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?
Thursday, July 31, 2008
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.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
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: http://www.realgreengirl.blogspot.com/
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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
· Sodium Laurel/Laureth Sulfates
· Artificial Fragrances
· Artificial Colors
· 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
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
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 EcoVixen.com.
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?
Last night, I watched World News Tonight with Charles Gibson (http://abcnews.go.com/WN/). 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.
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 (http://www.algore.com/) 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
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
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
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: http://goinggreen-forlife.blogspot.com/2008/06/what-fck.html) 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
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 (www.ecorealty.org).
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” (www.ecorealty.org/HHFact.htm).
Question of the blog: Would you search out a green realtor?
Friday, July 11, 2008
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 (www.ecovixen.com). 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
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 MSN.com, “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
I’m currently re-reading Raw Food Life Force Energy by Natalia Rose (http://www.therawfooddetoxdiet.com/about_rawfoodlife_book.php). 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 (http://www.yogitea.com/). 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
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?
Monday, July 7, 2008
Mark and I spent most of this past holiday weekend working outside. We had several big landscaping projects on our agenda and—with such glorious weather—we managed to complete all but one on our list.
Yesterday afternoon, as we put away our gardening gear (the big shears, the little shears, the rake, the shovel with the long handle, the shovel with the short handle, and, well, you get the picture) I thought of my father-in-law, Bob, and his generosity and thoughtfulness.
You see, right after Mark and I moved into our house, Bob stopped by and dropped off the entire spectrum of tools.
Were they from a store? No. They were a tag sale find.
Six years later, the tools still work great. Each falls into the “they don’t make ‘em like that anymore” category. Of course, reusing them (instead of getting new ones from the store) makes them green. It’s a win-win.
Summer is traditional “tag sale season” and I encourage you to try to find some of what you need in your surrounding neighborhood tag sales. There are some real treasures out there.
My obsession at the moment are glass storage refrigerator containers—instead of using petroleum-based plastic wrap or potentially-leaching plastic containers, I like to do it the way Grandma did and store my left-overs in glass.
You can probably find your obsession(s) at a tag sale for a great price and of superior quality and craftsmanship. And if you know anyone moving into a new house, a good rake makes a great gift. Trust me.
Question of the blog: What’s your favorite tag sale find?
Friday, July 4, 2008
I’ve always been proud to be an American. Our national anthem makes me tear up every time I hear it.
During this decade, when we most needed an eco-minded President we got, instead, one who was the least eco-minded in history (and who sides with gas over green every chance he gets). And yet Americans as a whole are more environmentally friendly than we’ve been in generations.
So much for a President being our leader!
On this 4th of July, infused with red-white-and-blue pride along with mega-green passion, I encourage you to show your patriotism not with sparklers and barbecues, but with a commitment to buying green products that are made in the USA.
And there are many to choose from . . . and here are just a few of my favorites, from sea to shining sea:
California—Toys for Kids (even the packaging is green!): http://www.katescaringgifts.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Category_Code=GREENTOYS
Illinois—Candles (made from soy): http://www.ebcandles.com/
Maine—Furniture (handcrafted of sustainably harvested American black cherry): http://www.greendesigns.com/
Massachusetts—Felt Wine Rack (made from naturally renewable and recyclable materials): http://www.etceteramedia.com/
Montana—Pet Toys (made from 85% Post Consumer Recycled Bottles): http://www.westpawdesign.com/products/282-salamander
New Hampshire—Cloth Bags (some made from 80% recycled cotton/20% recycled plastic bottles): http://www.ecovixen.com/
New Mexico—Cards (made from 100% recycled materials): http://treeoflife-studio.com/
Oregon—Eco-Wine® (organic and sulfite-free): https://www2.ibgcheckout.com/amity/catalog/index.jsp?cat_id=1012
Washington—Bedding (using wool from their local bio-region and getting 100% of their energy from green and renewable sources): http://www.holylamborganics.com/index.html
Wisconsin—Glassware (unconventional and creative products from reclaimed wine and beer bottles): http://www.greenglass.com/
Question of the blog: In what ways are you red, white, blue, and green?
