Category Archives: Live Slow

The Best We Can Do

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There’s a rumor going around that people who drive hybrid cars are more likely to commit eco sins.  They’re more likely to litter, from what I hear, or drive faster, or more annoyingly.  Hybrid drivers are just plain annoying.  That’s what I hear.

When I first heard that rumor, I thought that it was a load of bunk.  People have a tendency to be mean to those who aren’t in the majority, and I figured this was their way of looking down at “snooty environmentalists.”

Then I started to wonder if there wasn’t a grain of truth in it — that perhaps hybrid drivers gave themselves a pass on certain things because they figured that driving a hybrid canceled out any other damage. Or perhaps they thought they knew what was best for the environment and stopped learning new things and questioning old methods.

I’ll tell you right now, Reader, it’s that last idea.  I don’t have a hybrid, but this week I stopped questioning.  Mr. Savvy and I were taking the trash out when he noticed me putting a broken camp chair into a trash bag.

“What is that?” he wanted to know.

“That broken camp chair that’s no good to sit in,” I said, “I was going to get a bulky item tag for it, but it fits into a town trash bag, and I figured it was  time to throw it away.”  It had been sitting on our porch for months, unrepairable but waiting to be tossed — another one of those planned obsolescence items we had purchased before adopting a greener lifestyle.

Mr. Savvy picked up the trash can.  “Oh,” he said over his shoulder as he walked down to the curb, “is that the best we can do?”

What a simple question: Is that the best we can do?  I thought it was.  I thought about it all evening before I went to bed, and how even though the chair wasn’t any good, there were still good parts on it.  In the morning before the garbage truck arrived, I crept down to the curb, retrieved the camp chair, and did a little surgery.  I cut off the camp chair fabric and stuffed it into the existing garbage bag, thereby saving the new one I had used solely for the chair.   I can recycle the chair frame, since it’s mostly metal, and as soon as I haul out the sewing machine, the bag cover will become a reusable grocery bag that can fit into a purse (similar to these Envirosax bags).   That, my friend, is the best I can do.

Except for the part where next time, I’ll try to remember to ask myself, “Is that the best we can do?” BEFORE garbage day.  I should have that tattooed somewhere.

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©2010 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where Mr. Savvy and I keep each other in check er… I mean moving forward.  Image courtesy of J. McPherson.

The Scoop on Recycling Propane

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[Editor's Note: I have managed to strategically mislocate my camera.  No, that's not the same thing as losing it.  Sheesh!  When I unmislocate the camera, I will be sure to post a picture of our itty bitty grill.  Apologies for the inconvenience.]

We splurged this weekend and picked up a small propane travel grill.  Very small — the type meant for camping so that we can take it with us wherever we go.  It uses the little one pound propane tanks, little disposable, nonrefillable one pound tanks.

Ugh.

I hate things that are disposable.  You should have seen the deliberation process for this one after we found that out.  We talked to the salesperson, looked at a larger propane grill that uses a refillable tank, looked at this one again, went home, researched propane recycling options, called three different recycling places, hemmed and hawed, and finally purchased it two hours later.  Yeah, it was a process.

It’s all because of propane, that more-than-slightly harmless flammable liquid that is heavier than air  — the one that causes things to combust and explode.  Go propane!  It’s for this reason that propane tanks are categorized as household hazardous waste, and cannot be disposed of in the trash, although many places won’t take them in for recycling.

Thankfully, if you have a big enough grill, you can refill the tank and feel good about minimizing your environmental footprint.  There’s a catch, though: only propane tanks with a safety valve can be refilled.  This excludes small propane tanks like the ones we use for our new grill.  Depending on where you live, you can use the small tank until it’s empty and then chuck it in the trash.  And away it goes!

Only not really.  You and I both know these things don’t go “away” and disappear.  Someone has to deal with them after you’ve tossed them out.  In our case, I called our transfer station to see where they went.  The woman who answered the phone was surprised; apparently she doesn’t get this type of phone call very often.

“You can bring those small ones here and we’ll recycle them,” she said.

“Oh, really?” I asked, surprised.  This was good news.  “How?”

“A company comes and takes them away,” she said.  “I’m not sure what they do with them.”  A pause, then, “Do you want me to find out?”

I smiled.  “Yes, I do want you to find out, please. That would be great,” I said to her.

