Thursday, April 30, 2009

Shopping for Greener Tissue Products - Part 2 - Final

I wrote up a post last week about choosing green tissue products and why it is better to do so for the planet and your health. I pointed you toward the main things to look for on the packaging and Greenpeace's tissue guide.

In this second part of that article, I tackle the problem of actually finding greener tissue products near your home.

I went to Target this past week to try to find any green tissue products. I found none. A complete bummer. They have lots of other types of greener products, but absolutely NO tissue products that I could find that would qualify as having recycled materials and no chlorine. One can hope they will have greener options soon.

I ran over to CVS Pharmacy, which is in many areas of the U.S. and easily found its own brand of green tissue products -- the CVS Pharmacy brand "Earth Essentials" bathroom tissue, paper towels, and napkins. Each of these products was reasonably priced and had 100% recycled content, 60% post-consumer content, and "recycled without chlorine bleaching." Fabulous.

I'm sure that if I went to Whole Foods, I could have found many more options. But I didn't want to drive into another local city for that (more of my time and gas) only to pay a premium price.

When it comes to grocery stores, next time I'm in my local Kroger store (Ralphs) or a Safeway store (Vons) I'll check and see what they have too; I bet you they probably have private-label green tissue products like CVS.

I don't live near a Wal-Mart, otherwise that would be another place to check.

But in looking over the Greenpeace brand list of best choices, Trader Joe's is listed and that isn't too far ... it's on my way to a number of other errands I run every once and a while. So I could check out the prices and products there for tissue products.

As far as the other brands, the most frustrating part is lack of neighborhood availability. You might be able to find some of these by ordering via the web, but who wants to order their toilet paper from the Internet? Here's the rundown --
  • Green Forest, April Soft, Fiesta and Fiesta Green, Marcal Small Steps, Atlantic, Earth First -- do not list any retailers on their websites, so this makes it difficult to figure out where to get their products

  • 365 -- this is actually a Whole Foods private label brand, so you're only going to find it at Whole Foods

  • Earth Friendly, Natural Value -- I have no idea where to find these brands because there is no website that pops up in the first 3 pages of a Google search

  • Seventh Generation -- makes it easy for me. I can go to this link on their website and type in my zip code. It says I can find Seventh Generation at my Kroger grocery store (Ralphs), plus many other places nearby.

  • Trader Joe's -- just find a Trader Joe's near you.

  • CVS Earth Essentials -- find a CVS store near you.

  • Cascades -- seems to be available only in Canada. See here where to find it.

Notice how currently there are no major name brands on the "buy" list. Bounty, Puffs, Kleenex, Scott, Charmin, Angel Soft, Brawny, Mardi Gras, Velvet, and both the private brands of Target and Wal-Mart ALL USE CLORINE in their products and nearly NONE USE RECYCLED materials.

Put your money where it counts. Choose healthier products.

Shopping for Greener Tissue Products - Part 1

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine Flu, Your Health, and Sustainable Food -- They are all related

Update 4/30/09 -- This link has solid advice on improving your chances of not getting the swine flu by increasing your immunity.

Update 5:35 PM -- You can also check the National Center for Homeopathy's website for updated information on using specific homeopathic medicines for the swine flu. Homeopathy has a particularly good track record in healing people during an epidemic.

In looking at news reports and blogs over the past few days about the developing swine flu story, I've come across this posting from Karl Burkart at Mother Nature Network who notes that this flu may be due to filthy, large hog farms that keep hogs in confined, unhealthy conditions, as well as the fact that climate change can cause new strains of flu to develop. At's Sustainable Food, the hog farm theory is explored in depth.

In either case, both theories have factual reasons to be concerned, if not for swine flu then for current and future compromises to our food supply.

As the researchers come to the conclusion of the flu's cause, the point now is to use some common sense in protecting your family. Last night I came across this posting from the Huffington Post that is a reasonable way to approach the swine flu for your family -- so as not to potentially make the situation worse.

Sundance Channel to Air Two Documentaries of Interest

The Sundance Channel will be airing two documentaries of interest to parents and their families -- one today and another in May:
  • "Addicted to Plastic" on April 28

  • "The World According to Monsanto" on May 12

You can go on the The Sundance Channel's website and look up both of these programs on their Schedule tab. Click on the program and then click on "Remind Me" to have the channel remind you to watch the documentary or program your DVR.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Does your chocolate bar damage rainforests?

Seems like with thinking green you really do have to rework your choices on just about everything ... even down to the chocolate bar, unfortunately.

Why chocolate?

Chocolate comes from a cacao tree that is grown in the tropics -- oftentimes in the same places as rainforests, largely in Central and South American countries. Because of this, there has been widespread destruction of ecosystems and forests to grow cacao, alongside heavy use of toxic agrochemicals to kill off pests (the cacao is particularly susceptible to pests). Additionally, there have been widespread labor abuses.

How can you buy more responsible chocolate?

You can buy more responsible chocolate in three ways --
  1. Buy organic chocolate. This means that the chocolate will not have the toxic agrochemicals as part of its growing process. Look for the USDA Organic seal.

