Thursday, May 28, 2009

Check out CSA's for Your Produce

My family and I recently joined the South Central Farmers' Cooperative Community Supported Agriculture group -- a mouthful ... SCFCSA for short. I located them through Local Harvest, a website where you can find local farmer's markets, farms, CSA's, and co-ops.

A CSA is an organized effort to connect people in a community with their local farmers -- in a VERY CHEAP way. A box of USDA-certified organic veggies with SCFCSA lasts a family of five 1-2 weeks and costs between $15-40 (you pay what you want in that range).

For us, we order online for a weekly box of organic veggies and pick them up at one of many local farmers' markets in the area. SCFCSA has been expanding their pick up locations and days to the point that it is worth it for me to go every week or every couple of weeks to pick up a box.

What has been interesting about this experience is that you don't choose what goes into that box. So that means you get what is in season. This has forced my family to try new foods and find new recipes to make things like chard, kale, and beets be exciting. I signed up at to find recipes, and SCFCSA also lists really good recipes on their website too.

With so many of our U.S. children used to eating a very narrow set of foods that have little taste, unless they are loaded with sugar, it has been challenging to get my kids interested in new tastes. So, I usually combine new flavors with familiar ones. And I'll find recipes that mix in greens with other things they like.

Also, another interesting point is that ever since we started with SCFCSA we've been eating more veggies. This is good health news for my entire family.

I encourage you to see if there is a CSA in your area -- check it out.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

SHOPPING TIP: Check out "GoodGuide"

Although I have found databases through Environmental Working Group, like the Cosmetic Safety Database, to be very helpful when considering the purchase of personal care items. This new site, the GoodGuide, offers even more information on a wider umbrella of products -- food, personal care, household chemicals, and toys.

The GoodGuide gives an easily understood score on products so you can compare brands. If a company is not transparent about its products and practices, then the score goes lower. The score is based on --
  • HEALTH PERFORMANCE: What's in the product - the ingredients/materials ... are they good for your family or not? Are there toxic or harmful chemicals in the product that will harm your family?

  • ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE: When the product is made, how does it impact the environment? From the materials used, to manufacturing, to disposal.

  • SOCIAL PERFORMANCE: Were the workers treated right, such as was there a fair trade? Does the company have meaningful philanthropy? What about customer satisfaction? These are emerging sustainable business ratings that consumers can see scored and act on.

For example ...

  • In an average of scores for the brand, Method scored a 6.6 out of 10 while Seventh Generation scored an 8.6.

  • In another average, Campbell's products scored 3.7 while Progresso scored 5.7

  • Hasbro toys has an average of 4.0, while Fisher-Price has a 6.1

Of course individual products under these brands and hundreds of other brands are scored separately and could be higher or lower.

This scoring site has the ability to cause more companies to compete with each other based on more than just features and price -- your health, the health of the environment, customer satisfaction, and corporate responsibility.

Check it out! It's very consumer friendly.

The Magic of Rebuilding a Rainforest

UPDATE, 4:45 PM: Smits' organization sent me this info "We recently had our Mother's Day campaign: M.O.M. - Missing Orangutan Mothers. You can learn more about the campaign here: Orangutans are critically endangered in the wild because of rapid deforestation and the expansion of palm oil plantations. If nothing is done to protect orangutans, they could be extinct in less than 5 years!"

ORIGINAL POST: I love nerdy lectures ... especially this one (BELOW). This is a fascinating, 20-minute lecture at a TED conference by Biologist Willie Smits on how he rebuilt a rainforest in Borneo in the span of 5-7 years ... which regionally reversed climate change, rebuilt lives for the families in the area, saved wildlife, created more drinkable water, and produced sustainable fuel. The below video is both shocking and optimistic, which is why I have posted it -- it shows there is hope when greed is put aside.

As parents, it's important we have hope to share with our children, especially about the future of our world and its environment.

