Being Green

Vegan Mofo

Posted in Being Green on October 28th, 2010 by Lacey – Comments Off

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. My day job has been going through some changes and I’ve been focused on that, plus I have a 2.5 year old! Sleeping and cooking generally take up whatever time is left. However, I’ve made a commitment that will, at least for the month of November, populate this blog with a lot more posts. I’ve joined the Vegan Month of Food–or better yet, Vegan MoFo!

What does this mean? It’s means a bunch of new entries about vegan stuff. Let me be clear in saying that I do NOT believe that it’s necessary to be vegan to be “green,” but for me it does play a part and well, this is my blog.

So get ready! If there’s anything anyone is interested in learning about, lemme know. I’m @agreenerlifeorg on Twitter.

39 TV-free activities for you and your kids

Posted in Being Green on June 8th, 2010 by Lacey – 17 Comments

Rain-splattered 2 year old art (awesome!)I’ve been wondering lately when life got so complicated.

I started noticing a couple of weeks ago that every time I took my daughter out to the playground when I got home from work, I was messing with my iPhone, checking Twitter, using the Facebook app, just doing mindless things to pass time. Why wasn’t I just playing with her? Was she not stimulating enough for my already overly-stimulated brain?

What I SHOULD have been doing was playing with her and trying to recall what it was like to be a child and play with glee on the playground.

We’ve fallen into these routines in our house that involve a lot of computers (we have at least 6 in the house, 2 are non-functional), a lot of television (3 half-hour episodes in the AM, maybe one or two in the evening, a movie in between perhaps…sometimes more, sometimes less), and just a lot of busy-ness overall. It was with a shock that I realized last week that this was a grotesque amount of tv to expose a 2-year-old to and I needed to make things right before she grows up (and is gone, sniff!). My fear is that she won’t want to be with Myk and I when she’s older because she’s so busy communicating with the outside world. Seeing that that’s likely inevitable in some form or another, I want to savor the time we have together now and hopefully show her that it’s great to unplug and have fun.

So I risked public scrutiny for letting my 2-year-old watch so much tv and put it out there on Facebook:

Anyone: how do you entertain your children for long periods of time without using a television? Wanting to stock up on ideas.

I was not expecting to receive DOZENS of responses. They were so great that I wanted to give them a permanent home here on Greener Life. This list couldn’t come at a better time since so many kids are on summer break now. Enjoy!

  1. Listening to music
  2. Playing with empty paper towel tubes (swords!)
  3. Twister
  4. Blocks/Legos
  5. Coloring
  6. Mud (!)
  7. Stickers
  8. Playing with water–moving from one receptacle to another
  9. Play-Doh
  10. Puppets
  11. Making forts/tunnels/tents out of tables and chairs covered with bedsheets
  12. Books
  13. Big, empty cardboard boxes
  14. Join a playgroup
  15. Watercolors
  16. Sidewalk chalk
  17. Bubbles
  18. Obstacle courses out of regular (safe) household items
  19. Playing outside!
  20. Swings
  21. Balls
  22. Bike/tricycle
  23. Kiddie pool/sprinkler
  24. Poker (!)
  25. Play food in a play kitchen
  26. Sand
  27. Going to the park
  28. Giving a recording device to the child to allow them to make their own news broadcasts
  29. Pots and pans to bang on
  30. Floor puzzles
  31. Keeping a garden
  32. Picnics
  33. Pretend grocery shopping with Daddy’s wallet (hehe)
  34. Kid yoga
  35. Baking bread and washing up together afterwards
  36. Finger knitting
  37. Conga line
  38. Dancing and singing
  39. Pretending/playing “office” using home office supplies

I remember loving to play by myself as a child, and later with my brother after he came along. (I remember my brother and I playing a game we called “Meteors” that involved both of us pretending we were orphans drifting through space in a lonely spacecraft (ie, his crib). It was so depressing though, I don’t know why we liked that game.  I digress.)

As you can see, there were a lot of great suggestions. I can always turn to this list now (and so can you!) for inspiration. I do have to share with you what I felt was the most poetic response from a friend, former colleague, and design mentor, Bob Reddy. Bob and his wife Kathy raised two amazing kids who are now immensely talented adults, and here’s what he shared:

We built skylines out of cardboard blocks and then swung a wrecking ball (tied to the ceiling) at them. We make people and animals out of playdoh or clay and then slammed large meteors into them and then excavated the fossilized remains. (Do you detect a bit of a testosterone-influenced agenda here?) We set up stores and then bought cookies from each other. We rolled steel marbles down long metal tape-measurer tracks. We blew large bubbles made from dish soap and glycerin and water. We climbed into boxes. We made a net across the living room and played balloon volleyball. We made up words and used then in ridiculous sentences until we were laughing too hard to continue. We made paper airplanes and flew them. We drew stories on paper as they unraveled in our mouths. We invented ways of blupping wet sand through our fingers. We accidentally affixed jello cubes to the ceiling.

