August 26, 2008

green ethics

My sister sent me a very interesting question that I bet many people ask themselves.

"What do you think I should do with all of my old baby bottles? Recycle? Donate? I hate to donate if they are technically not good for babies, you know? I'll have to look at them and see what # they are and if I can toss them in the bin. Such a shame!!"

I think I would try to keep the bottles out of the dump or recycling center as long as possible. Perhaps you could start with a local Freecycle group? Maybe someone like an artist or craft person can use them for another purpose? You can also go ahead and pass them onto another mom as long as you are clear about how you don't want to use them because of the BPA. Maybe there are moms who aren't worried about the BPA and would be happy to have some more baby bottles?

That is what I've done with similar situations. I gave away my plastic tupperware as well as my non-stick pan but told the person why I wasn't comfortable using them any longer. Some people will be willing to use it, and it still seems better than going in the landfill, doesn't it?

Here's another interesting question: What do you do when you see a mom using a baby bottle that you know is one of the types to leach BPA (such as an Avent bottle)? I've seen this a few times and wonder if the new moms are aware of the BPA problem. I never say anything though, since I respect not everyone is as worried about it. I also don't know how to say something constructive that wouldn't make the mom feel defensive or badly.

Tell me, what would you do?

August 25, 2008

ikea drying racks

I noticed at Ikea today that they sell quite a few kinds of racks for clothes drying. The pictures are not great, but they looked like they had lots of good options for all kinds of indoor spaces. We used one of the tall, 4 sided cube ones while we were in Europe this summer. It was cool because it held a load of laundry but also folded flat and away when not in use (see top image, rack on farthest right).

August 24, 2008

choosing real food

Lately much of my personal "eco-focus" has been around food. No surprise really, considering I love food and cooking. I think it all started with discussions at my son's school about healthy lunches, which launched into reading of several books with an aligned message: "eat local, unprocessed, REAL food."

I finished Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. I've also almost read most of Real Food by Nina Planck. Next I hope to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, as many people have recommended it. I mention these books because I found the progression to be logical: from an overview of our food system down to the specifics of what we should eat at home.

So in addition to looking for organic, I look for local. I'd rather have a local apple sustainable farmed (even if not certified organic) over an organic one from a big, agro-business. Sometimes the search is confusing. For instance, my sister-in-law pointed out to me that she can get organic milk, but it is ultra-pasteurized (also labeled UHT, for "ultra-high temperature). Wouldn't it be better to avoid the ultra pasteurization? I am lucky I have an organic, regular pasteurized milk form a local dairy available to me. But answering her question is no simple matter.

All my thinking about food is appropriate as San Francisco is preparing to host to the first ever Slow Food Nation extravaganza next weekend (8/29 - 9/1). It is a celebration of food that is sustainable, just, and delicious. There are many tastings, tours, speakers, and special dinners to attend. Tickets and more information is available on the Slow Food website.

I think it is really good to have an understanding about why food choices are important, not just to our bodies but to our environment as well. Ultimately, I think it is great to learn all I can so I can make the best choices, but I won't beat myself up if I cannot be perfect all the time. I'm all for enjoying food and living rather than making myself crazy over the details.

August 20, 2008

baby's here announcements

I know a few people who are expecting babies soon, so I was excited to find this a resource for eco-friendly baby announcements. Baby's Here offers birth announcements, shower invitations and thank you notes which are printed on 100% post consumer recycled paper with a matte finish. The envelopes are also 100% post consumer recycled. I have not seen the cards in person, but you can request a free sample on their website to see how they look.

I know that printing has many un-green aspects to it, yet I am amazed at how many popular online print resources don't even offer recycled or tree free papers as an option. Thanks to Baby's Here for giving us the choice. Specifying recycled papers is a simple yet important thing to do.

August 19, 2008

back again

beautiful Vermont (thanks for the photo, Dad!)

waste management at Me & Ollie's

I'm back from another great vacation to visit even more family. I had hoped I would be able to post remotely, but found the internet access was spottier than I expected. Next time I'll be sure to post about my absence.

We had a great time visiting with family all along the east coast. I love having a chance to glimpse into other lives/homes/environments to see the variety of green resources available. Although I heard from more than one relative that having me around is a lot of eco-pressure! No judgments from me—I swear. I'm far from perfect.

One of the stops along our trip was in Vermont. What a beautiful, green place! Another pleasant surprise was at a stop in New Hampshire at a favorite lunch spot. I've gone there for a few years, but saw it with new appreciation on this visit when I realized how much of their food and ingredients are locally sourced in addition to their impressive effort to help customers compost and recycle any remnants from their meal. And hey, who can resist a fluffernutter sandwich?

August 6, 2008

new favorite sunscreen

I have been researching and trying sunscreens for more than a year in my quest to find the safest, easy-to-use and economical solution for our family. I have tried many and learned a lot along the way. And with all this great knowledge, I have to say that there was no one product that wowed me. As I would slime my kids with a thick, white, greasy paste I would console myself with the knowledge that the product was rated well.

But honestly, I often found the the thick white sheen of many "good" sunscreens to be unappealing in both how it looked and felt that I was avoiding using them. Some products were so greasy they were embarrassing to apply. Others were so expensive I couldn't fathom a small tube to spread over our bodies.

Just as I was succumbing to our pasty white veil, still wondering if those nanoparticles of minerals would be next year's no-no, I found true satisfaction.

