July 31, 2008

costco cleans green

I just read about a new product line that looks promising from Costco. They have developed three new cleaning products from their Kirkland brand: laundry detergent, liquid dish soap, and multipurpose cleaner. I have not tried the products myself, but am glad to see an eco-product offering that can reach so many people.

The company says that they developed the products form scratch to use the most environmentally friendly ingredients in addition to using efficient manufacturing and distribution processes. The products use biodegradable cleaning agents and plant-based formulas. They contain no phosphates, dyes, optical brighteners or bleaches and are safe for septic systems and are not tested on animals. However, I personally have not seen the ingredient list or used it myself, so I can not compare it to other products yet. Let me know what you think of them if you try them!

One thing Costco hopes will be a big difference for their products is price. For instance, they say their liquid dish soap will cost 5.4 cents per ounce (compared to 13-36 cents per ounce at most groceries and natural stores).

I hope the products are as good as they claim to be. I think Costco has lots of potential to help bring eco products mainstream. Going green should be something everyone can find easy and affordable to do.

July 30, 2008

reader tip #2 (from therese)

In keeping with the Dutch theme, here is another good tip that was submitted for the green genius contest. Therese has a great suggestion for putting off trips to the dry cleaners (even those green cleaners).

"This tip comes from Holland and works best in similar climates. Take sweaters etc. that are not stained but need to be freshened up a bit and hang them outside on a cloudy overcast day (damp and a bit chilly, but NOT raining). This is about as simple and as green as it gets."

July 29, 2008

dutch mailboxes

I was reminiscing with my husband about our recent trip to Europe and he reminded me about a cool system they had in Amsterdam to control junk mail and papers.

Each mailbox simply has a sticker on it for if they do not want junk mail and another sticker if they also do not want the local paper.

I think it is amazing that such a simple system can work!

July 28, 2008

reader tip #1 (from jessica)

So many wonderful tips have been submitted for the green genius contest. The first one that I want to share is from reader Jessica.

She writes:

"My all time favorite product for sure has been using Tea Tree Oil...I purchase the essential oil in a small bottle and make a cleaning/disinfecting solution that I keep in a spray bottle. I use that everywhere...to clean bathrooms, disinfect the play room...kitchen surfaces (not my granite though...not sure I can.)

I also use the oil "straight-up" to sooth insect bites for my children and as a topical blemish treatment. I add a few drops to my laundry to freshen up the load in the wash....

Hands down I love this stuff. It hails from Australia and they have been using it for centuries as an ORGANIC disinfectant, antibacterial solution."

Thanks, Jessica!

July 27, 2008

hot granite countertops

I have seen a few articles recently about possible dangers in granite counters. Depending on where the granite was sourced, it may contain very high levels of radon or radioactivity (which can cause cancer and is especially dangerous to children or pregnant women).

I think a recent article in the New York Times was very thorough in explaining the risks and putting the problem in perspective. From what I understand, most counters are safe but there are some varieties that have levels of radon much higher than recommended. Some experts say that it is still a very small amount, but others say any risk may be too much.

For more information or to find out how to test your granite counter tops the New York Times reports,

" homeowners can contact the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists (aarst.org). Testing costs between $100 and $300. Information on certified technicians and do-it-yourself radon testing kits is available from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Web site at epa.gov/radon, as well as from state or regional indoor air environment offices, which can be found at epa.gov/iaq/whereyoulive.html. Kits test for radon, not radiation, and cost $20 to $30. They are sold at hardware stores and online."

July 24, 2008

green genius contest

I am so pleased with some of the tips people have sent to me that I want to share the love with my first contest.

For instance, remember how I was having troubles with my crunchy line-dried clothes? A few people told me to try eco-friendly fabric softener in the wash (or some vinegar). Genius! Our clothes on the line are soft and lovely.

And remember the suggestions about how to possible reuse my cracked ceramic baking dish?
This weekend it did become bits and pieces for the bottom of the pots of new plants. Thank you!

