October 14, 2011

Weekend events: Trees, stream cleanup & a park!

An autumn potpourri of things happening this weekend:

Trees: It's autumn, ideal time to plant a sapling. Baltimore County is having a big tree sale from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday.  The costs range from $20 - $30. The event will be held at the Baltimore County Center for Maryland Agriculture, 1114 Shawan Road.  For details, go here

Stream cleanup: The Friends of Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park plan to clean up the stream that flows through the park's Winans Meadow, from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday. There's plenty of debris to clear from the tropical storm flooding last month. Gloves will be provided. Meet at the parking lot of Winans Meadow at 4500 Franklintown Road, 21229. For additional information, call 410-566-2230.

Park reopening:  When you're done planting trees or clearing stream debris, why not head over to Robert E. Lee Park and check out the $6.1 million facelift it got while closed the past two years?  There's a new bridge, a new half-mile boardwalk across wetlands and a new dog park (though you'd better keep your pooch on leash, and clean up after him or her!)  It officially reopened today (Friday, Oct. 14), but there'll be activities Saturday as well.  On Lakeside Drive, near Falls Road.  For directions, go here.

(Walking dogs on at rehabilitated Robert E. Lee Park. Photo by Noah Scialom)

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 4:15 PM | | Comments (1)

September 12, 2011

Get your green on at urban farming workshop


Urban farming's the rage these days, at least in some green circles. If you're wondering how to get in on it, there's an all-day workshop Thursday (Sept. 15), with hands-on training, lectures and tours of existing farms in Baltimore.

The free event open to anyone is organized by The Greenhorns, a national nonprofit promoting urban farming.  Besides the health aspects of raising nutritious local produce, the session will focus in part on how productive green space can reclaim the former industrial sites known as brownfields that pepper the city. Baltimore has at least 1,000 brownfields comprising 2,500 acres, according to the group. The city’s Office of Sustainability is aiming to convert 10 acres of city-owned vacant lots into farmland though competitive grant giving.

Visits are planned to Five Seeds Farm in the Belair-Edison neighborhood and Real Food Farm in Clifton Park in Northeast Baltimore. Partners for the event include the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, The Radix Ecological Sustainability Center, Maryland Institute College of Art and the Baltimore Free School.

For details. go here.

(Real Food Farm, 2010 Baltimore Sun photo by Barbara Haddock Taylor)

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 9:58 AM | | Comments (0)

August 26, 2011

City storms ahead with hazwaste drop-off


What's a little rain and wind when you have toxic wastes eating a hole in your basement?

A tropical storm may be bearing down on us, but Baltimore city is NOT canceling its drop-off of household hazardous wastes Saturday (8/27) from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute parking lot at Falls Road and Cold Spring Lane.  The event is run by the Department of Public Works Bureau of Solid Waste.

City residents can drop off oil-based paints, pesticides, herbicides, car and household batteries, drain cleaners, gasoline, pool chemicals and many other items. Latex paint can be dried up and the cans put out for regular trash collection.

Do NOT bring trash, acids, asbestos, ammunition, fire extinguishers, industrial or medical wastes, or radioactive materials, including smoke alarms with a radioactive symbol.

Residents must show proof of city residency - a driver's license, telephone bill or tax bill - and are asked to use the Cold Spring Lane entrance to the school parking lot. For more, go here.

(Baltimore Sun file photo)

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 4:58 PM | | Comments (0)

February 16, 2011

Backyard bird count tracks avian ups, downs


Remember when thousands of blackbirds mysteriously dropped from the sky in Arkansas on New Year's Eve? Here's a chance to help scientists understand what's happening with those and all the other birds across North America: join the annual Great Backyard Bird Count this week.

For four days starting Friday, Feb. 18, thousands of volunteers across the United States and Canada tally and report the birds they see and hear in the wild, in neighborhood parks or in their own backyards. The collective observations give ornithologists a "snapshot" of what's happening with bird populations.

Now in its 14th year, the count has detected ups and downs in some species.  For instance, American crows, once regularly among the top four or five most frequently reported species, have become less common since 2003, when West Nile virus spread across the US.  Scientists noted 50-75 percent drops in crow populations in states after the mosquito-borne disease hit.

Last year, nearly 100,000 reports were submitted toting up more than 11 million birds of 603 species.  American robins topped the list, at 1.8 million sighted.  The Canada goose was second, at around 750,000, with Snow goose, American crow and European starling rounding out the most commonly seen birds.  Joining the list for the first time last year was the Red-billed tropicbird, spied by some adventurous birders off the Pacific coast near San Diego.

Here in Maryland, citizen scientists spotted 220,539 birds of 138 different species.  Canada goose and Snow goose beat the robin hands down, with the Common grackle and Dark-eyed junco coming in third and fourth. In my backyard, I often spy a Northern cardinal or two, like the one pictured here.

It's easy to participate in the count, requiring as little as 15 minutes in a day.  And as the name suggests, you don't even have to leave the warmth of your house, just look out in your backyard.  The count is coordinated by the  Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, Audubon, and Bird Studies Canada.

To join in, or to learn more about previous bird counts, go here.

(Top, Canada geese take flight near Rappahannock River, 2009.  Baltimore Sun photo by Jerry Jackson. Middle, students watching for birds in Patterson Park, 2006, Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam.  Bottom, Northern cardinal, taken by Heather Taylor of Maryland, courtesy Great Backyard Bird Count)

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 9:00 AM | | Comments (1)

December 10, 2010

Composting takes root in West B'more

By now, it seems, a lot of workplaces have gotten into recycling, at least of paper. One office in West Baltimore, though, has taken the plunge into composting - turning coffee grounds, food scraps, paper and other biodegradable refuse into plant food.

