Katy blogs at Non-Toxic Kids (more on that below), and she is involved with the EDF’s Moms Clean Air Force, which holds a Live chat online via Facebook TODAY, Wednesday, June 1, from 2:00 – 3:00 pm EST. Just go to the Moms Clean Air Force Facebook page, click “like,” and you’re in!
A few months ago, the FDA was considering putting warning labels on all foods containing artificial colorings.
Just the fact that they were considering this should give parents pause. It certainly did for me!
The FDA did this because studies have shown when parents removed all food containing artificial coloring from their children’s diet, the behavior of their children improved. These studies focused on children with behavior challenges and disabilities. Some studies even show behavioral changes in typical children.
I’m of the philosophy that if something is harmful to pregnant mothers, to people living in the state of California, or to one group of children, its likely harmful for all of us. Shouldn’t we be prescribing to the precautionary principle with our kids? And with managing child behavior, can’t we use all the help we can get? I certainly can.
Ultimately, the FDA decided not to include the warnings on food containing artificial colorings—probably because of heavy lobbying from the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
Artificial food colors are everywhere. And unfortunately, the United States has become a dumping ground for them. In other countries, consumers have demanded that food companies remove questionable food colorings from foods. You can see here the different Nutri-Grain bar boxes, one from the U.K. and one from the U.S.
So, how does a concerned parent avoid artificial food colorings?
*Read labels! Artificial food coloring HAS to be on the label. You’ll see it listed like this: “colored with (RED 40, YELLOW 5, BLUE 1)” as an example.
*Avoid regular food coloring in baked goods. Opt for natural versions instead available in the natural food section of your grocery store or your local natural foods store.
*Question brightly colored foods. They likely contain artificial food colorings (otherwise, how could they be so unnaturally bright?). Think rainbow colored popsicles, bright blue frosting, Jell-O, and Fruit Loops.
*Shop at your local natural food co-op, Whole Foods, or Trader Joe’s who refuse to sell any food that contains artificial coloring. No worries!
Author Bio: Katy Farber is an author, blogger, and teacher from Vermont. She writes the green parenting blog, Non-Toxic Kids which features parenting news; information about how to raise kids naturally; book, music, and eco-friendly product reviews; environmental issues; and opportunities for activism. Katy published two books in 2010, about education: Why Great Teachers Quit and How We Might Stop the Exodus and Change the World with Service Learning: How to Organize, Lead and Assess Service Learning Projects.
Do you, like me, have a fascination with twins? Especially identical twins? Maybe it’s the Winklevoss effect … but it was a LOT of fun to meet Tammy & Lyssie Lakatos in New York a few weeks ago.
They reminisced about their strong parental models and their childhood in Maryland — and about how they landed on their career passion when they were playing varsity soccer in high school.
“On game days we were served platters of croissants and danish, and we’d gobble them up but then we played SO badly. We felt so sluggish, too. We looked at each other and realized this is how LOTS of people feel, all day every day. We decided to start a business for happy healthy living.”
If you live in NYC, you might like to sign them up for a personal training program. Having met them, I know it would be impossible to miss training dates with these two!
I asked Tammy and Lyssie to go beyond their usual bounds of nutrition and fitness for the Practically Green blog, and they were game. Enjoy!
Sign up for e-versions of your telephone & cell bills, by Tammy and Lyssie Lakatos
As little kids, we had a routine; every day when the mail came, we’d run out to the mailbox with our Mom and eagerly wait for her to hand over any “junk” mail. Rarely did mail actually come addressed to us, aside from a few cards on our birthday. So day after day, Mom would divvy up the “junk” mail, usually one piece for each of us. This mail was like gold in our hands, we’d fight over who got the “prettier” mail, or whose “junk” mail was more “fun.” And after we made the most of our mail by scribbling on it, pretending to mail it, or putting it in our room, we’d eventually trade mail pieces to enhance our mail collection.
Now, many years later, oh how the tables have turned. Tammy’s kids now beg her for the junk mail, as Tammy sorts through a stack of mail that she no longer wants. And by “mail,” she means bills. And yes, sadly, nowadays, all of the mail is addressed to her.
So recently, when Tammy spotted a note on the bottom of her cell phone bill explaining that she could skip receiving a paper bill altogether, she jumped at the opportunity. Within minutes of logging in to her wireless network’s website, voila, she was paper-free. This was about nine months ago, and as soon as Tammy started, she alerted Lyssie about the paperless cell phone bills. We both dove in and we haven’t looked back since. Our bills are paid directly from our bank account and we get an email monthly which shows us the details of our bill. We can also log in at any time and check out our current charges and our usage.
Not only has having a paper-free cell phone bill made the pile of mail that we receive less overwhelming, but as an added bonus, it’s great for the environment! If 20% of households switched to electronic bills, statements and payments each year instead of paper, it would save 1,811,275 trees and avoid producing 2 million tons of greenhouse gases. Wow. Plus over a billion gallons of wastewater during paper production would be saved!
As optimists, we think that by the time Tammy’s little ones enter high school, all of us will have made the switch to electronic billing and there will no longer be such a thing as junk mail, aside from the kind that comes in the form of emails.
Check out the Nutrition Twins site for tips, books, and blog. Follow them on Twitter @NutritionTwins and join their Facebook page for easy tips to stay healthy and energy-wise. For instance:
Heading out to a BBQ today? Try these tips to help prevent overdoing it. 1) For every alcoholic beverage, drink two large glasses of water and ideally limit the drinks to one. :) 2) If you have a hard time stopping once you reach for a chip or pretzel, then go for the fruit instead. And if you just like to munch in social situations, despite not being hungry, chomp on veggie crudite. If you’re afraid your host won’t have fruit or veggies, bring your own as a gift to the host– they’ll love you for it and so will your waistline! 3) Choose the leanest meats/protein sources like chicken breast, shrimp, veggie burgers or a very lean cut of beef (like ground sirloin for burgers).
I can’t think of a better day to plant a tree than Memorial Day, can you? Trees are 99% permanent ideal markers for those we love who might no longer be around. My husband Jack and I planted three river birches this spring and on Memorial Day we’re going to decide who each tree is for!
I say amazing because Connie is the founder of CouturePlanet: her bags, made of curated newspapers, are nothing short of brilliant (see photo below). Love her historic take on our action, and her decision to make change happen in her town …. Please read on!
A Tree Grows in Lynn, Massachusetts, by Constance Carman
“We want a ground to which people may easily go after their days work is done…with a sufficient number of trees about it to supply a variety of light and shade… We want depth of wood enough about it not only for comfort in hot weather, but to completely shut out the city from our landscapes.” – Fredrick Law Olmstead
I admire Frederick Law Olmstead on so many levels. In addition to being one of our greatest landscape architects, he was a genius who spoke openly against the issues of his time such as slavery and civil rights. I am a native of Buffalo, and Cazenovia and Delaware Parks taught me about the beauty of nature and the importance of having a green space that belongs to everyone.
I now live in Swampscott, Massachusetts, a seaside town north of Boston where we are lucky to live in the Olmstead Historic District: a well-preserved, residential area designed in 188I, during the same time that Olmstead designed the Emerald Necklace and the Arnold Arboretum. And, I spend several weeks a year in New York City where I cannot imagine life without Central Park! Frederick Law Olmstead was indeed green!
I’ve always been concerned with the environment. One of the best things about starting Couture Planet™ two years ago is that I – and the whole Couture Planet™ team – have become far more concerned. Important sites like Practically Green give us the information and tools needed to make changes – large and small – in our personal lives, but we must take the initiative and carry them through day in and day out!
As we all know, it’s not always easy.
One of the things I plan to do as an outward display of my concern for the environment is to plant a tree in the community where my company is based. It’s an opportunity to both improve the look of the city and reap some energy benefits. Trees are a part of the infrastructure of our communities and a crucial part of our ecosystem. Especially in urban areas, trees can help reduce energy usage, heating and cooling by up to ten percent. Trees can transform streets and public areas. They are “green machines” that clean our air and water by absorbing pollutants and stabilizing soil. Planting a tree also provides the opportunity to raise one’s awareness of his or her surroundings. As each one of us should think of ourselves as stewards of our local environment, this is what I set out to do.
I called the Mayor’s office and was directed to someone who handles tree planting and the “adopt an island or container program.” I explained that I was hoping to make a contribution that would beautify a spot in the city but, moreover, have an environmental impact. (I even told them about the good work of Practically Green and directed them to the action!
