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How to STAY COOL this summer without AC

Summer weather is on its way. Instead of heading down the slippery slope of air conditioning your home (once you pop those units in for the first 90 degree day, they tend to stay on all summer), try these age-old and remarkably effective methods instead. Work with the natural rhythm of the summer day and use your home and your freezer/refrigerator to keep you cool.

1. Keep out the heat! Here in New Hampshire, it is almost always cool at night even when it is really hot during the day. In order to regulate the temperature inside your house, you can keep the windows open all night, running a box fan if you want, and then close all the windows once things heat up in the morning. Light-blocking curtains work well if you have them, but, if you don’t, tacking up your winter blankets over the windows works too. If you have the money for it, I would highly suggest weatherizing your home because it will keep you cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter and save you money too!

2. Plan your day around the sun. Adopt a siesta schedule for the summer, if you can. Don’t plan to drive anywhere, run, bike, garden, or even swim in the hottest hours of the day (between 11 and 2) if you can help it. Save these activities for the mornings and evenings when it is cooler. Swimming in the evening before bed is a great way to cool off. Our family bikes over to a local pond most hot nights to cool off.

The recipe for this delicious (and cold!) green soup includes cucumbers and purslane.

3. Set up a summer kitchen. Your fridge and your freezer are your best friends in a heat wave. And no, I don’t mean you should stand in the open door of your fridge for hours! Stock your fridge and freezer with cool drinks and snacks, like homemade popsicles, gazpacho, and sun tea. Keep your oven and stovetop powered down and choose sandwiches and cold snacks instead. You can also cook outside on the grill to keep your house cool.

4. Dress for the weather. Dress in light colored, thin clothes and tie up long hair. Invest in a wide-brimmed hat and a loose-fitting sun shirt for when you need to go out in the bright sun.

5. When the nights get really hot, camp out in the coolest place in your house. When I was a kid, we used to have an old mattress in the basement for really hot nights and my sister and I would sleep down there. Camping outside is also a great way to get away from the heat of the house. Make sure air is circulating in the room. Even a warm breeze helps when the heat is stifling.

6. If you’re desperate for some AC during the day, visit a public place already running one. Go to the library, a bookstore, a grocery store, or a restaurant or cafe to cool off (thank you COVID vaccines!). If you can, get yourself a cool drink (in a reusable cup) while you’re there or make yourself an afternoon ice coffee.

7. If you just can’t stand the heat on those 95 degree days and nothing else is working, use an energy star air conditioning unit and cool as little of your home as possible. For example, set it up in the living room and everyone can camp down there. Only run it at night if you can’t sleep and turn it off once the air outside has cooled down. And, please, don’t let it become a habit or you’ll start using it on days you don’t need it.

I hope these tricks will help you to keep cool without the AC this summer. I have lived in New Hampshire for the majority of my life and have never used an AC. I’ve certainly been hot sometimes, but I’m proud of my Yankee hardiness. Join the AC-free NH crowd now!

– Hannah

Launching a Sustainable Business: Handy Resource Guide for ECOpreneurs 

Today we have a guest post by Joyce Wilson about the need for eco-friendly businesses and some tips on how to build one! She includes a lot of links to scholarly and informative articles. I learned a lot and think you will too. Enjoy! – Rachel

Sustainability, aka environmental-friendliness, is the need of the hour. The planet is suffering, the ecosystem is out-of-whack, and more pandemics are possibly on the way. Only sustainable businesses – the ones operating harmoniously with the environment – are likely to survive and, indeed, thrive in the future. 

In this mini resource guide, I offer an introduction on ECOpreneurship and building a planet-friendly business: 

Learn about the building blocks of sustainability. A business is eco-friendly when it is neutral or net-positive in three ways: socially, economically, and environmentally. These aspects together make up the three pillars of sustainability. 

Design sustainable business practices:

  • Have a sustainability audit of your proposed (or active) business processes like product development, accounting, transportation, and customer engagement. 
  • Measure your sustainability metrics. The goal is to improve and refine your processes and continue adapting. 

