Sunday, January 31, 2010

Day 29: Find a Greener (Local?) Bank

Megan: I can't believe you still let your bank "walk-all-over-ya." You should really find a local bank and keep your money here, in our community.

Tony: Big banks have tons of ATMs and are much more convenient. They also offer online banking. Besides, I like knowing my money is safe in a "too big to fail" bank like...hmm...on second thought...

When I moved to Elon, I opened an account at Wachovia since they had the most convenient ATMs. Not only was there an ATM on-campus, I could also use my university ID as the ATM card.

Fast-forward to 2009, and Wachovia nearly went under until it was bought up by Wells Fargo. While they are still convenient, Megan argued that there must be a better local option. After I watched a video about investing locally, I decided to make the switch. Wanting to have something both local and convenient, I decided to do some research. Below is a map of some "local" banks in Alamance County.

View Local Banks in Alamance County in a larger map

In some cases, "local" meant Alamance County and that's it. In other cases, "local" meant only in North Carolina. I visited a few and opted for MidCarolina Bank. Their new Rewards Checking account offered 4.25% interest, so long as I had direct deposit, 10 transactions per month with my debit card, and e-statements. Everywhere else I looked was offering less than 1% and typically less than 0.2%.

I don't think I'm doing much for the planet in making this switch, but I am helping the local community, and that has to be worth something.

Pocket: 4, Planet: 6, Win-Win: 19

Days 22-28 Roundup

Some PAPER WEEK items mixed in with some other stuff...
  • On Day 22, we tried recycled toilet paper
  • On Day 23, we vowed to use cloth napkins
  • On Day 24, recycled paper towels (if any!)
  • On Day 25, we decided to read our rare newspaper online
  • On Day 26, we decided to sell our old books and read more things electronically

    And that was the end of paper week!

  • On Day 27, Tony tries barefoot running
  • On Day 28, Megan disses the treadmill

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Day 28: Run Outdoors, Not on Treadmill

Megan: I want to go for a run, but it's soooo cold. But also I hate to waste electricity on the treadmill. Choices, choices.

Tony: The good thing about running indoors is that you don't need as much gear because it's a climate-controlled environment, so that saves money. Plus, we have a free gym through work, so there is no cost to go there.

Here's what happened to me this winter with the whole treadmill running issue. Since Dec 29, I was on a streak, running every day to see if I could do one month of daily running, and then hopefully to continue that as long as I could, just for fun. Well, we hit a cold snap in mid-January, so I moved to the treadmill for a few days when the high temp was in the teens and low 20s.

I find the treadmill to be boring, so I brought a book (see this posting about reading e-books). For four days, I used the treadmill - I was actually excited to have time to read my book uninterrupted, so I logged some serious treadmill miles. On day one, I ran 6 miles and noticed some blisters forming. On day two, I ran 4 miles, and noticed I was running different to compensate for the blisters. On day three, I ran 5 miles and I had a pain in my shin. On day four, I ran another 6 miles and was in complete pain in the shin and arch of my foot.

So much for the running streak. Went back to the road, and was fine in literally ONE DAY, after an 8-mile run. Go figure. I blame the treadmill for altering my gait.

Anyway, with respect to green issues, I am already annoyed with the treadmill for injuring me, so it is not too hard to rationalize against it for green reasons in addition to just being generally unhealthy. Every 30 minutes on the treadmill I was pumping out 2 pounds of CO2. So, at a 10-minute-mile pace, it took me 210 minutes to go those 21 miles, which is seven 30-minute blocks, which means I added roughly 14 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere. Shame, shame, shame.

With respect to Tony's issue of buying gear to run outdoors, he's right. I will agree that you need different gear if you run outdoors, no matter what season. In winter I wear running tights, long-sleeved shirts, different jackets, ear warmer head band thingie, and use a head lamp if it's dark. In summer I wear a visor and a singlet. In spring and fall I wear capri length tights. In all seasons I use a special handheld water bottle if I'm going more than 8 or 9 miles. None of this I would use indoors on a treadmill (I'd probably just wear a technical t-shirt and shorts).

The other bad thing about buying running gear is that you can't really buy it used. I mean, runners run and sweat in their gear. Buying a sweater from a thrift shop is one thing, but buying a pair of used running tights? Even if I could find the right size, I would be extremely hesitant to buy it. Ugh.

So here I am in Maryland, at a hotel, 1" of snow on the ground (and forecast for 6" more by evening), and I'm heading out to run. Wish me luck.

BTW, I will actually concede this point to Tony, and chalk it up as a pure 'win' for the planet column since I can't think of a way to make this a win-win.

Pocket: 4, Planet: 6, Win-Win: 18

Friday, January 29, 2010

Day 27: Run Barefoot

Tony: I don't want to buy new running shoes. They cost way too much!

Megan: Yeah, and they're full of toxic materials and synthetic plastics. Have you considered running barefoot? There is a whole movement out there of people doing it.

Megan and I have been running each Wednesday night with a small group of other runners around Elon. During a recent run, one of the other runners talked about how many shoes he was going through in preparation for a marathon he is training for. I think the rule of thumb is to replace shoes after 300-400 miles, but I've been running in the same pair of Asics for almost two years now and am loathe to go out and spend more money on shoes. Shoes are meant to last. In fact, I still have a pair from high school that I use for trail running.

While waiting for people to show up for this past Wednesday's run, I was reading that a recent research article in Nature suggests running barefoot is better than running with shoes. Apparently, when running barefoot, one tends to land on the front of the foot rather than the heel. From my own experience running in shoes, I was quick to believe that. So, I decided to try it the barefoot experience out for myself.

The three mile run was very different without shoes, needless to say. There were so many different textures. I was also much more aware of what was on the ground in front of me. Being that kind of person who likes to compare and contrast, here is my ranking of the running surfaces on the Elon University campus.

1. The best surface, hands-down, was the new brick sidewalks. These were cool, smooth, and provided a little bit of give. The new patio in front of the Belk Pavilion is a great example of this. These were a welcome relief after having run on the other surfaces.

2. There were a few spots of grass that I jumped to in order to avoid oncoming traffic. The few patches of these that were away from trees were nice as the grass was cool and brushed away tiny pebbles that were stuck to my feet. Still, I could not run on the wet grass too long before my feet got very cold.

3. The uneroded paved surfaces were also very nice. Any road or parking lot that had not eroded into pebbles was much better than even the best cement sidewalk. I found very little broken glass or pebbles on most of the asphalt on-campus.

4. The cement sidewalks were nice, but tended to feel a bit more like sandpaper than asphalt.

5. Eroded paved surfaces were not too bad themselves but tended to be covered with tiny pebbles. Ouch!

6. Old brick sidewalks felt like very coarse sandpaper. I steered clear of these as much as possible.

7. Grass near trees looked so inviting, but it was filled with twigs, "gumballs," and all sorts of things that tore my feet up with just a few strides. Running at night, it was hard to tell if grass was filled with these things so I tended to stay away from it when possible.

During the run, my feet felt a little tender but not bad. After getting home, it started to feel like I had pebbles in my shoes...except I wasn't wearing any shoes! After brushing off the dirt, I realized I had some seriously nasty blisters on my right "ring" toe and my left "index" toe.

I'll probably try this again to see if I can toughen up my feet and go without shoes. Not tomorrow though.

