A site visit

February 15, 2009

Jason came to visit me for Valentine’s Day weekend. It was his first visit out here, and it was fabulous. And we even accomplished something! We went out to the Eastern Shore to finally see the Inn at Mitchell House (our ceremony/reception site) in person. And we’re really happy with our choice.

ceremony site, by the pond

ceremony site, by the pond

I took a few more pictures and uploaded them to my Flickr site: http://flickr.com/photos/ultimatelibrarian/tags/innatmitchellhouse/.  It’s a little brown right now, but imagine what it’ll look like in late summer!  There are plenty of gorgeous pictures on the Inn’s site, too.  But there’s room for some ultimate frisbee, and plenty of room for the ceremony down by the pond and then to have the reception tents up by the house (I didn’t actually take pictures of that space b/c that’s currently where the cars are parked).

Jim and Tracy are really knowledgeable, and we feel like we’re in great hands.  Tracy was ready with lots of recommendations as far as local vendors for tents, officiant, and so on.  And she was completely ready for my questions about composting and recycling.  (They don’t have an official compost on site and just throw non-meat items out in the woods, so I’ll probably work with Mark, our caterer, whose parents might be able to take care of that, and they have lots of recycling barrels.)  It’s also a pro that both the ceremony and the reception will be in the same place, although unfortunately Chestertown really is only accessible by car.  Tracy did give us the information for an adorable trolley service, though, so hopefully we can get the majority of the people from their hotels to the wedding site in large groups (better for more local beer and wine drinking, too!).

Jason’s parents came with us, too, and Jason’s mom especially had some great ideas for decorating.  So stay tuned!


Exercise: your options!

January 31, 2009

So, it’s pretty much the end of January.  We’ve had a month to make and break various resolutions.  Except maybe you haven’t broken them!  And maybe you haven’t made them.  Both work for me.  This year I do actually have 2, though, and I haven’t broken either of them:

  1. Run the Charlottesville 10 miler
  2. Get married to my best friend.

Yep.  Short and sweet.  One I’m looking forward to a little more than the other; take a guess.  🙂

But in all seriousness, when I moved out in September, I did kind of resolve to get my butt back into shape and in January I realized that I had actually been successful so far.  And I felt like having a reason to get in better shape would be extra motivating as I continued, hence the race.  Obviously, good health is the best and really only reason you need, but that extra toning isn’t really a minus when you’re wearing a wedding dress in a few months.  I also happen to really like distance running (I know, I know), and rediscovered that love after leaving the flat golf course 5ks in the midwest and the ridiculously hilly, rainy, and very urban Seattle runs I tried a few times.  I’m lucky in that I live right in between Rock Creek and Sligo Creek Parks.  Both have gorgeous running trails.  And I figure all this prep will help when I try out for Maryland ultimate club teams.

But what does this all have to do with green weddings?  Well, I decided that there are probably others for whom getting married is a pretty good motivator for getting in shape, and that some of you out there may be doing just that.  Also, I will be married in several months, and I plan on keeping this blog going to document how I’m working towards greening my life.  So I thought that this would be a good overlapping post: staying in shape is something I’m planning on  doing even after I’m no longer a green bride, but in the meantime, it’s also something I’m doing for my wedding.

My thoughts on greening an excercise routine begin the same way greening everything in life does: use less.  Really, you don’t need a whole lot of fancy equipment (well, at least this thing isn’t electric) that take resources to build and use and ship and will eventually get thrown in a dump.  All you need is your own body and some proper footwear and clothing.  And if you already have those things (body, check!), then you’re good to go!  Break out those high school gym shorts!  They’re in again!  Well, maybe… And then, go for a run, pace and length up to you.  Easy, right?  Um, yeah.  Well, here are a few free interweb tools to help you out that I’ve found useful:

  • www.dailymile.com for tracking distances and seeing how well you’re doing and for keeping track of races and such!  It’s actually pretty fun; if you join, you should friend me, and we can keep each other motivated.
  • mapmyrun.com lets you map your own route, and you don’t have to stick to streets.  I haven’t used it that much yet, but it seems really helpful for trail runs and the like, when you can’t measure mileage on GoogleMaps (my usual go-to for quick mileages).  Who needs expensive pedometers that use batteries?
  • there’s lots of exercise calorie counters out there, but here’s one that apparently has lots of different types of exercises, in case you want to track all those shopping for wedding dress calories or something…from BodyBuilding.com.

