November 30, 2009
Well, actually blue holiday lights would be a more accurate title. I bought some new "icicle" lights to decorate our front windows. These new lights are LED, and I expected them to have more of a cool blue cast to them, and they surely do!
I truthfully prefer the old lights, which sadly were no longer up to the job. I thought I was being picky about color temperature and such, but even my kids asked me why the lights were blue! We only use one strand of lights outside, but the package promises up to 76% energy savings. Every little bit helps, right? I've noticed in past years that our December energy bill is much higher, and I don't think it is from the furnace (ah, holidays in San Francisco). I know, I know, using no decorative lights at all would save even more energy. But you see, without some decorations, it really doesn't look much like Christmas in this city at all.
While I'm happy to try these LED lights outside, I don't think I could take the look of them on our tree.
November 27, 2009
My posts have been less frequent. There are many reasons for that, one of which is information overload. There are green messages everywhere! And even I start to get annoyed by them sometimes.
But this is inspiring. And beautiful. So please click the link and enjoy, because it is about a topic I feel passionately about and it is well done, too. Sometimes I wish my blog could be less typing and more showing, like Maira Kalman's.
November 12, 2009
Here's a funny story: in my other life as a designer, I am working on a presentation template for a client. I was doing some research about slide design and found a blog from one of the very best presentation design studios, Duarte. This is the studio that designed Al Gore's slides for "An Inconvenient Truth" before it was a movie. On today's blog post they linked to a video of Michael Pollan presenting at PopTech 2009 (see video above). He spoke about sustainability and food systems. Duarte designed his slide presentation—and it is really well done.
Being a fan of Michael Pollan's work, I watched the video. It is an excellent summary of all the major points he has hit upon in his books and articles. If you have never had a chance to read Omnivore's Dilemma or In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, you should definitely watch this presentation!
He gives impressive facts about the energy spent to make cheap food and why it is so important to eat quality, local organic foods.
Besides, the slides are so well done you'll truly enjoy it.
November 11, 2009
I'm a fan of cleaning green since I started my whole green-thing. Now there is more evidence that using safer methods of cleaning is important to your health. Women's Voices for the Earth has released a report about the overuse and dangers of disinfectants. Disinfectant chemicals have a purpose and place, but should be used sparingly.
Scientific studies have shown that disinfectant chemicals have been linked to chronic health impacts like asthma, hormone imbalance, potential reduced fertility, and immune system problems. This new report by Women’s Voices for the Earth looks at the potential health hazards of five classes of antimicrobial chemicals, raises concern about the prevalent overuse of products containing these chemicals by consumers. These chemicals include chlorine bleach, ammonia, Triclosan and Triclocarban, ammonium quarternary compounds and nano-silver.
WVE executive director Erin Switalski sums it up well: “Just as you wouldn’t use a sledgehammer to kill a fly, we’re advocating for people to use disinfecting products only when the situation calls for them. Consumers need to know that the harsh chemicals found in disinfectants are simply too strong for everyday use all over the house.”
The report includes a product index with lists of products that contain these chemicals, as well as tips for non-toxic cleaning alternatives. In fact, their website is full of excellent resources including an upcoming webinar, a video on you tube, quizzes and reports to help spread the awareness. Bravo!
November 9, 2009
This email was sent via the Baby Bargains Book Blog. Their original post has the actual press release from Maclaren. Unfortunately the Maclaren website is really slow since this news was announced. Tomorrow there will be an official recall announced with Maclaren and the CPSC.
via Baby Bargains Book Blog:
Breaking news: Maclaren plans to recall 1 million strollers—all its production between 1999 and 2009---after receiving 12 reports of hinges on the stroller that amputated children's fingertips. The company will send out a cover for the hinges to all owners.
The CPSC and Maclaren will issue a press release in the recall this Tuesday; Maclaren began notifying its dealers of the recall in the past couple of days.
Here is the take-home message until the recall is official:
• Stop using all Maclaren strollers right now---yes, every model made since 1999.
• When the recall goes public on Tuesday, order a hinge cover from Maclaren's web site or phone line.
• Wait until you install the hinge cover before using the stroller again.
The Baby Bargains Book Blog will be blogging updates on this recall as they develop this week. Click here to read updates.
November 2, 2009
I've heard so many things. Some say that it could be swine flu, that the seasonal flu hasn't hit yet. They aren't testing for swine flu unless you are admitted to a hospital. But does it even matter? I decided to look up the more serious symptoms to watch for so I would know if we were crossing into more dangerous territory than "just a bug."
Before I went to the CDC website, I stumbled upon this page which had great flu information clearly presented. It even offered phone numbers to call for advice! Too bad the website is in the UK. (Maybe that says something about health plans? OK, I'll stop. . .)
The CDC website reports:
You may have the flu if you have some or all of these symptoms:
* fever (It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.)
* sore throat
* runny or stuffy nose
* body aches
* sometimes diarrhea and vomiting
More serious symptoms that would indicate that a child with swine flu would need urgent medical attention include:
* Fast breathing or trouble breathing
* Bluish or gray skin color
* Not drinking enough fluids
* Severe or persistent vomiting
* Not waking up or not interacting
* Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
* Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
Another mom recommended using Elderberry as an anti-viral for adults and children. I might look into that. In the meantime I'm taking a daily does of homeopathic flu remedy, Oscillococcinum (which, by the way, is safe for ages 2 and up).
Hope everyone stays healthy! And I hope my little man gets over his fever without incident.
October 27, 2009
Where I live folks take great pride in shopping locally. Anytime a big chain store wants to move into town, it is often met with strong protest. But here on my little hill, many independent neighborhood stores are struggling. Perhaps it is similar where you live.
That's why I think the 3/50 project is brilliant. Started last spring by an inspired blogger, the project has received lots of press and momentum for good reason. The goal of the project is to "save the brick and mortars our nation is built on" and stimulate local economies.
