Previously, this was a blog mostly to harass my poor friends and family with the details of my life. Don't worry-- that will continue. However, I'm also going to use this as a terrible forum for dialogue about green tips and eco-revolutions. Hopefully it will be helpful and entertaining...

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Recycling and reusing are awesome, but reducing is the most important R by far. Reusing often ultimately ends up in recycling, and recycling takes energy and materials. Reducing however, gets the problem at the source-- the fish rots from the head, so I say cut off the head. And, hurray, it's not that hard!

One of the top ways to reduce waste is to think about what you're buying. Buy things with less packaging and buy in bulk, bringing your own containers, whenever possible. Places like Whole Foods and Food Co-Ops are very understanding of this. I often use yogurt containers and jars as containers, so I doubly reuse and reduce! Farmer's markets are also a great way to avoid excess packaging (and transport!). Further, farmer's market sellers are often willing to take back used packaging (like egg cartons).

Fast food isn't very good for you to begin with nor is it particularly sustainable, but the huge amount of trash produced by fast food restaurants is yet another reason to avoid them. Get a good sit-down meal, where you eat off of real dishes, or be prepared with your own (way cheaper and healthier) snacks and little meals.

Similarly, I am working on always carrying a mess kit with me. That way, if at a meeting or a picnic, there are only disposable options, I give myself a better one. One of the most important parts of this kit is a travel mug. Because, inevitably, you're going to want some coffee or tea or some such thing-- have a cup ready for it! I've been trying to encourage my behavior by just refusing to get a paper cup. I just won't. The pain from not getting my coffee when I want it is enough to make sure that I'll bring a cup with me.

I also bring my own grocery bags everywhere. I always have at least one in the car. It's not just for groceries-- it's for any store where you might get a bag. Yes, including the mall. If you really don't want to bring your own bag, you can also use one bag for purchases from multiple stores.

Buy less. Buy used. Both of these things reduce waste.

Don't buy a magic doggie bag dispenser thing. Use the plastic bags you're already bringing into your home. It's effectively free and cuts down on a huge amount of waste.

Stop using paper towels. This is something I'll be doing in the next few months. There are a few prongs to accomplishing this goal. First, get some cloths for cleaning in the kitchen and bathroom and such. I've heard good things about Trader Joe's Cleaning Cloths, so I plan to get some of these and try them out. Second, keep some absorbent rags around (old towels or tee shirts perhaps) for big spills. Finally, keep any plastic bags that were just going to be thrown out around to pick up gross stuff. Rags can be washed in the washing machine as usual-- possibly with some extra vinegar or borax to kill any germs.

Similarly, make your own adorable hankies and hankie-holding tub.

Bring your own towel or washcloth to the gym, if they don't already require it. Use that to wipe down machines rather than a disposable tissue.

You need to clean, of course, but how 'bout reusing all your handy cleaning gadgets, especially things like Swiffer mops? As an added bonus, it so darn cute!

Avoid all those little uses of paper. For directions, use a GPS if possible (a great excuse to get a new gadget) otherwise write down short directions on scrap paper. Use scrap paper or cereal boxes to write down grocery lists on rather than buying a special grocery list pad (or at least fully use each piece of paper by re-using it over many weeks). Ditto for little sticky pad notes and memos to yourself.

Buy chop sticks and straws that are re-usable to avoid that constant waste.

For $41, you can get rid of catalogs and junk mail for 5 years-- and about one-third of that fee is donated to environmental agencies. And that's $41 per household, not per person. Besides saving the environment and saving you time, this also cuts down on the potential for identity theft. Did I mention it's really easy to sign up?

