Freecycle: keeping the landfills emptier

5 10 2011

I’ve been thinking of changing the name of this blog to SleepDeprivedMom or MommySeriouslyCouldUseSomeSleep, but that would not be concordant with the green living theme we have going on here.

Today I wanted to talk about Freecycle. Freecycle is a local community-based group that has as its main objective to keep usable things out of the landfills. We are living in a society that uses and discards a lot of things that still have their fair share of use in them, sadly, if you take a look at the dumpsters of your neighbourhood you will see furniture, electronics, clothes, etc. many times rotting away int he rain, while there is nothing wrong with them. The idea behind Freecycle is that someone else could use what you don’t need anymore and keep it out of the landfills.

Not only it has an ecological basis, there is an economical basis too,  since the premise is that everything has to be given away for free, no charging, no exchanging either (though they emphasize that their main goal is not to get stuff for free, but to keep stuff out of the landfills). Oh! Yes, there is also a convenience factor, such as you can give away things you cannot bring with you to your next house or you that just don’t want anymore, and people will pick up from your house! Of course the quality of the things will depend largely on the standard of living of your community, but I find that people are quite honest about the condition of the items they are giving away. There might be someone out there that like to refurbish computers or redo upholstery.

How does it work? You join your local Freecycle network on yahoo groups and receive emails with the tings that are being offered or wanted. Some communities have a rule that you have to give first, before asking to receive, however you can receive from someone that is offering.  Make sure you read the rules of your community and it’s all good! We have received wonderful furniture: a desk, bookshelves, a bed frame, a vintage dresser with a matching end table, all in good shape. Also as importantly I have given away furniture, paintings, clothes, miscellaneous small items. It is nice to know that not only my still in good shape clothes are not in a dumpster or rotting (or worse, not rotting!) in the landfills and that some new college student could get started with a kitchen set.

Things to keep in mind:

You will be dealing with strangers, so be safe, do not put yourself or your family in risk.

Sometimes people are irresponsible and they would not show up to pick up something, leaving you waiting forever. I find that saying in the original message that you will report “no shows” takes care of this quite well, since “no shows” can be banned from the network.

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I find this is a great way to get started for a young couple or a college student, not to mention to help those that need it too! Go ahead and check your local Freecycle, maybe what you were planning to put in the trashcan could have a second life!

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Supporting your local farmers with a playful twist

6 09 2011

As I mentioned before through this blog, supporting your local agriculture is fundamental for the development of the economy in your community. You can do this by buying in farmers markets and stores that you know that sell local produce, but there is another way of doing it that we choose and I actually find it a lot of fun, and that is to subscribe to a CSA. A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a consortium of local farmers that prepare boxes that either are delivered to you or you pick up each week (or twice a month, it depends on the deal).

My husband and I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables and we find that there is not really such a big price difference with the supermarket, especially when you factor in that most of the produce that we get is either organic or naturally grown. There might be some disadvantages to this, as in you pay up front for the season, or you might pay in installments but you are locked in, and you lose your share if you are not in town that week, except if you arrange before hand with a friend. Your share also is affected by the weather conditions, since it’s local, and you do not get to pick the produce. For example, this summer has been killer for us in PA, and our shares show it! Last year we got all kinds of things that we have barely seen this year. Additionally you don’t choose and you get what you get… which for me is part of the fun of the CSA.

Forbiden Rice Puding recipe given by our CSA.

Our CSA is Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance, it includes over 10 different farms (and one of them is a consortium itself) and Ms. Karlin Lamberto does a great job at keeping in touch and informing us of what we are going to get in our share each week. I get really excited about fruit and veggies, so this for me builds anticipation, and I love it! as one of the improvements this year, they have set up a blog in which you can see what you are getting each week and they share recipes that include some of the produce you would be getting. I have discovered many a new recipe that I’ve loved, and I have faced the challenge of eating things that I did not like, because of course you do not want to waste what you’ve paid for! This has built me greatly as a cook… I’ve had to find ways of making fennel or broccoli likeable for us! And I’ve discovered that I actually do like eggplants 🙂

We also have discovered things that we had never eaten before (kohlrabi?) either because we did not know how to cook or because it was too expensive in the supermarket. You also get to eat the prime of the season and incorporate a wide variety of nutrients, which is always good for you. Additionally we get cheeses and herbs about every other week. Coming the end of the season we also get apple cider (one of the few things with nutrients I could take when I was in my first trimester) and apple vinegar!

Penn’s Corner also holds farms stands through the year. You can find a lot of produce that they will have and order before hand for pick up at the market. They have suggested extending the shares into the winter, which I would love to see happening, but so far they run from early spring to November.

Living in the Pittsburgh area? Consider giving them a try next year!





Farmers Market Cooperative of East Liberty

26 08 2011

Open since the 1940’s all year round, the Farmers Market Cooperative of East Liberty operates on Saturday mornings from 5 AM to noon, on 344 N Sheridan, across the Home Depot parking lot. It is an indoor market, so they can be there during winter too. I love that they are open in the morning, while most markets open in the afternoon, but don’t go in at 5 AM if you want to find all the vendors, nor after 10 if you want to find enough produce; the best time to go is around 7 to 9 AM.

