February 2011 - Our Daily Green

Monday, February 28, 2011

Cosmetics Green

In the past, Our Daily Green has shared information about reducing the chemicals in our environment as well as what we put on our bodies. Just this year alone, we encouraged readers to try a few days without soap, find a safer laundry detergent,  and rethink how we cook and package our food.

Today's tidbit to consider is the cosmetics we use. In our most noble state of mind, we can argue that we shouldn't even use cosmetics. Since we are an 80/20 blog, we would rather encourage our readers to find safer, more earth friendly, more socially responsible cosmetic alternatives.

The truth is, while I don't wear a lot of makeup on a regular basis, I do like it. I love taking a few minutes to polish my look and enhance my features. I have teenage daughters who are undergoing that amazing rite of passage to womanhood. There are cosmetics in Our Daily Green's home. But when a green lover such as myself sees videos like Annie Leonard's Story of Cosmetics, it gives us pause. (fact sheet)

Over the next few weeks, Our Daily Green has been given the opportunity to review several organic and socially responsible cosmetic companies. Stay tuned for our upcoming reviews.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cell Phone Green

Cell phone dangersOne of the most requested items from kids on holiday lists this past season was some sort of cell phone or smart phone device. Aside from the obvious risks associated with cell phone use and driving, cell phones may not be particularly safe for our health.

While most folks are aware of the dangers associated with radiation emitted from microwave ovens, for example, they don't necessarily realize that is the same kind of radiation that cell phones use for signals.

While the 2008 graphic from Harris Interactive, indicates "I'd Die Without My Phone" the bitter irony is that without careful use, cell phones may actually hasten death. Initially, warnings about radiation from cell phones were dismissed as "not proven" but after a 10 year testing period, the evidence is overwhelming.

cancer from cell phones
Similar to the reasons we wear lead vests for x-rays, cell phone radiation is constant. If the phone is in a pocket or next to the body, we are absorbing radiation. While the radiation from x-rays is ionizing (meaning they contain enough electromagnetic energy to strip atoms and molecules from the tissue and alter chemical reactions in the body) cell phones are the safer non-ionizing (meaning they are typically safe. Non-ionizing causes some heating effect, but usually not enough to cause any type of long-term damage to tissue). The concern is the increasing lengths of constant exposure as well as the ambiguous word "usually". 

The concern is strong enough that the American Cancer Society has published a warning about cell phone usage.  In the latest issue of Green American, an extensive interview with Dr. Devra Davis, author of Disconnect: The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family, reiterates the same concerns. 

Disconnect: The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your FamilyOur Daily Green is not given to alarmist theory nor do we advocate throwing out all cell phones. Instead, we want to share some of more safe ways to use our cell phones, to minimize our exposure to a type of radiation we typically use without much concern. When we consider the amount of time we spend on cell phones, a few precautions are in order. 

Victoria Kreha, responsible shopper coordinator & associate editor for Green America, offers 11 ways to protect yourself and your family: 

  •  Use hands free or speaker phone setting
  •  Keep the phone off your body
  •  Text instead of talking
  •  Turn it off when not using
  •  Replace cordless phones with corded
  •  Use a low radiation cell phone 
  •  Keep your cell, cordless or wireless modem away from your head
  •  Keep your phone fully charged (when the signal is weak, it has to work harder to find one)
  •  Be wary of devices that claim to block exposure 
  •  Don't give cell phones to young children as toys or pacifiers
  •  Take care with older children
Other nations have banned or restricted cell phone usage for children, including, India, Israel, Russia, France, Japan, UK and Germany. These bans are to keep our children safe. With growing documentation of the risks, precautions seem like a reasonable measure as cell phones proliferate and grow in popularity.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Soda Green

Sodastream Soda StreamOur Daily Green has blogged ad infinitum about the evils of beverages in plastic bottles, high fructose corn syrup and artificial ingredients. The other day, in a moment of thirst, I purchased a plastic bottle of diet soda and thought, thank goodness my blog readers cannot see me. I cringed in horror at the health and environmental crimes I was committing, but wanted to quench my thirst. Thank goodness I live by the 80/20  rule and I cashed in on some of my 20. We're not aiming for no impact, just 80% less.

