Friday, February 5, 2010

Sparkles for Earth Day-Each Gem Part of a Whole

From In the Garden

Jan at Thanks for 2Day is asking bloggers to prepare a post on how they live sustainably in honor of Earth Day; which is April 22, 2010. In return not only will you share some tips and ideas for living in conjunction with Earth while keeping your carbon footprint small, you will be entered in a give a way with the chance to win some nice prizes.

Here are ways I live sustainably and try to reduce my carbon footprint:

You know the saying
REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE? Well I had to add one more R to the saying and that word is REPURPOSE. I live by these four words to the point I am a bit of a packrat and maybe a bit zealous. No excuse for it but when I was growing up we held on to things 'just in case it might come in handy sometime'. And you know what? I've almost always been able to find a new purpose or use for something I have hanging around the house. The window frame above is one such thing. Many folks are replacing their old windows with new. You would not believe how many perfectly good wood sash windows are dumped in the bins at our dump. Windows can be used for decor, on coldframes, new greenhouses and a multitude of other uses. Hold on to them or give them away to someone else who can use them on Freecycle.

Speaking of
Freecycle, this is another way I work to reduce my carbon footprint. Freecycle is a community of people who are geographically close enough to give others their cast offs in order to keep usable items out of the dump. Freecycle is not a place to dump trash but if you have something you think someone else may be able to use (old clothes, lawn furniture, plants, etc) then put it on Freecycle. Things like: plants, bricks, concrete, and a million other things are things I've picked up-all free. If you are not a member of Freecycle there is no time like the present to join.

Here in the Ramsey house we recycle.
Recycling is naturally easy for all of us because after having in lived in Germany for over 10 years recycling became second nature. Germans and Europeans in general are more earth conscious and do a great job of recycling. Their resources are a bit more limited so they've had to be smart about the land and the natural resources they do have. Recycling is a big deal and is really easy. We have separate bins in our garage and sort them as we go. As a result we normally only have one bag of trash per week from our family of three that is actually dumped in the landfill.

Composting is a really good thing to do. I believe in giving back to my garden. As such just about anything that will rot goes into one of three 4'x4' wooden compost bins. All compost is used up quickly and my garden plants thank me for returning organic matter to the soil in the ways they grow and bloom and give back to me.

Conserving energy is another way in which we help to reduce our impact on earth. Our temperature is generally set at 68 degrees during the day in the winter, 65 degrees at night. I keep the thermostat set on 78 or 80 degrees in the summer. It sounds high but when it is 90 degrees outside 80 degrees feels pretty good. As a reward for watching our thermostat numbers our electric bills are lower. I believe the formula is that you can save 1-2% off your bill for each degree you lower your thermostat in the winter and raise it in the summer. Not bad for conserving a bit of energy-you conserve your green money too.

Another good and easy way to
conserve electricity is to run your dishwasher only when it is full and run it when peak power loads are lower. Sometimes I wait until 9 or 10 at night to run my dishwasher, especially in the summer when air conditioners are running full time and really putting a drain on the power grid. Every little bit helps.

Water conservation is an important consideration for all gardeners.Rain barrels are a biggy here. I have the barrels and the hardware but have not put them together yet (a bit of procrastination maybe?). I really need to get going on putting them in place before summer. In my defense though I do not water my lawn in the summer and I only water my gardens when things looks pretty dire. I hope this summer is as good as last summer and I won't need to water. I also try to plant drought tolerant species as much as possible. These plants are in my most inhospitable areas of my garden and are able to stand on their own. The hydrangeas are close by so if I need to water I can do it efficiently. Watching water use is another way to live sustainably.

I do not litter-ever. I absolutely dislike litterers and I can tell you we have quite a few where I live. I'll save this rant for another day but let me just say the roads in Tennessee are in a deplorable condition and not even the inmates who quietly police up others' trash can make a dent in the amount we Tennesseans have on our roadways. I do my small part in fighting the litter battle by policing the litter in front of my home. I pick up everything from cigarette butts to beer cans and bottles almost on a weekly basis. I wish my neighbors would help out and police the road in front of their yards, even if it is only one day every six months it would help. When motorists see a trashy roadway they are more likely to toss out more trash. It is a vicious cycle. I think if we all just make an effort to police around our properties and to NOT litter then our communities would be a much better place to live and work and raise our children. Pride goes up and the atmosphere of a community changes in a positive way when we live in a clean and litter free community. All it takes is a conscious effort to dispose of trash properly and responsibly to honor our earth. Disposing of trash into a neighbor's yard is never the proper way to dispose of trash. Don't litter and clean up where you can and help out earth and your community and we all live better.