Alright, boys, get ready to get over your squeamish sides. You were carried in a womb for roundabouts 9 months, so I'm allowed to talk about menstrual cycles if I want. You don't have to read about it, though. Ladies, I've recently tried the Diva Cup. Basically, it's a silicon cup that you put on up there and it collects all the blood and gunk. You empty it at least every 12 hours (I think they suggest more like every 6 hours), clean it up, and put it back up there. A lot of the EWWW ICKY factor, if you think about it, is probably similar to what you thought when someone first explained tampons to you. This is better, because it can stay in for 12 hours and is (I think) less likely to cause TSS because it holds the gunk inside the cup rather than up against your skin. Further, if inserted correctly, there shouldn't be any leaks. Admittedly, you have to be pretty comfortable with reaching around in there. However, once it was in, I couldn't feel it at all. Sadly, due to my attempts to balance my fear of not getting it in far enough and my fear of getting it stuck (which is actually pretty impossible-- it will gradually works its way out after about 12 hours or you can just squeeze the same muscles as if you're having a poo, and it works its way out), I didn't have it in quite right. Then I had to go tromping about urban streams for two days, so I opted to give up on it for that period. I was also told that, sadly, Castile soap can possibly damage the integrity of it... I found that out after I used Castile soap once, so hopefully that one time won't hurt it too much. Instead, I got some Soft Soap with Aloe Vera, which I was told would work-- the Diva Wash also seems good, but a bit expensive. On that note, to be warned, the Diva Cup is around $30. But I think they say you can use the same one for about 10 years, so it probably pays for itself eventually. Have you tried it? What did you think?

So that's the three basic R's. What's next??? Oh, there's plenty more out there. Don't you worry...

Re-Use Addendums

Some extra thoughts on re-using...

Plastic bags can also be used for dog poo and, generally, picking up any yicky thing that you might ache to use a paper towel for.

Prescription bottles can also be used as a handy change purse in bags. Also, I really love using one as a jewelery holder when I'm on-the-go. I put my favorite necklace in an old, clean sock, wrap it up and put it in the prescription bottle. It keeps it from getting scratched and ensures it won't fall out into the bag somehow. Plus you can decorate them with stickers!

Finally, I rubberband balls aren't exactly reusing anything (unless you use a plastic tab to start it), but it does keep rubberbands together in a simple, organized way that looks neat.

It's been a week... What have YOU found to reuse?

But What is KAYLEIGH Doing???

Hey all,

You're probably wondering what I'm up to... Here 'tis:
  • I've finished finals and did fantastically in my first year.
  • I'm starting my summer research, which means I've been spending a large amount of time both staring at GIS models in the lab and wading through urban streams in the Research Triangle. Both have been a lot of fun...
  • Sadly, many people here graduating or moving to the Duke Marine Lab at Beaufort, NC. It's great that people are moving on to new things, but sad that I won't get to see them as much.
  • I'm currently working on becoming a Girl Scout co-leader and will hopefully find a troop over the summer.
  • Finally, I'm trying to be more health-conscious. Specifically, I've been using two Apple-cations (get it??? like for my iPod Touch...) called "Eat Right" and "Eight Glasses a Day." "Eat Right" is a good way to make sure I'm getting the right servings of vege, fruit, dairy, protein, and grains. Yay me! "Eight Glasses a Day" is, unsurprisingly, a simple way to make sure that I'm getting at least eight glasses of water. I usually shoot for way more than that, though, because my body apparently really enjoys being dehydrated. I'm also trying to get better at putting on moisturizing lotion with sunscreen in it daily and coating myself in sunscreen whenever I'll really be out in the sun for an extended period of time. Even on rainy days. Even in not-summer.
That's pretty much it for now. Lots of fun things coming up and to be posted soon.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


One of my favorite parts of reducing my waste is reusing, because it basically gives me a chance to get real crafty- and organized-like. I think the best way to start reusing is to be more aware of what you're throwing away. Whenever you throw something away, think if there is another potential use for it. Sometimes the answer is "no"-- but a lot of times the answer is "hmm... let me go poke around on the interwebs" or "actually, that fits a need of mine"! Those are happy times.

