Thursday, December 17, 2009

Balto county recycling goes single stream, finally!


My kitchen will be so much less cluttered come February!  Here's the article...

Baltimore County gets with the program! Single stream recycling begins February 1,2010.

On December 10, 2009, County Executive Jim Smith announced that single stream recycling collection will begin on February 1, 2010 for all 240,000 single family homes and townhomes, and multi family units that currently have recycling collection. In an effort to make it very easy for residents to recycle, they will be able to use a wide variety of containers to place single stream recyclables out for collection, though plastic bags will no longer be accepted in the single stream program. Additionally, residents will be able to recycle more items than they can in the current program.

As the County moves forward with its single stream recycling collection program for homes that already have recycling collection, Bureau of Solid Waste Management staff will also be working to bring apartments and condominium units without recycling collection into the program.

For more information on the County's transition to single stream recycling collection, please visit www.bcrecycles.com.           

Monday, December 14, 2009

Steven Chu goes to Copenhagen


I was surfing around the Department of Energy website today and discovered that Energy Secretary Steven Chu is on Facebook!  You too can become a fan.

You can track his travels and view powerpoint presentations like this one he just gave at Copenhagen this week.

The infrared photo on this post illustrates the sort of technologies he mentioned in the context of rolling out home energy outreach programs, iPhone apps, and building energy modeling software.

There are also some neat images of the world map, showing areas of heavy energy use and population density, which reminded me of maps I've seen at www.darksky.org

Incidentally, here's the page I was looking for during my surf:  energy saving tips for consumers, and plenty of other links nearby like www.energysavers.gov and the EERE blog ...


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's coming: an international green building code



The International Code Council (ICC) develops standards and guidelines for building safety, fire prevention, construction practices... and now sustainability.  These days they're working on a green building code for commercial building in the USA.

This article at Philly.com describes work by the ICC's Sustainable Building Technology Committee on the new green building code.  California and Pennsylvania are the only two states with government representatives on the panel.







Monday, November 30, 2009

UPS carbon neutral shipping


Happy Cyber Monday!  In case you're out there doing your online Christmas shopping right now, here's some news about package shipping:  UPS now offers the option to buy carbon offsets for 5 to 20 cents per package.

Read blog article here, or go straight to the UPS carbon webpage.



Friday, November 27, 2009

Fun with Dwell magazine


As I was tending the home fires over Thanksgiving weekend I found some old Dwell magazines and spent an afternoon immersed in the architectural design world...

Neat articles about a straw bale house with reference links to straw building and sustainable construction,
low-cost modular housing www.myabod.com,
master woodworkers both traditional (Nakashima) and modern (Scrapile, made from scraps collected by NY Wa$tematch),
and fun, classic toys like Lincoln logs (did you know they were created in 1916 by Frank Lloyd Wright's son John?).

Image from Scrapile.com


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Saving the Senator Theatre


A beloved local icon fell prey to the economic downturn recently:  the Senator Theatre has hosted movie premieres and local gatherings since its opening in 1939.  I watched the 2009 presidential inauguration there with a standing-room-only crowd, it was a memorable experience.

After the Senator was acquired by Baltimore City, the Baltimore Development Corporation issued a Request for Proposals to "renovate and rejuvenate the Senator into an active and vibrant center for the community."

I'm biased in favor of our Towson University radio station's submittal:  WTMD's general manager posted this blog entry about their proposal to use the space for its originally-intended purpose:  movies, music, and events to bring the community together.

This is an elegant solution that addresses both historic preservation of this lovely Art Deco structure and fostering community in Belvedere Square and beyond.  I hope they have the opportunity to realize this endeavor!

Read a related Baltimore Sun article here.
Other great historic local theatres: The Charles and the Rotunda Cinematique.
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Monday, November 16, 2009

Triple bottom line: money is green


In green business circles you hear a lot about the "triple bottom line":  planet + people + prosperity, or if you prefer Es:  ecology, equity, economy.