Pocket: 4, Planet: 5, Win-Win: 18 (My Feet: -2)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Day 26: PAPER WEEK: Buy E-Books, Sell Paper Books

Tony: We can sell all these books on Amazon and not have so much "stuff" around the house. New books we'll buy online if possible, or request them from the university library.

Megan: Great idea. Does this mean I can buy as many books as I want, as long as they are all electronic?

We've sold a lot of books on Amazon. Some old textbooks, novels, reference books, a wide variety. It is nice to have a smaller bookshelf, although I think books can be a conversation starter when people come over, so it makes me a little sad to watch the shelf dwindle down in size. What's left is a very strange eclectic mix of stuff we've deemed too important/interesting/special to sell, or which the market has told us is too value-less to sell.

I've been reading more since I got the Kindle last April. I've bought lots of books for it, and in yesterday's post we discussed reading the newspaper on the Kindle. I would not recommend it for reading heavily referenced non-fiction (i.e. lots of reliance on the index, lots of outside quotations), non-fiction with lots of tables, or for book clubs or other places where there is a mixed group of Kindle and non-Kindle users.

I cover my thoughts on the e-book reader in postings over on my university web site here and here.

I'm still trying to reduce consumption overall, especially when it does take energy to power the Kindle (albeit a small amount), but it's nice to be able to buy a book, read it, and not add to the overall clutter in the house at all. Of course e-books have no resale value, but then again neither do many of the books we're trying to sell on Amazon.

Pocket: 4, Planet: 5, Win-Win: 17

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 25: PAPER WEEK: Read the newspaper electronically

Megan: we don't get the newspaper anyway (save a tree), but I do like to read the New York Times on Sunday morning. It's $5!

Tony: How about we read it on the Kindle for $0.75 or just read the free versions online?

I have a Kindle through work, and I started using that to read the newspaper. It's good. Cheaper than paper version, no waste, and I can look things up while I read.

I count this as a win-win (considering the sunk cost of the Kindle). If you were thinking of buying an e-reader just for this purpose I'd suggest thinking again.

Tomorrow's post is about e-books...

Pocket: 4, Planet: 5, Win-Win: 16

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day 24: PAPER WEEK: Buy Recycled Paper Towels

Megan: We'll buy recycled paper towels, and of course this includes reducing the use of paper towels too. Should not be a problem. I pretty much only keep them around for cleaning cat barf. I've never had a cat puke as much as this one does.

Tony: Since you're the one cleaning up the cat barf, you get to pick whatever kind of towel you want.

Buying recycled paper towels was the inaugural challenge for Vanessa in Sleeping Naked is Green, by the way.

Unlike toilet paper, recycled paper towels are not substantially more expensive than non-recycled ones. I claim a win-win.

Pocket: 4, Planet: 5, Win-Win: 15

Monday, January 25, 2010

Day 23: PAPER WEEK: Use Cloth Napkins

Megan: Cloth napkins are so pretty, and they're reusable!

Tony: Harumph.

I think ever since I've been cooking for Tony, I've used cloth napkins so this isn't technically a change. I don't iron them, I just try to take them out of the dryer straightaway so they aren't so wrinkled. I have different patterns and different types of cloth. They're fairly small so I figure the cost of laundering them is negligible since they would not make a load of laundry any larger than it already was. (We have kids, so we're doing laundry a lot. Expect several postings on laundry issues at a later date...)

Anyway. A couple of months ago I also started carrying a very large, thick cloth napkin in my purse for when I go out. It's sort of like having a bandanna with me, except the material is nicer so it's softer on my face. I like this instead of paper napkins or public restroom paper towels.

Considering the napkins already exist in our household so their cost is sunk (I didn't have to go BUY new napkins), I am counting this is a win-win.

Pocket: 4, Planet: 5, Win-Win: 14

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Day 22: PAPER WEEK: Buy Recycled TP

Megan: Yes, we're going to talk about toilet paper on the Internet. I'm sorry to be the one to have to do it, but I have no choice. Just for a moment, think of how ridiculous it is to chop down trees to wipe our butts with. Only in America. Can we please at least buy the recycled stuff?

Tony: Recycled TP has trouble written all over it. It is not only LESS cushy, but it is also MORE expensive. I don't see how you're going to make this a win-win.

At $2.99 for 4 rolls, the recycled TP at our local grocery store is not cheap. It's rarely on sale, so we're pretty much just going to pay $0.75 per roll no matter what. But when you think about it, 75 cents per roll is not that much, is it?

Time magazine ran this story about the impact of home paper goods on virgin forests, and then the New York Times ran a similar story, while the NRDC has this paper products guide for consumers to give brands to buy and to avoid.

Each American uses an average of 23.6 rolls per year. Come on, is it really worth chopping down an ancient Canadian boreal forest just to wipe your butt? I think not. Much of the rest of the world doesn't even use toilet paper, and in the countries that do use it, such as in Europe, the percentage of households which use the recycled kind is much higher than in the US.

So far...
Pocket: 4, Planet: 5, Win-Win: 13

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Days 15-21 Roundup

  • On Day 15 we vowed to make our own homemade applesauce.
  • On Day 16 we tried local ice cream.
  • Megan waxed poetic about the cycle of cynicism and Tony started a virtual fundraiser for Haiti earthquake victims.
  • On Day 17 we had a major smackdown over buying "green" wine, and that little debate didn't finish up how we expected at all.
  • On Day 18 we debated turning off the freezer for good.
  • On Day 19 we started PAPER WEEK (just like Shark Week, but better!) by cancelling all our magazines, or so we thought...
  • On Day 20 we decided to join the 3/50 project for local businesses.
  • And on Day 21 we continued PAPER WEEK by eliminating junk mail.

Yes I know that we skipped a day at the beginning of PAPER WEEK but we're just going to pretend it doesn't matter.

Day 21: PAPER WEEK: Cut Down on Junk Mail

Megan: What a waste of trees! Junk mail is so annoying. We've got to do something about all this trash.

Tony: No kidding, I can't see how this can possibly be good for planet or pocket.

Here is the list of steps we followed to get rid of junk mail:

1. Gather all the catalogs in your recycle bin. Go to and sign up, then type in the customer numbers and say you want to be removed. This works well even if the catalogs are sent in your name or the name of a former resident.

2. Go to the DMA and get rid of all credit card offers, all other catalogs, and all other "offers".

3. Discontinue your ValPak coupons here

4. Get removed from those glossy flyers with the pizza coupons

5. Phone books: For this one, you'll have to get the actual phone books you want to discontinue, unless you know the companies that send them to you. I had three different ones to cancel (!) and who even uses the phone book anymore? What a waste.

send email to talkingphonebook:

call AT&T at 1-866-329-7118

use DEX (Embarq) form

Not sure how long this last DEX form will apply. It might re-set after a year, in which case I am annoyed.

There is still a lot to do, but most of it is with telling companies we do business with to stop sending all that paper. (Example, Geico, paper bills, etc.)

Here is another site that walks you through the process, step by step, of cancelling some of this stuff.

We had NO LUCK getting the Times-News to stop sending those newspaper flyers in the mail. First I called and left voicemail. Then I sent email. Then Tony called and asked them to stop, and they still keep sending them. It is so annoying.

so far:

Pocket: 4, Planet: 4, Win-Win: 13

Friday, January 22, 2010

Day 20: Saving small businesses with the 3/50 project

Megan: We need to support the local economy instead of buying stuff at big box stores and chains, even the ones that aren't Wal-Mart. Let's take part in the 3/50 project to save small businesses!

