Sunday, June 30, 2013

Last Days of the Challenge!

Can you believe it's already the last weekend of the challenge?!  We finish up the last two days with 3Rs Saturday &  Community & Small Business Sunday

Also, a huge shout to Kelsey on her birthday Saturday 6/29!!

For the last days of the challenge I want to make sure you know to tap into the RMOG Pinterest board, here http://pinterest.com/rmogreen/boards/.  Here you can find a ton of information, from food sustainability, renewable energies, green products, heath and personal care, household tips & DIY,  green books & movies, sustainable achievements, news and information on climate change and the ecosystem, and more!

The Friends of RMOG board offers links and resources to other organizations.  Here is where you might look to find out where to locate a local CSA, or find information of sustainability schools, etc.

The Take Action board is a community board where all followers have the opportunity to pin information on what is important to them.  I post links and information to sign petitions and advice on what to do to really take action and make a difference.  Be the change!

Lastly, Kelsey and I would love to hear you thought on the challenge.  And suggestions for changes if we run the challenge, or something similar again. And most importantly:
  • Did you feel like you've made a difference?
  • Did you learn something new? 
  • Tell us what we can do different next time? 
  • Did you have fun? 
  • Are you the change? 


We believe you are. We believe every little bit helps. We, not just Kristin and I, but sustainability advocates all over the world feel that every effort, small and large make a difference.

Thank you so much for joining us on our journey, we hope to do this again in the future. 

Kelsey and I will announce the winner next week. 

Have a great rest of your weekend! 
Take care of each other!

~Kristin & Kelsey

Friday, June 28, 2013

TGIF! Eat Earth Friendly

Thank goodness it's Friday! 

It is the last Earth Friendly Foods Friday of the Be the Change Eco-Challenge.  I wanted to thank everyone who read last week's EFFF blog on Palm Oil.  This is a serious issue that not many are aware of and that needs our action NOW.  If we linger and wait to change what we purchase and eat, these producers will continue on their path of destruction, affecting the rainforest, the inhabitants, and the ecosystem.

You may have even seen the Huffington Post article that came out late last Friday on the pollution that was reaching Singapore from the burning of rainforests in Indonesia to make way for palm plantations.  The fires last week were set illegally by eight companies and caused the worst smog in Singapore's history, reaching a high of 401 on the Pollutant's Standard Index.  Laurel Sutherlin of the Rainforest Action Network stated, "The recent smog is just the most visible part of the serious deforestation and human rights crisis sweeping Indonesia."

Palm oil is now the largest traded vegetable oil commodity in the world and the demand continues to rise, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  

There ARE palm oil companies that are producing sustainably, so I want to make sure you all are aware that there are additional choices.  One of my readers last week had questions about red palm oil that was produced in Ecuador.  After almost returning the product to the store after reading last week's post, I reassured her that the Ecuadorian palm oil is not harming the ecosystem like the palm oil produced in Indonesia and Malaysia.  It is important to note that Ecuador, RIGHT NOW, is not causing harm to the ecosystem.  This is not to assume that greed will take hold and that they won't begin to have unsustainable practices like the companies in Indonesia.

One of the best resources I have found this far is Green Palm, endorsed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).  Their website has a lot of great resources for finding companies that are producing palm oil sustainably.

What must a palm oil company do to be called sustainable?  "Certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) and palm kernel oil (CSPKO) is produced by palm oil plantations which have been independently audited and found to comply with the globally agreed environmental standards devised by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). These stringent sustainability criteria relate to social, environmental and economic good practice" (GreenPalm.org)

Here is a great infographic from Green Palm, showing where palm oil is produced, where it is consumed, percentage of sustainable production, etc.

Purchasing sustainable palm oil is one option, but the best course of action is to avoid palm oil all-together.  Gemma Tillack of the Rainforest Action Network has some strong thoughts on boycotting all palm oil and compelling claims against the RSPO (read at her article here).

Make sure you take everything you read with a grain-of-salt.  Read all sides of the story and make your own conclusions.  

I say this because many environmental organizations are known for only seeing one side of the story and can cause social damage from their conservation efforts, especially on indigenous peoples.  BINGOs is what indigenous leaders call the "big international nongovernmental conservation organizations."  Read more about this here.

For the last Earth Friendly Foods Friday I want to reiterate (and slightly restate) my important message from last week.

No one is perfect.  Don't be hard one people who are trying to be conscious about their dietary choices.  

I see so many posts on Facebook with people scolding others on for their choices.  For example, a post by Food Inc. yesterday on grassfed milk.  Rather than saluting this company and the consumers that are spending the extra $1-2 dollars on this milk versus conventional, people are scolding people for drinking milk at all.  These strong words of hate and nonacceptance aren't going to change the milk-drinkers into vegans.  These harsh words just push people away and make them question why they try to change their food habits in the first place.

