Monday, March 31, 2008

Weaning Ourselves off of the Bottle(d Water)

I've been meaning to do a post for some time on bottled water, but I haven't had the time to get together the type of statistics I want. I came across this post today from Sustainablog (great name by the way) with a lot of eye opening information. It's well worth the read. Until I do my own post on the subject, I suggest you take some time to read this one. Stumble Upon Toolbar

Earth Hour Update

We did it. We turned out all of the lights in the house for one hour Saturday night between 8 and 9pm. We also turned off the tv and the gaming systems. It meant the boys missed the first hour of the Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Awards which they had been looking forward to, but it's Nick - they'll rerun it a million times this week.

We lit a bunch of candles in the room we call The Internet Cafe - it's a small room off of our kitchen with the boys' computer and a table for them to do their homework. It's also a really great place just to sit in the morning and have coffee - hence the room's name. We pulled out Monopoly and played by candlelight. By the end of the hour my eight year old was getting a little bored and my husband was having trouble reading by candlelight so we ended the game. My five year old, however, loved it and said it was the best part of his day.

I don't know anyone else who participated in Earth Hour, but apparently communities all across the country participated. Next year, I plan to help organize my community to participate. 

I couldn't find much news about the results of Earth Hour in the U.S. (not surprising), but here are some inspiring news articles from around the globe:

Chicago kept 840,000 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
In Canada, there were significant savings in energy, including an 8.7% reduction in Toronto.
In Manilla, Earth Hour was hailed a huge success as power companies saw a huge dent in consumption.
Melbourne had an impressive 10.1% drop in energy usage.

This is only Earth Hour's second year. The number of participants this year increased by the millions from last year. Let's hope that next year the increase is even greater.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Earth Hour - It's Today

Well, I'm almost a little late for this party. I just found out about this late last night. Tonight at 8pm (whenever it's 8pm in their own time zone) people all over the world will turn off the lights in their homes, businesses, and organizations for one hour. Just one hour. 

For more information, or to sign up for the event (not that you have to sign up to participate, but the organizers are looking to get statistics) go to the Earth Hour website, here.

We're going to participate. How about you?
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Friday, March 28, 2008

Philadelphia's Green Building Product Store - Greenable

Yesterday I told you about my trip to Philadelphia and how everywhere I looked things seemed to be turning up green. I also quickly mentioned the new building product store Greenable. I had heard about this new store in Old City, and we decided to hunt it down after our lunch. We almost walked right by it. It's a small store front located on Market between Front and 2nd, but once inside we realized that Greenable has a lot more to offer than just what is on their showroom floor.

We were greeted by the store's executive director, Angelo. We had lots of questions, and he took the time to answer and explain in depth all that we asked. I was specifically interested in learning about the bamboo flooring, and he showed us some beautiful samples of flooring that I would love to use in our home when we do our renovation and addition.

Some of the things that can be seen and purchased at Greenable's store are paints, stains & finsihes, wall coverings, carpeting, flooring, counter tops, sheet materials, insulation made from old denim jeans, and cleaning products. All are, of course, smarter and greener than the products you'd find at a tradtional building product store. 

Greenable also offers services. They can help with a project from the design phase right through the end of redesigning one room or building an entire building.

We were really impressed by the store. I think what I appreciated the most was the fact that we felt like Angelo seemed sincere in helping and educating us. Not once did he try to sell us anything. He let us look, ask our questions, and then leave to think it all over. That is the kind of place that my husband and I like to do business with. Since we're planning an addition to our home in the near future, it's good to know there is a place like Greenable that is available to help us do it right.
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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Evidence of Green in Philadelphia

The boys are home on Easter break this week, and my husband and I hired a babysitter yesterday and headed across the bridge into Philadelphia. We had no plans except lunch reservations, and it turned out to be a day of green in Philadelphia.

Our reservations were at White Dog Cafe, a restaurant known for using fresh, local, natural ingredients and for being socially active. We were lucky enough to get a parking spot right on the block where the restaurant is, and when we got out of the car the first thing we noticed was a sign on a gate that read King's Court English College House Green Roof Project. The sign described the garden that will be on the roof of this University City (the neighborhood of Philly we were in - Penn and Drexel are located there) building that would help to cool the top floor of the building as well as the surrounding block. 

We then passed a huge recycling bin that was divided into three sections right in the middle of the block. It was ugly, but it was in plain site and made it easy for anyone walking by to recycle plastic, glass or paper. In a college neighborhood, that's really convenient.

