January 30, 2008

go away, ants!

If you've ever lived in the SF Bay Area, chances are you've experienced ant invasions. The tiny, pesky ants travel indoors at various times of the year, causing much distress to many humans around the region.

I saw 3 little ant scouts today. Usually you see a few scouts, then a few more, and then, WHAMO! You wake up to hundreds of thousands of them crawling all over your garbage can. Or counter. Or all over the bathroom walls and counter (even our toothbrushes!) Actually, once they even had a massive trail into my freezer (yes, freezer) where they froze to death in massive piles the size of golf balls.

Last year, before I knew better, I finally had an exterminator get rid of the ants. Kind of a long story, but the guy told me the chemicals were safe once dry and that the treatment was so much safer than what they used to use. He found a very large colony under our deck (he told me it was the largest he'd ever seen in San Francisco). He annihilated them all. We've been ant-free for over a year (until today).

Before he came to spray I had tried many safer, kinder, methods. None did the trick. Our problem was too huge. There was no one entrance point. The ants would crawl from behind random switch plate covers one minute and a crack in the floor the next.

But like I said, the guy made them go away. At times I wonder how dangerous the chemicals were. But we were seriously at the point where either the ants left or we did. I like to pretend I didn't know any better at the time, but in truth I was just desperate.

So now that I see 3 new ants I wonder. Would I do it again? The spray was only meant to last up to 6 months, so they would consider us lucky. But I never planned on it becoming a regular thing. What is a green mom to do?

January 29, 2008

no new news, again

I feel like I need a 'get out of jail free card' or some sort of wild-card for evenings when posting is just not an option.

Tonight is such a night, as I was out at a school meeting and have not had a chance to research or write up a topic. More tomorrow though! I have another post to do about deodorant—I've learned some new things and want to be sure I give you the right info. Stay tuned!

January 28, 2008

chicken to-go


Sometimes I buy a roasted chicken at our local market for our dinner.
Usually the chicken is in a plastic tray and cover under the warming lamp, waiting for me to choose it and take it home.

I was super-surprised to see that they are experimenting with a new packaging idea. The chicken is on a paperboard tray and in a paper bag. There is a plastic window on the front of the bag. Except for that bit, the whole thing is compostable! Gotta love that.

January 27, 2008

green worry


Cover of Feb '08 issue of San Francisco Magazine


I picked up a copy of San Francisco Magazine this weekend because the cover story caught my eye. It is a good article (which you can read here) about how "Bay Area residents have gone from being the most eco-conscious in the nation to the most eco-neurotic."

I know many of you are thinking I fit that description, but I actually see myself straddling between different levels of eco-consciousness. I don't believe my passion to green my family is on the level of many peers in my area. So much of what seems like new news to me is derigueur to many peers. While many people may think I'm neurotic about plastics or toxins, I think I'm just a fraction of the green frenzy that other people are.

I constantly am trying to balance these worlds and audiences as I consider who my readers might be. I assume many people who read the blog are looking for info and might be interested in learning what I've discovered. I also appreciate the readers who may have already found an answer to some dilemma I'm facing, and I am glad for their sage advice.

Where one lives does make a great difference in how easy it is to go green. After all, there are communities in this country that don't even have curbside recycling (and that seems pretty basic to me!)

Whatever the case, please read the article if you want to get a feel for the intensity of going green around here.

January 24, 2008

dangers of recycling


This post is in honor of the big boo-boo my niece suffered recently. She told her mommy she was "helping with recycling" when she massively sliced her little finger on a metal can.

She is fine now (5 stitches). What a trooper! And what a noble effort (she has only just turned 3).

I think I will send her mommy a present. This way, we can all help with recycling safely.

January 22, 2008

presidential cars

The race for president sure is heating up. Ever wonder what these candidates park in their garage? Do they practice what they preach?

Actually, at this point I assume most buy their vehicles to please various key groups, like unions and wanna-greenies. It's fun to see what they're driving, all the same.

January 21, 2008

project night night


Recently I was wondering where to donate used stuffed animals. They can be hard to find a new home for since many non-profits will not accept them.

