April 30, 2009

no swine flu here!


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

book cycle


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.

April 28, 2009

big compost bags


Big paper compost bags are so handy. I bought these from an Ace Hardware store. You can use them to fill up yard waste, or you can use them as big trash bags for compostable scraps. I've used them at kid's birthday parties and such for all the food scraps and paper waste. I just write "COMPOST" really large on the side with a marker and voila!

They are a great alternative to plastic bags for all the yard clippings and trimmings.

April 27, 2009

baggu

Carrying a reusable bag has become increasingly common. There are so many brands and styles of bags to chose from, each with its own merits. It is a little like choosing a baby stroller—your preference will be dictated by how you need to use it: light and compact or sturdy and full of features?

I've been using reusable bags for awhile now, but my system is still a work in progress. I started with a nice set of nylon bags that folded up small, but I found that having bags with shoulder handles is actually really important as I lug 4 or 5 heavy bags up 2 flights of stairs. The collection of bags I have right now is a bulky, unsightly mess in my kitchen. I have a few of the bags that you can buy at the checkout line as well as some handmade ones that have been sewn from fabric. All those are shoved in my market basket, along with my stash of reusable produce bags.

my messy system

Enter Baggu.

Baggu bags are thoughtfully simple. I love how they are designed to be produced with maximum efficiency (little wasted fabric and time). I grappled with the fact that they are made from a synthetic material, but ripstop nylon is a good choice for strength and compactness. Plus, Baggu will accept the bags back at the end of their product life to be recycled. The compactness is sure to be appealing to urban dwellers who need to keep one with them at all times.

See for yourself:

April 23, 2009

green in san francisco


I really believe that being in San Francisco has made it much easier for my family to go green. I admit it—we have it easy! We have resources and programs which are so helpful. It would be great if San Francisco could be a model for other municipalities.

Take a look at these 2 short videos from The Weather Channel highlighting some of the environmental programs in San Francisco. One is about various green initiatives and the other is about the impressive waste management program.

April 20, 2009

earth cookies


I saw these cookies at the grocery today and just had to post them. Sorry my cell phone photo doesn't do them justice. They are special earth cookies in honor of Earth Day (which is Wednesday, April 22).

I love how the frosting is done so fluidly—it looks like earth from space and is not a predictable and literal globe illustration.

Plus, I really like the cookies that this particular bakery makes: delish!

April 19, 2009

food, inc.


I am so super excited about this new film! Food, Inc. seems to sum up the state of our food system and give compelling support to eating organically and locally.

I watched the trailer (click here, I could not embed it) and was bursting with excitement. The film seems to validate many of the books on the same subject (see what I've been reading). The premise of the film is that over the past 50 years the food system in our country has changed dramatically—for the worse. It is a problem for the health of both people and the environment.

I'm a little concerned that informative documentaries like this tend to be viewed by believers. I fantasize about ways the film could be shown to even wider audiences (like, maybe on Oprah or prime time television!) If people see it and decide it is a bunch of nonsense, then so be it. I can respect different opinions. I just dream that the information can be shared with as many folks as possible, so everyone can decide for themselves how they want to eat.

I'm looking forward to seeing the full film in the theater this summer. Make sure to tell everyone you know!

April 15, 2009

ecobunga! giveaway


With the economy being what it is, finding a deal has never been more appealing. Ecobunga! has become a welcome resource for finding the best prices and promotions on eco-friendly products.

I first reviewed Ecobunga!
last June and was excited about the great deals they highlighted. Since then, they have received their very own Business Seal of Approval from Green America, a non-profit which conducts a thorough screening program to see whether a business is indeed green. With all the greenwashing going on, it is a relief to know that the vetting process and criteria they use to screen green giveaways and deals met Green America’s standards.

Plus, Ecobunga! has started to post their very own giveaways! Every month in this year Ecobunga! is hosting a new giveaway featuring all sorts of eco-friendly goodies. For April the grand prize is a $100 gift certificate to Sage Creek Organics, a great source for cute certified organic cotton baby/toddler clothing & bedding. The runner-up wins a starter case of Tastybaby organic baby food valued at $40. The giveaway runs through April 30th and you can enter on their website.

April 14, 2009

you gotta laugh


I wish I knew the author/artist of the cartoon to give proper credit.

I received this cartoon in an email and thought it was pretty funny. I wanted to share a little humor about the whole sustainability-thing. Seems wise to keep it light and not let it consume your life.

April 13, 2009

pesticide peddlers

Have you seen this story swirling on the internet? Michelle Obama plants an organic garden at the White House and now big agriculture is on the defensive. A blog, La Vida Locavore, posted the original letter from the Mid America CropLife Association a few weeks ago.

Many speculate that since Mrs. Obama is a fan of organic produce and seems knowledgeable on the subject, she likely will see through many of their claims. It is interesting that MACA seems so threatened by the garden initiative! By the way, MACA represents agribusinesses like Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences and DuPont Crop Protection.

And in the best of internet fashion, you can sign a petition by Credo, "to tell the board members of MACA (virtually all of them big chemical executives) that we don't appreciate their telling Michelle Obama (or any of us) to use pesticides in our gardens. We support Michelle Obama's organic garden, and we'll thank them to keep their propaganda out of it."

By the way, I just planted my "first" organic garden (last year's was more of an experiment). Crossing my fingers for fresh veggies this summer! It will be so economical if it works.

April 12, 2009

sandclean


Happy day! I am so excited about a new product which my friend Caren just told me about. It is a biodegradable scrubber that actually works (according to reviews—I haven't got my hands on one yet).

