Tag Archives: Sustainability

Last updated by at .

Slow and Frugal: A Teen’s 10 Tips for Recycling and Reuse


Many of us are trying to do our part to help the planet. In our family we’ve seen that thoughtful consumption, use and reuse can also help us lead slower, less expensive, more purposeful, and more family-centered lives.

The biggest influence on my relatively green habits has been my daughter, Anna. From a young age, she showed great concern about our environment and the world she would inhabit.

Plastic waste in the oceans and in our landfills upset her so much that she embarked on a lifestyle of extremely limited consumption of plastic, oil, paper, water and other non-local or non-sustainable goods, which she has followed for about the last eight of her 17 years. She bikes to school and errands.

She buys little and often reuses or upcycles clothing and other items, by embellishing them or piecing them together to create new items.  She uses reusable bags, water and food containers, and water-bottle holsters, like these:


Dovetailing with Anna’s desire to use less is a desire to spend less. She sees these two practices as intertwined. Saving resources results in financial savings, and vice versa. Both also result in time savings, and the ability to spend precious time engaged in fun hobbies and with friends, rather than shopping and consuming.

Through Anna I’ve learned that, as conscious as many of us try to be, there is much work to be done, if we really want to change our habits and be thoughtful consumers and good stewards of the Earth. She recently sat down with me to offer her top ten suggestions for reuse, using less, and ultimately saving money, while conserving natural resources.

1. Bring your own shopping bag, instead of using plastic

“Only buy as much as you can carry.”

2. Bring your own utensils

“Camping sets are very inexpensive at army surplus stores.”

3. Turn off faucets and lights when they’re not in use

4. Don’t spend money just because you can

“You will end up wasting money. Focus on what you really need. Put yourself on a budget. Sometimes you have to decide whether you want one large thing or multiple smaller things.”

5. Try to go to local stores and buy local goods

“This eliminates imports and the transportation they require.”

6. Bike or walk instead of driving

7. Get out in nature

“This will immediately make you want to recycle and help our environment because you’ll appreciate where you are.”

8. Use your local library

9. Buy second-hand clothes and upcycle them

and the most important thing you can do:

10. Stop buying plastic bottles


Americans purchase 29 billion plastic bottles of water each year. This takes 17 million barrels of crude oil to make, enough fuel to keep one million vehicles on the road for a year. The energy used to pump, process, transport and refrigerate bottled water takes an additional 50 million barrels of oil each year.

The creation and transportation of plastic causes much of the world’s pollution. Bottles in the landfill take centuries to decompose and many end up on our beautiful shores and in our oceans. It’s easy to see why limiting plastic consumption figured in three of Anna’s ten recommendations.

It’s been humbling and refreshing to be enlightened by my own daughter and to watch her grow into a thoughtful and resourceful young person. I’m delighted to think that there are many more like Anna who are conscientious consumers and educators. Her tips can easily be put into practice by anyone who wants to make small changes that will have large ripple effects on their lives and the life of the planet.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman and Poor Planet

This post originally appeared in Frugal Mama.

What Our Kids Can Teach Us About Recycling

Many of us are trying to do our part to help the planet. In our family we’ve seen that thoughtful consumption, use and reuse can also help us lead slower, less expensive, more purposeful, and more family-centered lives.

The biggest influence on my relatively green habits has been my daughter, Anna. From a young age, she showed great concern about our environment and the world she would inhabit. Plastic waste in the oceans and in our landfills upset her so much that she embarked on a lifestyle of extremely limited consumption of plastic, oil, paper and other non-local or non-sustainable goods, which she has followed for about the last 8 of her 17 years. She bikes to school and errands. She buys little and often reuses or upcycles clothing and other items.  She uses reusable bags, water and food containers, and water-bottle holsters, like these:

Through Anna I’ve learned that, as conscious as many of us try to be, there is much work to be done, if we really want to be good stewards of the Earth. We can try to use less plastic in general. When we do use plastic, we can recycle it. 70% of plastic water bottles are not recycled. In California alone, more than 2.8 billion plastic bottles end up in landfills.

According to National Geographic, Americans purchase 29 billion plastic bottles of water each year, far outpacing other countries. This takes 17 million barrels of crude oil to make.

That is enough fuel to keep 1 million vehicles on the road for a year.

Oil is precious .. and limited. The energy used to pump, process, transport and refrigerate bottled water takes an additional 50 million barrels of oil each year. The creation and transportation of plastic causes much of the world’s pollution. Bottles in the landfill take centuries to decompose and many end up on our beautiful shores and in our oceans.

With this in mind, I was happy to learn about Arrowhead Water’s ReBorn bottle, which is made with 50% recycled plastic. Most plastic bottles are produced new and are not made with recycled plastic. ReBorn bottles use 50% recycled plastic, only because there isn’t enough quality recyclable plastic for them to use 100%.