  2. Buy Fair Trade Certified chocolate. You can go to this link to find Fair Trade Certified chocolate. Over the past year, the list of fair trade certified products, including chocolate, has grown immensely. Fair trade certified means workers and farmers will receive a fair price for their goods, the products are purchased directly (without a middleman who can often be unethical) from farmer-owned cooperatives, and the certification also means that crops are grown in ways that conserve the soil and water, does not certify genetically altered crops, as well as reduce agrochemical use (but does not certify organic, so it is better to choose fair trade certified and organic)

  3. Buy Rainforest Alliance Certified chocolate. There is not an easy link for consumers to find out what products are Rainforest Alliance certified.

I wish the Rainforest Alliance were as transparent as Fair Trade Certified and has as high of standards as Fair Trade. As a result, I believe Fair Trade Certified is stronger -- if you have a choice. Here's more solid info for you.

This is a great story from MSNBC about small farmers in Ecuador for Kallari chocolate who benefit from selling their cacao beans through a cooperative while still preserving the rainforests in the process.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

We All Have a Stake in Arctic Drilling -- Take Action, Say No

In today's Los Angeles Times there is an article about more oil drilling in the fragile eco systems of Alaska's Arctic where the area is already being ravaged by global warming. Essentially, the issue is all about money and jobs. The big oil companies, under the Bush Administration, were allowed to drill and now may be able to lease even more land and waters to do so. Some Alaskans are hoping for jobs or payouts (such as to local Indian tribes for land and water leasing). But at what cost?
The cost is a severe disruption of the areas eco systems and more oil spills (every year there are already 500 spills of various sizes along Alaska's North Slope). And 20 years later, there is still oil to be found from the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989.

Says the article "Gov. Sarah Palin has warned that without new drilling, the 800-mile-long trans-Alaska oil pipeline could be forced to shut down in as little as 10 years, crippling America's hopes for energy independence, not to mention her state." This is typical dramatic Palin -- keeping her job at the cost of the environment and doing the right thing (which would be to say "no" to more drilling and instead help her state protect its environmental assets and focus on renewable energy).

Again, according to the LA Times, "'It is beyond the pale of stupidity that, in the face of everything that's happening in the Arctic, that we would launch a drilling program,' said Jim Ayers, a vice president of the marine conservation group Oceana."

Here is more information from Oceana on the toxics effects of oil in the oceans. Says the report "Alternatives to oil exist. For example, shifting to a fleet of plug-in and electric vehicles will greatly reduce the need for oil and will also allow our cars to be powered by clean energy, such as wind power. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that offshore wind in U.S. waters could generate more than the current total installed electric capacity."

North America stands at an energy crossroads. As cheap, plentiful conventional oil becomes a luxury of the past, we now face a choice: to set a course for a more sustainable energy future of clean, renewable fuels, or to develop ever-dirtier sources of transportation fuel derived from fossil fuels -- at an even greater cost to our health and environment.

The United States is the world's top oil consumer and thus the primary driver behind the development of new forms of dirty transportation fuels in North America. These fuels are derived from lower-grade, difficult-to-access raw materials, including tar sands, oil shale and coal. Moving down this road has enormous consequences for the air we breathe, the water we drink, our climate, our wildlands and wildlife.

Write to your representative and President Obama at and say --
  • I want to re-instate the pre-existing moratoria for off-shore oil production including the protections for Bristol Bay, Alaska.

  • Please immediately development a comprehensive conservation and energy plan for the Arctic that provides a transition from oil to renewable energy and conservation. The plan should include a comprehensive scientific assessment of the health, biodiversity and functioning of Arctic ecosystems, as well as the benefits and consequences of specific industrial activities. And also immediately withdraw the Teshekpuk Lake area from potential oil and gas leasing and provide for its permanent protection.

  • Promote energy efficiency and low carbon fuels.

  • Prioritize the development of offshore wind energy in place of offshore oil drilling using financial mechanisms such as loan guarantees and refundable tax credits.

  • Designate the Arctic Refuge's coastal plain as wilderness, immediately, to protect it from oil drilling.

  • Regulate black carbon generated from the use of diesel engines, oil, and gas flaring and marine transport in the Arctic, which is contributing to rising temperatures by absorbing sunlight.
You have a voice! Just cut and past the above bullet points into your letter to your representative and the Obama Administration.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Disneynature's "Earth" Movie is Magnificent!

I went with my family to go see Disneynature's "Earth" movie at the El Capitan Theatre in the heart of Hollywood, California tonight. It was stunning. The house was completely packed. Do not miss this opportunity to take your family and friends to this film.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Al Gore Testifies on Capitol Hill: American Clean Energy and Security Act

Write your representative to support the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

Al Gore's Testimony --

Testimony April 24, 2009 : 11:06 AM

I was extremely happy to join former Senator John Warner today in testifying before the Energy and Environment Subcommittee to demonstrate the bipartisan support for legislation to solve the climate crisis and repower America.

Here is the opening statement I prepared for the committee:

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, distinguished guests; it is my great honor today to testify with my friend and former colleague, John Warner, whose long record of service to the Senate and to our country is remarkable. Senator Warner has consistently looked with a steady gaze past the politics of the day to thoughtfully and intensely focus on the national interest.
His approach reminds me of another great Republican from another era, the great Senator Arthur Vandenberg, from Michigan, who helped to create the United Nations, NATO, and the Marshall plan. He understood that ou nation, when faced with great peril, must rise above partisanship to meet the challenge.

