LED: Making the Switch

Wow, I just crunched the numbers. I just reduced my reduced my wattage consumption by 77%.

The bulk of our blog has focused on using less, reusing, zero-waste, reclaimed, etc. etc. One of my favorite catch phrases comes from the gorgeous Elsie Green House and Home reclaimed home goods store in Concord, CA, states,

Not making something new is the greenest thing of all.

During my home remodel, this catchphrase was often an inspiration. Not making something new made the case for my rustic reclaimed wood floors, funky 1960’s vintage light fixture, and delightful antique cabinet bin pulls. But when is it time to break up with the old and embrace the new? In terms of lighting, if I replace a working lightbulb, isn’t that wasteful? Shouldn’t I just replace an incandescent bulb with an LED as they go out?  Continue reading

Notes on my Monarch Adventure

You wouldn’t know it from my recent obsession, but I only recently learned about monarch butterflies. It happened randomly one day, as I crammed 20 or so odd books into a basket in the children’s section of our local library. As we read through the pile over the next week, I came across the book, Mr. McGinty’s Monarchs by Linda Vander Heyden. Now one of my favorite reads for inspiring and educating the budding environmentalists in my life (check out my favorite children’s books list), this bright book took ahold of our household. We loaded up for a trip to the Monarch Butterfly sanctuary in Pacific Grove, passed out milkweed seed packets to trick-or-treaters (my father in law was super thrilled about that. NOT!), and for planting the monarch larvae host plant, milkweed, in my new pollinator garden. IMG_0135

I don’t know why, but I was skeptical that simply planting milkweed would attract monarchs. After all, their population has plummeted by 95%! But holy moly! You plant it, and they come! When my husband reported a monarch sighting in our backyard, and I scarcely believed him. I quizzed him on shape, color, exact location, etc., etc. Then, while looking out a window onto my milkweed plant, I noticed the leaves looked a little…. munched. And they were! I counted at least 9 caterpillars!

Like Mr. McGinty, I wanted little helpers to tend to my little larvae friends and whilst educating them about monarch butterflies in the process. I scooped a few off into a jar and dusted off my aquarium from the shed and off to the preschool I went.

I set up my tank, complete with built in ventilation and plant growing spectrum lights, in my daughter’s “Butterfly” classroom (love the irony of the name). I’ve also heard of using collapsable mesh hampers turned upside down, but I wanted to use what I had on hand, and an aquarium would provide for excellent viewing. Always a mason jar fan, I made mason jar vases for milkweed, with holes in the tops to keep the cats out of the water. I put in some branches for them to climb and form their chrysalises on, and brought in fresh sprigs daily of milkweed from my garden.

By the time the caterpillars made it to the classroom, they were pretty big and took little time form into chrysalises. The first one happened right in front of the tank on a branch, and the entire class crowded around to watch it happen. One teacher caught it on video and posted it to the class’s Instagram. It was so cool to watch the kids watching the transformation. The three other caterpillars soon followed suit. IMG_0132

The jade and gold-crusted chrysalis were beautiful beyond words. It was so beautiful and perfect, that they looked fake or manufactured, or something you could put on a gold chain and wear around your neck. Eventually, the green gave way to a translucent and then black casing, and you could see the tell-tale monarch markings inside, indicating that the butterfly emergence was imminent. Two weeks after chrysalis, they turned into beautiful butterflies!

I supplied them with pesticide-free zinnias for a tasty nectar snack while we waited for all four butterflies to emerge (but no longer than 24 hours). At recess the next day, I dressed the girls up in their butterfly wings and off to school we went. In front of a group of kids and another parent, we released the butterflies from the aquarium. I must admit, it was a beautiful sight, and I choked up a bit.

This experience, raising milkweed and learning about the monarch lifecycle, environmental stressors adversely effecting their population, migration pattern, teaching our replacement generation, is not unlike my journey to learn more about what I can do to help stem the tide of climate change. I don’t really know what I’m doing, I know there’s a problem, I can help in my own way, and I can teach my kids about it so they can live lighter lives on our planet, and spread the word in the meantime.

Want to help the monarchs? Don’t buy or use pesticides, and plant milkweed! Here’s a IMG_0131foundation that gives you free milkweed seeds based on your location: http://www.livemonarch.org. You can also pick some up from your local nursery or ask a friend or neighbor. I’m on a local Facebook homesteading group and a quick request on their had me well take care of. Here’s a list of other butterfly host plants, as well as nectar plants.