We had some time to kill before our lunch reservations so we headed to the corner college bookstore. Outside on a sale table I found a wonderful Seasonal Food cookbook, something this locavore wannabe snatched up for only $10. Inside the store, the staff was listening to the local station that carried All Things Considered, and they were discussing the growing desire in our country for local food, and the problems that some farms are facing being able to supply it. 

I sensed a theme. In one city block there was a rooftop garden being developed, a restaurant catering to locavores, an in your face recycling bin, and talk of the local food movement being broadcast from the speakers. Green was everywhere. Oh, and in the bookstore when I purchased my cookbook and another small book, I was asked, "Would you like a bag?" instead of just being handed a bag that was completely unnecessary to carry the small amount I had just purchased.

Our first half hour spent on the 34th block of Samson Street set the mood for the day. Green was the topic of conversation. At lunch, my husband and I talked about creating a website that points people in our local area to all of the environmentally friendly businesses in our immediate area. We talked about how we're going to try to make the addition to our home we are planning as green as possible. Sitting at the table at White Dog Cafe, I finally got the confirmation that my husband is really on board with the direction my life and my writing are taking. 

It was a good day.

After lunch we headed to Old City and hunted down a new green home building supply store called Greenable. Come back tomorrow, and I'll tell you all about this fabulous store and their knowledgeable, helpful, friendly staff.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Green Term of the Week: Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin (rbST)

Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin (rbST) is the synthetic growth hormone that is given to cows to make them grow bigger so that they can produce  more milk. It is completely unnecessary for the health of the cow, and many studies show it is actually harmful to the cow.  In fact, in 1999, Canada banned its use because of its effects on cows and it is also banned in New Zealand, Australia and parts of Europe.

In the U.S., the  FDA (who I am growing increasingly unhappy with) not only allows the use of rbST in cows, but it does not require the products made from those cows to be labeled with its use. In fact, the company that makes the hormone, Monsanto, is currently trying to get legislation passed to make it illegal for milk cartons in the state of Pennsylvania to indicate that the milk does not contain rbST. 

The FDA says that rbST is safe for humans, that it cannot produce effects in humans because the hormone cannot survive digestion and even if it did our bodies don't have the right growth hormone receptors to recognize it. 

But I'm not buying it. I'm not buying their research and I'm not buying the milk. There are many independent studies that have been done that show theirs a possibility that those who drink milk with rbSt have increased chances for allergies and antibiotic resistance. There are others who believe that the hormones in the milk are causing early physical development in children.

I can't say for certain that rbSt has any negative effects on humans. But I'm not taking the chance. I don't buy everything organic, but with as much milk as my kids drink, I do buy organic milk. Milk that is labeled "hormone free" isn't necessarily organic, but it's a step in a healthier direction.

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Wal-Mart's Milk is Going Hormone Free

According to a report last week, Wal-Mart is going to discontinue using cows that are treated with artificial growth hormones to supply the milk for their private label Great Value. They are making the change due to customer demand.

I personally don't shop at Wal-Mart. There isn't one particularly convenient to me, and the few times I've been in one, it's been dirty and cluttered. But I know that there are many, many people who do shop in Wal-Mart, and it's good to know that those who buy their milk there won't be adding unnecessary growth hormones to their family's diet.  Now, if they could promise to take the added antibiotics out of the milk, too, that would be fantastic.
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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Staying Green During the (Possible) Recession

I just finished reading an article about our country's economic woes. We aren't in an official recession yet, but it looks like one is coming. Prices are already rising. That really hit home with me a few weeks ago when the Friday night pizza delivery guy wanted $3 more for our pizza than he had the week before. That was about a 33% increase. Yikes.

Many aspects of going green will save you money, but there are areas where it costs more to be green. For me, the biggest hit to my wallet when it comes to being green is at the grocery store. Organic and natural items cost more, and I've read lots of arguments that Americans are going to have to accept that their food will cost more if they want food that is good for both the health of the environment and themselves. I can accept that. It costs more to produce organic and natural food.

But when the economy gets bad, I think that some people who understand that good food needs to cost more may revert back to buying a lot of processed, bad for them food because it costs less. When you've got a family to feed and the money is tight, it's tempting to buy what's on sale and you've got a coupon for, instead of buying fresh, whole foods.

