Friday, October 19, 2007 --- I must have you, Lime NmG...I love you!

Oh, if only I were independently'd be on your way from Ohio to my loving arms NmG! *sighs*

See what this little cutie is all about at the Myers Motors website.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007 --- I have been sick...Baby Steps Toward A Greener Life...Part 3

In the midst of my popping Benadryl capsules, smearing Vicks VapoRub on my nose (Yes, despite the directions on the jar, I have always smeared VapoRub on my nose when I am sick to help me breathe!), sneezing and constant nose-blowing -- I have managed to incorporate another "green" change. It's a small one, but every bit helps, right?

That's right, instead of using one tissue after another during the course of my cold, I have opted to start using handkerchiefs! A hankie can be used many more times than the 2-3 nose-blows possible with a tissue. And, when they have gotten sufficiently "soiled", I can throw them in the wash and use them again and again...and again! It occurred to me that it was a great option that was sitting right under my nose [pun very much intended, LOL] because we had a large quantity of brand new handkerchiefs already in our closet. I had brought them home a couple of years ago and forgot about them -- one of the many things salvaged from the man's daddy's house after he died. Ever the old-fashioned-gentleman, Pop had packs and packs of brand new handkerchiefs -- as well as boxes upon boxes of brand new towels, never-worn shirts, every suit ever bought, every pair of shoes, every scrap of anything, etc. Yeah, he had a hording problem...Anyway, it seemed a shame to just toss them and pointless to donate handkerchiefs, so I thought, "These could be useful..." and took them home.

Now, not only is that usefulness proving to be very true, but the man and I have the added benefit of being able to make jokes about my using "another one of Pop's hankies" every time I blow my nose! I like the idea that he stays in our minds and in our lives, in this simple every-day-way, even though he is gone. I like to think this comforts the man.

Aside from my current cold, I periodically suffer from allergies and frequent sneezing -- I sometimes feel like I am forever blowing my nose. Handkerchiefs are much softer than tissues and better for the environment. I am enjoying them in spite of my nasal misery. So, thanks Pop...You are helping us "be greener" from the grave!

Related posts: Baby Steps Part 1, Baby Steps Part 2.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007 --- Baby Steps Toward A Greener Life...Part 2

Today, the cats went green! Yes, it is official, we have switched over to 100% biodegradable, Eco-friendly cat litter. As I mentioned in Part 1 of "Baby Steps Toward A Greener Life", we will be trying out two kinds of litter side by side -- one made with wheat and one made with corn -- both pictured at left.

In terms of color, texture and smell -- they are virtually indistinguishable -- as you can see here -- sorry, we are not a Scratch-N-Sniff blog at this point, so you can't smell. World's Best Cat Litter is in the green box, Swheat Scoop is in the red box. They both smell very natural, like feeds for livestock on a farm. There was certainly a lot less dust when I poured them into the boxes, which was nice! As my Twitter friend, margalit mentioned in the comments of the previous Part 1 post, we have already made note of the fact that World's Best (corn) costs twice as much as Swheat Scoop (wheat). The Swheat Scoop came in a 40lb. bag and the World's Best came in a 17lb. bag which cost almost the same price. Obviously, we will most likely stick with the Swheat Scoop in the future, but for the purpose of evaluation, etc. we are trying both right now. Thus far, the cats have liked (and used!) both boxes without any adjustment problems. Of course, we do have unusually cooperative, well-behaved cats so this does not surprise me too much. And, NO, that is not our bathtub -- we have a second bathroom that is designated as the Cat Bathroom -- where we keep the cat litters in the tub with a shower curtain drawn. This gives them a pleasing amount of privacy, keeps the boxes out of human sight, and more importantly, keeps cat litter from being all over our apartment (because it drops off of their paws as they jump out of the tub). We still use the toilet and sink in there -- which works out fine for everyone -- we just need to vacuum out the tub once or twice a week during our normal apartment cleaning activities...that sounds pretty funny now that I put it in writing...vacuuming out the tub!

Anyway, we are happy about this new transition. The urine appears to clump very well in both types of litter. And, as per Margalit's additional advice, we are not flushing our clumps (even though we do not have a low flush toilet) -- we have old newspapers saved under the bathroom sink -- I use 2-3 sheets of newspaper to scoop litter onto, and then, wrap up the waste into a 100% biodegradable packet that can go out with the trash. So, no more need for the plastic supermarket bags. Great!

Speaking of which, we used our new canvas bags at the supermarket last weekend. People did look at us funny at the registers which amused me, but also made me feel proud (?) in a weird way. In addition, we saved .03 cents per bag used on our grocery bill which is not much, but it still feels like a reward. Maybe this next thing is just a serendipitous coincidence, but I stopped into the supermarket again today -- and they are now selling reusable bags at the registers which were never there before! Were the supermarket managers (or workers) influenced to make this change by seeing us with our bags? Or was it already in the works?? I do not know and I do not need to know -- I am purely excited by the fact that it has happened -- whatever the cause! ;-D

Some other small changes we have an effort to reduce the amount of plastic wrap and the number of Ziploc bags we use, we are washing out Ziploc bags and reusing them many times before disposal. Basically, we will be using them until they develop a hole or tear. It is amazing how long these suckers last -- which is why they are a problem in the first place, huh?