A handfull of workers at the Bon Secours of Maryland Foundation started this summer by collecting office paper and old grounds from their West Fulton Street building and combining them with grass clippings and leaves in a compost bin at a nearby community garden run by Operation Reachout-Southwest, a resident-led grassroots organization.

But before long, the initiative of the "Clean and Green" crew spread.  Other staffers began bringing in scraps from the previous night's dinner, old produce and paper and other refuse from home.   Some say they're now composting at home as well.

"Co-workers who at first thought we were crazy started saying, 'I didn't know it was that easy,'" says Erika McClammy, the foundation's director of housing and neighborhood revitalization and head of the effort to raise employees' green awareness.

"I was surprised at how man things we use can go back to the earth,'' says Latera Wallace, a Bon Secours employee.  "I spend so much money every year buying topsoil and mulch for my mother who gardens, when I could have saved money by creating compost just from things around the house."

Continue reading "Composting takes root in West B'more" »

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 12:30 PM | | Comments (4)

October 25, 2010

Picture a green Baltimore

On Tuesday, Oct. 26, with your help, The Baltimore Sun plans to chronicle a day in the life of Charm City's denizens - through the eyes (and lenses) of its readers.

If you've got a camera or a cell phone that can take pictures, we want to see what you see that day - the places you go, the people you meet, the experiences you have.  Whatever looks interesting on Oct. 26, we'd like you to snap a picture and send it to us.  We'll publish some of the best at

For fans of B'more Green, I'll make a special appeal to capture the environment around you, whether outdoors or in.  Gone fishing, or walking the kids in the park?  Recycling at home or office?  See some colorful fall foliage, migrating birds or some sparkling water?  Snap it  and share the myriad ways in which we interact with the world around us.

So on Tuesday, Oct. 26, send in your visual slice of B'more to

(Baltimore Sun photos by Jed Kirschbaum and Llloyd Fox)

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 12:30 PM | | Comments (1)

September 13, 2010

Top 10 ways you can help the Bay


You won't get them here, but you will if you hustle over to a "growshop" in Baltimore this evening (Sept. 13).

Halle Van der Gaag, director of the Jones Falls Watershed Association and Celeste Amato, director of Baltimore city's Cleaner Greener initiative, will talk about storm-water management and provide the aforementioned top 10 tips on making our streams, harbor and Bay cleaner.

The session, from 6 - 8 p.m., is at Puffs & Pastries, 830 W. 36th St. 21211. It's put on by Baltimore Green Works, Parks & People Foundation and the city's Department of Recreation and Parks.   (And thanks to Urbanite for the reminder to this forgetful blogger!)

For more information or to RSVP, contact Abby Cocke at 410.448.5663 x122 or

(Rain barrel installation at St. John's College, Annapolis, 2009 Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna)

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 10:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Chesapeake Bay, DIY, Events, News, Tips, Urban Issues, Volunteer

September 2, 2010

Fighting invasive plants on the road - and at home


The defoliation of a four-mile stretch of roadside along the heavily traveled Jones Falls Expressway connecting the city with the Beltway has highlighted the extent to which exotic, invasive plants have taken over our landscape.

As I reported in The Baltimore Sun, some environmentalists aren't tickled with the State Highway Administration's decision to spray herbicide on the overgrown vines smothering the trees along the JFX, rather than hack them out manually. They aren't all wild, either, about the state's choice of trees to replace the ones it's cutting down.  SHA points out the weed killer it used is "practically non-toxic" and that the trees it's planting are to help screen the highway from nearby homes, not just to recreate a "natural" ecosystem.

But on one thing, everyone agrees: Invasive plants are a widespread problem, crowding out native vegetation and depriving native insects, birds and animals of their customary food and habitat.  The home team needs help, and it's too big a problem for government alone to deal with.

Experts advise that the problem often starts at home - our homes.  Many exotic invasives got their start as plants bought from a nursery to spruce up a yard or garden.  But true to their name, invasives don't stay where originally planted - they spread readily, and are hard to kill or contain once established.  That's why they advise us to be more careful about what we plant and vigilant about rooting out invasives in our midst.

For help in identifying what's native and what's not - and especially, what's invasive -- you can consult the Maryland Invasive Species Council, or the Maryland Native Plant Society (look under "Resources).  Also the Chesapeake Ecology Center in Annapolis and the Adkins Arboretum on the Eastern Shore.  

The Nature Conservancy has a handy "weed-watcher manual."  If you want to consult with a real person, there's always the University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information Center.  And if you want to go native, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a guidebook on native plants for wildlife habitat and conservation landscaping in the Chesapeake Bay region. 

Any other favorite resources on invasives and native plants?  Please share!

(Baltimore Sun photo of defoliated stretch of Jones Falls Expressway (I-83), by Karl Merton Ferron)  

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 10:50 AM | | Comments (1)

June 18, 2010

Weekend event: Shore tours

For a different way to spend a summer Sunday - or something to do while waiting for the Ocean City traffic to clear - how about a leisurely tour of the scenic farms, parks, preserves and historic homes of the Eastern Shore?

The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy - celebrating its 20th anniversary this year - kicks off its summer tour series this Sunday (June 20) by providing directions to some choice spots in Talbot County - including ones rarely if ever open to the public. Don't know if the itinerary takes you to picturesque Neavitt (harbor seen at left), but there's a mix of historic homes and at least one park, all preserved through the conservancy's work.

"It’s a great opportunity to look past all of the development on the Eastern Shore and appreciate the rural areas that are thriving,” Rob Etgen, ESLC Executive Director, says on the group's website.