But I should also admit that I’m far from perfect.  I have kind of wussy excuses (the cold, dry air totally exacerbates my asthma!  It’s dark when I get out of work!), but I don’t always get to do the outdoors thing.  I do use the gym at my apartment building and the gym at work.  And I run on the treadmills, which uses a whole lot of electricity.  Whenever I can, though, I get outside, which is better for the environment and just a lot more enjoyable.  I also participate in classes at my work, ’cause not only am I not using that energy on the ‘mill, but I get to hang out with awesome old broads at Dance ‘n Tone!  But there is at least one “green” gym” (Portland’s Green Microgym) out there, and maybe you could convince your gym to get greener treadmills when replacing old machines for a happy compromise.  And if you decide to get your own machine, look on (get ready for my familiar refrain) freecycle and craigslist first.  But again, you can’t do better than using your own body to get someplace or do something, and by doing so, you’re ensuring that both you and the planet can keep doing just that for a long time.

And now I’ll share my last secrets.

  1. I joined Sparkpeople.com.  It’s totally cheesy, and there’s lots of ads, but there’s also lots and lots of tools, groups, and people to motivate you.  And I really like earning points.  It’s kept me on track for a whole lot longer than any other self-motivation I’ve tried (team sports are the only other thing that works for me, and the only team sport I play is ultimate, so there you go).  There’s even an environmentalist SparkTeam.
  2. I watch The Biggest Loser on Hulu.  I don’t really get into reality tv that much usually, but for whatever reason, this show is GOOD.  I’ve cried.  And it’s my dirty secret, so don’t tell, kay?  Well, Jason already knows and he still loves me, so I’m okay with it, actually.  But health is such a big part of my life, between my medical profession relatives, having a loved one with cancer, and my own choice to go into a medical field, and this show just hits the nail on the head as far as the right way to live your life for the right reasons.  That’s my justification, anyway.

As always, thanks for reading!  And don’t you love how I posted this just in time for Superbowl snacking?  ❤

Speaking of maiden names, and in order to make this post somewhat wedding related, I am 98% sure I won’t be changing my name.  The reasons for this aren’t arguably eco-related, but some of the repercussions of this decision could be viewed that way.  I won’t have to get all new credit cards, business cards, or replace anything else with my name on it.  But it was a purely personal decision, as I think it is for everyone.  

So, back to the entry title.  I’ve been a member of Co-op America for about a year, as the result of my volunteering at the Seattle Green Festival.  As a result, I’ve moved to a socially-responsible cell phone company, have discovered ways to research companies on their eco/social practices, signed petitions, gotten discounts, and just more or less stayed on top of key issues.  At the start of the new year, they changed their name to Green America, but they’re the same great organization.

And they asked their members to post the following to their blogs.  So I’m doing so, because it’s got some good general thoughts to keep in mind as we’re planning weddings and getting on with our lives, and because it’s a little free publicity. 

More new posts soon, I promise!

7 Fixes from the Green Economy

Bold solutions from the green economy are the antidote to the broken economy—and can repair the damage and create a world that works for all.

EconomyEveryone now understands that the economy is broken. What our members and readers have known for years— that the economy is not working for people and the planet—is now playing out on Wall Street and Main Street every day.

While many name the mortgage and credit-default-swap crises as culprits, they are only the most recent results of an economy with fatal design flaws. These design defects range from a dependence on growth, consumerism, and the structure of money to the short-term focus of today’s markets, and policy goals that are focused on growing Gross National Product. Yet, when GNP growth includes a whole set of “bads”—from sweatshop labor to manufacturing toxic chemicals—every dollar of GNP growth actually reduces wellbeing for people and the planet.

Taken together, these fatal flaws systematically create economic injustice, poverty, and environmental crises.

It doesn’t have to be that way. The green economy offers solutions that are the antidote to the current breakdown.

Green America members have been trailblazers for green economic solutions for years. We now have a teachable moment to be bold in stepping up with these solutions for long-term change toward sustainability—and helping people through tough times. Now these green economy solutions are more important than ever.