Smits efforts all began while trying to save orangutans, which are being decimated by deforestation in order meet the world's insatiable need for palm oil. Says his organization Orangutan Outreach --

Palm oil is everywhere. This internationally traded vegetable oil is found in thousands of popular products, including ice cream, chocolate, biscuits, crisps, margarine, toothpaste, soap, detergents and cosmetics. The shelves in your local supermarket are full of products containing palm oil, which is contributing to the annihilation of rainforest wildlife. Without knowing it, millions of people are fuelling a phenomenal growth in demand for a crop that is leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

“The rate of loss of orangutans has never been greater than in the last three years, and oil-palm plantations are mostly to blame. We are facing a silent massacre, taking place far from where people can see what is going on. We need international co-operation now to address this crisis,” says Smits.

Here are practical ways you at home can take action -- they are simple actions, the kind I advocate in my book The Mom's Guide to Growing Your Family Green.

If only we followed the lead of this one man!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

U.S. ranks at the bottom when it comes to green

National Geographic has released its "Greendex" results for 2009 -- a ranking of consumers' green behaviors -- with some surprising results.
  • The top green consumers in the world come from India, China, and Brazil

  • Japan, the U.S., and Canada scored the lowest -- Mexico, South Korea, and Russia scored much higher!

  • Wealthier countries had a greater impact on the environment than lower-income countries yet fell lowest on the scoring sheet -- what irony!

  • Consumer trends include -- heating and cooling less to save energy, washing clothes in cold water, buying used versus new, repairing instead of tossing

  • There is certainly a potential correlation between the global recession and reigning in spending, which actually helps the environment

The question to ask ourselves is why? Why with so much information available on how to go green are our behaviors reflecting a denial of the need to be more eco-friendly for our health and the planet? Is it the wealth? Ingrained wasteful behaviors that are hard to break? Apathy for change? More attention to hip-hop culture than healthy family life?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

WORLD OCEANS DAY IS JUNE 8: Will There Be Seafood For Your Children When They Are Your Age?

After coming back from an important environmental meeting about our oceans, land, and food at the Monterey Bay Aquarium last week, I am more convinced than ever before that we all need to take food and ocean issues more seriously.

Although there are many critical environmental issues -- climate change, depletion of soils, renewable energy -- one of our top priorities must be in saving and protecting our oceans. And of the myriad of issues facing our oceans, one tantamount concern is the endangerment and extinction of its marine life.

Literally we are fishing all the fish out of the sea. Did I say literally? Yes. Scientists forecast that we are facing the end of seafood by 2048 simply because we fish too much. Remember what happened with the buffalo? This is what is happening on a much larger scale -- with everything in the ocean. This is not an issue to be complacent about. It requires each of us to consider what seafood we purchase in restaurants and stores, and ask ourselves the humble question each time -- am I contributing to this problem?

The solution is to use a Seafood Watch card every time we buy seafood. They even have a sushi guide -- which is important because bluefin tuna are nearly extinct because of our love affair with that species at the sushi bar. And if you have Internet access on your phone, you can access the card there -- or even through an iPhone application. Choose the best choices every time -- no wavering. This protects your health and the fish.

Also at the Monterey conference, I saw the trailer for an upcoming documentary on this issue -- the film is called "The End of the Line." I also chatted with author Charles Clover, who wrote a book upon which this film is based and he also was the investigative reporter that was followed in the film. THIS FILM IS A MUST-SEE FOR YOU, YOUR FAMILY, AND YOUR FRIENDS IN 2009. Do not let this year go by without seeing this film. It will change your life. It will energize you to take better care of the oceans, and hopefully inspire you to write your government representatives asking that they pass legislation to protect the oceans. Here's the website to find a screening and learn more -- Let your heart strings be tugged enough to change what you buy and how you live!

Here's Ted Danson's quick thoughts on the film --

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Toxic Chemicals Continue Down Banning Path

There is a growing movement toward out-right banning of many toxic chemicals throughout the world.

In another sign of this trend, at the conference for the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in Geneva, Switzerland earlier this month there was an international agreement made on banning nine toxic chemicals.

