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

September Zero Waste Wins and Struggles

Well, school is back in session and my schedule has gone from zero to a million very quickly. Convenience and time saving hacks come into play, especially when I’m tired and don’t have a lot of energy to get it all done. Yet somehow the weeks are moving forward and I continue with my zero waste habits. Not everyday is perfect, and I have some larger goals I want to attain, but I’m showing that environmentalism and modern-day multitasking can work in tandem. You can juggle it all (or at least try!) and still care. Here are my month’s zero waste wins and struggles.

I planned ahead. I knew that time would become scarce come September, so I spent a weekend morning and got my proverbial ducks in a row. For me, that meant heading to the bulk store and stocking up on cleaning products and lunch supplies. I’ll be honest – the bill was high and kind of scared me – but now I’m set for a few months and don’t have to worry. It also means I’m relying less on plastic conveniences and that feels good. Maybe planning ahead looks different for you. Some like to meal prep on Sunday. Hannah has a whole system for doing her laundry with her outside line. Find what works for your life. You don’t have to cover every base in order to make a difference.

Gorgeous and local flowers from the Concord Farmers Market

Most of my gifts are zero-waste and/or locally bought. My friend has a birthday this weekend and I’m planning to attend her small get together. The invitation requested no gifts but I always bring a little something. Sometimes I think people say “no gifts” because they don’t want more clutter in their houses. I get it. As Hannah says, whatever comes into your home must find a way out. So I’ve been thinking of items that will get used/eaten/composted but still be enjoyed. The birthday girl will likely get a combo of flowers, jams, pickled items or soaps, all made locally via the Concord Farmers Market. I’m gifting something luxurious and fun, while sticking to my zero-waste goals. Plus no extra junk for her home.

graphic via @nocoalinbow

That said, my zero-waste switches are sticking. In the past few months, I’ve traded up our toilet paper, cut back on plastic waste and eaten less meat. All of these swaps start conversations with my children about the Earth. My zero-waste habits get noticed by acquaintances or work colleagues, even if it’s just complimenting my lunch tins or second-hand outfit. A few years ago, a woman said “I started composting because I saw you do it. I figured if a mom of two small kids could compost, I could too.” My heart still swells five years later. Think of how much waste has been diverted from the landfill! She may have influenced others well. As I love to say, small steps add up! It’s ok if you can’t solve the whole problem by yourself. Awareness and gradual habit-changes are huge. – Rachel

Clothesline Hacks 101

I’ve been using my new clothesline for almost a year now and I still love it as much as I did when we put it up in November 2020. I’m proud to say we now hang at least 80% of our laundry to dry now instead of using a dryer, which has made a significant cut in our family’s carbon footprint. According to this report, a “household running a dryer 200 times a year could save nearly half a tonne of carbon dioxide by switching to a clothes rack or washing line”. If you want to learn other ways to save energy and water while doing your laundry, please read Eco-Laundry 101.

Now for the hacks, because it has taken me awhile to become a time and space efficient clothesline user and I’m happy to pass along my tips from this year.

Clothesline Hack #1: Do your laundry the night before.

If you put your laundry through the washer the night before (cold cycle), you can hang your laundry right away when you wake up as part of your morning routine. Yes, your clothes might be a bit wrinkly, but the fresh air and sun will take care of that for you. And, if you are doing a week’s worth of laundry, it gives you a chance to get the second load in right away (I can get a second load washed and dried most summer days if I need to).

** Winter Variation: I tend to hang the laundry later in the day during the winter because the sun comes up later. In the winter, I often start a load when I wake up and I only get one load in on laundry day.**

Clothesline Hack #2: Keep a chair nearby for your basket.

Some people have a fancy basket stand built into their clotheslines, but I don’t. I have found that keeping an outdoor chair near the line gives me a place to park my basket and keeps me from having to stoop down for each item. I leave the basket out on the chair while the clothes dry.

Clothesline Hack #3: Sort your laundry before hanging.