Tony: This sounds like it will cost more money. Then again, I know that Irazu Coffee is better and cheaper than Starbucks, so maybe this could be a win-win.

The 3/50 project is pretty simple.

Step 1: Pick three local shops that you love.
Step 2: Spend $50 at them each month.

Easy, right? Of course, when Megan and I sat down to each pick out our three shops, it was a bit more difficult. I instantly picked Irazu Coffee, even though I had promised to give up coffee shops in an earlier post. I can get my 20-oz half-caff mocha there for the same price as Starbucks and it's better! They use chocolate syrup rather than powder so it doesn't get gritty towards the end of the drink. As a bonus, the owner Rod knows me by name and knows my typical order. Maybe someday Starbucks will deploy the technology where they detect my iPhone and know what I plan to buy, but Rod's "face recognition" scheme will still be superior. ("You look a little tired today. Want the full-caff instead?")

My second choice was also easy: Carolina String Studio. I just started there but already like it a lot.

There are two more nearby establishments that I'd hate to see go under: Simply Thai and The Fat Frogg. While I was leaning towards the latter, when I learned that Simply Thai had live music on Wednesdays and Fridays, I decided to make it my third choice.

Megan had several local businesses that she loves and wants to support, including the J&L Bicycle Shop, Mad Stylz used clothing store (in the Timberline Station with Simply Thai and The Fat Frogg), and Red Oak Brewery. However, she couldn't really come up with a way to spend $50 at each of them every month. (Seriously, how often do you need new parts for your bicycle? She's riding a refurbished 1994 bike as it is, not some fancy rig...) In picking her stores, she had thought that the project meant $50 total, not $50 per month. I'm going to suggest that she spends $50 per month total at the three stores and see how that goes.

Unfortunately, spending money at local establishments does not really fit in to my "be more frugal" resolution, and it doesn't fit into Megan's "cut down on consumption in general" ideas either. Still, I'm willing to play out this little experiment for awhile to see if there are any long-term savings.

Pocket: 4, Planet: 4, Win-Win: 12

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Day 19: PAPER WEEK: Unsubscribe from Magazines

Megan: Magazines are a waste of trees and money. Most of the content you can get online the following month anyway, and what you're really paying for in a magazine is advertisements, reviews of products, and product placements. Then they sell your name to other companies who try to sell you more stuff in the mail! It makes no sense.

Tony: But I have these frequent flyer miles and these Coke Rewards points, and they're only redeemable for magazines! They're free, and I'm ordering!

I unsubscribed from all my magazines, which was a lot. I loved to read magazines. But, they really are a waste of trees. I was on Maghound which was a nice service where you subscribe to magazines for a monthly fee and they manage your subscriptions and send them to you, sort of like Netflix. Anyway, I quit that and unsubscribed from all my other magazines a few months ago.

Tony promptly subscribed to Wired and Newsweek by cashing in points from two rewards campaigns. (I freely admit that at the time he put in the Wired subscription, I was in favor of it. My tune changed but it was too late.) Most of the content from both of these is available online, and while the content of Wired is unique, I feel like Newsweek is just another news magazine. Why do I need this on paper?

"Unsubscribing" should be a win-win but I feel like what we've done is only a "pocket win" right now because of these "free" subscriptions. I'm sure our junk mail will increase, and while the magazines are recyclable, let's be honest, they're really a waste of paper. I will take them to our university fitness center so hopefully someone else will get a chance to read them, and hopefully they will be recycled afterward by the staff. Finally, I hope that when these subscriptions run out, we won't renew. That would definitely be a lose-lose.

so far...
Pocket: 4, Planet: 3, Win-Win: 12

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Day 18: Turn off the Freezer

Tony: I'd love to turn off the freezer to save money, but what if we break the refrigerator in the process?

Megan: Yeah, that sounds like a win-win to turn it off, but is it really ok to do that?

We had our entire refrigerator/freezer break on Christmas Day 2009. We were scheduled to go to Virginia for a few days anyway, and it had just snowed, so we put some food outside in the snow, turned off the unit, and toted the rest of the food up to Virginia to my parents' house.

When we got back, we had the fridge fixed, no problem, but I wanted to see if we could do without filling the freezer again.

So far, it's nearly a month later, and we've got only ice (and ice packs) and one half-bag of frozen ravioli in there (Claire's favorite food) and two pieces of wedding cake that we're supposed to eat next July.

Here is a picture I snapped of the freezer the other day:

Empty freezer

I'm wondering if it's ok to leave a freezer unfilled (I've heard that it runs more efficiently when it's full), but really I want to know if it's ok to just turn it off. At the top of the unit where the doors hit, there are two knobs for freezer and refrigerator coldness settings. One of the settings on each dial says "off". But in the owner's manual it shows this diagram of where the air goes, and it looks like the air travels from one compartment to the next in a path. I don't want to break the fridge by having the freezer off.

I wrote a letter to "Hey Mr. Green" on the Sierra Club web site but I don't know if he'll take my question.

If we leave the freezer on, everyone has said "keep the freezer full to make it not work so hard". So, assuming we keep the freezer running, but I'm fixing mostly seasonal and fresh foods, what should I fill a freezer with?

Hmmmm. Should I buy a side of beef and get it cut up and just eat off of that for the next 5 years?

I saw on one site that we should fill it with empty milk jugs. (On the theory that a full freezer cools more efficiently than an empty freezer.) Why empty jugs and not jugs half-full of water? I am confused by this.

I suspect that it would be a pocket and planet savings to just turn the freezer off, but I'm scared that I'm going to break the refrigerator's cooling system / air flow thingie, thus negating any positive effect and causing us to have to fix it yet again (bad for pocket). So we might end up leaving it on and filling it with something. I don't know... legal bills? Kitty litter? Dryer lint? Sand bags from Tony's virtual garage sale?

so far...

Pocket: 3, Planet: 3, Win-Win: 12

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Day 17: Drinking Greener Wine

National Geographic created a great graphic recently revealing that the carbon footprint of California wine bought on the East Coast has a much larger carbon footprint than buying wine from France, Chile, or Australia. Why? Delivery by boat, even from the other side of the world, is much more fuel efficient than delivery by truck from the West Coast. (I don't have a Nat Geo link, but here's the graphic on Dr. Vino's website.)

This drove Megan to quit drinking the cheap $3 Walmart wine that we had been buying. The best local alternative she found was NC-produced Childress red table wine for $8 per bottle. However, after doing a little math, I realized that with the extra $5, I could do a lot more to save the planet.

The National Geographic articles claims that 4.4 pounds of CO2 per bottle are emitted when bringing from Napa Valley to my local grocer. How much would I have to pay to offset that? Two different sites, the Sierra Club-endorsed and, led me to similar results.'s family plan for 60,000 lbs of offset was $369 or $0.006 per pound.'s offset of 11,000 lbs was $50 or $0.004 per pound.

Thus, I could spend just $0.02 per bottle of wine to offset its transportation carbon emissions. If I go back to buying Walmart wine for $3 per bottle, pay $1 per bottle to offset worldwide carbon emissions, keep another $4 in my pocket, and have a global carbon footprint that is 50 less than Megan's "buy local wine" solution.

That's a "Win-Win" in my book!

Megan's Response
Ok, there is so much wrong with that posting I cannot stand it. I will enumerate your logical errors as follows:

1. Walmart? Really? You think buying $0.02 worth of offsets is like hitting the giant UNDO button on that travesty? Just walking into that din of noise with the televisions on full blast and the incessant made-in-China consumerism adds multiple stress dollars onto the cost of anything that they sell. Here are some facts about how Walmart externalizes their true costs of selling things so cheaply.

