Giveaway: ‘Wired’ earrings, 50% off coupon code

By Mary Rose Roberts
Artists working in Chicago often have an edge or grittiness to their work. This includes Melissa Kolbusz. Since 1999, Kolbusz has used the city as a base to make handmade, wearable artwork. The pieces are street friendly but also sophisticated and are made from recycled, reclaimed and surplus materials--such as alternator wire, tubing and bike chain. Reusing and renewing fits our mission, so we wanted to educate readers about her wearable art. Plus, you can win a free pair of Kolbusz’s earrings. To win, “Like” NextGenGreen’s Facebook and mention this post or leave a comment below. This random giveaway expires May 1, 2012 at 12:01 a.m.

As a bonus, she is offering readers a 50% off COUPON CODE for online purchases. E-mail me to redeem the coupon code at
What materials do you use?
CHAOS bracelet 
Over the years, I’ve been developing relationships with different companies to collect their scrap, surplus and overruns. So, I use many different materials.  Each collection is dependent on the materials I find.  Current collections include scrap neoprene, recycled bike chain, surplus magnet wire and the recycled labels of EFFEN vodka bottles. 

What is your inspiration?
My inspirations come from the many different materials that others view as useless.

Why is using recycled materials important?
It’s just practical. We create so much trash in our daily lives and as we continue to create new products, it is important to consider using recyclable and/or recycled materials.  We can reduce so much from going into landfills by considering what is already available and applying some creativity.

What is your goal with the product?
My goal is to create something beautiful from discarded, usable materials.  So much trash is created in our daily lives and especially in the manufacturing and business sectors. My hope is to use my design background to make a little dent in that situation while doing something that comes naturally and I enjoy.

Do you have a website or Facebook page for your work?
I have a website where customers can shop directly or view a list of stores that carry the items:
Wired Resistance
On Facebook

Made from recycled bike chain and handmade stainless steel links with surgical steel earwires. The chain is collected from local shops, then broken down link by link to it's smallest components. It is then cleaned and reassembled into something completely new.

These earrings are triple scrapped. The material comes from a Chicago area rubber products manufacturer. I use the discarded pieces to make the [wired] hangtags and then with what is left over from the large punchout, I make these earrings. They are put together with reclaimed stainless steel tension springs and steel wire.

Flight Dress from Runway Anguilla and Berlin Fashion Week, 2011 A special couture piece reflecting my time spent in the Caribbean. It was first shown at Runway Anguilla and after at Berlin Fashion Week in 2011. This gown is created from a kitesurfing kite (seen in the collage). I've cut and repieced it together saving the air tubes for the bustle of the overskirt.  The underskirt is a mini and can be worn alone.

Saving money great motivator to conserve energy

By Kathy Schrenk
We moved into a new house five months ago and experienced some intense sticker shock when we got our first electric bill. It was hundreds of dollars. I got on the phone with PG&E, a California energy provider, and a delightful lady talked me through the company's extensive online usage-tracker. It's kind of amazing how much they want to help you use less of their product. (California must be pinching them on that somehow.)

Anyway, we figured out that the main culprit is probably the pool pump. That's right, it's not the heater, it's the pump. We haven't heated the pool once. And even when the pool goes unused for months at a time, the pool company says we have to run the pump several hours every day to keep it from becoming a cesspool.

Now, if we owned this house, solar panels would be a no-brainer. We installed them on a house we owned almost 10 years ago. But we rent. So my M.O. is to figure out how we can use less electricity. I started with the clothes drier. We started out using the drier that came with the house, and quickly figured out it was barely getting stuff dry while taking forever. So we switched it out for the one we had bought about four years ago. It was the most energy-efficient model we could buy without spending close to a $1,000. I also started doing some line-drying: On sunny days, I'll take the larger items from a load and hang them outside. The socks and underwear go into the drier for about 20 minutes (towels I dry fully in the drier). I've installed a clothes line over the bathtub that no one uses and a lot of drying takes place there.