In our desire to reduce, reduce, and reduce, coupled with two teenagers, we've managed fairly well without soda, but it still makes its way into the house from time to time. The evils of HFCS and artificial sweeteners drive the bulk of our decision, but even the wasteful plastic bottles from the seltzer water sat forlornly in our recycle bin. I tried heroically to ignore my gut instinct about why we should avoid plastic. Really, weren't we doing our 80%?

The empty plastic bottles stared at me week after week as we wanted to kick the seltzer habit. But a sense of entitlement crept in. We deserve an effervescent beverage, we miss carbonation! In a quest to see if what alternatives existed, we discovered quite possibly the coolest indulgence a green friend could ever have.

We discovered the amazing Sodastream. Yes, it is that fabulous. Let's start with the requisite disclaimer.
soda stream, no waste
elegant, earth-friendly glass carafes
I had been eying the Sodastream for a while and decided to contact them directly, asking if they would be interested in a review of their product. They graciously accepted my offer for a review and sent me not JUST a Sodastream but an assortment of their naturally flavored soda flavors, for free. So that is the string attached to this review, but it is as honest and true as the day is long.

We love the Sodastream. The company sent the Crystal model, with two glass carafes, one pressurized can of carbon, five flavors of soda and 4 flavors of unsweetened seltzer flavoring. This product is unbelievable. No waste, lower cost, natural flavorings. No electricity. We took the SodaStream on a camping weekend with 26 folks total and it was a complete hit. The consensus was a resounding level of awe and enjoyment. The flavors were a hit as well as having less trash to haul from our cabin at the end of the trip.

From the Sodastream corporate site:
Crystal combines top-notch performance with sleek, earth-friendly design in one elegant package. SodaStream Crystal uses a stylish, cut-glass, dishwasher-safe glass carafe for carbonation, allowing you to prepare your favorite soda, and then serve it immediately to the table with class and ease.
The natural soda flavors we tested are pink grapefruit, lemon lime, black currant pear, apple mango, and orange pineapple. The unsweetened seltzer flavors we received were mint, lemon-lime, orange, and raspberry. Made from all-natural ingredients, new Sodastream Sparkling Naturals make great-tasting "better for you" sodas. Sparkling Naturals contain no artificial flavors, no artificial colors and no artificial sweeteners, and do not contain any preservatives, making them a perfect, sparkling, natural soda alternative for the entire family. Each 750ml bottle of Sparkling Natural concentrate will make 6 liters (approximately 25 8-oz servings) of all-natural soda. Coming in Spring 2011 also are natural cola, root beer and ginger ale flavors.

I am so excited about their natural soda... they are real sugar, real flavor, mixed as you wish, each batch fresh. Sodastream drinks are lower in sugar grams, sodium, and caffeine than all the national brand names of soda.  For a complete comparison of sugar, carbs, and calories, click here.

Their diet sodas are sweetened with Splenda, if you need to avoid aspartame.  Speaking only for Our Daily Green, we'd rather avoid sugar or sugar substitutes in any form, at least for beverages. We did tinker with proportions of the flavored concentrate and discover that about 1/2 the grapefruit concentrate is still a great flavor. However, by far, the plain soda water, flavored with unsweetened lemon/lime is our personal favorite.

We absolutely love the glass decanters, they are elegant, sustainable, and easy to wash and reuse. Carbon refills and soda concentrates are available at national stores like Macy's, Sears, Sur la Table, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Williams Sonoma or can be mailed in for exchange. Depending on the model of SodaStream, each carbonator makes 60 or 110 liters, equivalent to 170 or 310 aluminum cans. When empty, the carbonator is refilled and reused, ready to make more fizzy and tasty soda whenever you want it.