I'm no expert on recession proofing your family, but I have been thinking about how to stretch my grocery dollars and still continue to feed my family healthy food if and when economic times get tougher. Here are some ideas that have been going through my mind:

Rethink your meat consumption 
I am by no means a vegetarian, but I've been preparing meatless meals once in a while lately. I've also been consciously buying the amount of meat I need instead of wasting so much. For instance, we cook burgers at least once every two weeks. My boys like burgers, but never eat more than half of theirs each. It occurred to me that I only need to cook them one burger and split it in half. That way, I buy less meat and spend less money.  

Use your leftovers wisely
How often do you throw leftovers away? I cringe when I clean out the frig and realize how much is getting thrown down the disposal. I've begun to have leftover night. I tell everyone what there is in the frig and let them choose what they want to eat. I often end up reheating several different dishes, but more leftovers are getting eaten. I'm also cooking one less new dish each week - that saves money. 

If you aren't going to use leftovers before they go bad - freeze them. There have been many nights when my husband has been away that I've been able to defrost two small pieces of chicken or a small amount of taco meat for a meal for the boys and me. It's saved many a trip through the dreaded fast food window.

Buy from the bulk bins
I know not all grocery stores have them, but if yours does, check them out. I buy organic slow cooking oatmeal from the bulk bins for much less than if I bought it packaged on the shelf. Organic rice, lentils and other dry goods are less expensive there, too. 

There are probably many other ideas about how to keep buying good food even if prices continue to rise, and I'll write more of them as I think of them. If you've got some ideas, please share them in the comments.

I have a feeling things are going to be economically tight for a while for us in the U.S. It would be a shame if just when the problems of the environment were just starting to really sink in to our national consciousness that our money problems caused us to revert back to some of our old ways. It's time to start thinking now of how we can continue to be green if the hard economic times hit, so we're prepared if it happens.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Plastic Container Guide

This is the best and most straight forward guide I've found on understanding the different types of plastics and what the numbers on the bottom of them mean. It's from National Geographic.

If you want to know which plastics are safer to eat and drink from and which ones are smarter to avoid, check out the site.
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A Natural Breakfast Cereal My Kids Really Like - Peanut Butter Bumpers

I found an all natural cereal that my kids really like. Mother's All Nutural Peanut Butter Bumpers. They look just like PB Cap'n Crunch. We didn't do a taste test between the two cereals, I haven't bought Cap'n Crunch in years. I don't think it's necessary. The kids and I both loved the taste of the Bumpers.

So here's the ingredients in the Peanut Butter Bumpers:

Corn flour, unsulphured molasses, natural peanut butter (ground peanuts, salt), oat flour, rice flour, salt, honey, natural mixed tocopherols (vitamin E).

Here's the ingredients in Cap'n Crunch (take directly from their website):


Now, the Cap'n Crunch has added vitamins and minerals while the All Natural cereal does not. But they are chemically added vitamins and minerals, not natural ones. The Cap'n Crunch also contains BHT as a preservative which is considered one of the top additives to keep away from your kids.

I know it would be healthier if my kids ate things like fruit, eggs, and organic whole grain slow cooking oatmeal for breakfast, and at times they do. But on many school mornings, woofing down a bowl of cereal is the best they have time for. So, I've been looking for the best I can find, and The Mother's Peanut Butter Bumpers work for us.

I've been able to buy them in the natural/organic food section of Wegmans, and I also bought them in the regular cereal isle at my local Pathmark. 

Do you have any all natural or organic box cereal that your kids love and you'd recommend?

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Friday, March 21, 2008

The Lorax Project Update

As promised, I'm checking up on The Lorax Project website from time to time to see if it's up and running. As of today, it's still unavailable. I did find some information on Publishers Weekly website from an article titled Green Spotlight Shines on The Lorax.

According to the article, the book's publisher Random House will launch the project "on April 22 in conjunction with Conservation International and Dr. Seuss Enterprises. The initiative is designed to raise awareness of environmental issues and raise money that will be used by Conservation International to fund activities to protect endangered forests and species."

Okay, so there's a little more information. Funds raised from The Lorax Project will help to protect endangered forests and species. Make perfect sense with the theme of the book.

I checked out Conservation International's website, and as of right now, I can find no information on the project. 

I'm thinking about contacting Random House and seeing if they can give me any more information. I'll keep you all posted on what I find.

Remember "UNLESS someone like you care a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Little Environmentally Friendly Laundry Changes: Part 2

The other day I wrote about the fact that even though I can't buy new, shiny, energy efficient appliances, I can still make small changes in the way I do my laundry to help make a difference. I gave some suggestions for washing the laundry, now I'm going to give some suggestions for drying the laundry.