This video conveys the beauty of recycling and sustainability.

Will you pledge with me to use less plastic overall, and to recycle when you do? If so, click “Like” underneath the video, and share this information with someone else.

This post was sponsored by Arrowhead. The views expressed are my own.

Images: Susan Sachs Lipman, Arrowhead, Poor Planet

Costa Rica “Gift of Happiness”, Part 1: Arrival in San Jose

We just got back from Costa Rica, thanks to an all-expense-paid trip from the Costa Rican Tourist Board through their Costa Rica’s Gift of Happiness Sweepstakes. It was a terrific and amazing trip in every way — providing adventure, relaxation, stunning natural beauty and diversity, warm and wonderful people, fascinating culture, inspiration about sustainability, and numerous opportunities for us all to practice our very middling Spanish.

Because our trip was scheduled to begin the day after Anna’s school year ended, we experienced a bit of a whirlwind leaving home. Our adventure began immediately, though, with an easy day of flying and arrival in “The Happiest Country on Earth“.

We truly knew we were in excellent, capable and caring hands when Carlos met us at the airport, in a Gift of Happiness shirt and bearing gift bags for each of us, along with a booklet of vouchers we would use throughout the week for hotels, tours and more.

Because we arrived late in the day, our first night was spent at the Ramada Plaza Herradura in San Jose, where the airport is located. It was a fine and vast hotel, with a Catalan-meets-Miami feel. We relaxed, sampled the Costa Rican liquor, Cacique (the brand) guaro, a strong sugar-cane-based, vodka-like liquor, and then a coconut-based cocktail called a Miguelito, while all-purpose international dance music pumped into the lounge.

The next morning we enjoyed the typical Costa Rican breakfast, Gallo Pinto, or rice and beans, along with sumptuous tropical fruits, grilled vegetables and dark bread. We marveled at our good fortune to have landed in this lovely, exotic country for a week and were full and smiling when Carlos came by in the Gift of Happiness van to take us to what he promised would be a very special place.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Gift of Happiness adventure.

 

12 Days of Green Holiday Gifts: Butterfly Girl Dolls

I adore these Butterfly Girl Dolls from the Canadian company, Little Humbugs. Each of the cute 12″ plush dolls comes snuggled inside a chrysalis, the way a real butterfly is. It’s a great idea — The chrysalis provides further play, teaches about nature, and doubles as the dolls’ packaging as a way to cut down on waste. Each doll is cutely designed in a color-coordinated outfit and bright wings, and each has a nature-inspired story — Jasmine is a protector of nature, making sure animals and plants are safe; Chloe is a gardener, growing beautiful and healthy things in her organic garden; Lucy is a bird keeper, nurturing and spending time with her feathered friends; Nika is a gemstone collector, making beautiful things with found objects.

There’s even an eco superhero for boys, Flint the Dragonfly Boy, who is strong, mischeivous and courageous.

Little Humbugs also offers beautiful Butterfly Girl books, custom prints and colorful fair-trade felt beads.

Little Humbugs and Butterfly Girls are the creation of children’s book author and illustrator, Marghanita Hughes. Marghanita is passionate about connecting children to nature and encouraging them to enjoy and steward the Earth, as well as appreciate its magic. This is easily apparent in all she does, from creating a company and products that use resources consciously to share a gentle message about the Earth, to exploring the wonders of the outdoors with groups of young children through a series of nature workshops, videos and books. The Butterfly and Dragonfly dolls are lovely, made with heart, fun to play with, and devoid of the consumerist trappings that similar plush dolls include.

Photo: Little Humbugs

My criteria for a green holiday gift? One that :

Promotes nature play or care of the earth
Uses all or mostly natural ingredients
Fosters observation and/or open-ended active and creative play
Doesn’t use extraneous plastic or other wrapping
Doesn’t break the bank to buy it.

Got any suggestions? Send them my way!

Other Green Holiday Gifts:
Homemade Cookies
Root Viewer Garden Kit

12 Days of Green Holiday Gifts: Root Viewer Garden Kit

I recently saw this wonderful toy and immediately got very excited about it. The Root Viewer Garden, from Toysmith, allows you to see what’s happening underground when you grow root vegetables like carrots, onions, radishes, and beets. And, best, it contains everything you need to grow your own root veggies and watch the show: a wooden tube holder; three 5 1/2” plastic tubes; growing medium; carrots, onion and radish seeds; instructions; and a journal for recording their progress from sprouting to harvest.

I’ve forced flower bulbs before, by growing bulbs in a water-filled bulb-forcing vase, but I think growing root vegetables in the Root Viewer’s tubes is far more visual, and therefore rewarding, for kids. With root vegetables, all the action is normally underground! Plus, there’s something about growing a food and learning about that process that is educational and stays with one for life.