Latest News from Soda Stream

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Healthy Child, Healthy World Green

Our Daily Green frequently gets notes from our friends and readers about different groups trying to make a greener world. Today we'd like to tell you about the nonprofit group Healthy Child, Healthy World and encourage you to watch the video at the bottom of the post. 

We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit inspiring parents to protect young children from harmful chemicals. 
Healthy Child Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer HomeCredible scientific evidence increasingly points to contaminants in our environments and toxic chemicals in everyday products as causing and contributing to many of these diseases. 
For the past two decades Healthy Child Healthy World has been the nation's leading organization of its kind. We help millions of parents, educators, health professionals, and the general public take action to create healthy environments and embrace green, non-toxic steps.
Purpose and Goals
  • Expand
  •  awareness and understanding of environmental hazards to children's health
  • Help
  •  the public learn about healthier practices, solutions, and products in the marketplace
  • Encourage
  •  daily action and informed lifestyle choices
  • Create
  •  standards and policies for safer products, foods, materials, and chemicals used in the home – promoting safer options and new alternatives
  • Advocate
  •  for and support corporate policies and governmental legislation that protect children from environmental risks
  • Engage
  •  communities to make wise choices and responsible decisions so families can flourish

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Fuel Film Green

(from the press kit)

FUEL is a comprehensive and entertaining look at energy in America:  a history of where we have been, our present predicament and a solution to our dependence on foreign oil. 

Rousing and reactionary, FUEL is an amazing, in-depth, personal journey of oil use and abuse as it examines wide-ranging energy solutions other than oil, the faltering US auto and petroleum industries, and the latest stirrings of the American mindset toward alternative energy.    

Josh Tickell’s stirring, radical and multi-award winning FUEL may be known by some as the “little energy documentary,” but in truth, it’s a powerful portrait of America’s overwhelming addiction to, and reliance on, oil.  

Having been born and raised in one of the USA’s most oil producing regions, he saw first hand how the industry controls, deceives and damages the country, its people and the environment, and after one too many people he knew became sick, Tickell knew he just couldn’t idly stand by any longer.   He decided to make a film, focusing both on the knowledge and insight he discovered, but also giving hope that solutions are at reach.  A ‘regular guy’ who felt he could make a difference, he spent 11 years making his movie, showing himself – and others – that an individual can indeed make a difference.

As first time director and narrator of the film, Tickell offers a virtual tour guide through the drama of fuel, the history, the politics, the mess that the world is in and the fascinating alternatives for a way out. In the movie, he interviews politicians, historians, professors and a sprinkling of activist celebrities, all of whom have their own take on one of the most important and pressing concerns of the modern era.  Interviews with a wide range of environmentalists, policy makers and educators, along with such “green” celebrities as Woody Harrelson, Sheryl Crow and Larry Hagman offer serious fuel for thought.  

FUEL encourages the discussion about the consequences of abusing our oil resources. Especially now, during this moment of “Change” going on in our country, it is extremely important to examine all the factors that have contributed to not only the economic meltdown, but also the environmental crisis and this country’s position in the world. And now as Americans look for answers and seek accountability, FUEL can help break the discussion wide open as it exposes the shocking connections between the auto industry, the oil industry and government, while exploring alternative energies such as solar wind, electricity and non-food based biofuels.

We first learned about this documentary from a local business, The Lemon Grove Cafe, that sponsors a Movie Series on the 4th Monday of every month. FUEL will be shown March 28, 2011 at 7 PM. 
We  will review the film after that local screening. If you would like to sponsor a screening in your area, follow the hyperlink for details.
The Lemon Grove is a cafe, coffee shop, bar, art gallery, musical venue and all-around good time. They feature a variety of coffee drinks using organic and Fair Trade coffee which is roasted weekly in Cleveland, Ohio.