Simply put, we need to move from greed to green.

Here are seven green economy solutions to today’s economic mess.

1. Green Energy—Green Jobs 
A crucial starting place to rejuvenate our economy is to focus on energy—for the sake of the economy and the environment. It is time to call in the superheroes of the green energy revolution—energy efficiency, solar and wind power, and plug-in hybrids—and put their synergies to work with rapid, largescale deployment. This is a powerful way to jumpstart the economy, energy independence, job creation (with jobs that can’t be outsourced), and the victory over the climate crisis. The five green-energy keys are rapid, large-scale deployment of:

• Energy efficiency—moving toward 50 percent savings in five years.

• Solar and wind—getting to an all-renewable electric grid.

• Plug-in electric hybrid vehicles (PHEVs)—getting to at least 20 percent of the US vehicle fleet in ten years.

• Smart grid—rebuilding our aging electric grid with a smart grid that makes it easy to scale up energy efficiency and renewables.

• New national and state electric utility regulation and building codes that make it easy to scale up with efficiency, renewables, and PHEVs.

This year, Green America is launching Project LEAP—our Low-carbon Energy Acceleration Plan—to show how to combine these superheroes for real economic prosperity, energy security, and 80–90 percent greenhouse gas reduction. We shared this with our allies on President Obama’s incoming team (along with our idea for the financing mechanism; see #2 below). But you don’t have to wait for Washington—use Green America resources to get started today:

• Guide to Efficiency First!
• Solar how-to articles, and interviews with the solar leaders of our Green Busienss Network™
• Solar High Impact National Energy (SHINE) Plan. [PDF] 
• Utility Solar Assessment (USA) Study. [PDF]

2. Clean Energy Victory Bonds 
How are we going to pay for this green energy revolution? Green America and our allies at Clean Edge propose Clean Energy Victory Bonds. Modeled after victory bonds in World War II, Americans would buy these bonds from the federal government to invest in large-scale deployment of green energy projects, with particular emphasis in low-income communities that are hardest hit by the broken economy. These would be long-term bonds, which would pay an annual interest rate, based in part on the energy and energy savings that the bonds generate. During WWII, Americans bought over $185 billion in bonds—that would be almost $2 trillion in today’s dollars.

Millions of people are looking for a way to help the country right now. During the townhall- style presidential debate, one person posed this question to the then-candidates: “What would you ask us to do?”

Green America’s answer: Invest in Clean Energy Victory Bonds so our country can start building the clean-energy infrastructure and get people to work in good, green jobs, right now.

Sign up for the Green America e-newsletter to help advance these and our other green energy policy measures all year long.

3. Reduce, Reuse, Rethink 
Living lightly on the Earth, saving resources and money, reducing inequality, and sharing —jobs, property, ideas, and opportunities—are the principles crucial to restructuring our economy. This economic breakdown is, in part, due to living beyond our means—as a nation and, in too many cases, as individuals. With the enormous national and consumer debt weighing us down, we won’t be able to spend our way out of this economic problem. From planting gardens to conserving energy to swapping clothes to making gifts—these green economy basics will help us move to an economy that works for all.

As Dr. Juliet Schor, economist and author, puts it, “We’ve lost the ability to profitably … grow our way out of recession. The usual kinds of consumer spending (cars, electronics, furniture, apparel, travel) degrade vital eco-systems and have an economic cost. Business-as-usual puts us deeper into an economic hole.”

Ultimately, we need an economy that’s not dependent on growth and consumerism. So it’s time to rethink living over-consumptive lifestyles, and turn to the principles of elegant simplicity—what Green Americans have known all along.


4. Go Green, Fair Trade, and Local 
When we do buy, it is essential that those purchases shift from the conventional economy to the green and local economy—so that every dollar helps solve social and environmental problems, not create them. What we spend our money on—and refuse to buy—does matter. Expanding the green economy is fundamental to the transition to an economy that works for people and the planet. Moving dollars away from conventional agribusiness and toward supporting local workers and local, organic farmers creates more justice and sustainability.

Use the National Green Pages to make as many of your purchases as possible from the green economy. Turn to Green America all year long for ways to be intentional with your money—to help create a better economy with the choices you make every day.