After a few minutes on hold, the woman came back.  “The company is the Northeast Resource Recovery Association, and they come by and pick up all the tanks we have here, bring them to their facility and drain them of propane.”  She was very helpful.

“Oh, that’s excellent,” I said, frantically jotting down the information.  “And what does this company do with the tanks after they’re empty?”

The woman paused again.  What can I say?  I’m persistent about these things.

“I mean, do they recycle the small tanks or is there some way to refill them and they do that?” I pressed.

The woman didn’t know.  However, she gave me their name again so I could find out for myself.  I called the Northeast Resource Recovery Association and repeated my query.  The woman who answered the phone was confused.

“Yes, we drain the cylinders,” she said.

“And what do you do with the empty tanks afterwards?” I asked.

“Um… why do you want to know?” the woman asked.

I laughed.  I hope she didn’t think I was laughing at her.  It just makes me a little punchy once I realize that not many people care about these things, so the questions come off as strange.  “I’m looking to buy a propane grill that uses the small one pound tanks, and I want to make sure they don’t end up in a landfill somewhere.  I’d like to know if you all refill the small tanks or if you break them down for recycling.”

“Oh, right!” the woman sounded relieved.

One transfer, a conversation about a coffee shop, and five minutes later, I found out that this particular company drains the propane from the tanks (presumably for refilling the larger tanks — I forgot to ask) and cuts down the small propane tanks to melt down the steel.  It’s high-quality stuff, this steel.  I’m glad to see they’re not letting it go to waste.

So these are your options when buying a propane gas grill: get a tank that can be refilled, because most hardware stores have a refilling station right there, OR get a small propane grill that uses small tanks and call around to your transfer station and every other place you know trying to see how this whole process works.  It’s not a perfect process (recycling the small steel tanks uses more resources than just refilling them), but it’s a better option than tossing them in the trash, or even better than buying a charcoal grill.

What’s your preferred method for summer grilling?

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©2010 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where our little barbecue was accompanied by a poetry reading in our very own backyard.  I love June.

Interview with The Clean Bin Project

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I just know you’ve been hankering for an interview to read.  Luckily, Jen CleanBin at The Clean Bin Project obliged.  If you haven’t heard about Jen, Grant, and Rhyannon’s quest to live without producing waste for an entire year, then you are missing out!  I’ve been following along with them for most of the project, and now that they’ve finished up their year without waste, I’m looking forward to the documentary they’re making.  What I especially love is that the whole thing snowballed after starting with the idea that they didn’t need to buy any more Stuff.  Now with that teaser in mind, here’s Jen on the subject of living simply:

1.  What is your definition of simple living?

Hmmm, that term always makes me think of living in a streamlined, clutter-free apartment (which is the opposite of where I live).  In truth, I think it’s about being happy without the encumbrance of excessive material possessions.

2.  How do you and Grant practice simple living while simultaneously creating as little waste as possible?  Was this more or less challenging during the year the project took place?

I would not describe my lifestyle as simple living – we always seem to have a ton of things going on, a bunch of ‘to do’ lists piling up, and a basement full of “stuff” – but our project did teach us to find satisfaction from things beyond material goods.  Striving for zero waste surprisingly did make our lives simpler.   We simply didn’t buy any “stuff.”  It didn’t reduce our quality of life, and I’d even say that having specific rules made it easier.  I didn’t have to think about whether a shirt was fair trade, organic, locally made, etc – I just couldn’t buy it, period.

3.  Have you seen an impact on your local community, the places you frequent, and the people you see regularly because they know you don’t like trash?

Definitely.  Lots of our friends have been inspired to change their habits and are now doing things like using reusable lunch containers or bags.  I often have people approach me wanting to share stories about how they are reducing their waste.  On the other hand, sometimes I feel that a wave of guilt goes through the room when we show up at someone else’s house.  We’ve had numerous friends apologize out of the blue for the waste they’re creating as if we’re the “garbage judges”- that’s not our intent at all.

4.  Can you tell us a little about your upcoming documentary and what you hope to achieve when it comes out?

I’m really excited that I can finally say our documentary is almost done!  We will be having our first showing at the end of May in Vancouver.  Then we’ll be cycling across Canada, showing it in different communities and hopefully sparking engaged discussion about garbage and consumption. In the States, we’ll eventually be entering film festivals and hosting community screenings.  Our film is a semi-comedic look at living zero waste.  We don’t want people to feel hopeless and paralyzed thinking about large scale environmental issues; we want them to feel inspired to take personal action. If our film inspired just one person to reduce their waste, I’d consider it a success.