Here's the deal: email me your favorite green tip or product that has been a lifesaver for you. I'll post them in the blog with full credit to you. In addition, the first 5 submissions will receive your very own awesome bottle of Earthworm Family-Safe Drain Cleaner.

Send the email entries to hello [at] momgogreen [dot] com.

July 23, 2008

gore's challenge

In keeping with inspirational speeches and videos, I thought I'd mention the big speech by Al Gore last week. You know, the one where he challenges America to produce 100% of our electricity from clean, carbon-free resources within 10 years.

I like how he tied together many of the big issues facing our country and says how clean energy can also help our economy and get us out of the war. I think by proposing this challenge he will keep the issue in front of the candidates and politicians. Of course, there are many things we can do ourselves, too.

Sometimes I need these inspirational, big thinking, big picture perspectives to help me stay on track and stick with my efforts everyday. If you agree, be sure to join the We Campaign (if you haven't already) and support the challenge.

July 21, 2008

kill a watt

A few people have suggested that I try using a "Kill A Watt" to investigate my home's high energy usage.

The Kill A Watt is a small plug in device which measures the efficiency of electrical appliances throughout your home. You can calculate your electrical expenses by the day, week, month, even an entire year. The device can also check the quality of your power by monitoring voltage, line frequency, and power factor.

I think it will be a great help in determining what is using all that extra electricity in our home. I'll start with the gadgets in the home office, I think.

July 20, 2008

green updates

I seem to have several green issues on my mind as well as some updates to share. I figured it might be good to put them all together in one big, newsy post.
This weekend we will be camping for the second time this year. We love camping here in Northern California. Except this trip will be a little different, as campfires are not permitted at the state park we're going to due to the high risk of wildfires. California has had its share of terrible fires lately and the risk is too high. Some wonder about the connection to Global Warming.
I want to be honest and admit that while I am trying to use the clothesline, I am not using it as much as I should. Now that we're back in our routines after our trip the laundry is piling up. Sometimes it isn't the best time to hang clothes outside (uh, nighttime). I have lots of room for improvement here. One of my kids also complained that his clothes that were dried outside weren't soft enough (he is very sensitive to textures and how things feel). I was hoping he wouldn't notice. Drat.
While I am very good at sorting our waste (tons of recycling and compost) I notice we still have a fair amount going into the trash. We have a 32 gallon trash can and it is about 3/4 full each week. That seems like a lot to me. I am very mindful about throwing things away, but I really need to take a better look at how we can reduce overall.
I am frantically trying to figure out how we can use less electricity as I am analyzing our usage. One tip that hasn't worked for us is keeping the water heater at a low temperature. Our heater is pretty new (about 6 years old) but we have to keep it on the highest setting to get hot water. Awful, I know. It's something about the way our house plumbing is. The water heater is down in the garage, 2 levels below the kitchen and also at least 20 feet farther west than the kitchen sink. Fact is, if I turn down the water heater even one notch we don't get hot water. This is something I need to look into for sure.
This week I had a green cleaning service come help clean my house. It was a big treat (expensive). They brought their own "safe" cleaners and did a good job. I felt that while they marketed their services as being green, it didn't really go beyond their product selection. For instance, they put all the trash and recycling and compost together in one bag. It was a one time thing, but eye opening. Green is a big word.
I do have some really great news (though it is probably old news). The moth spray I was so upset and concerned about was canceled last month. Looks like a political fiasco to me, but I am so glad that the cities around us won't be sprayed with pesticide. The effort to stop the spray is a wonderful example of how grassroots efforts and speaking up can really make a difference.
I finally finished Omnivore's Dilemma and am now almost done with the follow-up, In Defense of Food. The books are enlightening and substantiate my inclinations away from processed foods. Pollan also gives a good perspective on how what we eat effects the planet, etc. Next up will be Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, as recommended by Pauline.