Find Root Viewer Gardens at Home Training Tools or Wild Bird & Gifts. Or, make your own and spend time this holiday season enjoying it.

You’ll need:

Clear plastic cups, or bottles or jars
Seeds and dirt

Fill containers most of the way with dirt.
Plant root vegetables or quick-sprouting seeds, like beans, peas, lettuce, radishes, bachelor’s buttons, Sweet Alyssum, or Sweet William, close to one side, one or two per cup.
Place containers in the sun or on a sunny windowsill and water gently.
Watch as roots form and plants sprout.

My criteria for a green holiday gift? One that :

Promotes nature play or care of the earth
Uses all or mostly natural ingredients
Fosters observation and/or open-ended active and creative play
Doesn’t use extraneous plastic or other wrapping
Doesn’t break the bank to buy it.

Got any suggestions? Send them my way!

Huffington Post: Rise, Fall & Rise of New York City’s School Gardens

Every now and again, you stumble upon what is simply a great story. Daniel Bowman Simon’s Rise and Fall of School Gardens in New York’s Past Can Guide Us Into the Future traces New York City’s early community gardens, such as the 1902 Children’s School Farm in DeWitt Clinton Park on 54th St. and 12th Ave. in Manhattan, which was planted as much for the civic virtues and love of nature it would instill in its young gardeners as it was for its vegetables and flowers.

A couple of years after its inception, there would be a whole School Farm movement, with an astonishing 80 plots in New York. In 1931, there were 302 school gardens, which accounted for 65 acres.

Over time, the gardens vanished. In most cases, their land was redeveloped. Simon notes that we need to take heed and not let that happen again. He cites some wonderful trends regarding the current uptick in school gardens – namely First Lady Michelle Obama‘s White House Garden and other programs that I’ve written about here, the new school garden at P.S. 29 in Brooklyn that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and celebrity chef Rachael Ray helped promote, and the work of the Children & Nature Movement.

Do yourself a favor and read the article. The graphics are wonderful. And the story turns out to be the writer’s testimony in the recent public hearing held by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, which very recently completed a set of community garden rules designed to strengthen protection for gardens.

White House Photo: Samantha Appleton

Bike and Walk to School Day, Month, Life

October 6 (Update: October 3 in 2012) is International Walk to School Day, and the whole month of October has been designated Walk to School Month. Schoolchildren are encouraged to walk, bike, skateboard, scooter, bus, or carpool to school — anything that is different from the one child-one car system. And they’re encouraged to keep doing so, when and if they can. The beauty of the program, which was started in 1997 and expanded from a day to a month in 2006, is that a month is long enough for something like walking to become a routine and a habit, and a special day can energize people who might not have considered walking or biking before.

As of yesterday, more than 3,200 schools had registered for Walk to School Day on the U.S. Walk to Schools web site, a figure that’s expected to both increase throughout the month and be bigger in actuality (as not every school registers its efforts.)

First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign is also involved in the effort.

Of course, many of us remember when walking and biking to school was the norm and didn’t require any special days or rewards. The Safe Routes to Schools website notes that 42% of all students (and 87% of students within a mile) walked or biked to school in 1969, compared with 16% (and 63% within a mile – frankly, I would have thought that number was lower) in 2001. Busy schedules, parental fears, suburban sprawl, lack of school-bus funding, and other lifestyle shifts have all contributed to a culture of driving to school drop-off zones, even in towns where walking and biking is pretty do-able. I’d love to see figures for today, because I think the norm has shifted once again.

The U.S. Walk to Schools site has a lot of wonderful information about the benefits of walking. The site’s Frequently Asked Questions page has a great checklist to help parents determine the walking and biking safety of their own neighborhoods, as well as suggestions for customizing a walk if the school is too far away for walking or biking. There are also lists of U.S. and international cities and countries that are participating in International Walk to School Day.

My community has been participating in International Walk to School Day, through our local Safe Routes to Schools program, for years. I have witnessed first-hand the increase in regular walkers and bikers to school since the program started. More people, of all ages, out on the streets make them safer for the next group of schoolchildren who comes along. Communities also benefit from getting to know one another better, as they get into the healthy walking habit together. And families, if mine is any indication, experience less stress (the school drop-off zone always seems unnatural and harried. Is it me?) — and more joyful time together when parents can walk with younger children.

The number of participating schools goes up each year — perhaps yours has already planned some events, assemblies or rewards. Let us know!

Enjoy International Walk to School Month!

