Sunday, January 30, 2011

Turn off air conditioning breaker (Change 103)

We actually made this change back in the late fall, but I forgot all about it until yesterday. (I was down in the basement putting stuff away in my chest freezer, noticed the breaker was off, and said "Aha!  I forgot to blog about this one!)

You may not be aware, but when your air conditioner is "off", it actually draws energy from the power grid, like any other item plugged into your home's electrical system.  According to a friend of mine, who is a heating/air conditioning technician, the phantom power is used to cycle a small heater in the air conditioner unit, which prevents the refrigerant from solidifying, so you can use your air conditioner as soon as you turn it on.  Since we don't use the air conditioner in the winter, I don't need to worry about the refrigerant not being ready to work right away.  He said that I could safely turn off the breaker to the unit, without harming it, and reducing any phantom power draw it might have.  I just need to remember to turn the breaker back on in the spring.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Use extra long cooling racks (Change 102)

Another eco-friendly Christmas present, this time from DH.  I bake a LOT, because I like to, and because life is easier to deal with DD1's food allergy when I make my own cookies, muffins, etc.  I've always cooled my muffins in the muffin tins and breads on a tiny round cooling rack.  But cookies have ALWAYS been cooled on paper towels - to absorb any butter goodness, and because there was more room on the counter.  I justified using this method since starting my green challenge, because the paper towels were made with unbleached, recycled paper, and I always composted them when I was finished with them.  There is still an environmental cost associated with them, in the form of the manufacturing process itself, but I assured myself that I was at least using the most eco-friendly product possible.

No need to justify any longer.  DH bought me an extendable cooling rack for Christmas.  Made up of three layers that stack neatly when not needed, the cooling rack allows me to cool up to 3 dozen cookies at a time.  Usually by the time I'm ready to cool the 4th dozen, I can store the cooled cookies in a container, and start over again with the next 3 dozen.

No more paper towels, and no more need to compost them.  Since this process was my main consumption of paper towels, it will be interesting to see how many paper towels I use in the future.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Use eco- and body- friendly lip balm (Change 101)

Another eco-gift from Santa came in the form of lip balm.  This is one of the few cosmetic products I use on a daily basis.  The city we live in is very dry, especially in winter, where temperatures can dip as low at -25C in winter.  Moisturizing is a must.

Santa made sure that my new lip balm complies with the Skin Deep Database - it scores a 2 on the list.  Santa even brought some for the children and DH.  The new lip balm is made from beeswax, coconut oil, and a couple of other natural ingredients.  I really like it - it goes on well, and has staying power.

As one of my readers commented in an earlier post: "Gotta love when Santa gets it right".

Friday, January 14, 2011

Make more food from scratch (Change 100)

DH and I had a bit of a health scare last month.  Driving him to the hospital when he had chest pains was not my idea of a fun time.  He has had high normal blood pressure for years, but neither of us really thought anything of it.  This time we took notice, and resolved to improve our eating and exercising habits.

One of the things we are trying to do is lower our salt and fat intake.  We don't eat a lot of prepared foods, but our cupboards and refrigerator are still crammed with crackers, canned beans, ketchup, hummus and various other items that are made by someone else, stuffed with added salt and fat that we don't need. 

I've never really given any true thought to the environmental impact of purchasing these products, but when you take the time to look at how your purchases contribute to the landfill, it can be an eye-opening experience.  It also is not good for our health - some of these products can contain up to 40% of our daily salt intake in one serving.  And who ever has just one serving?

For the new year, I am resolving to make more food from scratch.  Make my own hummus, salad dressings and salsa to start.  Then as I get more comfortable with the process, I am going to try my own ketchup, crackers and seasoning mixes.  

There is less packaging, because I will be buying items in bulk and not throwing out one-time use containers.  Our diets will be healthier because I will be able to control the amount of salt and fat we intake.  This sounds like a resolution I can stick with.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Start using a Diva Cup (Change 99)

Gentlemen......this post may not be for you.  It deals with female bodily functions, and therefore, may make some uncomfortable.  If it makes you squeamish, I suggest you ask your female significant other, sister, aunt, mother, cousins, etc., to read it, as they may find it valuable.

I went out in the fall and bought a Diva cup.  For those of you who don't know the product, it is a re-usable menstrual cup.  More information about it can be found at   Why I haven't posted about it before now, has more to do with Mother Nature than myself.  As I am a woman of a certain age, menopause is right around the corner.   Thus, my bodily functions are not a reliable as they once were.  I wanted to experience using the DC a few times before I posted about it.

Well, I am still waiting for a few times, but thought I might as well let my readers know that I have tackled once of the biggest waste challenges that a woman can have.  The amount of garbage that the average woman uses for that week a month is unbelievable - estimates I've found on the Internet range from 300 lbs over a lifetime to 12,000 individual products.  Whatever the correct amount, it is a lot of waste.

The Diva Cup, and its sister products Moon Cup and The Keeper, have an average lifetime of 10 years.  So yes, I may throw it out eventually - but it's one item, as opposed to several thousand.  Not to mention all of the cotton, oil, water and energy I have saved by not buying factory products items over and over.

I had a conversation with a friend of mine when I bought it.  She has used one for several years, and is how I found out about the product.  I wondered why we hadn't been told about this kind of thing when health class had come around in high school.  She noted that although our grandmothers used re-usable rags, our mothers had the wonderful option of not having to deal with all of that mess - using disposable pads was an amazing invention.  Why would they teach their daughters about the old ways, when amazing new technology was available? 

I can understand her point, but I'm going to let my daughters know they have a choice.  They can be environmentally-friendly, and deal with Mother Nature in a fairly mess-free way.  I wish that I had found out about this product years ago.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

All natural facial scrub (Change 98)

Santa was very good to us this year, as he always is.   This year boasted the addition of some extra eco-friendly products ( Santa reading my blog?)  One of the new items was an all-natural facial scrub.

I usually clean with soap and water, but about once a week, I like to exfoliate my skin.  The scrub I've been using scores a 7 in the Skin Deep database (!).  As a result, I've been wanting to make my own, but just haven't gotten around to it.  Now I won't have to for a while.  I checked that it passes the Skin Deep test (it does, scoring a 4), so I won't feel guilty about using it.  

Thanks, Santa, for helping me reach my eco-goals.