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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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Great Reading

Winner: EcoFrugal Baby!

Thanks for all of those who participated.  It was really fun to read all your comments!

The two winners of the e-book copy of EcoFrugal Baby are…

yaga and Rachel

(for their little ones Helena and Malik)

Congratulations you two!  I will get those off to you shortly!

Book Giveaway: Ecofrugal Baby

I am going to pause for a bit to let everyone catch up – I know I’ve written a slough of posts lately!  In the meantime, I’d like to post the first of a few giveaways up my sleeve in the coming weeks.

Ecofrugal Baby

Ecofrugal Baby is written by fellow blogger Laura K. Cowan at 29 Diapers. The 174 page book is packed with tips to save money in your baby’s first year without skimping on quality – and without leaving a long-term negative impact on the environment or your baby’s health.

A baby’s first year in the United States costs an average of $10,000.  Laura claims you can save about $7,000 using the tips in this book – and she writes from experience, having done it herself.

The book comes with a Savings Calculator to help guide you to purchase what you need and save where you can. While some of the tips are pretty standard to our community here (Craigslist, Freecycle, garage sales), there are definitely quite a few resources I didn’t know about.

Table of Contents


Part I: One-Time Baby Gear Costs

1. Mobility Gear

2. Sleep and Comfort Gear

3. Cleaning and Changing Gear

4. Cloth Diapers

5. Feeding Gear

6. Safety Gear

7. Nursery Furniture and Storage Gear

Part II: Ongoing Baby Care Costs

8. Clothing

9. Food

10. Toiletries

11. Entertainment

Part III: Baby’s First-Year Savings Calculator


In the spirit of eco and frugal and the title of the book, I will give an e-copy of the book to 2 (two!) lucky commenters! 

Just leave your name and the little one’s name (or future name, or name you make up) in the comments below. I will pick two names on Sunday afternoon at 3pm PST.

Good luck!  And thanks for reading.

Cleanse: Day 21 - Celebration

BEFORE – Cleanse Day 1, 9am

AFTER – Cleanse Day 20, 7pm

Before And After

I know it looks a little like those Weight Watchers before and after pictures, with the pictures in different locations (hall vs. kitchen) with different cameras (iPhone vs. 35mm).  But even so, I think you can tell there is a difference.  I just looked at these myself and was kind of shocked!

(Note: I wore no makeup in either shot.)

The Benefits of My Cleanse

As you all have watched over the last 3 weeks, I have some of the many benefits of the Clean cleanse to include:

  1. Sounder sleep
  2. More limber
  3. Weight loss – and more importantly puffiness loss
  4. Softer, glowing skin
  5. Greater energy
  6. No menstrual cramps or PMS
  7. Heightened mood
  8. Greater mental clarity
  9. Increased awareness of mental toxins
  10. The ability to function effectively without caffeine
  11. Clear sinuses for the first time in years
  12. Generally more in tune with my body
  13. Knowing what foods I’m really allergic to (to come – see below)
  14. I’ve found a common link to many of my medical issues
  15. I learned to put my mind over culture in order to give my body what it needs
  16. I’ve learned to love water, and drink it waaaay more often than I used to
  17. I’ve learned a TON about my digestive system, I’ve learned to love and respect my colon!

The Negative Effects of My Cleanse

  1. Funny dreams about Doritos and potatoes
  2. Restricted diet, making it more difficult to socialize at times
  3. Dry skin in the beginning (though it quickly went away after I bought the skin brush)
  4. Hyper sense of smell (it’s both good and bad, depending on where I am!)
  5. My talking about this cleanse with everyone who will listen!

What I Will Change After the Cleanse – Aka, My New Normal

  1. I created a Wellness Plan, and I’ll stick to it – I’m excited to reach those goals!
  2. I’ll be reintroducing the most common food allergens over the coming weeks, so I’ll know for sure how/if I react to any of them.  That list includes wheat, soy, corn, eggs, and dairy.  I’ll be testing a few other things as well, like rye (another gluten-containing grain), tomatoes (because of the bad reaction the other day, as well as some skin sensitivity), and raw cultured cheese (just in case raw is ok for me but pasteurized is not – raw has more enzymes to help you break it down).
  3. Less alcohol consumption.
  4. Little to no caffeine – I’m going to see where this takes me, but if I need caffeine I’ll first be reaching for the green tea.
  5. More raw foodsDr. Junger suggests 51% or more of your diet should be raw, because of those fabulous enzymes that help you digest the food.  Something to strive toward!
  6. Smoothies in the morning. I must admit, I never ever would have pegged me as a morning smoothie drinker, but I really love the way it makes me feel in the morning!
  7. Buy new clothes. I know!  I had no idea that only a few pounds would shift my clothing size so substantially.  But it’s rather ridiculous, so to the (thrift) stores I go!

