17 December 2010

Community of Practice

Times are hard and tough times are ahead.  What will you do?  It is past the point when we should have considered our future, yet it is not too late.  We must become a community of practice now and not wait for the times of financial or environmental disaster.  The practices are environmental stewardship of our neighborhoods; support for our brother and sister merchants; and encouragement of sustainable green living with the goal of passing excellence to our predecessors.  Nurturing of our people (family, friends and chosen acquaintances) and encouraging shared efforts to enhance our lives should be foremost in our thoughts.
Environmental stewardship means for us to take responsibility to ensure that we re-use, recycle and restore our communities.  Swap items with others; recycle and compost everything that can be handled by standard practice; and refrain from littering and using damaging chemicals and pharmaceuticals.    These practices are not difficult and they can save you time and money.   Take those unwanted items to a local charity or give them away to those in need.  My town set up curbside recycling and issued large cans to everyone.  We recycle most items and we put out trash once every two weeks or so.  We have a coffee container on the kitchen counter and I dump all raw vegetable pieces; spent ground coffee; and tea bags into the container.  When full, I empty it into the large trash cans in my backyard that I reserved for composting, leaves and grass cuttings included.  The cans do not stink; they just smell like dirt and leaves and this is what I spread around my yard instead of fertilizer.  Start with your home and go outward. We can rebuild and enhance our communities through efforts as simple as picking up litter; planting trees and shrubs; and properly disposing electronics, hazardous chemicals, and bulk garbage. We deserve safe clean communities and we should make the effort because it is OUR community.
Support our brothers and sisters in local business and independent businesses.  There is large network of folks who create and sell home- based, -grown, and –made products that may not have harmful chemicals; utilize locally purchased supplies; and are of higher quality material than the imported stuff from huge retailers.  You can find these artisans at craft fairs, bazaars, festivals, work place and place of worship.   Community members deserve patronage and their dollars are more likely to be spent locally and by several degrees of separation, your money will come back to provide for you.
Greener living is how we leave our children an inheritance.  Commit your funds to life sustaining activities.  Just because it is in the store, you do not need to buy it. Just because it is a little chilly you don’t have to raise the temperature.  Just because you think washing clothes in super hot water using industrial strength detergents will get your once worn t-shirt any cleaner than cold water, baking soda and a little soap, does not mean you should continue to waste and pollute.  And, do you seriously need to get your nails done… really?  Saving our money now by reducing energy use and consumerism will enable us to pass down something to our heirs. We must pass wealth, not debt. As a group, we have the ability to pass land, property, education, and a worthy estate to our children.  We were unable to do so just a few generations ago. Our forebears worked to the bone so that we would have a better life. We need to pay it forward. Greenbacks and a greener environment should be the fruits of our community of practice if not for us, for the children.  What gift will you leave them?
Thanks: publicdomainpictures.net

12 November 2010

Shrewd Shopping List

Chemicals, yum??!  Do we really need these hazardous compounds in our lives?  Male fish have eggs; the frogs have eight legs; and the Peregrines die.  The same is happening to us and we do it to ourselves.  Well, we allow corporate America to get rich off our brain-been-washed need to have all sorts of drugs and potions just to feel clean. We are ruining this great earth we call home. ‘Black is Green’ urges you to cut it out!  Cut and paste this list and take it with you to your local organic market; healthier grocery stores; or online stores. Use this list as the foundation of your new ‘Black is Green’ pantry. 

Baking Soda – gets rid of odors and dirt and is a mild abrasive.
Castile Soap – multi-purpose cleaner; gets rid of grease and bacteria.
Cornstarch - absorbs oil; gets rid of odors and oil; window cleaner.
Hydrogen Peroxide – disinfectant; gets fresh blood out of clothes.
Lemon Juice – disinfectant; gets rid of grease; and is a natural bleach. 
Olive Oil – wood polisher; skin and hair moisturizer.
Salt – Mild abrasive; absorbs liquids and oils
Vinegar – gets rid of odors; is a disinfectant; kills germs, mold and bacteria; and is a rinse agent.   Caution: do not use on marble.
Washing Soda – disinfectant; deodorizer; dissolves stains.  Caution:  do not use on aluminum or no wax floors.

