February 27, 2008

hungry planet

from the book Hungry Planet

Awhile back my sister-in-law sent me an email with several photos of people around the world surrounded by their stock of weekly groceries. I thought it was a fascinating observation. It made many differences apparent, like the amounts of processed foods or the amount of colors and textures offered (not to mention the abundance or lack of food in each family).

I finally figured out where the pictures came from and wanted to share them. Time has a slide show of the photos which you can see. They are all from a book called Hungry Planet. I definitely want to get a copy for myself. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

February 25, 2008

angry moms

Have you heard of Angry Moms? No, not the ones who just got cut off in the carpool line. Angry Moms is a movement and a movie about two moms who are trying to change the lunch programs in America's schools. I haven't seen the movie, but saw some clips and think it looks compelling.

So many topics seem to be converging for me lately and nutrition is one of them. It ties into the whole 'green' thing because we should care about the quality of foods we are eating, how they are produced, and packaged. The school nutrition issue is about the health and behavior of children (obesity, ADHD, asthma, diabetes, autism, all on the rise). It is about ingredients which are farmed or produced in ways that are harming our environment. It is related to how children today are becoming increasingly disconnected with nature.

I thought is was so telling that the huge meat recall issued last week (the largest EVER) was of meat that was primarily sold to schools, and that most of it had already been consumed.

I am fortunate that the schools my kids attend are very nutrition savvy. The do not serve or sell lunches, but they do have guidelines for what should and should not be included. They favor hearty, nutrient dense meals, preferably leftovers from the night before.

The Angry Moms website has some great links to more information about how and why to get involved with your school. I believe the movie also shares examples of schools that are getting it right and have exemplary programs.

February 24, 2008

fish phone

I was doing my usual grocery shopping trip this weekend and decided to buy some fish for dinner. I was completely overwhelmed by looking at the choices in the fish case. Wild caught. Previously frozen. Sea Bass and Coho Salmon. My mind was racing trying to remember which traits were desirable and which weren't. I know bigger fish have more mercury, but sometimes it is hard to tell how big they were when you're looking at a fillet. Not to mention keeping track of all the over-fishing problems.

In case you've forgotten or misplaced your handy pocket guide for seafood choices (like I did), you can now use a text message on your phone to find out if the fish choice you are debating is a sound one. Blue Ocean Institute has introduced FishPhone. FishPhone instantly puts sustainable seafood information at your fingertips.

"To find out about your seafood choice, text 30644 with the message FISH and the name of the fish in question. We’ll text you back with our assessment and better alternatives to fish with significant environmental concerns. "

I wish I had tried that today at the store. Next time I'll be prepared.

February 20, 2008

cocktail napkins

I had some folks over this evening for a school fund-raising meeting. I set out some cheese and crackers and then realized I should put out some little napkins—except that I haven't been buying paper napkins! Luckily I found a few leftover from the time over the holidays when my neighbor lent me some because the same thing happened.

It just would be too clunky to get out all of our huge cloth dinner napkins. I really don't want to resort to buying paper merely so I can serve appetizers.

Maybe this is just the project I need to kick-start my sewing hobby. (Sewing is my new hobby. I just haven't started yet). These napkins look really cute...but quite possibly too difficult for my first project.

February 19, 2008

hot leaded water

You might want to rethink filling your kettle with hot water form the tap. There was an article in the New York Times a few weeks ago alerting us to the potential dangers of using hot tap water. Seems that when the water is hot there is more chance that hot water dissolves contaminants more quickly.

Did you know that even new pipes that are called "lead free" they can contain 8% lead? The EPA is suggesting that cold tap water should always be used for preparing baby formula, cooking and drinking. It also warns that boiling water does not remove lead but can actually increase its concentration. More information is at www.epa.gov/lead or (800) 424-5323 (LEAD).

If you are truly concerned or curious, you can always order a full test of what is in your water.

February 18, 2008

top green cities

The top 50 greenest cities have been ranked by Popular Science. Among other factors, they looked at electricity, transportation, green living, recycling and green perspective.