Finally, here's something I plan to look into soon. I loved this post about dangers of playground sand on Enviromom, but almost wish I had never read it. Of course I'm glad to be informed, but in some ways I wish I could go on naively enjoying the sand. Sometimes it is overwhelming focusing on all the environmental problems and dangers. But I do believe it is better to know the facts and then decide if you are concerned or not rather than to blindly believe all is perfect.

That is the point of my blog, after all.

July 16, 2008

happy hands

I know summer may not be the season where your hands need the most help, but I just had to post about a hand creme that seems to work miracles for me. My hands get really dry and cracked, even in summer, thanks to lots of washing up after kids.

I didn't expect much when I bought the Burt's Bee's Shea Butter Hand Repair Creme at my local Target store. In reality, it worked so amazingly well that I thought there surely must be something bad in it. Burt's Bee's says the product is 98% natural. I checked on Skin Deep and they rated the creme an impressive 2.

I love it and am so happy to have found it. It is $12 for 3 ounces, which is a handy size (pun intended) to keep in your car or purse. I keep it in my night table and use it right before bed.

July 15, 2008

greener printer

I am so excited about finding this new (to me) resource. You see, in my other life I am a designer and often buy printing for projects. I found this resource in the best possible way—when I wasn't even looking for it.

Another parent at my son's school had prepared a fund raiser this spring. She took artwork from the children, scanned it and had them printed as note cards. I thought the quality of the cards was really nice so I flipped it over to see where it was made, and voila! I had found GreenerPrinter.com. I have also produced note cards from many of the online print shops and these are my favorite so far.

So what makes the greener printer green? Here is some information from their website:

At GreenerPrinter, we realize it's about much more than just the paper. That's why in addition to featuring recycled papers exclusively, we also:
  • Adhere to the strict environmental standards of being a Bay Area Certified Green Business.
  • Operate on 100% Wind Power through investments in Renewable Energy Credits (REC's).
  • Print using only water-based coatings and soy & vegetable based inks.
  • Offset the carbon emissions of our shipments through the purchase of carbon offset credits.
  • Adhere to the practices outlined in our FSC Chain-of-Custody Certification.
  • Eliminate dangerous chemicals and compounds from our production facility.
  • Invest in printing technologies that reduce makeready and ink wash-ups, and eliminate plate processing.
We are an environmentally friendly printing and graphic communications company dedicated to helping individuals and organizations promote themselves in more sustainable ways. Through GreenerPrinter.com, you can obtain * high-quality, affordable printing services... * featuring real-time print quotes and online ordering... * using state-of-the-art recycled papers... * printing by a certified environmentally responsible company... * and shipped directly to you with zero climate impact!

GreenerPrinter.com makes environmentally responsible printing services convenient and affordable, no matter where you are based. It was complete coincidence that I found them and they happen to be right near me in Berkeley.

Check out GreenerPrinter.com next time you need to print brochures, postcards, business cards, labels, folders, catalogs, note cards, posters, newsletters, stationery, etc. They say they look forward to helping you align your printing needs with your environmental goals.

July 13, 2008

energy usage

I'm trying to solve the mystery of our home's energy usage. You probably think here at casa go green that we have a low amount of energy used. Ha! Looks like we are above average.

I have been analyzing our bills from the utility because I was inquiring about installing solar panels. Our quote for solar was surprisingly high because as our salesperson said, our usage is "juicy."

But I don't get it. We practically sit in the dark at night. We don't have air conditioning (don't need it in the San Francisco fog), our appliances are energy star rated, and our windows and furnace are all new, too. All I can think of is our computer usage may be higher than normal, but geez!

I'd love to have someone from PG&E come evaluate our home, because it just isn't making sense to me. I used their online assessment tool and it was perplexing. It made a nice pie chart of our energy usage and the biggest slice of pie was dedicated to "other", as if they have no explanation for it, either!

What is the average usage for gas and electric in your homes? Tell me what part of the country you live in as well as how many kilowatts of electricity you use each month.

July 10, 2008

green driving with kiwi

A company here in Silicon Valley has created a device to help people drive as efficiently as possible. The device plugs into a port on your steering wheel and then provides all kinds of useful information about your driving—far more than just the average MPG that many cars calculate on the dashboard. They say efficient driving can improve your MPG by up to 33%.

