It's been a huge challenge for me to come up with GREEN ways to get the word out about Betty.

There's a double meaning in that: green meaning environmentally-friendly, of course, but also meaning I don't have much green as in greenbacks (Betty is currently funded by private donations). Betty is relying heavily on word-of-mouth as well as a modest 100% recycled-paper postcard/flier you may have seen around town. And today I just picked up the 100% recycled cotton Betty Tote Bag thanks in large part to the following Charlottesville business sponsors: Integral Yoga, Nature's Child, Rebecca's, and Blue Ridge Eco Shop.

There's only one problem with the bag. Right underneath 100% recycled cotton and the words "made in Pakistan."

Now I knew they were going to come from overseas because I've been around about and around again over this issue for months. Stewing about it. I see bags all over town, but they are all made outside the U.S. - one even advertised itself a "green bag" and literally the only green thing about it is that it isn't plastic and you have the ability to use it over and over again (which you could do with any receptacle really).

I wanted to find a bag used from no new materials and that was made on this hemisphere. Little did I know that it is virtually impossible (and please correct me if I'm wrong on this). Maybe you know someone close by that makes bags out of their backyard bamboo farm, but I have not found that person.

I was toying with the idea of using a newly-awarded green company -, but I didn't want my money to go elsewhere. I wanted to use a local Charlottesville business to keep in line with Betty's goal of acting and buying locally.

That's when I ran into a very helpful designer, Seth, at Crazy Horse Studios - he gave me the whole low down on bags and how difficult it is find any suppliers that don't come from overseas. He told me of a company, American Apparel, that is based in Los Angeles, and is one of the few companies offering large quantities of organic cotton material. Unfortunately they don't offer bags yet .

Then he showed me this line from that was the only company I had seen making their bags from 100% recycled cotton. They maintain fair employment practices and are committed to using organic as well as recycled material. But it still boggles me why they can't manufacture the bags here in the US. (I have a feeling the answer has a lot to do with that green I talked about earlier)

Because you can't fit a lot of groceries into an fair-business, organic cotton, U.S. manufactured t-shirt, I went with the "econscious" tote (now you understand the quotes). So until something better comes along, this will have to do. Betty would say, It's not about being "perfect" world Polyanna, just "better" world Betty! In the meantime I have sent a letter to the company and will continue the search.


Saturday, January 5, 2008

Green Goals for 2008

Happy New Year!
It's time to take stock and set some realistic green goals for 2008. Here are my top choices:

1. THINK THRICE BEFORE DRIVING: I'm going to continue to reduce my driving my keeping a weekly mileage tracker and when possible walk or take public transportation. I will also try to incorporate car-free days into our family's lifestyle.

2. NO MORE PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES! I vow to take my old plastic water bottle and reuse it instead of buying new plastic. The scoop: plastic bottles are made from: OIL. For environmental as well as political reasons, we must lessen our dependency on oil. Every HOUR Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles.

2. I will continue to RECYCLE, REUSE, COMPOST. I'm looking forward to seeing how the compost batch (with the new tumbler) does in the garden this Spring!

3. LESS DEAD TREE: As a member of a book club that meets once a month, I plan on obtain books through the public library or the copious used book stores in town. We've done our no junk mail letters/email (thanks Betty!) As for my sons' arts and crafts projects, we will just have to stick to the 100% recyclable paper and using both sides!

4. Implement more ENERGY-SAVING TACTICS for our home. We've lowered our thermostat in the winter and turned it up for the summer, but this year we need to do more. Jimmy North from air flow diagnostics came out and spent two hours giving us tips for reducing the energy consumption in our home. We sought out the users and loosers of energy: spaces where the outside air leaks in. A visit to Nature Neutral to thicken our attic insulation is one of the many steps needed.

5. Betty's NO-BUYING PLEDGE: This year I am taking the no-new-buying pledge. I vow to buy local, buy less, and buy wisely in order to reduce my carbon imprint. Let's hope this is not the year the water heater breaks down or my eyesight gets worse! No seriously, the pledge excludes life's essentials (food and shelter). (Are Lemon Drops and Dark Chocolate bars considered food?) I believe this will prove an excellent examination of the benefits and challenges of green living (i.e. great blog fodder)

5. KEEP LIVING A MORE E-CONSCIOUS EXISTENCE: 3-minute showers, opting for less meat, make your voice heard regarding issues like growth or mountain-top removal. The important thing I always tell my kids: do your best. Stay in the game. Don't give up living a more "green" lifestyle.

Small steps add up to big changes.