In the prosperity/economy vein, I've previously shared posts from Cheapskate Monthly (a newsletter and website at www.Debtproofliving.com, by Mary Hunt). Recently I discovered another blog about personal finance that blends commonsense money advice with book reviews and a Lifehacker-esque vibe:  thesimpledollar.com

One of my favorite posts this week proposed uncluttering your house as a means of improving your productivity and saving money. As a recovering maximalist, this idea really appeals to me.  He says, and I quote: "I link to Unclutterer [blog] frequently because I believe there is a strong connection between clutter and financial problems, since clutter represents having more physical possessions than you can manage and all of those possessions cost money. Plus, dealing with clutter requires a time investment and in our busy lives, time has a very high value."

He also mentions Getting Things Done, a highly-recommended book about productivity.  He doesn't mention
www.storyofstuff.com but the concept video came to mind as I was pulling together links for this post.  Enjoy!
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I didn't know I could recycle that!


Ah, recycling:  the green gateway drug.  Here's a roundup of some links I've been collecting on how to recycle obscure items...  

Compact Discs (CDs) www.cdrecyclingcenter.org/

Yoga Mats www.theboldermatcompany.com (refurbishes and donates yoga mats to charity and gives you a $5 coupon for the website)

10 things you didn't know you could recycle (toothbrushes, wine corks)
http://climate.weather.com/articles/recycle021508.html?page=1
 

75 things you didn't know you could compost
http://planetgreen.discovery.com/home-garden/surprising-compost-items.html


And for any fellow equestrians cleaning out their attics:  horse show ribbons www.ribbonrehab.com and Hodges Badge company.  (in Horse & Rider magazine I saw an article about donating ribbons to theraputic riding charities, but now I can't find the link:  consider this option also!)  


The other day my housemate pointed out that we rarely put out more than one trash bag per week, compared to our neighbors' two to five trash bags.  If we had to pay per trash bag like some of my friends in other states, we'd be saving a lot of money! 
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Friday, November 6, 2009

Tree houses

This is really cool: Roald Gundersen, forester-architect, builds houses from trees. I don't mean lumber, but actual TREES.

Read the NYTimes article
and his website www.wholetreesarchitecture.com/

PS one of the blogs I follow (digginginthedriftless.wordpress.com/) is written by a journalist whose daughter works for this architecture firm.

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Waterwise options for your bathroom



I think I want a new shower head. (why now? just kidding... sortof)


EPA specifications for watersense shower heads state that they should use less than 2 gallons per minute (gpm) at 80 pounds per square inch (psi) of water pressure.


Here are links to a hand shower with decent ratings from Home Depot customers, or a more traditional shower head.

While we're on the topic of saving water in the bathroom, here are some easy, low-cost things you can do:

Fill up an old water bottle (free) and put it in your toilet tank to decrease the gallons per flush (1.6 gpf is the current standard)

Install an aerator ($5) in your sink faucet to get 1.5gpm. Basically, an aerator introduces air into the water flow to make it feel stronger. Laminar flow devices employ a different concept, but also save water (here's a random thread about laminar vs. turbulent flow in the kitchen sink... but I digress.)

Get drain strainers ($2-3) for sink and shower drains to eliminate hair clogs so you won't need to use Drano or other nasty chemicals to unblock them later. An ounce of prevention, as they say...

Resources:
EPA's watersense site
Home Depot's water wise page and Eco Options site
Sierra Club green home page
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Local green events list by HCM


Instead of trying to round up every green event in the Baltimore area myself, I'd like to share the extensive list assembled by Lisa Ferretto of Hord Coplan Macht. Thanks to Lisa for creating and sharing this resource!

The October list is posted here:
http://green.hcm2.com/wp-content/uploads/green-events.pdf

You can sign up for the monthly email newsletter at HCM's website here:
http://www.hcm2.com/resources.aspx?catid=20
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Sunday, October 25, 2009

2009 Solar Decathlon report


Final results: Germany won again. California (beautiful architecture winner) and Illinois (gable house, passive house, American vernacular barn-like) rounded out the top three.


Personally, I really liked the houses by Penn State and Minnesota.


Penn State's house featured a row of glass doors along the length of the living space. A water reservoir below the living/dining/kitchen room helped maintain radiant heat despite the cold rainy day, and the living wall in the kitchen contained all the herbs a budding gardener could want for cooking. The deck (of most of the solar houses, actually) included a space for a small kitchen gardening - the ones I saw seemed to follow the square foot gardening method.