The PLX Kiwi not only displays your MPG, but it also displays how many gallons of gas you use. It keeps track of how dollars of gas you spend and SAVE. For example, if your commute from home to work is 20 miles, and you get on average 20 MPG, you use exactly 1 gallon of gas. If the gas price is $4/gallon, you’ve used $4 of gas to drive to work. After using Kiwi, with a 20% improvement, you’ll notice your MPG rise from 20 to 24. With the same 20 mile trip, you’ll only spend $3.33 in gas saving you 66 cents per trip. Trip distances, gasoline used, dollars used and dollars saved are all displayed on Kiwi screen.

The Kiwi installs into any 1996 and up vehicle, including hybrids, in a matter of seconds. Kiwi is a plug and play device which interfaces with your existing OBDII port, often located under your steering wheel. By driving with Kiwi, users will be equipped with the knowledge of how to “drive green” and optimize the efficiency of your vehicle simply by modifying your driving behavior in a fun game-like manner.

The Kiwi is about the size of an average cellular phone and is equipped with a brilliant 2.2” color organic LED display designed to mount near the vehicle’s dash in a similar fashion to a portable GPS device. The PLX Kiwi will begin shipping in June 2008 for a suggested retail price of $299 (US). Right now you can buy it direct from the company via their website.

I would love to try and drive with the Kiwi. I have no doubt that it would help me improve my driving. However, the price is a little high for me right now. I realize that gas is climbing higher and higher and the device may well pay for itself in half a year or so. It seems a little pricey, but then again, at this rate $300 is probably buying me only 4 tanks of gas. Yikes!

July 9, 2008

wee generation bag revealed

Remember the post I did last August about the wee generation? I was so excited to see what the talented designers would come up with for a "green" diaper bag.

I'm happy to say the final bag has been unveiled and is available for purchase. I personally am not in the market for a diaper bag (we're all in undies now) but new parents should definitely check this out.

The fabric patterns are attractive to both women and men. I love the clever compartment system. Plus, the company making the bags is based in San Francisco—very local.

The bag has these great features:

• Designer upholstery fabric made out of 100% post consumer recycled plastic bottles (Cradle-To-Cradle Certified fabric by Designtex)
• Waterproof bottom
• Padded back panel
• Rear zipper compartment
• PVC-free waterproof liner
• Removable inserts include an insulated feeding tote, changing tote and changing pad
• Detachable insulated bottle holder and zip pouch
• External quick-access zip pocket with organizer pockets
• Deluxe adjustable comfort strap with quick release cam buckle
• Two exterior front zip pockets with key tether Stroller attachment straps
• Front flap secures with Velcro and magnetic closure as well as dual buckles
• Two front exterior zipper pockets with key tether
• Adjustable padded shoulder strap with quick release cam
• Soft, durable carrying handle

The first 500 bags will be fully loaded with all sorts of Seventh Generation and Healthy Child Healthy World goodies to get you even further down the road toward a living, healthy home. Each bag will contain $100 worth of eco-friendly treats, including a copy of Naturally Clean, the Seventh Generation Guide to Safe and Healthy Non-Toxic Cleaning, a Wee Generation baby T, healthy household tips from Healthy Child Healthy World and coupons from Seventh Generation.

July 8, 2008

I'm back! We had a wonderful adventure to Europe. We are still trying to get used to our time zone, so forgive me for missing some posts. I have so many cool things to write about—but first things first.

I looked hard for green awesome-ness while we traveled, but only encountered the usual suspects; like local versions of curbside recycling.

Holland (and Amsterdam in particular) had interesting recycling containers. On the sidewalks, often right next to canals, there were recycling bins which looked like small public trash receptacles. However, the bins went below the sidewalk into huge containers which trucks would come and empty. Residents would bring (often biking right up to the bin) their recyclables and the city would pick them up. It is their version of curbside recycling.