I believe we have arrived at such a moment. Our country is at risk on three fronts. The economic crisis is clear. Our national security remains at risk so long as we remain dangerously dependent on flows of foreign oil from reserves owned by sovereign states that are vulnerable to disruption. The rate of new discoveries, as you know, is falling even as demand elsewhere in the world is rising. Most importantly, of course, we are— along with the rest of humanity—facing the dire and growing threat of the climate crisis.

It is at the very heart of those threats that this Committee and this Congress must direct its focus. I am here today to lend my support to one of the most important pieces of legislation ever introduced in the Congress. I believe this legislation has the moral significance equivalent to that of the civil rights legislation of the 1960’s and the Marshall Plan of the late 1940’s.

By Repowering America with a transition to a clean energy economy and ending our dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels, which is the common thread running through all three of these crises, this bill will simultaneously address the climate crisis, the economic crisis, and the national security threats that stem from our dependence on foreign oil.

We cannot afford to wait any longer for this transition. Each day that we continue with the status quo sees more of our fellow Americans struggling to provide for their families.
Each day we continue on our current path, America loses more of its competitive edge. And each day we wait, we increase the risk that we will leave our children and grandchildren an irreparably damaged planet.

Passage of this legislation will restore America’s leadership of the world and begin, at long last, to solve the climate crisis. It is truly a moral imperative. Moreover, the scientific evidence of how serious this climate crisis is becoming continues to amass week after week after week.
Let me share with you just a few recent examples:
  • The Arctic is warming at an unprecedented rate. New research, which draws upon recently declassified data collected by U.S. nuclear submarines traveling under the Arctic ice cap for the last 50 years, has given us, for the first time, a three-dimensional view of the ice cap, and researchers at the Naval Postgraduate School have told us that the entire Arctic ice cap may totally disappear in summer in as little as five years if nothing is done to curb emissions of greenhouse gas pollution. For most of the last 3 million years, it has covered an area the size of the lower 48 states. Almost half of the ice has already melted during the last 20 years. The dark ocean, once uncovered, absorbs 90 percent of the solar heat that used to bounce off the highly reflective ice. As a direct consequence, some of the vast amounts of frozen carbon in the permafrost surrounding the Arctic Ocean are beginning to be released as methane as the frozen tundra thaws, threatening a doubling of global warming pollution in the atmosphere.
  • Melting of the Greenland ice sheet has reached a new record, which was a staggering 60 percent above the previous high in 1998. The most recent 11 summers have all experienced melting greater than the average of the past thirty-five year time series (1973-2007). Glacial earthquakes have been increasing as the meltwater tunnels down through the ice to the bedrock below. Were the Greenland ice sheet to melt, crack up and slip into the North Atlantic, sea level would rise almost 20 feet.
  • We already know that the Antarctic Peninsula is warming at three to five times the global average rate. That is why the Larsen B ice shelf, which was the size of Rhode Island, already has collapsed. Several other ice shelves have also collapsed in the last 20 years. Another large shelf, the Wilkins ice shelf—which is roughly the size of Northern Ireland— is now beginning to disintegrate right before our very eyes. A recent study in the journal Science has now confirmed that the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet is warming. Scientists have told us that if it were to collapse and slide into the sea, we would experience global sea level rise of another 20 feet worldwide. Each meter of sea level increase leads to 100 million climate refugees. Recent studies have shown that many coastal areas in the U.S. are at risk—particularly Southern Florida and Southern Louisiana.
  • Carbon dioxide pollution is changing the very chemistry of our oceans. Ocean acidification is already underway and is accelerating. A recent paper published in the journal Science described how the seawater off the coast of Northern California has become so acidic from CO2 that it is now corrosive. To give some sense of perspective, for the last 44 million years, the average pH of the water has been 8.2. The scientists at Scripps measured levels off the north coast of California and Oregon at a pH of 7.75. Coral polyps that make reefs and everything that makes a shell are now beginning to suffer from a kind of osteoporosis because of the 25 million tons of CO2 absorbed the oceans every 24 hours.
  • Salmon have now disappeared off the coast of California. Researchers are now working to determine the cause and whether or not this is due to acidity and the relationship between acidity and “dead zones” of extreme oxygen depletion that now stretch from the west coast of North, Central, and South America almost all the way across the Pacific. The health and productivity of all the world’s oceans are at risk.
  • The Union of Forest Research Organizations, with 14 international collaborating partners, reported that forests may lose their carbon-regulating service and that it “could be lost entirely if the earth heats up 2.5 degrees Centigrade.” Throughout the American west, tree deaths are now at record levels, year after year. For the same reason, Canada’s vast forest is now contributing CO2 to the atmosphere rather than absorbing it. The Amazon, the forests of Central Africa, Siberia, and Indonesia are all now at risk.
  • This year, a number of groups ranging from the National Audubon Society to the Department of Interior, released the U.S. State of the Birds report showing that nearly a third of the nation’s 800 bird species are endangered, threatened or in significant decline due to habitat loss, invasive species and other threats including climate change. The major shift attributed to the climate crisis related to the migratory patterns and a large shift northward among a vast range of bird species in the U.S.
  • Some of the most intriguing new research is in the area of extreme weather events and rainfall. A recent study by German scientists published in Climatic Change projects that extreme precipitation will increase significantly in regions that are already experiencing extreme rainfall. Man-made global warming has already increased the moisture content of the air worldwide, causing bigger downpours. Each additional degree of temperature increase causes another seven percent increase in moisture in the air, and even larger downpours when storm conditions trigger heavy rains and snows.
  • To bring an example of this home, 2009 saw the eighth “ten year flood” of Fargo, North Dakota, since 1989. In Iowa, Cedar Rapids was hit last year by a flood that exceeded the 500-year flood plain. All-time flood records are being broken in areas throughout the world.
  • Conversely those regions that are presently dry are projectedto become much dryer, because higher average temperatures evaporate soil moisture.
  • The American West and the Southeast have been experiencing prolonged severe drought and historic water shortages. In a study published in January 2008 in the journal Science, scientists from the Scripps Institute estimated that 60 percent of the changes in the West’s water cycle are due to increased atmospheric man-made greenhouse gases. It predicts that although Western states are already struggling to supply water for their farms and cities, more severe climatic changes will strain the system even more. Agriculture in
    California is at high risk. Australia has been experiencing what many there call a thousand-year drought, along with record high temperatures. Some cities had 110 degrees for four straight days two months ago. And then they had the mega-fires that caused so much death and destruction.
  • Federal officials from our own National Interagency Fire Center report that we have seen twice as many wildfires during the first three months of 2009 as compared to the same period last year. Due to the worsening drought, the outlook for more record fires in Texas, Florida, and California is not good.
  • A number of new studies continue to show that climate change is increasing the intensity of hurricanes. Although we cannot attribute any particular storm to global warming, we can certainly look at the trend. Dr. Greg Holland from the National Center for Atmospheric Research says that we have already experienced a 300-400 percent increase in category 5 storms in the past 10 years in the United States. Last August, hundreds of thousands of people had to evacuate as Hurricane Gustav hit the Gulf Coast. And then, of course, there is the destruction of Galveston and areas of New Orleans, where the residents are still recovering. The same is happening in the rest of the world. Last year, Cyclone Nargis inflicted catastrophic death tolls in Burma (Myanmar) killing twenty thousand people and leading to the suffering of many more. For these and many other reasons, now is the time to act. And luckily, positive change is on the way.

