Search Results for: label/Going Green

Going Green – Public Transportation

(sorry folks, this is probably more of a rant than it is suggestions on how to be green.  However I do believe in public transportation and supporting your local subway or bus system – it usually is the cheaper and more environmentally friendly way to get around town!)

When I started my job almost three years ago, one of the selling points was that the company was in Washington DC. Not a suburb of the city, but right in the heart of it. I can walk to Dupont Circle for lunch, and if it’s a nice day and I am wearing the right shoes, I could easily stroll to the White House or Georgetown after work. My office is just a couple blocks from three different Metro stations, which makes it very commuter-friendly.

My Metro trip is longer than my driving commute was at my last job, but it’s far less stressful. It was exhausting battling I-95 and Baltimore-Washington Parkway traffic each day, and I would arrive home angry and frustrated. With the Metro, my commuting time was more reliable, and I could spend it reading or even napping (yes I am a person who is not embarrassed to nap on the Metro) instead of swearing at idiots in oversized SUVs.

And I like the Metro because I am not using a car. The Metro will run whether or not I am on it, so I am not adding pollution to our planet by leaving my car at home. I am also preserving the life of my old and battered automobile – the longer it lives, the longer I can go without a car payment. My husband usually drives me to the Metro in the morning, he or my mom pick me up in the evening. Now that I work in DC, I don’t even put 3,000 miles on my car which saves money and also saves the planet a teeny bit.

I like my little walk from the subway to the office – one of the things I miss from working retail is being able to sometimes enjoy the day. If I didn’t have to be at work until 2pm, or had off a random Tuesday, I could enjoy a crisp fall day or spend a few hours on the deck reading a book in the sun. At my old job I went from house to car to office to car to home, sometimes not being out of doors even for a full hour each day. My short walk, I experience the weather, I see people, I feel the vibrations and personality of the city.

Lately, I am considering driving to work and I hate even thinking about such a thing. My car is not in good shape, and I worry that so much regular driving (and the stop-and-go craziness of city driving) will put its toll on it and it may die earlier than I can afford or like. And I hate the idea of dealing with the stress of driving – road work, stupid drivers, bad weather, trying to find parking. So why am I considering it?

The Metro in Washington DC sucks. I hate saying this because WMATA is getting so much crap lately. I want to support it, give it my hard earned pre-tax dollars (my company has a program that lets us pay for transit before taxes) and wish it well. When the big Metro accident took place (and it took place right near one of my daily transfer spots), I continued supporting Metro (I just changed transfer locations and stopped riding in the very first or very last car). When the rates increased, I just upped the amount to be taken out of my paycheck for SmartBenefits. The benefits outweighed the negatives of Metro, at least for me.

But lately things have gone from annoying but livable to really bad. In the past month alone, it almost feels as though Metro doesn’t WANT me to use them any more.
1. My SmartBenefits are being held ransom. When I go to a Metro machine to withdraw my SmartBenefits, it processes and then says, “Transaction Cancelled.” When I call WMATA they tell me that yes, they know this problem exists and they are working on it and I should be able to access my funds by September 1st. Luckily I am someone who has a bit of extra money in her wallet so I can wrangle out coins and mangled dollars to get myself to work each day.

2. Along with this, they have stopped allowing negative amounts on SmarTrip cards. I don’t believe in a free ride, but this feature has saved my butt more than once. On the 30th of the month, I know I am getting my SmartBenefits the next day, I would rather go negative a bit of money and replenish it the next day with pre-tax funds than put my last $10 on my card and either put it all on there or end up with seven pounds of coins in my purse for change. I also am one who doesn’t carry cash often (if I have it, I will spend it), having the ability to go negative for a few hours before I can get to a proper machine and add fare saves me the time it takes to add money with my check card, wait for the receipt, etc. Along with this, the Add Fare machines do not accept plastic, so this means if I end up in the red, I need to keep cash on me at all times or else I will be like Charlie on the MTA. My husband will bring me a turkey sandwich and a sleeping bag, throwing it over the turnstiles as I make a home next to the broken elevator in the nearby Metro station.
(Note:  The only reason this happens is because depending on my work schedule, I sometimes have to drive and park at the Metro, which is $4.75, I sometimes get a ride home from my sister, sometimes work from home, sometimes work hours where I don’t ride during peak (or the new peak of the peak) times.  I can’t know how much fare I will use in a month)
(Second Note: Emily at Metro-Venture has a different opinion than I, but I adore her blog so, and find the post as well as the comments on this post so well written, I just HAD to link to it so you could read and see both sides of this issue.)

3. The fare machines are always broken. One doesn’t accept coins, another doesn’t accept credit. One machine luckily doesn’t have a hand-written note on it saying what is wrong with it, I go through the process to add money with my check card and after all the time to go through the steps it will just stop working and say, “Transaction Cancelled.” Many times I will then pull a five or a few quarters out of my wallet to get just enough fare so I can get home and the machine spits my crisp dollar or coins back at me. The other day it took 12 minutes just for me to be able to put $5 on my SmarTrip card because there was only one functioning fare machine at the station, and it was the one that did not accept plastic. The line was immense, and the crowd very pissed off. I usually give my random coins and leftover dollar to the individual who is selling Street Sense outside the Metro, but now I have to keep my money in case I won’t be able to use my SmartBenefits or plastic to get fare.

4. The Metro is plain and simple, a mess. When it rains, the cars reek of mildew and often the ceilings in the stations leak all over you. The escalators and elevators are almost always out of service, the floors of the stations are littered with trash and broken floor tiles. Air condition hardly ever works in the cars, and it’s not only hot but incredibly stuffy and smelly because of the lack of air circulation. At least once a week I either am on, or at a station that deals with a train that needs to be offloaded because the doors won’t close properly. The signs that notify when a train is coming don’t seem to be working off a computer, it will say a train is coming in 10 minutes as one pulls into the station, will say a train is arriving when the track is a ghost town. Often I get on a train and the conductor doesn’t even know which way he is going, saying he next station is one in the opposite direction, or even one on another line. More and more often, I get on the last leg of my commute and find they are bypassing an entire station because the train got off schedule. We’re not talking some random station no one goes to, but a very popular one. Everyone needs to get off a station early and wait again for another train. Nothing sucks more than to get on a pretty empty train, have a seat to yourself, open your book, get comfortable and then find out you need to get off in one stop. Then the next train that comes is one without A/C and is packed to the gills and when I wedge into a corner to find a place to hold on, I end up stepping in gum, have some man’s crotch pressed into my hip, and get hit in the face by another person’s backpack all while I listen to “Man in the Mirror” on repeat on a neighbor’s super loud iPod.

I could go on and on, but those of you in DC are nodding your heads in agreement and those outside of DC probably don’t care. I just feel like the character John in the movie Blue State. I keep complaining and threaten to start driving, but I don’t. And I don’t because… just like John loved America even with a president he despised, I love taking public transportation to my job in the city even though WMATA is utterly awful.

In this land of reality shows, I wish someone would create an Apprentice-type show for the DC Metro. Offer a million bucks and the job of general manager of Metro if you can create a plan that will get the system out of the red and get it back to working semi-properly. I look at those fancy tiles on the platforms that pop up with every change in weather and think… how about give each student at the Corcoran 500 of them to make some sort of piece of art, auction them off and use the money to fund Metro? And then replace the stupid tiles with regular reliable (and much cheaper) concrete? Where are the revenue bucks from ads placed all over the busses, trains and stations? And couldn’t Metro make more if they removed expired ads and replaced them with new ones? I see ads all over the city for events that took place MONTHS ago. Get some of the best managers in the country together, have them brainstorm for the chance to win the big prize and help the nation’s capital be a better commuter town, and keep me from being a car commuter once more!

Going Green – The Diva Cup

I was tempted to not post about this because I felt it may be controversial. But then I wondered WHY it would be controversial. The audience of this blog is predominately women, and predominately women who are between the ages of 18 and 50. This means the majority of you reading this are having a monthly period. As that a post about periods may be relevant to more of you than say wide-calf boots or petite trousers, I have decided to proceed with this topic.

I have been a tampon sort of gal since I got my period at age 13. It was the summertime and I was on a swim team. I remember a big meet was that Saturday and I was freaking out because I couldn’t get a tampon in. My (male, cute) swim coach asked my mom what was up, as that I was one of the top 13 & 14 year old female swimmers on the team and they couldn’t have me miss the match. She had to explain that I couldn’t get in a tampon. My coach suggested these super slender plastic-applicator tampons, telling my mom that he “recommends them to all his female swimmers.” At the time I was so embarrassed I almost dropped the team. Now as an adult I think how embarrassed this young college guy must have been, dealing with all these hormonal preteens and becoming a tampon expert.