Here are some of the best re-uses I've found:
  • Twisty ties (from bread bags and the like): If you're very adventurous, you could knit yourself a plant cover. Or, more simply, I can vouch for these being really great for identifying keys! I have front and back door keys that look exactly the same, and I'd spent the last eight months or so cursing them every time I had to open my door. This solution is free, good for the environment, won't wear off, and can be felt in the dark. Plus, it looks snazzy:
  • The... uh little square bread tabs (do they have a name???): I've used these to label cords with, rather than wrapping tape around them. Again, free and helpful. And not so sticky:
  • Note: both of the above items also make great stitch counters for you knitters out there!
  • Glass jars: Simply fantastic for organizational purposes. I should have taken a before and after picture of my cabinet, but simply taking things like cotton swabs and bandages out of their original packaging and into cleaned jars has made a huge difference. Plus, since the jar is clear, you can see exactly what's in it.
  • Old prescription bottles: Sadly, these are rarely recyclable (as far as I know). However, there are many options for their reuse. Some of the best ones are as holders: for quarters in cars, small stuff like sewing needles and thumb tacks, an easy jewelery holder, a good way to hold bandages or tampons that preserves their integrity or a teeny first aid kit. I read online the idea of giving them to smokers to drop their butts in to (rather than on the ground), but a smoker friend of mine pointed out that smokers who don't care enough to drop their butts on the ground probably won't care to deal with it anyways. Nonetheless, I plan to harass people I know about it-- cigarette butts cause all kinds of nastiness for wildlife. These can also be great ice packs-- put some water in and stick 'em in the freezer, and they can be used for small boo-boos or for lunches. I wouldn't pull the ice cube out of there to use, just because there may be chemicals from previous RX's or the plastic itself. Finally, if you are not a crafty person, many vets, animal shelters, and homeless shelters will accept them as donations. So see if your local ones do, and you can be both environmentally and morally fantastic.
  • Wine corks: Oh the huge number of these I have hanging around... Again, craft-ibilities abound: cork board, trivet, place holders, and even more!
  • Beer caps: Much like wine corks, there are a lot of options once you start looking: boot scrapers, checkers, table tops, or coasters.
  • Onion and orange bags: These are great to wrap around sponges, tie with a twisty ties, and use as scrubbers.
  • Non-recyclable plastic tubs: Another good organizational holder. I also use some for plant watering and in-kitchen compost collection. However, I would only use them to plant non-edible plants in: I worry about the plastic degrading and getting into the plants.
  • Plastic bags and wrappings of all shapes and sizes: Until I train my kitty to use the toilet (you think I'm joking? oh no, just wait till this fall), I have to toss out her poo every day or two. For that reason, I getting plastic bags now and again when I went to the store. However, I realized that is lame. And then I started noticing how many plastic bags I just toss sans poo: large chip bags, cereal bags, bread bags, the list goes on. I've started saving them, and now it's not a problem. I'm also going to try using the same bag a few nights in a row to fill it up before tossing it-- I'm going to keep the poo in the bag inside of a box some kitty litter came in to avoid the smell getting bad. Updates to come...
  • Food scraps: Compost!!!! More on this to come...
  • Dryer lint: Dryer lint can be used to make papier mache, clay, or paper as a neat craft. It also can make a great fire starter or be added to compost. You can also use it as soft packaging for small fragile things. I would caution against two uses I've seen on the internet: as bird or squirrel nesting or as stuffing for children's toys. Someone pointed out that lint does not dry quickly, so providing it to animals as nesting could get them soaked and potentially kill them due to the cold. Further, lint is extremely flammable so not so great for toys.
A lot of these ideas are fun, but you may be thinking to yourself, "Look, I only have so many needs for prescription bottles." Well, you, that's a good point that I'll be discussing more in my next bloggy entry. However, another good idea (depending on the item) is to re-use something in a way described above, but give it as a gift rather than keeping your eco-genius to yourself. Plus, it might get that person thinking about how they can re-use their own waste.

In some of these ideas, I've written about donating items as re-using them. Don't worry: there will be a whole separate blog entry about how and where to donate unwanted items.

Do you have other ideas? AWESOMER ONES??? Think any of my ideas or opinions were so very clearly absurd? Lemme know. The comment button is for just that...

