Thursday, June 30, 2011

This Week at The GREEN CT Realtor...

It's been a fabulous week at my house with my first EVER taste of having both children out of the house all day!  It's even worth the craziness that comes with getting them out of the house at the same time with their swimsuits, beach towels, bento boxes, water bottles, change of clothes, getting them fed, teeth brushed, sunscreened up, and dressed.  Having them both at camp has meant I've been able to spend a lot more time at the office, and seeing how this is my incredibly busy time of year...it certainly works out well for us!

When I've been home it's been about the huge construction project going on here.  Perhaps it only feels huge because it's going so slowly?  Last month we tore down the old garage and are in the process of building something along the lines of this carriage house:


I think  it's much prettier than the main house, which means we'll need to give this place a facelift at some point too :)  I've been shopping for oval windows, garage doors & corbels.  It's going to be an expensive summer.  I think I may need to sell a few extra houses this year.  Anyone looking?  Call me!

Also going on chez nous is lots of organic gardening!  Yesterday I began my garlic harvest and my first lavender harvest of the season.  I'm finding it takes a lot of scrubbing (not washing!) of the garlic to get all that dirt off.  Hubby harvested the rhubarb and called a friend in France to get her recipe for rhubarb compote that is just divine.  He made it this morning and it's sitting in a large mason jar already!


Both the garlic and the lavender smell absolutely wonderful to me.  The 40 heads of garlic (so far) I'm cleaning, braiding & letting hang to dry for a few weeks.  I'll also save several heads to use to start new garlic in the Fall.  The lavender I dry and remove the flowers to make sachets that this harvest will be used to scent the little one's dresser drawers.  We bought the dresser used from a friend who was moving out of state a few years ago so it needs that sweet smell that reminds me so much of Provence.  (Harvesting lavender is pretty labor intensive work...but if you don't have your own plants and you'd like to pick some yourself, come on down to my neighborhood where my neighbor has a lavender farm and you can sit in the field on a little stool, wearing your sunhat, and pick from her fields.)    

Speaking of Provence, it was a year ago yesterday that we landed in France with the kids.  Sigh....  

(Paris avec les enfants next to the Pompidou.)


On a happy note though, we just learned that friends from the Bretagne area will be visiting us in CT in 2 weeks and we're looking forward to hosting them.  I'm going to have to go into overdrive on my garden though because this man's garden was the MOST well-tended I've ever witnessed.  Here's a photo I took in his garden last summer.


You can't actually tell from this photo, but weeds dare not grow there.  I've just psyched myself out over this and need to get myself to the farmer's market on Saturday morning to pretty up my yard.  My garden especially.  

Along the lines of gardening, I've just picked up a book called "In the Green Kitchen" by Alice Waters.  I'm just starting it...it seems to be a lot about technique (which makes the byline so appropriate - Techniques to Learn by Heart) and features many chefs.  Just looking at it is making me hungry.  Must be time for a nibble then back to the grind at the office!  

Be well.  Be GREEN :)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Mickey is GREEN!

I've been asking myself how to make our upcoming Fall trip to Walt Disney World (why does it make me feel old that I use the full name and not just Disney like everyone else seems to?) a little bit GREEN.  As it turns out, the Walt Disney Company is already quite the shade of GREEN!  Kudos to Disney!  


Following is the (long) excerpt from Disneydestinationstradenews.com describing their environmental overview.  (I'm allowed to copy & paste this along as I give credit where credit is due, right?)