2. Offsets? Yes, offsets are great! But they're only buying indulgences for a single sin: carbon emissions. Maybe they work, maybe they don't. But what about all the other costs you've externalized in this transaction? The grapes were grown with all manner of pesticides, the water was diverted from other perhaps more important crops, the labor of the pickers is maintained with questionable practices. Ugh.

3. Now this is an important one to me: What about supporting our local living economy? Yeah, if I'm at the grocery store, I'll pick up some NC wine, like Childress because it's nice and goes with everything, and tastes very smooth (even if the bottle design is a little tacky). But what about when we support vineyards right here in our own county!? Remember when we went out to Grove winery? (Cue romantic music and pictures from YOUR OWN PHOTO SET.) If I buy from Grove or Iron Gate or any of the Haw River wineries, those are right here in our OWN backyard. I can go to the vineyard, talk to the owners, taste what they're making, and meet people and build community. That's worth more than your "donation" to some faceless corporation selling what is essentially "get out of guilt free" offsets.

4. Finally. Walmart wine sucks. It tastes like it's been on the back of a truck for 3,000 miles, because it has. It's fine for $3 wine, but when you add in the cost of everything that it stands for and all the costs you've externalized to get it for $3, there's NO comparison to something real and local and good.

Tony's Response to Megan's Response
1. People change and, in this case, companies can change. Walmart launched a new program to label green products just this year!

2. I agree that I am skeptical of the carbon offset approach. Here is a list to the third-party reviewers for the TerraPass-funded projects. Also, how much would I have to pay to offset these "externalities" that you speak of?

3. Grove Winery isn't even available at Lowes Foods. Do we need to make a special trip just to pick up a bottle of wine?

4. Wine critics do not agree with and, in fact, Walmart's Oak Leaf wines have won gold medals.

Megan's Response to Tony's Response to Megan's Response

1. Greenwashing a couple of signs ("look buy this, it's green") isn't really the point here.

2. Easy answer: How about $8 per bottle?

3. What's wrong with making a special trip? When did special become bad?

4. The chardonnay was the one that won the gold medal prize in the Florida State competition (?!?), and you don't buy that. Yours won a bronze in San Francisco. Here is an academic paper questioning the entire concept of award-winning wines and pointing out some rather obvious statistical facts about winning a prize.

The Family Consensus:
It became clear as we discussed this posting, that the easiest solution for pocket and planet was just to not drink wine! Or to only drink wine on special occasions and then buy the stuff that's good and local. Tony admitted that he probably wouldn't actually take the time to buy the offsets for the wine, and Megan admitted that at $2 per glass, her local wine was the real "indulgence" in this debate. We've decided to drink herbal tea and call it a draw. Well we'll see how long that lasts!!

Pocket: 3 Planet: 3 Win-Win: 11

Monday, January 18, 2010

Virtual Garage Sale/Haiti Fundraiser

I'm cleaning out the garage but the weather is not yet good enough to have a real garage sale. Thus, I've decided to have a virtual garage sale/fundraiser for victims of the earthquake in Haiti. I will be donating all proceeds to the American Red Cross to support their efforts there.

On the cycle of cynicism

Our generation (post boomers, pre-millenials, sometimes called Generation X) is quite adept at cynicism. Over here at Green v. Green we're trying to acknowledge this and avoid becoming even more cynical, but it's tough.

In Sleeping Naked is Green, Vanessa talks about the cycle of cynicism. Here's an online a description of the cycle:


1. Finding out about a problem
2. Wanting to do something to help
3. Not seeing how you can help
4. Not doing anything about it
5. Feeling sad, powerless, angry
6. Deciding that nothing can be done
7. Begin shutting down
8. Wanting to know less about problems

Repeat until apathy results.

It's tempting to do nothing, but the problems don't go away. So somewhere between steps 3 and 4 up there, we can take some small actions, or try big actions, and maybe stop the cycle.

If we share the ideas that we do about #3 and #4, then someone else might like our idea and do it, or better yet, they might improve our idea and make it better, and then they'll share that, and pretty soon we have a cycle of innovation and hope. Maybe naive, but I guess that's better than cynicism...?

Day 16: Buy Local Ice Cream

Megan won me over with her Homeland Creamery milk (back in Day 4), even if it is $4.99 per gallon. Their skim milk tastes as rich and creamy as 2% milk by other brands. I decided to try their $3.99 pint of chocolate ice cream with the kids this weekend. ("It's for the children!" I declared. Megan doesn't eat ice cream, so I bought it when she wasn't looking, and threw in a bag of M&Ms also.) Considering that I could get a half-gallon of most other brands for that price, I realized I was paying a lot of green for my "green" ice cream. Unlike the Homeland Creamery milk, I didn't notice any significantly better flavor or texture. (Of course, this is a lot cheaper than buying each kid a cup at Coldstone Creamery.)

Pocket: 3, Planet: 3, Win-Win: 10

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Donating Miles for Haiti

The tragedy in Haiti is pretty horrific and if you're like me, you feel compelled to do something. Most sites suggest donating to the Red Cross. Unfortunately, the amount of cash I have in my bank account is not enough to really make much of a difference. However, I saw one site that suggested donating airline miles. Great idea! While these are only worth about $0.01 per mile, when you have 30,000 miles here and 20,000 miles, there, the change starts to add up. Of course, I could use these to get magazine subscriptions that I wouldn't read or plastic junk that wouldn't work. Instead, I decided to try to give all of my miles to the American Red Cross. All of my airlines' websites had a button for donating to them. Here's what I found on each site:

Unfortunately, my American Airlines miles expired in December. "AAdvantage members must have mileage earning or redeeming activity once every 18 months in order to retain their miles" I think this is all the more reason to donate miles; it is quite possible they will expire before you get to use them!

Delta SkyMiles didn't have a web form but did create an email that could be sent. If you have some miles with them, remember that "accounts with no activity for 12 consecutive months after enrollment will be deleted."

Continental OnePass miles had a form but didn't actually deduct them from the balance after hitting the "Donate" button. I think they get deducted in 5-6 weeks. OnePass miles don't expire, so I had lots leftover from graduate school in Houston, one of their hubs.

US Airways had a form that included the Red Cross, but had a funny line at the bottom. "US Airways reserves the right to allocate miles between charities within the guidelines of the Miles of Hope (R) program." Also, their miles can go away, too. "Miles are subject to forfeiture if no miles have been earned or redeemed within a consecutive 18-month period."

Day 15: Making Homemade Apple Sauce

Tony: mmmm, applesauce. But wow, that's expensive.

Megan: Homemade apple sauce is so easy to make and it's much better than the store version. You can use whatever apples you like, including local ones in-season, and/or organic.

Here's the applesauce breakdown.

Organic apple sauce at our local grocery store costs approximately $3 for 16 ounces (2 cups). Non-organic store brand apple sauce costs a little less than $2.

One bag of local NC apples costs $4. Today I made apple sauce from 2 bags of apples. (So approximately 6 pounds for $8.)

1. Peel the apples and core them. Cut the apples into chunks.

2. Put the apples in a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat with some water and some brown sugar. For this amount of apples, I started with a little more than a cup of water, and added more as the apples cooked. For the sugar, I probably used about 1/2 cup. (Sorry to be so vague, but I really did not measure things.)

