Green Goal Setting

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I gave up on resolutions a few years ago because they only frustrated me. I was horrible at keeping them and then I felt guilty. This year, though, I’m going to try to set some goals for the year. Some may argue that it’s merely semantics: goals, resolutions, what’s the difference? I supoose the same tactics could apply no matter what you choose to call them, but goals, by nature, are specific. They often involve steps. My resolutions were always broad, sweeping statements about what I was going to start doing or stop doing. “I’m going to exercise more this year.” “I’m going to be kinder and gentler.” “I’m going to stop getting so frustrated.”

See. I set myself up.

So, goals.

Chris Guillebeau takes on a large goal-defining project each year that he calls his Annual Review. I’m intrigued, but haven’t ever taken the time to do it the way he does. It seems to be working well for him, though. 🙂 Before he begins setting goals for the year ahead, Chris asks himself 2 questions: What went well in the past year? What didn’t go very well in the past year? He uses this reflection to shape and define some of his goals going forward.

Trent Hamm does a 5 year sketch. He suggests getting a picture, either in writing or collage form, of what you’d like your life to be like in 5 years. It should take a while to come up with details. Once you have your ideas, you can begin pulling out projects and tasks and create specific, actionable steps to get there.

This year, I’m going to focus on getting specific with my goals. I think I’ll set up categories for them like Chris Guillebeau does. One of those categories will be my “Green Goals.” I’ll share my own green goals in another post, but if you’re interested in some green goal setting, here’s some help as you get started. Remember, the key is to make your goals as specific as possible. Saying “I’m going to be more green this year” won’t accomplish anything. Think about how you can be greener and then make a plan.

Recycling:  If you don’t recycle now, where can you begin? Maybe you’ll find out about the options available to you in your area. The website for the county or city where you live is a good place to start. Then make a commit to put something in the recycling bin each week.

If you do recycle already, you could find out how to recycle something else that you usually don’t bother with. For example, I have a huge collection of dead batteries. I’ve been putting off doing the research to find out how to recycle them. Maybe that will be one of my goals for this year: figure out what to do with the batteries and then do it!

Driving less: Define what you mean. Will you make some trips on foot or by bike instead of driving? If that’s not possible, will you combine trips so you’re not driving back and forth to the same area all the time? Which trips will you substitute or combine?

Buy organic: Try just one thing. I’d start with milk — based on the research about hormones and antibiotics in milk products, you’ll get a lot of bang for your buck (especially if you have kids) with organic milk. If you already buy organic milk, maybe you’ll commit to adding one more thing to the list.

Grocery bags: Willing to try (again) to use those reusable bags you have? This time, figure out how to make them a habit. Maybe you’ll decide to leave them in the front seat of your car or hang a little ribbon from something on the dashboard to serve as a reminder. Get your kids to help if they go shopping with you. Put them in charge of remembering the bags.

There are lots of ways to go after a goal-setting project. What I’ve learned from past experience is that without solid goals and a specific plan to achieve them, nothing much gets done.

It would be great if you’d share some of your green goals in the comments.

School Daze

I’m back. It’s been a busy and often difficult summer, but here I am. My girls started kindergarten last week and it’s going well so far (their Name Bubbles and Planet Box lunch boxes are working out really well!). As the school year approached, my husband and I decided it would be a good idea to set up an area for the girls to do their school work. We don’t expect them to have a ton of homework this year, but we thought it best to start with good habits.

The girls share a room that’s plenty big for both of them and their furniture, but there isn’t room to add two separate desks. I know them well enough to know that they each need their own separate space, though. Lacking any other good spot in the house to set up their homework station, I tried to get creative.

Many of you know that my husband does woodworking in his “off” time. Fortunately for us, he’s equally good with furniture as he is with outdoor projects (like the garden arbor and fence). I can’t draw, but I did the best I could in sketching out the idea I had in mind. After some talking back and forth, he came up with and built this:

Each of my daughters has her own side, complete with cubbies for her supplies. The hooks on the front are for hanging their backpacks. We put locker-like bins on the front (one for each of them) so they can stash papers or other trinkets, and a magnetic dry erase board for drawing or hanging up their artwork.

The chairs were a Craigslist find. They are a little smaller than regular-sized kitchen chairs, so they were perfect. The rest of the homework station was made from wood my husband had in his garage — most of it left over from other projects — recycling at its best.

The girls love it and, as usual, I’m really proud of (and impressed by) my husband’s woodworking ability.

How do you keep homework organized?

Vegetable Gardening With Your Kids

This is a guest post from Mike Lieberman who blogs at Urban Organic Gardener.
One of the excuses that I often hear from parents about not growing their own food is that they have kids and don’t have the time.

Why not include the kids and make it a family bonding experience? That’s what families have done for thousands of years. It’s not until recently that this trend has changed.

Lately, families and society have shifted the responsibility of food to others. We can go to the grocery store whenever we want to buy whatever we want. There is no sense of where it came from or what’s happened to it. It’s just there.

Food should be communal from the planting, growing, harvesting, preparing, sharing and eating. All of which bring a deeper appreciation for everything that’s involved in getting it to our plates. We have skipped straight to the eating part and most people even do that on the run as if it’s a chore.

There are a bunch of fun projects that you can do as a family to keep everyone involved, and keeping costs at a minimum, all while spending some quality family time together.

Now let’s get into how to start.

Deciding what to grow. Make this a family decision. Let everyone voice their opinions and come to a conclusion as a family.

