November 30, 2008

green christmas

Thanksgiving is over and the holiday season is ramping up quickly. There are so many considerations about "greening Christmas". I think this year in particular it will be easier to be mindful of such choices because they will also help with limited holiday budgets. Many of us are approaching the holidays with more prudent spending. In many ways, greening Christmas goes hand-in-hand with less spending.

A fantastic resource for having an eco-friendly holiday season is a new book aptly called, Green Christmas, by Jennifer Basye Sander and Peter Sander with Anne Basye. The book covers all the bases: why to green Christmas, the holiday environment, decorating, entertaining, gift giving, etc. It is chock-full of info, much of which can also be applied year-round.

"Did you know that between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Americans produce an extra 2 billion pounds of garbage per week?!" There are many simple things we can do to decrease the holiday excess without feeling like a Scrouge.

One of my favorite pages is the chart comparing real trees and artificial trees. The authors agree with me that real trees are better than the PVC trees which are made in and shipped from China. I also appreciated the green-gifting section since I need ideas this year for our family exchange and the kid's teachers.

While I thought I knew a fair amount already about buying less and recycling more, the book had many ideas which I never knew or had ever considered. Pick up a copy of Green Christmas and you'll have good ideas that can last year round.

November 25, 2008

eco discoveries cleans green

Are you are looking to clean more greenly, but not quite ready to jump into the vinegar? I've found a safe and effective line of enzyme and plant-based liquid cleaners cleaners that you can feel good about using. EcoDiscoveries has a complete line of products that are fragrance-free, chlorine-free, dye-free, and petroleum-free. They are fully biodegradable and have even been recognized by the EPA for their commitment to development of eco-safe products.

To give you an idea of the array of products: "Moldzyme penetrates to remove mold at the source, eliminating stains and odors; Bathroom solution for a chlorine-free bathroom; AirZyme fragrance free spray eliminates odor and protects indoor air quality; Tub & Tile organic salts remove soap scum and scrub grout without chlorine; Multizyme, the only safe and effective multipurpose solution on the market; Glass for ammonia free, fragrance free, and streak free windows and mirrors; Kitchen is safe around food and family; Nursery is especially effective, gentle, innovative, and odorless."

EcoDiscoveries was very generous in sending me samples of their products to try. I found they cleaned well, similarly to how my homemade cleaners work. But whenever I had an urgent spill to clean I found myself reaching for the EcoDiscoveries products first. They are convenient and effective.

To be sure that I could give a fair review I had my neighbor try them, too. She thought they cleaned fine but that there were almost too many products to choose from. I suppose you could choose one of the cleansers and use it in several places (does Bathroom only get to be used in the bathroom?) She also favors a little bit of fragrance in her cleaning products and missed that.

I like the peace of mind of knowing the EcoDiscovery products are really safe to use. While I personally feel comfortable using my simple, homemade cleaners I know there are others who will never want to make that leap. This line would be a great fit. You can find a store near you that sells them by checking the EcoDiscoveries website. You can also buy them directly online.

November 24, 2008

pvc guide

The Center for Health, Environment, and Justice (CHEJ) has just released an incredibly comprehensive overview of PVC, called Pass Up the Poison Plastic. It is a PDF document full of information regarding all aspects of PVC.

In addition to the expected summaries of why PVC is bad and how to avoid, it the overview includes a list of PVC-free options in a wide array of product categories—from food wrap to shower curtains, baby toys and construction materials.

I know I always appreciate a summary of such big topics and am glad I'll be able to refer to this handy resource.

November 23, 2008

pile of pants

I have a huge pile of pants with ripped knees, courtesy of 2 busy young fellas. Originally I thought I would save the damaged pants and use the fabric for some other purpose.

I don't think the pants are able to withstand much patching (not to mention sewing isn't really my forte). Knees being knees, I am not sure how long such a patch would last anyway.

From what I can tell online, most charities do not want damaged clothes. Even the large charities which give unusable clothes to textile recyclers don't want the damaged ones as much as they'd prefer items good enough to sell.

