My First Christmas Tree

This year I bought my first Christmas tree and like everything I do, it had to be sustainable. It was surprisingly easy. I found a company at the local farmers market that rents out living trees. They deliver it in a big pot (with dirt and all) and pick it up after the New Year. It was bit pricey at $80.

Next we bought red berries ($5) and baby sprouts ($3) from the flower vendor at the farmers market. A little red and white to trim the tree. Some pine cones from a hike a few weeks back. A wreath for the door ($15). And then all the ornaments we could scrounge.

The hardest item to find was a proper tree skirt. The selection and quality from the online stores was scary bad. The big box stores all had factory stamped expensive skirts ($100+). I was looking for a little holiday style and so I headed to the Renegade Craft Fair and found the perfect skirt for $48.

Add a few presents and it’s the perfect Christmas tree – supported by local artisans, farmers, and startups.

Some photos of the journey.

living christmas tree just delivered

Our living tree was just delivered – you can see the dirt on the pot.

 

final version of the christmas tree 2013

The final version of the tree with all the trimmings.

 

christmas tree skirt renegade craft fair 2013

Our Christmas tree skirt at the Renegade Craft Fair.

 

 

top of the christmas tree

Close-up of the top of the tree – you can see the red Brazil berries and the white baby sprouts.

 

wreath on our door

And our natural wreath on our front door – purchased at the farmers market.

 

halloween-pumpkin-teeth

Vindication

It had been four years since I was at the dentist. And in that time I completely changed how I take care of my teeth. No more toothpaste. Recyclable toothbrushes. Reusing floss. It was a test. Could the most sustainable path also be the healthiest?

Vindication. The answer was a resounding ‘hell yes’. The dental assistant was extremely impressed with my teeth and the dentist spent just a few minutes with me. A quick inspection and then a clean bill of health. Best of all, neither of them noticed that I wasn’t using toothpaste. It was as if toothpaste didn’t matter…

I was worried that dropping toothpaste would irreparably damage my teeth. Nope. My teeth are better than ever, even after four years!

I didn’t set out to do this. I only wanted a recyclable toothpaste tube. I’m trying to live zero waste and I needed a way to not landfill those toothpaste tubes. All my research revealed that the toothpaste industry doesn’t care about recycling. None of them were making, or even considering making, a recyclable tube.

It seemed like the only option was to make my own toothpaste. Baking soda & coconut oil – are the best options. And a sprig of mint or something similar for taste. That seemed like the ideal solution, until I found this random thread on the internet. For every 2-3 blogs I found with homemade recipes I would find one talking about ditching toothpaste. Each one with a similar story to mine, “I wanted something healthy for my children, so I tried homemade, then tried nothing, and my kids teeth improved!”

Very strange. I never considered getting rid of toothpaste. I thought it was the main cleaning agent. But the more I researched it, the more it became clear. The simple act of brushing and flossing does everything you need. Toothpaste was near useless, in some ways bad. Why add all those chemicals if you don’t need them?

Remove tartar and plaque or whiten your teeth. You don’t need chemicals for that. During my dentist visit I was so interested in my teeth that I almost exasperated the dental assistant with my questions. We went into the finer mechanics of brushing, proper care of the gums, how to prevent tartar and plaque, and even how to keep your teeth white if you’re a coffee drinker.

Through all that, toothpaste never came up. It was weird. The dentist indirectly agreed with me. You can do everything your teeth need, without toothpaste. So why use toothpaste?

Well, the other side to this debate is fluoride. Most dentists agree that fluoride is very helpful for cleaning teeth. But we only need a tiny amount and not all the time. Maybe once or twice a week. And it turns out that water in America is treated with fluoride. So we are getting regular doses of fluoride on our teeth. Which has ignited a public health debate about the value of the cleaner water vs the effects of fluoride on our bodies.

So why then does toothpaste have more fluoride in it – because it cleans teeth. And it is just as unnecessary as all forms of toothpaste. So why not join me, ditch the toothpaste, save your money, and experience cleaner teeth.