Then later he shared:

Here’s another one I forgot to tell you… Go to the bathtub and fill about 30 water balloons with warm water and leave them in the tub (you may use assorted sizes and shapes for added interest). Then fill the tub with warm water for your kid’s bath. The balloons are neutral-buoyant, meaning that they sort of co-exist with the water and hang out “all casual-like.” This provides a spectacular arena for three dimensions of squishy fun. Narratives about fish, atoms, cells, planets… At the end of the bath – you get to pop them all in the empty tub. We once used the very long thin balloons and a few big 14-inchers. They are very heavy if you were to take them out of the water, but perfectly playable in the water!

How awesome is that?!

This past weekend we had a completely tv-free weekend (with the exception of a snippet of the George of the Jungle movie while at a social event…we needed Navab to simmer down for a while while a serious discussion was happening). I have to say: I was terrified of the prospect of having to entertain her or provide her with ideas for entertainment for the WHOLE WEEKEND (normally I drop her off at school and let them do that part) but you know what? I loved it and she didn’t ask to watch tv. Not once!

Now you have no excuses–get moving parents. Unplug for a while and enjoy your kids!

Urban Composting

Posted in Being Green on May 25th, 2010 by Lacey – Comments Off

I would think that on everyone’s “going green bucket list” is composting, but when you live in an urban area with limited outdoor space, you will either give up or get creative.  I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to introduce a compost bin into our lives without it taking up too much real estate on our tiny back patio (I know…something in Texas being small? Wha?). While engaged in this research, I’ve come across some pretty good to know stuff about compost–there’s so much great stuff to learn. Enjoy!

Happy composting!

Gulf Coast oil spill

Posted in Being Green on May 24th, 2010 by Lacey – Comments Off

Colin Beavan pretty much sums it up: Is there even anything to say?

Oil Cleansing

Posted in Being Green on April 25th, 2010 by Lacey – 8 Comments

I’m going to now tell you a story. This story may be very scary for some of you,  so please be prepared. This is the story of how and why I stopped washing my face with soap and started washing my face with…

Oil.

Yes, oil.

About 2 months ago, I was doing some research on facial cleansing for acne-prone skin. For the most part, since my mid-20s, my skin has been pretty good.  After we moved to Houston and before I became pregnant, I noticed my skin started breaking out at the temples with these patches of hundreds of tiny little whitish blemishes…they weren’t deep, but they were persistent and itchy. I couldn’t make them go away, either. Then, I got pregnant, and they went away.  I figured it was hormonal.

About a year after I had my daughter, they came back…except this time, they were all over my face–forehead, temples, cheeks, jaw…everywhere.  The interesting part about this is that anytime I leave Houston for a few days, they start to clear up, so it’s something about living in Houston.  I was wrong about it being hormonal after all…there is some bacteria in Houston that doesn’t get along with my skin.

Anyways, I was doing this research and came across a site that says basically the only way to get rid of chronic acne is to slather your skin with concentrated doses of benzoyl peroxide. Since I’ve tried a lot of products/methods to treat my acne (the latest being Proactiv, but over the years I’ve used just about everything and don’t want to start that over again) and am unwilling to take oral medicine to kill it (such as Accutane), I thought I’d give it a go. I mentioned it to my husband and he just looked devastated. “Really? Are you sure? That much benozyl peroxide can cause cancer.” I had no idea about this, so I did some more research. As it turns out, benzoyl peroxide is quite toxic. Sigh.

After some moping around, I decided to do something radical and go in a completely different direction. I found a site with an article about cleansing your skin with a blend of oil. I know–sounds nuts–because I’ve been using all these products for the past year trying to get RID of the oil, but that was my own misunderstanding.  But because my skin was already broken out, I thought I’d give it a shot.

In one of my old Dermalogica containers I blended 1:1 olive oil to castor oil, and added a few drops of tea tree oil. I slathered it on my face, used a washcloth to steam for a few minutes, then wiped it off.

After doing this twice a day, then once a day, and now once every 3 days or so (I just clean with water and/or steam at morning and night)for a few months now I can confidently say that while I still have acne, my breakouts have neither intensified nor lessened.  BUT, the quality of my skin is much better and I haven’t had a dry patch in weeks. In other words, benzoyl peroxide was hurting me more than it was helping me after all.

The moral of the story is this: there are so many mainstream ingredients and products that we use all the time that are actually completely toxic. These products are so mainstream that we don’t even know what to do without them, what the alternatives are. Think about how humanity has survived this long without these chemicals and ask yourself if there’s some simpler way to get the job done. Then do it. :)

Kale Chips, Vegan Kitchen

Posted in Being Green, Food and Recipes on March 29th, 2010 by Lacey – 3 Comments

Kale about to be oven-baked where it will turn crispy and you will forget it ever started as kale.