Lastly, I plant a garden and I plant trees. I have given serious consideration to how my house is oriented so I can ensure the trees around my home are in the best locations to provide me shade during the summer while letting in the sunlight in the winter time. It is estimated you can save 10% off you annual electric bill just by having some well placed trees around your property. My garden is a purely pleasure thing for me but I like to think it provides the earth and it's creatures with a sustainable living space. In fact, it is the mission of my garden.


Earth Laughs in Flowers. Raph Waldo Emerson.

From In the Garden
I like to think the earth around me is laughing an awful lot when I walk out my front door because as you can see from the picture of my late summer Front Foundation Gardens, there are lots of flowers nearby. But even more important than the flowers and gardens, I like to think I am setting a good example for my children and for others around me. I hope that in some small way we can all work together to make our lives sustainable and work in conjunction with our earth.

Singly we are but a gem, but put together as a whole we can all shine....

in the garden....on Earth Day.

Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team,

In the Garden


  1. I keep forgetting not every state has the bottle bill. Litter is less of a problem up here and I'm surprised it's a issue down there. Cigs are a big no-no when it's dry and we see the fire station trucks spraying weed eater along the roadside. One, just one.

  2. Dawn, No bottle bills here in the south (at least my state and the surrounding ones) that I know of. Such a shame. We can collect aluminum cans and newspapers and sell for money. I used to do this in NC but not here. It would go a long way to reducing litter I think.

  3. Hey Tina girl ! I love that picture of the garden .. it is gorgeous .. and YES ! I will be planting another new tree come Earth Day like I did last year .. I'm so looking forward to it !
    Litter .. it still shocks me when I see it or actual SEE a person do that .. of all the things you can do to keep the earth tidy .. that is the easiest NOT to do ? Go figure ? people ? what can you do with them ???

  4. Great post Tina. I agree completely. I cannot figure out why people feel the need to litter like they do. I for one will not through out of a window anything. I pick up the trash in front of my house that people tend to throw out. I did the same in N.C.
    Recycling in larger towns here but not in this small town. Wish they did here.

  5. Dear Tina, You rock;-) You have put together a thoroughly informative AND enjoyable post on how you help mother earth. Wonderful! I really enjoyed your 'mission', fact, the link was a good idea because I didn't know it was there. Your 4-R's are perfect. If all of us could do even half of what you do it would help. It's obvious you are very caring, concerned and committed to taking care of what we've been given...thank you for your lovely post. I'll add your link and you're now entered into the giveaway. I am REALLY hoping for just ONE MORE item--in fact, I asked Fiskars for a RainBarrel donation, but haven't heard yet. Wouldn't that be great? Anyway, thanks also, for announcing this because hopefully it will let more bloggers know about it! Jan

  6. I have to say that being a cheap person makes re-purposing all the easier for me. Good topic!
    THanks, Tina!

  7. I think that with the economy being the way it is, we'll probably be witnessing more conservation, even if it is unintended. People are slowly realizing that they can save money by not consuming so much and wasting things that can be re-used. People in our parents' and grandparents' generations had no other choice, and many people are facing a similar situation. Hardship is a great teacher, I guess. Great post, Tina.

  8. Great post Tina. I love what you've done with the window frame. It's beautiful. I love the picture of your front garden too.

  9. Great tips! The picture of your front walkway is great. The earth is laughing in your front yard.

  10. Great post Tina. I had signed up for Freecycle in my area after your post months ago with the bricks.
    It is so second nature for us to wait for the dishwasher to be full and always turn it on as we go up to bed.
    Lots of great ideas to help Mother Earth.
    So far no snow other than flurries forecast for here--but they are saying tidal flooding. I am so out of here!!

  11. Hi Tina, this was a great post. A topic I'm very passionate about. I go kind of foaming-at-the-mouth-nuts when I get on the topic of wasteful, selfish and lazy people who pollute, litter, and poison our earth.