If you do try it, here are some tips:

  • Get some baking soda – keep it handy. About once a month I use that on my teeth for a full “bleaching”. But don’t overuse – it wears down your teeth.
  • Floss every day – single greatest threat to your teeth, so my dentist says.
  • In between your teeth is a triangle space – cover that space by flossing up/down on the inside of each tooth.
  • When flossing go into the gums a little – keeps ‘em clean and strong.
  • Brush your teeth by completing tiny circles with the brush – don’t use long back and forth movements that is the least effective method of brushing.
  • After you drink coffee – drink some water to prevent the coffee from sticking.

 

Photo by Robert S. Donovan

A Clean Life – 3.0

After many months of sitting idle, A Clean Life is returning. I have many ideas I want to bring to life, but for now this is a simple blog. I plan to write about eating seasonally and living zero waste. There are a surprising amount of challenges and insights in doing so.

This is version 3.0 of A Clean Life. You can see the new design for the site. It is the newest theme from WordPress, called Twenty Twelve, and it is a fully responsive design. Which means that it looks great, probably better, on all mobile devices. I think we are entering an era where mobile readers will become more important than desktop/laptop readers.

It’s also a minimal design which fits my aesthetic. I hope it fits yours too and welcome to ACL 3.0.

Earlier Versions

My first post was on March 6, 2009, and titled Founders Note. At the time I was using ACleanLife.org as the “company” site and blogging over on GreensAlmanac.com. I liked the idea of splitting them up, but I really had no idea what I was doing. That was version 1.0

Soon after I switched to the popular (at the time) magazine-style WordPress theme. I liked the ability to display multiple posts and have many columns and sections. It never worked very well and it seems like I’m not alone as magazine-style themes fade into history.  That was version 2.0:

a-clean-life-screenshot-version-2.0

A travel guide for farmers markets

I’ve always wanted to write a book about the best farmers markets in the America. A travel guide for foodies and locavores that would be part travelogue – because I do plan my travel around farmers markets – and part guide-book for those needing basic details, facts, and photos.

I would cover the biggest market in every city, and there is always one big market. A place that draws all the attention and energy of the city, which includes live music, civic issues and crafts, kids and petting zoos. These are typically on weekends and draw huge crowds, like a bustling bazaar in the Middle East.

Of course that always leaves room for the little market that could. Which draws few crowds and even fewer farmers. But it is the right assortment of farmers just enough overlap to make sure you get what you need. For some shoppers these smaller, quieter markets are greatly preferred to the frenetic energy of the great markets.

I’m just getting started on this idea but I do have a few great markets that I’ve visited. They are some of my favorite places on Earth:

  • Madison Farmers Market – Madison, WI
  • Dupont Market – Washington D.C.
  • Little Italy Mercato – San Diego, CA
  • Irvine Farmers Market – Orange County, CA
  • Santa Monica Downtown Market (Wednesday) – Los Angeles, CA
  • Heart of the City Farmers Market – San Francisco, CA
  • Union Square Greenmarket – NYC
  • Pike Place Market – Seattle, WA

If you’re ever in these cities, try to visit these markets. There is no better way to hear the heartbeat of a city than through its market. Sample the local favorites and gourmet specialties, learn about the ethnic farmers in the area, and watch the rich and poor of the city as they mingle and haggle.

2010 Annual Report

When I first started this non-profit in May 2009, the most proffered advice was about how hard it would be to get tax exempt status. That turned out to be the easy part.

In 6 months we received tax exempt status to operate as a community focused non-profit. A fantastic benefit that I hope will bear fruit in the years to come.

The hard part became the most important part: learning how to impact change.

This topic is very controversial in the non-profit world. Some would say that you need a large national issue that can attract great attention,  and therefore great money and volunteers. Others, would say that you have to choose one issue and stick with it, over the years consistently building your reputation, influence, and donor base.

Most of the non-profits you know probably fall into one of these two categories.

Neither worked for me and so I went out searching for an alternative and found a movement instead. One that is fundamentally altering America at a grassroots level with success after success.