In February, when the Congress voted to pass the stimulus bill, it laid the groundwork for critical investments in energy efficiency, renewables, a unified national smart grid and the move to clean cars. This was a crucial down payment that will create millions of new jobs, hasten our economic recovery, strengthen our national security, and begin to solve the climate crisis.
Now, we must take another step together, and pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act. Chairman Waxman and Chairman Markey have pulled together the best ideas in the Congress to begin solving the climate crisis while increasing our energy independence.

Let me highlight a few items in the bill that I believe to be of particular importance:

  • It promotes the rapid introduction of the clean and renewable technologies that will create new jobs and reduce our reliance on carbon-based fuels.
  • It is time to close the carbon loophole and begin the steep reductions we need to make in the pollution that causes global warming.
  • It helps us use energy more efficiently and transmit it over a secure, modernized, digital smart grid system.
  • Of course this move to Repower America must also include adequate provisions to assist those Americans who would unfairly face hardship. For example, we must recognize and protect those who have toiled in dangerous conditions to bring us our present energy supply. We ought to guarantee good jobs for any coal miner displaced by impacts on the coal industry.
  • And this bill also focuses on intensive R & D to explore carbon captre and sequestration to determine whether and where it can be a key part of the solution. Our country cannot afford more of the status quo, more gas price instability, more job losses, more outsourcing of factories, and more years of sending $2 billion every 24 hours to foreign countries for oil. And our soldiers and their families cannot take another 10 years of repeated troop deployments to regions that just happen to have large oil supplies.

Moreover, the best way to secure a global agreement that guarantees that other nations will also reduce their global warming pollution is for the U.S. to lead the world in meeting this historic challenge. The United States is the world’s leader. We are the only nation in the world that can. Once we find the moral courage to take on this issue, the rest of the world will come along. Now is the time to act before the world gathers in Copenhagen this December to solve the crisis. Not next year, this year.

I urge bipartisan support of this crucial legislation.

NBC Nightly News on Ocean Acidification -- Want to Be Motivated to Stop Global Warming? Watch this video.

Because we have deforested so much of our planet's rainforests and other forests which has released incredible amounts of once-trapped-in-the-tree carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and because we have pumped an exhaustive amount of carbon dioxide from man-made sources (cars, fossil fuels, factories, over-production of livestock) into the atmosphere -- we have global warming. One of the consequences is ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is when the ocean absorbs this extra carbon dioxide, changing its pH to be more acidic. Combine acidification with overfishing and fertilizer/herbacide runoff and you have literally killed off the ocean marine life.

Here is more in this NBC Nightly News report --

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Overfishing -- are you contributing to killing off the ocean's fish?

70 percent of the world's fish are overfished or fished to capacity. See this MSNBC report on overfishing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Watch Terra on The Daily Buzz Tomorrow!

Hey guys! If you get The Daily Buzz in your local area, tune in tomorrow to see Terra. She has an interview with Mitch on the 4 pressing issues moms and parents should care about regarding the environment.