Well, they promised someone would get back to me and I am patiently waiting to get more information. In the meantime, I went on a search to see how other communities are propelling their tree planting programs.
One of the most ambitious programs I came across is TreePeople, a highly organized Los Angeles-based group that has planted over 2 million trees in the LA basin. TreePeople’s mission is to inspire, engage and support people to take personal responsibility for the urban environment, making it safe, healthy, fun and sustainable and to share the results as a model for the world. Phew! I love people with lofty goals! They have a terrific website with everything you need to know about forestry, including a list of the Top 22 Benefits of Trees.
Here are a few of my favorite reasons to “plant and care for trees or defend a tree’s standing”
- Trees combat the greenhouse effect
- Trees clean the air
- Trees cool the streets and the city
- Trees help prevent water pollution and soil erosion
- Trees mark the seasons
- Trees create economic opportunities, and
- Trees add unity. As landmarks, they can give a neighborhood a new identity and encourage civic pride.
The folks in the UK also take their trees seriously. The Woodland Trust, England’s leading woodland conservation, has a nifty feature called MyView that allows one to see how a street or neighborhood might look with the addition of trees. Take and upload a photograph of your local environment that would benefit from the addition of trees. Their web gizmo then allows you to drag and drop trees onto the photos of local streets and parks. Very cool! Check it out!
Well, it seems the East coast is lagging beyond the West coast (don’t repeat that!) and well behind the UK, as I’m still waiting for information on where I can and will plant my tree. I understand, all local government is overworked.
So, not only will I make this public promise to plant a tree, I also vow to speak to the powers that be about helping to facilitate the process for others in the future.
Sounds like my new cause! My dream is to plant a Saucer Magnolia tree in front of the Lydia Pinkham Building, the present home of Couture Planet™. (Lydia Pinkham, born in 1819, was an entrepreneur who made home remedies for “women’s ailments” — a worthy topic for another day!)
This magnolia is a spectacular specimen that gives us her show of fragrant pink blooms in late April. The tree matures to 20’-30’ with a 25’ spread – making it perfect for the busy streets of Lynn. The waft of its heavy perfume will intoxicate passers by for 14 glorious days! Thereafter, she shows her greenery and serves as a home to many of our favorite songbirds.
I’ll fall asleep tonight dreaming of my magnolia.
While reading about trees for this blog, the fact that astonished me the most is that in one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles. Wow! I can’t wait to plant my tree!
Connie, a graduate of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, is the Owner and President of Couture Planet™, a Lynn, Massachusetts-based Company that manufactures handbags and accessories from 100% post-consumer newspaper. In addition, Connie is the buyer for the Shop at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel, where she is the also the Chairman of the hotel’s “Green Team” that aims to increase recycling and reduce waste at the Boston hotel.
The idea for Couture Planet™ was born after seeing piles of newspapers in the hotel: “Newspapers are history; newspapers are iconic. Why not repurpose the images into fashion pieces?” Couture Planet™ combines Connie’s concern for the environment and entrepreneurial spirit. Couture Planet’s™ interests and activities extend beyond recycling and the company is constantly seeking ways to be “more green” and more responsible citizens of the world.
This is a party-heavy time of the year! Graduations, celebrations, barbeques, weddings – they all mean lots of gift-giving. (Not to mention all those gift-needy babies who seem to be popping up all over!)
Practically Green Solution: Give an Eco-Friendly Gift! by Jamaica Jenkins
You’ll find lots of ideas on our action page; and for an in-depth report absolutely brimming with great recommendations, here’s Jamaica Jenkins. She wrote us, “It’s a bit long but it’s friendly and it should read well.” To Jamaica: we think it reads GREAT and we hereby declare you Practically Green’s Personal Gift Shopper! Thank you!
Give an Eco Friendly Gift (Even if It’s Last Minute!)
Let’s start by declaring: gifts are fabulous! We all love the warm, happy feeling that comes with giving someone the “perfect” gift. We aim to watch faces light up and smiles take over, and of course, we cherish when we’re the lucky one to unwrap something we’ve been dreaming about.
This is gifting bliss…which, can be followed by a quiet, overwhelmed feeling from too much paper, packaging and piled-high parties. lf you’ve seen The Story of Stuff then you know, in the back of your mind, the “stuff” we buy, including gifts, will likely hit the landfill within six months. (Goodbye warm and fuzzy feeling!)
The trick is to bring balance – to skip the stuff that isn’t necessary and to remember, there are many ways to go easier on the planet, without skimping on the wow factor. To help with your next gifting extravanganza— whether it’s a housewarming or a graduation, a birthday or an anniversary, here are some readily available, easy to consider-even-in-the-last-minute, lighter on the landfill gifts:
- Pitstop for Plants
You don’t have to be the gardening type to appreciate the perfect plant! Indoor plants like bamboo and hanging greens can bring energy to any room. For the aspiring or expert green thumb, bushes, flowers, and trees, like lilacs, can make memorable gifts the recipient will enjoy every year. Visit Gardeners Supply for ideas.
- Click to Buy Tickets
Know a special someone who likes concerts? Comedy? Movies? These and a million other shows are one click away on sites like LiveNation or perhaps you search for local venues at theaters, schools and other performances.
- Keep it Local
If you have family all over the country, there are ways you can quickly and easily find a local gift, even if you’re shopping from 2100 miles away! Etsy has a handy dandy zip code lookup tool. Simply type in the digits where your friend lives and you can find a gift nearby. (Double bonus! Because the gift is not only locally handmade with love, it will cost less to ship and use less fuel to transport). Another option? Simply ask which restaurant, yoga studio, bookstore your friend prefers and get on the horn. Order a gift certificate and the perfect gift awaits!
- Look up a Lesson!
Check your local papers and search online for local classes. You can find cooking classes, flower arranging, yoga, guitar lessons, voice lessons (know any Idol wannabes?), salsa, Zumba, painting and on and on. These make GREAT gifts and can be purchased last minute! They require no “packaging” and will be both memorable and inspiring.
- Make it Handmade
Aside from the jaw dropping creativity you’ll find on Etsy, you can swing by local craft bazaars, art shows, and farmer’s markets to find delicate, unique treasure that will be worn, displayed and showcased with love. (Check out these COOB Originals made from skateboard decks! (I rock the hoop earrings and the compliments roll in. Love them.)
- Think Cleaner Kids’ Gifts
Ahh, yes. Kids’ gifts. Arguably one of the most challenging to keep eco friendly. I have three kids. I’ve bought the plastic stuff just because it’s what’s available. Here are a few specific ways to curb the plastic! (It’s ok to skip the goody bags.)
- Give an experience, like the ones listed above. Movie tickets, music downloads, lessons, concerts, etc. are great for older kids.
- Choose from eco-conscious brands that make toys that are clean, safe and non toxic and/or use sustainable materials. Great toys can be found at the TreeHugger Kids Gift Guide, featuring: Plan Toys, Sprig toys, Haba Toys and Bugabikes.
- Pick a classic that will hold its value and last the longest. For example, Legos are plastic but they have staying power! And they can be handed down years and years to come.
- Give a gift, give back to a cause. The WWF offers a PLUSH gift + adoption of a Panda, Polar Bear, Cubs or Emperor Penguin. Click for more info.
- Pick Products that Give Back
You can find just about any product with a conscience— from TOMS Shoes to an animal from Heifer International to Newman’s Own Wine make great gifts that will leave you feeling good about their ripple effect on the planet.
- Give Traditional Gifts…With a Greener Twist
No matter what your friend or family member is into, you can find traditional “gift” items with an eco-friendly twist. Check sites like Vivaterra, Uncommon Goods. From non-toxic yoga mats to lead-free glass bottles to recycled glassware—all the traditional gifts we’ve been giving for years now have a greener side. Not to mention many delicious body potions, lotions, creams, and oils use eco friendly ingredients. These responsible luxuries make perfect gifts!