Their ad goes like this:
3: Think about which three independently owned businesses you’d miss most if they were gone. Stop in and say hello. Pick up a little something that will make someone smile. Your contribution is what keeps those businesses around.
50: If just half the employed U.S. population spent $50 each month in independently owned businesses, their purchases would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue.* Imagine the positive impact if 3/4 of the employed population did that.
68: For every $100 spent in independently owned stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures. If you spend that in a national chain, only $43 stays here. Spend it online and nothing comes home.
1: The number of people it takes to start the trend...you. Pick 3. Spend 50. Save your local economy. Visit the350project.net
October 22, 2009
I was thrilled to find out about the efforts of the CCFC! It seems amazing to me that they were able to pressure Walt Disney into offering the refund, even after they admitted a few years ago that these videos would not actually make your baby smarter.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under the age of 2. I remember about a year ago France's broadcast authority banned French channels from airing TV shows aimed at children under 3 years old, to shield them from developmental risks it says television viewing poses at that age.
The CCFC website says, "The refund offer is a wonderful victory for families and anyone who cares about children. Recent research shows that screen time is not educational for babies. Now parents who purchased Baby Einstein DVDs, mistakenly believing the videos would make their babies smarter, can recoup their money."
Check out this fact sheet to learn more about why this is important and please spread the word to other parents.
October 18, 2009
You can sign up to participate here and you'll receive more information via emails from the Huffington Post and No Impact Project.
I've been a little overwhelmed with basic life activities, so while I don't know if I can completely join in with the event this week, I am glad to have it serve as a reminder to me about more ways I can improve my routine.
October 11, 2009
It’s the 20th anniversary of the Bioneers Conference. I would love to attend this leading-edge forum on environment and social justice issues. It focuses on solutions inspired by nature and human ingenuity. The conference takes place October 16-18 (with intensives October 15 and 19) in San Rafael, California (my neck of the woods!) Their goal is to turn education into action by connecting people with nature and each other. They provide collaborations and actions to create strategic impact.
Here’s a Program Overview. There are many talks and features that look incredibly interesting to me—especially Michael Pollan, Dr. Andrew Weil and Annie Leonard (remember the Story of Stuff?)
These visionaries are already creating the healthy, diverse, and more equitable world we want to live in—our legacy for future generations. Seems like an amazing opportunity to connect with engaged bioneers, who are making a real difference.
Bioneers actually has some incredibly savvy web gurus, who have provided amazing tools for bloggers, etc. I might be able to post some live webcasts of the talks...stay tuned!!
October 5, 2009
Our neighborhood preschool had a fundraiser this weekend which was lots of fun. One of the big draws was that our music was amplified completely by bike power, thanks to the folks at Rock the Bike. Guests of the event had to keep pedaling so the speakers and mikes could keep working. No electricity was plugged in anywhere!
Rock the Bike also provided pedal-powered smoothies and spin art for the kids. They had to ride a stationary bike to either make the blender churn or the pin art whirl around. Tons of fun! And healthy, to boot.
September 28, 2009
Here's a video of a group in Oakland who protested with a song and dance routine. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, there is something so positive and uplifting by protesting with song and dance. Much better than yelling and fighting!
Could you imagine using this tactic to solve large global conflicts?
September 23, 2009
San Francisco has a 3 areas where they've closed certain streets to make either gardens or gathering spots.
One of these areas was created by Rebar, a San Francisco art and design collective, who is also responsible for the very cool PARK(ing) day event. PARK(ing) Day is an annual, one-day, global event where artists, activists, and citizens independently but simultaneously temporarily transform metered parking spots into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public parks.
Also here in San Francisco there is also a little plot of land near an off ramp of the freeway which has been tended into a garden. Caltrans even gave permission for a very motivated neighbor to transform the space (not without some parameters, though). It has been an intriguing project because not only has it made the space so much more beautiful, useful, and interesting it has also brought together many folks from the community.
Of course there is also the famous example of the High Line in NYC, which I have yet to visit in person. It looks amazing. The High Line was originally constructed in the 1930s, to lift dangerous freight trains off Manhattan's streets. Section 1 of the High Line is open as a public park, owned by the City of New York and operated under the jurisdiction of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. When all sections are complete, the High Line will be a mile-and-a-half-long elevated park, running through several neighborhoods on the West Side. It features an integrated landscape, combining meandering concrete pathways with naturalistic plantings. Fixed and movable seating, lighting, and special features are also included in the park.
It is so inspiring that these efforts to maximize public spaces are making the environments more useful and appealing.
* I had hoped to have loads of images to share of these spaces, but am having some trouble obtaining them. Click the links to see the fabulous spaces. I'll add the images if I can sort it out.
September 17, 2009
I'm not one to be too alarmed about these things, but was grateful to read some advice sent home from one of our schools. It all comes down to some common sense and good habits, too!
These tips were forwarded from Jim Franicevich, a nurse practitioner in PublicHealth at the Refugee Clinic. He says that the most important issue in the control of ANY communicable disease is SANITATION. The best thing that we can do for our children and ourselves is to have them wash their hands thoroughly and frequently. Since young children often do not know how to do this well, we must help them by showing them.
- Use a good quality basic hand soap, NOT one with antibiotics or other "sanitizers" that are causing bacteria to become resistant.
- Show children how to rub a small quantity of soap AROUND AND AROUND to make good lather, working the bubbles around the nails and palms.
- Rinse well with warm water, if possible.
- Repeat the process cleaning around the mouth and nose, but only after the hands are clean.
- If no water and soap is available and you are using wipes, ALWAYS WIPE THE MOUTH FIRST BEFORE WIPING THE HANDS.
- Train children to cover their mouths when sneezing and coughing. The most practical way is to cover their face with their elbows. If mucus or spit comes out, they should wash their hands and face again. (For children who have allergies, this is bothersome but very important because it is not always possible to know if they are sneezing or coughing because of the allergies or sickness.)
- Avoid eating in places where food handling may be questionable.- Feed your child whole, nutrient dense foods to keep their immune system strong. Avoid sweets and carbohydrates with white flour that exhaust the digestive system.