And the winner is. . . Portland, Oregon! Congratulations! I'm sure the ladies at Enviromom are very proud.

San Francisco came in a close second (bravo!)
Now, can someone tell me why such a green city would be planning to convert many of its playing fields to artificial turf? But that is a whole other topic. You can bet I'm researching that.

Meanwhile, check out the list and see where your city ranked.

February 17, 2008

ecomom parties

I'm sure many of you saw this great article about eco-moms in the New York Times this weekend. I joined the Eco Mom Alliance back in October when I posted about the group.

Somehow I missed the part about the parties! I've written to them to find out more about how to go about hosting one. It seems like such a great way for women who want to start living more sustainably to get started, especially in communities which may not have as much municipal support. I think the variety of information and camaraderie would be so inspiring and helpful.

So for now, check out the article. As soon as I get info on how to host the green gathering I will send it along.

Of course, if you've participated in some form of your own green group please leave a comment and tell us about it!

February 14, 2008

eco goddess

The other day I mentioned the Eco Goddess newsletter. I just read my first issue recently and loved the wealth of content provided (that's where I saw the tip to watch the "Story of Stuff").

The most recent issue included lots of great reminders of why it is important to make a difference in our daily lives and how we can do that.

To sign up for the newsletter click here and enter your email address. She will keep it private and safe.

The woman that writes the email newsletter has just had her first baby (congratulations, Jolene!) Lots of good wishes to her and her family.

February 13, 2008

sigg turns 100

Did you know one of the most popular brands of reusable bottles is turning 100?

In celebration of this milestone, SIGG Switzerland, along with StopGlobalWarming.org (you know I'm big fans of both of them), will launch www.sigg100.com, which explores the 100 most significant eco-moments of the past century. From February 11 through April 22, 2008 (Earth Day), SIGG will unveil 10 historical eco-moments every week. Visitors will have the opportunity to chat with other users and vote on the most significant eco-moments for a chance to win a trip to Jack Johnson’s Kokua Festival in Oahu, Hawaii.

Visitors will also have an opportunity to chat directly with environmental activists through SIGG Switzerland’s bi-monthly Q&A series. Chat hosts include Academy Award winning producer and author Laurie David; acclaimed actor and environmental enthusiast, Ed Begley Jr.; The Oprah Winfrey show and NBC Nightly News environmental contributor P. Simran Sethi; Founder of EcoFabulous.com and Domino Magazine’s eco-editor Zem Joaquin; and Executive Director of Healthy Child Healthy World, Christopher Gavigan.

Talk about green name-dropping! Whew! What would I ask these folks given the chance? I'll have to think of something good.

Visitors to www.sigg100.com will have the opportunity to win a free trip to Hawaii to attend the two day Kokua Festival with accommodations provided for by Waikiki Beach Marriot Resort and Spa. The 5th annual Kokua Festival will be hosted by Jack Johnson on April 19th & 20th and is a green event celebrating music and Earth Day.

I wonder if I win the trip to Hawaii they'll buy my carbon offsets for me, too? Just kidding.

February 12, 2008

the story of stuff

I was reading the super-cool Eco Goddess newsletter (more on that soon!) and saw a link to The Story of Stuff.

The Story of Stuff, with Annie Leonard (an expert in international sustainability and environmental health issues, with more than 20 years of experience investigating factories and dumps around the world), is a 20 minute interactive online video. It is fantastic!! The production is well done and the content is presented in such a simple, compelling way. Here's how they summarize the video:

"The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever."

It is definitely a must-see. Check it out!

February 11, 2008

propylene glycol

I did some research about propylene glycol and am still a little confused about just how "dangerous" it really is. I'll give you my perceptions up front: it seems it is deemed safe by regulatory groups but is also potentially irritating and is an undesired ingredient by many people.

So what is it exactly? Propylene Glycol is a cosmetic form of mineral oil. In the skin and hair, propylene glycol works as a humectant, which causes retention of moisture content of skin or cosmetic products by preventing the escape of moisture or water.