What we need is gentle persuasion and education.  Reward and commend people for making a step in the right direction, no matter how small it might be.  

Encourage.  Don't discourage.

We can't expect everyone to become a vegan, or expect you to never consume one single product that it is harmful to the environment or harmful socially.  It is nearly impossible (in this day in age & in America) to avoid GMOs 100%, to not slip and consume meat that was raised UN-sustainably, to not consume some chemicals in the food we choose, etc.  

Most us have full time jobs and busy lives, so we can't stay at home and cook everything from scratch so we know exactly what is going into our food.  And we all can't afford to shop at Whole Foods every week to buy the most sustainable products 100% of the time (me included).  

Tell yourself that "this is okay, I will do the best I can with the resources I have."  

But never forget: educating yourself is the best resource you have.  After that, start with small steps in changing your food choices and focus on one or two goals per week (don't try and change too many things at once).  

Also, as general rules of thumb for sustainable eating: try to cook as many meals yourself as possible and avoid processed foods.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Test It Out Thursday

Happy Thursday everyone!  For the last Test it Out Thursday of the challenge I wanted to share with you some resources on where you can find GREEN products and services to look for and try out. 

food, health, home, body care, pets, farm & garden, clothing, travel, etc.

household, construction, paper, cleaning, food packaging, etc.

personal care, food, household, babies & kids, pet food, apparel, electronics, applicances, etc.
shows rating of products on scale of 1-10 (10being GREENest)
also has a mobile app

energy efficient products, recycled products, water-efficient products, biobased products, environmentally preferred products, non-ozone depleting products, etc.
GSA Advantage®

appliances, food & drink, clothing, decor, office supplies, personal care, etc 

office, home, building materials, etc.

Plus, make sure you avoid Greenwashing!  A lot of people call themselves "GREEN" in today's marketplace because they know consumer demands are changing, but make sure to always question and read labels.  Here are some more tips on how to avoid Greenwashing

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Waste Not Want Not Wednesday - BTC Final Week

It's the final week of the Be the Change Eco-Challenge.  Kelsey and I want to again thank everyone who has been participating in the challenge and reading our daily blogs.  If you have learned one thing that has changed the way you live towards a more sustainable life, then Kelsey and I have achieved our goal.  Change begins with you.  

What do you think of when you think of waste?

When I think of waste, my mind goes straight to trash and it's usually to food, then paper, then plastic.

So for Waste Not Want Not Wednesday  we wanted to run with the more than 1/3 of the food that ends up in our trash receptacle. We all think to ourselves, we'll eat that for lunch, we'll snack on that later but do we? 

Our lovely friends over at Organic Authority have come up with a few ways for you to liven up your left over, here are just a few of their suggestions:

Scramble It: Anything can find new life in the next morning's egg - add some veggies, some cheese and you are good to go for a healthy start to the day. 

Stew It: Jill calls this everything but the kitchen sink but it's true! Toss it all into a slow cooker before you leave for work and you come home to a house filled with the yummiest of smells. 

Wrap It: Now a days wraps are all the craz but if you can fold into a a wrap, you can eat it - give it a try! 

Route It: Can you salvage a big hunk of avocado for a sandwich and send the rest to an omelet or atop a salad?

Break It Down: The very best way to maximize your leftovers is to not have any… and here's how to do that: Cook in stages. If you're making fried rice, cook your brown rice separate and dole out enough for your servings. Then, you have plain brown rice to use in paella, risotto, etc. Same with veggies—you can precook most of 'em and add a few to each dish. Rather than committing a whole head of broccoli to a stir-fry, save some for a broccoli potato soup the next day.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Now this is where we really pull on your heart strings. You ever see Extreme Couponers, and the Church Minister donates his entire $2,000 haul to the food bank? Well, that's because over 14% of American families and seniors go without food daily. It's not just at Christmas time families go hungry, it's 365 days a year. We encourage you to check out the EPA's website and Feeding America's 

Then there is this group: Rock and Wrap it Up. The Rock and Wrap It Up! Program boxes up all prepared but untouched meals following rock concerts, sporting events and schools then delivers them to local food banks and charitable agencies. Rock and Wrap It Up! also collects and distributes toiletries and cleaning products from hotels, schools and other participating donors. Since its inception in 1991, Rock and Wrap It Up has: Donated to over 43,000 shelters and places of need Collaborated with 60 sports franchises, 150 bands, and 200 schools Collected more than 250 million pounds of food and fed more than 500 million people. They wrote and helped pass the Federal Food Donation Act which encourages all federal buildings to feed the poor and not put food into land fill. We reduce the planet’s poverty footprint by reducing society’s carbon footprint. Rock and Wrap It Up! is a 501 C 3 charity.