Is freecycle my only option? The pile is multiplying faster than I can dream of ways to repurpose the fabric.

Anyone care to venture a guess of how many people from freecycle might want to collect my supply of ripped-knee pants?

November 20, 2008

hero bags

It is truly possible that I am obsessed with packing lunches. I just spotted these amazing Hero lunch bags and had to share.

Not only are they stylish, they are smart and clever. The bags are made from certified organic cotton grown in Texas and are produced in the USA in a fair labor factory.

They are designed by the founder of Hero Bags, who is a mom as well. She couldn't find a product that had all the features she wanted, so she designed one herself. The bags have nifty features like a zipper top (so lunch doesn't fall out), a flat bottom (so it can stand where it lands), a sewn cotton handle and a cool name tag.

Parents will appreciate that this bag is lead free, vinyl free, no toxic insulating or plastic. Plus it is sized to fit your reusable water bottle inside. They are machine washable, too, which is always a good feature when it comes to kids and food.

The best part is that Hero Bags is having a holiday sale right now. In addition to these lunch totes, Hero makes reusable bags in other sizes as well (groceries, anyone?) Seems like a great idea for holiday gifts to me.

Did I mention that Hero Bags are a local San Francisco company? Gotta love that.

November 19, 2008

heritage turkeys

With Thanksgiving around the corner I've been giving lots of thought to our holiday meal. A few weeks ago while I was at the farmer's market I saw a sign for "Heritage Turkeys." I wasn't sure what that was exactly, or how it might compare to all the other meat adjectives like, free range, organic, pastured, etc.

In a brilliant coincidence, a few days ago as I was reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, I came to a section about—you guessed it—heritage turkeys! I think it is destiny that I should try one this year.

I learned on Local Harvest that a heritage turkey is "prized for their rich flavor and beautiful plumage, heritage turkeys are the ancestors of the common Broad-breasted White industrial breed of turkey that comprises 99.99% of the supermarket turkeys sold today. But the Heritage Breeds still exist and are making a comeback."

Kingsolver writes about these special turkeys because she chose to raise some on her family's small farm. She mentions that the Slow Food movement encouraged people to seek out heritage breeds in its 2003 Ark of Taste turkey project. Kingslover credits that campaign with initiating a new demand for these heirloom breeds. Hence, more farmers have begun to raise them.

Many of these breeds were familiar to farmers a century ago, before the industrialized food system took over. My sources say heritage turkeys are more moist and flavorful. I plan to give it a try if it isn't too late to order one.

Local Harvest has a link where you can find a heritage turkey source near you, or you can order one from them online.

November 17, 2008

coffee sleeves

Last month we took a quick trip to Seattle to visit some good friends. While riding on the ferry to their house, I spotted a woman with a very unique coffee cozy. It was made of fabric and was pretty cute. Of course the environmental genius was not lost on me. If you can't always have a reusable cup with you, at least you can keep a spare coffee wrap/holder in your purse!

The woman on the boat let me take a photo of her cup and told me she bought it from somewhere in Minneapolis. I can't find the shop she mentioned, but did find so many resources online with a big variety of styles. People call them many different names (coffee cozies, collars, wraps, sleeves), some have ribbons to tighten the fit, some are knitted, some are plain fabric, some are quilted. Etsy, the homemade-crafting-wonder-shop, is a great place to start looking.

It seems as many ways to go about making one yourself as there are free patterns and tutorials online.

What a great gift idea! (Hint hint, wink wink). Remember, it's always best to bring your own mug. But if you forget, have your own cozy handy.

**update: I think the cozy in the photo is from The Cozy Corset Cuff.

November 16, 2008

matisse & jack's bake-at-home snacks

Lately I haven't been buying too many packaged snacks—some for sure—but mostly I've been trying to eat and serve more 'real food'. I was intrigued (but a teeny bit skeptical) when I saw the snack mixes from Matisse & Jack's. They are offering wholesome "bake at home snacks" in super-cute packages. Since they are made by a small San Francisco company I decided to give them a try.