- Consider Gourmet Consumables
One way a gift won’t land in the landfill is if it’s eaten! Think of all the ways food can play into gifting: from a CSA farmshare to a donation to Wholesome Wave, which makes healthy eating programs happen nationwide. More foodie choices: local restaurant and coffee shop gift certificates and other tasty treats. Fine wine, cheeses and other delicacies are delish, and don’t forget fair trade chocolates, handmade cupcakes and other baked goodies. (YUUUM)
- Re-Invent Re-Gifting
Ok, so some things should never be re-gifted. But plenty of other valuable items are perfect! If you think the recipient would appreciate your eco-effort to deliver a gently used item — say a vase or stemware or margarita glasses you don’t use anymore — then by all green-means, go for it! Think of all the unique “things” in your house that go unused. They may make someone else very happy. You can also buy from consignment shops, thrift stores, and antiques stores. Not wearing that necklace anymore? Jewelry makes a great second-hand treasure!
- Give a Group Gift + Group Donation (My Personal Fave…Just Sayin!)
Sometimes, fabulous gifts are a bit pricier or perhaps there’s just one thing the person REALLY wants. Group gifting is the perfect way to give without overdoing the excess! When people pitch-in together, it simplifies the process, makes less waste and delivers something really awesome.
Even if it’s not a green item, group gifting is still greener because a) the gift will be really wanted and in use longer and b) it reduces the runaround and paper and packaging of multiple gifts!
Add a donation collection “in lieu of wrapping paper” and give back as a group! Visit Inlu.com to get more ideas on group gifting and giving.
This is just to get you started, and of course creative wrapping paper (or skipping it altogether) can help. Good luck in your gifting ventures! When we all make small changes, lighter choices and simpler efforts, it adds up to a happier planet!
Jamaica lives in South Burlington, Vermont, with her husband and three rowdy (her word) boys. She’s co-founder of Inlu, one of the coolest eco-friendly gift-giving concepts we’ve heard of — check out their Father’s Day group gift idea.
“Inlu.com (https://www.inlu.com/) offers web invitations that include a collection for any gift, any charity or both. Jamaica’s all about “group giving for a happier planet” and aims to help others simplify gifting through ‘less mess, more love.’ “
Let’s face it, hot and humid is coming (okay, it has arrived), and deodorant season is upon us.
Our trusted advisor Sheila Hollender (bio here) is all over the benefits (aka imperatives) of choosing a natural deodorant. Remember, Sheila has been obsessed with healthy alternatives to mass-market cosmetics and personal-care products for about one hundred years. She tells part of the story here, and we promise to get other bits of it from her this summer on the blog! You might enjoy a peek at her PG Action Plan!
Deodorant Blog, by Sheila Hollender
It was 1987 when my first daughter was born. My husband and I were just starting Seventh Generation and we were going to “green” the world. No one knew what to make of us and our “crazy “ ideas about selling toilet paper made from recycled paper. The only food I fed our daughter, Meika, was organic food. We made all kinds of changes – out went the sodas, the hairsprays, even the deodorants. All aerosols were banned from the home.
Fast forward thirteen years and two more children, and I noticed all types of banned products make it into the girls’ bathroom. Other than the lipstick containing lead, I noticed conventional antiperspirants!
Had I failed as a mother?
I sat the kids down and explained to them that the anti-perspirants contained all types of toxic chemicals – including aluminum and parabens — and the effects that such chemicals can have on humans. By the time I was done they gave up the enemy (albeit reluctantly) and let me replace it with an all-natural deodorant.
There are many choices out there – including my favorite, Weleda Citrus deodorant. Next up, conventional tampons. I saved that for the next lecture!
Of all the actions on Practically Green, this one has always puzzled me. Why would bar soap be greener than a lovely bottle of all-natural shower gel?
I mentioned this to Julie Wagner and she said “Please let me write about it! I love soap!” So today Julie tackles Switch from Shower Gel to Bar Soap, a 10-point action that might just be the very last one on my list…. I love my goo! But Julie is pretty persuasive…. Read on, please, and let us know what you think!
Switch from shower gel to bar soap, by Julie Wagner
I often tell people that I have a 7 year-old boy and a 4 year-old girl who thinks she’s a 7 year-old boy. She does her level best to keep up with her big brother! When I say that my kids get dirty (and I mean *really* dirty) I mean both of them…so what’s a “wicked green” mama to do when it comes time to clean ‘em up?
What’s the difference between soap and detergent? Annie Bond put it simply when she stated that “Soaps are made of materials found in nature. Detergents are synthetic.” Lately, it seems every time you turn around, there is a new scientific study sharing more information about the toxins in our homes, our foods, and in the products that we regularly use. It’s enough to give you a headache! (The barrage of information, not just the toxins.) Frighteningly, it isn’t just the new studies sharing these discoveries of toxicity… it is the fact that many of the components/ingredients in products aren’t tested at all.
In fact, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), “Cosmetics and other personal care products are an alarming example of government and industry failures to protect public health. Federal health statutes do not require companies to test products or ingredients for safety before they are sold. As a result, nearly all personal care products contain ingredients that have not been assessed for safety by any accountable agency, and that are not required to meet standards of safety.”
Are there other factors to consider?
Water. Shower gels contain water (most often the first ingredient) which means you’re paying for… water. It also means greater amounts of packaging, additional transportation costs, and that adds up to an increased “carbon footprint” for the product.
Energy. The energy resources required both for the processing and manufacturing of the shower gel, in addition to the production of the plastic packaging, is much greater than that of a hand-poured soap in a paperboard package (if packaged at all) The energy in transportation is also higher due to the heavy containers filled mostly with water.
So, what to choose?
I find bars of soap from my local farmer’s market fit my criteria best – few ingredients, sourced organically and/or locally, and crafted locally. You can find many fabulous artisan soap makers across the country at local craft sales and farmer’s markets as well as online. One of my favorites is Mamas Herbal Soaps out of Portland, OR.
My plan: bar soap made from few ingredients, organic if available, minimal packaging (if any) and made locally if possible.
Julie is the Social Networking Coordinator for Holistic Moms Network, a national non-profit connecting families interested in holistic health and green living. She holds a BA in Education from Augustana College (Sioux Falls, SD) and has a passion for helping others learn about holistic and green alternatives in their lives. Currently living on the coast of Maine with her husband, son and daughter, she co-leads a HMN Chapter with an amazing community of women who come together to share resources and support for holistic and green living. She is not an expert on the chemical composition of soaps nor on the science of carbon footprints; however, she is an expert on getting her own kids clean!
You can find Julie
You can find the Holistic Moms Network
Action of the Day: Purchase eco-friendly shoes
In the world of green fashion there’s a reigning czarina, and her name is Zem (bio here). Zem’s ecofabulous is widely regarded as the go-to for “celebrating high style with low impact.” (Click here for the ecofabulous manifesto.) So we asked Zem and her team to comment on Practically Green’s eco-friendly shoe action:
Can you please help us find some gorgeous shoes that don’t make a sizable footprint on the environment (pun intended)? Do they exist?
After all, as our action page explains,
“Many resources are used during production, and large amounts of pollution and toxic waste are created…. many shoes contain harmful glues and synthetic, petroleum-derived materials, ranging from polyurethane to PVC. These may release toxic chemicals into the atmosphere during production…. Leather tanning also produces pollution and toxic waste.” And on top of all that, many shoes are not recycled or disposed of properly.
Zem’s team leapt to the challenge, and here’s their advice:
Stylish moms and parents need not throw out their eco consciousness when it comes to footwear. ecofabulous uses these easy tricks when selecting our favorite shoes:
- Keep it classic. We love these organic cotton Keds flats from the company’s new green label, mostly because they remind us that buying looks that last can often be the most sustainable choice.
- Choose wisely (and widely). As Practically Green suggests, vegetable tanned leather is a great option for friendlier footwear – it means that the leather is treated with plant-based ingredients rather than harmful conventional tanning methods using formaldehyde and chromium. See what we mean with the collection from Tashkent by Cheyenne.
- Know what you’re getting yourself into. A read through shoe materials can show some not-so-nice contents. Not with these natural rubber boots from Aigle. Natural rubber is a renewable resource tapped from the rubber tree (much like maple syrup). [PG Note: we love ecofab for taking a stand, e.g., “At ecofabulous, we feel very strongly that you’re never too old to go puddle-jumping.”]
- One road, many paths. Look for styles that let you dress up or down accordingly. As an added bonus, we love Tia’s Freestyle Sandals for their interchangeable recycled silk straps. One base, endless possibilities!
- Go old school. Zem’s recent purchase of vintage Derek Lam boots not only gave them a second life but created a reason for alternate eco packaging from eBay.
Thankyou, Team ecofabulous!