Alas, I found a wonderful place to take them. Project Night Night is a charity which provides a stuffed animal, a book, and a security blanket to homeless children across the country. Established in 2005, Project Night Night began with the belief that every child deserves a good night’s sleep. The organization serves approximately 15,000 homeless children annually.

There are many ways you can be involved to help the charity. I was able to drop off our stuffed animals at a local Starbucks that has a dedicated donation basket.

And don't worry -- of course I didn't give away all our animals! Just the ones that won't be missed.

January 20, 2008

future sea level


We went to the library this weekend and came across an art installation outside. There was tape wrapped around the building (about 3 feet high) that read, "FutureSeaLevel.org."

The project was produced by a collaboration between the Aquarium of the Bay Foundation, the Sierra Club and the San Francisco Department of the Environment (SF Environment). The group aims to graphically illustrate the effects of rising sea levels, as well as inspire Bay Area residents to work together to find solutions.

A sign inside the library said that though the sea may not rise 3 feet at this exact location, it will certainly flood local areas in the next 50 to 100 years (including parts of local highways and airports!)

I always appreciate a good installation. It's an extra bonus to see a green one!

January 17, 2008

juice beauty


There are a plethora of natural, organic, and clean lotions and potions available for your beauty routine. Of course, many of these claims are unsubstantiated and uncertified.

One product that I have found and like is Juice Beauty's nutrient moisturizer. Juice Beauty claims that its products "are up to 95% certified organic... the highest organic content in skincare." They have a full line of products, but I've only tried this particular moisturizer. I found it at my natural market but I think the products are widely available (like at Sephora, for instance).

There are indeed many other natural, clean and wonderful cosmetic products available. If you are so lucky to ever go for a professional facial, remember you can choose salons that only use clean and natural products (and as organic as possible). Many of these such salons offer product lines that are not available to the public through retail channels.

Like anything else, products will work differently for different folks. Try a few and see what you like.

January 16, 2008

deodorant nirvana


Remember all my experimentation and research with natural deodorants? Unfortunately, I have very sensitive skin, so while there may be many fine natural products out there, many of them make me itch like crazy. I finally found one that seemed to work pretty well.

I had been using the Nature's Gate fairly happily. It didn't irritate me, but some days it just wasn't strong enough, you know? (If you were too close to me, you probably knew). Don't get me wrong, I still like the product fine.

But imagine my excitement when I found another very natural option that smells SO GOOD. It is made by Earth Science and is called Liken Plant natural deodorant (herbal scent). Not a trace of unwanted odor with this one. And it is reasonable at $5.95. Also available unscented.

Sorry if this was too much information, but you really did want to know, right?

January 15, 2008

happy hair gel


Have you tried to find a natural hair gel/styling product that does not contain parabens? Not easy to do. There are many product lines that are fairly clean yet still have parabens (although they are probably better than most drug store gunk).

Parabens are a suspected carcinogen, and are widely used as a preservative in body care products. They can appear on an ingredient list as methyl, propyl, butyl or ethyl parabeen.

Recently I found a product that seems very clean. It's called Scalp Rescue Styling Gel fro
m Max Green Alchemy. It is paraben-free, alcohol-free and PVP-free, petrochemical-free and wax-free. I wouldn't call it a strong hold gel, but it works well on my hair. They define it as "flexible hold" which "calms fly away hair and frizz."

Voila!



January 14, 2008

tom's is SLS free


Way back in May I posted about what toothpaste I was using. One of the brands I mentioned was Tom's of Maine, but with the notice that their pastes do contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS).

The ingredient is considered safe by regulators (and Tom's, of course). Some people choose to limit their exposure to it. SLS is a foaming agent used in many body care products. I try to avoid it and buy shampoos and things without it.

Well, I recently saw that Tom's has finally released a line of toothpaste that is free of SLS. They have a new "patent pending" ingredient in place of the SLS. I don't know anything about it, other than it is called Glycyrrhizin and is a sweet-tasting compound purified from the root of the licorice plant.