5. Community Investing 
All over the county, community investing banks, credit unions, and loan funds that serve hardhit communities are strong, while the biggest banks—from Washington Mutual to CitiGroup —required bailouts. The basic principles of community investing keep the community investing institutions strong: Lenders and borrowers know each other. Lenders invest in the success of their borrowers—with training and technical assistance along with loans. And the people who provide the capital to the lenders expect reasonable, not speculative, rates of return. If all banks followed these principles, the economy wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in today.

You can provide capital to community investing banks and credit unions—it’s as easy as opening a federally insured account. Check out the community investing section of our Web site to get started.


6. Shareowner Activism 
When you own stock, you are a shareowner and have the right and responsibility to advise management to clean up its act. Had General Motors listened to its activist shareholders, it would have invested in the efficient and electric cars that would have prevented the need for a bailout from bankruptcy. Had CitiGroup listened to its activist shareowners, it would have steered clear of the faulty mortgage practices that brought it to its knees. Activist shareholders are key to reforming companies—from jumpstarting them on the energy revolution to addressing executive compensation to stopping the corruption created by corporate lobbying—for the transition to the new economy. Let’s up the ante.


7. Building Community 
“Whatever the problem,” says Dr. Lynnaea Lumbard, psychologist and interfaith minister, “community is the answer.” Connected, resilient communities help people get through tough times—and celebrate during good times. Now is the time to get started. Get to know your neighbors. Do a neighborhood skills inventory—so people can help each other fix their roofs, repair their bikes, mend a torn coat—saving money and building community. Plan a community garden, a neighborhood garage sale, or clothing swap. Start a dinner or home improvement co-op. (Get more ideas and learn more here.)

The Time is Now 
It looks like we have a huge opportunity on our hands—a global economic breakdown that is teaching us that we are all interdependent. There’s no “there” to escape to, so we all might as well figure out how to live together —and transition our economy to one that protects vulnerable people and our vulnerable planet. Stay tuned to Real Green all year long. We look forward to working with you on turning today’s problems into opportunities for a more just, sustainable, and joyful world.

Alisa Gravitz

Long Distance Communication

November 17, 2008

For the past 2 months, I’ve kind of been ignoring the whole wedding planning thing.  I’ve just been basking in the realization that I’ll be married in 10 months.  Which I suddenly realized is less than a year.  After being engaged for 3 years, I suddenly realized that running out of time could happen if I don’t start doing something.

Well, I still haven’t done much, but I’ve written down some questions for our venue owners.  It’s a start, right?

My excuse for putting it off is that Jason and I are far apart, and it feels kind of wrong to do stuff without him.  And while I’m guessing he’s too busy anyway with important stuff like grad school applications and Mother 3, I know I wouldn’t like it if he was making decisions without me.  Fortunately, in this day and age, there are lots of different ways a couple with 3,000 miles between them can communicate without using a scrap of paper (love letters don’t count; that’s not wedding planning).  🙂

  1. Skype.  Skype is awesome.  Jason and I videochat pretty much everyday.  You can use it for calling landlines, too, all over the world.  I suppose there isn’t that much eco-friendliness to it, but if you’ve got an iSight mac, you don’t have to buy any extra equipment.  And actually, if all you need is voice anyway, you can use an internet connection and not get a separate phone that you’d need to plug in.  It’s a stretch, I know.  But I did find my webcam (no iSight for me) for $5 on craigslist, saving money and reusing!
  2. Google Docs.  This really is paper saving, and is ridiculously useful as a collaboration tool.  Jason and I are currently working on our (much too long but we love everyone) guest list.  Instead of making lots of paper lists and crossing things out and losing track, we’ve got one place we can both edit (and approve each others’ edits), and where we can eventually organize addresses and RSVP’s and so on.  In the future, I may use it to help us organize/plan our invitation layout and the things we want on our registry.
  3. Our Credo Mobile cell phones.  We were in the middle of a contract with Verizon when we just got fed up with their billing and their customer service.  We contemplated iPhones, but it was going to be really expensive, and we happened to be saving for a, um, wedding.  But I know I feel better with this decision.  Not only did we save money (and they bought out our Verizon contract), but 1% of our charges go to various social and environmental causes, and they’re the only phone company to lobby AGAINST the FISA act.  And they still are.  But I don’t want to sound like a militant evangelicist for Credo (and their parent company, Working Assets) and really play up one choice over any other.  I just think doing a little research into the impacts our choices have and don’t have can make such a huge difference.  Yep, done now!