P.S. Just have to say: at Practically Green we admit to being slightly [okay absurdly] interested in shoes. We won’t go into all the reasons here … but there are many — and we aren’t alone!! For a fascinating analysis, see this Cosmo article.
Susan and Sarah led a workshop all about healthy green living at the Mommybites Summit last night. It was a packed crowd (and a sparkly cocktail party) at Columbia University’s Faculty House. Hundreds of NYC-area moms and moms-to-be convened and mingled with sponsors and authorities (LOVED the kick-off speech by Scream Free-Parenting author Hal Runkel).
The event was expertly organized by four dynamo women who we swear could solve world peace. (Including our “own” Elise Jones, whose action plan is here on our Inspiring Planners feature at Practically Green!)
Susan gave her top recommended actions, and one of them is about the dirty dozen.
Ever heard of the dirty dozen?
Healthy Child’s Rachel Sarnoff Lincoln gives this compelling recommendation. (More on this amazing organization in the author bio below.)
Enjoy – and don’t be surprised if you think twice the next time you’re at the supermarket!
Ditch the Dirty Dozen
Think “dirty dozen” and you might see a grainy picture of a gun-toting Charles Bronson in your head. Now flash-forward 40 years and update Chuck’s picture as surrounded by a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables. This is today’s “dirty dozen,” the 12 fruits and vegetables that contain the highest concentrations of pesticides, as identified by the Environmental Working Group (and summarized on Practically Green).
Why should you care? Because pesticides have been linked to cancer, among other things. Because, pound for pound, your kids absorb way more dangerous pesticides than you do. And because if your family simply eats organic or avoids these 12 fruits and veggies altogether, you can reduce their overall pesticide exposure by 80 percent.
Eighty percent, people.
But unless you’re exclusively shopping organic it’s hard to remember what’s on the list. We can download shopping guides till the cows come home, but I for one can never remember where I put them. So here’s my little trick for remembering the 12 fruits and veggies that I put back on the shelf unless I’m buying organic.
The ABCs: apples, bell peppers and celery.
Fruit cup: peaches, nectarines, pears, grapes, strawberries and cherries. (Visualize those weird tin-can fruit cups you used to get in the school cafeteria.)
Lettuce and potatoes. (Visualize the veggies typically served with the fruit cup.)
When in doubt, go for things you can peel by hand. An orange over an apple. Corn over a potato. You get the picture. Then go organic for those you can’t, and save money by shopping late for bargains at the farmer’s market, or joining a CSA program.
Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff is the Interim Executive Director/CEO of Healthy Child Healthy World, the nation’s leading non-profit protecting children’s environmental health. Previously, she founded the online magazine EcoStiletto.com and MommyGreenest.com, a blog about eco-friendly parenting her three children. Rachel has appeared on “The TODAY Show,” “CNN Headline News Local Edition,” and “Good Day L.A.” among others, and is a regular speaker about leading a realistic and judgment-free sustainable life.
Please check out our post about Rachel here.
A news item buried in the Business section of The New York Times gets our attention today. Written by Pulitzer -prize winning reporter Andrew Martin, it’s about the hazards of flame retardants in baby stuff, like changing pads, car seats, nursing pillows. Stuff like that.
We all know that new parents probably aren’t getting to the Business section every day. Frankly they’re lucky to have their shoes tied.
One reason we created Practically Green is to help new parents – and all parents, and everyone else – know what to do when they read a story like this one. After all, it’s pretty scary stuff.
More than 30 years after chemical flame retardants were removed from children’s pajamas because they were suspected of being carcinogens, new research into flame retardants shows that one of the chemicals is prevalent in baby’s products made with polyurethane foam, including nursing pillows, car seats and highchairs.
The chemical is called “chlorinated Tris.” It’s possibly harmful. It might be toxic. It might even cause cancer.
As usual, people in high places disagree: the Times article quotes luminary Ph.D. chemists who disagree.
Chlorinated Tris is not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency… why? “Under current law it is difficult [for the EPA to ban or restrict chemicals,” the report says. “Even now, the agency has yet to ban asbestos, widely known to cause cancer and other lung diseases.”
No wonder people are so overwhelmed, frustrated, and fearful about normal stuff: stuff like pillows, mattress pads, and highchairs.
So here’s a suggestion: the next time you run into bad news like this, why not come over to Practically Green.
1) Search the actions data base:
2) Find out what you can do:
Click on the second link, and you have an informative page that begins:
Why is “Avoid furniture made with the synthetic flame retardant PBDE” green?
Avoiding furniture with flame retardants may seem like an odd idea given the fact that these additives are known to save lives and property. But, according to the EPA, a group of the most commonly used chemicals, PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ether), may have negative effects on your health and the environment. PBDEs are found in blood, breast milk, and umbilical cord blood. They accumulate wildlife, persist in the environment, and may also cause liver, thyroid, and neurological toxicity and birth defects.
(Watch carefully, because our actions team makes revisions when new information comes out. I won’t be surprised to see “chlorinated Tris” on Practically Green action plans soon.)
In closing: let the scientists and regulators dither and stall – but at least we can use Practically Green to locate these next steps, get solid advice, and act on it today!
As our esteemed advisor Dominique Browning wrote in an Op-Ed piece about BPA ten days ago, “Parents of newborns hardly have time to take showers, much less make the endless and usually fruitless calls to inquire about the chemical components of their children’s sippy cups.”
Please, recommend Practically Green — and let us know what you think, as always. Thanks.
Drafty Eye-Sore Window Makeover, by Adria Saracino
My home used to have seriously old windows. They were extremely drafty―it was as if you were sitting in front of an air conditioner. In addition, our windows looked dingy from the inside and out, with peeling paint and rotting wood. Our home was an eye sore, and we all knew it.
Fortunately, we finally installed energy-efficient windows and immediately experienced the benefits of newer windows.
Since this is a topic close to my heart, I thought I would do my part in encouraging homeowners to replace their windows.
Did you know windows account for about 30% of a home’s total energy loss and are responsible for up to 25% of a homeowner’s total energy bill? Evidently, inefficient windows make our heating and cooling systems work hard and our wallets work harder. Since today celebrates Practically Green’s “Upgrade your Windows to Dual-Pane with Low-E or Better ” eco action, I thought it would be fitting to make a list of all the reasons we should switch out our windows to more efficient models.
The Top 10 Reasons to Install Energy-Efficient Windows
1. Reduces Energy Bills. Homeowners can save about $130 – $465 a year on their energy bills when they replace their home’s single-pane windows, according to Energy Star (varies depending on location).
2. Improves Resale Value. Though installing new windows is not cheap (it can set you back a minimum of $10,000), you can achieve as high as an 85% rate of return! Added with the cost savings on your energy bills, greening your home in this way practically pays itself off.
3. Offers Tax Incentives. You can claim a tax credit of up to $1,500 when you install energy-efficient windows and/or skylights. See the IRS website for more details.
4. Makes a Healthier Home. New eco windows reduce instances of frost and condensation because they create a warmer interior glass surface. Excessive condensation and fluctuations in temperature can cause mold, which can lead to allergies, sinus infections, rashes/irritations, or lung disease.
5. Provides More Efficient Lighting. Energy-efficient windows can also help you save on your lighting bills and expenditure. Low-E windows have a special coating that protects windows from solar heat gain without losing visibility. Older windows generally have a tinted glaze or shading to prevent solar heat gain.
6. Protects your Interior from Fading. Organic materials are susceptible to fading when exposed to excessive amounts of UV radiation. Newer windows have coatings that can reduce the UV transmitted by up to 75%. This means you can reduce instances of fading in carpets, artwork, upholstery, and wood.
7. Reduces Noise Pollution. Double-pane windows have a special design that can reduce the amount of noise heard from outside while indoors.
8. Increases Comfort. Energy-efficient windows not only reduce how hard your heating/cooling system needs to work, but it also ensures indoor temperatures are comfortable. For example, ever sit next to a drafty window? A situation like this makes it feel colder than it actually is insider your home. New windows without air leaks will make it more comfortable indoors.
9. Makes Cleaning Easier. Specially-designed coatings keep dirt and grime off of energy-efficient windows, making newer windows virtually self-cleaning.
10. Adds Curb Appeal. Since newer windows are easier to clean and come in more modern styles, they can make your home look shiny and new. Many older windows use a steel frame, which can make a home look outdated.