This hack has really helped me save time and energy while hanging our laundry. I now sort all of our clothes by person before hanging them up. Then each person gets a line (plus one for dish towels, masks, etc). This saves me tons of time when I am taking down the clothes because I just fold everything into the basket in categories and can deposit them where they belong straight from the basket.

** Winter Variation: I sort the clothes inside during the winter and drape them over the sides of the basket before I carry it out.**

Clothesline Hack #4: Let your pins do double duty.

Each of my clothespins holds onto the corner of two pieces of clothing. This saves me time when I am hanging the clothes up and when I am taking them down, essentially halving the number of clothespins I need and use.

Along those lines, if something is extra heavy (pants, jackets, towels), you can always add extra clothespins to keep them up.

Clothesline Hack #5: Check the weather.

This may seem really obvious, but you’d be surprised how many times I fell into old habits this year and did a load of laundry when the hamper was full without checking the weather for the next day. It’s easy to do and saves you from scrambling outside to rescue your almost dry clothes when it starts to rain.

The weather doesn’t have to be 80 degrees and sunny to dry a load of laundry, by the way. I hung clothes all through the New Hampshire winter and didn’t have a problem as long as it wasn’t actively raining, snowing, or foggy/misty. And wind is actually great for drying laundry, as long as it’s not strong enough to blow your clothes right off the line.

** Unexpected weather? That’s New Hampshire for you! I use a tarp to cover the entire clothesline if it starts raining unexpectedly and the laundry is still really damp and/or the rain isn’t going to last long.

Clothesline Hack #6: Use hangers for fragile items.

If you don’t want to pin your nicer shirts and dresses, you can always hang them up on a clothes hanger directly on the clothesline. It works just like hanging clothes in the bathroom to steam them. Honestly, I gave up on this strategy awhile ago because my husband and I just don’t care if our clothes aren’t perfect, but I totally respect that some people do.

Clothesline Hack #7: Socks, socks, socks, and masks!

Socks are the bane of my laundry routine – always have been – but I’ve learned some tricks along the way to make them easier.

As long as it’s a sunny day and I’ve hung the laundry early enough in the day, I’ll pin socks together as a pair. They dry perfectly fine that way, and it saves me time when I’m taking things down later (wool socks, especially in the winter, need their own pins). Masks, also, can be pinned together. I usually do two to four masks on one pin.

Another strategy I use, especially when I’m in a hurry, is to set up our expandable clothes rack right next to the clothesline and drape our socks and masks (and often underwear) on that so I don’t have to deal with clothespins at all. Just don’t do this if it’s windy… underwear flying into your neighbor’s yard is never fun.

Clothesline Hack #8: Line-drying on a tight schedule.

This could really be a post in and of itself, since so many people seem to think they don’t have the time to hang their laundry, but here are a few strategies for those hurried days:

  • Only line dry the bulky stuff: Hang just towels, jeans, jackets, and other heavy, hard to dry items on the line and dry everything else for 20 minutes (trust me, it works)
  • Let it stay up overnight: I used to bring my laundry in when it got dark, even if it wasn’t completely dry and then either re-hang it in the morning or run it through the dryer for 10 minutes, but either way, that meant I had to re-sort the laundry. Now, unless it’s going to rain, I leave damp laundry on the line and it just dries the next day. This also works if you only have time to hang laundry in the afternoon or evening.
  • Only line dry on the weekend: Save up your big loads of laundry (especially sheets and towels) for the weekend and only run a load of necessities (masks and uniforms, in our house) in the middle of the week, if necessary. A smaller load of laundry is okay, if you line dry it. On weekends, I try to think about the clothesline at mealtimes, to keep me on task.

I hope these clothesline hacks will help you be confident and successful with your clothesline. Honestly, I really love hanging laundry. It gets me outside and my clothesline is right next to my garden, so I get to smell flowers and watch bees and butterflies while I hang my laundry.

Like this post? Remember to check out Eco-Laundry 101 for more tips on greening your laundry routine.

