Category Archives: Conscious Living

Keeping Warm the Earth Friendly Way

Here it is November 5th and the Wood family has yet to fire up the furnace. I had set a goal not to use the heat until October was over, but now it is a game to see how long we can go without it (and without the high heating bill!) We know that eventually it will get too cold and we’ll be happy to turn the heat on. Until then, though, here are some things that we’ve been doing to keep warm as the temperature starts to dip.

* wearing socks and slippers
* wearing sweaters
* drinking hot tea and cocoa
* eating soup
* exercising

What are your favorite ways to keep warm?

Spread the Love

Over the past couple of months I’ve used Vegetable Oil to stir fry veggies, but Sara, Matt and Bella Janssen have been using it to drive across the country. No, really! The Janssens are a month and a half into a one year tour of the country in their veggie powered RV. Their goal is to educate folks about sustainable living and alternative fuels.

I had been a reader of Sara’s blog, Walk Slowly, Live Wildly (which was full of inspiration for a simple life) when she mentioned that they were downsizing from their apartment to an RV. They spent a while refurbishing the interior with earth friendly, sustainable materials (bamboo flooring, sunflower seed counter tops, etc.) and now their on the road, “spreading the love”.

living lightly in Boston

Peter and Catherine and I met up with the tour on Tuesday evening and our families got to know each other over Thai food and pie. On Wednesday we all hopped on the train and zipped into Boston. We walked a good chunk of the Freedom Trail, had lunch in Quincy Market, visited the ducks in the Public Garden, checked out Harvahd Yahd and grabbed some Vietnamese noodles for dinner.

We were glad to show our visitors around our fair Capital and were thrilled with a tour of their rig. I’d highly suggest checking out their tour site at Live Lightly Tour. If it looks like they’re coming to your town keep your eyes peeled for the big blue bus!

Our photos are here and don’t forget to Spread the Love!


There are few things better, in my mind, than shopping for baby clothes. Every little outfit is so soft and adorable and colorful. You can get away with things like frilly collars and ruffles that you can’t do with older kids. I just love looking through racks and racks of little dresses and sweaters and onesies and shoes!

But filling a baby’s wardrobe with new outfits can be very expensive. It also takes a huge toll on the environment. Each outfit has needed energy to produce it and fuel to get it to our stores. We buy the cute little clothes, dress baby up, snap a few pictures and, before you can say monkey, your little one has grown out of them. Wash, rinse, repeat with the next size up.

There are a couple of age old, time tested, practices that can keep your baby clothed in style, your wallet full and the earth happy: Buying used and Hand-me-downs. We’ve done both in the past couple of weeks.

Twice a year, here on the North Shore, the Children’s Drop and Shop is held. It is a several day event- the first few days local parents drop off anything they want to consign- labeled and on hangers. All these clothes, toys, etc. are put on display and the last few days you can go back and buy. Everything is clean and in great condition and usually at 50% off the retail or greater!

I only found a couple things to buy this time around but I got great deals on them. A Gymboree brand collared shirt (with the tags still on) for $1. (normally $15-$20) and this super cute dress for $7! It is a win win win situation. The clothes are all being reused which the earth loves, they’re cheap which I love, and the consigner gets a percentage back which they love.

We also love hand me downs! Catherine’s fall wardrobe has been almost completely stocked by two wonderful women: my cousin Angela and my good friend Joanna. Their girls have grown out of some nice clothes and Catherine is more than happy to wear them. Hand me downs are almost always more comfy since they’ve already been worn in! Again, the more times these clothes get worn, the less strain on the environment there is.

We are fortunate to have a great children’s sale and some even greater friends and family. You can check out your local thrift shops, yard sales, Goodwill, Salvation Army, craigslist or Freecycle for some great deals on earth friendly kids clothing.

Mount Olga or “why I love hiking”

At the Molly Stark State Park you can find very clean bathroom facilities and a trail to the top of Mount Olga. As we hit the trail Peter turned to me and asked, “why do you love hiking so much?”

When I started to answer I came up with one or two reasons, but as I kept thinking I came up with many more. So, why to I love hiking?
hiking at Mt Olga

* It’s outdoors. I love the fresh air and sun shining through the trees. I love the smell of fallen leaves.
* There’s often a great view as a reward for all your work fighting gravity.
* It is free- for the most part. Usually if there’s a park fee it goes back into maintaining the trails and facilities, so it is totally worth paying.
* It is great exercise.
* It is quiet.
* There is very little commercialization surrounding it (minus EMS and REI and LLBean- but you can hike without spending one penny at any of those)
* It is family friendly. And I have great memories of hiking with my family when I was a kid.

Well, the list could go on and on. Hiking just makes me happy.

And I was happy last Sunday when we stopped into the Molly Stark campground and hiked to the top of Mount Olga.


