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Bulk Shopping Facts And Fiction

Posted by on Apr 7, 2015 in Food & Recipes, Lifestyle | 2 comments

Bulk Shopping Facts And Fiction

Next time you’re putting your groceries away, pay attention to how many items have a plastic component to the packaging. On a recent trip to the grocery store I bought about 35 items and only a handful were completely plastic-free. My cereal was double-packaged in a plastic bag resting inside a cardboard box. My rice, nuts and hummus were all packaged in plastic too.   Plastic Is Downcycled, Not Recycled I never thought this was a big problem until I stumbled across an article that changed the way I think about plastic recycling. It said that recycling plastic is better than throwing it away but only “barely.” That’s because plastic can only be reused a finite number of times and the process of recycling it is relatively inefficient.   So I started thinking about ways to consume less plastic and packaging at the grocery store. First, I went for the low hanging fruit like buying orange juice in a cardboard container and choosing glass jars when the cost difference is reasonable. I also decided to do more of my shopping in the bulk bin section. If I brought my own bags, this shopping would be zero waste. It doesn’t get any better than that! Bulk Shopping Mythbusters I’ve long been reading about the advantages of bulk shopping, I wondered if the claims were all they were cracked up to be. Through the last month, I’ve been putting some of the myths to the test.  It’ll save you money.  This is the big one. Who doesn’t want to save money? But if bulk bins are so much cheaper why do so few people shop them?  I did some bulk bin comparison shopping and here are my field notes from my local stores: Yes, some items can cost significantly less. Pecans cost $7.99/lb in bulk and $9.99/lb prepackaged, a savings of $2 per pound. Organic is the only option for some items which can drive the price up. For example, I typically buy conventionally grown peanuts for $3.49/lb in a plastic jar but the bulk bin only has organic peanuts for $5.99/lb. Grains and rices seem to be fairly priced. For example, basmati rice costs $1.99/lb in bulk and $2.30/lb prepackaged.  Spices can be a good deal. I bought herbs de provence for a specific recipe at $1.99/ounce in bulk. The amount I needed cost me less than $0.50. The same spice pre-packaged in a spice jar would have cost $4.69 for less than one ounce. Even when the item costs more, the ability to buy only what you need can make a big difference, especially if you’re making something for a special occasion or trying a recipe for the first time. This myth is PLAUSIBLE but you need to know what you’re buying. TIP: Compare one or two new items each week so you can become familiar with the price differences.  The food is fresher. While I don’t know how long the food sits in the bulk bin, it seems likely that the bulk food would be fresher than the stuff on the shelf. More importantly, you can buy just what you need which means that you...

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Goodbye Snow. Hello Litter.

Posted by on Mar 26, 2015 in Green Clean, Lifestyle | 0 comments

Goodbye Snow. Hello Litter.

The last of the snow finally melted in Pittsburgh, just in time for the first day of spring. Sadly, the melting revealed discarded soda cans, candy wrappers, dryer sheets, cigarette butts and other miscellaneous items. It was disgusting. So this weekend I took a couple of bags and walked my small block to pick up the trash. Then, on Monday I carried a bag with me on my walk to work to pick up trash on that half-mile route. While it’s easy to dismiss litter as an eyesore and ignore it, there are environmental consequences to turning a blind eye. The Darker Side of April Showers Yes, April showers bring May flowers. The story that goes untold is that April showers also flush litter to the sea. Rainwater carries trash from the street to the storm drain where it moves through the sewer system only to get dumped into your local waterways. Once there, the bellies of fish and birds  are filled with disposable lighters, bottle caps and colorful bits of plastic because they can’t discern the plastic from their prey. Elk and deer die when they eat plastic bags caught in brush or trees. Cigarette butts pollute the ground and water with carcinogens, toxins and highly flammable chemicals. Not only does litter have an environment toll, it comes at a high cost that is often paid with tax dollars. Municipalities have to filter pollutants from drinking water, clear litter from clogged storm drains, and remove litter for beautification.  In Pennsylvania alone, more than $10 million is spent every year to pick up roadside litter.   Show Us Your Trash! The good news is that people caused the litter problem and people can fix it. Since life’s not fair, it’s unlikely the litterers will suddenly gain a conscience and clean up after themselves. But, you are awesome so I know you’ll do it! Arm yourself with a pair of work gloves, a trash bag and a recycling bag. Then, hit the streets in your ‘hood. When your done, take a picture and send it to us on Twitter or Facebook. Tell us about how much you collected or an interesting thing you found. Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more green living...

