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.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Two Green Eats...

The long range plan (can't say when because it depends on the other green - money) is for Betty to include a dining guide, but in the meantime I have to give a shout out to two local eateries: Sublime and Brix.

I stopped by Brix, a favorite cafe of mine, yesterday while the kids where at TaeKwonDo. Karen Laetare has been quietly green-conscious since opening her Marketplace on Route 53 eight years ago. When I spoke to her last summer she was continuing to research the lowest-impact containers for her new restaurant at Pantops. I wasn't able to chat with her yesterday about how much local foods she incorporates in her delicious recipes, but I do know she is ever-conscious of how to reduce waste in the running of her business. She provides mugs and napkins and a recycling option in the cafe (no disposable plasticware for in-house diners, which I love) and the take-home options are all eco-friendly. Compostable coffee cups and paper boxes (no Styrofoam here - not even for the soups).

I also ran into Geoff Robinson, part owner of Sublime All-Natural food and juice bar, on the Corner. Walking into their store is lesson in conscious eating. What impresses me most about this green eat is their complete mindfulness and consideration at every step of the way: delivering food from the Earth to you. They offer local cheese and local fruits from Henley's Orchard. If you haven't tried one of their delicious smoothies in a compostable cup, you have been missing out!

Geoff and I were chatting about the challenges of owning a total green eat (unfortunately they took a hit this Summer with the students gone). Their menu items may be higher cost but they are higher (more natural, more nutritional, more sustainable) quality and higher purpose.

When I saw Geoff he was picking, choosing, debating the best bread options for his customers. The inside scoop: this fall they are adding sandwiches to their ever-growing menu. (You heard it here first!) He was excited because he had just found a supplier of grass-fed beef from Crozet. I plan to interview him this fall to get more of the details of all the better world efforts of this local business.

In the meantime, find time to patronize one of these local green eats in the coming week. And be sure to tell them Betty sent you!


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Call me picky, but Betty wants a better toilet paper

To celebrate the impending birth of my friend's baby, a bunch of us girls met at one of Charlottesville's favorite hot spots, Mas, in Belmont. It was a lovely night - great atmosphere, great food, great friends. But I couldn't help being a little bugged when I visited the ladies to find stacks and stacks of virgin-fiber toilet paper. Now I know this may seem picky to some of you, but my feeling is this: if we can't do the little things, then how are we going to do the big things? 100%recycled, non-bleached toilet paper is REALLY easy to come by and it's the very least we can do.

Here are some facts and tips for you and your favorite local business:

If each of us replaced one roll of virgin-fiber paper towels with 100 percent recycled paper towels, we could save 1.4 million trees! If we replaced just one package of virgin fiber napkins with 100 percent recycled ones, we could save 1 million trees. Just imagine the huge impact restaurants could have if they changed their practices to be healthier and more sustainable.

Here are some green tips from Betty's friends at

*Process Chlorine Free (PCF) is a great choice, this process does not use not bleach with chlorine or its derivatives. Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) is the best choice—this is pulp that has never been bleached with chlorine or its derivatives.

*Purchase paper towels made of 100 percent recycled materials.

*Look for paper products that contain a minimum of 90 percent post-consumer waste.

*Choose unbleached paper towels (TCF) -totally chlorine-free. If those are unavailable, opt for process chlorine free (PCF) next, or elemental chlorine free (ECF) as a last choice.

*Choose paper towels and napkins that have no added pigments, inks or dyes (say goodbye to that floral printed border).

*Select packaging with minimal environmental impact, such as that made of recycled and recyclable materials; imprinted with safe inks; and containing no toxic metals, dyes or inks.

*Seek items having the largest amount of product to minimize packaging, for example, high-capacity hardwound roll towels have 800 feet or more.

*Look for paper towels that are wound on a 100 percent recycled core.

For recommended brands try:

Pass it on...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Twice is Nice, Three Times Even Better

My two boys and I dropped off the clothing donations from Betty's picnic to Twice is Nice thrift shop this week on Preston Avenue.

If you don't know about this shop, I highly recommend stopping in. Carolyn Ettinger just spent the last few months spiffing it up - cleaning, reorganizing, and adding to the space. My boys and I were delighted to find one cowboy/snap-on shirt (think Lyle Lovett), jet-fighter pj's (my youngest had to leave the store in them), a long-sleeve "dog" shirt (NWT), and another fall shirt, all in great shape for: 15 dollars! How is that for a back-to-school bargain.

Twice is nice because the store helps your pocketbook and that of a stellar, community non-profit JABA (Jefferson Area Board of Aging). Quoting from their website: "Our mission is to promote, establish and preserve sustainable communities for healthy aging that benefit individuals and families of all ages."

Betty loves it three times because shopping here, rather than popular stores like Old Navy and Gap, help the planet by reducing consumption through conserving natural resources and reusing goods.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Cville's Best New Local Website: Betty, of course!

OK. So that's not a category in Cville Weekly's Best, but if it were* wouldn't you vote for Betty?

Who helps you find local green builders/architects/gardeners for your renovations or new projects?
Who helps you find a new home for your couch or computer?
Who gives you the inside scoop on the best consignment shops in the 'ville?
Who tells you about environmental events in and around town?
Who connects you to local organizations that are working for the better, greener world we all want to see?
Who is working in the Earth kitchen cooking up more ways to make green living easier for you?
And who loves you no matter where you are on the path towards greenness?

Who's got your back when it comes to green?

Bottom line. Betty does.

*note to self: bend Frank's ear re: new Cville Best category!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Look for the lessons, learn and let it go

Years ago I cut this out of a magazine and today as I was feng-shuing the cluttered refrigerator (and even the piles on top) I found these words that continue to inspire.

They are from a woman in Illinois named Jody about the most important thing she was taught growing up: "My father showed me - with true strength, courage, and integrity - the importance of letting go of past pain and regret. Whatever struggles I faced, he taught me that hanging on to resentment, guilt, grudges, or any negative emotion is destructive to body, mind and spirit. Most important, it consumes energy better spent on living. Dad's message: "Look for the lessons, learn, and let it go."

I think those of us who find ourselves beating ourselves up over our most recent environmental infraction -- forgetting to bring my to-go silverware, driving an extra 10 miles to take my exercise class from Susan, because I love her so much! forgetting to turn off the computer overnight, wondering if I should ditch my compact van for the new Honday fcxClarity, noticing that I hastily bought organic applease on the way home from work, but forgot to read the fine print about coming from South America! -- need to remember those words.

Betty values all those changes that make a difference, it's true, but she also values forgiveness and acceptance when it comes to healing the planet. Look for the lessons, learn, do better next time, and let go. It's not about being Perfect World Pollyannas. Perfection is the enemy of good (thank you, Rich, for reminding me of that one sometimes). Betty is about being and doing better. Are you doing something today that you didn't do yesterday?

Step by step. That's what will make a better world.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fall Collections announced!

I'm not talking about the latest fall fashions, my green friends, I am talking about the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority's fall line-up for special collections of hazardous and bulky waste at the Ivy Muck (Material Utilization Center).

Sept 19: small-business hazardous waste (pre-register and pay a fee)
Sept 20: household hazardous waste like paint, chemicals like pesticides, liquid flammables, hazardous cleaning chemicals, etc.
Sept 27: furniture and mattresses (this should be your last resort, of course, after surfing Betty's hard-to-recycle-item tool to see if you can find a good home locally)
Oct 4: appliances (I was sad to find a few appliances dumped near the Rivanna River in the County recently - please dispose of these properly)
Oct 11: tires (On the same trip I counted 16 tires on a recent 5 mile stretch of the Rivanna - the next Betty green team event might be a river cleanup!)

The city and the county are also sponsoring "amnesty days" for residents to dispose of bulky items at no cost. (more to come on that)

This event is for Charlottesville city and Albemarle County residents and will be posted on the Betty events page very soon! There is a 25 gallon limit

Bruce Edmonds at 434-906-0763 can answer any questions concerning HHW.

Rid your life of bulky, bad schtuff this fall!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hold on to your drink pouches!

For those of you who attended the successful Betty picnic, you know we were striving for "zero waste," which means I still have the kids' juice pouches that were graciously donated by the folks at Rebecca's Natural Foods at Barracks Road Shopping! The organics and compostable flatware are stewing nicely in my compost bin, the plastics have been recycled, the cardboard is in my trunk. But the juice pouches sit staring at me from my kitchen counter!

The company, ironically named Back to Nature, it seems turns its back on nature as far as the packaging of their all-natural juice is concerned.

I just got off the phone with John at Back to Nature in Madison, Wisconsin and unfortunately he was no help as to an alternative to the landfill. I refuse to toss these pouches! I told them kindly that their competition Honest Kids and Capri Sun has recently teamed up with Terracycle who facilitates a process whereby you can send away for a collection bag and then you can save all your juice boxes and they will gladly and fashionably transform your pouch trash into a reusable bag or pencil holder or other nifty container.

This was news to John.

I told him to please pass it on to the execs: a little advice compliments of Better World Betty down here in Charlottesville.

Ideally we as parents and teachers and kids will just say no to single use items like drink boxes and juice pouches and pour kids juice at home into their reusable water bottles or even better forget the juice altogether in favor of crystal, clear, filtered tap water.

However, let me be the first to admit that when we are at the snack bar after mom's workout or meeting Dad for lunch at the nearest, healthiest, quickest chain (Panera for example) and the kids are thirsty they get a milk carton that I have to cart home to recycle or if it's Horizon Organic which is a tetra-pak it's non-recyclable (tetra-pak recycling is not widespread in the US - which is why I opt for alumnimum cans for broths, when I don't make my own :-)).

So whether you have chosen to eliminate single use drinks for your kids (juice boxes being the biggest non-recyclable offender, and juice packets coming in at a close second) other than for those special occasions that make a single drink convenient (I'm thinking of campouts and, yes, picnics), take heart in two options:

1)The "drink pouch brigade": Terracycle's program with Capri Sun and Honest Kids ( which as I've said could transform your trash into a treasure

2)Or here's a cool d.i.y. option for you crafty, creative greenies. Get out the sewing machine (I wonder if heavy duty staples work?) and make your own reusable bag at Looks like that's what the kids and I will be doing for our summer craft activity tomorrow.

3)You can always go full-on green by carting your trusty Sigg or other PBA-free water bottle around filled with your favorite local concoction!


p.s. Glad to be back in the blogosphere more regularly after a summer of family visits, playing full-time mommy, a trip West, relaxing and breathing in the sunny weather!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Thank you, picnic goers!

Mother Nature served up a beautiful breeze and cooler temperatures for the first annual Betty Picnic in the Park on Sunday! The event was a success: everyone enjoyed good company, good local food, fun games, and a great acoustic show from Trees on Fire. Below are some of the highlights (with photos to follow - my apologies - family has called me to our neighboring state of North Carolina):

*Trash bowling (using recycled aluminum cans) was a hit with the kids and even some adults!
*My friends Cora and Eemahni stayed until long after 4pm painting kids' faces. Thank you.
*The scavenger hunt was fun and challenging, which means the trails were pleasantly clean. No complaints there. Winners got to reach in the "new to you" toy grab bag, enjoy a homemade cookie and received a complimentary reusable Betty bag.
*Rob and Blake from Trees on Fire graced us with sublime duets and solos, including the birds and the bees, for over an hour. Loved that!
*I enjoyed talking to Ryan, James, Adrienne, and Brad about the pros and cons of bioplastics, creative reuse tricks, and future plans for Betty (as she continues to be your go-to-gal for all things green in Cville)
*Channel 19 arrived to chronicle the event and broadcast it on the evening and morning news! (fyi: I need work on my interviewing skills)
*The event was very close to no waste: I believe the only thing we had to throw away were the lined chip bags and the latex gloves used for the hunt.
*We exchanged hundreds of books and CDs
*Enough money was raised for small expansions to the site due out this fall!

I appreciate all the love and support from friends, family, community members, and businesses: Rebecca's, Blue Ridge Eco-shop, EcoDrycleaners, Albemarle Baking Company, 1061 the Corner. Thank you Kelly, my faithful volunteer extraordinaire, and Eric, who stayed with me to clean up, and Anna and my husband (thanks for the generous donations!), and Adrienne for moral support. Matt Holmes from Channel 19 asked me how I measure success? Besides the new visitors Betty is receiving each week, it's the encouragement and support I received from everyone who attended this event, who went out of their way to give positive feedback or a new idea.

With gratitude,

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Picnic Time is Near!

I hope you are planning on attending tomorrow's big Picnic in the Park! Don't forget to bring you gently used CDs and books to swap and clothing to donate. I want to give you Betty Blog fans the inside scoop:

(Suggested donation for this event is $5/person or $10/family which includes all the activities/light food. Funds will help Betty's ongoing work as your number one resource for greener living: keeping you informed via email and the newsletter about local green businesses, tips, and events).

*Food: You can look forward to Tim Henley's yummy peaches, other local fruits, salads, snacks from Rebecca's Natural Foods, and Virginia wine (limited supply). Ice water will flow freely!
*Trash Toss and Bowling
*Art: we'll be making windsocks, newspaper hats, origami all from recycled materials (including scrap paper from a local printing shop and recycled ribbons)

Participants in all the games will receive one "new to you" toy from the grab box and a homemade cookie.

*Kids' Scavenger Hunt (winners will receive a Betty bag!)
*Nature Walk
*Beach Volleyball, perhaps?

TREES ON FIRE performs!
Dance, listen, chill, celebrate

Note: We are striving for zero-waste at the picnic, so bring your reusuable beverage bottle! Recycling will be available.

See you there (Sunday, August 3, Pen Park Pavilion #3, 2-5pm)!
From everyone at BWB