It's also a bit of a fund-raiser. The $25 ticket price covers all five tours, though, which are offered through the summer and into the fall.  Sites to be visited are open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Tours are self-guided, and tickets must be purchased before maps and directions are provided. To join the tour this Sunday, contact Jennifer Pollard at 443-480-0282. For later tours of Cecil, Queen Annes and Caroline, Dorchester and Kent counties, reach her at 410-827-9756 ext. 155 or go here.

(2007 Baltimore Sun photo, Neavitt MD by Barbara Haddock Taylor) 

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 1:45 PM | | Comments (0)

February 12, 2010

Will you be my fair-trade organic Valentine?

If you're truly green, it isn't something you trot out just for Earth Day. So with the card-makers' and florists' favorite holiday bearing down on us, here are a few tips we've seen recently for showing your love for Mother Nature as well as your sweetheart on Valentine's Day.

Make a fancy dinner at home. Instead of dining out, cook your own Valentine's feast, suggests Jessica Harlan at RecycleBank. Or break with tradition, she says, and give your true love a potted plant instead of a dozen red roses, with all the environmental baggage they may carry.

Rather than rush to the store for a big heart-shaped box of sweets for your sweet, Harlan advises, why not make your own truffles? She links to a few recipes here. If you're cooking-challenged (guys), she strongly suggests you shop for organic, fair-trade chocolates. Here's a rundown of brands, courtesy of Mother Earth News.

In the DIY tradition, Harlan also urges the truly green make their own jewelry and cards, rather than buy them. And if you simply must say it with diamonds, she instructs you to insist on conflict-free stones. For those more inclined to fashion gifts, she also advises where to find eco-friendly lingerie, made of bamboo (!), organic cotton, hemp and silk.

Finally, the truly committed earth lover could always skip the conventional gift- and card-giving altogether and make a green statement in his or her true love's honor. One heart-fluttering option - adopt a fin or humpback whale.

For as little as $40 per whale ($50 for a mother and calf pair), your adoption would support the College of the Atlantic's research on cetaceans. Your intended wouldn't be empty-handed, either. He or she would get a photograph of "an individually identfied whale", a personalized adoption certificate and a handy waterproof field guide to whales.

Sadly, the opportunity for this unusually green expression of love has already past - orders had to be placed by Feb. 10. But if you think it's neat anyway, here's the link.

Of course, many of these green alternatives for Valentine's Day take a little extra time and effort.  If you don't have any of those to spare, you can always take comfort as you crowd the card and candy counters in thinking about how you're stimulating our lagging economy.   And remember, it's the thought that counts.

For more to do (and buy) on Valentine's Day, check out this site at

(Valentine: AP Photo/The Rawlins Daily Times, Kathy Johnson; Whale: 2006 AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 4:51 PM | | Comments (2)

February 5, 2010

DIY snow days


If you’re house bound this weekend (as many of us will be) keep your hands warm and busy by doing some or all of the following DIY projects:

For the house:

Dig through your recycling for leftover paper, grab some scissors and string: these snowflake curtains are a perfect project for a snowy day.

Make your own memory box tabletop – no tools needed!

While you may not be able to go far this weekend, you can at least plan for a vacation! Begin by making these snazzy luggage tags out of recycled yogurt containers.

Salvage an old chair or other piece of furniture with these easy stencils.

Take a break from your day of craftiness and cook with leftovers – depending on what’s in your fridge or pantry, you may have enough to avoid going to the store altogether.

With the kids:

Gather up some pinecones before they’re covered in snow and make these simple but charming bird feeders.

Playdough provides and endless source of entertainment for kids of all ages and it’s very easy to make at home.

Try making these adorable wax decorations (melt some old candles down if you need extra wax) that are perfect for Valentine’s Day.

Hairpins, felt, and glue (or thread) are all you need to make these fun and funky hair accessories.

Coasters made from recycled magazines are suitable for all ages – the little ones can tear the pages while the older kids fold and weave the paper.

Image courtesy of Bugs and Fishes

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 10:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: DIY

November 12, 2009

Waste-Free Wreath


Ah rainy days. They’re perfect for staying inside and crafting, with a cup of coffee or tea at your side. If you are in fact fortunate enough to not have to leave your house today, scrounge around for some plastic bags and have a go at craft diva Vickie Howell’s Waste-Free Wreath.

You will need:
16" wire wreath circle
35-40 plastic grocery bags
Empty cereal box
Star stencil
White craft paint & sponge brush
Craft glue
Glitter (she used Crafty Chica Chunky Glitter in goddess gold)
Rub-on letters
10" jewelry or florist wire
Hole punch
1½" die cutter (or round object with a similar diameter to trace around)
38" x 7" piece of eco packaging wrap
38" x 7" piece of eco packaging wrap

1. Cut the bottom and handles off of bags. Scrunch each grocery bag so it’s easier to work with and tie them onto the wire wreath circle. Fluff. Use plenty o’ bags so the circle is full.
2. Trim wild bag ends and make the circle semi-symmetrical. Save several of the cut-off pieces for later use.
3. Make a bow by folding the eco-packaging wrap in thirds. Pinch the center with your fingers and wrap wire around it to hold in place. Use tails of wire to attach the bow onto the wreath by wrapping it around the wire wreath circle. Snip off excess.
4. Cut open an empty cereal box so that cardboard is flat. Using a stencil, trace five stars onto plain side. Cut out stars.
5. Paint stars white. Cover with liberal amounts of glitter. Allow to dry.
6. Using either a die cutter or scissors, cut out five 1½" circles from the leftover cereal box cardboard.
7. To make letter medallions, follow the directions on the rub-on letter package. Spell PEACE by pressing one letter on the back of each cardboard circle. Or you can also use magazine letters; they’ll add another recycling element to your wreath.
8. Glue letter medallions to stars, then punch holes at the top of each one. Also punch holes in the wreath’s bag strands, where you want to attach your star ornaments. Tie finished PEACE stars using leftover pieces of bag.

