Tip of the Month
CoolMom provides monthly tips, ideas and actions you can take to live sustainably. Try any or all on for size to help reduce your carbon footprint. Even the smallest acts can add up to a tipping point of change.
June/ July/ August 2014 - It's Time for Summer Camping!
Can you really leave only footprints behind?
Summer's warmer months and longer days make camping the perfect eco pastime (eco friendly and economical). The challenge is so many of us agree! Enjoying the great outdoors is a little hard these days without a sense of guilt that our critical camping mass is also creating a deep footprint on the mountains, forest and shorelines we love so much.
So how can we ALL enjoy the great outdoors without treading so heavy on the earth? We can begin with a challenge to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as we can when camping.
To see how low you can go to a waste-free camping experience, try these tips to get you on your way:
Start with your stuff:
Your gear--rethink it. A good clean, a patch up or a waterproof resealing can save your older camping supplies from the landfill. Or perhaps you can share supplies between friends and neighbors? If you need to restock, start your search at garage sales, second-hand sporting stores or with online classified ads. If you really need to go new, buy items made from recycled materials.
For cooking and clean-up, pack reusable server-ware (BPA free prefered), towels/ napkins and cooking gear. If you must go disposable try fully compostable server-ware. Pack biodegradable soap, a travel water basin, a sponge, and plenty of bags for waste and recyclables.
Reduce, reuse, compost what you can:
Consolidate and reduce food supplies. Plan one-pot meals with dried ingredients to reduce trash, dirty dishes and water for clean up. Pack bulk water to refill your water bottles or bring a water purifier for back country.
Careful with cleanup. Biodegradable soaps aren't intended to be to directly dumped into rivers or streams. Stay 200 feet from natural running water to wash dishes and allow soil and vegetation to filter the soap first. Reuse your dish water to douse your campfire or toss it on rocks away from your site (food particles in the soil could attract scavengers so a rocky surface makes it harder for them to dig and destroy the native terrain in search of the food.)
Second use your shopping bags! Bring plenty of bags and designate for recycle, compost and track. Pack out trash and pet/ human waste.Be prepared to cart all the waste home if there aren't compostable/ recyclable options near your campground.
Pack out the rest:
Leave your campsite cleaner than you found it. Pack rubber gloves to pick up trash bits left by you or previous tenants including pet waste and anything left in the fire ring.
Get the scoop on how to go... Keep toilet seats and outhouse doors closed so scavengers can't get in and pull toxic waste into their habitat. If there are no amenities, plan to pack it all out (both waste and toilet paper, using sealable bags and proper disposal) or commit to correctly burying it. The bury method includes: 1) going 200 feet from water, trail or camping areas; 2) digging a 6 inch hole, about the length of a dollar bill and; 3) fully covering the hole and packing out or burning your toilet paper.
Be a role model, pass it on... show your family and friends that it's possible to leave outdoor areas better than you found them, with barely a footprint behind.
For more info on reducing your camping footprint, check out seven principles for leaving no trace.
March 2014 - Local food starts in your home!
Five steps to get going on your local food project:
- What kind of gardening space do you have? Do you have a yard, do you want to share someone else’s yard? Would you rather use containers?
- Decide on a few plants you know you want to eat. For me, that was basil, tomatoes and pumpkins.
- Figure out when you need to get them in the soil. The path of least resistance would be getting starts from your local source. I like to go to the Seattle Tilth plant sales.
- Talk to your gardening friends. I feel like everyone knows more than I do. They have great tips although it can be a little overwhelming.
- Figure out your water plan. Gardening water saving ideas are numerous. Here's a good place to start "Top 10 Ways to Conserve Water in Your Garden".
Beyond that, your getting into more serious territory. There are a lot of thoughts about how to be more or less successful in gardening. I think it’s important to take on what you can and go from there. Maybe you’re a future (or current) Master Gardener, maybe you just want to share your space to someone who is (and get some of the benefits!).
Whatever the path, there is no question that food travelling less helps reduce our carbon footprint. So, any steps in that direction are a big win for us and our families
When: Friday, December 13th
2:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Where: House Hearing Room A - State Capitol Campus
Olympia find out more and register here
If you are unable to attend, please send a comment to have your voice heard. Learn more here.
October 2013 - Plant for the Planet!
Join with other families around Seattle to work with kids to fight climate change!
When: Saturday, October 26th, 9:00 am - 5:30 pm
Where: Jane Addams School & MLK Elementary
How: Reserve your spot or learn more: climatechangeforfamilies.com
- Snacks and free lunch are provided
- Free Plant for the Planet T-shirts available
- Free copy of the book "Tree by Tree"
Families will gather to make a difference by planting trees. Plant for the Planet Academies are a great way for kids to make a difference on a problem which otherwise seems impossible. Learn, build community, and fight climate change at the same time!
This month we are working to generate letters to stop coal exports. This particular effort is to write letter from families to families in Whatcom County as they will be able to weigh in on the comment period to consider export terminals.
Please take a minute to view this moving video, share with your family, and write a letter. It doesn't need to take long. Send it to:
Love Letters 4 Our Planet
PO Box 1091
Bellingham, WA 98227
Water for your health and the planet - save every drop!
We use the most water in the bathroom and kitchen. Here are some quick tips to get started on saving:
- Turn it off! When you’re brushing teeth or washing hands, you can turn the water off while you soap up or brush.
- Keep a pitcher of cold water in the fridge; no more running the tap to get it cold!
- Use the left over water, toss it in your garden or on a house plant.
- Water your lawn or garden in the morning or evening. The water gets a chance to work its way into the soil rather than evaporating.
- Put a bowl in the sink when you’re washing fruits and vegetables. Use that water to water your plants.
