Tuesday, October 30, 2012

You Can Recycle That: Bras

In case you didn't already know, October is Bra Recycling Month! Yea, I had no idea either. I guess it makes sense though; it coincides with breast cancer month. Someone decided that it's a thing, which is great because who doesn't have old bras they need to get rid of?

If you have old bras you don't use anymore, but don't want them to end up in a landfill, here are a few great organizations that will help you out.

  • The Bra Recyclers accept used bras via mail or drop-off locations and distribute them to women and girls in transition all over the globe. You can find a drop-off location or ship your bras directly to the organization.
  • Free the Girls is a non-profit organization that refurbishes and sells donated bras, providing jobs to rescued sex trafficking victims.
And if you're really crafty, you can always turn your old bra into a purse!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

On Prop 37

I don't live in California anymore, so I can't vote on proposition 37. This post is for all my friends and family (and other readers) who can!

Prop 37 will dictate that all genetically modified foods require a label.
Here are some details about proposition 37.

If you have a short attention span and don't feel like reading about Prop 37, here's a video that explains it.

And here's a super adorable video that is way shorter.

Most of us may not live in California, but that doesn't mean that Prop 37 won't affect us. If it passes, it won't be long until we start to see GMO labels across the country.

Wondering why anyone in their right mind would vote against Prop 37? So was I. Here's what I found.

If you don't live in California, you can help by calling your own friends and family who do, and encourage them to vote YES on Prop 37.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Deals For Me, Deals for the Planet

Like just about everyone else, I love a good deal. When daily deal sites started to become popular, I ate it up. I bought deals for things I never would have considered buying before. Of course I eventually realized that buying deals for things I wouldn't use wasn't helping me, and it certainly wasn't helping local businesses.

What took me a little longer was stopping my habit for fashion deals online. I received emails from sites like Gilt Group and Ideeli for daily fashion sales. My conscience (and my bank account) eventually got me to cancel those accounts and the tempting emails.

But I still miss the deals.

So imagine my delight when I discovered that there is a plethora of more responsible deal sites! Sure, I'm trying to curb my shopping. I know people don't need most of the things we purchase. But it's fun to let ourselves splurge on something a little indulgent every once in a while. Especially when that indulgence is a more responsible or sustainable one.

So here's a list of sites you can use to find great deals for yourselves.
I hope you'll cancel your regular daily deal and fashion sale emails and accounts, and stick to these more planet-friendly alternatives.

  • BlissMo feaures daily sales on a range of ethical products. They also offer the BlissmoBox, which is a subscription service that offers a monthly surprise box of personal and food products.
  • borganics will feature sales on organic and eco-friendly products, but does not appear to have sales live on the site yet. (as of 10/21/2012)
  • DealGooder donates 50% of profits from each daily deal to a featured charity. They feature primarily businesses that operate out of Orange County, CA.
  • ethicalDeal offers daily deals in various cities across Canada and the U.S.
  • Ethical Ocean is one of my favorite new shopping sites. They feature reduced prices on all kinds of awesome stuff like clothes, gadgets, beauty products, food, and more.
  • GreenDeals.org is known as the "Groupon for Greenies." It features deals from responsible companies and is run by Green America.
  • Green Box Top currently only has local deals in San Francisco, but you can subscribe to receive information about national deals. Hopefully they'll expand soon!
  • JP Selects offers daily sales, most featuring eco-friendly fashion.
  • Loving Eco features greener brands and products, and gives 3% of net proceeds to a social or environmental cause.
  • Pure Citizen is an online marketplace featuring ethical and sustainable brands. There are daily sales on clothing, wellness brands, food, gifts, and more.
  • Strawberry Earth is based in Amsterdam, and features one ethical sale every week on things ranging from jewelry, to travel, to bicycles.
  • The Ultimate Green Store touts itself as "The ultimate web-based destination for eco-conscious shoppers." It also features sales and a green deal of the day.
  • Vegan Cuts has a daily offer, but also features a marketplace chock full of responsible products including fashion, food, beauty, and more.
  • WinWin features deals in the Greater Los Angeles area.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Help by Gaming

I'm not big into video games. My inner- (okay outer) nerd is into enough dorky stuff. But a lot of people love playing games online, and that's great. Here are a few games that let you help worthy causes just by playing!

  • Free Rice is a vocabulary game that donates rice to those in need through the World Food Programme.
  • Games that Give offers a whole list of games you can play, all of which let you give to charitable organizations by playing.
  • Joy Kingdom lets you allocate money to organizations that help animals. Ellen Degeneres helped to develop this one.
  • WeTopia is a Facebook game that helps real children while you play.

