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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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An Internal Celebration of Earth Day

Earth

April 22 marks the 40th year Earth Day has been celebrated around the world.

Over the last several years, I have watched Earth Day become increasingly a holiday about green products. And that is not to say that green products are bad – I’m ecstatic that there are so many wonderful alternatives to the things I need on a daily basis. I remember when I first became an environmentalist in college in the 90s. It was a tough world to be in – many people thought we were nuts. There were few alternatives to eating sustainably – farm raised anything couldn’t be found, organic was not a word I ever remember using, and very very few clothes or other daily items were sustainably made. So there are good things about a push toward green products and green consumerism, for sure.

But this year I’m searching for a more internal, reflective celebration of Earth Day….

Come read the rest at the co-op!

I would love to read your thoughts as well – please stop and leave a comment!

What Is The Best Form Of Exercise?

Why Am I Asking This Question?

Because one of the keys to sustainable living is health and longevity.  If you are healthy, your life is sustainable.  And I love you all, and want you all to live long, healthy, and productive lives!

Are You Having Difficulty Exercising?

I have fought and fought myself about exercise over the years.  I’ve been through phases of aerobics, yoga, running, weight lifting, stair mastering, tread milling, rowing, biking, swimming, and lots more.  But all phases.  Nothing stuck permanently!

But if you need reasons to exercise, please read the Mayo Clinic’s top 10 reasons – they’re short and to the point.  Essentially the reasons are: to feel good, live long, be thin and healthy, and stay smart.  Pretty good reasons, don’t you think?  So let’s all just find a way to do it, shall we?

What’s the Best Form Of Exercise?

The one you’ll do.

My husband works out in the gym of our building.  I walk to work and garden.  Whatever works is what we stick with, because our health is the most important thing.  I found out over the years that I don’t like gyms.  I also can’t always afford yoga, taking exercise classes, or swimming.  But I can afford to walk, and I can afford to garden.  And so I allow myself to be ok with that.

You’re most looking for aerobic exercise that lasts 30-60 minutes at a time, and something you’ll enjoy doing every day or nearly every day:  brisk walking, jogging, bicycling, swimming, dancing, some types of yoga and pilates, tread mills (and equivalent gym equipment), etc.  There are 1,440 minutes in every day.  All you need is 30 of those to exercise.

Walk With Me!

If you enjoy walking, walk with me!  There are 24 of us walking together now – come join us!!

10,000 Steps Challenge

Bored walking alone?  Start a walking group!  Ask a friend to join you, walk with your partner in the evening, find a coworker who lives near you to walk with.

Be Smart & Safe

Wear Supportive Shoes

No matter what exercise you choose (except swimming), make sure you wear shoes that give you adequate support.  You don’t have to find them new – if you don’t have any good shoes, you usually find decent shoes at a local thrift store, just make sure the soles and arch support are still good.

Warm Up

Just like your car on a cold morning, your body doesn’t like to start up and go immediately.  Stretch and start out slowly, allowing your body to ease into your exercise.  Then do the same at the end: slow down and ease out of the exercise.

Be Safe

If you feel unsafe, exercise with a friend.  If you have heart troubles, make sure you consult your doctor.  Please be safe.

What Kind of Exercise Do You Like Doing?

Are you exercising now?  If not, will you start?  I want you to live long, be healthy, and stay smart.  So how about it?  (No excuses now!)

Kids In The Garden Book: Winner Plus 40% Off Coupon!

Kids in the Garden

Thank you all for your interest in Kids in the Garden. I LOVED all your responses and stories – it was really rewarding to read about you all passing on the enjoyment of gardening!

For those of you who did not win the book, I encourage you to check it out at the library or pick up a copy – I imagine when your children grow older, it will be a lovely hand-me-down.

40% Off Coupon!

Send an email to jess@blackdogonline.com with the subject line “One Green Generation offer”, and Jessica will send you a 40% off coupon!  They are a lovely company – I encourage you to check out all their books.  (Ellis, our black dog, loves the name of the company, too!)

Winner

And the winner is…

Chidren in the Garden winner

Christina!

Christina, please email me with your address, and you’ll soon be the proud owner of Kids in the Garden. (And please note that you have until 28 April at 12pm PST to email me, otherwise I’ll draw a new name.)

Thanks for joining in the fun!

Time-Saving Tips For Sustainable Living

When I asked you all recently what was the most difficult part of sustainable living, many of you said “not having enough time.” I will admit this is my number one issue as well. So let’s tackle it!

I have been perusing the internet searching for time-saving tips that are in line with a sustainable lifestyle. Below are the best ones I found – many of which I know…. but don’t practice. So over the coming few weeks, I’m going to tackle this list. Please feel free to join me!

And if you are one of those people who has begun to master the art of getting everything done that you’d like to get done, please tell us your tricks!!

