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Everything You Need to Know About California’s Plastic Bag Ban

On Friday, August 30, 2014, the California state legislature enacted a ban on plastic grocery bags. If signed into law, the measure would become the first of its kind in America.

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A number of cities and counties in California, including Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach, have already passed their own ordinances against use of plastic bags by retailers. But at a state-wide level, this ban will be the first in the United States.

The bill, approved by the CA Senate, must still be signed into law by Sept. 30 by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.

The measure would ban grocery stores from handing out single-use grocery bags with customers’ purchases, but does allow retailers to charge 10 cents per bag for paper and reusable bags. The bill also includes $2 million in loans to help plastic bag manufacturers shift to the new model.

The ban prohibits the use of plastic bags in grocery stores and pharmacies beginning July 1, 2015, and goes into effect for convenience and liquor stores on that date a year later.

Although the ban is still not officially signed into law, the naysayers are already speaking up to offer criticism and complaints. Here are just a few that I’ve heard so far, along with a response to each…

It’s too hard to remember to bring my own bags.

If you are like most Californians, you spend a lot of your time in the car. Just stash your reusable bags in your trunk, so you will always have them with you when you are running errands. After unpacking your groceries at home, simply put the bags back in your car for your next use.

If that’s still not convenient enough for you, stash a couple of Chico Bags in your purse, backpack or bag. Small, reusable bags that shrink into a small pouch, Chico bags take up virtually no room and are always with you when you need them. They wash super easily too. They are literally one of my favorite inventions ever.

But, I still might forget my bags.

You may still purchase either paper or reusable bags for 10 cents each at the time of purchase. You will not be forced to carry all your items in your arms to the car, I promise.

I don’t think I should have to pay 10 cents for something that is now free.

If you think you aren’t already paying for plastic bags right now, think again. More than 10 billion plastic bags are used in California each year, according to an estimate by Californians Against Waste, an advocacy group that supported the bill. This group further estimates that California’s tax payers spend between $37 million to $107 million annually to manage plastic bag litter in our state.

Plastic bags are also an environmental nightmare, littering our roadways, rivers, oceans, mountains, and everything in between.

In California, there is particular concern that the bags, when swept out to sea, harm ocean life. When floating in the ocean, plastic bags look like jelly fish, and end up being consumed by loggerhead sea turtles and other marine life. If not consumed, the bags break down into micro-plastic particles, which are toxic to marine life – and to humans. Those small bits of toxic plastic end up in the guts of animals or wash up on shorelines, where we come into direct contact with the toxins.

Can’t we just recycle the plastic bags?

The reality is, plastic bags are rarely recycled. In fact, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) indicates that in 2012, the category of plastics which includes bags, sacks, and wraps was recycled at a rate of only about 12 percent. What’s more, the plastic recycling process is very labor and energy intensive – as compared to aluminum, glass and paper. There are also fewer applications for the resulting recycled material.

When plastics are recycled, it’s generally referred to as “downcycling”, which basically means that the incoming bottles, bags, etc. can only be recycled to make a lower-quality form of plastic. Plastic water bottles, for example, cannot be recycled into new plastic bottles. Instead, the resins from plastic bottles are used to make fibers, that can be used in pillows, insulating fill for jackets, etc. Common products that are made from recycled plastics (toys, car parts, plastic lumber, drainage pipes, clothing fibers, and trash receptacles) usually cannot be recycled – making plastics a “dead-end” waste stream.

While recycling plastic is still much better than throwing in the trash, reducing the overall use of plastics is the best possible scenario.

But I use my plastic bags to … (clean up dog messes, line my trash cans, carry home dirty clothes, etc.).

There are still plenty of plastic bags in the world – and most are used only once thrown in the trash. There are produce bags; bread bags; bags your to-go restaurant orders are packaged in; and many, many more.

If you think outside the box a little bit, you will see that you already have enough plastic bags for most purposes. For example, my favorite doggie waste bags are tortilla bags – yes, the bags that your tortillas are packaged in. They are great because they are a perfect size for dog waste cleanup, and have a ziplock-type closing at the top that seals in that unpleasant smell – keeping your outdoor trash can smelling like something other than dog poop when you open the lid.

Finally, whether measured by dollars and cents or in terms of our own health, we are all already paying the price for those free, cheap, ubiquitous plastic bags. It’s time to step up and do the right thing. This new ban may cause you to have to think (for ten seconds when you immediately get out of the car), “Oh wait, let me grab my bags from the trunk”, or pay a few extra cents at checkout, or save a few of the plastic bags that you normally toss to use again.