And I bet you've never even heard of them?  This is Waste Not, Want Not.   This is thinking about avoiding our landfills and saving our planet.  This is making a difference. 

~Kristin & Kelsey

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Travel Green Tuesday for the Final Week!

It's the last Travel GREEN Tuesday of the Be the Change Eco-Challenge! Tell us what you're doing today to travel sustainably.

This is a very important day to try reduce your carbon footprint by the largest percentage.  Your method of travel has one of the largest impacts on greenhouse gases than other sustainability issues (such as choosing to eat locally or recycling, etc.), especially if you travel by air frequently.  

Here is a great infographic on why you should travel GREEN (click link below image to enlarge).

We hope you found these tips helpful.  If you did, we would be very grateful if you would share by emailing to a friend or sharing it on Facebook or Twitter.  Thank you!

Tell us about your Tuesday challenge activity in the comments section below.  There are only 7 days left in the challenge, so make sure you continue to earn your points towards winning the Conscious Box.  
Plus, to obtain more points, head on over the The RMOG Facebook Page and The Muse in Purple Blog!! 

~Kristin & Kelsey

Today I would also like to share some tips with you about travel booking sites and which ones are leading the way in sustainable-travel options.

What are the best travel booking sites for eco-friendly hotels?
So you are planning a trip?  How will you decide where to stay?  And if you are here on the Green Seal site, we know you are interested in finding an eco-friendly/green hotel, right?
There are many travel sites out there to choose from.  You may have been swayed by “Captain Kirk” (aka William Shatner) to check out Priceline, or the simple “hotels.com” website is easy to remember.  But what are the best sites when you are looking for an eco-friendly hotel?
Travelocity is the current leader for promoting sustainable travel options out of all the mainstream travel booking sites.  Unlike other popular travel booking sites such as Booking.com and Hotwire.com, the Travelocity site shows a “green leaf tag” when you are searching their site.  This tag indicates that the hotel is eco-friendly.  Hotels.com has a similar filter for sustainable hotels; however they are not backed by third-party certification.
Travelocity’s hotels are certified to be eco-friendly by a Third-Party certification company: Sabre® Eco-Certified Hotel Partners, which uses the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC) (Sabre, 2012).

Green Seal (GS) conducts similar certification of hotels.  For a hotel to be GS-33 certified, they must meet specific standards in waste management; energy efficiency and conservation; management of fresh water resources; waste water management; hazardous substance control; and have in place an environmentally and socially sensitive purchasing policy.  One example of GS-33 criteria requires the use of environmentally preferable laundry and cleaning products (Green Seal, n.d.).  
In contrast, the GSTC criteria only suggest that harmful substances should be minimized.  The criterion reads:
The use of harmful substances, including pesticides, paints, swimming pool disinfectants, and cleaning materials, is minimized; substituted, when available, by innocuous products; and all chemical use is properly managed (Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria, 2012).

While this is a positive step for the environment, this criterion is very vague and difficult to measure.  Four main categories summarize the GSTC criteria: sustainable management, socioeconomics, cultural impacts, and environmental impacts.  Unlike Green Seal, which uses specific and measurable criteria, GSTC is more focused on the social and economic aspects of sustainability, and less on the environmental aspects.  
Both Green Seal and Sabre® are reputable certification companies with positive goals of sustainability in mind and a traveler would do well to choose a certified hotel from either of these companies.
Green Seal offers a simple list of their certified hotels on their website, here.  The list is sorted by state and shows standard rating level (bronze, silver, gold) and links to the hotels’ website.  This is a great option for travelers to find a reputable green hotel easily.  
Two other mainstream booking sites offer a comprehensive list of green hotels: Orbitz and Expedia.  Travelers should be aware, however, that they are not backed by Third-Party Certification.

Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria. (2012, March). Global sustainable tourism criteria. Retrieved from http://www.gstcouncil.org/uploads/files/global_sustainable_tourism_criteria.pdf
Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria. (2013). The global sustainable tourism criteria.  Retrieved from http://www.gstcouncil.org/sustainable-tourism-gstc-criteria.html
Green Seal. (n.d.).Green seal environmental leadership standard for lodging properties, 5th edition. Retrieved from http://www.greenseal.org/Portals/0/Documents/Standards/GS-33/GS-33%20One%20pager.pdf
McFadden, K. (2012, November 30). Top 10 travel booking websites based on customer satisfaction. Retrieved from http://www.travelerstoday.com/articles/3772/20121130/top-10-travel-booking-websites-based-customer-satisfaction-jd-power-associates-booking-com-hotwire-priceline-orbitz-hotels-expedia-travelocity-cheaopair.htm
Sabre.  (2012, February 6). Sabre launches industry’s first eco-certified hotel program. Retrieved from http://www.sabre-holdings.com/newsroom/release.php?id=1477
Travelocity. (2010). Travelocity: Travel for good. Retrieved from http://www.travelocity.com/TravelForGood/green-travel.html


Monday, June 24, 2013

Meatless Monday - The Final Week of the Challenge!