- Most important is to observe your child for signs of fatigue, grumpiness, lack of appetite or fever and let your child rest at home. This is for the safety of your own child and the others she may come in contact with.
But if you are interested in options which do not include much common sense, you may want to take a look at this great video about Swine Flu precautions from the New York Times. Puts all the panic in perspective, really. Not that it shouldn't be taken seriously, just that there are limits to what we can control and what will be effective.
September 16, 2009
As always, I have lots of ideas of improving the blog and ideas for posts. I just need to make time for them to come to fruition! Stick with me, progress is on the way.
And in the meantime, be sure to follow me on twitter. I have found it is a great way to send quick little things I see without requiring writing up a full post.
Come back tomorrow, and I'll have a new post for you on Swine Flu!
September 2, 2009
September 1, 2009
If you intend to send back your old Sigg bottles for replacements with the new Ecocare liner, you must do so by October 31, 2009.
I'm still on the fence about if I should send mine back. I want them to know that I feel mislead and have lost my trust in them. Should I take the new bottles? Should I simply write a letter? Which action will affect them more?
September 1, 2009
Dear SIGG Customer,
Last month, I wrote a letter to try and provide you with as much factual and historical information as I could in regards to the evolution of the SIGG bottle liner. I also suggested that people could email me if they had any questions and comments.
After reading and responding to hundreds of emails and viewing nearly as many blog & Twitter posts, I realize that my first letter may have missed the mark. What I should have said simply and loudly to all of our loyal SIGG fans is: I am sorry that we did not make our communications on the original SIGG liner more clear from the very beginning.
I have learned much over the past 2 weeks. I learned that many of you purchased SIGG bottles - not just because they were free from leaching and safe - but because you believed that SIGGs contained no BPA. I learned that, although SIGG never marketed the former liner as “BPA Free” we should have done a better job of both clearly communicating about our liner as well as policing others who may have misunderstood the SIGG message.
For over 100 years, SIGG has earned a reputation for quality products and service – and we do not take that for granted. From the day we made our announcement last month, we made a commitment consistent with SIGG values that we would offer anyone who is concerned about BPA an opportunity to swap their old SIGGs for new SIGGs with the new EcoCare liner. Today, I am announcing that this voluntary Exchange Program will be in place until October 31, 2009 to ensure that our customers have ample time to send their former liner bottles back to us should they choose to do so.
Once again, I truly apologize for the lack of clarity in our previous communications. All of us at SIGG hope that we will have an opportunity to regain your confidence and trust.
CEO, SIGG Switzerland
August 25, 2009
I just discovered that our water department has a great blog. In the latest post they have a handy link about what NOT to put in the toilet, as well as all kinds of great environmental information. Those flushable wipes? A big no no!
August 21, 2009
This week has been full of stories about big companies letting me down. Perhaps you've heard about this one, and you're really pissed about it, too. I can't say I'm completely surprised, just really disappointed.
Sigg came out with a press release recently saying they have reformulated their bottle liners to be BPA-free. All this time, people have been buying Siggs thinking they are a safer alternative than plastic bottles.
You can see the difference between the old and new liner here. The switch occurred about a year ago, in August 2008 (so bottles manufactured since then are BPA-free).
The company clarifies that they had always claimed their proprietary (secret) liner did not leach BPA. I had written about it, and Sigg had even sent me a report by a third party showing that the liners were safe. I also had heard conflicting accounts from friends of friends who worked at other bottle companies and had done their own testing which found BPA in Sigg liners.
So, like I said, I'm not surprised since the whole proprietary nature of the secret liner only fed my skepticism. And it may be true that the old liners, while they contained BPA, didn't leach much BPA.
BUT, I feel really mislead and disappointed. This post on Treehugger sums my feelings really well.
What to do? We've mostly been using our Kleen Kanteen and Earthlust bottles lately since my kids are older now and like to drink out of a larger opening with the top off. Should I toss our old Siggs? Can old Siggs go in recycling since they are aluminum?
August 18, 2009
But One Block Off the Grid has a few options to help with that. They group people in a neighborhood together for a group purchase, bringing bulk discounts. They also have payment plans!
Here's some info from their website:
"1BOG (One Block Off the Grid) organizes big groups of people together who want to get solar energy, and gets them a discount.
Homeowners looking to buy solar panels face a few problems:
- It’s expensive
- It’s complicated
- They don’t know which installer they should trust.
- An organized community can buy solar in bulk, so 1BOG negotiates with installers to get impressive discounts for each homeowner in the collective.
- We make the process much more simple and painless, as well as use our deep solar energy expertise to educate consumers throughout the process.
- We offer safety in numbers, and unlike the installers themselves, our interests are always aligned with yours."
I'm going to call for more information. I know others in my neighborhood are looking at them too, so I might as well see what the estimate is. Maybe they can make my dream come true!
August 17, 2009
This is one of those stories layered with eco-goodness.
PACT underwear was launched today. It is an eco-friendly, responsible product which supports good causes. From the materials, processes and distribution to make the undies, to the labor practices of all involved companies along the way, and ultimately to the 10% donation to charitable causes, PACT is making powerful underwear.
Reading the whole story on their website gives plenty of detail to the story. Here is some info from the PACT website:
"PACT's motto is CHANGE STARTS WITH YOUR UNDERWEAR. The purchase of PACT underwear is participation in a social movement: when you buy PACT underwear, you are supporting and encouraging organic cotton farmers, responsible labor practices, and businesses that form partnerships with nonprofit organizations dedicated to positive change in our world".
The 3 amazing social causes supported by PACT are ForestEthics, 826 National, and Oceana. Each organization has their own specially designed pattern of undies, and each pattern comes in a variety of styles. Seriously, undies have never been so meaningful.
August 4, 2009
Waiting in line at the grocery check-out the other day I spotted a new magazine (new to me, that is). I did my usual quick flip through the pages. My personal rule is that if I see at least 3 recipes I would make, then I buy the magazine.