5.  The Clean Bin Project looks intimidating!  What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on trying to produce less garbage?

Just pick one thing and be really dedicated to it.  Maybe it’s saying no to plastic bags or giving up take out coffee cups.  It doesn’t have to be big.  Once it becomes habit, you can move on to the next thing.

6.  What books and/or blogs would you recommend to Simple Savvy readers?

A lot of people think our project was too easy because we don’t have kids.  I like to read My Zero Waste because they show that it is possible with children. Beth at Fake Plastic Fish and Taina at Plastic Manners are the best resources on how to how to live without plastic.  Books that changed the way I think include Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Barbara Kingsolver); The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Michael Pollen); and Made to Stick (Chip and Dan Heath).  I’m also a sucker for realistic fiction, but that’s another story.

Thanks, Jen!  What great answers — I love that even though you’re not purposely trying to live a simple life, it worked out that way in the end for you two.  Readers, if you’re interested in more about the project, be sure to check out The Clean Bin Project Blog, the documentary, and facebook page!

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©2010 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where The Clean Bin Project is one of the blogs that helped me get started on this venture.  Images courtesy of The Clean Bin Project Facebook Page.

A Bike Shop Story

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It’s snowing here.  I’ve been dreaming of sunny days and dry streets — all the better to bike on, my dears.  And I’ve been meaning to write an article about my bike shopping experience.  I haven’t written it yet because I’m just a poor kid who hasn’t biked much since the age of 13.  I don’t know much of anything about derailleurs, struts, frames, forks, spokes or titanium alloys of any kind, and so I felt I couldn’t advise you properly.  But in response to this article (courtesy of Rowdy Kittens), about women’s bike shopping experiences, I decided it didn’t matter that I don’t know technical terms and biking language.  So here we go:

I walked into a bike shop with the intent of buying a bike.  I vaguely knew what I wanted: something lightweight, something simple, something where I didn’t feel like I was going to pitch headfirst over the bars.  I did a little research into what types of bikes were available, and came up with a price range and the word “hybrid.”  That was all I had to go on.

At my local bike shop, I was greeted by one of the owners.  I explained to him what I wanted, thinking I was doing pretty well.  I told him I hadn’t been on a bike in a while, that I was just going to ride around town, that the last bike I had was a road bike, and I didn’t like it.  I wanted wider tires, fewer speeds, and I didn’t want to feel like I was sitting too high or too forward.  No, I didn’t care that I wouldn’t go too fast.

“Let me show you this hybrid here,” he said, and lifted down a bike that looked like a road bike.  It was skinny, the seat was high, it was lightweight.  “Hands down, this is the most popular bike we sell.  You could ride across the country on this bike.  One of my regular customers rode it to Florida this summer.”

He let me try it out in the parking lot.  At once, I knew it wasn’t right; it felt exactly like a road bike.  It was rigid and, to my way of thinking, unyielding.  It was wobbly (or maybe that was me).  I didn’t like my posture on it, I didn’t like that I could barely lift my leg over the top bar.  It had twenty-three speeds.  Essentially, it was a road bike, but with mountain bike handlebars.  It was also out of my price range.

We looked at another bike, this one also a hybrid, but leaning way over into the “comfort bike” category.  The owner was skeptical, but I tried it out — and loved it.  There were shocks under the seat and over the front wheel.  It was slow and wide, a little sluggish, and I felt like  kid again, seated upright, barely leaning over at all.  I wished I had a bell.

The owner laughed.  “I never would have pegged you for that bike,” he said, glancing back at the first one I tried out.  The fast one.  I figured he was judging me by my looks, and possibly by the way I carried myself with confidence into the store.  I guess he hadn’t listened to what I had to say after that — like the fact that he tried to sell me a bike that was just about everything I didn’t want.

I tried out a third bike.  This one was slightly faster than the last, less expensive, more lightweight.  It had shocks under the seat, but none over the front wheel.  It had seven speeds, something that I stressed I was looking for three times.  I loved it.  I knew I wanted it.

