Thursday, July 29, 2010

The New Sack Lunch

It's no secret that taking your lunch to work or school rather than eating out saves you a lot of money.

I have a suggestion that will save you even more money — and reduce waste!

Many of us haven't had a lunchbox since elementary school. Sometime in middle school it became totally uncool to have what was clearly a lunch packed by your mother.

But now that we're adults, it's time to break out the old lunchbox. OK, maybe not the exact same one. There are plenty of fashionable options out there, including lunch totes and monogrammed bags.

Don't stop there! It's also important to pack your sandwich, chips, fruit, etc. in reusable containers. I got a set of two plastic containers at Target – one for my sandwich and another for chips. There also are washable fabric bags available at various places online (try searching "reusable lunch sack" on Etsy.

This takes a small investment at first, but you'll never have to buy paper sacks or sandwich bags again!

Monday, July 26, 2010

What does "natural" mean anyway?

One of the most frustrating things when is comes to buying organic and safer products is not knowing whether the products you're buying are actually what they say they are.

The food industry has specific requirements for labeling. However, cosmetics can use the terms "organic, natural and pure" as they see fit. The only way to know a product is really organic is to look for a USDA label.

Here is a guide to USDA labeling.

You can find more information about organic products (and fake organics) here. Scroll down a little to find more about specific brands that comply with organic standards.

And as always, it's a good idea to read ingredients when shopping. Because even if, like me, you can't afford to buy exclusively organic products, you can still support those made with mostly organic ingredients and those without toxins.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Say No To Foam

I'm just as guilty as the next person when it comes to using Styrofoam to package to-go boxes. I frequently am unable to finish a restaurant meal, and most places will bring you one of these boxes to take the rest home.

One of my favorite fast food restaurants (Chick-fil-a) uses Styrofoam cups for fountain drinks. I've heard some people rave about the benefits of these cups keeping drinks cold/hot longer and absorbing condensation.

But Styrofoam contains toxic chemicals that can be absorbed by food (especially when microwaved!). Not only that, it is made with petroleum which is a major polluter. This oil based product takes at least 500 years to biodegrade!

Glass and plastic bottles are also terrible in terms of amount of time to break down, but at least they can be recycled.

So what can we do about it?
  • When I go to Chick-fil-a, I take my own reusable water bottle (cause I really don't need to drink soda anyway). If you order your meal without a drink, you do save that money.
  • Pay attention to which restaurants use paper products rather than Styrofoam for to-go boxes. And try to choose these if you know you're going to have leftovers.
  • If you know a restaurant uses Styrofoam, plan ahead. Take a friend and share a meal. Good company and no waste!
Further Reading: Polystyrene Foam Report

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I don't know about you, but I seem to collect stacks and stacks of paper. Receipts, junk mail, grocery lists, credit card bills.

Clutter is frustrating, so why not try to go as paperless as possible?

This article offers a few tips. Though mainly aimed at small businesses, some of this advice can be applied to a home office.

If you choose to store important data in digital form, I recommend a secure site online. That way if anything ever happened to your personal computer, the information would not be lost.

It's important to sort through the piles and figure out what you actually need to keep — maybe for tax purposes. That receipt from Wendy's? Not useful in any way. But before tossing it, check to see if there's personal information that needs to be shredded.

If possible, recycle useless paper.

To cut down the amount of paper, most credit cards and utility services offer paperless bill options. I take full advantage of these — it's so much easier to receive the bill via email and go directly online to pay it. No stamps, no envelopes, no checks.

Hassle free and saving trees. Now if only it were less painful to pay those bills...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bare Necessities

I am over high water bills. I have no idea how this bill has been so high, so I've been trying to devise ways to reduce water use.

I already turn off the water while brushing my teeth. I only do laundry once per week. My main water usage weakness is showering.

Especially during the summer when I feel the need to shave my legs nearly every day.

Don't worry, my plan isn't to quit shaving.

Instead, I've started shaving my legs before showering. How do I do this without running the water and no razor burn? you might ask.

I've found that I can fill a cup with water, and use water from there to splash onto my legs and dip my razor in.

Granted this doesn't greatly reduce shower time, but every little bit helps. And I figure each little bit should add up over the month to save water and reduce my bills.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Award Time

I'm accepting an award from Amanda at chai am woman — a really sweet lady who blogs about her family, her cute outfits and her new path in life as a hair designer.
She actually tagged me last week, but I have such difficulty thinking of little tidbits about myself that it has taken me until now to get this post up. Here goes:
  1. I was in Girl Scouts until 6th grade. I think many of my environmentalism tendencies have to do with what I learned through that experience. You know, leave a place nicer that you found it. And I still miss camping trips.
  2. My paternal grandmother was Russian but born in China. She met my grandfather when he was stationed there in the Marines. I wish I knew more of this story, but I don't. She spoke five languages, but her kids only ever learned English fluently. Therefore, I only know three Russian phrases: "Good night," "I love you," and "dog poo."
  3. I have a tendency to watch movies on TV when I already own them. Then I get mad at myself because I could just pop in the DVD and skip commercials. But I still watch every time.
  4. My diet mostly consists of cheese, hummus, fruit, spinach, cereal and natural cheetos. I should probably try to mix it up more.
  5. I love animals; I've always had a bunch of pets. Currently, my family has three cats and two dogs (and both dogs are puppies). I miss them all, and I'm hoping to adopt a cat of my own soon.

    Friday, July 2, 2010

    Celebrate Independence from Pollution

    Fireworks are pretty and they're fun to watch -- I get it.

    But that doesn't change the fact that every 4th of July, the air becomes a little more polluted all across the country as we celebrate our nation's birthday.

    In order for them to shoot into the air and explode into beautiful colors, fireworks use pyrotechnic chemicals and gunpowder.

    When the show finishes you can always see that lingering cloud of smoke -- that is pollution. We have enough smog here in Atlanta that we don't need to add to it.

    So celebrate with friends and family. Go to the pool, lake or beach. But think twice before putting on a fireworks show.

    There's no better way to show love for your country than by not contributing to further pollution.