You have to ask yourself if this small inconvenience (that you will become accustomed to with just a little time) will be worth the long term gains for our environment, our health, and ultimately future generations.

As for me, I vote yes. I hope you will do the same.

My Twelve Week Challenge: The Results, Part Two

My alternative title for this post is “I am the dragonfly”.

OCGreenMama_Results2CollageSo, that’s the surprise I promised to reveal in part one of my challenge results. Not quite as cool as some had speculated, but there it is.

It took me some time to post this. First, because this took some time to get done. Two sessions actually. After five hours of a pain I would put just a notch below childbirth, I’m done.

Then, I had to wait for it to heal. I would not subject you to freshly-inked tattoo photos (you’re welcome).

Some will think it’s cool. Others will find this ridiculous or say I’m going through a mid-life crisis. Here’s the best thing about coming to the end of this journey – it makes no difference to me. I love it. My family loves it. That’s all that really matters. The line of people who agree with everything I’ve done/said/posted is very short and probably only includes people I’ve known for less than a week. Approval from others is no longer necessary for me. It’s quite freeing.

Plus, since this tattoo will be hidden about 98% of the time, I plan to spend the rest of my life meeting new people and thinking in my head “you might not know this about me, but I’m pretty bad ass.”

Which is pretty cool. What’s also cool is the story leading up to this tattoo. I’ll share the short version.

At the beginning of my twelve-week challenge, I decided that at the end of it, I was going to do something that I had been contemplating for some time – get a dragonfly tattoo. Around the same time, my husband and I reconnected with some old friends. These friends introduced me to beautiful and talented Hillary of Royal Ink Tattoo.

Hillary read my story and designed this beautiful piece of art for me.

As we were chatting during my time under the needle, or rather everyone else (my husband, Hillary, and our friends Josh and Sasha – who introduced me to Hillary and whose moral support helped me get through the pain) chatted and I remotely listened in between prayers to God to get me through the pain, we discovered, Hillary is also this person –

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The princess in this photo – a photo that sat framed on my daughter’s nightstand for most of her life.

Serendipity. That’s the only word I have for it.

Now, the journey is finished. Thank you so much for letting me share this journey with you. The response to Part One of my challenge results was touching and overwhelming. The calls, emails and texts meant so much to me. I am truly grateful to have some really awesome people in my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I said at the beginning that I was embarking on this journey in part, because of dragonflys. I don’t think I even realized how true that would prove to be.

The dragonfly exhibits iridescence both on its wings as well as on its body… The magical property of iridescence is associated with the discovery of one’s own abilities by unmasking the real self and removing the doubts one casts on his/her own sense of identity. This again indirectly means self discovery and removal of inhibitions.

This dragonfly is ready to fly. The journey is complete.

My Twelve-Month Challenge: Eating Better Starts with Shopping

The most frequent question people ask me after finishing my Twelve Week Fitness Challenge is “What do you eat?”

A lot of people ask me for my meal plan or more specifics on what I ate during the challenge.

It’s a complex answer, involving determining your basal metabolic rate (the amount of calories you burn per day at rest), logging your food intake and exercise burn, and tracking macro nutrients. There isn’t one right answer for everyone.

But there are some underlying truths that work for everyone (tracking calories, eating clean, increasing protein, reducing sugar, etc). I learned so many of these during my challenge, that I want to start sharing – including the details about what I buy, prepare and eat.

Because healthy eating begins with better shopping, I thought in my first post, I would highlight some of the products that I could not have lived without – both during the challenge and now to maintain my results. For this particular post, I’m going to focus only I products found at Costco.

This post is not sponsored, but I admit that I do have a Costco bias. My first job out of college was at Costco and I’ve been in love ever since. The quality of the organization – from the way they pay/treat their employees to their liberal return policies, it’s just a really good, solid company. Plus their quality standards for the items they sell is top-notch.

I also shop at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Mother’s Market, Sprouts and local Farmers’ Markets (I pretty much avoid any traditional grocery stores unless I absolutely have to for convenience sake) – but for the staple, go-to items, you can’t beat the price and quality of Costco. They have so many more organic products these days. Their produce is the very best of any store – IMHO. Combined with the fact that it’s the absolute best price per pound (yes, you usually do buy more pounds of it), you can’t go wrong.

Here are my top Costco items that I can not live without –

Organic Produce – The organic produce varies from store to store and season to season, but on my most recent shopping trip, I found organic apples, organic strawberries, and organic bananas all in one trip. Score! Plus, these organic strawberries were so good. Like 1000 times better than the ones I purchased at another store the week before.

