May 29, 2008

a can of bpa, please

It is great to see that many people are taking care to avoid BPA (bisphenol-a) in plastic bottles (baby bottles and reusable water bottles). But BPA is also found in canned food, in similar or even higher amounts.

I first saw this story on treehugger and thought it was really relevant to all the moms trying to keep BPA out of their wee ones. Especially since BPA is something that is likely exposed in many ways, so it is cumulative. I knew BPA was a risk in caned food, but I hadn't realized the risk was at even higher levels than the bottles.

I don't use a lot of canned food, but do occasionally buy tomato sauce as a base to make my own. The report says that "less than half a cup of tomato sauce or a cup of chicken noodle soup would exceed the lowest dose found in recent research to have an adverse effect on animals."

Just another good reason to make fresh food. It is possible to can foods without BPA, so perhaps a little market demand is needed to get companies to make the change.

I read in the treehugger article some good tips for avoiding BPA and also found a listing of companies and their BPA usage in cans. If you want to see the original 4 minute video report from the Globe and Mail, click here.

May 28, 2008

solar visit

I have started looking into getting solar panels installed on our home. I heard about some local rebates and thought it might be a good time to check it out.

I looked online to see which solar companies existed in my area and also got some referrals from neighbors. Today the sales guy from one of the companies came by to see our roof. He checked to see how much sun it gets and if there are any obstructions. I had looked up our monthly energy usage so he could prepare a quote.

We can qualify for federal, state, and possibly city rebates for installing solar. The city rebate plan is still locked up in local politics but will hopefully be resolved soon.

It seems like it will still be a big initial investment, but worthwhile in the long run. In addition to creating clean, renewable energy, solar is also supposed to help increase the value of a home.

You can see a video about how solar works on their company website. They install the panels on your roof, and then run a conduit to a new box which is installed near the utility meter. Voila!

Now we just have to decide if we can afford it.

May 27, 2008

eco soccer balls

I was glad to hear about a company called Fair Trade Sports as they now have the "world's first eco-certified soccer balls for children". I am always humbled when I find an eco-solution to an aspect of life that I didn't consider before.

Fair Trade Sports, Inc is the first sports equipment company in the US to launch a full line of eco-certified Fair Trade sports balls, ensuring fair wages and healthy working conditions for adult workers.

Not only that, but they are committed to donate all profits after taxes to children’s charities, both domestic and international. Sound familiar? It’s a similar idea to the one behind the Newman’s Own brand you see in the grocery store.

Soccer moms go green!

May 26, 2008

wipes go camping

We kicked off our camping season with a little getaway this weekend. It was loads of fun. I tried to keep our camping as green as I could, as I've been trying to do each time we go.

One new thing I splurged for this year was more environmentally friendly hand wipes. I bought a big tub of the EO All-Purpose Sanitizing Wipes, since they are touted as "the organic, plant-based alternative to chemical laden wipes." As I've mentioned before, I've struggled to figure out a eco-friendly way to keep our hands clean while camping since the bathrooms (we do at least have those!) don't have soap, warm water or towels. Of course I bring our own, but realistically, it is inevitable that we don't bring a bottle of soap and a towel to the bathroom every single time someone has to go. Standard antibacterial wipes can contain toxic and synthetic pesticides.

The EO wipes are kind of pricey, so it was a splurge to try them and I have to say I was a little disappointed with their dryness. I don't know if the batch wasn't packaged tightly or if they are not meant to be as moist as other brands I'm used to, but I wondered how effective they could be if the wipes were a bit on the dry side. The cloth they use (which is biodegradable) also seemed a little thin and was hard to tear, so people were often grabbing 2 or more to wipe up hands or tables.

I had one of my individual packets of another eco-friendly wipe in my backpack and used it on an excursion one day and remarked that it was so much more moist and the cloth was far bigger and thicker (making it much easier to actually use). I only wish the CleanWell wipes were sold in larger packages!

One interesting note is that while both these products say they are environmentally friendly (and I'm sure they are both better than traditional chemical type-brands) they are not the same. The EO brand uses alcohol (although it is organic and non-GMO). The CleanWell product uses only essential oils made from plants which are renewable, plus no pesticides or petrochemicals. CleanWell states their wipes kill 99.99% of germs, including MRSA and E.Coli.

I plan on contacting the EO company to see if the dryness issue was a fluke of my package. I do like many EO products. I also plan on buying more of the CleanWell and stocking up my camping supply box with the CleanWell spray and wipes.

May 20, 2008

natural disinfectant

Now that my kitchen has gone green (using natural cleaning products and no paper products) I wondered what I should do when I have a super-messy mess. Like today for instance, when I dropped a raw egg on the counter instead of cracking it into the bowl (the kids distracted me).

I remembered reading about the power of natural disinfectants on the Green Guide. Since I had anticipated this moment, I had recently picked up 2 empty spray bottles at the store. I followed the Green Guide's advice and used vinegar and peroxide to disinfect the counter. I wiped it up with a sponge, which I then put in the dishwasher to sanitize.