3. As the apples cook, they will begin to break down and get mushy. Add water as you see that you need it. I like to keep a measuring cup of water next to the stove. Some recipes call for apple juice instead of water, it's really up to you.

4. Use a potato masher to mash the apples. You can use an immersion blender to blend them smooth. Leave some chunks (our kids love those!) and add cinnamon if you like that.

Serve warm or cold. Cold is better but warmed right off the stove is nice at dinner.

This made a little more than 12 cups of applesauce, which is equivalent to six jars of applesauce at the store. Six jars would cost between $6-$18, depending on how organic it is. So making your own does not compete with the cost of buying the cheapest store brand applesauce, but it is much cheaper than buying premium or organic applesauce. However, I would argue that the quality (ingredients and prep) is higher with mine, than with either of the store types.

For kid school lunches, apple sauce costs $0.50 for 1/2 cup disposable with a foil lid (natural, organic, no sugar added - 6 cups for $3). Using the homemade method, you can adjust the sugar to your liking, use local apples, and it will only cost $0.17 per 1/2 cup serving. Put these in a reusable container with a metal spoon, and you're good to go.

This is a huge win-win.

so far...
Pocket: 3, Planet: 2, Win-Win: 10

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Update on Day 8: Buying Secondhand

Just read in the No Impact Man book:
Bolstering secondhand markets also creates an incentive for people who buy new stuff to take care of it so that it will ultimately have resale value.

I think this is an excellent point, and one that I had forgotten in our original post, when I was mostly commenting from a "reuse" perspective.

Days 8-14 roundup

  • On Day 8 we vowed to shop in secondhand stores
  • On Day 9 Tony got rid of one of his Internet services
  • Megan talked about being just another eco-stunt blog
  • On Day 10 Megan extols the virtues of homemade yogurt
  • On Day 11 Tony talks about his coffee addiction
  • And on Day 12 Megan comes clean about hers
  • Day 13 was about composting
  • And on Day 14 we decided to reduce our use of meat.

Day 14: Reduce Use of Meat

Megan: good quality meat is pasture-fed, locally-raised, humanely-killed, non-factory meat. But meat that meets all these characteristics is STILL a relatively inefficient use of resources (link).

Tony: Meat is expensive, and good quality meat is more expensive.

Americans eat a lot of meat, probably more than we need. We can easily cut back to help both pocket and planet. Do we really need meat 2 or 3 times a day? Or are we just eating it out of habit?

Cutting down on meat means that we may lose an easy source of 3 nutrients: protein, B12, and iron. So I wanted to make sure that we were replacing the meat in our diets with good alternatives. Alternative sources of protein are: beans, lentils, tofu, whole grains, eggs.

I messed around a bit with this formula:

1. Weight in pounds divided by 2.2 = weight in kg
2. Weight in kg x 0.8-1.8 gm/kg = protein gm.

The page says, "Use a lower number if you are in good health and are sedentary (i.e., 0.8). Use a higher number (between 1 and 1.8) if you are under stress, are pregnant, are recovering from an illness, or if you are involved in consistent and intense weight or endurance training."

They then give an example, which I have tweaked for Tony below (what, you think I'm going to post MY weight on the Internet?!? Ha!):

Example: 170 lb male who is a regular exerciser and lifts weights
170 lbs/2.2 = 77.2kg
77kg x 1.5 = 116 gm protein/day

Some other sites, such as vegan web sites, list lower figures as "recommended". For instance, Vegetarian Resource Group says 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. Some of them just generalize and say "45 grams for women".

As a runner, I do think a bit about protein (running is not just about carbs!), and I've logged my protein intake before (using Daily Burn or another online calculator), always ending up with low figures. This is going to have to be a purposeful effort to get protein numbers up unless I accept one of the low vegetarian / vegan site numbers. Perhaps the truth is somewhere in the middle.

On a typical day, here are the items I might eat that have protein in them: one hardboiled egg (7g), 2 slices homemade whole wheat bread slices (8g), brown rice or some other hot whole grain (4g), 1 serving of beans or lentils (9-14 g), 2 servings of nuts (18 g). Other things I eat a lot of (vegetables and fruit) only have trace amounts of protein in them. So clearly, at about 50 grams, I have a ways to go to get these numbers up unless I'm sedentary. Which I'm most definitely not.

One 3-ounce chicken breast has nearly 30 grams of protein in it. You can't argue with these numbers. Where to find chicken breast locally that is good quality? Well, I looked in LocalHarvest for our zip code, and found one producer nearby who has chickens. After an email exchange, I learned that their chickens will not be ready until May. Organic Prairie chicken is available at our local grocery store. It is $13.99 for 2 pounds. It is frozen and minimally processed (means there's a lot of fat on it and funky looking pieces of gristle and stuff that still needs to be cut off, so there's some waste, although in general it tastes fine -- nothing like a real, fresh chicken though!!).

As for the other nutrients of concern, B12 is a vitamin only found in animal products, but can be supplemented with nutritional yeast if needed (I put this in my granola). Iron is mostly found in red meats and leafy green vegetables.

I'll cover local sources of beef and lamb and pork in a later posting. There are sources, though they're definitely not cheap or convenient. I'll also make some more specific postings later on beans, lentils, whole grains, and nutritional yeast.

so far...
Pocket: 3, Planet: 2, Win-Win: 9

Friday, January 15, 2010

Day 13: Composting

Tony: How in the world is composting pocket-friendly? I mean, pocket-neutral maybe. We had to spend a little to build the pile, but what do we really save?

Megan: Because look at all the money we save in trashbags? Actually, it probably is pocket-neutral. But it's extremely planet-friendly.

We started the compost pile last summer when Tony built us a nice round container for the back yard. It's your basic slow pile compost. We have a little crock on the countertop and when it gets full we take it out to the pile. We put in yard stuff when we have it, and the kids like to use the paper shredder to put in a bit of paper too.

Here's a picture of the pile:

There's really not much to a compost pile. I put in vegetable matter, coffee grounds and filters, shredded paper, egg shells, leaves, grass, and dead plants of all kinds.

I think the most intimidating thing about building a compost pile is the amount of information available on HOW to do it. You can really over-engineer the thing quite easily if you're not careful, or scare yourself off of doing it entirely.

I'm going to put this as a win-win.

So far...
Pocket: 3, Planet: 2, Win-Win: 8

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Day 12: Morning Caffeine

After Tony's posting yesterday about his afternoon caffeine fix, I thought I'd offer a counterpoint that represented a more planet-friendly approach. I drink coffee in the morning, sometimes at other times during the day. How can I "green" this?

Now, to begin with, drinking coffee is not particularly planet-friendly, I admit it. But, let's say that I wanted to make my coffee consumption as (planet-)green as possible, while perhaps slowly cutting down consumption (man, that would be easier if it weren't so cold). Ideally I'd like to not drink coffee at all, but as vices go, I feel this is pretty minor, and giving it up entirely has eluded me so far.

Ok, so here are the guidelines I have been following.

1. No decaf. The carbon cost of shipping coffee around the world to get it decaffeinated is too high on a product that is already questionable from an environmental standpoint. (If I don't want caffeine anyway, I'd probably drink herbal tea.)

2. Buy shade-grown, organic, bird-friendly, and fair trade, preferably from countries where these words actually mean something, and where there are not water/irrigation or labor problems. A tall order. (Maybe even a Venti. Ba-dum ching.) Gotta tell you though, at our local grocery store, this combination is pretty tough to find.