About today’s guest blogger: Adria Saracino is the Business Development Specialist and Blogging Coordinator for eLocal.com, a network of sites where homeowners can find local plumbing, roofing, and electrical contractors. She manages eLocal’s popular Blog-Off series, where homeowners can find insider home improvement answers from industry experts. You can follow eLocal.com on twitter @eLocalUSA. If you are looking for more from Adria, you can find her talking and tweeting about fashion through her personal fashion blog, The Emerald Closet (@Emerald_Closet).
Twitter Party Sponsor Bash
Tuesday, May 17, 9 to 10 PM EST
Healthy Green Living in all the Rooms of Your House!
TO HONOR AND CELEBRATE OUR VALUED LAUNCH SPONSORS:
Mythic Paint @safepaint
Please use #PracticallyGreen and #giveaway – we’ll have amazing prizes!! (see photos)
With extra special expert guests:
- Laurie David and her group from The Family Dinner: @famdinner
- Lauren Guite, EDF’s Moms Clean Air Force: @MomsCAF
- Sheila Hollender, Seventh Generation environmental health advocate: @SheilaHollender
- Franke James, author, Bothered by my Green Conscience: @frankejames
- Dr. Harvey Karp, HappiestBaby.com: @drharveykarp
- Holistic Moms Network: Nancy Massotto, Founder: @HolisticMomsNet
- Kimberly Pinkson, Founder of EcoMom Alliance: @ecomom
- Toronto Star home columnist Vicky Sanderson: @vickysanderson
- Adria Saracino, eLocal, a national network of local resources for homeowners: @elocalusa
- Blogger Lynn Stone of SmilingGreenMom: @smilinggreenmom
Mold is bad – except on certain fine cheeses. If you have black mold in your house, you should really tackle it. Not only is mold unsightly (except on this charming street scene), it’s unhealthy.
As the PG action page explains, mold can provoke severe allergic reactions, asthma, and irritations. EcoMom Founder Kimberly Danek Pinkson’s moldy story will inspire you to take care of this issue asap. Check it off the list and earn a cool 75 points as a bonus!
Getting Rid of Black Mold Without Toxic Chemicals, By Kimberly Danek Pinkson
As the words “black oil” used to elicit certain feelings in generations past, the words “black mold” bring up a whole other range of feelings today. Fear. Angst. Even dread, particularly among parents, and homeowners. Why? Because black mold, left untreated, can render a home uninhabitable — and it is a known environmental-health hazard that can cause everything from flu-like symptoms to fatal respiratory issues.
I cringed when I saw it pop up on the windowsills of the first home I owned, which coincidentally was also shortly after my son’s birth. I was terrified that it would cause respiratory distress for this new little life for whom I was responsible. The toxic chemicals suggested for its removal also terrified me. Death by black mold, or death by toxic chemicals. I began to do some research and found a wide range of mold killer on the market. Call me crazy but I’m just not into using chemicals in my home that contain the words “killer.” My home is where I want clean air to breathe, not an environment polluted by off gassing! So I went about testing a variety of “natural fixes” and can happily now share with you that my greatest success was found with the following non-toxic concoction!
- Put on a face mask and gloves. Open windows and doors. Though the moisture in the following approach will minimize spores “floating out” you do want to avoid any that may enter that may enter the atmosphere around your home.
- Fill a spray bottle half-way with white vinegar. Sprinkle baking soda on the mold. Add boiling water to the spray bottle and immediately spray the vinegar-water mix on to the baking soda covered-mold.
- Area should be wet but not soaking.
- Scrub black mold with brush until it is all loosened.
- Wipe the mold away with a rag or paper towels, rotating the rag often so you are consistently wiping with a clean section.
- Repeat as necessary until there is no more visible mold. Any mildew not removed will come back and spread once again.
- Then pour boiling water on to the affected area for one final rinse. Dry thoroughly with fresh rags/towels, or even a blow dryer if you have one.
- Do not leave any rags or paper towels lying around the house and properly dispose of rags, mask, gloves and anything else that came in contact with the mold.
For the future, try to keep the mold-prone area free of moisture to prevent return of mold. In window areas where water tends to condense, wipe dry each morning.
Author Note: As the Founder of Ecomom Alliance and Co-Founder of ecomom, Kimberly wears many hats including managing the ecomom Approved Vetting Process. A mom with over twenty years in the health and sustainability sectors, Kimberly recognized a need for vetted products, information and inspiration, which would support mothers in making healthy choices for their families and thus began ecomom. Kimberly is a popular healthy living expert and media guest with appearances on the TODAY Show, 20/20, View from the Bay, ABC News, CBS News, and keynote presentations at moms groups and conferences around the world including theWorld Women’s Conference in Seoul, Korea, the North Carolina Women’s Conference, the Bioneers Conference in San Rafael, CA, and the Marketing to Moms conference in Canada. Follow Kimberly on Twitter @ecomom and join ecomom on Facebook.
Chicago Green Home Guru Laura Stukel shares this report about Payback on top household remodeling projects, home-energy upgrades such as Weather Stripping your windows — a perfect project in between hot and cold seasons. Laura’s examples are based on the Chicago climate. But the idea of getting remodeling to pay you back applies wherever you live. See the final paragraph for tips on getting started in your area.
Each year, Remodeling Magazine and Realtor Magazine team up to produce the Cost vs. Value report. The study looks at regional building permit data to estimate remodeling costs for more than 30 common home improvement projects. Then, Realtors weigh in to estimate the value these projects add to a home’s market value. It’s a handy report that gives homeowners some perspective on the best way to spend home improvement dollars each year.
But the report is missing one thing. What about payback? Many of the project scopes could be tweaked just a little to include some energy efficiency improvements at the same time. It’s a super-smart time to add these steps while drywall is already off and walls are already open – you cut the dust and prices later over doing these same improvements as stand-alone projects. These upgraded projects would potentially add not just value, but offer savings through reduced energy costs.
The following lists show the Top 5 Chicagoland projects based on estimates of remodeling costs recouped at resale as reported in the Cost vs. Value report.
The second list uses energy data compiled by the Center for Neighborhood Technology/Energy, Efficient Windows Collaborative, ENERGY STAR and Keep Warm Illinois to show the top projects based on natural gas savings for a typical/average home in the Chicagoland area.
- #1 Steel Entry Door Replacement – Cost recouped: 102.1% – Cost: $1,218, Resale value: $1,243
- #2 Garage Door Replacement – Cost recouped: 83.9% – Cost: $1,291, Resale value: $1,083
- #3 Siding Replacement (Fiber Cement) – Cost recouped: 80% – Cost: $13,382, Resale value: $10,707
- #4 Minor Kitchen Remodel – Cost recouped: 72.8% - Cost: $21,695, Resale value: $15,790
- #5 Deck Addition (wood) – Cost recouped: 72.8% – Cost: $10,973, Resale value: $7,986
2010 Top Chicagoland Payback + Value Projects:
#1 Basement Remodel + air sealing + insulation. Extra energy efficiency costs: 1% (Upgrade to air seal & insulate basement – $1,000-2,000; Tip: be sure to also upgrade home ventilation)
Potential average energy savings: 24%
#2 Attic Bedroom + air sealing + insulation. Extra energy efficiency costs: 3% (Upgrade to air seal and insulate attic – $1,800-2,400; Tip: be sure to also upgrade home ventilation)
Potential average energy savings: 24%
#3 Window Replacement (wood) + air sealing. Extra energy efficiency costs: 10% (Upgrade to air seal walls, attic, basement – $1,300-1,700; Tip: The savings comes from the caulk around the windows more than the new windows themselves! And, be sure to also upgrade home ventilation.)
Potential average energy savings: 24%
#4 Siding Replacement (Fiber Cement) + air sealing + insulation. Extra energy efficiency costs: 21% (Upgrade to air seal walls and insulate side walls -$3,500-4,500; Tip: The savings comes from sealing leaks in the walls more than the new siding itself! And, be sure to also upgrade home ventilation.)
Potential average energy savings: 32%
#5 Steel Entry Door Replacement + air sealing. Extra energy efficiency costs: 17% (Upgrade to advanced weather-stripping – $250; Tip: Savings comes from buying a well-insulated door and then sealing it with effective weather-stripping!)
