Monthly Archives: June 2010

How Careful Should Green Bloggers Be?

It’s interesting blogging about living an eco friendly lifestyle. There’s a lot to talk about, even if some days inspiration is hard to come by. There are often news stories to think about commenting on, products to be reviewed or recommended, and lots of tips to give.

One of the challenges, as with any kind of blogging, is keeping things accurate.

One of the challenges is keeping things accurate.

This isn’t always an easy thing to do. Anyone can make a mistake, and sometimes you aren’t given all of the information you need to be as accurate as you would like to be.

Are You Checking Your Resources?

When you blog, you should be paying attention to where you’re getting your information from, whether it’s information on a sample a company sent you to review that they say is green, or something interesting in the news. You aren’t doing your job if you aren’t trying to be accurate.

Companies greenwash products regularly

This isn’t always easy. Companies greenwash products regularly (PDF), using vaguely environmentally friendly terms that aren’t regulated to describe them. You can’t always get enough information about how a product is made to be absolutely certain it is what it says it is.

When you report on a news story in a green blog, choosing the right resources matters. You aren’t often going to be a firsthand witness, and even if you are, odds are good that you will need some help explaining exactly what happened and what it means for the environment.

There’s nothing wrong with reporting more than one side of the story and adding in your own perspective when you’re a blogger. Blogging usually is about one’s own view of things. But start with a source that gives you whatever facts are available.

Don’t Review Just Anything

Many companies will offer green bloggers completely inappropriate products for review. Sometimes you can really tell that they just want the product name out there, they don’t care how it happens.

I suggest a couple of basic rules for products.

First, if it’s clearly not eco friendly, think if you want to bother. Sure, you can criticize it, but is the product you need something sent out to you to do that? That could just be a waste.

Don’t be afraid to give a negative review.

Second, don’t be afraid to give a negative review, even for eco friendly products. No one likes everything. The more honest you are in your product reviews, the more readers will trust you when you do like a product.

Third, do consider if you really want to review products just for the price of being given the product for free. There are a few perspectives on this, from the point that magazines get free products to review regularly to the point that you’re running a business and your review can be seen as a service to the business, something you should be compensated for. Whatever you do, be upfront about any compensation, including free product you receive, when you do your reviews.

Admit Your Mistakes

We’re all human. Mistakes happen. Admitting a mistake isn’t unprofessional… to the contrary.

Use any mistakes you make as a lesson to your readers. Discuss how the mistake was made and how you can avoid it in the future. It will be good for you and your readers.

Should You Worry About Dirty Reusable Bags?

There was a report in the news the other day about the bacteria that are found in most reusable shopping bags. It seems that 97% of users never wash their reusable bags, and so coliform bacteria are found in most of them.

Sounds bad, right?  You don’t want dangerous bacteria growing on your food. The solution, at least, is simple.

Wash your reusable bags!

That’s it. Problem solved.

If you aren’t certain that your reusable bags will be safe in the dryer, just line dry them. Inside out in the sunlight is probably a good choice.

It’s a small addition to your laundry routine, and worth the trouble to ensure that you don’t get a problematic level of bacteria growing in your bags or contaminating your food.

Once they’re clean, put them back in your car, your purse, by the door or wherever helps you to remember to bring your own bags.

And don’t worry too much about the germs. The presence of bacteria doesn’t mean that there are enough to make you sick. The main time you should think about it is if you carry raw meat or poultry in your bag. Wash it after, and you should be fine.

20 Things Your Kids Can Do for the Environment

It’s not just adults who should be doing the best they can for the environment. Kids can help too. Take some time and teach them to do their part.

1. Reduce

The 3 Rs apply to your kids, and reduce is the first one to teach them. Help them to learn the difference between need and want. When you go shopping with them, and they start begging for whatever it is they see on the shelves, discuss why they want it. If it’s needed, talk about what makes it needed. If it’s just something they want, talk about when you buy things you just want and when you should skip them.