The first thing I did was look over the ingredient list. Everything looked really straightforward. The mixes contain basically the same simple ingredients that I would use in my kitchen. I did notice that 2 of the mix flavors list "natural flavorings" which is often a red flag for me. I contacted the company and they assured me that

"all of the ingredients are from the US, and most of the grain ingredients are local to the western United States. We use chocolate chips from specialty chocolate producer Guittard which is local to the San Francisco Bay area. All the ingredients are 100% natural and non-genetically modified. There is no msg in the product. The natural flavors just consist of powdered vanilla flavor from all natural sources, and the in the Cocoa Squares we use chocolate flavor, also 100% natural. We use premium Indonesian cinnamon as well."

As soon as my kids saw the boxes in our house they wanted to make some right away. Not only was the process simple, it was fast. I love that you can improvise on the mixes. In fact, they encourage it by running contest for recipes! We made the Chocolate Chip Power Snacks. I didn't have applesauce in the house, so I used some plain yogurt instead. I also swapped melted butter for the vegetable oil (don't have that either). They tasted great and the kids liked them so much they asked for the bars to be put them in their lunch the next day.

I think the mixes fill a great need for when you really must whip something up in minutes. Or perhaps if you want to do some baking but have a few small children causing a bit of chaos and distraction at your feet. They are like fresh, delicious and homemade energy bars.

You can order the products on their website (order 6 boxes and you get free shipping). If you are in San Francisco you can find the mixes at Rainbow Grocery. They are also carried in Northern California Whole Foods and national Super Target stores.

November 13, 2008

green can be rough

I feel a cold coming on—my first of the season. It is forcing me to look at the issue of tissues when I really had hoped to avoid it altogether.

I try to use as little paper product as possible in the house. We buy recycled content toilet paper and occasional boxes of recycled content tissues (mostly for guests). The thing is, when you are fighting a cold both these options can be really rough on your poor little nose! It almost makes me dream of indulging in a box of Puffs. . . .

Maybe I should look more at a classic handkerchief solution. I even read about one of the Enviromoms who is washing and reusing Kirkland baby wipes for family tissues. Apparently they are made partially with fabric and are incredibly soft.

If all this sneezing keeps up, it may just well break me down into new eco-territory. Stay tuned!

November 12, 2008

mom goes facebook

You can now show your love for mom go green by becoming a fan of the blog on Facebook! I hope as I become more versed with the tools I'll be able to offer even more fun tidbits in that venue. I think I'll even be able to send special updates to fans via Facebook—very cool.

See you there!

November 11, 2008

one small step

I am obsessed with the task of packing lunches. I've written about how I try to keep the kid's lunches waste-free and full of nourishing food. Some days I do better than others.

I am so glad a friend pointed me to the company called One Small Step. It was started by a mom who needed to pack waste-free lunches for her child (as per school requirement). She found it surprisingly hard to locate the gear she needed to make that happen. So, like many smart moms she started a company which sells all the elements of a waste free lunch. They have many formats and options. I have my eye on the new, colorful and small kleen kanteens.

While the site doesn't support online shopping yet (they take email and phone orders) they give an impressive amount of their profits to charity. They also are available to make waste-free lunch presentations to local schools. Love that!

It is a great resource all-around.

November 10, 2008

wrapped up

Two weeks ago I finished up a roll of plastic wrap in the kitchen. Over the past several months I had really been working on weaning myself from using it. So when the roll was empty I decided to see if I could get by without buying another.

There are a few times when I think I might miss it, but I am hopeful that I will find alternate methods of wrapping things up. The only times I really used it was to wrap cheese, to wrap a large portion of melon (like a huge hunk of watermelon), or to cover a pan of meat marinating in the fridge.

I want to stop using the plastic wrap mainly because it is made form petroleum and goes into landfill. Some brands of plastic wrap may contain PVC, which is so toxic. I had made sure the brand I had purchased was PVC free by calling the company.