  12. Hi Tina - thanks for the Blotanical tip! :) We recycle just about everything, I even take weekend trips to the county recycling center with stuff they don't pick up at curbside. Sometimes I wish we could get credit for as much as we keep out of the waste stream.

  13. I got my piano on Freecycle - can you believe it? Litter is really my pet peeve too, Tina. This time of year when the snow melts it seems especially bad. A cleanup organization has some mock tickets that you can write and give to people you see littering, but I fear they'll just throw them on the ground creating more of it!

  14. Great post. I can't believe someone would throw out such a beautiful window. I'm also a packrat, much to my husband's chagrin. He's Mr. Freecycle, not to get stuff, but to give it away.

  15. Wonderful post Tina. I do so hate litter and we are very lucky here in Maine with a pretty clean state. The deposit on all juice, water, soda and alcohol bottles, jugs or cans really does make a big difference. Plus we have a law against billboards. That also makes the roadsides much more enjoyable. I will never forget the sight on the roadsides when we got off the ferry from France into England. All the litter was so terrible and after being in Germany where the streets and sidewals are constantly being swept
    all the time made an even bigger impact on me. Do you remember all that litter? It really is not a big job to clean up properly. In my little small town, we had one of the first true recycling centers in the nation so I became very aware of it ealy on and how I hated it in the beginning and I still get frustated over some things but I still do ALL I can to recycle and even pull stuff out of the trash that others throw away. While on this rant I have a tip....even if you put paper in a shredder that you do not need to, it can go in the compost and help put some brown material with the green. I have read that it should be about half and half and I never seen to have enough brown so I do this. Well the litter got me going today, sorry I am so winded.

  16. Another rainy day in GA. Already an inch and still coming down. Argggg...

    As Jean, dont get me started on the litter issues! The South is so far behind on a lot of stuff (we do move slowly down here) and litter is one of them. We use to have deposits on bottles. I remember getting them in crates and taking the empty bottled crates back for a fresh load! Today they put drinks in plastic ring things which I hate as they so harm the wildlife when tossed in the lake, roadside, etc. We did a great job of recycling while living in Germany. We did not live in American housing but rather with the Germans. You had no choice but to recycle but they made it easy. Bins were set out all over the place for you to place your items. I loved the glass bins in colors of green, brown and clear glass holes for deposits! Once back into the states, we were shocked as to what all goes into the landfills!

    Luckily, our county opened a recycling area a few months ago right up the street from us. We now recycle, #1, #2 Plastics, Metals, Aluminum, Newspapers, Office Paper Waste, Magazines, TV, Radios, Small Kitchen appliances like Coffee Makers-Blenders, Telephones, and more! We hope that in time they will take glass items as well. We collect our plastic bags and take them to Wal-Mart or Food Lion as they both take them back. We have such a small bag of trash now that we plan to cancel our trash pick up. We dont have enough to warrant paying someone to haul it off. We will do it ourselves...

    I still trash a lot of stuff I probably should not but am trying. When a child, I grew up in a home that was once a Boarding House. The woman that lived upstairs was a sweet lady but she was a hoarder. It left such an impression on me that I dont keep too much clutter in my life.

    Blogging has taught me many wonderful recycling ideas as well…

  17. littering is such a act of selfishness...and a complete lack of thought for anything or anyone else. why don't people get it?
    it is good to remind us of all these things. we do our part but it does feel at times such a tiny dent.
    i have been using freecycle as well. the only thing is i get way too much email from them.
    happy wet february.

  18. I love seeing the picture of your pretty sunny garden! The window looks so pretty with the sun shining through, what great way to reuse a window.
    You sure do a lot to help keep your part of the earth green! Litter is something that drives me crazy. Even my girls comment when they see garbage on the ground. If a 3 year old knows not to litter why can't some adults?

  19. Joy, I hear you-it's awful.

    Lola, People are just selfish and lazy and would rather let someone else deal with litter. They just want it gone and don't care how. So sad.

    Jan, Thanks for starting it and letting me know. Hopefully more bloggers will sign on.

    Rosey, Well said!

    How it Grows, Glad you like it. I've made several and they sure add to my garden. This one is visible from inside, hence the reflection from the living room window:(

    W2W, Hardship is for sure something you learn from and never forget.