  • Use your solar powered dryer whenever possible - in other words - hang the laundry outside instead of putting it in the dryer. It's not possible with everything. Some people aren't even allowed to have clothes lines in their yards due to town ordinances (stupid, but true). Some things don't turn out well dried on the line, towels for instance. But sheets, they are fabulous when line dried. If you can hang just one or two loads out a week, it helps.
  • Hang dry things inside, too. I have a pole in the basement that I hang clothes from. Sometimes, when I have two loads that are similar - say two loads of darks, I'll wash one, hang what can be hanged, and put the rest in the dryer without turning it on. Then I'll wash the next load immediately, hang what I can from that, and add the remainder to the dryer. Then turn it on. I end up washing two loads but only drying one.
  • Skip the commercial dryer sheets. Basically, they are full of harmful chemicals to make clothing soft, and then loaded with harmful chemical fragrances to mask the smell of the softening chemicals. They are bad for your health and they are bad for the environment when they end up tossed in the trash and eventually in the landfill. For more information on dryer sheets, read this
  • Find out how long it really takes to dry your clothes. Like many dryers, mine has an automatic cycle on it. It's supposed to turn itself off when the laundry is dry. But when I use mine, the laundry is still pretty wet when it's done. So I started just putting the dryer on to the maximum amount of time - 80 minutes - and drying everything on that. When I started going green, I decided to find out how long it really took loads to dry by decreasing the time in ten minute intervals. My whites only take about 50 minutes. My loads with heavy jeans take about 70. Make sure you adjust the time accordingly with each load.
  • Keep your dryer clean from lint. Always empty out the lint trap, and clean the entire lint system out at least twice a year. Lint trapped in the dryer makes it less efficient. It's also a fire hazard.
Last year, The Wall Street Journal reported that "Clothes dryers account for 6% of total electricity consumed by U.S. households, third behind refrigerators and lighting, according to the Residential Energy Consumption Survey by the federal Energy Information Administration." That's a lot of energy used to dry clothes. If everyone dried a few less loads a week, a lot of energy would be saved.
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Green Term of the Week - Bamboo

I know, I know. I missed posting the green term of the week yesterday. I missed posting at all yesterday. Sorry. Sometimes, the paying clients get precedent over my blogging. I'll try not to let it happen again any time soon.

Okay, on the to the green term - bamboo. Bamboo is a very fast, easy to grow reed, and it can be used as an alternative to wood or cotton. It can grow tall and spread 30 inches in one year. That makes it very sustainable. Because it grows so easily, the pesticides and chemicals that are used to grow some other plants aren't as necessary with bamboo and it can be grown organically.

What can be made from bamboo? Clothing, bedding, furniture, flooring, fences, kitchen utensils, plates and bowls, and many many other items can be made from this amazingly sustainable plant.

Some things to consider when looking at bamboo products:

  • Just because it's bamboo doesn't mean it's organic. Sure, it can be grown organically easily, but that doesn't mean it is. You may want to see if the bamboo product your purchasing (particularly if it's clothing or bedding) is made with 100% organic bamboo. 
  • The other day I was looking for new bedding and found a set at Target packaged as bamboo bedding. When I looked at the label it was 40% bamboo/60% cotton, and the word organic was no where to be found. I opted for the 100% organic cotton bedding that was lined up right next to it on the shelf, instead.
  • Some bamboo furniture and other "wood" products can be coated with harmful finishes made form chemicals. Make sure you know what else is in the product besides just the bamboo.
  • Bamboo is not a widely grown plant in the U.S. (although it could be). That means that a lot of bamboo is important from far away countries. 

So, when looking  at bamboo products, take into consideration how it was grown, and it is with mixed with before purchasing. 

When we add on to and renovate our home in the next couple of years, bamboo flooring is definitely one option I'll be considering. 

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Little Environmentally Friendly Laundry Changes: Part 1

You know, I see commercials for these huge energy efficient washers and dryers, and I start to covet them. They're so shiny and big. Big enough to do all of the jeans my family of four wears in a week at once. My husband and I both work from home - there's a lot of jeans wearing in my house.

New laundry appliances are no where in my immediate future, and I'm stuck with an old washer and slightly less older dryer. But that doesn't mean I can't take some deliberate measures to make doing the laundry a little more environmentally friendly. Here are some things that I do, and anyone can do, regardless of the size and age of the washer and dryer.

1. Use a more eco-friendly laundry detergent. There are many eco-friendly laundry detergents on the market, and if you can afford them, that's great. But if you can't afford the higher priced detergents, there are still regular products that are better than others. The detergents that are labeled "free and clear" are better choices environmentally than those with dyes and perfumes. The chemicals used for the fragrances and colors in the detergents are harmful to the environment. By simply buying the free and clear detergents, you're helping out just a little bit.