- Shorten your shower by a minute or two and save up to 150 gallons of water a month! (Wateruseitwisely.com)
- Put food coloring in your toilet tank. If the color seeps in, you have a leak.
- Fix the leaks! A leaky faucet can waste up to 140 gallons of water a day! (Wateruseitwisely.com) This is one of the main ways we waste water every day.
For more water saving ideas, the EPA has a great site to look at with your kids: . You can talk about the best ways to get started.
There are three simple guidelines to eating with a light carbon footprint:
- Eat mostly plants
- Eat locally produced foods when possible
- Eat seasonal foods
Beyond that, there’s plenty more you can do: ride your bike or bus to the store, sign up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture delivery service), and grow your own! There’s nothing quite like walking out back and grabbing some food. For everything else, here are some good resources for finding what you need:
When biking and walking won’t get you there, here are some tips to plan the greenest travel you can.
- Bikes on the train! You can stash your bike on the Amtrak Cascade for a small feeand bike your way from the train.
- Bike on the ferry all the way to Alaska! Take the ferry from Bellingham all the way up the coast to Alaska if you want. Bring your bikes and hop on and off at your leisure.
- Use the guide from the Union of Concerned Scientists to assess the best mode of travel.
- Travel carbon calculator from Native Energy no matter which mode of transportation you choose.
- Traveling internationally, the Rainforest Alliance has been working to have a “sustainable certification” for tourism businesses making extra effort to work sustainably as well as educate their allies and customers.
Of course, there’s even more you can do once you’re there. Tips abound for ways to travel light for the planet. Enjoy your summer and your family time! Look for more tips as camping season hits it’s stride in July.
Last year Washington continued to be the top state for biking. While celebrating Bike Month, we want to make sure we can take advantage of what Washington has to offer while having fun and being safe. Biking brings you closer to your neighborhood, gets you exercise, and cuts down your carbon footprint. Below are some resources to get you started. Also review our Tip of the Month from August 2012 on the right way to wear your helmet.
Where to go?
Where to get a bike?
You can always buy new. There is a wide variety in the bike shops in the area. Whether you want to do long distance touring, family trips on the Burke Gilman trail, commute to school or work, or race in the velodrome in Marymoor Park, you can find it. However, if you want to save a little money, give life to a refurbished bike, and support a local organization promoting biking as a way of life, try Bikeworks.
Bikeworks trains youth to work with bikes. Those kids earn their way to a bike, learn some skills, and are set on a path of biking for life.
Again, the Cascade Bicycle Club has regular classes on safety, and maintenance. We also devoted our August 2012 Tip of the Month to getting the right fit for your helmet.
Rules of the road?
It’s always good to do a quick review of the rules in Washington. When we’re on the road, it’s important to follow the traffic laws as you would in a vehicle. The rules are meant to keep us safe and able to share the road.
Biking is one of the best ways to get around; but you do need to know your equipment, the rules, and how to make sure you and your family are safe.
April 2013 - Getting Started on Earth Day Resolutions
Change is hard. However, small steps can really add up. You don’t have to sell your car, only use candles, and sleep in your zero degree sleeping bag. We’ve tried to assemble some easy starts to get the ball rolling.
A good carbon footprint calculator can be a fun way to get your whole family on board. You may come up with some creative ways to make your footprint a little smaller. As posted in the newsletter, here are a couple kid friendly calculators along with a review of some of the best overall calculators out there:
Specifically designed for kids:
Review of online carbon calculators:
Top 5 Tips for Change
(we used the estimates from the EPA calculator found here http://epa.gov/climatestudents/calc/index.html ):
- Turn off the water when you brush your teeth = save 274 pounds of CO2 every year.
- Replace one incandescent light bulb = save 66 pounds of CO2.
- Unplug chargers (cell phone, camera, mp3 players, etc.) when not in use = For EACH charger unplugged for 16 hrs, save 4 pounds of CO2 every year.
- Take the bus or other transit to work or school 1 day a week = save 197 pounds of CO2 (obviously this can vary wildly. This is based on the average distance to schools in the country.).
- This may be hard, but I intend to take advantage of the summer, and “fire my clothes dryer”. Just reducing clothes dryer use by 10% saves approximately 240 pounds of CO2 emissions every year. (This is from a great article at Greenamerica.org http://www.greenamerica.org/livinggreen/dryer.cfm called “Fire Your Clothes Dryer”).
Taking advantage of all the sharing opportunities can seem daunting and a little weird. Can I really borrow someone else’s tools? Is it really that simple? We think trying it out the first time will make it that much easier.
Our tip this month is to try one new way of sharing. Here are 5 ideas to get you started:
- Carpool kids. Offer to bring another parent’s kids to school/ birthday party/ after school activity/ play time. One offer usually promotes a return. Pretty soon, you’ll be carpooling regularly!
- Sharing babysitting. Watch another parent’s kids for an afternoon or evening.
- Share your yard! I always think I’m going to finally go crazy in the garden and it just gets away from me. Give someone else the pleasure. Here's a great site that's working to make this easy: Yards to Gardens
- Share your tools. You can also do that at Yards to Gardens.
- Share your thoughts. Feel free to post more ideas on our facebook page and like us!
Some resources as you enter the sharing world:
The website Shareable.net. This site and its founder, Neal Gorenflo, were featured in Grist Magazine (www.grist.org). This is an online zine dedicated to the “sharing economy”. It’s astounding the breadth of sharing you can discover here.
January issues of Grist Magazine. Grist focused on sharing throughout the month of January.
Seattle carshare services: Zipcar, Car2Go, or Ridebuzz.
Craigslist.org: always a good resource for anything off the beaten path.
And, of course, your own neighbors and friends.