Farmers Market Cooperative of East Liberty

I don’t think I can recommend this market enough. There is a wide variety of fresh produce and a meat stand, of course, plus a stand with Amish crafts and home made goodies. Products form India, bread, and a coffee stand (Yes, so early in the morning it would make sense!) established two years ago but recently expanded. And that is only one of the things that the owners (the farmers, since it is a coop) implemented for people to be comfortable. There is also a bike rack and a parking lot for you to leave your vehicle of choice. And the coop is always looking for sustainable  products to sell that benefit the producers, as olive oil from California or coffee beans from Jamaica. Of course, being opened all year round, some of the produce will not be local, but if you ask you will be told in all honesty what is local and what was brought from where.

If you want any of the great specialty meats that they carry you should be wise in placing an order before hand. The lambs, rabbit and other specialties are limited and they might be gone if you just show up to get some. Instead, place an order by Thursday and pick up on Saturday. At the meat stand I learned the difference between Canadian bacon and “our” bacon, because all the vendors are so nice! They all took a moment to chat with me and were very friendly. It was a bit crowded, so the stroller might not have been the best idea, next time I will bring Ignacio in the carrier instead.

My favourite? Infused honeys! Never heard of them, and I have to admit that I was reluctant of rosemary-garlic honey, but it was so good! Also, different kinds of hummus (hummuses, hummi?) to try! So here is a thought, if heading for a party this Saturday, why not pass by the market and bring hummus and infused honey to the host?





Bloomfield Farmers Market.

15 08 2011

Since I was in the early stages of my pregnancy I was not able to exercise because of medical reasons. That was a bummer, since I was so ready to run a 5K being pregnant (yes, Pittsburgh zoo, I had my eyes on you!). That would have been so cool! Nearly 12 months later I still feel quite out of shape but finally I’m hitting the road and walking as much as I can, and to keep myself from routinely walking the same streets over and again, I decided to hit some of the numerous Pittsburgh’s farmers markets.

In the heart of Bloomfield, Thursday afternoons.

Two weeks ago I needed to go to the post office and since the office is in Bloomfield I took the opportunity to visit the Thursday’s market and introduce Ignacio to the greatness of buying local.

The Bloomfield Farmer’s Market meets on Thursday from 3:30 to 7:30 PM at Cedarsville and Friendship Ave. Across the street from the Groceria Italiana, a block from the heart of Bloomfield. The offer is quite diverse, there are pieroguies and kettle corn being made in front of you (and smelling so good!), a stand with herbs, several stands with produce, some organic, some not, there are flowers being sold, bread and pastries.

The produce looked great, some of the zucchini was about as long as my forearm! and the same for the eggplants, they looked great to make some yummy eggplant Parmesan! Because I am weak for cool stuff I bought some red okra, I had never seen red okra before! So I got some for my husband, who’s Cajun and has not had some real okra in a few years (it scored me some gumbo, yay!). Do you want peppers? They have them, all kinds. Fruit? Delicious! The peaches were just perfect.

But the bread! Oh, so good looking and delicious! The bread was something to consider, and at the same price that you would buy a sad and much smaller loaf at the

Look at the red okra, behind the green okra! And all those colorful tomatoes! By far my favourite display in the market.

supermarket. I did not get to try the sweet baked goods… I

am trying to go back in shape here! 😉

I might start to schedule my post office runs on Thursdays to take advantage of the market. And if you see me around Pittsburgh, with the baby on me, you know, I might be reviewing the next farmer’s market.





The importance of being local.

4 08 2011

Stock by Garden_of_Eve

Taking a break from diaper posts I would like to talk a bit about an easy way to reduce your footprint, and this is to buy local. Because then you are reducing the shipping distance, therefore the gas used in getting the product to you is less. As a bonus you are encouraging the local economy providing the people in your community with money and encouraging the local businesses to remain active, which will in turn give you more local options. This will also lead to more jobs and this will bring more money that will be spent in your area. It has been suggested that spending a minimum of $50 per month in your local community will keep the economy going, that is really not too much to ask for!

There is the erroneous misconception that buying local will be more expensive, but that is not my experience. Shopping local has been average to cheaper than buying from supermarkets. In certain cases you might even get better quality for your buck! And this is true especially for produce. For example, if you buy strawberries that have been collected 50 miles away from your home, they are probably much fresher than strawberries coming from another state and of course another country! Making them more tasty and much better to eat! When produce has been collected at their prime (instead than under ripe) the nutrients load will be better, this will have a positive impact in your health.

I have known people that buy nothing that is not local. Kudos to them! I still will buy some things I need if it they come from another place and I find no local option. But if I am faced with two options for, let’s say, ice cream, one local and one from another state, I will buy the local one. I like to keep my community productive and healthy and I also like to know that what I am eating is fresher.

A good way to eat local is to visit farmer’s markets, or subscribe to a CSA, shop in your local market and support merchants that receive produce from local farmers . Stay tuned, I will comment on these in future posts!