Being a Conscious Consumer – Greener Gifting This Holiday Season

Are you asking, just what is a conscious consumer? Well, it’s someone looking to have their purchases reflect their standards and principles. In some cases this is easier than in others, depending on access, information, interest, and time. Some of the elements to consider when thinking about whether you’re purchasing is in alignment with your values are as follows. Do you know how and where the item was manufactured? Are the materials renewable, environmentally friendly, recyclable, reusable, or simply waste at the end of the life of the product? Do the company’s values match yours? Is handmade and do you know the creator? And so on. You may create your list of “must haves” when shopping for items. This certainly may be an unfolding process too, where you refine that list as you become more intentional about the gifts you give.

As we move into the Holiday Season, our minds become focused on gift giving as our lives become inundated with holiday ads and promotions. As a culture, we’ve come to believe that we should show our affection for friends and family by gifting them items. We are all quite familiar with this process. Perhaps you are also familiar with having too much “stuff”, a situation many of us are in. It’s easy to accumulate items that don’t contribute to happiness and well-being. Perhaps this year, we go about gift-giving in a slightly more intention manner.

Thrift & Secondhand Shopping – Your dollar will go further purchasing gently used. Other benefits – you’ll find one-of-a-kind items, you aren’t directly supporting the creation of those goods, you are keeping items out of the waste stream, and depending on your favorite store and it’s affiliation, you may be funding the mission work of a non-profit (i.e. – Goodwill, Salvation Army, Common Goods, etc.). A great suggestion from HDT Staffer Nora, is to search out board games and/or movies that you enjoyed as a child, they make great sentimental, special gifts for new generations. Plus playing those games with the recipients is interactive and memorable.

games2 by patrick q

Credit Patrick Q via Flickr Creative Commons

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Preparing Equipment for Winter

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On the cusp of winter, it’s time to put away the lawn care tools and equipment and bring out the snow removal tools and equipment. Depending on the size of your lawn or driveway, this may be a simple and easy job or one that is difficult and a hassle. We’re Minnesotan, it’s part of the deal! In our household, Mr. Man is the primary caretaker of equipment, regardless of season. For your information (and mine!) I asked him what he suggests regarding preparing equipment for the winter ahead.

The equipment we’ll address includes lawn mower, weed whip, backpack blower, and roto-tiller, though the suggestions below apply to essentially all small gasoline engine power tools.  While not all these pieces are standard for each home, they definitely are in ours, not exclusively because Mr. Man used to have a lawn care business. And certainly partially because he is a mechanically-savvy-motor-head that loves to have the aid of machines in accomplishing outdoor projects. “Every job goes better with the appropriate power tool” he says.

He began by relaying that all small engines – likely your lawn mower, weed-whip, backpack blower, and roto-tiller will all require a few treatments to keep them in prime running order for years to come. While not all of these steps are critical they are an investment in time and materials for the safe, long-term, use of equipment with fewer costly repairs and replacements. If you aren’t comfortable performing these tasks personally, local small engine folks can winterize your equipment on your behalf, for a fee.