Our electricity billing works on a tiered system. Each month, everyone starts in "Tier 1," where each kwh is priced relatively cheaply. Once you get to Tier 5, the kwh's are the priciest. Each month I get an e-mail alert that says, "You are projected to move into Tier 5 by the end of this billing cycle." Each month until this month, that is, when my email alert said "You are projected to move into Tier 4" Needless to say, I was thrilled that my air-drying efforts were working!

My PG&E bill came in the e-mail tonight, and it says I saved $40 by using less electricity this month. I think it's safe to say the clothes line I bought for $11.50 has paid for itself.

The next step is lightbulbs. Recently a friend who bought a house did a lot of research into the best energy-efficient bulbs. As you may know, LEDs are state-of-the-art and are priced to match. While a run-of-the-mill incandescent (the inefficient kind we've used for decades) cost, oh, a buck, an LED can run you up to $30. CFLs in that category would be more like $5 to $9. LEDs are not tremendously more efficient, but they last forever (decades, supposedly) and don't require special disposal considerations. In comparison, CFLs contain mercury and must be taken to a special recycling facility (hardware stores have these, though). They also don't require time to "warm up" like CFLs and work roughly a million times better with dimmers.

With all this in mind, we headed to Home Depot over the weekend to check out the selection.

Most rooms in our house have recessed lighting, so we started with those. This 6-pack cost $20. I started out by replacing all four bulbs in the kitchen, since much time is spent there and it's one of the few rooms that doesn't have skylights (skylights, btw, are the second most energy efficient thing you can do with your roof). The bulbs do take some time to warm up, but once they do, the light is lovely and it's actually brighter than what we had before.

Next, we tried one of these CFLs in my boys' bedroom. In a word, it's terrible. The light is just horribly cold and unpleasant. I plan to go back to incandescent for now.

There are fixtures with six -- six! -- of these type of bulbs in each of our bathrooms. Again, they take a few minutes to get going, but once they do they provide bright and pleasant light. I plan to replace three or four in each bathroom with two of these.

Finally, I splurged on one itty-bitty LED that ran me $16. It's for my bedside table lamp, which is lovely but the CFL it came with IKEA makes a horrible buzzing noise, even though the lamp isn't dimmable. I installed this bulb and was treated to a wonderful, instantaneous, pleasant light.

My main takeaway from all this is that one of the keys to conversation is money, cash, moolah, plain and simple. I thought I was doing a decent job of conserving energy, at least to the extent I could, but money proved to be a big motivator to get me to up my game.

Dirty habits are the hardest to break

By Mary Rose Roberts
This may surprise you, but I love to smoke. I quit my daily habit more than two years ago. But if I have a cup of coffee, I crave a cigarette. And sometimes if I have a glass a wine and I’m with smokers, I will ask for one. It’s a difficult habit to break, as are all unhealthful habits. It is one I struggle with, just like nutrition.

That’s one of the reasons I support Meatless Monday on the blog. The challenge is to go just one day a week without meat and to choose organic products. When I go meatless, I feel great all day, having more energy and less sluggishness. This week for breakfast, I had a vegan, gluten-free quinoa blueberry muffin, snacked on a berry-almond milk smoothie and dinner was a veggie sandwich made sweeter with a homemade-ricotta-cheese gluten-free crepe for dessert.

Making homemade cheese is easy. In fact, I will never buy ricotta cheese again. Making it homemade not only ensures I know what it is made of. It also saves on plastic containers and gas used for shipping the processed version. Instead, I reused an old plastic container from deli olives I bought a few months ago.

Plus, the ricotta tastes fresh and nothing like store bought. There’s less salt, zero preservatives and guaranteed organic because of the ingredients I used.

I’ve included the recipe below. I used it within an hour of making it to treat my friends to gluten-free, homemade ricotta lemon crepes with raspberry sauce.  I recommend this easy recipe as one way to use the homemade ricotta.

