Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ready To Go Green AND Give Green This Holiday Season?

I just reviewed Deloitte’s 2008 Annual Holiday Survey and it seems Mother Nature will be receiving a great gift this year: More eco-minded shoppers!

Here are some of the results of this year’s survey:

· 21% of consumers will consider not wrapping holiday gifts to conserve paper

· 20% will purchase more “eco-friendly” products this holiday season than they did in the past

· 18% will shop at more “green” retailers this holiday season

· 14% will purchase more organic products this holiday season

Additionally, 37% will use fewer plastic bags from supermarkets and other stores. Of course, as the owner of EcoVixen—a chic cloth bag company, specializing in made-in-the-USA, recycled cotton totes for men and women—I’m especially thrilled with this statistic.

Another thing that thrills me is’s hassle-free packaging, which doesn’t just avoid wrap rage, but it avoids all that unnecessary product packaging ending up in the landfills. Read all about it.

Question of the blog: How does being green influence your holiday shopping?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why Can’t Obama Take Office Today?

Now that Obama has won the Presidential election, I just want him to move right into the White House and get all cozy behind the desk in the oval office. I already consider him my President. I look to him to voice the thoughtful solution. I’m ready for him to lead, especially when it comes to the environment.

For years, President Bush has refused mandatory curbs on emissions which could/would help control global warming. Can you say, “In bed with oil companies”? As I’ve expressed before, I’m pretty convinced the only way Bush is able to sleep at night is by sniffing a little of his prized oil. The damage he’s done to our earth, and the damage he’s failed to avoid, is beyond measure.

I can’t wait to see him ride off into the sunset on that Texas ranch.

More than that, I can’t wait for the sun to rise on our future under the leadership of Barack Obama. Speaking of global warming, Obama made a surprise (videotaped) speech at the climate change conference in California today and vowed to take quick action to curb global warning. (Read the entire article here.)

Now that’s my leader.

Question of the blog: Do you think Obama will get to do all he’s promised to do for the environment?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Where Are All the Eco Couches?

When Mark and I sold our house last month, the buyers purchased almost all of our furniture, including our sofa. We were thrilled with the transaction because it meant we could finally buy an eco couch.

Or so we thought.

Go to and do a search for “eco couch” or “organic cotton couch” or “non-toxic couch” or “green couch” or “environmentally friendly couch” and you won’t find very much (and certainly nothing affordable).

We all know that conventional couches aren’t terribly good for our health, what with toxic glues holding the frame together, non-organic fillers, and flame-retardant fabrics. It’s a good thing organic denim jeans and a bamboo tee comes between us and our couch!

Here's the good news: I love a challenge.

Inspired by a search result that revealed Crate&Barrel has made a green commitment, Mark and I headed over to a Crate&Barrel furniture store. I approached a sales woman and she walked us through the store, pointing out the “eco” sofas (read about their “eco-friendly construction”) but when I asked if they had an organic cotton fabric available, she said no. Disappointed, we started to leave . . . and just as we were almost out the door, the sales woman appeared, holding a book of organic cotton fabric swatches.


So as I type this blog, I’m sitting on my eco couch. Mission: Accomplished.

Question of the blog: What eco items are you having trouble finding?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Got Hope?

Last night, just before midnight eastern time, I watched Barack Obama walk onto the stage in Chicago as the president-elect. Rather unexpectedly, I burst into (joyful) tears. In that instant, I felt not just immense hope for my country and for myself, but a relieving hope for my child and his or her future.

Until then, I hadn’t realized just how worried I was that John McCain would win and just how scared I was to bring a child into that world.

And I mean “that world” in both the figurative and literal sense. Instead of McCain’s commitment to continue to be a seemingly reason-free aggressive force on the international scene and to strip the planet of its resources with no thought to the consequences, Obama is looking to bring people together (both in this country and across the globe) and to help solve the environmental crisis.

In fact, during Obama’s speech, when he mentioned the challenges facing the United States, the first thing he mentioned was the two wars, the second thing he mentioned was the environment (!), and the third was the economy. Obama gets it and, as a result, we all get a healthy dose of optimism.

Question of the blog: Has your hope for positive environmental changes improved with the election results?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Just What Does a Pregnant Vegan Do at a Wine & Cheese Party?

Okay, so it’s Election Day (a most historic and important day) but rather than encourage you to get out there and vote, I’m going to offer you a little election distraction.

You can thank me later.

Back in September, I shared with you that Mark and I had sold our house and made an offer on another house. Well, the offer was accepted and the move is now complete. Whew.

I’ve been silent for weeks as the massive undertaking (pack, pack, pack and then unpack, unpack, unpack) completely took over my life. We’re beyond happy to be in a green space that’s just the right size for us—with just enough room to grow—across the street from a dog-friendly park and with really wonderful neighbors.

But that’s just a small part of my news: I’m also expecting a baby on April 22, 2009 . . . which just happens to be Earth Day. For a passionate environmentalist, the idea that my baby’s due date is Earth Day is a heart-warming thought. We're thrilled!

Our new life is based in the charming seaside community of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. For six years, Mark and I have wanted to live downtown so we can walk to our favorite restaurants, the movie theater, the health food store, etc. (and Mark still has a quick commute while I continue to work from home as a full-time freelance writer).

Yesterday, I had a meeting with a client in a coffee shop about a 10-minute walk from my house. Walking to a meeting is a liberating and highly enjoyable activity. I smiled the entire walk. On the way home, I popped into a local gallery, seduced by the lovely painting in the window (I wanted to buy it for the baby’s room but it had already been purchased).

While there, I learned that six of Portsmouth’s galleries host a “Gallery Stroll” the first Friday evening of every month. Mark and I will absolutely go this Friday! The gallery employee was telling me all about the event. “Oh, beyond the art, you’ll really enjoy the cheese and wine,” she said. I just smiled . . . after all, what does a pregnant vegan do at a wine & cheese party?

Question of the blog: Okay back to the election: As we wait to hear if McCain or Obama will lead us, are you feeling anxious or excited?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Just How Low Can George W. Bush Go?

I just read an enlightening article about President Bush’s upcoming “midnight regulations” (swift policy changes made at the end of a term) as he rushes to extend his harmful environmental legacy with oh-so-honorable decisions like:

  • Getting wolves off the Endangered Species List;
  • Allowing power plants to operate near national parks;
  • Loosening regulations for factory farm waste; and
  • Making it easier for mountaintop coal-mining operations.

What a great human being!

I’m not a Democrat or a Republican. I’m a free-thinking, unconfined, objective Independent. And my opinion of George W. Bush is that he has been the worst president in our nation’s history. Not only has he stripped U.S. citizens of many of our basic rights, but he’s led our country into not just economic crisis, but a crisis of faith in government (he’s also done nothing to advance health care, education, or environmental efforts; if you argue he’s made the country safer, I’d have to disagree with you as many experts say we’re more vulnerable now than eight years ago).

A crisis of faith in government might pale in comparison to a burst housing market and high unemployment, but it is quite serious. Tomorrow, U.S. citizens influence the direction of our nation’s future as we vote for the next president. As an Independent, I’ve listened to both McCain and Obama and—to me—the choice is clear.

McCain’s campaign is running on a foundation of fear and lies, and his actual campaign is a mess (my question: If McCain can’t run a campaign, how can he run the country?). McCain and his running mate have also sunk to lows so deep that I wonder how they can sleep at night. What do they stand for other than knocking down their opponent? I wish they would run on their strengths.

Obama's campaign, on the other hand, is running on a foundation of hope and of actual ideas for the future. When Obama talks about the environment, he knows his stuff and—if he stays true to his message and his word—will be a great steward for Mother Nature (versus the “Drill, Baby, Drill” attitude of his opponent).

To me, November 5th will be a day of fear or hope. Let’s just hope that whichever candidate wins will be able to rectify all of Bush’s “midnight regulations” and bring honor back to the White House.

Question of the blog: How can we stop “midnight regulations”? After all, the president is supposed to enact the will of the people, not the will of big business!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Is a Green Move Possible?

When Mark and I put our home on the market a few months ago, we didn’t necessarily expect it to sell. Imagine our surprise when we accepted an offer last week. One of the few contingencies of the sale is that we move out by October 8th—yikes!

Obviously, Mark and I are very green. Mark drives a hybrid 3 miles to work and I work from home. We take short showers (and use a low-flow showerhead). We recycle. We compost. We use cloth bags and buy local. But, even for us, a green move is a challenge.

We found a new home we love (cross your fingers our offer is accepted) that’s significantly smaller than our current home. That means we’re not just faced with packing and moving, but we’re faced with getting rid of a lot of stuff. As we’re sorting our possessions, we place things in four main piles: (1) keep, (2) give to family/friends, (3) donate, and (4) recycle. Unfortunately, we needed to create a fifth pile: trash.

There are some things that simply don’t fit in any of our four main piles. Luckily, our trash pile is very, very small, but every time I add something to it, I feel a pang of green guilt. Why I bring this up is that if very green people still end up with stuff in a “trash” pile, I shutter to think about what happens when non-eco people move.

Question of the blog: What are your tips for ensuring an authentically green move?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Wanna Know the Not-So-Sweet Surprise?