I’m no expert, and I certainly have more to learn, but here’s what I did. If you are reading this little blurb and have experience or insights on how to improve, please! Comment or contact me!IMG_0120

A Post about Popcorn

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This is my first blog post in a very long time. Not that you’ve noticed because my comadres Lily and Missy have been keeping Love, Laugh & Make Lemonade going strong during my unexcused absence.

I could write a book (let alone a blog post) about how and why I’ve been slacking in my zero-waste pursuits: summer vacation, laziness, unprecedented heat, traveling, houseguests, summer-time ear infections, ER visits, broken wrist, surgery…

But instead, I’m going to write about popcorn. Continue reading

Three things you can do today… while waiting in line.

Greetings from the Denver, Colorado Hertz rental car line. Why this line is sooooooooo long. Luckily I’m armed with an iPhone on full charge. Here are three quick things I know I can do before I decline any vehicle “upgrades” less it be a hybrid.IMG_0645

1. Message your representatives- let your local, state, and/or national representatives know how you are feeling. Not necessarily about the line you are in (hopefully), but about your concerns about climate change. If you are fortunate enough to have representatives in line with your values as I am, you can take time to thank them as well. I just shot Kamala Harris a grateful shout out for co-sponsoring a single payer healthcare bill with Bernie Sanders and to keep up the good work defending California’s coastline and national parks. I also wrote my California state senator Mike Mcguire in support of SB-149 which comes up for a vote on Tuesday. It would require any presidential candidate to disclose their tax returns before appearing on the ballot.

2. Plan a beef and palm oil-free menu. Check out Lily’s post in time for a tasty burger on Labor Day. 

3. Email a company about their sustainability practices. Here’s an example Lily used for our favorite yogurt company. One vice I can’t seem to kick is GT’s kombucha with its plastic cap and ring. I have tried other brands with aluminum lids, and they just don’t quench my craving for the Booch. Yes, it’s wicked easy to make your own and I even had my brew streamlined to just how I liked it with my scoby Artem (every scoby needs a slutty name). but I still find myself picking up bottles Of GT’s. I contacted them via their website:

Hi!

I love your Kombucha!

I’ve made my own and tried lots of different brands but yours is the one I keep returning to. I drank it through both of my pregnancies. I found it to be a great substitute for a glass of wine in the evening and an effective tonic for nausea.

I’ve embarked on an adventure to curb my carbon footprint. One reason why I went shopping around and brewing my own was because I’m avoiding the consumption of plastic. I appreciate that your bottles are made of glass, but they are capped with plastic and sealed in a plastic ring. While plastics are technically recyclable, 90% isn’t. Furthermore, plastics are derived from fossil fuels and cannot biodegrade, so it’s a product that’s dirty to make and lasts the lifespan of the planet.

I’ve noticed other brands of kombucha, while not as tasty as yours, bottle differently. Some come with an aluminum lid and built in seal. Even better is a returnable bottle with reusable lid. Please consider switching to either these or another form packaging that achieves the goal of reducing waste.

I’d also love to hear more about what your company is doing to decrease your carbon footprint.

Kind regards from a fan,

Mellissa

 

Sent from my iPhone

New Old Floors with Perfect Blemishes

Months ago, Lily and I went on a delightful and kid-less adventure to a nearby salvage yard. They reclaim wood and metal from tear downs and sell and remake old items into something new again. Visiting the yard, like an antique shop or flea market, excites like a buried treasure hunt and serves as invigorating exercise for the imagination.

The show room highlighted floors from such products as wind-fallen maple and used walls from grain elevators. I plunked my credit card down on 1218 square feet of reclaimed Douglas fir shiplap, pocked with nail holes, with an ambiguous delivery plan. It felt rebellious and invigorating to have a green spin on replacing my water-damaged flooring.

I had only seen the product on the showroom floor, and while luxuriously wandering through the yard after taking care of the business of paying for the floors, I saw the pile of what I had purchased. I’m not going to lie, my heart sank: Apparently I had just purchased something barely acceptable for the fireplace? IMG_0110

The guy who unloaded it into my living room to acclimate thought so too. My otherwise delightful contractor quickly decided the same and stated, “I’m not installing that crap.”