The May 9th press release reads "Nine persistent organic pollutants (POPs) were listed today under the Stockholm Convention. Over 160 Governments have just concluded a one-week conference with practical decisions that will strengthen a global effort to eradicate some of the most toxic chemicals known to humankind."

Here are the chemicals to be eliminated from the planet, along with a "translation" --
  • Alpha hexachlorocyclohexane to Annex A; and Beta hexachlorocyclohexane to Annex A -- basically these have been used as solo killer insecticides in the past but now are by-products of other insecticides and chemicals used to treat lice. I'd take insects over soaking the planet with toxins -- anyone heard of integrative pest management?

  • Hexabromodiphenyl ether and heptabromodiphenyl ether to Annex A; and Tetrabromodiphenyl ether and pentabromodiphenyl ether to Annex A -- okay, these incredibly long names are actually used most often as flame retardants ... pajamas anyone?

  • Chlordecone to Annex A -- finally a shorter chemical name! This was a chemical used in the 50's as an agricultural pesticide. It is not known to be in use now. So, better we just wipe it off the planet before someone gets the bright idea to use it again.

  • Hexabromobiphenyl to Annex A -- another flame retardant, but this one was used in the 70s. Again, better to just ban it completely in case someone wants to use it again.

  • Lindane to Annex A -- this is an insecticide that has been decreasing in use over the years. Time to stop it all together.

  • Pentachlorobenzene to Annex A and C -- you'll find this beauty of a toxin in many items, PCB products, fungicides, solvents, pesticides, flame retardants, and as an unintentional by-product of industrial plants. Whew! It has literally soaked into our lives. Way past time to go!

  • Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, its salts and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride to Annex B -- according to the Stockholm report, this chemical is "found in products such as in electric and electronic parts, fire fighting foam, photo imaging, hydraulic fluids and textiles" and is produced in many countries today. This ban could not come soon enough.

For more info on getting toxic chemicals out of our lives you can check out the extensive education and lists I provide in my book The Mom's Guide to Growing Your Family Green: Saving the Earth Begins at Home.

And here is another post I had on this subject from a couple of weeks ago.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Why Earth's Forests Protect You -- And How You Can Protect Them

Growing up, my family would often go camping. My father was raised a farmer in Southern Arizona who spent much of his youth outside on the farm or up in the mountains. My mother spent her summers as a youth in the mountains of Northern Arizona herding cattle on horse and hiking the woods with her brother. So both my parents wanted to impart some of that love for nature to their city-raised children. As a result, I do love hiking and being in nature. I love forests and have deep respect for them.

If you haven't taken your family to Disneynature's "Earth," I encourage you to do so ... see it on the big screen. It's worth it. One point that was driven home for me in that film was the importance of our forests in protecting Earth's climate and its inhabitants, especially the Boreal Forest.

The Boreal Forest, also known as the Taiga, actually stretches across the entire top of the world's land mass -- the northern part of Canada, Alaska, Russia, Eurasia.

This vast wilderness is not only the habitat for large amounts of wildlife but also protects our planet's climate. Speaking of the North American portion of the Boreal, says Greenpeace ...

North America's Boreal forests are an ecological gem, a refuge of wilderness in a world where more than four-fifths of all intact forest landscapes have been lost or degraded. It stretches from Alaska to the Atlantic Ocean across an area of approximately 1.4 billion acres.

The Boreal forest is the largest tract of ancient forest left in North America and represents 25 percent of the world's remaining ancient forests. Like the Amazon, the Boreal forest is of critical importance to all living things. Its trees and peatlands comprise one of the world's largest "carbon reservoirs" - carbon is stored in the Boreal forest and not released into the atmosphere, thus helping stabilize the climate. As a vast and intact forest ecosystem, it supports a natural food web, complete with large carnivores like bears, wolves and lynx along with thousands of other species of plants, mammals, birds and insects. With its wetlands filtering millions of gallons of water each day, the Boreal forest contains 80 percent of the Earth's unfrozen freshwater.

