Archive for November, 2011
I’ve already written the ABCs of CSAs, and now it’s time for the (literal) ABCs of an Eco-Friendly Existence. Or, to put it more simply, living green.
We all know that living green is important, but some of you may need help figuring out where to start; so, this post is for you! Maybe you are looking for a few ways to decrease pollution, or simply want to help your community thrive. Lucky for you, I’ve scoured the web and created a list of 26 ways (which just so happen to coincide with the letters of the alphabet!) to assist you in the endeavor of being a little more green.
A is for Air Conditioning & Heating: Get a programmable thermostat you can program to be off when you don’t need a/c or heat, such as when you are at work or sleeping. At my house, we use one of these and it is easy to program and alter when our schedules change.
B is for Bike it. Instead of starting up the car for every small trip, consider biking instead! This action saves gas, prevents pollution, and gets you moving! Of course, this isn’t practical for many who live far from the city, but every little bit helps.
C is for Compost your scraps. If you are planting a garden (which is “P,” in case you are wondering), composting your scraps is a great way to reduce your waste and make your own fertilizer. Compost bins are available at most hardware stores, and help with the task.
D is for Ditch the bottled water. There are some amazing water filters on the market that make tap water taste better than bottled water. I purchased a Zero filter, and it is the best water I have ever tasted. Why pay for bottled water (which must be packaged and shipped) when you can drink delicious tap water you already pay for?
E is for Eat less meat. As I’ve previously posted, eating less meat is great for the environment. Try eating one meatless meal a week. And you may even just lose a few pounds.
F is for Filters: Changing your furnace filter when it is recommended will keep icky build up (which inhibits the furnace from working at its most economical) at bay.
G is for Give public transportation a chance. If your area is lucky enough to have public transportation, utilize it! It cuts down on vehicle emissions, gas costs, and traffic. And you know what they say, use it or lose it.
H is for Homemade gifts. Making your own Christmas and other gifts saves on packaging of conventional gifts, saves money, and shows you care more than a gift card ever could. It may also bring out a creative side you never knew you had.
I is for Invest in CFLs. Compact florescent bulbs use less energy than incandescent bulbs to shed the same amount of light. I use them for every light in the house, and I have noticed a change in electric bills since switching.
J is for Just walk. This goes hand in hand with biking. If, perhaps, you don’t own a bike and your destination is less than a mile, it benefits you and the environment if you just walk.
K is for Kill-a-Watt: Buying one of these devices can help monitor the efficiency of your appliances, and allow you to decide what to unplug when not in use. Another way to do this is plug devices into a power strip, and turn it off when not in use.
L is for Learn to cook. Instead of eating out every night, make the majority of your meals at home. You’ll notice more money in your wallet, and more gas in your car.
M is for Make your own household cleaners. Over the counter household cleaners are full of nasty chemicals that aren’t exactly safe for humans and animals to inhale. Making your own natural cleaners are not only healthier, but they are cheaper too!
N is for No more warming up the car in winter. Although it is tempting (let’s face it, who likes getting into a cold car?), it really isn’t that helpful. Driving the car will warm it up much quicker than simply sitting. (See “R” for more about idling!)
O is for Opt out of junk mail. I have previously posted about this, but using a website that allows you to opt-out of receiving unwanted mail really does make a difference.
P is for Plant a garden. Growing your own food cuts down on distance the food travels to your plate (potentially from hundreds of miles to hundreds of feet), and allows you to ensure the food is organic and fresh. Plus, eating food you’ve grown yourself is just a great feeling.
Q is for Quit using plastic grocery bags. Choose paper bags, or spend a few bucks on reusable ones. Although plastic bags may be recyclable in your area, the energy it takes to make them is unnecessary. Reusable bags are cheap and available at most every store. Plus, they are much stronger and able to handle more groceries.
R is for Resist the urge to idle. Your car, that is. Haven’t you heard those PSAs? If you are stopped for more than 15 seconds, turn off the car! You’ll not only save gas, you’ll also improve air quality. Those with asthma (or lungs), will thank you!
S is for Support small business: As I have stated, supporting small businesses and shopping locally ensures more of your money stays locally. This allows the community to thrive, and bring more tourists and possibly more local businesses to the area.