The Walt Disney Company channels its commitment to conservation into an attitude known as Environmentality, which is a responsibility to do what is right for the environment and right for business. Each of Walt Disney World Resort’s nearly 62,000 Cast Members are encouraged to practice Environmentality everyday.
Walt Disney World Resort focuses on effectively managing resource use through energy conservation and waste minimization, while also focusing on conserving the natural environment through science, education and leadership efforts. 
Sustainable and Responsible Development
  • Of the more than 40 square miles at Walt Disney World Resort, nearly one-third of the property has been set aside as a dedicated wildlife conservation area.
  • The Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve is a lasting testament to the company’s commitment to develop responsibly. Disney purchased 8,500 acres in Osceola County to allow for build-out of the resort and created a model partnership between government, non-profit and business. Working with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida water management districts and groups like Audubon of Florida and the Nature Conservancy, the $45 million investment is a living laboratory for land restoration. The Preserve has now grown to 12,000 acres as other companies have followed the model to expand the original tract. A "green" welcome center is a centerpiece and is open to the public.
Growing Green
At Walt Disney World Resort, conservation and environmental sustainability are not only part of a long-term commitment to responsible stewardship, but also are key business components evident in day-to-day operations. 
  • To become an EPA "Energy Star Partner," Disney has implemented energy-saving fixtures and other changes throughout the property. The original implementation of the program saved enough energy to power Disney’s Animal Kingdom in its first year of operation.
  • Beginning in 2005, Walt Disney World Resort implemented a "Strive for Five" program, resulting in nearly five percent in energy savings and conservation across the resort. Through ongoing energy audits and the EPA’s Green Lights program Disney strives to use the most energy-efficient fixtures possible. 
  • Walt Disney World Resort is switching to more efficient and environmentally friendly lighting across property.
    • In Resort guest rooms, Cast Members are in the process of replacing incandescent lamps with compact fluorescent lamps that use roughly one-quarter of the energy.  When complete, 176,325 light bulbs will have been changed out.
    • LED (light emitting diode) lights are far more efficient than neon lights and are used in many signs, decorations and holiday trees at Walt Disney World Resort.   
    • Even Cinderella’s Castle glows "green" during the holidays with more than 170,000 LED white lights to glisten the Castle, using the equivalent energy of only 12 microwave ovens.
    • In 2008, Disney completed the state’s Green Lodging designation for all 23 resort hotels – representing the largest number of Green Lodging -certified hotels in the state. Disney’s Boardwalk Inn Resort was the first resort in Florida to receive the designation when the program launched in 2004. To achieve this special designation, resorts must focus on five categories: water conservation, education and awareness, waste reduction, energy conservation and indoor air quality.
Mindful Waste Management
  • Recycling is a big part of waste management at Walt Disney World Resort. In 2007, Walt Disney World Resort recycled more than 39,000 tons of materials including:
    • 1,048 tons of scrap metal;
    • 1,255,090 pounds (628 tons)of cooking grease; and
    • 14 million pounds  of cardboard
  • Walt Disney World Resort’s approach to water conservation begins with using less water where possible, and maximizing use of reclaimed water.  Approximately 30 percent of the resort’s overall needs and 80 percent of its irrigation needs are met with reclaimed water. 
  • Disney Harvest reduced food waste by gathering excess prepared food from Walt Disney World Resort kitchens and distributing it through the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. More than 1,000 local children are fed weekly through this program. In 2007, Disney Harvest gave more than 625,000 pounds of food to the hungry in Orange, Osceola, Lake and Seminole counties.
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom provides some unique forms of "waste." In 2007, over 3,520 tons of manure was sent to the compost facility from Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the Tri-Circle D Ranch.  This produced about 542,000 pounds of compost daily.
Caring for Wildlife and Animals
In addition to ensuring wildlife habitat remains, the company is committed to animals in Florida and around the world.
  • The Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, supports scientific research and habitat protection through annual awards for the study and protection of the world’s wildlife and ecosystems.
  • In 2007, DWCF awarded more than $1.5 million to nonprofit environmental groups and universities. The funds went toward 104 programs in 42 countries that focus on saving animals and habitats. Among the projects receiving support:
    • Purchasing 4,000 acres of land in Guatemala to create a community-managed buffer zone and establish a wildlife reserve for research, ecotourism and organic farming. (ARCAS)