Image courtesy of Vickie Howell

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 9:26 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: DIY

November 9, 2009

Craftivism through Quilting

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The newest addition to publisher STC Craft’s legacy of books that explore how crafting can change the world is Katherine Bell’s Quilting for Peace: Make the World a Better Place One Stitch at a Time. A sequel to STC’s Knitting for Peace, Quilting for Peace contains profiles of more than 25 individual crafters and organizations whose creative efforts are done with an eye towards serving those in need. Though its focus is on quilting, the book also highlights other handmade goods that are produced in the spirit of change. For example, Newborns in Need produces clothing for prematurely born babies; The Sleeping Bag Project annually distributes handmade sleeping bags to more than 100,000 homeless; and Quilts of Valor makes quilts in honor of wounded soldiers.

In Quilting for Peace, Bell includes 15 quilting projects using new and/or recycled fabrics with easy-to-follow instructions and illustrations. So, after you’ve found some inspiration in reading about how others are making the world a better place with their own two hands, you can to do the same, one stitch at a time.

Quilting for Peace: Make the World a Better Place One Stitch at a Time is available at Amazon.

Images courtesy of STC Craft

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 8:58 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: DIY

November 6, 2009

Make your own gifts this holiday season


Now that Halloween is over, the upcoming holiday season has already begun to blossom in stores nationwide, and with that comes the inevitability of gift giving. Every year around this time, I make a promise to myself that I will not wait until the last minute to do my holiday crafting of gifts. Maybe you're the same way, and if you are, here is a perfect opportunity to keep that promise:

Local mosaic artist Cinder Hypki is hosting a mosaic workshop at her studio in Upper Fells Point tomorrow, November 7, from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. During this one-day intensive workshop, Cinder will teach participants the tools of the trade, the materials, and the basic concepts of mosaic art. Cinder has plenty of ready-to-go projects from which to choose, or you can bring your own materials with you. The cost for the workshop is $65 (quite a deal!) and it includes a continental breakfast. Just be sure to bring your own lunch.

And, if you happen to miss this workshop, no need to worry because Cinder will be hosting a holiday mosaic workshop on December 5th.

TO REGISTER: 410-961-7816 or To read more, visit Cinder’s web site.

'Starry Night' mosaic by Cinder Hypki. Image courtesy of the artist.

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 1:47 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: DIY

September 11, 2009

DIY all-natural cleaning methods workshop

Red Clover Collective in Better Waverly

Interested in learning how to make your own all-natural cleaning products? Join the Red Clover Collective and local crafter Aliza Sollins of The Baltimore DIY Squad on Sept. 20 from 1-4 p.m. for a discussion and workshop about eco-friendly cleaning products and methods. You’ll learn how to make homemade laundry detergent, dish soap, and all purpose cleaner – bring your own empty bottle to fill with the cleaning solution of your choice.

The Red Clover Collective is an urban intentional community located in Better Waverly. The cost for this workshop is $5 and space is limited. Sign up here or visit to read more about their work in Baltimore.

Image courtesy of Red Clover Collective.

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 7:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: DIY, Events

Reuse Me: CDs

CDs, DVDs, and computer discs can contribute to household clutter. Sometimes you have to take a hard look and be honest: How often do you really watch "Almost Famous"? And if the songs are not on your MP3 player, will you really miss those CDs? You can always donate them to the library or thrift shops or try to sell them. But here are some other ways to help thin out those piles:

• Coasters: eHow, Scrapdash and design*sponge are just a few of the many tutorials out there.

• Relfectors: Many sites suggest using the CDs as reflectors on your bike or mailbox. They can also be used in the garden to scare away birds.

 • Art: Break up the CDs to create mosaics or this cool light catcher by Planet Green

• More: Interbent has 22 ways to reuse CDs, including an iPod doc and disco ball.

 Now it's your turn. Have done anything cools with old CDs? Leave a comment below. (AP photo)

Posted by at 6:45 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: DIY, Reuse Me, Tips

September 9, 2009

Green your Halloween


As the days grow cooler and leaves begin to turn, I can’t help but long for Halloween – it’s one of my favorite days of the year. If you’re anything like me, you are already considering how to decorate your doors and windows and what costume to wear. Fortunately, there is still plenty of time between now and Oct. 31 to prepare for trick-or-treaters and haunted houses in the greenest way possible.

Try your hand at making all-natural face paints with this easy-to-follow recipe (courtesy of Green Halloween):

•1 tsp cornstarch
•1/2 tsp water
•1/2 tsp all natural diaper rash cream
•1-2 drops natural/ organic food coloring

In a small bowl, mix water and cornstarch. Add baby cream and food color and mix a bit more.

Looking for some eco-friendly decor? Comb through your recycling bin for coffee cans, yogurt cups, or cardboard tubes. With a little paint and some pipe cleaners, these throwaways can be easily transformed into pumpkin faces, black cats, spiders, and skeletons.

Finally, there’s a great list of homemade Halloween costume ideas here. You can opt for an old standby like a white sheet with two holes. Or, you can be more elaborate. My personal favorite is the “Cereal Killer” costume, which requires a few cereal boxes, kitchen knives, and some red paint - how marvelously green!

Image courtesy of Crafting a Green World.

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 11:30 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: DIY, Going Green

September 1, 2009

Now's the best time to dry hydrangeas


This weekend, I purchased a beautiful bundle of hydrangeas at the 32nd Street Farmer’s Market in Waverly with the intention of taking them home to dry them. The vendor warned me that there was a 50/50 chance they may just shrivel up and die, and she gave me a few helpful tips (one of which was to buy extras just in case a few of them bombed).

