September 24th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Tired of hunting through dozens of shelf-stable foods to find what you need?
Sick of buying items you didn’t realize you already had?
Do you throw away expired items you forgot to use?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, we throw out 25% of the food we prepare—approximately 96 billion pounds each year.
Read More:Give Your Pantry a Green Makeover
June 27th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
The BP oil spill reminds us that our oceans are precious and water is not an infinite resource.
The Nature Conservancy and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power offer the following tips for conserving water:
- Install a low-flow showerhead to limit the amount of water used in your daily shower. You’ll save 500 to 800 gallons of water each month.
- Shorten showers by 1 or 2 minutes, which will save about 375 gallons per month.
- Turn off the faucet as you soap your hands, wash your face and brush your teeth.
- Check your plumbing frequently to ensure there are no leaks. Leaky faucets and plumbing joints waste 20 gallons per day.
- Run only full loads in your dishwasher and washing machine.
- After washing fruits and vegetables, reuse the water to hydrate household plants.
- Use a broom instead of a hose to clean driveways and sidewalks. You’ll save 150+ gallons per month.
- Adjust sprinklers so only your landscape is watered. Why water sidewalks? You’ll save around 500 gallons per month.
Read More:8 Water Conservation Tips
May 17th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
While Purina has yet to offer an organic line of dog or cat food, the company wants to remind consumers that aluminum pet food cans are an overlooked contributor to landfills.
Less than 20% of aluminum pet food cans are recycled each year, according to recycling industry sources (compared to 54% of aluminum beverage cans). A recent Purina survey confirms that only half of all cat owners recycle cans on a regular basis.
“As a company that produces over 3 billion cat food cans each year, we feel it is our responsibility to educate our consumers and encourage them to recycle,” says Mark Brodeur, Purina’s director of environmental sustainability.
Recycling one 3-oz. aluminum cat food can saves enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for more than 2 hours, while recycling a 5.5-oz. can saves enough energy to power a 30-inch (95w) TV for more than 2 hours. In addition, recycling aluminum cans saves 95% of the energy used to make cans from virgin materials.
“As a proud owner of four cats, I know just how many cat food cans one cat owner can go through each week!” says Kahi Lee, a designer on HGTV’s Design on a Dime. “I love my cats and want the best for them, but I also want what’s best for the environment.”
Pledge to Recycle
Sign the online pledge to recycle any brand of pet food cans, and Purina will donate $1 (up to $100,000) to Keep America Beautiful. The deadline for pledges is May 30.
Read More:Do You Recycle Pet Food Cans?
May 10th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Starbucks and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have partnered to reduce waste from single-use cups and other packaging.
Starbucks’ goal is to ensure 100% of its cups are reusable or recyclable by 2015.
Currently, the coffee chain considers its cups to be recyclable only in communities where they’re collected and accepted at commercial and residential recycling systems. One of the major challenges Starbucks faces is a variance in local recycling capabilities.
“We know we can’t solve this problem simply by purchasing cups that are labeled ‘recyclable’ or ‘compostable,’” says Jim Hanna, Starbucks’ director of environmental impact. “We have to ensure our customers actually have access to recycling services at their homes, at work and in our stores. We’ll only be successful if the various businesses and organizations that touch this issue are aligned and equally motivated to take action.”
Starbucks’ “holistic approach has the potential to make a significant impact on the entire food-service industry,” says Peter M. Senge, PhD, a senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.
In the last year, Starbucks has introduced front-of-store recycling in Toronto, Canada, where its cups are recyclable, and in San Francisco, where its cups are both recyclable and compostable.
The company plans to introduce front-of-store recycling in Seattle this summer and is discussing testing and implementation plans with other communities, including Denver, Chicago and Boston.
“This collaborative, solution-oriented approach is good for business and good for our planet,” says Jim Hunt, Boston’s chief of environment and energy.
Reusable Cups Preferred
Starbucks also encourages its customers to help reduce cup waste by opting for reusable alternatives.
The company has launched a global marketing campaign to increase tumbler use. Last year, more than 26 million beverages were served in reusable cups in U.S., Canadian and UK stores—a behavioral shift that kept nearly 1.2 million pounds of paper from ending up in landfills.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: My Sister’s a Barista: How They Made Starbucks a Home Away from Home
Read More:Starbucks, MIT Collaborate on Recyclable Cups
March 24th, 2010 - Scott Shaffer
[caption id="attachment_6650" align="alignright" width="160" caption="Photo courtesy of jinglejammer"]
Are you serious about getting healthy? You better ditch that hand sanitizer.
New research suggests that germophobia is bad for the heart. A study by scientists from Northwestern University shows that infants who were exposed to more dirt, germs, and even animal feces grew up to have healthier hearts than those raised in more sterile environments. The study, which took place in the Philippines over the past two decades, tracked the health of 1700 Filipinos from birth to 21 years of age. In particular, the study focused on the C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a sign of heart inflammation and disease.
