October 29, 2008

boo boo ewe

My kids are already 6 and 4—but I've only just found this item! I've always wondered how to improve our "boo boo kitty" ice pack. It has some kind of vinyl (pvc?) insert full of blue gel substance.

Little did I know that a more natural option is a cherry stone soother. They are so incredible because that they can be warmed in the oven or chilled in the freezer! A great option for soothing all kinds of owies, boo-boos and aches.

There are 2 very cute ones sold online at Nova Natural Toys and Crafts. This may be one of my new favorite baby gifts.

October 28, 2008

running green

Runner's World featured an article about the environmental impacts of running in the November 2008 issue. It was interesting to consider, since on the surface running seems like a sport that would have little impact on the environment.

The issue looks at elements such as the fabrication and distribution of running shoes and apparel, as well as the transportation involved to get to training runs and races.

It was really cool to see how running shoes are produced and the complex journey they make before they land on our feet. But I wonder if this would be true for most sport shoes? And if all "sport shoes" have a big carbon footprint, is running still not a good sport to choose?

One thing I was glad to read about was alternative materials for running clothes. I personally like all the dri-fit types of synthetic wicking for my sweaty runs. I know the shirts I buy are synthetic and not a green choice. Runner's World has a review of alternative 'green' shorts, tops and gear, which you can even read on their website.

The magazine also had a spread on how races are going green by making race shirts with alternative materials, reducing the amount of paper used, utilizing solar generators, recycling and composting waste, etc. The magazine also lists the top 10 greenest races (not surprisingly, 3 of them are in Oregon)!

I think running is still a fairly green sport. Sure, we can all make improvements. Runner's World has plenty of tips to make it easy to do so.

October 27, 2008

melamine in the wrong places

You've likely heard about how melamine was used in pet food and baby formula with disastrous consequences. And now there is yet another warning about melamine used in chocolate foil-wrapped coins. The candy company says the incident only concerns chocolate coins imported to Canada and that supplies in the US are not affected.

Just recently news reports announced that melamine is appearing in fresh eggs from China (sold in Hong Kong). They think the chickens were fed melamine.

Just what is melamine? Most of us know it as a kind of plastic used often for baby plates and cups (which is supposed to be safe to use, but is not recyclable).

I did some searching on the web and found that "Melamine is an organic compound that is often combined with formaldehyde to produce melamine resin, a synthetic polymer which is fire resistant and heat tolerant. Melamine resin is a very versatile material with a highly stable structure. Uses for melamine include whiteboards, floor tiles, kitchenware, fire retardant fabrics, and commercial filters. Melamine can be easily molded while warm, but will set into a fixed form. This property makes it ideally suited to certain industrial applications."

It has many practical industrial uses, but it sure does not belong in food products. Ingesting it causes renal failure. Wikipedia declares that "Melamine by itself is nontoxic in low doses" and it is "harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Chronic exposure may cause cancer or reproductive damage. Eye, skin and respiratory irritant.” However, the toxic dose is on a par with common table salt with an LD50 of more than 3 grams per kilogram of body weight."

Who knows where it will turn up next. Standards and ethics, please!

October 26, 2008

catch and release

I have a cool eco-tip from my neighbor which I think is really impressive. She uses a bucket to catch water in the shower while it is warming up. She then uses the bucket to water her apple tree in her backyard. So simple, yet so clever.

October 23, 2008

eco diapers and cooking local (but not together)

Usually I like to write about topics that I research because of some question or encounter I've had in my life. Other times I just see an article that is spot-on helpful, and I'd want to share them in their complete detail.

One article I saw on Grist was a review of eco-friendly disposable diapers. Since I don't have kids in diapers anymore, I feel this is an area that I haven't really covered in depth on the blog. The author reviews several brands by using them on her baby and researching the manufacturing. Definitely worth a read if you've got babies!

The other great article I saw (also on Grist) was about cooking with local foods from the farmer's market. I really responded to everything she was saying about how to make foods that are local and in season. Yum, yum, YUM!

Hope you like the articles as much as I did.

October 22, 2008

eco contrast?

Here's a quick little question that I've often pondered:

Is it hypocritical for a Prius driver to smoke cigarettes in their car? Does anyone else find this amusing when they see it?

October 21, 2008

bottled water exposed

A sign at the water fountain in the new California Academy of Sciences

As you may have seen, the Environmental Working Group has unveiled new report on bottled water. They studied various bottled brands for over two years and compared their contents to municipal tap water.

I think most greenies already know that buying bottles of water is a waste of resources and energy due to the production and distribution of the bottles. Most people know it is better to carry your own reusable water bottle, right? But what many people may not realize is that the water in the plastic bottles is often no safer or purer than tap water. In some cases, it could even be worse.