And need I mention the mecca of urban bike riding and alternative transportation? We were so lucky to be able to rent bikes and join the masses in Amsterdam. It really was amazingly different than urban bike commuting in San Francisco. The bikes are comfortable, the roads are flat, there are dedicated lanes and cars are very conscious of the bikes. We rented one of the bakfiets for a true dutch-family experience. It was so incredibly fun and easy to bike through the bustling city. Biking was much faster and easier than trams or buses. Cars are just so inefficient within the city at all.

In Amsterdam they also seemed to have a charge to get a bag at the grocery store, which did encourage most people to bring their own bags. The only problem I saw was that if you did pay for a bag at the store it was a virgin-plastic sort of bag.

We also went to Paris. We stayed in an apartment that had curbside recycling, much like the one we have here in San Francisco. We stayed near an amazing outdoor market where people shopped for food each day rather than weekly bulk trips. Here most locals had shopping carts or baskets like we use at the farmer's market. It was a great cultural experience, but I didn't see much different in green efforts than those at home. But I think we are ruined for baguettes now. Ours at home just aren't the same!

In both cities I did note that disposable coffee cups just aren't really used. People sit for coffee. Sure there are some shops where you can get a cup to go, and there is even a Starbucks here and there, but for the most part the on-the-go disposable aspect was less. Not to mention the size of drinks in general was much smaller. This must help with litter and waste, I would think.

The only other green thing I noted was that perhaps in the places we went people may air dry their clothes more. I get the sense that full sized clothes dryers are not as common. In Paris the apartment we rented had a clothes washer/dryer in the kitchen . It was an all-in-one machine. You put half a load in and the machine would wash it, and then switch to drying it. The process took so long that it made sense to just hang loads of wash indoors.

As great as the adventure was, it was nice to come home. Stay tuned for more posts about going green.

July 3, 2008

think electric car

A friend just told me about a new electric car that is coming out in the U.S. at the end of next year. It will be made by a Norwegian company called Think that has already been selling electric cars in Europe. The Think City car will use either a sodium or lithium battery and will go 124 miles on a single charge.  The company says it will have a top speed of about 65 mph and they plan to price it under $25,000.   Think is also promising that the mostly plastic car will be 95% recyclable.

And although it doesn't look like it will be big enough to accomodate carpooling needs, the Wired Blog Network website, says the two-seater can be fitted with additional seats for children.  The company is also working on a larger, five-seater electric car called the Think OX.

It does look very cool and would be perfect for zipping around Seattle and San Francisco.

July 1, 2008

great bookclub book

Our bookgroup just finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  We had a lively discussion as we sat drinking local wine from Eleven Winery in my friend's garden. The book follows Kingsolver's family for one year as they promise to eat only from local farms and their own garden. Kingsolver's daughter and husband both contribute to the book adding fresh perspectives.  I especially appreciated college-age Camille's take on the whole experiment.  The recipes she included sound delicious and the nutrition-related information was great.

I have always appreciated the hard work that goes into growing healthy, organic food but Kingsolver really emphasized the human face behind each bite. Reading the book reminded me of my childhood growing up on a small, strawberry farm. It brought back memories of getting up at 6 a.m. all through strawberry season to pick the berries before it got too hot. My grandmother also had a farm closeby so we grew up eating everything in season.  I am still sorry that I didn't take advantage of her gardening knowledge before she passed away. 

You can see from the photo above that our raised garden beds spend most of their time as a play area for trucks and imaginary digs to Antarctica. Kingsolver's book has not only inspired me to learn more about growing my own food but to grow the disappearing varietals she mentioned. And I realize that with two small kids I still won't have time to grow enough food to feed our family all season so I plan to buy a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share next spring to make up the difference. 

One of the moms at bookgroup had us laughing when she told us about her trip to the toyshop last week.  She kept telling her daughter all winter when she asked for strawberries that they couldn't buy them as they weren't in season. So as the little girl, who is three, perused the toys she asked "mommy, are cuddly toys in season"?