Tag Archives: sustainable

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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A Green Halloween

This Word by, Emily Holden

Break with consumer tradition this month by celebrating the holidays in healthy and sustainable ways.  In honor of Columbus Day, celebrated yesterday across the nation, we at OMPP are keeping the spirit of exploration alive by discovering new and environmentally friendly ways to have fun over the holidays.

Halloween is almost here! Have you started planning your eco-friendly entertainment? I know that it is weeks away, but celebrating traditional holidays in unusual ways requires some preparation. It’s worth it for you and the environment! Halloween is in the running for one of the most excessive and unsustainable holidays, with consumers spending millions of dollars on candy and often unsustainable, non-biodegradable products that will only be used once. One of the best ways to save money and become a smarter consumer is to plan your purchases ahead of time to avoid buying unnecessary items. Necessity is the mother of invention and Mother Nature needs us to be creative!

Start thinking about ways to make this Halloween…green. By preparing for this exciting day in advance, you can find clever ways to make this Halloween fun for everyone without creating excess waste. To get you started, here are a few ideas for “green” Halloween costumes and goodies.

First of all, think about the costume that you or your children will wear. Be it a witch, goblin, or a Lady Gaga costume, you can easily find ways to use recycled fabrics and materials to create your outfit. Search local thrift stores for used costumes or reusable fabrics to save money and turn old materials into original creations. For a few ideas, see these homemade costumes that range from the human Etch A Sketch, to a handmade crocodile and more unusual costumes.

Also, consider household items that you can turn into costume accessories. Get crafty with the kids by using recycled plastic products, and old arts and crafts material to create Halloween decorations. Use costumes from previous years or trade with friends. For costume swaps in your area, check out greenhalloween.org. Although the swap in Houston appears to be “private,” this is the perfect opportunity for you to arrange your own swap among friends and neighbors. If that seems like too much work, try the site’s online swap. Use your imagination and have fun being so resourceful and clever!

If you’re going to carve pumpkins, why not use the whole thing? Consider turning your jack-o’-lantern leftovers into delicious homemade pumpkin pie and roasted pumpkin seeds. If you’ve never made pumpkin pie from scratch, here’s a great recipe. Also, once your jack-o’-lantern’s sinister grin turns into a soggy scowl and the flies begin to swar­­m your front doorstep you may think it’s time to finally toss it into the trash. But here’s a better idea. Compost it! If you’re not an active composter, but want to learn more about it, take a look at our previous post, or COMpost if you will, that explains the composting process. Speaking of delicious pumpkin treats, be on the lookout for OMPP’s pumpkin pie, during our fall menu…

Don’t forget about snacks and candy to hand out this Halloween! NatureMoms is a great source for healthy and homemade ideas.

These are just a few ideas to fit you October festivities into a sustainable lifestyle, but there are an infinite number of ways to celebrate in eco – conscious ways! Let your conscience and creativity be your guide this month and bravely start your journey towards a sustainable lifestyle.

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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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Filed under Go Green, Go Local, Green, houston, Independent, Local, oh my pocket pies, organic, sustainable

Sustaina-Bowl

With the super bowl right around the corner, we’re all going crazy about who the better team will be – saints or colts?! Or we’re just excited for commercials and high calorie snack food. Staying green around this time of the year may be the last thing you want to worry about while planning your party, but its easier than you may think!

First, we have put together a collaboration of some of the best sustainable and local recipes we could find. A great way to be sustainable for your super bowl party is to “think veggies”. Of course we don’t mean you can only eat veggie trays and crackers. The super bowl deserves some heavy, cheesy snacks – Hey it only comes around once a year! Planet Green has some yummy, filling, veggie recipes for this super bowl like, Baked Potato Skins, Mini Calzones, and Upscale Nachos (these are not your average every day nachos!) Check out those recipes here: http://tinyurl.com/yc5z69u Mother Nature Network also has some delicious sustainable recipes including hearty Vegetarian Chili and flavorful Hummus: http://tinyurl.com/ykshg9m If you just can’t have your super bowl party with out the meat, check out this delicious sounding recipe for Chicken Kebabs with a Yogurt Cilantro Sauce: http://tinyurl.com/ybby86b Use all organic chicken for a perfect party meal. Hungry yet?

Also, keep in mind, “local, local, local”! Make sure you know what veggies are in season in your area and try to use those as main ingredients. Some good veggies this season in Texas include, broccoli, greens, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes! Mmm sweet potato fries with ranch dressing dip – perfect for your party! Use our favorite site for finding your state’s in-season vegetables: http://tinyurl.com/ylkagau If you live in Houston, shop for your fresh vegetables at the Highland Village Farmers Market http:/hvfm.com/

Now, what kind of serving dishes are you using? If you answered styrofoam or plastic, get off our page! – Just kidding, but really…don’t use those! Opt for something more sustainable, like biodegradable or paper plates. These can be torn up and thrown right into your compost, if you have one. If you don’t have a compost, paper plates are still better than styrofoam for numerous reasons such as, styrofoam’s hazardous effects on our health and its inability to biodegrade quickly (see our previous post all about this dangerous plastic). At OMPP we use all biodegradable materials – even down to our cups. Check out http://www.greenhome.com/ where you can order large numbers of sustainable party plates and drink ware for some pretty good prices.

Lastly, anytime you’re throwing a party, consider local and/or organic beer and liquor. One of our favorite local Texas beers is Saint Arnold: Learn more about them and their brewery http://www.saintarnold.com/ We found this blog: http://tinyurl.com/8grvj3 with a great guide of a few organic liquors.

As planning any party can be stressful, we hope our tips can help you to plan the perfect super bowl party this year. Your friends will be GREEN with envy (…sorry, had to)! Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, safe, sustaina-bowl 2010!