Thursday, July 3, 2008
But I just finally found what I’ve been looking for at prAna (www.prana.com/002181-V-Neck-T.aspx). And, for $28, I can afford to get more than one. When the t-shirt image—and price—appeared on my laptop screen, I just blinked, unbelieving.
This might not seem like a big deal—it’s just a plain tee, right?—but I think it’s a very big deal. Not only is an organic cotton v-neck t-shirt a much-needed green staple for my wardrobe, but it’s a sign that green is going Mainstream.
Here’s a note to designers: People who care about the environment don’t always need our t-shirts to sport silly messages and cartoon-ish images supporting our cause (although I have my fair share of those). Sometimes we’re looking for classic basics like a pair of tailored black organic cotton pants or a white organic cotton button-down shirt with Princess seams.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to order several v-necks . . .
Question of the blog: Is there a green item on your Wish List that you can’t seem to find?
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
One of the most pleasurable parts of going green—that’s right, it’s not all hard work—is decorating my home with green accents.
Searching for organic, salvaged, sustainable, and/or fair trade items helps me to create a personalized eco-nest, instead of a generic space right out of Crate&Barrel or Target, with items typically made overseas in manners far from earth-friendly.
There’s a green department store about an hour away from me, Real Green Goods (http://www.realgreengoods.com/), and whenever I introduce someone to the store, the items that stand out the most—which is a feat, considering everything is on my Must-Have List—are their Ghana Bolgatanga Market Baskets (pictured here).
This is how the baskets are described on their site: These popular Market Baskets can hold just about anything. In northern Ghana, a seemingly endless supply of tall elephant grass grows in the wetlands. Weavers in Africa use the abundant elephant grass to weave these incredibly hardy, useful baskets. The weavers are compensated fairly for their beautiful works of art. To easily reshape your basket, quickly submerge in water (keep leather dry), reshape by hand and let dry. Variations in color and design are to be expected as each basket is uniquely handwoven. Approximately 14" wide and 9" deep.
I saw identical baskets recently at Whole Foods for $50. But they cost just $29 at Real Green Goods; and because the store is located in New Hampshire, you don’t have to pay sales tax when you buy your own (you can place your order by calling 877-744-9744).
A top quality, handmade, fair trade African Market Basket at a price that’s also fair? Now you know what I mean about the pleasures of green accents.
Question of the blog: Do you have a favorite earth-friendly accessory in your home?
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
It’s not always possible to take a truly eco-vacation, but you can turn any trip into a green trip by taking environmentally friendly steps along the way.
For instance, you can use eco luggage.
I’ve been a traveler my entire life—my first memory is from a family trip when I was just two years old—and I’ve been a travel writer since 2001, so I know the importance of a good piece of luggage. I actually just wrote an article on the advantages of wheel-less luggage for a national magazine.
Did you know the average piece of wheeled luggage costs more than its wheel-less counterpart and weighs up to 75 percent more and has less room (since some of its valuable space is devoted to the wheels and all their accoutrements)? And, think about it, other than wheeling along a long hotel hallway or airport terminal, you spend a lot of time carrying wheeled bags—lifting them into the truck, hoisting them into the overhead bin, etc.
In this economy, you want to get more for every dollar . . . and, with many airlines charging you for checked luggage, you want to get more from your carry-on . . . and, with the vital importance of being green, you want that carry-on to be eco-friendly.
And here’s a suggestion for you: Stella McCartney’s Large Bowling Bag for LeSportsac (www.lesportsac.com/stella/).
Okay, the price tag hurts a little ($395) but it’s a chic designer bag, it’s the perfect size for a carry-on (and great for travel with a zip-around bottom pocket for shoes), and it’s green—the bag is made of 100 percent eco polyester. There are a few colors, but I just love orange.
Bon (vert) voyage!
Question of the blog: What’s your favorite green travel tip?