Archives for January 2009

Need Vitamin D? Try Eggs

Free range eggs, that is. According to the pastured egg research conducted by Mother Earth News, free range eggs have “4 to 6 times as much vitamin D as typical supermarket eggs.” Unfortunately, there is a huge problem with the term “free range.” Many of us have a vision of little chickens running free through gorgeous green fields, returning to their coops only at night to rest. But legally, people must only “provide access” to pasture for chickens to be considered free range. However, many farmers keep the chickens cooped up for the first few weeks of their lives (which is allowed) and only then open a door on their cages. By this time, the chickens, who have never been outside, have no desire to go.

Your best bet is to buy organic eggs (which doesn’t guarantee free range, but many organic farmers believe in the process and do this). And to buy your organic eggs through a smaller, more local farm. There is a grocery store chain in my area that carries organic, free-range eggs from a small farm only a couple of hours from where I live. The yolks in the eggs are much darker — more orange, which is one way you can tell if you’ve gotten the real deal or not.

Check out Mother Earth News’ Chicken and Egg Page. There, you’ll find that pastured eggs also contain:

• 1⁄3 less cholesterol
• 1⁄4 less saturated fat
• 2⁄3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene

We’ve been eating these eggs for a while now and really like them. It’s great to know that chickens raised in pasture are not only treated more humanely, but that the eggs they produce are healthier for us as well.

Where do you get your eggs?

Why It’s Cheaper To Be Greener

Being green is all about simplicity and often, frugality. Most of the time the greener choice is the less expensive one. It’s true that organic produce can cost more than its non-organic brothers, or that “eco-friendly” products at times come at a premium price. But at its most fundamental, being green is more about conservation than consumption. Take the phrase, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Put into practice, these three calls to action will save you money in the long run. How? Let’s take a look:

  • REDUCE. Buy less and reduce the amount of stuff you own. It’s obvious that if you’re buying less, you’re saving money. I’ve also heard of people who got rid of loads of stuff they didn’t really need, people who were paying large monthly fees to keep storage sheds piled full of stuff they never used. By clearing out the clutter, we can reduce our storage costs if we have them, but for those of us who don’t, we can reduce our maintenance cost (not to mention time). It takes a lot to maintain a house full of stuff — either in upkeep or in time cleaning it. It goes without saying that when we reduce things like our energy consumption (by turning down our thermostats or driving less, for example) we are not only helping the planet, but we’re fattening our wallets at the same time.
  • REUSE. When you need to purchase products, choose items that are reusable rather than disposable. Try reusable alternatives to paper towels. I recently purchased a mega-pack of 50 terrycloth shop towels from Costco for the same price I used to pay for a mega-pack of Bounty paper towels. Instead of using (and constantly tossing and replacing) paper towels for spills and wipe-ups, I now use the terrycloth towels and throw them in the wash. Try to be creative in coming up with reusable solutions. Think of all the disposables you use on a regular basis and try to figure out how those items could be replaced with more permanent ones. When I pack my lunch for my day job, I use a reusable lunch tote, reusable water bottle, and I pack silverware and a cloth napkin from home. I save money on brown bags, bottled water and disposable silverware and napkins.
  • RECYCLE. In addition to recycling through the standard channels, find ways to recycle items within your own home. Before you throw out an item that may not be recyclable, try to find a use for it around your home. My husband is great with this. When our twin daughters out-grew their infant swings, one of the swings was in working order and could be donated, but the other one was not. I hated the idea of all of that plastic and metal ending up in the landfill. My husband dismantled the entire thing. He used the screws and fasteners in his workshop and found other uses for nearly all the other parts. My favorite “re-use” is the bike rack he made for us from the legs. We saved money by not having to buy a bike rack to hang in the garage AND we kept a bunch of junk out of the landfill. With some scrap lumber and old lawn mower wheels, he made a great wagon for the girls. With a little creativity, there’s no limit to the number of ways things can be reused.