– Hannah

I Tried It: Reusable Steel Razor

I’ll be honest – I was really nervous about making this switch. I bought my steel razor a few weeks ago from Bona Fide and it sat in my bathroom cabinet, daring me to use it. I can be a bit klutzy and had been using Venus-brand shavers for a long time because they felt safer. No one wants bloody nicks all over their legs. But in my quest to become “greener,” this reusable option seemed like it would be pretty easy once I got past my initial fear. So many people seem to use them, including Hannah’s husband, that I figured I couldn’t go wrong. Worst thing, I’d waste a few dollars, go back to my old ways and give the razor to someone else. However I’m happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised!

Before I get to the shaving experience, let’s talk about the packaging. One container is plastic and the other is all paper. I like that the Rockwell company was thoughtful about how they would sell the razor. One can either compost or recycle all of the paper/cardboard versus trashing or possibly “wishcycling” the other’s plastic. Once you unwrap the razor and little pack of blades, it’s also pretty easy to put together. Executive functioning and product assembly are not my forte in life, but I was able to get the razor into the shaver without hurting myself. If I can, so can you.

Now to the main event – shaving. I took it slow and steady, because I was terrified of seriously cutting myself. The shaver was actually much gentler than I expected and I didn’t nick myself once. The only flaw is that it’s one blade, versus three in a Venus-style razor, so shaving took a bit longer and needed more passes. However no one should rush when placing something sharp to their skin, so it’s not a big deal. Not a huge price to pay for switching to something more sustainable.

Ultimately, I do ask myself if any of these switches matter. Will my reusable razor stop global warming? No. But Hannah’s husband makes a good point and I can use the power of my dollar to influence corporate America. If enough people move from disposable to reusable, big companies will start noticing and shift their market offerings. Great change doesn’t happen overnight, but gradually through small steps. Together, we can great a huge impact!

Will I still use the disposable shavers I have in my cabinet? Sure. They are great for travel and it’d be wasteful to just throw them away. But will I replenish when gone? Probably not. This switch is easy enough that it might just stick. – Rachel

Why I grow my own food

In a world where I can drive ten minutes to the grocery store and buy perfectly clean, spot-free tomatoes and bright green, uniformly-sized greens, and scrubbed, spotless potatoes for less than $20, why did I just spend an hour bent over my garden, hands in the dirt, to harvest funny-shaped, nibbled tomatoes, greens, and potatoes instead? Why would anyone do that?

Family-size gardens are great for the planet because they provide households with fresh, ultra-local produce that requires no packaging and no shipping. If done well, gardening in your own backyard can save you money and help you to reap lots of other rewards as well. Here’s why I garden…

Today’s harvest. Most of these tomatoes wouldn’t pass inspection at a grocery store, but they are amazingly delicious.

Reason #1: My kids know where our food comes from.

This is why I started gardening in 2015. My kids have spent countless hours in the garden with me over the years, planting, weeding, and harvesting. They can identify a tomato plant when it is three inches high and know whether the root vegetable they are about to pull is a carrot or a parsnip. They know the difference between a beneficial insect and a garden pest and my oldest knows how to attract or dissuade each kind. Even my two-year-old knows when a tomato or a pepper is ready to be picked and what basil looks like.

Not only will the knowledge allow them to grow their own food someday, but it also gives them an appreciation for their food. They are 100% more likely to snack on a carrot, snap pea, or even mustard greens if they just picked it themselves and they are very aware that wasting food means wasting time, energy, and resources because they know what goes in to growing food.

Reason #2: I know what is in our food.

I don’t have to wonder what strange additives or chemicals are in our food because I know this farmer very intimately and I know she would never put that stuff into her kids’ food. When I prepare sauces, soups, and preserves from our garden, I also know the food from our freezer and pantry is safe. And preparing food this way instead of buying fancy organic food from the store saves me a lot of money.