To be safe, I tried out another bike, and then went to two more bike shops.  Nothing compared to the beautiful simplicity of that bike, that simple, lovely, not fast bike.  I went back and bought it, and since then, I’ve loved it.

The moral of the story?  Anyone can buy a bike.  Heck, I bought a bike.  I used to be the most sedentary person known to man, and now I have a bike and a bike shop where they know me by name.  So!  Do your research; now’s an excellent time to get started.  That way, when warm weather comes, you’ll be prepared.  You’ll be confident.  Confidence is key.

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©2010 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where my bike looks forlorn on the porch, dusted with snow.  Image courtesy of sfbike.

Talking to Kids About Climate Change

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Two weeks ago, a fourth grader and I sat down to read a book about the Tyrannosaurus Rex.  We got to the part of the book where the T-Rexes were dying out.

“They all died at once, right?” he said.

“No,” I said, pointing to the sentence we had just read.  “They died out over millions of years.”

“But how could that happen?” he said.

And so we talked about the idea of a population spreading so far out that individual dinosaurs couldn’t find enough mates, and therefore have babies.  It was an abstract concept for a fourth grader.  After all, he already knew what happened next for the dinosaurs.  So we talked about the same situation with humans instead — as in, what if some catastrophe happened and humans started dying out slowly, and couldn’t find another person to have a baby with?  Could he see then how a population could die out?

We paused.  I could practically see the wheels in the boy’s head turning.  He was processing the information that something as huge as a t-rex, a hundred t-rexes, could just die — just because, with no apparent reason.  He made that extraordinary leap that kids do sometimes, and applied it to humans.  He was envisioning all the humans dying out too.

I grew a little scared — mostly because I knew this was a possibility in the future, and I didn’t want to scare him.  But also because I didn’t know if it was in my purview to talk to him about global warming and dinosaurs and death. I waited to see what he would say.

And then, bless his beautiful, childlike heart, he said, “But who would take care of the Earth if humans weren’t around?  The dinosaurs took care of the Earth when they were alive, and then they died and now humans take care of it.”

Reader, I almost cried.  In the moment before I corrected this idea, I had a hundred thoughts: I wished this was true, that humans actually did take care of the Earth.  I thought about telling him that humans were, in fact, destroying the Earth with our boats and trucks and oil drilling and plastics.  I thought about telling him that Planet Earth would probably be much happier without humans mucking everything up.

I also envisioned explaining the truth to him, that we could do something to change all of this, and that it was going to be hard work but together we could do it.  And then, in one glorious instant, I realized that what I was teaching him at that very moment would probably shape his entire future.  That if he learned about global warming now, he could become a lifelong environmental activist.  I could teach him.

I told him, “If all the humans died too, the Earth would take care of itself.”

He said, “But the plants need things that are alive to take care of them.”

And I responded, “The plants take care of each other.  Plants are alive too — not in the way that humans are alive.  They don’t move, they don’t walk.  But they’re alive, and they support each other.”

He accepted that answer without further questions, and read on.

I’m not sure if I dodged a bullet there, or missed a golden opportunity.  What do you think?  Have you ever tried to talk to kids about global warming?

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©2009 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where I’m always surprised by the intelligence of children.  Image courtesy of Cuppojoe.

Local Meat and How to Find it

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When we first moved, one of my lovely readers asked me to talk about how I find food that fits into my ethics, and I responded with An Introduction to Finding Your Food, talking about the ways to source good, local vegetables.  With the holidays almost upon us, I thought I’d branch out from there and tell you a little how I’ve found the animal products that we eat on a regular basis. Because all regions are different, I’ll give you the low-down of what I did, and see if you can’t pick up a few pointers.

For starters, I looked in our local big box supermarket to see what kind of meats and cheeses they carried.  If anything claimed to be natural or organic in any way, I wrote the name down and looked it up on my computer.  I also kept an eye out for local foods, and stocked up on those in the mean time.

You can only get so far in supermarkets. Truth be told, fliers have been my greatest boon in the search for better foods.  I’m talking about those annoying fliers you get in the mail, the ones you hardly ever glance at before tossing in the recycling bin and saying to yourself, “How in the HECK did they get my address?”  Yeah, those.  I peruse them like nobody’s business, sending the Rite Aid and Shaw’s fliers off to be recycled, while searching through the remaining materials for coupons to local stores, announcements about special winter farmer’s markets, and news from local businesses about how their raw milk industry is booming.