T is for Turn off the sprinkler. Watering your lawn wastes water, and a bit of rain is a natural sprinkler. Your neighbors really don’t care that much.
U is for Use BookJingle to sell used books. What, you thought I would waste an opportunity for a plug? It’s a great way to recycle and reuse books, and make some money.
V is for Volunteer your time: Do something good for your neighborhood (yep, that rhymed). I volunteer weekly at a local animal shelter. I know I am helping the non-profit, but I also have fun playing with and taking care of cats and kittens.
W is for Water conservation: In addition to turning off the sprinkler, take a five minute shower, get a low-flow shower head, and remember those other water tips I’ve written about.
X is for iXnay (okay, I cheated) on using hot water for your laundry. Cold water works just as well! They even have detergent especially for cold water washing. You won’t even notice a difference.
Y is for Yard Sale: Make some extra cash, while making sure your unwanted items are reused and recycled. It’s a win-win. Other options include having a clothing swap or taking things to Goodwill or another thrift store.
Z is for Zithromax & antibiotics: Natural remedies may be all you need for some infections. Antibiotics actually make the problem of super bacteria worse. While it might not be necessary to visit the doctor every time you get a sinus infection, obviously this doesn’t mean ignore problems. But, there are some things that just don’t warrant a doctor visit.
Doing as many of these as possible will not only help the environment and your community, it will make you feel good for doing all you can to help out! So, get out there and do your part (but not necessarily in alphabetical order).
Even though it seems the whole world has already read it, I finally got around to reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. It took longer than usual to finish due to the interruption of the Thanksgiving holiday, but it was worth it. I can see why it has been on the best seller list for so long, and adapted to a movie.
The book is about a girl, Skeeter, who just graduated from Ole Miss. She comes back to her Jackson, Mississippi home, only to realize her life is completely different. Her parent’s maid Constantine who has worked for the family for 29 years is gone. All of her friends are married, most with children (and thus, most with maids or ‘help’) and these women are not interested in working. Skeeter’s dream is to be a writer, and everyone else wonders why her dream isn’t to meet a man and have babies. After her closest friend, Hilly, introduces a new initiative that states all of the help (who are all black) must have separate bathrooms in the employer’s home, Skeeter considers how the help might feel about that. This leads to a great idea — to write a book from the perspective of the
help. Something that has never been done before.
Two maids, Aibileen and Minny, along with Skeeter work together to write this clandestine book with the help of a dozen other maids. And, of course, a collaboration between white and black isn’t the most simple thing to do in 1960s Mississippi. The characters are funny, tragic, and so authentic you feel like you know them. You really get a feeling of what it must have been like during this time of civil rights upheaval. There are moments you want to laugh or cry, or scream at someone because of their intolerance and hate.
Although the chapters told through the point of view of Minny and Aibileen were a little heavy on the dialect, I know this is a book that is going to stay with me for a long time. It is a story about reaching your goals, learning about yourself, and being courageous in the face of those who doubt or betray you. Many reviews of this book call it an “instant classic,” and “the best book in years.” I haven’t read every book that has come out in the last few years, so I am not sure I can say it is the best book in years, but I certainly agree it is an instant classic.
If you are one of the few dozen people left on the planet who haven’t read this book yet, I highly recommend it. I also recommend the film adaptation, but only after you have finished the book, of course!
Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and a thrilling Black Friday (with minimal physical contact). The weekend ahead is going to be a great time to wind down from the big meals and long lines. Time to lounge around, watching cable, and surfing the internet. And, in my case, putting up Christmas decorations!
Since you have (undoubtedly) already enmeshed yourself in social media websites, did you know you can follow BookJingle on Twitter and join the BookJingle group on Facebook? You can get news, updates, and you can also contact BookJingle via the
Have a great weekend, and remember to give thanks for all you have — even if you didn’t get that 48″ TV you waited six hours for. There’s always next year!
For the 2nd consecutive year, American Express is sponsoring what is being called Small Business Saturday. While the day after Thanksgiving has long been ingrained in our minds as Black Friday (and recently, the Monday after being Cyber Monday), American Express and other advocates are pushing for the Saturday following Thanksgiving to be Small Business Saturday. In addition to wondering what they will start calling Sunday, you might be questioning what, exactly, is Small Business Saturday? It is a day meant to support local small businesses in your community. It’s really as simple as that. And while it may not sound like much, shopping at small, locally owned businesses is very important to the local economy.
