December 30, 2008

pop the cork

In anticipation of popping open the bubbly for New Year's, I thought I would give some thought to all those corks.

I was so glad my friend Pauline told me that I could compost my natural wine corks (not the plastic ones, mind you). Goodness knows I've been composting several over the holidays! Most resources I checked with agree that the natural corks are good for compost, though some websites say they can take awhile to break down.

I also had come across this display in Whole Foods which I thought was interesting:

ReCORK America
is a pilot program in California and the Pacific North West to recycle natural cork wine closures. The program is focused on obtaining used and surplus corks from winery tasting rooms, bottling lines and quality assurance laboratories. In addition, collection locations are being established with key retailers (including Whole Foods) and restaurants in larger metropolitan areas. A list of current collection locations is available on their website. This may be a good option if you live near a participating drop spot and do not compost on your own.

December 29, 2008

a little test

We finally had to buy a new dishwasher. Our old one was not that old. Just prone to repair. It loved breaking and getting repaired. I decided to replace it with one that should last a good, long time and also is energy efficient.

Around the same time, I bought a new box of dishwasher detergent since we had run out. I bought a new brand since my favorite brand was out of stock.

See where this is going? Our dishes are not looking clean. The old machine with our favorite detergent did a better job.

I have heard from people time to time about which eco-friendly detergents they like and dislike. In my experience, it really depends on the situation (your machine, your water type, etc.) What works in my machine might not be the one for yours.

So, before I go complaining to the appliance store about the new machine I want to rule out the soap issue. I decided to buy a small box of conventional soap (gasp!) because that is what the manufacturer recommended. I'll be able to see the performance of the machine under these conditions. From there I can go back to my preferred brand of detergent (Seventh Generation) and see if the dishes are cleaning well.

I don't intend to use the conventional soap forever. It sure felt strange buying it - like I was breaking all the rules. I hope the experiment will point to either needing a switch in soap or a problem with the new machine (but please, please don't be a problem machine!)

December 23, 2008

colors, naturally

I have been swept up in the holiday merriment and apologize for less-frequent posting. The irony is that I have loads of things I want to write about, but time is short. So, I'll make this one sweet.

I splurged last week on some natural food dyes for our annual Christmas cookie decorating extravaganza. I always knew that conventional food dyes are full of artificial colors but I never knew how to substitute them for something better. I had learned how to use natural dyes for Easter eggs, but wasn't sure how to translate that to sugar icing.

The India Tree dyes which I bought are similar to the conventional ones in that you can drop the colors into your recipe and mix custom colors. The kit comes with the primaries—red, blue and yellow. They are made from natural vegetable ingredients. The colors are a little more muted, but quite beautiful.

I personally thought the price was worth it because I have been reading about artificially dyes being linked with ADHD in children. I'm glad there is an easy, natural option.

Wishing you a peaceful and healthy holiday!

December 18, 2008

listen to this

Maybe it is fortuitous that I never got to write a post last night. I was extra busy with many projects preparing for holidays and didn't get a chance to research the topic I had planned.

Yet this morning I saw something so timely and appropriate for the MGG readers.

Michael Pollan is on NPR's Morning Edition today speaking about the new appointment for Secretary of Agriculture. Let's just say it wasn't what agents of change were hoping for. The new secretary is former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. Perception is that because of his ties to corn, we cannot expect much change or improvement in the food system, especially in regards to local, small family farms and organics.

Pollan had recently written a letter to President-Elect Obama, which was printed in the New York Times Magazine calling for change that would improve the food system in our country.

You can listen on the radio or the web to Pollan's comments (the recording is under 5 minutes).

December 16, 2008

hot, flat and crowded

Faithful readers of MGG will know that I'm typically a little behind on my pile of inspiring books to read. I'm just finishing Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which I've just loved—only a year or so later than most people!

I am so glad my father suggested a new book which he just finished reading called, Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman. It promises to be full of astonishing information and inspiring ideas. The book should be incredibly relevant and timely for our country to read as we transition to new policies.

I've picked up my copy from the local book store and plan to dig into it asap!

December 15, 2008

holiday catalogs

The past few weeks my mailbox has been piling up with holiday catalogs! I suppose some do come from places where I've placed an order, but many are unsolicited. It isn't a surprise, really. I just feel overwhelmed at the prospect of trying to cancel all these new mailings.

I've made several efforts in the past to halt catalog and junk mail delivery to my home. For the most part it has worked out really well. I think maybe my subscription to GreenDimes has lapsed. Renewing it could be my gift to myself!