When I pull out cubes of soup from the freezer, I can feel confident giving them to my children. Plus, we can talk about all the veggies we grew over the summer over a bowl of tomato soup in the winter.

Reason #3: Gardening is great exercise.

I can’t speak for everyone, but personally, I am not a fan of exercising for the sake of exercise. I much prefer to do things the hard way and get my exercise while I reseed my lawn, weed my garden, and cut up a hundred tomatoes for sauce (don’t think that’s exercise…. try it!). Riding my bike to the community garden every day, digging, planting, watering, harvesting, wrestling with mugwort, and walking around to admire everyone else’s gardens gives me plenty of exercise and I don’t have to change into spandex or touch gym equipment. Plus, research shows that gardening is excellent for your health, even before you factor in all the healthy produce you’ll be eating.

Reason #4: I spend a lot of time outside.

Gardening keeps me active and it ensures I get fresh air daily. Even if I’m just checking to see if my watermelon seeds sprouted, the garden is always calling me outside and away from the distractions of modern life. And every time I run out to fill our salad bowl with greens, I am reminded of how wonderful Nature is and how grateful I am to be part of this world (okay, sometimes I just dodge past the mosquitos and grab the greens). We all know getting fresh air is important for our minds, bodies, and souls, and the garden helps you fulfill that gift to yourself.

Gardening also keeps me in touch with the changing seasons and weather in a way I didn’t anticipate. I have begun to think of certain weather as planting or harvesting weather and certain months remind me to plant or harvest certain crops. I have begun to notice which vegetables are available at the same time for cooking purposes and I am beginning to try to stretch my growing seasons.

There is really nothing better than a Saturday morning spent in the garden.

Reason #5: I eat healthier.

There is nothing like a giant bowl of fresh cucumbers on your table to keep you from dialing for take out, especially if you grew and picked them yourself. I find that I eat salads twice as often in the summer, when everything is fresh and green and right outside my door (or down the street). And in the winter, I’m more likely to reach for the soups I prepared myself from our garden vegetables (and froze in our Souper Cubes) when I see the labels (“our squash soup”, “our tomato sauce”, “our basil pesto”).

Reason #6: Sharing is caring.

Bringing fresh basil and tomatoes for caprese sandwiches all summer, dropping zucchinis and cucumbers off at friends’ houses, letting neighbors harvest a pumpkin to carve, dropping off extra food at the soup kitchen, serving meals made entirely from our own garden… there is nothing more satisfying then sharing what we grow with friends, neighbors, and strangers. When we share our food with others, it gives us a chance to share our love of gardening too, and hopefully inspire others to pick up some seeds next year.

Reason #7: Oh, the satisfaction!

I cannot begin to tell you how amazing you will feel when you harvest your first homegrown tomato or cucumber. And even those thrills pale in comparison to your first butternut squash, pumpkin, or watermelon. Digging your own potatoes, drying your own garlic for storage, and putting up your own food for the winter… these basic, human tasks are satisfying because they are built into our DNA. Sure, getting a promotion or finishing a big report are satisfying too, but, having done both, I’ll take eating a salad I grew myself any day.

The more I grow the more I want to grow. People say gardening is addicting and they are definitely right.

I hope you’ll start gardening next year too. Want to start now? The first step is to prepare your garden bed for next year (or even for fall greens and garlic).

– Hannah

Small Changes Add Up or How We Spent Our Rosh Hashanah

This past week, Jews around the world celebrated Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year. The name literally means “head of the year” in Hebrew. Besides being a time to think reflectively about the past year, and ponder how you can improve during the next one, it is customary to celebrate with a big meal and a trip to temple. Yet while customs and traditions are important to me, especially as I hand them down to my children, there’s always room for a little bit of modernization and improvement. Especially when the Earth is involved.

My family has been hosting Rosh Hashanah dinners for the past few years and usually have the same type of spread. Since Covid started, however, it’s just been the four of us plus grandma. Here’s a confession – while I love having people over, I also find it very stressful. I like things to be spic, span and perfect, so having a more relaxed holiday has been a little bit of a blessing for me. It gives me time to experiment and relax, rather than striving to please and impress. This year, I therefore I decided to serve some different and local foods, instead of all of the standard fare.

