Posts Tagged ‘Family Life’

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The Consumer Power of Green Moms

July 11, 2010

After a wonderful vacation (more about that in other posts) I finally turned on my computer and started deleting spam.  Among the questionable e-mails was one from someone I didn’t recognize and with a suspicious subject line: Thank You!.  If I had a buck for every message caught in my spam catcher with Thank You! as the subject line I’d have a pretty darn thick wallet.  For some reason I opened it though – and although I think it might have been written by some one for whom English is not their first language (which gives you pause as you are weighing whether it is spam or not) it was interesting. So I checked to see if the organization mentioned is legit.  Apparently it is.

The Social Studies Group is a consumer research group that focuses on social media.  Hmmm, consumer research…will their knowledge be used for good or for evil?  Will it be used so that companies will produce what we want or so they can sell us what they want us to buy.  Still, I’m a sucker for research and they wanted me to take a survey.

Actually it was neater than that.  They were doing research on green mom bloggers and apparently this here blog is one of the 300 they had been perusing.  It was kind of fun to realize that I was the subject of a research project.  I mean, I do research.  I collected survey data this winter from about 1300 beekeepers, now the tables were turned. 

I took the survey.  I’m not sure I was very helpful.  The survey said the most important question was what were the URL’s I most often used for blog ideas… I ended up leaving it blank because I hardly ever get blog ideas from other sources (well I guess today is an exception).  Occasionally I encounter something in the big wide virtual world that I look into, but mostly you just hear about my bees and my garden and my attempts to buy green, be green, and encourage greenness around me.  So, anyway, I left it blank.  Some researcher somewhere is rolling her eyes at my reply.

Preview - Report: The Green Mom Eco-Cosm

The Social Studies Group has already created one white paper on Green Moms.  This based on reading our blogs.  It’s 16 pages of easy reading – but perhaps not everyone is as motivated as I was.  Here’s my summary:

They categorize the Green Mom Bloggers into three main groups: Super Greens, Eco-Moderates, and Mainstream Greens.  I think I am probably an Eco-Moderate:

They represent a broad group of mothers that is very concerned about the environment, but also with balancing the realities of juggling career, family, home and their desire to live an eco-aware, sustainable life – with limited time, and in many cases, limited resources. They are oftentimes concerned with their family’s consumption, and recognize excess consumption as being central to the conversation on global sustainability.

Super Greens are watchdogs and more radical in their views of the three groups.  The Mainstream Greens are “most likely to philosophically align with the concept of green consumerism” looking for the greener version of things they already buy.

They also give special nods to two other subgroups of green moms.   Green and Frugal Moms are noted for their focus on personal economy, buying less, conserving more, is recognized as also being good for the environment. Natural Parent/Simple Lifestyle Mamas are also noted because their choices align well with the green choices made by Super Greens and Eco-Moderates.

All in all, the message to businesses is green moms are a force to be reckoned with – ignore us at your own risk. 

 

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Dark Days 14 – roast chicken redux

February 20, 2010

Last weekend my daughter asked for a special Valentine’s Day dinner of roast chicken.  And so my husband roasted one.

chicken and potatoes

The chicken was a local bird.  The potatoes were from our garden.  The milk was from the local no-hormone dairy.  The papers on the table under the plate are unfortunately typical.  The erratically set table is typical also – but do note the cloth napkins.  Oh, and yes, in that bowl in the foreground (I could have cropped it out, but that wouldn’t have been honest) is popcorn chicken – because my 14 year old won’t eat chicken that isn’t coated in sodium-laden bread crumbs.

Oh, did you notice how beige the meal is?  No greens.  We had each had large salads for lunch and just opted out.

We’ve had roast chicken for our dark days meal before – we’re running out of options I fear.  The stores from the harvest are depleted.  That and I think my imagination is depleted too.  Doesn’t matter really, nothing wrong with sticking with a winner and this chicken was delicious for days after and will soon become chicken soup too.  Hmmm, I don’t think we can get local barley for the soup, but maybe we’ll try a potato, onion, carrot, garlic chicken soup.  A local onion at this time of year will be tough…. we’ll see how it goes.

