December 20, 2007

toy safety on-the-go

Maybe you've already finished your holiday shopping (hooray for you!) Even if it is too late for you to use this new tool, it is cool to know about all the same.

Healthy Toys
has teamed up with Moms Rising to develop a mobile way to check if toys are on their extensive list of toxic toys. Here's how it works:

You're standing in the store wondering if a certain toy is safe or not.
Type a text message (from your phone) as follows:

healthytoys [toy name]
send message to 41411

A response will be sent from their database indicating whether the toy or product had a low, medium, or high detection of toxic chemicals.

The search term can actually be the name of a toy, type of toy, manufacturer, or retailer.

If nothing else, the attempt to send the text message should help us feel young again.

December 19, 2007

what's in the fridge?


I saw an interesting article today on the BBC website. They are running a series on sustainable food, and are taking a peek in the fridges of people in cities around the world and ask what motivates their food choices.

The article didn't say anything particularly new, but just appealed to my curiosity about people's shopping habits, etc. Reminds me a little of MTV's Cribs, when the celebrities share the contents of their fridge while giving a tour of their home. I definitely will look at the things in my fridge with some fresh eyes!

December 17, 2007

PLA plastic surprise



Today I grabbed some to-go spring rolls from one of our favorite places. I've posted before about how great their composting efforts are at that restaurant. Usually we eat at the counter and dispose of any materials in the restaurant's compost and recycling bins.

Today I took the food home. Before I composted it, I gave a call to our local recycling center (which picks up our compost curbside). As I suspected, the plastic packages that held the rolls are neither compostable nor recyclable in our system! How majorly confusing.

PLA plastics are made from renewable resources rather than petroleum. The packages say "compostable" right on them. They also show the recycle symbol #7.

Turns out though, that to compost PLA you need specific conditions. Our center told us that the manufacturers of PLA use different methods or materials, so composting needs vary between them. Until they standardize they cannot accept them for compost. I asked if I could put it in recycling, since it says it is a #7 plastic, but was told that we could not because PLA plastics "gum up the machines."

So, moral of the story is, check with your recycling center to be sure PLA plastics are accepted before you decide which bin to throw them in. What seems like an eco-choice (plant based-plastics) may be a little ahead of its time.

December 16, 2007

green wrapping

The holidays are here! Being green during the holidays without turning into a total scrooge is tricky. One area that might be easy to green is giftwrap.

For one, if you use wrapping paper, be sure to recycle it (or even reuse it) after you've opened the gift. Personally, I am still working my way through an order of gift wrap from my nieces' school, purchased several years ago. But once that is gone, I wondered, would I buy more? Or do something else?

I remembered my brilliant and talented friend Laura started making her own gift bags last year. She makes such gorgeous bags from scrap materials that they are gifts in and of themselves. Look at some of the samples she shared with me for this post:

I think it would take me awhile to get to Laura's level of craft. Perhaps I could make simpler gift bags in various sizes just for our family occasions (more like a pillow case??) We could reuse them every holiday. Maybe they could become familiar parts of the tradition, kind of like when you open the tree ornaments every year and pick out your favorite ones to hang. Amazon ships large/bulky gift items in sacks, why not make our own? Time to get out the sewing machine and figure out how to use it, eh?

I even saw another sack idea on the petit planet blog. I guess they are items you can buy. How clever! I never knew.

Oh, and if you do like to purchase gift paper, try to find some made from recycled paper. It isn't easy to do, but I did come across one called Fish Lips Paper Designs.

December 13, 2007

green(ish) holiday cards



Awhile back a reader asked me to look into green holiday card options. Many places suggested not sending the cards, or using an email version. I found that kind of unpleasant. I mean, going green doesn't have to eliminate aspects that bring a smile to faces, does it?

There are companies that make cards from recycled papers. However,
sending an annual photo has become a tradition for many families. I know I look forward to receiving them. I hang them all up at the holiday season. It is a way to feel connected and reach out to people in a way we may not have time to do throughout the year.

I was fearful that photo paper from snapshots is not really recyclable (even though when I called our recycling center the lady who answered says she puts her photos in the recycling bin!) As far as I know, most photo paper is made from plastics and not the same as other papers for recycling. Check with your local recycling enter to be sure.

So, I decided to get a photocard that is printed on regular cardstock. I found many options on various online photo websites (I used kodak gallery). At least these cards can be recycled. I contacted all the major websites to ask about possible offerings of recycled paper, etc. Not one (out of 5) wrote me back. Maybe it is bad time of year for them to admit their offerings are not super-green?

Anyway, I placed an order and loved how they turned out. A postcard printed front and back with several images and a personal message.

Then I saw my typo. UGH!

But it would be wasteful to reorder the whole batch, right? So I'm sending them with the error. At least I tried, right?

December 12, 2007

paper(less) bills

Today I was trying to organize the piles of mess around my desk and found a few bills to be paid. Paper bills! Why am I still getting those? You'd think I would have been paying bills online exclusively. Isn't that part of green basics?

It was a great wake-up call for me to see all the bills so that I could make a list of which still need to be switched to a paperless payment option.

Scientific American has some cool facts about online billing. We could all guess skipping the paper is a good thing, but did you know:

"Some 53 percent of all U.S. households (61 million) now do their banking online; nearly half of those also pay their bills via computer. But the report says that a whopping 16.5 million trees, roughly 2.3 million tons of wood, could be spared annually in the unlikely event that all U.S. households made the switch to paperless payments. Such a move would also reduce fuel consumption by 26 million BTUs, enough energy to provide residential power to a city the size of San Francisco for a year.

Other major pluses: toxic air pollutants would be cut by 3.9 billion pounds of carbon dioxide equivalents, which is comparable to taking 355,015 cars off the road; waste water would drop by an estimated 13 billion gallons (enough to fill 19,846 swimming pools), and 1.6 billion pounds of solid waste (equal to 56,000 fully loaded garbage trucks) would be eliminated. In addition, the report says, there would be 8.5 million fewer particulates and 12.6 million fewer nitrogen oxides in the air, on par with getting 763,000 buses and 48,000 18-wheelers off the streets."

December 11, 2007

help for Al

Al Gore emailed me today to ask for help. Of course he probably emailed hundreds of thousands of us, but hey, he needs our help.

Gore is bringing a petition to the big UN Climate conference which is taking place in Bali. He is asking for "a treaty that establishes a universal global cap on emissions and uses the market in emissions trading to efficiently allocate resources to the most effective opportunities for speedy reductions. This treaty should be ratified and brought into effect everywhere in the world by the beginning of 2010 – two years sooner than presently contemplated. The pace of our response must be accelerated to match the accelerating pace of the crisis itself."

What we can all do is sign his petition. He is going to bring all the signatures on stage with him to show our resolve that we want this positive change from our elected leaders. Signing the petition is fast, free and painless.

Are you disappointed or enraged (or ashamed?) that the US never signed the Kyoto protocol? This is a way to show world leaders that people of the world want these changes to be made. (At least I do).

Oh, and by the way, I saw that Australia's new Prime Minister has ratified the Kyoto Protocol on his first day in office. This leaves the United States as the only industrialized country not to ratify the protocol (which required 36 industrialized countries to cut greenhouse gases by 2008-12).