I moved on from the skinny pink plastic applicators to the basic cardboard applicators (cheaper and biodegradable). By high school I was a fan of o.b. tampons because they were so tiny (and didn’t have the noisy rustling wrapper), I could hide it in the palm of my hand when having to head to the girls room. No need for proclaiming to the entire class that I had my period (come on, any girl who headed to the bathroom with her purse was telling the whole world she has her Aunt Flo…).

Speaking of which, women don’t like to speak about their periods. We may use it to explain our grumpy behavior, but we don’t like to discuss period paraphernalia. Be you a tampon gal or a pad lady, you have to admit you are creating a lot of landfill waste each month. Not only that, but it’s waste that is… well a bit grody. Even if you use o.b. or cardboard-applicator tampons, there is still waste that is cleaned out of the sewage system and wrappers/applicators that go right into that trash can.

When researching ways to cut waste in 2009 without cutting comfort and convenience, I learned about the Diva Cup. The DivaCup is a latex, BPA and plastic-free non-absorbent menstrual cup that collects menstrual flow. It is inserted in the vagina and sits at the lower base of the vaginal canal (not up near your cervix). It is worn internally, yet because it is soft and smooth, it cannot be felt nor will it leak when inserted properly. It can be worn for up to 12 hours at a time (so it’s great for overnight), and because it doesn’t absorb like tampons, there isn’t such a risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome. It can be worn for any activity including swimming.

Women, on average, experience a lifetime menstruation span of 41 years (11-52). From use of disposable feminine hygiene, an estimated 12 billion sanitary pads and 7 billion tampons are dumped into the North American environment each year (1998). More than 170,000 tampon applicators were collected along U.S. coastal areas between 1998 and 1999. Our revolutionary, reusable product is a modern, viable alternative to disposable tampons and pads.
Most tampons and pads contain surfactants, adhesives and additives. In addition, most pads contain polyethylene plastic whose production is a pollutant. Also, dioxin, a known carcinogen, is a by-product of the bleaching process of tampons containing rayon. In landfills, many of these substances can leach into the environment (groundwater, streams and lakes) causing serious pollution and health concerns.
Although not all women can afford to purchase an energy-efficient hybrid car or convert their home to solar energy, they can reduce dangerous landfill waste by choosing to use a reusable, silicone menstrual cup. When considering the pollution and volume of waste that is inherent in the use of disposable tampons and pads, replacing one’s feminine hygiene with The DivaCup makes good environmental sense and manifests in a positive eco-footprint every month!
Because many women have become accustom to purchasing disposable feminine hygiene products, they consider the expenditure “necessary”. Most women spend $150-200 U.S. a year on disposable tampons and pads. The purchase of The DivaCup results in significant savings. The cost of The DivaCup is equivalent to a moderately-priced blouse or dinner out, yet saves you money!

Considering all this, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try out the Diva Cup. I got mine from drugstore.com, because they offer free shipping for purchases over $50 and you get cash back with ebates. This made the DivaCup a hair over $30 – I have spent that much on a stupid dress from Target that has only been worn once before it fell apart.

Since I was pregnant and breast feeding, I didn’t have a chance to use a DivaCup until recently. I tried it out this past cycle… and I have to say I am a convert. I chose Size 2 because I am over 30 and had a child. Being an ex-o.b. user I am not one to be skeeved out by her body. I found the DivaCup very easy to insert, especially when still wet from washing it. Speaking of washing, the emptying/cleaning of the DivaCup is not as grody as you may imagine. When at home, it’s easy to rinse out and re-insert. At work or away from home, you can wash your hands, remove it, wipe it out with some toilet paper and re-insert without having to leave the confines of your stall. The thing is the DivaCup holds so much, most women can go an entire workday without having to empty it. I really haven’t felt it at all – it is more comfortable than a tampon, holds more than even a super tampon, and is more reliable (never have had a leak, even overnight). Also I personally find the measuring marks fascinating – when using pads or tampons you really don’t know how much flow you have.

And no, I didn’t get paid by DivaCup, and I didn’t get a free DivaCup from this company. I chose to write about this because I don’t think a lot of women know about menstrual cups, and are a bit concerned about them – they may leak, they may hurt, they may be gross or a PITA. I know there are many other products on the market that work in essentially the same manner, but I chose the DivaCup because it was so easily accessible at local stores and online shops.

I think the DivaCup is such an easy way to make a difference with the environment while being kind to your body and not adding burden or discomfort to your life!

Going Green – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

It is so easy to reduce your waste without sacrificing time, lifestyle, or quality. Here’s a few things my family and I have implemented that we have found to be easy, and better for our lovely planet.

Compost It!
We didn’t have a compost pile for years because… well because we were lazy. I perceived a compost pile and requiring regular maintenance – to flip it over, to keep it moist, to deal with raccoons and stink and bugs and more.

A few months ago I acquired a great chair on Freecycle. When I went to pick it up, the owner had two black plastic composters sitting on her driveway. My husband commented on them and she said we could have them. They were never used, and the classic dome style. We put them in our side yard, less than ten feet from our back door. We used a shovel to break up the land under them, screwed them into the ground, and then tossed in the bag of clippings from the morning’s mowing of the lawn. Since then, we just toss things in there. We don’t worry about adding water, letting it air out, or even turning very often (and when we turn, we just shove a shovel in there and wiggle it around).

Since April, our composters have never gotten over half full. The waste breaks down so fast, it is amazing. What we add to our compost bins:

Grass clippings, corn husks and cobs, shells from shrimp and crab feasts, shells from peanuts and pistachios, ends and peels from produce, tea bags, leftovers (no beef, fat or dairy but will include tofu, pasta, rice, oatmeal, beans, bread, as well as regular produce) that are past their prime, fish skin, dryer lint, used Kleenexes and Q-tips, the leftover soy milk in a carton that is expired, egg shells, coffee grounds (we have a French Press but you can compost filters with the grounds), the contents of our bagless vacuum cleaner, Styrofoam peanuts, biodegradable grocery bags that my mom used to send home one of Emerson’s dirty cloth diapers (don’t really want to reuse even to clean up dog poop).

This is a composter that belongs to someone in my town.  You don’t even need to spend money on a composter – these folks used some old bookcases to keep their grass clipping and leaves!

We have cardboard/paper recycling in our community but if we didn’t, the compost could easily handle torn up small pieces of paper and cardboard (receipts, TP roll, torn cereal boxes, etc.). Since we recycle all paper and cardboard and have our compost bins (and use cloth rags and napkins and cloth diapers and wipes for Emerson), we end up only filling two plastic grocery bags worth of regular trash a week.

I know not everyone has a yard big enough for a compost bin; last week I read a fabulous article in the Washington Post Express about composting in an apartment or small home. There are compsoters specifically created for inside the home, containers to hold scraps in your kitchen until you can get to your compost bin, and Washington DC even has a compost pickup service. Compost Cab will provide you with a bin for scraps, will pick up your waste each week. Your contributions will be delivered to Engaged Community Offshoots, a nonprofit farm in Prince George’s County. After nine months, if you like, you can get the soil that was made from your kitchen waste. If not, the soil is used at ECO to support sustainable urban agriculture projects. Check to see if your area has a similar service!

We are not a home of green thumbs. Our co-op regularly leaves notes on our door that we need to try to get the grass to grow thicker, to trim our hedges, keep our yard up to standard. We don’t compost to pamper petunias or help grow bigger tomatoes. But compost becomes dirt, and dirt can be used most anywhere. Our compost bins have a door at the bottom that we can open and shovel out the Black Gold – we sprinkle over our few gardens and also over the front yard to help the grass grow better. We also have offered the compost to neighbors who are better landscapers than we. You don’t have to garden to find a compost bin beneficial – after all, if there is land, there is dirt!

We have three dogs, and that means we have a LOT of pet waste in our yard (and their running around is a big reason why our grass is so nonexistent). I researched pet waste composting, and found it doesn’t always work well in the DC area due to the high clay content in our soil. We figured we would at least try a cheap method and see if we have luck. My husband inherited a post digger from his grandfather – it is sort of like a hand-cranked giant screwdriver. Every couple of months, my husband digs a deep hole (few feet) along the back perimeter of our yard. We have a stone patio tile that is three feet square and heavy that we use as the lid. My husband will lift the concrete tile and shovel all the dog waste into the hole. When it gets to be about a foot from the top, he will fill the rest of the hole with soil and create a new hole. The holes are in the very back of our yard, away from any vegetation or other neighbors’ gardens. The smell is nonexistent thanks to the heavy lid (and the lid makes it critter-proof and kid-proof). These holes have sunk a bit over time, but haven’t completely composted. When they sink, we just add more soil and tamp it down. Far better than landfills full of plastic-encased dog waste!