(I have not looked into the cost of shipping beans that meet all these criteria to our home and grinding them ourselves. Not sure what the carbon impact would be or how practical this would be.)

3. Use organic or local half-and-half. This costs $3.99 for a quart at Lowe's Foods. Sometimes if you buy 2 you can get a coupon for $1 off.

4. Use sugar sparingly. I'm down to 1 tsp. The half-and-half is better than the sugar anyway.

5. When I go out for coffee, it should be for social purposes, not convenience, and I should bring my own mug. (Right now I'm partial to a 20 oz. Caribou mug I bought in 1999. Barnes and Noble gives a $0.10 discount.) If I fail to bring my own mug, I will ask to use a store mug. Failing that, or not given enough time to drink my coffee properly with an in-store mug (ahem, Tony drinks his about 10 times faster than I do) I get a to-go cup but use and re-use my own cardboard sleeve. (I keep two sleeves in a pocket in my purse.)

I've had overall good experiences with baristas when going out and not using the paper cup, except for once at a Starbucks when we asked for the in-store mugs and she still used a paper cup to make the drink, then poured it into the mugs, then threw out the paper cup. She said it was easier to make that way. Sigh.

#2 and #3 on this list are not cheap. #5, #4 and #1 save money, but not a lot. The cost of organic half and half and fancy fair trade coffee outweighs these other savings, so I'll have to put my coffee habit in the "planet" column and not really score it as a win-win. Now, if I gave up coffee entirely, THAT would be a win-win. Double sigh.

so far...

Pocket: 3, Planet: 2, Win-Win: 7

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Day 11: Afternoon Caffeine

I must admit that I like Starbucks. I also love Irazu Coffee, a quality local coffee shop that became a chain when they opened a second location in the student center on-campus. Lately, I've been going to there in the afternoon to get a caffeine boost. Unfortunately, $4 per large mocha x 20 afternoons per month = $80. This is more than I was paying for cable or the iPhone. I can't even imagine my world without my iPhone (yet), so it is time to cut back on the coffee.

I had left my Hamilton Beach coffee maker 3-in-1 Hot-Beverage Center in the astronomy lab for cold nights but have transplanted it to my office. I still have enough Senseo pods to last me awhile and can get more pretty cheaply ($0.60 per serving).

There is also the Pepsi option. While most soda only has one-tenth the caffeine of my Venti Mocha, it is less than $0.50 per can usually.

It won't taste good, I'm going through cans and plastic wrap galore, but maybe it will save me money and still be enough to keep me from dozing off in the aftern...zzz...

Pocket: 3, Planet: 1, Win-Win: 7

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Week One Roundup

Here's a weekly roundup telling what worked, and what didn't.

Day 6: Shampoo. Ugh. Did not work.
Day 3: One car. So far, so good. We're operating with one vehicle and no problems so far.
Day 7 and Day 10: Bread, yogurt. Still making these ourselves, no changes.
Day 2: Cable. We do not miss it. Much.

Day 10: Make Homemade Yogurt

Tony: mmm, vanilla yogurt.

Megan: Ugh, that stuff is full of junk. It's more like dessert than dairy. Plus who knows what kind of chemicals they put in there! Guar Gum? Didn't some of that come with Claire's chemistry set?

It's easy, green, and inexpensive to make your own yogurt. Less waste, fewer non-recyclable plastic containers to throw away, you can use your own local or organic milk, etc. Homemade organic yogurt costs about 25% of what store-bought organic yogurt costs.

Here's how to do it:

1. Take a quart of milk and bring it to a near-boil over the stove.
2. Use a thermometer to test when the milk reaches 140 degrees F. As soon as it does, turn the burner off.
3. Let the milk cool in the pan to 110 degrees F.
4. When the milk reaches 110, whisk or stir in 1/2 cup yogurt. This can be yogurt from the store or from a previous batch.
5. Place the mixture in a bowl and put the bowl in a warm place (100 degrees) for 12 hours. Hint: At 8pm I take my slow cooker (turned off), put the yogurt in a glass bowl inside the crock pot with a lid on it, put a heating pad on low inside the Crockpot (above the glass bowl), then put the Crockpot's own lid on it. Cover the whole thing with a towel. Go to bed.
6. When you get up in the morning, put the glass bowl in the fridge.

When the yogurt is cold, eat it. If you're Tony, dump a bunch of sugar and vanilla extract in it first, then eat it. If you're Megan, mix it with your homemade granola. (I'll post on how to make homemade granola later...)

Now the pricing:
For 1 quart of organic Stoneyfield Farms yogurt, you will pay $2.99 at the regular grocery store. With 1 gallon of delicious local milk or organic milk (or both), I will pay $4.99 and I get 4 quarts of yogurt. That's $1.25 per quart. Sweet.

This is a definite win for both the planet and the pocket.

so far....
Pocket: 2, Planet: 1, Win-Win: 7

Monday, January 11, 2010

On being just another eco-stunt

So we're not ashamed to admit that Green v. Green is another eco(logical) and eco(nomic) stunt blog. Like Evel Knievel imitators in the 70s, we've strapped on our flaming pantsuits to follow in the footsteps of those eco-stuntmen and stuntwomen who have gone before us, jumping rows of Zipcar Priuses on their homemade bamboo bikes.

Aside from Walden, the original eco-stunt, two of my favorite other eco-stunts are: No Impact Man and Green As A Thistle (a.k.a. the "Sleeping Naked is Green" chick - hey, what does it say about me that I always want to misstate her title as "Sleeping Green is Naked"..? Don't answer that.) When I read these blogs and books, I learn so much from the way they described their grappling with choices, and the way they described their feelings about giving things up, or making the decision to take back a habit (or not).

When I read about these stunts, I can't help but think, "Could we do this?" So Tony and I decided to apply the eco-stunt formula to our lives, while being careful to apply it with our own core values in mind. There's no pride in simply following a list of "rules" made up by some green lifestyle pusher. This had to be our own challenge.

We decided that each day would represent one issue, and we'd debate this issue in terms of its ecological and economic impact. We thought it would make a nice point-counterpoint when we take into account both types of "green".

One superficial thing that makes our blog different is that we're a blended family in a small town in the south, with two careers and three kids between us. This demographic is fairly different than Colin's (No Impact Man, New York City, wife and one child) and Vanessa's (Thistle, Toronto, single).

We hypothesized that some of the things that mattered to us would not matter to them (packing a school lunch, for example, or living in a town with no co-op grocery YET and no sidewalks and no farmer's markets in winter), and some of the things that mattered to them would not matter to us one whit (elevators, in Colin's case, and eye shadow in Vanessa's).

Anyhow, there's nothing new about blog stunts, in fact, here is a round-up of these types of "do something for some length of time and write about it" stunts. (This list is compiled by me, Megan, so there are more "eco" type blogs listed. But trust me when I say that there are stunt blogs in every category...)

Green As A Thistle blog, book

No Impact Man blog, and book

Not shopping for a year: one
and two

Buying nothing new for a year

A year without buying anything from China

Lots of people giving up tv for a year

Giving up the cell phone for 60 days

No new plastic

Buying only local things for one year

Eat only things grown within 100 miles of where you live

Or doing a One-Less-Car Challenge

Try to make no trash for an entire week

A guy and his family who pledge to not drive the car (check out that initial investment to re-tool...)