Advocacy. It’s as easy as writing a note. In fact, to a legislator, a personal letter from a constituent represents many voters.
Here are some tips:
- The simpler, and more personal the better. For instance, hand written note stands out more than an email or signed petition!
- Include your address so they know you’re in their district.
- Ideally, you’re asking for something specific: supporting a bill, voting against a bill, or their position on an issue.
- Ask for a response. You’ll get one. That’s their job – they need to respond to concerned constituents. They work for us!
Finding your legislator here: http://app.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/
Again, we are the voters; these are our representatives. Don’t be shy. Find out where they stand. If you can’t make it to Lobby Day, this is a great way to support all the work you care about and the other parents who’ll be talking about the environment.
January 2013 - Make Your Home Energy Wise
Keeping cold air outside and warm air inside is the key to energy efficiency. Air leaks can occur at doors, windows, electrical outlets, ducts, attics and crawlspaces. You can conserve energy and keep yourself warmer by making a few simple changes:
- Make your windows weatherproof. If you can’t afford new windows, caulk any drafty edges (you can use a lit candle to find leaks). Cover windows with well-fitted storm windows, plastic sheeting and/or thick drapes. Use weather stripping or draft stoppers along the bottom of windows, especially if itthey are not seated properly.
- Help your doors shut out the cold. Use draft stoppers along the bottom of the door to prevent cold air from blowing in. Use the candle technique to find leaks around the edges of the door. Patch with caulk or add weather stripping to seal those up.
- Keep the cold from seeping in through your floors and ceilings. Adding insulation will save you tons on energy costs and keep your warmer. When possible, choose environmentally friendly insulation like denim, wool and cellulose. Attics are fairly simple to tackle on your own (if you can see teh joists, you need more insulation!). Basements and crawl spaces may require professional help.
- Ducts, phone jacks and electrical outlets can leak too! Outlets are simpler to insulate, but DIY guides for insulating your ducts are available as well.
- If your hot water heater is in an unheated place, put a blanket on it! Water heater insulation blankets can reduce heat loss by 45% - a simple and easy fix.
December 2012 - Make an Activity Calendar
Will your family be counting down to Christmas, Solstice, Hanukkah or Kwanza? Instead of giving your children a calendar full of chocolate or a bunch of small gifts, consider converting your calendar to activities.
Activity calendars are really simple to make. If you already have a calendar with pockets or drawers, all you need to do is to add activity cards. If you don’t have a calendar, you can make one easily using envelopes decorated in stickers, stacked matchboxes, little scrolls tied to an evergreen bough, or even by just filling up a hat with activities written on scraps on paper. It can be as simple or fancy as you want to make it!
Activities can be holiday-themed, environmentally-themed, family-themed or good deed-focused. There are lots of ideas floating around the internet if your well of creativity runs dry! Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Nature-focused: Take a winter walk; make a pinecone bird feeder; go outside and look at the moon; start a forced bulb.
Family-focused: Cuddle on the couch together in front of the fire; call a relative and sing them your favorite holiday song; make a card and mail it to someone who lives far away.
Good deed-focused: Collect some food for the food bank; donate a toy to a giving tree; take treats to a neighbor; buy a hot drink for the person behind you at the coffee shop.
Holiday-focused: Read a holiday story together; go light-looking; light a candle; make a gingerbread house.
Most importantly - Have fun!
November 2012 - Giving Thanks
By day, you work to improve your home, your school, your community, your country and your planet. By night, you try to instill in your children values like respect, gratitude and conservation. Thanksgiving provides a natural opportunity to tie the work that you are doing to protect the planet to the need for mindfulness and gratitude of the gifts that earth provides.
One lovely idea for remembering the gifts of the earth in your Thanksgiving celebration is to invite those around your table to read the Thanksgiving Address, a traditional address used by the Haudenosaunee people to begin their days and to open important meetings and ceremonies. According to Akwesasne Mohawk author Kanatiiosh,
“The Thanksgiving Address teaches mutual respect, conservation, love, generosity, and the responsibility to understand that what is done to one part of the Web of Life, we do to ourselves…. The Great Law of Peace and the Thanksgiving Address are composed of policies, principles, moral duties, laws, ceremonies, and other religious and political aspects that the Haudenosaunee were given on how to live in harmony with each other and with the Natural World.”
Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address
Greetings to the Natural World
Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as people.
Now our minds are one.
The Earth Mother
We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our mother, we send greetings and thanks.
Now our minds are one.
Continuing reading here.
October 2012 - Celebrating Green Halloween
Holidays can be tricky to navigate as an eco-conscious parent. The parent in you often wants to allow the children to indulge in the same cultural traditions that are their friends are enjoying, including a trick-or treat-bag filled to them with 30 pounds of junky candy. The earth-lover in you abhors all the packaging that comes wrapped around that junky candy. And while giving out prizes instead of candy is definitely easier on the teeth, cheap plastic toys aren’t any better for the planet than the candy. What’s a parent to do?
Start with what you offer to those trick-or-treaters who will be knocking on your door. Try organic chocolate, natural fruit gummies, natural treasures (like shells or seeds) or a trick of your own like telling their fortune. If you want to give prizes away instead of candy, consider useful items like erasers, hair clips, playdough or bubbles.
If your children are young, try reframing the Halloween so that you are focusing more on the fun of tricking your neighbors with your clever costumes than on acquiring candy. Spend more time choosing and carving a pumpkin than you do trick-or-treating. And when you do head out, only visit the homes of the people you know or the people who live on your block.
As your children grow older, continue to focus on the excitement surrounding costumes and pumpkin carving. Also set reasonable limits around how much candy your children can consume. For example, you might allow them to eat as many pieces of candy as they are years old. Or, you could allow them to pick the best ten candies and trade the rest with the “Switch Witch” for a book, outing or prize.