Recycle It!
So you recycle your cans and bottles, but do you recycle anything else? Check your local government to see what they permit in your recycling bins. Even if your community doesn’t recycle, doesn’t mean you can’t. We keep an old trash can in our pantry and in there goes all paper and cardboard – junk mail, cereal boxes, toilet paper rolls, cardboard egg crates, receipts, shredded bills and personal mail, read newspapers and magazines, the pieces from Emerson’s books that she destroys (NOW I see why cardboard books are rarely seen at yard and consignment sales – they get mutilated by children!)… all this goes in the bin. Then on Sundays on our way to the farmer’s market we stop by the local Abitibi Paper Retriever dumpster and drop it all there. We find this is easier than trying to have it in our weekly recycling and not have it fly everywhere with rain and wind, and it’s nice that profits go to the community.

Yogurt tubs are not often covered by local recycling programs. However there are programs that will recycle #5 plastics. Preserve has a program called Gimme 5 that helps you recycle such containers. Their site has a list of retail locations that take #5 plastics, and they even have a program where you can mail back such plastics. We have a local business who will collect these plastics and ship them back for us – Preserve has done the research and proves it is more environmentally friendly to use the energy to ship back the plastics than have them sit in a landfill. Check it out and see if it is available in your area!

Buy it Used!
I think any savvy shopper knows the beauty that is eBay. So nice to get that designer brand at a discount. Well there are other ways to get great stuff cheap… and even free!

- Craigslist Craigslist is THE destination for that Crate and Barrel table you covet at a nicely reduced price. Many posts on Craigslist show photos so you can see what you are considering before you trek all the way to the seller’s home. However Craigslist isn’t just for dining tables and romantic encounters. I have found some fabulous baby goods on there, have sold things like shoes and cloth diapers, and know friends that have found clothing and even items to complete their wedding registries.
The chair and ottoman I scored off Freecycle – still in their original packaging!


- Freecycle – Oh Freecycle, how I love you. Visit freecycle.org to find the Freecycle in your area. I have gotten my previously mentioned composters, a $250 new chair from IKEA, toys and clothes for Emerson (some still with tags on them), and gardening tools and plants from Freecycle. I have gotten rid of random things in my house with it as well – one person’s trash is another’s treasure. I had a 30-year old Crock Pot with a missing lid. I put it on Freecycle and a woman who had the same Crock Pot that had died (but lid still intact) took it. It’s nice to receive, but Freecycle is also a great place to give that which can’t be sold on Craigslist or donated to charity (seriously, there may be someone out there that can make good use of your broken toaster!).
- Consignment – This weekend I went to a consignment sale at my aunt’s church and got Emerson a tricycle. I paid $20, and saw on Amazon it sells for $160. I also got her a bag of clothes and a couple toys and paid less then $20 for the whole batch. My neighborhood consignment store currently has brands like Calvin Klein, Diane von Furstenburg and Marc by Marc Jacobs for sale, the pieces look almost new and the prices are astounding. Google your town or nearest metropolitan area and the word “consignment” and you may find a similarly fabulous shop in your neck of the woods! And for all those items you have that are in great condition but no longer getting wear, consider consigning them!
- Thrift Stores – Thrift stores are really hit or miss, it can be great, or it can be awful or really picked over. Go thrifting with an open mind, a full belly, and a lot of free time. It can often prove very rewarding. And when you have old clothes and house items, if it is usable keep it out of the landfill and pad your tax return with a donation to your local charity thrift store!
- Yard Sales – Like thrift stores and Freecycle, you have to weed through the awful and randomness but you can really end up with some fabulous deals. Funky frocks from the ‘70s, Fiesta Ware, fabulous classic rock albums, amazing one-of-a-kind furniture, and yard sales are really great for housewares like lamps (amazing what a new shade and a can of spray paint can do for a yard sale score!).

Don’t Buy It!
There are so many ways that you can reduce the amount that you purchase and use, while leading a comfortable life. Some of my favorite ways:
- BYOB – Bring your own bag! I have mentioned this before but it is a great way to go – don’t just bring your bag to the market, but bring bags for produce and bulk purchases. Bring your own bag to the mall, to Target, to Home Depot.
- Go Cloth – I wrote before about our cloth rag bag. Well since then I have replaced many disposable items with cloth. We now use homemade sponges in place of disposable sponges – they work great and can be sterilized in the washer or dishwasher. There are many styles available on sites like Etsy – we have even found ones with a scrubby side and a soft side just like our old disposables. I also have replaced my cotton rounds with ones made of two pieces of flannel – just as soft and works just as well for removing eye makeup and applying toner. Just toss them in the laundry with my clothes and towels and they’re ready to go next time!
- Examine Packaging – If there are two similar items but one has less superfluous packaging or at least packaging that can be recycled, choose that method. Items that can be bought in bulk help reduce packaging waste as well. Our local organic market has oatmeal, cornmeal, pistachios, almonds, brown rice and even spices available in bulk – we bring our own bags and then refill glass containers we have at home. I mentioned deli meats and cheeses over pre-packaged and it does make a huge difference with the amount of trash you accumulate in a regular week!

Going Green – Ten Ideas for Easy Change

Hey folks, wanted to share some little ideas I have done in my life to make it more green without making it less stylish or more complicated.  Maybe you can implement a couple into your life.  And as always, please share your easy Going Green ideas in the comments!

1. Check out your deli. Instead of purchasing pre-sliced packages of Kraft or another brand, hit up the deli. The deli cheese is usually fresher, sometimes from local dairies, and there is FAR less packaging. We started getting cheddar from our deli and are amazed at how much yummier a grilled cheese sandwich is with it, than the sliced cheese on sale in the refrigerated section. Oh yeah, this is also a great idea for you omnivores who love your deli meats!

2. Bring your own bag… for your produce too! Almost everyone has a reusable bag in their stash and it seems that most people are getting on the “bring your bag” bandwagon at the market. How about taking it a step forward with your produce and bulk purchases? Sites like Etsy sell reusable produce bags made of tulle and other mesh fabrics, and bags for bulk grains and small items of lightweight washable fabrics. We have some silky little bags for when we buy bulk walnuts, almonds and oatmeal, and tulle bags for our tomatoes and bok choy.

If you are even the slightest bit handy, it would be tres easy to make such bags. They are essentially pillowcases with a drawstring through the opening. You could even sew on three sides (a la pillowcase) and then use a recycled twist-tie to hold it closed. I always keep all twist ties in my junk drawer – they are so handy and this would be a perfect use for them.

Reusable produce bag pictured sold by Etsy seller Fabrik.

3. Make stock. I always have a gallon-sized freezer bag in my freezer. In it goes the parts of produce I don’t use – the last bit of an onion, the leaves from celery, the stems from herbs, the tips of carrots, the piece of the green pepper that has the pointy part from the bottom in it. Then once the bag is full, I make vegetable stock.

Simple recipe – throw the produce scraps in a large stock pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for an hour, and then strain. You can get creative by adding other spices and herbs – I often add a couple cloves of garlic, salt and pepper or even ginger.

For omnivores, you can do the same and then add the veggies to the carcass of a chicken to make some really fantastic chicken stock that will blow any store-bought broth out of the water.

I store in 3-cup and 1-cup portions in my freezer and thaw when necessary and use in place of water for cooking rice, steaming some veggies, making soups. A double-whammy… having this extra stuff in your freezer makes your freezer work more effectively and use less energy!

4. Need a new bed for your pup? Check out the adorable doggie beds from Molly Mutt. These dog beds are a duvet with a “stuff sack” that you fill with old clothes, blankets, towels and such. Makes for a great bed for your pet, and a good use for clothes that aren’t even worthy of being donated. Best yet – this makes a pet bed that is completely washable.

I have been slacking with getting proper beds for the two new dogs in our family (poor guys are on piles of old blankets) and have decided to go with Molly Mutts – they have prints that match our bedroom, they get great reviews, and they will make those old blankets comfy and fab! Cute, AND eco-friendly? Love it!

5. Stop buying hand wash. I mentioned this before in this post, but I have to mention it again for it has made SUCH a difference in my household. Either buy a bottle of foaming hand wash, or a foaming pump bottle (we went the cheap route and bought bottles of Method Foaming Hand Wash). Put in one part of Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap to ten parts of water. Ta-dah. We buy the Almond scent of Dr. Bronner’s because it makes for a pretty gender-neutral scent for hands, but we have used the Citrus in the past and have liked it (the Baby version is unscented for those who hate any smells). Dr. Bronner’s is eco-friendly, gentle, and a little goes a LONG way. On top of that, your bottle of Dr. Bronner’s can be used to wash delicates, wood floors, kitchen and bath fixtures (add some baking soda for a soft scrub paste), and even your body. We even use Dr. Bronner’s to wash the dogs!

6. Bring your cup… and fork, and napkin! As I walk through my office, I see most people have a coffee cup that they have on hand for their morning cup of Joe. Many also have a reusable water bottle. But when it comes to brown-bagging (or even take out), out comes the plastic forks. After lunch, there goes the plastic forks into the trash. Why not bring a fork to work along with your lunch? I also bring my own cloth napkin, and then I use the napkin to wrap up the fork so I can take it home without getting the inside of my purse greasy.