And just because there are haters everywhere, Elizabeth Kolbert takes on eco-stunts in the New Yorker in her article Green Like Me: Living without a fridge, and other experiments in environmentalism

Day 9: Goodbye MobileMe, Hello Google

Tony: It might be time to get rid of MobileMe. I don't really use it anymore since I've switched to Gmail, Flickr, and SugarSync.

Megan: I'm glad you're not paying $99 per year on that anymore, but is it actually cheaper to have Flickr Pro and SugarSync? This isn't really a green issue, but I'll support the reduction in spending for online services.

My MobileMe account expired on January 7th. I had been a loyal customer (and Mac evangelist) since December 2000, back when this service (then called iTools) was free. When it changed to .Mac in 2002, I started shelling out my $99 gladly each year and used (or tried to use) most of the features. Unfortunately, these services got slower and buggier over time, driving me to find alternatives.

PHOTOS: I have been using iPhoto to sort my photos for years and created pages on (and then When I first saw a friend using Flickr, I thought it was a bit gauche. The ads and the page design were so...ugly. Still, the simplicity of uploading photos rather than creating pages appealed to me. Apple added this feature and I tried it for awhile but ultimately was wooed to Flickr as a means to share my photos with a Creative Commons license. I really liked the idea of giving something back to the "open source/freeware/sharing" community. I was surprised that people would actually use my stuff, but they did. Some commercial sites, a few education sites, but mostly blogger after blogger after blogger after blogger. While Flickr is free, to show more than 200 pictures at a time, you need a Flickr Pro account for $24. I'd prefer free, but for unlimited photo storage, $24 is pretty good.

MAIL, CONTACTS, CALENDAR: I have long wanted to have a single repository for all of my mail, contacts that wouldn't keep mysteriously changing, and a web calendar that I could collaborate on with other people. I love Apple's interface for these and did not want to give up,, or Address Now, all of the products can sync easily with Google online services. I was worried about my iPhone, but it syncs very well using the Microsoft Exchange protocol on the iPhone.

ONLINE DISK: This was the most aggravating part of my iDisk/.Mac/MobileMe experience. After a decade, I assumed slow servers were a given for any online disk like this. Then I discovered Dropbox and SugarSync. Both offer 2 Gb of free storage and more space for more cash. I opted for the 30 Gb for $50 per year option with SugarSync. I chose it over Dropbox since it is a bit more flexible in terms of controlling what folders get synced. I only had 20 Gb with MobileMe but didn't even use that since it was so slow and tended to freeze my machine.

The bottom line is that I'm spending $74 per year instead of $174 per year. Even if Apple made its services comparable in speed and capacity as Flickr and SugarSync to lure users like me back, the $99 cost would still be more than the $74 I am currently spending.

so far...
Pocket: 2, Planet: 1, Win-Win: 6

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Day 8: Shop in Secondhand Stores

Tony: wow, look at all the stuff you can get at a thrift store! It just needs a good washing, and some of this stuff is good as new.

Megan: I like the idea of recycling and re-using rather than buying new. Some of this stuff is pretty bad, but there's some cute stuff too. Thrift stores and garage sales are ok, but it's really hit-or-miss sometimes. What about other types of secondhand stores? Let's use this posting to talk about all types of "alternative shopping" in our area.

Today we made a trip to the local Goodwill store, dropped some stuff off, picked some stuff up, and then made this list of other resources we use.

1. Craigslist: an online newspaper classified section Greensboro Craigslist and Raleigh-Durham Craigslist.

2. Freecycle: people giving stuff away for free Alamance County Freecycle.

3. Thrift Store and secondhand clothes store map for Alamance County:

View Secondhand Stores in Alamance County in a larger map

Yes, there's a consignment shop in West Burlington that I did not include but I don't like it (long story). This is only a map of places I like and would visit again.

Yesterday Tony found an outfit that he needed, a sweater and a pair of jeans. I found a few things that I sort of wanted, and there were some cute sweaters, but nothing I couldn't live without, so I didn't get anything. There were some very cute kids clothes, but all the wrong sizes.

so far....
Pocket: 2, Planet: 1, Win-Win: 5

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Days 1-7 roundup

On Day 1, we started this blog and agreed to put ads on it.
On Day 2, we got rid of cable (but not the tv).
On Day 3, we put one of our two cars in cold storage.
On Day 4, Megan gets Tony to try local milk (success!)
On Day 5, Tony tries to find a "greener" dry cleaner.
On Day 6, we experiment with shampoo.
On Day 7, we make homemade bread from now on.

Day 7: Make Homemade Bread

Megan: I've been making all of our bread since last October (thanks No Impact Week for helping me get to the next level), so I've got a routine worked out, and it's actually pretty easy and fun.

Tony: Great, but what about the cost aspects? Is this really cheaper than store bread?

Well, you asked for it. Here's the math.

A store loaf of 100% whole wheat bread costs between $2 and $2.50, depending which brand is on sale. Sometimes they are 2/$4 or $2.49 per loaf. (It's been so long since I bought bread, I can't remember!)

For me to make a 1-pound loaf of bread using 100% whole wheat, water, yeast, dried milk (SACO brand dried buttermilk is what I like), butter, some wheat bran and flax seeds added, and salt, costs approximately $1.25 to make. (You get a little bit more than 6 loaves of bread per 5 pound bag of organic King Arthur flour.) A bag costs about $4, which is about $0.75 per loaf. The cost of yeast and dried milk add another $0.50 to the loaf, making a loaf of bread cost about $1.25. The butter, salt, are of nominal cost. The wheat bran and flax seeds are optional and of only nominal cost (buy in bulk at co-op market, store in leftover yogurt containers or glass jars).

It's not as easy as buying it at the store, but I feel the end result is worth it. The homemade bread takes approximately 3 hours if the dough is made in the bread machine and risen and formed by hand and baked in the oven. It takes less total time if I make it entirely by hand but has the downside of taking more of my attention. I have not tried the no-knead 18-hour bread yet.

I have messed around with various recipes (e.g. not using dried milk) but this particular one works well and tastes good. We don't mind the taste of whole wheat bread. It's definitely not as cloyingly sweet as store bread.

The texture of the homemade is so much better, that alone is enough to make homemade bread worth it, but when you add the cost factor and the fact that I can vouch for the provenance of all the ingredients, this is a clear win-win for pocket and planet.

so far....
Pocket: 2, Planet: 1, Win-Win: 4

Friday, January 8, 2010

Day 6: Shampoo

Megan: It says here (reading from subversive granola hippie e-book) that Americans use too much shampoo and that our hair doesn't really need it. Hm. I don't know, my hair doesn't look that great when I don't wash it. I'm skeptical.

Tony: I don't really have that much hair anyway. How bad could it get?

It turns out that there's an entire "No Poo" movement. Something in that sentence is begging for a joke, but instead I will just point you to this article on giving up shampoo from NPR.

My knee-jerk reaction is to try to "green" my current shampoo habits: use less (I probably use way too much shampoo as it is; I just love my suds!), and use something without harsh chemicals. Of course, then I still have all the wasted plastic packaging that the shampoo comes in, as well as the cost of organic shampoo. I have heard of places that sell organic shampoo in bulk and you can bring your own container, but there is nothing like that where we live AT ALL.

I've read horror stories about home remedy shampoos and vinegar baths for the head, etc. None of this sounds pleasant. I can't go to work smelling like a jar of pickles. Ack.