Have you seen the ads promoting—of all things—high fructose corn syrup? At first, I found it intensely amusing that the makers of this prolific "poison" have the need to defend their product as a sweet surprise. And then I got upset.

In the commercials I’ve seen, the actors who question the use of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are portrayed as denser than all those arteries clogged by years of eating processed “foods” high in HFCS. When asked why HFCS is bad, these paid actors couldn't come up with one single reason. Well, here are just three I can quickly come up with:

1. Obesity and Type-2 Diabetes (just a few of the reasons current generations aren’t expected to live as long as their parents)

2. Focus on Quantity Not Quality (“foods” high in HFCS—and there are many, from soda to crackers—are cheap because this main ingredient has no nutritional value)

3. Environmental Destruction (corn is not only one of the most genetically modified crops, but it uses something like 162 million pounds of chemical pesticides and produces early 49 billion pounds of greenhouse gasses per year)

Please don’t be brain- and belly-washed! Look at labels and, whenever possible, avoid high fructose corn syrup. HFCS helps processed “foods” have a longer shelf life (as opposed to eating fresh, organic, and local fruits and vegetables which are full of nutrients our bodies crave). I just read that a woman who promotes healthy eating travels the country with a fast food hamburger she bought two years ago . . . as she unwraps it, each audience gasps at the still-very-recognizable bun and burger. Appetizing?

It’s a fact that many overweight and obese people are actually malnourished. To me, the not-so-sweet surprise is that HFCS is partly to blame. When cheap, calorie-rich substitutes routinely pass as food, there’s a problem. Luckily, we have many, many alternatives.

By the way, I wrote to the folks at the Corn Refiners Association but—sweet surprise—they haven’t responded!

Question of the blog: Do you currently check labels for high fructose corn syrup?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Where Were You Seven Years Ago Today?

I was working at home on the bright blue morning of September 11, 2001. I had just gotten off the phone with Mark when I turned on the television to catch up on the morning's news before starting my day. The first plane had just hit one of the two World Trade Centers and the television anchors were reporting that it was most likely an accident. I stood in front of the television, transfixed; moments later, I saw a streak in the corner of the screen and then the second plane hit . . . and everything changed.

I didn’t know anyone on any of the four planes, or in New York, Pennsylvania, or Washington D.C. but, like all Americans, I grieved and still grieve for the thousands who gave their lives that day and for the many, many loved ones who will forever have a hole in their hearts. They ask that we never forget, and I hope we never do.

Earlier this year, Mark and I traveled to New York City. We walked to the site of the former World Trade Centers and as I looked out and down—knowing I should have been looking out and up—I started to cry. For me, it was the same as my experience at Pearl Harbor: horror and pain mixed with hope and pride.

Barack Obama is calling for a return to the post-9/11 sense of community and participation. I remember those days—when it was comforting to be with others, looking people in the eye, being close, talking, sharing, listening. I liked that America. As a divisive election nears, let’s try to remember that we’re more alike than we are unalike, that our political affiliation, sex, religious belief, cultural background, and even our shade of green doesn't matter as much as the fact that we are all citizens of the world.

Question of the blog: Where were you seven years ago today?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What If You Put “Green” Lipstick on a Pig?

Republican Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, doesn’t think the human race has anything to do with global warming (perhaps she foolishly and dangerously thinks this, like the Iraq War, is “a task that is from God”). For those of us with an open mind and an active brain, the link between humans and the changing planet is not even a question . . . it’s a fact.

It seems that Palin, like John McCain and his mentor, George W. Bush, all read and, worse, believe the same severely edited documents put out by government-paid lawyers (not impartial scientists, mind you!).

I don’t care if you’re stupid, just don’t ruin my planet.

Even if we aren’t to blame for increased CO2 emissions, an uptick in severe storms, and rising sea levels, what’s wrong with encouraging citizens to make positive changes like reducing our dependence on foreign oil?

Until a green-minded President gets into office and (finally) stands up to big business and makes the changes this world desperately needs, it’s up to each of us to make as many changes as possible. I call it leading the leader. And once that green-minded President gets into office, we need to retain our individual responsibility. Going green is for life, both literally and figuratively.

To see just how green you are (or are not), take this “calculate your impact” quiz by

Question of the blog: Will a candidate’s commitment to the environment—or his/her failure to step up to the green plate—influence the way you vote this November?

P.S. Did you know John McCain used the "putting lipstick on a pig" comment when referring to a belief held by Hillary Clinton? Perhaps, at his age, he simply forgot.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Is There an End to “Unlimited”?

I saw a television commercial yesterday for a chain restaurant, promoting its offer of unlimited shrimp. What it sees as a great temptation, I see as gluttony and a reflection of just how far we’ve gone down the wrong path.

I’m a firm believer that you get what you pay for. The current economy is bad—I feel it as much as you do—but I’m absolutely unwilling to compromise quality for quantity.

Sure, you can pay $8 and stuff your face with non-organic shrimp bathed in a high-sodium, high-fat glaze—and perhaps a few non-organic, over-cooked veggies thrown in for “good” measure—but what you’re getting in return for your investment are unappetizing side effects like exposure to toxins and pesticides, indigestion, and fatigue.

Think about it this way: Is someone really going to offer an unlimited amount of quality?

A national morning news show recently highlighted a family that feeds itself from a most meager budget each week. The family was celebrated for cutting corners and cutting costs. In my eyes, it was also honored for cutting nutrition. I’d rather hear about a family that cleverly manages to find the most affordable sources for fresh, local, and organic fare . . . where the parents have oodles of energy and no health problems . . . and where the kids have no trouble concentrating in school.

Don’t be fooled by promotional gimmicks and advertising propaganda. You and your family deserve real nutrition—it might not be offered in “unlimited” quantities but, I assure you, the quality is priceless.

Question of the blog: Has the bad economy forced you to sacrifice your eating habits?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Are Pesticides Really Peopleicides?

I don’t remember when I first heard of organic food—certainly, it was many years ago—but the idea instantly resonated with me. Exposing ourselves to harmful chemicals designed to kill isn’t exactly appetizing.

Back then, organic fruits and vegetables weren’t just hard to find, they were expensive. Now, they are in almost every grocery store and often quite affordable (if you’re a bargain shopper like me, you know just where to go to get the best deals; I often pay less for organic food than the conventional counterparts).

So, why go organic?

A. It’s Healthy. By eating organic fruits and vegetables, you’ll limit your exposure to pesticides by as much as 90 percent; these toxins attack your immune, nervous, and reproductive systems and are especially bad for fetuses, young children, and the elderly.

B. It’s Really Healthy. Four years ago, a research associate with the Biochemical Institute at the University of Texas, Austin, published analysis of data collected by the USDA in 1950 and 1999 on the levels of 13 nutrients in more than 40 food crops. The results: after the addition of pesticides and breeding techniques (for oh-so-important criteria like rapid growth and storage life) the protein in the conventional crops declined by six percent; phosphorous, iron, and calcium declined between nine percent and 16 percent; ascorbic acid declined 15 percent; and riboflavin declined 38 percent. In organic crops, those nutrients are still there!

C. It Just Tastes (& Looks) Better. This weekend, Mark and I bought local, organic apples and I wish I could share our bounty with you. The fruit is crisp, sweet, and firm . . . and it isn’t shiny from wax and other add-ons.

So which fruits and vegetables are the most contaminated? The Environmental Working Group's “Dirty Dozen” list answers that question. These are the 12 most popular fruits and vegetables that have the highest levels of toxic pesticides:

1.Peaches: Over 94 percent tested positive for traces of 45 different pesticides.
2.Celery: 94 percent tested positive for 29 different pesticides.
3.Apples: 92 percent tested positive for 36 pesticides.
4. Sweet Bell Peppers: 68 percent tested positive for 39 different pesticides.
5.Cherries: 91 percent tested positive for 25 different pesticides.
6.Imported Grapes: 86 percent tested positive for 35 different pesticides.
7.Nectarines: 97 percent tested positive for 26 different pesticides.
8.Pears: 94 percent tested positive for 35 different pesticides.
9.Potatoes: 79 percent tested positive for 29 different pesticides.
10.Raspberries: 59 percent tested positive for 39 different pesticides.
11.Spinach: 83 percent tested positive for 36 different pesticides.
12.Strawberries: 90 percent tested positive for 36 different pesticides.

92 percent of conventional apples tested positive for 36 pesticides! With that in mind, I’d like to amend the old adage: an organic apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Question of the blog: Do you think pesticides are peopleicides?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Do You Trust the FDA?

We should all live a lifestyle our grandmothers would recognize: be part of a community, be kind to neighbors, read books, play games, enjoy life’s simple (and most divine) pleasures, and prepare wholesome, nourishing food—real food—for you and your family.

Would your grandmother recognize your over-stuffed day planner, your one-hour commute, the processed chemicals disguised as food lurking in your cabinets? And what would she think of all the plastic in your kitchen?

Chances are, your grandmother’s kitchen was filled with glass: jars, bottles, cups, bowls, dishes, even plates. Turns out, glass is the safest product to keep and store food . . . unless you drop it.

