Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday FiveSpot presents... more favorite green tips!

Last week, Tera and Becca shared their favorite tips for going green. This week, it's Alyson and my turn to share our green-happy favorites. (And then we want more ideas from you!)

What are your favorite Living Green tips? Are there any cool Living Green gadgets or techniques that you've discovered in your quest to live greener?


Green gadgets?!! If anyone knows of a cool “green gadget” bring it on!! I love anything gadgety that promises to make those little life chores easier!

But so far, in my gadget free existence, I do all the usual things like:

-- Turn off the water while I brush my teeth

-- Recycle, Recycle, Recycle

-- Wash only full loads of laundry with environmentally correct soap

-- Change all my light bulbs to the energy efficient kind

-- Turn off said lights when I’m not using them

-- Open a window before turning on a fan to see if nature alone will cool down the house

-- Oh, and this is a big one for me as a writer, but whenever I have to print something, like a manuscript or whatever, as soon as I’m done with it I cut it into scrap paper, that I use for notes, grocery lists, to do lists, you name it. It’s not much, but it makes me feel far less wasteful.


My favorite green tips are very similar to Alyson, Becca and Tera's. Since they've covered a lot of mine, here are some of my all-time water-saving favorites (including some gadgets).

-- We're not big fans of watering our outdoor plants or lawn, but there have been occasions when it's been necessary. We grew our backyard grass from seed rather than buying sod and needed to keep it moist during germination and the early growth stage. Here's a secret: water only in the early morning before the sun comes up. The temperature is cooler so there's less evaporation (less waste) and it has time to soak in down to the roots before the heat of the day kicks in. (You could do this after the sun goes down as well, but it can increase the risk of fungal growth on your plants. The experts I've talked to unanimously recommend early AM watering.)

-- If you must water, make it easy to do an eco-friendly AM watering by buying a programmable water timer from your local garden store. You attach it to the faucet and plug your hose into it. Then you set it for the day(s) of the week and time you want it to turn on and how long you want it to water before shutting itself off. It's a fabulous way to get the most of your watering when you absolutely must water while keeping an eye on the earth. It's also a great tool for keeping your garden healthy while you're on vacation.

-- If you're watering a garden, use a soaker hose rather than a sprinkler. Soaker hoses are available at most home and garden stores and have tiny holes along the hose that allow the water to seep out directly onto the ground. It can be woven in between your vegetable rows so that it targets every plant evenly. There's much less evaporation than a traditional sprinkler and it delivers water directly to the root area where it's needed most. Using a soaker hose in the early AM is the best of both worlds - a terrific, eco-friendly way to keep your vegetable garden flourishing (and supporting a healthy eating lifestyle!).

-- Install low flow toilets, faucets and showerheads. Not only are they inexpensive, but I've never yet noticed a different in the water flow from the faucets and showerheads. And they can save a significant amount of water.

-- This is a simple one, but that half glass of water you didn't drink before bed? Don't pour it down the drain. Use it to water your indoor houseplants. Every little bit counts.

So there you go, more green tips to kick off the weekend. What about you? Let's hear some more of your favorite green tips!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Alyson --Living My Five

So, I feel I should say, right from the start, that my husband & I aren't exactly what you'd call "car people."

Sure we admire a nice sexy, sleek, and shiny model, but we don't really feel the need to claim one of our own. And when a good friend recently got a Bentley, I couldn't wait to go for a spin around the block (I'd never been in one before and they are truly beautiful, a real work of art, with every detail attended to!), but when the ride was over, I was just as happy to climb behind the wheel of my, er, non-Bentley.

So when we found ourselves in the market for a new car recently (mine's really getting up there in years), we were immediately faced with a sea of seemingly unlimited options. But, as we nailed down our criteria, which basically amounted to a combination of comfort, value, good gas mileage, and as minimal environmental impact as possible (keeping in spirit with my pledge to live greener), the list of potentials became a lot shorter, and we ended up choosing a new hybrid model that not only gets 35 mpg, but is made of 80% recyclable, plant based materials--how cool is that?!

Oh, and, on a side note, it just so happens to be sexy, shiny, and sleek too--so a total win/win!

Now we just have to wait for it to be delivered . . .

How about you? Are you Living Your Five??

Monday, October 26, 2009

Kay - Living My Five

After a much-needed long weekend, it's back to the real world. Time to report in on my Five!