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Yes, it’s quite a bit of strawberries, but you can make them last. As soon as you get them home, wash strawberries (or any berries) in a solution of one-part white vinegar to ten parts water. You won’t even need to rinse them. The vinegar smell subsides quickly. Your berries will resist molding and last twice as long – I promise.

Earthbound Farm Organic Power Greens – I eat a salad almost every day, and almost every salad starts with this base. It’s quick and easy, organic and healthy – plus the baby kale is much easier to eat straight out of the bag, without any further cooking, rubbing with oil, etc. I even throw this mix in my smoothies. It is a must-have.

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Healthy Grains – Here are three of my favorite Costco items. Coaches Oats (the best oatmeal ever), Qia (an organic cereal that is a mixture of the power foods chia, buckwheat and hemp) and Hemp Hearts (the most nutritious part of the hemp seed. I sprinkle on cereal, salads and yogurt).

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Organic Chicken – You can not beat organic chicken breasts for $5.99 per pound. You can purchase this fresh or frozen (in individual packets so you can pull out one chicken breast at a time for defrosting). You can also purchase organic drumsticks and whole organic chickens for roasting.

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Organic Eggs – I’ve written about this before – egg whites are my new BFF. Quick, easy, packed with protein, and very low in calories. I cook up a batch every week and grab them when I need a quick snack, or add them to my salads. Costco’s eggs are certified organic, cage-free, and now (hallelujah) come in a recyclable plastic container that is made from recycled water bottles. What more can you ask for?

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Sustainable Seafood – Costco is one of the largest suppliers of sustainable seafood in the country. They took great strides a few years ago to ensure that all the fish in their stores is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, the most recognized independent group certifying sustainable fisheries. Fish is a dinner staple. I buy Wild Alaskan Salmon, Wild Halibut, and my kids’ favorite, the very mild tasting Wild Alaskan Pacific Cod.

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Although the inventory can vary from time to time, you can also find all kinds of additional healthy, organic products. Here are just a few that I ran across on my recent shopping trip. From a vast selection of frozen organic veggies, to organic acai, to raw honey and almond butter. Also, there is the greatest condiment of all time – Cholula. It has the power to turn almost anything (but especially scrambled egg whites) into a gourmet meal – yes, I’m a little obsessed.

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Your local Costco is serving up all kinds of organic fare – in bulk of course, but if you have the storage space (or hungry teenagers) you can not beat the quality and price.

One final note about packaging. My only issue with some of the Costco products is that there is too much packaging. So, I purchase selectively and am hyper-vigilant about reusing and recycling. We reuse bags, cartons, rubber bands, virtually anything that we can find another use for. Cardboard and plastic all gets recycled so very little (primarily just shrink wrap) ends up in the trash.

Coming up in future posts, examples of what to eat, from breakfast to lunch to dinner. Also, recipes that are family-friendly and challenge-friendly.

If there are any questions you have or things you want me to cover, let me know in the comments below or just send me an email.

My Twelve Week Challenge: The Results, Part One

I finished my twelve-week challenge at The12 on December 29, 2013. The best part about the timing is that for the first time in my life, I began the new year with my diet and exercise goals already met. I can’t believe it – I literally have no New Year’s resolution about changing my body, my diet, or my exercise program. My only goal is to just maintain what I’ve already accomplished, and not screw up my progress to date. I can’t tell you what a great feeling that is.

Looking back, it was a long twelve weeks but also seems like it flew by – from my fears before starting, to my ten-day cleanse, to learning about macro-nutrients and food logging. Then there were the inevitable slip-ups, but finally, my ultimate commitment to the program and “remembering to be awesome”.

Along the way, I learned so much, and realized all the things I was doing wrong before I joined The12.

One thing I can honestly say about this journey is that it was easier than I initially thought it would be. I did not have to work out every day – actually, I only exercised about four times a week. I did not have to starve myself, and at no point did I ever feel hungry. As a matter of fact, some days my problem was not being able to get in enough food. I had support, coaching and encouragement every step of the way.

And, then there are the results. Those speak for themselves.

First, to the numbers, pulled straight from the InBody scale at The12 …

OCGreenMamaChallengeNumbersCollageIn just twelve weeks, I lost 12.4 pounds – from 130.1 pounds to 117.7. Most remarkably, this weight loss was entirely from fat. No loss of water, no loss of muscle. 100% fat loss! My total percentage of body fat dropped from 23.5% to 16.5%. You can see in the body composition percentage numbers above, my body fat mass (the purple line) went way down while my dry lean mass (the blue line) stayed the same.