I made enough ricotta for a second recipe, a grilled veggie sandwich, for dinner that night. Look for it next week!

Homemade, organic ricotta cheese
2 qts organic whole milk
1 cup organic heavy cream
½ tblsp. salt
3 tblsp. fresh lemon juice (have extra on hand)

Large bowl
Large strainer
Fine-mesh cheesecloth
6-qt heavy pot

In the sink, place a strainer inside a large bowl. Measure and cut the cheesecloth long so you can place it neatly over the top of the strainer and tie it along the bottom of the bowl in a knot. The cheesecloth should be elevated from the bottom of the strainer.

Next, in the large pot, bring milk, cream and salt to rolling boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Add lemon juice, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly until mixture curdles, about 2 minutes.

If your milk isn’t curdling, then add another 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and continue to stir to prevent burning. Once it starts to curdle and thicken, pour mixture into cheesecloth-lined strainer and let drain for 1 hour.

Cover ricotta and chill. Ricotta will keep in refrigerator for 3 days. I’ve heard you can save the liquid for baking but I haven’t tried it yet.

The cheese has 214 calories per servings, with a total of 4 servings.

Homemade Ricotta, Gluten-free raspberry lemon crepes
Pamela’s Baking & Pancake Mix
2 lemons
½ tablespoon natural vanilla extract
¼ cup of powdered sugar
2/3 cup homemade organic ricotta cheese
1/3 cup of All Fruit raspberry sauce

Make gluten-free crepes according to Pamela’s recipe on the package. The mix should be runny. Heat a frying pan over medium-high and coat generously with organic cooking spray. Pour mixture and physically move the pan in circles to form a round, flat crepe on the bottom of pan.  Lower to medium. Bubbles will form on top of the crepe. Gently check for a nice brown color and flip.

Turn the heat up on the pan and repeat process. Should make about 8-10 crepes.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix ricotta, vanilla extract and powdered sugar. Take a cheese grater and scrap the edges of ½ the lemon into the bowl. Only take the yellow—not the white of the lemon. Taste. Add more lemon to taste.

Take four crepes and place in a large skillet. Drop two tablespoons of mixture on each crepe and spread vertically. Roll each like a burrito. Cover over medium for about 3 minutes.

Heat All Fruit in the microwave until completely melted. Take each crepe, plate each one, take 2 teaspoons of All Fruit and drizzle over top. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Makes 4 servings.

Veggie Fried Rice with Pickled Cucumber Salad

By Anna Fischer Wulff
Quick, easy, delicious, and oh so colorful!  I threw this together last night with whatever I had on hand and had to use up--not even realizing how tasty and attractive it would be once I plated it up.  Follow my made up recipe or use it as a guide for concocting your own.

Veggie Fried Rice with Pickled Cucumber Salad for #meatlessmonday
1/2 cucumber, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup matchstick carrots
1/2 rice wine vinegar
1/2 tbsp salt
1 cup white rice (brown rice is a healthful option)
8 oz fresh or frozen mixed vegetables of your choice
olive oil
1/2 cup stir fry sauce or marinade
1/2 head red cabbage, chopped into 1/4" strips
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tbsp ground ginger

In a small container with a tight fitting lid, combine cucumber, red onion, carrots, vinegar, and salt.  Shake until everything is incorporated and set aside, shaking occasionally. Make rice according to package directions.

Use a large pan to heat olive oil and red pepper flakes on medium-high.  Add  cabbage, vinegar, ginger and salt to taste combining well.  Cook 8-10 minutes until cabbage becomes wilted but crunchy.  Transfer to serving bowl and set aside.

In the same pan, add a drizzle more olive oil over medium-high heat.  Saute vegetables until soft and heated through, salting to taste.  Add cooked rice and stir-fry sauce.  Stir until evenly combined.

