I find myself perplexed sometimes when I hear the latest eco-news. Sometimes it scares me, other times it confuses me. This week there were so many articles I found interesting I thought I would share a few plus some advice.

What you should know about Tervis cups?

This article shares which Tervis cups are BPA free, and which are not. The popular tumblers have been BPA free since 1/1/11. I received a set of Tervis cups when I got married in 2005 so I think they will be moved to the top shelf so we don’t use them often. In the article, a representative from Tervis responds in the comment section discussing when each type of cup made the switch. I’m pretty skeptical of most plastics these days so I’m slowly converting all cups over to glass. Even the kids are using glass; Duralex Cupswork great. They have been dropped numerous times and haven’t broken.

Are you going to drink artificially sweetened milk?

Buying milk is already complicated. Organic, hormone-free, raw  milk, local, and conventional. These are just some of the choices we have to make. This week, a petition filed by the dairy industry is under review with the FDA to let them add artificial sweeteners to milk and other milk based products (yogurt, cheese, etc) and avoid having to label them. If you don’t let your kids have aspartame, which is  a rule for my house, it will be really difficult to figure it out. The sweeteners will be listed as “optional ingredients” and require no special labeling.  A few months ago, we switched to buying our milk from the local dairy farm. (We use Thatcher Farm.) I like that we are supporting a local business, the milk is super fresh, plus our glass bottles get reused.

Thatcher Farm Milk Glass Bottles Food Fight You Tube video

This little video takes aim at the world of processed food and beyond. It’s a story of urban gangsters fighting grocery store crimes. Makes me appreciate how easy it is for me to get access to healthy and fresh produce.

Turtleback making a switch to biodegradable plastic

Although some news is scary, other times it’s positive. One company making plastic drink holders for the beach is making an effort to switch to a biodegradable plastic. I wouldn’t call this an essential beach item by any means, but at least if people are going to buy them, they won’t end up in the ocean forever.

Are we really avoiding BPA?

This is one of those articles that is frustrating, but raises some issues. Even if you eat an organic diet, you still may end up with high levels of BPA/endocrine disruptors in your bloodstream. The two big culprits here are milk and spices. Two possible ways to fix it~ buy milk in glass bottles and switch spices to glass containers. Spices just look prettier in glass jars anyways.

This little video about “green shoppers” made me smile.  I’m constantly thinking about the question, what shade of green are you? There are so many different factors that come into play when you live a sustainable, or green, lifestyle. It can be hard to do it all. Food, clothing, car choice, baby products, face creams, and the list goes on and on. Sometimes we just need to take a step back and laugh at how complicated things have become.

What do you think of the video?

Ford Energi presentation

Today I got to check out some of the latest and greatest updates in the car industry.  The most exciting thing is all the advances happening in the world of fuel efficiency. At this year’s New England International Auto Show happening in Boston this weekend, there are 20 cars that get 30-40+ miles per gallon. As car companies prepare for the strict standards of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) in the future, they are making great strides now offering hybrids, electric vehicles and more efficient power train technology. Since we are in the market for a new car, it was a fun opportunity for me to see a bunch of brands in one place to do some comparison shopping. I will say it was amazing how many funny looks I got from all the men in attendance as I arrived with my toddler in tow to listen to the green presentation by Ford. Don’t they know the ladies care about what they drive??

It's amazing to see 47 mpg on the Ford Fusion Energi

It’s amazing to see 47 mpg on the Ford Fusion Energi

I went specifically to the Auto Show in Boston today to hear from Dr. Mazen Hammoud, Ford’s chief engineer of electrified powertrain systems. He is the guy who can talk green. The new Ford highlighted was the Fusion Energi, a plug-in hybrid. For customers interested in buying a hybrid, fuel economy and mileage are the #1 decision makers. In a recent report, JD Power ranked Ford ahead of Toyota in fuel economy. I love that an American car company is making such an impact in the market, and is able to offer an electric vehicle in a mid-sized sedan. No tiny little electric vehicle here, you wouldn’t even realize it’s electric except for the glowing plug-in spot on the driver’s side. Also, the new Ford Energi charges faster and holds the charge longer than the Prius.

All new Ford Fusion Energi Plug In Hybrid

All new Ford Fusion Energi Plug In Hybrid

Dr. Hammoud also taught the audience that in order to maximize your charge, you need to be mindful of your driving habits. Driving over 80 mph is not efficient, but we all know that right? Also, heavy braking also decreases the charge of the car as well. Even if you don’t have an electric vehicle, these are good reminders anyway to maximize your mpg in your car.

The New England Auto Show is taking place now at the Boston Convention and Exhibit Center, located down in the Seaport district.

Here are the hours:

Thursday, January 17, 12:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Friday, January 18, 12:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Saturday, January 19, 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Sunday, January 20, 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Monday, January 21, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM

While you are there, there are a number of companies offering you a chance to drive some of the models. If you are in the market for a new car, this could be a great opportunity to do some test drives hassle free.

We are trying to pick our next car and having lots of debates about SUV versus a minivan…anyone have a favorite with a third row? I want something with fuel efficiency but some SUVs  now have comparable mpg. Would love to hear what car you are loving right now!

A few months ago there was a great conversation on our Facebook page dealing with life without a microwave.  I haven’t taken the plunge yet but I was intrigued by my guest writer Stephanie’s experiences.  Do you think you could do it?  Please welcome Stephanie and share some feedback in the comments.

Guest post from Stephanie of Stephanie’s Projects.