EWG conducted tests and found that "10 popular brands of bottled water, purchased from grocery stores and other retailers in 9 states and the District of Columbia, contained 38 chemical pollutants altogether, with an average of 8 contaminants in each brand. More than one-third of the chemicals found are not regulated in bottled water. In the Sam's Choice and Acadia brands levels of some chemicals exceeded legal limits in California as well as industry-sponsored voluntary safety standards. Four brands were also contaminated with bacteria."

Some of the brands had the same makeup of trace chemicals that tap water has. The study said the only difference between those bottles of water and tap water is the price. That may not shock everyone, as savvy consumers may note that the sources of bottled water do vary. I personally don't expect the water to always be from a mountain spring, but I did think the water was at least filtered. The contaminants they found would indicate otherwise in some cases.

In fact, some of the findings were so shocking that the EWG is filing suit against the companies in California.

Walmart’s bottled water was polluted with disinfection byproducts called trihalomethanes at levels that exceed the state’s legal limit for bottled water. These byproducts are linked to cancer and reproductive problems and form when disinfectants react with residual pollution in the water. Also in Walmart’s water is a cancer-causing chemical called bromodichloromethane at levels that exceed safety standards. EWG is filing suit and Walmart posts a warning on bottles as required by law: “WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer."

The thing is, tap water is regulated. Bottled water is not. EWG says, "unlike public water utilities, bottled water companies are not required to notify their customers of the occurrence of contaminants in the water, or, in most states, to tell their customers where the water comes from, how and if it is purified, and if it is merely bottled tap water."

EWG also conducted a survey of 228 brands of bottled water and found that fewer than half describe the water source (i.e., municipal or natural) or provide any information on whether or how the water is treated. "In the absence of complete disclosure on the label, consumers are left in the dark, making it difficult for shoppers to know if they are getting what they expect for the price."

As a result of the study EWG is hoping to improve disclosure of bottling methods and increase the standards the water is held to. They are also advocating improvement and protection of ground water sources which supply municipal tap water. They acknowledge that not all tap water is safe (though some cities have suburb quality). Their advice is for consumers to drink filtered tap water.

I'll have to review water filters in another post. I personally use one that is incredibly thorough from Radiant Life.

October 20, 2008

eco slogan onesies

I saw a new line of baby clothes at the Gap which used eco-slogans on organic cotton onesies. I'm not typically a big fan of slogans on baby clothes, but somehow I liked the humor of saving energy by taking a nap.

Everything else I can think to say is probably too cynical, so I'll just leave it at that.

October 16, 2008

organic essence

It is so gratifying to encounter a company that considers many levels of environmental responsibility. I am so glad to have discovered Organic Essence body products. They make amazing, highly concentrated, organic shea butter hand and body creams (as well as soaps and lotion).

To start, their products are of excellent quality. Their products are actually certified USDA Organic because it is the definitive organic standard which requires the products to adhere to strict food-quality organic standards. On site inspections and certifying approval on every formula guarantees the highest quality available for the consumer. No synthetic preservatives are used. That includes parabens and grapefruit seed extract which are a growing concern. Also, not allowed are fragrances, GMOs detergents like sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) or petrochemicals.

The main ingredient is pure organic shea cream, which is a natural cold pressed oil from the african karite nut. It is well known for promoting capillary circulation and is considered to be a superior healer and rejuvenator for troubled, dry or aging skin. Organic Essence's Shea Cream is fairly traded and produced by a community of over 600 women in Ghana. The product is incredibly pure and safe for use on babies.

The shea creams are also available with essential oil varieties, such as grapefruit, lavender, lemongrass and mint, and vanilla orange. I have the lemongrass mint and like it.

But one of the most exciting things about this line is that it is packaged in new biodegradable jars. The company was not satisfied with the packaging options available and decided to make their own.

"Based on a paper tube, this organic jar defines a new level of environmental responsibility - even the label is biodegradable - it’s made of soy inks printed on 100% PCW recycled paper with an organic adhesive and glaze. You could actually plant the entire container in your garden. Whether or not you have a garden, this container will actively help the environment."

And to top it off, they are not even patenting the jar in the hopes that other manufacturers will copy it and do something good for the earth.

It is so rare to find a product that is so completely eco-thoughtful. I would imagine it should be considered for cradle to cradle certification. Bravo!

October 15, 2008

safe bottles and formula

In my recent interview, I mentioned that choosing safer bottles and formula is important if you are not able to breastfeed your baby. I realize I may not have given much information on how to do that.

Since there is a sweet new baby (my niece) in the family, I thought I'd share this handy link from the Environmental Working Group. It tells you what to choose and what to avoid when feeding formula to your wee one.

October 14, 2008

do not mail registry

Nobody wants junk mail, do they? According to ForestEthics, a recent Zogby poll found that nearly 90% of respondents supported the creation of a Do Not Mail Registry to make it easier to opt out of unsolicited mail.