This method was tested by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University as a safe way to get rid of Salmonella, Shigella and E. coli bacteria. They suggested using:

"a combination of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide (the same strength you find at the drugstore) and undiluted white or apple cider vinegar. Put the two in separate spray bottles and spray one immediately after the other. You can spray it directly on fruits and vegetables and also on surfaces, such as cutting boards and countertops."

Ta da!

May 19, 2008

reusable help?

Click to see a larger image and the bountiful cracks.

How far am I supposed to go with the reduce, reuse, recycle mantra? It helps me pretty often but has me stumped on this situation. I'm hoping you trusty green readers will have lots of brilliant ideas for me.

I have this (formerly) nice ceramic baking dish which recently had a malfunction. While it says you can broil with the pan, mine made popping sounds and cracked on a few sides. The pan is still holding together but I don't trust further baking with it.

So what to do? Is there some creative, alternate use for it or should I post it to freecycle? On the one hand I want to reuse things as long as possible and on the other hand I despise having lots of extra "stuff" around.

Any fabulous ideas for me?

May 18, 2008

market bag solution

The farmer's market was incredible this weekend! I was so excited to see peaches, apricots, summer squash and cherries (not to mention lots of other beautiful things). It made me recall what I had learned from the video "How to Work a Green Market" with Alice Waters by the New York Times. When I first heard her saying how she chooses produce which speaks to her I doubted that tactic would work for me (chances were the produce had nothing to say to me). But it did. Lettuce beckoned me to take it home.

I bought lots of goodies for the week and as usual, tried to separate them into my various reusable tote bags. I had a bag for the fragile eggs and fragile berries, a bag for the grass fed meat, and other bags full of greens and other vegetables. Since I'm buying for my family of four, it becomes a lot to carry.

I decided to go check out the woven market baskets and in the end, I bought one. A reader had emailed me after my recent post about market bags and said that these types of baskets are great because not only are they are sizable but the structure keeps things from squishing as much as a tote bag does.

So, the totes will still come to the grocery with me and the basket to the farmers market. I feel more organized already!

May 15, 2008

clothesline challenge

I must tell you about a fantastic challenge that I've signed up for over at Gift of Green. She is hosting a Clothesline Challenge, which is great because I need the motivation to help me start this green habit. I've been wanting and intending to hang a clothesline for a long time, but logistics have stalled me.

Of course you know that the clothes dryer is one of the biggest energy users in your entire home.

Thanks to the challenge I am more motivated than ever. I am going to figure out what type of line might work in my yard and also get a rack to keep in the tub (as my sister-in-law does very successfully). And, I know this sounds lame, I think the hardest part for me will be lugging the wet laundry at opportune times upstairs to the yard. Maybe if I wash at night I can hang in the morning. I'll need to be careful to space the loads out each day and not end up with tons on the weekend.

So, go sign up and join me in the challenge! I signed up to dry 90% of our clothes on the line, but there are other levels to chose from. The challenge is running for 3 there's no time to waste. Get those lines up!

And a big thanks to Gift of Green for organizing and motivating in brilliant bloggy fashion.

May 14, 2008

safer baby plastics

It is great that more people and companies are watching out for dangerous things in kid's plastics (like bisphenol-a, pthalates and PVC). But are you still confused about which items are actually safe and which are not? Me too.

Luckily there is a great blog that focuses on just safe kid plastics. The Soft Landing has lots of good information if you want to know about plastic baby bottles, plates, sippy cups or even high chairs - all kinds of things that will go into your kids' mouths. Plus, they sell many of the products directly so it is an all-in-one resource. I like their package of the "Go BPA free" sippy cup sampler. It includes a selection of 4 safer cups. What a great idea for people who want to switch but don't know where to start.

May 13, 2008

recycle car seats?

Renee over at enviromom posted a very interesting question and idea. She writes about a local car seat recycling program in Portland, Oregon. It sounds so logical and wonderful, but is actually kind of complex to put into practice.

Think of all the car seats we all end up using, and how they are not ideal to pass on very much because after 5 or 6 years the safety is questionable. That is a lot of bulky material, plastics and Styrofoam heading to landfills everywhere.

Renee is seeking comments on her post to get a sense of the demand for car seat recycling programs. She asks,

"Would you recycle your child's expired car seat if you had the option to do so? Do you feel it's time for a national car seat recycling program? Would you write to car seat manufacturers about the importance of design for disassembly? If you comment, please let us know where you live, how many seats your family will use during your children's car seat years, and if you are ready to be part of the "critical mass" to let car seat manufacturers know it's time for a national program to take back and recycle those old car seats!!"

Way to be a proactive, powerful and inspiring green mom, Renee! I think I'll go leave my comment for her now.