The first thing I noticed about Minnesota's entry was its height, and the steel frame - kudos to their civil engineering students for employing visible structure. I imagine the steep roof slope was designed to encourage northern snowfalls to slide off the solar panels, but it also resulted in a cozy alpine feel on the inside of the home. Sleeping nook, bathroom, and closets were nestled along one long side, with a living/dining great space that merged into the end kitchen with large windows overlooking a picnic table and potting area under the roof peak. I could totally live in that house.


Since the entries were limited to 800 square feet, students had to get creative with storage options. Murphy beds were very popular (I heard that under-floor beds were the norm last time). Germany's house had a few twin beds that slid out from a raised floor, and the attached stair steps hinged open to reveal hidden drawers. The Ohio team built its entertainment center into a pullout drawer on one living room wall that stored a futon, dining chairs, and tabletops.


The southern entries tended to feature a breezeway separating living area from kitchen - some of these layouts were set up to transform into one large enclosed space in winter. Iowa used a stacking glass door system to enclose a south-facing sunroom that could be completely opened in summertime.


I wish I'd had time to tour California, Cornell, and Virginia Tech, but the mall was crowded despite the cold rain and mud, so I was happy to keep the day short!


Read consumer information provided from the DOE at this event here http://www.solardecathlon.org/for_consumers.cfm


Link to my photos on Flickr.
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B2B Green Forum in Baltimore



Last week I attended the Baltimore B2B Green Forum organized by TerraChord. This event gathered many prominent members of the local green business community for idea exchange and networking.


Slides from presentations are available at the B2B website here.

Here's a sampling of what I learned at the forum...

Baltimore City is launching a new sustainability website in November at www.baltimoresustainability.com

Zipcar is planning to expand its Baltimore network in the near future.

Green buildings no longer cost more to build than traditional construction, yet the spaces rent and sell for higher prices than those in non-green buildings? Check the green real estate resources on Stuart Kaplow's website, or join his e-newsletter for legal briefs on local green building developments.


The National Aquarium at Baltimore has several conservation outreach programs, as well as a green roof and progressive recycling campaigns with at their Inner Harbor facilities.


Geoff Stack of STACK Coordination shared ideas about sustainable business strategies from his work with Natural Step and from Bob Willard's website


You can attend free online training for EPA's Energy Star programs at https://energystar.webex.com/mw0305l/mywebex/default.do?siteurl=energystar

Johns Hopkins University is continuing their sustainability work on campus with a carbon footprint inventory, green building projects, and sustainable transportation.

The Green Building Institute in Jessup offers courses in all aspects of green building and living.

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Putting up for winter


This weekend I made like a squirrel and stocked up for winter.


My friend MS and I chopped, peeled, and cooked about half a bushel of golden delicious apples into sauce one morning: no sugar required, even. The maiden voyage of my new canner went off without a hitch, but I have new respect for farm women who do this on a regular basis!


Later I worked on packing up the garden and took a critical look at the compost tumbler: too many food scraps and not enough dry brown stuff has resulted in a lumpy mass of dark slime. Eww. Luckily, there's a great supply of dry leaves on the ground right now to help remedy the situation. In fact, as I hiked around the neighborhood this afternoon I acquired a bunch of already-bagged leaves from neighbors - will keep these under the deck to feed the trash heap.


Incidentally, leaves make a great compost all by themselves: fallen leaves break down into what garden centers sell as leaf mold. It's easy to make (just abandon a pile of leaves for a year or two and they'll decompose) and rich in nutrients that benefit your garden soil.
Photo credit: an ode to Fraggle Rock.
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The garden year in review


Inspired by a fellow garden blogger, here's my synopsis of what worked and what didn't in this year's backyard garden:


Herbs: yes!

1. Basil thrived between tomatoes. I made enough pesto to freeze and share with friends. My basil bush is still going even now, woody at the bottom and leaves turning yellow!

2. Parsley (flat leaf)also did well near the tomatoes, although the leaves got tough and pithy toward the end of summer. Perhaps harvesting more often would keep tender new leaves coming? The curly-leaf parsley got lost under marigolds and lettuce, which might explain why the leaves yellowed, making it look less appetizing.