Serve fried rice over a bed of red cabbage and top with cucumber salad.

Serves 4.

7 Tips to Increase Fuel Economy

Looking for ways to stretch your gas a little further? Here are top maintenance tips that have the biggest impact on fuel economy.

1. Heed Warning Signs - Research shows that at least 10% of motorists have a "check engine" light on right now and half have ignored the light for over three months. Dashboard warning lights alert drivers to problems that affect their car's emissions output, reduce fuel economy, and ultimately cause mechanical damage. While it may seem like your vehicle is driving just fine, it's often guzzling extra gasoline.

2. An ounce of prevention - Many drivers admit to stretching their dollars by extending time between schedule maintenance appointments. In this case a penny saved may result in many hundreds of dollars spent in extra fuel costs and repairs. Air filters are a good example of how an ounce of prevention can save you money. You can inspect the filter yourself, shake out the dirt or vacuum it and re-use it, or opt to spend the $25 or so for a new one.

3. Lose weight - Are you driving around with extra "junk in your trunk" or truck bed? By removing an extra 100 pounds of clutter from your vehicle, you can improve your gas mileage by several percentage points. A bucket of baseballs weighs about 25 lbs, snow chains weigh at least 10 lbs, and a set of golf clubs can weigh anywhere from 20 to 50 lbs.

4. Make Friends - Whether your commute is 15 miles or 50 miles, carpooling saves on vehicle wear and tear, time and money. It's also a great way to meet co-workers, neighbors and friends. At today's gas prices, most drivers are spending over $40 per week filling their tank. Split these costs and you can put an extra $1,000 in your wallet each year..

5. Avoid Idling - Attention carpool moms, dads and older siblings. Idling for over 10 seconds uses more gas and causes more pollution than restarting your engine. While it's not recommended to turn off your vehicle at a stoplight or while moving through a pickup line at the local fast food drive-through or school, it is a good idea to pull into an approved parking spot and turn off the engine whenever you expect your wait to be more than a couple minutes.

6. Keep Tires Maintained - Ensuring proper tire maintenance, tread and inflation can increase gas mileage by about 10%. Changes in season or major temperature swings are a good time to double check your tire pressure, even if you have a tire pressure monitoring system on your vehicle. It's best to set them first thing in the morning to the high end of the manufacturer's specifications (usually found on the inside of the driver's door).

7. Be Green - If budget and lifestyle allow, it's certainly worth considering a hybrid or electric car as fuel prices rise. But if that's not for you, you can still drive green by planning your trips efficiently, limiting peak-hour driving and making sure to get your annual or bi-annual emissions test.

Get an energy boost with berry energy boost smoothie

By Mary Rose Roberts
Because of a chronic illness, I am supposed to avoid caffeine. But inevitably during a busy workday, I crash mid-morning and crave an energy boost of some kind. Today, in honor of #meatlessmonday, I made my almond-milk smoothie. I use organic blueberries and strawberries because remember, the nonorganic variation is on the Dirty Dozen list of toxic foods.  The recipe is quick and simple. It also is low in calories at about 100 per serving.

Berry Energy Boost Smoothie #meatlessmonday
½ cup of almond milk
1/3  cup of frozen, organic blueberry and strawberry mix

Add the milk to a blender and then berries. Start the blender at stir and slowly move up to puree. If the mixture is too thick, add almond milk ¼ cup at a time.

Serves 1.

Are genetically modified foods killing your kidney cells?

A new European study shows low doses of Bt biopesticide CryA1b as well as the glyphosate herbicide used by Monsanto in genetically modified crops (GM) kills human kidney cells. The herbicide is bred into plants and currently accounts for 39% of globally cultivated GM crops. This is the first study that provides evidence on the toxicity of Bt protein in human cells. This work comes at a time when the French environment and agricultural ministers are seeking an EU-wide ban of Monsanto’s MON810 Bt corn variety that is outlawed in Hungary, Austria, Germany, Greece, and Luxembourg.