Since I started cooking more seriously last fall (I should say, since I started cooking last fall, period), I’ve discovered there are several things I’d consider staples to our vegan food stash. Here’s a partial list of things I keep on hand at all times. But before you read that, first admire this tray of innocent kale, about to be baked into a delicious treat known as kale chips. Now I know you know that I have lost my mind but I swear–THIS IS SO GOOD. There are so many recipes out there, but here’s your crash course recipe: preheat oven to 400. Take a bunch of organic kale, wash it, cut off the ends, and tear into bite size pieces (as you see here). Toss to coat (lightly!) with 1 or 2 tbsp olive oil.  Lay a sheet of parchment paper on a cookie sheet and lay the kale on the parchment (if you don’t have parchment, don’t sweat it). Bake for approx 10 min until it’s papery-sounding when you poke at it. Remove from oven. Enjoy!

Now, the list of things you can’t live without!

Proteins:

  • organic tofu
  • tempeh
  • variety of canned beans (garbanzo, black, white, etc)

Grains/pseudo-grains:

  • quinoa
  • brown or red rice
  • all-purpose and whole wheat pastry flour (and also all the other usual baking stuff–baking soda, powder, organic sugar, vanilla, etc)
  • smattering of other stuff–flax, barley, amaranth, millet, whatever you’re in the mood for trying

Produce:

  • some variety of dark leafy green (swiss chard is my favorite right now, but kale and spinach are also usually in there, or you could try mustard or collard greens)
  • onions-red and white
  • small or medium organic potatoes
  • fresh broccoli
  • frozen corn, okra, green peas, snow peas, and organic edamame (for soup)
  • frozen stir fry veggies
  • 28oz can of cooked, diced tomatoes (for soup)
  • one or two varieties of whole fruits such as oranges, bananas, organic apples, or plums

Misc:

  • nutritional yeast
  • olive oil
  • powdered vegetarian boullion (yes, I know it has tons of salt, but it’s good for so many things)
  • Bragg Liquid Aminos
  • Veganaise
  • various seeds such as pepitas

Myk and I are going to try to start buying our produce at farmer’s markets on the weekends here in Houston. We really are in one of the few places in the country that has a year-round growing season, so we are going to try to take better advantage of that.

A note on cooking: I’ve been cooking a lot from Vegan Brunch lately, but I will also cook pretty much anything from Veganomicon. I find their scones and muffins especially worthwhile in that book (my personal favorites are the lower-fat banana bread and the pumpkin cranberry scones), but everything I’ve tried has been pretty good.  I also hope some magical elf will leave me How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman someday–I’ve immensely enjoyed learning about food in How to Cook Everything, so I think it’s vegetarian counterpart will be awesome.

Now all I need is a bigger kitchen!

Notes from SXSWi

Posted in Being Green on March 28th, 2010 by Lacey – Comments Off

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of attending SXSWi for my day job (as an interaction designer). I can’t decide if it was good or bad fortune, but the conference grew 40% in attendance this year over last year, so it was quite a different experience than what I’ve had in the past (I’ve attended since 2008).  One good-turned-bad thing that happened was that I wasn’t able to attend as many tech-related sessions due to them being completely with crowds spilling out the doors, but this gave me the opportunity to attend some “greener” sessions held at the same time.

Austin really is the perfect place for this conference, what with all the greenery, the bicyclers everywhere, the healthy eating, and the Whole Foods flagship store (my favorite!).  People had some GREAT eco-geeky ideas, mostly benefitting society as a whole.

Charging Station This is a Sol Design Lab charging station, one of several set up around Austin for the crowds of SXSW.  The founder explained that the project is a result of her MFA program. The panels are solar and the charging stations are repurposed retro gasoline pumps. Quite the fitting (and dignified) tribute to Texas oil, if you ask me.

I also learned about leading a zero-waste lifestyle (which would involve a lot of sacrifice to me, so I’m trying to find something that’s more sustainable) and about dozens of awesome start-ups (such as Recycle Match) designed to help people and the environment.  Mostly, things designed around recycling, upcycling, and connecting people who need things (whether they realize it or not).  I was pretty excited to see the VP of marketing for Patagonia among the attendees, but there were really some stellar ideas floating around and I was humbled by all the ingenuity.

Bye-bye “eczema”

Posted in Being Green on February 10th, 2010 by Lacey – 2 Comments
California Baby bubble bath

California Baby Overtired & Cranky bubble bath

My toddler has struggled with eczema for as long as I can remember. There have been red, rashy patches behind her knees since she was a tiny baby–I was told it was environmental and some kids just have it. I have faithfully applied Cetaphil lotion after every bath (every other day), have avoided overbathing her, have avoided using steriod cream to keep her from itching…it just seemed like it would never get better.  I’ve been using what I thought was the simplest, mildest bubble bath available.  Oh, how I am a sucker for advertising and a cheap pricetag.