2. Buy a highly concentrated laundry detergent. They come in smaller packages and wash the same amount of laundry as a larger bottle. Less plastic is used in the packaging so there is less waste.

3. Always recycle your detergent bottles.

4. Wait for a full load before you run the washer, if possible. You'll use less water and less energy.

5. If you have to run a load without the washer being full, adjust the water level appropriately. Sometimes I need to run a load because one of the boys needs a karate or soccer uniform washed or I may HAVE to wear a certain pair of jeans. When that happens, I fill the washer as much as possible, but I make sure to adjust the water level and the amount of detergent I'm putting in the washer. 

6. Use cold water as often as possible. It takes a lot of energy to heat the hot water for a load of laundry. If you can use cold, do so. The only time I use hot water anymore is when I'm doing a particularly smelly load of towels or washing bedding after a sickness.

7. Stay away from harsh cleaners such as bleach. If you must have your whites sparkling white, try soaking them in a solution of one part hydrogen peroxide to eight parts cold water overnight. 

So if, like me, you can't go out and exchange your energy inefficient appliances immediately, don't fret. Do what you can do, and know that today, you're being a little greener, and every little bit helps.

Tomorrow, in Part 2, I'll talk about being a little more environmentally friendly when drying clothes. In the meantime, if you've got any suggestions to add, leave them in the comments.
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Monday, March 17, 2008

Couple Married 83 Years

I know this has nothing to do with being green, but everyone needs to take a minute and read the story, here, of the couple that just made it in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest marriage. 

Clarence and Mayme Vail got married in 1925 and are both still alive and glad to be married to each other. This morning on the radio all I heard was bad news. This should be the lead story of all news shows today. This is the kind of stuff we need to know about.
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It's Green's Favorite Holiday - Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Today, everyone is Irish, right? I saw a lot of kids wearing green walking into school when I dropped my son off this morning. I didn't even think of dressing my Irish guys in green. I think that if I told them I wanted to wear green today, they would get annoyed because recently I've been all about green and I think they are starting to grow weary of hearing about it. They wouldn't have seen it as a St. Patrick's Day thing, they would have seen it as a mommy thing.

I wrote a piece last week that will be published on another blog in the near future (I'll let you know when it appears) about how I'm helping my kids to make being environmentally friendly a part of their everyday lives so it just is how they live and not something that is a big deal.

I suppose it's hard when they've got a mom ramming it down their throats all the time. No one likes to hear the same thing over and over. If I was just quietly turning my family green like lots of parents are doing, that would be one thing. But our family's greening is something that I talk about, write about, announce to the world almost daily. It's part of my job to talk about it. 

The boys hear people ask me about environmental things all the time. Yesterday at church I was asked if I knew anything about eco-friendly palms (it was Palm Sunday), and I said I hadn't really thought of it, but I'd look into it for next year. 

Like most normal kids, when mom says to do one thing, they like to see what happens when they do the opposite. I wonder if I'm going to start having an eco-rebellion in my house. I think it would be different if this was the way I raised them from babies. But I'm trying to change the habits that I helped to ingrain in them from birth. Resistance is bound to happen. 

If anyone has any advice or words of wisdom, please share them. I'd love to know how others help their kids make green just another thing they do.
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Friday, March 14, 2008

Dr. Suess' The Lorax Project

 I've mentioned the book The Lorax on this blog quite a few times, but I have a confession to make. We never owned the book up until today. We have, however, borrowed it from the library dozens of times over the past six years or so. But my brother gave me a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble for my birthday, and I spent hours online the other night choosing books. 

The books came today, and attached to my new copy of The Lorax is a sticker that says it is printed on recycled paper (yay!) and mentions something called The Lorax Project.

This is what the back of the book says: On Earth Day 2008, Conservation International, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, and Random House will launch The Lorax Project, a multifaceted initiative designed to raise awareness of environmental issues and inspire earth-friendly action worldwide by passionate individuals of all ages. 

It says to visit, but as of right now the link doesn't work. I suppose it will work by April 22nd (Earth Day), but I'll be checking frequently and if it works before then, I'll let you know.

