Author Archives for sarahguder

Where have all the cowboys gone?

My last post about Naked Juice’s $9 mil settlement for false advertising (WTF #1) got me thinking about the brands truly pioneering sustainable products and how a lot of them are no more. These cowboys have mostly been purchased by larger (mostly terrible) companies that change the products, change the ingredients, and change the supply chains all under the guise of reaching the masses. I have no snobbery around my favorite eco-products being offered at Wal-Mart (I have snobbery around not stepping foot in a Wal-Mart but that’s for another day). I actually LOVE the idea of more people being able to buy the products I love and use. More people making conscious choices. Which in theory should add up to more trees saved, less GHGs put into the air, better labor conditions, right?! Unfortunately the reality isn’t quite that rosy.

Since I’m lactose-free soy is part of my diet. When Silk Soymilk was taken over by megatron Dean Foods, they began to use conventional soybeans instead of organic ones WITHOUT CHANGING THE PACKAGING. WTF #2. The same Dean Foods also bought Horizon (what was great organic milk) and now they are being sued by farmers and the Cornucopia Institute for selling fake organic milk, and investigated by the Justice Department. WTF #3.

Colgate-Palmolive bought my beloved Tom’s and surprise surprise they now have an antiperspirant for the first time that contains aluminum (the debated ingredient that may be linked to breast cancer or may just be a lot of chemical to roll up onto your delicate parts). Oh and their mouthwash contains a ‘natural’ ingredient derived from gas and oil, Poloxamer 335 & 407. WTF #4. But they are actually one of the companies doing it the best. While their recent switch to (non-recyclable) plastic toothpaste tubes sent hippies up in arms, they transparently listed customer feedback as the reason for the switch (the aluminum tubes cracked/split apparently) and put a band-aid on the recycling problem by letting you ship them to Maine, where they’ll ship them to Illinois to be made into other plastics. But will you do that? Will I? At least they ditched the cardboard tube box!

Other notable cowboy losses since 2000 include: Burt’s Bees now part of the Clorox manufacturing machine, L’Oreal owns my new favorite The Body Shop, Unilever owns Ben & Jerrys, Coke owns Odwalla and Honest Tea, Danone owns Stoneyfield Farm and Brown Cow, Kellogg owns Kashi, General Mills owns Cascadian Farm, Larabar, and Food Should Taste Good, and Schwepps owns Green & Black Organic Chocolate (this one I was surprised about!). Do you know of others?

Check out the infographic below to see Michigan State’s mapping of where our organic brands really come from and do you own research to see if the products have changed, as the packaging likely hasn’t.

Meanwhile, I’m keeping a desperate hold on to my few remaining favorites Amy’s, Arrowhead Mills, Nature’s Path, and Organic Valley.

Michigan State Organic Industry Structure

Michigan State Organic Industry Structure

Smoothies with a side of Toxin

naked juiceIf you haven’t yet heard (and you might not have since Pepsi is working very hard to keep this quiet), Naked Juice (which they own) was sued for falsely claiming to be “All Natural” and incorrectly marketing their juices and smoothies. This week Naked/Pepsi settled for $9 million and agreed to remove the “All Natural” labels from its products.

Let’s look at what actually is in these claimed-to-be “All Natural Products”:

  • Fibersol-2 – an engineered soluble corn fiber that acts as a low-calorie bulking agent
  • Fructooligosaccharides – an alternative sweetener which comes from fruits and veggies but then is processed to make a commercial mixture. It ‘seems to be safe when taken in less than 30 grams per day, can cause intestinal gas, intestinal noises, bloating, stomach cramps, and diarrhea’ but ‘these effects are usually mild if the dose is less than 10 grams per day’ Great.
  • Calcium pantothenate -a synthetically produced vitamin made by condensing isobutyraldehyde with formaldehyde. FORMALDEHYDE! Also found in skin/hair products..yum.
  • Genetically-modified soy – shocker that Pepsi contributed $2.5 million to defeat Cali’s GMO labeling Prop 37

There are more. These ingredients (obviously) do not exist in nature so Naked was called out for being the liar that they are. Way to go USA consumers – let’s hope this kicks off more thought, interest, and inquiry on accurate labeling.

‘Transparency is not a choice. It’s gonna happen, the only choice is does it happen to you or do you participate in it’..  Alex Bogusky

Bike Powered: Margaritas & Ice Cream!