Bought these napkins through Ten Thousand Villages and love them

I love going to the Farmers’ Market every week and have been trying some new-to-me veggies. Some are fails – I managed to destroy the kohlrabi I bought and it was bland at best. But I continue to forge on and love getting cooking tips from the people who grow my food. Kearsarge Gore Farm has been great with sharing recipes (I have some tomatillos that will soon turn into salsa), so I picked up some delicata squash and served that at my Rosh Hashanah dinner. Was it different? Yes? Did everyone love it? No. But I was happy to serve local food at my table, rather than more “crowd pleasers” that tend to be grown far away. *

Adding delicata squash to my vegetable rotation. A little bit of maple syrup, butter, cinnamon and roasting.

In an ideal world, my family would be vegetarians. We are working on cutting back and this book is on my wish list. But there are certain food traditions we have in our family and, though I don’t love the idea of eating animals, I don’t think it’s awful to eat consume on a limited basis. But how can we improve? Buy locally and keep your money in your community. Support farmers who support the Earth. This year we bought our brisket from Beech Hill Farm and will likely continue.

We took a family walk on Rosh Hashanah and stumbled upon this rock family

The practice of tashlich is also part of Rosh Hashanah services. This year, we met our congregation near a local waterfront and the Rabbi handed out bird seed after a short kids service. If you read the above link, you’ll see the bread, rather than seed, tends to be the traditional throwing choice. However the Rabbi explained that they decided to change to birdseed this year because it’s better for the fish and the general environment. My husband and I were really impressed. Sure, this is a small change, but it also shows that you can grow with the times, rethink your customs and improve them for the better without having to relinquish the principles. It got me thinking about the other ways we can continue making our habits friendlier to the Earth, yet still comfortable. Perhaps next year, I will set a goal of having only local food at my holiday table. In fact, I think I just did. Mission accepted! – Rachel

PS Want to know more about organic farming? The Concord Monitor ran a really informative article the other day

*Have you read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle? It’s admittedly a DNF for me. Just found it too slow for my taste. However there are few pieces I always remember from that book. One is when they had a party and only served seasonal food that had been purchased locally. The author specifically says that there was orange and green melon in sight (think a standard fruit salad), and no one was unhappy about it.

Why my foodie husband buys Michelob beer (the answer may surprise you)

I think my husband would take issue at being deemed a foodie, so let me quickly explain that my husband cares a lot about where his food – and his beer – comes from. We get a lot of our food from our own garden, make it ourselves, or buy it from local farmers and markets. We also try to buy organic food as much as possible because we know how much better it is for our health, local ecosystems, and the world as a whole. And my husband really likes to buy local craft beer because it tastes great and is fun to try new brews.

So why did he come home with a 12 pack of Michelob Ultra this summer? I was less surprised when I saw that the beer – Pure Gold – was organic, but it still didn’t really fit with his preference for local, craft beer.

“What’s with the Michelob?” I had to ask.

“I wanted to encourage them,” he said, “because they’re moving in the right direction. When the big companies start making these changes, it forces the whole market to change. I want them to know that customers appreciate their efforts.”

This is happening all over the market, as customers demand less wasteful packaging, less harmful chemicals in their food and products, and more responsibility from customers. Aside from the environmental benefits, our wallets will be happier as competition drives down the prices of organic food and products.

Many companies have posted their sustainability goals and successes on their sites. Let’s make them work for our business!

If you want to read about how Anheuser-Busch, Michelob’s parent company, is investing in sustainability, you can check it out on their site. Many companies are under pressure to make these kinds of changes and we, as consumers, should definitely support these changes whenever we can.

Is my husband done with local brews? Not at all, but he did like the Pure Gold and brought it to a couple of summer events to share organic beer with others.