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A Plastic-Free Lunch That’s Kid-Friendly

Posted by on Mar 10, 2015 in Food & Recipes, Lifestyle | 0 comments

A Plastic-Free Lunch That’s Kid-Friendly

When I was snowshoeing with two athletic and environmentally-minded friends we got into a conversation about plastic. They had both seen reports that BPA-free plastic may be just as bad as plastic with BPA. BPS, the chemical that replaced BPA in plastic, was thought to be a good alternative because it was less likely to leech into food or water, according to Scientific American. But it does leech and it’s showing up in our bodies. The article cites studies done on zebra fish and rats as evidence that the chemical is dangerous. At the same time, other articles that say more research needs to be done to determine if BPA and BPS are safe or not. Regardless of where you stand on the science and the debate, my friends were concerned about the safety of the containers they and their families use for their food and drink. While it’s fairly easy for an adult to give up plastic and use glass containers, you can’t send kids to school with glass, which can be heavy and breakable. So on our snowshoe hike, we discussed what it would take to pack a lunch without plastic food containers for my friend’s kid. That means: no glass reasonable prices in case the container(s) accidentally get lost a format that supports variety (I was informed that kids like options.) What a challenge! We didn’t have all the answers right away, so I went home to do some online research. Here’s what I found:   LunchBots has reasonably priced stainless steel bento boxes and ECOlunchbox has containers with stackable layers.     Silicon is considered safe and comes in the form of collapsible lunchboxes – a great space-saving solution!     Small stainless steel containers from Kids Konserve can be an alternative to plastic containers.      Cloth sandwich bags are a thing.     Sending kids to school (or yourself to work) with a plastic-free lunch can be done. But if you’re not ready to give up your reusable plastic containers right now, there are steps you can take to minimize the potential for plastic to leech into your food. Recommendations from Earth 911 are: Make sure plastic food containers are #2, #4 or #5 Don’t use scratched, worn or cloudy containers because they’re more likely to leech Keep the containers away from heat, so don’t put them in the microwave or dishwasher Do you have any experiences with packing plastic-free lunches? Please share in the comments below. Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more green living...

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A Green Valentine’s Day: Food, Wine & Chocolate

Posted by on Feb 3, 2015 in Food & Recipes, Lifestyle | 0 comments

A Green Valentine’s Day: Food, Wine & Chocolate

Greening a holiday usually takes a little extra planning, so let me help you out this Valentine’s Day! Last weekend my boyfriend, George, and our friends, Adam and Allison, tried green versions of Valentine’s Day staples: food, chocolate, and wine. Low Impact Dinner: Pad Thai From Thug Kitchen We started the evening off with pad thai, straight from the Thug Kitchen cookbook. The cookbook is vegan, although the Thug Kitchen blog, which I’ve been a fan of for years, is not strictly vegetarian or vegan. Neither my friends or I restrict our diets, but using a recipe with no or few animal products is a good idea if you are trying to make a meal with a low environmental impact. Just make sure you buy organic tofu for the pad thai because soybeans are one of the most common genetically modified (GMO) foods. GMO foods are usually sprayed heavily with pesticides and that negates the low impact advantage of a vegan/vegetarian meal. We ate our pad thai with reusable chopsticks, cloth napkins and a glass of organic 2012 Pacific Rim Riesling, $14.99 at Pennsylvania Wine & Spirits stores (only $2 more than the non-organic version.) Neither me or any of my friends are professional wine tasters but we’re going to share our tasting notes with you. Take ’em for what they’re worth! For your viewing pleasure, below is a photo of Allison’s pictorial tasting notes.  We all enjoyed the Pacific Rim Riesling. Adam and Allison thought the wine smelled like cinnamon or a freshly baked apple pie. George and I smelled minerals, like a mountain spring. We all agreed the wine first tastes bright, tart and citrusy and follows with a sweet, clean finish. This wine paired perfectly with the pad thai and I would definitely buy it again. Taza Chocolate: An Ethical, Organic Chocolate There are several labels chocolate companies use to inform you of their practices. For me, the most egregious companies buy cocoa from plantations who use child slaves, and in an effort to figure out how to purchase ethical chocolate I researched labels and companies. See my post from last year for more information on labeling. A package of Taza chocolate got my attention a few weeks ago when I was browsing the food isles in Marshall’s. I had never heard of Taza chocolate, but it caught my eye because the package carried the USDA Organic, Direct Trade, and Non-GMO Project labels, and it’s handmade in Somerville, MA. I bought the Chocolate Mexicano Sampler with 8 flavors for $14.99, but it normally retails for $21.00. Taza chocolate is ground using authentic Oaxacan stone mills called molinos, which leave tiny bits of the cocoa beans and organic cane sugar in the chocolate. This gives the chocolate a bold flavor and texture I didn’t expect, having never even heard of stone ground chocolate before. The sampler contained a wide variety of flavors from sweet to spicy to bitter. We were all a little surprised by the flavor profiles of the chocolate, and I have to admit that I didn’t think I would enjoy all the flavors as much as I did. You may notice there are only...