I have no doubt that plastic was created with the best intentions when too many glass bowls shattered on kitchen floors. Touted, no doubt, as a life saver, it’s now apparent to everyone but the FDA that plastics with bisphenol A (BPA)—take baby bottles, as an example—are life destroyers because BPA is a hormone disruptor with great potential for future risks to human health.

I just read this AP article about how “Government toxicologists have reiterated safety concerns about a chemical used in baby bottles and food containers, just weeks after the Food and Drug Administration declared the substance safe.”

Personally, I’m surprised toxicologists who get a pay check from the current government were (1) allowed to do the study and (2) allowed to release the results. But that’s another issue.

“The FDA said it would consider the new report as it continues reviewing bisphenol.” Consider? Well, how very kind of them. Until then, would you feel good about feeding a baby from a BPA bottle? Would you feel good about microwaving your soup in a BPA bowl?

Now, get even more outraged:

“Several major retailers—including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Toys R Us Inc.—have said they would stop selling baby bottles made with the chemical next year. And smaller companies like Eveflo and BornFree have ramped up production of glass baby bottles as a bisphenol-free alternative. Canada has said it intends to ban the use of the chemical in baby bottles, and state and federal lawmakers have introduced legislation to ban bisphenol in U.S. children's products. More than 6 billion pounds of bisphenol are produced in the U.S. each year by Dow Chemical, Bayer AG and other manufacturers.”

Call me suspicious of bureaucracy, but it seems clear to me (as clear as plastic) that Dow Chemical and Bayer AG have purchased and are pulling the FDA’s strings.

By the way, if you have a baby and are looking for glass baby bottles, read this posting by my green guru.

Question of the blog: Will you contact your representatives and let them know you want BPA banned?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Wanna Ditch That Commute?

I’ve been working from home for about a year and a half, eliminating a commute and its associated energy consumption. This wasn’t a green decision for me—as a writer, it just made sense to go independent and work for a variety of magazines and websites—but it’s eco-friendly nonetheless, which is extremely gratifying.

Yahoo recently released its list of “Ten Hot Home Office Jobs.” The angle is that, by working from home, you can reduce your dependence on gas. According to Yahoo, “with fuel prices topping four dollars per gallon in some states, many Americans want to keep their paychecks in their pockets and out of their gas tanks.”

Check out Yahoo’s list and see if one of their recommended home office jobs is the right fit for you . . . and then you can ditch that commute. For information and advice on working from home, check out WHY Magazine (, the first e-zine dedicated solely to work-at-homers.

Question of the blog: The Presidency is the premier home office job—the Oval Office is, after all, located inside the White House. Do you think the next highest-profile work-at-homer (go, Obama) will be green not just in his office, but in all the decisions he makes at his desk?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ready for a Change—An Eco-Friendly Oil Change?

An Internet ad for Firestone’s “green” oil change caught my eye recently, and I wanted to share the link with you to their online coupon.

Unlike conventional oil changes, this one—using Eco Power oil—is made with 100% recycled motor oil and it exceeds industry and manufacturers’ specifications.

Here’s what Firestone's ad says about Eco Power: It’s “one of the most environmentally friendly oils that's recycled and twice refined using up to 85% less energy to produce than conventional motor oil. Eco Power exceeds the highest North American standards for motor oil performance in gasoline engines.”

Hopefully, you’ll use this coupon for your hybrid’s next oil change.

Question of the blog: Will you get an eco-friendly oil change?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

How Green Are Your Planters?

My favorite local garden center was offering a 40%-off sale this past weekend. As I blogged about earlier, Mark and I are on a mission to have as many plants in our home as possible to help clean the air. We ran out of planters with our latest plant additions so, in addition to buying two new plants, we needed to buy two new planters (which were also 40% off).

I walked up and down rows and rows of gorgeous planers of every imaginable size and color. In the final aisle, I found just what I wanted, but what I didn’t know existed: greenPots™, which are eco-friendly planters made from rice.

In addition to several lovely styles and equally lovely colors, these plants are gorgeously green because they’re renewable (made from plant by-products) and they’re completely biodegradable. They’re also extremely affordable. With the 40% off sale, Mark and I bought two plants and two plants for just pennies over $10.

Question of the blog: Does it frustrate you that green is still often incorrectly portrayed as more expensive than conventional alternatives?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Do Abortion Rights Matter Without Any Life on Earth?

Just like every other election year, this one is going to come down to picking the best of the worst. My philosophy has always been that one can’t be a genuinely good, decent, and honest person and get ahead in what is by its very nature a power-hungry, money-hungry, polarizing, elitist, spotlight-driven profession.

Yeah, yeah, the president represents “we the people” . . . but not really.

John McCain can’t remember how many homes he owns (let’s not even guess if any of them are eco-friendly) and Barack Obama talks about change and then teams up with a man who has been "working" in Washington longer than I’ve been alive.

I don’t buy any of it. Luckily, we don’t really buy a president; we rent him for four or eight years. So, which rental will be less painful?

The environment is my #1 priority (without a healthy planet, nothing else matters). I just read this article about how the GOP is “taking a hard line on abortion while edging toward a more moderate position on global warming.”

Let me see if I understand? The GOP wants to make it illegal for women who were raped to end the nightmare, while backing down on serious environmental problems that could kill us all. Ignoring the environment is like allowing an abortion for the entire human race!

In this (green) light, Obama wins. Let’s hope the rest of us do, too.

Question of the blog: Does “GOP” stand for “Geezers, Obtuse, Pitiful”?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Looking for a Great Source for Discount Green Beauty Products?

I’ve been a fan of TJX stores (TJ Maxx, Marshalls, etc.) for about a decade. While I don’t buy many of my clothes there anymore—they haven’t seemed to embrace green fashion yet—they are a terrific source for green beauty products at a bargain price.

Eco-friendly shampoo and conditioner, for instance, can run $8/bottle, or more. That’s a price I’m willing to pay to avoid all kinds of toxins . . . but it’s a price I don’t have to pay. TJ Maxx and Marshalls both carry a number of organic, fragrance-free, paraben-free, everything-you-don’t-want-free shampoos and conditioners for $3.99/bottle.

Both stores also carry green lotions and potions—my favorite finds are product sets. This weekend, I found a $62 set of JASON “Red” products for $10.

Question of the blog: How committed are you to using green beauty products?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Want a Miraculous Green Summer Read?

My very first word was “book” (followed by “no,” but let’s not go there). Reading has always been an important part of my life—thank you, Mom—and that passion has neatly segued into my career as a professional freelance writer.

Recently, I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, and it moved me in such a profound, earth-quaking way, that I feel compelled to share it with you.

Here’s how the author’s website describes her book: “Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, this book (released May 2007) tells the story of how our family was changed by one year of deliberately eating food produced in the place where we live.”

Just think about it—eating food produced in the place where we live. It’s a turn-of-the-last-century concept that should be easy if they were doing it 100 years ago . . . and it’s anything but!

Most food sold in U.S. grocery stores is better-traveled than the people in the store aisles. To eat local, in-season produce doesn’t just support your community and take care of Mother Earth, it also feeds your body with the most nutritional items, especially when your local farms are organic or pesticide-free—or, better yet, when your food is grown in your own back yard.

The book is encouraging, and it’s also educational and enlightening . . . and there are also delicious recipes! By page 50, I wanted to kiss the pages (not a response I typically have) and, by page 100, I said to Mark that I’d already learned more useful, important information than I did in four years of college. Before I was even done, I was looking forward to re-reading it.

I hope you’re ready for your own miracle!

Question of the blog: Are you a locavore?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Can You Go Green (and Not Spend a Lot of Green) When You Go Back to School?

I recently wrote an article for a green website about the best ways to send your kids back to school as green as possible.

What surprised me most as I did my research was the vast amount of eco-friendly products out there for school-age children. Of course, you don’t have to be a kid to appreciate a cool green notebook!

I was watching the news last night and there was a report about how the economy is making back-to-school shopping as painful for parents as it is for children. I understand that the lowest price is often the determining factor when making a purchase—instead of its degree of green—but I encourage parents to do some research before making their purchases. Green products don’t always cost a lot of green; more and more, eco-friendly products cost the same as conventional products.

And respecting the earth is a great lesson to teach your kids!

Question of the blog: If you have school-age children, is their school green enough for you?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Want to Go Green and Make Some Green?

Some things are easy to recycle—say, a newspaper. Other things aren’t so easy—say, your old cell phones (all three of them), your decidedly low-tech 2-megapixel digital camera, and even that “vintage” laptop that weighs about 18 pounds.

Not wanting to throw away any of our electronics, Mark and I have been storing them in our home office closet. But that's no solution! Recently, Mark found a site that doesn’t just take unwanted electronics off our hands, it pays us to do so.

The company is called Gazelle and, as they say on their site, “you get paid to be environmentally responsible.”

Talk about being green and making some green!

Gazelle is looking for your:
· Cell phones
· MP3 Players
· Digital Cameras
· Laptops
· GPS Devices
· Gaming Consoles
· Camcorders
· Satellite Radios
· Portable Hard Drives

How it works: You go to, search for the electronic device you want to sell, review the price Gazelle is willing to pay for your item, and—if you agree to the terms—enter your information and they send you a box AND pay for shipping . . . and then the item is out of your home office closet (or wherever you keep your stash) and you receive money.