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2009: A Personal Inventory

January 7, 2010

2009 was a quiet year. Good times were good. Bad times were minimal. Things were accomplished; nothing was demolished. It was low on wild and crazy excitement but high on contentment, which means it was a very good year. Here are some personal highlights from my 2009:

· I didn’t hurt my back this year. Of course I didn’t exercise either – but I prefer to focus on the positive – I didn’t hurt my back.

· I maintained a robust weight. Some might say I am a little too robust. I prefer to think of it as a safety net should we suffer a sudden famine.

· I am still employed. Granted my take home pay does not take me as far as it used to, but I still get a check and so I am not complaining.

· No pets died this year.

· No relatives died either.

· The house is still standing, and so is the garage (although the garage was a little closer to collapse than we had realized).

· I now have two beehives. Of course it is the dead of winter and the bees may be dead too. I’ll know in the spring.

· My children seem to still love me; perhaps without the overt enthusiasm of their toddler years, but I don’t think they are harboring any matricidal intentions, at least not usually.

· I’m still married, happily even. My husband is too.

Yes, low on over the top excitement, but high on contentment: a very good year.

 

[This recently appeared in our local paper in my irregularly published column: A Slice of Life]

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The First of the Dark Days

November 18, 2009

Today (Wednesday) was our last chance this week for a dark days meal (a sustainable, organic, local, ethical – SOLE – meal – – click the button in the side bar for more information).  I am going to Chicago for a conference tomorrow and won’t be back until the first week will have passed – – we couldn’t mess up on a challenge the very first week.

My husband stopped at the year round farmer’s market (heavy on the organic) on the way home yesterday and got greens (hydroponically grown) and pork chops.  chops He also made baked potatoes with our own potatoes.  [I hadn’t eaten the potato yet, just smushed it up with the butter before I remembered I wanted to take pictures.)potato Our son is not an adventuresome eater (as if pork chops and potatoes require bravery) – he had a salad with the greens and some green onion cheddar from a local cheesemaker.  The salad included carrots from our garden.H's salad

My husband also brought home a pint of heavy cream from the sustainable, ethical local, natural (nearly organic) dairy – – as close as we can get, so I’m calling it good.  This morning I made butter with it. butter There was a glass of buttermilk left that my husband will use to make some bread this evening for us to eat whenever.

To accompany dinner, my husband and I had wine made by the Benedictine monks at a local Abbey.agape1

But wait – we aren’t done yet.  We are celebrating my son’s birthday tonight (once my daughter gets back from dance class).  His birthday is Saturday, but I’ll be gone.  I had initially thought I’d bake a cake – and I could have at least gotten an organic mix (I am not the bake a cake from scratch kind of woman).  But, no, that wouldn’t be SOLE – – what to do what to do. 

First I decided on chocolate – an exception to the local part of the SOLE – but organic chocolate is readily available, and my understanding is that if it is organic than it is automatically fair trade and ethical (i.e. all organic chocolate is fair trade, but all fair trade chocolate is not organic – at least that is my understanding, correct me if I’m wrong.)

I spent too much time scanning the Internet and finally decided that I could make something tasty that wouldn’t kill us, would be relatively SOLEful, and would be something my son would like. 

I bought some organic chocolate chips at the health food store (I also found local whole wheat flour – that was a great find for my husband to use in bread making).  I then bought another pint of heavy cream and a quart of 2% milk from the above mentioned dairy of high morals. 

I melted the chocolate and mixed it with a cup of milk (what I’ll do with the rest of the milk I’m not sure – maybe make pudding).  Then I put it in a cake pan (9 x 9).  Meanwhile, I had whipped the cream and then combined about 1/2 of it with the milk and chocolate in the cake pan.  That went in the freezer.  I mixed a tiny bit of organic powdered sugar in with the rest of the whipped cream – that’s in the fridge.