I'm hoping that whatever The Lorax Project turns out to be, it's something that I can share with my boys. They love Dr. Suess, and I've been looking for ways to get them more interested in environmental concerns. I'd love it if eventually they took this on as their own concern, and not just something that their mom does and they join in once in a while. 
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Thursday, March 13, 2008

World Water Day Walk for Water

A few days ago I blogged about the prescription drugs that are contaminating the water in the U.S. It certainly is a problem that needs to be addressed. But compared to the water that many people in developing nations need to use every day for drinking, bathing, cooking and sanitation, the water available to me and my family in the U.S. is fabulous. 

On Saturday, March 22nd, I (and the rest if of my family if I can talk them into it) will be participating in the World Water Day Walk for Water with others from my church. It's estimated that women in many developing countries have to walk an average of 1.5 miles a day just to get water for their families, and the water that they do get is often of very poor quality. 

What does this have to do with being green? Lots.

This water crisis is due in part to the changing global climate. Whether you believe that the reasons behind the changing climate have to do with global warming or not, the fact is that things are changing. 

The water crisis is causing a health crisis. It kills as many as 5000 children a day. The people faced with this crisis spend much of their time seeking out water. Girls often have to forgo an education just to collect water for their families to survive. All of this focus on water leaves these people with little time to devote to the other environmental problems that their countries face. It's not their fault. They need water to live. 

But even if this had nothing to do with being green, it's something I would do. I believe in being green for two reasons. One is because I want the environment to be a nurturing place for my children and their children. The other is because I believe in creation care. God created this planet and expects us to care for it. But he also created people and expects us to care for them whether they live in our neighborhood or half way around the world. This is one way I can help care for those half way around the world. 

The money raised from this walk will be donated to WaterAid, an organization which does great things to help people in developing nations get clean, safe water and maintain their sources of water. If you're interested in sponsoring me on my walk, please e-mail me.
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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Green Term of the Week: High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

HDPE is a kind of plastic resin that is used in things like milk and water bottles, detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, grocery bags, and margarine containers. It's the type of plastic that has a number 2 in the center of the recycling symbol.

HDPE is one of the easier plastics to recycle and most community recycling programs accept these products. They usually aren't recycled into their original form. Often HDPE products are recycled into things like park benches, milk crates, toys, plastic lumber, and plastic speed bumps. 

If you are concerned about the chemicals that leech out of plastic water bottles, look for bottles with a #2 on the bottom. HDPE is one of the safer plastics and is one that is considered reusable/refillable. If the water bottle has a #1 on the bottle, it is safe for only one use and then should be recycled. 

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Can I Still be Green and Keep My Addiction to Diet Soda?

Hi my name is Robin and I'm a diet sodaholic. I've tried to quit. I really have. I've gone for months without it. I was pregnant twice and went without. A few years ago I quit for months without the pregnancy incentive. But I always go back. 

I always wonder if the check out person at the grocery store is judging what's in my cart. Organic milk, eggs, oatmeal, soups, natural peanut butter, and hormone and antibiotic free meats sit side by side in my cart with bottles of diet cola. They all get put into my reusable grocery bags and then loaded into the back of my Prius. 

But the diet soda (along with a certain colored box of macaroni and cheese that is a staple in my house) make me feel like a fraud, and I know that the cashier is thinking it, too. I can hear what's going on in her mind, "Here's another one of those mommies following the green fad. She's probably also ready to switch back to leggings and skinny jeans." 

So today, I decided to go without the diet soda. Since it's not the caffeine I'm trying to give up but the aspartame, I started out my day with a great big cup of coffee (organic and fair trade, but even that doesn't impress the cashier, I'm sure). By lunch time, I was jonesing. I had to fill the Prius up before I went to get my taxes done, and there at the gas station were two soda machines. That's all it took to break my will. "Just one bottle," I thought. "16 oz and that will be all." Both machines were out of diet sodas. I had to go get my taxes done without my "drinking problem" as my mother refers to it. 

By 2:30, I was exhausted. I actually fell asleep while trying to read. If the cat hadn't jumped up on my lap just before 3pm, I would have slept right through picking up the boys from school.
I decided that it wasn't the right time to give up my addiction, but then I read a very timely article. 

Over at Natural News, Jennifer McKinley reported today on a bill in the Hawaiian legislature to ban products with aspartame. There is enough evidence that is bad for you that people are trying to pass laws to ban it. 

In addition to the toxicity of aspartame, studies indicate that drinking diet soda can actually cause you to gain weight! I've been working very hard to loose weight recently, and I've been fairly successful at it, but I wonder if I've been retarding my efforts with all of the diet soda I've been drinking. 

I'm not just trying to green the earth, I'm trying to green my body, too.  I want to treat it with respect and nourish it - not poison it. 