The conference in Bali is intended to lay the groundwork for a new treaty which will extend the Kyoto Protocols, which are expiring in 2012. Let's make sure the US participates this time!

December 10, 2007

chemical+fertility overview

I'm always on the lookout for all the unsavory toxins that green advocates swear we should avoid. I get so caught up in avoiding them I sometimes forget what they are exactly and why I am avoiding them in the first place. You too?

Here is a great review, from Grist, of chemicals we encounter and how they are a threat to fertility and reproduction. Read the whole thing (it is cheeky and informative). They cover all the popular toxins, such as Bisphenol A (BPA), Phthalates, Persistent organic pollutants (POPs), Perchlorate, Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and Alkylphenols, aka surface actant agents (surfactants).

The author playfully defines each element and offers on each one:
"Have I been exposed to them?"
"How the hell did that happen?"
"Risks"
and "Scary! So how do I avoid this crap?"

Now that is a cheat-sheet for me, alright!

December 9, 2007

no new news

I know Monday is a little early in the week to be too busy to post, but it seems like all my urgent questions need answers from companies that are open M-F. I hope to make calls tomorrow and get some info for the things I'm wondering about like: can you recycle photo holiday cards? do any of the online retailers use recycled paper for holiday cards?

I swear the ladies over at EnviroMom have covered some fascinating topics lately. The recent post about Bisphenol A in baby formula is disturbing news.

One of the things I'm busy with at the moment are homemade gifts. I'm not usually crafty, but I'm taking a doll making class (for waldorf dolls), also knitting little animal creatures for my sons, and have mastered the art of making felt gnomes for prizes at the school's winter fair. I suppose they are green in their own way. I'll share pictures once I have something to show.

December 6, 2007

wanna-greeni

There are many wanna-go-green type books on the market right now. I haven't had a chance to read any of these personally, but they all look very interesting. And since there is no Mom Go Green book available, why not see what one of these has to offer? Perhaps you're looking for a new read, or a gift. Check them out! (and I used links to Amazon for convenience...you can buy from your favorite local retailer).

Wake Up and Smell the Planet

The Green Book

Living Green: A Practical Guide to Simple Sustainability

The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists

Raising Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care

The Lazy Environmentalist: Your Guide to Easy, Stylish, Green Living

The Carbon Buster's Home Energy Handbook: Slowing Climate Change And Saving Money

December 5, 2007

ski green


In honor of all readers who are in the midst of the first snow storm of the season, I'm posting about snow (skiing and snowboarding, to be exact). I had no idea that ski resorts are evaluated and ranked for their environmental performance. Seems like a great idea!

Ski Area Citizen's Coalition performs the evaluation of western US ski resorts. Their website says, "The Ski Area Environmental Scorecard is the only non-industry, independent mechanism that gives skiers and boarders a way to assess the environmental performance of their favorite resorts. By choosing environmentally friendly ski areas, you can encourage all resorts to improve thier policies.

The 2007/2008 Scorecard includes the latest information on resorts that are:
• Impacting Roadless Areas
• Logging Old Growth Forests
• Purchasing clean, renewable wind energy
• Using cleaner burning, biodegradable biodiesel.
• and much more"

The Scorecard strives to differentiate between ski areas that are engaging in environmentally sound practices on the ground versus those that merely claim to do so. Running a ski resort will obviously create some impact on the environment. The Coalition explains, "Ski areas concentrate recreational use, permitting tremendous numbers of people to enjoy and learn about delicate mountain environments in a safe manner. When undertaken in an environmentally sensitive manner, ski resorts can minimize their impacts on the land and provide memorable experiences for all their guests."

The number one, most responsible resort on the list? Aspen Mountain Ski Resort in Colorado.
The lowest? Winter Park Resort in Colorado.

Local Bay Area readers will want to check the Tahoe results. I thought they were really surprising!!

December 4, 2007

lead testing in toys

I just saw an announcement in the Chronicle that San Francisco's Department of the Environment will be testing toys for lead and other unsavory hazards in Union Square (today) Wednesday December 5th starting at 11 a.m. There will be staff members from environmental groups available to answer questions.

In addition, Test My Toy will be announcing the results of more than 1,500 toys. Test My Toy looks like a great resource for choosing toys and understanding what to look for.

December 3, 2007

brad pitt is green


Or at least his latest project in New Orleans is green.

I was reading about Brad Pitt's project called "Make it Right" which will rebuild the 9th ward in New Orleans. It is a large-scale redevelopment project focused on green affordable housing and incorporating innovative design. It will create 150 homes by 11 architects.

You can help make the project a reality by contributing to build the homes. If you go to the website you can click on various elements to "purchase", such as low VOC paint, CFL lightbulbs, solar panels, and tankless water heaters.

Each house will be built to LEED/Earthcraft/NAHB green residential building standards. The third party certification of this status costs $2500 (you can fund that, too). And if you want to fund an entire house, the cost is $150,000.


I think it is cool that someone is helping to rebuild New Orleans, and it is awesome that they are doing it in a green way.

December 2, 2007

dishsoap


Someone asked me recently what dish soap I had found that worked well (knowing that I likely was using an eco-friendly soap). I've tried a few different kinds and like the one from Earth Friendly Products (Ultra Dishmate).

It is made form water and coconut derived surfacants (which do not contain SLS or cocamide DEA). It is biodegradable, recyclable (the package?) and is not tested on animals.

Anyway, it works for me.

November 29, 2007

green xmas trees


There have been a few articles written recently about whether real or fake Christmas trees are more environmentally friendly. I've seen posts on Treehugger as well as in the San Francisco Chronicle.

As we are headed into the first weekend of December, I thought it would be timely to consider the issue since many people are planning on getting their trees (if they haven't already done so). I encourage you to read the articles in full. I appreciated the Chronicle reporter's effort to stay neutral and honestly report the faults on both sides.

Ultimately, no Christmas tree would be the greenest choice. Bah humbug! As a parent I am very aware that I am helping to shape memories of a (hopefully) happy childhood. For us, a beautiful tree is a part of our celebration.

To spare you the suspense, most articles concur that a real tree is ultimately the way to go. I do too, for a few reasons:

1. I think people are in need of a connection with nature, and a real tree over a plastic one is an important difference.

2. Plastics trees do not have the smell or complete sensory experience.

3. Plastic trees are made from PVC and are coated with flame retardants. Awful!

4. While the real trees might have a big burden of CO2 in their shipping, at least they will decompose eventually (unlike plastic).

If you're up for alternatives, there are other options, like getting a real live tree and planting it afterwards. Another good choice is to find a local place and go cut it. It should be much fresher, travel less distance and be a memorable experience for the whole family.

November 28, 2007

brand foolishness

I'm a little confused about which brands to trust at the moment. Not that they aren't all trust-worthy, but I wonder if they are all equal.

Let me give you an idea of some of the scenarios that I've been pondering lately.

Today I went to Costco to see if I could find that awesome bulk bag of organic sugar Pauline told me about (see post on organic sugar). Figured with all the holiday baking coming up that it was a good time to get one. My Costco had a good deal on a 10# bag of organic sugar, but it was by C&H. C&H produces refined cane sugar products and is stocked in all the regular grocery stores. The brand I was hoping to find is called Wholesome Sweeteners.