So, next up, I’ll be calling rental companies about tents and dance floors on my cell, tracking prices on Google Docs, and Skyping with Jason about options all at once…maybe not.

Also, anyone know of a good officiant on the Eastern Shore who would work with us and understand the green philosophy?  Well, ’till next time, but here’s a picture of our caterer/friend Mark and his wonderful bread oven:

making a pizza!

making a pizza!

Prep work

October 1, 2008

Many apologies for the lack of exciting green wedding info.  Getting settled into my new job and a new routine hasn’t left a ton of free time, even though it hasn’t been that difficult.  I’m still lacking a little bit of furniture (like, say, a few more chairs so I can have people over for dinner), but I’ve got my eye on freecycle and craigslist (I did succumb to Ikea for a bed, but the rest I figured I could get used), so that should also be taken care of shortly.

And, in the meantime, there has been very little wedding planning.  Without Jason, and with the distractions of a new town, maybe I haven’t been as on top of it as I should be.  We still have 11 months, right?  🙂

But I have been trying to do a few things to get ready.  And I mean me, personally.  Eating healthier, trying to exercise regularly (no regular ultimate frisbee practice yet, boo), and trying to keep up a beauty regimen that will have me glowing (and with really long hair that I can do anything with!) by the time next Labor Day rolls around.  So I thought I’d share some things I’ve picked up as I’m prepping.

  1. While I haven’t completely reverted, I am eating vegetarian at home.  I was a true ovo-lacto vegetarian for 9 years, and for the past 4 I’ve been going back and forth, with sushi and bacon as my major weaknesses.  When I was 12, I wrote essays on why I was a vegetarian (“everything except religion”)…Anyway, not only does it make me more conscious about eating healthy (well, healthier), there is evidence to suggest that removing some amount of meat from your diet reduces your carbon footprint.
  2. I’m drinking lots of water.  At the moment, I’m actually not finding any good documentation that links staying hydrated to skin health, but I’ve seen it floating around out there, and it seems like common sense.  And I’m drinking from a reusable water bottle and cutting down on the sodas and such, therefore keeping some garbage out of the waste stream (not to mention all the high-fructose corn syrup that I’m not ingesting).
  3. I’m using beauty products and routines that hopefully make less of an impact and that are better for me.  I’m not exactly a high-maintenance person, but that’s mostly because of my laziness.  
  • I only shower every other day, to conserve water and to sleep later on those other days.  🙂  I know that’s not for everyone, but perhaps at least consider not washing your hair every day.  It dries it out, according to my Aveda stylist, and think of the water you’ll save just by cutting out those 2-3+ minutes!
  • I don’t blow-dry my hair.  It totally destroys my fine tresses, but I also don’t use that electricity.  I’m blessed/cursed with super straight hair, but again, if you don’t wash it every day, you won’t have to blow dry it.  And you could also turn of the dryer when your hair is still a little damp.  You’ll probably even save a few pennies that could go towards something like, um, one more local rose in your bouquet…
  • I try to use organic/natural face wash, soap, shampoo, etc.  A lot of it I find at Trader Joe’s and/or Whole Foods (yeah, TJ’s is cheaper, surprise!).  Some of my own favorite brands include Desert Essence and Dr. Bronner’s castile soap (there are plenty of organic castile soaps out there, if you aren’t as amused as I am by the religious mission).  I also want to mention a great resource for learning about beauty products and some of the chemicals they contain (for guys, too!): http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com.  It’s good to be informed, although perhaps a little scary…In general, it may be a good idea to stay away from parabens.  
Anyone want to share any other successful eco-beauty secrets?   

And, I’m back! +book review

September 10, 2008

I made it!  I’m now in Maryland, and minus Jason for a few months.  😦  But I’ll be able to distract myself with wedding planning and this blog, hopefully!  And I’m going back to Seattle this weekend to see him, so it’s really not that bad (or so I keep telling myself).  If you’re interested, eventually I’ll put up some documentation from our cross-country road trip up on Flickr.

