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.

September 6, 2007

crimes against nature


I've been reading an eye-opening book by Robert Kennedy, Jr. (he's the environmental lawyer, son of the late Robert Kennedy). Crimes Against Nature is full of amazing information about how big industry is steering government policy decisions.

Kennedy provides in great detail specific facts and examples that simply leave me dumbfounded. As I began reading I thought I would highlight some of the most outrageous tidbits and share them, but honestly each page is full of them. I'd have highlighted the whole book!

I had a suspicion that the EPA and other agencies may not be looking out for my best interests, but now I know the details of why these suspicions are true.

And may I delicately say that this book is for both Democrats and Republicans? Kennedy covers this in the prologue. People in both parties (and others) like nature, and nature has no political party.

The only problem with the book is that I generally read before falling asleep, and this one gets me so fired up and angry that it is not conducive to relaxing. I still highly recommend it. Make it your next book club pick!

September 5, 2007

old cartridges


It finally happened. I ran out of ink on my little ink jet printer. Ever wonder what to do with all those empty ink and toner cartridges you end up with from your printer? There are a slew of options available now. Not only are they easy to do, but in some cases you can get paid to recycle! I'm sure there are loads of places offering this service, but here are some ones I have found:

Recycle 4 Kids is a group I found online which lets you print a prepaid shipping label to recycle your empty inkjet and toner cartridges. They pay fees for each cartridge you send which can either be applied as a donation to various children's charities or as a fund raiser for your own group (such as a school).

EcoPhones another fund-raising model which accepts cell phones, ink jet cartridges and DVDs.

Print Country provides mailers for the return and recycling of ink jet cartridges (and they also sell new cartridges).

Second Rotation will purchase your consumer lifestyle goods (such as consumer electronics, including digital cameras, camcorders, cell phones, GPS systems and MP3 players) and then resell them on ebay. The website will help you determine the value of your gear.

And finally, another option I found here locally (in my Whole Foods store, of course) is Green Citizen. You don't get paid for your items, but you don't have to mess with shipping or saving up a certain quantity. Their in-store kiosks accept plastic bags, cell phones, batteries, ink cartridges, and CD/DVDs. You can even bring larger electronics to one their drop-off centers or have them pick up from your small business.

Of course, when it comes to large electronics you can always check Earth 911 for recycling options in your area.

And if by chance I find out that my kids' schools are hosting a fund raising program for cartridges, such as mentioned above, I'll have you send all your old ones to me! Just kidding.

September 3, 2007

what's for lunch?

I am gearing up for the back-to-school lunches this week. For some reason making decent, appealing, nutritious lunches has always been stressful to me. Advice from my son's school is to give a hearty, substantial lunch. They suggest leftovers from the previous night's dinner. The thing that cracks me up about that is the assumption last night's dinner was nutritious and substantial! But I'm trying. Cold pizza, anyone?

I've already looked at lots of ways to pack a green lunch bag. I also found some sites which have good ideas for the actual food itself. Kids organics, vegan lunch box, and care2 all had interesting ideas.

And as much as I joke, I really do try to buy whole foods, minimally processed (though some are!) and organic as much as I can. While the sites listed above have lots of great suggestions, the real trick is if your kid actually eats them. All kids are different of course, so finding what works for your kids is key (and herein lies my challenge).

I also want to try making rice balls (onigiri), which I read about on Angry Chicken. Anyone have good recipes for that?