In the meantime, I am signing up with Catalog Choice, which I've written about before and is a free service. I've bookmarked the website, so as soon as unwanted catalogs arrive I can log them in and make them stop.

December 14, 2008

candy canes

We decorated our tree this weekend. One of the things the kids were most excited about was putting the candy canes on. They've actually been eying the box of candy canes since I bought them last week.

I was so glad to stumble upon some "better" candy canes at the store. I didn't know they were an option and would have bought the usual kind if I had not seen these.

Pure Fun makes these organic candy canes and I found them at Whole Foods. They do not contain pesticides, GMO's, artificial colors, gluten, synthetic FD&C colors, or titanium dioxide. I was glad they did not have corn syrup in them.

The kids have already sampled them and approved with smiles.

December 11, 2008

brushing up again

My family has been very happy since we switched to natural toothpaste and mouthwash. I'm glad to not be using the dangerous ingredients in some of the mainstream products. One issue we still have, however, is that we can't all agree on our favorite flavors and brands.

As you can imagine, I was excited to receive some samples from The Natural Dentist. We tried their toothpaste and the mouthwash. We all liked it! I am thrilled to have a product line we can all agree on.

The Natural Dentist uses only natural ingredients—herbal extracts and natural flavors, sweeteners and colors. They do not contain alcohol or SLS. They do have the ADA seal for cavity prevention and are PETA certified cruelty-free.

If you'll remember, one of my pet peeves in the dental-care aisle is wasteful, unrecyclable packaging. The Natural Dentist products passed my test because they print with soy inks, use #1 plastic bottles (almost everywhere accepts those), and also sell toothpaste without a box to reduce packaging. Plus, the products are manufactured in the USA.

My teeth are sparkling green!

December 10, 2008

school lunch revolutionary

I just watched this video the CHOW website and loved it.

The synopsis from CHOW:

"Ann Cooper was a celebrity chef before she wrote a book, Bitter Harvest, that got her thinking about the connection between food and health. She has spent the past five years as head lunch lady for the Berkeley, California, school system, writing another book, Lunch Lessons, along the way. Ann’s mission? To make sure every kid gets the healthy breakfast and lunch he or she needs."

It isn't too long. Take a peek.

December 9, 2008

cocktail napkins

The holidays have really forced me to confront my lack of paper napkins! When I was setting out appetizers on Thanksgiving, I realized I had no little napkins to go with them. This isn't the first time that has happened. I usually call my neighbor in a panic and beg to borrow some of her paper napkin supply.

So now with Christmas fast approaching, I think it is time I break out my sewing machine and get to work. I've been collecting fabric from various stores and sales so that I can produce some napkins. I'm a novice sewer, so even this seems intimidating, but I think it will be a great project to practice my skills.

I'm sure you can also find resources to buy them online, but I think it will be fun to use fabrics that I really love. Reprotdepot and Etsy have lots of gorgeous ones to choose from.

December 8, 2008


illustration from

Here's a website that might be a good resource or an intriguing career path for you.

EmagineGreen is a direct sales company with ‘greenCoaches’ who host ecoParties to help women and moms green their lives. (Think environmental Tupperware party.)

The company was started by a team of women who were concerned about the environment and wanted to make a difference.

"The purpose of emagineGreen is to turn curiosity about what is happening in our environment into positive action. We simplify the ‘going green’ process for millions of people who want a healthier home and environment. Together, we hope to bring about a change in how our culture interacts with our environment and precious natural resources by… • Reducing our ecoFootprint • Being green role models for our families and communities • Voting with our consumer dollar for a more sustainable way of life"

Take a look at their website to find a green coach in your area or to shop their catalog.

illustration from

December 7, 2008

food declaration

"The movement to create a healthier food and agriculture policy in the US has been slowly and steadily gaining ground for well over a decade."

If you've been reading the popular books and articles over the past several years exposing the shortfalls of industrial food, then you know that how we produce food is directly linked to our land, environment, and our health. Many people are starting to catch on by shopping at farmer's markets or CSAs and sourcing foods that are sustainably produced and processed as little as possible.

But how do we make changes on a big level? A Food Declaration, that's how! A non profit group called Roots of Change gathered esteemed experts who would represent all facets of the challenge: animal welfare to health and ecology, and farming to labor and social justice. These experts worked together to draft a document calling for change in the food system. You can read the Declaration and give your endorsement of it on the website.

