Shred less

Yesterday’s Excellent post was almost like a wrap-up. So now for a regular post, even though it’s a Friday.

shredderWe’re all told to shred everything with personal information on it.


But shredding paper has some problems. In our community, you can still recycle it, but you are asked to put it in a paper bag, stapled shut, before tossing it into your recycling bin. Why?

The short answer is that shredding breaks up the paper fiber, thereby making it lower in quality when it comes to its potential recycling uses. For the long answer, read #2 on this page. (The how- and where-to’s on that page are specific to the recycler, but the information likely applies everywhere.)

Shredding is still OK … and it’s better than throwing out, burning or disposing in some other way (eating?) of paper with private information on it. But do the environment one small favor and consider shredding less — rip off the segment that has your name on it, shred the ripped-off part, and recycle the rest of the page normally.

(And for even greater savings, view your bills online and avoid the entire “paper” part of the privacy cycle — just be sure you have all your computer settings at maximum privacy protection.)


E for Excellent


This week, Loving Green rated my blog E for Excellent! Thanks, LG.

She also posted this:

“Now according to the information I was given – the person who started it all said: ‘I love being a part of the blogging community and part of all the friendships that I’ve formed, so I wanted to give a blog award for all of you out there that have Excellent Blogs.’ Of course, there is a catch…By accepting this Excellent blog award, I have to award it to at least ten more people whose blogs I find Excellent.So, if you’re listed blow, please, consider yourself ‘Excellent’ and thus worthy of this honor which I bestow upon you. And, if you have not yet visited these sites, I invite you to do so and experience some Excellent Blogging!”

I love to read blogs and I could spend the whole day doing so … except then I would miss out on other important things in life, like making a living or having living, breathing 3-D relationships. Therefore, 10 blogs … well, I covered some of them last week, and beyond that I drop in on many blogs, but I can’t commit to reading bazillions of them.

Nevertheless, here are a few blogs I consider excellent, and which some of you might enjoy in their randomness. Some are, and some aren’t, about ecology or economy:

  1. Get Rich Slowly –
  2. Litpark –
  3. Overheard in New York –
  4. Anti-Racist Parent –
  5. Mud on the Tracks –

Read and enjoy – and thanks again, Loving Green!

The sights of spring

Spring is on its way!

It was a balmy 60-some degrees here in Denver yesterday.

Mr. Cheap refilled the bird feeder and did this:


We’ve seen and heard birds including blue jays, robins, red-winged blackbirds, in addition to the usual chickadees, seagulls, crows and Canada geese. One morning I even saw a red-tailed hawk on a light post near Little Cheap’s school. We’ve draped the budding forsythia bush with bits of discarded wool from my hand-spinning operations, in hopes the birds or squirrels can use them for their nests.

The weather all weekend has been good enough for hanging laundry outside at last …laundry

… and it’s warm enough to inspire us to think about the work our driveway badly needs (can you tell?).

Inside, Little Cheap and a friend this week helped Mr. Cheap get some Napa cabbage underway.

cabbage seeds

With all the sightings of birds returning from southern sojourns, plants turning green at the bottoms, and everything from mice to wasps beginning to stir in the compost bin, dare we suspect that spring is on its way?

All the excitement is getting us ready to plant the spring seeds – peas, spinach and broccoli – and start planning the year’s garden cycle.

How are you celebrating spring’s coming?

Weekly Wrap-Up: Water waste to Gen-Y Fi(nance)

First, for those of you outraged at us Coloradans’ not being allowed to harvest our roof water, the Colorado Senate is working on it:

The Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources & Energy Committee approved a plan to allow homeowners to collect water that drains off of roofs up to 3,000 square feet so ranchers and farmers could use it to water livestock and metro residents could use it to water their lawns and gardens.

The measure (Senate Bill 119) passed unanimously and goes to the Senate for debate.



There’s a new social networking site called Greenopolis ( I joined and took the survey for my “green badge” — although I’m not sure how they score it. (One question was “Cutting one minute off your shower for a month will save how much water?” Well, the right answer is “it depends,” isn’t it? Hard to choose among their categories’ set amounts. For me, the answer would be about 37.5 gallons, because I use a low-flow showerhead and don’t shower every day. That put me in the lowest category. Do I get extra points for knowing the answer?) It will be interesting to see how the site evolves.


Local dairies are growing (on the coasts, at least), according to this New York Times article:


Here’s a nice personal finance blog that will probably be especially appealing to the younger adults among us — but we can all learn something, I’m sure:

Get dirty!

When is the last time you got your feet dirty?

If it was ages ago, chances are you haven’t been to a farm lately.

Do you have a farm near you?

I bet you do.

A company I work with has a client, Culinary School of the Rockies, that has started a program to get future chefs out onto farms with one of its culinary externship programs, called Farm to Table.

The idea is that chefs will be better chefs when they understand exactly where food comes from and how:

The concept isn’t brand new, but it is underserved. Almost 10 years ago, I worked for a while in marketing at The French Culinary Institute in New York City. At that time, the NYC food world (or a segment of it) was getting excited about local produce, fresh produce, food that really came directly from the earth. I was privileged to meet two early fancy-pants fresh-produce pioneers, chef Alice Waters and farmer Michael Ableman. After the two presented a talk at FCI, I got to take some of the leftovers home for one of the most exciting culinary evenings to hit our Brooklyn kitchen, featuring produce harvested that morning from Ableman’s farm in Santa Barbara, Calif., flown with him to NYC, and fawned over by Alice Waters herself.