Well, not so much that last one.

But you get the picture.  Where other people toss these things aside, I read through them for more information about the area I live in.  That’s how I found a Whole Foods-like store near us that caters to local farmers.  That’s how I found out about the winter farmer’s market that’s occurring this Saturday, and five other Saturdays throughout the season at a greenhouse not far away.

When I went to Not Whole Foods, I came across a free magazine called Taste of the Seacoast, which had tons and tons of ads from even more family farms in the area.  Online research about these farms led me to take another look at Local Harvest — which I’d given up on at some point.  If you haven’t heard, Local Harvest is a website that’s kind of like a phone book for local farmers.  Oh, you’re looking for CSAs in your area?  Here you go.  Trying to figure out when the next farmer’s market is?  No problem.  It’s handy, but sometimes a little overwhelming if you don’t know where to start.

I was searching for local meats, and that’s how I came across a raw milk dairy farm not two miles away, that also sells meats, breads and pies occasionally.  And when I went to visit them, there were fliers and business cards tacked up on their bulletin board, some of the advertising more local businesses.  Jackpot!

They key here, as in my previous post, is to pay attention.  Actively search for your local businesses, because they don’t have the advertising budget of bigger stores that knock you over the head with ads that say “Shop here!”  It takes a little more effort, but the payoff is huge.

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©2009 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where, in one of life’s beautiful coincidences, my friend Katie at Making This Home posted about something very similar today.  First image courtesy of Chiot’s Run.  Second image courtesy of parl.

An Introduction to Finding Your Food

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Right after we moved, I got a request to talk about the process I use to source new supplies.  That is, what I do to find local, organic, cheap food, gifts and toiletries in my area.  It was an interesting request, and one that I’m happy to oblige.  After all, how often does someone get the chance to look into this type of thing?  I won’t have an opportunity like this for another few years when we move again.

Luck has a lot to do with it.  I’m lucky enough to live in New England — New Hampshire, to be precise — and close enough to a liberal city that finding organic items is not too difficult.  And not only are we twenty minutes from a liberal town, we’re another twenty minutes from a liberal college, which means more of an influx of new ideas and consumer demands, which means more organic and fair trade products.

One of the other perks of living in this area of New Hampshire is that there are farms everywhere.  I can’t drive ten minutes in any direction without seeing a farm or a farm stand.  I’m not telling you this to brag, but rather to explain why in some ways it’s been easy for me to find good, local food.

Finding vegetables has been my top priority, so far.  Vegetables are the staple of our diet; we average 3-4 vegetarian dinners a week.  I prefer to buy vegetables from local sources and vegetables with minimal packaging.  Vegetables that taste good are always nice too.  To that end, the way I’ve found our vegetables is by getting to know our area.  There’s a farmer’s market once a week in our town, and a larger farmer’s market once a week in the next town over.  America’s Oldest Family Farm isn’t far away — their tomatoes taste amazing.  I came across these two sources by walking and driving around, doing my errands and paying attention to signs.

When I see something interesting but don’t have time to investigate further, I make a note of it in my pocket notebook.  Sometimes it’s information off a sign, sometimes off packaging in traditional grocery stores — because let’s face it: I shop there too.  Then I get home, do my internet research and figure out where to go from there.  I’ve also used Local Harvest with some success, but that’s a story for another time.

How about you?  How did you find your food sources?  Any tips you’d like to share?

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©2009 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where I’m out of tomatoes.  Can you believe it?  Completely out, and missing them.  Image courtesy of Jill Clardy.

Green Wedding Recap

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I have a confession to make: we did not choose every greenest option possible for our wedding.  Like most couples getting married, Mr. Savvy and I had a budget, and had to compromise on quite a few of our choices.  Was it beautiful?  Yes.  Did we end up married at the end?  Yes.  Did we have fun?  Well, you be the judge:

The day started with a hair appointment with my sister and a friend, and lots of smiles.  We used hair products we already owned.  They weren’t natural or organic in any way, but they also weren’t new.  (Second confession: I have a habit of keeping hair products I don’t use, sometimes for years.  My hair just does its own thing.  I try not to get in the way.)

