Monday, June 29, 2009

What keeps your green-self inspired?

I was so excited to learn that Hobby Farms magazine is starting this new mag, Urban Farm. As a farmgirl whose acreage is a little closer to a large city lot than a rural country farm, I'm truly psyched to see the first issue when it comes out in August.
Reading the preview of Urban Farm in the current edition of Hobby Farms magazine got me all tingly. It also reminded me what an important role magazines play in keeping me inspired. In my younger years, these magazines consisted of thick fashion and home decorating magazines. Then I realized how crappy reading these made me feel--I always felt like I did after waking up from one of those dreams where you are so thirsty and you keep drinking and drinking and never feeling like your thirst is quenched.
Now though, I find magazines like Mother Earth News, Grit, Countryside, Mary Jane's Farm, Back Home, and a few others keep me motivated and inspired to try to live greener and do more for myself and my family.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Social Networking--Green Media?

Are you tweeting? Have you friended someone lately? Are you LinkedIn?

Social Networking. For some it's a fun, interesting way to stay connected to friends, family, and clients. For others it's a nightmare.

Regardless of how you feel personally about social networking, I believe it's here to stay in the business world.

Social networking is a pretty green way to market your business. No need for direct mailings and no traveling door to door to meet sales clients. No need to copy hundreds of pages of information about yourself and your business when you want to show potential customers your products or services--just direct them to your Web site, blog, Facebook or LinkedIn page.

But does social media help or hurt relationships in the long run? A friend once told me that social networking is sort of "pre-networking". It makes going to those scary mixers a little less intimidating. My sister was telling me last night that social networking helps her to feel more connected to our extended family members. It gives us a way to catch up with each other when we get together for those relatively infrequent family gatherings. When you generally see people twice a year, it provides some connection to cousins and aunts and uncles, and a way to start a conversation.

But is there a point when a good ole' fashioned phone call or visit on the front steps is seen as too much work when you can easily IM someone or direct a tweet to them online? Where do we draw the line between social networking and hermitism? Isn't there something to be said for the connection between people that needs to be seen face-to-face, or at least heard telephone to telephone?

What do you think? Is social networking a great tool to stay connected, or a hindrance on personal and professional relationships?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Paper or Cloth?

With the recent addition of a baby to our household, there have been certain things that we've let slide in the environmental arena. No, we haven't stopped recycling or started using paper towels exclusively again, but we do run our small dishwasher more than usual and our washing machine, too.
One thing I've always planned on doing when I had a baby, was to use cloth diapers. Statistics estimate that over 27 billion disposable diapers are thrown away in the United States alone. An article in Countryside Magazine this month by Dennis Evers, states that "Over 50 pounds of petroleum products, 300 pounds of wood and 20 pounds of chlorine are needed to produce disposable diapers for one baby each year."
We've struck a balance between cloth and disposable in our house, but I feel slightly guilty that I use the disposable at all. I know many women who are all-cloth diaper users and don't seem to have a problem with it. I like to use disposable at night and sometimes for longer day trips when I'm not sure how readily available a changing table or clean surface will be. However, for us right now this is a good balance. I really like the diapers from Seventh Generation--rarely a leak and they are chlorine-free. They also seem thinner somehow than other disposables which we received as gifts, so they transport really well.
In addition to cloth diapers, I had planned to use cloth diaper wipes exclusively. While I got some great ones from Green Mountain Diapers, I hadn't had time to make the diaper wipe spray until today. Here's a quick recipe I found online for some:
2 Tbl. olive oil
2 Tbl. baby wash (organic if possible)
2 Cups of cold water
Add all to spray bottle and shake before each use.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Frugal Smugal

There was a time in my life when being frugal was a laughing matter. I used to babysit in my younger years, only to buy clothes, jewelry and makeup. I was a well-dressed teen and early 20-something with a very skinny bank account.

After reading the eye opening book, "Your Money or Your Life," I slowly changed my spendy ways and became something I thought I never would be.

A saver.

But slowly over time, spendthriftiness drifted back into my life. "It's so much easier to buy X," I would tell myself. "I'll never find another deal like this!"