Here are more great resources:

Marin Safe Routes to Schools
U.S. Safe Routes to Schools
U.S. Walk to Schools
International Walk to Schools
Why Walk and Bike?
Safe Routes Guide for Parents and Teachers (very comprehensive)
Field Notes From the Future: Safe Routes to Schools Publishes New Resource Guides
Car Free Days: Wednesday is Intl Walk to School Day (but you can walk/ride all month)
Car Free Days: Biking to School … Without Parents
Free Range Kids: Non-Sanctimonious Blog About Today: WALK TO SCHOOL DAY!
Slow Family Online: Why Can’t She Walk to School in Today’s New York Times?

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

Slow News Day: Car-Free and Carefree

Two stories recently came out about car-free living. One is from the delightful blog, New Urban Habitat, Abby Quillen’s always wonderful, inspiring and useful collection of stories about living more simply, sustainably, healthfully, and happily. Her piece, Lessons in Car-Free Living, contains a wealth of benefits and tips for getting your own family out of the car for short, simple runs.

This is definitely something we’ve been trying to do more increasingly in my household, and have been having good success. We combine bike riding for short distances with public transportation for longer commutes.

Another fan of public transit turns out to be one of the stars of my favorite TV show, the highly evocative, endlessly dissectible Mad MenVincent Kartheiser, who plays ad executive (and new father) Pete Campbell on the show. He recently revealed to the New York Times his utter joy of taking public transportation in Los Angeles, and using it as an opportunity to relax, study his lines, and commune with his fellow passengers — all enthusiasms I share (usually) when taking my local ferries, buses and trains. Said Kartheiser:

I like that my life slows down when I go places. I have all these interactions with the human race and I can watch people living their life and not just in their car.

He also mentioned a recent consumer study from Learning Resources Network that noted that motorists ages 21-30 generally don’t grant car ownership and driving with the same status that older people do. According to the study, this group favors mass transit for commuting and car sharing services, like Zipcar, for longer trips. It turns out that companies like Hertz are listening — They are expanding car sharing choices, especially in big cities and around college campuses.

At 80 million strong, the article notes that this 20-30 age group represents a very large cohort. According to William Draves, president of Learning Resources Network, “This group views commuting a few hours by car a huge productivity waste when they can work using PDAs while taking the bus and train.”

That’s how I feel! Productivity and joy far outweigh the convenience of driving my individual car, especially as I happen to enjoy walking (to/from the public transit), too  — and sometimes find driving a bit stressful. (Of course, the area in question has to offer good public transit and city planning for this to equate.)

The article also notes that, in survey after survey, 20-30 year olds say that they believe cars are damaging to the environment. Even hybrid electric vehicles don’t seem to be changing young consumers’ attitudes much.

Yay for the green young people and others who are adapting habits that are good for their own physical and psychological health and that of the planet. This young group, and the one coming up after it, offers plenty of cause for hope.

I’ll also add that, as with many personal choices, there is usually not one that is all good or one that is all bad. I believe everyone needs to make his or her own choices based on what feels right for them. Sometimes, for me, taking the car is the right thing to do. I remain cheered by the general attitudes and consciousness of the people quoted in this article, including the corporations that are following suit by offering alternative rental cars where young people are.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman: Car-Free Sundays, a Summer 2010 New York City program

You might also like: Bike to Work and School Day

Slow Family Receives Green Phone Booth’s One Lovely Blog Award

I just learned that Slow Family Online has been named a recipient of the One Lovely Blog award from The Green Phone Booth. Green Phone Booth is itself a fantastic blog, full of new, useful ideas for living a simpler, greener, more creative, and less consumerist life. Everything on Green Phone Booth is offered up with great humor, practicality, and pretty graphics, making it a real go-to in the world of green blogs.

Thank you, Green Phone Booth, for the award! It’s been fun to learn about the other chosen blogs, and I feel honored to be in their company. I look forward to passing on my own Blog Award, and letting you all know about some lovely blogs I’ve found, in an upcoming post.

From Treehugger: Frugal Green Living Posters

Canning, victory gardening, carpooling, conserving resources, living frugally — There are a lot of parallels between a whole swath of trends and activities today and those from the 1940s. In both periods, outside forces (war, the economy, the environment) have caused a lot of us to take stock and change some of our homefront habits. In the process, many of us discovered or rediscovered some relatively lost arts on the way to using less.

The always-relevant Treehugger has offered a terrific blog post, Frugal Green Living: Posters for the Movement, which features a collection of 1940s posters that, while making statements urging people to reconsider wasteful habits, are also themselves wonderful examples of message-oriented graphic design at its mid-century zenith.

I love these for their bold graphics and nostalgic style and marvel that they are fairly relevant today – except for the last one, of course. Though Treehugger makes the point that cooking fat is now collected for biodiesel fuel, rather than to make explosives. And that is undoubtedly a good thing.

Posters: Minneapolis Public Library

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...