Not only is this reducing landfills, but it’s also making PB&J quite an elegant affair!

7. Stop with the bottled water. Seriously, please consider buying a reusable bottle. These days you can find them in your grocery store and even Old Navy. Plastic water bottles CAN be recycled (if they are given to a recycling facility and not tossed in regular trash), but it requires lots of energy and chemicals and resources to manufacture and ship those water bottles. I have a BPA-free sippy bottle from CamelBak that resides at work – I wash it here so I never forget it. I also have one at home for travel and the gym. Aluminum bottles (like the great ones from Sigg) don’t absorb smells and come in a bevy of colors and prints. In the long run, you will save so much money, and in turn will be saving the planet.

8. Cloth napkins. I know you have some floating around your house. We got some as housewarming gifts and wedding gifts. They have lovely ones for great prices at discount shops like Marshall’s and Ross, and you can always find them at thrift stores, craft shows, and big box retailers like Target. Try using them for meals in place of paper towels or napkins. Cloth napkins make you sit a little straighter, eat a bit more slowly, help you savor the meal and the moment. Oh, and they also cut down on landfills and cutting down of trees.

9. Freecycle. One woman’s trash is another’s treasure. Seriously. You have a bunch of pantyhose you will never wear? Don’t toss them, offer them on your local Freecycle. There may be a woman who is all about hose and your same size, or someone who needs these for her candle-making business (they do a great job of making candles smooth and shiny). Recently a bag of broken costume jewelry was snapped up in seconds on my local Freecycle (great find for crafters or jewelry makers!). Before you toss, take a chance to see if there may be someone who can benefit from your trash.

10. Think before your buy. Do you REALLY need another lip gloss? How about that top that is ONLY $12.99? If you keep going back to the grocery store to purchase a certain item, why not consider buying that item in bulk (I know my local market will take special orders – yet another reason why you should shop your local independent businesses)? Only buy what is worthy of not just your money, but your space and your world. Before you buy, see if you can get it used (cheaper and more green). Check out Craigslist, Freecycle, eBay (and of course first go to Ebates and save!), Makeup Alley. Ask your friends – you never know what people are thinking of tossing. One woman’s trash…!

Going Green – Breaking the Paper Towel Habit

My husband and I aren’t ones to say we are Super Green – gosh you all know where I purchase my clothing and beauty products. However we do regularly try to infuse more earth-friendly routines and activities into our life. It’s better to do one or two small things than nothing at all.

One of our new year’s resolutions was to cut down the amount of trash we make as a family. Our decisions were to make a compost pile in the back yard (for food scraps, produce past its prime, dryer lint, etc.) and to break the paper towel habit.

I realized that we were going through almost an entire roll of paper towel in a week. From cleaning up muddy footprints from Ruckus to a quick wipe-down of the bathroom before company was to arrive, we always seemed to be running for the paper towel. In fact, the first gadget I bought for our new kitchen was a brushed stainless paper towel holder to match the appliances.

I thought it would be tough, but this weekend I realized that we still have the same roll of paper towel that we purchased back in January (okay we broke down once Emerson was born and bought one of those Costco-sized packages of like 24 rolls).

For those of you who are paper towel addicts like us, I wanted to share how we broke the habit, and now live a life where we can’t even imagine needing a roll of disposable paper at the ready.

The rag basket:

As soon as you walk into our home, we have a half bath/laundry room. In there we have this mesh bin (one of those pop-up ones for laundry that they sell for like $3 at the grocery store). In there we have a random assortment of rags. Bath and hand towels that are past their prime, cheapo Gerber diapers that were given as gifts or passed down from friends, a couple microfiber clothes from the automotive section of Target, old dish towels that now have holes in them, even old tee shirts – cut off the edges and sleeves and you have two great dusting rags! Anyway, we have a real assortment so we are ready for most any spill or situation. Dogs went outside on a rainy day? I take an old bath towel and put it down on the floor right at the door for them to step on and have an old diaper ready to wipe feet and raindrops from their fur. Emerson spilled food on the floor? If it’s not too soggy, we grab and old tee shirt; if it’s soupy we grab another diaper or some microfiber. Diapers are our preferred rag – the size and absorbency make them great for everything from a quick cleaning of the glass and wood coffee table to scrubbing banana off Emerson’s Jumperoo, to wiping down the quartz kitchen counters.

This mesh basket is great because I can see in it so I can easily dig round for the right sized rag. Also the mesh lets the towels breathe so they never smell musty or old. By the way, this basket is only half-full because a load of rags were in the laundry at the time of the photo.

When a rag is used, we have a vented laundry basket inside our laundry closet and toss the rags right in there. Then they get washed the next laundry day. I sometimes toss them in with Emerson’s cloth diapers because I know they will then get scrubbed really well; other times I have so many I can do a load of just rags. When it’s nice out I put them on the line. I never use fabric softener with them because that inhibits the fabric’s absorbency – instead I use dryer balls (Google and you will find tons of different types and brands).

I know people who keep said rags in a basket under their sink, in a box in their pantry or even their hallway coat closet.

The kitchen drawer:

Want to buy me a gift? Get me a cool looking dish towel. I love these guys and have slowly been building my stash. Clearance at big box stores, funky shops at the beach, thrift stores… you can find great dish towels most any where.  This pile is a bit low because many (including my funky faves) were in the wash at the time of this photo.  I could probbaly fill a while drawer with dish towels but don’t have the kitchen space so they bunk with random gadgets.

We use dish towels for quick wipes of the counter, to clean up splatters on the stove, even as napkins for some meals. We throw them into the laundry basket in the half bath when finished. For those who do not have a laundry room so close by, they sell wet bags that can hook right onto the front of your oven to hold dirty dishtowels and rags. Come laundry day, dump the contents into the washer, and even throw the wet bag itself in there and use it to carry your towels back to the kitchen after use.

Hey, I again have a good use for my paper towel holder!

NOTE: Another green and budget-friendly idea is to refill your foaming hand wash bottles with one part Dr. Bronner’s castille soap to 10 parts water.  That Method bottle is over a year old and though it may say Sweet Water, it in fact makes lovely suds that smell like tangerines.

Cloth napkins:
No picture, but we have slowly been getting a stash. I got some gorgeous blue printed ones that look like something that would be sold at Williams Sonoma – they were $5 for a 4-pack at Marshall’s. I of course bought two packs. Etsy has tons of shops that sell great cloth napkins in fun prints for low prices.

Cloth napkins are easy to launder, take up little space and add a touch of elegance to even take-out pizza and cans of beer!

It really is possible to live without paper towels – and this comes from a woman with three dogs and a baby!

Going to a Concert…

and I am BEAT from the wedding! We have tickets to see a concert – a performer my husband likes but I don’t know well. A big group of us are going. I don’t have time for a cat nap. I take quick shower. I decide to straighten my hair, it has been a long time. My friend Shelly comes over and says my hair looks awesome. Yay!

Makeup is my MAC foundation, concealer and set with my Almay bronzing powder in Light. I do my “Going Out” eye:
1. Off-white matte shadow in the inner corners of my eyes to brighten them up. A light dusting of the same shadow on the brow bone.
2. Taupe shadow over the lid.
3. Lashes curled, then curled again. Two layers of my MAC Zoom Lash to attempt the desired look of false lashes.
4. A nice line of the best liquid liner I have found. I have mastered liquid liner. May it go in and out of style, it doesn’t matter to me. I love the Audrey/Playmate look it creates. I am obsessed. I try to wean myself off, but return to it time and again.
5. My favorite lip gloss this month.

As for the body? I wore a pair of darkish jeans from The Gap Outlet at the beach. The have patch front pockets, are a think stretch denim with a premium finish, modified flare leg. Incredibly flattering and only $20. On top I wore a hot pink tube top. Silver medium hoops, silver cuff bracelet.

On the feet? Usually I would wear a cute pair of strappy heels. Tonight my feet were throbbing from the wedding, so I went White Trash and wore black stacked flops. The jeans were long, my toes were pedicured, I hoped no one noticed.

Four of us have a nice dinner at a restaurnt near by – light fare. I have the most amazing sandwich. Portabello filled with pesto cream cheese, roasted red peppers, alfalfa sprouts, fresh spinach on multi grain thick bread. Had that with a local brewsky and I was a happy camper. Oh, I also ate the crunhy pickle. It was cold. If the pickle is warm or limp, I cannot stomach it.

Then we went to the show. It’s a pretty cool venue, General Admission with a few bars, lots of space, good ventilation, a balcony and even a 3rd floor with stadium seating for those who don’t want to dance and mingle and brush against strangers.

The band? Eh, not my scene. And I am a huge fan of almost any genre of music and I adore live performances. I just found his lyrics too simplistic, too repetitive. I caught myself singing along not because I liked the song, but because the same lyrics were repeated so often I felt hypnotized to sing.