Make your business eco-friendly:

  • Research sustainable alternatives that are low-cost, low-waste, and high-efficiency.  
  • Implement sustainable business processes. Some examples are using eco-friendly materials and utilizing clean energy.  
  • Make your business a part of an environmentally-friendly chain. Look for eco-friendly partners, from suppliers to customers. 
  • Comply with ecopreneurship-related laws in your region. Be sure to stay abreast of the latest developments. 
  • Don’t forget the basic legalities. It’s mandatory for you to have an EIN number, for instance, according to ZenBusiness.

Sustainability won’t be easy to implement, but it can be very lucrative. Customers love sustainable businesses and will often pay a premium for eco-friendly products. For the best results, market your sustainability and communicate your eco-friendly nature at every touchpoint. 

Joyce Wilson is a retired teacher and enjoys sharing lesson plans, resources, and teaching tips on Teacher Spark. Her website is a compilation of practical resources that will inspire student engagement and instill a love for learning. By tapping into a student’s natural creativity and curiosity, Joyce believes that they can take their education to a new level. (Images via Unsplash)

ACT NOW: Support the Local Food for Local Schools Program TOMORROW!

It’s a win, win, win! The Local Food for Local Schools Reimbursement program (HB 1657) will help schools pay New Hampshire farmers and producers for New Hampshire made and grown food to serve as breakfast and lunch for New Hampshire students.

It’s good for our farmers, who will have a stable market for their produce. It’s good for our students, who will have access to healthy, local food. And it’s good for the planet. Connecting local producers with local consumers cuts way down on carbon emissions and waste due to transportation, packaging, and refrigeration. Additionally, local food in the schools can teach students so much about nutrition, geography, food and consumer sciences, cultivation, composting, regionality, and seasonality. Plus, don’t you just love the idea of our kids eating food grown across the street instead of across the globe?

According the information I received from the Northeast Organic Farming Association, the Local Food for Local Schools Reimbursement program (HB 1657) will “provide New Hampshire students access to fresh, nutrient dense local foods; annually channel $1.8 million in federal and state funds directly into New Hampshire’s farm and food economy, thereby supporting local farmers, producers, and fishers; and provide teachers and school nutrition staff with a jumping off point for education around NH products and career opportunities available in the food system”. If you’re a visual person, the Farm to School Network also supplied this helpful graphic:

Ready to support the Local Food for Local Schools Reimbursement program (HB 1657)? NOFA lists the following opportunities to show your support:

  • Testify in support of the bill in person on Wednesday, January 12th at 10:30 AM at the Legislative Office Building in Concord (State House complex LOB 205-207). Prepare your remarks using the talking points above and listed in this helpful Toolkit. Remember to put your testimony in your own words, infusing your experience and reason for supporting the bill, to have the most impact. You can sign up to testify and/or submit support prior to the hearing on January 12th online here, or sign in on the day of the hearing. If you are unable to make the in-person hearing, utilizing the online support function is great too!
  • Write an email to the House Education Committee Members showing your support for the bill, and copy your local representative(s). Remember to put your testimony in your own words, weaving your personal experience and reasons for supporting the bill into your email for the greatest impact. Utilizing this address, your letter will be sent to all members on the Committee: HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us. If you need to locate who your State Representative is, please click here.
  • Sign in on the NH General Court website to show your support for the bill hereFollow the NH General Court’s guide, “How to register support/opposition on a bill,” for step-by-step instructions on how to sign.
  • If you are an authorized member of a farm or organization, sign onto our official letter to legislators showing your support for the bill no later than Tuesday night, January 11th to be shared at the hearing on January 12th.

Let’s make this happen for our children, our state, and our planet!

– Hannah

(The cover photo is from this inspiring article about successful school lunch programs in California)

1000 Hours Outside Wrap-Up

What is the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge? In a nutshell, the goal is to get your family outside as much as possible in order to reap the benefits of unstructured nature play. The advantages include stress reduction, physical exercise, fresh air and fun! Less screen time and more outside time! The aim is to reach 1000 hours within one year but I’m not holding myself to that number. For me, it’s more about working outside play into our lives, whether an hour or five a day, and helping my kids build a relationship with the Earth that can be enjoyed during all of the seasons.