Where Does the Money Really Come From?

These games cost nothing to play, so who's actually donating? From what I can tell, the giving structure for these kinds of games is pretty simple. Advertisers pay money to have their ads featured on the game pages, or other sponsorship and marketing platforms, and that money pays for the games' development and the donations. So really when you're playing, you're just telling the advertisers where to donate their money. I'd prefer that the donors just give the money outright, but from a marketing perspective I can see that it's a great way to connect with an audience to increase awareness about a brand's charitable giving. Sojo Studios is the developer behind both WeTopia and Joy Kingdom. According to this article from Kotaku,
"Sojo's formula is pretty simple. Half of the profit from in-game purchases and advertising revenue is applied towards the various charities. Through choices made in game, you decide how your portion of that is distributed." 
And the Games that Give website states "GamesThatGive combined gaming with charitable giving to create the leading platform for engaging brands' customers in charitable activities."

Not into games either?

Care2's click to donate programs are even simpler. You literally just click to allocate funds to certain organizations. I like to add the links to my various online profiles and email signatures to encourage people to click!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

One Plastic Bag

Every once in a while I forget to bring my reusable bags with me when I run my errands. I recently found myself picking up a few small things at the little grocery store near my parents' house. When I asked the cashier to fit everything into one bag, she insisted on double-bagging it so the bag wouldn't break. Uhm, you're kind of missing the point there, sweetheart. And when I got home I discovered that she'd wrapped an item it its own bag before packing it, so I actually wound up with three bags instead of just one. D'oh.

So I'm making another small change. I always keep a stash of reusable bags in my car to avoid these situations. But now I'm going to start keeping a reusable grocery bag in my purse too.

If you're not convinced that your occasional plastic bag makes that big of a difference, take a look at some of my favorite infographics about plastic bags.

plastic bag lifecycle eco sustainable blog
This is a great visual, but take this inforgraphic with a grain of salt.
It was produced by a manufacturer of promotional reusable bags.

Before you go out and buy a reusable bag, check your junk drawer and ask your friends. They seem to be everywhere these days and, unfortunately, are being over-manufactured by companies who want to cash in on the growing trend. My mom is always asking me if I want the bag she was given for free and some store or other. You should have no problem getting your hands on at least one without spending a cent!

Further Reading
Here's an interesting range of information including arguments both for and against the banning of plastic bags, and the rising popularity of reusable bags.

This Video is Just Fun

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Beet Risotto Stuffed Squash

Now that fall is here, I've got more squash than I know what to do with, courtesy of my fabulous CSA share from Porter Farms. My kitchen is overflowing with spaghetti squash, butternut squash, and acorn squash. I can't eat it fast enough!

This week when I found out (via Porter Farms' Facebook page) that we'd be getting beets and acorn squash, I immediately came up with a plan of action. I'd come across this recipe for beet risotto on Pinterest, and knew right away that it would be perfect stuffed into a squash. Good news: I was right!

I'm lucky to have a local goat cheese producer here in Western New York. I visited the First Light Farm & Creamery stand at the Elmwood-Bidwell farmers market here in Buffalo this weekend, and decided that the honey-chipotle chevre would be a good match for the recipe. If they hadn't been out of the garlic-thyme, I may have chosen that flavor instead, but this was perfect! Of course if you aren't lucky enough to have fresh, local goat cheese available to you, a good chevre from your grocery store would be fine. And if you prefer to keep the recipe vegan, you can just leave the goat cheese out entirely.

Beet Risotto Stuffed Squash with Honey Chipotle Goat Cheese

  • 3 small acorn squash (or other small squash)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 beets, chopped
  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ½ cups chevre goat cheese


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Place the squash cut side up on a baking sheet, bake about 30 minutes until squash is tender. (You can rub the squash with oil before baking, but I didn't and it turned out fine.)

While the squash is baking -
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the beets and onion, cook until soft (about 10 minutes.) Add the rice and toss to coat. Add broth and vinegar and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to simmer, add thyme, and cover.
Simmer, stirring occasionally, until rice is cooked and risotto is creamy (15-20 minutes.)
Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Remove the squash from the oven, stuff with risotto, and sprinkle with the goat cheese.