Then, on to the photos. This part makes me all squirmy and uncomfortable. (I had my daughter take these – yes, she may be scarred for life – every Monday morning literally right before heading out the door to the gym – no hair or makeup – just 43-year-old me. Okay, no more excuses, here goes …)

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And for the final picture, I think it’s good to look at week one versus twelve. Here is a different angle to mix it up a bit:

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At the beginning of the challenge, my coach asked me to write a letter expressing my reasons for wanting to participate in this challenge – a letter that I could look back on in the weeks ahead to provide the extra motivation I would need to get through the challenge.  

Here is me reading the letter (it will make a bit more sense if you read “this post” before viewing – you know if you have time and all) and a few thoughts after – unscripted, unedited. I had no idea there would be tears and as much over-sharing – which also makes me a little uncomfortable – but here goes…

So there it is – raw and unfiltered. My thoughts on completing this twelve-week challenge. It has been quite a journey, both physically and emotionally. I realize that losing twelve pounds is not some great, earth-shattering accomplishment. I know that others have jumped over much greater health and fitness hurdles than I have. But for me, in my life, it was big. I truly believe that the outside transformation is just a physical manifestation of the transformation inside. There is such a mind-body connection. When you realize that when you put your mind to it, you can transform your body, you also realize that you can transform your thoughts. When you transform your thoughts, you can change your life.

I’ve arrived to a place of peace and happiness, which feels better than any weight loss ever could. Well, that and throwing medicine balls. Those suckers are surprisingly therapeutic.

Finally, a really big thank you to everyone who supported me throughout this challenge. Not only the people at The12 – who were awesome – but also to family and friends who sent me kind words, left me likes and comments on my posts and pictures, and offered words of encouragement. Each and every one really meant a lot to me.

This is merely a step of my journey – not the final one. I am setting out new goals and challenges for 2014. For the first time in a long time, I can’t wait to see what’s in store in the new year. #12monthchallenge coming up next. I’m ready.

My Twelve Week Challenge: When You Remember to be Awesome

First of all, let me clarify that I am not claiming that I am awesome. However, I do have the capacity for awesomeness, and this is something I have a tendency to forget.

At some point during this challenge, I think shortly after the time I wrote this post about my struggles, I decided that there was a little bit of awesome left in me, and I should probably start using it.

I just woke up one day and thought, “What if I kicked ass today?”

And then I did. And then the next day, and the next, and the one after that. Before I knew it, my schedule looked like this –

Guess what happens when you decide to kick ass? You get results.

Results mean you hit your twelve week goal by the end of week seven. Bam! And that feels really, really good.  I’ve dropped ten pounds and reduced my body fat percentage by 4.7% (from 23.5% to 18.8%).

That is a 20% change in body fat in under seven weeks! It’s remarkable to me. For years, I have tried and failed at something that I was able to do in just seven short weeks of The12Movement’s Twelve-Week Challenge.

At the beginning of my challenge, Josh Boyd, CEO and Founder of The12, said to me “If you follow this plan, I believe you will hit your goal by the end of week seven.” And my internal critic was rolling her eyes and saying “Sure Josh. No problem – cough, cough”.

But, guess what? Josh was right. I followed the eating plan, put my all into my workouts, remembered to kick some ass along the way – and I did it.

So what happens now? Do I just hand in the towel and be done?

Well, the first thing I did is gave myself a “free night”. There may have been bread AND cheese AND wine. Shhh, don’t tell my coach Derek Graham.

Now, the next thing I do is get back to work. Yesterday, I met with my coach and we created some new goals – which include building more lean muscle mass and seeing how much I can possibly sculpt this stomach I do not love – the one that two doctors told me nothing short of surgery will fix. Well, now I’m just out to prove them wrong.

And maybe, just maybe I’ll tackle that marathon I’ve been talking about for years. You never know what some great coaching, a lot of hard work, and a little bit of awesomeness can accomplish.

My Twelve Week Challenge: Seven Things I Had All Wrong

Before beginning my Twelve-week Fitness Challenge at The12 gym in Irvine, I considered myself to be a pretty healthy person. I exercised regularly. I ate whole foods, primarily organic. I even tracked my calories (though somewhat irregularly) using MyFitnessPal. But the results just were not there. I would lose and gain the same 8-10 pounds over and over again. I was in a rut where my body was not responding and I knew there had to be a better way.

Now that I am in week six of the challenge, I can look back and see many of the reasons for my poor results. What I realize now is that diet is about 90% of the equation. You can’t out-run, out-lift, out-exercise a diet that isn’t working for your body.

Here is a list of the things I was doing wrong before I started this challenge: (Well, in my diet anyway. We don’t have time or space for the all-inclusive list of my wrong-doings.)

