September 30, 2008

mad men


I've been hopelessly addicted to watching Mad Men (I download it from iTunes). One of the things I like about the show is the glimpse it provides into the era of the early 1960's.

Some of the little details are frightening and amusing, like the pregnant women who are drinking and smoking. The show presents it as the reality that it was, not as a comedy, but you can't help but gasp when you see it.

One scene that threw me for a loop was in an episode where the family goes for an afternoon picnic by a roadside. After they finished they just shook all their garbage off the picnic blanket, got in the car and left.

hello?!?!?!?!?!

Now, I know things were different then (pregnant women drinking and smoking—bad, bad, bad) but did people really just litter with such brazen disregard?

Maybe we have come a long way, indeed.

September 28, 2008

green depression?

With all the recent news about financial crisis, my mind has been wandering into a world of what if. Of course I hope and trust that now things are on a good course. While my mind was thinking about all kinds of scenarios, I got to thinking about how I could make do if we had a depression.

I don't know much detail about how people survived during the Great Depression, but I suspect there are many green living lessons to be learned from then. Thinking about it made the popular blogger challenge, 30 Days of Nothing, seem quite reasonable (whereas a few weeks ago I had thought it was unfathomable).

I wondered if maybe I should learn to preserve more summer foods while I have the chance. I wondered how close our city life could become to homesteading, if circumstances warranted.

For me, the scenarios were a new twist on how to look at things. I don't expect our situation to get THAT desperate, but it does offer another perspective on green living, doesn't it?

September 25, 2008

green your...


I am very excited about this website because it is a great resource on its own, PLUS they made a cool widget that I could place in my blog sidebar so that we can always look up things quickly.

GreenYour.com
is an online guide about how to green all kinds of things: your home, office, lifestyle, body, transportation, etc. When I am researching topics I tend to check lots of sources, so I am glad to have another in my arsenal.

You know how I always say that going green needs to be fun or no one will want to do it? Well, GreenYour.com makes it look fun with a simple, cheerful style and they make it easy with quick, functional tools.

Go ahead. Type something in that new little section to the right of this post. Green your...kitchen? school? laundry? husband?

I typed in camping, thinking I might stump them, but there were loads of brilliant ideas. Have fun!

September 24, 2008

energy saving community


I heard about a website which is focused on providing extensive advice on working as a community to save energy. Energy Saving Community has lots of inspiring ideas—some big, some small.

I was immediately interested in the sections on setting up a community swap store (kind of like free consignment, I think) as well as establishing community composting.

Excellent ideas to ponder! The site is out of the UK, but I'm sure the ideas would translate well to many regions. See if something would be applicable for your community.

September 23, 2008

nature table


Nature tables are not a new idea, but they are a wonderful way to bring a bit of the outdoors in. Kids love looking for beautiful treasures while out on walks and saving them for the table.
Having a nature table is also a nice way to mark the seasons of the year. We have some beautiful things out on ours that we found on a camping trip last weekend (except for the mini pumpkin, which was grown by our neighbors).

You can see nature tables on many blogs, including one of my favorites, Salt and Chocolate. They are also mentioned in a fantastic book called The Creative Family, by blogger and author Amanda Blake Soule.

I'm not always so good about changing the table with the seasons. Thankfully the kids are really into it and keep it evolving. In the winter I add some white wool and felt gnomes. In the spring, some flowers and painted eggs.

September 22, 2008

galaxy granola


Sometimes we eat granola and yogurt for either a snack or breakfast. At first I would just buy granola in the bulk bins at the natural market, not really aware of the many differences between brands. Then I found this brand of granola locally and am really loving it.

Galaxy Granola
is great for many reasons. It got my attention because I tastes really good. In addition, it is hand made with all organic ingredients. They use a mix of whole grains, including barley, spelt, and oats. Spelt is power-packed with fiber, B vitamins and protein. One thing that really sets them apart is that Galaxy Granola is not made with oil. I'm not a fan of canola oil, and finding a brand without it is challenging. Galaxy Granola bakes the grains with organic apples instead of oil. As a result, Galaxy Granola is low in fat and calories, especially when compared to other granolas.

Besides all those yummy facts, Galaxy Granola is a member of “1% For The Planet”, an association of companies that donate 1% of revenue to environmental groups. You can find the granola at many stores nationwide and some farmer's markets in the Bay Area. They also will ship to you from their website. I love the Vanilla Almond Munch. Yum!