The problem is that the Boreal forest is under attack --
  • Oil and fossil fuel drilling is pressing to take place there, to the destruction of forests and habitats
  • Logging is also a threat, because most logging is not regulated or sustainable and these forests are very slow to regrow
  • Dams have been built that flood habitats, a highly destructive way of killing off the needed forest

And, what becomes a vicious cycle, global warming is increased by release of greenhouse gases as forests are destroyed.

This is what has been brought to light by the Conservation International campaign"Lost There, Felt Here" as the organization looks to promote protecting and rebuilding of tropical rainforests. You may have seen Harrison Ford's PSA where he gets his chest hair ripped off to campaign for Conservation International.

As one person, what can you do to help?

I encourage to post your comments here for other ways you've found would be DOABLE for the average consumer to help in protecting forests around the world.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Doodle 4 Google Finalists - Lots of eco themes on the mind of kids

Pics include --

by Grace Para, 8, Sanford School, Hockessin, DE

by Austin Gage Druid, 12, Van Devender Middle School, Parkersburg, WV

by Meaghan Parker, 17, Spaulding High School, Rochester, NH

Monday, May 11, 2009

Can the polar bears really be saved?

This is the question we should all be asking ourselves after "The Obama administration said Friday that it would retain a wildlife rule issued in the last days of the Bush administration that says the government cannot invoke the Endangered Species Act to restrict emissions of greenhouse gases threatening the polar bear and its habitat." (New York Times)

Are we witnessing the end of a species? The polar bear.

Here's the problem, as stated eloquently from the National Wildlife Federation:

Global warming is causing polar bears to become a threatened species.

United States Geological Survey scientists conservatively project that two-thirds of the polar bear population in the world could disappear by 2050, including all of Alaska's polar bears.

The US Department of Interior announced that the polar bear will be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act on May 14, 2008, but the listing was filled with contradictions. For example, the administration signaled that it would take no steps under the Endangered Species Act to protect the polar bear from the massive oil and gas development currently planned in the very heart of its habitat.

While the population is currently estimated at more than 20,000 polar bears, already global warming has caused populations to decline in the Western Hudson Bay and Southern Beaufort Sea. Less summer sea ice is forcing bears to fast longer in the summer, decreasing their nutritional status and ability to bear and raise young.

And, says Andrew Wetzler, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council , relating to the Obama Administration's decision of last week --

“This is yet another decision by the Department of Interior that undermines protection for our endangered animals. The impact of global warming are already being felt in the arctic, and it poses a grave threat to polar bears and the entire ecosystem. We need to use every tool at our disposal, including the Endangered Species Act. The rule endorsed today is illegal, and we will continue to fight it in court.”

Although it seems a nearly impossible task for any one person to markedly affect the polar bears' decline, the irony is that the polar bears' cause is determined by the people ... one at a time. Each person's voice is actual very important in this cause. Governments, run by the people, need to enact stronger climate change regulations in order to slow and reverse greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

So, here's what you can do --
  • Encourage climate and energy legislation to pass out of its committee by Memorial Day -- go to this link for more info
  • There are 17 U.S. representatives who are undecided in determining if they will support climate and energy legislation. You can write them and ask them to support this legislation. Here's the list of these representatives.

Vote for America's Greenest School

I have been one of the judges for the America's Greenest School Campaign, and we have selected the top 10 green essays from children across the U.S. Now we would like you to vote for the winner. Go to to learn more!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Recycling Your E-Waste: Does it matter?

There are not better examinations of e-waste (electronic waste) than can be found in watching two films: Disney Pixar's Best Animated Film "Wall-E" and the award-winning documentary "Manufactured Landscapes." Both tell the tale of overwhelming trash -- one fictional, the other not.

According to Pike Research --

"... the e-waste crisis will worsen over the next several years until 2015, when volume will peak at 73 million metric tons. However, the firm forecasts that global volumes will decline in 2016 and beyond, as a number of key e-waste initiatives begin to turn the tide.

