The Best Coat I’ve Ever Owned

I receive a lot of press releases and story pitches in my day job. Lately, companies seem to be eager to tell me how consumers are more likely to be loyal to brands that take a stand, have a conscience, and are good corporate citizens. I want to write back, “Yeah, I know. Let me tell you about my coat.” But, since that would be weird, I’m going to tell you about my coat. Continue reading

I’m Going Solar, So Should You

When this publishes I’ll be on my first real vacation in years. Sure I’ve taken a long weekend here and there to go to Maine or down to the beach, but this time I’m actually getting on a plane (which I hate doing) and going to a place where it’s warmer to swim with Manatees and get a wand at Olivander’s. On the Monday after I return a team of guys will show up at my house between 7 and 9 a.m. to start installing solar panels on my roof. I may be more excited for the panels then I am for the vacation. (HYPERBOLE!)


I’ve been thinking about doing this for a long time, but I was paralyzed by the choices. Over the past year I’ve watched as panels appeared on houses all over my neighborhood. Each house seemed to have a different company on the job. Which was best? I couldn’t decide. Then, a couple of months ago, my boyfriend and I were leaving Home Depot which has had salesmen from Solar City stationed by the door for what seems like years. I figure Home Depot probably did its homework on the company, and since Solar City is now part of Tesla, it had to be a reputable company. Still, I usually avoid eye contact and sneak by, not wanting to get the hard sell, but on this day I was feeling it… So I stopped.  Continue reading

5 Reasons to Keep Shopping at L.L.Bean

My boyfriend is hard to buy gifts for. Not because he “has everything”–in fact, it’s just the opposite. He makes an effort to shop ethically, which, mostly means not supporting brands that use sweatshop labor. For the first year or so of our relationship this meant he mostly shopped at second-hand stores or bought things made in America. That’s not easy these days. But over the past few years a handful of brands have made their way onto his “approved” list, and–for whatever reason–they are mostly outdoorsy brands, like Patagonia, that have a commitment to the environment and the workers in their factories.

L.L.Bean is one of those brands. There’s a store not far from my home, and at first, he was skeptical. He knew the company makes their Bean boots in Maine, but couldn’t quite wrap his mind around how the company keeps prices reasonable without exploitative labor practices. Then he had the chance to ask an actual employee, who explained that because Bean doesn’t sell merchandise through third parties and goes direct to consumers it can keep its prices down. Meanwhile, it stays committed to making some of its most popular products in the U.S.  Continue reading

Happy Thanksgiving: No Hard Feelings

I’ve been listening to this song a lot lately, and have yet to get through it without shedding a tear or two. I’m a sucker for a simple song of gratitude. I hope it brings some joy to your day–which may be spent arguing about politics with your family.

And maybe, when you’re done, give some thought to the folks at Standing Rock. Set aside, for a moment, the problem with the pipeline and what it would mean for the environment on a global scale, not just for the people at Standing Rock. It is a national disgrace that indigenous people-or any people–are still being treated this way by the government. If you can’t get away from work to help support them in person, please consider donating.

There’s Plenty of Anger to Go Around: From Samuel DuBose to Cecil the Lion

When I first started dating my boyfriend he asked me what I thought was the most important issue facing the world. I said, unequivocally, the environment. Without a healthy environment, the rest of it doesn’t matter. We won’t be here to worry about the economy, or politics, or terrorism, or inequality. So when news broke about the illegal killing of Cecil the Lion, my blood boiled.

For me, this is just more evidence of the kind of human arrogance–and sometimes ignorance–that is responsible for everything from climate change to habitat destruction to plain old littering. Scientists warn that were are headed for a mass extinction: “While the extinction of a species is normal and occurs at a natural ‘background’ rate of around 1-5 per year, species loss is currently occurring at over 1,000 times the background rate.”  Continue reading

Small Fixes for Big Problems

Do you ever find yourself watching the news, listening to someone yammer on about some seemingly unsolvable problem and find yourself thinking, “Why don’t they just do XYZ?” I do. Like, a lot. This is especially true when it comes to some environmental issues. Short of going back to school for environmental engineering and working my way up to a big federal level job, I figure the only way to get my ideas out there is to simply blog about it. So here it goes.



In case you haven’t heard, much of America is in the middle of a drought. I understand that the actual conditions that cause the drought are varied. We have too many people living in places that never really had enough water to support them, and climate change is exacerbating that problem. It seems to me that there are a few fixes that could be put in place to help mitigate the effects of drought if not solve it altogether. Continue reading

Going Vegetarian, Getting Rid of Sugar, and Becoming Smoothie Obsessed

20130818-191659.jpgA few weeks ago I decided to tackle my sugar addiction once and for all. You can blame NPR for reporting the dangers sugar poses to the cardiovascular system, and for someone telling me that Agave nectar is as bad for you as high-fructose corn syrup. There was also the small fact that I was chowing down on donuts all winter like a bear preparing for hibernation. It was a huge problem. My pants were getting a little too tight.

