March 31, 2008

campaign of optimism

Are you at a point where you're a little sick of green, green, green, everywhere and you wonder if it really matters? The more I learn about the magnitude of environmental problems I wonder if my little bit can possibly help.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not giving up or anything, especially now that Al Gore is is coming to the rescue with an ambitious new campaign. I think The Inconvenient Truth was a calling to individuals to make changes in their lifestyles. This new campaign is aiming to pressure the US government to actually pass laws that will make a difference. This is the kind of muscle we need to make a dent.

The Washington Post
quoted Gore, "The simple algorithm is this: It's important to change the light bulbs, but it's much more important to change the laws," he said. "The options available to civilization worldwide to avert this terribly destructive pattern are beginning to slip away from us. The path for recovery runs right through Washington, D.C."

The Alliance has partnered with many compelling groups (from the Girls Scouts to the United Steelworkers of America) as well as many famous individuals for this new series of ads.

Take a look at the new campaign. Sign your name to it so that lawmakers take notice. Make your voice heard!

March 28, 2008

earth hour

Tomorrow night, Saturday March 29th, is Earth Hour.

Wherever you are at 8 p.m. your local time, turn off your lights for one hour. The whole world will be doing it! The event will draw attention to the need to make changes to stop global warming.

Visit www.earthhour.org for more info.

March 27, 2008

fragrance free

I've been wanting to write about the dangers of fragrances for a long time (at least as long as I've been writing this blog!) It is one of the topics that I needed to spend so much time researching that I simply avoided it.

Ever since someone told me how fragrances contain neurotoxins I've stopped using perfume and have been more careful about what products I buy. I'm not perfect, though. I've always been a sucker for a good smell, so it is hard for me.

I was so excited to see this video on You Tube by EWG. It gives a great summary of the fragrance issue. And in case you don't have time to watch, this is what their Skin Deep website says about fragrance:

"It may smell great, but do you know what's in it? Fragrances are the great secrets of the cosmetics industry, in everything from shampoo to deodorant to lotion, and falling straight into a giant loophole in federal law that doesn't require companies to list on product labels any of the potentially hundreds of chemicals in a single product's secret fragrance mixture. Fragrances can contain neurotoxins and are among the top 5 allergens in the world. Our advice? Buy fragrance free."

March 26, 2008

free paper

Grrr. The newspaper is left, uninvited, in front of our house each morning. In fact, you can see it dumped in front of every house up and down our street. The papers are all stuffed in their little plastic bags and left outside our homes with no subscription or request.

IT DRIVES ME CRAZY!

It is one thing if you decide to subscribe to a paper, but to just dump all these papers and plastic bags all over the city and then force me to have to pick it up and properly dispose of it is ludicrous. I see it as a form of littering. And the waste of it all - don't get me started.

To top it off, this has happened before. I called the paper and told them to stop bringing it to my home. It worked for awhile, but now they are back with a vengeance. I dream of ways to make it stop. Grrr.

March 25, 2008

green clean recipes

I think the green cleaning is really on everyone's minds right now because I continue to see many great articles and resources about how to do it (not to mention all the fab comments on mom go green).

In the spirit of making green cleaning easier, I am sharing this link I found from Consumer Reports with a list full of ingredients and recipes. Full disclosure: I am just embarking on this new method myself. I've been using eco-friendly products but am just entering the foray of mixing my own.

I was glad to see a solution for sanitizing cutting boards on the list (2 separate spary bottles of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide). I was just talking to a friend about how to keep counter tops sanitized (uh, apparently wiping with my sponge isn't cutting it). Seems this recipe would do the trick. The hydrogen peroxide is a mild alternative to bleach and used in combination with vinegar is supposed to be quite effective.

March 24, 2008

cool binders


We had a really great weekend full of fun and adventure, so I missed a few days of posting. We had friends in town, birthdays, a holiday, etc. In fact, I was out this evening trying to find a last-minute-but-most-important gift when I stumbled upon some eco products that I didn't know existed (and in Target, no less!)