If you can, avoid driving someplace to trick-or-treat. You’ll save gas, de-emphasize the “getting” aspect of the evening, and have a chance to meet some of your neighbors. If that’s not possible, choose to attend a celebration that incorporates some of Halloween’s harvest festival roots and that encourages creativity by offering activities like pumpkin decorating, crafts or face painting.
Also, try to take some time to enjoy the autumn by going on a fall colors walk, looking for interesting nuts and seeds, and noticing the changes in the length of the days and the slant of the sun. By helping your family create experiences that are fulfilling and traditions that mean something to you, you will be modeling your values for your children and also setting a good tone for the winter holidays to come.
September 2012 - Packing a Waste-Free Lunch Box
Most of us spend lots of time thinking about what to pack in our children’s lunches to make sure they eat a balanced meal that feed their brains. Those of us who care about the health of the earth may also be thinking about how to pack that lunch in an eco-friendly way. Here are some tips for you if you’d like to help your family (and your school) reduce waste.
- Use a reusable bag or box for your child’s lunch. The day of the sack lunch has passed! There are lots of great reusable bags and boxes out there. Find one your child likes and that can be washed. Then make sure to mark their name on it clearly so that you can use it for years to come.
- Choose a reusable drink container. Did you know that juice pouches (like Capri Sun) can’t be recycled? Juice boxes and milk cartons are a better bet since they can be recycled. However the best bet is to pack a reusable water bottle which can be used and reused with the lunch box for years to come!
- Stay away from single-serving bags whenever possible. Does your child like goldfish crackers? Buy them in a large bag and pack a single serving into a container. This both reduces waste and allows your child to save any leftovers for snacking. This practice is easy to apply to any foods that can be purchased in large containers: pretzels, cookies, cheese (instead of cheese sticks), baby carrots, and even yogurt. [Your child probably can’t open that gogurt by themselves anyway, so why not pack them a Tupperware full of yogurt?].
- Send along real silverware instead of plastic utensils. Those plastic forks and spoons have to go right into the trash. Find some inexpensive silverware and send it along with your child. If they have a reusable lunchbox, your child will quickly get into the habit of just packing all of the containers and silverware back into the box before they head out to recess.
- Use cloth napkins. Kids love cloth napkins, especially if you let them pick out their own fabric. Making your own napkins is an inexpensive, child-friendly project. If you don’t sew, you can cut all edges of the fabric with pinking shears and the napkins will last a long time with minimal fraying.
Family biking is growing in popularity. Probably because it’s fun, helps us get some exercise, and as a bonus, provides an opportunity for us practice our values by not driving our cars. It helps that there are so many options for toting your tots as well, from the traditional rear-mounted seat, to front-mounted seats, to trail-a-bikes, bike trailers and fancy bikes that can help you carrying more than one child at a time.
As parents, however, we probably all worry about keeping our kids safe, whether they are attached to our own bicycle or off on their own. The first step to bike safety is having a properly fitted helmet. Give these guidelines a look to make sure that you and your children are protecting those precious brains as best as you can.
- Proper positioning: The helmet should be level on the head, not tipped forward or backward. If it is tipped too far forward, it can obstruct your vision. Too far back leaves the forehead exposed and vulnerable. Definitely a no-no since the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain located behind the forehead) governs such things as choosing between right and wrong, regulating emotions, and predicting consequences! Just right means that the base of the helmet is just above the eyebrows and the helmet does not appear slanted forwards or backwards.
- Proper fit: Foreheads may be left exposed by a helmet that is too small. A helmet that is too big can slide from side to side or from front to back. Tighten or loosen the straps or add foam pads to the helmet to adjust the fit. The helmet should stay fixed in one place with no slipping.
- All straps should be fastened: We’ve all seen kids biking around with the helmet straps flying. They might as well not be wearing a helmet since in an accident that helmet will fly off. Straps should be fastened securely under the chin. The straps also should not cover the ears. The two pieces of strapping on either side of the helmet should meet just under the ears.
Once you’re fitted properly, review bike safety with your kids. http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/pedbimot/bike/kidsandbikesafetyweb/
Then go have some fun!
July 2012 Enjoy the Great Outdoors!
Summertime is the perfect time to teach your children to love the Earth by getting out into it. Any time that you and they spend outside can deepen your connectedness with the natural world and inspire all of you to participate in caring for it. It doesn't matter if you have 15 minutes or a week of vacation, you can still make time for some outdoor fun.
- Walk as much as you can. It’s always amazing how much you can experience on a good walk: flowers, insects, squirrels, weather. Even just the act of slowing down and having a few minutes to pursue your children’s interests and answer their questions. If you have limited time, walk someplace with a purpose like the store or farmer’s market. If you can, build a daily walk into your family’s schedule.
- Spend time in your yard or at the park. Eat outside. Force the children to play outside. Make them keep you company while you garden or hang the laundry. Give them as many chances as you can to notice bees pollinating your flowers, the shape of the clouds, and the sound of the birds.
- Go for a nature walk. Find a park with good walking trails and make use of them! Notice all of the different colors you see. Count how many mushrooms or slugs you encounter, or how many fallen limbs you must climb over. Learn the name of one bird that you don’t know already.
- Take in different habitats. Explore woods, marshes, tide pools and fields. Compare and contrast them. Discover which one your child prefers and why.
- Take a nighttime walk. Notice the phases of the moon, look for bats, listen for owls.
- Go camping. Get dirty, count stars and make smores.
- Get help! Does your local parks and rec department offer classes or guides walks? Does your city have a bat enthusiasts' club or a star gazers' society? Talk to other families, make use of social networking, or borrow a book!
- Get inspired. Read Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods and be prepared to head outdoors with your children post haste!