Well, we did it. Our family started this time last year, and while there were moments of struggle, I am definitely glad we took this challenge. I don’t think we made it to more than 1000; we are somewhere in the 875/900 range. There was a time when I was disappointed by that total (and maybe still am a bit), but I’ve accepted this result and give myself some grace. For one, I should focus on all of the time that we did spend outside. For sure, it was much more than in previous years. We also grew to appreciate all of the seasons, made playing outside part of our daily lives and learned some valuable lessons. (For example, you don’t have to insist on outside play on super rainy or windy days. Hygge is important too.) If you’re considering attempting this challenge yourself (which I recommend doing!), here are a few tips, including some handy charts that the 1000 hours people recently published. (Man, I wish I could’ve used it!)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – invest in the right gear. One of my kids HATES being cold. It ruins the fun for her, and she heads inside right away. Lately, cold hands and feet have been especially problematic. To me, cold feet aren’t a reason to stay inside, but she was miserable. So I did some research and bought these socks for her. She was much more comfortable and happier when we skied a few days later. Please keep in mind that you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get good gear. There are so many used sites. You also can buy one new item and re-use it often. Those Darn Tough socks will be worn until threadbare. No need for five pairs when they’ll be used only once or twice a week at most.

Pick-up a new sport/outdoor activity. I’ve not been shy about sharing the fact that I learned to ski at age 37. (I also learned to ride a bike at 23.) My daughter liked to ski, and I wanted to spend time with her, so I learned. The irony is that I now love it and sometimes have to force her to go with me! I used to dread the winter and now look forward to snow season because It’s a chance to get on the slopes. Our girls also learned to ice-skate last winter and are excited to get back onto the pond. If you are dressed properly (see above), and find a sport you enjoy (tennis? cross-country skiing? running? biking along the West Side Highway?), logging outdoor hours should be a breeze. For example, we easily banked 4 hours at the mountain the other day without thinking about it. There’s also no shame in warming up inside for a bit with a cup of hot cocoa (or lemonade in the summer!) and then getting back out there!

The first day that I rode the lift and skied a trail by myself. I was so proud

Be flexible. When we first began this challenge, I thought all of our hours had to involve hikes, sports and swims. But why limit ourselves? There were some days when my older daughter took a book outside and enjoyed herself that way. Other times, the girls played with chalk on the driveway or we took the dog around the block. If anything, this challenge is deriving joy and peace from simple pleasures.

You also don’t need to live in a rural area in order to participate. We just spent some time in my hometown of NYC and there’s plenty of outdoor time to be had by just walking the streets, taking in the sights, smelling the smells (both good and bad!) and moving your body. Nature and joy can be found in all settings (see my above photo). There’s no “right way” to enjoy this challenge.

Most importantly, have fun! If something isn’t working for you, drop it. There is no need to suffer through snow-shoeing or 4000 foot hikes if you hate them. Find some activities you enjoy, spend time with your loved ones, breathe some fresh air and get some exercise. Let me know if you decide to give it a try! I’d love to hear about your experience and cheer you on! In the meantime, I’ll still be bugging my kids to go outside. They’ll likely roll their eyes but are used to it by now! – Rachel

My Green Resolutions for 2022

Each new year is a new chance for us to recommit to the planet. Last year I shared twelve resolutions, one for each month. Some of those resolutions, like eating vegetarian, avoiding disposables, growing my own food, reducing my waste, and staying local have been part of my life for a long time. Weatherizing my home is not an option for me because I rent, but I’ve been trying to turn my yard into a better habitat for my fellow creatures. Getting political and sharing my lifestyle with others are works in progress for me because they are out of my comfort zone. This year, I have four personal green goals, which I hope you will consider along with the 12 earlier goals.

GOAL ONE: Become a Conscientious Consumer

I have really tried to reduce my impact on the planet through my life choices, including what I buy (and choose not to buy), but I will be the first to admit that I don’t always do my research. Sometimes I make assumptions and those assumptions, when compounded, can make a big difference. For example, we’re told local is better and organic is better, but what happens when the local isn’t organic or the organic isn’t local? What if a green product is only available online? How can we balance our health and our environmental goals? This year I want to try to figure out the answers to these and other questions and share them here on GreenLifeNH.

My most recent refills from We Fill Good in Kittery. I like to visit this awesome store when I visit my parents’ home in seacoast New Hampshire. I hope to purchase more of my home products and food in a sustainable way this year.