My husband had been using Kinesys performance (sport) sunscreen and loving it. It took me some time to research it, and now that it has been reviewed by Skin Deep and rated a 2, I am loving it, too. It does have some chemicals, but I can live with the level-2 rating and I'll tell you why: it sprays on clear and clean. No thick, greasy paste. No whiteness. It is alcohol and oil free. It is sweat proof and waterproof and easy to apply. Just a light coat is all you need to protect yourself from both UVA and UVB rays.

Many sports enthusiasts have been touting this sunscreen for some time. I am so glad to add it to our family's arsenal without reservation. They also have a kids version and sell their products in both regular and pocket sized bottles. In addition, Kinesys products are carbon neutral, their packaging is made of 100% recyclable materials and are 100% cruelty free. Two thumbs up from mom go green!!

August 5, 2008

reader tip #3 (from suzanne)

Suzanne has submitted a great reuse tip. I haven't tried it myself but am intrigued, as I always have salad left over.

"Not sure if this is a green idea but it is my favorite reuse idea. I hate throwing out salad and it doesn't seem to keep past a day or so especially if I have dressed it. So the next day I put it all in the blender adding anything else like leftover tomatoes, salt and pepper. I drink my salad! It's pretty yummy. You might need to add water."

Thanks, Suzanne! I'll try some today.

August 4, 2008

we add up

While perusing Treehugger today I came across a link to a nifty site called We Add Up. What an inspiring and awesome site! WE ADD UP is a global count of people committed to helping stop climate change. As the count grows, the group demonstrates to the world that WE ADD UP. As they say on their site, "No one can do everything, but everyone can do something."

WE ADD UP was created by mother-daughter team Judy Pezdir and Jill Palermo. Judy and Jill are artists, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, and people who are just crazy enough to get a vision and follow it through. They started this site which sells cool, motivating t-shirts for people making efforts to be green.

This is the scoop from their website:
It’s easy to feel helpless and overwhelmed. People are asking, “What difference will changing my light bulbs really make? The problem is so huge, and I’m just one person.” WE ADD UP is a global campaign using organic cotton t-shirts that literally “counts you in” in the fight against global warming. Every shirt is printed by hand with a unique number. Your number represents your place in the sequential global count of all the people who are taking steps to help stop climate change.

On the back of each shirt is a word or phrase that describes an action almost anyone can take to reduce their carbon footprint - the contribution their lifestyle makes to greenhouse gases - such as, Unplug, Lights Off, Carpool, Hybrid, Bike, Buy Local, and 18 others. You choose which action you are committed to doing and get counted in. No one can do everything. Everyone can do something.

Our goal is to get millions of people around the world counted in and committed to helping stop global warming. With our combined effort, we can create a healthy, thriving world for generations to come. So, get counted in. Because you + everyone else = change."

Their shirts are made from 100% certified organic cotton. It is grown, woven, and sewn in the USA using sweatshop-free labor. The shirts come custom hand-printed with YOUR unique number on the front. This number represents your place in the sequential global count of people committed to helping stop climate change.

WE ADD UP also offers its products as a fund raiser for high schools, colleges, and community and non-profit groups. In addition to the shirts, they also sell tote bags, water bottles, and mugs. A portion of the profits are donated to charity and they also are careful about their overall carbon footprint.

I love when people have an idea to make a difference and can actually make it happen. I think I'll get a 'carpool' shirt for my brother-in-law, who has recently started (you guessed it) carpooling. I can't decide which message I want...maybe the 'buy local'.

p.s. I tried to upload some images of the shirts, but blogger is not letting me upload the pictures right now. Go see them at

August 3, 2008

Gas Guzzler for Gas Sipper

I have lots of new post topics lined up to write about, but they'll have to wait because I just read another pertinent article in the New York Times that I cannot wait to share.

A you may know, I am always struggling with my car's poor gas mileage yet haven't found a better vehicle option for our carpooling needs. Now there is a cool new online calculator to help with the math for the financial aspect of the decision to downsize your gas tank.

The article describes the way the Gas Guzzler for Gas Sipper calculator works:

"You select the vehicles in question, your location, the local price for gas and the number of miles you drive a month, and the calculator tells you how many months it will take for the fuel savings to equal the money you would need to acquire the new vehicle.
The calculator may actually underestimate how often it makes sense to hang onto a gas guzzler, since it does not account for sales taxes or the immense hassle of having to deal with all of the registration paperwork."

With gas prices being high, I'm sure there are many folks who automatically assume switching to a fuel efficient car will save them money. Apparently, it is often a better financial decision to keep the gas guzzler. Of course there are other considerations, such as the environmental impact. I personally don't think people buy a Prius to save money—they do it because they want to use less fuel.

For my first calculation I looked at trading in my Pacifica for the new Jetta TDI. It determined that while I would save $188 per month on gas, it would take 7 years to break even on the new vehicle cost minus trade-in value. This example was flawed, however, because the TDI uses diesel and the pricing is not equivalent.

Next I looked at trading my car for a Ford Escape Hybrid. The calculator said I would not save any money at all on that transaction. Hmm. Not sure why.

So next I tried switching my car for a Prius and the calculator figured that while I could save $230 per month on gas, it would take 4.5 years to break even on the expense of the transaction.
The calculator does let you adjust prices and MPG to suit your specifics (it said my car got 17 MPG. Ha!)

But like I said, there are more reasons to use less gas than to save money.