At the forefront of this movement is Yvon Chouinard, founder of the clothing company Patagonia. In his book, Let My People Go Surfing, he lays out the mindset, methodology, and most importantly the past experiences (failures) that led him to this way of thinking.

It is a fascinating discussion on business  and I definitely recommend reading the book. Also, if you purchase the book ($10) through the above link, a portion of the sale goes to A Clean Life.

A one sentence description of this method that is so packed with meaning you may have to read it twice:

“We fund at the grassroots level because we believe that action-oriented groups living and working close to the issue are the most effective at fighting for change.”

That’s exactly my focus.

In the upcoming year, we will be taking on local projects, invite in locals deeply involved in those issues, and provide them the support and funding they need to create change. The projects will be short term, although some may take years, because it’s important to have an achievable goal that everyone works, and fights for.

More to come on that to come in the strategic plan, but now time for the financials.

Income Statement

Revenues

$2,179.92 – Received as donations

Expenses

$2,120.26 – Itemized:

  • $750 – IRS fee, formation of a 501(c)3 non-profit
  • $30 – Incorporation Fee in CA
  • $56.14 – purchase website domains
  • $72 – website hosting fees
  • $170 – DC Farmers Markets Brochures
  • $175.43 – outdoor compost, backyard
  • $48.64 – indoor compost, buckets
  • $319 – indoor compost, automatic
  • $113.67 – outdoor compost, for apartments balconies
  • $62 – 6×3 banner of A Clean Life logo
  • $313.38 – event hosting fees, launch party & family/friends event

Assets

$59.66

Taxes

A great benefit to having a small non-profit means not all that much paperwork.

The established tax year for us is from Jun to May, and anytime after June (within 5 months) I submit my tax paperwork to the IRS (a postcard) and the State of CA (a few sheets). It takes no time at all, makes keeping the books simple/easy, and frees me up to get back out in the community.

Conclusion

I kept this post fluid but included all information needed to understand the operations of A Clean Life. This includes our revenues/expenses/assets, tax year, tax information, and operating strategy.

I expect that in years to come writing this won’t be so easy, so I will sign off here and enjoy the ease at which we currently operate.

2011 DC Farmers Markets

We love our DC farmers markets. We love our VA farmers markets.

The DC metro area has an incredible amount of markets and has one of the highest people/markets ratios. This means their plenty of them available to you every day (except Monday) and they are open in the mornings, during your lunch break, or in the evenings.

DC Farmers Markets

-

Fridays

USDA People’s Garden – 10-2pm – Jun to Oct
12th/Independence Ave – Smithsonian Metro

-

Saturdays

14th & U St – 9-1pm – May to Nov
14th/U St – U St/Cardozo Metro

Glover Park – 9-1pm – May to Oct
Hardy Middle School – Wisconsin/34th St

Ward 8 – 9-2pm – Jun to Nov
THEARC – 1901 Mississippi Ave SE

Adams Morgan – 9-1pm – Apr to Dec
18th/Columbia, NW

Silver Spring – 9-1pm – Apr to Dec
951 Ellsworth Dr – Silver Spring Metro

H Street – 9-12pm – Apr to Nov
625 H St, NE – Union Station Metro, (5 blocks away)

Chevy Chase – 9-1pm – Apr to Nov
Broad Branch Rd/N Hampton St, NW

Bethesda – 9-1pm – May to Oct
Norfolk Ave at Veteran’s Park, Bethesda Station Metro

Eastern Market – 7-6pm – all year
225 7th ST, SE – Eastern Market Metro

-

Sundays

Dupont - 8:30-1pm – all year
1500 20th St – Dupont Metro

Eastern Market – 9-5pm – all year
225 7th ST, SE – Eastern Market Metro

Bloomingdale – 10-2pm – May to Nov
1st/R St, NW – Shaw/NY Metro

Takoma Park – 10-2pm – all year
Carroll/Laurel Ave – Takoma Park Metro

-

Mondays

None

-

Tuesdays

New Morning – 4-8pm – Jun to Sep
36th/Alton Place – Sheridan School

-

Wednesdays

Foggy Bottom – 3-7pm – Apr to Nov
Foggy Bottom Metro – 2400 I St/New Hampshire

Health and Human Services – 11-2pm – May to Oct
200 Independence Ave, SW – Federal Center Metro