GOAL TWO: Affect Change Locally

I was focused for a long time on my own personal green journey. Then I started worrying about our global environmental crises, saw how small my own impact really was, and became pretty depressed. But sharing my knowledge with others has helped me to stay positive. But now I’m ready to start making an impact in my own state. After completing the first stage of the New Hampshire Master Gardener Program, I am excited to get out and volunteer around New Hampshire, helping to promote green farming and gardening practices. There are so many good people doing good work in this state and I want to be one of them! I will share what I learn as I go.

GOAL THREE: Stay Informed

Many of the good people doing good work in New Hampshire are part of organizations like the New Hampshire Sierra Club, our many land trusts and conservation organizations, and in our local government. One of our goals this year at GreenLifeNH is to make more connections with our local government and organization and to funnel news of their good work to you. We will also let you know of more opportunities to help.

GOAL FOUR: Get to Know New Hampshire

My fourth goal is a green goal and a personal goal wrapped up in one (I love it when that happens). In December, the kids and I gifted my husband a family New Hampshire State Parks Pass for his birthday. Despite living in New Hampshire for a good portion of my life, I have tended to visit the same places over and over instead of branching out. Our goal now is to go to at least one new state park each month, hopefully more. I also want to visit green stores, markets, and farms around the state to share them with you here at GreenLifeNH. We’ll be pairing our visits with my son’s travel sports schedules to reduce our driving.

We visited our first New Hampshire state park this weekend, Silver Lake State Park in Hollis, while we were in Nashua for a hockey game. The kids enjoyed getting wet, finding Chinese Mystery Snails, and eating teaberry leaves.

I hope 2022 will bring good news for our planet and our wonderful state. But I’m not going to just sit around waiting for change. I want to be the change. Join me!

– Hannah

Wishing You a Cozy Holiday Week

Friends, how will you spending the holidays this year? I hope you’re able to take some time to rest, relax and recharge. Maybe that means skiing, sledding, snow-shoeing, subway riding or snuggling by the fire. It’s been quite the year and I hope you’re able to do whatever brings you joy. Hannah and I will be enjoying the same. Likely involving some hygge as well.

We are so appreciative of all of the love and encouragement you’ve shown us over this past year. Some exciting changes are on the horizon in 2022. We will be unveiling a new web design, sharing interviews with businesses throughout the state and providing information on the eco-related bills sponsored in the State House. In the meantime, here are some of the most popular posts from the past year:

Stop! Don’t rake those leaves!

Five Questions With Stephanie Zydenbos of Micro Mama’s

Backyard Chickens – More than just eggs!

Need a eco-resolution for the new year?

Learn to compost

Try the 1000 Hours Outside Goal or

Attempt the 100 Day Dress Challenge

There’s always that “One (Vegetarian) Meal a Day” mindset as well

One of my favorite pictures from our outside adventures. Location is Chamberlain-Reynolds Memorial Forest

Thanks again for supporting our little site that could. We are so excited to keep growing and bringing you eco-ideas and inspiration in 2022! We’ll be back the first week of January, refreshed and ready to go. In the meantime, you can find small tidbits of our eco-adventures here and there on our Instagram page. XO, Hannah and Rachel

PS Thought recycling was over? Turns out, it made a comeback this year! Unsure of how to sort your items? This tutorial may help. I wish every town had an instructional video like this one, but it definitely shares information that is useful to everyone!

“I have a child, I think that helps out a lot, so I give her hopefully a better, better world. Not looking good, but I can do my little part(source)

Happy Solstice! Winter Tips, Tricks, and a Warm Soup Recipe

Happy winter, everyone! It’s really nice to have snow again on the winter solstice and maybe we’ll still have some for Christmas on Saturday. As New Hampshire warms (faster than most states), this may not always be the case, so let’s enjoy it while we have it! Now, for a few eco-tips about winter:

Still Shopping? Head over to your local downtown and buy a gift certificate to an eco-friendly restaurant (good for you, good for the economy, good for the Earth). Or grab a New Hampshire State Parks Pass to motivate your family to see the state this year. You can also check out Rachel’s or my Holiday Gift Guide.

My husband’s birthday is right before Christmas. This year, I gave hime a NH State Parks Season Pass for the family. Hoping to check out all our beautiful state has to offer this year. Last year, I gave him a steel razor, which is still a favorite.