In case you didn’t know, I’m really into bicycles. My husband is into riding long distances on bicycles, whereas I’m content in my place as an urban cyclist. It’s my transportation to work (the BEST start to a morning), my grocery store helper (thank you pannier bags), and you can find me in the city carrying all sorts of crazy shit home on my bike. The two craziest were probably a 6 foot tall picture frame that I put my body through so I could still pedal, and a bunch of huge storage bins from Office Depot that I had to tie to my helmet and shoot down my back (might be contributing to the back problems..).

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What I also love is finding amazing examples of bicycle powered goods. At the Sustainable Brand’s Conference, Earth911 set up a super rad bike-powered blender that we drank delicious margaritas from (thanks to Dimitar for pedaling away!). There, I also discovered Peddler’s Creamery, an LA based creamery that churns all of its flavors by bike (also organic, fair trade, locally sourced). I had the vegan chocolate and it was incredible (please please open up in SF Peddler’s!). If you’re in LA you should definitely check them out.

In SF we have Bicycle Coffee where they personally select the beans from sustainable farms they’ve visited, roast them in SF, and then bicycle them around to stores and businesses, and I recently read about Portland’s new bicycle delivery service: B-Line that bikes any good (produce, baked goods, Office Depot orders) to businesses.
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Biking in cities is definitely the future and I’m glad to see more of these leg-powered goods companies popping up. Some day I will quit my job and deliver something delicious to people using my legs….

Make-Your-Own Trail Mix in New Haven!

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Greetings from the East Coast! As I head into the woods for a week of pure happiness at camp, I’m finding lots of GREEN back in my native CT. New Haven has always intrigued me as a city. Slightly ghetto, pretty small, but with a ton of local spirit, educated people, and even a startup scene. My Dad and I had the pleasure of feasting at Green Well where he commented ‘Woah, this is a hippie SF/Sarah restaurant’. Right he was!

Green Well’s mission is to bring happiness, energy and fulfillment to others through lifestyle and consumption habits (side note: I think this also might be my mission!). There the organic, responsibly sourced food and drink is the norm, and it’s not more expensive (Dad was into the prices and he listens to Rush Limbaugh).

All sandwiches are served on freshly baked/homemade vegan bread, and sandwiches come with kale chips. I’m still dreaming of our breakfast sandwiches, and the glorious trail mix and cereal bar where I tried my first goji berry (16 varieties of dried fruit, veggies, nuts and granola!).

Coming home is going to be much more fun with great places like this popping up. Way to go CT!

Turns out The Body Shop is pretty awesome.

warming-mineral-mask_lI get asked a lot about what moisturizers and creams I use (since cosmetics are not regulated and there are all sorts of horrible chemicals in most of the things you can buy at CVS).

Turns out The Body Shop is a great option. It’s similar to a Patagonia because it was started to improve society &  the planet. I associated it as a bit old school, but really it’s kind of a secret gem. They’ve been 100% anti animal testing from their first day in business (!), every product is certified Cruelty-Free, and they’re also one of the first big brands to be as Fair Trade as they possibly can be. Fair Trade as a seal is just getting into cosmetics and Body Shop is helping them expand. They currently source FT Shea (which is a hugely controversial ingredient – there is conflict Shea butter, I know, wild), Tea Tree, Honey, Hemp, and Aloe. They do a ton with employee volunteerism, have their own foundation, encourage female self esteem (not with makeup, with health), focus on domestic violence, work with a lot of local community groups, are replacing store lighting with LEDs, installed solar on their HQ and other buildings, and have a huge focus on ethical suppliers (which is totally awesome, a lot of companies stop at their own operations and then say they have no control over what suppliers do).

I use the warming mineral mask (because who can afford regular facials) and I really like it. It definitely pulls out the gunk and I break out for about a day after using it (similar to with a facial) but then my skin feels so clean, smooth, and even tighter. Worth a try if you’re into that.

My other favorite brand is Yes To (Carrots, Blueberries, Cucumbers). It’s strong environmentally and health-wise they don’t put any chemical crap in their products. Good Guide rates them as a 6/10 mostly because their social programs aren’t super transparent. I really like how the Carrots Repairing Night Cream feels on my face, and you can get it at Target which helps. I didn’t love the cucumber moisturizer (smelled really fragrant and went on sticky), and the blueberry I like only in the eye cream.