Monstanto has been accused by researchers and by activist of having a monopoly on the global food supply, including GM alternatives to natural fruits and vegetables. There even exits an “I Hate Monstanto” Facebook page. In addition, the Organic Consumers Association has a website dedicated to tracking the company’s toxic products and relationships with politicians.

Enchilada Casserole for #meatlessmonday

By Anna Fischer Wulff
Comforting, easy and delicious.  This is one of my go-to meals when I want to make a "special" dinner my husband will love but don't feel like putting in too much effort.

#MeatlessMonday Enchilada Casserole
1 (or 2) 15oz can red enchilada sauce
1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups frozen corn
1 (or 2) 4oz can diced green chilies
12 6" corn or flour tortillas, cut in half
2 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine beans, corn, and green chilies.

Line bottom of 9" square casserole dish with 8 tortilla halves. Pour enough enchilada sauce to cover tortillas evenly. Layer half the spinach over the sauce.

Layer half the black bean mixture over the spinach and top with enchilada sauce. Add another layer of 8 tortilla halves and cover with sauce.

Layer on remaining spinach and bean mixture and cover with sauce. Add final layer of tortillas
Cover with enchilada sauce and shredded cheese. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Serves 4.

Husband-approved vegan, gluten-free quinoa blueberry muffins

By Mary Rose Roberts
Have you ever tried quinoa? It is an amino acid-rich (protein) seed that has a fluffy, slightly crunchy texture with a faint nutty flavor when cooked. It is used in rice dishes and as a gluten-free substitute in many recipes. It also is packed with protein, loaded with fiber and one of the most nutritious foods on earth.

Most commonly considered a grain, quinoa is actually a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard. But I have never used it as a basis for a dessert. While I was looking for a meatless, vegan treat for #meatlessmonday—a social movement where people eat meatless one day a week—I was excited to find a quinoa-based blueberry muffin recipe in the March 2012 edition of Yoga Journal.

It also was one of those proud moments where I found everything I needed to complete the recipe in my cabinets and fridge: the 100% maple syrup, organic applesauce, quinoa, almond milk, extra large paper baking cups (use normal sized if you have them) and more. I skipped the blender and pulled out a large plastic bowl, using it for the wet ingredients while I mixed the dried ones separately. It took about 10 minutes.

After each muffin baked and then cooled, I took plastic wrap and tightly sealed the tops of the cups. I then tossed them in the freezer, leaving out two for tomorrow morning—one for me and one for my husband.

The muffins also taste great with a slice of butter, which can be added guilt-free given their high nutritional content.

Blueberry Quinoa Muffins for #meatlessmonday
1c cornmeal
1c rice flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/4tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 c cooked quinoa
1/2 c 100% maple syrup
1/2 c Silk rice or almond milk
1/2 c organic applesauce
1 T lemon juice
1/4c canola oil
1 c organic blueberries, fresh or frozen (nonorganic are on the Top 12 toxic foods so go organic!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 10 muffin cups. In a medium bowl, mix together first 5 ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together cooked quinoa, maple syrup, rice milk, applesauce, lemon juice and oil.

Add wet mixture to dry and stir until just combined. Fold in blueberries, spoon batter into tins and bake for 20 minutes.

Makes a dozen.
Source: Yoga Journal

Mexican Cabbage for #meatlessmonday

By Anna Fisher Wulff
This is not your normal taco, salad but you'll get rave reviews.

1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 medium head of red cabbage, chopped into thin strips
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 4oz can chopped green chilies
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp oregano or marjoram
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper to taste
corn tortillas

Line medium saucepan with water and cook onion and garlic over high heat until translucent. Add cabbage, tomato sauce, chilies, tomato paste, and spices. Reduce heat to medium and cook until cabbage is tender, about 10 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in corn and beans.