    • Studying the serious problems that discarded fishing gear poses to bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota Bay to help save the dolphins from fatal entanglement. (Mote Marine Laboratory) 
    • Studying the interaction between elephants and bees in Kenya and whether bees can be used as an effective elephant deterrent for crops and trees. (Save the Elephants)  
  • Florida-based projects have received more than $2.9 million in DWCF grants, including grants of more than $600,000 to University of Florida and $92,000 to University of Central Florida.
  • Since 1995, the DWCF has supported 650 projects in 110 countries totaling $11 million.
  • The Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund and The Walt Disney Company have contributed more than $800,000 to rhino protection and research projects in partnership with nonprofit organizations working in Asia and Africa (the only places they are found).
  • Disney’s Animal Programs professionals worked closely with the University of Central Florida to establish a Ph.D. program in Conservation Biology, approved in spring 2004 by the Board of Regents. Many Disney’s Animal Programs Cast Members serve as adjunct professors at UCF.
  • The Seas with Nemo and Friends at Epcot participates with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other zoological facilities and conservation groups in the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership. The Seas is a designated rehabilitation site for rescued manatees and sea turtles until they are well enough to be returned to their habitats. 
  • Disney’s Animal Programs teams at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Epcot’s The Seas with Nemo and Friends are devoted to the care of more than 1,500 mammals, birds and reptiles, and over 5,000 fish, including a number of endangered and threatened species. Both facilities are accredited under the auspices of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom is involved in many AZA "Species Survival Plans" – cooperative breeding and management groups for critical species – and has successfully reproduced many endangered animals, including African elephants, black rhinos, okapi, gorillas, and many rare birds. In fact, Disney sent three bongo antelope born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom to Kenya in a unique effort to re-establish the population there. In 2006, Disney sent two white rhinos born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom to Uganda for reintroduction.
Connecting With Our Community
Support for environmental projects and animal-related organizations are also a part of Walt Disney World Resort’s efforts – as members of the community and as volunteer citizens.
  • Walt Disney World Cast Members worked more than a year to provide a unique template for a computerized energy report card to Orange County Public Schools, which is expected to save the school system millions of dollars. In March 2004, it was endorsed and heralded by then U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham as a national model, which is being shared with schools across the country.
  • Disney’s Environmentality Challenge encourages Florida students to think about and take action on helping the environment.  Since it began 10 years ago, more than 120,000 fifth-grade students across Florida have participated. 
  • For many years, Walt Disney World Resort has helped support the SPCA of Central Florida.  Disney VoluntEARS have participated in an annual walk around Lake Eola that collects more than $50,000 each year in pledges. Walt Disney World Resort also sponsors educational programs that SPCA shares with schools across the area.
  • Disney has a strong relationship with The Central Florida Zoo. As an active board member, Disney has assisted with funding for improved animal habitats and the capital improvement campaign. The zoo’s famous hippo, Geraldine, came to live at Disney’s Animal Kingdom when her habitat was moved to make way for new improvements there.
  • The Florida Audubon Society and its Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland is another partner. Walt Disney World Resort funded a flight cage at the center used to rehabilitate eagles and other raptors before release. Disney Cast Members also helped refurbish the center, and a Disney leader sits on the board of Audubon of Florida.
  • Disney Cast Members volunteer their efforts for beach cleanups, wetland re-plantings and removing invasive exotic plants from critical habitats. The Walt Disney World Resort lends its support to the Florida Coastal Cleanup (Ocean Conservancy), Oakland Nature Preserve and the Nature Conservancy.
  • Education presenters and small animals from Disney’s Animal Programs also travel to Arnold Palmer Hospital and Florida Children’s Hospital to bring the wonder of wildlife and a welcome distraction to young patients.
Are you thinking what I'm thinking?  Yeah, they totally had me at 542,000 lbs of compost per day.  Oh, and the reclaimed water part.  I just got a whole lot happier about spending a vacation in the US.  (I don't mean to offend anyone with that last part - I'm just the kind of girl who really likes to travel to places that happen to be on another continent, especially where we get to communicate in other languages.  Staying in the US is generally a bummer for me.  In fact, I hope to one day be known as something along the lines of "The GREEN CT Realtor Who Lives in France & Italy and Spends a Little Time in East Hampton and Got Really Skinny BTW"  HA!)