I also use the derma E day cream (with SPF) and I really like it- not greasy and perfect for every day. They sell it at Whole Foods (it’s expensive I think $25 for a little tub), and Good Guide rates it a 7.4.

To healthy faces, healthy society, and a healthy planet!

Another Leg-Powered Vacation: Our Patagonian Honeymoon

We did it again. Except this time we hiked (there were some bicycles-through a vineyard and tandem style through Santiago). After a few days touring Santiago, we hiked through the Lake District in the northern part of Patagonia in Chile, for a week. It was so. freaking. amazing.

We were in the Vicente Perez Rosales National Park and we went with a guide through One Seed Expeditions. One Seed was simply the best. They employ all local guides, we stayed with local people, and their basic goal is to eradicate poverty by employing people through tourism. It was also a no-waste trip (the food was made by our local hosts and they make it or killed it themselves). One house had built their own hydro-electric dam, and no one anywhere near us had a car. They had legs, and horses. We ate a lamb a few hours after it was killed (yes I ate a lamb – talk about sustainable meat though!), and they handmade everything (the butter, the honey, the bread). It was some of the most delicious food I have ever eaten…oh take me back. People + Environment, this was my kind of vacation! 

I think the pictures tell the best story but I’ll give you some highlights: dinner in the German inspired village of Puerto Varas before the hike; a motorized row-boat ride across the Emerald Lake (after a 2 hour van ride, this hour boat ride, and 6 hours of hiking we finally reached the first house!); hiking to the top of a mountain up to a volcano – I felt like we were in National Geographic/only humans in the world; our honeymoon suite tent (I almost cried from exhaustion in it one night but took a nap instead); all the unbelievably gorgeous lakes!; the honey, the butter, the bread, the cake; the warm Chilean people; digging our own holes in natural hot springs next to the lake; and a relaxing adventure to Valpariso when we returned!

Luckily Simon and I find intimacy/happiness when we’re supporting each other through things. This may have not been the most relaxing honeymoon (if I did it again I’d add two days at the end to just sit on a beach!), it was the absolute perfect one for us to celebrate the first week of our marriage.

Thank you Chile, and thank you One Seed for the best honeymoon we could have imagined!

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There is a Styrofoam Hummer at SFO

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There is life-size and detailed Hummer made of Styrofoam at San Francisco International Airport. It symbolizes all the excess and waste in our society; I get it.

It’s part of The Art of Recology Exhibition now in terminal 3, and there until October.

As you may know I’m a little obsessed with Recology (80% waste diversion rate in SF thanks to them! Municipal composting!), and one program I absolutely love is their artists in residence program. Artists (like the one that made the styro-hummer) make all of their pieces out of things found in the dump. There are dresses, paintings, sculptures, the works. Check it out! This one in particular was my favorite because I hate Styrofoam. HATE it. It doesn’t breakdown for over 500+ years, produces toxic chemicals when it’s being formed, and breaks up all tiny and fucks with ocean life. I think it’s actually illegal in SF (oh how I love this city!).

And kudos to SFO for displaying art exhibits in the terminals. Yet another reason why I’m never leaving SF.

A Zero-Waste & Local Wedding

Well, I got married in March. It was absolutely the best day of my life, surrounded by 70 of our favorite people. Throughout the planning process (all 2.5 months of it) we worked super hard to make sure we had no waste and were minimizing our purchases. Man the wedding ‘industry’ tells you to buy all sorts of shit and it’s kind of hard not to get swept up in it…maybe I do need personalized stationary, a photobooth, and paper lanterns that we set free into the sky. To be honest, taking the minimalist approach also saved us a ton of money.

Here’s some simple things we did (and of course we didn’t get it all right!):

-Online invitations. Yep, nothing printed! I designed it in InDesign, we emailed it out, & people emailed back a yes or no. Simon also made us a great website w/ more details (www.letsbuildafort.com). (See below, free)

-We made sure the location, The Stable Cafe, had composting. The food (Jennifer’s Lunch) was so amazing that there was barely anything left and the catering staff took what was left home!

-Our centerpieces were terrariums rented from the amazing Lila B ($100 total), pieces of free driftwood our friend Shannon found on the beach (she was our wedding designer!), butcher paper that was then recycled, and all of our dishware/napkins/the tent/heat lamps were rented and returned  after.

