March 31, 2009

in the news. . .

Today was a busy day for green news. I'll give a quick summary for all you busy folks:

The Democrats are proposing a really ambitious global warming bill—with even higher goals than Obama campaigned for. Passing the bill is sure to have many hurdles, but it is exciting to see leaders aim high.

Obama gave the auto industry reasons to build more fuel efficient cars. This is probably a great time to tell the EPA to support the Clean Cars Program, which was stalled (no pun intended) by the previous administration.

In local news, The San Francisco Board of Supervisors today passed a resolution calling on California to create a Do Not Mail Registry giving its citizens the choice to stop receiving unwanted junk mail. San Francisco is the first city in the United States to take political action against junk mail, marking the beginning of a long-awaited government intervention to protect citizens from relentless and predatory junk mailers, said ForestEthics Executive Director Todd Paglia. “Reducing junk mail is in keeping with our nation’s efforts to reduce our carbon footprint and lead more sustainable lifestyles,” said Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi.

And finally, another nut warning has popped up: stay away from pistachios until further notice! Salmonella has been found in them and a major recall is underway.

March 30, 2009

earth, the movie


Disneynature is releasing a gorgeous new film on Earth Day, appropriately called "Earth." I have to admit I was a little skeptical at first. Would it be animated or have a princess? Turns out this film is by the same acclaimed creative team ( Directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield) behind the award winning “Planet Earth" series.

Disney says, "Narrated by James Earl Jones, “Earth” tells the remarkable story of three animal families and their amazing journeys across the planet we call home. “Earth” combines rare action, unimaginable scale and impossible locations by capturing the most intimate moments of our planet’s wildest and most elusive creatures."

As a mom with some sensitive young kids, I asked the press contact if the film had any parts which a 3 year old might find scary (like scary music or maybe a baby animal in danger). The film is rated G, but I personally think that isn't always a good enough gauge for very young children. She told me that there is a scene where one polar bear dies, but that it wasn't scary. The film is one and a half hours long.

After watching the trailer, I have to admit the footage looks truly spectacular. I don't know how they film some of those shots! From what I understand, the film celebrates the beauty of the planet, and also has a call to action at the end encouraging viewers to care and become interested in environmental affairs.

Disneynature has also decided to celebrate the theatrical release of its premiere film by planting a tree in honor of every moviegoer who sees the film in its opening week. Go to the website to see the trailer or buy tickets.

March 26, 2009

earth hour 2009

It is that time again—to turn off our lights for Earth Hour on this Saturday, March 28th.

"Earth Hour began in Sydney in 2007, when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour. In 2008 the message had grown into a global sustainability movement, with 50 million people switching off their lights. Global landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Rome’s Colosseum, the Sydney Opera House and the billboard in Times Square all stood in darkness. 

In 2009, Earth Hour is being taken to the next level, with the goal of 1 billion people switching off their lights as part of a global vote."

So turn off your lights for an hour Saturday night, at 8:30 p.m. in your local time zone. I'm actually going to a dinner party where we will all be bringing candles!

10 links a day

A big thank you to Cindy and the Team at 10 Links a Day.com for including Mom Go Green on today's listing of Green Mom Bloggers!

March 23, 2009

food, glorious food



For the past week I've been trying to gather my thoughts about eating locally, sustainably and organically. I'm a big fan of the movement, but in the past few weeks I've been really trying to see how my family can save money, and I have to wonder if making exceptions with our food choices is a wise thing to do.

Just when I was trying to grapple with these considerations, Alice Waters appeared on 60 Minutes (see above), talking about how electing to eat this way is a choice about how you spend your money. She prefers to spend more on quality food and not spend it on other things. I agree in principal, but recognize that there may come a point for families where they are not splurging on other expenditures and still cannot afford to eat this way.

I am so glad that Michelle Obama has decided to plant an organic garden at the White House. I really liked looking at the garden plan (see the article) and thought about how maybe that could be an option for us—planting much more of our own produce would surely be economical, right?

Today the New York Times published a fantastic article that really summarized much of what has been on my mind and it was so cathartic to read. My thoughts are better focused now.

I want to continue to support the movement as a whole, and will continue to shop the same as much as I can. I'm still collecting the pricing data for my grocery survey, by the way. As I look at the bottom line, I can really appreciate that in tight times people might not be able to pay $7.00/dozen of pastured, free range eggs. I personally think the eggs are so worth it, they are more nutritious, have lower cholesterol, better flavor and color and are insanely fresh. Not cheap, though.

It is easy to say that eating this way is so expensive, but I really don't think it justifies calling the movement (or those in it) as elitist. The idea is to change the food system so that quality food is available to everyone at a fair price. It would be better for people's health, the land, and the small farmers. I just hope I can keep supporting it as reality sets in.

March 22, 2009

scrub-a-dub-dub

Thanks to everyone who participated in my recent poll about methods to clean a crusty pan. I have to admit I was relieved to know that other people resort to using a conventional synthetic sponge with both the yellow side and green scrubber side (51% of respondents). Of course this isn't a great environmentally sound solution, but these sponges do scrub really well.