This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned diapers on this blog…and probably won’t be the last! I’ve said before that I wanted to use cloth diapers when Catherine was born. What I didn’t want was schlepping all the dirty ones over to the laundromat and pay to wash them! So for a year we used disposables. Sometimes we used gDiapers.

Now that we have our own laundry facilities, and we are working so hard to be green, we are making the switch to cloth diapers. The benefits are pretty obvious- they are less expensive in the long run, softer, make less waste, and are pretty cute! Cloth diapers have come a long way since my Mom diapered me! You won’t find a single diaper pin or pair of vinyl pants at our house! For some good information about today’s cloth diapers see here and then surf around and look at all the cute diapers for sale!

Making the switch is not cheap in the short run, however. A good set of cute diapers can run a person $80-$100! Never mind any accessories that go with it! We decided to ease ourselves into it. We already owned two ‘little gs’ that we have been using the flushable diapers in. I found them on craigslist- a starter pack (2 pants and 10 diapers)- for $10 [normally $25]. I went to Wal*Mart and got a dozen prefold diapers to get us started. I just fold the diapers and stuff them in the covers. The covers get velcroed on around her waist. Easy as pie!

We are still working out the kinks in our system. We’ve figured out washing and drying- we dry on a rack outside…the sun bleaches out the stains! It is a little more work than disposables, but worth it. There are a few things I’d like to add to the mix. I would love to get a couple more gDiaper covers and another dozen diapers. That would set us up with a healthy stash. We need some sort of ‘wet bag’ for the dirty diapers when we’re on the go.

We still use disposables here and there for some occasions, but I think as we grow more and more comfortable with the routine of cloth diapering there will be less and less need for them.

In other cloth news, we have abandoned paper napkins for cloth. We have a few napkins that came with a wedding present (the khaki ones) but I wanted more. I dug through my fabric bin and found some lavender linen fabric from an abandoned project. I whipped them up into little napkins with my trusty Singer and immediately pressed them into service.

These two changes require me to spend a little more time dealing with laundry-type chores, but I feel good knowing that I am reducing both the amount of material things I need to buy and the amount of trash I’m sending to the landfill.

A Green Yard

And it’s not just the color of the grass!

One of the things I was most looking forward to when we moved here was having a back yard. Apartment living had turned a normally outdoorsy gal into much more of a homebody and I was excited to have space to live in-outdoors.

Over the past few months I’ve been adding different things to the back yard that are helping us enjoy the space we have while minimizing the impact we have on the planet. Let me take you on a short tour of the yard:

Rain Barrel

We purchased this little beauty from the New England Rain Barrel Company. It only has one job, but boy does it do it well. Water runs off the roof, through the gutters, down the spout right into the barrel. There are two nozzles. The one at the top allows water to run out when the barrel gets full. The second is at the bottom and has a short hose attached. We use the second nozzle to fill the watering can for watering the gardens.

The benefits are numerous: by collecting water we keep it from running off and eroding the area under our deck, it also prevents water from pooling or seeping into the basement, we’re saving money (and water) by not using town water to water plants and by using a recycled barrel we’re cutting down on the waste byproducts of manufacturing. The company had a partnership with the town of Danvers so we were able to get our barrel at a discount, even!

Vegetable Garden

Just because we have a yard doesn’t mean that we have all the tools necessary to maintain a yard or a garden. I had originally wanted to put in a medium to large size veggie garden. Then I realized that I didn’t have any way to till the ground…I didn’t even own a hoe! Through the mamas (and dads) at Motheringdotcommune I was introduced to Square Foot Gardening.

The basic idea behind the method is that in each1’x1′ section of a raised bed garden you plant one crop. Because of the size of the garden (only 4’x4′) you can reach each section easily for weeding and harvesting. The footprint is small, and no tilling is necessary.

I built my own bed with lumber from Home Depot and some nails we already had. Add in some soil and seeds and the cost is still minimal. I put in beans, peas, carrots, peppers, squash, spinach and pumpkins. The plants are growing up nicely and I’m happy to say that there are very few weeds! The squash and beans have a few blossoms and I’m hoping for a nice harvest come the end of summer. We’ll probably have enough for some meals or snacks but not enough to freeze or can for the winter. I figure this year is my test run and if the garden does well I can expand it next year.


Worst come to worst I was planning on having a compost heap out back. Really just a place to toss yard clippings and kitchen scraps where they could decompose in peace. As luck would have it, though, I found a stack composter on Freecycle (like this one). It sits just beyond the edge of the yard and I take our food scraps out there every couple of days. The stack hasn’t decomposed into usable mulch yet, but it is definitely working. I think that I’ll have some nutrient rich mulch to mix in with the veggie garden’s soil when I prep the bed for winter. Then by spring there should be plenty to kick start the beds for the growing season.