Apparently, Gazelle has kept almost 5 tons of potential e-waste out of landfills. I wonder how many tons of cold, hard cash the company has added to wallets! Kudos, Gazelle.

Question of the blog: Do you have any tips for recycling hard-to-recycle items?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Need a Cool Place for a Memo?

I admit it: I tried (rather unsuccessfully) to create a “vision board”—a place to display my hopes and dreams that works under the basic assumption of . . . if you visualize it, it will come true.

Here’s why it didn’t work for me: I wasn’t inspired by my rather-boring board.

I tacked up a few images, and then I avoided it. Eventually, the cat pulled down a few of the photos (she’s like that) and those images that were left curled up on themselves, as if too embarrassed to be seen. Last month, the bulletin board was sold at our tag sale.

But then I had a new vision yesterday while reading Real Simple. When cork cramps your style, like it did mine, they recommend a Pulp Designer Fabric Memo Board. Here’s why: “The 22-inch square bulletin board, which comes in 18 fabric designs, accepts regular pushpins but won’t stick out like a sore thumb and ruin your decor.”

The fabric isn’t described as eco-friendly, but the boards are hand-crafted in the United States—and buying products made in the United States is one of my favorite ways to go green.

Once I get my Pulp Designer Fabric Memo Board, and create my “vision board,” one of my first visions might just be for Pulp to go green.

Question of the blog: Does a product have to be 100% green for you to buy it, or are you okay with shades of green?

Monday, August 18, 2008

What’s in the Bag?

Mark heard recently that JC Penny carries organic clothes and we stopped by our local store this weekend. A few feet within the front door, I saw that JC Penny sells a colorful cloth bag for $1.99 at check-out.

Or, at least, the theory is that they sell these bags.

I watched as a line of people moved through one register. The cloth bags were on the other side of the counter and not once did the JC Penny associate ask if a customer would like a cloth bag for $1.99, and not once did a customer ask for one.


Stay with me for a moment: I’ve noticed that TJX stores have a ridiculous new policy. If a store associate doesn’t ask you if you’d like to sign up for a TJX credit card, you receive a HUGE bottle of soda for free. Um, I don’t want the card or the soda. But this got me thinking . . .

Stores that carry their own cloth bags—like JC Penny and Hannaford Supermarkets—should start a policy where they ask customers if they’d like to buy a cloth bag with their purchase. Or, better yet, start giving away the cloth bags (using them in place of plastic) and instituting a policy where a customer gets a small percentage off all future purchases when he or she reuses the bag.

I mean, really, the JC Penny cloth bag costs $1.99 (which has to be just pennies wholesale). And, to JC Penny, each bag is a walking billboard as—presumably—the shopper will carry the bag around town.

In this scenario, the shopper wins, JC Penny wins, and Mother Nature wins. My work here is done.

Question of the blog: Have you noticed any big chain retailers successfully promoting their cloth bags?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Are You Up for the “One Bottle/One Year” Challenge?

Plastic water bottles are everywhere. And, unfortunately, as much as 90% of them are in landfills. We need one close at hand at work, the gym, and even the car. Of course we need to stay hydrated, but we also need to consider the drain on the environment, energy, and resources.

Assuming you recycle (for which I fundamentally applaud you), I have to say: Don’t be fooled.

The little “recyclable” sign on the bottom of a plastic bottle is a get-out-of-green-guilt card as it misleads people into thinking they’re doing all they can, and should, by tossing the bottle into the recycling container instead of the trash bin.

But remember the first of the three Rs is REDUCE, as in don’t buy those plastic bottles in the first place.

So I challenge you to use only one water bottle for the next 365 days (at least). I’m not asking you to refill a plastic bottle for a year—that’s dangerous as the plastic will leach more and more with each use. Instead, I’m suggesting you invest in a stainless steel reusable water bottle and a water filter of some sort (unless you have access to a natural spring).

With so many stainless steel water bottles on the market, which do you choose? My green guru gives her highest praise to Klean Kanteen, which is enough of an endorsement for me.

Question of the blog: Are you up for the “One Bottle/One Year” challenge?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How Do Endangered Species Quickly Become Extinct Species?

So I read an article on Monday that I found both sad and disturbing, but not at all surprising. Apparently, soon-to-be-former President Bush is working hard to extinguish part of the Endangered Species Act.

Why work hard on solving, say, global warming, a bad economy, energy issues, antiquated health care, failing education system, rising unemployment, ballooning national debt, or the crumbling housing market when you can spend your time and intelligence—wait, I mean your time—on throwing the bald eagle under the bus.

What a legacy!

According to the Associated Press (AP), the Bush administration wants federal agencies to decide for themselves whether highways, dams, mines, and other construction projects might harm endangered animals and plants. New regulations, which don’t require the approval of Congress, would reduce the mandatory, independent reviews government scientists have been performing for 35 years.

Decide for themselves? You do the corrupt math.

The AP continued: If approved, the changes would represent the biggest overhaul of endangered species regulations since 1986 . . . The new regulations follow a pattern by the Bush administration not to seek input from its scientists. The regulations were drafted by lawyers . . . The changes would apply to any project a federal agency would fund, build or authorize that the agency itself determines is unlikely to harm endangered wildlife and their habitat.

Government wildlife experts currently participate in tens of thousands of such reviews each year . . . "If adopted, these changes would seriously weaken the safety net of habitat protections that we have relied upon to protect and recover endangered fish, wildlife, and plants for the past 35 years," said John Kostyack, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Wildlife Conservation and Global Warming initiative.

Under current law, federal agencies must consult with experts at the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service to determine whether a project is likely to jeopardize any endangered species or to damage habitat, even if no harm seems likely. This initial review usually results in accommodations that better protect the 1,353 animals and plants in the U.S. listed as threatened or endangered and determines whether a more formal analysis is warranted.

I’m glad our current president is an endangered and soon-to-be-extinct species in terms of his days left in office. And I hope the next president understands that there's a delicate balance in nature, and we have to do all we can to go green—both the US government and its citizens—to get back in balance.

Question of the blog: Every article I read on the changes said they’d be subject to a 30-day public comment period before being finalized by the Interior Department, yet not one article included information on the way we the public can voice our concerns. Do you know how we can comment on the new rules within the 30-day public comment period?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

How Long is Your “5-Minute” Shower?

I grew up in Western Massachusetts—which gets its pristine water from Quabbin Reservoir—and one day, after taking a shower, my Mother said to me, “I just heard on the news that Quabbin Reservoir’s water table just dropped two inches.”

In other words, I took a l-o-n-g shower.

In my quest to go green, shortening my showers has been one of my most difficult challenges. My mind wanders and, while I have every intention of making it quick, time seems to pass with extreme speed—as if a shower stall is a some sort of wind-it-up time travel device.

A few weeks ago, Mark and I bought a “Shower Coach™” from Niagara. This 5-minute hourglass is water proof and has a suction cup that sticks to the wall. Swivel it when you get into the shower and play race-the-hourglass to see if you can get out before it runs out of sand. “Shower Coach™” was designed to teach children how to take quick showers, but I find it works well in teaching adults, too.

This eco home must-have costs less than $5! Think about how much money it saves . . . just don’t think about it and then let your mind wander while you’re in the shower.

Question of the blog: What’s been your most difficult challenge in going green?

Monday, August 11, 2008

What Has Your Bra Done For You Lately?

The conventional bra needed a make-over, and Christina Erteszek was just the designer to do it . . . and do it right. Her “Brassage” offers support, sure, but it also treats the body right with organic cotton and patented Lymphatic Enhancing Technology (LET).

Don't think you need LET? Think again!

LET micro-massages the network of lymphatic vessels which clean breast tissue. Translation: The small raised bumps in the bra’s side panels help to remove toxins from the breast.

I just bought one (on sale) from Gaiam and I’m hooked—excuse the pun.

Question of the blog: With undergarments worn as close to the body as possible, how important is “green” underwear to you?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Which Came First: The Green Chicken or the Green Egg?

Green AMPlified, a national survey released by AMP Agency, an Alloy Media + Marketing company, revealed that almost all Americans—a whopping 90 percent—believe that acting in an environmentally responsible way is important.

The survey also revealed that 53 percent of consumers will consider a company’s social and environmental activities when making a purchasing decision and will reward companies that are committed to the green cause—57 percent say they’ll trust a green company and 60 percent will purchase its products.

That’s the great news . . . but there’s some not-so-great news, too.

The same 90 percent that believe going green is important feel that the responsibility is in the hands of corporations and not in their own hands. And while they are increasingly implementing eco-friendly evaluations into their product purchasing decisions, they will allow only a minimal sacrifice in terms of changing their own lifestyle.

You’ve got to be kidding me!

Looking to Uncle Sam, or the president of McDonald’s, to make the world green is foolish at best. At worst, it’s deadly. Think about it: We’re all encouraged to go green because being anything else typically includes serious health risks. Drinking from plastic bottles that have leached harmful chemicals. Sleeping on a mattress that’s releasing toxic fumes. Draping our bodies in clothing drenched in pesticides. Eating hormone-filled meats. These are just four examples of countless risks.