Also, boiling water kills weeds; melts solids; and can be used as a cleaner.

There are other green cleaning ingredients, but some are harmful to skin and can cause serious illness if ingested.  These are borax and ammonia.  I think I’ll stick to the list above for now.  Food grade citric acid is another green ingredient, but is hard to find in stores and when you do find it, small quantities are expensive.  It’s tough to get away from the conglomerates, but at least corporations sell us a few reasonable things.  I’ll take them and will have change left in my pocket.

The list above can be mixed and matched for the dishwasher; washing machine; dryer; floors; windows; furniture; and bathroom and kitchen fixtures.  Add your favorite essential oils for fragrance and do your thing.  I’ll test some recipes and share my experiences in future posts.

“Just got paid, Friday night; party huntin’, feelin’ right; body shakin’, all around…,” screamin’ on the way to the store.
Thanks: publicdomainpictures.net

07 November 2010

Be Green, Save Some

It’s chilly outside and warm inside.   Energy costs are rising and our incomes are falling. Oh, what shall we do? Higher crude oil prices leads to higher prices all over the consumer spectrum and we are headed for some serious pain with the expected colder winter this year.  It’s now time for preventative remedy before we get too comfortable in our cozy homes.  In our house, the heat stays off until our bones start to ache.  Just kidding, but we do let the indoor temperature drop in the late afternoon to about 62 degrees.  The kids go to bed early, so we do not worry about them being cold.  They have a hard time getting to sleep if they are too warm. At night, the heat stays off.  In the early morning, we warm the house to about 65 before we turn the heat off again.  Once the kids are up and running around, in shorts and t-shirts, they complain about the heat, never mind that their feet are cold as ice!  Whiny  voice, “I don’t wanna wear socks!”

It all started when we got married.  My husband likes it cold.  I did not, but then I realized the savings on the utility  bills.  I just threw on some sweats, socks and slippers and I was ready to go.  Over the years, we got used to ever chillier temperatures.  The kids were born into it.  You can do it too!  Over the next few weeks, allow your home temperature to drop about two degrees from your normal per week until you get to the low 60’s temperature.  No point shocking your system, unless you really want to. Add warmer clothes and an extra blanket if you must. 
Wash and rinse your clothes in cold water; take cooler and shorter showers; and after you bake something yummy, crack the oven door a bit to let the heat out to warm the home (warning: do not use your oven to heat the house!).  Be sure to drop the temperature of your hot water if you have not already.   In rarely inhabited rooms, cover the air vents and close the doors; use the heat for the occupied spaces.  A humidifier is a less costly solution to keep your noses moist.  Keep your window coverings closed and place towels at the base of the drafty doors. I do not advocate spending too much money to save some, especially when it comes to the $19.99 gadgets that are equal to stuff you already have at home.
Check out U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's/U.S. Department of Energy Home Advisor Web site www.energystar.gov/homeadvisor for tips to reduce your energy bills. 
Once winter sets in, we usually do not allow the temperature to get below 62 degrees.  We are saving money, but will not jeopardize our health or the structure of our home.  Being too cheap, can cost serious cash if your frozen pipes burst!
Reduction in use of energy resources is a green thing to do.  Let me know what you are doing to save our planet and your $$s!

Thanks: publicdomainpictures.net

01 November 2010

Chunky Funky Veggies

We normally see folks snacking on the regular after lunch duo of celery and carrot sticks with a ranch dipping sauce.   Let’s turn that, “I’m on a diet,” snack into a powerful healthy meal.  There is so much more to the world of raw veggies.  Let’s get chunky funky with tasty colorful chopped organic veggies.  Okay, grab a bowl, cutting board, peeler and a good knife.  Peel stringy or thick skinned veggies and rinse with water .  If you can, compost the scraps.