Coincidentally, a few days after posting the poll I had a cooking disaster. The meal turned out fine, but the pan was one of the most baked-on disasters I have ever seen. In fact, the pan is still soaking in my kitchen, 5 days later. I've tried my natural brush (the pan laughed at it!) and then my synthetic brush. I also soaked it in hot water and then broke out the synthetic yellow/green scrubber sponge. Still not much progress.

I was loosing hope when a friend suggested I use baking soda and some boiling hot water. It helped! But there is still a little stubborn bit left. Might have to resort to using some steel wool (which 9% of poll respondents use) but I am concerned it might scratch my enameled porcelain pan. I might also try something called Bar Keepers Friend, which my friend told me about. It is an oxalic acid product, made from rhubarb. It is biodegradable, and contains no phosphates, bleach, or abrasive crystalline silica which may harm many surfaces. It looks like a pretty strong product, so I'm only exploring it as a last resort. Wish me luck! My only other option might be a chisel.

March 19, 2009

cool crayon rocks


I have a very fond memory of the time the Easter bunny brought me a new set of gorgeous magic markers. This might be why I am always inclined to put some small art supplies into my kids' Easter baskets.

I try to keep the baskets simple and dye the eggs naturally. This year I think the Easter bunny might bring the very cool crayon rocks at Stubby Pencil Studio. They also have some creative, artsy basket ideas on their site. All of their products are earth-friendly options.

March 17, 2009

lunchbots


I just discovered a cool, new container for packing lunches from LunchBots. I'm admittedly a bit obsessed with safe and convenient lunch packing systems. I try to avoid plastics and disposable wrappers. Another mom found it hard to find suitable packing containers that met her strict standards, so she decided to start her own company.

LunchBots are made from food grade stainless steel (even the lids). I haven't had a chance to try them myself, but they seem like very convenient shapes and sizes. The design is simple, yet appealing.

I personally have had good luck with the stainless containers that I found at Daiso, though I always wonder if the quality of the metal is safe. Plus, those pieces come with plastic lids, which are slowly but surely starting to crack and break, despite my gentle hand washing.

LunchBots is definitely on my list of containers to try if I should need to replace any of ours. I like that their website offers an opportunity to have a school fundraiser by placing a group order for the products.

March 16, 2009

smelling clean


When I first learned that fragrances contained neurotoxins a few years ago, I said goodbye to my signature scent.

But recently I went with a friend to a beautiful evening at the ballet, where people were dressed fabulously and the scents around us were lovely. I missed perfume. Surely there had to be some kind of safe compromise?

I did have some good leads on safer brands (noted in my previous post) but didn't have much success finding samples locally. Instead, I tried a brand that I could try at my local natural foods store. I found one that I like by Pacifica.

"Pacifica products are made using the finest, consumer-safe and sustainable raw materials, including natural ingredients and essential oils. Pacifica products are free of parabens, propylene glycol, phthalates and lead wicks. Products from every batch are randomly tested to ensure that the company’s high quality standards are met. Pacifica packaging is both recyclable and made with recycled content and the company reuses and reduces wherever possible, regularly reevaluating processes to maximize this effort. Pacifica is working towards carbon neutrality and is 100% committed to cruelty-free practices."

It's nice to have a fresh scent again!

March 12, 2009

more toxic bath bubbles


The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics sent out a press release today announcing a study they just completed which confirmed toxins in baby shampoos and washes. This is exactly the kind of surprising news that prompted me to start my blog in the first place!

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics commissioned an independent laboratory to test 48 products for 1,4-dioxane; 28 of those products were also tested for formaldehyde.

Neither 1.4-dioxane nor formaldehyde is an actual ingredient, so they aren't listed on the package. They are results of chemical things that happen in a product after certain ingredients have been packaged up together. The only way to know if a certain product has these toxins is to test for them.

"Formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane are known carcinogens; formaldehyde can also trigger skin rashes in some children. Unlike many other countries, the U.S. government does not limit formaldehyde, 1,4-dioxane, or most other hazardous substances in personal care products. . ."

. . .Formaldehyde contaminates personal care products when common preservatives release formaldehyde over time in the container. Common ingredients likely to contaminate products with formaldehyde include quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea and diazolidinyl urea.

1,4-dioxane is a byproduct of a chemical processing technique called ethoxylation, in which cosmetic ingredients are processed with ethylene oxide. Manufacturers can easily remove the toxic byproduct, but are not required by law to do so. Common ingredients likely to be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane include PEG-100 stearate, sodium laureth sulfate, polyethylene and ceteareth-20."

Manufacturers can easily remove these contaminants, but are not required by law to do so.

These toxins may be in many products which children and adults use. The cumulative exposure is a big concern. Those small exposures add up and may contribute to later-life disease. I remember learning that my favorite eco-dish soap had 1,4-dioxane in it. Seems nothing can be decisively considered safe unless it is proven safe in a lab test. I wish I knew where to send all my favorite products for a test!