3. Cilantro was lovely while it lasted, but in mid-summer it bolted and produced queen-anne's-lace-like flowers, then the leaves went ferny. Still smelled and tasted good (and looked nice in wildflower arrangements), but not ideal for recipes.

4. Chives got lost under the butterfly bush - but thrived in early summer. This was the year I discovered that the flowers are edible.


Veggies:

1. Tomatoes. Grape & Cherry: had trouble picking them all before they fell. Grape plants from the market developed sunscorch, but the cherry volunteers remained healthy. Heirloom: Prudens purple & Brandywine both produced despite yellow/brown crispy leaves. The Goliath hybrid did pretty well too, and all three large tomato varieties make store-bought tomatoes pale in comparison... but that's to be expected.

2. Peppers. Jalapeno was lonely, yielded one or two all summer. Sweet didn't produce much either until I read that they cross-pollinate better in pairs, so I brushed the flowers a bit to spread pollen and a few weeks later there are enough peppers that I hate to cut the plant down!

3. Eggplant: did well as a pair. A bit sparse in the warmer months, but I picked enough (one a week?) in September that it was becoming a challenge to work them into new recipes. I like that the leaves remind me of moose antlers.

4. Beans: scarlet emperor, beautiful twining up the bean strings I strung up under the deck, and location made for easy snacking!

5. Peas: not a good year. Or maybe the seeds left over from last year didn't keep well.

6. Onion & garlic: I tend to forget about root vegetables because there's so much happening above the dirt... I did plant a few of these though. Got a few beets also.

7. Lettuce: salad bowl blend. These leaves are soft, and the plants bolt after a few months, but it did well under the shade of tomato plants. I'd prefer a crispier lettuce next year.

8. Zucchini again fell prey to squash vine borers, despite several grub extraction surgeries, but not before I got enough to fry, steam, bake, boil, freeze, and generally get tired of. My housemate invented a delicious zucchini soup incorporating the blossoms - a new favorite.

9. Pumpkin vine promptly came down with something grey and moldy, but managed to produce one gourd that I'm watching carefully for Halloween carving.


Flowers:

1. Marigolds flourished under the tomatoes - I didn't expect them to grow as tall as they did! Naughty Marietta is my favorite, with the dark/light color blend, but Petite yellow & mixed varieties did well too (although they weren't so much petite).

2. Zinnias and Cosmos were tall and leggy, not so many flowers, perhaps dwarfed by nearby

3. Sunflowers. Wow, this was my first year with them and they were huge! Unfortunately the squirrels got to the seeds before I did, grrr. I swear, squirrel is just a rat with a better suit.

4. Nasturtiums: first year with these also. They started out pretty, and edible as advertised, but the long, slender stems got all tangled up and bug-ridden in August... might not plant these again.

5. Xeriscaping wildflower blend went crazy. Not sure if the giant flowerless stalks were weeds or part of the mix, but the orange cosmos-type petals and celosia paintbrushes added character.


Plans for next year:

1. Better tomato cages. Bamboo tripods didn't cut it this year.

2. Get a watering timer that works. My Nelson model from last year refused to work, even after a few troubleshooting exchanges with Watson's, so I gave up and watered manually with soaker hose.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Go solar!


College students from around the world are in DC this month competing in the Solar Decathlon: a solar house design competition. Check out the official US Dept of Energy website, Popular Mechanics coverage, and this photostream on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/solar_decathlon
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Monday, October 12, 2009

Packing up the garden


Autumn is a sad time for the backyard garden: the flowers are mostly spent, beans have gone bust, and any remaining tomatoes drop to the ground, forgotten.

This was a particularly bad year for tomatoes, thanks to the blight. My neighbors at the Rodgers Forge Farm Initiative blogged about it earlier this summer, citing the same NY Times article I'd stumbled upon while searching for an explanation for the withered leaves and sunscorched fruits in my yard. Confirming the blight: only the heirloom tomato plants I purchased were affected. Volunteer cherry tomato plants remained healthy.


Already I'm plotting my seed-starting operation for next spring... but first, I still have a few eggplants to pick, one lonely green pumpkin, and a mess of marigolds to clean up. The UMd home & garden center website has fall garden cleanup tips posted now.


