Monday, March 31, 2008

Can I Travel Without My Hair Dryer?

Mark and I are planning a beach getaway. That may sound pretty ordinary, but let me tell you about the extraordinary circumstances. Namely, we’re not “beach getaway” people. Our idea of travel is a go-go-go adventure where we develop blisters on our feet, fill up several memory sticks in the camera, stay in multiple properties, and rack up plenty of miles.

And now we want to relax on the beach with nothing on the agenda but: swim, eat, drink, and have lots of fun.

Okay, there are a few other extraordinary circumstances as well. We’re looking for a green getaway that is right on the beach, with private cabanas or cottages on the water, vegetarian food, a spa, eco-tours, and possibly activities like yoga. After deciding on this long laundry list of must-have traits, Mark says, “I think I know just the place” and tells me about Maya Tulum Wellness Retreat & Spa ( just outside Cancun. He had read about it in Travel & Leisure ( .

I went to the site and was pleasantly surprised at what I found. It certainly sounds like exactly what we’re looking for, and we can even fly direct to Cancun from Boston via our favorite airline carrier, JetBlue ( We’re thinking of taking advantage of the 7-night Mind Body Spirit program. It’s an investment, but one we feel is worth it.

My only concern? As a green resort, they ask that guests leave their hair dryers at home. A week by the water with no way to tame my wild curls makes me a little nervous, but—at the same time—I’m looking forward to the freedom of throwing my hair up in a ponytail and being done with it. Mark shaves his head, so he’s all set.

Question of the blog: If you’ve been to Maya Tulum, what was the experience like?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Have You Detoxed Your Feet?

Let me just state for the record: I don’t buy things promoted on infomercials.

It’s kind of a rule. But when I saw one on detoxifying foot pads, I admit . . . I was intrigued. However, because of my infomercial rule, I didn’t buy them. Just this morning, I was flipping through a Gaiam ( catalog, and I noticed something rather surprising: They sell “Body Purifying Foot Pads.”

Do I have a rule against buying a product from a legitimate source, even if said product reminds me of something I saw once on an infomercial? I’ll have to check my rule book to find out for sure.

I’m still intrigued but, at a cost of $30 for 10 pads, I’m cautious. I like that they are made in the United States, I like that Gaiam stands behind them, I like that the site includes a testimony from someone who used/liked them. But, still: 30 bucks!

Question of the blog: If you’ve used Body Purifying Foot Pads, were they worth the investment?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Heating Your Home . . . With Soybean Oil?

I recently talked with a representative from a company that is offering biofuel as a home heating option. “Biofuel” sounds impressive—add “bio” as a prefix to any word, and I’m impressed—and it certainly has the potential to be great. But I’m not sure it’s there yet.

Don’t get me wrong, any little step we do to save the planet is a step in the right direction. But I have a problem with little steps being represented as giant leaps. Biofuel typically comes in a variety called B5, which means it’s composed of 95% conventional home heating oil and 5% grown-in-the-USA soybean oil. B5 can be used in conventional tanks and is endorsed by the heating industry. It not only reduces CO2 emissions, but it often costs less than pure home heating oil. All that's great, but it's still 95% polluting oil.

Some people use B20, although that percentage hasn’t yet received the heating industry’s stamp of approval. During my interview with the representative from my local biofuel provider, they mentioned that some people, in warm climates, use B100. Now that’s impressive.

Of course, some critics say that soybean oil, grown in the United States or not, is more destructive to the environment than oil. I have a feeling those people have investments in the oil industry.

Question of the blog: If you use biofuel, do you have any insight for those considering making the switch?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Will I See You in New York?

Go Green Expo ( will be painting the town green at Hilton New York on April 26th and 27th. It’s an expo for environmentally conscious consumers and promises to be an impressive eco shopping experience. I’ll be there working with Real Green Goods ( but I’ll also be a consumer, filling up several cloth bags, I’m sure.

Question of the blog: Will I see you in New York?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Where Are All the Green Houses?

My husband and I are thinking of moving and have started the daunting task of looking for a new home. This time around, we’re not just looking for a place with character, and a decent yard, we’re looking for something green.

And, after weeks of looking, we’ve found exactly nothing.

I recently read an article about how environmentally friendly renovations can help sell a home. The best eco changes are green countertops, renewable flooring, efficient products (like an Energy-Star refrigerator), and no-VOC paint. Sure, some of those renovations are costly, but repainting with non-toxic paint is cheap and easy . . . and a great selling point.

Since the housing market has been hit so hard, I’m surprised more people with homes on the market aren’t doing everything they can to make a sale. Where I live, it seems most sellers have their heads in the sand and are refusing to buy into the burst housing bubble, or they think they are the exception to the rule. Perhaps, later this year, there will be more eco options.

Question of the blog: If you're in the market for a new home, is it important that the home is green/has green elements?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Are Convenience Foods Really Convenient, and Are They Really Food?

In the last post, we talked about how modern society has transformed old-fashioned cleaning products (like baking soda and white vinegar) into advanced options that aren’t necessarily as good as the original . . . and aren’t necessarily good at all.