June 2012 Learn About Coal Export
You may have read the recent article in the Seattle Times about Climate Change and the urgent need to take action. The call is to put aside political debate and roll up our sleeves and get down to serious work on climate change legislation and continued action. One of the most serious issues the Pacific Northwest faces is the proposed ramp up and building of coal export terminals in Bellingham, Longview and many others in our communities. Cliff Mass weighed in on the effects of coal trains running through the Pacific Northwest and it isn't good. Each train can lose 500 pounds of coal dust en-route, according to the BNSF Railroad. This coal dust is toxic and can get into our water ways, lands, and air polluting the very resources we rely on to provide us with food and clean water to drink.
With knowledge comes power! Please learn about Coal Export in your community and take action letting your local officials and state legislators know you don't want coal trains coming through your communities!
Attend the Magnolia, Coal Hard Truth Forum on June 20th at 7pm at the Magnolia United Church of Christ, Pilgrim Hall, 3555 West McGraw Street, Seattle.
Go to Power Past Coal to learn more about how coal export is hazardous to our health and our children's future.
Call Governor Christine Gregoire at (360) 902-4111 and ask her to ensure that Washington says NO to coal export and YES to a clean energy future.
May 2012 Bike to School, Work or Play
For many communities, May is Bike Month. In Seattle, Cascade Bicycle Club is supporting a number of schools and businesses by creating incentives for traveling to school and work by two wheels. CoolMom is supporting that effort by encouraging our membership to add one day per week for the month of May to don their bike attire and bike to school, work, play or to run those errands.
For those health conscious, biking can be a great way to shed those extra winter pounds and help cardiovascular conditioning. Did you know that by traveling by bike 20 minutes each day burns on average 144 calories? And you get the added extra benefit of not polluting the air with car exhaust and CO2 emissions.
April 2012 Make Your April Resolution
Sunday, April 22 is Earth Day. To celebrate Mother Earth, CoolMom participates in an annual Earth Day for Kids event at Seattle's Olympic Sculpture Park. This years event will be on April 21 from 10 am to 3 pm. As part of our tabling festivities, our CoolMom members will be making pouches and tote bags from recycled materials. Please stop by our table to make one of these nifty pouches your kids will love making and can take home!
Have you made your plans to celebrate Mother Earth? There are many opportunities to celebrate during Earth Day weekend in your community. But what about extending that celebration beyond the weekend to the entire month of April? And, make it an April Resolution of sorts. Similar to the New Year's resolutions we make every year, why not make a resolution for April to reduce our impact on the planet through walking and biking more, taking mass transit to run errands or to commute to work. Other ideas include taking these 10 easy actions in your home to make it more energy efficient.
The list is vast on how to celebrate Mother Earth. Make your plan with your family today and take part in celebrating our wonderful planet!
March 2012 Plant an Edible Garden
Despite the not so friendly weather this time of year, March is a good time to start thinking about gardening. Whether you are an experienced gardner or a beginner, anyone can start planning ahead for those delicious home grown treats. We list some tips below, but first let's talk about the rewards.
Growing your own food brings with it many benefits, including the joy of dining on a meal of food you grew yourself, reducing the carbon used in food transportation- you can't get any more local than your back yard!- and money savings as well. In fact, studies conducted by W. Atlee Burpee Co show that the return on investment for home-grown produce is better than 1 in 25. That's $25 worth of produce for every $1 you sink into the ground! Not to shabby!
Besides the cost savings and warm fuzzy feeling you get from eating that delicious tomato from your own back yard, the health benefits are also a plus. Your home grown foods yield higher nutrient levels because you can literally pick and eat, digging in the dirt can be a nice stress reducer, and modeling good food habits- both growing and eating- is great for your family' health. Besides, what kid doesn't like digging in the dirt! Having fun in the garden with kids is a wonderful activity and a great way to teach them about where their food comes from.
To get started here are some tips:
- Take baby-steps, start with container gardening. Check out Life on the Balcony's Small Space Container Gardening video highlighting fruits and herbs or the basics of getting started here.
- Start seeds indoors to get a jump on the growing season. Here are some tips from Sunset magazine, Your Edible Garden. Poke around the site, they have some great ideas on gardening including garden design and choosing the best crops to grow.
- Consider raised bed gardening as a great way to extend your season in colder climates and for some composting 101 check out the Garden of Oz basics of composting.
For some basic information on how to start vegetable gardening check out Gardener's Supply Company's How to Grow Your Own and for some tips on design go to Sunset's 3 Gardner's Share Their Design Secrets. CoolMom's Wholesome Food resource will also give you some great tips.
February 2012 Home Energy Audit
by Terri Glaberson, Director CoolMom
Recently, I purchased an Ideal Network weekly deal, a home energy audit. Ideal Network provides deep discounts from local merchants, while supporting non-profits or schools its membership cares about. With my purchase of the home energy audit through Ideal Network, I was able to get this reduced rate and support CoolMom with a percentage of the proceeds. The business they partnered with for the discounted home energy audit was Home Performance Collaborative, a local group of talented building analysts and contractors committed to improving the energy efficiency, comfort, indoor air quality, and durability of Seattle homes and businesses.
My home, built in 2006, was by my estimations an energy efficient home. We have radiant floor heating, good insulation, energy efficient windows, installed CFLS and we are mindful of our electricity and heating use. Granted our house is a larger home and we do not have solar placed on our roof, but for the size of the house it runs pretty efficiently. The audit opened my eyes to new possibilities and places where we could take action on increased energy efficiency.
The home energy audit was painless and very informative. The auditor from Home Performance Collaborative was knowledgeable and efficient. Good qualities in a home energy auditor!