Change Needs to Start at Home

The typical American lifestyle needs to change . . . desperately . . . and quick.

You might think that we’ve always lived this way, but we haven’t. Current generations are expected to have a life span that’s shorter than that of their parents. It’s time to get outraged, and to use that passion to start making green changes, no matter how uncomfortable.

Here are some of the things Mark and I do (and don’t do):

  • I’m a full-time writer and I work out of my house; Mark drives our hybrid a mere 3.2 miles to his job each day.
  • We eat local, in-season, organic food as often as possible (which, when you look for it, is frequently possible).
  • We limit our use of packaging.
  • We compost.
  • We recycle everything we can.
  • When we do end up with a plastic bag—which is rare—we wash it and dry it on a rack made for just that purpose.
  • We don’t water our lawn or use any chemicals (we think the only place you shouldn’t be green is your lawn if it takes chemicals and precious water to get it that way!).
  • We only use no-VOC paint.
  • We bought energy-efficient light bulbs . . . and curtains.
  • We turn off every light when leaving a room (even for just a few minutes).
  • We look at clothing labels and buy organic or sustainable products.
  • We added a green mattress topper, eco pillows, and organic bedding in our bedroom.
  • We always try to buy products made in the United States (even if they cost more).
  • We're up to nearly 20 plants in our house to help clean the air.

This list is far from complete, but it lets you know that we walk the green walk. Some of it isn't fun but, get this, we're happy. Really, really happy.

Make the Change at Work, Too

Just over 10 years ago, I implemented a recycling program in my first job out of college. I did all the sorting and recycling myself (which included visiting a recycling center) on my own time, and my own dime. “I wish I could do that,” an older colleague said to me one day. “But I just don’t enjoy recycling.” At that exact moment, I was carrying a mound of soda cans—and I don’t even drink soda!—trying to make sure none of them fell, spilled on me, or got me sticky. “You think I enjoy this?” I asked.

My point is to taking your same green passion from your home to your office, making green changes and encouraging co-workers and management to do the same.

Back to the Green AMPlified survey, I’m beyond thrilled that going green is important to 90 percent of Americans. Now it’s our job to make sure we get those same people to realize it’s just as important to go green at home.

Question of the blog: How much are you willing to sacrifice in your life to go green?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Do You Need to Move to Europe to Drive a Green Ford?

Last night I was reading a book that a friend gave me back in 1995: Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea. The book—which shares Lindbergh’s musings on life—was written more than 50 years ago. The gap between then and now was readily apparent in a line Lindbergh wrote about the United States being a leader that other countries aspire to emulate.

When I read the line, my heart sank. The US is still a world leader, but I doubt most any other country would want to be like us: in a state of war with a bad economy, a busted housing market, politicians (we don’t trust) bickering instead of compromising, racism, sexism, violence, terrorism, natural disasters, extreme energy use, a celebrity fixation . . . please don’t make me go on!

There’s a long list of our great attributes, too, but the fact that we’ve fallen extremely short of our true potential is troubling.

Take Ford, for example. This classic American car maker is—and let me just be blunt here—a disgrace when it comes to introducing environmentally friendly technology in its own country. For years, it produced and sold bigger-is-better cars and trucks, somehow missing all the signs pointing to the growing demand for smaller, more efficient vehicles. Personally, I was in the market for a hybrid three years ago!

We can assume, when they came to the fork in the energy road, that every big wig “visionary” at Ford took the left road instead of the right one, simply making a mistake. But we’d be wrong . . . Ford did go, in part, down the right road. Just not in its home country. Let me explain: At the recent British International Motor Show, Ford introduced ECOnetic. This vehicle is an energy-efficient version of its Ford Fiesta, with 63.6 MPG.

Ready to buy one? Well, you can’t—unless you live in Europe. That’s right, this “green” car, which would undoubtedly be a big hit in Ford’s own country, won’t be sold in the states for at least a year and a half.

I love my country and am proud of its ingenuity, beauty, and diversity. But I feel a bit like the parent of a teenager (the US being the teen, of course). I love it but I don’t always understand it—it frustrates me with its moodiness, extremes, and propensity not to listen to common sense. And like the parent of a teenager, I take faith that this is just growing pains . . . hopefully, pains we endure as the country is growing/going green.

Question of the blog: With both McCain and Obama flip-flopping on some environmental issues, do you think either will have the backbone, once in office, to make the changes we need . . . instead of succumbing to the pressures of anti-green lobbyists?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Have You Seen the (Soy Candle) Light?

My love of candles is a genetic trait I share with my Father. Odd, huh? But it may not be exactly what you think. When my Dad was a young boy in Catholic school, he got into trouble with the nuns—as he did very often—for sneaking into church and lighting every single candle in the venerated space.

My relationship with candles is much more innocent . . . but it wasn’t always the case. I used to burn anything with a wick, never stopping to consider what was in the wax, the container, or the wick itself. But in my process of going green, I’ve seen the (soy candle) light!

Yesterday I was in Boston and, while shopping between meetings, I bought a soy candle from Paddywax. Here’s how the company describes its eco collection on the website:

“We took the famed phrase 'We must be the change we want to see in the world' to heart. From soy-based inks, to hemp twine, to recycled paper, this collection is committed to conserving our planet's resources. The chlorine free paper pulp box is biodegradable in 3-6 months and is wrapped with a 100% post-industrial recycled paper label awarded FSC-certification. The FSC's mission is to 'promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world's forests.'” Each candle is hand-poured in the USA and offers 45 hours of guiltless burn time. Oh, and the scents are terrific (I chose "Bordeaux Fig and Vetiver").

In response to these superb soy candles—and in homage to my Father’s attempt to lighten up the church—I ask: Can I get an Amen?

Question of the blog: What’s your favorite soy candle company?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Have You Turned Your Green Corner?

I hate to admit it, but a lot of very famous people hang out in my closet: Manolo Blahnik, Calvin Klein, and even Donna Karan (although she’s been relegated to the very back, behind my college crew jacket). The sad truth is that I used to be more impressed with the designer name on one label than the materials listed on the other.

Recently, I learned just how much I’ve changed.

After visiting our local Farmers’ Market on Saturday, Mark and I drove home through Kittery, Maine, which is the location of the country’s first big outlet center. “Did you see that?” I asked as we passed what used to be vacant space. “I sure did,” Mark answered, turning the car around.

It was a Burberry Clearance Center. We walked in to find a large sign indicating everything in the store was 30% off the (very low) lowest price. The first thing I picked up was a signature Burberry scarf: With the discount, it was $14.

A few years ago, I would have put several in my cart and given them away as holiday gifts. But I didn’t want to put this scarf around my neck and I didn’t want to give it to others because it wasn’t made of organic or sustainable materials. In other words, I wasn’t at all impressed.

I circled the store, looking at the labels, and didn’t find one thing I wanted. Neither did Mark. As we walked out, Mark said, “We’ve come a long way.” Later that day, I visited the Gaiam website, checking out Fair Trade items, and found their Silvia Scarf.

Here’s how they describe it: “Add featherweight warmth to a sleeveless dress or yoga top with our 100% silk organza scarf. Handmade by women weavers in remote Cambodian villages and through the aid of a fair trade company, this small business venture hopes to erase the ever-present risk of human trafficking, violence and abuse in Cambodia. From Hagar, a fair trade group.”

And, get this, the scarf costs $14 . . . the same price as the Burberry scarf. Talk about closing a toxic door and opening an eco-friendly window.

Question of the blog: Are you switching over your conventional wardrobe to a green wardrobe in one fell swoop or are you adding pieces as you go?

Friday, August 1, 2008

(Organic) Curtain Call: Can You Help Me?

Mark and I have lived in our house for six years, and—for six years—I’ve wanted to hang curtains in our living room.

You have to understand: If I had to choose another career, it would be green interior design, so the way a place looks (and, really, feels) is of the utmost importance to me. As I shared with you many blogs ago, we moved into our house on a sweltering August day and we didn’t stop moving until every box was in the house and unpacked.

We had a house-warming soon afterwards and an acquaintance said to me, “It took 10 years to get my house looking this cozy and lived-in.” It was the best compliment I could have received.

But I digress . . .

Our house is totally designed, down to the angle of the plants, but the one bare spot is the living room windows. To me, it looks like a woman who got all dolled up and forgot to put on her lipstick. It’s just not finished.

Yesterday I decided to do something about it (finally!) and I went about what I thought would be an easy task: finding organic cotton curtains. I was so wrong. Organic cotton shower curtains are a breeze to find, but take the “shower” out of the equation and, well, you’re all wet.

I’m hoping you can help me in suggesting a source for eco-friendly and stylish window treatments. Ideally, the curtains will be grommet top, insulated, and some shade of maroon . . . and organic cotton or hemp or bamboo . . . and made in the United States. I know, I’m asking for a lot, but what I’m looking for just might be out there.

Oh, and if it’s on sale, that’s even better.

Question of the blog: Do you suffer from “green guilt” if you have to buy a product that’s conventional when you’re looking for eco-friendly?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Looking for a "Going Green" Blessing?

Yesterday, I visited a local Whole Foods and found myself inexplicably drawn to a display in the produce section. It wasn’t an impressive tower of red tomatoes or wild pile of fresh corn, it was a collection of baskets.