1. Not Eating Often Enough

Before the challenge, I was eating a meal only about twice a day – lunch and dinner. I would usually just have coffee and maybe a banana for breakfast and then go to work out. I wouldn’t eat much throughout the day, and finish with a fairly large dinner. My body was all out of whack, not having the proper fuel to stay energized throughout the day. Now, I eat six smaller meals a day (pre-workout, post-workout, followed by four to five meals throughout the day). I feel like I’m constantly eating, but I’m losing weight.

This single change is so key to maintaining your body in the optimum fat-burning zone. It doesn’t have to be six meals. Maybe four works for you. That’s fine, as long as they are regular and provide you with some good nutrition to sustain you throughout the day. Once your body becomes accustomed to being fed on a regular basis, your metabolism can stabilize and your fat-burning engine can get to work burning that stubborn belly fat that creeps on as you get older.

2. Not Eating Breakfast and/or Before my Workout

We’ve all heard “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” a million times yet somehow, most adults ignore this advice. It’s an old and overused saying – BECAUSE IT’S TRUE. Ideally, you should eat within an hour of waking so your body doesn’t go into “starvation mode”.

Plus, you need food to get through a morning workout. Some good carbs and lean protein in your stomach help you go longer, be stronger and perform better. Your body needs fuel to perform.

3. Not Determining my Specific Calorie Needs per Day and Tracking My Food Consistently

I have been using MyFitnessPal for over a year with mixed results. I was pretty good about logging during the week, but went dark on the weekends. Just those couple of days of not logging made a huge difference in my calories intake, and therefore my results.

“But it’s so time consuming”, I hear people say. Honestly, after you become accustomed to the program and it saves your favorite and most-eaten foods, it’s really doesn’t take that much time. It’s probably about ten minutes per day. Plus, the app is on your phone so you can log it anywhere, anytime. So put down the Candy Crush for a little bit and track your food. It works. I promise.

The first step to tracking your food intake is to determine the amount of calories you need on a daily basis. Here is some great advice from Josh Boyd, CEO and Founder of The12, on how to determine that for your own body –

“Determining how many calories you need to lose weight is one of the most confusing parts of the weight loss process. The simple way to determine this number is to eat 10-12 times your body weight in pounds. For example, a 200lb person would eat 2000-2400 calories.It is always best to start high and come down only if necessary. Your ultimate goal is to eat as many calories as possible that still enable you to lose weight. If eating 9-10 times your body weight results in no weight loss over a period of 3 weeks, you likely have some metabolic damage or down regulation.

To put it simply, a damaged metabolism is typically caused by prolonged excessive calorie restriction combined with excessive physical activity.Your goal should be to eat as much food as possible that still allows you to drop body fat. When you don’t eat enough, important metabolism regulating hormones begin to down-regulate. Hormones such as thyroid and leptin start to lower to create a homeostasis in the body. Not only that, but muscle tissue begins to break down and be used for energy. This reduction in lean body mass also slows your metabolism since muscle is very metabolically active – “eating” fat and burning calories at all hours of the day. ”

This is exactly why determining your caloric intake is so important. You need to eat enough calories to lose weight, but not so many that you don’t get to your goal.

4. Not Eating Enough Protein & Eating Too Many Carbs

As someone who eats primarily vegetarian/vegan, I was loading up on fruits, vegetables and whole grains, but sort of ignoring my protein intake. I was more concerned about the impact of my food on the environment than I was on the impact of my food on my body. Now, I realize that protein is key to my health, fitness, and weight loss.

I am becoming accustomed to eating organic chicken, wild caught fish and organic cage-free egg whites – like EVERY DAY. Egg whites, who knew? I really never ate them before, and now they are my new go-to source for protein. I hard boil my eggs, and just grab one, pop out the yolk in the middle, and eat them whenever I need a quick snack. I also cook them for breakfast, and even add them to my smoothies (the pasteurized egg whites in a carton). They are my new BFF.

To give you an example of the kind of tweaks that I am talking about, here are some photos of my old salad I would eat for lunch –

OCGreenMamaOldSalad

Sure, it has a lot of good stuff in it, but it’s pretty much all carbohydrates and fat. Very little protein to be found.

I have replaced those old salads with something more like this:

OCGreenMamaSaladCollage

Still lots of organic greens, but adding a substantial amount of protein – wild caught cod fish in the first photo and egg whites and nitrate-free, low-sodium turkey in the second.

The flip side of not eating enough protein is that I was eating far too many carbohydrates.

Now that I am doing the challenge, I get almost all of my carbohydrates from vegetables and fruit. I refer to this drawer of my pantry as the “food I no longer eat”.