It is the final week of the Be the Change Eco-Challange!  Let's start the week off right with Meatless Monday's!

I know it can be tempting to give in to convenience and other factors, but I hope many of you learned through this challenge that it is easy and tasty to forgo the meat.  Plus, the impact you are making by skipping that cheeseburger or chicken sandwich is HUGE!  Just remember, when you think that your choices are too insignificant to make a difference on a global level, remember this quote by Anita Roddick.  

For my final Meatless Monday post, I wanted to remind you to keep spreading the word Meatless Monday's.  Just because the challenge is over, doesn't mean you have to stop pushing yourself to make small sustainable changes in your life.

I will continue to post recipes and information about food sustainability on the RMOG Facebook page and here on my Pinterest page: http://pinterest.com/rmogreen/food-sustainability-healthy-eating/

There is a good chance Kelsey and I will run this challenge again in the future.  If we do it again, we may change up the days or rules a bit, so we would love to hear your comments on the challenge and any suggestions you have for future contests/giveaways.  

For my Meatless Monday challenge activity I whipped up my first batch of homemade hummus  that I am going to enjoy for lunch today with some sugar snap peas.  I also made a white bean hummus because my husband is allergic to chick peas.  

I was surprised how simple it was and how much better it tasted than the ones at the grocery store (and cheaper!!).  I encourage you to try making this at home, if you have a food processor or blender - once you taste it, you know it's worth the 10 minutes!

Roasted Garlic Hummus 
(in picture on left side of plate)
1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans)
1T tahini (toasted sesame oil)
1 large head of garlic, roasted (I prefer more than this - I used 2 heads)
2T olive oil
1/4c warm water (helps make it creamy)
1 lemon, juice of
1/4t sea salt

White Bean Red Pepper Hummus
(in picture on right side of plate)
1 can white beans (I used Great Northern, but you can use cannellini, navy, etc)
1T tahini (toasted sesame oil)
1/2 cup (4oz) roasted red peppers
2T olive oil
1T ground coriander
1/4c warm water (helps make it creamy)
1 lemon, juice of
1/4t sea salt

Directions for either:
Roast garlic (or sautee peppers).  Add all ingredients to a food processor.  
Blend.  Easy.  Done.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunday Funday!

It's Sunday Funday, as most of you call it....which you can also now call Community and Small Business Sunday.  The goals are the same.  Get out in the community, get involved, and have some FUN!

Keeping money local and in your economy helps the environment.  Locally owned businesses can make more local purchases requiring less transportation and generally set up shop in town or city centers as opposed to developing on the fringe. This generally means contributing less to sprawl, congestion, habitat loss and pollution. Plus it puts your taxes to good use: Local businesses in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure investment and make more efficient use of public services as compared to nationally owned stores entering the community.

Go to a farmer's market, buy from a local business to keep your business dollars in your local community, use your time to volunteer, educate someone on a sustainable issue that is important to you, etc.  Use your imagination.  We want to hear what you did to connect with your local city and local people

Tell us about your Sunday challenge activity in the comments section below (if you don't have blogger login, be sure to leave the comment with your name or email address).  Plus, to obtain more points, head on over the The RMOG Facebook Page and The Muse in Purple Blog.

We hope you are having fun!

~Kristin & Kelsey

Saturday, June 22, 2013

3Rs Saturday

Happy Saturday everyone!

I apologize for the last post, it has been a long week and I needed some R&R on this fine Saturday morning.  I hope you all are enjoying the weekend so far as well.

For my activity, I chose to test out this tip I saw on Pinterest about restoring old cookie sheets.  I have this one that is so old and nasty that it is not usable, for cookies at least, as it is so caked on with grease and gook.  My husband still uses it for bacon and such that he cooks for himself.  I have tried to clean it with an SOS pad, brillo...you name it, and I thought it was beyond restore.   I thought it would have to be thrown away or recycled, but alas....that is until I saw this Pin on Pinterest. 

I was still skeptical because I know I have had this cookies sheet for YEARS!  But I decided to give it a try anyway.  All I had to lose was a half container of baking soda and half container of peroxide.  So yep, that is all I did, coated the sheet in a small layer of baking soda and then slowly poured the peroxide on it until all the baking soda was wet.  I kept staring at it last night, thinking it would change right before my eyes, but nothing happened.

But viola, I wake up this morning and I see that it has worked it's magic.  It is still working it's magic, it seems, so here is a half-way picture from my own kitchen for now.  I forgot to take a before picture of the sheet, but I will post a picture of the "after" tomorrow.

It's pretty gross looking right now, but I can start to see gray come live in the cookie sheet that I thought would be forever a dark brown grease color until eternity.