Monday, May 04, 2009

More Thoughts on Recycling

...because you really can't have enough. Yesterday I tried to post some of the basics. Today, I thought I'd try to point some of the less obvious aspects of recycling.
  • You can't recycle pizza boxes-- At least not most of them Earth911 has explained why, which makes a lot of sense. They point out that, if you can rip out the food- and grease- contaminated parts of the box, you can recycle the rest. However, I'm not convinced that recycling places have the time or manpower to check to see if you've done that or not. It's worth checking with your local recycling center. Myself, I think I'm going to try to see if pizza places might let me bring in my own container. I'll let you know how that goes... And I'll be making my own delicious pizza more often.
  • Another side note... you know that handy little recycling triangle of arrows? It doesn't mean that the container is or is not recyclable. It's just a symbol used to say: "I am this type of plastic!"
  • I also wanted to let people know that, although you should do a quick rinse of recyclables and make sure to get any huge clumps of food out, don't waste water (or your time) getting them perfectly clean. Recycling centers wash everything out with some fantastic high-powered water, so by fully cleaning your own containers, you really are wasting water. Specific for you drinkers: you don't need to get the lime wedge out of the bottle for them to recycle it... Happy day!
  • Yet another reason that green can still mean being lazy: You don't have to take labels off containers! Again, don't waste the water or the time. Just rinse it quick and chuck it in the (recycling) bin!
  • Greasy plastics generally aren't going to get recycled-- so things like peanut butter jars should really just be tossed rather than wasting water on something that will just get thrown out
Even MORE information can be found over at Confessions of a Closet Environmentalist, but it seems like the best thing to do is to contact your local recycling center and ASK, if you are at all unsure.

Don't let all of this overwhelm you. It's good to focus on one aspect every week or two-- like making sure you know the rules for plastics and are following them. The next week or month you can focus on metal containers. Don't get discouraged if you think about how much more there is to learn or do. Instead, stay focused on how much you ARE doing already and the steps you're taking to increase it in the future. Doing anything is better than doing nothing. And, of course, doing nothing is actually doing something huge: throwing away everything is a pretty big action. Recycling even a little and working to something larger is great, compared to the alternative.

I'm sure there will be more recycling tips, but I hope to move on to reusing next...

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The First of Many Green Tips: Recycling

Many green and eco bloggers out there have written about the importance of staying motivated and being aware of how awesome you are for trying to green your life-- basically, making sure you don't become discouraged. Just like exercise and diets and any other semi-daily habits, it's something that you have to work at every day but also be proud of what you have already done every day. That's what I tell myself, anyways.

For that reason, instead of trying to tackle the goal of BEING GREEN, it seems wiser to give yourself a specific goal-- you can feel that you're making a difference in that area rather than feeling the huge amount of stuff you've yet to do.

With that in mind, my main goal for right now, until I've feel I've accomplished it is to THROW AWAY AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE. Interestingly, as I've learned, this encompasses a huge number of strategies, boiling down to reduce, re-use, and recycle.

In that spirit, I will now begin my eco-tips for reducing your own waste...

First, and foremost, I suggest looking up the recycling tips for your county or city or whatever. To be an honest, as an ecologist and lifelong recycler, I kind of figured, "eh... I already know all that stuff"... Turns out, I... uh... don't. I realized that it makes so much more sense spending energy once or twice to be sure to understand the rules, than to waste time every single week preparing objects that can't actually be recycled. That energy could be spent in so many better and efficient ways... The following are things that I, personally, found out about my LOCAL recycling (it really does differ from place-to-place, so it's worth asking the questions to find out the specifics for you):
  • First, some basics: rinse your containers and flatten plastics and paper as much as possible. Paper products without food on them and metal cans and such are generally fine. Plastics type 1 to 3 (found in the awesome little triangle of arrows somehwere on the container) can typically be recycled. Beyond that, it's good to check with your local recycling.
  • Bottle caps are generally not recycled-- and in fact, as my friend Katie informed me, some places actually do not accept containers that still have their caps on. So be sure to take the caps off
  • If possible call ahead to check and, if they say it's okay, turn the hard plastic caps in to your awesome local Aveda store.
  • Shredded paper, in a paper bag, can be recyled in some areas, but not everywhere-- check with your local recycling unit.
  • Junk mail envelopes-- even those with windows in it-- can often be recycled.
  • It's important to keep your paper and cardboard recycling in a dry area previous to leaving it out on the curb. Many places are unable to recyled previously moist paper products, as far as I can tell.
  • Any paper products with paint or food or any such contaminating-type substances is generally not recyclable. Sadly.
  • Aluminum foil can be recylced, if it doesn't have food or grease on it.
  • There are also a lot of items that can (and SHOULD!) be recycled through local drop-off stations-- printer cartridges, cell phones, BATTERIES, shipping peanuts, plus of course household items that can be donated to places like the Salvation Army and Goodwill.
I'm getting together an email with about a million questions to my local recycling center to ask about a lot of these specifics. Never be afraid to ask such things, via telephone, email, or searching out at a booth at a fair. To be honest, they're usually very excited and encouraged that citizens are interested in their work and regulations-- everyone I've talked to has been about as nice as you can be.