Their kitchen features food supplied from local and organic sources. The bar features a constantly rotating tap system of local, import and craft beer and their walls are adorned with artwork from talented regional artists.

Monday, February 14, 2011

How far will you go green?

One ongoing question at Our Daily Green is how far we will go to be green. Let's make it honest and simple. Our Daily Green is a typical suburban household, a SITCOM (Single Income, Two Children, Outrageous Mortgage). Our green choices are absolutely a result of my personal upbringing, but also a way to compensate for a single not dual income. I lived on an organic veggie farm and with a father who put throwing out aluminum cans up there next to sloth and greed as sins. The junior daily greenies are not nearly as enamored with the green choices we make in our home, but I try to remember the time I was there myself.

Just the other day, my youngest announced how horribly embarrassing it is for her to not just carry a lunchbox, but also cloth napkins. Couldn't we just use paper? I said, Honey, I don't HAVE any paper napkins. There was a moment when principle was trumped. I was that age once. I am grateful that the biggest worry my children have is that they don't have a paper napkin in their lunches. But neither will I drum up extra levels of discomfort at a time fraught with hormones, academics, and other sorts of stress we adults forget we ever had and possibly dismiss too readily. I can remember my then preteen sibling screaming to our mom about a burn, "Don't you just have a bandage? I don't want your herbs and spices!", as she tried to put the gel from an aloe plant on his wound. But in that echo, I heard and heeded the voice of my own child. I put some paper napkins on my shopping list. 

I truly believe that the key to green living is not extremist. Sure there is an idealist in me who wants to live "off the grid" with my own solar panels, raising chickens, and making my own clothing.  It's idyllic in my mind. I also know the reality is not idyllic, but rather scary. It's a lot of pressure. I've decided that for the purpose of Our Daily Green, we better serve our cause to encourage a lot of people to make tiny moves than to push a few people to make extreme moves. We apply that same philosophy to our life. Do we want to push our children past their comfort level or do we want to share subtle ways to change?

When I think about my sibling begging to skip the herbs and spices in favor of a bandage, I am reminded of human nature. I am reminded that our process is wholly reliant on comfort. Period. I think about the "more harm than good" approach and how green isn't even on the radar for the sibling who only wanted a bandage. We are a world of conformity. We are a place where similarity is welcomed, but difference is mocked. 

I debate my willingness to change as I buy recycled toilet paper, but only for "my" bathroom, not the kids' or spouse's because concern for their bottoms is not offset by concern for the planet. I mean really do we environmentalists want to be a gaggle of folks who are crotchety martyrs with sore behinds or do we want to make that millimeter closer to green barely perceptible?  I fold her paper napkin and smile, as I put it next to her washable sandwich box, snack container, and reusable juice box. I smile at the soda maker I received to reduce the bottles and cans (review to be soon!), and I appreciate the compost pile we have.  

Without making excuses, we can make green happen in a way that is still better than yesterday, and still better yet tomorrow. One less paper napkin at a time. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Stopping the Leaks

I share another slice of my world (from my blog Fresh Daily Bread). I'm curious what my readers think about the state of education in our nation?

Stopping the Leaks

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Saving Green

From the very first post, the mission of Our Daily Green has been and continues to be promoting not only an eco-friendly lifestyle, but also the ways that such a lifestyle is wallet friendly. Saving two types of green, the planet and money.

We actively contact companies for giveaways and promote contests that save our readers money. We've partnered with Bricor for free and discounted low flow shower heads, ConservingNow for free shopping bags, and our current February promotion, Charlie's Soap laundry detergent. We understand that if green choices are more expensive, there is no short term benefit to making them.

America Saves is a non profit organization that promotes savings at all levels of income. They offer tips and strategies to encourage all Americans to assess their savings progress and take action to build wealth, not debt. Your savings tip can be worth a $50 EE savings bond if it is selected for publication. For the youngest savers, submit a short video to the When I Grow Up contest to be eligible for $1000 savings bond. Get a jump start on saving! 