Yield: 6 servings

Nutritional Analysis of one squash half stuffed with the risotto including the goat cheese:
Calories per serving: 349 Calories from fat: 102 Total Fat: 11.4g Saturated Fat: 4.8g Cholesterol: 10mg Sodium: 237mg Total Carbohydrates: 56.7g Dietary Fiber: 6.1g Sugars: 5.6g Protein: 9.4g

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

No More Junk Mail

I recently started receiving huge amounts of travel catalogs. I'm talking multiple reams of paper worth of literature about visiting Colorado. I don't have any immediate plans to visit the Centennial State, so I'm not sure why they've been sending me so much literature. But it kept on coming, and filling my recycling bin. Seemed wasteful to me, so I decided to look into it.

Over 100 million trees are cut down annually to produce junk mail. That's a lot of deforestation! Unfortunately, most of that mail goes directly into landfills, contributing more than 4 million TONS of paper waste every year.

The average person receives about 40 lbs of paper junk mail every year. So imagine the positive impact that one person cancelling their junk mail can have on the planet!

Stopping junk mail is a great way to help the planet AND stop the annoying junk from showing up in your mail box. Here are some tools to help you do it.

  • The PaperKarma App - I'm presently obsessed with this (free) mobile app. Take a quick photo of the junkmail in your mailbox, and the app takes care of the rest. The folks behind the app identify where the junkmail is coming from, and contact the sender to have you removed from their lists. Your profile can contain multiple addresses so you can use it for mail you receive at home, at work, etc. The whole thing is BRILLIANT.
  • DMA Choice is a service offered by the Direct Marketing Association. It allows you to manage what kind of junk mail you receive.
  • OutOutPreScreen is the official opt-out site for the consumer credit reporting industry. You can opt-out online to stop receiving mail from credit cards and insurance companies for five years, or print out and mail in the opt-out election form to have the mail stop permanently. You can also call 1-800-5-OPTOUT 
  • Catalog Choice offers a product that will block large data brokers from selling your contact information.
  • 41 Pounds is a paid service that contacts marketing companies on your behalf to remove you from major mailing lists.
  • The Native Forest Network has a great list of other resources for getting your name off of junk mailing lists.

PaperKarma eco mobile app screen shot
The PaperKarma App tracks all of your opt-out requests.

You Mailbox Needn't Be Empty!

Everyone loves getting mail. The advent of email and paperless billing is making your mailbox pretty obscolete. If you don't want to open an empty mailbox every day, here's a way to get something awesome in the mail that ISNT junk. Subscribe to the Paris Letters by my friend Janice. You'll receive beautifully illustrated letters from her about life and love in Paris. I'm pretty sure these will never make their way into a landfill!

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Love Letter to my CSA

You don't have to shop at farmers' markets or eat a vegan diet to appreciate the benefits of a CSA share. Sure, you'll get a bounty of delicious, organic, locally-grown produce, but you'll also save a boatload of money doing it, and who doesn't love that?!

CSA stands for Community-Supported Agriculture. CSAs operate on a business model that benefits both the farmers and the customers. Members purchase shares before the growing season starts so farmers get capital at the beginning of the season to pay for most of their costs. Customers receive a weekly box (or bag) of fresh local produce all season long.


This is my first year with a CSA membership and I only wish I'd done this sooner. I researched some of the Buffalo area CSAs and chose Porter Farms. I have not been disappointed! I actually split my share with a friend, which has worked out perfectly. I would never have been able to eat that much food myself, but half of it is perfect for one vegetarian to eat in a week. I can't believe how much money I've saved on groceries since the season started in the spring. I paid half of the cost of a $310 share which, when divided by 23 weeks, comes to about $7 a week. Considering the amount of food I receive each week, and the fact that it's all organic, I estimate that the same food would have cost me at least $50 at a grocery store. That's a savings of about $43 every week. (For 23 weeks that's $989!)

Breathe Easy

Not only has the CSA membership done great things for my wallet and my diet, I love knowing that it does great things for the planet too. According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, most produce travels between 1300 and 2000 miles to get to the consumer. That's a lot of fuel to burn for a salad. Buying local produce cuts down on air pollution, and buying organic produce means that less chemicals are dumped into the ground.

Want to Join a CSA?

If you're in the Buffalo area, you can try Porter Farms out for yourself. They even offer a sample bag. You can get a week's worth of organic produce for free before you commit to join.

I chose my CSA based on pickup location and produce offerings. There are other farms in the area that offer different produce, free-range beef, orchards offering fruit shares, and more. You may want to do some research to decide which CSA is right for you or your family.

Here are some additional sites and tools to help you locate a CSA here and around the country.