I've always been a big fan of chic, modern office and organizational supplies like the kinds from Russell+Hazel or See Jane Work. Recently I've been hunting for a binder that would be worthy of housing my new recipe binder system (yet to be created).

Imagine my delight to stumble upon these cool binders and then see that they are made from recycled paper containing a minimum of 50% post consumer fiber and also printed with soy based inks (and they are a great price, to boot).

Happy day!

I found these items at Target and wonder if they are made by them? I cannot find a website for greenroom eco products.

March 18, 2008

spring green clean

It's not like I make a regular habit of spring cleaning. It really is more of a coincidence that we happen to be doing a big purge/clean while it is spring. It is timely though because there seems to be a wealth of green cleaning information popping up—like someone has been reading my bloggy mind!

As I was about to research non-toxic ways to clean mold, I came across this article from the Green Guide which lists the top cleaning product ingredients to avoid. I love handy lists like that!

I also checked some of my books to see what anti-mold solutions I could conjure up. Some suggested solutions are borax (which inhibits mold growth) and/or vinegar and water mixed in a spray bottle.

I found a recipe for this in "Clean and Green" by Annie Berthold-Bond:

1 teaspoon borax
3 tablespoons vinegar
2 cups hot tap water
spray bottle

Place the borax and vinegar in teh spray bottle. Dissolve the borax by puring hot tap water over it. Shake to mix. Spray this formula onto mold growing areas of the bathroom and leave on without rinsing.

I'll give it a try and let you know how it works!

March 17, 2008

eco easter


Yes, you saw this picture last year

This time last year I was posting about natural egg dyes and easter grass options. Can you believe it's been a year? (March 7th, actually).

As far as Easter preparations go, not too much has changed for me. I plan to do natural dyes again this year, but think I will try a different method. Last year I did the "cold" method. I looked at the directions by Martha Stewart and think that I might get more intense colors by boiling the eggs in the pots. Only problem with that is that the kids don't get to be very involved. I suppose I can do a few eggs both ways: boil some raw ones in the dye for 30 minutes and then strain the dye and soak some hardboiled eggs in the cool dye.

I'll reuse the shredded green paper that I used in the baskets last year and then fill them up with loads of candy full of high-fructose corn syrup! (just kidding, uh, sort of).

March 16, 2008

green citizen

Today we did some spring cleaning. We had a huge amount of old computer things that needed to be disposed of. I looked on Earth 911 and found that Green Citizen has a storefront location here in San Francisco now (I've written before about kiosks they have in local Whole Foods Stores). They were able to take tons of our old floppys, zip disks, telephones, modems, etc.

Take a look at the video below to see how and why Green Citizen is a great option (if you happen to be near one!) They claim to recycle these materials more responsibly than some other places. It was very simple and convenient for us.

March 13, 2008

sweet kid

Today my almost-six-year-old said to me out of the blue, "Wouldn't it be great if everything could go in the compost, Mommy?"

While I smiled to hear him say it, the idea must come more from what he learns at school than with me. I don't really talk about the 3 bins other than to clarify which one to use at various times. His school composts and also has the class work in a garden with a parent who is trained in biodynamic farming.

March 12, 2008

phone book opt-out


Today I received 2 huge phone books (we have a few phone lines at the address) and they aren't even the "official" phone books. YIKES! What a waste of paper and energy to give these out. I don't know anyone who wants them (especially since they are not even the ones that the phone company provides). I know many people who don't even use those anymore since you can look up everything online. It is particularly telling that they even printed on the cover of this edition, "100 percent recyclable." No kidding.

I learned via Enviromom about a way to opt-out of receiving the phone book. I plan to call the companies that produce the book and ask to be removed from their lists. In addition, you can sign a petition (there's a petition for everything, isn't there?) asking companies to stop printing the huge books. I don't know that they will, as selling the ads gernerates literally billions of dollars.