“'Key weapons in the war against e-waste include government regulation, electronics industry initiatives, and consumer awareness,' says managing director Clint Wheelock."

One of the problems, noted in the report is the dependence on voluntary efforts by consumers to recycle their e-waste and not just throw it away. The problem is expected to be overcome largely by public education and awareness of the hazards and responsibilities of e-waste.

Also, as more electronics manufacturers take out toxics from their products and create gadgets that can be more easily recycled, this can also be a boon to reducing e-waste. Greenpeace keeps track of this movement with its Guide to Greener Electronics.

What may help consumers is the improving ease by which their electronics can be recycled. If you have many options to recycle e-waste around you, similar to other general recycling, then it becomes an easier task to get electronics to a recycler.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Go Green: If not for the planet then for your health

The super-conservative, climate-change-denier Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inholfe is joining with Al Gore and other Democrats "in putting forward a bill for an official review of the dangers of soot or 'black carbon' to public health and the environment." (The Guardian) In the past Inholfe has even ridiculed Gore on his environmental evidence and stances. So what's different now?

Ah. The health argument.

I was met with this "alternate view" about a year ago when I did an interview with a Texas radio station for Earth Day. I was the one duped into believing this interview was going to be supportive of environmental issues, only to be lambasted on the air to make his ratings. However, after this radio host stopped talking for a moment, I was able to get in a point. "Well, if you don't buy into 'green' per say, you do believe that we should limit pollution and waste for health issues, no?" I said.

"Of course," said the host.

And there I got him. You see, if you don't go green for the planet, you'll go green for health reasons. And they nearly always are intertwined. So this, in my opinion, is what is happening with Inholfe. How can you deny that dirty fossil fuels and other pollutants aren't affecting our health?


So, Inholfe can keep on denying climate change and keep his Southern voters happy while still reversing climate change by taking a round-about stance on health issues and pollutants. Sad, but fine by me.

The climate and planet issues are too critical to argue further if the resulting action of reducing CO2, particulates, and black carbon is reached.

Monday, May 4, 2009

CNN Goes "National Geographic" at White House

How to Get Your Kids to Go Eco

I've seen a number of reviews about my book, The Mom's Guide to Growing Your Family Green: Saving the Earth Begins at Home in which parents have found the book very helpful in understanding how to go green, the many eco options available, and hard-to-find detailed info. But one question that is often posed to me is "How can I get my child to be more eco friendly?"

Wouldn't it be great if there were a silver bullet answer to this? The best answer to this question is actually relatively simple ... you do it by 1) example and 2) creating an eco friendly lifestyle in your home.

Kids will be kids. They have their own mind, just like you do. And this mind becomes more their own as they grow up. If you've created an environmentally conscious lifestyle at home throughout several years and have led by example, then what happens is that kids remember this example and lifestyle as they get older. They may stray here and there through their teen and young adult years, but if you've done your job early on then the chances of kids taking all or at least some of what they grew up with into their own lives is very high.

This is why I framed my book "Saving the Earth Begins at Home" because tomorrow's generation starts at ground zero -- your home ... whether it is an apartment or actual house does not matter. It is the four walls of your everyday existence with a parent raising a child.

Additionally, oftentimes I'm asked "What are special eco friendly activities you can do with your child?" Again, I nearly always reinforce the lifestyle approach. Going eco is not like going on a diet. However, I would stress that the best activities you could do would be nature oriented, whether a backyard or patio garden, some play at the park, a school garden, or a day trip to a local natural history museum or aquarium. In my book I give MANY more ideas in detail.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Women’s Health Week: Unburden the Planet and Your Body of Toxics

National Women’s Health Week 2009 is May 10-16. A top health issue for women and their families is reducing the amount of chemicals in the environment and in your everyday life.

Our environment and our bodies have been shouldering an ever-increasing amount of toxic substances. According to Environmental Working Group, only five of the 80,000 chemicals on the market have been regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act, and 700 more chemicals are being put on the market every year.

The good news is that through education and regulation, you can help the planet and your health by reducing toxic chemicals.

