Thursday, April 29, 2010

No/Low VOC Paints

Anyone else have a painting project you've been kicking around?  Other than every piece of trim in my kitchen desperately needing a fresh coat of paint, I have a furniture project giving me the stink eye every time I walk past it.  It's a set of bookcases we got from a tag sale that need a charming/Pottery Barn vibe.  I saw a how-to on The Lettered Cottage and I loved how it came out.  It's going to require some work: trim moldings, some beadboard wallpaper or mirrors, maybe some hinges & cabinet doors, the use of a mitre saw & table saw (I might just be on my own using them - hubby wants nothing to do with my project) plus primer & paint.  Not just any paint though.  I'm not introducing more toxins into my house, thank you very much.  This time I'm going the zero/low VOC (volatile organic chemicals) route.  Why, exactly?

This passage from Ed Begley, Jr.'s book, Living Like Ed, sums it up nicely for me:
"Traditional paint has got all kinds of nasty stuff in it: petrochemicals, solvents, mercury, formaldehyde, benzene, lead, cadmium, chromium, dibutyl, and diethyl phthalate.  This frightening chemical cocktail then releases VOCs into the air.  You might assume that VOCs are only a problem right after you paint, when you can actually smell the new-paint smell when you walk in a room.  But it turns out paints and other finishes release low-level toxic emissions for several years.  And it's definitely not good to be breathing this stuff."  

By the way, I think Ed Begley, Jr. and I would be great friends, and I can forgive the fact that he started a sentence with 'and.'  (I had an English teacher who would have chucked her blackboard eraser at him for doing that.  I hear teachers don't chuck stuff at students anymore.)  He could be my 'over the top' GREEN friend/mentor/boyfriend (just kidding) who makes up for the areas in my life where I don't come up quite so GREEN.

As far as paints go, I've always liked Benjamin Moore.  A painter friend of mine had told us years ago it was her choice, and after painting our family room ceiling probably 6 or more times and having it come out looking awful, we switched and my allegiance to BM was born.  I'm going with their Natura Zero VOC line, first a primer, then a paint in a light color, probably a shade of white to help brighten up a dark hallway.  It dries in 30 minutes so I can finish my project in just 1 day.  BTW, they also have Pottery Barn colors :)

In the Consumer Reports March 2009 issue, there was a review of the no/low VOC paints, and Behr did very well in their tests, but got mixed reviews by actual users on the site I visited.  Sherwin Williams also has a product line called Harmony which is low VOC and got very good reviews.  Interestingly, the tests by Consumer Reports said that at the time, the products they tested all contained some VOCs, despite the  claims they were no or low VOC paints.  In this case, less is more, and I'm OK with that.  At this point, I wouldn't use anything else than a no or low VOC paint for any paint inside my house.  Wish me luck on the project!  I'll let you know how it comes out.  

On a different subject, my Bento Box lunches are a HUGE hit in my son's class!  After his first week of lunches, one little boy asked me if I would make his lunches for him, and today a little girl at lunch addressed me as "Mrs. Perfect-Lunch-Maker!"  This has been our own self-imposed International Week so I've had to get a little creative.  In theory the Asian lunch was great, and it looked amazing, reusable chop sticks and all, but my little guy barely touched it.  Turns out dumplings & rice aren't his thing at lunchtime.  The Italian lunch with a Nutella & banana sandwich was the bomb though :)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day & My First Bento Box Lunches

There's so much to say today!  HAPPY EARTH DAY!  

Last week's guest post was such a huge smashing success - thanks again to Let's Go Fly a Kite for sharing her recycled paper wreath!  Check out her blog this week as she's kept with an Earth Week theme - I absolutely love her Eco-Organization project from a few days ago pictured below.


I've been getting a LOT of questions about how it's going with the Bento Box Lunches for my little guy.  Thanks for all the interest!  The idea was to make him a healthy lunch without any waste & using all reusable packaging.  We're on Day 4 (we started for Earth Week too, by coincidence) and I've learned a few lessons so far:

  • You don't have to fill every container - keep in mind how much  your child will actually eat so you're not wasting food.  Small portions are good.
  • My child is more than happy with his reusable water bottle (no more buying juice boxes or organic milk boxes) and is thrilled to see sliced organic lemons, limes & oranges in his water - picking up a bag of organic lemons on sale at Whole Foods this weekend was a great deal.  I love that I'm cutting down on his sugar and he doesn't mind one bit!
  • It takes some planning.  It has taken me 25min to make his lunch so far every day!  A friend of mine went ballistic when I told her that.  She can make her kid's lunch in 3 minutes.  Really?  I'm sure it's just because I'm not doing the prep work the night before, and my knife skills at 7am are just not that quick.  Plus I'm trying to be creative and use fresh food.  I've already given in to a cereal bar & organic bunny grahams when I felt like I was cutting it close!
  • A menu in his lunch box explaining what he was eating was a huge hit (although he still didn't know what his apple fritter was and thought it was some strange kind of chicken!)  