Stay Warm the Old Fashioned Way Enjoy cozy sweaters, socks, and cups of warm tea or coffee instead of turning your heat up to 80 degrees. I make an argument for keeping your thermostat near 63 degrees in this post last year and give lots of ideas to get cozy in the winter without turning up the heat here.

Cozy up with a good book. The Art of Frugal Hedonism is a personal favorite.

Buy/Donate Used Sleds, Skis, and Skates If you have some winter gear you don’t use anymore sitting in your storage, set them free so others can use them (Goodwill, Facebook MarketPlace, Freecycle, Craigslist). And, if you’re in the market for a new pair of skis, skates, or other winter gear, try to find them used first. Not only are they less expensive, but buying used is much lighter on the Earth. If you can’t find used, buy quality so your gear will last a long time and you can pass it on afterward.

Buy Quality Winter Clothes Winter gear is one of those categories where you just need to buy the best. Choose a really good pair of boots, jacket, hat, and mittens and then wear them season after season (good companies will replace or repair their items, giving them an even longer wear life). There are thousands of warm and fashionable products available at ThredUp, WornWear, and other used clothing sites, not to mention your favorite thrift store or you can buy something new, just make sure you wear it for a long time and donate when you’re done.

Don’t Let me Catch you Idling! Modern engines don’t need to idle to “warm up”, so may I suggest an extra layer of clothing for those early mornings? You can warm up by scraping off the car instead of letting the fossil fuels do the work for you. Added bonus: toned arms! And, so we’re clear, you never need to “keep the car running” while you pop into a store. The car isn’t going to cool down that much while you go inside and, as aforementioned, idling is not necessary for the car’s sake.

Watching the birds is almost as fun as watching the chickens.

Give Nature a Gift this Winter Spend some time creating a habitat for nature this Winter in your own backyard. My next read, generously gifted to me by a good friend, is Doug Tallamy’s book Nature’s Best Hope, which advocates turning useless lawns into habitat. Last year I spent a lot of effort working on my own yard, including this mini bird habitat.

We like the watch the sun rise at Dimond Hill Farm in Hopkinton.

Say “Welcome Back” to the Sun Tomorrow Our family has a tradition of welcoming back the sun this time of year. Solstice is a time of celebration in many world religions because the shortest day of the year can only be followed by a longer day and longer days eventually mean new life in Spring. If you’re dreaming of Spring already, you can check out this post about planning for your vegetable garden.

A big batch of Scottish Stew (aka Scotch Broth). I like to store cubes of soup in the freezer for later.

A Recipe for Hearty Scottish Stew, a traditional New Year’s Soup I found (and modified) this recipe in The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau and have made Scotch Stew each year since.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup rice or barley
  • 3/4 cup red lentils
  • 2 yellow onions, roughly chopped
  • 3 yellow potatoes, diced
  • 3 big carrots, sliced or diced
  • 8 cups vegetable stock (use homemade or Better than Bouillon and water, not cartons or cans)
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons parsley (if you have a live plant)

Directions:

  • Soak barley/rice and lentils for one hour in a bowl of water. Drain, rinse, and add to a large soup pot.
  • Add onions, potatoes, carrots, stock, salt, and pepper to the pot.
  • Bring to a boil, then simmer until everything is tender.
  • Add frozen peas for the last 5 minutes.
  • Garnish with parsley

Happy Winter, New Hampshire! Get out and enjoy it!

– Hannah

Our living Christmas tree, all decked out in Nature’s best decoration.

December’s Zero Waste Wins and Struggles

Don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving through January tends to be super busy for my family. Yes, there are “the holidays” but both of my children also have their birthdays in December and January, and we always make sure they get their fair share of celebrating and adoration. So this time of year involves lost of lists, planning and taking things “one item at a time” in order to maintain my sanity. Sometimes that also means that my eco-goals fall by the wayside. I read somewhere that there’s about a 25% increase in trash production over December and completely believe it. I’m embarrassed to say it, but I’ve witnessed this statistic evidenced in my house as well.

I’ve mentioned here that I’ve gone back to work this past year, and have had to make some compromises at home, because one just can’t do everything. Well, those compromises included our holiday shopping choices. In the past, I’ve tried to be good about picking “something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read.” I bought many used items and shopped as locally as possible. This year, my kids got their hands on the Amazon catalogue and I honored some of their lists. Did I buy toys from big box stores? I did. Between school, work and life, I needed to be efficient. Only human, after all. However I did get their books from Gibson’s, so I’ll give myself that win.