Two weeks down. Let's see how long I can go! Hopefully, forever.

November 9, 2008

new scrub brush needed

When I have to wash pots and pans I need to use something that will really scrub them clean. For regular dish washing I like using my natural, compostable sponges. They aren't very effective with stuck-on messes, though.

About a year ago I bought a scrub brush. It has been wonderful at doing the job, but I have always wondered about the big plastic handle and synthetic bristles. It doesn't say recyclable on it anywhere. Boo! Granted, it has been used for a very long time. I'd rather find a solution that is more environmentally friendly. Does one exist? Maybe I'll try one of those natural scrub sponges from Twist.

November 6, 2008

my farm

You know eating local is good. Eating organic and fresh is good. Growing your own food would be super-good. But if you're like me, you're either too busy or completely uneducated in the ways of growing food.

Here is San Francisco there is an option. You can hire My Farm to plant an organic vegetable garden in your yard and maintain it for you. My Farm has been getting lots of national press for good reason. It is a clever idea!

Essentially, it is a decentralized urban farm. They grow vegetables in backyard gardens throughout the city. Each week they maintain your garden and harvest the produce in its peak. They leave the produce for you and sometimes combine the selections with other local My Farm plots for a larger variety. If you don't have a yard (and it needn't be big) you can join their CSA.

They use a method of gardening called permaculture, which is pretty cool.

"Permaculture is a set of sustainable design principles stressing the harmonious interrelationship of humans, plants, animals and the earth. Permaculture in your backyard looks like: organic techniques, heirloom vegetables, seed saving, water conservation, native plants, a model for the 21st century."

November 5, 2008

disney go green

The Center for Health, Environment and Justice has an ongoing effort to persuade Disney World to use green cleaners. The Disney Go Green! campaign is fighting to get green cleaning products in Disney parks, hotels, and restaurants, where children and workers face a great deal of exposure to toxics.

Apparently, the only Disney facility that uses green cleaners is the Animal Kingdom. It is wonderful that Disney wants to protect the animals from toxins, but shouldn't that visiting children and company employees deserve the same level of consideration?

You can visit the CHEJ website for lots of information about the campaign, including a list of the kinds of dangers the cleaning products pose. I don't know how many other types of resorts or tourist attractions can boast using green cleaners, but I suppose Disney is a symbolic target to initiate change. It would make a great PR story for Disney, wouldn't it?

There are many ways you can help make Disney switch to green cleaning products and procedures and becoming a leader in the hotel and tourism industries.

November 4, 2008

100% PCW paper

It took me a long, long time, but I finally needed to reorder office paper for my home studio. I am glad to know that not only are there many recycled sheets to choose from these days—there are also some which are made from 100% post consumer waste. Excellent!

I ordered a box from Give Something Back. They are an online office supply retailer which gives their profits to charity. Since they began they've donated nearly $4 million to charitable causes. They are also a green business.

I'm not sure why, but their website says this particular paper is only available in California.

I also found another 100% PCW office paper at The Green Office. I've written before (almost a year to date!) about how they provide sustainable office products at great prices.

The more people choose these types of products, the more companies will see the demand and ultimately more eco-friendly options will become available. Keep them in mind for the next time you need office paper.

November 3, 2008

canned tuna

Apologies for the blurry images taken with my camera phone of the bottom shelf

I decided to make a favorite recipe this week. It includes a can of tuna. I know it is a good idea to limit consumption of tuna, but I figured this recipe calls for such a small amount that it would be okay.

I wasn't really sure which kind to buy at the store, though. One can was the store brand of solid white albacore tuna packed in spring water. The label said the tuna was from Thailand.

Another can I saw was from a local company near the Bay Area (in Santa Cruz). It was also albacore tuna in water. However, it was line caught locally.

The store brand was $1.49. The local tuna was $7.99 per can.

I have a feeling that choosing the local can of tuna would be the most environmentally friendly choice. I just couldn't do it! No doubt it is hypocritical of me, since I am always touting the importance of supporting local foods and farmers. What would you have done?