These findings contradict government advice and common sense. Just last spring, the Centers for Disease Control was strongly urging Americans to wash and sanitize their hands to protect against the H1N1 flu virus. Ever since scientists first developed the germ theory of disease in the 19th Century, people saw dirty hands as hazardous to good health. Now, with asthma and allergies more common than the plague and polio, it seems like it’s time for us to shift our focus to helping children develop healthy immune systems by letting them play in the sandbox every once in a while.
Read More:Health Tip of the Day: Play in the Dirt
March 4th, 2010 - Laura Klein
In case you missed it, organic industry watchdog the Cornucopia Institute called Sara Lee out on its Earth Grains bread campaign. In a press release, the watchdog slammed the brand’s campaign (Sara Lee Hijacks Organics). Sara Lee made the bold claim that the “Eco-Grain™,” used in small proportions in its Earth Grains brand breads, is more sustainable than organic grain. Now that’s pretty ballsy.
Sara Lee quickly responded to the Cornucopia Institute’s charges by changing some language on the brand’s web site and issued a clarification statement. The company stated that its claims about being better than organic was a “misunderstanding” and the company has been “completely transparent about the environmental benefits” of the Eco-Grain™ growing methods.
Charlotte Vallaeys, a Food and Farm Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute states in their press release, “Corporations like Sara Lee clearly want to profit from consumers’ interest in ecological and healthy food production. But unlike organic companies, Sara Lee is doing practically nothing to ensure its ingredients are truly ecologically produced…… It’s a crass example of a corporation trying to capitalize on the valuable market cachet of organic, while intentionally misleading consumers—without making any meaningful commitment to protect the environment or produce safer and more nutritious food.”
The single feature that Sara Lee ran with and turned into a huge greenwash campaign, is the production of Eco-Grain™. The Eco Grain farmers use satellite imagery that reduces their fertilizer usage by 15%. It is known as “precision agriculture” or “variable rate technology” that helps apply precisely the right amount of fertilizer every time to maximize yield and grain quality.
The Cornucopia Institute, points out that the production of Eco-Grain™ differs very little from most conventional grain producers who use petroleum-based fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides, and have little in common with certified organic farmers.
In contrast, federal law prohibits organic farmers from using synthetic fertilizers and toxic pesticides that are commonly used on wheat fields, including the Eco-Grain™. The Cornucopia Institute’s press release states, “One such pesticide typically used in conventional wheat production is 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), which EPA researchers have correlated with numerous birth defects of the respiratory and circulatory systems, as well as defects like clubfoot, fused digits and extra digits. Other research has linked the use of toxic pesticides on wheat fields to increased cancer mortality rates.”
Organic farmers enrich the long-term health of their soil and food by using natural fertilizers, compost and crop rotations, instead of damaging the earth and contaminating food with toxic chemicals.
The Institute also strongly objected to the Earth Grains’ campaign statement (now removed), Eco-Grain™ farming methods “…have some advantages over organic farming” – in that Earth Grains bread requires less land than organic farming. This claim however is not substantiated by scientific research.
The whole campaign as it stands now, still makes some broad sweeping claims about saving the earth. When you compare the Eco-Grain™ growing methods to organic farming, there is no comparison. Sara Lee is still using toxic chemicals that poison the earth and our food supply.
Perhaps if the folks who invested the money in the satellite precision technology for Eco-Grain™ had invested it in certified organic production, they might have saved a few dollars, had a bigger impact on the earth and green consumers.
Today, in a struggling economy, corporate integrity is more important than ever, particularly if you want to capture the growing ”green” consumer dollar. The ”green” consumer is getting more sophisticated and can’t be fooled by a veil thin “green” campaigns like this.
Read More:Sara Lee’s “EcoGrain” – The Perfect Example of Greenwashing
February 15th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Americans spend $36 billion each year on their pets, according to MSN Money, and one of the encouraging new trends is green shopping.
More consumer dollars are going toward environmentally responsible products. In addition to organic pet food and treats, you can purchase:
- Biodegradable pet waste bags. Many communities require owners to clean up after their dogs. The standard plastic bag is bad for the environment, so substitute biodegradable bags made from corn. Check out BioBags.
- Green cat litter. Technological advances in cat litter have led to new, eco-friendly products. Elegant Cat is flushable and biodegradable. It’s made from all-natural materials, doesn’t produce errant dust, allows waste clumps to be safely flushed in a toilet, and contains natural chlorophyll to control odors.
- Recycled pet toys. Manufacturers are turning recycled materials into pet products. Bark for Peace recycles sweaters into pull toys. You can also find cat scratching posts made from recycled materials.
- Clean and green. Buy earth-friendly grooming supplies, including shampoos, toothpastes and deodorant sprays. Spot Organics offers organic aromatherapy-based products to help combat canine ailments like fleas, anxiety and bad breath.
Read More:4 Tips for Raising a Green Pet
February 13th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
More than 150 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged each year, according to the trend trackers at Hallmark. This excludes packaged children’s valentines for classroom swaps.
Feb. 14 is the second-largest card-purchasing occasion. Christmas ranks No. 1, with a whopping 1.8 billion cards (individual and from boxed sets) sent annually.