But hey, it was fun to go out with the big group, and I saw a friend I haven’t seen in a while. Shelly is going away for a week on business, so it was good to dance and sing with her before her trip.

And I got a lot of approving looks in that sassy tube top, and I don’t think a soul saw my 4 year old flops peeking out from my jean hem.

Go Big or Go Home

Shirt: Gap | Skirt: Etsy | Shoes: Miss Sixty via eBay (similar) | Bag: Banana Republic via eBay (similar)

I was on the hunt for a maxi wrap dress, and decided to check out Etsy. I didn’t find one I liked, but I found this skirt and I just couldn’t resist. At first, I thought my life didn’t NEED a big skirt like this, but I indulged and this is the third time I have worn it. I like it on weekends with an Old Navy vintage tee (white and charcoal) knotted at the waist, and think this summer will be cute with a tank, and maybe a different print scarf tied at the waist like a cummerbund. It has one pocket, the only think I don’t adore about this skirt is that there aren’t two. But reasonable price, looks just as it did online, didn’t have to wait too long for shipping. I definitely favorited this seller and may look to have her make that elusive wrap maxi dress for me this summer!

There is an historic Art Deco theater in my community that holds a lot of good memories for people in our community. I remember seeing movies there when I was younger, and we love being able to walk down to see an indie hit or an Oscar contender.  The Greenbelt Theatre is up to receive a $100,000 grant from Partners in Preservation and we’re in our last week of voting. We keep teetering between 4th and 5th place; I doubt we’ll be win (we’re up against the National Cathedral), but there’s funding for runner ups. I’d really appreciate it if you’d take a moment to vote for the Greenbelt Theatre. The login process is pretty simple, anyone across the globe can vote, and you can vote every day. I thank you in advance!

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Let It Go

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A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend about blogs. We have many that we both enjoy, and she mentioned one that I didn’t know but she adored. So I added it to my reader. I mean, if my friend who I adore and respect and who owns the same leopard kitten heels as me likes this blog, I would too. Right?

Well this week I removed that blog from my feed. I realized that each time it came up in my Feedly I scrolled right by it. I tried reading the posts on the actual site for a different experience, but nothing really grabbed me, nothing brought value to my life.

For a moment, I felt guilty about unfollowing the blog. Maybe I was missing something; I mean tens of thousands of people follow this blog, including my wonderful friend. But really, why force yourself to like something just because it’s popular?

Nevertheless, by experiencing the blog, I had the chance to better understand my friend. And I got to better understand myself. No one has all the answers, every day we learn something new about life and about ourselves. By knowing what isn’t a good fit, we get closer to what is. This holds true with blogs, food, fashion, relationships… everything.

If something is not a good fit… let it go. It could be a dress that cost a ton but does nothing for your figure or confidence, a fading friendship, a bad habit, or something simple like a blog bookmarked on your browser. Letting it go is not giving up, it’s not being rude, it’s not being wasteful. It’s a step towards making your life yours. 

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Going MacGyver

Skirt: Ann Taylor (similar) | Sweatshirt: Gap | Shoes: Miss Sixty (similar) | Necklace: Etsy | Watch: c/o WatchCo | Bracelets: Had forever, Nordstrom

I bought this skirt last year on a whim. Waled in the store, fell in love, tried on super quick, bought and wore the next day. Never regretted buying the skirt, but regretted the size (Large Regular). By time I realized my mistake (needed Petite Medium or at least Medium) the skirt was sold out everywhere. The skirt grows as you wear it, and it is now so large I can easily slip it over my breasts. It can’t even sit on my hips, it’s so big so I have become a Skirt MacGyver. Under this sweatshirt, there are diaper pins (they don’t bounce open as easily as safety pins) holding straps that go with one of my convertible strapless bras making this into almost a dress. I have it right below my bust, and then a belt at my natural waist to control the volume. This skirt is just too awesome to get rid of, and the layers and fabric and construction make it far too costly to have altered. Sometimes you just need to get all MacGyver on your wardrobe!

I initially was going to title this “Jimmy-Rig” and when Googling to see if it needed the hyphen I came across this article.  I already had the MacGyver in the post so changed the title as well.  Do you use jimmy-rig or jury-rig as a term for cobbling something together?  If so which one?

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Monday: Gray with Green

Dress: c/o Karen Kane
Tank: Caslon (similar)
Boots: Fitzwell
Sunglasses: Ray-Ban
Bag: Sabina (similar)

This morning I felt rushed so I grabbed this dress from Karen Kane. I have worn it before, but this is the first time on the blog. While I love the concept of a sweater dress, I usually find them too clingy; this one has a flattering fit and flare silhouette which makes me have a waist but hides the lower tummy.

As for the green in the title, it’s because of the “Jalepeno” Chevy Spark that GM loaned me for the week! When they asked me what type of car I’d like to try, I asked for something with a bunch of fun gadgets, good on gas, and perfect for city driving. While the Spark has four doors, it’s quite compact and I can zip around city streets and park at cramped meter spots with ease. I drove it to work today and can’t wait to play with it more!

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Monday – Emerald Green with Silver

Blouse - Talbots (similar)
PantsTahari “Hazel”
BootiesCole Haan “Air Talia” bootie
Belt - Express circa 1998 (similar)
Silver cuff (similar)
Silver hoops (similar)

How was everyone’s weekend? I was super productive this weekend, accomplishing a lot of cleaning and errands. Even so we had time to hang out with my sister on Saturday night and I had breakfast with my sister and best friend Sunday morning.

I know few still watch Saturday Night Live; we still enjoy it in the Gary household. While I felt Lindsay Lohan was terrible as host this week, Jack White was utterly brilliant, and we really enjoyed this skit:

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Green IS the New Black

Hey guys, bed-ridden Allie here going a bit out of her mind. :) I miss blogging, so I decided to write about something I have gotten more passionate about over the years – finding ways to be green and frugal while still maintaining style and fun in life.

Yes, it really is possible to marry the two. One does not have to grow out her armpit hair and cover B.O. with patchouli to be eco-friendly and wallet-friendly. In fact, many green efforts can be quite beautiful.

1. Crunchy Clean. This stuff is AWESOME. It is a laundry detergent sold on Etsy and Hyena Cart. You need very little (1-2 tablespoons per large load) and it smells utterly divine. There are so many fragrances to choose from – I had Baby Bee and it smelled like baby clothes but was nice for adult garments too. Got a… rosemary and bergamot that I didn’t like because it was too masculine but now have Crisp & Candied for the holiday season and it is delish. The line also has a special detergent for cloth diapers that cleans without soap buildup (causes cloth diapers to repel moisture). The cost ends up being like 35 cents per load – far cheaper than any decent detergent at the grocery store. Also it is shipped with little packaging – less waste (the seller even will give you 50 cents off your next order if you return the bag from the previous order). I currently keep it in the plastic bag, but once the laundry room is finished will go to Goodwill to get some old glass candy jars to store the product nicely.

2. Dryer Balls. Fabric softener makes fabric less absorbent and sometimes irritates the skin (and are extra bottles and shipping costs). Dryer sheets are just extra waste. What to do to prevent static cling but be eco friendly? Dryer balls.

Dryer balls can come in various forms – nubby rubber, vented plastic, tightly wound wool yarn, etc. When they go in the dryer with your clothes, they help fabrics move, prevent static ling and creasing. Once can also use tennis balls but they make quite a racket (har har, I said RACKET). Dryer balls are a gentler version.

Another option is if your washer offers a rinse cycle – a tiny bit of vinegar will prevent most static cling and keep your fabrics nice and soft!

3. Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap. One bottle can wash your body, your hands, your husband’s hair, your sink, your tub, your baby’s bum, your makeup brushes, your dog, and more. It’s a soap made from essential oils so it doesn’t strip and isn’t full of scary chemicals.

My husband likes the peppermint for his body, I prefer the citrus or almond scents for me. I use the peppermint with baking soda to clean the bathroom, the unfragranced to wash Ruckus. 10% Dr. Bronner’s and 90% water mixed in a foaming hand soap container will replace your Softsoap, Method or Dial. One drop will remove all oils and product from the most expensive of makeup brushes. My husband uses this stuff to wash his hair (he’s low maintenance) and it cleans it without drying it out. You need very very little to get the job done.

I personally love being able to take the bottle of body wash, squeeze some on the tub, sprinkle down some baking soda, push around a sponge, rinse and immediately be able to take a bath. No worries that I am soaking in weird chemicals or tub filth. I also like that if I wash Ruckus, I don’t worry that he will wash himself and end up lapping up leftover soap.

4. Make Your Own Stock. How awesome does your house smell on Thanksgiving? Well you can have that great smell on a more regular basis while getting rid of random vegetable scraps, turkey and chicken carcasses and leftovers AND fill your freezer with lovely homemade stock (which will make food taste great AND make your freezer work less hard to keep everything else cold).