2. Reuse

Kids who enjoy crafts are great at reusing things. They can make wonderful projects from things you might have otherwise thrown into the recycle bin or thrown away.

3. Recycle

Teach them from a young age to sort items into the recycle bin. Once they’re old enough to recognize the types of paper, plastic and metals that can be recycled in your area they can help put recyclables in the right place rather than in the trash.

4. Walk or Bike to School

If your child’s school is at all within a reasonable distance, why not have them walk or ride a bike there. Odds are good that you did the same growing up if your school was near enough. It never ceases to amaze me how many people I see driving less than a block to bring their child to school. With the crowd of cars around the school, walking would be faster for many of them, including the time to return themselves home if the parents went with the kids.

5. Pick Up Trash

We love to go hiking as a family. One thing we include in our hikes is picking up trash if we pass some. It’s easy to carry a bag for trash as you go walking. This can be done at neighborhood playgrounds as well.

6. Turn Off Extra Lights

There are some ages where kids will be really good at this one. They’ll give you a hard time anytime you forget to turn off a light as you leave a room. Other times, they won’t be so good at it.

7. Turn Off Electronics When Not in Use

Kids these days spend a lot of time with electronics these days. Television, computers, video games, kids love them.

Some of these you only need to teach the kids to turn off when they’re done with them. For others, you may want to consider adding in a power strip so that the electronics can be turned completely off, and not use any extra power at all, even for displaying a clock. You can also buy a smart strip so that when certain electronics are shut down, associated items are turned off as well.

8. Plant a Garden

Whether you plant a serious vegetable garden, a few herbs, some flowers or a tree, it’s all good for the environment if you keep it organic. Kids usually love gardening, and any produce grown is good for them too. Remember the bees when you choose your flowers!

9. Help Compost

While dealing with much of the compost pile may be an adult or teen job, kids of any age can throw fresh vegetable scraps into the compost pile.

10. Volunteer

It can be hard to find age appropriate volunteer opportunities when the kids are young sometimes, but it gets easier as they get older. Volunteering helps your children to see how fortunate they are in what they have and that others make do with far less.

11. Use Reusable Containers to Bring Lunch to School

Many school lunches aren’t so healthy, so having your kids bring their lunch to school is a great idea. Don’t use paper bags or plastic bags for their lunches. Buy reusable lunch containers for them. I particularly like my daughter’s Klean Kanteen water bottle.

12. Donate Old Clothes and Toys

Have your kids help you to go through their old clothes and toys and find the ones in good enough condition to donate to a worthwhile charity.

13. Shop Resale and Thrift Shops

If you don’t teach your kids this one while they’re young, you can get a lot of resistance at first. Keep it up and they will realize how many great outfits are available for a lot less money. This teaches them to be thrifty and to look for used items before buying new.

14. Use Homemade Cleansers

Kids should start doing chores around the house as soon as they’re old enough. But why expose them to the harsh chemicals of store bought cleansers when you can teach them how to clean with healthier products such as baking soda and vinegar? Better for them and for the environment.

15. Eat Less Fast Food

Kids love fast food, but most of it is bad for them and the environment. Talk to them about why eating out too much is a bad habit.

16. Close Blinds and Curtains

This is most important during the summer, when the heat comes in through windows. Closing the blinds or curtains helps to block much of that heat. It’s also a help in winter, to keep heat from escaping the house, however there are times where having even the winter sun come into the house is a benefit, so help your kids know when to let the sunlight into your home.

17. Open a Window

As the day cools, teach your kids to open windows rather than run the air conditioner during the summer. It works really well, keeps the power bill down and doesn’t create any carbon to open a window.

18. Set Up a Bird Feeder

Feeding the birds in your area not only can help them, it lets the kids see the range of birds that live in your area. You may have to explain about predators, however. My sister has a bird feeder, and sometimes sees hawks chasing the smaller birds.

19. Use Fewer Toys that Require Batteries

Many children’s toys require batteries. The problem isn’t just the batteries, it’s that many of these don’t encourage creative or active play. Do get rechargeable batteries for those toys that do need them, but have your kids think about playing more with toys that don’t need batteries at all.