Also thinking about canning some applesauce, since I never found the time to can more than one batch of salsa at a friend's house all summer. Apparently canning is trendy among backyard gardeners and urban homesteaders these days, but I wouldn't have guessed it by the blank looks I got at the supermarket when I asked where to find the canning jars.
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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Carbon and energy in the news


The Energy Information Administration (EIA) sent out a few news bulletins recently:

They're forecasting lower US heating costs this winter due to warmer temperatures and higher natural gas inventories.

Also, projected US carbon emissions from fossil fuels are down almost 6%, mostly due to the economic downturn.

The EIA has also posted a new website for consumers, described as follows:

Energy fuels cars, furnaces, national economies. It also costs money, affects our lives, and sometimes makes headlines. If you want to understand where your gasoline comes from, what determines the price of electricity, or how much renewable energy the United States uses, then you are not alone. Energy Explained from the U.S. Energy Information Administration tells you all of this and more at www.eia.doe.gov/energyexplained.


In other energy news,

A Renewable Energy Markets conference was held in September: presentations and whitepapers are available online at http://www.renewableenergymarkets.com/
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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sustainable charity on Oprah


In case you're looking for a good sustainble charity to support, or if you're planning ahead for Christmas gifts, or both - look no further!

Heifer International is a lovely charity that I've been supporting for years. Their projects help end hunger and save the Earth by teaching and empowering people around the world with initiatives in sustainable farming, animal management techniques, gender equality, HIV/AIDS, microenterprise, and urban agriculture.

As for the Christmas angle, you can choose items from their online gift catalog to send in honor of those hard-to-buy-for loved ones.

And right now there's a "double your gift" project for farmers in Honduras.

Charity Navigator gives Heifer International 3 of 4 stars.

Want more? Watch the Oprah Winrey show on Thursday October 1st, which was inspired by The New York Times best-selling book _Half the Sky_ by Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn.
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Knit unto others

Cold weather is coming... doesn't it just make you want to knit?? Me too.

My favorite cheapskate, Mary Hunt, recently posted some knitting resources in her newsletter for people looking to recycle or donate leftover yarn, or be on the receiving end of such goodness.

National:

www.Ravelry.com - online community for knitters to share patterns, yarn, tips & tricks, etc.
www.ebay.com - buy or sell yarn here

Donate yarn or knitting skills to:

www.NewbornsInNeed.org -
national charity dedicated to helping preemie and newborn babies
www.ProjectLinus.org - volunteers knit, crochet, or quilt blankets for sick or traumatized children
www.KnitForKids.org - a project by Guidepost magazine
www.KnittingForCharity.org - links to charity organizations

Also check with your local hospitals, churches, nursing homes, and craft stores.

Here are a few of my favorite local yarn shops:

Woolworks near Mount Washington (no website? phone
410-377-2060 or visit 6117 Falls Rd)

Lovelyarns in Hampden

Spinster Yarns & Fibers in Lauraville

Clover Hill in Catonsville

Happy knitting!
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Friday, September 11, 2009

How to save water


How do YOU save water? EPA's Pick5 blog has some ideas...

http://blog.epa.gov/blog/2009/09/11/how-do-you-use-less-water/

Here are some things I do...

Don't buy bottled water: one of my company's offices saved over $1000 and 6000 gallons by switching to filtered water, not to mention reduced greenhouse gas emissions from not trucking all those heavy bottles around.

Don't run water while shaving, scrubbing, brushing teeth, washing dishes, etc. Also shower less often (think like a European!).

Recycle water from rinsing or cooking produce to water your plants: added nutrients!

Use a rain barrel for watering the garden. I also use a soaker hose buried at root level with a layer of mulch. Watering in the morning reduces evaporation.

What could you do to conserve water in your life?




Sunday, August 23, 2009

Car Talk exposes eco-scams


On today's episode of the Car Talk radio show on NPR, those crazy Tappet brothers mentioned their "scam detector" research about products claiming to boost your MPG, ethanol makers, engine treatments, etc... turns out that most of the product claims are bogus, but the ethanol maker is legit and actually used by the Sierra Nevada brewing company. Don't get burned by the others!

Check out the research (and other fun car stuff) here...

http://www.cartalk.com/content/features/scams/
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Monday, August 10, 2009

Gimme five, Brita!