Day 21 – The Final Day of Our Cleanse

Blueberry smoothie for breakfast.

Carrot, beet and celery juice at the farmer’s market.

Market fresh and fabulous local dinner (see below).

Well Being Meter

Are you kidding?  It has been an absolutely amazing experience.  Of course it wasn’t always easy, but it was jaw-droppingly informative and beneficial.

Our Celebration!

It has been cold, cloudy, and rainy here for many days on end, so we decided to treat ourselves to a mini vacation celebration.  We drove up to Vancouver, BC and spent the day sightseeing in the sun.  (About 2 hours north – the first time we’d driven much at all for some time.)  It was fabulous!

We spent the morning perusing the Farmer’s Market, the early afternoon perusing Chinatown, the late afternoon enjoying the park and the sun, and the evening EATING.  Eating fabulous local, organic food.

It just so happened it was “Dine Out Vancouver” (a part of a whole movement of restaurant weeks around North America – many are listed here).  So we had a three course meal and wine pairing at an astoundingly low price.

I will say I was hungry.  Not famished, not starving, not wasting away, but definitely ready to eat.  I could feel my insides doing lots of stuff, since it didn’t have any digestion to do.  That was a strange thing.

I still resisted the rolls – no wheat yet.  Everything I ordered was gluten free.

I ate an amazing arugula and wild mushroom salad, then local white salmon with potatoes over a fennel/leek salad, a cheese course, and finally pumpkin creme brulee.  And wine.

I know you’re supposed to very gradually reintroduce foods – dairy, sugar, alcohol in particular – but we needed a celebration for the hard work.  (Don’t we deserve it??!)

What Were the Effects?

I didn’t drink one of the wines I had because it made me very flushed – from the oak or sulfites, I’m not sure.  Otherwise, I felt pretty good afterward.  Except for the sugar low on the way home – I fell asleep for an hour!

Winner: $25 Abe's Gift Certificate

Abe's Gift Certificate

For those of you who missed learning about Abe’s, I wrote a bit about it here.  If you can’t get all the things you need locally, Abe’s is a good alternative market.

$25 Gift Certificate Winner

Our lucky someone who gets to try out Abe’s Market is….

And the Winner is....


Congratulations, Maureen! I think heard you jumping up and down in the back there.  ;)  Please email me and I’ll put you in touch with Ilana at Abe’s!  (And please note that you have a week to email me, otherwise I’ll draw a new name.)

Thanks for joining in the fun, everyone!  It seems like y’all are enjoying these giveaways – so more to come!

Watch Garbage Dreams Airing Tomorrow Night!

The following post is written by one of my lovely and talented writers at Re-Vision Labs, Martina Welke. Look for more of these posts in the coming months, as we aggressively build our Environment Lab to help environmental organizations to do their work better, faster, and more effectively.

Garbage Dreams

Waste Not, Want Not

This week, Director Mai Iskander’s film Garbage Dreams will premier on PBS as part of the station’s Independent Lens series.  The documentary features three adolescent young men “raised in the trash trade” in Cairo.  Adham, Osama, and Nabil are part of the Zaballen community, which is one of the oldest urban recycling cultures in the world.

The Zaballeen people saw economic opportunity in trash collection over a century ago, and have built their livelihood around the business.  Since there is not much money in garbage pickup, the Zaballeen make the majority of their revenue from recycling.  About 80% of the trash they collect is recycled by hand and then sold as raw materials.

The film chronicles the Zaballeen struggle to maintain their recycling program after the city of Cairo hires foreign corporations to take over garbage disposal in the city.  Although the corporate program recycles only a small fraction compared the to Zaballeen, the city government prefers the foreign companies because they are perceived as modern.

In an effort to combat the foreign competition, the Zaballeen community launches a grassroots campaign to organize the enterprise, modernize their services, and educate the surrounding community.  The community sponsors a Recycling School that teaches reading , writing and computer skills as well as safe recycling practices.  Iskander includes a few community meetings and some footage of door-to-door canvassing efforts, but I found myself wanting to see more scenes focused on Zaballeen community organizing than the one-hour time frame would allow.

One of the most interesting segments of Garbage Dreams is when two of the young boys, Adham and Nabil, are selected to travel to the United Kingdom in order to study modern waste management.  The boys are appalled at how much garbage is wasted at the high-tech plant they visit.  Adham tellingly remarks, “Here there’s technology but no precision.”