My instinct was telling me that from what I've read about Wholesome Sweeteners that it would be a better product to buy. Not because of the name, but because I think I've read that their production practices are socio/eco conscious (is that a word?) The thing that I'm wondering though is if this is valid. I have no information that C&H does anything differently, but I'm judging them because I know they make conventional products. I should say that C&H is a local Bay Area brand at least!

The sugars look the same. They are priced the same. Are they?

Here is another example. You may have heard the news that a big company has purchased Burt's Bees. Not surprising, as most organic and natural lines are being gobbled up by larger companies (see my post about the organic org chart). What IS surprising to me is that Clorox is the new parent company to Burt's Bees. CLOROX?? Does that not seem like the absolute antithesis of what you would expect from a natural body care line?

But this is just my emotional response to the brand, my gut reaction. (These feelings are referred to as branding). My personal thought is that I cannot trust products that are produced by Clorox because I do not believe they have the passion to produce high quality, natural and effective products. I assume they will look for big margins and sacrifice quality ingredients for their bottom line.

Should I have the same concerns about Toms of Maine, which was sold to Colgate-Palmolive?

I don't have any answers. I find it interesting how much branding is affecting my perceptions of products. What do you think?

November 26, 2007

out the door - into compost



We had dinner at one of our favorite places. Not only is the food at Out the Door fantastic, but they have such an impressive waste strategy. Since it is the take-out counter (read: all food to-go) for the infamous Slanted Door restaurant, they took great care in selecting food containers that are as green as possible.

Cleaning up after we ate took a little more time and organizing, but check out the impressive amount of things to be composted! Since they use the corn based plastics, even the plastic cups, straws, plastic sauce containers, utensils and lids can all go into the compost bin. Of course napkins and things are composted, too. Hardly anything has to go into the actual trash.

Sure, eating on real plates might be even better, but this is a fantastic example for take out restaurants everywhere of how an investment in the right products (as well as lots of handy customer instructions) can make a big difference.

November 25, 2007

'tis the season

Seems the instant you put down your fork on Thanksgiving the Christmas decorations sprout up around you, doesn't it? Oh, I'm not complaining . . . I'm the first one to load up the Christmas music.

Everywhere you look, you can see that the holiday season is here. While I was on a mini vacation this past week, I took some time to lounge with a magazine and read this little tidbit in Real Simple:

"Household waste increases 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. In the United States, trash from wrapping paper and shopping bags totals 4 million tons."

Guess we should bring our reusable bags for gift shopping, too, eh?

November 19, 2007

if you care


Here is my friendly holiday tip: eco-friendly baking supplies in the form of cupcake liners and parchment paper (also aluminum foil). I favor the line called If You Care, (although it seems a bit harsh for a name!)

The baking cups and parchment paper are 100% unbleached paper. The parchment has a lining of silicone on it, which is natural but not organic. The company says that, "Many parchment papers are coated with quilon. Quilon is a chemical containing chrome – a heavy metal – which when incinerated becomes toxic and leaves trace elements. The reason for the majority of parchment paper to be quilon-coated is the cost, which is substantially lower than silicone. So, in order to be environmentally friendly, the paper should be silicone-coated. A silicone-coated paper is also the choice of professionals as it can be reused several times."

I don't know the specifics of silicone. It is on my list of things to look into. But for now, these are some nifty products I'm using.

I'll be taking a Thanksgiving break for the rest of the week. Have a great holiday!

November 18, 2007

family style organics

I saw an interesting twist on organic shopping advice and wanted to share it. Many people wonder what are the most important items to buy organic. The New York Times had a piece summarizing a bit from a new book called, "Raising Baby Green", by Pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene.

Apparently he identified a way to make the biggest "green" impact on the American family diet. You can read the full summary here, but the top 5 items he suggests to get organic are:
  1. milk
  2. potatoes
  3. peanut butter
  4. ketchup
  5. apples
He takes some interesting factors into account, such as pesticide residue, family staples, nutritional benefits and crop sizes.

I always like to buy as much as possible organic (or grown with organic methods even if not certified). I figure it is the least I can do to try and help support the demand for organic produce. The more people demand it, I hope the availability will increase and the price will drop, making it more accessible to everyone. Fortunately, organic choices in my area are vast and the prices aren't so bad. I'll take note of the cost of the 5 items listed above next time I'm at the store and we can compare prices to where you are. Deal?

November 14, 2007

green checks

I love this tip sent in from Lisa! She was recently looking to order new checks and found a place that sells bank checks printed on recycled paper using soy ink. The Check Gallery proclaims to be "the environmental check company."

Not only that - they are a good price! The introductory rate is $21.90 for 2 boxes.

Sure, the greenest bill paying may be to avoid writing lots of checks by doing online payments. But there are still times when writing a paper check is handy.

November 13, 2007

the chemicals inside


Check out this news report about chemicals in everyday items and how they are turning up in people. Unfortunately, I cannot embed the video into the blog. Just click here and then click on the video, "What chemicals are we exposed to..." from November 8th.

See! I'm not the only neurotic one.

November 12, 2007

san francisco oil spill


Chronicle photo by Paul Chinn

While we were out of town there was some big news here in San Francisco (no, not the earthquake, that was before we left). There was an oil spill in San Francisco Bay. A boat heading from Oakland to South Korea bumped into the Bay Bridge in heavy fog. The fog was so dense that the rescue teams couldn't tell initially how much oil had spilled. Turns out it was 58,000 gallons.

Oil is washing up on all the beaches and coastline around the Bay Area. There are pockets of it being contained in the bay itself.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that, "by comparison, the Exxon Valdez spill was 11 million gallons." yet that "for years biologists have been concerned that a significant oil spill inside San Francisco Bay could cause major environmental damage. The reason? The bay has only one narrow opening at the Golden Gate, and the right combination of currents could push oil south, coating sensitive San Mateo, Alameda and Santa Clara County marshes, which are home to fish, birds and harbor seals."

One glimmer of good news is that here in the Bay Area we have the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, which is part of UC Davis. The group is helping to rescue birds and wildlife contaminated by oil. They suggest that if you see oiled wildlife: Don't approach or pick it up, but call (415) 701-2311 to report it. Please do not call this number about volunteering.

No one seems to know how long it will take to clean up. People here love using the coastline and this is a big deal! Our kids love to dig and play at the beaches (which are all now closed).


map image from USA Today

And I just found this: To donate to Save the Bay visit their website and click "Donate Now." Contact Adrien Andre to designate your donation toward the oil spill cleanup, at (510) 452-9261 x124 or adrien@savesfbay.org

November 11, 2007

the best laid plans. . .

We made it back from a wonderful trip to Boston. It was busy and fun, but wouldn't you know it? I did not get very far in my reading of The Omnivore's Dilemma. Not for lack of interest, mind you, but for lack of time and energy. In between all the sight seeing and family visiting, there wasn't much time to read. Last night on the 6 hour flight the kids did sleep well, but I was so exhausted I slept, too!

So I am only on page 3 of the introduction. Already I'm super intrigued! Based on the way the book is written, I figure I'll split my comments into the 3 sections that the book is divided into, Industrial (corn), Pastoral (grass), and Personal (the forest). I hope more of you will read with me and we can have a discussion in the comment section for those 3 posts.