What to do, what to do. Ok, I've got it. Let's say that Tony is successful in this crazy no washing thing (ugh) and cuts his shampoo consumption down without having his head growing dreadlocks. Let's further say that I cut my consumption back a bit and buy organic shampoo. Aren't we at the same point that we started, price-wise, or even a little less costly, but we've increased the planet-greenness of the shampoo we ARE using? As well as decreasing trash/waste output over time? Am I deluding myself?

I'm going to chalk this up as a win-win. PS, ask Tony how his hair feels on Day 4. hahahahhahaha

so far...

Pocket: 2, Planet: 1, win-win: 3

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Day 5: Dry Cleaning

Tony: I am sick of ironing my shirts but there's no way I can pay $3.00 per shirt.  There must be a cheaper place.

Megan: Do you realize all of the toxic chemicals they use when they dry clean clothes?  And then you put those clothes on your body?!?

I like my shirts to be pressed.  Usually that means setting up the ironing board in front of the TV for a few days.  Megan, for some reason, doesn't like our living room to look like a laundry room.  I'm willing to take them to a dry cleaner, but only if it is dirt cheap.

Before the "new economy," I simply took shirts to the nearest dry cleaner that I could.  This time around, I decided to call every dry cleaner in the county to see where I could get it done cheaply.   Here's a Google Map of what I found (Green is cheapest, red is most expensive. Click on it for store names and prices):

View Cleaners in Burlington, NC in a larger map

I took all of my shirts to the $0.99 location first, but since I never go to that shopping plaza unless I am re-titling a car, it was about two weeks before I picked them up. I think next time I'll stop at Lydia's since it is only $0.25 more and is right next to the grocery store I go to all the time. Sure, it isn't free, but it is still much less than the $1.95 I was paying before.

We'll score this as a win for pocket, a definite loss for planet.

The score so far...
Pocket: 2, Planet: 1, Win-Win: 2

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Day 4: Buy Local Milk

Tony: You can get a gallon of milk at Wal-Mart for about $2. Why are we spending $4.99 on local milk from the Homeland Creamery?

Megan: There are so many reasons we have to drink the good milk, if we're going to drink milk at all: Happy cows, pasture-fed on local feed, local transportation so we save tons of carbon from trucking the milk in, we're supporting a local living economy, the milk tastes better and has a better texture, no crazy weird hormones and stuff, the list goes on.

So it turns out that there are some things that are BOTH pocket-green and planet-green. For instance, drinking tap water instead of bottled water. This is a win-win. But there are other things that are good for the pocket but bad for the planet, such as buying the cheapest food available. And there are still other things that are good for the planet but not so good for the wallet, such as buying carbon offsets.

Buying local organic milk turns out to be one of those things that is great for the planet (assuming you're going to drink milk in the first place, but that's another debate), but rough on the wallet. (At least in the short term. What about the higher costs of health care after a lifetime of crappy food? Ugh. And not considering externalities, such as carbon cost of trucking milk from far away, or the lives of the cows at the factory farms...)

Anyways... here's the math.

One gallon of crappy milk costs about $2.99 at Wal-Mart, which yields a price of $0.19 per 8-ounce glass.

One gallon of delicious Homeland Creamery milk costs $4.99 at Lowe's Foods, which yields a price of $0.31 per glass. That's a big difference, but I still think it's worth it. (I did not calculate in the long-term savings of using Lowe's $5 reward coupons or anything like that. If I did, we may assume that approximately every 11th gallon would be free.)

BTW, other mainstream organic brands, such as Horizon or Organic Valley are more expensive (about $7 per gallon) and are trucked in from far away. That would be an obvious lose-lose.

Sometimes Tony will agree to make a pocket sacrifice if it is small in dollars, and if the product actually has a higher quality. For example, if it tastes better or looks fabulous. I actually do think he can taste the difference in the Homeland milk versus the regular stuff.

But I'll still chalk this up to a win for Planet.

so far....
Pocket: 1, Planet: 1, Win-Win: 2.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Day 3: One Car or Two?

Tony: We can get by with one car. Let's sell yours.

Megan: Ha! Says you! You, with your gas-guzzling SUV! Ha! (Pause. Pause.) Well, given all factors, I may agree to a trial separation...

Tony wants to save the money of insurance and gas for a car we hardly use while getting the resale money, whereas I want to reduce the carbon footprint of having two cars when we might only need one. I am hopeful that we'd walk and bike more if we were nudged in that direction. We're both extremely skeptical that we'd be able to manage our hectic meeting schedule and all our commitments with only one car. And it's been cold lately, so that's making transportation alternatives very unappealing.

But it looks like we are in agreement about the car on principle (yay, another Green v. Green win-win), so we are going to try it. Tony's suggestion was that we mothball my Honda Accord for a month, drive it minimally (once a week just to keep it running?), and see how it goes.

We'll score this one as a win-win.

So far...
Pocket: 1, Planet: 0, Win-Win: 2

Monday, January 4, 2010

Day 2: Free Over-the-air HDTV, No More Cable

Tony: Why are we paying for HDTV through the cable company? We can get it over-the-air for free!
Megan: Only if you can promise me that it will work. I want to be able to plan my TV watching, limited as it is. And if we're going to have the TV at all, can it at least get PBS?

Soon after moving into the new house in August, I realized that the bunny ear antenna that I had been using with my 50-inch plasma TV was not pulling in stations like it did at the old place. Doing some web research, I ended up at AntennaWeb and found that the 40-acre woods right next to the house might be the problem. After, Megan had a very minor meltdown when she wasn't able to record Ken Burns new documentary, "The National Parks: America's Best Idea" I went ahead and got cable because I could not tune PBS without standing in the front lawn, antenna in hand. Now, looking at the $60 bill each month, I think it is time to cut the cord.

I bought a multidirectional antenna from Antennas Direct, made a mount for it out of PVC pipes, and hooked it up in parallel with the Terk HDTV antenna, piped the signal into the latter's amplifier.

Maybe if TV is less convenient, we won't watch as much, and will save some energy, too. It also means I can use a power strip to cut down on the "vampire power" I was losing by having a DVR running 24/7. Sadly, we won't get a PBS station and NBC will be questionable unless I buy a more expensive outdoor antenna and have it professionally mounted.

We'll tally this one as a win-win.

So far...
Pocket: 1, Planet: 0, Win-Win: 1

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Day 1: Green Pocket Versus Green Planet

Tony: We are SO broke! We really need to start spending less.

Megan: What about saving the planet? Or, for that matter, being healthy? That's not cheap, mister!

Ok, so we got started on this blog on January 3, 2010 following an ordinary 6-hour car ride. Punchy with New Year's hope and hopped up on caffeine, we covered topics from what it would be like to live in a peak oil-induced apocalyptic hellscape (guess which one of us said "We'll totally kick ass because I know how to make my own granola!" and who said "This is a perfectly reasonable excuse to build that solar-powered camper trailer I've always wanted!") to whether we should buy a used desk on Craigslist or make a desk out of reclaimed lumber from an antique sugar mill and flown north by migrating birds and assembled with nails forged from recycled staples. Out of this conversation, we decided to start a blog about the simultaneous (and perhaps occasionally impossible?) attempt to "green" both our wallets AND our planet.

We first shuddered at the use of green as a verb, and then immediately Tony added insult to injury by saying he wanted to "monetize" (is this a word?) this blog by adding AdSense. I stated that I was not sure how much money we'd make off it anyway, and as I was making my case that the ads would annoy readers, I recognized the absurdity in the notion that we would have either readers or clicking, so I acquiesced.

Score: Tony 1, Megan 0.