Are you thinking of weaning yourself from using the microwave? Not really sure where to start? I have been there!
I am very excited about this post because of the many discussions about this subject in blogland. On a previous post on my own blog, I mentioned that my microwave died. When the machine busted, I took that as an omen and so recycled the old without replacing it… But I had already begun my journey to get along without a microwave, so the shock was minimal.

Here is how I did it… with some tips on how you can do it too!

I was a microwave-o-holic. I can freely admit that I had no clue how to cook an entire meal without a microwave. The convenience of precooked rice and reheating leftovers or making a cake in a matter of minutes (I do miss that recipe!) was a great pull. But I was also making an effort to eat real foods and toss out the chemicals in my home and food… I realized after researching online, that—just maybe—the microwave was inhibiting my efforts to have a healthy home.
I read posts from people who no longer used the microwave and why. Then I read research about health effects and the evolution… Did you know that microwaves were actually banned in Russia in 1976?! Very interesting.

The first Step: Plan meals ahead of time

It took me a little time to understand that this is the first step. But the truth is that cooking the conventional way takes a little more planning. That is why it’s the first step once you make the decision to use it less or completely cut it out of your cooking routine.
You need to find a planning method that works for you. I use a combination of a weekly meal plan, and a scan of the pantry to see what I have an excess of. It doesn’t always work out that I have a written meal plan, because some weeks are too uncertain and spontaneous (for those times, freezer meals are handy to stick in the oven). I do try to know for-sure what is for dinner the night before so I can search for recipes, thaw meat or prepare ingredients. I typically have 3 different meals in mind that can be prepared in no time (this is a handy trick to have up your sleeve in case you have unexpected guests to cook for).
It is helpful to look at your calendar when making a plan so you can gage the amount of time you will have to cook. If you don’t get home until at least 5:30 and you like to eat by 6, precooked meals from your freezer or slow cooker meals are the best! I have a relationship with my crock pot…

No more whole meals/entrees in the Microwave.

Mac and Cheese is just as easy in a pan. Hot dogs are great the old fashioned way. Rice is great cooked in boiling water, or better yet, chicken broth. Water boils just as well in a pot or kettle. Cakes should be cooked in the oven…
Now, you can jump head-on into this, or you can start by experimenting for a couple days a week. Then once you get comfortable with that add a couple more days to challenge yourself. Once you make the decision to cut the habit (so-to-speak) you can. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip a couple times with this… it happens to the best of us in a time crunch.
I imagined that initially cooking without a microwave would affect my kids in a more positive way than starting with reheating food. Again, this takes a bit of planning. No more taking items out of the freezer 10 minutes before you want to cook it – because if it needs to be thawed you would need to use the microwave and the goal is to ignore it.
When I began to make a conscious effort to make foods from scratch without using the handy microwave, I was a bit shocked at the pile of dishes. (Unfortunately microwave bowls don’t go in the oven) I really don’t like dishes… once I accepted the unavoidable; I began to change my dishwashing methods. For example, instead of piling the dishes in the sink until dinner was over, I found less stress in multitasking; cleaning in shifts while cooking made for fewer dishes on a full stomach (and a cleaner kitchen). I also found it advantageous to cook in shifts. If you have a vegtable dish and a main dish you can prepair the ingredients earlier in the day or the night before to save time when you get around to cooking dinner.

Reheating Foods

This can seem tricky if you have a love for left overs. It also may take a little time to get accustomed to heating up food. I do this one of 3 ways, depending on the food and quantity.

  1. Add it to a pan. I have gotten in the habit of leaving a sauté pan on the stove to drop left overs in to heat. It takes about 5 minutes to reheat and the food tastes just as good as the first time around! You can reheat anything this way; I particularly use this method for pasta and rice meals, cut up food as well as breakfast foods (leftover eggs or pancakes).
  2. My toaster oven is great for heating leftover or frozen burritos, pizza, or french fries on a piece of foil. A pie tin fits great in my little toaster, so I purchased a ceramic pie dish for this purpose. My favorite thing about putting leftovers in the oven is that you no longer have to settle for soggy food! Breaded chicken is crunchy. Pizza is crisp. Writing this is making me hungry.
    But only so much fits into the toaster oven, which brings me to …
  3. You can use your large oven for the same purpose if you have a large quantity of food to heat up. I have some stoneware pieces that I keep in my oven (because I use them almost daily!) like a pizza stone that you just need to place food on and let it heat up. I really like stoneware because I don’t have to scrub them with soap—I did mention that I dislike dishes.
    You can save time (and dishes) by storing leftover casseroles in glass or ceramic that can be put directly into the oven—rather than plastic containers or ziplock bags.

Heating to Cook

Think butter or hot fudge. I found the loss of my microwave very sad when it came to heating butter for recipes or fudge for my ice cream. But in the end, I don’t even miss it! You can heat little things up in a glass jar in a toaster oven or in a small pan on your stove. If you need a container to heat it up in the microwave anyway, you are not even creating more dishes to clean!

Another use for your Microwave…

Can you think of what to do with your microwave? You can donate it, give it away or recycle a busted one. But if you have a built-in unit, you might want to use it to store mason jars or keep bread. Come up with another way to use it!

Stephanie loves being a busy mom to two amazing little kids; ages 4 and 2. She is an over-educated freelance writer, blogger, dance instructor and stay-at-home momma. She loves to share what she has learned on Stephanie’s Projects and through simple ideas, encourages others who want to live full, healthful lives. She and her husband enjoy working for each other on their own financial business in California.

What do you think? Can you live without your microwave?

I’m sharing this post with Frugally Sustainable.