Chunk up some or all the following organic veggies:
raw beet
grape or cherry tomatoes
broccoli florets
cauliflower florets
green, red and/or yellow pepper
large mushrooms
rainbow carrots yellow, orange and/ or red
snap peas
baby corn

Try each veggie by itself and take in the flavors; so much better than pesticides and waxes.  You can actually taste the natural salts in the celery; the beets will stain your fingers a bit, but they are really good; the yellow and red carrots have a milder flavor than the orange; and the radishes have that zing.  I feel like I can eat the skin of the cucumbers and not worry (much) about the soil on the mushrooms.  The tomatoes are simply delicious!  These veggies are best served chilled for a refreshing crisp meal. You can also spoon a huge scoop of organic roasted red pepper hommus/hummus onto your favorite dish as the dip.

You don’t have to be a raw foodie to enjoy the benefits of fresh vegetables.  Raw foods are balanced and higher quality. They are also filling.  Eating veggies of different colors gives your body a wide variety of valuable nutrients and natural substances that help maintain health.  Vegetables are an important part of your weight loss and disease prevention strategy.  They also help you maintain your true natural beauty, inside and out.  The extra plus is that eating Chunky Funky Veggies is an environmentally sound way to go.  

 For dessert, have an organic Gala apple!  Try it and let me know your feelings.  Chunky Cheers!

15 October 2010


 The Sesame Street video “I Love My Hair” got me started. Please see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enpFde5rgmw&feature=player_embedded
Natural Sistas, self-aware and saving their hair.  Lye or No-Lye, we are lying to ourselves if we believe that we must use chemicals to support our self-esteem. Relaxers are corrosive materials that are chemically destructive. Sodium hydroxide is lye and caustic soda.  It is used in industry for heavy duty cleaning; oil drilling; and making paper.  No-lye relaxers contain substances such as guanidine hydroxide, lithium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, ammonium sulfate, or other harsh chemicals.  Guanidine is used in manufacture of plastics and explosives; potassium hydroxide known as caustic potash and chemical cremation; ammonium sulfate is a flame retardant.  Yes, that’s what some folks want.
For straight hair, women, specifically cosmetologists, expose themselves to skin burns; eye problems; gastrointestinal issues; blood pressure problems; and organ damage caused by these chemicals used to meet a hardhearted vanilla criterion of beauty. They also expose the rest of us to these chemicals when they get washed down the drain and into our waterways.
Natural hair is so organic. It is beautiful, versatile, wavy, straight or curly and most of all, strong.  Look at the ends of your hair right now. Instead of relying on false shampoo, conditioner or cream advertising to “end split ends” you can simply maintain the ends with regular trims. Natural hair is more able to withstand our harsh environment. Humidity gives it that extra bump in the curls; the wind does not take the hair with it; and the sun does not make it brittle.
I love my natural hair. I can wear it curly, “poof” (as my kids say), or straight.  I’ve learned to work with what sprouts from my beautiful brown head. Women have options. Our cultural creativity has birthed a multitude of absolutely wonderful natural styles from free wavy or curly, afros, braids, plaits, twists, locks, fades and bald. There is heat, but we must use it carefully and limit exposure. There are pomades and lotions.  I prefer organic coconut oil.... and I can cook with it, too.  
I straighten my hair every now and again because I feel like it. When I do, I wash and let air dry. Then I loosen the tight curls a bit with a blow dryer before I hit it with a quality ceramic flat iron.  Most of the time, I just wash and go with my hair in a bun or curly pony tail.  I limit attacking my hair to avoid conditions such as dryness, breakage and baldness resulting from pulling; tight hairdo’s; and non-natural substances.
Natural hair is so much less expensive to maintain. I save my time and money doing what I want to do for me; not anyone else.  My family wins too. I spend that 4-10 hour salon time hugging my kids and hanging out with my husband; the dollars supporting my family and our future; and my worry on something other than letting my hair define my true essence.
I’m finishing up with the “eco and not so-friendly” shampoos and conditioners I have at home, but I’m working on a homemade concoction to wash and condition my hair.  I’ll write up that trip later.
Thanks: publicdomainpictures.net