Cool. And about 3,000 miles short of local.

So remedy the local part — and experience the cool part — by finding a farm near you and going there. Here are some ideas:

  • Find a pick-your-own operation in your area. This is a great starter method – a cross between retail and visiting a farm. My experience of the intoxicating spiciness of a pick-your-own peach tree ca. 1994 was a turning point for me.
  • Join a CSA. Local Harvest is a good starting point.
  • Get some manure for your garden. Last year, we posted a “manure wanted” ad on Craigslist and got many offers. Take some bags, boxes or bins and shovel up some poopy goodness to make those gardens grow! (Hint: Obtain *composted* manure if you don’t want to burn your veggies or sear your nostrils.)
  • Try some new milk or eggs. Again, Craiglist or a local ad service might bring up local farmers — large or small — who can sell, trade or give you milk or eggs.
  • Pursue an interest. If you’re a knitter, spinner or weaver, go get some wool straight from the source (and see it on the hoof). If you need a shofar, pick the horn up at the farm. If you’re nice, and the farmer has time, you might be offered a tour.

Any other ideas of how, why and when to hit the farm?

Leave ’em here … but please wipe your feet at the door.

Not now, I’m organizing my lightbulb collection

bulbsOften, I find myself diving into a big project in my spare time, and all too often, my spare time happens at 8:00 on a Saturday night. While the footloose and fancy free are out tripping the light fantastic, I’m up to my elbows in some dusty project at home.

Thus, I spent one recent, scintillating evening organizing my cord and light bulb collections.

“Be prepared” is my motto. So before I made the switch to CFLs, I had a collection of light bulbs of all wattages, indoor and outdoor flood lights, candelabra bulbs and nightlight bulbs. It even merited a compliment from Bob, the contractor who redid our last bathroom. (“Wow! Nice bulb box!”)

Now, I realized that although my box was full of incandescent bulbs, I wasn’t using any of them — and I was accumulating a stack of plastic bulb-boxes outside my bulb box. Time to pare the light bulb collection. (Do I know how to have fun, or what?)

What to do with the old bulbs? As far as I can tell, the main options — besides saving some for emergencies or using them as darning eggs — are to throw them away or freecycle them. Those more creative — and modern — than I can get funky with their old light bulbs through “creacycling,” or creative recycling.

If you are switching to CFLs, read the fine print on the package: Most of them really are guaranteed for five years, seven years or longer. But to take advantage of that guarantee, you must return the bulb with a receipt and its packaging to the store (or chain) where you bought it. This level of organization is on joke: The flood and dimmer bulbs I’m buying cost $7 to $15 each — and I’ve already had to return two for not being up to snuff.

Fortunately the see-through packages make excellent receipt holders. Take a permanent marker and jot on the outside of the box where and when you bought the bulb, and where you’ve installed it so you can tell which bulb it is if and when it poops out early.

Now, if only I could find the non-working candelabra CFL bulbs I set aside in a “safe place” to return … I guess some things never change, no matter how much electricity you save.

What can you Just.Not.Do?

straw flowersHappy Valentine’s Day, featuring my non- eco- friendly (but cheap, crafty and personalized) child’s Valentine’s!

Yes, that’s right, it’s a whole stack of pretend flowers made from straws and cellophane tape. Landfill, here we come.

Little Cheap learned how to make these at a Chinese New Year event this weekend, and she loves them. It’s a detailed, but doesn’t matter if you’re kinda sloppy, semi-obsessive activity – perfect for her. So yes, I rushed out and spent 50 cents on a box of straws for her to indulge herself in making 22 of these for her class at school.

I thought about arguing that it wasn’t eco-friendly and we should do something else. I have done so, in the past. And then I thought, for heaven’s sake, let her have one thing.

Here, I mostly post about my successes, but I do have my eco-failures (and wastes of money, too).

  • I won’t give up fairly warm showers. I’ve turned them down from hot, they are pretty short, I usually shower only every other day (don’t tell!), so I don’t feel too guilty on this one. And I did get rid of the hot tub … but I can’t promise I’ll never again take one of the hot, hot baths I love (and which are sooo good for my crunchy muscles).
  • I won’t give up driving. I try to consolidate errands; we live where we can walk to the grocery store. But I can’t sign off visiting my mother and sister, and I won’t commit to the bus, either. (We live in a city with supposedly one of the nation’s best public transport systems. Yet I can drive from Denver to Boulder in 30 minutes. When I took the bus to Boulder to a meeting — trying to be very eco-friendly — it took 2 hours each way. I just don’t have that kind of time.)
  • I won’t turn the heat down any further. I keep the thermostat set at 67 or 68 most days. The actual temperature in our rooms is about 64. I might be able to bundle up more, put a hot water bottle on my lap, or drug the dog so he’ll lie on my frozen feet, but as it is, my hands sometimes get stiff from cold, so short of moving into a house with a wood stove where I can huddle all winter, it ain’t gonna happen. I do turn it down to 58 at night.

So back on the theme of Valentine’s Day … what do you LOVE too much to give up, no matter what? And just how guilty do you feel?