Meanwhile, the author (Michael Pollan) has written a new article about the Farm Bill in the New York Times Magazine which is worth a read. He writes, "Americans have begun to ask why the farm bill is subsidizing high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils at a time when rates of diabetes and obesity among children are soaring . . . . For the first time, the public health community has raised its voice in support of overturning farm policies that subsidize precisely the wrong kind of calories (added fat and added sugar), helping to make Twinkies cheaper than carrots and Coca-Cola competitive with water."

November 4, 2007

family trip

We're heading off on a family trip this week, so I won't have any posts for you until next Monday. In the meantime, I plan to start reading Omnivore's Dilemma. The kids should sleep on the plane across country, so I'll probably plow right through it (you know I'm joking, right?)

So, if you're reading along with me see how far you get and we can compare notes next week!

November 1, 2007

green office


Seems like it has been years (actually, it has been years) since I've needed to buy more paper for my home office. Now that I need to replenish, I can finally patronize a green office supply shop! Of course you can find "green" options at many office supply stores by choosing 100% recycled products.

One thing I like about The Green Office online shop is that they sort the search results by greeness. For instance, I looked for laser paper and found the top-ranked green choice to be 100% Recycled Color Copy Paper from MOHAWK. The search results tell me it has 100% post-consumer content and that it meets EPA procurement guidelines. They also mention that it is produced using wind-power and provide a brightness rating so that I can compare it to other paper sheets.

The site is easy to navigate and I like how they have little icons to help you compare choices (such as recycled content, reduced chemical content, biodegradable or compostable, or third-party certified).

Green Office says, "we help consumers align values with action by providing a full selection of sustainable office products at great prices. Through green purchasing and sustainable practice customers of TheGreenOffice.com send a clear signal to the market that real demand exists for positive change. In turn, this signal triggers the innovation of greener products, narrows the price gap between green and conventional products, and furthers adoption by mainstream consumers. We invite you to join us in bringing sustainability to the workplace."

Plus, they have free delivery after $50.00.

October 31, 2007

happy halloween!

It has been such an exhausting day! A good day, but I'm so tired I think I'm just going to go pack up the lunches and go to sleep. Besides, the Switch Witch still has to come.
More tomorrow.

October 30, 2007

catalog choice


Are you getting loads of catalogs these days? With the holidays upon us it seems that many unsolicited catalogs arrive. And honestly, sometimes you have to laugh at what they think you might be interested in!

Now you can use Catalog Choice to reduce the catalogs you receive. This is a free service for both consumers and businesses. All you have to do is sign up on the website (they keep your info private other than for contacting the catalogs). Catalog Choice will contact the catalogs on your behalf to cancel your mailings. Of course you can do this yourself by calling each and every one, but who has the time for that?

Catalog Choice states, "Over eight million tons of trees are consumed each year in the production of paper catalogs and the production and disposal of direct mail alone consumes more energy than three million cars".

I've signed up for Green Dimes in the past and must say it works well to stop all kinds of junk mail, including catalogs, but there is an annual fee. I think it is pretty cool to have a free service handle this for you.

Catalog Choice is a sponsored project of the Ecology Center. It is endorsed by the National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Resources Defense Council, and funded by the Overbrook Foundation, the Merck Family Fund, and the Kendeda Fund.

October 29, 2007

green power options


I'm in the midst of researching green energy options. Our local utility has an offering that is a little confusing, so I'm looking into it before I write about it further. In the course of my research, I found a website that allows you to find green energy providers in your area.

The website is a part of the Department of Energy. The providers listed include utility green pricing programs, retail green power products offered in competitive electricity markets, and renewable energy certificate (REC) products sold separate from electricity. Don't know what any of that means? Click here.

(Don't worry, I don't either).

October 28, 2007

the art of simple food


A few weeks ago I read an article (which also had a little video with it online) about Alice Waters going to the farmer's market in NYC with one of the New York Times food editors. Alice Waters is an incredible figure in the movement for eating local, fresh food. She has been instrumental in starting healthy food programs (with gardens) in local schools.

It was cool to watch her in action at the farmer's market and then make lunch with all the purchases at the editor's home (watch the video and see for yourself). It must have caught me at a good time, because I was indeed compelled to pick up a copy of her new book, "The Art of Simple Food."

I believe this book is intended for the masses, rather than fancy cooking experts. I am hoping to find a way to spice things up a bit with my cooking repertoire (no pun intended!) Since I am bothering to shop for all these wonderful local ingredients, I'd love to know what to do with them. (Last winter I was running out of ideas after the third week of fava beans from the CSA box). The book has lots of information in addition to the recipes. I've flipped through the pages and already several recipes have caught my eye.

October 25, 2007

green halloween


Here we are at the last weekend before Halloween. You're all ready to have a Green Halloween, right? You can't read a blog or paper or website without all kinds of clever tips to go green this Halloween.

I have to say, my initial reaction was, "Geez, let 'em have a piece of candy once a year!" As Jennifer Lance says over at Green Options, ""Oh no, not another green Halloween post about making your own costume and giving out pencils!"

But there are some great ideas that I think are indeed worthy of consideration. The Nature Conservancy gives a great overview of the impact of the holiday. They cover everything, like why conventional chocolate should scare you, why organic pumpkins are worth it, and eco disposal options for that pumpkin once the festivities are done.

We don't actually get trick or treaters at our house. If we did, I'd probably give out fruit leather like The Green Guide recommends. It is one of my kids' favorite things, so I know at least they'd be thrilled.

We trick or treat in the neighborhood. My kids get an amazing amount of candy for a 3 block walk! So we handle that by having the "Switch Witch" come that night. The kids get to pick their favorite candy to keep (like 3 pieces, whatever seems right to you). The rest gets left out in a pumpkin for the Switch Witch. She takes the candy and leaves a little present in its place.

I read someone's response to this idea which said that it seemed such a waste for all that switched candy to be disposed of—which is why I eat it! (I share it with my husband). No, not quite green of me.

We do have some killer green decorations on our front entry, though. All year we have been neglecting to clean the front stairs or water the plants on them (I watered them once in March). The effect now is incredibly spooky. Lots of cobwebs and spiders (all natural!) amidst the dead plants and some new pumpkins. I promise my neighbors that I will actually clean the stairs in November.

October 24, 2007

organic sugar


My friend Pauline has given me some sweet advice: fair trade, organic sugar. I know many people steer clear of sugar and use all kinds of natural substitutes. But I like baking, which seems to go well with using sugar. I've been using regular refined sugar (even while knowing this was probably not such a good thing due to all the processing, etc).

Thankfully Pauline introduced me to the Wholesome brand of sugar. The company says,

"Our organic sugar is produced from certified organic sugar cane grown on a co-operative of sustainable family farms in Paraguay. The Sugar Mill is energy self sufficient – we use the crushed cane stalks, called bagasse, as fuel for the boilers which generates the electricity for the mill, so we do not use any fossil fuels. We ‘green cut’ the cane – which means that we do not burn or spray the fields and the sugar cane is cut by hand. The leaves and tops of the cane plant are left in the field as a nutrient source for the soil and as a natural form of weed control."

I can find the sugar at my local Whole Foods, but the best part is, Pauline found it at Costco for a super-good price! 10 lbs of sugar for $7.99. Just in time for holiday baking.

