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?"
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


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 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


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.