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Top 10 Posts And Top 3 Green Products In 2014

Posted by on Jan 1, 2015 in Lifestyle | 2 comments

Top 10 Posts And Top 3 Green Products In 2014

2014 was an incredible year for A Green Routine thanks to you, our awesome readers who share your experiences, give us new challenges to solve, and test some our latest creations to tell us if they’re blog worthy. Although our pace of posts slowed a bit this year as we both had some big career and life changes that soaked up the free time we typically spend on this blog, it was rewarding for us to have such highly engaged readers with whom we could share. Before we start to fill the blank slate that is 2015, we took a look back at your favorite posts and green products in 2014. In case you missed any of these, here are our top 10 posts and top 3 green products for 2014: TOP POSTS 2014 #10 Homemade Comfrey Salve Recipe  A favorite homemade remedy for our family and friends with osteoarthritis and runner’s knee. #9 How To Clean Makeup Brushes Naturally So simple, so sanitary. #8 What To Do Peach Peels & Pits? Make Peach Jelly! Zero waste and a tasty treat. Save this recipe for next summer! #7 Switching To An All Natural Shampoo Haven’t gone no-poo yet? Try it. Your hair will love you. #6 Luxurious, Rejuvenating Homemade Lotion Oatmeal, milk and honey. It sounds almost good enough to eat.   #5  DIY Deodorizing Disks For Trash Cans  An easy, inexpensive fix for smelly trash cans and diaper pails. #4 The Borax Debate: Is It Safe? Is It Green? Natural does not always mean safe. Be selective and careful when using borax.   #3 Rice Water Toner Recipe Two simple ingredients tighten and tone your skin. #2 Jewelweed: Natural Home Remedy For Poison Ivy  If you suffer from poison ivy in the summer and are looking for a natural treatment, you’re not alone.  #1 Homemade Laundry Detergent Without Borax  I never ever thought I’d make my own laundry detergent, but it works.     TOP GREEN PRODUCTS 2014 Below are the most popular products purchased from our Amazon store to support your eco-friendly lifestyles.  #3 DIY Beauty Essentials These bamboo spoons and a wide range of essential oils are a great start to your all-natural beauty routine.  <br /> #2 Reusable Produce Bags These produce and bulk item bags should almost eliminate your need to take home any plastic bags from the grocery store. Simple Ecology’s bags were the most popular in our store this year. <br /> #1 Foaming Soap Dispensers It seems a lot of readers were inspired to make their own hand soap this year! <br /> Thank you for a great 2014 and happy new year! Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more green living...

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Shop Your Conscious This Holiday Season – Green Gift Ideas

Posted by on Dec 8, 2014 in Lifestyle | 0 comments

Shop Your Conscious This Holiday Season – Green Gift Ideas

‘Tis the season for gift giving … and maybe doing a little shopping for ourselves too! We’ve rounded up some of our favorite eco-conscious products and retail shops to help you find the perfect gifts. Shop Your Conscious With Rodale’s Rodale’s has curated their shop with nurture (how it makes you feel), nature (how it’s made) and neighborhood (where it comes from) in mind. The result is an eco-conscious shopper’s delight. Start by browsing their gifts section by category or price or checking out the holiday decor for fun ornaments and party supplies. For women, the jewelry shop has some great pieces, many made with recycled or vintage materials, and the apparel section has a wide range of clothes made with natural and organic fibers. Need to buy something for a foodie, how about a butter churn? OK, maybe that one’s a little over the top but browse around and see what you can find. Upcycled Toys for Girls and Boys We’ve listed Green Toys in past holiday gift guides and they continue to be a huge hit with the little ones so here we go again! From tea sets to fire trucks, Green Toys makes colorful, high-quality toys from post-consumer recycled plastic milk jugs. They’re all manufactured ;in the U.S. to minimize emissions from shipping too. Parents will love that the toys are dishwasher safe so they’re easy to clean. Go Glass We all have at least one person on our list whose must-have accessory is a water bottle. For that special someone who’s always willing to let you snag a sip, pick out a fashion-friendly Lifefactory water bottle in their favorite color. The glass bottle leaves liquids tasting great while the silicone sleeve ensures the bottle can travel safely without breaking. I’ve been using mine for a few months now and love it. If your water bottle toting bestie has a baby, why not get matching baby bottles too? For those who might need a more rugged water bottle, we also love Sigg drinking bottles made of eco-friendly, light weight aluminum and certified as free of harmful chemicals. Their eye-catching designs make the bottles really stand out. Slay Power Vampires And Keep Batteries From Burning Out Whether you’re buying for an eco-conscious friend interested in saving energy or a gadget geek who wants their devices’ batteries to last longer, Velvetwire’s Powerslayer may be the perfect gift. Phones, tablets and other devices continue to suck in electricity as long as they’re plugged in. This means the batteries are overcharging regularly – especially when we charge devices overnight – which gradually ruins the battery life. Powerslayer helps by powering off when the device is fully charged so the battery lasts longer and no electricity is wasted. For more information on Powerslayer, read our review. Manly Pampering Delight the gentleman in your life with a stylish shaving set that will turn a mundane task into a pleasurable experience. Beaver WoodWright, located in western Pennsylvania, crafts handmade shaving sets and soaps. This...