October 23, 2007

prius rental


This past weekend we went to visit some friends in Seattle. For fun, I booked a "green" rental car with Hertz. I don't own a Prius and thought it would be a fun chance to try one out.

Hertz offers "green" options in the form of fuel efficient, environmentally-friendly cars. The selection includes the Toyota Prius Hybrid, although Hertz has a variety of models the Green Collection fleet. All vehicles are:
• Reservable by specific make and model
• EPA Highway Fuel Efficiency rating of 28 Miles or more per gallon
• Available at 50 major airport locations in the U.S.

In addition, Hertz is donating $1 for every rental from the Green Collection to the National Park Foundation with a minimum contribution of $1 million.

Oh, I know not driving at all would be better and that there is really nothing green about cars, but I was excited to try a Prius all the same. It was pretty funny actually, because once we got the kids and our luggage all loaded in, we couldn't figure out how to start the car! We had to get someone from Hertz to come over and give us a quick demo.

It was fun to drive and we all fit in it well (2 adults, 2 kids in large car seats and luggage). We got about 38 mpg overall. My husband thought that in hindsight maybe he could have driven in a more efficient manner. The car definitely would not be big enough for our carpool needs at home, but I'm glad we can rent one on vacations where we need a car.

October 17, 2007

lead in lipstick

You know how kid's toys have been recalled for lead recently and we all thought that was bad? Well, seems the lipstick you've been licking off your lips may have lead in it!

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics conducted tests in an independent laboratory. They say, "More than half of 33 brand-name lipsticks tested (61 percent) contained detectable levels of lead, with levels ranging from 0.03 to 0.65 parts per million (ppm). None of these lipsticks listed lead as an ingredient." By the way, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s limit for lead in candy is 0.1 ppm.

Can lipstick be made without lead? Yes. Can you still find inexpensive lipstick with no lead in it? Yes. Are some expensive lipsticks full of lead? Yes. Is this outrageous? YES!

The report says among the top brands testing positive for lead were:
-L’Oreal Colour Riche “True Red” – 0.65 ppm
-L’Oreal Colour Riche “Classic Wine” – 0.58 ppm
-Cover Girl Incredifull Lipcolor “Maximum Red” – 0.56 ppm
-Dior Addict “Positive Red” – 0.21 ppm

The press release explains, "Lead is a proven neurotoxin that can cause learning, language and behavioral problems such as lowered IQ, reduced school performance and increased aggression. Pregnant women and young children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure. Lead easily crosses the placenta and enters the fetal brain where it can interfere with normal development. Lead has also been linked to infertility and miscarriage."

“Lead builds up in the body over time and lead-containing lipstick applied several times a day, every day, can add up to significant exposure levels. The latest studies show there is no safe level of lead exposure,” said Mark Mitchell, M.D., MPH, president, Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice.

October 16, 2007

yoga mat

This morning I woke up very early to try a bootcamp workout class with my friend. It was really fun! If I want to keep going to the class, I'll need to bring my own yoga mat.

So, on the way to carpool this afternoon I stopped by Sports Basement and found an eco yoga mat by Gaiam. It is made from latex rubber (which is natural and sustainable) and is phalate-free. Gaiam also makes eco yoga blocks from cork and bamboo and a bag to carry your mat made from 100% recycled plastic bottles.

Isn't it nice to see eco-friendlier options even when you aren't expecting them?

October 15, 2007

thanks, al

Congratulations to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for winning the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. They were awarded this honor "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."

According to the Silicon Valley Business Journal, Gore is giving his $750,000 winnings to a non-profit called the Alliance for Climate Protection. Gore is the founder and Chairman of the organization, whose mission is to persuade the American people — and people elsewhere in the world – of the importance and urgency of adopting and implementing effective and comprehensive solutions for the climate crisis.

Here is an example of some work by the Alliance for Climate Protection:

October 14, 2007

the omnivore's dilemma


The Omnivore's Dilemma has been on my list to read for awhile now. After reading an interview with Michael Pollan on Grist the other day, I decided I need to move the book up to the top of my "to-read" list. Pollan has a new book coming out this winter which is a follow-up to this one, so I'd love to read it before then. Anyone with me? I was thinking we could do a virtual book-club type thing.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
is about the ethics and ecology of eating. The book was named one of the ten best books of 2006 by the New York Times and the Washington Post. It also won the California Book Award, the Northern California Book Award, the James Beard Award for best food writing, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

A summary of the book reads as follows: "In this groundbreaking book, one of America’s most fascinating, original, and elegant writers turns his own omnivorous mind to the seemingly straightforward question of what we should have for dinner. To find out, Pollan follows each of the food chains that sustain us—industrial food, organic or alternative food, and food we forage ourselves—from the source to a final meal, and in the process develops a definitive account of the American way of eating."

I'm looking forward to learning more about how food in the US is farmed and what kinds of considerations we should be making. So, if you're interested in participating, the first step will be to obtain a copy of the book. I'll post further details soon. I'd love to know if you are going to read it with me - just leave a comment below.

October 11, 2007

kiwi magazine


My sister-in-law recently told me about Kiwi magazine. It is a publication for "growing families the natural and organic way." I just picked up an issue which has lots of information about healthy lunches, green school gear, etc. I'm looking forward to checking it out and reading it.

But I have to say, based on a quick first impression, I'm excited to read the articles but also a little put-off by the abundance of ads and the little picture of Barney (yes, that purple thing) on the cover, wishing Barney a Happy Birthday. I'll ignore that for now.

Kiwi also has a website which looks like it has lots of information (plus a blog and podcast). I'm going to check out the recipe section, for sure!

October 10, 2007

ecomom alliance


I knew I was onto something as a "mom going green". It seemed like a powerful part of this whole green movement. I've referenced it before when I found Diane's Big Green Purse, when she write about the collective purchasing power of women to invoke change from industry. I've noted the collective political power with groups like MomsRising. I've just found another interesting group, called the EcoMom Alliance.

The mission of the EcoMom Alliance is, "To leverage the power of mothers to help reduce global warming and to inspire and empower mothers to sustain them selves, sustain their homes and sustain our planet by taking First Steps For A Sustainable Future." They go on to say that "There are over 82 million mothers in the United States alone, so together we represent a powerful force for positive change and by making small changes in the way we shop, eat, drive and even clean, we can help stop global warming."

The idea is that you join the Alliance by providing your name, zip code and email. This way they can count how many women are trying to collectively reduce global warming. They promise not to sell your information or inundate your inbox. They will send a weekly email with updates to keep you informed and inspired. They also offer monthly drawings for "eco-chic gifts."

I signed up. While I'm already doing many of the things on their 10-step list, I figure I'll learn something new and help propel the mom-power!

October 9, 2007

medicine down the toilet

I'm always keen to get rid of things we don't need. I like reducing clutter. I was just thinking it was about time to clean out our outdated medicine supply. Fortuitously, I saw an article on The Green Guide today about proper disposal of medicines. If you (like me) remember being told to flush them down the toilet for safety, think again.

Medications flushed down the toilet may or may not be "cleaned" out of the water at the water treatment plant. They can end up in the environment, in animals and in soils used for agriculture. The Green Guide article states, "pharmaceuticals have found their way into drinking-water supplies, including Montana well water and New Jersey tap water."