Clean Eating passed the test and I've really enjoyed reading the issue. It seems to bridge a few of my interests: eating healthful, real food, all while balancing a budget and time constraints.
The magazine purports that "The soul of clean eating is consuming food in its most natural state, or as close to it as possible. It is not a diet; it is a lifestyle approach to food and its preparation, leading to an improved life...."
That really spoke to my desire to avoid processed foods as much as possible and cook healthy, nutrient dense meals with local, organic foods. I've been having a hard time achieving those goals because of time and money (like most families, I'm sure!)
This issue even has a 2 week menu planner for all 3 meals a day (42 meals!) and an article with yummy looking dinner recipes which feed a family of 4 for $10 or less. And the food looks so good!
I'm going to try a bunch of the recipes and also experiment some things that I haven't before, like teff seeds.
There are a few recommendations in the magazine that I question (like the thumbs up for the Mashups by Revolution Foods), but for the most part the ideas seem refreshing and just the kind of kick-in-the-pants I needed right now.
There may be a connection with the magazine and the author of the Eat Clean Diet book series, which I don't know much about. From my perspective, the magazine is interesting and relevant to people even if they are not on that diet or know nothing about it (like me).
August 3, 2009
I was really pleased to see bits of green inspiration in their experiences.
One camp which my kids attended was a science and art program. I knew the kids were going to learn about building a water system, but was kind of amazed at the enthusiasm for (and retention of) the curriculum. My 7 year-old was telling me about how we need to catch rain water from our roof and even drew me a diagram of how we could!
He also made a fun water filter experiment with 3 increasing levels of filtration.
My 5 year-old made a model of a "green cabin"—with insulation and solar heating.
They also attended another camp which I knew would be more obviously eco-focused since it is a farm-based program. The kids help with all the farm jobs and at the end of the week they host a farmers market. What I didn't expect and was excited to see was that the camp shirts were from an organic cotton company and produced in the US.
It's nice to find inspiration in unexpected places.
July 27, 2009
On June 24 a broad coalition of mothers traveled to Washington, D.C. to urge Congress to support healthy food choices in our nation's schools. These moms delivered over 50,000 petition signatures to Congress - signatures from the Food, Inc. movie website and the Mom's Rising website.
While the day was big success, it would be great for even more people to sign the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act so they can deliver this to Congress for its vote end of July.
It's easy to just click and sign.
July 24, 2009
July 22, 2009
The “Under the Sink Makeover Contest” asks you to reveal what is hiding under their kitchen sink. With the area under the kitchen sink as a family’s typical dumping ground for chemical products, Seventh Generation wants families nationwide to know about – and detox – this potentially hazardous area.
Seventh Generation is seeking nominations June 21 through August 14, for under the kitchen sink areas that are in desperate need of organization and detoxification. Submit a photo of the area under a friend’s sink and a 250-word description on why they deserve an under the sink makeover (e.g., she’s concerned for the health of her family and the environment, the area under her sink a toxic wasteland, she’s overwhelmed by the chaos of motherhood and wants to change but doesn’t know where to begin, etc.), for a chance to win great prizes.
One lucky grand prize winner will receive a package that includes:
· An in-home consultation at the friend’s house with Dr. Alan Greene, practicing pediatrician and specialist in green living
· A one year supply of Seventh Generation products for both the entrant and the friend in need
· A trip to New York City for the entrant and her friend that includes a one-night stay at the W New York – Times Square hotel
· A day of pampering at New York’s Green Spa that will include a Body Polish, Wellness Massage, Ocean Vegan Spa Manicure/Pedicure along with a one hour make-up application and lesson
Four other finalists and their friends will receive a Seventh Generation Living Home Starter Kit and a luxurious Lavera home spa kit.
Plus, if you leave me a comment about who you plan to nominate, I'll randomly select one lucky winner to receive a Seventh Generation Living Home Starter Kit!
Hmm. Now, who can I think of that needs some help under their sink?. . .
July 20, 2009
We had a birthday party this weekend for my younger son. We had some little friends and their families to join us for lunch and cake.
I had set out real glasses to use, but the day was really warm and people were thirsty! We needed extra cups quickly. I resorted to my backup stash of paper cups, since I can compost them.
My pet peeve though is how hard it was for me to track down those paper cups! Luckily I had shopped ahead of the party—just in case. At my neighborhood Whole Foods they only sell Preserve cups. I know they are made from recycled material and can be recycled, but it is still plastic. I thought composting would be better. I went to a Safeway to pick up some paper cups and the shelves were stocked with plastic (and it wasn't recycled, mind you) and styrofoam! Luckily, after some sleuthing I was able to find a package of paper cups.
If I had the energy to drive to a THIRD store, I know I could have gotten some of the nifty compostable paper cups made from 100% sugar cane fiber. But I didn't have the time to head to another location for one item. Maybe I could have found decent paper cups at Target, if I had been in one.
My question is, why does it have to be so hard to find simple supplies like that? Why are recycled or eco-safe goods not even on the shelves at my local big-chain grocery store? Seems they could carry a few for the random crunchy customers that come by. Grrr.
July 15, 2009
I've always appreciated the No Impact Man experiment. I personally learned some great tips from his blog and found his efforts quite inspiring. Of course, I never had the allusion of taking my family that far down the green road, but I was glad to hear about his journey.
This fall there will be a movie about No Impact Man and his family. I just watched the trailer and thought it looked really entertaining! While the experiment perhaps came more easily to Colin, I'd venture to say that his wife's role in the journey represents the perspective of many people.
Can't wait to see the whole film!
July 13, 2009
A few summers ago I wrote about how I was learning to green our summer camping weekends. For the most part, it has been steadily improving.
This past weekend we went on another camping adventure and I tried a new can of propane for our camp stove. In the past I've always used the small Coleman canisters that screw onto our stove. Problem is, these cans cannot be refilled nor recycled. I've had to save up the empty ones to dispose at a hazardous waste facility due to the unavoidable remaining propane in the steel container.