Going through my daughter’s birthday gifts and saving all of the tissue to reuse for my holiday presents

But there were lots of other gifts to buy – colleagues, my kids’ teachers and the like – and I made sure to buy all of those presents from local places. I reused bags and tissue paper from gifts that we’ve been given, and chose items that could either be consumed (some local maple candy), recycled or composted. Was I tempted to buy a giftcard from DD or something similar? Sure, but I made a conscious effort to put my money back into our local economy and feel good about it. That Starbucks down the street will survive, but a Concord Main St business owner told me that this time of year is “make or break” from a lot of them. I wanted to do my part to keep my community going.

We’ve also been better about toning down the random junk that we bring into our lives. Last weekend, we threw a small (Covid-safe) birthday party for our daughter and reigned it in a bit. My husband especially loves putting together goody-bags with lots of little trinkets and doo-dads for the kids, but everyone knows those things don’t last. After a day or two, the items get lost in the house, break and/or eventually trashed. This year, we got one small item for each kid and called it good. No one walked away disappointed, and we satisfied our desire to give out goody-bag style gifts while decreasing our trash. I think that’s a habit we will keep.

Lastly, I am rocking my goal of wearing at least one used item of clothing a day. (As a side note, did you read about Hannah’s goal of wearing the same dress for 100 days?) Most of my purses at this point are second-hand and I’m trying hard to “shop second-hand first” when I need new clothes. For example, we are heading to a fancy party next week and I need a dress to wear. So I searched on Thred-Up and found a bunch of choices for a portion of the cost and solved my problem. Not only does the Earth thank me, my wallet does as well!

Writing this post while my kids do their gymnastics. Bought these shoes second-hand (but they were pretty much brand new) and I’ve gotten so many compliments on them! You can have your fashion and help the Earth too!

PS Did you read about this new bill being sponsored in the NH Senate? As a public school educator, I am super excited about this one and would love to see it pass.

Our 100 Day Wool Dress Challenge

For the past week, my six-year-old daughter and I have each been wearing the same dress. Both are long-sleeved with great pockets. Hers is a bluish gray. Mine is a bright teal blue. We love them so far, which is good, because we will be wearing them for the next 90 days!

The 100 Day Wool Dress Challenge, which we just started, is sponsored by a company called Wool& based out of Portland, Oregon. The goal of the challenge is to draw attention to the wastefulness of fast fashion, which is currently responsible for more annual carbon emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. Wool& offers a gift certificate for $100 to anyone who will wear one of their dresses for 100 days in a row, taking photos to prove it.

Several women have done this challenge without anyone noticing at all (I enjoyed this story). It turns out that people don’t really notice or care what you wear as much as you do. Those women, however, chose black or gray dresses. I chose bright teal blue because I wanted people to notice. I’m hoping for questions. Here are my answers to some of them. Feel free to ask more!

I really like how comfortable these dresses are. You’d never know they were wool.

Now, to answer your obvious questions…

  1. No, these aren’t normal dresses. Our new dresses, which are certainly more expensive than the second-hand clothing I usually buy ($100 won’t get me a new Wool& dress), are made of a merino wool blend that is particularly well suited to the 100 Day Wool Dress Challenge. They naturally resist both odor and wrinkles and even seem to wick away rain (and water spilled/thrown by two-year-olds). The dresses are also super comfortable, lightweight, and fun to wear.
  2. Yes, we intend to wash our dresses (and ourselves) during this challenge. Apparently some people don’t wash the dresses at all over the hundred days and the dresses really can take it, but I doubt many of those people have a two-year-old in the house. I have already washed my daughter’s dress once (guacamole explosion) and it washed easily and dried quickly on the line. I am wearing the same natural refillable deodorant from We Fill Good in Kittery that I always wear (and LOVE).
  3. Yes, we are changing our other clothing, but not too often. We’re wearing fresh underwear and socks daily, but we’ve both been alternating pants every two to three days (which is normal for me thanks to my capsule wardrobe). I’ve been wearing my wool shawl over my dress to keep me warm (the house is 63 degrees). We wear pajamas at night and hang the dresses up to air out.
  4. Yes, they have lots of different styles and colors (i.e. No, you don’t have to wear teal).