Government to Regulate Toxics More Carefully
The Environmental Protection Agency has recently reinstated more strict reporting requirements for industrial and federal facilities that release toxic substances that threaten human health and the environment. This reinstatement was made possible through a provision tucked into the recent federal stimulus bill. All facilities will need to report chemical releases of more than 500 pounds, which was the standard in 1986 but was loosened in 2006 by the Bush Administration.

Says EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, “People have a right to information that might affect their health and the health of their children ... and the environment in our communities.”

What this means is that starting July 1, 2009 this toxic release and waste management information will be made public and then it is up to the government to enforce cleanup of air, water, and soils – and require cleaner operations. And environmental groups will also be able to better track the public data, advising the general population and lobbying for stricter manufacturing, waste reduction, and elimination of toxic chemicals.

You can see how some of this data is tracked and presented to the public through "mashups" -- meshing data with visuals. Under the tag of “environment” at this site, you can see a number of mashups that are available – so you can get the idea. More popular mashups on this site are “Climate Change 2030” which does a side-by-side comparison of rising sea levels and how that is projected to impact cities, and “Wasting Away Superfund Toxic Legacy” which allows you to visually track hazardous waste dumps near where you live.

Although this reinstatement of EPA-required reporting is good news, what this doesn’t do is stop toxic chemicals from being put into your products – at least not yet. So that is still a major concern for consumers.

How To Reduce Toxicity in Your Everyday Life
According to Environmental Working Group’s 2009 toxicity study, 48 toxic chemicals on average were found in the female subjects tested across the U.S. Says EWG, “Americans’ increasingly heavy ‘body burden’ of chemicals appears linked to the rise in many systemic diseases, like cancer, among others, possible including autism, asthma, and diabetes.”

Toxics are currently found in nearly all consumer products – from food, electronics, household cleaners, clothes, water supplies, to personal care products. These toxics affect your health – both short and long term. Because the government is not yet regulating all the harmful chemical that surround you everyday, you have to educate yourself about chemical names and key words in order to make better choices and reduce them yourself.

Learn how you can avoid them, what are alternatives, and then also write your government officials to eliminate many of these toxics in the first place. In my book, The Mom’s Guide to Growing Your Family Green: Saving the Earth Begins at Home, I go into depth about most of the toxic chemicals in products and how you can make better choices for your health and the planet.

Toxic Chemicals to Watch Out For
Although there are many toxic chemicals you can avoid simply by choosing cleaner products, here are four offenders you can immediately try to avoid. More toxic chemicals are listed in my book.

  • No chlorine: Read labels of household products and cleaners, and stay away from chlorine because any product with chlorine harms your water supply and pollutes your air. Simple choices include chlorine-free paper, toilet paper, and cleansers. This is a fact sheet from the EPA on chlorine. Here’s a report I did on cleaner tissue products to also help you reduce your chlorine.

  • No VOCs: This is the short way of saying Volatile Organic Compounds, which are toxic gases that pollute your air. The most common VOC offenders are carpets, flooring, paints, some plastics, and household cleaners. Look specifically for the product to be labeled with zero or low VOCs – of course, zero is best. The easiest products to find low-VOC are paints and flooring/carpets because they have become better about labeling. Other products aren’t as transparent, so look for lower odors which oftentimes means less VOCs.

  • No BPA. Currently a hot-button issue in many states, with legislation to ban this chemical. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a toxic chemical that is used to make plastic #7, lines the cans of many of our canned foods (including infant formula), and is found in a multitude of other consumer products including electronics. It is best to not buy any plastics for food or beverage that are made from plastic #7, especially baby bottles and sippy cups. Also, ask your public officials to ban BPA.

  • No PFCs. These are perfluorinated compounds. Any product that is grease resistant probably has a coating of this compound, including stick-resistant cookware, microwave popcorn bags, dental floss, and carpets. And in a UCLA study, women who had higher levels of these compounds in their blood had fertility problems. The solution is to look for PFC-free products.