A few weeks ago I posted a poll about what people use to scrub their pots and pans. I had been having a hard time finding a environmentally friendly product that actually worked well. Seems I'm not alone, as most people in the poll also used synthetic scrubber sponges for the job.

Caren read in the paper about a new sponge called the Sandclean. It is made of cotton with fine sand applied with a natural glue. It is biodegradable and comes in 3 levels of coarseness.

A review in the New York Times says, "They do not rust or disintegrate and do a better job than plastic scrubbing pads on the residue on the bottoms of pans."

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the maker of the Sandclean claims, "it should last for at least six months of tough use, which could justify its cost: $8.95 for the fine and medium grains and $9.95 for the rough."

The Sandclean is biodegradable and can be used for scrubbing vegetables and in many other parts of the house. I cannot wait to try one! (Or two, I don't know which grit to use). You can buy them from Korin online.

April 10, 2009

natural easter


It is that time of year again—time to dye eggs and decorate for spring. I cannot believe this will be my third post about natural Easter preparations (the first was in March of 2007).

Not much has changed in my plans. We are going to continue to experiment with natural egg dyes made from foods. I heard about a nice set of natural dyes sold at Nova Natural, but I didn't plan ahead to order them in time. I think I will try half our eggs with the boiled method and half with the cold dip method. I need to go pick up some beets and cabbage. I already have onion skins and tumeric. I've not had good luck with a natural green color. I know spirulina can make a good green cookie icing dye...I wonder if it would work for egg coloring? In the past I've tried spinach and it came out too light.

For the kids' Easter baskets we'll put some shredded green paper which we save and reuse each year. If I had planned ahead, we could have grown some real grass in the basket. It is easy to do (my kids do it at school). All you need is a plastic liner in the basket, some soil, and some wheatgrass seeds. They grow quickly and sturdily (so well in fact that my husband and I joke about sprinkling the seeds on the dirt patches in our yard).

I wish I knew about an alternative to plastic eggs for egg hunts. Lots of people have asked me about that. Using a more eco-friendly material would be a great business opportunity since the demand is there! I envision a safe metal, kind of like these vintage metal eggs or maybe some kind of biodegradable material. In the meantime, I think people should keep reusing the plastic eggs they have (don't toss 'em!)

I mentioned a few posts ago about some cool crayons I plan to put in the Easter baskets. I'm sure some sweet treats will be in there, too.

April 8, 2009

potty soil


I got a kick out of watching this video and thought you might, too. It is only 5 minutes long and is about a non-profit called SOIL, which is helping poor people in Haiti by providing compostable toilets.

April 7, 2009

a fancy find


Image from Bon Appétit. Photo by Levi Brown.

When I picked up a copy of Bon Appétit last month I wasn't expecting to find eco-fodder for my blog. Among the tantalizing recipes and gorgeous photos I found a page devoted to the "Super Eco Shopping Bag." It sounds and looks lovely, alright—hand knit in Wisconsin with double-woven six-ply hemp yarn.

Imagine my surprise when I saw the price tag of $75.

Are you kidding me? I'm a big fan of handmade and crafty projects. I even like to shop at Etsy (where this bag is sold). But is featuring this particular bag in it's solo grandeur on a full page going to help convert people to reusable bags? Or are people going to read it and scream like I did, "ARE YOU F*@!ing KIDDING ME?!"

By the way, reusablebags.com has organic cotton string bags made with fair labor/fair wage for $6.95 (less if you buy more than one).

April 6, 2009

my daily sunscreen


Over the past few years I've been looking for the perfect sunscreen. My parameters usually were focused on a safe sunscreen the whole family could slather on at the beach without breaking the bank.

The products I've found have been great for that purpose, but recently I have found a fantastic sunscreen to use specifically on my face everyday. Using a daily sunscreen is good sense, yet I had always neglected it because the products I found often had a thick, white cast to them (from the minerals) or were made with dangerous chemicals.

Two separate people suggested an excellent product to me, so I figured it was truly worth a try. Marie-Véronique Organics' products are handmade with carefully selected all natural ingredients. Their Crème de Jour Tinted, SPF 30 product is absolutely amazing. It is made with incredibly pure ingredients, including non-micronized zinc. It has no nanoparticles, no chemicals and no parabens. It contains no fillers, waxes, fragrances, artificial colors or chemical sunscreens. Yet it offers great broad spectrum protection yet goes on so incredibly smoothly. It is not greasy at all and is incredibly light. I even learned that it is one of the top 10 sunscreens rated by Enviromental Working Group!

I'm so impressed I am thinking of exploring their product line further. My friend swears by their range of products. It is such a relief to find an effective and clean product that I can really trust.

April 1, 2009

thinking outside the bag

Kids Konserve is sponsoring an inspirational contest in honor of Earth Day. A major focus of this new reusable-lunch-kit company is to educate schools about waste-free lunches. They have written a little story on their blog about how young children may be the impetus for change in our habits.

Kids Konserve wants to hear your voice. If you were asked to create one thing that could help stop people from creating waste, what would it be? How/What do you do to help the planet? What do you reuse?What would you and your family have to do to stop creating so much waste? How will you celebrate Earth Day this year? To enter the contest, all you have to do is leave a comment on their blog. All comments will be entered to win and the drawing will take place on April 22, Earth Day.

I appreciate the big, random ideas that I've read from other comments already. Seems that outrageous ideas are the ones that bring big changes and inspire people.