Home Performance Collaborative works with the City of Seattle to provide low cost ($95) audits valued at $400! The audit included an analysis of my home's energy efficiency and identified opportunities for improvement. An Energy Performance Scorecard assessed the current energy consumption and predicted what the savings would be after making improvements. Along with the Scorecard, a detailed Energy Analysis and Upgrades report explained the auditor's recommended upgrades and analyzed their impact on energy and cost reduction.
Overall our house was within the average range compared to other Seattle homes, but there was room for improvement. Recommendations that were included in the report were to,
- fill an insulation void in the ceiling of our daughter's room, AHA! that is why her room feels like the coldest in the house!
- install an automatic door bottom on the front door to reduce air leakage
- reduce standby power losses by installing a Modlet outlet plate on the outlet in the office and near the television.
- consider purchasing the Nest Learning Thermostat to automate the home's heating cycle
- install a solar hot water system
- install solar photovoltaic system to supplement the home's energy use
The costs of these vary and some are doable right away. We will be doing the first three bulleted items initially and hope to install the solar hot water system and PV system on our roof some day in the near future.
Overall our experience with the home energy audit was excellent and very informative.
I would recommend that you too get a home energy audit if you haven't already. We would never have discovered the missing insulation issue in our daughter's room without it!
*Other home energy efficiency ideas can be found on our Take Action page
January 2012 Sharing
Inspired by the Sunset article, The Economy of Sharing, this months tip of the month is about sharing. Whether you are motivated by a concern for the environment or not the idea of sharing resources, such as cars, office space, toys, dishes, and other family/work needs, appeals to our cost saving side.
There are many ways to share. An example of creative sharing, came out of our North Seattle group. They share soup. Throughout the year the group gathers for their monthly meeting and swaps recipes and family servings of soup. Thereby providing several creative and tasty meals for each of their families. They end up sharing cost, prep time and meals. You can't beat that!
Here are some other things you can share with your group, neighbors and friends:
- Toys, here is an example of a toy lending center in Santa Fe
- Bikes, check out D.C.'s bike sharing program for ideas
- Cars, there are many car share examples, here are a few: Zipcar, City Car Share, Ego CarShare , Getaround
- Dishes for parties, Apartment Therapy has some ideas for dish/party supply sharing
- Other party supplies, such as tables and chairs, canopies
- Art supplies
- Tools -West Seattle and Phinney Communities both have Tool lending libraries. For resources on how to start your own go here.
- Holiday costumes and decorations, Green Halloween has some great ideas for this one
- Skill or trade sharing, use your skill set to help a friend and they intern help you with their skill or trade
- Office space
For interesting ideas and overall fastening articles on what folks are doing in all facets of life, check out Shareable.
December 2011 Give the Gift of Experience
In continuation with our theme about gift giving over the holidays, we would like to highlight giving an experience as a gift. Such gifts can be simply movie, theatre or symphony tickets, and for those sports adventurers try out passes for the golf driving range, climbing wall, hiking guided tour or horseback riding lessons. For those kiddos, passes to the local science center, children's theatre, pottery or cooking class can be great fun. During the winter months capitalize on some indoor activities and support your local ice or roller skating rink. These passes will come in handy during that long winter break!
Giving the gift of experience, eliminates the need to purchase items that come with packaging and eliminates the need for wrapping altogether. Save energy and resources by buying a gift of experience and help support local businesses too! Here is a short list of ideas here.
You can also join the conversation between two of our CoolMom members here.
November 2011 Donate, Rethink, Reuse
As we approach the gift giving holiday season, CoolMom would like to encourage you to Donate goods to local charities, Rethink how, what and where you shop and to consider buying gently used toys for gift giving.
To jump start your holiday purchases consider donating to CoolMom's Annual Holiday Toy Swap 'n' Sale and dropping by the sale on November 12th to pick up some great kids toys, books, and baby gear. You might also be lucky and win the CoolMom Raffle as well. This years Raffle will include a Chinook Book: Book and app, CoolMom T-shirt and $10 Orca card, valued at $55.
Here are some other cool tips on Donating, Rethinking and Reusing this holiday season.
- Consider buying gently used toys, books, games and puzzles
- Purchase local experiences as gifts, like a family pass to the local science center
- Wrap those gifts in a handkerchief, scarf, or fabric and make that a part of the gift
- Use children's art, we all have a ton of it, for wrapping or making home made cards
- Donate goods or services in honor of your friend or family member
- Support local businesses and purchase goods and services in your neighborhood
- Other tips and ideas can be found on Celebrate Green, Real Simple, and Etsy
October 2011 National IWALK Month
In continuing our topic on gentler (carbon-less) modes of transportation, this month is all about moving by two feet. The Month of October is International Walk to school Month and CoolMom would like to inspire you to organize parents for an IWALK event at your school. FeetFirst, a local Seattle non-profit advocacy organization who promotes walkable communities, can help you set up your IWALK event. Go here for details. As part of CoolMom's, Think Outside the Car project, CoolMom is starting Walking School Buses in West Seattle. If you feel inspired to start a Walking School Bus in your West Seattle neighborhood contact the Director of CoolMom, Terri Glaberson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-280-2828.
September 2011 Walk, Bike, Ride
As we all start thinking about our children heading back to school, let's ponder if there are ways to get from home to school in a more carbon friendly way. In the late 1960s about 48% of kids walked or biked to school, now that percentage is around 12%. Many factors have influenced those numbers, and the results have meant more cars on the roads and less kids motoring to school by their own power.
CoolMom wants to help inspire parents and communities to find carbonless means of travel such as walking, biking or riding mass transit to go from home to school, work and/or play.
Tip of the month for September: CoolMom would like to inspire you to walk or bike your children to school at least once a week.