When my daughter gets home we’ll have my frozen chocolate yummy (that will now be the official name) with whipped cream and my son will open his computer-oriented presents (he has taken to making stop action films – at least he was doing that last month – – so we bought him a video capture device to turn analog tapes into digital and a computer game – and this weekend the computer will be upgraded with more memory and a graphics card – plus fixed because all of a sudden it is incapable of accessing the internet and the printer spooler has ceased to function… virus perhaps?)

Back to the dark days – so, what were the exceptions? What didn’t quite stack up on the SOLE criteria. Well, I mentioned the chocolate – that was not local.   And we did have salad dressings and they were just store bought.  I was proud of my son who thought better of mixing blue cheese dressing with green onion cheddar cheese (a pretty strong flavor in its own right).  So he was dressing-less. Oh, and the mustard in the honey mustard for the pork chops was just your basic brown mustard – but the honey was local.

We did ok – we’ll see if we can do better in future meals.

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My Milk

November 7, 2009

toy cows and milk jug 

The Dark Days are coming – by which I mean the Dark Days Challenge where my family will eat one meal a week made of SOLE food (sustainable, organic, local, ethical).  The challenge begins November 15th.  My local year-round farmer’s market (which doesn’t have a website or I would link you right to it) will be seeing even more of our business as we try to fill in gaps in our own stocks.

One item we now buy routinely from this market is milk.  We buy Kilgus milk made by the cows on a farm in Central Illinois.  I e-mailed the owners to get a bit more information than I could glean from their pamphlet – and Jenna Kilgus was very forthcoming.  She made clear they are not an organic farm.  They are grain farmers and the grain is not grown organically.  That grain also is fed to the cows, so not organic.  However, the animals do graze on “natural pasture” from April to November, so that is good news.  Also, the cows are not given any growth hormone (rBST) and that, to me, is very important.  Another plus, the milk is non-homogenized, which means the fat particles that are in the milk are not broken down by the homogenization process and so will not pass so easily through intestinal walls.  Apparently there is some evidence that non-homogenized milk helps keep cholesterol levels down.  The milk is pasteurized, but not ultra-pasteurized, which maintains vitamins and enzymes. 

Oh, and by the way, this milk is tasty.  We buy the skim milk and the kids and I go through two gallons a week. 

I have a few other milk alternatives. I can buy organic milk at the bigger grocery store.  I have done so on occasion and when I do I try to choose one with the closest distribution center.  But it isn’t local.

I can buy more “conventional” milk distributed by Prairie Farms.  This has some plusses.  It is a co-op of over 700 farms and the main headquarters is in Central Illinois.  The milk and milk products (butter, yogurt, ice cream) are local, but not organic.  There is no indication that there is anything particularly “natural” about their products, other than the milk comes from cows.  So, I assume the worse – that they are given hormones and graze minimally.

Finally, there is a milk cooperative nearby that produces organic milk.  I did look into it but I couldn’t make times for pick-up, periods out of town, and the money work with our lifestyle. 

So, for the time being we will settle for natural and local but not organic milk.  Life is full of compromises.

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The No Impact Experiment: What I learned

October 26, 2009

Well, the No Impact Experiment is done for me – if you are interested in trying it yourself the next experiment week is November 15th. [In case you aren’t in the know on this one, the No Impact Experiment is a week-long program to incrementally reduce your personal impact on the environment.] 

I wasn’t a very enthusiastic participant.  I think I’m to a point in my green evolution that I’m tired of people telling me what to do – or maybe I’ve just always been like that.  But I chose to participate and so I’m under some obligation not to be cranky about it and to try to see some positive in the experience.

I had two expectations.  One is that I would be able to inventory my behaviors – and I did – and if you’ve been reading over the past week you have read my inventory, so I won’t review it here.  Suffice it to say that I’m pretty darn green – not perfect, but I do a lot.

The second expectation is that my weak areas would become clearer to me – and that happened too.  I think I have two: transportation and trash.

Short of selling the house and moving closer to work, or quitting our jobs and trying to make a living from home we are, and will be for the next 15 years, a two-commute family. 