Seeing as how it’s been a few weeks, I feel out of practice.  So please bear with me these next few posts while I get back in the swing of things.  Planning will be starting for real, with a binder and everything, so hopefully with a schedule to guide me, I’ll have plenty of relevant topics to write about.  

Tonight, I bring you a book review.  A little background: Suzan St Maur stumbled upon this blog and left a comment offering to send me a copy of her book, How to Get Married In Green, for review.  Of course I accepted; eco-wedding resources are hard enough to find, and also, I think most librarians love free books!  So my apologies, Suzan, for taking so long, and I only hope I can get a few people to check it out (request it at your libraries, folks, if you don’t want to buy it yourselves).

Suzan lives in England, and the book is targeted for UK audiences.  That said, there’s plenty of information applicable to probably anywhere in the world.  I especially loved the in depth information she provided on jewelry: not only does she discuss blood diamonds, but there’s information on mining and production processes for the all the metals and gems most often used for weddings.  There’s also an amazing interview with a wedding photographer that goes into lots of detail about the impacts of both traditional and digital photography and what can be done to lesson them.  The photographer says more or less outright what I think Suzan does a very good job of implying throughout the book: it’s not just what you do on this one day that makes a difference, but committing to making lifestyle changes that will help make sure you do as little damage as possible.  

However, any one person can only do so much.  Whatever that means for you, Suzan does a great job of giving lots of options.  Maybe you always get your clothing second hand, so getting a beautiful, unique wedding dress the same way is a great option.  But maybe your career demands nice, new clothing, and people expect the same on your wedding day.  Suzan offers suggestions on fabric and reusability.  She includes numerous ideas and options for all the aspects of a wedding, and I think she does a really strong of emphasizing that we just need to think about the decisions that we’re making.  If we alter one small thing in every part of that special day (and our lifestyles), that makes a difference.  If we have to compromise on some things and then totally give up on, say, flying somewhere exotic for the honeymoon because that’s a little more our style, then that’s perfectly okay.

While Married in Green is somewhat comparable to Eco-Chic Weddings (which I’ve mentioned before), I think there are a few notable differences, and I’m certainly glad I’m lucky enough to have both books (I’ll be passing them on when I’m done, perhaps to a library!).  First of all, Suzan’s book isn’t quite as resource-based as Emily Anderson’s.  Although there is a chapter at the end with lots of web resources (mostly UK, but don’t write them off without checking them out), Suzan emphasizes looking around on the web yourself, and offers lots of search terms to get you started.  To a certain degree, I think the search terms are a little simplistic, and I think there are some better ways to search than just a search engine (find a good wedding site, for instance, and browse/search around in there; on theknot.com, which I love, not all the individual pages are indexed/found on Google, but there’s a ton of info), but it’s definitely a good place to start.  I also think that there are some areas in Suzan’s book where there’s a little more information about why we need to be thinking about these things: I already mentioned the jewelry and photography; the chapter on receptions has some interesting thoughts, too, such as the energy it takes to power the lighting and dj.  

All in all, I’m really grateful I got the chance to review Suze’s book, and I definitely recommend it to all you other brides-to-be out there.  And it’s printed on paper certified by the FSC!

And the hiatus continues

August 7, 2008

But I have a date for when I shall return in full force, so that you can start counting down!  I leave Seattle, with fiance, cat, and bunny in tow, on August 20th.  I should be fairly settled (but probably without furniture, so not really settled at all) on September 1st.  That afternoon, Jason flies back to Seattle, and I’ll have nothing to do besides start my fellowship and start planning this wedding for real!  So, expect a new blog entry Sept. 1 or 2nd.  If there isn’t one, Luna is probably holding us hostage somewhere in the midwest.  🙂

In the meantime, pledge to stop drinking bottled water!  Seriously, you know that stuff is mostly just filtered tap water anyway?  Or worse; it’s imported all the way from Japan.  But the biggest issue is the bottles themselves.  Get yourselves a pretty, reuseable water bottle (another favor idea?  hmmm…)! Just remember to avoid the BPA plastics (Nalgene is phasing them out, whoo!).