Interestingly, when I was taping this segment in Orlando last week, I was talking to one of the technicians who said that he started to unplug all his electronics at night -- and he and his wife saw an immediate $15-20 drop in their electric bill each month. He said "It's a little bit, but every dollar counts." I agree. To make this easy, you can plug in your electronics into a surge protector strip and shut off the power switch or pull the one plug (surget protector plug) out of the wall -- that way you have less to unplug.

Also, on my flight back to Los Angeles, I flew on American Airlines. Kudos to AA! They recycled everyone's aluminum cans onboard. They were the only airlines to recycle anything during my two months of flying for my book.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pick Up Recycled Foil

While aluminum foil is a great substitute for plastic baggies, especially when you take care to recycle the foil. Even better is purchasing recycled aluminum foil in the first place -- talk about zero waste! Reynolds Wrap has a 100% recycled foil that you can look for in your local grocery store.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Shopping for Greener Tissue Products - Part 1

Trees are the lifeblood of our planet -- without them, or even with less of them, our greenhouse gas problem becomes more pronounced and could even become uncontrollable. Therefore, we really need to conserve trees and responsibly manage those that we need to cut down -- especially rainforests.

Since tissue products can end up using a lot of trees, Greenpeace has published a tissue product guide for consumers, along the lines of the Seafood Watch card concept to help you choose those recycled tissue products that have the least negative impact on our planet and your health. You can print out and carry the little pocket-sized guide with you in your wallet. This guide is for facial tissues, paper towels, paper napkins, and toilet paper.

Here's where you can print it out.

Says Greenpeace "Recycled tissue products help protect ancient forests, clean water, and wildlife habitat. It's easier on the Earth to make tissues from paper instead of trees."

Greenpeace ranked the tissue products based on the below criteria, which you can use as a guideline no matter if you have the Greenpeace guide with you or not -- and especially because brands evolve and compete with each other these days regarding "who is getting greener":
  • 100% recycled content
  • At least 50% post-consumer recycled content (which means of the totaled recycled content 50% of it comes from items that were previously products and now have been recycled; pre-consumer recycled content comes from waste produced as virgin trees are processed)
  • Bleached without toxic chlorine compounds

In Part 2 of this report, I'm going to talk about how easy, or not easy, it is to purchase these cleaner tissue products.

Where in the World is Terra? -- Traveling for her book, Travelogue 6

I visited Nashville during my travels for my new book this week and loved it. It is such a pleasant city with courteous people. The hosts on "Tennessee Mornings" were fabulous. Thank you Charlie and Kelly! We pre-taped a segment for April 22nd's Earth Day show -- watch it Wednesday! Charlie and Kelly were very interested in going green and asked good questions.

After taping in Nashville, I headed off to, Chicago -- my home town. I grew up in the Northern Suburbs. I really liked how the recycling bins in Chicago's O'Hare Airport were so standardized and front and center so you couldn't miss them if you tried. I would say that about two thirds of the airports I've been to on this trip have some recycling going on. The city's food offerings also seem more into fresh food than other cities I've visited -- yes there's meat, but not as much front and center everywhere.

My hotel in Chicago was the greenest of my entire book tour! It was part of the Green Hotels Association, which is an excellent resource for you in looking for greener accommodations. The Association is a voluntary, opt-in, paid-membership program for these businesses. The hotel was also part of Project Planet, a linens and towel reuse program; most hotels I've been in already do this on their own without promoting the Project Planet program. I was easily able to recycle my paper waste in this hotel -- down in the lobby; though in-room recycling would still have been easier. One thing I REALLY, REALLY liked was the fact that the hotel used classy Essentiel Elements personal care products in nice dispensers (like shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion, and hand soap) -- none of the awful waste of single-use toiletries in many 4- and 5-star hotels.

The U. S. Travel Data Center estimates that 43 million US travelers are "ecologically concerned." Here's a list from the Green Hotels Association of what would be the ideal green hotel room. I wish the large hotel chains would follow this list -- would show more excellence and taste.

You can watch my Chicago WGN "Midday Fix" segment here.

After Chicago, I got caught in an awful Midwest storm that put off my trip to Sacramento until April 10, in which I was on KQCA My 58.

Up next, Orlando!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

From Grist: How to comment on the EPA’s finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health

This in from Grist -- "Got something to say about the EPA’s finding that greenhouse gases are a threat to public health and welfare? You’ve got 60 days to speak, or forever hold your peace."

Go to Grist's site to find out how to comment.

Update: You can read more about the history of the EPA's announcement at NRDC's Switchboard. Also, on April 20th there will be a live chat about the issue with the NRDC.

As far as what to put in your comment to the EPA (as noted in the above link to on Grist's site), you can note the following:
  • You support higher standards for clean-burning, fuel-efficient automobiles, including electric and hydrogen vehicles
  • You would like to see a stop to adding more coal plants, and actually reduce the current amount of coal plants
  • Instead, you want to see renewable, responsible energy -- like wind, geothermal, wave, and solar technologies
  • You would like to see a cap-and-trade program along with other needed regulations that would curb and reduce emissions from manufacturing plants
  • Finally, you would like to see support for significant domestic and international reforestation projects

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Public Comment on Off-Shore Oil Drilling - Do You Care Enough to Say Something?

