Thursday, January 10, 2008

It's Reusable Bag Month!

Did you know that simply by using a reusable bag you can cut your ecological footprint? You’ll also begin to make a dent in the waste and pollution that sees 12 million barrels of oil and 14 million trees wasted each year to make plastic and paper bags.

Most plastic bags are made from polyethylene, which is made from crude oil and natural gas, nonrenewable resources. This increases our dependency on foreign suppliers. Additionally, prospecting and drilling for these resources contributes to the destruction of fragile habitats and ecosystems around the world.

This is such a simple step that will really make a difference—just Bring Your Own Bag when you go shopping. You can usually find tons of canvas or other sturdy bags at thrift stores. Who cares if they have some company logos on them! Many stores also give you a few cents off for each cloth bag you use. If you feel like you must buy new bags, you can take the Carbon Conscious Consumer pledge, and you'll also get a 20% discount to use at!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Story of STUFF

I was thinking about the new year coming up and my compact pledge. I have kept to it for the most part, with the exception of some books that I should not have purchased. I am going to be more diligent in 2008.

For those contemplating doing something similar or are simply interested in where our stuff comes from and where it goes, there is an interesting video that talks about this.

The Story of Stuff
From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Its Time to Junk the Junk Mail!

One of my evil adversaries in the decluttering war is .... PAPER! I cannot believe how much paper comes into my little apartment. Combine that with my total lack of organizational skills and the bad habit of just setting mail down wherever, it becomes quickly overwhelming. So, I am going through the paper, one stack at a time. I've got three boxes next to me:
  • One for recycling
  • One for shredding
  • One for things that need to be filed (of course I need to figure out exactly what needs to be kept and I need a good filing system. PLEASE give me ideas)
I cannot believe how much junk comes in through my mailbox. Sitting here looking at all of this cr*p, I almost feel violated. There are tons of those credit card application things, flyers, catalogs, requests for money from charities, and on and on.

I am determined to shrink the amount of mail that comes into my home. Here are some things that you can do to tame this "paper monster":

  • Stop junk mail from entering your home in the first place. There are several ways to go about this.
    • Go to to get off of the credit card lists. This is supposed to be good for five years, at which time you need to renew your decision to "opt out".
    • Go to to get off of mailing lists. It costs $1.00 to remove your name and address from mailing lists and you can sign up online or by mail with their registration page.
    • Do what I did and sign up with They claim to be very effective at cutting out your junk mail by up to 90% and they plant a tree each month in your name. I did an online search before I signed up and didn't see anything that would raise red flags. You can stop the junk mail for up to 8 people living at one address. If you are receiving catalogs that you'd rather not get, there is a place for you to put in the titles and they will stopped as well. This service is $36 for one year but I signed up with them because I like what they are doing and want to support a group like this. EDIT: When I signed up with them, it was $36/year. However, I just got an email yesterday from greendimes telling me that they are issuing a $21.00 refund. The fee is now only $15.00 year.

  • Sign up for electronic statements
    • Go to your bank's website as well as the sites for your credit cards and find out if you can opt out of getting your statements in the mail each month. Most financial institutions now have the capability for customers to access the last several months worth of statements online. You would also be able to print out a particular statement if you needed to.

  • Keep your shredder handy.
    • No matter which method you choose to get off of mailing lists, it will take 2-3 months to really see the decrease in the amount of junk you receive. In the meantime, keeping your shredder (and recycling bin) handy and don't let your junk mail pile up. When you get the mail, open it up, decide if it is something that you need to act on or file. If not, and if there is any personal information on it, quickly shred it and put in the recycling bin anything that does not have to be shred.

I'm sure there are many other things that you can do regarding the clutter and waste that is junk mail. I would really love to hear ideas from other people out there. And I still really need ideas as to a good filing system and a system for dealing with bills. For too long I've had stacks here and there and have, I'm ashamed to admit, paid things late because of this. Please send any ideas my way so that I can improve in this area.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Downshift Your Driving -- Go Car Free One Day a Week

It takes total carbon dioxide emissions from most countries worldwide combined to equal just vehicle emissions in the United States, and as we consume more and more gas, pressure builds to drill in fragile and conflict-ridden areas. Yet a quarter of the trips Americans make are within walking distance, and each American driver could keep nearly a thousand pounds of carbon dioxide out of the air by taking the Carbon Conscious Consumer pledge to find an alternative to driving only one day each week. With gas prices so high, now is a great time to start reducing our reliance on cars.

Each month from July to December, Carbon Conscious Consumer will highlight a new, simple way each individual can make an impact, plus show the difference each person makes both individually and along with the people they’ve influenced; prizes go to participants who influence the most new pledges.

This August, keep the car in the driveway one day each week. Each gallon of gas that goes unused keeps twenty pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. You can even go one step further and use information you find on to improve your gas mileage for the times you do have to drive. Visit the website now to get started.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

How long has it been since you've taken a vacation? I don't mean using your vacation days when your children are sick because your own sick days have been all used up. I mean when have you taken a couple of weeks off to reconnect with your children, your spouse, or even yourself? Do you even have the what-used-to-be-standard 2 or 3 weeks per year of vacation time? Many employees find that they do not even get that benefit anymore. Of those that do, many are afraid to actually use that time...afraid that they will get too far behind at work or even that it will be seen as a sign of weakness and could put their job into jeopardy. Did you know that in Australia and Europe, 4-5 weeks of vacation time per year is mandated by law? Employees in Canada and Japan have 2 weeks by law. In the United States, there is no mandated minimum. It is estimated that in the U.S. vacation time is an average of 4 days per year. Is it any wonder that Americans seem to be chronically stressed?

A few months ago, I wrote about a campaign to return to the dinner table, which was sponsored by a group called Take Back Your Time. They are now attempting to launch a campaign to pass an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act called "The Minimum Leave Protection, Family Bonding and Personal Well-Being Act of 2007". If passed, this would

  • Protect you from having your vacation cut or eliminated by an employer

  • Protect you from chronically cancelled vacations

  • Protect you from losing vacation time when you change jobs. You will always get three weeks after a year at a job.

  • Protect you against retaliation for taking your vacation time, and end the fear of replacement, demotion, or lost promotions when you take all the time in your company policy.

  • Provide a pro rata share of the three-week vacation after three months until the one-year mark is reached. For example, after six months, you would get 1.5 weeks off.

If you are interested in helping with their campaign, here are some ways they suggest you get involved:

  1. Sign up to volunteer and be a volunteer coordinator in your community or state by emailing Executive Director Lisa Steubing ( Provide as much information about yourself as you can--why you're interested; what kind of work you do; full contact information; whether you're willing to speak with the press or electronic media;

  2. Send them your stories about the struggle for vacation time. If you are willing to speak to the media. The media thrives on personal stories and they want to be able to offer some. Tell them if you don't get paid vacation or don't feel you can take it all. Tell them if your company is particularly good on this issue--they want to honor those companies that are. If you want to tell your story but don't want your name made public, let them know that too. All of your stories are important!

  3. Provide financial support. They need your time, but they also need money to run this campaign and keep Take Back Your Time afloat. Every dollar matters. They are seeking to raise $15,000 through this appeal. That's less than two dollars from each one of us. Please consider sending $25, $50 or even $100 or more. Also, please consider making a recurring donation, every little bit counts!

Chinese-produced fresh ginger is recalled

WASHINGTON, July 30 (UPI) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning Monday for consumers to avoid eating fresh ginger imported from China.

See link for more information