Category Archives: sustainable

Are your holiday traditions sustainably outdated?

This Word by: Ginny Torok

Holiday traditions are an important factor in creating holiday cheer. Does your family have a tradition? For as long as I can remember, Santa has left apples by our beds Christmas eve. In the morning, we awake, ecstatic for the huge red apple left mysteriously on our bedside table. When I think about this now, what a rip off – where’s the candy?! But hey, that’s one way to get kids to eat their fruit!

Family traditions have been in effect so long, no one notices their dihar need for an update, sometimes a sustainable one. We all look forward to piles of gifts under the tree, making this one of the most needed areas of a sustainable re-do. Just as you always should, think about where your gifts are coming from. The holiday season generates almost $500 billion from Americans alone. Think of how much economic growth you could create in your community if you contain most of your gift shopping within city limits. Every dollar you spend locally is more likely to get recycled through the community, resulting in a $5 to $14 value in that community!

Oh, the sweet smells of the holidays. Fresh baking pie, cinnamon apple cider, pine needles and sweet, sweet…landfill? One million extra tons of waste are accumulated nationwide during each week of the holiday period. Check out Green Solutions Magazine for some tips on holiday season recycling.

Remember, your Christmas tree doesn’t have to turn into a wasteful post-Christmas lawn decoration. Buy a live Christmas tree with roots and plant or pot it when you’re done. If you must get rid of your tree, make sure you find a place that recycles trees in your neighborhood. You can use Earth911 to find places to recycle your tree, along with all other types of recyclable materials, in your area.

Do you compete with your neighbors for the best looking decorations? This year, impress them with the best and brightest lights, when you use sustainable LED or solar powered lighting! LED lights use up to 95% less energy than regular bulbs and last up to 100,000 hours. Solar powered lights shine beautifully with no use of electricity. Also, try making your own decorations out of recycled, biodegradable, and reusable materials. See About.com Green Living for some sustainable Christmas decoration ideas.

Last, but never least, holiday food! As always – think local. Cater your holiday parties from local vendors. Leave it to us at OMPP to make your holidays delicious with an assortment of warm seasonal pies. If you wish to make your own holiday meals, remember to source ingredients from local vendors and farmers markets. See our Thanksgiving post for some tips on local holiday meals. And stay posted for an upcoming local vendor spotlight, who we think will ROLL right into your heart. 😉

Happy Holidays!

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Homemade for the Holidays



This word by: Emily Holden

Do you spend more of the holidays in your car or in stores than with family and friends? If the answer is yes, you might like to bring this Christmas closer to home by making your own cards, decorations, and gifts. A do-it-yourself Christmas will cut costs and time spent driving, and reduce the amount of trash accumulated during the holidays.  According to recycleworks.org, household waste increases by 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. This has OMPP food artisans rethinking their holiday strategies and bringing their craft skills to the holiday table.

Let’s start with the essential detail for spreading sustainable holiday cheer, the Christmas card. Holiday cards are a useful way to share your love with family and friends, and when made at home, are a simple way to lessen environmental impact. For some examples of tasteful, homemade cards, check out Martha Stewart’s tips on card crafting (Not to be cliché, but the woman knows her stuff!). As for buying the materials you need, check out stores in your area to find recycled card stock, glitter, or anything else that you can’t find at home. Or better yet, send a personalized or animated Christmas card to your friends and family using commercial sites like hallmark.com or bluemountain.com.

Next on the do-it-yourself Christmas list are holiday decorations. Here are five ideas to get you started on your homemade decoration enterprise.

1) Use your own two hands to make Christmas stockings from old or recycled fabric or felt. 2) Reuse branches from your Christmas tree to make colorful holiday wreaths and garland using a coat hanger base. More Eco-friendly wreaths. 3) Construct the perfect centerpiece for your holiday dinner table using a bowl filled with multi colored fruit from your local farmer’s market. 4) Make Christmas ornaments from natural and recycled materials. String popcorn and cranberries drape them across the bows of your Christmas trees. Or, use old greeting cards to make ornaments and even gift boxes and tags. 5) Use the pine needles from your Christmas tree to fill sacks in order to make tree-scented sachet bags.