I'm a heavy drinker... of water, that is. Lately I've noticed that Brita and Pur have been marketing water filters as a way to save money (bottled water is expensive) and the environment (processing and shipping bottled water emits unnecessary carbon dioxide). I'm a fan of both ideas. But what do you do with the filters when they're used up? Recycle 'em.

Brita has launched a filter recycling program with the Preserve Gimme 5 program, which collects #5 plastics at Whole Foods stores across the USA (unfortunately, none yet in Maryland). There are also links to join the Filter For Good program by pledging to reduce bottled water waste, and the Brita Climate Ride for bicyclists.

I was disappointed to see that Pur doesn't mention any filter recycling options on their website.

So until our local Whole Foods stores start collecting Brita filters for this program, you can mail them to the program in Cortland, NY, using ground shipping... or stockpile them at home and wait. Pur users: go write some letters!
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Thursday, August 6, 2009

On ceiling fans and clotheslines


I'm sure I've mentioned the Everyday Cheapskate newsletter before: author Mary Hunt writes from experience about how to get out of debt by living below your means, and many of her suggestions focus on the reduce/reuse/recycle theme. Today's newsletter shared a few tips about conserving energy in your home.

Dear Mary,
How much electricity does it take to run fans? I wonder if fans really are more efficient than air conditioning. Susan, Michigan

Dear Susan,
The difference in energy use between running the air conditioning and an electric fan is huge. In the typical home, air conditioning uses more electricity than anything else, about 16 percent of the total electricity used. In warmer regions, air conditioning can be 60 to 70 percent of your summer electric bill.

Electricity is measured and billed according to the number of kilowatt-hours you use with a scale of 1000 watts per hour. A 2.5-ton central air conditioning system uses 3,500 kilowatts per hour of use, which is 3.5 kWh. A medium-sized window a/c unit uses 900, or 0.90 kWh. A floor fan uses 100 watts, or 0.10 kWh on the highest speed, and a 42-inch ceiling fan set on high uses only 75, or 0.075 kWh. Where I live in California, we pay 17 cents per kilowatt-hour billed. That means it costs about $.60 per hour to run a home central air conditioner, but only 1.2 cents per hour to run a ceiling fan.

Dear Mary,
How can I get my spouse on the same page as me when it comes to saving money? I'd like to save on our electricity by using a clothesline and installing more power strips that we can switch off at night to stop the phantom load. I know both of these can significantly reduce our costs. My husband doesn't see the point to either of these ideas, nor does he like the feeling of clothes dried on a line. How can I bring him around? I'd like to reduce our cost so we can build a fund for the winter months when our power bill is sky-high. Sarah S., e-mail

Dear Sarah,
Your best bet is to compromise. Make a deal with him that if you can get the laundry soft without using so much expensive energy, then he'll install a good, strong clothesline at a height and location that are best for you.

When line-dried laundry comes out stiff, it means the detergent is not getting rinsed out completely. Use only the amount of detergent recommended on the container. Add 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the last rinse to get all of the soap rinsed out. Jeans and bath towels receive the most complaints. To prevent their stiffness, remove them from the line when they are almost dry and run them through the dryer for five to 10 minutes.

Take the responsibility yourself of installing power strips and turning them off at the end of the day. Start keeping track of the amount your utility bills drop as a result of these simple techniques. Then, show him in black and white how much money you're not spending. I think he'll come around when he starts seeing those dollar signs.


Subscribe to the newsletter here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Unidentified Farm Objects


Been getting some interesting, unfamiliar veggies in our CSA shipments lately:

Pattypan squashes (see image) look like UFOs... bumpy, green-yellow-speckled ones with stems, that is. They have a pretty good shelf life (about a week), but best before they get rubbery: look for tight, shiny rind on squash in general. Delicious roasted with olive oil/salt/pepper and herbs, also good grilled or steamed (chop the big ones, but small ones you can steam whole - I saw them cooked this way at a fancy gala once).

Garlic scapes are delightful too: these long, swirling stalks can be chopped and steamed for a flavorful addition to soups or salads. Eat raw to repel vampires and other undesirables.