OCGrennMamaCarbs

Come to think of it, I pretty much don’t eat out of my pantry at all right now. Almost all of my food is fresh and contained in the meat, vegetable and fruit drawers of my refrigerator.

OCGreenMamaProteinCollage

Right now, my goal is to get 50% of my calories from protein, 30% from carbohydrates and 20% from fat. That is a little extreme, and really only maintainable for me in the short-term. Once I complete the challenge, I plan to go for more for a 40/30/30 split.

So how do you determine how much protein, carbs and fat are right for you? Here is some more advice from Josh specific to determining the right protein, carbohydrate and fat ratios for your needs:

“Try to get at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight each day and eat some protein at each meal. The more active you are, the more protein you’ll need. The lower your body fat percentage becomes, the more protein you will need to intake. Fill the rest of your calories with healthy fats and carbohydrates. The numbers of each will be different for each person, but generally speaking, the more active you are the more carbs you will eat relative to fat. Aim to eat at least 15 grams of fiber for every 100 grams of carbohydrates you consume.”

5. Not Planning my Meals in Advance

The key to maintaining the right macro ratios (protein/carbs/fat) is to plan your meals in advance. Many of the folks at The12 plan them for the whole week, but I am more a day or two at a time kind of person. Also, because I go to at least one grocery store pretty much every day, advance planning is not as important to me. So, find what works for you, but plan it out in advance and log it.

On many days, I log all my food into MyFitnessPal in the morning, then just follow the schedule to hit my macronutrients. When I log early, I can see if my macros are off and adjust accordingly – BEFORE I EAT THE FOOD. By then, it’s too late. You can really “undo” what you already ate, but you can easily tweak a meal in advance.

6. Overestimating the Calorie Burn of my Workouts

Before I started this challenge, I would rely on the calorie information in MyFitnessPal or Runkeeper, or the reading of a friend in class. Now I know that these these measurements were way off. The calorie burn of each person varies greatly depending upon their effort level, weight, percentage of lean muscle mass, etc. My results will not be yours and vice versa. I have also learned that different activities can vary widely in their calorie burn. Workouts should be matched to your goals – weight loss, muscle sculpting, etc.

Now armed with my Polar watch (calibrated to my own individual resting heart rate), I know exactly how many calories I burn during each workout.

OCGreenMamaWatch

More on workouts and sample calorie burn for many different exercises coming up in a future post.

7. Too much Wine, followed by too Much Whine

I love wine – like love. I love to buy it, share it, store it, taste it. I love everything about it. I have this sign in my house and I believe it to be true.

OCGreenMamaWine

But, drinking wine on more nights of the week than not was not doing my body any favors. I was drinking too much wine, and then whining about not being able to lose weight. See the problem?

So, do I not drink wine at all anymore? Hey, let’s not go crazy. Yes, I do still enjoy wine but now it’s more the exception than the rule. My favorite part of the day has always been the post-kid-shuttling, dinner-prep time in the kitchen. I pour a glass of wine to relax while cooking and helping with homework. So, I do still do that, but not every night. And when I do, I actually MEASURE MY WINE before I pour it in my glass. After that, sparkling water in a wine glass works just fine. I have noticed too that one nice glass of red gives me that warm lovely feeling – that promotes joy and relaxation. It doesn’t require three.

Less wine, less whining, more results.

Speaking of results, here’s a quick update. I’m still making progress on the challenge but it’s a little bit slower now, which is to be expected at this point of the challenge. I am still losing body fat but my muscle mass is stabilizing rather than increasing, which is why I just upped my protein consumption.

But more importantly, I feel amazing – lighter, healthier, happier than I have in a long time.

Also, you know those “when I get skinny jeans” you hold on to in your closet. Yep, those are coming out of the bottom of the pile. They may not even be in style anymore but I’m wearing them. Skinny jeans be damned, I’m busting out my actual “skinny jeans”. It’s time to let them see the light of day.

Journey to Solar – Part Six, A Month to Month Comparison

We’ve been solar almost six months now and are getting great results. Once we have a full year of experience, I’ll do a complete breakdown of costs and energy generation.

But, to share some perspective, I want to demonstrate how our electric bill breaks down for the month of August – generally our highest bill of the year.

Our electric bill for August 2012 came in at a whopping $464.60, and that includes the discount we received by participating in SCE’s Summer Discount Plan.  In total, we used about 2126 kwh (kilowatt hours). Yikes!

Now, compare that to this August 2013. Our net usage from the grid was 434 kwh. Our current electric bill for August is $14.19! (Again, participating in the Summer Discount Plan generates additional savings.)

The bill for August of 2013 also includes the monthly cost of operating our electric car that we did not own last year. So, when you factor in about $150 we spent in gas last August for my husband’s car, that brings our total monthly savings to $600! In one month!