Next week, February 20-27, is America Saves Week, a national event filled with encouraging tips and ideas to grow our savings accounts and reduce our debt.  

As part of the same mission, Choose to Save offers an array of  user-friendly, multimedia materials to help individuals plan and save for their financial future, including:

  • Brochures  with valuable saving information for any stage of life
What are some of your favorite strategies for saving?


Monday, February 7, 2011

Cheesehead (Yellow &) Green

In case Our Daily Green readers weren't aware, yesterday was a day filled with Super-sized bowls of food and vats of drink and there may have been a football game as well. One of the recurring hints we like to share with our readers is not just about what is on the outside of our bodies, but also what we put into it. We try to encourage external as well as internal green living.

As a tribute to the Green Bay Packers and cheeseheads everywhere, today's blog will be about ways to green up the cheese in our diet (in this case, green is not about mold!). In an informal poll on my personal Facebook page yesterday, cheese was an overwhelming favorite ingredient in many of the planned foods for Superbowl festivities.

Most of the cheese used in recipes will be purchased in convenient, pre-shredded 2 cup plastic bags. Block cheese is really a much more economical and frugal choice. A typical one pound block of cheese will net nearly twice as many cups of pre-shredded cheese. Additionally, pre-shredded cheese contains a lot of additives we'd rather limit in our diet.

To keep the shredded cheese from sticking together, it is coated with a cellulose product known as natamycin. This is the preferred anti-caking agent of the dairy industry. It's also sawdust. This is something we'd rather not to pay for by the pound or eat on my food. Additionally, once cheese is shredded, it exposes more surface of the cheese to air which encourages mold growth. Therefore, already shredded cheese utilizes benzoates as a preservative. Benzoates are a common allergen, and listed as a product to avoid if you have such allergies.

What we like to do is purchase blocks of cheese to pre-shred (using our food processor because we like convenience as much as the next guy!), and freeze into 2 cup bags (that we've washed and reused because really does a zipper seal bag go bad after one use?).  If we just need a little, we use a hand grater.

A safe cheese handling report from Clemson University includes these tips for shredding and freezing cheese:

  • Freeze pieces of a half-pound or less. 
  • Use moisture-proof and airtight wrapping. 
  • Freeze quickly and store at 0 °F for two to six months.
  • Thaw in refrigerator so cheese won't lose moisture; the slower the cheese is thawed, the better. 
  • Use as soon as possible after thawing.

 So we tip our hat to the Green Bay Packers win, and encourage you to enjoy your cheese wisely!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Solid Soap Green

bar of soapPerhaps it seems like Our Daily Green has been a little fixated on soap lately. We've had to do so much research on the no soap challenge then the laundry detergent giveaway, that our brain is a little sudsy!

But here is a very simple consideration that will save you money and the environment. Get away from as much liquid soap as you can. What is the NUMBER ONE INGREDIENT in liquid soap? Water. Yes, dear readers, you are paying for ... water. Which is something you can add from your tap. Think back to the days of soap dishes and washcloths. A day before poofs, shower gels, soap dispensers. Remember the good old fashioned bar of soap. Remember how long it lasted. Remember chopping the soap slivers and making new bars of soap that look like confetti? Another hint is to save soap slivers in the end of an old pair of pantyhose.

ABC's Good Morning America tested liquid soap and bar soap to compare effectiveness and discovered that technique is the only difference in germ fighting. The best guideline is to wash hands for at least 20 seconds according to the Center for Disease Control.

Liquid soap is generally sold in plastic bottles that are not environmentally friendly. As we have stressed in the past, just because certain plastics (#1, #2) can be recycled, it doesn't mean they become the same product again. In other words, to get more plastic soap containers, virgin resources are still depleted. Recycled plastic becomes something completely different, like carpet or polar fleece. Look around your house at all the bottles of soap products, from laundry soap, to dishwasher soap, to body wash, to hand soap. I have to laugh when I see the "concentrated liquids/use less", because really, they just have less WATER. We've been conned into paying yet again for water.

