Tuesday, June 2, 2009

"It's Gettin' Hot in Here..."

It might not officially be summer yet, but you wouldn't know it from the temps outside. Down here in Charleston, we've already had a couple 90 degree days, and it's only going to get worse. So to beat the heat, most people crank up the air-conditionering for the summer. But it is possible to cool down in a more eco-friendly way. The key is to get acclimated to the heat.

The problem with air-conditioning is that when it's 69 degrees inside your car, office or home, of course 80 is going to feel hot. But if you were used to 75 or 80, then even 90 might not even seem that unbearable. In order to survive summer au naturel, there are a few tips that'll help a lot.

1. Create some cross-ventilation. By opening some windows at opposite ends of a room, you allow a breeze to circulate through the room.

2. Use your ceiling fan.

3. Block the sun. During the day, pull the blinds to keep the sun from overheating the interior.

4. Leave windows open during the night when the temperature goes down.

Now, I'm not gonna lie. There are some days when the heat and humidity can feel insanely uncomfortable. My way of dealing with those days includes popsicles, standing in my open refrigerator and quick cold showers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

RIP Cilantro

So, there's been a casuality in my windowsill herb garden. I'm not sure what happened, but my cilantro bit the dust. On the bright side, the basil is going gangbusters, and I'm having a hard time keeping up. I've had basil in a mediterranean salad, basil on my pizza and more pesto with basil. If anyone out there needs some fresh basil, I'm your girl.

Guerilla Flower Arranging

I adore flowers. There's nothing like a cheery bunch of daffodils or tulips to brighten your kitchen or mood. But what I love more than picking out flowers at the florist is using what's in bloom around me. Not only is it spontaneous, but it's free. You can't get more practically green than that.

Now is the perfect time to "liberate" some of your neighborhood flowers because it seems like everything's in bloom. All March, I had azaleas brightening up my apartment, and a favorite way to display them is to place a single flower in a coffee mug (see photo top right).

Currently, I'm obsessed with magnolias which have a gorgeous scent. On Sunday, I found a tree where some of the flowers were low enough to reach, and I brought home an already opened bloom as well as a bud that has opened in the last day or two. There's something so chic about a single magnolia blossom on a tall stem with bright green leaves in a clear glass vase.

In case you were wondering, I come by my "liberation" tendencies honestly. My parents have been known to scour their Boston neighborhood with clippers, searching for forsythia or bittersweet.

If you like the idea of pillaging flowers in your neighborhood, I offer a few simple guidelines.

1. Don't trespass. Flowers in public spaces are fair game. Flowers behind a six-foot fence are off limits. The idea here is not to get arrested.

2. Know what poison ivy looks like. Just saying.

3. It's not a bad idea to carry around a small pair of scissors. Just remember to remove them from your bag before you get on an airplane. Especially if your last name is Mohammad.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Do You Baggu?

Going Green is a lot like being a citizen in an election year.

I know it's weird, but bear with me. As a citizen, you can go all out to support your candidate... attend rallies, volunteer on a campaign, go door-to-door, give money, even quit your job on a hit t.v. show like Kal Penn and start working for the President of the United States. Or, you can just do the are minimum and simply vote.

When it comes to being Green, the bare minimum is just saying no to plastic bags.

On this blog, I try really really hard not to point fingers or get up on my eco high horse because the only thing that accomplishes is to alientate people. But when it comes to plastic bags, I'm not sure enough is being said to discourage people from still using them. The fact is, a single plastic bag from your neighborhood grocery store can take 1000 years to completely break down in a landfill, the idea of which makes me absolutely sick to my stomach. I don't want that to be my legacy centuries after I'm gone. And neither should you.

The solution to the plastic bag dilemma is super easy. Just bring your reuseable bag to the grocery store. I have three different bags. One is a large canvas bag and one is kind of swanky, but my favorite thing to carry is a Baggu. What, you ask, is a Baggu? It's only the greatest thing ever! It's made of ripstop nylon, comes in a slew of bright colors, carries the equivalent of 2-3 grocery bags, is machine washable and fits in a tiny nylon envelope smaller than a postcard so it's perfect to stash in your purse, backpack or glovebox. The best part? Baggu bags only cost $8. If you happen to live in Charleston, SC, you can find them at Worthwhile on King Street. Otherwise, you can check out www.baggubag.com

If you're not into the whole Baggu thing, that's cool. There are tons of other reuseable bag options. The whole point is just to get away from using plastic and carrying your own eco-friendly bag.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Pesto, Homemade Style

So if you're reading this blog, you know that I bought some herb plants the other week. The whole point was to start using fresh herbs in my cooking instead of relying on the dried stuff. Not only is it Greener, but fresh tastes pretty fabulous.

