Category Archives: Going Green

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.

Palm Oil, Orangutans and Soap

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Orangutan faces.  Simply adorable.

I like the idea of going vegetarian because it’s not right to eat animals — but it’s not enough to keep me from eating meat.  The idea that meat-eating contributes to global warming, though?  That does it for me: we went mostly vegetarian.  So you can imagine how I felt when I learned that the practice of harvesting palm oil contributes both to global warming and the destruction of the orangutan species (PDF)  — if you read no other links from this post, please read this one.

Palm oil is an edible oil extracted from the fruit and seeds of a certain kind of palm tree.  It’s used in all sorts of food products and home products.  Because palm oil is solid at room temperature, it’s great in soap; it helps to make a smooth, solid bar.

Of course, the FDA doesn’t require personal care manufacturers to list all of their ingredients, so palm oil hides under many different names.  Or it’s not listed at all.  That’s kind of a big problem when you’re trying to avoid palm oil.

What’s a palm oil-avoider to do?  You can search for palm free soap on etsy — these soaps are usually made with hydrogenated vegetable oils, lard, or shea butter in place of palm oil.  Or you can check your favorite soap seller.  Mine doesn’t list her ingredients, but just says “vegetable oils.”  That probably means palm oil, but just to be safe, I emailed her because I love a well-crafted bar of soap.

A third option is to make your own.  There are dozens of soap recipes out there, and at least a few are palm free.  Rachel at Small Notebook has a great tutorial up about making your own soap, and Renee at FIMBY, who makes soap for her entire family, recommends the book Clean, Naturally: Recipes for Body, Home and Spirit for beginner soapmakers.  I trust her, so I guess I’ll be picking that up from the library next week!

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©2009 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where Mr. Savvy found out that our favorite soapmaker might use palm oil and grew visibly upset.  We love soap that much.  Image courtesy of Sloth-in-a-Box (DOaZOO).