While in Target recently, my eye was caught by the “Overtired and Cranky” (heh) label on the California Baby bubble bath and thought despite the $13 commitment that I’d give it a shot.

And wouldn’t you know–after a week and two or three baths, no more “eczema,” which I’m guessing was actually a skin allergy to the chemicals in cheap soap. No red patches. No more waking up itching. No more “Mommy, itchhhhyyyy!” Completely gone! An added irony is that in the product description for this great stuff, it says, “California Baby® non-drying (extremely) biodegradable gentle bubble bath strictly avoids the use of synthetic fragrances and harsh bubbling agents. This product was developed to avoid irritation (that is typical of other bubble baths), and we never use Sodium lauryl sulfate, DEA, or numbing agents.” I believe it!

Big, huge thumbs up to California Baby. Thank you and you’ve got a customer for life.

Valentine’s Day crafts

Posted in Being Green on February 4th, 2010 by Lacey – Comments Off
Heart memory game via Scrumdilly-do!

Heart memory game via Scrumdilly-do. This project completely rocks!

I love Valentine’s Day. Cliche? Yes, because I said “love” (wah-waaaaah). But I think this holiday is the perfect excuse for DIY-ing some cards, decorations, and gifts. Something about the personal-ness of v-day makes it especially appropriate to make your own tokens of appreciation for that special someone.  I’ve been seeing a ton of cool and fun projects come through my feed reader lately–projects that can be accomplished using materials you probably already have in your possession.  Some of these are more kid-centered but that’s to be expected–we all need an “excuse” to make a Valentine heart lei.

And if you are a Baha’i, you can keep these decorations around or repurpose them for Ayyam-i-ha. Neat!

The Ethics of Being an Environmentalist Vegan; “Eco-friendly?”

Posted in Being Green on January 23rd, 2010 by Lacey – Comments Off

Part I: I’ve really been struggling a lot lately with priorities. Namely, is it more important to be an environmentalist or to be a vegan? I am starting to think it’s impossible to be both without some level of give. For example, if you are a vegan, you don’t consume animal products on any level–your clothing, housewares, or food. That means you’ll likely choose an artificial material as a substitute (for let’s say, shoes or a belt) which is, most likely, derived from oil (not a renewable resource). In the couple of months that I’ve been avoiding all animal products both in food and in lifestyle, I’m having a hard time reconciling the fact that even though I didn’t kill an animal, I’m probably creating more of an environmental impact (negatively) by wearing or using this whateveritis.  From here on out–I’ll just be doing the best I can, probably buying anything leather first as a seconhand item, and then as a firsthand purchase if I am out of alternatives.

I know there are alternatives to this choice and if I just try harder, I’m sure I can make it work. But what I’m thinking is that as busy as I am and being middle class–I simply can’t afford it.  Also, I did this as an experiment because people are very sensitive about the label “vegan.” Meaning–vegan is not just the way you eat. So, I’m calling myself a vegetarian who doesn’t eat dairy/eggs. There ya go.

I’ve decided that my focus, instead of being vegan, needs to be my consumption of renewable resources.  Say what you will, but animals are technically a renewable resource, and my personal ethical beliefs are that animals are beneath humans on the food chain and that they can lead very nice lives in certain circumstances before being consumed. That doesn’t mean I’m going to start eating animals, but I’m going to be open to ethically-produced animal products, such as leather.

We are happy to serve you

We are happy to serve you ceramic mug

Part II: Here’s a story I found amusing this week: a coworker was showing me her new Copco To Go Cup, which touts itself as “eco friendly” because it’s reusable and you’re not throwing away a similar-looking coffee cup every day.  Now–this cup is BPA-free but is still plastic. A better alternative might be the I Am Not a Paper Cup, the Eco Coffee Cup with double porcelain walls and a silicone exterior (serious coffee business there!), or the single-walled porcelain Eco Cup.  I’d love to test run all these since I’m a regular coffee drinker, so we’ll see what can be arranged.  But honestly–if you recycle your #5 plastic lid (Starbucks lids were #5 last I checked), your paper cup is renewable. So in certain circumstances, I think throwing away or recycling your coffee beverage is just fine. Better than throwing away a plastic cup–or even recycling it!

My point though: just consider what might be “eco-friendly.” It’s such a hot thing right now that people are calling all kinds of stuff eco-friendly.  I don’t consider something eco-friendly just because you can reuse it–we should all be reusing things as a regular habit of life. I do consider something eco-friendly if it is made of eco-friendly materials (such as porcelain which is, essentially, made from mud), can be reused, and then can be recycled after you’re done with it.

To close, I just had to share this adorable NYC-esque ceramic cup.  Want!

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