You may not have heard about the recent public hearings that were held this month regarding future off-shore oil drilling along the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The hearings are an effort by the Obama Administration to have a more transparent government and to ask the people what they would like to do -- and after watching the San Francisco Hearing today online, I have to say I was struck by so much enthusiasm that there was open government today, people were heard and listened to, and so many of our environmental concerns were top of the agenda by the Obama Administration. No closed-door approaches today. So different than what we experienced with the Bush Administration.

The Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, hosted four public hearings in the month of April to find out what people and organizations thought about the issue --
  • April 6, Atlantic City, NJ

  • April 8, New Orleans, LA

  • April 14, Anchorage, AK

  • April 16 (today), San Francisco, CA
  • Public comments by September 21, 2009

Although the public hearings have past, the good news is that the public comment period is not over. You can still submit your comments to the Secretary -- which is probably a lot easier than trying to show up at a morning, weekday hearing. And you also get the benefit of reviewing past hearings' info and videos online, and getting guidance from environmental organizations. Here's the link to info about the hearings. You have until September 21, 2009 to submit your comments. Here is a link to the instructions.

One of the last "gifts" the Bush Administration gave to big business before leaving Washington, D.C. was to lift a moratorium on offshore drilling. Offshore drilling is highly polluting and damages coastal waters and marine life -- routine drilling empties toxics into the ocean -- routine! We're not even talking the hearing loss of marine life due to surveying, the greenhouse gases produced, the fact that the drilling would not significantly impact the U.S.' energy needs (ex. there's only enough oil offshore in California to last for about 100 days of U.S. oil consumption), and the FOREVER loss of pristine coastal areas (both land and water) that would never be the same. Read more about how offshore drilling hurts the coasts with this paper from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

And here is an excellent, easy-to-read paper about the hazards and destruction of oil drilling by Defenders of Wildlife.

Instead, we need green technologies for energy that reduce our need for oil -- not insignificant drilling for oil that is destructive. Coastal areas could have limited-impact wave energy systems and potentially wind power that are possible renewable energy sources that involve the ocean.

Here are two easy petitions you can sign and send off electronically to say no to offshore drilling -- sign one today:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Green Elephant at Banana Republic

This is the second year Banana Republic has featured the Green Elephant icon for its clothes that are made with sustainable fibers -- like silk, soy silk, cotton, organic cotton, and bamboo rayon. There are some offerings -- most easily identified on the company's website -- but I wish more than 50% of its clothing were from sustainable fibers.

Update 4/18/09 -- Although on Banana Republic's website there is a Green Elephant icon on the top corner of the viewing pages, when you are shopping in the stores, you look for the Green Elephant on the inside back label of the garment or imprinted on the inside back of the garment. I noticed that one of the tanks I have from Banana Republic was extra soft, and sure enough when I looked at the imprint on the inside back there was the Green Elephant icon over the materials list, and the tank was listed as being made with a certain percentage of organic cotton.

Seafood Watch Now On Your iPhone

I've been using my Internet access via my cell phone to call up a Seafood Watch card for whichever region of the U.S. I happen to be in. Very convenient.

Now Seafood Watch has an iPhone application for the card -- check it out here.

Could The Government Actually Be Helping to Clean Up Your World?

According to Talk Radio News Service, there is "A Game Changer" in the works that will help the average person live in a cleaner world ...

The Environmental Protection Agency is soon expected to declare global warming pollutants a threat to public health and to hold polluters accountable under the Clean Air Act.

In 2007 the Supreme Court upheld the EPA’s authority to determine whether scientific evidence is strong enough to prove that global warming pollution is a threat to public health. The release of the EPA’s decision is expected soon though the exact date is unknown.

Environmental experts are certain that the findings will show global warming to be a threat.
“There is no question that the EPA should make a positive endangerment ..."

First is expected to be much more strict regulation on vehicle emissions and then moving onto other pollutants, one by one.

Click here for the rest of the story.

Nasty Habits of Food Network Celebrities

Isabel Cowles of The Huffington Post has hit on the next phase of green, which is actually taking action and making eco part of our everyday lives. Beyond a surface knowledge of organics, the average person knows very little about how their kitchen behaviors and food choices affect the planet. It is often also a surprise that the healthier choices you make with food are often the greenest -- organic, sustainable, plant-based diets.

The waste issue relating to food is huge. Restaurants and take-out joints are MAJOR offenders. At-home practices are also often quite eco-challenged. Just take food scraps -- without composting you've added almost 30 percent into your landfill bin that didn't need to be there. A banana peel doesn't decompose for a couple hundred years in a typical landfill with no oxygen and no sunlight -- in a compost bin it can go back to enriching the earth in a month.

About Food
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Thursday, April 9, 2009

My Book Now Available On Your iPhone

My book The Mom's Guide to Growing Your Family Green: Saving the Earth Begins at Home has been one of the top-ten books in Family Health for the Amazon Kindle because it's perfect for on-the-go parents and as a resource for green shopping. But now, if you have an iPhone, there's a new application "Kindle for iPhone" you can get at Apple's iTunes that turns your iPhone into a Kindle. So then you can read books on your iPhone. Check it out.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What Should Be Done to Save Our Oceans?