    Sweetbay, Thanks! Can't believe you have only one inside plant!

    Dave, Yes indeed-it's laughing all around me and I so love it. Congrats on your new site!

    Janet, So glad you signed up!

    Marnie, You should've seen the first draft of this post. I had to make myself be positive so the rant will wait for another time perhaps. I totally understand.

    Twincapes, You bet. It is something I wish had been passed on to me when I was a new blogger so I ALWAYS suggest it to newer bloggers.

    Jen, Awesome!

    MMD, People toss all sorts of cool things. I collected the plain window and made the display on it. It was not like that when tossed:) Great post on the houseplants. Wowser on the comments.

    Mom, I vaguely remember the litter. Such a shame for sure. I plan to compost my shredded paper soon! I must first shred it though. Procrastination is not my friend. Every time I come up there I am always behind with the way you all recycle. You guys do it right up there!

    Skeeter, I remember the center right around the corner. A big one too. Yes, do cancel your trash service. It will save money for sure. We take all of ours. You are one of the most organized people I know because while you do not have clutter-you have TONS of stuff yet your house is picture perfect!

    Marmee, It is wet indeed!

    Catherine, Glad you like it all. It is nice seeing the big picture of the walk to someone's home. You'll know mine if you ever get here and I know yours:)

  20. What a great post! I love that you listed so many different ways that you and others can reduce, reuse and conserve. One thing you mentioned about planting trees struck a note with me. In AZ we use air-conditioning to survive our hot summers. It bothers me that many homeowners do not have any trees planted to help shade and cool their home. Thank you for reminding us of what more we can all do.

  21. Really great post Tina. Love your walkway picture - so many beautiful flowers.
    I've been doing freecycle for a year or maybe two now. It's a good thing.
    Lots of good information here for everyone to read!
    Oh and thank you so much for the nice compliments you put on Catherines post and mine of us meeting and having our plant swap.

  22. Great topic, tips and cause. I love your front door garden.

    Our big thing is passive solar. We overpaid so much last year on the 12 month "average" payments -- they took us off the program when we used so little compared to other households. We haven't had to pay a natural gas bill in 6 months as they have been repaying us. Our December bill was negative $20 (a credit) as they are still paying us.

    Same with our electrical. They took us off the 12 month plan in order to credit back all of our overpayments. Running our house is cheap!

    We also use florescent lights, make our own sparkling water and soft drinks (no plastic or glass bottle or aluminum cans).

    I garden without chemicals and have a rain garden -- that is busy now filtering all the runoff from the rain ALL day.


  23. Tina ~ you are doing an awesome job! This is a very comprehensive list of how you're reducing your carbon footprint. If only we all were doing what you do, the earth would breathe a sigh of relief. Love that window frame ~ I think you need to do a separate post on that ~ what do you think? and your garden is gorgeous ~ so inviting to walk to your front door.
    ps I did realize about Tatyanas giveaway (I think I left her a message ~ I better go check) I was very excited!

  24. ps I forgot to add, that I don't see much litter along our roadsides in Colorado ~ not sure what makes the difference but that is a pet peeve of mine too. I don't know why anyone would purposely "dirty" our world.

  25. I've just discovered you wonderful blog via Jan(ThanksForToday)'s and have been having a wonderful time exploring :)
    I'm always on the lookout for more ways to lessen our impact on the environment and will have to find out if their is a version of 'freecycle' in my part of Aus.

  26. After your list of sustainable practices, I feel pretty good about my efforts. We recycle so heavily that we barely make any trash, I just bought a compost tumbler, our heat is kept low and our AC is kept high. No rain barrel, yet! We're working on that one.

  27. Wow Tina,
    You really do a lot! I will have to post something on what my family does. I think it is so important for us to do the 4 R's, as you so wonderfully put it!

  28. I just had to come back tonight and say something I did'nt think of this morning. There are companies that take the recycled glass and crush it up to like a very fine sand and they make a paving compound with it to pave driveways and are also using some in highways. Our town office has a walkway made with it. Awesome things are being done.

  29. Excellent post Tina I'm all with you!

  30. What an excellent post, Tina! You've given much food for thought here. I grew up in a household where "repurposing" was a way of life, and I've always kept (way too much) stuff "just in case":) But I could do more, and I appreciate all the tips you've given here.