So, I wonder, what is the better way to dispose of the medicine? The American Pharmacists Association recommends:
------------
• Crush solid medications or dissolve them in water (this applies for liquid medications as well) and mix with kitty litter or sawdust (or any material that absorbs the dissolved medication and makes it less appealing for pets or children to eat), then place in a sealed plastic bag BEFORE tossing in the trash.
• Remove and destroy ALL identifying personal information (prescription label) from the medication container.
• Check for approved state and local collection programs or with area hazardous waste facilities. In certain states, you may be able to take your unused medications to your community pharmacy
------------
Gosh. I don't have kitty litter or sawdust around. After reading this I decided to check Earth 911 to see if there was a local place the medicines could be dropped off. Turns out there are not any in my county, though other counties do have places for their residents.

So, until I figure out a better solution, I'm going to leave them right where they are. In the medicine box.

October 8, 2007

recall agency isn't perfect

I read a disturbing story in the New York Times today about a recalled tile sealant product. Recalls these days seem commonplace, so that in itself wasn't a surprise. It caught my attention because I happened to be having a (separate, unrelated) floor sealant issue in my home. I'm glad my issue was nothing compared to what these people were experiencing!

But as the article points out, the thing that is most alarming is not just that a faulty product got to market or that it was recalled. The most disturbing part is that after the recall was issued, the product remained on the shelves. The company reformulated with another ingredient which contained the same problematic, injury inducing chemical as the first version.

The NYT reports, "Critics say the Stand ’n Seal case demonstrates how the Consumer Product Safety Commission is too overwhelmed with reports of injuries and with new hazards to comprehensively investigate or follow up on many complaints. The agency’s laboratory is also so antiquated it did not have the equipment necessary to evaluate fully the remedy (the company) offered — leaving the agency to rely largely on the company’s promise that it would fix the problem.
And then, after receiving repeated complaints that the hazard persisted long after the recall, the agency failed to follow up adequately, documents show."

I don't have any answers on how to improve the effectiveness of the CPSC. Just feeling a little more skeptical of the effectiveness of agencies which are meant to protect us.

October 7, 2007

cool it moms


I just found a powerful new voice for mothers wanting to do something about global warming. Seriously, even the most powerful of supermoms finds that a daunting task!

I believe in the power of numbers and also that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Cool It Moms seems to recognize these strategies in an effort to organize mothers to "take immediate and collective action on global warming." The first order of business is to send a letter to the Leaders of the World.

All you have to do to participate is visit the Cool It Moms website and read the letter. if you'd like to sign your name, you simply leave a comment on the blog.

Hmm, todays checklist: do something about global warming, check!

October 4, 2007

zinio magazines


The other day Gift of Green sent me an email about a green issue of Kiplinger's. I was curious to see it, but don't subscribe to it (I try to keep my magazines to a bare minimum). I searched online and came across Zinio, a way to subscribe to complete magazines online.

Seems like it might be a greener solution, although some of the guilty pleasure of magazines may be laying down on the couch with them or reading them at the doctor's office. Sitting at my desk to read isn't really my first choice.

I signed up for Kiplinger's online nonetheless and have found Zinio to be easy to use. I can see the magazine exactly as the layouts were designed and can search and read offline. Zinio Reader is a downloadable application that runs on Windows and Mac. Some of the perks of reading this way are the use of features like clicking on a headline in the table of contents and zooming straight to that article. You can also highlight text and print the pages as well.

So, while it might a different way to read a magazine, it seems like an interesting twist on not producing and shipping all those paper magazines.

October 3, 2007

eco-events

Okay - get these dates on your calendar:
October 20th is Lights Out SF and October 25th starts the SF Climate Challenge.

Don't live in San Francisco? You can still participate!

Lights Out San Francisco
is a citywide energy conservation event on October 20, 2007 from 8-9 p.m. On this night, citizens of San Francisco are invited to install one compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) and turn off all non-essential lighting for one hour. Organizers estimate that turning lights out in San Francisco for even one hour could save as much as 15 percent of the energy consumed on an average Saturday night. The Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, The Bay Bridge and the TransAmerica (pyramid) Building have all signed on to turn out their lights.

It is a pretty exciting effort since it is receiving national news coverage and other cities are joining in. It isn't too late to get your city to participate! If you think you might need more time to organize, definitely check out the Lights out America campaign, set to do the same event on a national level March 29, 2008 from 8-9 p.m.

SF Climate Challenge is a contest to "save energy at home for one month and compete with others to win great prizes. The contest is among teams of five or more households. There are several ways to get involved. You can start your own team with your friends, families or coworkers. You can join an existing team. Or you can just sign up solo as part of your local neighborhood team." If you don't live in San Francisco you cannot officially compete for prizes, but you can still organize a challenge with your friends or neighbors (or on your own).

SF Climate Challenge is a joint project of One Atmosphere, SF Environment, and the Sierra Club. Register for the Challenge by October 24th, 2007. The Challenge begins on October 25th.

October 2, 2007

coffee fix


I am in love. I am in love with Blue Bottle Coffee. They've been building quite a following here in the Bay Area as microroasters of organic and shade grown coffee. They are not super-easy to find, so when I do see them I often treat myself to a cup. I like their individually prepared drip coffee (they drip it fresh, when ordered, one cup at a time).

I like that they are a small, local company. They have a pretty cool environmental policy, but what I was really impressed with is the bags they use to sell their beans in. They are lined with a 100% compostable corn-based product. Most bags of beans are not recyclable or compostable. Blue Bottle does explain on their website that the reason being that their bags will not provide as long shelf life for coffee, but Blue Bottle customers don't typically keep the beans around long enough for spoilage.

Oh, and I also found their brewing instructions funny (though it isn't really a "green" feature). For example, when grinding for a french press, "the grind should be gritty, resembling beach sand: pleasant to walk on, but not too powdery. More Santa Cruz than Carmel."

Now that I've admitted to my occasional, spontaneous purchase of coffee-to-go, I'll tell you one more thing that I started doing recently. If I find myself with a paper coffee cup and plastic top, I recycle the top and compost the paper. Wouldn't it be awesome if Starbucks could provide recycling and composting bins for all their stores? They have so many stores around the world—just imagine how much waste could be diverted from the landfill! And if I am buying beans at my other favorite coffee shop, I try to reuse the bean bag as many times as I can before retiring it.

And let's not make comments about how drinking coffee at all is probably not the greenest habit. When there is coffee to be had that is this good, my love for it will win.

October 1, 2007

green, clean schools

As I've been researching the use of green cleaners I learned how strong chemical cleaners (not the "green" or "eco" kind) can be really dangerous to your health as well as to the planet. Most people make the switch to green cleaners at home. If it is a priority to keep your kids safe by using green cleaning products at home, why shouldn't the same products be used at your kid's school?

The Green Guide says, "One third of cleaning chemicals used to clean U.S. schools are known to cause human health and/or environmental problems. States like New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey have passed state-wide legislation requiring all schools to use green cleaning products, but their efforts haven’t taken hold nationwide. Encourage your state to pass legislation similar to these states if they have not already."

Green Clean Schools from The Healthy Schools Campaign has great info on the how's and why's of greening the cleaning of your child's school.