When you spend money at a locally owned business, the money stays local. That is the main benefit of shopping small. The 3/50 Project, a small business advocacy group, has found that with every $100 that is spent at a local retailer, $68 will return to the community through taxes, payroll, local banks and credit unions, and with other local businesses. This strengthens the local economy, and allows other businesses to flourish. If you were to spend that same amount of money with national chain stores, only $43 stay local. A majority of that $100 leaves the community and the local benefits are limited.
Another benefit of shopping locally is ensuring variety. One-of-a-kind businesses can give the community a distinctive character, and possibly lure more visitors to that community. Spending your money at these unique small businesses (as opposed to big box stores), gives them the security they need to continue to thrive.
There are a ton of other reasons to shop small businesses, which include creating jobs (small businesses are the largest national employers), receiving better service, and supporting non-profits (non-profits receive an average 250% more support from small business than from large businesses). The point of Small Business Saturday is not to vilify large businesses, but to raise awareness of all of the good that small businesses bring. It is easy to overlook them and their importance with the onslaught of large stores that sell one of everything, but small businesses are the heart of our communities. So, after you fight the crowds and wait in 3 hour lines on Friday, visit some of the small businesses in your community. You’ll probably be surprised by the quality and variety of items these stores offer.
Visit American Express’ Small Business Saturday Facebook page for more info, and a listing of many of your area’s local businesses. Happy shopping!
A little over a year ago, I decided to put together a small book club. And since, we have tried to get together and discuss one book a month. It’s a great way to spend time with friends. Sometimes, we are a little unsure what book to read or what to discuss at the meetings. In this post, I have put together everything you need to have a book club meeting about the book Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Water for Elephants is a wildly popular book club selection. A ninety-year old man recalls his time with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth during the Great Depression. A wonderful book for animal lovers, romance lovers, and those who just love a good story.
First and foremost, you will need members. Facebook is a great resource for this. It allows you to create events, and invite friends. Don’t have facebook? (I don’t blame you!) There are a ton of other ways to gather up members. Meetup.com is a great place to go to start a community-wide book club. If you are looking for something a little more intimate, Evite.com has invitations you can email to those you wish to invite.
Now that your invitations are sent out, the next step is to decide on some overall discussion for the group. (After you’ve read the book, of course!) It’s possible that once you start discussing you’ll find the conversation keeps itself afloat. But, especially at a first meeting, it might be helpful to have a few initial discussion questions at the ready. ReadingGroupGuides.com has a wonderful list of discussion questions for this book. Some of the most thought- and discussion-provoking questions (without giving away too much of the story) being:
1. What are the roles and importance of faithfulness and loyalty in Water for Elephants?
2. In what ways does Gruen contrast the antagonisms and cruelties of circus life with the equally impressive loyalties and instances of caring?
3. In the words of one reviewer, Water for Elephants “explores . . . the pathetic grandeur of the Depression-era circus.” In what ways and to what extent do the words “pathetic grandeur” describe the world that Gruen creates in her novel?
It wouldn’t be a book club meeting without food! And since Water for Elephants is set in a circus, the menu practically creates itself! Cotton candy, peanuts, funnel cakes, root beer floats, popcorn, corn dogs, hot dogs. The possibilities are practically endless. If they sell it at a circus or fair, it’s fair game (no pun intended)! Think lots of fried, sugary foods. (I never said it would be healthy!)
Lastly, since (even with the most diligent planning) many book club meetings tend to wind down after 45 minutes or so, it might be a good idea to rent the movie version starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon. Afterward, you can discuss differences between the movie and the book, and how you felt about the choices made regarding costume and characters.
And there you have a book club meeting in a blog post! Of course, there are still some things you’ll have to decide — where to host the gathering, what time (I find that Sunday afternoon tends to be a good time/day for many people), and how long to plan for. But these are all peripheral details that can be decided on at a later point. The most important detail is that you find people interested and willing to participate. And maybe you should read the book, too.