So, here we are. Day 8. Wish us luck with the challenge. I’ll check back in in 50 and 100 days!

– Hannah

Not ready to wear the same dress for 100 days? Read about my capsule wardrobe if you want to reduce your consumption and learn to live with less clothing (but more than one dress).

Want inspiration? We are currently reading Anne of Green Gables and recently re-read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. In the times of these books, wearing one, two, or three dresses (and mending and caring for them) was common place.

My youngest daughter basically wears the same clothes every day anyway, but not in a good way. Photos are curtesy of my husband, who is going to be seeing a lot of these dresses.

December “1000 Hours Outside” Update

What is the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge? In a nutshell, the goal is to get your family outside as much as possible in order to reap the benefits of unstructured nature play. The advantages include stress reduction, physical exercise, fresh air and fun! Less screen time and more outside time! The aim is to reach 1000 hours within one year but I’m not holding myself to that number. For me, it’s more about working outside play into our lives, whether an hour or five a day, and helping my kids build a relationship with the Earth that can be enjoyed during all of the seasons.

Friends, we are starting to struggle. Life is getting back to “normal”, the weather is growing colder and my kids are starting to resist when I say “go outside and play.” Sometimes I just don’t have the energy to fight with them. So our after school outside play is less than before and we’re earning fewer hours than when we’d just go to the playground or similar with friends. Sometimes it’s just easier to let them play inside (no screens until a certain time of day) or rationalize that they’ll move their bodies through structured inside extra-curriculars, like gymnastics. If I had to guess, I’d say we averaged about 1 hour outside a day this month and are around 805 or so for the year. Pretty sure we’re not making it to 1000 by January 1st. I’m at peace with that likely result, yet will still try.

So what am I doing to encourage outside play even though we have the urge to curl-up by the fire and veg? Well, first things first – you need the right gear! When my children complain that they’re cold, my initial response is to quickly scan their bodies and make sure they’re wearing sweaters, hats, gloves and snow pants. (Even if there’s no snow, that layer will keep you warm.) I buy so many of those things for them off Kidizen or other used sites.

Also working to keep family outdoor activities on our schedule. We hiked on Thanksgiving and have penciled some ski dates into the calendar. (Totally know that ski gear can be expensive. Get used whenever possible. Will save a ton of money plus better for the Earth! I was totally thrilled when a friend left me a free pair of skis by my car.) Ice-skating at the local pond is another option once the weather freezes. I find that getting my kids out there is half the battle. Once we start, if everyone is properly dressed, we wind up having a good time! Also, to me, there is no better feeling than spending some quality times outdoors and then cuddling up at home for the rest of the day. Makes me feel like I “earned” it.

I have a bunch of thoughts about this challenge and how it’s positively changed my family. Will share next month when I close out this series. However, as the new year approaches, I really recommend giving it a try – kids or no kids, city or rural living. You’ll grow a deeper connection to the seasons and the Earth, and your body will thank you! – Rachel

PS Did you see the news that Biden signed an executive order to make U.S. government carbon neutral by 2050? The president aims to leverage the federal government’s massive buying power to jump-start the market for clean energy, electric vehicles and more efficient buildings. Not soon enough, but at least it’s something. Meanwhile, forecasts like the one above, are giving me “climate grief.”

“That’s not yogurt either” and other funny stories from my low-waste life

Whenever two cultures collide, there are bound to be some funny and awkward stories and low waste culture and standard American culture are no exceptions. I’ve had some really unpleasant experiences where people were rude, ignorant, or insulting, but for the most part, people are just kind of bewildered and curious about my low-waste lifestyle. Here are some funny stories…

All of these bars can be found in one bathroom in our home. You get used to it. 🙂

Which one is the SOAP?!

We use bars for everything in our bathroom– soap, shaving cream, shampoo, conditioner, lotion – and, while my family is generally aware of which is which (except when we make a switch), guests are often totally caught unaware when we need to give them the run down: “so, the green bar is the soap, the white heart is the shampoo, the white bar is conditioner…” I’ve never heard of anyone messing up, and I don’t honestly think it probably makes much of a difference, but it’s always a funny conversation.