– Hannah

1000 Hours Update

Summer is officially over for my family and 3 out of 4 people in my family are back to work and school routines. Our total hours for the year is around 650 and I feel pretty good about it. Towards the end of the summer, we logged a lot of hours at the beaches and pool, and it was glorious! We may try to sneak in a bit more this weekend but soon it’ll get too cold and fleeces and local hikes will make their appearance. We’ll still soak up our Outdoors Farmers’ Market for as long as we can!

In personal news, my kids are transferring to a new school this year and will get less recess and outside time. I am nervous about this change, so will need to balance it with how we spend our afternoons and weekends. Some outside time will be covered by their organized activities, though I try to limit those commitments because I really believe in providing free time where the girls can “just be kids.” But what about the rest? So reader this is where I ask you – how do you make sure your kids get enough outside time when it’s not something they’re naturally drawn to doing? We will organize playground time with friends but what else? I’d love your ideas.

Lastly, I stumbled across this NPR article today and it captured something I’ve been wanting to discuss here on GreenLifeNH. Do you talk to your kids about the changing environment, how we can help or what we can expect? There is so much going on in this world, especially with Covid, and I don’t want to overwhelm or scare my children. Yet, they ask me certain questions – like why is it so warm in January and/or why do I compost – and I feel compelled to give them age-appropriate and honest answers. In the article, Anya Kamenetz offers six suggestions, including go play outside. I will leave you with an excerpt because it’s one of the many reasons why I force my children outside and perfectly sums up feelings. – Rachel

You don’t have to live near mountains or the ocean to expose your kids to nature. You can start with ants on the sidewalk. Dawn encourages her daughter to “look at the bugs and think about what the bugs are doing … everything has a role to play here.”She’s raising her daughter to understand the web of relationships in nature rather than dwelling on ecological damage, because, she says, “I have a rationale around this that it’s very hard to defend what you don’t love.”

Our Low Waste Travel Kit

When I first started to strive for a zero waste lifestyle, I spent most of my time, money, and effort trying to reduce or eliminate waste in my own home. I didn’t worry too much about my waste outside the home because a) there was more waste in the home and I needed to start somewhere, b) I thought it would be a lot harder to reduce waste on the go, and c) I thought people would think I was weird (heaven forbid!). But, as I accomplished my home goals, my traveling lifestyle felt more and more incongruent with the rest of my life, so it was time to start bringing low waste with me.

By writing this post, I’m hoping to save you the struggle of figuring all this out on your own so you can just jump into low waste travel without all the research and trail and error. I’m breaking it into sections based on the length of the trip.

Low Waste Travel Toolkit #1: Every Day Kit

  • Water Bottle for each person
  • Travel coffee mug for each coffee drinker (or hot chocolate drinker)
  • Easy snack for each person (an apple or a handful of trail mix in a reusable snack bag)
  • A few rags and/or handkerchiefs in case you need a napkin or someone spills (I used cut up t-shirts)
  • At least one reusable fabric grocery bag (I keep several these in my car all the time and one small one with me when I’m walking or biking)

Low Waste Travel Toolkit #2: Day Tripper Kit

  • Low Waste Travel Kit #1 for each person
  • Big jug of filtered water to refill water bottles (we use a 5-gallon glass jug that once held syrup)
  • Large snack to allocate into individual bags or bowls (trail mix, crackers, chips, dried fruits, whatever you like to buy at the gas station)
  • Reusable plates, cups, and bowls (we have stainless steel mess kits for camping)*
  • Bamboo utensil set per person (or use old silverware)*
  • Napkins, dish cloths, or rags (or all three – every family is different)
  • Wet/dry bag for wet bathing suits, dirty clothes, and used rags (I use an old – but clean! – cloth diaper bag)
  • Picnic lunch in a cooler, if desired (unless eating at a restaurant or someone’s house)*

*All mess kit supplies and utensils can also be used with take out food as well. I keep a set in my car all the time in case we decide to go out to eat randomly.