While I could understand why he might feel that way, I wanted someone who understood the vision. Not wanting to convince a skeptic, I hired a craftsman who has been finishing and installing these floors for some time. He understood the beauty only time could impart to the wood, the patina that you can’t just create in a day, and the stories the nail holes could display. He said something that really struck me and had me thinking: when and why did floors need to become cabinet-quality and blemish-free? Homes used to be dirt floors or maybe simple wood. You walk on them, spill on them, live on them. Think of what they must endure! Then why do we freak out when they get inevitable scratches in them?IMG_0629

The first time I saw them in my house, they weren’t nailed down and the floor person wanted me to give him feedback. It was a jolt to adjust from our old light bamboo flooring. Did I marry a brunette when I only had a thing for blondes? I wandered from room to room and looked at every board. Some I thought were too rustic and would be turned over to the lighter side. Most weren’t and many of them were so unique, individually stunning, and intriguing. I began to feel like I was perusing a gallery, considering a piece of art with each slat. I would look at a board and think it was my favorite and then find another board that boasted even better blemishes and marks and then that one would become my favorite. A blemish, it turns out, is a floorboards’ best feature.IMG_0631.JPG

I love my new old floors. They are rustic, unique, and practical. They fit my taste and lifestyle. If I get a nick in them, it will only add to the charm. My favorite part, however, is that they were given new life and diverted from the dump. After all, not buying new is often the greenest thing of all!IMG_0625

 

Saint Benoit Creamery

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Saint Benoit makes amazing yogurt and milk that comes in glass bottles that you can either return (milk) or reuse (yogurt) with metal tops. We love them and buy them constantly, its great to have a product that is responsible so we don’t have to go without. I strongly encourage you to try them!

However, there is one thing that we complain about. Continue reading

Back to School

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First day of school 2016

I used to love back to school shopping when I was a kid. The stationery store was so exciting with all the binders, dividers, specialty pens, and notebooks, oh my! Nerd alert. Then there was the clothes shopping! My Grandma loved to take us back to school shopping. I’d try on oodles of clothes and she would help me accessorize each outfit properly. Then we’d have lunch at some charming place or another, I usually got the caesar and lemonade, she would always surprise me. It was so fun, in a ladies that lunch sort of way.  Looking back I can see how wasteful it was and I was, though. So this year I tried to be really strategic about how I shopped for back to school for my daughter.  Continue reading

Wool Insulation: How to Knit your House a Sweater

We are remodeling our house. What started from a pinprick leak in the ice maker tube to our freezer morphed into a kitchen remodel, and now a major overhaul to the infrastructure of our home. Not only are we talking new floors that warped from the leak, but we are replacing our incandescent lighting with LED fixtures and bulbs, replacing our original crumbling galvanized plumbing, and upgrading the hot mess our electrical panel turned out to be behind some fancy garage sheetrock. Its been a challenge, but I also know that our home will be much safer once its all said and done.

What a whole manner of sins sheetrock can cover up. My hidden shoddy wiring and fancy taping of illegal wires would be enough to give Smokey the Bear hemorrhoids. We uncovered what was luckily a ghost town of rodent condos. And whatever sort of crazy toxic insulation that had been sprayed on most of the walls along the back side of my house had “failed,” according to my contractor. They found insulation the texture of sand that had settled to the bottom half to one third of my wall space, where it was even used at all! Not only was it not insulating my house from temperature changes and energy waste, chunks floated around my exterior that my kids quickly thought was sooooo much fun to play with since it crumbled into a fine powder that was oh-so-enthralling. Gross! Why would I want my home lined with something I know is toxic, not healthy, and not at all something okay for my kids to be playing with?

My contractor was already pleased as punch with me because I had his guys remove all of the recycling from the waste bin. I’m sure he braced himself when it came time to ask me what kind of insulation I wanted to use. He was wise to know I wouldn’t stand for any of that pink cotton candy fiberglass crap.

I had heard of cotton insulation, with 80% recycled denim, and its actually pretty readily available and reasonably priced, quite comparable to fiberglass in fact. In fact if you aren’t about sheering sheep or are on a tight budget, denim is a great eco-friendly option! But when I sat down to do a little research of insulation types, and it was like love at first sight when I discovered there was such a thing as wool insulation!

I love wool. Its amazing stuff. I’ve talked about it on Lovelaughandmakelemonade before. I love wool socks, I knit my kids wool pants, and plugged wool underwear. It turns out to be a great insulation for your home as well.