Coleman has now released a new can in the same size, called the Green Key. It works the same (a one-time use) but it comes with a little green plastic nozzle that sticks in the can once you've used up all the propane. That little green "key" helps release all remaining propane and then signifies the can is safe for recycling. You can also buy the keys separately to use on standard Coleman disposable propane cans.
Coleman acknowledges that steel recycling isn't readily available in most communities, but they say the potential is there and the company is working with waste facilities to help keep the cans out of the landfills.
I was excited to try it—as you can imagine my eco-guilt grows as my cans pile up! I finished the propane can completely and inserted the green key. Much later, we packed up the car and started our drive home. Almost as soon as we were in the car I could smell propane. The can should have been empty by then (it had been over an hour!) But we didn't take any chances. As soon as we passed a garbage can we tossed it out. Bummer!
Maybe I need to look at a way to get a bigger, reusable/refillable tank of propane attached to our stove. Might be a little hassle, but worth the effort.
July 8, 2009
As much as I love good food, I am at my wits end with planning, sourcing and preparing meals. It is time consuming, even when I try to keep things simple. If my focus of the day goes towards the kids or a particular project, then meals that day really suffer. Maybe I need new recipes or inspiration. I'm not looking for complicated, mind you.
I found a blog called My So-Called Kitchen (via Soulemama) and I am loving it. The food and photography are both tantalizing. Just look at her post on wheatberries! I wish her meals could magically appear on my table each day. They are simple, fresh and healthy. She says she "strives to eat foods that are fresh, healthy, natural, whole, organic and local (or as local as we can get)". She's a mom feeding young kids as well. Inspiring, indeed.
Speaking of local food, my garden is growing! But at this rate I think we might starve (or shop somewhere, obviously). I have one tomato and one snap pea. Yes, just one of each. Not exactly a bumper crop.
July 7, 2009
The other day at the grocery I noticed that the packages of chicken breasts were now being sold without the styrofoam trays. What a simple yet fantastic step in the right direction! Hopefully many more chicken producers and grocery stores will follow their lead.
July 6, 2009
This post may well be about one of the coolest things I've heard of yet. As a graphic designer, I'm prone to loving typography as well as clever solutions to big problems.
Ecofont was designed by a Dutch studio called SPRANQ . Ecofont is a typeface which has white circles within the letterforms. This ingenious approach enables you to use the font and then print documents with much less ink—without sacrificing legibility.
The font uses up to 20% less ink, and is free to download and free to use. Ecofont is based on Vera Sans, an Open Source letter, and is available for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux.
July 5, 2009
A snap from an exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences.
While on a few recent summer adventures, I cannot help but notice the ease of recycling (and even composting!) or the lack thereof.
I spent some time last week at the California Academy of Sciences. Not only is the the building very green and not only do they have a great environmental awareness exhibit up currently, but they also make tossing waste into the right container a simple no-brainer. They offered attractive bins for recycling, trash and compost at every waste station.
This was also the scene at our recent jaunt to the Marin County Fair (the "Greenest County Fair On Earth"). Among many impressive efforts, they offered the obvious 3 bin waste stations throughout the fairgrounds which had receptacles for trash, recycling and composting.
Contrast that to some airports (large and small) we flew through recently where I could hardly find a place to put a recyclable bottle!
I can understand that many communities may not be set up for bulk composting yet, but I really can't understand why recycling the basics is not more commonplace everywhere. Mind boggling.
July 1, 2009
Have you seen the new line of sponges from Scotch-Brite called "Greener Clean?" They are sold in major stores (like Walmart and Target) and look ever-so eco-friendly, with the brown sponges and all.
I've been a bit obsessed with sponges lately, and I have to say that my curiosity started before I even considered eco-friendly alternatives to the scrub sponge. My main complaint was that the standard yellow sponge with green scrubber became quite stinky pretty quickly. I had a feeling (very unscientifically, mind you) that it was partly caused by the synthetic materials. Later, a friend told me about how some sponges are able to compost—and the rest is history. I've been obsessed ever since.
Which brings us back to the Scotch-Brite. I had high hopes based on the packaging wording, such as natural fiber. Upon closer inspection I saw the scrubbing side of the sponge is made with "50% natural agave plant." Which of course begs the question of what the other 50% is made of.
I called the company to find out. They said the other material was polyester. BOO!!
Despite that, I am actually glad the company has made a greener product. Using 23% recycled paper for the sponge side and almost all natural materials is a step in the right direction. The sponges do work well, I just can't compost them. They do have sponges without scrubbers in the same line that are able to compost.
In summary, if you want to compost your sponges, then buy something else. But if you are still using those green and yellow sponges (like most people who took my poll were) then I would suggest giving these new "greener" sponges a try.
* I have photos to post, but am experiencing a camera issue. I'll add them as soon as possible.
(Just a reminder, I do not get paid to write reviews. I write about green issues which I come across daily.)
June 29, 2009
My family just returned from a fabulous week at the beach. It was idyllic, with kids playing in the surf from dawn till dusk. The weather was incredibly hot and humid, but thankfully the ocean was refreshing and welcoming.
The scenario was a perfect challenge to find the right sunscreen. You'd think I'd have figured out my favorite product after having reviewed so many, but trial and error still leaves me searching for perfection.
Since I began my quest for the best and safest sunscreen, I've amassed quite a collection. I brought all the tubes and bottles that had not expired to the beach. I wish I could tell you that there was a clear favorite, but in reality it was more like this:
I used Trukid Sunny Days SPF 30 sunscreen on my kids and my own face. It goes on incredibly smoothly and not too white. It can be a little greasy at first but thankfully it is not as thick and uncomfortable as some others and is a decent price-point. This sunscreen has no parabens, is non-toxic and uses titanium dioxide as the active ingredient. It is the brand I carry in my purse year-round for my kids' faces.