I'd also like to point out that, as I realized what was and was not acceptable for recycling, I changed some of my consumer choices. For example, things that came in cartons, like orange juice, I started buying in jugs, which are recyclable in my area. There's clearly many other aspects involved in such decisions (which I'll get to in future blogs, don't you worry!) , but this is a darn good place to start!

Finally, I really like being able to SEE my differences so easily: the amount of waste going into my trash can has already decreased a lot and I can SEE it. Personally, that is an awesome accomplishment that I feel every day, as I open the trash can less and less.

Hope you enjoyed my first post! Let me know what you think and if you have recycling tips... Coming soon, reducing and reusing and a google-ton of other ideas!


With Earth Day, this year, I did what a lot of people did-- heard the green tips, looked at the green blogs, and rode my bike. But I also searched out green blogs and crafts for fun, and all the sudden I found myself thinking about a million little ways that I could make teeny, tiny changes that would add up to something more.

And, in response to that, I gnawed on my poor boyfriend's ear for a few hours each day, until he finally started reminding me of my long-neglected blog. Unlike Matt, I am not smart enough to write for an awesome online source and get paid for time. Instead, I'll just slave away for fun.

Here's my basic plan, in case you're interested... I really just want to start a blog filled with small tips on 'being green', as the kids say. My goal is to search out different eco-tips, especially those that are TINY changes, and try to be yet another source of such information. I'll, of course, also be linking to awesome blogs I find. And, I hope, you all can comment on my thoughts, and let me know about other blogs or tell me when my tips are not quite right or could be improved. To be honest, the main goal of this blog is going to be to keep me motivated in my green-ness. And it would be nice to have some company...

So it begins.

Previous to now, almost all of my blogs have been focused on just keeping my family and loved ones informed about my banal, but loveable, doings. However, with Earth Day, I've recently been feeling the call to eco-reform and search out simple, easy ways to be more eco-friendly. As a plus, most of these are almost much more economical. In response to those feelings, I'm going to attempt to use my blog as a way to tell my friends and family the neat tips I find-- plus, you poor folks will be forced to listen to fewer eco-rants. Potentially. We'll see.

I'm also hoping, to be honest, that having more of a focus to my blog will encourage me to update it more regularly... you may have noticed I'm not great at that currently. However, I'm constantly finding fantastic eco-ness and wanting to share them with others. Thus, I'm hoping it will come more naturally-- To be sure, talking about myself on the internet does NOT feel normal.

However, I quite understand if you hav eno desire to read my eco-tips. Well, I don't understand, but it is your prerogative. So, I'm going to make sure to label all the posts about me and my life as "kayleigh", and all of the eco-awesome as "eco" -- along with other, more specific tags. So, if you scroll down and look on the right, you can select the tags you like and read any subject you desire. Or, as is hoped, you can read or skim through all of it.

Much love to all. I'm excited and hope you are and hope it keeps up...

However, to let you all know, and to stop any confusion, I will be tagging things carefully. Those about just me and my life will be tagged "kayleigh", while eco-awesomeness will be under "eco". That way, whether you prefer hearing about me or hearing about being green, you can make your own decision. I certainly hope you want to hear about all of it, but I understand either way.

Let's hope that you're excited and that my momentum keeps going...

Friday, May 01, 2009

The 2008 - 2009 School Year in One Blog!

Hello out there all my fine people! It has been approximately forever since I last wrote on this blog to update all my beloveds (and anyone else out there on the interwebz) about my super exciting life as a graduate student! Well, let me get you up-to-date, and then I have an awesome announcement about the future of this blog (and why I hope to update it more often)....