To successfully create more sustainable, homemade holiday trimmings, here are some tips on how to reuse household items for cool holiday accessories.  Give yourself the guilt free gift of celebrating the holidays sustainably and with a little extra cash in your pocket!

When it comes to presents, one good alternative to store bought items is home baked treats. Apples are in season right now, so how about whipping up a batch of candy apples for gifts? There are many different candy apple recipes to choose from (like these recipes) and endless ways to decorate and present them. Giving the gift of homemade goods made from locally produced ingredients (and ideally served on recycled or compostable dishware) is the ultimate way to say I love you to friends, family, and the environment. Visit the Highland Village Farmer’s Market or Midtown Farmer’s Market every Saturday to get the foods you need for your homemade holiday treats.

For more homemade holiday gift ideas check out mother nature network. We at OMPP think that the best present comes from the heart of the individual and the community they support. That’s why we take care in our daily activities, as well as holiday affairs, to think local, sustainable, and inspirational.

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It Ain’t Easy Being Green

This Word by: Ginny Torok

As the little guy, it’s not easy, but we do it. At OMPP we are committed to creating the smallest footprint possible – that’s why we use biodegradable materials, compost all our waste, and support local businesses and farmers. Our question is: if we do it, why can’t they?

Being sustainable and local as a business doesn’t come easy and it doesn’t come cheap.  As a small business it can be a challenge. With fewer employees, and less money to throw around, the obstacles of being the little guy and being green can be pretty tough – but since it’s what we believe in, we go the extra mile. We have noticed more and more corporations going green and going local – we say, “It’s about time!”

Corporations have more resources, people and money, to use green practices. Businesses such as, Starbucks, HP, Coca Cola, Adidas and Walmart, have all begun to pave the path for green corporations. Starbucks and Walmart are also doing what they can to support more local artists and farmers.

Walmart recently announced its plans for sustainable agriculture. These plans will strive to put more locally grown produce in stores, and monitor the efficiency and sustainability of their produce providers.

Corporations of this size announcing dedication to sustainability and the local movement shouldn’t be so shocking. After all, these corporations are the guys with the resources to make such moves possible. Why aren’t all corporations following suit?

Our challenge to you: think about the businesses you support. Are they making moves to run sustainably, support local, or other green practices? Think there’s nothing you can do about it? Think again! Part of the reason any corporations are practicing in a more sustainable matter is because they have realized it is what people want. The people have spoken, have you?

Check out this Global 100 list of the top 100 sustainable corporations – If a corporation you support is not on this list, tell them! Like any good relationship, communication is key. Tell them what you want! Write on the customer service Web page, submit a comment in their store, do anything you can to get your voice out there – if enough people are talking, they will hear you.

With more corporations being more socially responsible, hold yourself responsible for making the right decisions too. Support the businesses making sustainable choices over the ones that haven’t stepped up. These kind of sustainable actions in big businesses are just the start. We are at the threshold of a major movement in which you can take part. Do your part.

Of course, you should always support locally owned businesses when you can, because like we said, it’s not easy being the little guy – and being green!

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Green Eggs and Easter

Hold on Easter Bunny – ditch those old wasteful Easter baskets! there is still time to make this Easter local, sustainable, and green…

First, act sustainably and reduce waste by re-using your Easter baskets. Choose a nice, high quality, wooden or tin basket that will last for years. Easter basket painting can also act as a great craft for kids prior to the big day. A neat idea from SuperEco.com is to consider growing your own grass in each basket, instead of using more non-biodegradable grass of the plastic variety. But, if you are going to use plastic grass,  save it and reuse it each year – it will not go bad!