Get some heavy-duty freezer bags. It’s worth it to splurge on the good ones because you can reuse these bags a couple times. Put the date on the front with a sharpie, grease pencil, etc. Then as you cook, fill these bags with scraps. Cut up celery? Dump the soggy pieces, the rough edges, the base into the bag. Same with carrots, the leftover pieces of an onion, the ends of peppers. Those mushrooms that are no longer firm but not yet icky? Don’t toss them, put them in the freezer bag. Also add the leftover baby carrots that got rubbery or white, stems from fresh herbs, fresh spinach that started to wilt, edges of tomatoes that weren’t pretty enough for the salad and most any produce that would otherwise be tossed. Before you toss anything in the bag, be sure it’s clean, and it’s cut up into at least 1” chunks (makes it easier when you get around to actually making the stock).

When you have filled two gallon bags, you’re pretty much ready to start making stock (you may only need one bag if you are making a meat-based stock).

For vegetarian stock:
1. In a heavy stock pot, add a tablespoon or so of olive oil and heat.
2. Sauté the harder veggies (carrots, celery, onions, peppers), garlic and any herbs. If you don’t have all this stuff collected in your bags, you may wish to add a couple cloves of garlic, 2 bay leaves, some fresh thyme and parsley for base flavor.
3. When everything is soft, add a couple quarts of water and a teaspoon of salt. Then add any soft vegetables (spinach leaves, tomatoes).
4. Bring to a boil, then simmer at least 30 minutes (I sometimes let it go almost an hour)
5. Strain through cheesecloth and discard vegetables.

I then store it in Ziploc freezer bags, writing on the front the date and how many cups are in each bag. I usually store 2-3 cups per bag because that is how much I use in a recipe. And yes, those Ziploc baggies get washed and reused for the next go-round.

Before I became a vegetarian, I would make chicken stock every time I had roasted a chicken for a meal. Nothing better to fully get your money’s worth from a bird!

Ingredients:
• 2 1/2 pounds bony chicken pieces (usually worked to just have the chicken carcass that still had some meat and stuff still on it)
• 2 celery ribs with leaves, cut into chunks, 2 medium carrots, cut into chunks, 2 medium onions, quartered (again easily collected in the freezer with previous recipes)
• 2 bay leaves
• 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
• 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
• 8 whole peppercorns
• 2 quarts cold water

Directions:
1. Place all ingredients in a large stock pot.
2. Slowly bring to a boil; reduce heat.
3. Skim foam.
4. Cover and simmer for 2 hours.
5. Strain broth.
6. Refrigerate overnight so you can skim the fat from the surface.
7. Store in freezer bags just like the veggie stock.

5. Make Your Own Dish Rags. What do you do with old tee shirts? Do you donate them to Goodwill? Throw them in the trash? Lots of time really ratty clothing that is donated is tossed in the trash. Keep stuff from the landfill and reduce your use of paper towels by making those old tees into dish and cleaning rags.

I cut off the side seams, the hem, and right across the sleeves so I end up with two squares/triangles. Then depending on if it is my husband’s XXL tee or my fitted female tee, I may cut it smaller. I usually end up with a couple of pieces a bit larger than the size of a standard paper towel. I don’t serge or hem the edges and never have trouble with fraying. I fold them up and stick them in a pail under the sink, in a drawer, a few in the linen closet upstairs. Then when I need to dust, clean up a spill, wash the dog bowl I grab one. I know some people who keep them always moist in a cleaning solution, but that seems messy and gross to me.

These rags are super handy. They are soft enough to work on delicate surfaces, they pick up dust really well, hold onto cleansers and suds nicely, help polish silver, are awesome at getting rid of the icky dust that accumulates on mini blinds and fan blades, and they can be tossed in the wash and dry super fast (I usually don’t put them in the dryer, just hang them over the dishtowel rack or a shower curtain rod and they are dry soon after). I even use them as napkins when we have messy and casual food like pizza or subs. The only thing I find they suck at is cleaning glass – even after several washes they are prone to dropping lint.

This really can be done with many other garments, but I find tees to be those that are the easiest to cut up, the fastest to go bad in the wardrobe, and the least likely to be resalable at the local thrift store and the sturdiest after many washes.

6. Bring Your Own Bag to Stores. Yes, we all know we are supposed to bring bags to the grocery store. But what about Target? Sephora? Bed, Bath and Beyond?

Nine times out of ten, I find that whatever I buy can usually fit in my purse. A lot of times things that are too big for my purse are really no easier carried with a bag (hello toilet paper, six pack of beer, small electronic already in a box). For all other times, I carry a bag IN my bag.

One year for Christmas I got one of these nylon totes that scrunches up into its own little carrying bag so it’s as small as a compact umbrella. I hardly ever used this bag except for travel – always nice to have an extra carry-on if vacation shopping got out of hand. Well now I tuck it in my purse and whip it out at any store. It’s not really a good size for groceries, but it’s perfect when purchasing one sweater, a few cosmetics, new light switch covers at Home Depot, etc. I bet already in your home you have some little tote that can fold up to almost nothing and fit in your purse!

Another great idea is to make a few produce bags. Hopefully by now you are carrying your own bags to the grocery store, but you are probably still bagging up your produce in those flimsy plastic bags that usually go straight into the trash. You don’t need to be crafty to make up some bags out of mesh, tulle, etc. to use for your apples and oranges. The bags don’t even need a drawstring – if you place them correctly in the cart and in your bag for the way home, your veggies and fruit will be protected just fine. Really, just need to sew three sides like a pillowcase – you can even have one side a print and the other a mesh (just enough for the cashier to see what you are buying).

I also found Reuseable Produce Bags at Amazon.

And really, stop and think about it. If you are purchasing just two grapefruit, no bag is needed at all. You will wash your produce when you get home, after having people manhandle it in the store, a trip on the conveyor belt and then in your bag heading home is not going to cause any worse of contamination. Most times we don’t use a produce bag at all – we save the reusable ones for things like grapes, tomatoes, leafy greens and other things that can get bruised or fall apart if not properly bagged.

7. Frequent your Local Farmers Market. For the most gorgeous produce, the most savory coffee, the freshest eggs and meats, the prettiest flowers, the coolest crafts and the tastiest breads don’t head to your local Whole Foods – find your nearby farmers market! Farmers markets are no longer just tomatoes and corn – they have such an amazing variety of everything imaginable. Heirloom versions of produce you only see on the Food Network, rare varieties of unexpected fruit, super yum bakery goods, mine even has coffee and ice cream!

Everything is very fresh, nothing is covered in wax, and you are buying that which is in season and grown on the vine. Many celebs this day are doing diets where they only eat what is grown locally and in season – this isn’t to be pretentious. It has been shown that the body is healthier and happier when eating what is correct for your specific region and season. This is also good because you are cutting down on fuel costs to refrigerate and transport food across the country (or countries), and packing materials.

Don’t forget to bring your chic shopping bag with you!

8. Carry Your Own Cup. Every coffee shop these days seems to give you some sort of deal for bringing your own cup – then why the heck don’t you do it? Even if they don’t, your own insulated travel mug is going to keep that java warm and lovely far longer than the paper one from the retailer.

I carry a Camelbak sippy water bottle with me everywhere – it’s water tight, holds 32 ounces, is a pretty teal color and keeps my pregnant self hydrated without spending dough and filling landfills with buying bottled water. At the beginning of the day I fill it with ice and a bit of water – it melts through the day giving me cold water when I need it. I carry it in a part of my bag where condensation is not a problem.

At work, I have my own coffee mug and choose to save dough by using the Starbucks-brand coffee that they have for the kitchen machines. Nothing lovelier than walking through the wintry streets of DC with a steaming cup of coffee from my favorite coffee place, but I can save several bucks (and lots of waste) by waiting until I get to work.

9. Bring Your Lunch. So easy to head to the nearby Au Bon Pain or Burger King for a quick lunch… but it’s not always the most healthy and not always the cheapest option. On top of it, you’re always ending up with tons of paper products going into the trash – from receipt to sandwich wrapper to salt packet to extra napkins.

When you bring your own lunch, you know you won’t find some stranger’s hair in your soup, you won’t have hidden oils and fats, you have more portion control, and it’s better for the planet. Bag lunches don’t have to be bologna sandwiches in paper bags – one can get quite elegant or fun with lunch preparation.

I have seen blogs just about bento lunches, vegan bag lunches, and elegant Mediterranean meals. I know I have the most joy from my lunch when I vary up what I bring. A microwavable container of minestrone soup, a piece of sourdough bread, a slice of cheese, a small square of dark chocolate, a couple olives. Leftovers seem so much nicer when in nice containers and with a cloth napkin. At my job, we have all sorts of fab condiments in the communal kitchen and fridge – from wasabi mayonnaise to pickled ginger to balsamic vinegar. If your office doesn’t do this – ask if your fellow brown-baggers if they would be interested. Saves money, saves waste, makes brown bagging better!