Favorite items so far have been the homemade banana/oatmeal/chocolate chip muffins for snack time, fresh fruit (this week I used mango, strawberries, fresh pineapple, apples, & mandarin oranges), the tuna & carrot "sushi" rolls I made (he likes the added crunch of the carrots) and the fresh edibles from our garden (I used fresh mint, a nasturtium blossom, & chives to tie the sushi rolls.)

I already have plans for next week which necessitates a trip to Trader Joe's this weekend, but I need to keep up the variety and speed up the morning process with a little evening prep work.  Yeah, it is a little work, but you should have seen my little guy's face when he very proudly told me he hasn't thrown out a single piece of trash at lunchtime, and how good feels about that!

(Julien's Bento Box came from Laptop Lunches, and I've found it cheaper on since Amazon offers free shipping.  My goal there was to find something as food safe as possible.  This fit the bill nicely for me.  Also search Amazon for all the cool Bento accessories like the hard-boiled egg molds and special cutters!)


So we're trying to create less waste, but what about when you're hosting a party or picnic for waaaaay more people than you have plates?  More than a few times a year I host such a fete.  I'm good with cutlery, but for the plates I've moved on to compostable paper plates.  My question was how easily do they really compost?  Here's a photo of 2 I pulled out of my composter after they've been sitting in there since September.

I had imagined it would go much faster, but keep in mind that it was over winter.  The other 30 or so plates in there haven't composted much at all.  Let's see how things heat up now though :)

I also want to send out a big THANK YOU to my readers & to everyone following along on this GREEN journey.  This week we quickly surpassed 1,000 views and my guests have come from as many as 16 countries!!!  I hope it sparks a few ideas or offers some useful advice.  Now, before I can go out and enjoy this gorgeous Earth Day, I have a boatload of real estate work to get through!    Happy Earth Day to all of you :)  

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Recycled Paper Wreath Project

Please welcome Let's Go Fly a Kite, who has graciously permitted me to repost her recent blog post creating a colorful wreath with recycled materials in honor of Earth Day! This crafty Toronto mom, wife & attorney writes a fun blog about her adventures in life, crafts, name it. Thanks for sharing, KJ! Next week (or maybe earlier) I'll post some of the local activities celebrating Earth Day in Connecticut.

What can you make from cardboard? Whimsical Recycled Paper Flower Wreath
The Crafty Crow is sharing a number of eco friendly crafts in celebration of Earth Day. Yesterday, the Crow asked what can you make out of cardboard?

This is our cardboard project - a whimsical wreath project which is great for kids.

I was inspired by these flowers made out of recycled paper tubes onParents (by the way, there are some fabulous crafts for kids on this site too).
(Via Parents, tutorial by Grace Dioguardo available here)

I gathered my stash of paper tubes
I used different lengths and cut the tubes according to the tutorial, you can also use scrapbooking scissors with wavy lines, etc. Miss Lily started the paint job, painting each flower a single colour

After the paint dries, you and your helpers can stuff the center of each flower with tissue paper from your stash

I then cut a cardboard circle from an old "for sale" sign (12" circle, about 3" thick) and covered the circle in garden burlap

Hot glue the paper blooms to the wreath base and enjoy your work

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check out all the great projects at Tea Rose Home, Sew Much Ado and Show and Tell at Blue Cricket Design, and Life as Lori - just click the buttons below!

Show and Tell Green
Get your craft on Thurs.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Big 4-0! Earth Day is 40!

Isn't my blog all Springy today? What do you think? It's a reflection of my unabashed excitement over the blooms bursting left & right as I walk my kids to school this week. That and my gardens are filled with little signs of Spring!

Earth Day turns 40 this year and April 22nd is creeping up on us. While I've been celebrating Earth Day since I was in elementary school, this marks the first time I'm looking at it with a social media view. The National Association of Realtors, of which I am a proud member, posted a link to a short article from called 5 Ways to Go Green for Earth Day with Social Media.

Did you know that the first Earth Day was the catalyst in the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency? It was also lead to the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts? No kidding! That's something to celebrate right there!

Obviously I believe that EVERY DAY MATTERS when it comes to being GREEN, so the idea of celebrating just one day is silly. However it is a nice reminder and we always do something special to mark the occasion.

Over the years we've planted trees, planted flowers, picked up garbage (in our neighborhood, plus in our town's village center, on the walking trails and in the local state forest) put up bluebird houses, and participated in every Earth Day event held in our town.

What are you doing for Earth Day?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Super Cool Green Houses

Welcome to my first post written on my NEW energy-efficient iMac! Cool, right? Those of you who follow me on Facebook know that Apple also offers to recycle up to 2 boxes of old computer components for us for FREE! How's that for GREEN business practices? (polite applause.)

Have you guys seen Great inspirations for building GREEN homes around the country and around the world. I like the combination of GREEN & simple, so I'm not a fan of the way out there wacky. I'm also not into ultra-modern home styles, but I appreciate them for the artistic value. I guess I would sum up my dream house as a small French Normandy style country chateau/manor with GREEN features. Mmmmm....a girl can dream.

If you have a few minutes, here are several very short videos highlighting various GREEN homes!