Pay it forward in ways that are meaningful to me

I have been on a MAJOR buying spree this year when it comes to books. At last count, I was nearing 100 books purchased in 2009 alone! The interesting thing about buying books is that, to me, I'm paying it forward in two ways. First, I'm supporting the publishing industry (and my fellow authors) by purchasing their lovely books. With the first annual National Bookstore Day rapidly approaching, I'm already making my list of books that I still want to buy.

You know about National Bookstore Day, right? It's a national event sponsored by Publishers Weekly to encourage people to support their local bookstores. What's not to love? If you're starting to think about holiday gift giving (if that's something you do), think books. Mysteries, romance, thrillers, cookbooks, biographies, health books, picture books, and SO much more. There's truly something for everyone!

As for me? On Saturday, November 7th, I'll be heading out to my local bookstores to support this great event and getting a jump on my holiday shopping. Last year I bought more than 20 books for people on my list. Do you think I can outdo that this year? I'm going to try!

The second part of paying it forward with my book buying is that every time I bring a new book in, I'm reminded that there is no more room on my bookshelves. So I've begun to cull my book collection, looking for interesting ways to let those books bless other people. Some of them will go to my local library so other people can enjoy them for free. Some of them will go to Goodwill so people can add to their collections even if they're on a tight budget (or they can purchase them for the kids in their lives--I take care of my books, so they're all in excellent condition).

And some of the books will go to a lovely middle school teacher in an impoverished inner-city school district in Texas. She is trying so hard to expose her kids to books. Many of her students are told regularly that they should leave school and get a job instead of finishing middle school. Once I finish pulling out all the books I have, I'm going to select the best of the best and send them off to Texas. I can't wait to ship them off.

So that's how I've been living my Five. What about you? What kinds of neat things have you been doing to Live Your Five?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday FiveSpot presents... our favorite green tips!

First... a quick note of Fiver cheer to wrap up the week!

HUGE congratulations to Founding Fiver (and debut YA author) Becca Fitzpatrick for becoming a New York Times bestselling author this week! We are completely thrilled that Becca's novel, Hush, Hush, has debuted at #10 on the Children's list!!! Becca joins Founding Fiver, and fellow New York Times bestselling author, Alyson Noel on this prestigious list where Alyson's Evermore and Blue Moon (the first two books in her Immortals series) have taken the world by storm.

I LOVE when good things happen to good people, don't you??? Way to go, Becca and Alyson! We're so proud of you!!!

As you all know, Becca, Alyson, Tera, and I are all huge advocates of living a greener life. So we thought it would be fun to share our favorite strategies and solutions for going green.

What are your favorite Living Green tips? Are there any cool Living Green gadgets or techniques that you've discovered in your quest to live greener?


My favorite tips are:

  • Turning off the sprinklers on days when it rains
  • Washing clothes in cold water as often as possible
  • Finding natural ways to eliminate garden pests rather than opting for harsh chemical pesticides
  • Choosing the bike over the car


    Living in a sunny, southern climate, one of my favorite green (and money-saving) tips is to keep my blinds shut all day in the summer to keep the sun's heat out. I've even taken it to the extreme of making sure my blinds are turned up so no beams can sneak in between them. By keeping out as much sunlight as possible, it keeps my apartment a little cooler, which in turn keeps my energy usage (and my bill) down. (Though I don't have much call to do the reverse in winter, keeping your blinds open during the day will let in warmth and keep your heating to a minimum.)

    Another thing I do to save energy and keep my electric bill down is cut down on passive energy drain by my electronics. I keep my computer, tv, and accessories plugged into surge protectors. When I'm not using them or when I'm out of town, I turn off the plug bar so they don't keep sucking energy. With my phone and laptop charges, I only plug them in when I'm using them. As long as they're plugged in, they're pulling energy. It takes a while to get used to plugging and unplugging chargers, but it's a minor change with a major cumulative result.

    Next week, Alyson and I will be sharing our favorite green tips, but first... it's your turn! What are your favorite ways to go green?

  • Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Tera -- Living My Five

    Like I said in my last post, I'm moving this week. My stuff is actually already in Oklahoma City and I'm on my way there via Austin and Dallas. It's been a hectic two weeks, to say the least.

    But I am happy to report some moving-related progress on my Five.

    Going Green

    With every move there is a lot of waste. (A lot of waste.) I diligently collected all recyclables, like plastic bottles and extra cardboard boxes, and toted them down my three flights of stairs and across the complex to the recycle bins.

    Disaster Relief

    I also ended up with a bag full of non-perishable pantry items that could have easy been tossed into the trash. Instead, I looked up places to donate food in Houston and found the West Side Social Services organization not far from my (now former) apartment. When I took them my seemingly paltry bag of food they were so thankful and pleased to have it. That was definitely a spirit boost on a stressful day.