Potential average energy savings: 11%
These Chicago estimates paint the picture of how to plan remodeling projects to achieve savings paybacks as well. To determine the best opportunities for your project A home energy audit is a great place to start. Also, your local utility can provide information on any rebates or incentives that may apply. Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency can also help. http://www.dsireusa.org/
* * *
If you live near Chicago, lucky you!! We advise you to call Laura asap:
Laura Reedy Stukel, REALTOR, NAR GREEN, EcoBroker Certified. Cell – 773-251-1631 Consulting Services: Energy Efficiency powered by choice. Ask how you can qualify for a free energy audit to make your current or future home more comfortable, save energy and add value!
What would a couple of celebrity nutritionists think of Practically Green? And would they be willing to guest blog for us? Our friend Lynn Stone (aka SmilingGreenMom) introduced us to Tammy Lakatos and Lyssie Lakatos Shames, aka the Nutrition Twins, and we’re so glad she did. Affirmation is key to the twins’ deceptively serious approach: “and we found Practically Green to be so relatable … it’s like talking to your girlfriend,” they told us.
We asked them to tell us about why choosing organic is so important, and why they recommend Buying organic fruits and vegetables for the Dirty Dozen.
Here’s their answer:
The Nutrition Twins Guide to Pesticides, Cancer, & Organic Produce:
Your Questions Answered
By now we all know that the health benefits of consuming fruits and veggies are practically endless. From being packed with antioxidants which protect healthy cells and keep us youthful, to keeping us regular and lean, fruits and veggies are nutritional powerhouses. Despite knowing this, many of our clients ask us if they should avoid certain fruits and vegetables due to their pesticide content. (Pesticides are chemicals that are used on fruits and vegetables to prevent insects from eating them). Here’s a quick run-down…
Do pesticides cause cancer?
Multiple factors contribute to cancer. Although it is difficult to isolate one factor, pesticides likely increase cancer risk.
Tell me more about pesticides…
Most pesticides contain several toxins. Pesticides cause cancers in cell cultures and in animals. They may also cause hormonal changes which can cause additional harm. Studies also show pesticides increase the risk of cancer in humans. The National Cancer Institute in the United States found that farmers exposed to pesticides tend to have higher than expected rates of cancer of the lymph, blood, lip, stomach, skin, prostate, brain, testes and soft tissue.
Tell me about pesticides and breast cancer…
Toxins from pesticides build up in fatty tissue (breast tissue is fatty). Some specialists estimate that more than 70% of breast cancers aren’t related to genetics and can be blamed on environmental factors.
Should we stop eating fruits and vegetables?
Absolutely not! Their benefits far outweigh their risks. However, weigh your risks of specific fruits and vegetables. Start by taking a look at the list of fruits and vegetables below. The ones that we call “The Dirty Dozen” are the ones that are the most heavily sprayed with pesticides. Try to buy organic versions.
How often do I eat heavily sprayed items? Then, limit your exposure to the produce that is most heavily sprayed by either buying organic, or avoiding the most heavily sprayed produce. For us, we save money by choosing nonorganic produce when it comes to bananas, corn, watermelon and kiwis because these are not highly sprayed.
What about washing fruits and veggies?
Washing will not change the rank (in the lists below) of the fruits and vegetables with the highest & lowest amount of pesticides. The produce was washed & prepared for normal consumption prior to testing for pesticides. Washing fresh produce may help reduce pesticide residues; it clearly does not eliminate them.
What is the best thing to do?
Eat a varied diet, wash all produce, and choose organic when possible to reduce exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.
Buy These Organic: “The Dirty Dozen”
Celery, Peaches, Strawberries, Apples, Blueberries, Nectarines, Bell Peppers, Spinach, Kale, Cherries, Potatoes, Grapes (Imported)
Below is a list of the least heavily sprayed fruits and vegetables. If you are watching your budget, as most of us are, you don’t have to put as much emphasis on buying organic versions of these…
Onions, Avocado, Sweet Corn, Pineapple, Mango, Sweet Peas, Asparagus, Kiwi, Cabbage, Eggplant, Cantaloupe, Watermelon
Tammy and Lyssie are the authors of Fire Up Your Metabolism: 9 Proven Principles for Burning Fat and Losing Weight Forever and The Secret to Skinny: : How Salt Makes You Fat, and the 4-Week Plan to Drop a Size and Get Healthier with Simple Low-Sodium Swaps. Check out their site, http://www.NutritionTwins.com, join them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter @NutritionTwins.
“The Nutrition Twins combine their strengths to provide some of the world’s best nutritional and fitness expertise. Often the go-to for nutritional expertise for the media, the Nutrition Twins are kept busy through corporate nutrition consulting, seminars, morning shows, magazine articles, motivational speeches and authoring their nutrition books.”
Check out their media gallery for a whole slew of entertaining & great tips as seen on Good Morning America Health and other venues.
Why I love LEDs, by Anna Hackman
How many of you want to switch out your current light bulbs to LEDs, the new cool lighting technology on the block? Maybe you hate the color of your CFLs. Perhaps the thought of mercury in your CFLs gives you the willies. Or maybe your incandescent laden home with its high energy bills are burning a hole in your wallet. For whatever reasons, LEDs have a bright future.
Why do I love LEDs? Since 2007, I became a convert to the LED technology when my eyes saw LED Lighting Fixture’s LR6’s downlight, (Cree has since bought the company.) The color was wonderful, the output was great, and best yet, I can say good bye to my energy hogging incandescent light bulbs and my ugly colored CFLs. I have been a smitten puppy ever since.
The problem that I see with this new technology is the average Joe or Josephine really doesn’t understand what LEDs are all about. Reading the Department of Energy’s Solid State Lighting website can give you a headache. So, let me shed some light on why LEDs may be in your future, highlighting both the advantages and disadvantages of this new technology.
What is LED technology?
LED stands for light emitting diode.
“Basically, LEDs are just tiny light bulbs that fit easily into an electrical circuit. But unlike ordinary incandescent bulbs, they don’t have a filament that will burn out, and they don’t get especially hot. They are illuminated solely by the movement of electrons in a semiconductor material, and they last just as long as a standard transistor.” [Source]
The Advantages of LEDs:
One of the advantage of an LED is its efficiency. The filament of an incandescent bulb must be heated to generate light. This results in a lot of wasted heat. Worse yet, only 10-15% of the electricity consumed results in the light you see. LEDs on the other hand use a higher percentage of the energy used to create its light.
According to the Department of Energy, LEDs have the longest life compared to the following traditional lighting:
If you have a high ceiling, LEDs could be a godsend for you. Since their life expectancy is anywhere from 35,000 to 50,000 hours, you wouldn’t have to change hard to reach lights for a couple of years.
One of the biggest concerns about fluorescent bulbs is that the bulbs contain mercury. CFLs contain on average 4 milligrams of mercury. If the bulbs are broken, mercury vapor is released. Mercury is a potential neurotoxin, and therefore especially dangerous for children and fetuses.
In addition, mercury can leach into our waterways when bulbs are disposed into our landfills rather than recycled. According to Association of Lighting and Mercury Recyclers,
“[g]eneral belief is that most of the breakage occurs in the container, as opposed to at the landfill, due to the fragile glass and compacting that occurs in containers. When these containers are also exposed to moisture from rain or other sources and they leak, or when they are washed out, mercury enters the environment. Studies have shown that when fluorescent lamps break in containers the mercury can hover for days, and eventually migrate downwind and back onto the land,.”
To put the mercury issue in perspective, the use of fluorescents over incandescent bulbs dramatically reduces mercury emissions from coal fired electrical plants. A worse case scenario according to Energy Star, the broken florescent bulbs could ”add 0.12 metric tons, or 0.12 percent, to U.S. mercury emissions caused by humans.”
But in my mind, that small percentage is still a concern especially when there is another lighting option available. Recycling all fluorescent bulbs should be mandatory. (You can recycle your CFLs at Home Depot, Lowes, and Ikea. See here for a list of lamp recyclers near you.)
Can be used in Cold Temperatures:
Fluorescent lamps and cold temperatures are not a mix made in heaven. In order for florescent lamps to work in cold temperatures, the amalgam added lamp will take longer to brighten up. In contrast, LEDs performance increases as temperatures drops, making it an ideal candidate for use in refrigeration.
One of my biggest complaints about fluorescent bulbs is that they have to warm up before they reach their full brightness. LEDs on the other hand, warm up instantaneously.