Schools cleaned safely not only benefit the children, but the staff who cleans them. MassCOSH says, " In 2005, custodians in four Boston Public Schools successfully led pilot projects substituting hazardous cleaning products with “green” cleaning products, targeting schools with high rates of asthma. In 2006, Boston Public Schools announced that it would change its contracts to purchase only green products in the future."

But there is no need to wait for a law to require safer cleaning products in your schools. New American Dream offers a guide to help your school develop and implement a green cleaning program.

Not only will taking the initiative keep your kids and community safe, it will serve as a great example to the children about caring for the environment.

September 28, 2007

busy busy

Just want to let you know that things are busy here. Like most moms I'm juggling lots of things and the beginning of school has thrown my schedule for a loop! I have lots of posts in the works, though. I'm currently researching green schools, green offices, green beverages and more. When looking for content of what to post I try to find inspiration from the questions I encounter every day (and believe me there are many). The trick for me is trying to remember what the questions were by the time I finally get to sit at my computer at the end of the day!

September 26, 2007

appliance lifespans

Last week our dishwasher started acting up. It is draining all-crazy-like into the sink. I'm guessing there is a clog in the line. We tried to solve it ourselves to no avail. I would normally call a repair person, but honestly, this is the 3rd time in 6 years we'd be making that call. The dishwasher wasn't top of the line, so the repair costs are about to surpass the original purchase price! Is it un-green of me to replace the machine?

Lucky stars! The Green Guide posted an article which outlines the life span of major appliances and when it is actually greener to buy new rather than repair. Lots of factors weigh on the advice, such as energy efficiency. A must read if you're as conflicted about an appliance as me!

September 24, 2007

healthy mattresses

When deciding about buying a bed for yourself or your child, lots of options come up. Did you know that we spend about 1/3 of our lives in bed? I unfortunately did not know anything about mattress options when I bought beds for my family.

Debra Lynn Dadd says in her book that most common mattresses are made from "polyurethane foam plastic, sprayed with fire retardants (PBDEs) and covered in polyester plastic fabric." She goes on to say that exposure to polyurethane foam "can cause bronchitis, coughing, skin and eye problems." Apparently, the mattresses can out-gas formaldehyde (a carcinogen) as they age. Aside from potential health issues, it would seem that the mattresses are made from petroleum-based products, which can't be so great for the environment.

Options for a "green" mattress are organic cotton mattresses, organic cotton and wool mattresses, natural latex mattresses, and organic pillowtop mattresses. Latex mattresses are popular for comfort, and usually have a variety of layers of cotton and wool, which is naturally fire retardant. Mattresses that do not use fire-retardant chemicals or the requisite composition and thickness of wool cannot be purchased without a doctor's prescription attesting that you have sensitivities to chemicals. Interestingly, I read that sleeping on the wool topper helps regulate temperature and also reduces blood pressure!

I started researching various natural bedding shops online and was overwhelmed with options and info. If you decide to go with latex, you need to do your research and be sure the latex you are shopping for is 100% pure and natural with no no fillers or extenders. Latex is made from the sap of natural rubber from trees commonly found in South Asia.

The Green Guide suggests looking "for mattresses wrapped in wool, which is naturally fire-retardant, whose labels say they meet the CPSC's and California's flammability-resistance standards. To support the environment as well as your health, go with organic cotton that has been cultivated without polluting pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. Check labels to make sure that bedding is also produced without bleaching or stain- or water-resistant "finishing" (a process that uses offgassing chemicals such as formaldehyde)."

Of course, natural mattresses come at a premium. Twin sizes are about $800-900 and crib sizes are around $300-$400. Many companies have sales or promotions. For the very budget conscious, you can get an Ikea foam mattress which is PBDE-free.

If I were to spend oodles on a nice, natural bed I'd be a little worried about pee accidents. Fortunately you can get natural mattress covers and "puddle pads."

As I am the first to point out, I'm not an expert, but it seems to me that the memory foam mattresses are not as safe or as natural.

Here are some online resources for shopping and learning. Check to see if local shops in your area sell similar products and maybe you can actually try before you buy!

Flo Beds
Lifekind Organic
Gaiam
Obasan
Natural Home Products
Tomorrow's World
European Sleepworks
Organic Grace
Vivetique
Dax Stores

September 23, 2007

Easy peasy (via enviromom)

It is true that sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. I saw a great post recently over at Enviromom that was completely genius. I love how honest they are at Enviromom. I'll admit, I'm right there with them when it comes to getting a little off-track with recycling in the bathroom. Heather was kind enough to let me repost her entry here for you. Thanks, Heather!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
courtesy of Enviromom

Sometimes the smallest changes make the biggest impact. I've been wanting to put recycling pails in our two bathrooms for months! It's amazing the amount of recyclables that come out of a bathroom: toilet paper rolls, empty shampoo bottles, empty toothpaste boxes, the list goes on. In the past we've just set this stuff on the vanity, thinking we'll remember to take it to the recycle bin in the garage, and of course it just sits there and accumulates and looks messy and sometimes ends up in the trash (and then I have to pick through the snotty tissues, hair and used Q-tips to dig it out again -- lovely!). Not anymore! I picked up these galvanized aluminum pails at IKEA and made labels on my printer that read: "Recycle, please! Paper, cardboard, plastic containers and bags, metal, glass." This way, my kids start to learn what can be recycled, and my guests think twice before tossing something in the trash. The pails also have handles, which makes them easy to take out on garbage day. Gotta love a simple, low-cost solution!

September 20, 2007

perspective

I read an interesting article on Grist today. It highlighted the perspective of 4 parents on how "4 green parents deal with the plastic scare."

I'm definitely the person to play it safe until more information is available, but sometimes it gets tiring to be in a mode of hyper-consciousness. I enjoyed reading how other parents deal with the information - a nice reality check.

Sometimes the effort to be green seems filled with all kinds of scary and alarmist information. Of course there are many times when this is warranted. Going green with balance and perspective is important. Applying the information to your family, your values, and your resources is key.

September 19, 2007

our water our world


Sorry to miss posting last night. I was out at a work meeting and was too tired when I got home to turn on the computer. I'm working on a fun "green" design project for some friends and will hopefully be able to share the details soon.

Meanwhile, I spotted more blog content while driving carpool. Who knew carpooling across the city would have such fodder for momgogreen?

I spotted a bus with an ad for a website called Our Water Our World. The website was developed to assist consumers in managing home and garden pests in a way that helps protect water supplies. It seems to be sponsored by a local water agency.

The site offers:
  • assorted fact sheets on specific pests and methods to manage them without using hazardous materials
  • pocket guide to managing 10 common pests
  • information on where to buy safer alternatives to pesticides, including fungicides and herbicides.
  • an alphabetized list of some (not all) products that are considered
  • safer alternatives to more conventional pesticides.
  • a list of products sorted by the pest it targets.
  • an Ask the Expert feature that allows you to ask a specific question and receive a personal reply.

I'm not sure if it is a little late in the garden season for this info (momgogreen actually has a very brown thumb) but I'm sure it is probably still good to know for future reference. I'm not sure if all the products they recommend are completely organic (many are).

Our plums were completely organic (without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides) but that was due to pure neglect and chance. We didn't do anything to the tree and the plums just showed up!