Here’s a quick list to tell you why:

  1. Its renewable: sheep grow more wool after every shearing
  2. It takes 90% less energy to produce than traditional insulation
  3. Its biodegradable: compost it when you are done with it
  4. It lasts a long time, for the life of your building
  5. Its naturally fire resistant
  6. Its naturally rodent resistant
  7. Its naturally mold and fungus resistant, even if it does get wet
  8. It maintains its insulation properties even if it does get wet
  9. It absorbs formaldehyde, improving air quality
  10. Its safe to handle and install and requires no special protective equipment
  11. It expands in your walls rather than settling, increasing the overall seal an efficiency of your insulation
  12. Great acoustic properties

So I brought home a few ewes and got out my husband’s hair clippers and went work insulating my kitchen. Hehe. I didn’t. But that would work too!

Rest assured it comes in batts or as loose “blow in” insulation. I first tried to purchase wool locally, but I was disappointed that I couldn’t find anyone locally who carried it. I let everyone know when I called and visited that I was looking for wool insulation, “No not ‘wall’ insulation– well, its for your walls– but WOOL insulation. As in Bahhhh, like the sheep!” – so they could remember that there are customers out there looking for this stuff and will hopefully carry it soon.IMG_0096

It shipped from Oregon from a small company who was terrible about taking my order, answering my questions or returning my calls. Alas, I had it shipped and I ordered it from a green building supply company eco-buildingproducts.com, from a guy named Greg who took the time to answer all of my questions. One of my questions was, “Why are these guys so bad about returning a call or replying to an email and answering my questions?” The sales person’s satisfying reply was that he had experienced that with them before, but that they are actually a small company of a few folks who actually go out and tend to the sheep themselves, leaving the marketing and questions to people like him. Best excuse ever!

I found I could get a slightly higher R-value for less money by using the loose insulation, although it did take longer to install. It came stuffed tightly in a cardboard box with fabric to staple into place and hold the loose insulation. Guess what? It didn’t come wrapped in plastic either! Jazz hands! It was more expensive, but not prohibitive. As Lily pointed out, healthcare is expensive too! IMG_0104IMG_0106IMG_0107

While I noticed the dramatic acoustic benefits immediately, I’m curiously awaiting the colder season to really see how this stuff performs. Honestly though, it has little to go to improve upon what junk was posing as insulation in my walls. I relished the opportunity to learn something completely new while making my home safer, less toxic, and more energy efficient.

 

Three Things You Can Do Today- Go Solar

Here are three simple ways to lasso the sun just like Maui in Moana without strapping solar panels to your rooftop. Its free, saves you money, and reduces energy consumption-and thus greenhouse gas emissions.

  1. Hang your clothes to dry: if you have a rope, you have a clothesline. I have a simple collapsible rack I purchased for pennies a long time ago that is good for small spaces. I would LOVE a pulley system in my backyard, but I have a lot of other ‘I-wants’ right now that I’m content with my little metal rack. Skip the dryer and pocket the energy savings as well by letting your clothes dry in the sun. I also find that folding clothes “right off the line” makes quick work of folding a load. Bonus points- its a boost for your whites too, as the sun will naturally bleach them whiter.

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    Dry those Hanky Pankys and Sexy Wooly Underoos al fresco.
  2. Open the curtains; turn off the lights: As long as the sun in out, reach to open the shade instead of flipping that switch. Test yourself and your marriage by putting a little masking tape over your switches. I promise you reach for your lights more than you realize. Bonus points: make the switch to LED and save more money on bulb replacement and a massive percentage on overall electricity consumption vs incandescent bulbs. Bonus bonus points: flex your purchasing power by contacting your energy provider and purchase only sustainable energy.

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    Replacing each bulb with an LED equivalent can save you upwards of 80% of your energy consumption per bulb. What a brilliant idea!
  3. Plant some veggies: You know who does solar best? PLANTS! They are the ultimate converters of solar energy. Eat them! Grow them, eat them, save gas guzzling trips to the store, and all of the other energy that goes into our industrialized food system to grow, transport, refrigerate, package, market, store, and dispose of food that is not nearly as tasty or nutritious as something grown by you. Bonus points- plants munch carbon dioxide. 

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    Sun Gold tomatoes pair nicely with barefoot baby toes