If you have camping mess kits, they can double as your takeout and picnic set instead of paper plates and cups and plastic cutlery. We made these cute, monogrammed “bambooware” carrying pouches out of inherited napkins during Covid. Had to keep ’em busy!

Low Waste Travel Kit #3: Overnight Travel Kit

  • Low Waste Travel Kit #1 for each person
  • Low Waste Travel Kit #2
  • Toiletry Kit
    • Shampoo/Conditioner Bar (wrapped in a clean rag)
    • Bar Soap (wrapped in a clean rag)
    • Tooth tabs and toothbrushes
    • Wash cloth
    • Brush/comb
    • Refillable deodorant (I get mine at We Fill Good)
    • Period supplies (if necessary)
    • Shaving supplies
    • Any other toiletries you use
  • Extra pillow case for dirty laundry
  • Weather appropriate clothing and shoes
Rather than buying a second set of everything, I just take my toiletries with me in a little pouch I inherited from my grandmother. If you like to use refillable shampoo and conditioner instead of bars, you can repurpose small glass or plastic jars to make travel size amounts.

I plan to make a longer post about low waste camping soon, but this overnight list should get you started. When packing for a longer trip, make sure to think about anything you might end up buying – activities, gear, food, and supplies. Whenever you buy a duplicate because you didn’t pack appropriately, you are creating more waste. Just do your best… I have certainly bought an umbrella and some sandals on the road.

Happy travels!

– Hannah

August’s Zero Waste Wins and Goals

For our family, this is the last true week of summer vacation before school starts again! Three of us head back to schedules and our daily routines. While I’d say we’re looking forward to getting into the swing of things, we’re also sad to say goodbye to leisurely beach and pool days. My to-do list is starting to lengthen, and I’m adding some eco-goals. Sure, Hannah and I practice our own environmental routines and share them here on GreenLifeNH, but I want to do more. Here are some of my recent plans, accomplishments and “failures”.

My family limited our AC this summer! I will be honest and admit that we sleep with ACs on every night. Using them allows for everyone’s best sleep and I feel that’s important health-wise. That said, our home is older, and doesn’t have central air, yet stays pretty cool. We follow a lot of Hannah’s advice, including keeping the blinds down and the windows closed on hot days. However my husband bought a floor unit for our downstairs last summer when we were all home due to Covid. He installed it again this summer and we’ve used it maybe a handful of times, despite the high temps! Your body really does adapt if you learn to live without it. Every little bit counts, as ACs do nothing to prevent global warming, In fact, our reliance on them is causing problems. It’s best to limit whenever possible.

Back-to-school shopping was eco-friendlier than previous years. I remember getting ready the night before the first day of school. You pull together your pencil case, lay out a new outfit etc. It’s an exciting time! However since I’ve been trying to live more sustainably, I realized that exciting doesn’t need to always equal new things. Yes, we went to the outlets and I let each daughter pick out a new “first day” outfit. We don’t have to be perfect. But we eschewed the brand new backpack and lunchboxes for ones that still work perfectly fine. Our district provides most of the school supplies, but I’m ready to raid our cabinets, per Hannah’s suggestions, for the few items we do need to bring.

My garden was a disaster this summer. When the girls were younger, and we had a more flexible schedule, I would plan and maintain the garden each spring and summer. But I went back to work this year and have had less time. I started and grew a few plants, but not much took. It’s not fair to just blame myself; my yard has a ton of shady trees, doesn’t get enough growing sun and it was a super rainy couple of months. You know what? It’s ok. We shop at local farmers markets and stands on a weekly basis and my friends happily give me any excess produce they need to use or lose. A win-win! We will try again next summer. Or maybe we won’t. I feel good about supporting local farmers and growers instead, if I just don’t have the energy. But if I want to further green my thumbs, I’ll likely read one of the books that mastered gardener Hannah recommended.