Julie Packard, one of the leading ocean conservationists and executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, posted a very important recommendation at the Huffington Post last night directed to the Obama administration and Congress about what to do in order to save our oceans.

Saving the oceans is an issue that I have long talked about and advocated. I have given much media air time to the subject of purchasing sustainable seafood and using the Seafood Watch cards as guides -- this is something every business owner and consumer can do to help the issue and feel like there is meaningful contribution to solving ocean problems.

But Packard touched on other issues as well, with global warming being at the forefront.

"As fisheries collapse, freshwater ecosystems decline and ocean dead zones expand, global climate change looms as the overarching environmental challenge of this century. Those of us who recognize our connection to the ocean and to the animals that call it home have a greater responsibility than ever before to protect it. We must act, and encourage others to recognize their responsibility as stewards of the oceans."

Have you ever seen where these dead zones are? It is a horrific site -- via satellite. See these images from NASA. They are caused largely by pollution -- coming from your home in the form of fertilizer run off and from large industrial farms and factories whose fertilizers and other chemicals that run off into the rivers and then to the oceans cut off oxygen supply and make the waters places where virtually nothing can survive.

Combine the pollution issue with overfishing, mercury pollution, whole dumping grounds of plastic trash that affect not only marine life but also birds, and global warming -- it is no wonder what lies below the waters is a toxic mess ... death at the door.

Yet the majority of the public remains oblivious. If they knew that the farmed salmon in bulk was really killing off the wild species would they buy it? If they knew that their everyday, non-organic foods were killing off the ocean, would they demand organic agriculture? If they understood that within their lifetime the oceans' habitat would collapse and exist no longer if global warming continues, would they care enough to sleep on Congress' doorstep until our representatives stopped bickering over the politics of carbon reduction and actually put into action strict regulation that would absolutely reverse global warming's trend. Or at the very least, would you write your representative to express your concern?

How much do you care?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

DisneyNature's "Earth" Film Coming To Your Neighborhood on Earth Day

I bought my advance tickets today to see this film at the historic El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood with my family -- wish it were available at IMAX.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Moms and Kids: Watch Captain Planet 24/7

Yet another way to get your kids thinking about the environment in a fun way ...

Ted Turner's daughter, Laura Turner Seydel, has been running the Captain Planet Foundation -- a non-profit charity to educate kids about taking care of the environment -- for many years now. You may remember the Captain Planet cartoons that ran in the 1990's. In 2007, Seydel's Foundation acquired the rights to the cartoon series. Now you can watch the series online at the Mother Nature Network (formerly part of now-defunct Plenty Magazine -- such a great pub), and also on April 18 on Cartoon Network's Boomerang channel there will be a Captain Planet marathon.

There's also an online game at Boomerang called "Captain Planet and the Robots of Zarm" that your kids can check out.

Dad Needs New Suit? Try One Made of Recycled Bottles

In May, Sears will start selling suit separates made from recycled bottles. The Covington Perfect brand will carry the suits, which are a mix of wool blended with polyester -- the polyester is made from the recycled bottles, about 25 of the 2-liter kind to be exact.

These suits have already been test selling in Boston, Chicago, and New York. The company that makes the fabric for the suits, Teijin, is a Japanese firm.

According to Reuters news service, "Teijin, which developed fabrics made of recycled plastic blended with wool, viscose and cotton or with other synthetics, also partners with retailers to recycle used polyester clothing back into fabric and new clothes." This ability for polyester to be recycled is something I mention in my new book The Mom's Guide to Growing Your Family Green and is an unexpected benefit of polyester, not to mention that polyester clothing usually lasts longer -- going green has all sorts of unexpected trade offs when you boil down the facts.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Making the Case for Organic Cotton -- Educate Yourself

In my book, The Mom's Guide to Growing Your Family Green, I make the case for rethinking our fabric options -- including organic cotton. Although this video is basically a an educational, PR move by Loomstate to promote organic cotton, it is a nice little piece to learn a bit about why you should care about going organic for all agriculture ... especially the last piece about the hazards of pesticides in killing off useful critters that help the farmer (and us) maintain healthy soils, healthy water, and healthy agriculture product.

Ice Bridge in Antarctica Breaks

In what scientists say is further evidence of climate change, today a major ice bridge on the western side of Antarctica broke. The BBC reports that "the collapse could mean the Wilkins Ice Shelf is on the brink of breaking away, and provides further evidence or rapid change in the region."

Here is video --

Trade Veggies With Your Neighbors

There's a new website -- -- where you can connect with folks in your community to buy, trade, or sell veggies. I remember growing up with a garden and how we would often end up with a surplus of items -- if you've ever had a lemon or orange tree, you know what I mean. This site connects people who want to sell or trade that surplus. It's another great way to get local food.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Follow Terra on Twitter

I'm now on Twitter -- I post lots of materials and running thoughts that aren't always on my blog. I'm also connected there with a lot of "green thinkers," moms, and interesting folks. Check it out!

Do you have to belong to a particular political party to care about the environment?

This is a tough question going on right now -- in the federal government and probably in some households. And meanwhile, climate changes marches on and on ... and doesn't care if you're Republican or Democrat. Here's an analysis to rethink what you care about and why --

Friday, April 3, 2009

What you need to know about greenwashing -- who does it?