And while my current budget doesn't allow for many extraneous purchases, that doesn't cut down on the "wants". It doesn't help to live in a culture which equates financial purchases with success.

Do you have family members or friends who seem to "have it all"? Trips all over the globe, in ground swimming pools and Jacuzzis, the latest model cars, new golf clubs and a clothes budget that would feed your family for a year? Spending time with these people can leave you with a feeling that whatever you have, isn't enough. Even if just that morning you were feeling oh-so grateful for your dishwasher and closet full of clothes, an afternoon spent with the Jones family can leave you feeling empty. "If only I had that," you muse. "Then I'd really be happy."

The truth is, if we got that we'd find something new to want within 24 hours. And let's remember that many of the things we see others enjoying are often things that they don't even own, but are purchased on credit. Who wants a big, fat credit card bill or bank loan hanging over their head?

One of my favorite places to visit when I'm in need of a little dose of financial reality, is The Simple Dollar. I've linked to one page in particular (Frugality) which has a great bunch of articles on the topic.

Now, enjoy your day and all the things that money can't buy: Love, family, peace, friendship, sunshine, green grass, laughter, health . . .

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

One plus in a downturned economy

I know the economy is bad. I know that a lot of really, really hard times have fallen on people who don't deserve it. A lot of people are losing their jobs. Some are losing their homes. And everyone I know is wishing and hoping that the economy will turn around soon. As a freelance copywriter and journalist, I'm wishing it too.

But there are a few upsides to the situation. One is that more and more people are staying home. Vacations closer to home, less meals out, more entertaining in the backyard. "Why is that a good thing?" you might ask. One, it means that less gas is being used which is good for the environment. Two, community is important and when people stay home more, they are able to become more a part of their community. This "stay at home" trend also reminds me of the time when my parents were young--a time when families spent more time together and weren't running off in 12 different directions every night of the week.

There is also a growing trend in bartering for goods among friends and family, rather than buying things outright. In the latest edition of Mary Jane's Farm (a great magazine) there is a short article on this topic. This is really good news for the environment! Trading goods means that less new things will end up in the landfill.

If you're interested in bartering or trading goods, check out Craigslist, Freecycle, Swap Tree, Swap Thing, and other bartering sites (try a search under Google for more ideas). Or try setting up an informal bartering/swapping system in your own family or community. It's amazing the great things that you can find for yourself and find new homes for if you get a little creative. If you're into travel, you might want to check out Home Exchange, where you can swap houses with someone in another area of the country or the world. A home exchange, whether here in the US or abroad, will make a very memorable summer vacation.

Healthily Ever After

*Photo courtesy of Windows

I'm re-reading an excellent book, Feeling Light. I love, love, love it. This is the second time I've read it, but I think I will keep it around for quite a long time for reference. It's one of the only weight loss type books that I would recommend to anyone. It incorporates a whole range of things to do to keep your body healthy, strong, and fit--both mind, body and spirit.

As I've mentioned before, I don't believe in diets. Of course a lot of people lose weight on a diet. But what happens when the diet ends? The weight, and usually even a bit more, comes right back on.

Feeling Light is a holistic approach to losing weight and being healthy. One of the most important pieces of the "plan" if you want to call it that, is this piece of advice: Don't worry about all you can't have, think of all you can. In the book, the authors are speaking to the fact that often people think that eating healthfully is some sort of punishment. "Oh, I'll never be able to have cookies and ice cream again!" Instead of thinking this way, the authors suggest that someone look at the 101 different types of produce that's available to them and all the ways that they could prepare and enjoy it. (And by the way, I would never, ever subscribe to the notion that cookies and ice cream are completely forbidden. Just that they're best eaten in moderation.)

This type of thinking can easily be transferred to other areas of our lives. What if, for instance, instead of thinking of all the things we can't afford, we thought of all the great things we already have? What if we spent a little time thinking about the parts of our job we loved, instead of the one or two aspects that are annoying? Instead of thinking about all that is wrong with our lives, what if we looked at the ways we could make it better?

Attitude is such a huge factor in our perception of the world around us. And you don't have to be a Pollyanna to see that a more positive attitude really can make a difference.