14 October 2010


The bottle says, “eco +”.  The plus must mean the chlorine bleach and silicate salts.  The caution states do not mix with ammonia or other cleaning products … avoid eye contact … and you get my drift.  This stuff could kill us, but it’s, “Friendly to LAKES and STREAMS”.   The Federal Trade Commission revised guidelines for companies that make environmental claims in ads.  The guides apply to environmental claims in marketing materials; logos; brand names; etcetera.  For interesting reading, please see:  http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/grnrule/guides980427.htm
I’m not waiting anymore for the corporate “green?!”.  Our family is about 10 laundry loads into homemade detergent.  I spent less than a dollar and 20 minutes playing chemist in the kitchen.  Our clothes are clean and I don’t smell up the laundry room with the sea breeze, powder fresh clean scent, and other stuff that makes me sneeze.
Recipes are all over the internet.  I tweaked one to fit the pots in my kitchen.  Instead of bleach, I put a bit of vinegar in the “bleach tray” on the washer.
1 gallon Water (hot) (16 cups)
1/2 bar Castile Soap (grated)
1 cup Baking soda
  • Melt grated soap in a saucepan with enough hot tap water to cover. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring frequently until soap is melted.
  • In a large pot, pour 1 gallon water. Heat. Add melted soap, stir well.
  • Then add the baking soda, stir well again.
  • Use 1/2 cup per full load, 1 cup per very soiled load.
I cut a bar of soap in half and grated it (be careful with knife) into a large pot – the size you would use to make soup or chili for the whole family.  I poured about a cup of water into the pot and stirred as the soap melted. I heated a gallon of water, hot like tea, in another pot and poured that into the larger soap pot (that way, I use all the melted soap). Add the baking soda slowly ‘cause you will have a huge white foamy mess!  After the detergent cools, use a funnel to pour into an old recycled laundry detergent container; mine was from an online eco-friendly company, but the stuff is too darn expensive!  Note:  Timesaving shortcut: 2 oz or ¼ cup liquid pure castile soap.  Warm the water; add baking soda; stir; add liquid castile; stir; and let cool.  Cool!  Shake the bottle each time you do laundry. Try it and let me know what you think. 

Thanks: publicdomainpictures.net

03 October 2010

Something New, Something Blue

SHOUT OUT to my sister for buying organic blue agave.  It is a natural sweetener from the Blue Agave plant.  I tried the crystallized natural sweeteners and did not like them for one trivial reason or another. 

My sister added a teaspoon or so of blue agave in Earl Grey tea and it cut the bitterness.  I drink organic green tea everyday and got used to the mild flavor, so I was not too hip on the rich Earl Grey, even though it was my favorite tea back in the day.  The EG tea was so good.

I purchased the Organic Raw Blue Agave Nectar and have been using it all week.  Ignore the scent; it is not honey.  It has a distinct aroma that screams healthy.  The fluid is a light syrup (nectar) that has a slight sweet taste.  I put about two teaspoons in my huge 24 ounce cup of organic green tea.  Wow, I get more tea flavor than I do with raw natural sugar.

I just put some on my fingertip for my 5-year old.  First question, "Does it stink?"  I did not let him smell it.  He said, "It tastes a little good, but I need more."  I gave him another fingertip.  He asked me if I liked honey and then said, "It has not that much flavor."  Uh, it is not supposed to kid.  It's an enhancer. The next time my husband makes pancakes, I'm going to try it on the rest of the family.

Thanks: publicdomainpictures.net

01 October 2010

Back When...

Before we got married, we knew we wanted children. I started reading up on pregnancy and potential issues for harm.  Okay, no playing in dirt - check; no fingernail polish - check; no smelly cleaning supplies - check; no hair perms - what?!

My last perm was early 2001. The transition wasn't too bad.  I let my hair grow out and then cut the ends a bit at a time. The last time I got my nails done was for the wedding... in 2001. The next thing I did was stop cleaning!  I didn't clean squat just before and during the entire pregnancy.  My husband was great at taking care of lots of things when I was a round mound.  Healthy kid born 2003. Next healthy kid 2004.  Done. 

Since back when, I've changed the make up of our supply cabinet.  We transitioned out of the chemicals to to eco-friendly products.  Spent years on expensive products and recently changed to much less expensive concoctions.  I'll tell you about them in the coming weeks.

Black in action soon.