September 21, 2008

shaving


Reader Cari asked me if I knew anything about eco-friendly shaving. I have to say it is one thing I hadn't looked into myself because I buy razors so infrequently. I do shave frequently, the razors just seem to last a long time.

I thought it was a great idea to see what I could do to improve my shaving routine. I found a nifty razor from Recycline and think it is pretty cool. I've written about the Recycline toothbrush before, and the razor is similar in that they carefully consider the materials used to make the product as well as how they can be easily recycled when finished. Here are some cool things I like about this razor:

• the razor has "triple" blades that you can replace, enabling the handle to be used for a very long time.

• the handle design (patent pending) is one piece, reducing resources consumed in manufacturing.

• the handle design is made from 100% recycled plastics, with at least 65% from Stonyfield yogurt cups.

• the handle is also completely recyclable in communities with #5 plastic recycling, or through Recycline's postage paid mail-back program.

• the razor's packaging is a reusable travel case made from renewable wood sources.

The company obviously puts an incredible amount of thought into the products and how they can be made with as minimal impact on resources as possible. Plus, the designs are cool and fun to use - and that always makes going green a lot easier to enjoy.

September 18, 2008

coastal cleanup day


This Saturday, September 20, from 9 a.m. to noon is the 24th Annual California Coastal Cleanup Day. It is an impressive effort!

The official website tells me that this is "the premier volunteer event focused on the marine environment in the country. In 2007, more than 60,000 volunteers worked together to collect more than 900,000 pounds of trash and recyclables from our beaches, lakes, and waterways. California Coastal Cleanup Day has been hailed by the Guinness Book of World Records as "the largest garbage collection" (1993). Since the program started in 1985, over 800,000 Californians have removed more than 12 million pounds of debris from our state's shorelines and coast. When combined with the International Coastal Cleanup, organized by The Ocean Conservancy and taking place on the same day, California Coastal Cleanup Day becomes part of one of the largest volunteer events of the year."

The website also has some incredible pictures from last year's cleanup.

To find out how to participate call (800) COAST-4U or check their website. You can preregister for certain sites or drop-in at others. Not in California? Google to see if there is a coastal cleanup effort in your region.


September 16, 2008

stay away from bpa

This weekend I was trying to explain to a friend why I had been trying to avoid canned food since I had learned that BPA levels where high in the lining of cans. As I heard myself talking, I wondered if I had really turned into a crazy, eco-obsessed person. Maybe I had become too compulsive?

Before I had a chance to even give it much thought, I saw an article in today's issue of USA Today. It confirmed and validated my inclinations to avoid BPA wherever it may be.

This article was noteworthy for a few reasons:

- For the first time, a large, population-based study links BPA to heart disease and diabetes in humans.

- Some scientists are saying the study shows that BPA "is too dangerous to allow in consumer products, especially those used by babies and pregnant women." Not surprisingly the FDA still claim it is safe.

- However, the National Toxicology Program expressed concern that BPA alters behavior, the brain and prostate gland in children, both before and after birth.

- Most studies regarding BPA risks used animals or cells to test safety. This new study measured people's levels and found connections to heart disease and diabetes.

The article is an easy read, so definitely check it out. I especially loved the last part:

"BPA is so ubiquitous — used in everything from "carbonless" paper receipts to water pipes — that consumers can't shop their way around it, Myer says. The only way to protect vulnerable children, he says, is for industry to stop using the chemical. "It's mind-boggling," Myers says. "We can't ask moms to be chemical engineers when shopping for their kids, and that is what the current system forces them to be."

September 15, 2008

props to method


Are you like me? Do you know all the right things to do to clean green (vinegar and water on the windows! borax in the tub!) but don't always take the time to implement them? Sure, I'm really trying to make an effort but sometimes I just think, "it shouldn't be this hard...or no one will do it."

The sentiment is the same from the founders of Method cleaning products. There was a great interview with them on Grist and I found I have new respect for them. I always liked their products and witty ads, but was skeptical of their greeness because they did not disclose ingredients. I learned that they are now posting the ingredients on their website. They also are using 100% recycled plastic to make their bottles.

The interview with the founders was refreshing and totally respect their goal: not to change people who are already green (self-proclaimed treehuggers) but rather to switch mainstream people away from traditional toxic cleaners and to put pressure on traditional companies to make more sustainable, eco-friendly products.

September 11, 2008

asbestos

I was contacted recently by the Mesothelioma & Asbestos Awareness Center. They wanted to share information about the dangers of asbestos exposure in your homes, offices and schools. Below is an article they wrote for mom go green which gives valuble information on the dangers and how to stay safe.