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Filed under biodegradable, Fresh, Fresh food, Go Green, Go Local, Green, Healthy food, houston, Houston Food, Local, local houston, oh my pocket pies, organic, sustainable

Get in the Holiday Spirit…Locally!

These holidays don’t spend your money on gifts bought from chain stores – instead opt for an all local holiday! What is the big deal about all local shopping?…Shopping at locally owned businesses puts three times more dollars into our local economy!

In fact, a study found that of $100 spent at a local business, $45 stays in the community, whereas $100 spent at a chain store only puts $13 back into the local economy. In addition shifting just 10% of your shopping from chain stores to locally owned businesses adds $244 million to our local economy annually.* This means you could support a local sustainable economy for your community just by buying less gifts from chains and more from local businesses!

Local businesses don’t just contribute to the local economy, they help build the character of the community. They are owned by our neighbors, relatives, friends, and us!…don’t you want to see us succeed?! Since local businesses contribute greatly to the social, and cultural strength of the community they are a necessity in creating a unique community.

This holiday season we challenge you to eat, drink, and buy locally! Incorporate as many fresh and local ingredients from farmers markets or locally owned stores into your holiday meals as you can. Buy most of your gifts from locally owned businesses. Many local farmers markets sell goods like glass, art, clothes, jewelry and more…buy your gifts at the market! Out of town friends and relatives would love an authentic Texas gift, like an assorted coffee basket from Katz Coffee, found at the Highland Village Farmers Market on Saturdays. Dine and drink at only locally owned restaurants and bars. Even host a local holiday party with drinks made from locally bottled liquor, brewed beer, and wine! This holiday season, give back to your community!

For more information about supporting local businesses for a sustainable community economy, see these sites:

*http://www.amiba.net/

http://www.livingeconomies.org/entrepreneurs/sustainable-agriculture

To find local independent Houston businesses:

http://www.houstongreenscene.org

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Filed under Go Local, houston, Local, local houston, oh my pocket pies, sustainable

Hazardous Leftovers?!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! We can all begin to look forward to the next week of turkey sandwiches and other assorted leftovers – which presents the topic for our post, leftovers (and their containers).

We all love breakfast leftovers, be it turkey and cranberry sauce, or last weeks enchiladas. But what we are keeping those leftovers in? – and are those containers hazardous to our health and our environment?

Anytime you go out to eat and box up your leftovers, pay attention to what the containers are made of. Most dining locations are still using to go containers made of polystyrene, better known as styrofoam.

Styrofoam is made of a chemical called Styrene. Styrene is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the EPA and by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. These chemicals have the capability to leak into our food, especially when heated – which can threaten our health, immune systems, and even reproductive systems!

Not only is styrofoam bad for our health, but a study by the EPA in 1986 labeled the production of styrofoam as the 5th largest contributor of hazardous waste. Though the production has undoubtedly slowed since the late 80s, The National Bureau of Standards Center for Fire Research identified 57 chemical byproducts released during the combustion of polystyrene foam. These chemicals are released into the air, so even if we are steering clear of styrofoam products, we are breathing in their pollution every day!

Styrofoam products are made with petroleum, another heavily polluting, non-sustainable substance. Also, the use of hydrocarbons in styrofoam releases them into the air, and when mixed with nitrogen oxide in sunlight produces tropospheric ozone – a serious pollutant at ground level. In fact, the EPA found “In animal studies, long-term exposure to high levels of ozone has produced permanent structural damage to animal lungs while both short and long-term exposure has been found to decrease the animal’s capability to fight infection.” In short, styrofoam’s air pollutants damage our immune system too! Yuck!

Lastly, styrofoam obviously pollutes our planet in the form of litter. All plastics account for 25 to 30% of space in our landfills – because of their extremely slow capability to biodegrade, especially styrofoam. Since this material does not turn into bio matter, it breaks into pieces that spread across our planet, often harming and choking animals causing eventual starvation.

Many cities and countries including Taiwan, Portland, OR, and Orange County, CA, have even outlawed styrofoam. While we wish all of America would follow their lead, until then, people should be educated on the harmful effects of this product. Now that you know some of the facts, do yourself and the world a favor; stop using styrofoam!

At OMPP we use all biodegradable packaging. But we suggest carrying your own containers with you when you go out to eat, incase you need to take home leftovers from a restaurant that does use styrofoam. Get in the habit of keeping a few containers somewhere in your car for anytime you need them. The extra bit of effort is worth it for your health, and the environment.

However, if you happen to acquire some styrofoam, or have any in your house now, it can be recycled per se. It can not be made into any other product, only broken down for packing purposes and other uses. It can be difficult to find a place to recycle your styrofoam, but every pound of polystyrene recycled is a pound of new polystyrene that doesn’t have to be created. Use the search on www.earth911.com Enter polystyrene and your location in the search boxes to find a list of recycling centers and businesses that will accept styrofoam. Note: be sure to enter “polystyrene” rather than “styrofoam”.

What to do with Styrofoam: 1) Break it down and use it for your own packing. 2) Many craft stores have use for styrofoam; try dropping some off at your local store. 3) The Alliance of Foam Packing Recyclers will find a use for your styrofoam when mailed to them. Visit  http://tinyurl.com/yeg8mkb for more information. 4) Also, you may be able to sell a large collection of styrofoam. Visit http://tinyurl.com/ybeussc to search for a list of different polystyrene buyers.

If you are interested in more information on polystyrene please visit: http://tinyurl.com/d4vdsm and http://tinyurl.com/2kllte

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Filed under biodegradable, Go Green, Green, sustainable