So, can I be green and still drink my diet soda? Sure. No one is 100% perfect at this green thing. 

But I'm not going to drink any diet soda, today. And perhaps when I wake up tomorrow, I'll make the same decision. One day at a time, right? 

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Associated Press Investigation: Drugs in the Drinking Water

A friend of mine sent me this link last night to an AP article about the levels of pharmaceutical drugs in the drinking water. It's very eye opening.  Basically, drugs are getting into our water because our bodies don't absorb all of them when they are taken. Some of the drugs pass through our bodies and back out into the water system. 

But it's not just the drugs that humans are taking. The steroids that are being given to cattle to make them bigger to get more meat from them are turning up in water systems, too. According to the study "Water sampled downstream of a Nebraska feedlot had steroid levels four times as high as the water taken upstream. Male fathead minnows living in that downstream area had low testosterone levels and small heads." Now here's another great argument for all natural, organic meat and dairy products. If the cattle aren't given the steroids in the first place, they can't leech into the drinking water.

I'm not a scientist, and I don't have any answers to the problems that this report exposes. The report says that even home water filtration systems may not be of any help in this instance and bottled water is usually no better than tap. But I wanted to bring the study to everyone's attention today just to help spread the information.
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Friday, March 7, 2008

A Green Alternative to Antibacterial Hand Washing: CleanWell Products, Day 2

Yesterday, I reviewed the hand soap that
CleanWell products asked me to review for them. They also sent me a second product, their all natural hand sanitizer which comes in both a spray and individual wipes.

A while ago I got one of those alarming mass e-mails warning that hand sanitizers have the potential to poison children if ingested.  Unlike 99% of those stupid e-mails, this one turned out to be true (according to Snopes). Children who lick enough off of their hands or drink from the container can get alcohol poisoning. It's not just children. I also recently read about an inmate somewhere (who apparently had a substantial substance abuse problem) who drank it to get intoxicated. These products have a really nasty taste, but that doesn't always deter everyone.

So an all natural hand sanitizer that contains no ethyl alcohol (which is the main ingredient in regular santizers), caught my attention. Here's some information it.

CleanWell All Natural Antibacterial Hand Sanitzer

The info from the company:

  • kills 99.99% of erms including MRSA, E. Coli, and Salmonella
  • all natural ingredients
  • alcohol free
  • non toxic chemicals
  • safe for kids
  • 4x more uses per oz. than alcohol gels
  • safe for sensitive skin
  • biodegradable
  • certified cruelty free
  • active ingredient: thymus vulgaris oil (the essential oil in common thyme)
  • scent: citris herb

my take:

Just like the hand soap, the first thing you notice with this is the scent. Interestingly, the first thing all of the children whose noses I stuffed it under smelled was the citrus. They would either say they smelled lime or lemon. All of the adults noticed the herb - the tyme or oregano, which is also in it.

It smells good, but not what you expect for something that is essentially a cleaning product. Most of the people liked it, but again, my oldest son didn't like it and neither did my mom. I like it, but honestly, smelling it makes me want to bake a lasagna. 

Even though the scent is unexpected, I have gotten used to it. I suppose that as I switch from the chemical laden products that I am used to with their artificial fragrances, I'm going to have to adapt to natural scents. That seems backwards, doesn't it? But it's good.

I also like the way the CleanWell hand sanitizer feels on my hand. It goes on thinly and absorbs into my skin quickly. I've never liked the feel of the alcohol gels. 

So there you have it, my first product reviews. 

Again, if you have any questions, leave a comment.

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Green Alternative to Antibacterial Hand Washing: CleanWell Products

Traditional antibacterial hand soaps and sanitizers can contain some pretty harmful chemicals. The main ingredient in many hand (and dish) soaps that are antibacterial is triclosan, a highly toxic chemical. The main ingredient in hand sanitizers is often ethyl alcohol. Children have been known to be taken to the hospital with alcohol poisoning after licking it off of their hands.

There are safe, green alternatives to these harmful products, however. One company that manufactures safe antibacterial hand cleaning products is CleanWell. In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that this company sent me their products for review. However,  I am under no obligation to give them a good review (they are not paying me), and if I hadn't liked the products I would have contacted them and told them I was unable to give them a favorable review.

Here's one of the products I was sent that my family has been using for over a week. I've also been asking guests and relatives to use the products and to smell them.