Read the ingredients. Every single bottle the first ingredient is WATER. Switch back to bar or powdered soap. You're already adding water to activate the soap, why pay so much extra for it to have it pre-added? Save your money, a lot of packaging and the environment. Stop using liquid soap whenever you can.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

When Packaging Goes Wrong Instead of Going Green

This short video really drove home a point, so I asked my friend Tracy over at ECOSiZe Me if I could share it. She graciously agreed.

One of my huge huge pet peeves is ridiculous packaging on unbreakable items, especially if we think they are ecofriendly items!

Under the category of personal care, I ordered some reusable female items that could have been tucked into a simple envelope, but came swaddled in layers of plastic, surrounded by shipping peanuts in a box within the box.

When I wrote the company in question, I was told, "We cannot control what our distributors do." So now I'm left with a question I pose to Our Daily Green readers... what can WE do?

Wool Dryer Ball Green

According to Project Laundry Line, about 5.8 percent of residential electricity use goes towards the clothes dryer, if all Americans would use the clothesline or wooden drying racks, the savings would be enough to close several power plants.

Our Daily Green has written about air drying our laundry several times, but truly there are just times it isn't practical, especially in a house with "I need this tomorrow for X" teenagers, or in the winter when indoor drying can take a day or two. We still hang dry many of our clothes, but yes, we use our dryer as well.

Today's post is a guest post from Eco Friendly Homemaking, by Alicia, who was kind enough to allow me to copy her post here. She found a fabulous way to shorten drying time by making Wool Dryer Balls.
According to the U S Department of Energy your dryer checks in at number two (right behind your refrigerator ) on the list of household energy hogs. There are some ways that you can save energy when using your dryer.  Always make sure that you clean the filter on a regular basics.  It will increase efficiency and shorten your dryer time.  If your dryer has a moisture sensor you should definitely use it! The dryer will automatically shut off when it senses that your clothes are dry.  This saves lots of energy plus your clothes last longer.
Several years ago I became aware of the dangers of fabric softeners. According to The Environmental Protection Agency and industry-generated Material Safety Data Sheets there is a mind boggling list of dangerous petrochemicals in these products, many of them used in untested combinations.
When I found out about this I started researching to come up with some kind of alternative to using fabric softeners. I discovered that fabric softener sheets were worse than the liquid. I thought that the rubber type dryer balls sounded good until I researched them some more and found that it some cases they were as much or more toxic than the liquid softener or the dryer sheets because of the materials that were being used to manufacture them.
I didn’t give up and believe the Lord led me to this wonderful article on making your own dryer balls from wool material. You can use any wool as long as it is 85- 100% wool. I went to our local Goodwill and went on the hunt for the largest wool sweaters I could find. (which is a little harder than you might think since most sweater are made of a lot of blended materials these days )
Then I brought them home and washed them in hot water and then put them in the dryer. This is called felting and as you might imagine they were a lot smaller when they came out of the dryer. You cut them in strips and roll and stitch as you go along. You want them to be at least tennis ball size and some larger. You need to make at least ten or twelve of them.  Then put them all in your dryer and leave them there. They eliminate static and wrinkles and they have cut my drying time by a whopping 30% ! WHAT AN ENERGY SAVER. Mine have lasted almost three years and are still going strong. The way they work is instead of your wet clothes just laying on top of each other the dryer balls lift and separate them so that the air can flow all around allowing your clothes to dry much faster.

The wool balls are really easy to make so I encourage you to go out and check thrift stores, yard sales or Goodwill and find wool blankets, skirts or sweaters and take the time to make your own.

Thanks, Alicia for this great tip!