Turning on and off fluorescents lessens their lifespan. According to a report by Rocky Mountain Institute in 2008,
“A study published in 1998 examined CFL performance for five different operating cycles. It found that when the length of time the lamps were on was reduced from 3 hours to 1 hour, the lamp lasted for 80 percent of its rated life. When reduced to 15 min and 5 min, the lamp lasted for 30 percent and 15 percent, respectively, of its rated life.28 ”
Keep in mind: although turning off the bulbs may lessen their life, in most cases, the reduction in energy cost outweighs the bulb replacement. (See this discussion of how to ascertain your energy savings from turning off your fluorescent bulbs.) However, the advantages of LEDs are you can turn them off and on without shortening their life. Just think about a traffic light which has LED bulbs in it. Notice how the light’s constantly turning off and on?
Disadvantages of LEDs:
I would be remiss to not point out that there are disadvantages to LEDs. My issues with LEDs are as follows: Price, Heat, and of course, the Marketing Hype.
Recently I reviewed Lighting Science’s 60 watt comparable recess light bulb sold at Home Depot. Although I loved the white halogen type light, would I splurge for multiple bulbs at a price tag of $40 a piece? I figured the payoff would be about 4 years compared to a dimmable CFL. However, prices are falling. When I fell in love with the LR6 downlight in 2007, the cost of the bulb was $125! In a September, 2010 GreenTech Enterprise article, Bill Watkins, CEO of Bridgelux, predicted prices will continue to fall dramatically.
“To outfit a house with LED bulbs today could cost around $2,500, according to Bill Watkins, CEO of Bridgelux, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony that took place at the company’s manufacturing facility here. ”It will be down to $200 in three years,” he added.”
Heat is a LED light bulb’s enemy. It converts 20-30% of its power into light but the remainder is converted to heat. This heat is dissipated through a heat sink.
According to the Department of Energy,
“Excess heat directly affects both short-term and long-term LED performance. The shortterm (reversible) effects are color shift and reduced light output while the long-term effect is accelerated lumen depreciation and thus shortened useful life.”
However, not all heat sinks are created equal.
Fact vs Fiction:
In conjunction with this article, I interviewed three lighting experts about how to find the right bulb for commercial and residential applications. Think part two of the LED story. They walked me through on how to decipher the truth from the fiction.
Basically, not all LEDs produce the same type of light, nor last as long. It is best to buy lighting from a store where you can return the lights. Test to see if you like the light output, the color of the light, and whether it dims with your switch. As I mentioned above, I happen to like a white halogen light. Others may not.
Join the Conversation:
- Have you bought any LEDs for your home and if so, which one do you like?
- Would you buy LEDs at this point in time?
- Are you uneasy about the marketing hype about LEDs?
- If you are a lighting expert, which ones do you recommend and why?
About today’s guest blogger: Anna Hackman is a sustainability consultant, mom of four boys (yes, no lamp allowed in the house), and the editor of Green Talk, a green living website that creates the conversation to live a greener lifestyle for home and business. She is passionate about green living, green building, organic gardening, recycling, and green business. Tweet with her @greentalk, yak with her on the GT Facebook fan page, or just visit the blog.
Did Your Salad Take the Red Eye? By Jan Devereux
For the millions of Americans who live outside the Sunbelt, striking a balance between eating locally grown foods and eating fresh produce year-round can be a challenge. Many people simply don’t have access to local fruits and vegetables all year long, and rely on supermarkets, where food products travel an average of 1,400 miles to reach the shelf.
How can carbon-conscious families reduce their food miles? Avoiding foods shipped by air is a great start!
Here in New England, where it’s still early in the growing season, many farmers’ markets don’t open until after Memorial Day. In the meantime, shopping in a supermarket can feel like being in a Las Vegas casino – once you cross the threshold, it’s easy to lose all sense of time and place. Luscious carbon temptations can be awfully hard to resist!
On the rebound from a long, cold winter, I was feeling weak when a veritable United Nations of produce serenaded me on a recent visit to my local Whole Foods: asparagus from Peru; “heirloom” tomatoes from Mexico; bananas from Ecuador; mangoes from Haiti; melons from Honduras; pears from New Zealand; peppers from Holland; pineapples from South Africa; and plums from Chile. Not to mention, a bounty of domestic fruits and veggies grown in California – 3,000 miles from my home outside Boston. The abundance of fresh produce sourced from around the world attests to the sophistication – and the gargantuan carbon footprint – of the global food system, which accounts for one-third of greenhouse gas emissions overall.
The Label Only Tells Part of the Story
While I applaud Whole Foods’ prominent country-of-origin labeling, wouldn’t it be nice if food labels also informed us how each food was transported? Drooling over displays of highly perishable and contra-season items, I couldn’t help but wonder: how many of the thousands of food miles logged to bring this international bounty to my doorstep were traveled by air? Per food mile, air cargo has a far greater carbon impact than any other mode of transport.
In the British Isles, where the majority of food is imported from overseas, the Carbon Trust, in partnership with two leading grocery chains (Marks & Spencer and Tesco), introduced a carbon reduction label in 2007 to help consumers make better-informed choices. The labeling has sparked a lively public debate in the U.K. about the ethical tradeoffs between reducing CO2 emissions (e.g. by limiting air-freighted food imports) and supporting the economies of developing nations through fair trade agriculture.
Items most likely to be shipped by air are those that have a short shelf life and a high value to weight ratio. Think asparagus, berries, grapes and cherries, not potatoes or watermelons. Fresh seafood and cut flowers also comprise a large share of the fast-growing air cargo market.
Two prime candidates for off-season elimination or substitution:
Air-freighted asparagus and strawberries
Asparagus has the shortest growing season of any produce (about 8 weeks), and Peru and Mexico have become major suppliers of this labor-intensive harbinger of spring, at the expense of California, whose share of the U.S. market has dropped to about 10%. Air shipping is essential to reach distant markets in the few days before freshness fades. Asparagus is “hydro-cooled” immediately to remove field heat and refrigerated during transport, further increasing their carbon impact.
- Suggested substitution: Canned asparagus tastes just fine in soups, quiche or casseroles. Whole Foods sells a brand that is certified kosher.
Strawberries are equally perishable and carbon-intensive, and over 80% are grown in California. Picked ripe and immediately chilled to prolong their brief shelf life, strawberries traveling long distances are shipped by air in refrigerated containers infused with CO2 to stave off gray mold.
- Suggested substitution: Freeze-dried strawberries are great as a cereal topping or snack. Plus, a recent study by Ohio State University suggests that eating freeze-dried strawberries may help fight cancer. Whole Foods carries an organic brand called “Just Strawberries.” Trader Joe’s markets a house brand, but they are not organic. Strawberries belong to the infamous “dirty dozen,” so try to buy organic.
Of course, both asparagus and strawberries are available frozen, but depending on where you live frozen produce may have traveled a long way in refrigerated trucks or rail cars, raising its carbon impact above that of canned or freeze-dried products. As always, the best way to minimize your food miles is to eat what’s grown in season locally.
The National Resources Defense Council has developed a great interactive map that shows what’s in season each month, state-by-state. The map also can help you find local farmers’ markets.
I highly recommend reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver (HarperCollins, 2007). The author and her family dedicated an entire year to eating only what they could grow themselves or buy locally. The book’s website includes links to finding local foods along with seasonal meal plans and recipes.
A great guide for gardeners in all climates is Four Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All year Long by Eliot Coleman (Chelsea Green, 1999). The author lives and gardens in Maine. You can also download a free e-book version for an iPad or iPhone.
On Mother’s Day 2010, the Practically Green team emailed a link to 100 VIP women around the country, known as our Motherboard. Our prototype site was ready and we wanted them to try it and send their thoughts. What did they love? What did they hate? Was it helpful? Would they recommend it to friends? We held our breath.
Wow!! What an amazing year — thanks to their AND your thoughts, ideas, and support! So far, we’ve logged over a million page views, nearly 50,000 visitors and now have tens of thousands of people, including many moms, actively using Practically Green to make healthy green changes in homes, at work, and communities.
It was your feedback that led to the creation of our action planning tool, launched in January. Some of you have even been kind enough to let us share your Inspiring Plans publicly. But one of the really cool parts of having a planning tool is that we know what people are wanting and planning to do. For Earth Day, we shared our first infographic of the Top 10 Healthy Green Actions for all people, and found ourselves on MSNBC showing it off!