Of course, you can google for tons of organic gardening resources, such as Organic Gardening magazine online.

September 17, 2007

drains again

Remember how my drain was clogged and then I magically cured it by using baking soda and vinegar? Well, it is better, but still kinda slow.

Part of my problem in this case I think is that the drain has only little tiny holes and doesn't lift up at all. It is very hard to shove enough baking soda down the tiny holes. I can definitely see how Heather at Enviromom had a relapse (with Drano). So tempting!

Since it has been on my mind, I've seen some interesting products around. One is called Drainbo. Drainbo "is a seven-strain bacteria formula that works without the chemicals, caustics, acids and solvents that are very hazardous to humans and the environment." It sounds intriguing. Almost like probiotics for your pipes!



Another one which sounds very similar is called Earthworm. "Earthworm Family-Safe Drain Cleaner is a unique blend of pure, natural environmentally-friendly, enzyme-producing bacteria that liquefies grease, fats and other organic wastes and controls odors in drains, garbage disposals, and septic systems." They promise there are no actual worms in the bottle.



If the drain keeps up I'll definitely have to give these a try. If you've used it let me know how it worked.

September 16, 2007

spinach strategy


Bunches of fresh spinach, not pre-washed or packaged.

It's been about a year since the major spinach recalls due to E.coli

A few weeks ago, there was another bit of a scare as growers pulled spinach off the shelves after finding salmonella. No one was hurt, but it had me wondering about how to buy safe spinach. Spinach obviously has many great nutrients (including vitamin A, folate, vitamin K, potassium and iron). I'd love to be able to use it without worry.

Today at the grocery store I asked the produce expert if it was safer to buy spinach that wasn't pre-washed and in those plastic boxes or bags. He kindly told me that the bulk, loose spinach at this particular store is also from the same types of bags (only much larger) and the store simply opens them for customers to scoop their own quantity.

He suggested it might be safer to buy the spinach that is sold in bunches, since it is not pre-washed and comes from a local grower. I would imagine buying a similar product at a local farmers market would be good, too.

Remember, I'm no scientist or expert, but this is the information I gathered today and I'm going with it until further notice. Bunches of fresh, local spinach, not pre-washed, over packages of pre-washed spinach.


This bulk spinach has actually been pre-washed and was delivered to the store in a big package.

September 12, 2007

natural stores have method


Not long ago I was wondering why Method cleaning products are not found in local natural food stores near my home. I wondered if it was politics or ingredients that kept them away. I was looking for the validation of the product by having it sold at natural markets because many cleaning products keep their ingredients secret.

That all changed today when I went to a grand opening of a new Whole Foods in my area. The store had a large section of Method products in the cleaning aisle! I am excited because Method is a local San Francisco company and their products smell great.

I know I am still due to write more in depth about natural cleaning options, but for now I'll keep using my cucumber all-purpose spray and mint window cleaner.

September 11, 2007

keetsa mattress store


Someone asked me recently about choosing a healthy mattress for a child. I hadn't had a chance to really delve into the research of it. I know many people prefer natural material or organic mattresses.

As I was driving carpool today I passed a new store called Keetsa. They say they are the "eco-friendly mattress store." So when I got home I looked up their website to get more information. They sell mattresses, pillows, as well as bedding protectors, foundations and toppers. They have a store in San Francisco and offer free shipping online.

Since I haven't researched all the kinds of eco-friendly bedding, I cannot vouch for Keetsa's greenness. The mattresses seem to be made from memory foam. Their website says, "Keetsa brings an eco-friendly, sustainability orientation to sleep products with amazing new items such as mattresses, pillows, toppers that deliver comfort night after night. Keetsa also brings safer sleep environments by using everyday, natural ingredients that deliver anti-bacterial benefits. These products come together in one of the most efficient business models that produces a much lower carbon foot print than typical mattress stores…and every day cost savings to consumers in the range of 50% to 75%."

They have a rating system for their products which is a composite score for "how much each product contains a green-factor ingredient: use of recycled material or recyclable materials, use of sustainable materials such as bamboo or unbleached cotton."

One interesting quality of their product is that they use a Patent-Pending process to compress the mattresses into a smallish box for shipping. They claim other mattresses would not be able to withstand this technology. The company says "smaller packaging means a lower carbon footprint from the moment the mattress leaves the factory until it gets to your home."

I would be curious to look more at how memory foam is made, as well as how it compares to natural latex. I also would be interested in some of the processes that they use to add "natural" ingredients to the product, such as green tea and silver.

Do you have a favorite eco-friendly bed? Let me know what you're using!

September 10, 2007

working the program


You know - the reduce, reuse, recycle program? This post is in honor of my blogbuddy, Gift of Green. Recently, she bravely confessed her love of ziplock bags.

As a mom, I can totally concur. Ziplocks are incredibly handy. They keep shampoo from leaking in your luggage. They can hold puzzle pieces and tiny toys. They are great for storing piles of trail mix in your purse. Containing diaper supplies in your non-diaperbag bag. And holding bagels in the freezer. Need I go on?

I am trying to reduce the amount of plastic I use. I am attempting to not buy more ziplocks (luckily I have a stockpile from a Costco trip last year). But I also have been trying to be more diligent about reusing them. Even the icky-sticky ones that I would have normally tossed, I am trying to flip inside out and wash. I am amazed at how easily they clean!

After washing they just need to air dry. I happen to just sloppily toss mine over the knife rack on the counter. But you can also get cooler bag-drying accessories, such as the Gaim Countertop Bag Dryer.

Washing out the ziplocks is the best of both worlds. You don't have to give them up; just use them forever and ever.

September 9, 2007

toxic popcorn

Where will it end? People are finding problems with everything these days. Now it's the microwave popcorn. I mean, obviously it isn't "good" for you, but it is kinda creepy to think about people working in the popcorn flavoring factories dying because of the chemical used to make butter flavor.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports, "The chemical, diacetyl, adds buttery taste. Government worker safety investigators have linked exposure to the synthetic butter to the sometimes fatal destruction of the lungs of hundreds of workers in food production and flavoring factories." Other articles report that the flavoring industry has known about safety issues with diacetyl for some time but only recently began to take action.

Seems many popcorn manufacturers are making plans to phase out the dangerous chemical while they maintain that it is still safe for consumers to use their products. Reports say the danger is during the production process when the chemical is heated and in vapor form.

But if you eat loads of popcorn, you might want to think twice. I also read about the first consumer to be suffering the same symptoms as the factory workers. Seems he was eating 2 bags of microwave popcorn per day and inhaling the steam as he opened the bags. Now he has been diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans or “popcorn workers’ lung", which can be fatal.

All the more reason to keep things as natural and simple as possible. I'm personally kind of a spaz when it comes to making popcorn on the stovetop, the old fashioned way. I leave that to my husband, the popcorn expert.

In a New York Times article on the subject, they referenced a homemade microwave popcorn recipe. I have not tried it. Personally, I'd be too scared to put a staple in the microwave! If you try it let me know how it goes:

From Alton Brown of the Food Network:
Place one-quarter cup of good quality popcorn in a standard brown paper lunch bag; mix with oil and seasoning; seal the bag with a single staple and heat for two to three minutes in the microwave.