How Does Your (Organic) Garden Grow?

Organic GardenI’ve been writing about my organic garden, and organic gardening in general, for a while now. I’m far from being a gardening expert, but each year I learn a little and try to make some changes to reflect what I’ve learned. Like many green things, choosing organic gardening can be a little more difficult in the beginning. The temptation is there to kill weeds “quickly & easily” with toxic sprays and to cover plants in Miracle Gro to get the largest, though chemical-filled, tomatoes we’ve ever seen.

When you’re first starting out, it’s important to remember that your early efforts in setting up your organic garden do pay off. You’ll end up with better soil that’s more resistant to disease and when you prepare the soil beds properly, you eventually have fewer weeds to deal with.

Green living (and organic gardening) is all about looking ahead — making choices now that will create better, healthier results down the road. Much of the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into is because of here and now thinking & acting. It’s so easy for us to tell our children that they need to consider the consequences of their actions. The truth is, so do we.

So back to organic gardening. If you’ve taken the plunge and decided to grow some things either for the first time, or if you’re gardening again this year — please let us know how it’s going. Do you have questions? What are you growing? Why is organic gardening important to you?

Where to Start with Going Green

It’s easy to become overwhelmed while adopting a greener lifestyle. For one, there’s a lot of conflicting information out there. And, two, it can feel like you need to change EVERYTHING about your life in order save the planet and your own health. It’s hard to know where to begin.

Here at Smart Green Tips, the focus is on saving the planet and saving money. Most importantly, when we do those things, we also save ourselves. Generally, what’s good for the planet is also good for us. But that philosophy uses a wide brush. I’d like to help you narrow it down, help you figure out which changes will have the most impact and which will be easiest to implement.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments, or by email, if you’d prefer. Where are you feeling overwhelmed? What questions do you have? What would make it easier for you?

Photo Credit: cmcgough

Staggering Plastic Statistics

The Sierra Club magazine has an article this month titled Beyond the Barrel: Can we really get off oil in 20 years? This article focuses on specific ways our country can break it’s “addiction” to “19.64 million barrels per day.” A staggering number, no?

There are some mouth-dropping statistics quoted throughout the article that I will highlight here, but I highly recommend you take a quick click over to the original article at the Sierra Club magazine’s site for the photos. This article features 3 different photographs taken by Chris Jordan. The first, called “Oil Barrels,” is a beautiful and disturbing photo of 28,000 42 gallon barrels of oil, which is the amount we consume in the United States every two minutes. The second photo is called “Plastic Bottles” and here, Jordan has captured 2 million plastic bottles — we, in the U.S., go through this many every five minutes and only 1 in 4 gets recycled. The third, and final, photo is called “Plastic Bags.” Jordan has photographed 60,000 plastic bags. Get ready to cringe — we go through these every five seconds.

Am I trying to shock you with these numbers? Yes!

I was shocked and am more committed than ever to finally remembering those reusable bags I’m always forgetting to take into the grocery store. This isn’t about guilt. It’s about being aware that oil dependency isn’t just about government policy and oil companies wanting to fatten their profits. It’s about the choices we make every day. Plastic comes from oil. So every time each one of us buys water in a plastic bottle, we become a part of that 1.5 million barrels of oil it takes to create the amount of bottled water this country consumes in a year.

Yes, we need better policies. Yes, the government could make it easier for green technology to succeed. But oil companies are rich beyond measure for a reason: someone’s buying their wares.

If you’re reading this blog, I’m assuming you’re at least somewhat knowledgeable about environmental issues. You’ve probably heard over and over again the standard tips: drive less, turn down your thermostat, reduce your consumption (of stuff, of plastic, of water). Sometimes we can hear things so much that we forget there are reasons why the old stand-bys exist. There are numbers behind them, and like words, numbers have consequences, too.

Tips are great and can be useful. But every now and then, it’s important to step back and look at why. Often, the reason is more staggering than we realized.

Photo Credit: elycefeliz

Making Mealtime Easier

Maybe it’s just me, but mealtime is SUCH a pain. I feel like I’m always running out of ideas and now that the girls are in school full-time, afternoon and early evenings around here are really hectic.

I need a plan. A meal plan to be more specific.

There was one summer when I did a great job of planning meals and buying groceries ahead of time. Mealtime was much less stressful and much more pleasant then. So why did I stop? I’m not sure. Things got busy, as they do, and I got out of the habit.

One of my goals for the new year is to reduce the stress I’m feeling. To help with that, I’m going to stop making things harder for myself. When I don’t have a plan (for dinner, among other things) I feel more stress than I need to. So it’s meal plan time!

I’ve found several options for meal planning that I want to share with you. Some are more involved than others, so if you’re interested in making your own meal plans, you should be able to find something here that will work for you.

  • Erin Rooney Doland, author of Unclutter Your Life in One Week [my review], has a weekly meal plan template that includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and a place for a grocery list. Also, has a new sister site called Simplifried. According to the website, “Our goal is to make feeding yourself and your family as painless as possible.” Naturally, I’ve already subscribed to their updates.
  • Ivory at Little House in the Suburbs introduced me to Say MMM, which is a web-based meal planning application. If you prefer your tools automated, Say MMM may be the way to go. Even better? It’s FREE!

To solve the mealtime hassle in my own home, I’m going to set aside some time each Saturday to discuss meal options with my family. From there, I’ll make a list of lunches and dinners for the week and compile my grocery list. On Sunday, I’ll make a trip to the store and buy all of the supplies I need.

I’ll still have to cook amidst the chaos that often accompanies the dinner hour, but I do think that knowing what I’m making and having the ingredients on hand will make the whole event less stressful for me.

How about you? Do you plan your meals ahead of time? Do you think it’s made your life easier?

Photo Credit: gordasm

Greener Spaces: Your Home Office

Most of us have some type of home office space. You may run a business from your home or have a job that allows you to telecommute.  Or you may have an office-like space where you keep bill-paying supplies, incoming mail, papers, scissors, etc. But no matter what kind of office you have, you can probably make the space a little greener.

The goal is not only to make more environmentally responsible choices, but also to make things easier for you. If I’ve learned anything from setting yearly goals, it’s that if the particulars don’t work with your life as it is, then nothing’s going to change.

Try these ideas for a greener office space:

1. Pay your bills online and opt-out of paper statements wherever possible.

Not only does this prevent a lot of paper waste, it frees up space and clutter in your home. By setting up automatic payments, you can take care of most, if not all, of your monthly bills with little time and effort.

2. When you must buy paper, choose recycled.

There may be times when you need to do some printing or send something by snail mail. If possible, choose paper and envelopes made with recycled content. Recycled paper products have become much easier to find in mainstream stores.

3. Reuse when you can.

Do you really need to buy a dedicated (and likely plastic) trash can for your office space? Would something else work? For a while I was collecting old crocks and now I have a number of them around my house. I’ve used them for everything from small trash cans to receipt storage.

Will an old mug or jar suffice for a pen/pencil cup?

Rather than tossing old file folders, why not re-label and reuse the ones you have?

I’ve said before that leading a greener lifestyle is really about paying attention and thinking about your habits. The next time you use your home office space, pay attention as you go through your regular activities. Where can you reduce clutter and waste? What steps can you take to avoid buying more?

What things have you done to make your home office space and routines more green?

Photo Credit: Machine is Organic