In honor of Mother’s Day and the one-year anniversary of the site opening up to our first users, we are sharing a brand new, hot-of-the-press Top 10 list, focused on what moms have on their action plans. No surprise: it’s quite an inspiring list!
Top 10 Healthy Green Actions: the Moms’ List
Sign up for a service to reduce junk mail
Use a home-energy monitoring device to track electricity usage
Switch to an all-natural or organic mattress
Install smart power strip to turn off TVs and computers completely
Switch to a recycled plastic toothbrush
Sign up for a catalog-reduction service
Install or upgrade to a dual-flush toilet
Install rain barrels and use for lawn and garden
Compost kitchen food waste
What I love is this Top 10 List crosses all our categories: Water, Energy, Health, Stuff. I’m not surprised that many of these are very high-impact actions (worth 50-150 points each). When founding Practically Green, I hoped (and believed) that a system focused on “whole life” actions, with a standard way to evaluate relative impact across those choices (our points), would help people find and prioritize higher impact actions. Thank you Moms for providing a glimpse that the hypothesis is working!
So we now enter our second year with a strong commitment to continuous improvement and a huge appreciation for each of you who has helped make this Mother’s Day a very special anniversary for us as well. Thank You!!
And to ALL our Practically Green Moms: Happy Mother’s Day
We have lots of ideas for celebrating Mothers Day, from planting mom a tree to giving her an organic bouquet to toasting her with eco-friendly wine to smothering her with organic chocolate to researching and buying her an Energy-Star Water Heater!
You might like to help your mother set up her very own Practically Green Action Plan! Give her five minutes of peace to take the Quiz, and then she can choose from 432+ actions to make her life healthier and greener. NICE present.
You could give her an eco-friendly gift; and wrap it using recycled paper and ribbons.
And, with a bit of thought and creativity, you can give the Mothers in your life a VERY special experiential present this year.
Ignore the multimillion dollar ad campaigns for pearls, diamonds and designer bags. Forget the store bought roses, scarves and candy. Don’t fret that Mother’s Day is only a couple of days away and neither you nor the kids have bought anything. This year the very best gift anyone can give Mom isn’t something bought at the mall or gift-wrapped. The very best gift of all is right under your very roof.
Make Mom dinner.
Figure out the menu, buy the groceries, organic when possible, and cook from scratch. Engage the kids in the kitchen and let them be an integral part of preparing this special meal.
Set the table with love by adding a budding branch found outside or pick a family heirloom found in the cabinet … something unique that reminds you of Mom, something that can be the centerpiece of the table and the conversation. Or perhaps find a fun and different location for dinner — a picnic in the backyard or on the living room floor. Hey maybe even dust off that dining room you rarely use!
Then sit down, as a family, with phones and TV screens turned off. And talk. Tell stories about your parents, grandparents and far-off uncles. Play a fun verbal game or two like “what I like about you” or “mom’s special talent is…” Give Mom the perfect gift of “purposely being a family.”
And to top it all off, yup – you guessed it, clean up, too!
Anyone and everyone can give Mom the gift of a memorable family dinner. Whip-up some dinner omelets (try tossing in chopped kale and red onions) or use your cookie cutters to make heart shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Great meals make great memories and she will remember this one (and so will you) long after the store bought gift has been forgotten. Because on top of all the benefits of family dinner, it spreads love too!
Thank you, Laurie!
And please, if you haven’t got it already — and apologies for nagging but this book REALLY belongs in every kitchen coast to coast — read her latest book, The Family Dinner (we blogged about it here) and join her team online: The Family Dinner online
Follow Laurie David on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Laurie_David and track The Family Dinner @FamDinner.
The pleasures and advantages of shopping at a farmer’s market are endless – involving every one of your senses, and our action page on Practically Green will persuade even the most obdurate farmer’s market skeptic that this is a great idea.
Nell Newman is an ardent organic food advocate. She launched her company Newman’s Own Organics in 1993, after convincing her father to support it by cooking an organic Thanksgiving dinner that wowed him.
“Great tasting products that happen to be organic is our slogan,” she says. “People go to the grocery store. They see one bunch of bananas selling for 99 cents and another bunch selling for three dollars. Of course they say, ‘I’m going to buy the cheaper one.’ We’re trying to help people understand that the reason organic sometimes costs more is because it hasn’t been sprayed or otherwise treated with harmful chemicals. Those chemicals – pesticides, fertilizers, preservatives — work themselves into the food. They also work themselves into the soil, into the water supply, and all the way back up the food chain. Well, you don’t necessarily think about all that when you’re in the grocery store shopping!”
Nell wrote a gorgeous piece about her love of farmers’ markets in Eating Well in Season: The Farmers’ Market Cookbook. (Check it out and buy it here, under Recommended Products and Services; published by Countryman Press/W.W. Norton). We offer an excerpt with her permission and that of her Eating Well editors.
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I can remember my first farmer’s market. It was 1989 and as I rode my bike through Santa Cruz, California, near where I live, I came upon a display of fruits and vegetables piled high and wide on card tables and the tailgates of pickup trucks…
The farmers’ market in Santa Cruz hasn’t changed that much in 20-plus years – but it has gotten bigger and it is no longer a rarity. Over the past decade the number of farmers’ markets across the United States has almost doubled.
These markets are flourishing because they honor the basic premise that our land, food, health and happiness are inextricably linked…. The simple act of shopping at local farmers’ markets is profound and of the best things we can do for our own health and that of the planet. For me it’s my weekly (sometimes twice a week) way to get grounded, reconnect with great friends and… get inspired to cook what is fresh and local that particular day….
As our world has gotten more focused on quick, cheap and easy way to feed ourselves — and we’ve started packaging and shipping food great distances – our connection to the land has been lost, and a certain social fragmentation has occurred. To me the farmers’ market is about closing the distance between people and places, a way to remember traditions and crafts. It’s a way to put down, quite literally, good roots.”
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The sale of Newman’s Own Organics products generates money for Newman’s Own Foundation to give away. Since 1982 more than $300 million has been donated to educational and charitable organizations worldwide.
Nell sits on the board of Wholesome Wave, a non-profit food-access organization that doubles the value of food stamps when used at farmers’ markets, and which is working with doctors on veggie prescriptions. (Yes, you heard that right: doctors who prescribe vegetables to their patients!) She’s also involved with Allergy Kids, which was founded by our friend Robyn O’Brien; and with EcoTrust, an innovative food hub in Portland, Oregon, which coined the phrase “reliable prosperity.”
Thank you, Nell!
Reduce showers to 5 minutes or less, by Shannon Hoffman Hinderberger
Did you know the average American’s shower time is eight minutes? During that time, it’s estimated that a standard shower uses 7-10 gallons of water per minute.
I tracked my showers for six days and discovered my average was around 7.5 minutes. My longest shower during this self-trial period was 12 minutes, and that’s only because I was so tired after being up from 2-4 a.m. with my toddler and I was trying to wake up!
Almost eight minutes seems too long to me. So for the past three weeks, I’ve been using my trusty kitchen timer to time-out 5-minute showers. If you want to get fancy, you can buy a shower timer [see the action on Practically Green for product recommendations, and submit yours], but your kitchen timer or your smartphone probably does just as good a job.
Why is this part of my green action plan so important? Not only is it worth 20 points on Practically Green, but it will help save on water and gas (hot-water heater) bills. If you shower everyday, like me, that means you could be saving up to 140 gallons of water per week.
My husband has always been pretty quick in the shower since he used to be in the Navy and took Navy showers; and my three-year-old is afraid of the shower so he bathes every other day. We use his bath water to water plants and hopefully this summer we will use it to water our garden.
What are other ways you cut back on water in your house? We also follow the “if it’s yellow let it mellow. If it’s brown flush it down.” Just remember to flush when you have guests over. I was quite embarrassed when the sitter discovered this when she last babysat.
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Shannon lives in Bend, Oregon, where she works all day and blogs in her “spare time” at Working Mom Goes Green.
I’m a working mom taking a stand against yucky stuff in my food, cosmetics, etc. and gradually turning my family towards more eco-friendly, natural choices. I’m learning so this is about our journey towards going green. There may be a few stumbles so hopefully you can laugh with me not at me!
Shannon uses Practically Green to keep her on task. You can follow the ups, downs, and inevitable laughs via her blog, Facebook, and Twitter @workinggreenmom. Check out Shannon’s Action plan on Practically Green here: http://practicallygreen.com/see/shanlee.