For myself, I started with a tube of the UV Natural SPF 30 Sport. I knew it was super thick and greasy from my past experiences, but I was hoping that it would hold up well to the hot sun and swimming. In the end, it was just too humid and uncomfortable to wear such thick creme. It made me sweat even more! No doubt the product works well and is ideal for water sports—I just couldn't bring myself to keep putting it on, despite a fantastic rating on the Skin Deep database (a 1!)
It was so hot and sticky outside that I lost all sense of good judgment and decided to just get a bottle of chemical-laden sunscreen spray. I tried the Neutrogena Kids Spray SPF 70. Comparable products do not get a very good rating on the Skin Deep database. Was the sun ruining all my good judgment? The spray application was so much easier and lighter. It was very appealing in the steaming sun. Even the kids begged me to use the spray in their limbs instead of the creme. I knew it was sinful (the skin absorption chemicals, the wasteful packaging), but it was the first product I reached for whenever I needed to reapply. Unfortunately, the bottle only lasted me about 2 days at the beach.
After that indulgence I attempted to amend my sins by using my tube of Aubrey Organics Natural Sun Green Tea SPF 25. It went on freakishly white. Seriously, I looked strange. It was also a thick yet grainy consistency which was not very comfortable. What really irked me was that where the product got on my bathing suit (which was brown) it would not rub off. I had white splotches all over the straps and edges where my application rubbed the fabric edges. It also stained my white cotton cover-up. After washing, neither the suit nor cover-up have come clean! Plus, after double checking the rating on Skin Deep (it got a 4) I don't think I would even bother with this product again.
I wish I had a solution after all this experimentation in the field. I know many readers have personal favorites and I'm sure they work well. While the conditions on my trip were somewhat extreme–with a heat index over 100 most days with high humidity–it seems a reasonable scenario for any sunscreen to perform in.
I'm torn. Looking at the facts on paper, choosing a sunscreen seems simple. But out at the beach, all bets are off. Rationalization gives way to comfort. How seriously do you take your sunscreen?
June 18, 2009
One such idea is a feature called Reader Questions. So many people ask me excellent eco questions. I don't often know the answers but am eager to see what I can find out and share.
While I'm away, I'm hoping you readers can help me jump start an answer for one of our peers. A soon-to-be new mom wrote me asking about the safest and best options for infant formula. She is adopting a baby very soon and wanted to choose something good (obviously).
I've mentioned before how my first son ended up using formula (using BPA bottles, no less). I didn't really know to look into formula choices at that time. I tried a major brand and went with it. We had no problems, so I stuck with it.
But it is a good question. Knowing what we all know now, what are the best options for formula these days? Please add your advice in the comments below. I'll add my research and summarize when I get back. Thanks!
Imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon a slew of articles and photo slide shows on the New York Times website. I'm still going through all the material and loving every minute of it. (There's a slide show of "Canning, step by step" and a video called, "Checking the seal".
I also have signed up for a canning class in August at the Studio for Urban Projects with a very talented local chef.
Who knows? Maybe after reading all the information in the article I'll give canning a whirl before my class starts!
June 17, 2009
New parents are always faced with the decision of which kind of diapers to use. Considerations of the environment, convenience and lifestyle are obvious factors.
My kids are out of diapers now, but I was nonetheless really intrigued by a new choice in the mix: a compostable diaper service.
Earth Baby serves the San Francisco Bay Area, with the aim to eliminate disposable diapers and wipes from landfills. The company was started by 3 local families, who "are dedicated to providing our customers with compostable diapers and wipes that equal the name-brand disposables in every way: comfort, absorbency, fit, appearance and most importantly, convenience. In addition, we are committed to responsibly composting, reusing or recycling everything we sell."
They claim to have the most environmentally responsible diapering solution available today. Earth Baby provides compostable diapers and wipes and later picks up the soiled items and composts them in their own special composting piles.
I would have loved to been able to try Earth Baby when my kids were in diapers. You know, sometimes to solve big problems you have to think up a whole new approach, and I really respect that they have brought a new option to the market.
June 15, 2009
I've always had it on my list to research tankless water heaters, but suddenly the choice was thrust upon me. If we wanted to try one, now might be the time to do it.
I spent the day today talking with plumbers, researching online. I still am not clear on the entire breadth of tankless water heater solutions, but I am clear enough to decide what we will install.
It went something like this:
Traditional plumber is wary of using tankless in our situation. It will require lots of new pipes (flue, water, gas, etc.), a longer install time and higher labor costs. Plus, he's skeptical the heater will provide for our 3 bathroom home.
Tankless expert claims they have heaters that will work very well in our home and have a way to install very simply and quickly (next day, just like the traditional guy!) Cost is almost 8 times more.
Needless to say, at this juncture we just need to go with the more affordable solution. There are many variables to choosing the right tankless system, and I hope we can do it someday.
Everyone I spoke agreed tankless water heaters are the way of the future. I wish I could afford to make the leap right now. There are federal tax rebates available for systems installed this year. Not to mention the savings to your utility bill (some claim your gas usage should drop by 30-40%)!
For the record, I'm not trying to talk anyone out of buying a tankless water heater. I'm only acknowledging that at this critical moment (I really do need to take a shower) it is out of my budget. Feel free to leave a comment on any experiences or research you've done on them. It will come in handy when I am finally in a position to make the switch.
June 11, 2009
Wherever you live, you've probably heard about the huge budget mess in California. I won't pretend I have any ideas on how to fix it. Of course there will be tough choices and painful cutbacks. But closing all our state parks just seems like a bad idea.
The state parks in California are so special: beaches along the Pacific, trails through the redwoods, mountains and more. Closing the parks will hardly make a dent in fixing the budget. It remains to be seen how the state would actually put a closure plan into effect, and how they would maintain them or reopen them someday.
I'm sad because my family loves camping at the state parks. We cannot imagine having this amazing experience and resource unavailable to us. We spend long weekends completely outdoors, playing and having fun. Plus, the trips are especially important now when fancy vacations are less of an option. They are the highlight of our year!