Asbestos wasn't really on my "green" radar, so I am very thankful to them for reaching out. It is quite pertinent.

The following is written and provided by the Mesothelioma & Asbestos Awareness Center

As homeowners and parents, we find ourselves worrying about all sorts of issues that may negatively affect our health, our children’s health, and our environment. It seems that there is always a “new” issue to consider: do I only purchase organic food? Do I switch to all-natural cleaning products? The questions are endless and keep coming, but in the midst of the many new concerns and issues, it is also important to understand the health implications of a longstanding issue, one that many people do not even consider – the dangers associated with asbestos exposure. Previous exposure to asbestos is the only conclusive cause of pleural mesothelioma, a fatal type of cancer.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that also happens to be highly toxic. Naturally found in mines, asbestos was popular because of its excellent insulating capabilities and was found in a variety of construction materials including insulation, acoustical plaster, drywall compound, roofing tiles, floor tiles, and even in certain brands of duct tape. Despite a ban on asbestos use by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the early 1980s, asbestos-containing products may still be found in over 35 million U.S. residences, as well as inside commercial buildings, older automobiles, and our children’s schools. In fact, it is safe to assume that any structure or vehicle constructed prior to 1980 contains asbestos.

What’s so dangerous about asbestos? If disturbed or damaged during a home renovation project or as a result of fire or flood, asbestos-containing products can release tiny asbestos fibers into the air, putting individuals who are present in the area at risk of inhalation. If inhaled, the claw-like structure of asbestos fibers allows them to potentially cling to the pleural lining of the lungs for decades before an individual may begin to experience mesothelioma cancer symptoms, including fluid in the lung cavity and a chronic, hoarse cough. What is most disturbing about this disease is that the latent period for mesothelioma is between 20 and 50 years, so a child that is exposed at age 8 may not experience any symptoms until they are well into adulthood. Mesothelioma sufferers do have treatment options, but less than 1% of patients will survive.

If you live in a home that was built before 1980, it is advisable to consult with a certified home inspector to determine whether or not your family may be at risk of asbestos exposure. Do not attempt any asbestos removal on your own; hiring a professional will ensure that the toxin is handled properly and disposed of safely. Parents should speak with school officials and ask to see their asbestos testing records in an effort to ensure their child’s safety while at school.

The Mesothelioma & Asbestos Awareness Center features important information related to asbestos exposure and related health implications. Please visit the MAA Center website for additional information.

September 10, 2008

tiffin container


It is only the second week of school and we are already changing things up in the lunch basket. I got a new lunch container to try from Healthy Kitchenware.

It is a two-tiered stainless steel container with lid and handle, also know as a tiffin carrier. You can find them many places, but this one in particular is really well made. I thought it was a great way to send both a hearty snack and main course, since this year I have to pack both for my son.

The size of this particular tiffin is perfect for him, since it holds more than his thermos did yet still fits into his lunch basket, where I put his napkin, utensil and water bottle. Maybe someone makes a tiffin sack or bag for that purpose? Healthy Kitchenware also has a 3-tiered version, which might be of interest if one wanted to do 3 courses (a salad, fruit and a sandwich?)

And hey, the container has helped my guy be more excited about his lunch. That in itself is a good thing!

September 9, 2008

stopping the free paper


One of my biggest pet peeves is the local free paper that cannot be stopped. All over the city, thousands of these papers are placed on doorsteps each morning—in plastic bags. I see them piled up all around. On a windy day I counted 6 papers in the middle of the road on my block alone. Why should I have to separate and recycle the paper? Why should the city have to pick up all that waste?

It wouldn't be so bad if one could simply ask the paper to stop, but in my experience many papers actually ignore requests to cancel the free delivery.

Help is on the way, people, because now you can use a new website to stop your local free paper. The folks at stopmylocalpaper.org will submit your information to the circulation director so they know you wish to opt out of their publication. They say, "Millions of newspapers go out everday that get thrown away, recycled, or become eye sores left at the end of the driveway. This site was designed to raise awareness of how much wasted paper is created."

Good luck!

September 8, 2008

my good greetings


Some of the attractive card designs available at mygoodgreetings.com

I have to tell you about another green announcement card resource. My Good Greetings was started by two designers who wanted to make card products that were environmentally friendly. They not only use recycled paper, but did an incredible amount of research into choosing an excellent green printer.

You can read all about their uber-greeness on their website.