ForestEthics recently launched a national Do Not Mail Campaign to give Americans the choice to stop receiving unwanted and wasteful junk mail. It is similar in concept to the Do Not Call list. And who doesn't love that? We all know junk mail is wasteful and a pain. ForestEthics also tells us how junk mail contributes to climate change.

This Halloween, ForestEthics supporters around the country will be trick-or-treating and talking to their neighbors about the environmental impacts of junk mail and how, together, a national solution is well within reach. You can join this family and neighborhood-friendly event by going trick-or-treating or collecting petition signatures and informing parents who come to your house this Halloween.

Just sign the simple petition on their website and then you can download the Do Not Mail Bag of Tricks. Inside the Bag of Tricks, you'll find:
  • A step-by-step guide to Trick-or-Treating for a national Do Not Mail Registry to stop junk mail.
  • A sample media advisory to generate press coverage of your local Halloween event.
  • Costume ideas for you or your kids!
  • Stencil designs for carving Do Not Mail jack-o-lanterns!

Here are some compelling facts why I am considering dressing up like a junk mail monster and heading out with my petition:

MYTH: The paper industry is replanting trees, so what’s the problem?
FACT: Replanting trees is not the same as preserving forests. The paper industry is creating tree plantations—row after row of largely non-native (and sometimes genetically engineered) trees. Plantations don’t store nearly as much carbon as intact forests. And in 25-40 years, what little
carbon is stored will be released again when the trees are cut down to make more junk mail.

MYTH: Everyone’s recycling their junk mail anyway.
FACT: 34% of all Americans—about 100 million people—don’t even have access to curbside recycling. So it’s no surprise that approximately 44% of junk mail goes to landfills unopened.

MYTH: “Direct mail is not trees, it is printed communication.”
(from the Mail Moves America website)
FACT: This one comes straight from the junk mail industry’s coalition, Mail Moves America, and frankly, we’re not sure what it means. But since it takes more than 100 million trees to produce U.S. junk mail, we’re pretty sure it’s a lie.

meet a green mum

I haven't posted in a few days because I was visiting my sister and new niece. I had hoped to be able to write some posts from the road, but was so busy helping with her new baby that the blog needed to rest.

I have lots of interesting content to catch up on. One thing I wanted to share was an interview I did with Jenin at The Green Baby Spot. She is doing a series called "Meet a Green Mum" (she's in the UK). Check it out!

October 7, 2008

soles united

Love 'em or hate 'em, a lot of people have crocs. I have to say, they are a pretty convenient and comfortable shoe, especially for kids.

When I first started this blog, one of my initial questions was to find out if crocs were "eco friendly." What I determined was that most shoes of any kind are not (except for the rare recycled material pair). So I let the question go unanswered.

The other day I was at a local sporting goods store and saw a sign about a program to recycle old crocs. As if that doesn't sound good enough, I learned that the program, Soles United, actually is able to use the material to create new shoes for people in need.

Check out this video and look at their website for more info and locations where you can drop of your crocs.

October 5, 2008

tagless burns

You know those printed labels on clothes these days? The kind that are right on the back inside of the t-shirt rather than on a label?

Apparently, some of these labels are printed with less-than desirable inks and in some cases are causing bad skin reactions.

Zrecommends has been covering the story and doing a great job of trying to get information from the companies producing the garments. The biggest concern seems to be around a certain batch of baby/children's clothes from Carter's.

Take a look at the full story. I think if you do not see a rash or burn on your child you should be fine. It doesn't seem practical to me at this point to insist on only clothes with old-fashioned labels. However, if you do notice symptoms as they describe, definitely contact the manufacturer and stop wearing the garment.

October 1, 2008

green conferences

I've noticed a bunch of green conferences happening recently. If you're looking for an immersion into eco-friendly inspiration and information, check out one of these options:

The West Coast Green conference just happened, but you can purchase audio, video or Power Point highlights. It looked really good, with different tracks for all kinds of interests. Speakers included Al Gore and Ed Beagly, among others.

The Natural Living Conference
is taking place on October 8th in Mahwah, NJ. It is run by the Holistic Moms Network and will provide lots of good information to the natural mom-crowd on topics like Homeschooling, Eco-Action Plans, Stress and Health, and Nonviolent Communication.

San Francisco is hosting a local eco-fair, called the Big Blue Bucket on October 11th. It is a free event which provides lots of useful information to reisdents about green living here in San Francisco.

For the first time, the Weston A. Price Foundation is hosting it's annual conference on the west coast. Wise Traditions 2008 is a a showcase for delicious traditional food. I noticed Debra Lynn Dadd, author of Really Green and Home Safe Home is on the list of speakers. I refer to her books all the time.

The Green Business Conference (presented by Co-op America) is on November 12-13 in San Francisco. It looks like they will have lots of information about the green marketplace. If you're looking to buy or sell eco products, this is the place to be.

I'm sure there are more great events out there. These are just a few that had caught my eye.