August through October is the ideal time for cutting hydrangea blossoms. They should be just over peak bloom, when the larger petals are beginning to fade and some small flowers are just about to bloom. Overall, the subtle fade in color is your best indicator that the blossoms are ready to be cut – or, you can just rely on an experience flower vendor to do your cutting for you (like I did).

Once you have your blossoms in hand, there are several ways to dry them. One of the easiest ways is to simply trim the leaves and hang them upside down. Your stems should be around 12-15 inches, and your blossoms should be hung separately. It will take about a day or two for them to dry. Another easy way is to place the stems in fresh water until it evaporates. With water drying, your flowers may end up being a little less brittle than with the hanging method. Either way, once they’re dry they make a beautiful statement and if handled with care can last for years.

Baltimore Sun file photo

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 6:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: DIY

August 24, 2009

Don't forget to eat your lavender


Lavender butter cookies make the perfect snack for a cool end-of-summer day like today. They require little more than a few simple ingredients, one of which you can most likely find growing in your (or your neighbor's) yard. Enjoy!

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached white flour, sifted
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lavender flowers*
Pinch of salt

Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract. Gradually add flour, lavender flowers, and salt. Divide the dough into two equal parts. Shape each piece of dough into 1 1/4-inch round cylinders and cover with plastic wrap. Chill the dough for one hour, or freeze for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove plastic wrap and slice dough into 1/4-inch rounds. Bake on an ungreased sheet (I used parchment paper with mine) for around 10 minutes or until cookies are light golden brown. Remove cookies and cool on rack. Recipe yields 3 to 4 dozen.

*A note about preparing lavender:

The best time to pick your lavender is when it is at peak of bloom (L. angustifolia is recommended for culinary use). Most of the flowers should be open, with a few closed buds on the stem. Wash them gently in cold water and pat them dry. Remove any wilted flowers and gently strip off what is left. And, if you'd rather your cookies have only a subtle essence of lavender, use only 1 tablespoon.

Recipe courtesy of Edible Chesapeake.

Image by me.

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 5:09 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: DIY

EnviroCenter offers classes on how to be green

Want to save water and energy? Want to reduce your impact on the environment around you? Don't know where to start? 

The Green Building Institute, a Jessup-based nonprofit that promotes sustainable building, is planning a 10-part series of classes for homeowners, beginning Sept. 15, on going green.

There will be all kinds of topics covered from saving on your utility bill and tax incentives to water management and landscaping. Officials at the institute hope to help cut through the red tape and confusion about steps people can take to save money and the planet at the same time.

The classes are offered around Maryland and Northern Virginia and run in the evenings from 7 p.m.-9 p.m. They are $55 for adults unless you're a member.

I'm going to try and go to one of the early classes, so I'll report back.

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 10:21 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: DIY, Going Green, Tips

August 18, 2009

Reuse Me

Today we're starting a new feature on B'More Green. We pick an item and brainstorm ideas on how to repurpose it instead of tossing it into the recycling bin. Ideas can range from practical to creative and absurd. Leave your contact info when you comment if you wish to receive a B'More Green magnet.

Let's kick things off with phone books. Phone books are always stacked in the breezeways of my condo complex, and I have at least three in the bottom of my coat closet. The Green Cheapskate blog offers 17 creative things to do with phone books, including using pages for mulch and as window wipes. The blog also points out that you can opt out of the Yellow Pages' distribution list.

What do you think of these ideas? And what ways have you found to reuse phone books? Leave a comment below.

Posted by at 9:48 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: DIY, Going Green, Reuse Me

August 17, 2009

Big Green Book of Crafts


The Big Green Book of Recycled Crafts, published by Leisure Arts, contains a collection of green crafting tutorials using materials that would usually end up in the garbage. Projects range from unusual and quirky (license plate headboard) to traditional (wine cork message board). You are sure to find a use for your plastic, paper, cans, old clothing, and almost anything else that would otherwise be headed for a landfill. Available at Amazon for $14.95.

Image courtesy of Amazon.

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 5:01 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: DIY, Products

August 13, 2009

From cotton sheets to cotton monsters

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You may or may not be familiar with local crafter Jennifer Strunge’s Cotton Monsters. Each of her soft, sculptural creatures is a work of art in and of itself, made from recycled clothing and linens.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Jennifer attended the Maryland Institute College of Art. Her Cotton Monster line evolved from a series she did of handmade quilts with eyes and soft creatures from recycled blankets and bedding.

Nowadays, Jennifer is a one-woman operation who makes monsters daily – without a pattern! When she’s not sewing, she works as an associate artist for the Black Cherry Puppet Theater.

To read more about Jennifer and her undeniably adorable monsters, visit her web site.

Images courtesy of Jennifer Strunge.

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 4:03 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: DIY, Products, Shopping

August 6, 2009

A pocket here, a placket there

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Take note: dress shirts are recyclable. Self-described amateur sewer Brooke Reynolds (who is also a former Senior Art Director for Martha Stewart Living) made the above quilt for her son out of his father’s unwanted dress shirts. She integrated some dress shirt nuances by leaving “a pocket here, a placket there,” though the sweetest touch by far is Brooke’s cross-stitched “Love Mom” at the bottom. It simply made me smile.

Visit Brooke’s blog Inchmark for more marvelous green craft ideas.

Images courtesy of Brooke Reynolds.

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 6:30 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: DIY

July 30, 2009

RE: Can moving be green?