For now, the most proactive action we can take is to let congress know that government standards are failing us in these products. We need to have better safeguards for products. You can also send an ecard to family and friends letting them know about the report.

March 10, 2009

new scrubber


I finally found a non-plastic scrub brush that I can use on dishes. I was so glad to find it, since I have been stalling on replacing my plastic scrubber that is looking tired—I've had it for well over a year!

The new scrubber is made of wood, a little bit of metal and natural bristles. I don't know the sources of these materials, but at least they can degrade eventually, unlike the plastic.

Here's the thing: I used the scrubber once and it already looks as tired as my year-old plastic version. I don't know how to quantify or rationalize which is a better choice, but it seems longevity should be a factor.

What do you use to scrub a crusty pan? Tell me by voting in the poll I've set up in the right sidebar. I don't know how to embed the poll into this post, so for now, it is over there. . . .

March 9, 2009

unpackaged



I thought this idea was a good follow up to the video I referenced in my last post.

Unpackaged is a shop in London which is all bulk, unpackaged organic wholefoods and environmentally friendly products for your home. Customers bring their own containers to fill up—and it is cheaper, too.

I would hope that most communities have a bulk shopping option. I don't mean bulk as in large quantities, but bulk as in buying flexible amounts from bulk bins and using your own containers.

San Francisco has a fantastic co-op grocery which has an amazing array of items available in bulk. I hope to write about it in detail sometime. Maybe I could even do my first video post on a tour of the bulk bins at Rainbow.

The Unpackaged website has a great summary of why shopping without packaging is important:

The Problem with Packaging

Cost: Unnecessary packaging increases the price of the goods you buy. It means you are charged twice; first when you buy over packaged goods and then through your council tax to dispose of your rubbish.

Waste: Unnecessary packaging is a waste of resources at every level: to produce, store and transport, remove and to dispose of.

Pollution: The two main methods of disposing of this packaging – landfill and incineration – are major pollutants for humans and the environment and release greenhouse gases.

What about recycling?
While some packaging is recycled, most ends up in landfill sites and some packaging is just difficult and often impossible to recycle. Recycling is certainly part of the solution, but it will only work if we use less packaging in the first place and adopt more reusable ways of doing things- it is this ethos of reuse that Unpackaged is based on.

Remember:
Reduce by only buying what you need
Reuse by bringing your containers for a refill
Recycle what you can’t reuse
And… if you can’t reuse or recycle it then don’t buy it!

I personally could do better at buying more items in bulk. I do make an effort to avoid certain products with ridiculous excess packaging or containers that cannot be recycled. For instance, I avoid buying liquid laundry detergent because those big plastic bottles make me nutty! But then again, Rainbow sells detergents, lotions, etc. in bulk, so that is pretty cool.

Do you have shops like Unpackaged in your area?

March 4, 2009

seeing is believing



The Ted Conference is always full of motivating, thought provoking and insightful speakers. I've never been fortunate enough to attend the sessions in person, so I am thankful that they share the fascinating presentation videos online.

Here's one such video, which I saw mentioned on Treehugger. It is about the phenomenon of garbage and plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean. When I first learned about the patch (larger than the state of Texas) I was horrified. Maybe Charles Moore is right, and there is not much hope of fixing it. But at least if people are informed about the reality, perhaps we can be more mindful of our choices.

As Moore says in the presentation,

"All the kings horses
and all the kings men
will never gather up all the plastic
and put the ocean back together again."

March 3, 2009

eco-me


Our school's silent auction fundraising event is this weekend and as I mentioned, I am planning on donating a Green Cleaning Kit. I've been preparing the bottles, comparing spray recipes, making the labels, and gathering the few ingredients.

All the while I keep thinking it would have been so easy to just order an attractive, handy, ready-to-go set from Eco-Me. Their Home Kit has practically everything you need (you supply the vinegar and baking soda) in a cute little sack.

March 2, 2009

polishing silver


the gruesome 'before' picture

It isn't like I use fancy silverware everyday. Far from it! My kids each received a silver baby cup when they were born and each family member has a silver napkin ring with our initials (also gifts). The napkin rings have been incredibly useful since we switched to cloth napkins last year.

So it isn't like I am well versed with polishing silver. They few times I did it I used silver polish in a bottle. It was messy and I was a little worried about cleaning and rinsing it all off before letting my kids use their cups again.

Now that our silver pieces have turned a dark, almost black color, I decided to see if I could find a safer method. Not only is the technique I found safer, it is a pretty fun and easy process!

To do this you'll need: aluminum foil, boiling water, baking soda and salt.


Line your sink or a bowl with aluminum foil, and drop in tarnished silver.


Pour in boiling water, a cup of baking soda and a dash of salt.


Let sit for a few minutes. The tarnish will transfer from the silver to the foil.


Voila!