It really is easy to save money and be green at the same time. Some of the most frugal people I know were green long before it was a buzzword. Think about the way your grandparents lived. Many people in the older generation are far more frugal, but also far more green, than we may realize.

What are some green habits you have adopted that are also saving you you money?

Environmental Working Group (EWG) Video

EWG has an amazing video that is disturbing, but informative. I encourage everyone to watch it to learn more about chemicals and how they affect us. The video can be found on their site at www.ewg.org/kidsafe.

Please comment and let me know what you thought of the video.

Featured Do-Gooder: Environmental Working Group

From time to time SmartFamilyTips will feature an organization that is a “Do-Gooder”: a group that works to help both people and the environment. The Do-Gooders may be companies, nonprofits, or any organized group that focuses its efforts on making the world a better place.

Environmental Working Group

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit organization that focuses its efforts on making our lives safer and our planet healthier. They are strong believers in the power of an informed public. With a team of scientists, engineers, lawyers, policy experts, and computer programers, EWG works to study the impacts our environment has on us and in turn, the impact we have on our environment. EWG’s website describes two primary goals:

1. To protect the most vulnerable segments of the human population—children, babies, and infants in the womb—from health problems attributed to a wide array of toxic contaminants.

2. To replace federal policies, including government subsidies that damage the environment and natural resources, with policies that invest in conservation and sustainable development.

How do they do this? By publicizing studies and information that let people know what chemicals are in their land, in their water, and in their bodies. They use this knowledge to lobby Congress and to attempt to change or strengthen laws that protect us.

This will serve as the first of several articles on EWG. The scope of their interests and influence is simply too great to cover in one article. Today, however, I would encourage you to take advantage of their Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. (There is also a permanent link to this database in the sidebar.) EWG has researched over 41,000 personal care products and rated them based upon their chemical hazards. The primary reason for this extensive database is “because the FDA doesn’t require companies to test their own products for safety!”

You might also check out the article, “Adolescent Exposures to Cosmetic Chemicals of Concern” published in September 2008.

There is a lot of sobering and troubling information at EWG’s site, but there is also hope for a change in policy as well as suggestions for making your own life a little safer.

Stay tuned for more articles on EWG and the work they do.

Square Foot Gardening: The Winter Months

This year we plan to try our luck with a square foot garden. Because this is our first garden, this method seems easiest: both for growing vegetables and for success with organic gardening methods. We’ve read Mel Bartholomew’s book, Square Foot Gardening, and have begun making preparations for the spring. My husband built three 5’x8′ raised bed frames. He used non-treated, tongue and groove wood reclaimed from an old building in our area. We’re fortunate that our yard is just under an acre and a half so we have plenty of room. BUT the beds take up a total of 210 square feet (which includes some room to walk between and around the beds), so this could easily work with a smaller yard. For those with very little space or no yard at all, Jason, at Frugal Dad explains how to make a table-top version of a raised bed.

As for the soil, our tumbler-style composter is turning our yard and kitchen waste into organic matter for the raised beds. Our side yard is also full of several years worth of ground up leaves that are slowly creating compost of their own. Just last weekend we covered the beds with a layer of manure and we’re hoping that by spring we’ll have lots of rich, nutrient soil for growing vegetables. You can see our set-up in the photo below. We placed our beds in front of our detached garage at the end of our driveway. Our lot is heavily treed; this is one spot that gets a decent amount of sun each day.

We decided to try our own garden for a few reasons. We think it will not only be fun for our three year old daughters, but also a good experience for them to learn where food comes from. We’re also hoping to create our own, less expensive, organic produce, produce that doesn’t have to travel miles and miles from California or Florida or Mexico, before it gets to our table.

I don’t know if we’ll actually save any money with this project. I do know that even if we manage to harvest only a few vegetables, we will have reduced our impact a little and will reap the benefits of food that tastes better than anything we could buy in the store.

I plan to provide updates on our square foot gardening project throughout the spring and summer. I’d love to hear your ideas about and experiences with square foot gardening.