In a very brief segment near the film’s conclusion, Iskander included updates two years after the launch of the Zaballeen campaign.  Unfortunately, the foreign corporations seem to be winning the battle.  Yet there are still signs of hope, as one community member notes that people around the globe are finally starting to care about trash and understand its environmental, political and economic importance.

Garbage Dreams is the kind of documentary that left me wanting to see more, learn more, and do more.  Luckily, there is a fantastic interactive website that allows viewers to do just that.  The site is packed with additional information, discussion guides, and lesson plans to help people learn from the film.  There’s even a game that simulates the Zaballeen business process and challenges players to match the 80% recycling rate they have achieved (no easy feat, even for a die hard recycler like myself—I only reached a 32% on my first attempt.)

Garbage Dreams premieres tomorrow, April 27th on PBS.  Check local listings here.

What Else Can You Do With Trash?

$25 Gift Certificate for Abe's Market: Giveaway!

Abes Market

Abe’s Market is an online natural foods market founded by Richard Demb and Jon Polin:

For a long time now we’ve talked about starting a business that we’d feel great about – a business that is wonderful for both businesses and consumers and that would have a positive impact on the environment. As natural product enthusiasts, we envisioned a place that would enable shoppers like us to discover fantastic, hard-to-find products and to really connect with the product creators – the way markets were once run.

Richard Demb and Jon Polin

Launched in the summer of 2009, Abe’s Market features stories about each of their sellers – with videos, photos, and interviews.  “Discover remarkable natural products.  Meet the real people who make them.” Nice thought, isn’t it?

They also host periodic webinars featuring their sellers; plus you can reach Abe’s via live chat, phone, or email.  It really is like an old time grocery store, but on the internet.  I love the idea.

I believe that if I can’t find what I need locally, buying from a good company like this is the next best thing.  So….

Abe's Gift Certificate

$25 Gift Certificate

One lucky someone will get to try out Abe’s Market!  The winner will receive a $25 gift certificate, which can be used to buy anything on the site, it’s good for one year, and it doesn’t have to be used all at once.

Please leave a comment below if you’d like a chance to win.  The winner will be drawn on Sunday 2 May at noon!

My Favorite Children's Gardening Book: Review and Giveaway!!

Kids in the Garden

I receive a lot of requests to review products, and I’ve seen a lot of children’s books that relate to sustainability, gardening, or other green ideas.  But this one is different.

It’s so good, I wanted to keep it for myself – there are an amazing number of tips and recipes I’ve never read before!

But alas, I have a heart.  So… if you have children or little ones you care for in some way, please let me know if you’re interested in having this truly lovely book in the comments.  Next Wednesday at noon, I will draw a winner who will receive this fabulous book!

Those who don’t win and can’t find it in the library, I have a 40% discount for you – I’ll give you the details on Wednesday.

Kids In The Garden - detail

Review: Kids In The Garden

I read this book from front to back in one sitting and loved it.  No kidding!  I was mesmerized and actually learned a lot myself.  It is full of incredibly easy and useful gardening tips, and it’s even quite useful for small space gardeners.

The pictures and illustrations are lovely and fun, and intermixed with a few terrible veggie puns.  :)  Q: “How do you fix a flat pumpkin?”  A: “With a pumpkin patch.”  Duh!

Kids In The Garden - detail

Within this short 100-page book, there is an amazing amount of information.  I learned how to take cuttings, jump start seed starts with aluminum foil and a cardboard box, and build a worm bin.  Plus the recipes look fabulous and unique.

AND did you know runner beans are the only edible plant that twines counter-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere?  I will be watching my beans this year!

Beetroot Brownies

by Kids In The Garden

  • 10 oz melted chocolate
  • 10 oz melted butter
  • 10 oz sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 6 oz self-rising flour
  • 8 oz cooked beetroot, peeled and grated
  1. Put the beetroot in a colander to drain.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350F.  Grease an 8×10″ cake tin and line the bottom with baking/parchment paper.
  3. Mix chocolate and butter together.
  4. Cream eggs and sugar together in a bowl until likght and fluffy.  And chocolate mixture and stir until smooth.
  5. Fold in the flour, then beetroot, until just mixed.
  6. Pour mixture into the cake and bake in the oven about 30 minutes, until a knife pushed into the middle comes out clean.

I haven’t tried it yet, but it sounds so interesting, doesn’t it?


Interested?  Leave your name and a comment below.  I’ll draw a winner on Wednesday 21 April.  Good luck!