CleanWell All Natural Antibacterial Hand Wash 

The info from the company:
  • lab proven to kill 99.99% of germs (including MRSA, E. Coli and Salmonella) on contact
  • all natural and triclosan free
  • made with ingenium (there own  patented formula of essential plant oil) and infused with white tea and aloe
  • sustainable
  • certified cruelty-free
  • comes in ginger bergamot (which is what I tried), orange vanilla, or lavender absolute

My take:

The first thing I noticed was the scent - ginger bergamot is different for hand soap. It wasn't bad though. And, this is very important, I could tell the scent was all natural before I even looked at the ingredients. Why? Because it didn't attack my sinuses and threaten to bring on a full grain migraine in five seconds. Chemical fragrances wreak havoc on me. 

The foaming soap leaves hands feeling clean and soft. 

My younger son and my adult niece love the smell. My niece is quite excited about it actually. My oldest son is not too crazy about the smell. I'm going to try the lavender absolute soap next. I think he'll like that better.

I'm very happy to be able to find hand cleaning products that are safe and effective for my family. I am just beginning to green all of my personal care products and household cleaning products (remember I'm getting a little greener every day - not jumping into the whole thing at once). CleanWell products are going to help me reach my goal of making my family's personal care products safe and green.

Tomorrow, I'll review the CleanWell All Natural Antibacterial Hand Santizer.

If you have any questions about the products, leave a comment and I'll do my best to answer it.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Green Term(s) of the Week: Organic vs Natural

I wrote a post recently about club stores selling more organic and natural products. It occurred to me that not everyone may know the difference between the two. So today I'm here to explain the difference.

Organic means that the food has been grown without chemical/synthetics/poisonous pesticides and fertilizers. Animals that produce food have been given no antibiotics or growth hormones. The FDA regulates foods that are organic and issues a certification. To get that certification, strict rules must be adhered to. No artificial flavorings or colorings are added to organic foods.

Natural foods are ones that are minimally processed and don't contain any additives, preservatives, and artificial flavors and colors. The fruits and vegetables in all natural food may have been grown using non-organic standards and the animal products may come from non-organic animals.

Example: I have bought natural peanut butter for years. I like just peanuts and salt in my peanut butter. However, since the peanuts have not been grown organically, I may be getting more than just peanuts and salt. The peanuts contain harmful chemicals from pesticides and fertilizers used to grow them. So in my all natural pb, I may have some not so natural stuff.  An organic pb would be free of that not so natural stuff.

Still, it's better than regular peanut butter that may contain high fructose corn syrup, sugar, partially hydrogenated oils, and other stuff that pb just doesn't need.

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Elmer's Glue Crew Recycling Program

I just learned of another recycling program that recycles specific items (like the
wine cork recycling program I wrote about last week). This time it's glue bottles and empty glue sticks. 

Elmer's is sponsoring a program where schools can collect the empty bottles and sticks and drop them off at the nearest Wal-mart store beginning Earth Day, April 22. There is also a chance for school's to win prizes. 

Sounds like a good program. I e-mailed the details to my son's teacher who runs an environmental club after school for the kids.

One thing that bothered me at first is that the instructions say to collect Elmer's products specifically.  But after digging down on the website a bit, it does say that they will accept bottles and sticks from other manufacturers. They just can't guarantee they will end up being recycled because they may not be made of the specific kind of plastic their program covers. Okay, I'll accept that.

Click here to go to the Elmer's website. Please think about alerting your school to this program.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

I Love My Prius - A Little Praise for my Hybrid

For the past few days every time I've driven by the local gas station it seems the price has gotten higher and higher. I live in a state that has some of the lower gas prices, at least in the northeast, but they've gone well over $3/gallon in the past few days.

So I'm just taking a minute to say, "I love my Prius." Technically, it's my husband's Prius. A year ago he traded in his SUV that was getting maybe 12 mpg for the little hybrid sedan. I have a mini van that I rarely drive. Since we both work from home, if I need to run out, I take the hybrid. 

The Prius was more expensive than any car we had bought in the past. Initially, it was a financial hit. But, the money it saves on gas will more than make up for its initial cost long before we're done with the car. 

If you're in the market for a new car, please consider checking out hybrids. Don't allow the initial sticker shock to turn you off before you educate yourself on the benefits of owning a hybrid. Not only do you save money on gas, but you save gas and create less pollution by driving a hybrid. 

There are so many options out there, and each year car manufacturers are adding new hybrids to their lines. And not only are they adding new models, they are working to make the hybrids even more fuel efficient. GM is currently working at making their hybrids 15-20% more efficient by 2010. 
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