That’s not yogurt either

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the bulk section of some grocery stories, it is a place where you can fill containers or bags with dry goods like flour, spices, oatmeal, cereals, rice, etc. Great way to avoid packaging and get just the amount you want of something (I’m looking at you, allspice). Anyway, I used to fill cute glass containers in the bulk section, but glass and I just don’t get along (it’s heavy; it breaks), so I switched to plastic yogurt tubs because a) they are light, b) they rarely break, and c) I have a lot of them. So, I fill yogurt containers with everything from nuts and seeds, to coffee, chocolate chips, and sugar. Sometimes I even fill them with hot food from the Concord Coop‘s hot bar.

You can see where this is going, right? First, I have about thirty filled yogurt containers in my house. Some are labeled, but most aren’t (because I reuse them), so every time anyone wants something, they need to open several containers to find the thing they want (I’ve gotten pretty good at telling by sound – cashews and almonds sound totally different, when shaken, but my kids haven’t). Also, the check out people at the Coop struggle too, often ringing up my nuts as yogurt or my yogurt as nuts. It’s a strange problem to have, but there it is. 🙂

You’re such a good host!

A friend and her daughter were using our bathroom when they noticed the jar of white tooth tabs on the counter. “You’re such a good host!” She said, “You even put out mints for your guests”.

Hi, Can you PLEASE help me?!

I had to call the Concord Coop the other day with an embarrassing question. I had filled two identical jars with two identical-looking white powders. I knew one was baking powder and one was baking soda, but because I was in a hurry when I filled them, I didn’t write down which was which. Clearly this is not a common occurrence because when I searched online for: “how to tell the difference between baking soda and baking powder” I got zero helpful results. However, the helpful person on the other line at the Coop was able to tell me based on the PLU numbers I had written on the jars by cross-referencing their containers. Crisis averted. P.S. What even IS the difference between baking powder and baking soda?!

Unidentifiable white powders.

But, everyone else got their costume at Goodwill!

This Halloween, my daughter was unhappy that her hummingbird costume was not readily identifiable to other kids. Honestly, it’s not easy to make a hummingbird costume using what you have, plus I was in a hurry, so she didn’t really look like a hummingbird, I’ll admit it. The funny thing was, though, that she didn’t know how to express the difference between her costume and everyone else’s. She knew other kids’ parents didn’t make their costumes from scraps, but she didn’t know how they did get them. We try really hard to avoid buying new things and she doesn’t know about stores like Target or Walmart. Finally, she settled on the one store she knows – Goodwill – and decided everyone must have bought their costumes there. “It’s not fair!” She wailed. “Everyone else gets Goodwill costumes and we don’t!”

To be fair, a hummingbird costume was a tall order. I’m not even sure I would have been able to find one anyway.

What is in that giant bag?

If you are looking into my fridge, which many houseguests and friends end up doing at some point or another, you will inevitably notice that the bottom shelf is almost entirely taken up by a giant blue bag. What’s in it? Why is it there? The answer is, it’s bulk walnuts or almonds and it’s there because nuts need to be refridgerated if you are keeping them for months at a time. How do I have room for that while others don’t, I honestly don’t know. I ask myself that too. Just about as often as someone else asks me, “What is in that giant bag?”

No, it’s okay. I got it.

In my opinion, the most awkward scenario that comes up for a low-waste person is what to do with compost, recycling, and other so-called “trash” when you’re not at home.

We have trained our children and ourselves to put food waste and garden scraps in the compost and have several different recycling receptacles in the house for a wide variety of recyclables aside from the usual cans, bottles, and paper. We have a thin plastic recycling bag. We have a fabric recycling box. We even have a shoe recycling bag. So, when we are out in the world and it comes time to clean up after a meal or a party or whatever, we are often left with our hands full of stuff we would usually recycle or compost.

Now, personally, I’m meek about such things and, unless I can sneak things away without being noticed (I will tuck other people’s plastic water bottles into my own picnic basket, for example), I will just trash things along with everyone else. But my kids didn’t grow up with the throwaway culture like I did and they loudly ask where to put their compost and recycling, often embarrassing people and forcing me to scramble to explain that we are really intense about low waste at home, but it’s okay, really, that others aren’t (I have to say this away from the kids, who will not agree).

And then I am forced to bring home everyone’s recyclables and compost. So, that’s super fun. 🙂

I’d love to hear some of your low-waste adventures and stories. Please share below in the comments!

– Hannah