If you live in California, or can lend some support, please check out the California State Parks Foundation. They have links to ways you can help stop the closure of the parks. Next weekend, June 20th, will be Save Our State Parks Weekend. You can help in many ways, and it doesn't involve sending money.
June 10, 2009
What is unique is that since San Francisco has a curbside composting program in the mix. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, it will soon be a violation to throw "orange peels, coffee grounds and grease-stained pizza boxes in the trash."
I think it is a good thing. I like taking a progressive stance with these programs and have confidence that once people get used to it, that it won't be a big deal.
I've read some criticism that the city should be spending it's efforts elsewhere and that checking our trash is big-brotherish, etc. I don't agree.
I do think that one little glitch the city will have to be mindful of is that on the night residents put out their 3 cans (recycling, trash and compost) that many folks come scavenging for the refundable bottles. If someone on the street inadvertently mixes up the contents of your bins while they are taking the bottles, should you be fined for that? I should hope not.
There will be kinks to work out for sure, but I'm glad the city has taken a progressive stance with greening the city.
June 8, 2009
I seem to be on a kick with follow ups to my previous posts. Here's another, this time about my favorite new scrub sponge, the Sandclean.
I'm so glad to have tried this very unique and effective scrubber! It works wonders, I tell you. It cleans all my pans effortlessly. My pans are stainless steel and about 20 years old. Now they are sparkling like they haven't in years.
I suppose that if you had spiffy new pans this scrubber might be too abrasive. Mine are worn enough that there isn't a noticeable scratching problem.
The best part of this scrubber, as you may remember, is that it is biodegradable. Not that it will be done scrubbing anytime soon—they estimate at least 6 months per scrubber.
And just for reference, I am using the fine grit and it removes everything easily. Hooray!
June 4, 2009
I have a confession. I've tried recycled aluminum foil and I don't like it.
I usually am happy to switch to greener solutions all around my home, but this particular product (the one on the right in the photo) was a little disappointing.
There are many environmental benefits to using recycled aluminum. It's possible that I just need to try another brand, but until recently, I didn't know there were other options.
A few months ago Reynolds Wrap introduced a 100% recycled aluminum foil. I love when mainstream brands offer an environmentally responsible option! I haven't tried it yet, but will keep my eyes out for it. Hopefully this product will be a keeper.
June 1, 2009
Remember my compost mess?
I hadn't figured out a good solution because of all the potential cans and bins available, I knew I couldn't fit one under the sink and I also knew I didn't want a small one on the counter. So I continued in denial about our eyesore of a system.
Then the other day I had an epiphany—I decided to re-purpose the swanky trash bin we had bought for diaper disposal many years ago. It is the perfect size, has a metal insert with handle that we can carry to the large compost can, and has a step on lid to hid the unsightly contents. The can originally cost a small fortune, so you can be sure I'm glad it is assuming such a big job.
Voila! It is easy to use while cooking and holds over a day's worth of scraps. Sure it would be nice if it wasn't sitting in the middle of the floor, but hey, I'll take what I can get! I'm glad I was able to help this fancy can find a new purpose in life.
May 31, 2009
On Saturday mornings I love going to my local farmer's market. This is one of the most exciting times of year for it because so many delicious fruits and vegetables are in season: strawberries, raspberries, cherries, peaches, apricots, sugar snap peas, artichokes, asparagus, and so much more.
Living in this region makes having a fantastic array of local produce possible, and I don't take it for granted.
There are some other things that make this farmer's market my favorite (even aside from finding my most favorite cup of coffee in the world there).
Two days before the market I receive an email "sneak peak" from CUESA, the Center for Urban Education About Sustainable Agriculture, which operates this farmer's market. The email newsletter tells me which what produce will be in season at the market, if any new vendors are arriving or leaving for the season, notices about cooking presentations and events, and recipes. There is also a feature I enjoy called, "What's in your bag?" where they photograph a shopper and ask them what they are buying and how they plan to use it.
Another over-the-top feature of this market it the Veggie Valet. You heard me right—we have what is essentially a coat check for your purchases. It is genius! I've only needed to use it a few times. Imagine that as you shop, your basket or bags start to get quite heavy. Perhaps need to take a break from your heavy purchases to use the facilities or grab a bite. Veggie Valet lets you check your bags for free! (Donations are accepted).
I always leave with a smile on my face.
May 28, 2009
The other night there was a great event in San Francisco with the Algalita Marine Research Foundation about Great Pacific Garbage Patch -- an endless floating waste of plastic trash between California and Hawaii.
The Algalita Marine Research Foundation, founded by Capt. Charles Moore, was one of the first groups to bring attention to the problem of disposable plastics, most notably seen in the Pacific Garbage Patch.
I wasn't able to attend, as much as I would have liked to. The group was in town as they are in the midst of their JunkRide 2009. They are biking over 2000 miles down the Pacific Coast, from Canada to Mexico in an effort to raise awareness and give presentations about plastics in the ocean.
Last year, they made a raft out of 15,000 plastic bottles and sailed it from Los Angeles to Honolulu. You can search You Tube for videos about that expedition, including an interview with Martha Stewart when they returned (see, their message is really getting out)!
The Foundation has a great list of Frequently Asked Questions on their website.
I don't know about you, but their efforts really do make me think twice about using plastic.
May 26, 2009
This video from Howcast, via Hulu, has some good tips about getting better fuel efficiency. Many of the ideas are ones I had not heard before. Nice! I'll be trying them out for sure.
May 20, 2009
Real maple syrup is not cheap. I like to buy grade B maple syrup and have been shopping for value. For awhile I've been buying it at either Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, since the packages and pricing seemed quite comparable.
Or are they?
I only just realized that they have some key differences. The Whole Foods syrup is organic and comes in a #2 recyclable bottle. The Trader Joe's syrup is not organic and comes in a #7 plastic bottle. I think you can guess which one I'll buy in the future!
I never understand why companies choose to package items in hard-to-recycle types of plastic when it is perfectly feasible to use a #1 or #2.