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How to Unplug at Home

Posted by on Oct 22, 2014 in Lifestyle | 0 comments

How to Unplug at Home

The following is a guest post by Tali Wee of Zillow. In this fast-paced world driven by technology, individuals find it challenging to personally communicate in-person with family and friends. Moreover, the abundance of household gadgets keeps families engaged in a digital space, separating them from the natural environment. Revive and refresh digitally-dependent households by completing a technology detox. This includes removing or restricting the overload of abundant technology and adopting environmentally-friendly home improvements. Green updates create a relaxing ambiance while reducing the family’s carbon footprint. Moreover, a home with eco-friendly features is appealing to Pittsburgh homebuyers when it comes time to sell. Here are three ways to unplug at home. 1. Install Solar Panels Solar panels convert light from the sun into usable electricity for the household. This clean energy source is environmentally friendly and reduces electricity expenses for homeowners. Solar panels are available from local home improvement retailers. They come in different styles and sizes for roof or backyard installation. Install using a do-it-yourself method or through a contractor. Be sure to check permits with the local community zoning board before installation. 2. Update the Décor Remove multiple TVs throughout the house, leaving one communal TV in the living room. Add shelving to cleared spaces and fill with books and board games to encourage your family to read and play games together. Avoid technological dependence at meal times by adding a decorative bowl to hold phones, iPads and cords in the kitchen or entryway. Finish off the décor update by introducing natural elements into the home such as wood, glass and plant life. Freshen up the kitchen with a fresh vase of flowers and give the living room a chic look by adding new plants and decorative wooden ornaments. 3. Plan Screen Time in Advance Avoid the mindless reach for the phone or TV remote after dinner by planning screen time in advance. Be intentional about family time shared engaging in digital entertainment. At the start of the week, choose programming the family enjoys watching together. Monitor the amount of internet and social media usage by choosing an internet router with timing controls. Shut off access throughout late afternoon and evening to ensure your family engages on a personal level while awake and gets quality sleep at night. Avoid technology dependence and become more environmentally-conscious by considering these three suggestions to unplug at home. Other tips to detox from technology and implement green changes at home include: replacing standard incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs, avoiding the garbage disposal by creating a backyard compost heap, saving water by installing low-flow showerheads and reducing particle pollution by replacing wood-burning fireplaces with gas or energy-efficient alternatives. Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more green living...

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CSA Adventures: Wash Last Season Veggies Immediately

Posted by on Oct 8, 2014 in Lifestyle | 0 comments

CSA Adventures: Wash Last Season Veggies Immediately

The cool crisp weather is a welcome sign of fall, but it also encourages the growth of bacteria and mold in the fields. At this time of year your farmers are probably starting to loose some of their crops to disease and blight, while the fruit and veggies being picked are more likely to have bacteria an mold spores on them. Earlier this year my farmers warned their CSA members that the produce would be minimally cleaned because the time needed to throughly clean all the veggies directly affected their bottom line. As a small farm with just a few employees, they needed  as much time in the fields as they could have to grow and pick the produce and tend the chickens. To ensure your farm fresh produce doesn’t rot prematurely wash and dry it as soon you bring it home from the farmer’s market. A spray of vegetable wash, vinegar or lemon juice will help cleanse the produce more thoroughly. If you are looking for specific tips check out our recent articles on washing your leafy greens and cleaning your squash for storage. Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more green living...

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