What you get from doing this:
- quality time with your child
- exercise for you and your child
- savings: gas, money and carbon
Once you start reaping those benefits you may even want to start your own Walking School Bus!
August 2011 Staycation
August is a 'hot' month for family vacations before heading back to school. Try a staycation and take your family on an adventure within or just outside your own four walls. For education sake fill in the blanks, a trip from Philadelphia to Boston (about 300 miles) would generate _________ kilograms of carbon dioxide (CO2) per typical medium -sized car, regardless of the passengers, while flying a commercial jet would produce some ______ kilograms of CO2 per passenger.
a) 50 and 75 b) 104 and 184 c) 129 and 198 d) 200 and 500
Here are some fun ideas for staycations within your own boundaries of your home:
- Pitch a tent in your back yard
- Show outdoor movies for your family and invite friends over as well, maybe even include a potluck for a fun easy meal
- Have friends over for a sleep over, including the adults!
- Host an ice cream social
July 2011 Conserve Water
Ahhhh, Summer! A time to grow your own vegetables, swim in the pool, and run through the sprinkler. As we enjoy the fruits of Summer, let us consider water conservation as a natural part of our summer enjoyment.
For July's question and tip of the month answer this: How much water does the average American use per day?
a) 100 gallons b) 180 gallons c) 220 gallons d0 500 gallons
There are lots of ways to enjoy the summer, stay cool, continue to grow our vegetables and maintain our lawns and conserve water.
Here are some tips to try on:
- When watering your garden or lawn, water in the evening hours to decrease evaporation from the day's heat
- Consider tearing up part or all of your lawn and putting in drought resistant plants, edibles, and/or hard scape and mulching. Mulching provides a great way to retain moisture in the soil and also has an added benefit of cutting down on weeding.
- Try soaker hoses instead of sprinklers, you will waste less water and can target the water more easily.
- To cool off during those hot days, consider going to a local kiddy wading pool or local swimming pool instead of turning up that AC
- If you use a kiddy pool at home, after the family cools off use the water to water your plants
June 2011 Build Community
The most recent tragedies in Alabama and Missouri due to tornadoes has brought many communities together. Strong community ties and being a good neighbor are never more important during hardship, such as natural disasters.
Why bring this up and how is it related to our mission? As resources become more sparse and climate change affects more and more people because of drought, food shortages/high prices, and rising sea levels, community will be the key in rising above these challenges.
The tip of the month for June is reach out to your neighbors and get involved in community building.
Some ideas for community building:
- Join or start a CoolMom Group
- Start a community/neighborhood shared garden
- Become a Seattle Solarized Neighborhood
- Create a neighborhood disaster plan
- Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) with your neighbors
- Carpool to the store, to work, to school
- Start a Walking School Bus in your school
- Create a composting program at your school or work
- Buy from your local farmer's market
Have ideas of your own? Please share here under comments.
May 2011 Think Outside The Car
May is Think Outside the Car month. So, what does that exactly mean? CoolMom is wanting folks who travel by car to travel by foot, two wheels or mass transit for the month of May. And, while you are at it, support CoolMom by gathering pledges for your own carbon-less travel or support CoolMom Director, Terri Glaberson, by pledging your support towards her low carbon travel.
In the spirit of traveling by these carbon-less means, answer this question:
How much carbon can you save just by reducing 10 miles of single occupancy driving every week? find the answer here
a) 30 pounds of carbon b) 100 pounds of carbon c) 450 pounds of carbon d) 500 pounds of carbon
How much energy is consumed to feed America?
a) 5% b) 9% c) 10% d) 50% answer here
Some key ways to reduce your carbon footprint while eating at your table are to:
*For bonus points, you can compost your food waste and complete the cycle!
More information about food and how to reduce your carbon footprint can be found here on our website.
On average, what percentage of our ( in the U.S.) energy bill is spent heating our water?
find the answer here. Families use much more hot water than is necessary and it is really easy to make a change. Turn down your water heater below 120 degrees, wash your clothes in cold water and take shorter showers under low flow shower heads.
February 2011 Adopt a Vegetarian Diet=Save 5,040 Pounds of CO2
Apart from the ethical aspects of not supporting the inhumane and environmental destructive practice of factory farming, switching to a vegetarian diet has great benefits in terms of reducing your carbon emissions. By not eating meat you can avoid the emissions of a bit more than 5,000 pounds of carbon emissions per year. What's more, on average you can save about 20% on your food costs as well. Can't make that complete shift to a vegetarian diet and need to take baby steps? Try not eating meat one day a week. If everyone in the U.S. incorporated Meatless Mondays into their week it would be like taking 19.2 million cars off the roads for a year. They would also save 99.6 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions, the same as 46 million round trip flights from New York to Los Angeles! See a list of health benefits here.
January 2011, Thermostat Blues
Happy New Year! To begin the new year on a the right [carbonless] foot answer this question and take on this tip as part of your new year's resolution.
How much money can you save at home if you turn down your heat 2 degrees?
a) $50/year b) $100/year c) $125/year d) $150/year
for the answer check out our home energy efficiency section here
Turning down your heat just 2 degrees can make a big difference in money and energy savings. Take it on as your New Year's Resolution and save your self some green by acting green!
December & November 2010, Buy Used for the Holidays
During the holiday season, US citizens produce a) 5% b) 10% c) 12% or d) 25% more trash compared to the rest of the year and the amount of energy used, on average rises about a) 5% b) 10% c) 12% or d) 25% during the holiday season, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. see answer below
October & September 2010, Don't Worship False Idles
True or False: The engine of a vehicle should be warmed up before driving. see answer below
Idling = zero mpg
Have you ever left your car engine running while you waited to pick up your children, or while you waited in the drive-through line at your bank or a favorite fast-food restaurant? Have you sometimes let your engine idle for several minutes to warm up your car first thing in the morning?