Orange is my favorite color and I walked right up to an orange basket. Something about its artistry spoke to me, and it had an energy I liked. Then I read its tag . . . and put it in my cart.

It’s a “Blessing Basket,” a handmade piece of utilitarian art by woman in Uganda. And the women actually sign a card that comes with the basket: Kasagga and Prossy made my basket.

Their story is as lovely as their art form.

According to their site, “The Blessing Basket Project exists to reduce poverty by providing sustainable jobs that pay prosperity wages. When you buy a Blessing Basket, you bring hope to the weaver who made the basket. Each basket sold is a life changed. Every basket is signed by the artist who made it and comes tagged with the story of their struggle. Those tags are assembled in the United States by adults with disabilities. Depending on the size and style, prices for one of these incredible works of art range from $20 - $55.”

I hope you bless your home—and the homes of your friends and family members—with a Blessing Basket.

Question of the blog: Does going green influence the way you decorate?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Want to Go Green, Get Knowledgeable, and (Sometimes) Get Mad?

The path we walk as environmentalists isn’t always easy—it has twists and turns, forks in the road, missing or misleading signs, and more than its fair share of brambles, boulders, and bugs.

But we walk on because we have to (it’s the right thing to do) and because we want to.

I enjoy sharing with you some of my favorite green finds in order to encourage you to go green in every area of your life . . . and venting every once in a while about the frustrations of being green in a black and white (and grey) world.

What I’m not able to do is get “scientific” with you; however, knowing the behind-the-scenes details is vital. And so I’d like to introduce you to another green blog, produced by the owner of Real Green Goods, that’s exceptionally enlightening:

I encourage you to visit this site daily, as I do, to learn about the things most of us don’t know, and probably aren’t supposed to know. As the passionate owner of a green department store, Debby does her homework, asks the questions we might not know enough to ask, and gets to the heart of the issue. Then she shares what she knows with us.

She’s my green guru, and she can/should be the same for you.

Question of the blog: Do you reach out to the government with your green concerns?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How Green (and Cool) is Your Side Table?

A side table can be a wallflower (a piece of furniture with no personality and nothing to offer expect a flat surface on which to rest objects) or it can be a rock star (a show-stopper of a piece that can stand alone—in the spotlight, of course).

Which kind of green side table do you think I’m recommending?

ReVision tables are Hall of Fame-worthy rock stars (website pictured). Available in three styles—which I’ve nicknamed cool, cooler, and coolest—these innovative, modern, and sustainably designed tables highlight reclaimed junk mail and magazines and a no-voc eco-friendly resin.

And that’s just half of the story.

ReVision is the brainchild of teen artists who apprentice at Boston’s Artists for Humanity. The mission of Artists for Humanity is to “bridge economic, racial, and social divisions by providing underserved youth with the keys to self-sufficiency through paid employment in the arts.” The teens decided to create a green furniture line, and their mentors helped make it happen.

To these rocks stars (both the teen artists and their tables) I have one thing to say: Encore!

Question of the blog: Do you have a favorite green furniture line?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Can Plants “Clean” Your House?

On Saturday morning, I watched a TiVo’d episode of “World’s Greenest Homes” on Planet Green. During the episode, host Emmanuel Belliveau introduced us to a home in Toronto with a living wall, which is basically a partition of plants. According to Belliveau, “15 to 18 good-sized plants can actually filter the air of a 1,800-square-foot house . . . purifying the air and even cooling it by several degrees.”

A biological air filter-slash-air conditioner? Yup.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the air in our home is more polluted than the outdoor air in most big cities. Called indoor air pollution, this can lead to all sorts of health ailments, including allergies.

In addition to going green in your house with non-toxic flooring, window treatments, furniture, and other design elements, you should literally go green with an array of plants. A NASA-sponsored study determined plants in a closed environment actually extract pollutants from the air—the foliage removes pollutions and the roots act as carbon filters.

Apparently, different plants have different cleaning styles: English ivy battles off-gassing from petroleum-based products, spider plants tackle formaldehyde, and aloe vera works its magic against most toxic materials. Do your research to see which plants will work best in your home and in the lighting available in each room.

After watching the “living wall” episode of “World’s Greenest Homes,” I suggested to Mark that we should add to the six plants already in our house. He agreed, and so yesterday we bought seven more along with organic potting soil. We’re not up to 18 plants yet, but we’re on our way . . . and we started by concentrating the plants we have into the rooms we use the most: our bedroom, living room, and kitchen.

Now, if only “cleaning” our house meant plants would wash the dishes.

Question of the blog: Do you have any green tips for developing a green thumb?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Want an Exclusive Discount on Green Beauty Products?

Earlier this week, I blogged about my green beauty regime, and I asked you for recommendations on eco-friendly make-up . . . and you came through. [Thank you!]

Heather, from Kiss My Face, recommends the line’s 3Way Color and Tinted Moisturizers. “3Way is designed for use on cheeks, lips, and eyes for a natural, healthy looking glow,” she wrote. “Our Tinted Moisturizers give sheer coverage to even skin tone while moisturizing. Good for your skin and easy to use.”

But Heather didn’t just give advice—she also gave us a discount code for Kiss My Face. Until Aug-07-08, we’ll get 25% off our order with this Kiss My Face discount code: KMFBLOG3.

Bob Macleod, the President and Founder of Kiss My Face also wrote in, encouraging me to try other Kiss My Face products, in addition to the Kiss My Face Organics Jump Start, Exfoliating Face Wash I use every morning. Mr. Macleod, if you’re reading this, you should know that my list of green beauty products wasn’t complete.

While I use your Exfoliating Face Wash in the morning, I end the day with Kiss My Face Citrus Cleanser and, a few times a week, I follow that with Kiss My Face Scrub/Masque (this product has fragrance, so I use it sparingly). And the soap of choice in our house is Kiss My Face Moisture Soap (Fragrance Free). [I even snapped a picture of my bathroom counter as proof.]

I don’t know about you, blog readers, but I like how Kiss My Face is actively involved in online conversations about green beauty products. It shows their commitment is more than just skin deep. I, for one, look forward to trying their 3Way Color and Tinted Moisturizers.

[Question for Heather: Which colors do you recommend for blue-eyed blondes? And here’s a suggestion for Mr. Macleod: Make beauty product recommendations on your site based on skin tone, eye color, and hair color.]

Question of the blog: How much of your beauty regime has gone green?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Are You Cheering or Dissing L.A.'s Ban on Plastic Bags?

Yesterday, I read an article in USA Today about how Los Angeles is set to ban plastic bags starting in July 2010. After that date, shoppers can either bring their own cloth bags or they can pay $.25 for a paper bag or biodegradable bag.

Of course, I give two thumbs up to L.A. for taking this environmental stand. According to the article, “The city estimates more than 2 billion plastic bags are used each year in Los Angeles. About 5% of plastic bags and 21% of paper bags are recycled in California.”

As someone who not only recycles but composts (and probably accumulates enough garbage to fill one garbage bag every two weeks) I literally can’t imagine putting a plastic bag into the garbage. It’s such a mindless act! This is a we’re-all-in-it-together issue. It’s not my job to save your planet.

I realize the economy is bad and people are busy raising kids, but neither one is a legitimate excuse for not taking care of the environment. Sorry. Try again. This is a live-or-die issue—it might not come to that in our lifetime, but that’s where the human race is headed if we don’t change course. So are you too busy working hard to live? Are you too busy raising your kids to raise them with good morals, good eating habits, and a good future?

Think about it.

And here’s something else to think about: The negative comments posted to the USA Today article. People, for the most part, aren’t happy with the ban. I understand that change is scary and that being asked to be accountable when you’re used to being wasteful will be a shock to the system. I think we need to be shocked and I hope other cities are inspired by L.A.’s ban.

Question of the blog: Do you agree with or oppose L.A. ban on plastic bags?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Interested in Green Fashion?

In tonight’s eco-episode of Bravo’s Project Runway, the contestants are challenged to think and design green.

As I’ve blogged about before, I’m usually disappointed that stores either don’t carry environmentally friendly clothes or they carry only the standard crewneck t-shirts with cute designs and funny sayings (which I love, but you can't build a wardrobe around t-shirts).

When I went to New York several weeks ago, it was a breath of fresh green air to walk into stores like Organic Avenue and find myriad eco fashion options that were classic and stylish—the kind of adult-friendly clothing that doesn’t scream “GREEN” but whispers it softly.

I can’t wait to see what the Project Runway contestants come up with . . . and I hope I don’t see any cute, funny t-shirts!

Question of the blog: What is your favorite on-line eco fashion retailer?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Got Your Green Beauty Products?

By now, most of us painstakingly review the ingredients for the food we eat, and we need to use that same vigilance when it comes to the ingredients in the beauty products we use.

The science-experiment-gone-wrong ingredients you most want to avoid are:
· Parabens
· Sodium Laurel/Laureth Sulfates
· Phthalates
· Artificial Fragrances
· Artificial Colors
· Silicones
· Glycols
· Petroleum-Based Ingredients

You also want to use products that aren’t tested on animals.