10. Think Before You… do most anything! When you go out to eat, how many napkins do you grab? After reading your paper (or drink your beverage or remove your meal from cardboard), do you put it in a recycling bin or the regular trash? Do you really need to buy cases of bottled water, or would your lifestyle work with a water filtration pitcher or sink attachment? Why throw all those socks and small items in the dryer – hang them over the shower curtain rod and they will be dry by next morning. Unplug those cell and iPod chargers when not in use. Buy in bulk when it makes sense (I have elegant stainless canisters for bulk-purchased brown rice, oatmeal, polenta, flour and beans). Turn down the thermostat just one degree – you won’t feel it but your utility bill will. Give your hair a vacation – one day a week let it air dry instead of hitting it with the tools. Visit your local thrift store before Target – amazing the things you can find there (hello Williams Sonoma stainless measuring cups, Crate & Barrel plates, quirky pint glasses from local pubs, etc.). Do a fashion swap day with friends – everyone bring that which they no longer wear and shop from one another’s wardrobes. Hit up eBay before you hit up the mall. Amazing what you can do that is so easy, but makes so much sense!

There are so so SO many other ideas – I would love to hear what some of you guys do! :)

Go green with organic plant oils from Melvita

What I Wore: Peacock Green

wardrobe oxygen what I wore black wide calf boots wardrobe oxygen what I wore green snakeskin bag talbots wardrobe oxygen what I wore green michael kors dress
Dress: MICHAEL Michael Kors | Tights: Spanx | Boots: Ros Hommerson ‘Maryland’ | Bracelet: Rebecca Minkoff (similar) | Bag: Talbots (similar) | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban

Come fall and winter, I love dresses like this. I have a leopard print dress also from MICHAEL Michael Kors (seen here and here) and find I reach for printed long-sleeved dresses to wear for blogger events, dinner with my girl friends, date night, and other similar occasions. When it’s warm, I wear with bare legs and pumps or booties and come the colder months I pair with thick tights and tall boots.  I’m such a sucker for peacock feather prints, and I thought it would be fun to pair with my green snakeskin bag.

Friday: Going Dotty

Jacket: Banana Republic Outlet (years old – similar) | Top: c/o Gwynnie Bee | Jeans: c/o Liverpool Jeans Company | Boots: DUO (similar) | Bracelets: Ann Taylor

This is almost what I planned on wearing to work on Monday. Though I felt sick, I tried to rally, got dressed, but was too muddled in the mind and stuffy and achy to make it. Turned around, changed into sweats and crawled into bed. Since then, I received two pairs of jeans from Liverpool Jeans Company in the mail and just HAD to wear a pair. I’ll be honest, I hadn’t heard of Liverpool Jeans Company before they contacted me but now I am a major fan. Jeans that slim and lift, have a very reasonable pricepoint, and have lyrics from Paul McCartney and John Lennon in the lining? Yeah, pretty darn awesome. These are the Sadie Straight jeans and on my curvy frame they are the type of skinny jean I like – slim, fitted but not painted on. Stretchy and comfortable, but they haven’t stretched out over the work day. So far pretty impressed.

So glad the weekend is here! I am 99% ready for Christmas. So maybe I have only mailed out about 10 holiday cards and have a stack mocking me on my desk and Emerson has a stocking (this one, I had it come with a message from Santa and she’s super excited) but only two gifts in it, but those can be done this weekend. Sunday we’re going to my mom’s to make cookies, Monday night my sister is hosting Christmas Eve dinner, and starting this year we are hosting Christmas Day at our house. Looking forward to the house smelling of bacon and coffee, filled with the people I love the most, and Emerson being old enough to really understand and enjoy the holiday! Just thinking about it makes me feel better (flu symptoms subsiding, now just congested/sneezy/coughy/headachy but at least no fever/body aches/brain fog).

Oh and yeah, I totally need to polish these boots.  It will be my Christmas gift to them.

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Thursday: Going Old School

Shirt: Target (similar)
Jeans: Gap
Shoes: Ivanka Trump
Bracelets: Nordstrom, Ann Taylor, Lauren Ralph Lauren, c/o Soft Surroundings
Earrings: Filene’s Basement (similar)
Bag: Sabina (similar)

My company moved offices a couple weeks ago and one of the many perks of our new location is a modern bathroom… with a full-length mirror! I had to be at work at 7am this morning so no fancy photos from my husband. Figured I might as well take advantage of an empty bathroom with good lighting!

If you can’t tell, I woke up and thought it was Friday. I knew I had a lunch to celebrate a coworker’s pregnancy, and somehow that got me in a Friday denim frame of mind. Good thing I didn’t have any client meetings on the books today!

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Special Dedication Going Out…

…to the talent behind the lens.

He’ll do most anything to get the right shot… some pictures from a wedding we shot together a couple weeks ago… 

I work hard on this blog, but there’s no way it could be where it is if it weren’t for my husband. Seriously, check out my posts from 2005-2008, if it weren’t for his talent, his patience, and his support I would have probably stopped outfit posts.

The Man in Black at another event we shot together

His father was a photographer by trade, owned a camera shop in the town where I grew up. My mom even took photography classes from him years ago and remembers a little blonde boy playing with his Tonka trucks in the back room (we obviously didn’t know one another back then). He grew up with a darkroom in his basement, and when he decided to leave his miserable stressful job he knew it was the right decision to go into business with his father. Together they shot everything from weddings to high school soccer matches until his dad died unexpectedly in 2008.

Whether it’s jimmy-rigging an umbrella to get my outfit shots in the pouring rain, or taking OOTD shots of Emerson to entertain her during my shoots, he knows how to make the best of a situation!

When we decided it made more sense for him to stay home with Emerson during the day and stick to weekend shoots, he threw himself into supporting this blog. We switched from my Point-and-Shoot to his fancy-dancy DSLRs. As Emerson has gotten older, he has learned how to both entertain her and capture pictures of my outfit prior to driving me to the Metro every morning.

If I don’t mention him, it’s not because I don’t appreciate him and his skill, but because he does it for me, not for fame. But he does deserve some major props – for his great photos, his great attitude, his great soul, and for putting up with me and my crazy outfit photos every morning.  We make a pretty great team!

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Green with Envy: Superstitions and Chic Dresses

I love that green has become a popular color in fashion, for a long time designers didn’t use much green because of superstitions regarding it.  Some say the superstition came from Carl Scheele, a Swedish chemist who experimented with arsenic to create a shade of green (known as Scheele’s Green) for wallpaper and fabric.  While the chemist knew arsenic was toxic, he figured it was harmless when used for something that wasn’t to be ingested.  However, when the fabric got damp, it would give off a poisonous gas that caused many to become ill and some die.  Others connect it to the French actor and playwright Molière who died on stage wearing a green costume. There have even been superstitions with the color green in relation to auto racing, that wearing green to a funeral will mean that person will soon have to wear black to a funeral of a loved one, and even in China there’s the superstition that when a man wears a green hat his wife is cheating on him.

I obviously don’t believe any of these superstitions and wear green quite often (most recently on the blog I wore this bright green silk blouse from Dobbin Clothing). When finding links for yesterday’s post, I came across a ton of utterly gorgeous dresses. They weren’t appropriate for the post but I just HAD to share. It’s a great color in summer and looks fantastic with white and tan accessories, gold and silver jewelry, and pops of colors like yellow, turquoise, pink, and cobalt. Come fall, the color transitions well and can be made cool-weather appropriate with a denim or black leather jacket and ankle boots. And we all know how fun it is to have a festive green dress for December holiday parties! So here’s some of the pretties I found on my search; if you hover over the images you can find out the price; many green dresses are on sale right now but perfect for the entire year!

What I Wore: Spring Green

I am such a fan of green and this blouse from Dobbin Clothing is the perfect Kelly green for spring.  This is a tunic length blouse, so it also looks adorable untucked with some slim pants.  With wearable heels (seriously these shoes are uber comfortable all day) and a hat to sheild myself from the sun, I’m ready for outside brunch with my girl friends!

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Being Colorful while Being Green

I believe it is important to care for our planet, and am always on the lookout for ways to live a greener life while maintaining a quality of life and of course, style. I haven’t written a Going Green post in a while, and realized I have been enjoying some wonderful eco-friendly products lately without reviewing them for you. This is a collection of things I have been loving lately that are not only green, but also quite colorful!

Scout by Bungalow
Last year, Scout by Bungalow sent me their Junque Trunk to try out; ever since I have been a major fan. I love the durability, the amazing colors, and the versatility. I use the Junque Trunk in my closet to hold clothes that are in need of assistance prior to wearing (ironing, button replacement, etc.). Now that I have a larger car, I am going to get another Junque Trunk to keep the trunk organized. I am also checking out the Rump Roost, which would be a perfect solution for all the toys in Emerson’s bedroom and the Original Deano which begs to be taken to the farmers market on summer weekends.