Hallmark also notes:
- Almost half of all Valentine’s Day cards are purchased in the six days prior to the holiday, making it “a procrastinator’s delight.”
- Parents account for 40% of all Valentine’s Day card purchases.
If you’re going to buy a card, please look for designs printed on organic and/or recycled paper. Hallmark started recycling paper in the 1940s, and the company in 2008 created a green icon that appears on its line of earth-friendly products. Organic/recycled cards from smaller publishers are also available at natural and organic food stores.
To avoid paper and snail mail altogether, Hallmark offers a wide selection of Valentine’s Day E-cards (as does American Greetings).
Valentine’s Day sentiments may be rooted in the fiction of celebrated English author Geoffrey Chaucer during the High Middle Ages. The tradition of courtly love began to flourish during the period, and Chaucer’s Parlement of Foules poem was written to honor the first anniversary of King Richard’s II’s engagement to Anne of Bohemia. Literary theorists continue to debate Chaucer’s role in Valentine’s Day traditions, but some who slogged through The Canterbury Tales in high school or college can blame the notorious bard for the holiday fuss!
Photo courtesy of Hallmark
Read More:Green Your Valentine’s Day Cards
January 1st, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
By Dawn Burden Bates
Happy New Year!
It’s not too late to make your recycling resolutions. The holidays are finally over, and we can all hopefully begin slowing down and getting our lives back to normal.
If your home is like mine, the holidays left you with a huge mess. Empty boxes and torn wrapping paper littered the floor after the kids excitedly opened their gifts. It’s so tempting to gather it all up and throw it in the outside garbage bin.
But this is a great opportunity to not only recycle, but to reuse. Almost all of the wrapping paper and boxes can be recycled, so consider keeping your contribution out of the landfill. And for the reuse possibilities, they are practically endless.
I’m pretty sure that most of the ribbons I use have been used for several years. And many of the boxes that hold the gifts are great to use for packaging gifts next year. Do you realize that many stores now charge you for a gift box? Sheesh, I’ll save mine for next year, thank you—not to mention the gift bags. I love getting my gifts in those pretty little bags, especially since I know I will be using one for someone else’s gift somewhere down the road. Do you know how much those things cost? They are outrageous. No way would I throw them away. They are too valuable.
Now, what are we to do with the tree? If you use an artificial tree, it’s a pretty easy decision. You fold it up and store it for next year. Simple. And if you are lucky enough to live in a warm environment and purchased a live tree, including the root ball, you can get to work planting it in your yard to enjoy for years to come.
But what about cut trees? Most communities offer some sort of Christmas-tree recycling. The lucky ones have curbside pickup to recycle their trees. The rest of us need to decide what to do.
What convinces me to haul the tree to the recycling facility? I was willing to haul it home after I purchased it, so I can just as easily take it to be recycled.
Some communities use the old trees to shred and cover pathways and trails through parks. This helps repair and reduce the damage we create as we enjoy our hikes.
Some communities turn the old trees into mulch and then provide it to the public for free. What a deal!
Here are some additional resolutions to consider:
- Resolve to begin recycling if you don’t already do so. You can start small. My website, A Recycling Revolution, offers a wealth of information on how to get your recycling efforts off the ground.
- If you already recycle, step it up a notch. If your curbside recycling service doesn’t accept a particular item (like glass or cardboard), resolve to begin taking that item to the drop-off facility in your area.
- Resolve to purchase more products packaged with postconsumer recycled materials. The higher the percentage listed on the package, the better.
- Resolve to purchase more items made from recycled materials. Paper towels, toilet paper, napkins and many other paper products fall into this category.
- Resolve to purchase more items in bulk. This reduces packaging waste.
- Resolve to create at least one craft item using something you might otherwise throw away. This is fun, gets your creative juices flowing, can reduce stress and is a great way to spend some quality time with your family.
Dawn Bates is a busy wife, mother, environmentalist and webmaster of the highly informative recycling website, A Recycling Revolution. Visit the site for both basic and extensive information on recycling, composting, reusing and reducing. You may also sign up for Dawn’s recycling newsletter, Trash Talk, to gain access to freebies like downloadable recycling stickers and recycling cheat sheets.
Read More:Recycling Resolutions
November 9th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) has introduced The Household Product Labeling Act (S. 1697), which would require household cleaning products to carry labels that list all of their ingredients.
“Moms and dads have a right to know whether harmful chemicals are present in their kitchen cupboards,” Franken says. “When my wife, Franni, and I were raising our own kids, we were constantly concerned with what we used to wash their cribs, their pacifiers, the floors and surfaces they played on. This is just a commonsense measure to help parents keep their kids safe and healthy.”
Current law requires product labels to list immediately hazardous ingredients, but there is no labeling requirement for ingredients that may cause harm over time.
Toxic chemicals in household products produce harmful health effects—the main reason we recommend natural and organic options.
The bill would make information readily available to consumers. HR 3057, the House companion bill, was introduced by Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY).
From the Mind of Al Franken
Read More:Franken Introduces Household Product Labeling Act