May 11, 2008

my day

Today was Mother's Day. We don't usually celebrate this holiday in a big way, but there were a few treats in store for me today that were very nice. My kindergartener gave me a handmade card this morning that he had made in school. It had a felted heart on the front and a picture inside that he drew of me sailing a boat (like a pirate ship). He drew a big sun in the sky and a smile on my face. I couldn't have asked for a better gift.

Later we took our annual trip to get ice cream for Mother's Day. We went to one of the best ice cream places in San Francisco. Their product made from excellent local, organic ingredients and they have incredibly unique flavors (I tried the salted caramel and the toasted coconut). In addition, they use compostable bowls and utensils. What is not to love??

Another big treat today was having a little time to indulge in my sewing project. I've been trying to learn to sew and my first project has been a reusable bag (thanks to Hannah for being so patient while teaching me). Another friend of mine has a fantastically cool job with access to gorgeous, modern upholstery fabrics. He is able to collect and keep the scraps which would otherwise be put in the trash. I am grateful he shared a few pieces with me. You can see my first bag below. The stitching is sloppy, but hey! It is my first project.

May 8, 2008


I have seen lots of hullabaloo about good, green gift ideas for Mother's Day. I'm sure there are many fine options (including the simple ones, like a hug). One unique option that I thought was worth noting is from a group called 1Sky.

1Sky is an organization that is working hard to make changes at the federal government level to help reverse global warming. 1Sky unites scores of groups with a single purpose: shifting federal policy toward the prosperity of a sustainable, low-carbon economy. Through innovative solutions and cutting-edge media, Internet, field and organizing strategies, 1Sky gives organizations and individuals across the country the power they need to make history.

They are asking people to come together to create strong visuals on Mother's Day which can be sent to Congress urging them remember the implications of climate change on the next generation. You can visit their website to find an event in your area or organize your own. I also enjoyed reading a great piece by No Impact Man on their blog for the occasion of Mother's Day.

May 7, 2008


I know this isn't a craft or food blog, per se, but I can't help but see the green-ness in a new recipe I tried.

See, here in this house we like bagel chips. We've tried ones from Trader Joe's and the ones from Stacey's brand. Yum! I think those are fine products, but it occurred to me that maybe there was a way to make them myself. If I prepared them I could be sure only simple ingredients were used. I searched online for a recipe and found one that uses very simple, natural ingredients. I've made them twice now and YUM! They are easy and taste great.

The success made me wonder about what other things I might be able to make from scratch. Surely it is greener to source some local ingredients and combine them yourself rather than buy a packed item created in a factory far, far away. I know a few friends who are talented and make many wonderful things from scratch, so I know it is possible. I just didn't know that I could do it myself! If you have other inspiring homemade things, please share.

In case you're wanting to try the bagel chip recipe, I found it here. The only changes I made were to use a mix of melted butter and olive oil, oregano instead of Italian seasoning, and baking just a wee bit longer (but your oven may vary). I also sliced the bagels on the short side for smaller circles (just like the ones from the store).

May 5, 2008

natural mouthwash

Sometime after we switched to natural toothpastes we started trying natural mouthwashes. I'd never been much of a mouthwash user before, but I must admit in combination with the natural toothpastes it helps feel more refreshing (the natural pastes don't quite have the same "zing").

The thing about the mouthwashes is that personal preference seems to be quite variable. In my house we all have different opinions about the ones we've tried. All the brands seem to be alcohol-free with no artificial dyes or saccharin, etc.

My favorite tasting one is the Cinnamint from Tom's of Maine. My husband thought it burned a little too much (even though it is alcohol free). His favorite is the Tea Tree Oil mouthwash from Dessert Essence (I can't say I really enjoyed that flavor). I preferred the Jason Sea Fresh mouthwash to it (though husband and children completely disagree!) I'll admit, the Sea Fresh mouthwash is strange at first. Initial flavor of um—well, sea water would be accurate. But the aftertaste is minty and refreshing.

No matter which version you choose, the natural mouthwash options have safer ingredients than conventional products. Do you have a favorite brand or flavor to recommend? Let me know!

May 4, 2008

market bags

I love shopping at the farmer's market but find that each week my system of carrying tons of random reusable bags over my shoulder is a bit disorganized and cumbersome. I decided to take a look around at the various methods other people are using.

There are several kinds of shopping cart styles. I'm afraid all my fragile things like eggs and strawberries would get squished using one of these.

These hook n' go carts are very popular at the market since they fold up small to fit in your car or home yet can hold many individual bags. Seems like they work well, but the market starts to get crowded after being open a half hour or so, making wheeling things hard to navigate. That and the contraption costs almost $50, so I'd want to be sure it would make a big difference for me.

Wagons are cute and romantic, but can't be we easily pulled through the crowded market. This one was there at opening time (not sure how they shopped that fast as many farmers were just starting!)

The classic basket is popular, too. I like the sturdiness of it, but fear I would need more space and that I'd wish I could use shoulder straps. It would be great if I could demo one before investing!

So, I usually end up looking like this woman—loaded up with a plethora of bags.
If you have a method that works well for you, please let me know!