Potting soil. Go to your local nursery or health food store and buy some organic potting soil to get started.

Starting seeds. There are many ways (and expensive supplies to buy) that you can start your seeds, but there is no reason for any of them. All you will need it some toilet paper rolls, potting soil and your seeds. Here’s a video of how to use toilet paper rolls as a seed starter pot.

After your seeds are planted, you’ll want to keep them in a nice sunny area and keep them moist. After a week or so, you’ll start to see sprouts develop and peek their way through the soil.

Containers. If you don’t have access to land, which is often the case, but have a porch, patio, fire escape or balcony, you can still grow your own food. You’ll just have to grow it in containers.

I’ve found that self-watering containers work great. There are four different ways that you can make a self-watering container.

You can get your kid involved by having them paint and decorate the container.

Caring for. You can divide up the chores of watering, checking for bugs and taking care of the plant amongst the family. Keep a journal and pictures of weekly progress to chart growth to show how the plant has grown.

Harvesting and preparing. You’ll have to harvest and pick the plant to get it ready for your meal. Then, you’ll have to decide how you want to prepare it. Come to this decision as a family.

Sharing. This is where it all comes together. If you made a salad for your dinner and the only ingredient that was homegrown in the salad was some parsley, you are certainly going to brag about that.

It’s that sense of accomplishment and pride that will shine through. You’ll tell everyone that you grew this parsley from seed. I’m certain that you kids will be bragging as well.

You don’t have to have a huge garden. All it takes is growing that one plant to make a difference. It will bring your family closer together and make you appreciate your food that much more.

What are you going to start growing?

Bio:Mike Lieberman, started to grow his own food on the fire escape of his New York City apartment in May 2009. He had no gardening experience and read about a half of a book on gardening when he started. In April of 2010, Lieberman moved to LA where he started a balcony garden and has continued to grow even more food.

Lieberman thinks that people have lost their connection with and appreciation for food. He encourages and inspires people to grow their own. His belief is that by growing just one plant, it will bring people closer to their food source and renew their appreciation for what goes into getting food to our plates.

You can follow his blog Urban Organic Gardener.

Greener Back to School for Kids and Adults

jar of pencilsThinking about greener ways to go back to school isn’t just for kids. Most adults use many of the same kinds of supplies that kids use in school. We may no longer need crayons, but we all use paper and writing utensils and scissors and tape. We all eat lunch and need some way to carry our gear around.

I’ll be writing about ways to green your back-to-school purchases in the coming weeks and I’ll include items for adults as well. We’ll look at school and office supplies as well as green backpacks and messenger bags and briefcases.

But for now, a few general tips:

One of the best ways to be greener with your supplies is to buy less. Take a thorough stock of what you already have and then organize those supplies so they’re easy to find. If you have something at home that will work, don’t feel pressured to buy something new just because it’s on a list.

When you do purchase new, go for products made from recycled materials and avoid chemicals whenever possible. Pass on PVC and BPA. The easiest thing to do is look for products that say they are BPA and PVC-free. If they don’t say it, they probably have these chemicals in them.

Also consider buying things that will last. You can pick up a backpack for $5 at some stores, but is it really worth it if it has to be replaced several times over the course of one school year? Why not buy one quality bag that will last? You may end up spending less money in the long run and for sure you’ll end up creating less waste.

Stay tuned for product suggestions and reviews. If there’s anything in particular you want me to focus on, please email more or let me know in the comments.

Photo Credit: Merelymel13

Bike Your Way Green

I like to ride my bike, but I don’t do it as often as I’d like. I’m also fascinated by bike culture (I think I always have been) and find myself wanting to know more about what makes a “good” bike, what all the components are, why some people love certain saddles over others. The environmentally friendly aspect of biking makes it even more appealing. Biking is catching on lately — not just the Lance Armstrong serious racing kind of biking, but the everyday commuting kind. People wearing street clothes and business suits are giving up cars in favor of bikes.

I’m intrigued.

I’ve come across a few bike sites lately that I’d like to share with you. Most of them feature beautiful photography of both setting and the bikes themselves. Be sure to check them out when you have the time

Ecovelo: Alan and his wife, Michael, have chosen to go “car-lite,” meaning they use bikes as their primary mode of transportation, though they do still keep a small car in their driveway for use in times of illness or travel that doesn’t lend itself to biking. It’s fascinating to read about their day-to-day lives on bikes. They also provide plenty of wonderful photos and reviews of bikes and components, as well as biking news. I’m hooked on their site.

Let’s Go Ride a Bike: Another new favorite. Trisha, who’s based in Nashville, and Dottie, who’s based in Chicago, make biking look beautiful. Their blog is all about biking with style, often in heels, never in spandex. Like Ecovelo, there are wonderful photographs. There’s also a handy How-To section for those interested in getting started with bike commuting.

Rowdy Kittens: Tammy Strobel’s blog is more about living simply than specifically about biking, but there’s a lot of great information there. In an effort to simplify their own lives, Tammy and her husband sold their cars and now go everywhere by bike. Tammy’s also written a wonderful ebook called Simply Car-Free: How to Pedal Toward Financial Freedom and a Healthier Life that will teach you how to save money and get started riding more and driving less. It’s a bargain at only $9.95 and includes a money-back guarantee.

I’d love to know in the comments if you ride a bike and if so, what kind of bike do you have?

Photo Credit: Marc oh!