While I still use the Jason Natural Cosmetics Sea Fresh Plus Coq-10 Toothpaste, I have been buying Tom's for my kids since they have some nice kid-friendly flavors (the strawberry and the mango are popular in our house). Next time I am at the store I might try a new tube of the SLS paste. There are some pretty interesting flavors available in the new line . . . fennel anyone?

dirty beauty ingredients

I've been meaning to get a list together for awhile now of ingredients to avoid in cosmetic products. You can imagine my relief when I saw the Green Guide had published a comprehensive summary of the things to avoid in body products.

Essentially, they say to avoid antibacterials, coal tar, diethanolamine (DEA), 1,4-dioxane, formaldehyde, fragrance, lead and mercury, nanoparticles, parabens, petroleum distillates, P-phenylenediamine, and hydroquinone. It is worth reading their synopsis of each one, though, because unfortunately it is not as simple as checking the ingredient list. Many are contaminants that are created by the combination of two other ingredients (see my post about 1,4-dioxane. crazy!)

As a theme this week I'll be highlighting some of the various beauty products I've been trying. I'm sure there are many good ones to choose from, but I'll show you some recent favorites.

January 10, 2008

donations

Today I sent in my first donation to Soles 4 Souls, which I had posted about here awhile back. I collected all of our old shoes which are still decent and packed them up. I did have to pay shipping, but I kept it as inexpensive as possible (it was like 30 pounds of shoes!) Sorry I didn't have a chance to take a picture before I shipped them off. I was glad to send them to a charity that would give the shoes a chance to be reused.

Not all clothing donations go to needy people, as you might suspect. This isn't a bad thing, just a reality. Making sure old clothes and shoes avoid the landfill is important, and donating to charities is a way to do that. The charity may sell the goods for a profit in their own stores, or sell the goods to a textile recycler who will use the fabric.

The Green Guide recently had a good article called, "What Happens to Donated Clothes". I found it interesting and reassuring. Sometimes I struggle and put so much effort into finding the right place to give certain items (old baby gear, clothes, shoes, etc.) Next on my list: where to give stuffed animals.

January 9, 2008

farm to school


I came across this website somehow and thought it looked interesting. Farm to School has programs which connect schools with local farms all over the country with the objective of "serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing health and nutrition education opportunities that will last a lifetime, and supporting local small farmers."

What a good idea. Check it out!

January 8, 2008

sponges

Ever wonder what exactly the sponge you use to wash dishes is made of?

I owe this fantastic tip to my friend, Hannah. She told me that she buys the Trader Joe's pop-up sponges made of natural cellulose. You can compost them once done! I'm sure you can find similar sponges at other stores. Just make sure they are made from natural cellulose.
My mother-in-law has been a fan of them for years (where do you buy yours, Therese?)

I also saw sponges by a company called Twist at my Whole Foods (the cute packaging caught my eye). They make an all natural loofah sponge for scrubbing, which is 100% biodegradable, also. I checked the company's website and it seems they make many kinds of environmentally responsible sponges.

Don't forget a eco-friendly dish soap!
Happy cleaning.

January 7, 2008

king corn



I am slowly working my way through Omnivore's Dilemma. Not that it is a hard read (rather I was just a bit overloaded with holiday preparations and celebrations). I'm still on the section about corn. It really is fascinating to learn how corn is in everything (and not just food!) and what the farming of corn is all about (from an economic and environmental standpoint).

I was excited to see there is a new movie that is about this. It is called, "King Corn". You can see a trailer for it here. The Austin Chronicle says the film is ". . .as relevant as Super Size Me and as important as An Inconvenient Truth."

Here is the synopsis:

King Corn is a feature documentary about two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation. In King Corn, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from college on the east coast, move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America’s most-productive, most-subsidized grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find raises troubling questions about how we eat-and how we farm.

January 6, 2008

how about them apples?

I saw this article a few weeks ago and thought it was interesting. Seems many store brands of apple juice use concentrate from China, as do well-known names such as Motts, Tree Top, Welch's and Tropicana.

At first I was horrified, but as the article points out, there have been no problems with the concentrate (it has been sourced from China for years). I think the biggest issue is that consumers may feel mislead. Many of the packages imply the apples are a bit more local. Here is an excerpt,

". . . for example, the printed labels on bottles of Tree Top apple juice, marketed by Tree Top Inc., in Selah, Wash., boasts of "fruit we've grown ourselves," and "sharing the pure taste of our Washington orchards." In less-obvious type, on the plastic bottle, is the phrase "Conc from USA China."