Worth a try, though. Did you know the yellow pages industry produced 540 million books last year? Maybe if the advertisers know that no one is looking in the books, they'll stop buying the ad space. Maybe then they'll stop printing them.

March 10, 2008

medicated water

I'm sure everyone has heard about the new report from the AP about finding pharmaceuticals in drinking water supplies. I'm so glad the issue has gotten some attention and that the government may actually look into ways of improving the situation.

In the past I've written about how hormone-disrupting chemicals are showing up in water supplies and also about ways to dispose of medication properly. What I was surprised to read about in the report form the AP is that the traces of pharmaceuticals are mostly coming from people's waste being flushed down the toilet. I thought it was more an issue of dumping bottles of old pills down the drain. Of course, that is a bad thing to do too, but how can one really control traces of drugs in your pee? I don't know enough about water treatment to understand what a huge undertaking that kind of filtration would be.

In the meantime, I'll share some new info I have since learned about proper drug disposal. I recently cleaned out our medicine chest of expired things. I checked Earth911, which directed me to my city's Department of the Environment to find out where I could take expired medications for disposal. They gave me 2 local options. Whatever you do - don't flush them!

March 9, 2008

reading labels


I found out the most curious thing the other day. It's kind of a long story, but the short of it is I was looking at 2 kinds of peanut butter at Whole Foods. In the past I've bought the larger, store brand jar because it is a good value. Recenty I picked up a smaller jar of their organic store brand because I figured since I buy so many other things organic, our peanut butter should be too. I also am hoping to reduce the use of our peanut butter and thought a smaller jar might be a good thing.

So, here's the curious part.

Their regular (non-organic) peanut butter has only peanuts and salt as the ingredients. The organic version contains organic peanuts, organic palm oil, organic pure cane sugar, and sea salt. A whole bunch of organic junk!!

Seems in this case the non-organic is the healthier choice (not that it is healthy, but geez!) I guess it is like the low-fat craze where people would eat low fat cookies with even more sugar or chemicals thinking it was a fine substitute. Gotta watch those labels, eh?

March 5, 2008

organic style online

I just saw the first issue of the new Organic Style magazine online. It arrived in my inbox right at a moment when I needed something less stressful to focus on—great timing! It is a free subscription with an easy-to-use interface for reading on screen. One of the cool things about being an online magazine is that it can leverage technology such as hyperlinks to products they are writing about or even include helpful videos, etc.

I enjoyed the articles on natural skin care products (complete with list of what ingredients to avoid) as well as the article on the granddaughter of J.I. Rodale, who was a pioneer inteh oprganic farming insdustry. I was literally just reading about him moments before in the Omnivore's Dilemma (which has become incredibly engrossing, by the way).

The magazine has lots of interesting content. Check it out!

March 4, 2008

moth spraying

This topic is so overwhelming to me. If you don't live in the Bay Area, perhaps you can be thankful. Seems there is a pesky moth threatening the area's agriculture crops (the light brown apple moth). The state of California has decided to spray many communities and cities from the air with a chemical to stop the moth from breeding.

You can imagine how well this plan is going over with the public. The thing that I find so overwhelming is the lack of power to stop it. People are contacting their representatives and holding meetings and rallies.

I've even heard of one woman who says that if they go ahead with the plan she will permanently move her family out of the area. The chemicals are made to linger in the air, you see. You can't just evacuate for the spraying.

They plan to spray something called Checkmate (they've actually already sprayed it in Santa Cruz and Monterrey). The manufacturer and the Department of Agriculture says it is safe. Here is what it contains:

(E)-11-Tetradecen-1-yl acetate, (E,E)-9, 11-Tetradecadien-1-yl-acetate; cross linked polyurea polymer; butylated hydroxytoluene; polyvinyl alcohol; tricaprylyl methyl ammonium chloride; sodium phosphate; ammonium phosphate; 1,2-benzisothiozolin3-one; 2-hydroxyl-4-n-octyloxybenzophenone.