    (I'm not sure this services only victims of natural disasters, but probably anyone in need of donated food has suffered some kind of disaster in their life.)

    Writing Mentorship

    After culling through my (excessive) collection of books, I wound up with one box and three tote bags fulls of books to pass on. In the past I've taken these books to a local used bookstore to sell back for store credit. I've hardly ever used the credit I've accumulated while living in Houston, and now that I was moving away it seemed silly to build up even more. So, instead, I donated these books to the Houston Public Library. My dad delivered them to my neighborhood branch and he said the librarian was thrilled to receive the books. Score two for spirit boost. Maybe one of those books will inspire a future writer to bestsellerdom!

    I also shipped whatever young adult books I was donating to the wonderful make-shift library Becca wrote about two weeks ago. Goodness knows those kids need all the opportunities for escape they can get.

    See, even something as stressful and overwhelming as moving can turn into an opportunity to further your Five. So how have you done since my last update? Any unexpected progress or spirit-boosting moments to share?

    Are you ready to Live Your Five?


    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Becca - Living My Five

    Hey, Fivers!

    Hope everyone had a fantastic week! My post today is a combo of paying it forward, and volunteering in local schools. I'm friends with a principal in town whose school is known for being one of the poorest in our community. This week she told me about a service project she and her students did last year for an orphanage in Nicaragua, and it was so successful, she's decided to do it again this year. Her hope for the service project was that it would show her students that no matter what their circumstances are, there are always people less fortunate. That no matter where we all are in life, we can always help someone else out. Always. Right now, she and her students are in the process of collecting clothes, shoes and toys for approximately 60 orphaned children in Nicaragua. I offered to volunteer in any way I could. She gave me two backpacks, one for a boy and one for a girl, and told me to fill them with clothes, toothpaste, Legos, airplane kits, Spanish books, journals and colored pencils. She explained that shortly before Christmas, she and her students will be flying to Nicaragua with the backpacks. Talk about exciting!! Not only am I helping students from my very own community fulfill their goals, but I'm hoping I can help make this one of the merriest Christmases ever for two children in Nicaragua!

    That's what I've been up to. What about you? Are you living your Five?

    Friday, October 16, 2009

    Friday FiveSpot presents... another must-see music video

    Last month, I shared a Nickelback video for the song If Everyone Cared. Based on the feedback we heard, the video was a big hit with our blog readers. So I wanted to follow up with the other Nickelback video that I think is a great Living Your Five piece of inspiration.

    If Today Was Your Last Day

    (For copyright purposes, I'm linking to the AOL version of the video because I was unable to find an official copyrighted version on Nickelback's site to link to. If the link doesn't work in your country/zone, just search for "If Today Was Your Last Day video".)

    Are you ready to Live Your Five?

    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    Alyson --Living My Five

    So, over the last two weeks since my last post, I’ve been a busy, little Fiver.

    But it was actually the kind of Fiving (yes, it’s a verb!) that I didn’t really have to put a lot of thought into, it just sort of flowed naturally from one day to the next, which was kind of cool because it feels like it’s really starting to take effect and become less of a mantra and more of a lifestyle now.

    Like last week when I got my car washed (as illustrated above & below), which, on the surface doesn’t seem all that related to Fiving, but did you know that do it yourself car washing is one of the most environmentally un-friendly chores we can do?

    Unlike household waste water that enters the sewers and undergoes treatment before it’s discharged into the environment, that sudsy water that runs off your car goes right into storm drains—and eventually into rivers, streams, creeks and wetlands where it poisons aquatic life and wreaks havoc on the ecosystem. But the water at the commercial carwash is treated before it gets discharged back into the environment—there are federal laws that require this kind of thing. They also use computer-controlled systems and high-pressure nozzles and pumps that minimize water usage. Many also recycle and re-use the rinse water.

    So yeah, score one for the environment and I got a clean, shiny car to go with it!

    Orlando Bloom in Nepal, recently appointed Unicef Goodwill Ambassador!

    And even though I’m not really one to plan for the holidays this far ahead—my usual method being to let it creep up with seemingly no warning whatsoever—yesterday when I received my Unicef catalog in the mail, I wasted no time in ordering my holiday greeting cards, which are not only pretty, but also help raise money to deliver nutrition, clean water, health care, and basically save and nurture children all over the world—a total win/win right? To check out all the awesome cards and gifts available that can help make a difference in a child’s life, click HERE!