-Edible favors! Amazing muffins, croissants, pastries, and surprise baked goods from our favorite local place: Craftsman & Wolves. They were packaged in compostable thin brown bags (total spent on favors less than $200).

-Groom & Groomsman had upcycled boutonnieres (Thanks Anna!)

-Reused old wood to write signage on (free)

-Reused an old window pane for seating assignments ($20 supply store)

-Bridesmaids could pick their own dress and one of them reused (1 free!)!

-We didn’t do any decorations – the cafe already had twinkle lights, trees, plants and that was good enough for us! (Free)

-All local and organic food. (Our plates were only $120/person for passed appetizers, bus snacks, chicken/steak/vegetarian options -and EVERYTHING was organic and local!)

-All local wine. With Napa, Sonoma, and Russian River so close, how could we not! Also all local beer except my Dad requested a 30 pack of Coors Light (seriously).

-Our favorite local pies & local legend blue bottle coffee

-We all walked to our after-party at Mission Bowling Club

-Thank you post-cards (save a whole envelope, recycled, soy ink!) from our favorite SF designer, Notify.

-Our rings had no gems or diamonds (conflict free) and were made by a local designer out of gold (mine) and stainless steel (Simon’s)

Eco-fails:

-I bought a new dress. I looked at a lot of reused options (actually tried to get the dress I loved/wore reused but couldn’t find it) and looked at upcycled options but in the end fell in love with my Claire Pettinbone. I also bought new earrings from an NYC boutique and new shoes from Anthropologie. I reused my grandmother’s purse.

-We took the entire wedding party on a cocktail-hour bus tour of San Francisco for 2 hours. Definitely better than doing cabs or something but we could have just stayed put and not put those bus GHGs into the atmosphere. Again, it was totally worth it. It was one of my favorite parts of the wedding and the first time to SF & to the Pacific for many of our family members!

-We had Shannon pick up and make sunflower bouquets from the SF flower market. They were very simple and incredibly gorgeous (and we composted them), and I don’t regret it, I just loved them.

-Groomsman all bought a new shirt and Simon bought a new vest and tie.

-We had a ‘sign in chair’ but also printed a postcard of ourselves and each person that came to the wedding and had them write notes on them. That, one menu for each of the 6 tables, and pieces of paper that Shannon wrote table numbers on were the only paper we used.

Enjoy the pics below and feel free to ask any questions about any of the above choices!

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California Hiking

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It’s pretty easy to spend time enjoying nature any time of year in California; it kind of feels like cheating. Hiking has become one of my new favorite weekend activities, and we took our SECOND leg-powered vacation back in March (more on this honeymoon later). It was pretty easy to get outside. I bought some gear at REI, found hikes on Every Trail and started exploring. You should try it sometime, wherever you live!

Find a green cleaning product, the easy way.

I love, LOVE when other people vet things and make life easier for me. It’s important to trust the source doing the vetting, and I do look through the process to make sure it sounds reasonable and not like they are skimming or manipulating data. Last week the Environmental Working Group released its new online Guide to Healthy Cleaning. They are known for their database on skincare products already and this time their scientists tackled products that claim to be chemical free, non-toxic, natural, and their non-organic counterparts. Due to yet another US regulation gap, home cleaning products are NOT required to list any ingredients harmful or otherwise on their labels (disgusting right). OSHA only regulates workplace products, so while you may see ingredients on the back of some spray bottles you have at home, these are entirely voluntary and many companies leave out a few things they aren’t proud of! For instance, formaldehyde which is a known carcinogen and illegal in Europe is found in 409. Way to go USA.

EWG’s scientists went to work and spent 14 months doing a deep dive into over 2,000 products and assessing them against both national and international toxicity data sources. The full process of their research is described here.

Some brands on the A list:

Seventh Generation, Dr. Bronner, and Green Shield. Every product from Whole Foods brand was an A or a B and Mrs. Meyer’s got Bs across the board.

And brands that are doing bad things to you, from the F list:

BabyGanics, Simple Green, Tide, Gain, Downy, All, Green Works dish soap, Method dish soap, Palmolive, Cascade, and a host of others.

 

Check out EWG’s full list to see where your products rank.

 

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