Crossroads – 3-7pm – May to Oct
7676 New Hampshire Ave, NW, Takoma Park

-

Thursdays

Penn Quarter – 3-7pm – Mar to Dec
8th St, NW, between D/E St – Chinatown Metro

White House – 3-7pm – May to Oct
810 Vermont Ave, NW – McPherson Sq Metro

-

VA Farmers Markets

-

Fridays

McLean - 8-12pm – May to Nov
1659 Chain Bridge Rd – Lewinsville Pk

-

Saturdays

Arlington Market at Courthouse – 8-12pm – all year
Courthouse Metro (1 block south)

Old Town Alexandria – 5-11am – all year
Market Square/City Hall, 301 King St
*(free parking in Market Sq garage during market)

Del Ray Alexandria – 8-12pm – all year
East Oxford & Mount Vernon Ave

Vienna – 8-12pm – May to Oct
131 Church St

-

Sundays

West End Alexandria – 9-1pm – May to Nov
4800 Brenman Park Drive

Columbia Pike – 9-1pm – all year
Pike Park in front of Rite Aid, South Walter Reed/Columbia Pike

-

Mondays

None

-

Tuesdays

Crystal City – 3-7pm – May to Nov
Crystal Drive – 18 to 20th St

-

Wednesdays

King Street Alexandria – 3-7pm – May to Oct
1806 King Street, King St Metro

Clarendon – 3-7pm – all year
Clarendon Metro

-

Thursdays

Rosslyn – 11-3pm – May to Oct
Wilson Blvd/N. Oak St – Rosslyn Metro

Ballston – 3-7pm – May to Oct
Wellburn Square, 9th/N. Stuart, 1 block south Ballston Metro

**photo by Clara S.**

Winter Farmers Markets for DC, VA, MD

It’s the end of November and all my favorite markets are closing!

As we say goodbye to our favorite vendors it’s time to prep for Winter. Here is a brand new list of Winter markets, updated from last year, and now including our local coops and organic markets (bottom half of the page).

Also, this is the time of year when Dupont becomes the best market around, less crowds and better vendors, it’s my favorite winter market.

—-

DC


Sunday

Dupont Circle — 10 -1 pm — 20th and Q St NW

Palisades — 9 -1 pm — 48th Place NW and MacArthur Blvd

Eastern Market (outdoor market only) – 7 -4 pm — 225 Seventh St SE

Saturday

Silver Spring Market — 10 -1 pm — Ellsworth Dr (Fenton St and Georgia Ave) (Silver Spring Metro)

Sheridan School — 9 -1 pm — 4400 36th Street NW (36th and Alton)

Eastern Market (outdoor market only)  – 225 Seventh St SE

Friday

Horace Mann — 3:30-6:30 pm — 4430 Newark St NW (by American Univ)

—-

MD


Saturday

Great Frederick — 8 -2 pm — 797 East Patrick St (fairgrounds)

Kensington — 8 -12pm — Howard Ave (Kensington train station parking lot)

Twin Springs Fruit at Bethesda United Church — 10 -2 pm — Fernwood Rd and Democracy Blvd

Sunday

Bethesda Central — 9 -1 pm — Bethesda Ln between Elm St and Bethesda Ave

Takoma Park — 10 -2 pm — Laurel Ave between Eastern and Carroll

Wednesday

Twin Springs Fruit at Concord St. Andrew’s Church — 10 -2 pm — Goldsboro/River Rd

Thursday

Twin Springs Fruit at Goddard Space Flight Center — 10 -2 pm

—-

VA


Saturday

Old Town Alexandria — 5:30 -11 am — 301 King St (City Hall)