Time-Saving Tips For Sustainable Living

  1. Give Up Perfection and Focus On Being Human. I am a perfectionist.  I want my garden, my home, my work, and my life to be just the way I imagine them.  That is to say, I want them perfect.  Like the movies, like advertisements, like the picture in the recipe book or the photo I took on my own blog a year ago.  Alas, it’s time to give up perfection for something slightly more human!
  2. Find Something Constructive That Releases Stress. Most of us have the urge to plop on the couch after a long day’s work in front of the television.  Even those of us who gave up television, might go through phases of watching tv or movies via the internet or video rental (cough, cough).  And while that de-stressing time is incredibly valuable, I will be looking for ways that help me de-stress while at the same time being constructive.  For example, reading my book for my new book group, or planting greens on our balcony, or looking up tips for saving time.  Some of you might find knitting or sewing or cooking does the trick.  I’m going to start working on the latter more!
  3. Keep a Notepad Filled with To-Dos and Ideas. Keep a running to-do list to keep track of what you need to do on a daily basis, and group your to-dos into logical chunks.   Write down ideas you have throughout the day (I do this with blog post ideas all the time).  Also make sure to keep these all in one place, so you don’t have search for them and so you don’t have ten to-do lists in various spots.  (Right now I think I have 5 or 6 running to-do lists in various spots on paper and on the computer!)  Finally, make sure to check off things you’ve accomplished.  That’s the best part!
  4. Play Speed Games. While a slow and deliberate life is important, there are likely some to-dos on your list that just don’t need to be done very deliberately, or you don’t have time to complete them slowly.  My sister and I used to play “speed dishes” when we were kids:  who could get done all the dishes fastest, without breaking anything of course!   Maybe play speed grocery shopping, where you focus on getting everything on your shopping list as quickly as possible.  Or play concentrated cleaning, or if you’ve brought a little work home for the night play speed work and get it done quickly.
  5. Delegate Tasks. Whether you’re at work or at home, sometimes you can delegate work to someone else and have it done more effectively and efficiently.  At work, teach your coworkers or interns how to help.  At home, teach your children – teach them to tidy their rooms and those of the rest of the house, to do the dishes, to clean the laundry, to mend, to walk the dog, and to water the garden.  I am incredibly grateful my mother taught me these things!
  6. Organize and De-Clutter. You should see my sock drawer!  Sometimes it’s full of nicely folded and matched socks, and sometimes it is an array of odds and ends.  I cannot believe how much time it takes me – let alone the frustration – to find 2 matching socks when the drawer is in disarray.  The same goes for anywhere I keep daily items.
  7. Prioritize and Be Ok With Not Doing Everything. At work in particular I find it difficult to say no when a colleague or employee asks for help.  At home too, I want to go to every social function and take advantage of every event in my building.  But sometimes I have to say no.  It’s a tough balance I’m still learning.  I believe the most important thing is to figure out my long-term goals, and make sure I prioritize the tasks that will get me there.
  8. Create a Routine. I always feel better when I get up at the same time each day, go to bed at the same time each evening, and have a pretty steady routine in between.  It helps me plan my day better and I don’t have to think so much about each element of the day.  Big bonus points when I make my lunch as a part of that routine: it’s cheaper, easier, healthier, and often saves time.  I might just try making it the night before…
  9. Cook In Larger Quantities. Whenever we fill the crock pot for dinner, I have my lunch ready-made the next day.  We’re not very good about eating the same thing for dinner two nights in a row, but we do freeze unused portions for later.  Ok, time to do more crock pot dinners!
  10. Calendarize. A year ago, my husband told me I needed to live by my calendar.  I hated the thought, and felt it was way outside of my personality.  But slowly, I started keeping a regular calendar and using it to prioritize my day, schedule my week, and see the big picture.  I can track my goals, so I accomplish the things I want to accomplish!  I don’t forget birthdays (much), or anniversaries, or important social events.  I can also see my husband’s calendar and know what he’s up to, which is surprisingly useful.  This is one thing I do pretty well – phew!

What else?

I want to say again that I truly enjoy living deliberately and slowing down when possible.  But with my own business still ramping up, I work more than I want to and don’t have enough time in the day to do the community building and living locally that I’d really like to do.  So over the next few weeks, I’ll be working hard on prioritizing and using my time more deliberately and effectively.  Please feel free to join me, everyone!

Also, please share what has worked for you as far as time saving goes – and special tips you’ve come across?

Ten Meaningful Ways To Celebrate Earth Week

I know what some of you are thinking:  Every day is Earth Day and every week is Earth Week. I agree.

However, I believe Earth Day, Earth Week, and now Earth Month succeed in helping normalize a respect for the planet.  I hate to say it, but in this day and age, the Earth needs a good set of marketers to bring a celebration of the planet into our collective conscience.

And for this reason, I celebrate Earth Day:  not because I need to be reminded of my impact on the earth, but because the more we all collectively celebrate this day, the more Earth Day becomes a part of the mainstreamAnd the more Earth Day becomes a part of the mainstream, the more people will say “Every day is Earth Day.” Every year this sentiment grows, and that is a good thing.