ABCs of greens:
Arugula (peppery and strong, use sparingly unless you're into that kind of thing)
Broccoli leaves (big, waxy gray-green color. chop and boil in chicken stock for soup)
Collards (saute with olive oil, salt, etc)

Zucchini update: My two plants are dying a slow death of powdery mildew, and the recent squash vine borer attack is hastening their demise, but I've got so many zucchinis piled up in the kitchen and freezer right now that I shed no tears.

Now harvesting tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers, with eggplants soon to follow. Patting myself on the back for planting parsley and basil with the tomatoes, as these herbs are a great finishing touch for salads and sandwiches.

The latest on green cars


If you've been listening to NPR lately then you already know about the CARS (aka "Cash for Clunkers") program. Read about it here.

And just today the EPA announced that its Green Vehicle guide has been updated to include 2010 models.

In related news, President Obama signed a bill that will set a national fuel economy standard of 35.5 MPG by 2016. This policy will cover car models from 2012-2016 and it's estimated that 900 million metric tons of GHG will be reduced as a result.

Curious about your current vehicle's fuel economy? Check it out here for an estimate. For a real-time test, keep track of your odometer reading the next few times you fill your gas tank: then you can calculate your actual miles per gallon.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Beet It


Today I pay dual homage to the late great Michael Jackson and my favorite vegetable of the week with a sweet and easy recipe I adapted from "The Vegetable Dishes I can't live without" by Mollie Katzen of the Moosewood cookbook fame.


Take a bunch of beets with stems and leaves: cut the stems, leaving about an inch of stem on the beets. Scrub the beets, trim off stringy roots, and wrap in foil (still damp - the moisture will help steam). Bake at 400 degrees for about an hour, or until soft when stabbed. After they cool a bit, you can rub off the skins and chop coarsely. Meanwhile, trim stems off greens and wash - you can chop the stems to eat, or discard. When the baking beets are almost ready, chop leaves and stems into bite-sized pieces and saute with olive oil, minced garlic, dash of salt until halfway wilted (saute stems first, as they take longer to soften). Add the chopped baked beets to the cooking pot, then saute to desired level of wiltedness.


Recently I heard a farmer say that the best way to get kids to eat beets is to tell them that it'll turn their poo red... incidentally, this trick may work on some curious adults too, or at least serve as a warning for hypochondriacs!


My garden is churning out so many zucchini lately that I'm alternately freezing them and giving them away. My Busy Person's Guide to Preserving Food book is getting a good workout. And I'm shopping for an Energy Star chest freezer, but the selection out there isn't what I would've thought, considering the rebates that are available... or maybe the stores I've hit are just picked over already? I'm also shopping for a nice big stainless steel pot to try my hand at canning this summer... any suggestions?


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Monday, July 13, 2009

Recycling makes cents (and dollars!)

Baltimore City recycling news: 1+1 pickup started this week on July 13th, read all about it here.

Meanwhile in the county... In 2008, Baltimore County made $5 million from selling recyclables. That's million with an M. That's money that they didn't have to extract from us in the form of taxes. Doesn't that sound like another compelling reason to participate in curbside recycling, in addition to keeping useful materials out of landfills and reducing the need to mine or manufacture new? In San Francisco, residents are being compelled to recycle more forcefully by way of a new law that fines people for not recycling. More cities are expected to follow suit... so get into the habit of recycling now!


Some small town residents of New York and New Jersey are required to purchase trash tags for each bag they toss. Outside town limits, residents must hire private waste haulers to pick up trash in addition to purchasing trash tags. Recycling and composting a great way to cut down your household expenses in these areas, and the locals are catching on.

Know any towns that sponsor municipal compost pickup? In typical backyard composting, it's easiest to keep your green-to-brown mix simple by using only uncooked foods free of fats and oils. However, in large scale composting operations like Waste Neutral Group based here in Baltimore, it's possible to tweak the mix such that even cooked food scraps break down properly. Baltimore County already turns our curbside yard waste pickup into mulch and compost (which is free to residents)... maybe someday they will add weekly food scrap pickup too?

In the meantime, I know what you're thinking. Composting can be a dirty business. "But I can't compost, I live in an apartment." --actually, yes you can. NatureMill makes a composter small enough to fit into a corner of your kitchen.

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