We have always had a Brita water filter container in our refrigerator, but we are making an effort to eliminate buying any bottled water when we are out and about. We have saved a few plastic bottles that we fill up at home and take with us rather than buying new ones. The idea of buying water has always been ridiculous -- so this is an easy thing to feel good about from a "saving money" standpoint as well as the plastic and waste issues.

Another recent change...for my intermittent struggle with Starbuck's Mocha Frappuccino addiction...I bought this reusable travel cup which will hold any grande-sized beverage purchased from my local pusher. It is easy enough to take it with me, eliminates the need for all of those wasted disposable plastic cups...AND, I save .10 cents off of my purchase when I bring my own cup! Cool beans, indeed.

We are also making a real effort to recycle properly by making it a more efficient, do-able task. We use the same canvas bags for the supermarket to keep purely recyclable-only items separate from the ones with refund deposits. When it is time to go to the supermarket again, we just grab the canvas bags as usual already filled with our presorts. This makes it very easy to dump the recyclables in the bins outside on the way to the car, and then, we take the deposit refund recyclables with us to the supermarket to get our money back. If we sort as we use and bind the new habit with a well-established habit (going to the store) -- it is much more likely that we will follow through consistently. Plus, it keeps the recycling under control -- nothing is worse than lugging 2-3 months worth of cans and bottles to the supermarket -- at least, until one has children to do that for exercise and spending money! ;-) LOL

Semi-related side note: Twitter friend, cwdaniels made mention of our "Baby Steps" project post on his blog here. Thanks, Wess! You can also read his great post about his own efforts at more sustainable living. Or, check out the rest of his blog at for more good reads! :-D

Unrelated side note: Twitter friend, margalit recently went to the hospital for another congestive heart failure incident -- if you would like to send her some kind-thought-vibes via Twitter or her blog at, I am sure she would love to hear from you. She's very kind to strangers... ;-) Feel better, margalit!

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007 --- Baby Steps Toward A Greener Life...Our realistic plan for making small, eco-friendly changes in our home for a cumulative impact.

9/25/07 UPDATE: Be sure to read the comments section of this post as well -- more interesting links, podcast info, etc. ;-D V

One of the things I have been really enjoying, since the upgrade/changes to our cable service sometime back in the Spring(?), has been the addition of the Sundance Channel. Aside from wonderful indie films, they also have a fair amount of Eco-related programming, known as "The Green" which I find fascinating. One of my favorite programs -- "It's Not Easy Being Green" -- documents the Strawbridge family and their self-sufficiency project. They picked themselves up and moved to Cornwall, England to create a completely "green" existence -- producing no waste and eliminating their dependence on fossil fuels. To me, it is a very exciting and inspiring show. But, it is also quite daunting and discouraging.

As apartment dwellers, I have often felt that while the man and I may want to live a more environmentally-conscious life, apartment dwelling by its very nature means that almost everything about your living space is not under your control. The appliances do not belong to us, we did not choose the water-heating system, going solar is not an option, I can't remove the cancer-causing vinyl siding, etc. You get the picture. While these shows can be inspiring, realistically, the average person cannot afford to just pick up and move somewhere to create a "Green Utopia". Oftentimes, it feels like making "real" changes are not in the cards for us until we own our own home -- and even then, I have a feeling that some of the changes I dream about will not be affordable for us. But I can dream...and I will. And, hopefully, it will be possible.

Another thing I have been very into over the past year has been Eco-related podcasts. Before we had the Sundance Channel, I was already watching their Eco Biz video podcasts, as well as some other great podcasts I have found on iTunes. One of my best discoveries has been a podcast from Personal Life Media called Living Green: Effortless Ecology for Everyday People. Host Meredith Medland interviews people from all areas of the Green Movement -- scientists, activists, concerned famous folks, "green" business owners and regular people who have made remarkable changes to their planetary impact through their daily choices. She talks a great deal about the "psychology of green" -- about changing people's mindset regarding what it means to be "green" in the first place. It's not "just for tree huggers" anymore, baby! It needs to become such a habitual, natural part of life, that you wouldn't think to do anything else. That is the only way that substantial, significant change can making it an integral part of our culture, NOW...through podcasts and other media, activism, research and development of new technologies, architecture, etc. When consumers have better choices and affordable choices for greening -- why wouldn't they choose to do the right thing? A big part of what Meredith tells people is that they need to "remove their guilt" about not being "green enough." Make small, daily changes -- stick with them, build upon them -- before you know it, you will have made many! And, you will feel good about it...which will inspire you to continue doing it. When you look at it that way, it seems do-able. Pick something and try it!