So for those of us who don’t need a reminder, and don’t want to buy stuff or let Earth Day turn into a day of buying stuff, let’s celebrate the day in our own way:  in our communities, in our families, and within our lifestyles.  Let’s celebrate it visibly and internally, so that it means something to us, but it also helps redefine normal in the mainstream.

Ten Meaningful Ways To Celebrate Earth Week

  1. Start/plant a garden in a public-facing space. Try planting vegetables or fruits in your front yard, in a community garden, on your parking strip, in your church yard, or in another neighborhood space.  Celebrate eating locally and sustainably!
  2. Take a week off of buying things. A good way to counter the consumerist aspect of Earth Day is to remind yourself and those around you that celebrating the earth is about not buying more than you need.  So go on, try not buying new things for one week, and let your friends and family know how you’re celebrating Earth Week.
  3. Spend time reflecting on your surroundings. Take family walks each evening, walk or bike to work, go for a local hike or bike, sit on your porch and soak in the neighborhood… There are so many ways!
  4. Support a local Earth Day event. There are more and more Earth Day events each year.  Pick one that you believe in, and volunteer for the day or for a few hours – help them spread the word about Earth Day.
  5. Have a family staycation. Camp in the backyard, have a picnic in a local park, eat dinner by candlelight, tell family stories around the dinner table, …
  6. Eat locally all week, or all day. Changing the way we eat is so important for our own well-being as well as that of the earth.  Some of us jumped right into this idea and live quite locally and seasonally.  However, for others it is more difficult, so start slow: eat local meals for a day, or even for a week.  You might find it’s addictive!  Check out Local Harvest if you don’t know where to begin.
  7. Volunteer locally. There are many local organizations who have needs in the spring.  Local environmental organizations likely have work parties to plant native plants, for example.  Local community gardens likely need help harvesting and growing food for local food banks, local charities can likely use your help in numerous ways.  Call, email, or visit them – I’m sure they could use your help!
  8. Give up plastic for a week. Need incentive to give up plastic?  Check out Fake Plastic Fish for loads of ideas.
  9. Give away things you don’t need. Go through that stuff in your closets, basement, and garage that you haven’t used for years, and give it to a local charity, thrift store, Freecycle, or a neighbor or friend who will use it.  Not only does this free your home from clutter, it also keeps others from buying new things because you give them hand-me-downs.
  10. What else? What else can we do for Earth Week that is low- to no-cost and stays true to our values?  I’m sure you’ve thought about it, and if you haven’t take a moment now to think about it, and leave a thought for us in the comments.  I’m sure your comment will help someone else.  What are you thinking of doing this week for Earth Day or Earth Week?

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?

Giveaway!

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

Our New Garden!

It seems like we are destined to have a new garden every year!  Each year for the last several years, we’ve taken over old, unloved land and nourished it.  We leave behind for others gloriously fertile soil and beds just waiting to be planted.  The bad part? We leave behind a lot of blood, sweat, and tears – and planning, too.

Sigh.

If you’ve been following along, you’ll know we moved from Los Angeles, where we had a potted garden on concrete, to Geyserville, where we had a 2,000 square foot garden.  Then we moved to Seattle, and I started a garden with my mom and we gardened on our fire escape.  Then we got a community garden plot (aka “p-patch”), a couple miles away.  Then we moved to a neighborhood closer to work, and the p-patch became 3 miles away.

And now I’m sooooo excited to say we have a new plot just down the street!  Hooray!

Ok, here’s what we did last weekend….

Our New Community Garden Patch

Here we are, with loads of work to do.  A very unloved patch of land, full of horrible, horrible weeds (morning glories, among others – they have long, long roots and seem like they pop out every where).  There were several weird wire cages and fences, and numerous old metal and wooden poles and posts, plus raspberries all over, and clearly pretty poor soil.

The pots you see are garlic and rhubarb from our old plot.

So we dug and carted and weeded and dug and carted some more.  Brutal work!  But alas, we moved the raspberries to one place in the plot, rescued some beautiful chives, and cleared our new land.

Baren Land

Then we went with some friends down to Cedar Grove Compost, our municipal compost location, where we bought a truck load of “Booster Blend” (compost mixed with aged manure) for $11.  It’s great for us city dwellers:  we compost at home, it goes to Cedar Grove, they mix it with microbes and age it, and we buy it back for a small amount of money.  Not bad!

Several hours later...

After wheeling and dumping and digging and raking in several barrels of compost, voila!  We have a plantable garden!  I transplanted the garlic and rhubarb, and we now have a blank slate of good, nurtured soil.

This weekend we will plant!

The space is about 15 by 20 – almost twice as big as our old plot.  It doesn’t seem like much, probably, to those of you who have large garden spaces.  But it is a good amount of space if you use it well.

So… What Shall We Plant?

Currently, we have rhubarb, raspberries, chives and garlic.  What else shall we plant?  What’s your favorite unusual vegetable?  What space-saving varieties have you found?  Please help us maximize our garden space!