Most of us have. But when you leave your car or truck running while it’s parked or sitting still, the engine produces air pollution. This pollution contributes to problems like smog and global warming, and is also harmful to our health. Vehicle exhaust contains air toxics and fine particles, among other pollutants, which are associated with increased incidence of respiratory ailments and heart disease, as well as greater cancer risk. Here are some more facts about idling.
Stopping unnecessary vehicle idling is one relatively easy way to contribute to improved air quality, respiratory health in our communities and impact global warming. Please turn off your cars and influence your friends to do the same this school year and join our No-Idle Campaign. For the health of your children and ours.
August 2010, Phytoplankton and You!
Learn about the affects of Global Warming on crucial phytoplankton in the ocean
Email Two Friends
Send your friends a link to your favorite site that educates folks on the basic facts on climate change and steps they can do to act. It's easy, just direct them to our website Take Action page or Learn page and you are done!
To see past Tips of the Month for April 2009 to July 2010 go here.
Taking the Bus Gus, Biking with Family and Using Those Feet for Walking
by Natalie Singer
How To Take The Bus (With Two Kids, A Stroller, and Four GroceryBags …)
As a mom juggling a boisterous, sometimes cranky clan of little ones, relying on the bus for transportation might seem daunting at first. But arm yourself with a plan and a routine, and riding the bus with little ones in tow is not only doable, it can be freeing and fun, too!
Plan ahead. For Seattle: KingCounty Metro has an easy-to-use online Trip Planner that figures out which route is best for you and which bus to take. You can select routes by shortest walk, fastest ride, or fewest transfers (keep that baby asleep). Info about carpooling and ridesharing can be found here.
For those living in other Metro cities check out your local Metro information.
Get Your Gear in Gear: Any mom knows how quickly small kiddos get tired of walking. An umbrella stroller is lightweight, folds quickly, comes with storage and will fit on a crowded bus. Even more portable, soft-shelled baby carriers will keep you hands-free. Best of all, affordable second hand strollers and carriers abound on craigslist and in local children’s consignments shops, so you can gear up and stay green by recycling gear. To carry groceries or other purchases, consider investing in one of the new lightweight carts designed for farmer’s market shoppers or city walkers, such as a Hook and Go. Finally, switch out that cumbersome diaper bag for a more ergonomic, compact backpack – extra storage and more maneuverability.
Make it a Teaching Moment: But the kids will wreak havoc, you say … Actually, riding the bus regularly can be a great experience for kids of all ages. Just make sure you pack activities and snacks in case boredom hits. You can entertain children with games such as I Spy, spotting out letters or words on signs, or making up stories about the sights you see out the bus windows.
The Family That Bikes Together Stays Together
If the idea of cruising around town on two spoked wheels appeals to you but you don’t know where to start, visiting the Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation’s super-informative web site will get you riding quickly with confidence.
If you plan to ride with kids, you have three options: put the kiddos in a bike trailer, put your child on a bike-mounted seat, or have your older child ride their own bike.
A safetrailer (not appropriate for children under 1 year of age) will have an ASTM safety standards sticker, a full metal roll-cage, 16- or 20-inch wheels, a rotating hitch that allows the trailer to remain upright if the bike falls, and a safety flag.
A safe bike seat (not appropriate for children under 1 year of age) will have an ASTM safety standards sticker, a back that comes up around the child’s head, sides that wrap around the child, straps that connect around shoulders, waist and between legs, and straps for feet.
All children should always wear a helmet that has been properly fitted. Adults are safest wearing a helmet as well. And remember, when riding a bicycle, act like a car and obey all traffic laws. Many local bike shops have experts who can properly fit kids into bikes, trailers, seats and helmets. Some more local resources for familybiking:
Regional bike maps.
More safety tips for kids on bikes from Seattle Children’s Hospital.
A fun family bicycling blog written by a Seattle dad and pediatrician.
The Feet Were Made For Walking
One of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint as a family is to walk. Many of us are so used to getting into our cars to go places. Try re-thinking your needs on the street level by asking yourself: How far am I willing to walk to do the things I need to do: 5 blocks, 10 blocks, 20 blocks? Then take a tour of your neighborhood with fresh eyes: Can you switch to a closer doctor, ballet school, grocery store, church? Are there shops and organizations within walking distance that you’ve overlooked?
What makes you hesitate to walk? If it’s weather, or armloads of groceries, or time, maybe you can readjust: pick up some umbrellas and rain gear, devise a plan to roll purchases in a market cart or wagon, squeeze in extra time for walking errands by turning it into family time or tacking on park playtime or exercise opportunities. When given the opportunity to get to know their own neighborhood at street level by walking, kids can form stronger community bonds and benefit from increased daily exposure to the natural world.
Feet First Seattle is an organization dedicated to promoting walkable communities. You’ll find links to Feet First’s Neighborhoods on Footmap series for many local communities and can also find information to begin mapping your own community.
Some other walking resources:
August 2011 answer: b) 104 kilograms and 184 kilograms
for more information go to about.com for the full article
May 2011 answer: d) 500 pounds of carbon
click here to find transit options in your area. If CoolMom's entire membership reduced their travel miles by 10 miles each week for the month of May that would equal (1000 members x10 miles x4 weeks) 40,000 miles reduced, equaling 2 million pounds of carbon (1000 tons).
April 2011 answer: b) the food system accounts for about 9% of the energy consumed in the U.S. Details to this answer can be found here
October & September 2010 answer: False. Idling is not an effective way to warm up your vehicle, even in cold weather. The best way to do this is to drive the vehicle. With today's modern engines, you need no more than 30 seconds of idling on winter days before driving away.