Arlington Market — 8 -12pm — North Courthouse Rd and 14th St (courthouse parking lot)

Del Ray Alexandria — 8 -12pm — East Oxford and Mount Vernon

Falls Church — 9 -12pm — 300 Park Ave, City Hall parking lot

Leesburg — 9 – 12pm — Virginia Village Shopping Center, Catoctin Circle

Oakton — 10 -2 pm — Unity Church of Fairfax, 2854 Hunter Mill Rd

Sunday

Columbia Pike — 10 -1 pm — Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Dr (in front of the Rite Aid)

Wednesday

Clarendon — 3 -7 pm — Wilson Blvd and N. Highland St, Arlington (Clarendon Metro station)

George Mason Univeristy — 11 -2 pm — Southside Plaza

—-

Coops!

Takoma Park – Silver Spring Coop

Two Locations both open 9am – 9pm everyday

Silver Spring

8309 Grubb Road, Silver Spring, MD 20910

Takoma Park

201 Ethan Allen Avenue, Takoma Park, MD 20912

—-

Bethesda Coop

6500 Seven Locks Rd - Cabin John, MD 20818

8:30am – 9pm (sun open till 8pm)

—-

Glut Food Coop

4005 34th Street, Mt. Rainier, Md. 20722

Opens at 9am daily, closes at 8pm on Tue-Fri, and 7pm on Sat-Mon

—-

Maryland Food Collective

B0203 Stamp Student Union, College Park MD 20742

M-F 7:30am – 3pm, Sat 10:30am – 5pm, Sun 12-6pm

—-

MOM’s Organic Markets

*the only organic markets that commits to buying local and quality*

All stores open 9am -9pm, except Sun 10am – 8pm

Alexandria

3831 Mt. Vernon Ave, Alexandria, VA 22305

Bowie

6824 Race Track Rd, Bowie, MD 20715

Frederick

5273 Buckeystown Pike, Frederick, MD 21703

Jessup

7351 Assateague Dr. #190, Jessup, MD 20794

Rockville

11711 B Parklawn Drive, Rockville, MD 20852

College Park

9827 Rhode Island Ave, College Park, MD 20740

—-

Photo by Andrew Bossi

What’s Worse Our Normal Water Pollution or the Gulf Oil Spill?

A lot of us can’t ignore the devastation in the Gulf and want to do something to help out. Maybe fly out and volunteer or donate money. Here is another alternative.

After browsing the news articles I came upon the following photo created by a scientist already in the Gulf studying Dead Zones:

So, what’s worse the Dead Zone or the Oil Spill?

At first, it may be hard to tell. The Oil Spill is continuing to grow and may not be stopped for a few months. The oil will be washing ashore or getting out into the Atlantic.

On the other hand the Dead Zone occurs every year and not just in the Gulf. They occur in every river, bay, lake, and in both our oceans. The cumulative size of all the Dead Zones in our waterways makes the Oil Spill seem paltry.

With this in mind you can do something right now to help out. You can help prevent the dead zones from occurring in your local water spots. Here are two ways that can create a permanent long lasting change that will not only help your own community but your health and pocketbook.

The first thing you can do is reduce your water needs. Pull less out of the faucet and send less down the drain. Doing so will lower your water/sewage bill and their are so many easy ways to save water at home.

The other way to buy local or organic food. That’s right agricultural waste accounts for just as much pollution as humans do. It is part of the irony of the food movement and especially the organic movement. Organic was originally started for just this reason, to save the environment. Yet most of us eat the food because it taste better, is healthier, and cheaper (by quality).

Here is an opportunity for all of us to help the environment in a way that provides multiple benefits. Cleaner water, healthier bodies, and lives in balance.

Plus, maybe just maybe an opportunity to swim and play in our favorite waterways.

This has been a dream of mine for longtime.

Airline Industry Accounts for 2% of Global Warming, CO2 Emissions

I’m attending a forum on IT Government Leadership learning about the NextGen program from the FAA. This billion dollar program is modernizing our airline transportation through GPS, weather forecasting, digitizing the analog, and much much more.