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I just read Meredith’s post, and thought “I bet I can find some wonderful handcrafted oddities made from VHS tapes, CD cases, and old wood.” With an Indian Touch makes the most precious desk calendars out of recycled CD cases and Little Wisdoms uses old pieces of wood to create poetic hand-painted profundities (as she calls them). Crafter Juanita Canzoneri’s “treasure pouch,” which was crocheted from VHS tapes of Deep Space Nine episodes, is particularly inspiring. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any great uses for Styrofoam peanuts, but I’m working on it.

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 5:37 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: DIY

July 28, 2009

DIY mosquito repellent


On a typical summer evening, I sit on my front porch with a cool drink and watch the world go by. It’s a blissful way to unwind after a long day at work. Unfortunately this quiet, daily ritual is almost always interrupted by mosquitoes, who cunningly light and sting me on the arm or ankle before I can stop them. And of course, while I’m tending to the first bite, I get bitten again.

In an effort to preserve my peace, I recently purchased some odorless OFF bug repellant which works well, but smells like chemicals and makes me sneeze. So, off with the OFF. Instead, I found a recipe for organic bug repellent at Though it isn’t waterproof and needs to be re-applied regularly, this all-natural repellent has a pleasant smell and is just as effective as OFF at deterring mosquitoes. Enjoy!

Materials and Tools:

•1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar
•1/3 cup witch hazel (or cheap vodka)
•5 drops of citronella or eucalyptus essential oil
•Spray bottle

•Using the funnel, pour all the liquid ingredients into the spray bottle.
•Shake the bottle to mix the liquids.

Image courtesy of naturegirl78

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 2:50 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: DIY, Tips

July 17, 2009

DIY Laundry Detergent

Planning on doing some laundry this weekend? A few readers have requested a DIY laundry detergent recipe, which I promptly found at Similar to the DIY dish detergent recipe, the ingredients here are simple:

-3.1 oz bar Ivory soap (Ivory is chosen because it's all natural. You may use a soap of your choice)
-1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax
-1/2 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda

Tools needed:

-5 Gallon container
-Knife or grater
-Pot large enough to hold 5 cups of water
-Long stirring stick/spoon (for 5 gallon container)


Shave the soap into small strips and place in the pot with 5 cups of water. Bring the water just shy of a boil and stir until the soap is completely melted. When the soap is just about melted, pour 3 gallons of hot water into the 5-gallon container and let it sit until the soap in the pot is totally melted. Once all of the soap shavings are melted, pour the mixture into the 5-gallon container and stir.

Once the soap and water are thoroughly stirred, add the 1/2 cup pf washing soda and stir until dissolved. Once the washing soda is dissolved, pour in the cup of borax and stir again until dissolved.

Optional: Essential Oils for fragrance. If you like fragrant detergent, now is when you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oils.

Recipe courtesy of Suite 101

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 2:51 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: DIY

July 10, 2009

The Baltimore DIY Squad


If you’re not already familiar with Aliza Sollins’ blog, The Baltimore DIY Squad, then you are most certainly in for a treat. A student at the University of Baltimore, Aliza is somewhat of a green living aficionado who has an impressive amount of expertise in all things DIY, particularly as they exist in Charm City. The Baltimore DIY Squad contains project tutorials, links to events and web sites of interest, interviews, images, recipes and more. A few of my favorite posts so far include Aliza’s recipe for sauerkraut; Things I Learned This Weekend; and an illustrated tutorial on making strawberry jam with local berries from Larriland Farms.

Image courtesy of Aliza Sollins

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 3:13 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: DIY

July 8, 2009

DIY Dishwasher/Scouring Powder

If commercial dish detergents that contain phosphates do indeed end up being banned, it may be worth making your own natural cleaning product, especially considering that current eco-friendly brands like EcoVer and Seventh Generation are so costly.

I pulled the following recipe for natural dishwasher/scouring powder from The New Homemaker. The ingredients are simple and pretty affordable – according to the author you’ll end up saving around 14 cents a load (when compared to a brand like Cascade). On the subject of whether or this detergent cleans as well as commercial brands, opinions are varied. Though the recipe recommends using citrus essential oils, some folks swear by tea tree and peppermint oils. Either way, this may require a little experimentation but it seems worth a try.

In a plastic container with a firmly fitting lid, mix:
1 cup borax (20-Mule-Team Borax, available in any supermarket)
1 cup baking soda
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup citric acid (available in brewing stores among other places--if you haven't tracked it down yet but must try this formula, use two packets of Lemonade-Flavored Kool-Aid, ONLY lemon, or you'll dye your dishwasher! and ONLY unsweetened Kool-Aid!)
30 drops citrus essential oil--lemon, grapefruit, orange, tangerine, or a mixture

Put all of it in the container, shake it up.

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 4:15 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: DIY

July 7, 2009

DIY cat litter


On the subject of pet waste being toxic for the environment, not only is it necessary to consider how diligently you clean up after your dogs and cats, but also how often they may be coming into contact with toxic substances. For example, did you know that clumping clay litter contains carcinogenic silica dust that can clog your cat’s lungs? Plus, the sodium bentonite that acts as a clumping agent is poisonous, as cats ingest it each time they groom themselves.

One solution: newspaper litter. In about 45 minutes, you can make your own 2-3 week supply using little more than newspaper, warm water, and baking soda. Here is the full tutorial. And, to read more about what other environmental toxins may be affecting your fur baby, visit Pets for the Environment – a great site that contains helpful information for how to create a healthy environment for pets and people.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 4:20 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: DIY

June 19, 2009

DIY Father's Day gifts

Nothing says "I love you Dad" like a gift made by hand. Here are a couple of simple tutorials you might consider using to celebrate Father's Day this weekend. Most of the required materials can be found around the house. Just be creative and have fun!