We drew 938 kwh from the grid this August, sold back 504 kwh to Southern California Edison, for a net usage of 434 kwh.

In terms of charges from SCE for solar customers, here’s how it works – when your solar panels are working during the day, your energy generation goes first, to supply electricity to your own home, and second, back to the grid. If you generate excess energy during the day beyond what you consume, you sell it back to the grid. At night (when solar panels sleep along with us), you draw your electricity from the grid.

If the amount you draw from the grid during the month is more than that you sell back, you owe SCE. If it’s the reverse, the electric company owes you.

Solar customers are placed on an annual billing cycle, where charges and credits are accumulated throughout the year, and you true up at the end of one year of solar energy generation.

So for the month of August (technically from July 22 – August 20th), we generated 1168 kwh from our solar system and drew 938 from the grid for a total usage of 2104 kwh. This is pretty close to our overall usage last year, but the difference is that 100% of our usage last year was from the grid and now the majority is coming from solar.

Of the 1168 kwh of solar energy we generated, we used 664 and sold 504 back to the grid.

Bottom line – a $14 electric bill!

So for now, I’m basking in my $600 savings for the month. Even more reason to love the sun. Keep it coming!

These babies really are a beautiful sight …

SolarPanels

Related Posts:

Journey to Solar – Part One, Making the Decision

Journey to Solar – Part Two, Financing

Journey to Solar – Part Three, Auditing and Evaluation

Journey to Solar – Part Four, Rebates and Approvals

Journey to Solar – Part Five, Installation, Inspection and Flipping the Switch

If you have any questions at all about going solar, ask in the comments below, email me, or find me on Twitter. I want to encourage more people to take their own journey to solar, getting off the grid and saving money. Less money, less guilt. You can’t go wrong.

What’s in My Bag: The OC Green Mama Edition

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You know how you turn to that feature of Us Magazine called “What’s in My Bag?” and you think “yeah, like I really care what’s in Mel B’s bag.” Then, somehow, you find yourself reading the entire article. No, just me?

I think we all (well atleast I do) have some curiosity to see inside people’s homes, purses, cars, etc. It’s like a peak into their lives.

So, I had this idea to empty out my bag and over-share. Not because I think I’m as interesting as say, Nicki Minaj (thankfully I’m not), but because it helps highlight some of the great green products that I rely on daily. Products that help me live a little more eco-friendly on a daily basis (and none of which I received for free or in exchange for a blog post – just products I love).

OCGreenMama_MyPurseHere are some of the highlights:

OCGreenMama_PurseCollage

Organic hand sanitizing spray – Right now, I’m using the Dr. Bronner’s Lavender spray. It’s organic, fair trade, free from harsh and problematic anti-bacterial chemicals, and helps alleviate my OCD hand washing tendencies.

Mineral Fusion Powder – this all-in-one mineral powder gives you a daily touch up – especially good for hot sweaty summer days – and provides SPF protection. Its color is subtle enough that I can use it on the whole family, and great to have stored in my purse for those times I realize we headed out to the OC Fair all day without sunscreen (true story). And, it’s free from gluten, parabens, SLS, phthalates, artificial colors and synthetic fragrances. 100% vegetarian and never tested on animals.

To-Go Ware – I carry this bamboo utensil set in my bag (which includes a knife, fork, spoon and chopsticks) to avoid single-use plastic utensils. You can see in the photo, I have accidentally thrown away (or others have tossed for me) a few of my bamboo utensils, but I just replaced them with some sturdy plastic ones that I wash and reuse again and again. Bonus: the RePeat carrying case is made from recycled PET plastic.

Chico bag – This is saying a lot but seriously, the Chico bag is the single most useful green product I have ever purchased. It is in my purse at all times, so I’m always prepared with my own bag. Not only has it saved me literally hundreds of shopping bags, but it’s also hauled sunscreen and magazines to the beach, sandwiches to a picnic, and even brought home wet swimsuits after a day at the pool. It is durable and super easy to clean – just toss in the washing machine and air dry.

Bag of Lip Products – I can’t stand searching in the bottom of my purse for my lip balm, so I keep all these products in a little bag within a bag. Among my favorites are Kiss My Face lip balmBurt’s Bees Lip gloss, and Vapour Organic Beauty lipstick. With these three products I can go from no color, to subtle color, to night-time color, using safe, all-natural ingredients.

