Keep it fresh

I admit it. I’ve been tempted to buy those “As Seen on TV” green bags that promise to keep my tomatoes red, my lettuce crisp and my bell peppers from turning to mush.

But easy to follow tips by Consumer Reports are just as good. A great read that ultimately could save money, time and the angst that comes with watery cucumbers is the Tip of the Day for July 6.

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It’s all good—maybe

The New York Times today offers an interesting reading on GoodGuide.com, a Web site that offers ratings for upward of 70,000 everyday products.

Wanna know how well that bottle of hair dye or that clean-smelling Mrs. Meyers stacks up? Or perhaps, what are the best—and greenest—choices out there for breakfast cereal, baby supplies or dishwashing liquids to use? GoodGuide looks to more than 600 criteria before it dishes out numbers and rankings in a host of categories.

From water quality and health impact to labor policies and working conditions associated with a specific product or company, the information offered is intended to help us make better choices.

Definitely worth checking out before your next trip to the store.

‘Butt Ugly’ is more than pretty good

Ok. So what if the title of the book is unconventional?

But then, so is this ultra-cool story about the scrawny, greenish runt of the litter who grabs your attention from the first page:

“When I was born, everyone screamed, ‘That pup is messed up! All snaggle-toothed and wrinkly, with three little hairs sticking up from his butt. That pup is Butt Ugly!'”

And so begins Butt Ugly ($16.95, ZuZu Petals Publishing), the story of a not-so-attractive dog ridiculed by his brothers, sisters and owner. Standout writer Lynn Montgomery and highly capable illustrator Terrie Redding have created a page-turner that parents and kids alike will enjoy. When we read the copy sent to us for review, even our dog—an overly excited 2-year-old black lab—listened with unusual attentiveness.

Montgomery’s tale, however, is hardly a rehashing of The Ugly Duckling or an adventure in building bow-wow self-esteem. Nope. Readers will get a kick out of the dog’s lively, first-person narrative that showcases plenty of spunk, even though other pups in the litter were cute, cuddly and more talented (apparently dog tricks do count when pups get adopted).

What ultimately happens to Butt Ugly, though, offers readers a feel-good ending and food for thought, as readers will think twice about our culture’s obsession with appearances. More likely, even kids will finish the last page giving more consideration to what’s on the inside and how our identity is more than what we see.

In promoting the book, Cecelia Rodriguez, director of the non-profit organization, Child Abuse Listening and Mediation (CALM), described it as “a beautiful story for everyone–parents, teachers, friends–and a message that reflects what we at CALM know–that every child deserves this kind of unconditional love and acceptance.”

Beyond being a great, quick read, Butt Ugly takes steps that parents—especially those of us concerned about the environment—can appreciate.

Publisher ZuZu Petals uses post-consumer waste, recycled paper and vegetable-based inks, and employs wind energy to get its pages printed. Another bonus? A portion of their profits support CALM and various animal rescue efforts. In addition, ZuZu Petals has partnered with Eco-Libris, a tree-offset company that helps plant a tree in a developing country for every book purchased. Read more at http://www.zuzupetalsbooks.com

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Measuring your footprint

The carbon footprint calculator from Ecohatchery.com is by far one of the simplest and quickest tools I’ve seen in a long time.

After experimenting with various widgets, Web sites and other virtual tools, I found that they took up too much time and the results were far to convoluted to understand. Ecohatchery knows a little something, though, about keeping things simple. The tool asks basic questions—like what kind of vehicle you drive, what your family’s recycling habits look like and what kinds of foods folks like to eat—all things that contribute to our carbon footprint.

As I mentioned earlier, our family has a long way to go, but we’re on our way. Now, if I could just keep the dog out of the compost pile…..

We’ve all got secrets

Paper Plate
Image by InfoMofo via Flickr

I had to take a minute to write about one of the chit-chat’s going on at Divine Caroline where plenty of well-meaning green folks are revealing their deepest, darkest “ungreen”secrets.

It’s good to know that those of us who are still trying to get with the program aren’t alone. Although I don’t use paper plates anymore (they cost too much, anyway), I’m still driving around the hulking SUV–albeit usually packed with kids and their stuff, and hey, it’s paid for. And I still I cringe each time I fork over $4 or more for replacement lightbulbs.

That said, I’ve got my herb garden going now and recently found a nearby farmer’s stand for fresh produce. Next on the family green agenda is putting together our own spice combinations, essential oils/salts, homemade cleaning concoctions and a few other projects that will save money, time and cut back on the amount of packaging and consumer waste that comes through our front door.

The point is that trying to green up the old lifestyle isn’t a one-shot deal; sometimes we’re on the mark. Other days, not so much. Either way, it’s good to know I’m not alone. The effort, as I’ve said in this space before, is all about ongoing changes to your routine, being accountable to the earth, and doing better when you know better.

Weigh in for yourself at DivineCaroline.com

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Talking trash

A great starter kit for anyone looking to go green---simply
A great starter kit for anyone looking to go green---simply

Even after you reduce, reuse and recycle, after you switch out all of your old light bulbs and donate all of the old clothes in your closet to Goodwill, there’s still bound to be a little trash around the house.

Well, maybe not at yours. But at ours, there remain items that can’t be recycled or things that are just too icky to reuse (like the plastic wrap from last night’s chicken parts).

That’s where Perf Go Green comes in. We took a look at their biodegradable lawn and leaf bags and landfill-safe kitchen garbage bags, and we liked them both. The bright green bags, which the company says will biodegrade in up to two years, drew a few looks from trash collectors and neighbors, but that’s a good thing.

The full line from Perf Go Green meets several needs. Food storage bags, drop cloths, doggie bags (these are PERFECT when you’re out walking Fido or Fiona!) and cat pan liners also are available. The specialized bags, which start around $5.99, do double duty. Not only do they perform after you pack them with trash, they’re made from recycled post-consumer and post-industrial plastic. An additive in the bag’s chemistry breaks the plastic down into water, carbon dioxide, and biomass over the course of two years without releasing harmful toxins.

And oh, yeah—the box that the bags come in? They’re made from recycled paperboard, too.

Available online at e-tailers like Amazon.com and Drugstore.com as well as in select stores, including Walgreens.

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