  • Fuel stabilizer is a must to keep engines happy. Before our discussion, I thought the best tactic for gas machines was to drain the gas before winter. Turns out, as I learned, that’s not a good idea. Instead, add the appropriate amount of fuel stabilizer for the size of the gas can. And if possible, fuel your equipment with stabilized gas while still using during the last month before winter. He additionally recommends storing equipment with full [stabilized] fuel tanks. *Note, small engines should be fueled with non-oxygenated/normally 91 octane fuel. This is important because the ethanol in typical 87 octane can make fuel system components brittle and the alcohol can contribute to moisture and corrosion in the fuel system. Additional fuel note – modern gasoline has a short shelf life where it begins to degrade within ~1 month (if not treated with stabilizer) regardless of time of year. Final fuel note, if you have an engine that requires mixed gas but your use of that piece of equipment is limited consider purchasing shelf stable mixed fuel from an auto parts or small engine store.
  • Drain and refill oil tanks. This is important to do as oil that is exposed to internal combustion has acid and contaminants in it that can be potentially harmful if they sit in the engine. Many folks think to change the oil in the Spring before seasonal use but the strong suggestion here was to do it in the Fall because oil has three jobs: to lubricate, help cool the engine, and keep the engine clean. Summer use has made that oil dirty, don’t let it sit in there. *Note, if you are working on a 2-cycle engine you will not have a separate oil tank as they operate with mixed gas (a mixture of oil and gasoline).
  • If there is an external spin-on oil filter, change that at the time you change the oil. Equipment that has a pressurized oil system will likely have this external oil filter, like many riding lawn mowers.
  • Clean or replace air filters. If you have a foam filter wash with warm water and mild detergent and let air dry. Before putting it back onto the equipment, reapply the air filter tack oil. If your air filter has paper elements it will need to be replaced. Filters (and filter supplies) can be found at auto parts stores.
  • Fogging, perhaps like me, you’ve never heard of this! Let me tell you more. To fog, the engine must be running with stabilized fuel long enough to be warm. Fogging oil is sold in spray cans, again available at hardware or auto parts stores. Once the engine is warm and before you’ve finished the above step of reinstalling the air filter, spray fogging oil into the carburetor in small bursts. After a couple of those applications, attempt to kill the engine by spraying fogging oil until the engine dies as it can’t burn off the amount of oil you’ve applied. *Exhaust will smoke significantly in the fogging process. If you aren’t able to kill the engine with fogging oil, release the safety handle or turn off the engine then spray while the engine stops rotating. The function of fogging oil is to prevent rust on internal engine components that don’t get engine oil. An additional location to consider spraying fogging oil is into the upper cylinder head of the engine. To find this, remove the spark plug and spray into space inside. Pull start-cord a couple of times to distribute that fogging oil. These are quick “cht-cht” sprays of the fogging oil. Replace the spark plug. *Note, the internal protection that the fogging oil provides may prove to be damaging to the spark plug so in the Spring they may need to be replaced.

A bonus note about lawn mowers, while you (or your trusted equipment maintenance team) are putting the mower to bed for the Winter – also consider sharpening the mower blades. Sharp blades cut the grass and dull ones tear the grass. Torn grass looks browner and more unhealthy on your lawn.

This is by no means a comprehensive maintenance list for all the equipment in your life, but this hopefully can help you go into the Winter season with greater confidence in the Spring performance of your equipment. We wish you luck with end-of-Fall wrap-ups!

 

How to Handle the Harvest

So you’re drowning in vegetables?! It’s that time of year! A few things to keep in mind: a. You likely chose this situation (signing up for the CSA, planting the garden, buying at the Farmers’ Market/Farm Stand, leaving your car door open), b. It can be managed, c. You are not alone! Welcome my friend, we’re in the same club.

There are options for how to handle the overabundance that is likely pushing against your fridge door’s capability to seal (or is this just my fridge?). Eat right now, eat soon, or preserve/prepare for later consumption, or find a new home – these are the options we’ll be addressing.

Eat Right NOW

Salsa – Fresh garden salsa might be one of the reasons I survive winter each year. The gorgeous variety of tomatoes and peppers can wow any audience. *Plus, you can can OR freeze salsa! Continue reading

Less Plastic

With Earth Day right around the corner, it’s a time when many pay extra attention to the Earth. It’s an opportunity to take a look at habits in your life that are supporting and even promoting plastic use. Yes, it might be time to consider your plastic consumption a little closer. We have a duty as global citizens and consumers to be making wise choices for the sustainability of the planet. Just as you “vote with your fork” when it comes to food (farming practices, ingredients, food miles, etc) and you “vote with your dollar” when it comes to products, clothing, and supporting organizations and initiatives. Our choices are often equivalent to a “vote for the environment or against it”. So why focus on plastic? In short “If nothing changes, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish (by weight).” 1 Perhaps you’ve heard there is an island of plastic trash that is floating in the ocean. “It’s a dubious honor, but humanity has managed to amass a giant trash mass about twice the size of Texas, or three times the size of France, or about 1,600 miles.” 2 This isn’t a benign issue; aquatic animals are consuming this plastic and a growing number are dying because of this. Beyond that, if you eat fish – you too might be eating small bits of plastic.

There are simple and often repeated suggestions like declining the plastic bags at the store. *Did you know that many stores have bag recycling somewhere on their premises? But far before we get to the end of a purchase and bag selection, we make choices that support a clean planet in the future.

Some New and Some Tried & True Suggestions –

Think twice about buying pre-bagged {manufacturer-bagged} vegetables or those that are wrapped in cling/saran/plastic wrap on a styrofoam tray. Additionally, instead of pulling down and using a new plastic bag for your produce – consider reusing the ones from your last trip. *Keep reusable produce bags (plastic or cloth) in your reusable shopping bags then they’re ready for the next trip to the store. Also, when buying just one (or two) of something – skip the bag.

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