Good For You

How Is This A Green Product?

A Salute To Earth Week

Whenever I think of certifications or guarentees, I tend to that scene from "Tommy Boy" when in a longish and crazy tirade, he explains that a company-issued guarentee is just a "guarenteed piece of…" Clearly, I’m a little skeptical of certifications.

Field Smart Money had a good post last week about how to really tell a green product. A few things to keep in mind.

1) Do your homework about the company. Greenbiz allows you to search their site, though a search for Target left a lot of "target" entries, too.

2) Decode the label. Consumer Reports has a search tool where you can decode your own label. Also some certifications are worth more than others. Smart Money breaks down the green certifications that acutally mean something including EnergyStar, Fair Trade Certified, and USDA Organic. Ideal Bite also has some tips related to other green certifications. (Though I would recommend searching by specific product type you are looking for; they have lots of recommendations and some are quite affordable.)

3) Not everything is obvious. I found out last night that the enchillada sauce I bought was made by Unilever. Meanwhile, the Master Logger Certification program is a highly successful program you probably have never heard of. Green certified loggers perform sustainable wood harvesting and are regularly evaluated to maintain certification. There are likely programs like this in most any industry.

While you may not want to conduct a research project every time you buy something, it is certainly worth doing occasionally to see what’s out there. Try buying green products if you can, especially in the coming week. If you find something interesting, please comment so we can all learn something new!

Photo: A northern Maine scene as captured by the blog author.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Your Complete Guide To Composting

Salute To Earth Week

This weekend, a compost was started in the backyard. So far, it doesn’t stink. Of course, it’s only three days old.

CompostComposting is basically a natural process of decay that you can use to eliminate trash and create useable soil for your gardening projects. Decay will happen whether you make it happen or not but there are things you can do to help speed up the process. Composting has the added benefit of saving me money because our local trash service charges by the bag and since thirty percent of most household trash is compostable, it makes sense to at least attempt. My mom bought us a compost bin (it’s big and black and has a locking lid) for Christmas and now that spring has come, it is set up in the back yard next to our tiny wood shed.   

If composting interests you, you don’t need a fancy compost bin to try it out. The Savy Gardener tells you how. if you live in Maine, you should take advantage of the free services of your local UMaine Cooperative Extension (most other states have similar services so check it out). The CO has all kinds of free information about how to do anything remotely hands-on in relation to flora and fauna.

The one thing I may recommend you purchase is a composting pail. Not only will you not want to go out to your pile everytime you’ve found something compostable (unless you are easily excited), you will also not appreciate your organic matter decaying early in your kitchen. The special compost pails also have filters in them to keep them from smelling. (You could also just try a container you already have first and if you find it smelly, get the pail.) 

Since I have been worried that this somehow won’t work for me, I am keeping this article today about how to kick-start a compost that is happening too slowly in reserve just in case.

If you are still unconvinced, you should check out the list of things you can compost. Fur, Kleenex, tea bags… I took the list and distilled it into a one page list I could post on the fridge near our pail. You can download it below if you want a one page list as well.

Like with other projects I’ve done, I’ll keep you posted on the progress of this one.

Download what_can_you_compost.doc

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Buying Local

A Salute To Earth Week

Yesterday, I spent the day at the Comic Arts Laugh Festival in Belfast, Maine which is about a 45 minute drive. More specifically, I watched a bunch of independent movies.

Sidemarquis1 We got to the theater and the sign said “Independent Movies- 4 hours”. “Can you handle this?” I asked Sean, indicating the sign. He said he could so we bought tickets ($4 each), only to be refunded a few minutes later.

“It’s going to be free.” said Mike, the Festival organizer. “We don’t mind paying!” I said, and meant it. Sean and I were in the process of buying a large popcorn and a drink. Mike handed Sean the money back and I took the refund and handed it to the concession lady in a bizarre exchange of funds. So far, “today is my treat” had only come out to $6.50 and the gas to come to Belfast.

What followed was a series of interesting films I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

Sean’s favorite was the Mensher Brothers film “He’s My Dad.” (See the trailer here.) The trailer doesn’t do the movie justice; it is very funny and inappropriate. A girl knocks on the convict’s door (which we later find out is her father), and after a bizarre exchange he says something to the effect of “So you’re a minor knocking at my door and I’m a newly released convict wearing no pants (he’s in a bathrobe) and you want to come in? Sure, I don’t see the harm in that.” The dialogue was deadpan and the movie closed with an original score father/kid duet “He’s My Dad” that made us chuckle through the credits. “…a penitentiary grad, he’s my dad…”

“We wanted the audience to immediately know the girl was in no danger (referring to the beginning scene of the movie). That wouldn’t have been funny.” One of the brothers said after the showing. Oh, did I mention all the filmmakers were there?