To fill those baskets we suggest, as with most other holidays, buying fair trade local chocolates and candies. You can easily find a candy shop in Houston to buy fine, organic, fair trade candy, but if you are looking for some bags of bulk candy for the kiddos, a good place to find them is Whole Foods or the like. They will have a large selection of fair trade, organic candies. Also, think about hand making your Easter basket gifts. Can you knit, sew, or even braid a friendship bracelet? Let’s face it – kids will love almost anything fun, colorful, and sugar-filled in their basket, so why not act sustainably and save some money by making your own gifts?

Next, let’s focus on the main event – Coloring Easter eggs. Put down the food coloring and step away from the mixing table. Check your fridge for a few simple ingredients that can color your eggs any shade of the spectrum, naturally. Here is a list from suite101.com of some ingredients to make a few colors, but you can go wild with any natural dye combination you can think of: Purple grape juice (for lavender), Red cabbage (for blue), Spinach (for green), Carrot tops, orange peels or lemon peels (for yellow), Coffee or black walnut shells (for brown), Yellow onion skins (for orange), Beets or cranberries (for pink), Red onion skins (for red). Find more instructions on how to color your eggs naturally here.

We hope these few tips will get you thinking about sustainability this Easter. It is important, always, but especially during each holiday, to remember how to stay green while you celebrate. Now that you have all these tips for a sustainable Easter, go out there and celebrate, Easter Bunny style!

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Party for our Planet

Coming up soon, once again, Discovery Green will be hosting this year’s 2010 Earth Day Houston Festival. This free, family friendly, all-day event kicks off at 8 a.m. on Saturday, April 3. Developed by Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention, and Mothers for Clean Air, the collaborative event focuses on sustainable living, and educating and encouraging Houstonians to preserve, conserve and enhance the city and the Earth.

For those of you  dedicated “runners-for-the-earth”, the 5K run begins at 8 a.m. sharp. All 5K runners receive an organic cotton Earth Day Houston shirt, and are encouraged to bring any old running shoes for recycling. Along with the run, there will be a 5K walk and a Kids Run. (http://earthdayhouston.org/houston-earth-day-5k.php)

AIA’s Gulf Coast Green Consumer Exhibition will showcase green products to the attendees at Earth Day Houston. Other planned activities include, Earth Zone featuring interactive environmental awareness activities highlighting land, air, water, and renewable energy, a Farmer’s Market in support of locally-grown produce, and The Kids Energy Zone and stage. Also, some fun activities like recycled art projects, green living seminars and demos, plus live musical entertainment will make this celebration a blast! (http://earthdayhouston.org/houston-green-expo.php)

This event will surely be the party worth throwing for our beloved planet. Come show your support for this earth! Word to your Mother Earth.

For Directions and more information visit http://earthdayhouston.org/houston-earth-day-location.php

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Everything is Plastic in 2010, Even the Oceans!

The picture here is the North Pacific Gyre. A gyre is explained as any large system of rotating ocean currents, particularly those involved with large wind movements. Everything moves slowly in a gyre because of weather systems that work to reduce ocean circulation. The North Pacific Gyre sprawls across most of the northern Pacific Ocean and is currently spinning clockwise a huge collection, twice the size of Texas, of plastic, glass and other human trash.

Some of this trash, about 80%, floats out to sea from the continents, where many carelessly throw their soda cans and plastic bottles out car windows. About 20% of the debris collects from fishing boats, cruise ships, and other ocean dwellers, whether intentionally dumped or blown off board by wind. Most debris consists of small plastic confetti-like particles suspended at or just below the surface, with larger pieces floating around in the mix as well.

Finally, in April 2008 Richard Sundance Owen, a building contractor and scuba dive instructor, formed the Environmental Cleanup Coalition to address the issue of North Pacific pollution. Not only does the ECC work to remove plastic debris from our oceans, but strives to remove persistent chemicals and other organic pollutants from the water. Some other groups combating this huge garbage patch are the JUNK Raft, Project Kaisei, the SEAPLEX expedition. You go groups!