The environmental impact of this program primarily concerns fuel use. Doing so though updating and simplifying flight routes, allowing for glide paths to landings (instead of stop-n-go). The net benefit should mean lower fuel costs for airlines, maybe lower ticket prices, and definitely less fuel use. This picture highlights the expected fuel and time savings of the program:

Environmental Impact of NextGen FAA Airline Modernization Program

The NextGen program takes their commitment to the environment one step further focusing on expected growth and global warming.

“The net system-wide effect cannot be offset by increased growth. Additional measures are needed, and we are aggressively pursuing these measures under NextGen.”

This means quieter and cleaner aircraft using clean energy and a portfolio program “to mature and accelerate promising new technologies”. They are also partnering with the ICAO and international aviation group bringing together the world’s airlines to focus on Global Warming.

The ICAO presents the data sets that show the airline industry contributing 2% of global warming. The FAA has partnered with this group to commit to increasing fuel efficiency by 2% every year from 2009 to 2050.

These days it is still surprising to find groups like these working towards saving the planet, but someday soon it will not be surprising it will be expected.

Tips for the Farmers Market Diet

It’s farmers market season and everyone is feeling the pull toward the street markets. Shopping at them can be confusing and overwhelming. To help you get through the season happier, healthier, and with more money in your pocket, here are some tips.

Cost

Every newbie to the markets talks about cost. I call it the supermarket hangover. They have trouble understanding why they should pay more. Isn’t food at the supermarket and the farmers market the same?

Definitely not. The supermarket food is priced correctly, cheap because it is cheap food. It has low levels of nutrients, vitamins, and other essential health elements. Which results in shoppers buying 2-3 times more than they need to and all of the weight problems associated with it.

Farmers markets food is high quality, or it can be. The point of these markets is to get you food when it is of the highest quality (fresh, in season, ripe). If done right you will find yourself eating much less food and the smaller amounts should help your budget and your waistline!

Fake Farmers Markets

I always try to warn folks about the fake farmers markets. You can easily spot a fake market by looking for the fruit and vegetable stands. The best markets have a good assortment of fruit/vegetables compared to everything else (bakers, cheese, meat). The worst markets have a surplus of dessert vendors and folks selling meat, bread, and cheese.

Now I have nothing against meat, bread, and cheese. I buy my fair share at the market. The problem is with markets who make no effort to balance their offerings. Folks need to be able to find healthy delicious fruits and vegetables, beyond the loaves of bread and steaks.

Foggy-Bottom-Farmers-Market-brocolli-radish-DCAnother type of fake farmers markets are those with no standards. Places that allow folks to buy from supermarkets or wholesalers and offer them at the market for a mark-up. Places like this really make me angry since they are using the market prestige to swindle customers.

Typical markets are “producer only” which means that farmers can only sell what they grow. To figure out if your market is producer only you can look it up on their website, ask the market manager or the vendors, look for/read their signs. In fact, you want to shop at the places with more signs and more transparency. A good rule is that if they aren’t telling you then don’t trust them.

The Back-up Store

You love farmers markets but it’s monday and no markets are open on monday. Stayed late at work or slept in. It happens to the best of us. Here are a few options for supplementing your farmers market diet.

Get to know the bulk foods in the bins at your local health food stores. They are often the freshest, cheapest, and healthiest items in the whole store. I regularly buy rice, beans, and nuts at my local store.

Another, but more limited option, is the local food at supermarkets. Stores like Whole Foods and Mom’s Organic Market tend to carry a few local items. Usually greens and mushrooms. Which can make for a great salad especially after a slight saute and some balsamic vinegar. They also offer local eggs and milk.

Finally, look around for your local food coop. These are community formed grocery stores that allow you to choose what they stock. Many of them are locavore havens but not all. If you happen to have one close, join-up, get the member discount, and make sure they know how much you love local foods!

PS – my local coop is the TPSS coop :)

photo by mastermaq