Concord’s Sustainable Tree Program. A few weeks ago, I was walking my dog and noticed a few new bushes on my neighbor’s lawn. I asked her about them and she pointed me towards this government program. It’s no secret that trees help curb climate change by cleaning the air and providing shade and natural habitats to a variety of animals. Yet more and more trees are being cut down for a variety of reasons. How can I help? I plan to apply to this program and encourage all Concord, NH residents to do the same. Don’t live in Concord? Investigate if your town offers something similar. It will provide some added beauty to your yard while helping the Earth. After all, a yard full of grass, and no plants, does nothing and can even hurt the environment.

In general, Concord has a lot of goals they’re striving to achieve before 2030 and 2050. I’m proud to live in a forward thinking city that takes climate change seriously! – Rachel

My Five Favorite Gardening Books

I have been growing vegetables for six years now. Each year I gather a bigger, better harvest and feel more confident in my abilities, but I still have SO MUCH to learn. Luckily, there are hundreds of gardening books available to help me. Here are my five favorite books:

Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardening Handbook by Ron and Jennifer Kujawski

My favorite aspect of this all-around-great book is that it is customizable for your growing region. Each section will give you specific advice for what to do, say, “2 weeks after average date of last frost” and next to it is a place for you to write in that date. While this may seem like a lot of work, you’ll quickly realize that it actually saves time and work throughout the season. In addition to being customizable, I love that this book gives very clear and specific advice for each vegetable for each week. For example, I know I need to make another sowing of cilantro six weeks after my average date of last frost (3rd week of July). Really helpful if you have a big garden and you need to be reminded that you even planted cilantro.

Vegetable Gardening in the Northeast by Marie Iannotti

This was my first gardening book and I still reread parts of it each year. Like the Week-by-Week book above, Vegetable Gardening in the Northeast gives timely advice for what to do each month. This book is a bit more general because it includes the whole Northeast instead of giving you the specific dates for your region and because it goes month-by-month instead of week-by-week, but it is a great book to get you started on your gardening journey.

All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew

Speaking of getting started, if you have never gardened before either because you a) are intimidated by the process or b) think it will take too many tools and materials, this is the book for you. Mel Bartholomew is renowned for making gardening accessible and almost foolproof, if you follow his directions. As a messy gardener, this system has a lot of appeal to me for its organization and, as a conservationist, it has a lot of appeal to me for its resource economy. My daughter and I planted a square foot garden this summer and, I have to say, this type of gardening is really great for kids. It does lack the wildness I love in my vegetable garden (I like to let volunteer tomatoes, flowers, and even giant sunflowers grow up wherever they do), but everything in the square foot garden is neat and tidy and easy to do and you can really grow a ton of foot in a small plot.

Vegetables Love Flowers by Lisa Mason Ziegler

This is my newest favorite gardening book because it introduced me to the importance of flowers in the vegetable garden. I’ll admit that before I heard about pollinator gardens, I thought growing flowers was kind of frivolous. But Lisa Mason Ziegler entirely convinced me that flowers are not only a wonderful crop to add beauty to your home all summer, but also incredibly important for a healthy vegetable or fruit garden. I intend to fill a small plot in the community garden with cut flowers next summer (in addition to all the wild violets, sunflowers, and calendula I usually let grow here and there) and I can’t wait to see the benefits abound.

Homegrown Pantry by Barbara Pleasant

No gardening book list would be complete without a book about eating all the wonderful vegetables and fruits we grow in New Hampshire. This book, subtitled “A Gardener’s Guide to Selecting the Best Varieties & Planting the Perfect Amounts for What You Want to Eat Year-Round”, fulfills its promise and then some. Once you get growing in earnest, its really important to start thinking about how many of each vegetable you need and how you’ll preserve your extras. If our great-grandparents (not to mention of great-grandchildren) could gift us a book, it would be this one!

I hope this list helps get you started on a garden planning for 2021. It’s not too late to plant some kale and other winter hardy vegetables now. You can also build yourself some raised beds and then cuddle up with some gardening books from the library now.

– Hannah