So, all this talk about plastic debris in the ocean is old news. But listen, this trash effects our lives more than we realize! The small pieces of plastic, (*shutter*) styrofoam, and other non-biodegradeables is the perfect size for marine life consumption. Much of this plastic absorbs toxic chemicals in our polluted oceans that then end up in the bellies of aquatic birds (their chicks), sea turtles, and even jelly fish and smaller fish. This means that not only is our trash, again, harming the world’s wildlife, but the chemical-absorbed trash is being digested by sea food-eating humans.

When we at OMPP heard about this polluted gyre, we felt disheartened and a little hopeless – which just fueled our motivation for better sustainability practices. We hope everyone learns about the effects of pollution in the gyre and around the world; We need to stop trash! Pollution comes full circle: Trash from our hands to the land – the oceans – the wildlife – back to our own digestive systems. Remember this; Some may see recycling and composting as a burden…but what do you think about that toxic, double TX-size pollution circle floating just west of our land mass?

For more information visit: http://bit.ly/25m0Yy and http://bit.ly/kl07w

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Forget Pink and Red: Make this Valentine’s Day GREEN!!

This year we’ve asked the environment to be our valentine!

When it comes to a holiday like Valentine’s Day, all we want to do is impress our sweetheart. Most of us aren’t thinking about the environmental impact that Valentine’s Day has. This V-Day, be creative with your cards and gifts; be green this Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day is the second largest card sending holiday, with around a billion valentines sent globally each year. Although we want you to think your sweethearts keep those cards, ultimately, paper cards create a lot of unnecessary waste. According to Rainforest Web, the United States has under five percent of the world’s population, yet consumes more than thirty percent of the world’s paper: that includes those valentines! So, cut back and choose to send cards made from recycled paper, or tree-free paper (details available: http://tinyurl.com/cfaw2l). It is easiest (and more heart-felt!) to make your own cards out of these special forms of paper. Or, just send an e-card…who needs paper these days anyway!

Chocolate: Over 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are sold each year. Imagine how much you could help to boost your city’s economy by buying that chocolate from a locally owned shop! Another suggestion is to buy fair-trade chocolates or other food products. Additionally, if you are searching for a gift certificate, make sure you are searching locally. For example, find independent spas that use all natural products. Reserve dinner plans at a local restaurant that uses organic, local, and/or sustainable products. Give an OMPP gift card (Pie is SO romantic!)

Another common V-Day gift, jewelry, will not only hurt your wallet, but comes at a cost to the environment and human life (I.E. “blood diamonds”). Gem and precious metal mining destroy thousands of acres of land a year and release harmful chemicals, needed to process the minerals, into the environment. Cyanide and mercury are among a few dangerous chemicals released in processing gold. Obviously, you can opt to not buy precious gems and metals by choosing jewelry made from nature’s other beauties like shells, glass, and wood. But if your valentine just HAS to have those jewels, find jewelers who are certified to be sourcing products that are mined with the least ecological and social harm. Or buy a unique, used, vintage piece that none of the other gals in town will have!

If you are interested in actively helping out the environment this V-day, Woodland Heights students from Hogg Middle School host a pretty fun annual event http://www.greenvalentine.org/ This 2010 Green Valentine project, they are asking for shovels, wheelbarrows, gloves, etc. and volunteers to plant trees, distribute mulch, prune, and clean up reforested areas around the White Oak Bayou. Don’t worry, you won’t have to get messy before your big Valentine’s date… this event takes place February 13 at 1 pm. Antidote Coffee and breakfast pastries by Dacapo’s will be served too! How can you go wrong?

Wishing you, and yours, a Happy Valentine’s Day! (If you don’t have a valentine this year, pish posh…the environment is your lover!)

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