To be fair, many the juices likely contain concentrate from a variety of sources which possibly could be both the US and China. The juices are probably more closely regulated than the toys have been (at least I'd like to think so).

But for people who may be concerned about how far foods travel or sources of foods, the misleading labels leave kind of a bad taste in your mouth (sorry - couldn't resist).

I like to buy juice that is not from concentrate when I can. One of my favorites is Martinelli's apple juice. The product says, "100% pure juice from U.S. grown fresh apples. They contain no concentrates, no flavorings, no preservatives, and no additives of any kind." It is a family owned business here in the SF Bay Area (from Watsonville).

I'm not saying you should or shouldn't buy apple juice with concentrate. As long as you make selections with full product disclosure. That is kind of how I feel about a bunch of the "green" products I buy. Use 'em or don't, but know the truth about what is in them (or not).

January 3, 2008

clean well


Here we are heading into winter and I feel my first cold coming on. The timing seems right to find a new hand sanitizer that is all natural.

The makers of Clean Well sent me some samples of their product (which comes in a spray and wipes). It uses an all natural, plant based antimicrobial called Ingenium. Ingenium is a patented formula of botanical plant oils which can kill 99.99 % of germs which make you sick. From what I can tell on the package, thyme is a principal ingredient. It contains no alcohol and no harsh chemicals. It is made from plants which are readily renewable and available. No pesticides, irrigation or fertilizer are used, either. The company also mentions no petrochemicals or toxic bybroducts resulting from the harvest or distillation.

The wipes are also biodegradable. You may remember my post about camping last summer where I mentioned that using hand sanitizer and wipes were some of the things I had yet to resolve in my greening of the camping routine. Voila! I think I'll be packing Clean Well next summer.

I have to admit I was suspicious since they contacted me (this kind of marketing happens a lot with blogs). I showed the product to the saleswoman at the Whole Foods Whole Body department and she said the ingredients looked really clean.

I also wrote Clean Well and asked them if I should be concerned about this killing too many germs - you know the whole thing with antibacterial soaps actually making bacteria stronger and stronger? They replied, "All of the ingredients are derived from plant oils. Plant oils have been disinfecting naturally for 1,000s of years and there is no indication that these ingredients are tied to bacterial resistance."

And to be clear, while I did get some samples I do not get paid to mention products on my blog and I do not accept advertising. I just write about things that I honestly find helpful on my green journey.

January 2, 2008

clementines

Admittedly, this post is a little late in the season (clementine season, that is).

I love the little oranges that signal the beginning of the holidays. This year I resisted buying them because I noted that they were not organic (even at Whole Foods). As the weeks went by, I broke down and bought some. I thought that since they were going to be peeled, maybe it wasn't such a big deal that they were grown conventionally. Anything to get us all eating more fruit, right?

Then just a week (or so) ago I went to the farmer's market. I hadn't been in awhile due to my schedule, etc. What do you know, they had organic clementines there from Olsen Organic Farm, which is about 180 miles from the farmer's market.

They were so fresh, juicy and sweet. Unfortunately, it was the last week for clementines at the market! Note to self: going to the farmer's market really does make a difference, at least around here where so many different things are available.

And I know this may not be the same, but when googling I came across this option for organic Satsumas. I was looking for an organic clementine option but didn't even think to look at my local farmer's market. DUH! I thought Satsumas might make a satisfactory substitute.

Satsumas from this certified organic citrus grower in southern Louisiana are special gems. The orchard, owned by Lester and Linda L'Hoste, survived Hurricane Katrina with only minor wind damage. The satsumas are $31 for a box of about 10 pounds of fruit, including shipping: lhostecitrus.com.

January 1, 2008

happy new year

As you may have noticed, I took a little blog-break over the holidays. My mind is whirling with big ideas and plans of ways to improve the blog in the new year. I just need to figure out how to schedule all the maintenance in! Hopefully in the near future I'll be able to add some new features and things.

I do have some cool topics in mind to investigate, but have to admit it was nice to take a little time off from the daily blog. Here's to more green adventures in 2008!