Other purse items: My Prius key, iPhone, Coach wallet (which I’ve had for fifteen years and counting), EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce; Bowl of Heaven punch card; Dry Soda coupon; random things like a salt packet from the movies that I didn’t want to throw away and a cork from a champagne bottle opened at a restaurant (which I brought home in my purse to add to my cork collection); a purse hook (no purses on the floor – gross!); sun-glass-cleaning cloth; and hair bands and bobby pins (which every good dance mom carries at all times).

So there’s a look into my not-Us-Magazine-worthy purse. I mean it’s no $3000 Louis Vuitton bag filled with over-priced makeup – just a $100 straw purse full of eco-friendly products I use and love – those that make a green, OCD-tendencied mama’s life easier on a daily basis.

Farmers’ Market Report: Mission Viejo

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The Mission Viejo Farmers’ Market recently moved to Saturdays from 9:00am to 1:00pm – it was formerly on Friday during the same hours. The market is at 200 Civic Center Drive, in the civic center courtyard directly in front of the Mission Viejo library.

OCGreenMama_MVFMCollage

I went with my son last Saturday to check out the offerings.

It’s not a huge market, similar in size to Foothill Ranch, with some of the same vendors we’ve see regularly around Orange County, like Baba Foods, Chili Boys, and Rockview Farms.

The big find for me at this market was Robbie’s Fresh Seafood. Their fish comes straight from fisherman to customer, caught within 24-48 hours of sale. I tried the organic salmon, which was as tender, fresh and delicious as the salesman promised it would be.

There were a few other unique features to this market, including flowers and plants from Laguna Hills Nursery, a Friends of the Mission Viejo Library booth accepting donations of used books, and a cool display of locally-grown organic mushrooms.

OCGreenMama_MVFMCollage2

The market is not crowded and there is plenty of parking in the library lot. A quick stop on a Saturday morning and you can load up on fresh organic vegetables and seafood for dinner.

This farmers’ market features live entertainment, gourmet food trucks, and goods from local artisans from time to time. Check out the city of Mission Viejo’s farmers market page of the website for details about special events each Saturday.

Journey to Solar – Part Five, Installation, Inspection and Flipping the Switch

The day was finally here we had been waiting for – installation day.

Our solar panel system is fairly large (7.2kw) so installation actually took two days.

Installation was a breeze. The hardest thing was keeping my dogs from freaking out while a crew of people stomped across our roof.

Now that it’s all done, our home looks like this:

SolarCollage

If we were overly concerned about hiding our system, we could have limited it to the panels on the side of our house that are virtually undetectable. I had a hard time even photographing them – in the photo to the left above. Because of the elevation of our house, you can barely see them from the street.

Our main concern was generating as much solar power as our roof and the orientation of our house would allow, so we decided to maximize our roof space by using the area over our garage as well.

Those visible panels don’t bother me at all. Where some may see “unsightly” panels, I see beauty (not to mention big energy savings – cha ching!). It’s all in the eye of the beholder after all.

Unfortunately, once our installation was complete, we couldn’t just turn on the system and start generating our own power. There were still more steps to the process.

First, an independent inspector had to come out to the house to review our entire system and submit a report to the utility company.

Fortunately, the inspector was here within the week, our installation passed with flying colors, and he filed his report quickly with Southern California Edison (SCE).

Solar City had warned me that SCE was taking about three weeks on average to clear solar systems for operation. I was pleasantly surprised, when just about a week after inspection, we got the go ahead from SCE to turn on our system.

Now that we had the thumbs up from SCE, I called Solar City and they walked me through a couple of steps. First, I needed to turn on the switch on my inverter – which is in the garage and looks like this:

solarinverter

Next, I had to connect the monitoring device (that communicates information from the inverter to Solar City) to my wireless router. This allows me to monitor my solar generation online through Solar City’s SolarGuard program. It also allows Solar City to monitor my system to ensure it is running smoothly and operating at full capacity. If there are any issues, Solar City will alert me and fix the problem.

After a few minutes on the phone, we were in business. Solar energy started flowing into our system!

We are a few weeks in to generating our own power now. It feels so good to know we are running our home from the sun. It gives me one more reason to smile on beautiful sunny days like today.

And saying goodbye to large electric bills for the next twenty years or so is going to feel pretty good too.

We are coming to the end of this journey but there is still one more step – the results! I’ll report back in a few months and let you know how it’s going.

Thank you for following me on this journey up to this point. Hopefully I inspired a few of you to consider powering your home from the sun too. If you have any questions about the process, just leave a comment below or send me an email. I’d love to help you begin your own journey to solar…

Related Posts:

Journey to Solar – Part One, Making the Decision

Journey to Solar – Part Two, Financing

Journey to Solar – Part Three, Auditing and Evaluation

Journey to Solar – Part Four, Rebates and Approvals