We'll be staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, which I'm really excited about, and this will be my first trip back to the Magic Kingdom since something like 1978 when my dad was rocking the big sideburns and I wore my knee socks with pride.  


I took a sec to do some online shopping for eco-friendly Disney merchandise and found they have quite the selection of organic clothing (I found 111 different shirts!), bamboo-made products, some reusable tote bags and reusable aluminum water bottles like these Earth Day ones (above on sale for $5.99!)  So keeping all of this in mind, I can relax, have fun, and feel GREEN all over :) See you on the public transportation my friends!

Roundup in the News Again...

If you haven't seen this in today's news....here's the story from the Huffington Post.  It was all over my Twitter feed this morning.  Again I'm reminded why I buy organic and why I grow my own whenever I can.

Roundup: Birth Defects Caused By World's Top-Selling Weedkiller, Scientists Say

Thursday, June 16, 2011

CT Farmer's Markets Opening!

It's that time of year!  My garden is starting to get it's groove on, but so are the wonderful farmer's markets around Connecticut!

While many of the markets don't get going until July, there are several that are open TODAY around the state.  CToutandabout.com has a list of events including farmer's markets for today right here.

For a list of all the certified farmer's markets in CT and their opening dates, click here.  That's not to say that there aren't other markets that pop up, such as the one in my town, so watch your local papers for news on those.

I've written about my love for farmer's markets before, and my local favorite so far remains the Friday afternoon & Saturday morning farmer's market at Ashlawn Farm in Lyme.  So many farmers in one place, right on a scenic farm which also roasts it's own coffee...can't think of a better way to end my Friday.  For those of you who don't live as close as I do, why not make a day of it and hit the beach or stroll along the shoreline?   Oh, and don't forget to grab a cup of their coffee.  (You'll thank me later!)

I am happy to support local farmers and feed my family very fresh, mostly organic, food.  Now, off to raid my garden for strawberries & lettuces to share with friends!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What About That Cork?

Yes, the GREEN CT Realtor was MIA....but it was more SIB (sick in bed - blech!) than anything else.  5 weeks of being sick with a virus and pneumonia as the grand finale really kicked my green booty.  Add to that the reactions I had to the antibiotics followed by the reactions I had to the meds to take care of the reactions and I was a sorry lot.

Before I got sick I was getting ready to write about recycling and uses for cork.  It seemed as though the universe had been sending me messages about cork.  Um-hum...it's a strange message, but when the universe speaks...well...the GREEN CT Realtor listens.  (Looking back now, it just might have been the fever talking.)

It just so happens that we drink a lot of wine, so as it would be we tend to amass quantities of corks.  For many years we labeled & saved them because I'd seen this gorgeous board made of arranged corks and the DIYer in me wanted to replicate it.  Needless to say, babies came along and my arts & crafts aspirations were cast aside...which leaves me with a whole lot of cork :)

What were those messages from the universe, you ask?  3 signs:

The bowl soliciting used corks at the checkout and the amazing display windows at Anthropologie (my favorite store!)  They didn't look exactly like this, but Anthropologie, in celebration of Earth Day, put up window displays in 153 of their stores with the help of the Cork Forest Conservation Alliance.



Another was a gorgeous custom work of art in the form of a sunflower crafted from used corks by the very talented Stefanie Marco of KiNDSPiN Design in West Hartford, CT.

Photo Credit: Stefanie Marco KiNDSPin Design
It reminds me of sunny days in Tuscany and that makes me nostalgic (and maybe a little weepy and achy to go back.)  I'll bet it's even more amazing in person.  By the way, I saw the photo of the new owners holding their piece and it's HUGE!  Stefanie says you can send her your collection of corks and she'll make a custom piece for you too!  You can check out photos of Stefanie's other works of art on her Facebook album, through the link above, or in person at Celebrate West Hartford the weekend of June 11th-12th.  If you've never been, it's a great festival with really talented artisans, a carnival, live bands, food booths from all the fantastic West Hartford restaurants.  We never miss it!

The last sign was through Whole Foods where I had seen or read that you can drop off your used corks to be recycled through CorkReHarvest.  How many times had I walked by that and not seen it?  I wanted to find out more so I looked it up when I got home.


I don't want to repeat everything that CorkReHarvest.org does, so here's the link to the Whole Foods blog post that explains why they're involved.  If you're interested in the details, it's worth a click to check it out.

As a general rule, I don't like throwing anything in the trash if I know it can go somewhere else other than a landfill.  I hadn't thought that much about cork before, so thanks, universe, for pointing that out to me!