Father's Day pancakes, courtesy of Me and My Insanity.

Golf cover sock buddies, courtesy of Alpha Mom.

Handmade Father's Day card, courtesy of HGTV.

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 7:28 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: DIY

June 17, 2009

35 free patterns for reusable bags


Reusable bags can be made from just about anything – sheets, pillowcases, fused plastic and even yarn.

If you're looking to make your own, visit Tipnut. It's a brilliant web site that contains an extensive collection of household tips and life hacks, including a healthy handful of free patterns for reusable grocery bags.

Save your quarters for laundry and parking!

(Image courtesy of Wisdom of the Moon).

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 4:24 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: DIY

June 16, 2009

Green baby toys

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I spent some time with a friend’s baby earlier this week. I’m not around babies very often and quickly realized that I had little on hand to keep her occupied. I finally settled on Tupperware containers and a shoe box, which pleased her to no end. Still, it would have been nice to have some genuine baby toys around. Of course, maybe it doesn’t matter to them as much as it does to us adults. Nonetheless, I did a little research and found some adorable “green” baby toys that are far superior to plastic containers (at least in my opinion). These darling animals are made from recycled wool sweaters and stuffed with shredded recycled polyester. Each critter is one-of-a-kind and go for between $21-$26 at

And, if you’re feeling ambitious or have some old sweaters you’d like to get rid of, check out this great tutorial by Kayte Terry on how to make your own bunny softie.


(Images courtesy of Craftzine and Eco-Artware)

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 4:14 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: DIY, Products, Shopping

June 11, 2009

Crafty ideas for your non-recyclables

Styrofoam%20ice%20resin%20bangle%20by%20ChelleV2.jpg Fused%20plastic%20lunch%20bag%20by%20copabananas.jpg Recycled%20plastic%20change%20purse%20by%20carataylor.jpg
Styrofoam ice resin bangle by ChelleV2, Fused plastic lunch bag by Copabananas, Recycled plastic change purse by Cara Taylor.

Meredith’s recent post about what is NOT appropriate for curbside recycling inspired me to explore the craft-worthy potential of plastic bags and Styrofoam containers. It turns out that the possibilities are endless though I managed to select a few favorite items, like Cara Taylor’s crocheted coin purses and ChelleV2’s hand cast resin bangles (as pictured above). I also discovered that plastic bag crafting is an art in and of itself. Crafters of the world have helped “the cause” by making anything and everything from handbags and headbands to knitted ensembles.

So if you’re at all inspired by what you see here, round up your non-recyclables and make something with them. You might start here, with an easy-to-follow tutorial on how to make a fused plastic bag.

Plastic bag dress by mleak.

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 1:31 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: DIY

June 10, 2009

Rodgers Forge, state map their gardens


In the Think Globally, Act Locally category are Joe Hamilton and his neighbors in and around the Rodgers Forge neighborhood, just north of the city. Hamilton recently launched the Rodgers Forge Farm Initiative, which connects residents who are interested in organic gardening.

The initiative has begun mapping gardens in the area -- there are now close to 30 with more coming online. One of the gardens is housed in an older neighbor’s yard that is gardened collectively. The neighbor wasn’t going to garden herself, but had an end-of-group house with a southern exposure. The initiative aims to hook up others with space but no time for a garden, or time and no space.

Hamilton also expects to plan events where the home grown food is served, as well as offer  information on the site about gardening methods and other eco-friendly activities and products.

The idea for the site came from casual talks among neighbors and a similar effort in San Francisco. A spur to action came from a campaign called "Grow It Eat It." It’s sponsored by the Maryland Master Gardener program and the Home and Garden Information Center and aims to get more people planting. The goal: One million Maryland food gardeners producing their own affordable, healthy food.

Hamilton says Rodgers Forge plans to do its part for that program. He is now promoting "a garden on every block" and hopes to get 40 to 50 area gardens mapped on his site and on the master gardeners’. So, plant a garden and let him him know where.

And let us know what's going on in your neighborhood.

Continue reading "Rodgers Forge, state map their gardens" »

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: DIY

June 5, 2009

Make your own toy stove

Rainy days are always a great excuse for staying inside and cooking something nice. If you have a little one at home who enjoys playing along in the kitchen, consider this tutorial from Croq Zine on how to make a toy stove out of plastic storage containers. I’m sure you’ve got a few around the house, right? All you need is construction paper, scissors, and glue, and you’ve got a homemade range! And, when it’s time to clean up, you’ll have an obvious and easy place to store the play pots and pans. Read the full tutorial here.


(Image courtesy of Croq Zine)

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 4:10 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: DIY

June 2, 2009

Book making classes at Tilt Studio

Ever wonder what to do with your dusty old books or last year’s holiday wrapping paper? Sign up for Tilt Studio’s new series of book making classes, which are being held at the gallery in Charles Village. The classes are part of an effort that Tilt is making to expand its artist community and enrich artist talents. Here’s the scoop:


Saturdays June 12-27 10 a.m.-noon

2616 N. Calvert St. Baltimore, 21218

Learn from 3 different teachers as they explore the art of paper making, bindings and paste papers.

Price: $35 a class

June 13: Paste Papers
Creating Paste Papers can be fun and messy. Bring your studio clothes. Sam Merrick will teach the ways of creating painting and mark making techniques.

June 20: Covers
Bring your paste papers, wrapping paper, or fabric and learn the ways of making book covers.

June 27: Rebinding
Old made into New. Using the Coptic binding technique, Christopher Cass makes old books into working journals.

For more information, contact Jessica Pegorsch at

Local crafter of machines uses recylced materials and handmade papers for her hand bound books.