You may have heard of greenwashing -- this is essentially when a company markets a product, service, or brand and says that it is green or environmentally friendly but the facts behind it are not.

There has been quite a bit of greenwashing going on in the past year as everything eco has become so hip and money moving (people buy green). Up until now, consumers have largely been ignorant about or shielded from the truth behind the claims that companies make -- so many companies have gotten away with duping you.

Environmental claims can also be complex. While one element of a product can be green, how the company got you that benefit through the manufacturing process can also be highly polluting -- and the trade off then can become worthless. Or the opposite can be true -- some companies have zero waste manufacturing but give you a product that cannot be recycled. The irony.

Over the past year I have seen several greenwashing lists that rail on companies for not being truthful, hiding the facts, or simply being highly ironic. At first it was just environmental groups or activist writers that would compile these lists which were not widely circulated, but now investment groups and mainstream magazines (like Conde Nast Traveler) are now writing up greenwashing lists which are more widely read. Environmentalism is now reaching the average person with real reasons to pay attention. And environmental regulation is coming big business' way -- and that will immensely affect their bottom line and their ability to compete, especially as consumers and suppliers become more aware and start making more informed buying choices. The PR missteps of greenwashing will also become more devastating. What a different world we live in, eh?

Additionally, about six months ago I was contacted by a lobbying group that was all about trying to influence the public to use more paper instead of less (under the claim that paper is renewable which is true if we truly manage forests responsibly, but cutting down more trees and advancing the tree industry was the real agenda) and was interested in promoting the tree-industry certifications instead of FSC (a non-profit responsible forest certification that isn't perfect but at least it isn't run by the tree industry itself). So greenwashing is big business just trying to maintain the status quo at your and the planet's expense without any regard for real sustainability or your quality of life in the future -- only paying CEO's big money and offering shareholders a bit of a payoff. Sound familiar?

Here's one of the newest greenwashing lists in circulation -- a list with details from 24/7 Wall Street -- read the full article to understand the facts behind the claims and know what they companies produce so that you become more educated about what to look for as a consumer. Don't just read the company names and think that's all you need to know. The companies in 24/7's list include GE, AEP, ExxonMobil, DuPont, Archer Daniels Midland, Waste Management, International Paper (FSC certification for paper is going to be your best option), BP, Dow Chemical, GM.

Additionally, Greenpeace just updated its Guide to Greener Electronics. It's a terrific list of who is doing what in removing toxics from electronics, making them more recyclable, producing less waste and emissions overall, and true gains in energy efficiency. It is a highly useful "greenwashing"-type list for consumers to know where to put their buying power in influencing green decisions. Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, and Philips have top scores.

If you have the time, write to these companies and demand change. And when you can identify better choices in your purchasing options, make those better choices whenever possible.

If you live in a dry climate, what may be in your future

If we do not stem the tide of global warming, current dry-climate areas may be facing what is predicted in Spain -- see below. There are many decisions government officials in many nations, including the U.S., are making right now with regard to your future, the climate, and how you will be affected. Write your state and federal officials about your concerns so that your voice can be heard.

Global warming could cause rainfall in the Iberian peninsula to fall by up to 40 per cent by the end of the century, according to a European Commission report.

Spain and Portugal could be the hardest hit by climate change, according to the commission white paper, which predicts that food harvests could fall 30 per cent in the region because of a lack of water.

There has been an increase in the number of heat waves as in 2006, when thousands of people died and read more ...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

New Report from UK -- Household Products Making Drug-Resistant Superbug

A story in Current talks about how household products (cleaners) and personal care products (shampoos, conditioners, etc.) are creating a toxic mess in sewage systems and developing what scientists say are drug-resistant microorganisms.

Says the study --

As part of its study, the team - which also includes Professor Peter Hawkey of Birmingham University - looked at soil contaminated with QACs and sewage sludge in the Midlands, the Cotswolds, Hertfordshire and other areas. Using techniques similar to those involved in DNA fingerprinting, they then looked for the presence of antibiotic-resistant genes - and found these in high concentrations.

"The inference is clear," added Gaze. "We are producing sewage and river water that have more and more drug-resistant bacteria in them and that these are now poised to enter the food chain."

The solution is within the hands of government officials and consumers.
  • Governments need to step in and ban toxic chemicals from products.
  • Consumers need to purchase more planet friendly, less toxic, and biodegradable products. They also need to reduce their use of pharmaceuticals, including hormones.
I talk about the majority of the well-distributed brands available for personal and household products, including how to reduce your need for pharmaceuticals in my new book The Mom's Guide to Growing Your Family Green. Educate yourself.

Got a kitty? Go biodegradable

If you own a cat, make the effort to purchase biodegradable kitty litter. Most conventional litters are made from clay that is horribly stripmined from the earth, and these litters contain carcinogenic silica dust. Biodegradable varieties do not have these issues. Wikipedia has lots of helpful information about the different types of litters to help you make a better choice.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Did You Know You Can Recycle Your Water Filter?

If you own a Brita product that uses a filter, you can now recycle those filters. Here's how you do it. Articles on Going Green

This year I'm working with Disney again and have written several articles on its website that talk about going green: