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!