And we make trash.  Now, I don’t think we make as much trash as the average family of 4.  We compost for one thing, and that helps a lot.  But the amount of junk mail is a problem.  So that might be my next challenge.  Stay tuned for my advances there.  

I did encounter one idea in my No Impact Experiment experience that I liked a lot and will try to continue and even expand – and that is the idea of an eco-sabbath.  During an eco-sabbath, a period of time as short or long as you want or can manage, you have as little impact on the environment as possible.  It is harder than you’d think.

My first plan was to do nothing all weekend.  Well, that wasn’t possible, we were out of milk and greens, so a trip to the farmer’s market was needed, and I have some Christmas present plans that required a trip to the hobby store, and my daughter needed more clay for a class project (did you know there are 3 types of octopi?), so Saturday involved driving – and a Mommy/Daughter stop at Starbucks.  So not no impact.  Sunday involved laundry, and it was too cold and overcast to dry clothes on the line, so machines were used.  My eco-sabbath ended up being about an hour when no clothes were being washed or dried and I was just sitting and knitting in silence.   Actually, another part of my eco-sabbath was to not turn on my computer until after dinner on Sunday – that was harder than I thought it would be.  Perhaps I need a computer-sabbath too.

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Not NO Impact – But REDUCED Impact

October 22, 2009

[I created a blog post on the No Impact Experiment social network today.  I have reposted it here:]

I have not been a model "no impact" person this week.  I had a sick child for the first 1/2 of the week and now she has given me her cold.  A virus can sap your will to have a life let alone your will to consciously change your life.  But still, I’ve made an effort. 

My trash creation is still low and I feel guilty about every piece I create.  However, I’ve noticed that one of my reactions to the admonition to reduce trash creation is to avoid throwing things away at all, including things that should be tossed.  So there are items laying around that I would otherwise toss but I’m waiting for the week to be over – I don’t think that’s the point – but it’s keeping my personal trash bag emptier.

Transportation Day was a loss.  I don’t have any real options that I can make on a permanent basis.  Maybe I’m just not looking hard enough.  When gas goes up to $5 a gallon I bet I’ll be trying.

Food Day.  My husband was out for the evening – and he’s usually the family chef.  So dinner was Market Day breadsticks and salad.  The good thing was the salad was fresh greens from a local hydroponic farm – so that gives me a point or two.

Today was energy day.  I was conscientious about turning out lights at work, I made sure that the power cord for my laptop, which is always plugged into an extension cord at home, was turned off while I was at work (I have a funky little switch where the cords connect – I got it years ago at a Big Lots and have never seen them again).  And we had dinner by candlelight.  There were more things I could have done though.  I could have been even more conscientious about classroom lights – I think I left some on after my 12:00 class.  And I could have been more thorough about plugged in appliances around the house.  We have many things plugged into power strips, but we aren’t always good about turning off the power strip.  On the other hand, the house temperature is set at 64 while people are home and at 58 during the day and night. 

Tomorrow is water conservation day.  It’s pouring outside.  It’s hard to worry about too little water when I’m wondering if the basement is wet.  Still, we’re pretty water conservative.  None of us run water while brushing out teeth.  I only heat the amount of water I need in the teapot, not a whole pot full.  We run full loads of wash and full loads in the dishwasher.  We have a rain barrel – which is full to the brim and we don’t have much to do with the water actually since we don’t water plants (and the garden is done for the season anyway).  I rather hate just emptying it onto the ground, but I’ll need to before it freezes. 

The next day is giving back day.  Hmmm, that will take some thought.  I’m rather overextended in the volunteer area as it is – – it may be a check writing day.

What I’m really looking forward to is my Eco-Sabbath – my time of minimal resource usage – my time to sit, preferably outdoors, and read a book. 

So, the short story is I’m putting some effort into this and it is paying off in small ways.  Certainly I am not as obsessed with the topic as some or as lackadaisical about it as others (hey I’m registered and blogging about it); I think I’m at the appropriate medium involvement that I can afford right now.  Conservation of mental and emotional resources is important too you know.