    And last but not least, my husband recently had his own Fiver moment I just have to share. The other day he was standing by for a flight when he and another passenger were bumped and put on another flight with a destination that was over a two and a half hour drive from where they wanted to be (one of the perils of using those airline employee benefits!). Well, the other guy was frustrated and about to give up entirely, when my husband arranged for a rental car and offered the guy a ride. And while I’m not advocating for anyone to invite a stranger into their car, as there were extenuating circumstances, like the guy worked for the airline I used to work for, etc, I was still so touched that he offered to help out a stranger without giving a second thought to his own comfort. But then, this is a guy that used to trick-or-treat for Unicef, so he's been a Fiver from way back . . .

    Anyway, that’s it for me this week—how about YOU?

    Are you Living Your Five?

    Monday, October 12, 2009

    Kay - Living My Five

    Last week, I was fortunate to go on vacation with my husband's family. Not only did we have a terrific time, but it was also meaningful for two of my Five.

    Live a greener life

    The first thing I did before heading out on vacation was make sure that I prepped our house for the trip by lowering the programmable thermostat, turning off anything non-essential and doing other Go Green things to be kind to the Earth while we were gone. That includes at the hotel we were staying in. Even though the refrigerator in our room ticked the entire time we were there (aaaargh), I resisted the urge to sleep with the bathroom fan on to drown out the noise. :-)

    Commit to a life of gratitude

    I am very lucky that I married into a really great family. My family is super as well, but having two awesome sets of families makes life all the merrier. This time, instead of letting the days slip by as they so often do when we see each other, I took the time to really appreciate being together and to be grateful for getting to see them.

    We also spent time at the National Museum of the Air Force. Walking through all of the different hangers and reading the history of the Air Force in different eras gave me an enormous appreciation for everything that goes on, largely out of sight of most citizens, to protect us. I am profoundly grateful for the men and women of the Air Force and all branches of the military--and to their families--for the sacrifices they make on our behalf. You are our heroes.

    What about you? What have you been doing to Live Your Five? Let us cheer your progress!

    Friday, October 9, 2009

    Friday FiveSpot presents... more books that changed our lives

    A few weeks ago, we shared the books that changed the way Alyson and Tera think about their Five. This week, we'll be sharing stories about the books that profoundly impacted Becca and my Fives.


    Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe inspired me to see the world as a human family - we all have the same triumphs and trails, joys and sorrows. It also made me realize the truth in small change having huge, everlasting effects. There is nothing simple about the efforts of a single human being. We all have the power for change.


    For me, it was definitely The Quickening of America by Frances Moore Lappe and Paul Martin DuBois. I read this book about ten years ago, and it was my first introduction to the concept of Living Democracy. Living Democracy is all about the power of everyday, average citizens to shape the world we live in by participating in the process of democracy and sharing our ideas and energy to fix the problems around us that can sometimes seem insurmountable.

    What was most powerful for me about this book were the stories scattered throughout about people and towns and organizations rethinking the way they live and operate. Some of the ideas were small and some were large and far-reaching, but all of them made a profound impact on people’s lives and on our collective future. What I took away from the book was the very real sense that every one of us has the power to change our world. Looking back on it now, it was the book that started me on the path to Living Your Five.

    So those are the books that helped shape how Becca and I view our Five. What about you? Which books changed the way you think about your Five (or inspired part of your Five)?

    Wednesday, October 7, 2009

    Tera -- Living My Five

    The flu has found a home in Houston and I've been laying low, trying to keep it from finding a home in me. That means my progress the past two weeks has been pretty minimal, but here it is.

    1. More Auctions For a Cause

    I finished listing my things I want to ditch via eBay, and for every listing I signed up to donate 25% of each final price to the American Red Cross--aka Disaster Relief specialists. If these six auctions sell just as well as my last one, that will be another $40-50 in their pockets.

    2. Search For a Cause

    I don't remember how I found out about GoodSearch, but the idea is genius. It's like a philanthropic Google. Go to their website, choose the organization you want to support, and then search per usual. Every search earns money. You can read more about how it all works on their FAQ page.

    GoodSearch: You Search...We Give!

    This week I looked up how to make GoodSearch the default search engine in my browser. I chose Heifer International as my organization (I can always change later to support one of my other Fives) and now every time I search they get a penny or two. Just think about how many internet searches happen every day, how fast the money would add up if everyone used GoodSearch.

    Want to spread the word about GoodSearch? They have a whole page about how you can get involved.

    So that's my latest progress. Next time I post I'll be in the process of moving ... and that'll be a real test of my Five. How about you? How did you do with your Five?

    Are you ready to Live Your Five?