As a bonus the composter helps keep our trash output lower and by not using the garbage disposal we are conserving more water and reducing the energy needed to treat the gray water. And it gives me a great place to toss the occasional worm I find crawling around!


I love that crisp, crunchy feeling of clothes dried on a line. I love seeing beach towels and bathing suits hung side by side. I love knowing that every time I hang out instead of machine dry the pennies are adding up in my bank account. Plus, this time of year who wants the dryer heating up the inside of the house? Not me! (though, I’m a bit to bashful to hang my underwear out to dry…)

This clothesline cost us one dollar. The rope I found amongst our things (who knows when [or if] it was purchased). The fence and the tree were preexisting. I just had to buy pins. I found a package at the dollar store. They’re pretty low quality, but I’m willing to put up with that for now. As long as my laundry doesn’t end up on the ground.

Overall, it is a pretty good setup for us who don’t want to spend tons of money working on the lawn. I’d like to get some flowers in for next spring but I wouldn’t change much else!

Green Printing

Another in a series of posts dedicated to making conscious decisions for living a better life.

Since finishing school Peter and I have found that we rarely need to print from our computers. Maybe for craft projects or directions from Google, but not the multi page papers we once printed. It is easy to say, “put scrap paper in!” before we printed something, but much harder to do it.  It was often that we forgot and would print something inconsequential on a beautiful, white, clean piece of paper. What a waste!

To solve this problem we’ve taken all the new paper out of the printer and replaced it with ‘scrap’ that has printing only on one side. Now when we print something it automatically goes on the recycled paper. If we’re printing something nice we remember to put clean paper in.

It is such a simple, free, earth friendly solution…I’m sorry I didn’t think of it sooner.

Two for One

Don’t we all want to get our money’s worth? If there was a choice between doing one thing that brought about one result, or doing a similar thing that brought about two results which would you choose? Is it human nature to want to “kill two birds with one stone?”

I am always game for a good bonus which is why I love my next step in becoming more Earth friendly. Instead of driving circles around the parking lot in order to find a parking spot near the building I am trying to park in the first spot I come across.

What are the benefits? First, by parking quickly my car uses less gasoline and emits less exhaust. It is better for the environment AND for my wallet. Does it get any better? Yes!

Sometimes the first spot I come to is close to the door. Most of the time, however, it isn’t. That’s where benefit number two comes into play. Taking that first spot forces me to walk a little farther to get to where I’m going. So in addition to saving the planet I’m getting a little exercise.

I used to justify idling waiting for a close spot by saying that it would take too long to walk in. Or that it was too cold/hot/bothersome to walk so far. In reality, most times it would be quicker to park and walk in than it would be to wait for a close spot to open up. There goes my excuse!

I can’t say that I won’t jockey for some “rockstar” parking every now and then. Rain, snow, wind and glaring heat will tempt me and I will probably give in. I can only promise to resist those demons as often as possible.

Canvas Bagging It

fff|ppp|canvas bags|ppp|fff

One of my ongoing life projects is to become more Earth friendly. I am getting closer and closer to that goal by tackling one step at a time. Recently, I have been working hard to eliminate plastic bags from my life.

I do like having some plastic bags around the house. They come in handy for trash, or whatnot, but I don’t like them that much. I don’t need (or have the space for) the hundreds of plastic bags I could collect during my shopping trips. And all that plastic is awful for the environment.

So, when I head to our local Market Basket I try my hardest to remember my canvas bags. I have three or four which can usually handle my biweekly grocery trip. If I have an unusually large amount of canned goods I find a box to catch the overflow.

This system works pretty well, provided that I a)remember to bring the bags along with me and b)have the patience to teach the grocery baggers how to bag groceries without “paper or plastic”. I try to make it easier for the baggers by putting done the bag on the conveyor belt first, followed by everything I’d like to go into that bag. Sometimes they “get it,” sometimes they don’t.

Bringing my own bags takes a little more work on my part than getting the standard issue plastic sacks, but I think it is worth it. Today at the store I saw at least three people leaving with only two plastic bags of groceries. Think of how easy it would have been for them to bring their own canvas bag instead of using plastic.

On my way out I saw a woman carrying her “paper in plastic” bags back into the store. I wanted to say “Good Job!” but I didn’t. Then I regretted not saying anything. So, if you use canvas…GOOD JOB! Keep up the good work!”

ETA: Bethany’s comment reminded me that I had meant to share a link she had sent to me a couple weeks ago. San Francisco to Ban Plastic Bags I think it is great! After all the first key in the mantra is “REDUCE” then “reuse and recycle”. The fewer plastic bags there are, the less energy will be needed to recycle them!