20. Eat Less Meat

This comes easier to some kids than others. Some may be ready to go for complete vegetarianism or veganism. Others will struggle to cut back, just as many adults do.

Have regular meatless meals. Explore new recipes as a family. Be amazed at how wonderful some meatless meals can taste.

Who Really Won the Supreme Court Decision on the GM Alfalfa Ban?

The Supreme Court issued a ruling on a ban on genetically modified alfalfa seeds that has both Monsanto and environmentalists claiming a win. So who won?

There’s a touch of both. But Monsanto doesn’t come out as clear as they want people to think. They still can’t have their GM alfalfa grown commercially until it’s proven safe enough for the environment. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has to review it first for safety.

That’s where Monsanto could win this one, to my disappointment, although that wasn’t what the Supreme Court was ruling on. So far APHIS thinks the alfalfa is safe. They have a lot of comments to review before giving approval, but it concerns me that they might approve it.

A big plus is that the Court has recognized the potential for environmental harm coming from transgenetic contamination, and that organic farmers should have the right to go to court over gene flow from genetically modified crops to their own crops.

Overall, I’m not happy about GM alfalfa getting closer to being planted, especially when the modification is so that it can withstand more herbicide. The alfalfa in question is one of Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” varieties. More poison being sprayed on crops because they can handle it better isn’t exactly what I’d call a good situation.

Some countries have already banned GM foods and seeds, and I can see their point. We don’t know enough about the effects of genetically modifying our foods, the foods given to animals that people eat, or the effects of modified genes getting out into the wild. This is dangerous stuff we’re playing with.

My one hope at this point for our country is that farmers who are impacted by genes drifting onto their crops take advantage of this ruling and sue whenever there’s a problem resulting from someone else’s use of GM seeds. There are consequences we already know about and that farmers have experienced – let’s see some of that come out in court.

When Was the Last Time You Walked Your Errands?

Driving to run errands is very much so a habit for most people. It’s easier and faster. But if the places you need to go are within walking or bike riding distance, it’s perhaps not the right choice. How often could you do errands without using your car, and how often do you?

It’s a question worth thinking on.


Whether you want to walk, ride a bike or drive depends in part on how far you need to go. If it’s under a mile, walking is often not a bad option, weather permitting. Biking a few miles each way can be a reasonable choice too. There’s certainly a point where driving or taking mass transit makes more sense.


Some weather is better than other weather for walking or riding. Extremely hot and humid days can be a poor choice, especially if you aren’t used to doing a lot of walking. However, you could carry a water bottle and wear a hat and sunscreen on hot days to make things safer. You do not want to overheat or suffer from heat stroke.

Personally, I like walking on rainy days, but not quite so much for shopping errands. It depends on how much rain you’re talking as well. Snow is probably not the best for walking errands unless they’re pretty short.


Not all areas are safe for walking or riding a bike. You need to use your common sense.

A lack of sidewalks is a big part of the problem in some areas. There isn’t always a safe shoulder for pedestrians to walk along on busy roads that they need to use to get where they’re going.

How Much You’ll be Carrying

Some errands, even over a short distance, really don’t work as walking or biking, or even mass transit errands. Sometimes you need a car to carry everything you buy or are disposing of.

Reusable Bags

Having reusable shopping bags is wonderful when you don’t drive your errands. They can have much more comfortable handles for carrying purchases. They also go well in bicycle baskets or folding shopping carts if you want an easier way to lug things along.


You don’t need a lot of gear to walk your errands. The main things you need are comfortable walking shoes. Good shoes are worth the money.

I also recommend a hat for sun protection. My mother’s been serious about hat use since having a skin cancer removed from her scalp. That’s good motivation for me too.

If you think you might take a bike for some errands, it’s worth the money. They cost much less than cars (obviously!) and need only a little maintenance here and there. Include a basket on the bike to make running errands on it easier.