    Sunday, October 4, 2009

    Becca - Living My Five

    Hey, Fivers!

    This past week provided me with an awesome opportunity to pay it forward. I was contacted by a woman named Michelle who's running a library in Roanoke, Virginia, for under-privileged kids and teens.

    Here's a small part of what she told me:

    “About a year ago I started a literacy group for inner-city kids. In the public housing system here in Roanoke, VA, there are a number of developments in the city that are near public libraries. There are also a few that are not near one. I (through some hard life situations) moved into one of the developments that is not near one. It's been a few years that I have lived here and after getting back on my feet and then wanting to become involved in the community, and based on my love of reading and my children's love of reading, we decided to start an amateur library onsite. Connected to the manager's office is a small cafeteria of sorts that we use as a community center. After giving the site manager my idea and after polling the families that live in the complex, I found that there was a great need for books. I tried to get funding and hit many brick walls, so I decided to rebudget my finances and fund the library myself. I have been running it one day a week for a year now and it is a great success! Barnes and Noble made some donations too! We don't have a lot of books but what we have the kids share and take care of and have really developed a love for literature. We have children as volunteers as well! Beyond all that I try to still buy books for the kids based on requests and also based on what I read as well (I only read children and teen literature).”

    Talk about paying it forward! As soon as I read Michelle's note, I was inspired to get involved with this project, and I immediately shipped a box of books and bookmarks to Roanoke. I know many of you who read this blog are avid readers and booklovers, and if you're looking for a great way to spread the love of books to children and teens, and want to donate a book or two of your own, I'd be happy to share Michelle's address. You can reach me at becca at beccafitzpatrick dot com.

    That's what I've been up to. What about you? Are you living your Five?

    Friday, October 2, 2009

    Friday FiveSpot presents... Honorary Fiver Day!

    Welcome to Honorary Fiver Day!

    We'll be hosting this event on the first Friday of every month. Honorary Fiver Day is your chance to become a bonafide Honorary Fiver member of the Living Your Five community.

    To become an Honorary Fiver, all you have to do is share your Five in the comments on this special Honorary Fiver post. Let us know the five areas you want to make a difference in!

    Once you've shared your Five on this post, you are officially an Honorary Fiver and have our permission to nab this cute logo (designed by our own fab Tera!) to place on your blog or web site. Cool, right?

    What does being an Honorary Fiver mean?

    Being an Honorary Fiver means you're ready to join us in our quest to change our world... one person and one Five at a time. But posting your Five in the comments area of an official Honorary Fiver Day post is just the beginning. We want you to keep us posted on how you're doing on your Five! Any time one of us posts about our progress, please chime in and share your Five news too. Tell us what great things you're up to. All Fiver progress is worth celebrating, big steps and baby steps alike!

    The more action we take, the more excitement we spread, the more momentum we build... the more impact we make as a Fiver community!

    And yes, we encourage you to post about your Five progress on your own blogs too if you wish. Blog your Honorary Fiver hearts out, we say! Just remember to post your progress on Living Your Five too so you can inspire the rest of our community. :-)

    An important note to keep in mind...

    One of the tricky things about creating your Five is distinguishing between something that's beneficial to you vs. something that's immediately beneficial to others. Even we had to stop ourselves on occasion and ask "Who is really benefitting from this?"

    Your Five must be things that directly impact others in a positive way, not something that is primarily for your own personal benefit.

    In addition to our Fives, Alyson, Tera, Becca and I are all actively pursuing our own kinds of personal development. That's just part of being the best we can be. But that's a personal endeavor, not a Fiver endeavor.

    Here's an example of what I mean:

    Things like regular meditation and spiritual development are for your own personal growth. They're lovely goals, to be sure. And they may very well improve your ability to carry out your Five. But those goals would not be part of your Five themselves because the person who benefits most is you.

    Stick to things that directly and obviously impact others first and foremost, whether those others are people, animals, the Earth, or whatever you happen to care about. Don't worry... if you're like us, there will be way more than just five things in your "Impacting Others" column.

    NOTE: You must post your Five here to become an Honorary Fiver, even if you've already shared it in the comments of a non-Honorary Fiver Day post. (Having all of the Fives together on these special Honorary Fiver Day posts is the only way we can keep track of our growing Honorary Fivers membership.)

    And now, without further ado, I introduce... YOU!

    So there you go, dear readers! If you're ready to step up to the plate--Welcome! We're thrilled to have you aboard!--now is your time to shine. Share your Five in the comments below, nab the Honorary Fiver logo for your blog or web site, and go change your world!

    Are you ready to Live Your Five?