Tonight I decided to make my own pesto, using the basil from my plant.The plan was to toss it with linguine, and I had some fresh bread and a nice bottle of Rioja to round out the meal. I figured with only five ingredients (basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese), I had a fairly good shot of my pesto turning out okay. The recipe for homemade pesto is super simple. Here's how....

1 1/2 cups packed basil leaves
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp pine nuts
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Pulse basil, garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan in food processor until finely chopped. Drizzle in olive oil in a steady stream until mixture is well combined. Makes 1 cup.

That's it. Pretty easy, huh?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fruit of the Loom(state)

Would you pay $200 for a pair of jeans?

What if they were made of 100% certified organic cotton , were a model of sustainability and came with a certificate guaranteeing fair-trade practices?

Yeah... me either.

$200 is $200, especially these days. When people are struggling to pay their mortgages and worried about being laid off, buying a pair of eco-friendly jeans for $200 might seem... well... a little frivolous.

And that right there ladies and gentlemen is a problem the Green Movement is only just now starting to address. When so many eco-friendly and organic products are out of reach for an increasing number of Americans living on a budget, the Green Movement can have a disturbing tinge of exclusivity. It's not enough to tell people not to buy from the chains or the commercially-grown products, there has to be affordable alternatives. I would love to do all my shopping at Whole Foods, but my paycheck just doesn't stretch that far.

The good news is that a few visionaries are trying to make organic more affordable.

Designer Rogan Gregory has been a passionate advocate of green-living for years. His Loomstate line with Scott Mackinlay Hahn was one of the first fashion labels to feature organic materials, and he famously started Edun with Bono's wife. This month he introduced a cheaper version of his Loomstate line at Target but with the same dedication towards being environmentally friendly and the same quality.

The collection features super-soft tees, cute separates, a plaid bikini and boardshorts for guys. And at $14.99-$44.99, there's something for everyone's budget.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Makings of a Simon & Garfunkel Song

So one of my Green goals this year was to get a garden going. This is something of a challenge for me, though, and not because I live in an apartment building downtown. My problem stems from the fact that apparently I did not inherit my dad's green thumb. In fact, my apartment is the place where plants go to die. And it's not that I'm neglectful. I do all the appropriate things... water, provide sunlight, etc... but somehow my plants slowly wither away while I watch in dismay. I have seriously considered just throwing in the towel and buying plastic plants which only need a good dusting every once in awhile. But nothing compares to having real plants in a home.

Which brings me back to my dilemma of starting a garden. Not having enough space outside, I've decided to take advantage of my two south-facing windows which receive tons of sunshine and have fairly broad windowsills. My cat Dudley loves to sit in the windows while pretending to be King of All He Surveys, but he'll just have to learn to share (memo to self... google which plants are poisonous for curious cats to nibble).

Knowing my limitations, I've decided to attempt two small gardening projects, an herb garden and container gardening for vegetables. Project Herb Garden began today.

The Charleston Horticultural Society held its annual Plantasia plant sale over at the Galliard this morning so I hoofed it on over to check out the selection. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted and soon found a table of nothing but herbs. There were three different kinds of basil, two types of lavender, sage, rosemary, lemon verbena, mint, oregano, various versions of thyme and a host of other herbs. It took less than thirty seconds for me to be totally overwhelmed until one of the docents helpfully pointed out which ones would work best with my conditions... indoors, south-facing window, proven tract-record as a killer of plants.

With her assistance, this is what I picked out today- oregano, sweet basil, French thyme, "blue lady" rosemary, cilantro and lavender. All of these herbs need plenty of sunshine and regular watering. I was advised to re-pot them in slightly bigger containers at some point.

My haul today cost $24, but, with luck, these plants will continue to grow and provide me with lots of fresh herbs for many future meals.

That is, if I don't kill them first. I'll keep you posted.