Black Friday is almost upon us. Millions of people around the country will be venturing out into the cold, dark morning (or midnight, in some cases). They will be sleep-deprived, and still working off the last calories from Thanksgiving dinner the day before. Bundled up and ready for action, these brave men and women will navigate crowded parking lots and over-stuffed department stores, in order to get the best deals. The day after Thanksgiving has always been the official start of the holiday season, and has always been the day I choose to put up the Christmas tree. Pretty soon, gifts will be piling up around the tree. Stockings will be hung; plump with candy and treats.
If you are looking forward to the holiday season, but might need a little help getting there, consider being an official BookJingle Book Scout! With this unique program, BookJingle gives you the tools to find books and make some extra money! There are many reasons to become a Book Scout, but one of the best perks is you get to be your own boss. You can set your own hours, and determine how much effort you put into it. After being approved to be Book Scout, you will receive a proprietary PDA and bar code scanner combo with which to find books, and a copy of BookJingle’s Guide to Finding Used Books, and you’re all set! The JingleScout PDA is quick, easy to learn, and portable — the information is all stored on the PDA, so you aren’t limited to data connections. More information about being a Book Scout is available here.
This opportunity it perfect for stay at home moms, retirees, students, those looking for part-time work, and (of course) book lovers! Anyone looking for some extra cash to make the holidays run a little smoother are encouraged to contact BookJingle to learn more about this unique opportunity!
A lot of phrases get thrown around in this culture that is increasingly concerned about shopping, eating, and living locally. One of those terms is CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture. CSAs are growing in popularity, so chances are you live in an area with opportunity to sign up for one. But, what exactly is a CSA, you might be asking. Allow me to explain!
A CSA is a program that gives those who don’t have the time, space, or (perhaps) talent to grown their own food access to high quality, fresh produce grown locally by regional farmers. Becoming a member means paying a few hundred dollars to get a share of produce through-out the season. Think of it as a subscription to produce. The cost and size of the shares vary, but a typical share has a wide variety of produce that has come from local sources. Many even make it possible to add extras to your share, such as eggs, meat, and dairy for a little extra every week.
There are a lot of reasons why signing up for a CSA is a great idea, ranging from health to the environment. When you pick up your weekly share, you aren’t just going to the grocery and buying tomatoes from some nameless person in Florida. You are buying your tomatoes from a local farmer, and allowing that farmer to continue growing tomatoes. Further, the tomatoes (or any other product) you get from the CSA are more fresh than those that traveled 1,000 miles to get to the grocery. Which leads me to another reason to sign up for a CSA: the environment. Most CSAs only allow farms within a certain distance to be a part of the CSA. This distance is usually 40-50 miles. Clearly, 40-50 miles is significantly less than 1,000+ miles many foods travel to get to their destination. This equals huge energy savings.
Community Supported Agriculture has become such a popular phenomenon because it just makes sense. People are making the choice to know where their food comes from (think about how often you hear about documentaries such as Food, Inc. and Forks Over Knives), making the choice to support local businesses and farms, and deciding to simply eat healthier. CSAs are a fairly easy way to do all three.
If after reading this, you are considering signing up for a CSA, the website Local Harvest is a great resource. You can find more information about CSAs, and even find one near you!
Thanksgiving is next week, and we all know what that means! Yes, it means giving thanks, spending time with family, and the official kick-off to the holiday season (although some radio stations and department stores will have you believing that was two weeks ago!). But it also means food! Lots and lots of food. There are so many different ways to celebrate Thanksgiving, but most celebrations always involve cooking, baking and (of course) eating! No matter if your gathering is for two people or twenty-two people, it’s hard to imagine Thanksgiving without food.
For the last few days, I have been getting everything in order for my own holiday feast. I don’t host a gathering at my home, but I always make a few dishes I know I can eat with my dietary restrictions (I have been vegan for the last six months). Plus it’s nice to share these dishes and show others that I can be vegan, and still enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving full of delicious food! One of the best ways for me to get inspired is to just sit and flip through a cookbook. My go-to book for inspiration this year has been The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.