Over the last few months, I’ve switched over to environmentally friendly beauty products, and here’s a list of the products I use:

Toothpaste: Tom’s of Maine Natural Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth, Wintermint (great flavor)

Dental Floss: Tom’s of Maine Naturally Waxed Anti-Plaque Flat Floss, Unflavored (I love the flat floss)

Mouthwash: Tom’s of Maine Natural Mouthwash, Tartar Control, Spearmint (this works without the burn like most conventional brands)

Shampoo: Jason Fragrance Free Daily Shampoo: For All Hair Types (shampoo that doesn't smell like anything did take some getting used to!)

Conditioner: Jason Fragrance Free Daily Conditioner: For All Hair Types (this gives my hair great shine)

Face Wash: Kiss My Face Organics Jump Start, Exfoliating Face Wash (it really does "jump start" my morning)

Deodorant: Aubrey Organics Natural Roll On Deodorant (trust me: this works!)

Lotion: Beauty Without Cruelty Daily Facial Lotion SPF 15 (my skin feels so soft)

I’m still trying to find eco make-up that I like (especially when I read information like this posting by my green guru about the dangers lurking in innocent-looking items like lipstick).

Question of the blog: Do you have a favorite eco make-up line?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Looking for a Stylish Green Bargain?

A few weeks ago, I blogged about (finally!) finding an organic v-neck t-shirt at prAna. I had never heard of this eco-retailer before and was pleased to find them through GreenSceneUSA.

A quick tangent: You know how, when you learn a new word, you hear it all the time? Okay, back to my story. So the day after I learn of prAna, Mark and I go to our local EMS store. Like a moth to the flame, I’m pulled to the clearance rack . . . and I find (what else?) prAna shirts and pants on sale.

I bought a prAna, 100% organic, Made-in-the-USA, raspberry tie-dyed tank top for 75% off. [I’m wearing it today and just snapped this picture.]

Finding stylish, organic, USA-made clothing on sale is my shopping Holy Grail, and I’m excited to share my best finds with you. Here's a link to the search results for prAna at EMS.

Question of the blog: Do you have a favorite eco clothing line?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Can Going Green Improve a Relationship?

I was just thinking about some of the ways being environmentally friendly has made my utterly fantastic marriage even better.

For me, there’s (almost) nothing sexier than my husband, Mark, wearing an organic, Made-in-the-USA t-shirt and shopping at our local Farmer’s Market with his “I’m a Man of the Cloth Bag” tote from

Ahem. But I digress. Here’s a little (organic) food for thought:

The Top 10 Ways Going Green Improves a Relationship

10. With all the money you save at the pump driving a hybrid, you can still afford to go out on the weekends.

9. With all the money you save buying local fruits and veggies, you can still afford to go out during the week.

8. Two words: organic wine (and don’t forget making a toast with green glassware).

7. You traded your conventional, and toxic, bed for an all-natural mattress and pillows and organic sheets (in other words, you transformed your bed into the kind of healthy nest you’ll never want to leave—wink, wink).

6. Two words: soy candlelight (mood lighting often equals in-the-mood lighting).

5. Preparing healthy, organic, from-scratch meals—with all those local fruits and veggies you bought—is code for “I love you.”

4. Two words: Home Depot (this “happy husband equals happy wife” hang-out has myriad green options).

3. You removed the television from your bedroom to save electricity. Now, when you’re in bed, there are other things you can do . . . like talk.

2. Three words: sexy eco underwear (so you don’t just talk in bed).

1. You’ve got the low-flow showerhead and you’ve reduced your showers to five minutes. To save even more water, you can shower together.

Question of the blog: How has going green improved your relationship?

Is ABC News Owned By An Oil Company?

Last night, I watched World News Tonight with Charles Gibson ( There was a report on the price of gasoline possibly falling as demand from the United States has been reduced. The reporter said it was good news as people who’ve stopped driving as much—and taking the bus or riding their bikes—can start driving again.

Say what?

I agree that it’s good news for our wallets, but it’s absolutely terrible news for Mother Nature if everyone goes back to mindless use of a polluting (and limited) resource.

There’s a lesson here. A big lesson. We literally can’t go on the way we’ve been living for decades. If we celebrate a 10 cent gas price reduction by trading in our bus pass for our driver’s license, we’ve missed the point of that lesson.

And we all know what happens when we ignore Mother Nature. She will, ultimately, win. Just look at the flooding, the hurricanes, and tornados, the heat waves, the tsunamis, the earthquakes, and the water shortages (to name just a few things) and you’ll be reminded that she has all the power.

We just use our power mindlessly.

World News Tonight with Charles Gibson then had Al Gore ( on the broadcast, talking about the challenge he issued yesterday. Gore is seeking to shed some reason on the energy debate by showing the ridiculousness of off-shore drilling and he’s challenged the US to shift its entire electricity sector to solar, geothermal, and wind power within 10 years and to use that green power to “fuel” a fleet of hybrid vehicles.

When the reporter asked him why off-shore drilling isn’t an option, he said something along the lines of (and I’m paraphrasing here), “We’ve had an oil crisis for 35 years. Thinking the same approaches that haven’t worked for three decades are going to work now is foolish. It’s trying to boost confidence with something that isn’t going to work.”

And then the camera went back to Gibson. His comment? That if we rose to Gore’s challenge, the country would spend oodles of money (okay, I’m paraphrasing again). And that was it.


I’m thinking of the time when Oprah pointed out the cons of eating meat and was sued by the meat industry. Is network news afraid of being sued by the oil industry? Gibson’s only comment was that Gore’s idea will cost money! I’m outraged that Gibson and his team—and the US government—can’t see that not following Gore’s idea is already costing oodles of money and human life.

Question of the blog: If gas prices fall, will you abandon any green steps you’d taken?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

So, How Green Are Barack Obama and John McCain?

Grist and Outside came together recently to conduct a series of interviews with John McCain and Barack Obama about each Presidential candidate’s position on the environment.

I found the insight very informative, and think you will as well. Rather than summarize the details for you, here are links to the articles and a review of each candidate’s key points on going green.

Learn more about Senator Barack Obama’s platform on energy and the environment:

Learn more about Senator John McCain’s platform on energy and the environment:

Question of the blog: How much does green factor into your November vote?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

And Lead Us Not Into Conservation?

In a press conference yesterday, President Bush said he will not encourage Americans to conserve gasoline despite the (1) rising price of oil, (2) increased concerns about global warming, and (3) monumental need to seek alternative, and sustainable, sources of energy.

The President’s excuse? “[The American people] are smart enough to figure out whether they're going to drive less or not,” he said. “I mean, you know, it's interesting what the price of gasoline has done . . . [it’s] caused people to drive less. That's why they want smaller cars: They want to conserve. But the consumer's plenty bright. The marketplace works."

He continued, "You noticed my statement yesterday, I talked about good conservation and, you know, people can figure out whether they need to drive more or less. They can balance their own checkbooks. It's a little presumptuous on my part to dictate how consumers live their own lives."

Oh, I’ve got so much to say!

First: I agree. The American people are smart, it’s the U.S. government that’s wearing the dunces cap in the green classroom of life.

Second: Some of us have been driving hybrids long before the cost of gasoline reached $4. For many, this is an environmental issue, not just an economic issue.

Third: The President will lead us into an unjustified war. He’ll lead us into recession. He’ll lead us into a demolished housing market. But he won’t lead us into conservation?

Oh, and the point of yesterday’s press conference was to put pressure on Congress to approve off-shore oil drilling, a shameful move that will harm the environment without producing any oil for years. But even if it produced massive quantities of oil tomorrow, it still doesn’t reduce our dependence on the stuff.

I really, really don’t understand. And I really, really can’t wait for January 20, 2009.

Question of the blog: Do you think President Bush’s strong ties to the oil industry have clouded his judgment?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What Would Happen if Coca-Cola Was Banned?

Someone asked me recently how he should go about going green. I’m sure he expected me to name the usual suspects—like energy-efficient light bulbs—but here’s what I said:

The best way to go green is to start asking questions.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Perfect,” I answered. “You’ve gotten into the question-asking spirit already!”

What I meant is that going green isn’t just about what you buy or don’t buy. It’s about a new way of looking at life in general, and your life in specific. It’s about holding up old beliefs to the light to see just what’s there—truth or a spider web of lies.

And then it’s about changing your behavior based on what you find.

The greener you become, the less tolerant you are for untruths in all areas of your life. At least, that’s how it’s been for me. Going green has been my passion for nearly two decades. I see the world through green-colored glasses . . . and sometimes what I see frustrates and alarms me.

But at least I see.

I see Europe and Canada years ahead of us in the testing they’re doing and the laws they’re passing. I see big business in this country convincing the government to do things in the worst interest of its citizens. Here’s a question: Where’s the outrage?

If Congress banned the sale of Coca-Cola, the country would be up in arms. There would be demonstrations, people would call their Senators and Representatives, chaos would ensue. But when Congress, say, blocks a proposal that would have extended the tax breaks that have either expired or are scheduled to end this year for alternative energy development (like solar and wind) and for the promotion of energy efficiency and conservation (which they did last month: no one makes a peep.