My favorite movies were by House of Hugs Productions which is run by Julia Radochia. They were all funny and true to life and told an interesting story in a short amount of time. These are all features I really appreciate in a movie. “I Just Want To Eat My Sandwich” is her latest film that has gotten the most acclaim. This poor woman keeps trying to eat her sandwich in her windowless cubicle when people keep interrupting to ask her questions. As someone who eats at my desk so I can blog, I understand this. I get interrupted about work stuff almost constantly. To be honest, I really liked all of them. I may ask Julia about how to go about buying a DVD.

The festival closed with a movie called “Tire Tracks” about the burning rubber subculture in Deer Isle/Stonington, Maine. I guess it was featured in The New York Times before I started reading it. I’ve seen the tracks myself but I live half an hour away and had no idea of what it all really meant.

So what does this long post have to do with Earth Week? By providing support to small and local businesses (like a local festival at a local theater), you are help keeping money in your economy and you’re probably actually helping someone (or some people) make a living rather than padding some rich guy’s wallet. Also this means that theoretically less resources are being transported, which is always really hard on the planet. So buy local, not only things but entertainment. You’re helping keep it close to you by supporting it and helping the environment by using resources close at hand rather than trucking them in.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Book Review: Emily Post's Etiquette

EtiquettebookWhen my mother bought me an etiquette book four years ago the Christmas after I graduated from college, I couldn’t have been more insulted. Raised in a family where thank you notes had to be written and us kids always left a note on the counter if we were going somewhere, why did I need a book to tell me to be nice to people?

I took out Emily Post’s Etiquette a few days ago in an effort to figure out support group etiquette (I’ll make a long story short: there is none). I then began perusing the book, looking for money-related manners. There was no one section on the subject but tips about handling money matters (who pays on dates, how much to spend on a wedding gift) were peppered throughout the book, with a very comprehensive index so you can find them all.

In short, the Golden Rule of Money (my wording) from this book is that finances are never to be discussed outside of very close family. (Maybe that’s why there is quite a powerful group of personal finance bloggers online; it’s almost voyeuristic to be reading about someone else’s money!) I must have read the Golden Rule of Money awhile ago because if you’ve met me in a social situation the last few years, my initial question is not what you do for work but something along the lines of "So what do you do for fun around here?" or "Are you originally from this area?" Often what people do for work will tell you little interesting about them anyway.

So what about the book in general? To be honest, I think more people could stand to skim through it. It’s pretty thick but does cover a lot of ground. I think in general many younger people (my age group included) need to learn a little more about cell phone etiquette in particular. I have mentally written off people for taking calls while out with me or talking loudly in line at the grocery store. But that’s not to say I don’t have my faults. Everytime I pick up the book, I learn something new, too. I actually use it as a reference more than I thought I would. If I recieved it as a gift now, I would be much more grateful.

Knowing manners allows you to place value on thoughtful actions and gestures and not necessarily throw money at a problem. (Inappropriately expensive gifts, for example, are a liability in the manners world, not your ticket to the top.) I may not exude fine breeding but I can be thrown in with fancy people (or very unfancy people) and feel confident of my actions. Who knows how many connections simple manners can get you, how many jobs or raises or other compensation will eventually come your way because you exude politeness? I can say with confidence that it’s gotten me places.

Speaking of money, the book itself is fairly thrifty. At at less than $30, it makes an appropriate gift for mostly anyone.    

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Book Review: Emily Post’s Etiquette

EtiquettebookWhen my mother bought me an etiquette book four years ago the Christmas after I graduated from college, I couldn’t have been more insulted. Raised in a family where thank you notes had to be written and us kids always left a note on the counter if we were going somewhere, why did I need a book to tell me to be nice to people?

I took out Emily Post’s Etiquette a few days ago in an effort to figure out support group etiquette (I’ll make a long story short: there is none). I then began perusing the book, looking for money-related manners. There was no one section on the subject but tips about handling money matters (who pays on dates, how much to spend on a wedding gift) were peppered throughout the book, with a very comprehensive index so you can find them all.