In order to keep this interesting, I shall utilize the minimalist formatting of "bullets"

September 2008
  • Matthew came down for my birthday, and what a birthday was had
birthday cupcake and coffee-- for breakfast
  • I came up to see the New York Football JETS play an awesome game, back before the horror that was the 2008 season truly began.
  • I looked longingly into Matt's eyes, knowing this he was really going through with this whole 'grad school in England' thing:
October 2008
  • The awesomeness of the Jets continued somewhat unscathed
  • I adopted the cutest kitten ever: Miss Annabel Somers, also called Banabel, Banana, Nanner, Nan, Nannerpuss, and the ever-popular "GET OUT OF THE DRESSER"
  • Halloween came and went-- I actually spent that night watching Goosebumps, building an IKEA dresser, and having a glass of wine. Needless to say, it was lovely.
November 2008
  • I saw a really awesome Decemberists show with Jenna, Jordan, and Marlie. I believe I touched Colin again, which made my oh-so-schoolgirl heart cheer with joy. However, no pictures were to be had due to... us being lame and forgetting our cameras. Also, Jenna and Marlie were found to be very poor at following directions and/or common sense. This was not surprising.
  • Thanksgiving! It was awesome! We ate food! It was awesome!
  • I'm sure something else important happened... What was it... Oh yeah! GOBAMA!!!! I should really type something more thoughtful or thought-provoking, but basically I was just really happy. And still am.
December 2008
  • December was hectic, and not just due to finals (all A's, yay me!) and traveling up and down the eastern seaboard.
  • I also got to see my mother, my baby nephew: Chris, and my nephew's lovely parents (also known as my sister, Antonia, and my brother-in-law, Mark... but let's stay focused on the cute bundle of joy, shall we?)
proud new grandmother and baby

proud new aunty and baby

proud new family with baby (please note Mark's awesome shirt: "The angels have the phone box"-- if you don't know what this is from, your life is sad)

proud new Jets fan...
  • Plus I had about 8 Christmases-- one with Mum, Antonia, Mark, and Chris; one with Dad, Marlie, and Jordan; one with Matt's close family; and multiple with Matt's extended family.
  • Matt's family was especially wonderful and inviting and gave me a chance to see Matt at his best:
January 2009
  • Back to the grind! Three new classes: Biogeochemistry (the science of the entire world in tiny little bits of awesome), Wetlands and Stream Restoration Ecology (all the details of my research), and Spatial Analysis (awesome statistics that could blow your mind)
  • I also got to TA an Intro Environmental course with a ton of wonderful undergrads and a semi-deity of ecology and nicest man ever, Norm Christensen
  • Plus I re-potted my sweet plants
February 2009
  • Matt and my's TWO year anniversary, spent far apart but in love nonetheless
  • Continued the grinding
March 2009
  • We had a gorgeous, and rare snow day down here in NC
  • It was also Jenna's birthday, AND Marlie applied for (and got, of course!) the Humanities Scholarship at UMBC
Jenna, current Humanities Scholar

Marlie, future Humanities Scholar
We are a serious bunch.
  • That strange man, Matt, showed up again. We had an epic Baltimore and Cumberland tour of awesome.
  • A high point was seeing "Tis a Pity She's A Whore" at Center Stage which was so fantastic, and we got to go with Los Humanitios
April 2009
  • Guglhupf, a fantastic bakery in Durham, makes bunnies for Easter WITH SUGAR BUTTS. To be honest, the bunny didn't impress me too much (unlike most of their pastries) but was worth it for the cute-factor

  • Got to see the FANTASTIC AND ORGASMIC (if you don't know who he is, check him out! for your own sake!) Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3 in Carrboro, an area that requires more inspection
  • That Matt person showed up AGAIN. This time at my house in Durham.
finally fulfilling one of the promises our relationship is based on, Matt made me an Epic Cheese Plate that I could eat every day (and did for about a week)
  • We also ate multiple awesome meals and went to a few fun bars
  • I ate in the same room as Robert Redford and NEARLY got my pic with him
  • I went to Ben and Jerry's for Free Cone Day and got a card for one year's worth of 10% off at B&J's
  • Attended 3 or 4 end of year / beginning of summer parties that were all fantastic
May 2009
  • I continued the epic end-of-year party crawl
  • With the beginning of summer, I've been able to bike more regularly and go to the famous Durham Farmer's Market, which consists of everything good in the world, including the Scene of the Crime Rovers by far one of the coolest bands ever.

And with that, I have updated you to the present time. The next blog post is going to be legen- wait for it...