The reason this book is so perfect for holiday inspiration is due to its unique recipe organization. Whereas most cookbooks divide the recipes by type (main course, sides, soups, etc), the author has divided the book by occasion and again by season. For example, Chapter 1 is entitled: Romantic Dinners for Two and is broken down into spring, summer, autumn, and winter menus. But what makes it so great for holiday cooking is Chapter 5: Feasts for the Holidays. Recipes in this chapter include Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Onions, Mashed Root Vegetables with Fresh Herb Infusion, Sensational Stuffing with Nuts, Garlic Glazed Green Beans, and Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies (a personal favorite of mine). Vegan or not, who wouldn’t want to eat all of that mouth-watering food?
Although all of the recipes in this book are vegan (meaning no meat or animal products are used), I believe it has a place in every kitchen. Every recipe I have tried out has been very successful. The recipes use pretty basic ingredients (aside from a few more specialty items in a few recipes), and aren’t too difficult. Another one of my favorites is the Elegantly Simple Stuffed Bell Peppers. They are simple, quick, and delicious. So, whether you are vegan, vegetarian, trying to incorporate more meatless meals, or simply want to eat some yummy food, this cookbook is sure to please.
For many years, textbooks were the bane of my existence. I would walk into the university bookstore, (while battling the throngs of other students), and search for my required texts. Once I made it to the shelf, I was always astonished that a seventy-five page tome would run me seventy-five bucks. That’s a dollar a page! After gathering no less than ten books, I would fully expect to pay upwards of $500 for my purchase. But the most ridiculous part about the college textbook rigamarole wasn’t the purchasing of the books, it was the selling back of the books.
Sometimes, the bookstore wouldn’t accept my books because they weren’t being used the next semester. So, I was stuck with the 3rd edition of “Art through the Renaissance” that I fully intended to never look at again. Other times, I would get a measly $4.50 back for a $150 textbook I bought brand new five months prior. To these bookstores, books are like cars – they diminish extensively in value once taken off the lot. Regardless of condition.
After my junior year, I discovered the glory that is online textbook purchasing. No crowds to maneuver, no 75 pound stack of books to balance, and (best of all) cheaper books! Once that semester was complete, I went on to discover the ease of online textbook buyback. When it came to selling back my books, I wasn’t restricted to the pitiful offers of the bookstores. You shouldn’t need a reason to choose online textbook buyback, it just makes sense! You get more money; it’s as simple as that. But, if you need a reason to use BookJingle, I’ll give you four: great prices, quick payment, great service, and free shipping!
On sites other than BookJingle, selling your books can be kind of a hassle: you have to list the book, wait for it to sell, and (once it sells) pay to ship the book. If you have a problem, it might take days for some of these larger sites to respond. But unlike these other sites, BookJingle will buy your book immediately, no listing and no waiting required. Additionally, you will get a fair price for your books, along with great customer service! And as if those reasons aren’t enough, with BookJingle’s shipping label, shipping is free! Clearly, BookJingle is committed to providing its customers with the best book buyback site on the net. And if you need more proof, try it for yourself. Once you do, you will never choose to sell your textbooks back to the campus bookstore again!
These days, people (including myself) are always looking for ways to save energy, water, and money. Most people already know the basics like using energy efficient light bulbs, turning their thermostat up two degrees in the summer or down two degrees in the winter, and turning off the faucet when brushing their teeth. And if you didn’t, you do now! I recently read an article online (Real Simple) highlighting a few unexpected ways of using less water that I think are not only effective, but very doable.
1. Buy Recycled-Paper Products
Why it saves water: When manufacturing products made with 100% recycled paper, much less water is used than with “virgin” paper. Products such as paper towels can easily be swapped for recycled-paper products.
Water saved (in one year): 637 gallons
2. Use a Lower Setting on Your Dishwasher
Why it saves water: Did you know it is almost never necessary to use the normal setting on your dishwasher? You can reduce water use up to 55% by using the light-wash setting, and it cleans just as well as the normal setting.
Water saved (after one year): 2,860 gallons
3. Eat One More Vegetarian Meal a Week
Why it saves water: To make a hamburger, a cow has to be fed. And a cow eats a lot! It takes a lot of water to grow the grain that cow eats. 3,000 gallons of water can be saved just by replacing four ounces of beef with a vegetarian meal once a week. I have been eating a vegetarian diet for over a year, and it is much easier than you would think!
Water saved (in one year): 171,704 gallons
You could easily save 175,201 gallons of water over the course of a year with these three simple changes! And even more if you are still turning off that faucet when you brush.