Propylene glycol is commonly found in: makeup, shampoo, deodorant, detangler, styling mousse, cleansing cream, mascara, soap, skin cream, bubble bath, baby powder, conditioner, toner, after shave, baby wipes, tire sealant, rubber cleaner, antifreeze, stain removers, fabric softener, degreaser, paint, adhesive and wallpaper stripper.

Now, just because it is found in a wide variety of things doesn't make it bad. Take water for instance. I'm sure water is used as an ingredient in many things, some you'd want to ingest and some you wouldn't. Doesn't make the water itself a bad thing.

Some websites
claim that the Material Safety Data Sheet (any ingredient has one) "warns users to avoid skin contact with propylene glycol as this strong skin irritant can cause liver abnormalities and kidney damage." Other websites say the opposite, such as Tom's of Maine, which says, "MSDS information can be found on the Internet, but rarely are viewers given any background or context on how to read one." They go on to say they feel confident that their use of propylene glycol is perfectly safe. They also admit that it comes from natural gas, and they'd rather it came from a renewable resource, but when they tried a more natural substitute consumers hated the product so they switched back.

One resource which I respect is the Cosmetic Database from Environmental Working Group. It rated Propylene Glycol a 4 out of 10 (a caution level). They report that "Propylene glycol is practically non-toxic when taken orally, i.e. added to food. However, it has been found to provoke skin irritation and sensitization in humans as low as 2% concentration, while the industry review panel recommends cosmetics can contain up to 50% of the substance."

So, maybe it is safe in small doses. It seems like it may irritate my skin, but that doesn't mean it will irritate yours. I guess the choice to use it depends on your comfort level of synthetic ingredients. I'm choosing to avoid it in deodorant because it seems to bother me, but it is likely in some other products I frequently use.

February 10, 2008

deodorant, take 3

My adventures of finding an effective deodorant have taken another turn. I'm sure many of you are tired of hearing about it, but I wouldn't want to steer anyone wrong. I have new information!

Last I mentioned it, I had found a new solid deodorant that smelled divine. I loved it. I must have jinxed myself because as soon as I posted about the product I started having irritation from it (itchy).

I went back to the drawing board and spoke to the wizard of natural body products at my local market. She informed me that the product I had chosen wasn't so "clean" and it contained propylene glycol, which can be irritating. She suggested switching to a roll-on (so 1970s, isn't it?) or a spray, which are far more effective at controlling odor and less irritating than solids.

Of course I was skeptical. But I tried it and this time, I'm serious, it is a fantastic product called Herbal Magic. I've been using it for a few weeks now and have had great success. No odor, no itchiness. Happy at last!

My next post will be about propylene glycol. If you're like me, you're wondering what it is exactly and why you should care.

Sorry I missed posting last week. We were out of town and I fully intended to post while traveling, but alas kids got sick and I got tired. All is back to normal, now.

February 3, 2008

ireland reuses bags

This article in the New York Times was really exciting (at least to me!) Ireland is setting a fantastic example of a country making successful environmental strides through national legislation.

Read about how even the most skeptical Irish are now converts to using reusable bags. Hooray!

February 1, 2008

no fridge

Little disaster here last night, so I didn't get to post on time. But the disaster makes for a good topic, I think.

What happened was our fridge died. All day I heard clicking sounds but I figured it was the water filter. By late evening we had a big puddle on the floor. As we investigated we found that everything in our freezer had thawed and was melting out! Luckily we have amazing neighbors who: 1) were still awake, and 2) have an extra fridge with lots of space.

The whole event made me think about how we use the fridge, what goes in it, how we depend on it, etc. Refrigerators are the second highest energy hog in your home (clothes dryers are first). Did you know there are many people who are doing without them at all?

One option to green the fridge is to downsize. Not a very American idea, but perhaps more viable than you might think. Depends how often you shop, etc. And another interesting tidbit I learned from the repairman was that the new energy star appliances don't hold up as well. Something to do with the mechanics of how they save energy. He said we should get 10-15 years out of the fridge, though.

But for now, it is working again. I have to say I'm relieved!