And yes, I know that syrup in glass from Vermont is fantabulous. It is just a little hard to find around here.
May 19, 2009
Last week I went to plant some new tomato starts and smelled a problem. Someone has been pooping in my little garden plot! I've fantasized about ways to combat the problem. I've gotten some advice from the gentleman at the garden store.
My first step was to clean out the "litter box section" and replace it with nice soil. I then planted the 2 tomato starts and placed metal cages around them (the kind tomatoes like to grow within). Finally, I sprinkled cayenne pepper around the surrounding soil.
I don't know if it will keep the cat out, or perhaps we'll end up with spicy vegetables!
If this doesn't work I'll need a Plan B. Any ideas?
May 14, 2009
My husband is addicted to drinking carbonated water. He was feeling a lot of guilt about all the plastic bottles that came with his bubble-water habit. He wondered if he could make his own carbonated water.
After a bit of research online, he found an interesting contraption that will let him make his own carbonated water from tap, which is great because he had already invested in an excellent water filtering system. Not only will it save lots of bottles over time, this gadget uses glass bottles for the process. He really likes the idea of keeping his bubbly water in glass instead of plastic.
It's called the Sodastream Penquin . From the manufacturer's website:
"Operating without batteries or electricity, Sodastream home soda makers are highly energy-efficient small appliances. Appliances that work without electricity improve the environment by cutting down on the emissions generated by electrical plants, giving us cleaner air and ground water. By operating completely on power supplied by the compressed air in the carbonator — an easily renewable fuel source — Sodastream does not contribute to environmental pollution made by batteries. Empty carbonators are returned to Sodastream to be cleaned, inspected and refilled with CO2 drawn naturally from the air. Carbonators are reusable as long as they remain in good condition. Store bought soda and sparking water travels hundreds of miles from the bottling plant to the store shelf, usually in trucks that get fewer than 10 miles to the gallon. Instead, Sodastream uses the water that's already in your home, saving literally tons of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere."
If you want to see just how easy and fun it is to use, check out this video on the Williams Sonoma website. I wasn't able to embed it on the blog.
May 10, 2009
Did you know you could customize the art on Sigg bottles at Cafe Press? They offer 7 special edition designs onto which you add your own custom text. Their website has a great preview tool so you can see just how it will look.
The customized 1 liter bottles are $27.99. Could be a fun way to personalize a bottle for a gift or promotion.
May 6, 2009
I looked at 3 loaves of bread. All were decent, to be sure.
One is a nice bread from a bakery in Colorado. Seems like good quality.
It cost $4.49
The next bread is the store brand (Whole Foods). I read the label and realized the ingredient list is the same as the first loaf! While both loaves have no hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup, they do have 20 ingredients.
Same ingredients, yet it costs $2.99
And finally, the loaf of bread that I think tastes great. It is made locally and the ingredient list is about as simple as a homemade loaf: 100% freshly stone ground whole wheat berries, water, honey, yeast, sea salt and nothing else.
But it costs the most at $4.79
My question is this: which would YOU buy?
May 5, 2009
Things are growing in my garden! I am really excited, and also in disbelief. I am crossing my fingers that something edible will appear one day.
If you click on the picture above you will see a larger view of what I am growing. It is a small little plot. I also have another corner of the yard planted with zucchini and peas.
Gardening is all new to me, so I am really enjoying seeing it change. I'm a little late at thinning the lettuce out (it is very crowded!) Wish me luck as I tackle that tomorrow.
May 4, 2009
One of my posts was picked up by Change Starts at Home. I am flattered, yet mostly excited that Home Green Home is getting some additional coverage. The Home Green Home story really embodies the purpose of the Change Starts at Home website—that women coming together can really improve and make an impact on the world.
April 30, 2009
Everyone's talking about it. And while I'm not going to panic, I am encouraging my kids to wash their hands frequently. I also picked up some more of my favorite sanitizing wipes form CleanWell.
I even wrote to the company to be sure that the CleanWell products would be effective at killing nasty germs. I was relieved to learn that they are!
"CleanWell All-Natural Hand Sanitizer is a safe and effective product proven in independent laboratory studies to perform as well as alcohol based products. So you can confidently use CleanWell just as you would an alcohol-based hand sanitizer."
CleanWell kills 99% of germs, including Staph (MRSA), Samonella and E.Coli. The thing with this flu virus is, the FDA won't let any products make anti-viral claims.
I feel better knowing that these wipes and sprays, made with natural, germ-killing essential oils like thyme and oregano will help us stay germ free.
April 29, 2009
I have a thing for books. I love to read and have piles of paperbacks (and some hardcovers) stacked around. But I am not a "keeper." While many of the books may hold a dear place in my heart, I can't see just leaving them on shelves like trophies for the rest of my life. It would be one thing if I thought I might go back and re-read them, or even if I might reference them. But I know I won't, and I'd love for someone else to have the chance to read them, too.
So what to do with all those good books?
I often use PaperBookSwap.com. It is a cool concept, but I find I send more books than I receive. The idea is that you trade used books. If you mostly send books, you are essentially paying up to $3.00 to give your books away. I can do that for a small stack, but not for 3 boxes worth!
So I took the 3 boxes to a used book store. I thought they would be so excited since lots of my titles were current bestsellers. Wrong! They were mostly interested in some the classics. Seems lots of people bring in the popular titles and they can only accept what they are needing at the time.
I decided the next step might be to donate the books. I called my public library and found out that they do accept used books and where I could drop them off. The library generally will sell most of them at a huge used book sale. If they are given an important book or something they need, they will add it to their circulation. Mostly they raise lots of money selling the donated books. I was glad they accepted mine!
But what happens with the books that aren't sold even at sales like this? Before they all head to the recycling center, some artists collect the used books for their material. Take a look at this women who makes purses from used books. They are pretty amazing!
Caitlin Phillips creates these beautiful book purses, which were recently featured on NPR.
Photo by Nell Greenfieldboyce/NPR.