Top it all off with a great selection of designs for all kinds of announcements, holiday greetings, invitations and stationery. A great offering! I feel like I can finally reconcile my inclination to choose an environmentally respectful product with my desire for a beautiful card design.

Hooray! Thank you Tom and René!

September 7, 2008

favorite indulgence


We just had a wonderful weekend, so I figured it was only fitting to write about a favorite indulgence of mine. Well, sort of mine. Indirectly.

I like to buy this lovely bubble bath for my kids. It isn't a kid product per-se. I would use it myself if I ever actually soaked in a bubble bath, but that hasn't happened in a long time. I love that it is made with good ingredients and it smells oh-so-good. And after a bath in it, my kids smell oh-so-good, too.

Deep Steep products are not only paraben free, but also 100% chemical preservative free. They also do not use synthetic fragrances, cheap detergents (sodium lauryl sulfate), and any other harmful ingredients (silicones, petroleum, mineral oil).

The thing that sold me though was the scent. They have five aromatherapy blends, each carefully formulated with certified organic essential oils.

I love the grapefruit bergamont. I would have never thought it would smell as good as it does. Yum. It smells so great as I give the kids a bath. And then they smell so great. And we all go to sleep happy.

September 4, 2008

lead in children's vitamins

You probably heard this bit of information in the news last week, but just in case you're like me and hadn't heard, many children's and women's vitamins have been found to contain lead. LEAD! You know, the stuff we are all freaking out about being in toys, jewelry, imported candies, etc?

The FDA completed a study which tested a variety of vitamins for elevated levels of lead. You can look at their complete list of brands tested at the FDA website. Now, I'm no scientist, but it sounds to me like the FDA is saying that the amounts of lead are very small and that it is within a safe amount. However, everything I've ever read about lead was that there is NO safe amount, and we must limit exposure wherever possible.

Even the CDC wrote this on their own website regarding lead exposure in children:

"Lead poisoning is entirely preventable. The key is stopping children from coming into contact with lead and treating children who have been poisoned by lead. The goal is to prevent lead exposure to children before they are harmed. There are many ways parents can reduce a child's exposure to lead. The key is stopping children from coming into contact with lead. Lead hazards in a child's environment must be identified and controlled or removed safely."

As you know, lead is a very dangerous toxin and can be stored up in the body. If you give vitamins to your children or are pregnant or lactating, I think it is especially important to look at the FDA study and decide how much lead you feel good about swallowing.

September 3, 2008

lunch time again

This time of year everyone is back in the kitchen, packing school lunches. I don't know if the process causes other people as much stress as it does me. I am always trying to keep things exciting and appealing, while avoiding processed foods as much as possible. The big issue is determining what the kids will actually eat. I hate when articles tout all kinds of "kid" meals, full of stuff my kids would never want.

Luckily my lunch packing system is slowly becoming more refined—even if I do still struggle with what to put in the containers! My son's school inspires many of our choices; they require a basket, cloth napkins, and hearty, healthy food. I try to keep the basket waste-free, but some days I do use a wax paper bag that we compost when done.

I noticed the September/October issue of Kiwi magazine has an article about nifty items which help make a waste-free lunch. I'm still loving the stainless steel containers I found last year at Daiso. Another good resource online is called Healthy Kitchens which has similar containers plus many other great food storage and packing items. I like that their stainless containers have a stainless lid.

Since I am so curious about clever ways to make life easier, I'll run another contest. I'd love to see the lunches you pack for your kids. Email me a photo of the lunch and I'll choose an entrant randomly to win. The winner will receive an item from Healthy Kitchens.

Here's a picture of my son's lunch and snack for tomorrow (he has to bring both). He has a ham sandwich, watermelon, apples, plain yogurt with some granola to sprinkle on top, and some homemade bagel chips. I'm not claiming this to be perfect by any means. If you can share some good ideas about packing lunch (containers or recipes) I'd be most grateful.

September 2, 2008

name this vegetable




In the effort of being green and all, we planted a small vegetable garden this summer. We got around to it kind of late because we are not gardeners. At all. Love the idea of growing our own food, but we never have much luck.

We are making the attempt, though, with many thanks to our neighbor who got our garden started this year with some extra seedlings from his yard. One of which we thought was going to be zucchini, but is now looking like this. Can you help us identify it?

Our neighbor thinks some seeds form his compost must have germinated. What he thought was a zucchini plant is actually something else. In his yard he ended up with gourds (you know, the tiny little pumpkins) instead of zucchini.

Good thing I wasn't expecting much edible, eh? Hey, at least the plants are growing. That's better than usual!