During the course of Meredith Medland's many informative interviews with all types of fascinating folks, she introduced a lady named Jen Boulden. Jen Boulden is a co-founder with Heather Stephenson of Essentially, Ideal Bite is just that -- a manageable "bite of daily green" -- a website that delivers easy and realistic, Eco-friendly tips via email Monday-Friday to get you on the gradual road to Greentown. The tips are so easy to do, you will be making changes in no time! Plus, they offer great information on products to replace the more harmful ones you may be buying really helps to support the businesses that are concerned about supporting the planet and the consumer, not just their bank accounts. The more we support them, the more commonplace environmentally conscious companies will be.

One of the disturbing things I have learned from these podcasts -- how bad scoopable clumping cat litter is for the environment -- as well as for human and animal health. Not only is it destructive because of the strip-mining for clay, but it is not biodegradable, it is clogging and filling landfills at an alarming rate with its expanding-cement-like-presence, the clay is filled with carcinogenic silica dust, if that wasn't enough...the major clumping agent is sodium bentonite which is poisonous. Between breathing the cancer-dust (us and the cats), licking the poison-dust through grooming (just the cats), and what it is doing to the earth and landfills...there is nothing good about it. I had long suspected it was probably bad, but in the absence of actually "knowing", I continued using the litter.

This got me thinking. Because it was more than just the cat litter. For a long time, I have been really disturbed by the quantity of plastic bags that we have after a trip to the grocery store. I can not remember the last time I was in a grocery store that still offers a choice of paper or plastic? At least the paper would be biodegradable...even if it still kills trees to produce it. My theory had always been, since I needed to scoop the cat litter, I would save the bags and "recycle" them by using them for the disposal of cat waste. It wasn't recycling exactly -- more like "reusing" before its eventual trip to the landfill...stuffed with my carcinogenic, poison-chemical-laden, cat feces and urine. All I was doing was delaying the trip, not really recycling anything. But, these are the little mental games we play with ourselves while we are busy scooping poop. This was no longer acceptable to me. Period.

So, the question became, how do I eliminate my dependence on these plastic bags while still having the cleanliness of a scoopable clumping cat litter? Could I find an Earth-friendly, biodegradable cat litter that still made scoopable clumps? That maybe I could flush instead of putting in the bags?

I did some research and found this cat litter made from corn. 100% natural, biodegradable, scoopable, flushable, so-safe-you-can-eat-it cat litter made from corn!

I also found this cat litter made from wheat. 100% natural, biodegradable, scoopable, flushable, so-safe-you-can-eat-it cat litter made from wheat!

All right, so maybe no one is going to eat it, but the point is -- our cats can lick themselves without ingesting silica dust and sodium bentonite!!

We plan on trying both formulas, side-by-side, to make a decision about which one will work best for us. As the current litter, Ever Clean, starts to dwindle inside the big 28lb. box in our spare bathroom (3 Extra Pounds Free!) -- we are growing very excited about our next trip to the pet supply store...Our cats are about to make the leap into Eco-friendly bowel movements! Now the frogs won't be the only "green" pets in our household...

In preparation for our No-More-Plastic-Bags-Transition, I am very proud to show all of you the 100%-Cotton canvas bags (12 to start!) that I bought (pretty cheap at Michael's) for us to use at our local supermarket. I am very excited about this. I invite the stares. I welcome the smiles and questions. I anticipate the possibility that someone will see us shopping this way...and decide to go out and get their own bags. And maybe, just maybe, some of you darling readers will be inspired to start making some "baby-steps-changes" of your own -- and tell me about it! Send me pictures, send me stories, I would love to hear about what you are doing -- or have decided to do. I'll post them here so that we can share our ideas and progress.

We have some other ideas that we will be implementing in our home. As they occur, I will talk about them here on the Butterfly Blog. I imagine by this time next year, that my list of "changes made" will have grown in number -- at least, I hope so. I look forward to seeing it happen! Go Team Green!

[Photo Credits]
"It's Not Easy Being Green" photo from:
"Living Green" graphic from:
"Ideal Bite Logo" graphic from:
"Ever Clean Cat Litter" photo from:
"World's Best Cat Litter" photo from:

"Swheat Scoop" photo from:

"Nutmeg and Plastic" and "12 Canvas Bags" photos by the butterfly. That's Me!

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________ - THE BUTTERFLY BLOG - Copyright ©2007 Vanessa Lee Hamlen. All rights reserved.

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I am a graphic designer. I love animals and have quite a few pets. There is a frustrated DJ inside of me --- hence, my ongoing obsession with making music mixes.

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LORI'S LABOR: A collection of 6 unique playlists with varying intensity and mood for your listening pleasure! I created these original mixes for my friends to use during the labor and delivery of their first baby, Nicholas.

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Listen to my comical, purposefully nasal, total HAM-job submission to the 2007 Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert in the mini-player above!
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