My dress was made from bamboo, with a polyester lining.  My sandals were leather and new.  I’ve been wearing them nonstop for the past two weeks, so I’d consider them a good return on my investment.  There was also quite a bit of tape involved in keeping the back of my dress up, which was unfortunate, but necessary as I’d lost a little weight and things didn’t fit quite right.  Oh, the best laid plans

Mr. Savvy’s outfit was entirely new, but one that he’ll use again.  We don’t go shopping often, see, so we didn’t have many nice clothes, and didn’t mind spending a little dough on things that we know we’ll reuse.

Our rings are one of my favorite parts; mine belonged to my grandmother, and Mr. Savvy’s was made from wood and recycled white gold.  My engagement ring is made up of two recycled emeralds, one new emerald, some recycled diamonds, and white gold.

We asked our attendants to wear a particular color, but gave them free range inside of that so they would pick something they’d wear again, or something they already owned.  I think we turned out well!

We used a florist who dealt only in local and organic flowers, and cut way, WAY back on the number of flowers we used.  The venue was already gorgeous — no need to dress it up any.  We either owned or rented the vases and baskets involved.  Our one splurge was a basket full of flowers so guests could tuck a flower behind their ear.

No placecards meant less paper used overall.   We created small signs printed on paper we already owned for the four reserved tables.  We did end up going with programs, something which we had hoped to avoid because they are such a waste.  In the end, we decided that saving paper took a back seat to explaining the fact that both of us changed our last names to something completely new.

Our caterer was kind enough to source local vegetables for us, especially once we explained we wanted to keep things as in season as possible.  We offered one meat and one vegetarian dish, served family style, and I believe none of the food was organic.  Our cakes were made by a friend, and our pies were brought by guests in lieu of presents.

Of course, not everyone brought a pie.  But in our Alternative Gift Registry (please note that the link points to a sample registry!), we specified that we already had so much Stuff from living together for four years that we didn’t need a wafflemaker and another set of wineglasses.  Instead, guests brought us handmade items, consumables, and gifts made by local craftsmen.  We ended up with many unique presents, including some vintage family things and a donation to Heifer International.  I was truly touched by the thought that went into the gifts we received; people went out of their way to give us something creative.

We had a kids’ table full of toys we’ve amassed over the years and leftover art supplies from my collection.  It was a big hit, and cleared out some of our clutter to boot!

We didn’t give out favors, (although there would have been some plant centerpieces to give away if I had remembered to pack them in the car…) and I don’t think anyone missed them.  We had a few things for people to take home, however: we included a basket full of flip flops so our guests could play outside without getting their good shoes dirty, and a bin of temporary tattoos for everyone to have fun with.  I gave my bridesmaids vintage presents, although you don’t get to see a photo or know what they are — handing them out slipped my mind on the day, and I still have one left for my friend who reads the blog.

We used recycled seed paper for our invitations, sealed with cotton thread and a flour/water paste.  They were made to fold up so that there wasn’t a separate envelope. We  opted not to include an RSVP card, but had our friends and family call or email us, and we relied heavily on our wedding website to disseminate important information.    Our save-the-date cards were postcards, printed on regular paper in the interest of time and money.

We decided to step away from the traditional guestbook and asked our guests to write their names and a note on a square of fabric that we then tied into a handfasting cord.  Now that the wedding is over, I’ll sew the squares into a quilt that we can show off in our home.  We used one yard of new fabric and a bit more than one yard of vintage fabric.

For our honeymoon, we drove the three hours to a greenish hotel in Vermont.  I say greenish because they’re not LEED certified, but they do compost, grow some of their own food, encourage recycling right in the guest rooms, and ask their guests to consider reusing their towels.  They also donated some of their 2700 acres of land to the town’s conservation program so that it would never be sold for development.   I’ll give you a hint as to where we stayed:

Phew!  And that’s it in a nutshell: nine months of planning summed up in one post.  Any questions?

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©2009 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where I wonder why tearing down trees and putting up concerete buildings and roads is considered “development.”  Images of the wedding are courtesy of Andrew Coutermarsh, a fantastic photographer and friend.  If you would like to contact Andrew for your own photography purposes, let me know and I’ll set you up!   All other images belong to me.

PLEASE NOTE: I normally don’t have any comments policy (although I will delete spam).  But for this blog post, I reserve the right to delete comments that I think are rude and derogatory.  It is my wedding we’re talking about, after all.