Salt, pepper, and adjust spices to taste

Break corn tortilla chips into small pieces and sprinkle over top before serving. For a little extra excitement, serve it in homemade tortilla bowls.

Serves 4

Gluten-free guacamole sandwich for #meatlessmonday

By Mary Rose Roberts
For #meatlessmonday lunch, I had 2/3 slices of an UDI's gluten-free bagel, toasted. I then added garlic/cream cheese spread, husband-made guacamole, thinly slices red onions, salt and pepper. To drink, I brewed green tea with lemon and put it over ice.

The Dirty Dozen foods that could be poisoning you

By Mary Rose Roberts

Do you know about the Dirty Dozen? It is a list of the most dangerous foods we buy based on the pesticide levels needed to grow them. So when you are shopping, protect your own and your family’s health by always purchasing the organic version of the foods listed below:

The Dirty Dozen
1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Strawberries
4. Peaches
5. Spinach
6. Nectarines (imported)
7. Grapes (imported)
8. Sweet bell peppers
9. Potatoes
10. Blueberries (domestic)
11. Lettuce
12. Kale/collard greens

Meatless Monday Recipe 2: Spinach and Artichoke Baked Pasta

By Anna Fischer Wulff

Spinach!  Artichoke hearts!  Two of my favorite foods baked in into a creamy casserole.  What could be more comforting?  This recipe works great with soy products instead of dairy.

12 oz short pasta
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 cup lowfat sour cream
4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar
10 oz baby spinach
1 13.5oz can artichoke hearts, chopped
4 oz mozzarella, shredded (about 1 cup)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook pasta according to directions.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, then drain pasta. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat, saute onion with salt and pepper, adding garlic when translucent.

In a large bowl combine sour cream, cream cheese, parmesan, lemon juice, and onion mixture.
Add pasta, spinach, artichoke hearts, 1/2 cup mozzarella, and 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid.
Mix well. (You may have to get in there with your hands.)

Transfer to a 2 1/2 - 3qt casserole dish. Sprinkle cracked pepper and remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella on top. Bake for 25 minutes. Broil for about 3 minutes if not golden brown on top.

Serves 8

Eco styles for spring

Dausy Artisan Soaps Spring into the Handcrafted Natural Soap Market

Handcrafted Artisan soaps are becoming increasingly popular in local gift shops and farmer’s markets. Handcrafted soap has long been preferred for its gentle cleansing properties, but many commercial producers of soap and skin care products have long since been in the business of removing the best ingredients from soap in order to sell it back to consumers as skin care treatment products. What could be better than a fresh new line of products that contain all the original wholesome goodness that moisturizes and cleanses your skin the first time, naturally, the way it should be?

Among the many brands and varieties available, Dausy Artisan has launched a new line of nature-inspired, hand-crafted soaps using skin-nourishing oils with touches of natural moisturizing tropical butters, a myriad of fresh and dried botanicals, natural colorants and a bit of sculpting as well. All Dausy moisturizers and scrubs are made from 100% natural ingredients. They contain no preservatives, no chemicals and are paraben-free. They are made and sold in small quantities to stay fresh.

Natural Artisan Soaps
Each batch is blended by hand in small batches using cold process soapmaking and retains the natural glycerin inherent in all made-from-scratch soap. These are not melt-and-pour soaps made from prefabricated soap bases, but skin-nourishing combinations of hand-crafted recipes that not only cleanse, but moisturize the skin as well. Making soap in small batches not only aids in quality control, but keeps the entire line fresh. Individual bars are cut as they are sold, directly from the loaf, with no two bars alike.

Enhanced with herbs, petals, spices, infusions, syrups, minerals, natural colorants and select fragrances, each loaf in their line of over a dozen soaps is deliberately formulated for its unique properties. The resulting recipes yield an intriguing variety of texture, color, purpose and are topped off with their own design.

Made in tandem with the seasons, these soaps are chock full of nature’s bounty. Many are only available seasonally.