The Declaration is meant to provide:
1. A clear statement of what kind of policy is needed now, endorsed by a broad base of organizations and individuals with a long-established commitment to a healthier food and agriculture.
2. An invitation to all Americans to join in the improvement effort by taking action in their own lives and communities and by offering them a way to call on policymakers to support comprehensive change.
3. A set of principles from which policy makers can craft policy that will lead to a healthier system.

The Declaration begins like this:
"We, the undersigned, believe that a healthy food system is necessary to meet the urgent challenges of our time. Behind us stands a half-century of industrial food production, underwritten by cheap fossil fuels, abundant land and water resources, and a drive to maximize the global harvest of cheap calories. Ahead lie rising energy and food costs, a changing climate, declining water supplies, a growing population, and the paradox of widespread hunger and obesity. These realities call for a radically different approach to food and agriculture."

Click here to read more and give your endorsement.

December 4, 2008

handmade holidays

Many people are trying to be more mindful with their holiday shopping this year. I personally was glad our family decided to cut back on the adult present exchange. But you don't have to eliminate gift giving altogether. In fact, this season more than ever, people are turning to handmade gifts.

A post on the craftivisim blog summed it up well:

"With the economy in the tank, you might be finding yourself in a situation where you need to make your holiday gifts instead of buy. A situation that you may not have been in since the 3rd grade. . . ."

The post continues with amazing links to inspiring sites full of simple homemade craft and gift ideas.

If you aren't feeling so handy, or are as strapped for time as you are for cash, then you might want to take a peek over at etsy. There are so many amazing handmade items on that site by independent artisans who can make the crafts for you.

Just look at this

a book of how to make your own lunchbags!

and this

Now, get busy.

December 3, 2008

rms beauty

I've always wanted to do a post about make up. From everything I've learned about sunscreens, I could only imagine what kind of dangerous chemicals might be in makeup. I've heard about some lipsticks with lead and some mascaras with mercury (yikes!) so I can only imagine all the toxins and metals that might be within a complete makeup routine.

One source I trust when it comes to cosmetics is Rose Marie Swift, of Beauty Truth. She is an industry veteran, having been a makeup artist for many top celebrities and publications. Rose Marie learned the hard way about the dangerous ingredients she was working with when her health was severely compromised. Her experience led her to become an expert on safe ingredients. She shares much of her knowledge on her website and now has just launched her very own line of makeup.

As you might imagine, her standards are incredibly high for purity and safety. Plus, as a makeup artist she knows what is needed for an effective product. Her line, called RMS Beauty, includes lip and skin balm, cover up, lip 2 cheek, eye shadow and luminizer. The products are ultra-pure and organic. The philosophy of the line is not to simply create makeup that is non-toxic, but to make a product that heals and nourishes the skin. The line has just been released a few weeks ago, so is in limited stores right now. You can purchase directly from her website or email for more information.

I personally would love to see the products in person. They sound very easy to use and convenient for a no-fuss mom like me.

December 2, 2008

candle imposters

I usually buy candles at the farmer's market. There is a local vendor there who sells them in gorgeous colors. I like to have candles on the table for dinner (even for hot dogs and macaroni) because it helps the kids focus on mealtime and demands a little bit of reverence. They like sitting still until it is time to blow them out!

I was sad to learn that the candles I like to buy are not even made from beeswax. AND, they are imported from Europe! They aren't extravagant or anything, I gather that the local vendor specializes in the other sizes and not the tapers.

I know beeswax candles are a much more environmentally sound choice. Other candles (like the ones on my table) are made from paraffin. Paraffin is made from the sludge at the bottom of a barrel of crude oil. It has to be cleaned and bleached with benzene, solvents, and other chemicals to prepare it for use in candles. Paraffin candles emit gases and soot when burned, releasing dangerous toxins, two of which are carcinogenic. Both paraffin and synthetic fragrance oils are a major cause of indoor air pollution. In fact, the American Lung Association has warned consumers about the danger of unhealthy air quality from burning paraffin candles.

I looked online and found many resources for beeswax tapers which are all natural and very clean burning. From what I can tell they are almost always natural in color (honey colored!) I think I'll have to give those a try next time I need more.

December 1, 2008

go for the green

I'm always a sucker for a trivia game, so you can imagine how excited I was to see Planet Green's new eco-trivia game online. It's called the Go for the Green, hosted by Tom Green. The online game is a sidekick to the TV series which premiered on the Discovery Channel in November. I haven't made the online high score list yet, but it isn't for lack of trying.

And I've learned some good facts in the process! Give it a try and let me know if you make the high score. I'd be so proud.