I read recently that the Australian landscape has changed so much over the last few years because of the climate change—indigenous trees no longer grow, many birds are gone—that Aussies are becoming depressed. Life has changed for them, and it's changing for us, too.

In times of change, I understand wanting to hold onto the familiar. Coca-Cola is equated with "classic" American life, but how important will that Coke be when the trees stop growing and the birds are gone?

The good news is that we—every single person—can make a difference. We can’t wait for the US government to see what’s so painfully obvious and be the "leader" it's supposed to be. We can start questioning everything (and I mean everything) and then changing what we can.

That spirit is, after all, as American as organic apple pie!

Question of the blog: Do you think the next US administration will finally begin to make the necessary environmental changes?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Got a Green Realtor?

Mark and I have our house on the market. In my part of the country, finding an environmentally friendly home is quite the challenge. Finding an environmentally friendly realtor is as well . . . although I don't think that's specific to my hometown.

I have been very up-front with my realtor about my green wishes (I’m sure he calls them “demands” but let’s not go there). When he hosted an Open House, I asked that he forgo the plastic plates and utensils and use my dinner plates and silverware instead. And, after showings, he gets a call from me if any lights are accidentally left on.

Last Friday, I was in Western Massachusetts for work and, during a moment of downtime, I thumbed through a Homes & Land catalog and was impressed to find an ad for EcoRealty (

According to their site, EcoRealty has a “keen interest in and fairly broad knowledge of environmental health issues, knowledge of green building, and belief in sustainable development.” In addition, they give 10 percent of their after-tax profits to “support local farming groups and land conservation funds.”

Their site also contains some really interesting and useful information. I specifically like their insight on creating a “healthy house” (

Question of the blog: Would you search out a green realtor?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Green Without the Granola?

If there is a silver green lining to our current economic situation, it’s that more and more people are realizing it’s cost-effective to be environmentally friendly. Lease solar panels, and save on energy bills. Get a gas-sipper of a car, and save at the pump. Shop the local Farmer’s Market, and save on grocery bills (and eat better!).

Since this formerly-fringe moment is going mainstream, people are also realizing green isn’t just granola.

I’ve fought the granola stereotype for years. I dislike the term and think it dismisses and discounts an important mission. That’s part of the reason I named my company EcoVixen ( Translated, the name means “the opposite of granola.”

There are a million shades of green in the world, and just as many people to go along with them. Some eco activists live on communes and wear long skirts, and some live in Manhattan and wear power suits. We’re all in this together and, yes, sometimes we do enjoy a bowlful of granola.

Question of the blog: What shade of green are you?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Is a (Fake) Rose Still a (Fake) Rose?

You might have heard—or, likely, seen—that Walmart changed its logo. In place of its star is a symbol that looks like a flower or the sun.

To quote an article on, “The redesign looks like an effort to advance the discount retailer's reputation as environmentally friendly. But can it repair an image?”

I’m sure you know how I feel.

Walmart may be the world’s biggest purchaser of organic cotton, but I dare you to go into a store and find many organic cotton products . . . or even one. I’ve forced myself into several stores to see what happens when I ask a clerk to direct me to the organic cotton products.

Not once has someone been able to rise to the simple challenge.

Forget about the logo, though, and let’s talk about Walmart’s tagline: Save money. Live better. Every time I see a Walmart commercial that ends with the line, I have to laugh. This isn’t an A = B proposition. Saving money doesn’t make you live better, especially when you’re saving all that money buying products made overseas, filled with chemicals, and otherwise bad for your health.

I’d like to ask Walmart to define its definition of living better.

I get that the economy is bad, but we’re not going to make it better by supporting other countries and making ourselves sick. I went to the Farmer’s Market this weekend and filled two huge cloth bags with local, organic, healthy produce for the week, and it cost me under $20.

Now that’s saving money and living better.

Question of the blog: Does a bad economy influence you to make equally bad choices you wouldn’t make in a good economy?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Are You Happy?

I’m currently re-reading Raw Food Life Force Energy by Natalia Rose ( The entire book is enlightening—both to the mind when you read it and the body when you implement the ideas.

Far from a diet book, this is a resource that invites you to “enter a totally new stratosphere of weight loss, beauty, and health.” And in that stratosphere you’ll find joy.

Within a section entitled, Happiness Is Our Naturally Intended State, Natalia Rose writes, “When you live in a body flowing with abundant Life Force Energy, you are filled with a natural contentment … Westerners today are so far removed from natural sources of energy, sustenance, and joy that we are inclined to believe that depression is normal. Joy is something extraordinary in our society—only a very few among us walk through life joyfully.”

A quick tangent: I love Yogi Tea ( Since 1991, this US company has been on a crusade to use only the best organic ingredients. Plus, each tea bag comes with a fortune. Just after I read the Natalia Rose passage cited above, I went to make myself a cup of Yogi Simply Decaf Green Tea. And this was my fortune:

“Happiness is every human being’s birthright.”

It was one of those moments when you can hear God (whichever God you believe in) whispering in your ear. And here’s how I know for sure that God has a sense of humor—as I poured the hot water over the tea bag, it burst and green tea went everywhere. I couldn’t stop laughing.

Since embracing the raw food lifestyle back in November, and spending most of this year making small (green) changes to my home and wardrobe, I have felt an undercurrent of joyfulness. Last night, for example, I found myself smiling widely as I drifted off to sleep.

Question of the blog: If you’re not happy, what’s standing in your way?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Would You Dare Keep Butter From Paula Deen?

In my quest to go green and live a healthier life, the way I look at food has changed substantially. I was the girl who cried at McDonald’s because they wouldn’t make me a hamburger for breakfast (they eventually did, by the way) and now I’m the woman who eats a vegan diet of mostly raw, organic food I lovingly prepare myself.

I encourage you to take a step back from the way you think about food . . . and question everything from your new perspective. Questions can be really shallow (How did a seedless cucumber get its name when it clearly has seeds?) or really deep (When did artificial start passing as authentic?) but the point is:

You’ve got to start asking questions, listening to the answers you get, and then making great-for-you changes.

Big companies and big groups (think grain, meat, and dairy industries) with big budgets have used big (aggressive) marketing campaigns for years to get us to eat their products. We see the ads, hear their claims, and blindly believe them. And, without asking questions or even reading the labels, we invite their products into our homes and into our bodies.

It seems unthinkable . . . but think again.

Almost worse than the ads (although by a slim margin) are today’s celebrity television chefs. Just for kicks, I like to watch The Food Network on occasion to see what their “experts” have to say. A good friend of mine—who just happens to be a great chef—believes Paula Deen is nothing short of a criminal. She feels, and I agree, that all television chefs have an obligation to demonstrate healthy cooking.

You can (and should!) splurge from time to time, but celebrity television chefs need to take accountability for their influential status. Their recipes, for the most part, should come with a disclaimer—or, at least, the chefs should have to share the calories, fat grams, and sodium content per serving for each of the items they encourage us to make along with them. Would that piece of chocolate cake look nearly as good if you knew it contained more than your daily recommended allowance for just about everything?

Perhaps “Death By Chocolate” is a literal name?

During our current epidemic of overweight and obese Americans, giggling as you toss in handfuls of salt or add sticks of butter is criminal. All you have to do is take one look at Paula Deen or Mario Batali or Ina Garten or Emeril Lagasse or Tyler Florence or Guy Fieri or Duff Goldman (or, it seems, a good percentage of the Food Network on-air staff) and you’ll see just what all that salt and butter will do to a body.

I’m sure these chefs would say they’re not forcing us to cook this way. They’re right! But even they have to admit that seeing chefs cook high-calorie, sodium-rich, fatty foods day in and day out somehow seduces us into thinking it’s okay to cook every meal with such frivolous use of the items we should be using sparingly, if at all.

And then there’s the “expert” advice . . .

I was watching an episode of 30-Minute Meals yesterday while I did my green exercise routine (which I blogged about earlier). During the show—and, don’t ever forget, it is a show—Rachael Ray mixed together her version of sweet and sour sauce out of conventional ketchup, yellow mustard, soy sauce, and light brown sugar. As she blended everything together, she said something along the lines of, “Making this yourself is so much better than store-bought sweet and sour sauce because this doesn’t have corn syrup.”

I was so stunned, I literally stopped working out for a minute, trying to digest (excuse the pun) what I’d heard.

First of all, mixing together ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, and brown sugar isn’t really making anything yourself. It’s like hanging a curtain and saying you made your window treatments.

Second—and this is the frustrating part—ketchup and some yellow mustards are loaded with corn syrup.

Where’s the “expert” in that advice?

Here’s a suggestion: Get your cooking inspiration and authentically expert advice not from a television commercial, magazine ad, government recommendation, or celebrity chef. Go to your Farmer’s Market or health food store instead and find a veritable cornucopia of local, healthy, naturally delicious (read: totally green) items.

Then later, when you’re whipping up your feast back at home, remember to hold the salt . . . and the butter . . . and possibly even the cooking altogether. You won’t believe how great you can feel when you increase your intake of raw food.

I promise: It's advice you can trust.

Question of the blog: How different do you think you’d eat if you never saw a “food” commercial or celebrity cooking show or if the grain, meat, and dairy industries didn’t have so much influence in Washington?