My cousin started the Paleo diet a few months ago, and while the program didn’t seem right for me — that much meat is bad for you, and for the environment — there were some rules that made sense to me. I don’t believe in “diets” because they aren’t sustainable. Eventually you go off of them, and then what? I’ve always been a big proponent of adopting rules that make sense for you in the long-term. But when my cousin told me how she’d cheated on her Paleo diet during the Super Bowl, and woke up the next morning feel so hungover she almost had to call out of work, it convinced me that there were some changes I could make that would have me looking and feeling better.

Continue reading

A Depressing Earth Day Tale

My conscience is heavy on this Earth Day. *Sigh.*

Last week I started noticing a pair of birds flying back and forth to the gutter above the window in my office–which has gutter guards on it. When I would go out into the yard I’d try and get a look, and eventually I caught the birds coming and going. Rain was in the forecast, so I decided to leave it, thinking a good rain would make the birds reconsider their choice. But either it didn’t rain hard enough, or the little guys started rebuilding. I put out a Facebook call for suggestions, and my friends told me rain and Darwinism would take care of it. Then my mother dropped by on Earth Day, and as we were standing outside, both birds left the nest so I decided to crawl up on the roof, remove the gutter guards and get a good look.  Continue reading

Oh No!

This just popped up in my Facebook feed.

If this hurricane is thinking about messing with me, it should really reconsider because I am not having it!!!

After last October’s freak snowstorm knocked out power to most of Connecticut, I spent a week sleeping on the floors and couches of friends and family — while my poor cats were stuck in my cold, dark house. Before that my closing and move-in date was pushed back thanks to Hurricane Irene and the power outages that nasty ol’ witch caused.

One more power outage and I am going to lose it! So, Hurricane Sandy, consider yourself warned. If you even think about messing with my access to electricity, I will cut you… or whatever the equivalent of that is when you’re tangling with a force of nature…

My October Garden

Over the weekend I euthanized some tomato plants that looked like they were suffering. I pulled them up by their roots and tossed them into a pile at the back of the yard — and raked up all the tiny little tomatoes that were left behind. The yellow squash are still coming in and a couple of butternut squash are out there dangling on the vine. I think there might even be a lone spaghetti squash.

The tomatillos continue to come in by the bucket load, while the brussel sprouts keep growing. All of this is kind of boring though. But yesterday I went out front and saw one of my echinacea plants covered in bees that seemed barely able to move. Poor little bumble bees…

Continue reading

Heating vs. Cooling: A Tale of Two Power Outages

the justified sinner, Flickr Creative Commons

For some reason, Slate seems to be obsessed with air conditioning. I noticed this because I too am obsessed with air conditioning and my dislike of it.

Yesterday I read “Don’t Sweat It” and more amused than anything. I liked the idea of Brooklyn hipsters being forced to sweat it out in their favorite coffee shops. (Though, I have to say, I avoid NYC in the summer because it is such a sweltering hell hole.) Then, today, I saw another article in this series, this one called, “Is Air Conditioning Bad for You?” — but was also about how your politics influence how you perceive the weather. Slate’s preoccupation with air condition got me thinking about my own aversion to that icy contraption.

Even as a teenager, I often argued with my family about my refusal to use air conditioning. My mom would accuse me of putting the dog’s life at risk–because he slept in my room–and I would tell them I didn’t even want one of those contraptions in my window because it just took away the cross breeze. The cold would make my knees hurt, and it always seemed silly to me to crank the A/C and then have to pull the blankets up to my chin.

Even now I have one window unit in my house. It’s in my bedroom, and I’ve only turned it on three or four times all summer — and I don’t think I’ve ever left it on for more than a few hours. Usually I’ll turn it on to cool my room off a bit before bed during heatwaves. Otherwise, I prefer open windows and fans.

But there were,  in my opinion, some very obvious points lacking from the “Don’t Sweat It” article. Daniel Engber wrote:

“A certain class of Americans—let’s call them the brrr-geoisie—has come to see the air conditioner as a stand-in for everything that’s wrong with the country and the world…But for the brrr-geoisie, the two extremes of temperature reside in different moral categories. If one end of the thermostat corresponds to a basic human need—for warmth on a winter night—the other reveals a shameful self-indulgence. Heat is good, cool is evil. What’s behind this double standard? Why can’t we learn to stop worrying and love the air conditioner?”  Continue reading

My July Garden

They grow up so fast.

Late June and early July is when the garden really comes to life. Tomatoes start to ripen, tiny little squash begin to grow, and the tomatillo “lanterns” are dangling delicately from their branches. Some of the greens and herbs are trying to go to seed, and now it’s time to think about replanting new crops for the fall. I pulled up some lettuce that was past its prime and put down some new cilantro. I dug up some packets of beans and peas to start growing a late crop of  those.

Meanwhile, one of my tomato plants is now towering over my head and the butternut squash is dutifully climbing the trellis I set out for it. One of my watermelon plants has flowers on it — as do the eggplant — and apparently some of my strawberries are ever-bearing because I’ve got more coming in.

Now that most of the work is done, I spend a lot of time thinking about what I’m going to make from all of this. I also spend a lot of time dipping cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes in hummus. 😉

There’s too much going on out there to tell you about it all, so here are some pictures. Continue reading