Here is a bit I pulled from the San Francisco Chronicle's website:

"Ammonium and sodium phosphates can irritate or burn the skin, eyes and respiratory tract. So can tricaprylyl methyl ammonium chloride, which is used to mothproof clothing and degrades into chemicals that are more environmentally toxic. Polyvinyl alcohol has caused cancerous tumors in lab animals. It's also labeled as an irritant - as is another Checkmate inert, butylated hydroxytoluene, which may be linked to a spectrum of symptoms including asthma, gene mutations and cancer. The little-studied 1,2-benzisothiozolin-3-one, a germicide, is considered highly toxic to green algae and marine invertebrates, according to a 2005 EPA re-registration document. And while there's not much data on UV-absorbing 2-hydroxy-4-n-octyloxybenzophenone, the family of chemicals to which it belongs is linked to the disruption of hormones, including estrogen, according to a 2003 report in the Journal of Health Science.

According to an article in The Chronicle ("State plans Bay Area pesticide spraying," Feb. 15), "state officials say the amount of pesticide applied shouldn't pose severe health risks, but they've also refused to rule out that the spray can affect humans, particularly sensitive people such as children and the elderly." (To see the complete article, go to sfgate.com/ZCMO). "

Does anyone else think this just sounds like a really, really bad idea?

March 3, 2008

updates: checks and fish


Thought I would share some reality-checks of my greening process.

Several months ago I did a post about green checks, which are bank checks printed with soy ink on recycled paper. Today I needed to order more checks and this was my first opportunity to try green checks. At first I was excited, but in the middle of the process I panicked. Why do I have to give all my info to a new company? Does the recycled paper really matter? Is the price really any better? How do I know my bank's checks aren't recycled too? (they aren't; I asked).

After all that second guessing I never completed the transaction. Now that I've had some time to think it over, I am indeed going to place the order with The Check Gallery. I do believe it is worth it.

Another thing I posted about recently was using your phone to find out about good fish choices. One of the fish choices that had me confused that fateful day at the grocery was Chilean Sea Bass. I know it has been on the no-no list for so long. But I couldn't figure out why it was being sold at Whole Foods with a tag saying where it was from and that it had been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. I wondered if that meant Chilean Sea Bass was safe to eat again.

The next time I was at the store I tried to use my phone to text Fish Phone for the information. Alas, the grocery had no cell phone service! I asked the fishmonger what the labels on the Chilean Sea Bass meant and he explained that Whole Foods hasn't sold Chilean sea bass for 7 years. They are now bringing it back because it is being carefully fished from 2 different places, which rotate to ensure the populations are not over fished. The Marine Stewardship Council is a group that oversees this. Yet when I got home I looked up the fish info on a few websites, and they still said not to eat Chilean Sea Bass! Confusing? Yes. This is why we eat chicken all the time.

I think my conclusion is that I'm still not buying the Chilean Sea Bass and that maybe carrying the printed card version of fish info is my best bet.

March 2, 2008

tissue packs


There's been a bit of colds and sniffles around here, which has prompted me to pick up some of those pocket packs of tissues. I keep some in my purse, put some in my kids' backpacks, etc.

I recently found that at Trader Joe's those little packs are filled with recycled paper tissues. Hooray! I always thought it was strange that you can buy recycled paper tissues in larger boxes but not those pocket packs. Typically only virgin and bleached tissues are found in the little packs of Kleenex (or store brands like Target). I was so excited to have the option of choosing a greener tissue.

I know that the fact they are disposable and in little packages isn't the most environmentally sound choice, but when one is having a major situation in sinus-land, it is hard to imagine how many cloth handkerchiefs one would need to tote around. At this rate I'd need an extra purse!