In short, the Golden Rule of Money (my wording) from this book is that finances are never to be discussed outside of very close family. (Maybe that’s why there is quite a powerful group of personal finance bloggers online; it’s almost voyeuristic to be reading about someone else’s money!) I must have read the Golden Rule of Money awhile ago because if you’ve met me in a social situation the last few years, my initial question is not what you do for work but something along the lines of "So what do you do for fun around here?" or "Are you originally from this area?" Often what people do for work will tell you little interesting about them anyway.

So what about the book in general? To be honest, I think more people could stand to skim through it. It’s pretty thick but does cover a lot of ground. I think in general many younger people (my age group included) need to learn a little more about cell phone etiquette in particular. I have mentally written off people for taking calls while out with me or talking loudly in line at the grocery store. But that’s not to say I don’t have my faults. Everytime I pick up the book, I learn something new, too. I actually use it as a reference more than I thought I would. If I recieved it as a gift now, I would be much more grateful.

Knowing manners allows you to place value on thoughtful actions and gestures and not necessarily throw money at a problem. (Inappropriately expensive gifts, for example, are a liability in the manners world, not your ticket to the top.) I may not exude fine breeding but I can be thrown in with fancy people (or very unfancy people) and feel confident of my actions. Who knows how many connections simple manners can get you, how many jobs or raises or other compensation will eventually come your way because you exude politeness? I can say with confidence that it’s gotten me places.

Speaking of money, the book itself is fairly thrifty. At at less than $30, it makes an appropriate gift for mostly anyone.    

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

A $101 Closet Organize

Closet1Organizing Will Save You Time And Money, Though It May Be Fun To Spend Just A Little

I moved about six months ago from a one bedroom house with four closets (where I lived alone) to a three bedroom house with four closets (where I live with another person). Same amount of closets divided in two. Oh, and I couldn’t fit my dresser into one of the rooms so that is sitting in storage for now.

I have one main closet where I keep mostly everything (you know, except bulk sweaters in the summer or shorts and bikinis in the winter). It was clear I had to organize a bit.

I love organizing. Before I began blogging, I even thought of doing it as a side career. I’ve read a lot about it, not to mention I’ve made a lot of hand-me-downs work for me. My first instinct was to purge unnecessary items.

And purge I did. I got rid of those clothes from ten years ago that will never fit again. I got rid of things that I tried to fix that couldn’t be fixed. I got rid of everything I wasn’t excited about wearing. $1,500 worth of clothes later, I had a more manageable amount to work with.

Then I went to the Mecca of organizers: The Container Store. I don’t usually throw money at problems but I did make a few purchases to make things work for me:

A six compartment hanging sweater bag corralled the sweater collection and made it accessible. $20

Clear lookers nested boxes helped organized things like tights, belts, and other smaller items. $30

Add-on skirt hangers (2) accommodated a growing collection. $10

A swing arm slack hanger was reserved for work pants that fit so I could find them easily (and I’m still getting down to my pre-island size). $6

A shoe rack kept my shoes from being a jumble at the bottom of my closet. $18

I also repurposed a few things I had bought previously:

Seagrass baskets (3) were bought at a bargain price at the Christmas Tree Shop. $15

A wreath hook became a robe and hat hanger in the off season. $2

Closet2My closet is now organized by color, though blazers and dresses (separate) reside to the right while the sweaters are on the left. Purses and hats reside in their own sea grass totes. The upper part of the closet is used for storage of items rarely used: sleeping bags, huge backpacks, etc.

Things like tank tops (for layering), sweatshirts, and leggings are folded and in their separate cubbies. The dividers are nice in that they keep the piles from falling on top of each other. If you don’t have these, you can make them or check out what places like the Container Store have to offer.

The ancient closet doors have been taken off (because one kept falling off) and will probably replaced with a curtain when I tackle my pile of sewing projects..

As you can see, my closet looks inviting (and most people comment, quite colorful). I can always find what I need and, on a crazy morning, that’s worth more than I can say.

So no California Closets for me. They are quite pretty but I find I’ve been able to do a lot on my own. And the great thing is, you can too!

Saving Even More Money Tip: If you don’t have $100 to designate to a project, try collecting unused containers around your house: glasses, show boxes, baskets, wooden crates and then see how you can use them in your organizing project. You can also try building something with scrap wood, like tall skinny shelving or top shelf dividers if you are feeling industrious and good with a saw. If you buy wood, you can have your local hardware store cut it often for a small fee and have it delivered for free!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.
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