The idea of “improving” a product so it’s a pale representation of how it started out isn’t limited to cleaning products, of course. I’ve been on an anti-prepared food crusade for quite some time after I started to look at the ingredient lists of the food I ate. When did fillers, additives, and coloring become acceptable substitutes for real food? Again, it seems to come down to convenience, yet I’m amazed again and again at how so-called convenience items are terribly inconvenient. Sure, it was a breeze to pop that frozen meal in the microwave and have dinner on the table in just five minutes, but consider what comes next: The stomachache, the drop in energy, the weight gain over time.

I believe “convenience foods” is a misnomer both because they aren’t convenient and they aren’t always food. I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination and occasionally indulge in frozen meals myself (although I only eat products from companies like that include ingredients I can pronounce) but I don’t make a habit of it. I enjoy putting together a garden salad or a batch of homemade marinara. All of us complain of a lack of time, yet many waste lots of it with “activities” like watching television. If you just can’t miss your favorite show, buy a small TV for your kitchen and catch your program while you chop, marinate, and sauté.

Question of the blog: If you read food labels, how has it changed the way you eat? And what’s your favorite healthy convenience food?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Is Spring Cleaning Actually Dirty?

Yesterday was the first day of spring and, as happens every year, it inspired me to do a little spring cleaning. Over the last few months, I’ve switched over almost all of my cleaning products to green alternatives. And that leads me to the topic of the day: If you’re cleaning your floors, counters, and toilet bowls with conventional products, are you really cleaning anything?

Over time, the simple-yet-effective way we do things often gets replaced with something more complicated (which we’re supposed to interpret as “better”) and not always more effective. As an example, I use baking soda and white vinegar when I’m cleaning my kitchen sink. It’s a rather old-school cleaning practice, yet it works extremely well. In addition, the volcanic reaction that happens when the two ingredients come together means a lot of the work is done for me – and it doesn’t get more convenient than that. It also doesn't get more natural.

The EPA reports that indoor air pollution is one of the top five health issues, and a big contributor to that pollution are the cleaning products we use. Landfills even have a term for conventional cleaning products: Household hazardous waste. Yikes! No wonder the air in the average home is more polluted than the outdoor air in a typical big city.

The great news is that green alternatives are now readily available and no longer break the bank. A few of my favorites include Seventh Generation Liquid Dish Soap (, Mrs. Meyer’s Surface Wipes (, and Sun & Earth Deep Cleaning Laundry Detergent ( Trader Joe’s ( also sells great green cleaning products at an excellent price and deals can often be found at

Question of the blog: If you use green cleaning products, which are your favorites and why?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

When is a Reusable Bag NOT Green?

Recently, a friend gave me a copy of a popular style magazine that includes an article about how celebrities like Jessica Biel, Vanessa Minnillo, Rachel Bilson, and Hillary Swank are getting a grip “on reusable, eco-friendly (and wallet-friendly) shopping bags.”

As someone who cringes at the thought of using a plastic bag, the article pleased me . . . until I took a closer look. The bags featured are certainly reusable and wallet-friendly (they range in price from $5 to $19) but the question is: Are they really eco-friendly?

I run a company called EcoVixen ( that creates cool cloth bags for men and women. All of my earth-friendly canvas bags are produced in the United States and made of 100 percent recyclable cotton. The soon-to-be-released “Karma” bag – in which EcoVixen joined forces with positive apparel company Karma Threads ( – is not only produced in my home state but is made of 80 percent recycled cotton and 20 percent recycled plastic bottles.

In other words, EcoVixen cloth totes are reusable and eco-friendly. At $30, they are still wallet-friendly, although they aren’t cheap. But you get what you pay for and, for 30 bucks, you’re getting a green bag that has a green pedigree.

Coincidentally, a few months ago I received one of the celeb-approved bags featured in the article as a gift from a friend. The bag has a "Made in China" tag along with a certain sheen that indicates a chemical cocktail was probably used in its creation. Certainly, anytime you pass up a plastic bag – which the EPA says takes up to 1,000 years to decompose – in favor of a reusable bag, you’re doing a good thing . . . but I think it’s just as important to read the bag’s tag to ensure you're buying a product that's green inside and out.

Question of the blog: When you buy a reusable bag, is its green pedigree important to you?

Where Are All The Hip Organic Cotton Tees?

This morning, I set about to buy an organic cotton t-shirt. I powered up my laptop, went to, typed in “organic cotton t-shirt,” and then was utterly amazed at the lack of good options . . . and my expectations were quite simple.

I was looking for an organic cotton v-neck tee with either a funky saying or a bold design, or both. The real issue turned out to be the v-neck (since it appears that style doesn’t exist in organic cotton) although, as a rule, I wasn’t impressed with the designs either. I was also looking for a good deal--green or not, I'm not going to pay $75 for a t-shirt.

After an hour of searching, I did find a few tees I liked on, having to ignore, of course, that they aren't v-necks. Their options aren’t plentiful but I like almost every design offered. I ended up buying their “Organic Love” t-shirt along with an “I’m Organic” wristband, which they claim is the world’s first 100% recycled wristband.

If you like their products as much as I do, here’s a tip: Use “whiteapricot” as a code during checkout and you’ll receive 20 percent off your order. Another tip: Visit for additional coupon codes for fashion, beauty, and lifestyle. [By the way, I have no affiliation with either website; my contribution to green fashion can be found at]

Question of the blog: Do you have a favorite company that sells organic cotton t-shirts? If you do, let us know. You'll get bonus points if they carry v-necks!