    Every time my husband mows, we have to pick up beer cans and other debris out of the ditch by the road--grr, that makes me so mad!

    I agree wholeheartedly that small steps taken by everyone could make a huge difference. And your garden is laughing out loud--beautiful!

  31. I want to participate in that meme, too, but I also hate the idea of writing a really long post (which it would have to be). You cover a lot of what I also do, so that's great! :)

  32. Thanks all. If you want to participate-go for it! You get a chance to win some nice prizes and get the word out.

    Now Monica, You know I am long winded-not all of the posts need to be so:)

  33. Excellent post, Tina. I had an astonishing discovery when I was in Missouri/Kansas two summers ago for a brief visit: there's no great promotion of recycling. The woman I was staying with drank bottled water and diet coke by the caseload and simple threw her bottles out. I, so used to years of recycling, kept looking for recycle bins in public spots, etc, but never saw any. It amazes me that something so simple isn't promoted more in some places.
    My dishwasher has two hands, a crew cut, and also does laundry. :-)

  34. Jodi, Your dishwasher sounds too cute and probably works really really cheap. Lucky you!

  35. Tina ~ what a great post. I just joined a local Freecycle after reading about it here. I love the glass window piece, are they marbles?
    Your front garden is wonderful. I'm ready to get out and work in my gardens when it gets a bit lighter out.

    DH and I are both the dishwashers.

    We have a great recycling process here in our county. Paper goes into one bin, glass and plastics into another and pick up is every Friday.

    We also have an outdoor shower with both solar and water heater heated water.

    We have a room a.c. for our whole little place, roughly 700 sq ft., and change the filter once a month. It is also under the shade of our side porch's awning. We also have ceiling fans.

    Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving your lovely comment.


  36. Hi Tina - This is a wonderful post! And, I love your window and garden! We still have a local dump where you can go and find "stuff" It makes me sad to see how much stuff people throw away. Ted and I have actually taken visiting friends to the "dump" I call it dump shopping. I once took home a perfectly good rocking chair. I redid the cushion (easy) and cleaned it up and it sits on my porch. I have a friend who picks up bicycles and makes them over. I have instead of taking something to the dump, just posted a big free sign on my front yard and the items are gone before I know it.

  37. Flowerlady, The 'gems' in the window are actually glass gems. I purchase them at flea markets, thrift shops, yard sales and sometimes Hobby Lobby. They are fairly inexpensive. They are all hand glued then grouted into the window. I posted about my mosaics under mosaics though I've not specifically addressed the windows but huge shower doors that I did mosaics on.

    Your post was so wonderfully said and all the comments very heartfelt. I think we all get a bit ah envious when we see gorgeous homes and gardens and think ours don't measure up? But you know there is no place like home and no matter how wonderful another person's garden is, it is not mine or yours and these are the best for every single person-our own. You are up early! I hope to work outside too but it is so darned cold.

    Gloria, Dump shopping? Love it! I do this too but our dump has a bad rule-nothing leaves once it is on the property:((( I've tried to get stuff but such is life.

  38. Great tips Tina!! I love your first photo and am trying to figure out what it is ??? Something you made? Is the light playing with colors here? I too love Emerson's quote... flowers laughing... or singing... we are adding beauty and smiles to the world through our gardens. ;>)

  39. Great post, Tina! I've yet to write mine. I do much of what you list here. And look at that gorgeous garden!

  40. What i love most here is the photo of your garden walkway. The plants are looking so healthy especially the lantana blooms. The house then seems very hospitable because of the garden. thanks.

  41. What an impressive post, Tina, and thanks for reminding me about Freecycle. I'm impressed at the commenter who got a piano there: clearly I have to enlarge my thinking!

    I agree that people tend to litter in places where litter has already aggregated. I used to believe litterers were malicious horrible people, but now I've got another theory.

    I'm always amazed when I cross from Northern California into Oregon and suddenly the litter is gone. So littering is, to a certain extent, cultural, because we've got the bottle laws (which I agree do help) in both places.

    And I realized after years of policing my favorite local trails that most litterers simply do not see what's there. They're oblivious to the beauty they're throwing trash on. So maybe what we really need is to educate people to experience beauty - doesn't that sound nicer than a gulag for litterers? (even though some of us might be inclined to send them there...)