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!