Guest Post: Commitment to Green

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This next guest post is from Jen over at The Clean Bin Project.  Jen’s was one of the first blogs I came across, and she had me hooked from the beginning!  She writes about living a zero-waste, consumer-free year.  She and her roommates Grant and Rhyannon are trying not to generate any waste at all for one year.  They’ve only got one week left, so head on over to see how they’re doing.

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About a year ago, my roommates and I were talking a lot of trash. More specifically, we were talking about how we could reduce it. How we could have less crap coming into our house and ending up in the landfill.

The trouble was, that it was just that – talk. We were aware that we wanted to change, but we could seem to actually do it.

I know lots of people like this. People who say “oh, it’s so great that you’re trying to live zero waste. I could never do it” or “I wish I could do it.”

You can! We all can!

The trick for us was going public. We picked a date, told everyone we knew, and started our year long project. Writing a blog and talking about it with family and co-workers is what has kept us on track. I would be so embarrassed if they saw me eating out of a takeout container or putting something in the garbage that I would never do it. We are intrinsically programmed to practice what we preach.

Being part of team also helps. I’m not just trying to cut down on garbage on my own, all three people in my household are doing it. Plus the hundreds of others out there who are blogging about it. Other writers like Simple Savvy are my support system, reminding me that even if the person beside me in line at the grocery store is double bagging everything, there are lots of other people out there who are thinking about their environmental impact.

It’s actually kind of fun, like a contest. (our year long project actually is a contest between the three of us). Everyday I try to make it one more day without buying something and without putting something in the garbage. Everyday I say “No bag please. No straw please. I don’t need a napkin. No toothpicks. . . .” They’re little things, but they add up. I’m not saying we never end up with crap we don’t need, but at least we’re thinking about it, and talking about it, and acting on it.

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365 days ago we had a nearly full garbage bin every week. Now, thanks to composting, home baking, and discerning shopping, we don’t even use a garbage bin. And strangely enough, the hardest part wasn’t trying to live waste free, it was making the public commitment to do it.

Thanks, Jen!  Make sure to check out Jen’s description of The Project to get an overall understanding of what they’re doing.  I can’t wait to see what they’ll throw away this year.

Guest Post: Switching from the Purge Mentality

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This first guest post comes from Katie at the fantastic Making This Home.  Katie and her husband Martin moved to Berlin, Germany last year, where they reside in a 480 square foot apartment.  Be sure to check out their amazing kitchen remodel, and some of the ideas they have for saving space — I love their hanging, sliding bike garage in the hallway.

My husband and I move a lot, so you can probably guess that we go through our stuff all the time.  Each time we’re moving, I get really excited to purge the clutter.  But after our last move overseas to Germany, I realized we needed to switch from the purge mentality and into the stop-buying-all-that-stuff ideology.

If your house is like ours sometimes, it’s easy to grab a cute little item from the $1 bins at Target or grab a cute pad of paper from the shipping center.  In addition to being a very un-green habit, our tendency to buy here and there will also unknowingly bog our lives down.  We don’t always realize how much stuff we’re accumulating and not using (like every one of those $1 items I’ve ever grabbed) and how much we’re spending until we stop and really look at our habits.  We just get sadder and more frustrated for having so many things.

Here’s some of our diehard habits we’ve been working on because we’re not always going to have the chance to declutter several times a year, which is how often we move:
First we stopped grocery shopping at super centers.  It’s just too easy to venture into the other end of the store, you know?
Second I share my purchases with my husband.  If I feel embarrassed showing him what I buy (like two of the same shirt in different colors), it’s probably a good sign that I don’t even need what I’m spending our money on.
Third is asking myself when I’ll need or use something.  If I need it in the next week, I should get it.  A lot of women love to buy huge quantities of fabric that never get used.  It’s easy to do if you love to sew.  But fabric often just becomes more stuff.  If you’re not going to use it this week, skip it.
Finally do the math.  How many hours of work will it take you to pay for this item?  Is it worth that type of commitment?  The worst is when you can’t actually pay cash for something and end up paying interest.  Suddenly the little $3.50 magazine bill is collecting interest over the months.
Thanks, Katie!  Find more of her great content and some truly awesome photos of her apartment at Making This Home.