(Image courtesy of of machines)

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 4:22 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: DIY, Events

Parks and People teach ways to go green

The Parks and People Foundation , a local group that works to improve Baltimore's neighborhoods, have a big, long list of workshops, if you're feeling like you want to learn something about improving your home or surroundings -- or you just want to meet like-minded people.

There are programs on building a kid-friendly garden, constructing a rain barrell, designing a green space and applying for grants. There's also one on beekeeping.

Did you even know you could have a hive in the city?


Posted by Meredith Cohn at 1:26 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: DIY

June 1, 2009

Make your own natural dye

If you’ve ever wanted to dye your own fabrics or yarn, consider the following recipe for homemade dye (courtesy of Kim Hall):

1 tablespoon Turmeric
4 cups water
2 tablespoons salt
Several small pieces of natural fabric or natural fiber yarn.

Presoak your fabric or yarn in warm water to remove any soil or starch.
Boil the Turmeric with the water and salt for 15 minutes.
Strain vegetable matter out of the dye and return the dye to the pot. Add your presoaked fabric or yarn and bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes. Once your material looks a few shades darker than you think it should, remove it, rinse it thoroughly and dry it.

*Instead of Turmeric, you can also use ½ red cabbage (boil for 30 minutes) or the crispy skins from 5 yellow onions (boil until water is reddish).

To see Kim’s step-by-step video on hand dyeing, visit the Storque.

Local crafter Kel Millionie of Dude Yarn makes this “Twisted Tweed” out of natural fiber yarn and organic dyes.

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 3:24 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: DIY

May 28, 2009

Make your own non-toxic bathtub cleaner


Ring around the tub is a bummer, but toxic bathtub cleaners are even more offensive. It’s easy to make your own non-toxic cleaner with a few simple ingredients. I swiped the following recipe from Natural Home Magazine:


1 cup baking soda
½ cup Castile liquid soap
5-10 drops of antibacterial essential oil (try lavender or tea tree oils)


1. Pour baking soda into a medium size bowl.
2. While stirring, add the Castile soap a little at a time. Stop adding and stirring once your mixture resembles frosting.
3. Mix in a few drops of oil.
4. Get to cleaning.

You can store this cleaner in an airtight container for up to one year.

(Image courtesy of terri_tu)

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 2:56 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: DIY

May 27, 2009

Hanging Basket Tutorial


A few nights ago, while the air was warm and only a little humid, a glorious honeysuckle bush interrupted my walk down Roland Avenue. I stopped and swooned and felt an overwhelming urge to grab a bundle and carry it back to my apartment. Unfortunately, I don’t own a vase, and my drinking glasses are all too small to accommodate a handful of honeysuckle. So I went online in search of a solution.

What I found was a lovely hanging basket tutorial by red bird crafts. It’s simple and sweet and made from recycled materials. All you need is a small box, some paper, and a few other common supplies like scissors, glue and string. Place a damp cloth and some kind of tight plastic covering around the base of your clippings to avoid damaging the paper. Use a simple stamp to embellish the front. Who needs vases anyway?

To read the full tutorial, visit the red bird crafts blog.

(Image courtesy of red bird crafts)

Posted by Christy Zuccarini at 12:26 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: DIY

May 26, 2009

City residents get free and cheap trees


Free trees! 

Baltimore is endeavoring to double its tree canopy from 20 percent to 40 percent during the next three decades and is encouraging homeowners to get planting by offering free and discounted trees.

The city effort is called TreeBaltimore, and officials say it aims to add to the urban forest that does a number of things: provides shade, beautifies neighborhoods, cleans air and water, offers and home to birds and other animals, increases property values and removes carbon from the atmosphere that contributes to global warming.

The push is a mayoral initiative that began in 2007. The city settled on the 40 percent goal, but discovered that about 85 percent of the available planting space, i.e. grass, was on private property, according to Anne Draddy, who runs the city program. So, they began hitting up residents to do some planting and caring for trees.

Now, TreeBaltimore is giving away FREE trees to community groups and associations, so hook up with your group if you want one.

The city’s Forestry Division plants about 1,000 street trees every spring and another 1,000 in the fall, Draddy said, so get your name on the list for the next go-round. The city Department of Transportation is also helping dig pits.

For more information, go to TreeBaltimore online, or e-mail Draddy at

Baltimore Sun file photo

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 10:55 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: DIY

Forging new ground in the garden


Do you garden in your backyard but want to do more? Just want to get started?

The guy who makes sure Whole Foods grocery stocks local items is launching a side project to get Baltimore growing -- as well as cooking, preserving and selling.

Mark Smallwood (pictured above in his own backyard garden) is working with the city to find a site and get teaching. Once that's up, he plans to show people how to cook and keep the food, then sell it. He also wants to open a cannery, which could eventually sell stuff to Whole Foods. He says there's lots of interest already.

Read about Smallwood's plans and see what other community garden projects are going on in the city here. Look for announcements about classes soon. And let us know what's going on in your neighborhood.

Baltimore Sun photo/Patrick Smith

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 8:50 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: DIY
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About the bloggers
Tim WheelerTim Wheeler reports on the environment and Chesapeake Bay. A native of West Virginia, he has focused mainly on Maryland's environment since moving here in 1983. Along the way, he's crewed aboard a skipjack in the bay, canoed under city streets up the Jones Fall from the Inner Harbor, and gone deep underground in a western Maryland coal mine. He loves seafood, rambles in the country and good stories. He hopes to share some here.

Contributor Christy Zuccarini has been blogging about the local DIY craft scene for a year for She brings her pespective on all things handmade to B'More Green, where she will highlight projects you can do yourself as well as crafters who are integrating sustainable methods and materials.

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