Scout by Bungalow was created by fashionable Washingtonian Deb Waterman Johns. Johns is also known in the DC area for Get Dressed, a wardrobe-and-home consulting company. Scout by Bungalow came to be when Johns was in New York and saw those big plastic vendor bags (often seen around DC being used to carry clothes to the laundromat). Johns then saw a similar (though obviously higher quality and better designed) bag by Helmut Lang while on a trip to Milan. Johns and her husband saw a niche for affordable, creative, fashionable and functional bags and started “Bungalow, House of Scout.” It was successful, and the brand began carrying a variety of storage solutions, insulated bags, and luggage. Scout by Bungalow’s durability and cute factor makes the brand a stylish and eco-friendly choice.

KeepCup
A big apology to KeepCup who sent me a cup at the beginning of this year and I am just getting to review it. The reason for the delay has NOTHING to do with the cup, for it is a major favorite and I often have to fight with my husband to get to use it. Why is KeepCup so awesome?

KeepCup is the first ever barista standard reusable cup and the number one choice for sustainable and stylish coffee consumption. Already making waves in Australia and the UK, KeepCup is ready to change the way US consumers drink their coffee on-the-go. BPA-free, lightweight, recyclable, and fashionable – KeepCup is available in 25,000 color combinations so you can design the cup that tells your story and, unlike other leading reusable cups on the market, is designed by a barista to fit under the heads of most espresso machines. Available in four sizes – extra small (4oz.), small (8oz.), medium (12oz.) and large (16oz.) – KeepCup proves that convenience, eco-consciousness and style can go hand-in-hand.

I spent a whole lunch hour playing on the KeepCup site, creating the perfect cup for me (colorblocking – shocker!). I have a Small KeepCup which is perfect for that morning cup of coffee that I didn’t have time to consume before heading to the Metro; I also take off the lid and Emerson uses it as a “big girl cup” that has a nice gripper ring for her toddler hands, and is flexible and unbreakable – perfect for a big girl in training. KeepCups are non-toxic, food safe, microwave- and dishwasher-safe. Coffee and tea kept in the thermal KeepCup also stays hotter longer than in a disposable cup by at least 20 minutes.

tarte cosmetics
I know I have mentioned tarte before, but I don’t believe I have taken the time to properly rave about this beauty brand. tarte cosmetics specializes in good-for-you glamour, makeup and beauty products that are eco-friendly and cruelty-free. tarte cosmetics was created a little over a decade ago by Maureen Kelly. Kelly believed in cosmetics that could be high-performance and glamorous as well as healthy. tarte is a socially responsible company that cares about the environment, supports cooperatives in the rainforest, helps reduce environmental waste with sustainable packaging, creates eco-chic reusable components, and offers unique customer recycling initiatives.

Oh, and they make really fabulous makeup. I made the mistake this spring of not buying a replacement Park Avenue Princess Amazonian Clay Bronzer and instead going with a cheaper brand. One swipe and I was placing an order for more tarte. Not only does tarte’s bronzer look good, it does good with vitamins A, C, and E and is cruelty-free and also free of mineral oil, parabens, phthalates, and artificial fragrances. I also love their Lights, Camera, Lashes Mascara which lengthens, curls, and volumizes while being nasty-chemical free as well as cruelty free. Oh, and the package is recyclable! I also have their 24/7 Lip Sheer in my bag, and love it for a hint of color, dose of hydration, and necessary SPF when on the run.

Note: I did receive free product from KeepCup and Scout by Bungalow, however all opinions are my own as was the decision to write this post.

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Ask Allie: Going Corporate With Color

Hi Allie,
I’ve just started an internship in the technology section of a large investment bank and have been wrestling with what to wear. Do you think that colourful clothes are acceptable in a business environment if the silhouette and material is formal?  The dress code for my team is fairly business casual. However, we were advised on the first day that “you should not express your creativity through your outfit” and the other interns are sticking to a palette of black, white, grey and nude. Whilst I don’t want to look like a cartoon character, or have people think I look inappropriate, I also don’t want to be a faceless corporate clone.
In summary, do you think it’s acceptable to wear colour in a corporate environment? Or should I be sticking to black and neutrals and focusing on using the odd colourful accessory through which to express my personality?

Thanks, Emily

Hi Emily,
Like you I gravitate towards color, I find it flatters my skin and also my mood! I have worked in creative departments, and very conservative departments. I have attended conferences and business meetings with some of the most conservative government agencies, financial institutions, and private corporations. And I have always worn a bit of color and never had a negative reaction. While I wouldn’t meet with Department of Defense in a fuchsia suit with chartreuse blouse and leopard heels, I wouldn’t think twice about pairing a teal wrap dress with plum pumps or a Pucci-inspired blouse with a teal pencil skirt.

Color in the Workplace (Click Image to See Larger)
Bottom Tow L to R: It’s My Cardi, Academichic, ByHillary, BiblioMOMia

I think asking you to, “not express your creativity through your outfit” I think they mean more what items you wear, than what color you wear. In such a field I would steer clear of leather, lace, daytime sequins, short skirts, obvious logos, really wild shoes, neon colors, and drastic fashion trends. However, since there aren’t more specific rules (I have worked for companies who have gotten far more specific in regard to closed-toe shoes, hose, jackets for certain types of events, etc.) I think color would be refreshing, and would likely inspire your colleagues to follow suit by adding color to their wardrobe.

My current workplace is business casual (no one wears suits, men usually in chinos and polos), but I work in an office where we regularly host conventions and meetings, have visits from government agencies and our corporate team, and attend meetings offsite where we interact with high-powered government officials. I have made the decision to keep my attire usually on the more formal side of business casual so I can attend a last-minute meeting without having to scramble to an Ann Taylor on my lunch hour. I keep prints to a minimum because they can be a bit overwhelming in a sea of black and gray, but don’t shy from wearing it just on my blouse, or just on my skirt. I keep the really strong colors (electric, neon, and saturated primaries) to a minimum when meeting with clients, using them as a shell with a subtle-colored suit, a shell under a cardigan, a skinny belt.

Do know that certain colors affect people in different ways. My mom was a schoolteacher for many years and still substitutes a couple times a week. She chooses to not wear “angry colors” because she doesn’t wish to agitate the teenagers in the classroom. Depending on your position, it may be wise to consider how the colors you wear affect those around you.  A few popular colors and their psychological effect:

Red: Red is associated with fire and blood, war, danger, power, as well as passion and love. Red is an emotionally intense color; it speeds up the metabolism, increases respiration rate, and raises blood pressure.  Many find red to be an “angry” or “power” color.

Pink: Pink, a lighter shade of red, helps muscles relax and denotes feminine qualities.  Pink has the opposite effect of red, making one feel calm, protected, warm and nurtured.

Orange: Orange combines the energy of red and the happiness of yellow. It has shown to have positive effects on one’s emotional state; it increases oxygen supply to the brain, and stimulates mental activity.

Yellow: Yellow produces a warming effect, stimulates mental activity, and generates muscle energy. Like orange, yellow is a happy and uplifting color. It can also be associated with intellectual thinking: discernment, memory, clear thinking, decision-making and good judgment. Men often perceive yellow as a very lighthearted, ‘childish’ color. Yellow can also seen as a spontaneous color, so avoid using it if you want to suggest stability and safety.

Green: Green is the most restful color for the human eye; it relaxes our muscles and helps us breathe deeper and slower. Green is associated with nature, health and money.

Blue: Blue is the most popular and neutral color on the color wheel.  Blue proves to lower blood pressure and give feelings of security and peace.  According to studies, blue is the most popular and most accepted color among males. Navy or dark blue is associated with depth, expertise, and stability; it is a preferred color for corporate arenas. Like yellow, blue inspires mental control, clarity and creativity.

Purple: Purples have been used in the care of mental of nervous disorders because they have shown to help balance the mind and transform obsessions and fears. Purple combines the stability of blue and the energy of red; it symbolizes power, nobility, luxury, and ambition. Surveys show that almost 75 percent of pre-adolescent children prefer purple to any other color.

Brown: Brown brings feelings of stability and security. Brown also can denote masculine qualities.

White: White brings feelings of peace and comfort. However, too much white can feel cold and isolating.

Black: Black denotes strength and authority; it is considered to be a very formal, elegant, and prestigious color. Black is also seen as passive and can make one think you fear growth and change. Combined with red, orange and other powerful colors, black gives a very aggressive color scheme.

Gray: Gray is a color of independence and self-reliance. Gray also can indicate separation, lack of involvement and loneliness.

You were chosen for this position because of who you are, and color is part of that. I usually add a pop of color when on interviews to show my personality, and I always wear a typical “Allie” on my first day of work so they know what to expect (for my first day at this job I wore a teal boatneck sweater, black pencil skirt, and leopard print heels). Start off slow with just a brightly-colored shell or cardigan and see what reaction you receive. I’m betting it will be positive!

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