Simple Steps

I Learned How to Use the Sewing Machine

IMG_6281Two Thanksgivings ago my brother’s girlfriend Jen convinced me to go to Target for my first Black Friday experience. We drank a whole lot of wine before (and while at Target, sorry Dad) and I ended up coming home with a sewing machine. I had always wanted to learn how to sew and this Singer gem was too good of a deal to pass up. The sewing machine sat untouched in it’s box for one entire year before I decided to get busy (I also bought a crockpot which I still haven’t used, but how do you say no to deals and those faces!).

The hardest thing for me was setting the damn thing up and I wanted to throw the bobbin out the window many times. I found Singer’s instructions completely unhelpful. Instead of spelling out exactly what I did, I’m going to point you to what I followed: tutorials on setting the machine up and threading it. This Tilly saved me after hours of frustration with the Singer packet. I like her pictures, step by step instructions, and that she provides the names for everything (how was I supposed to know what a freaking presser foot is). If this doesn’t work for you google ‘setting up a sewing machine’ or ‘threading a bobbin’ and there are all sorts of videos on YouTube and pictures that will help. Take a deep breath, I promise you can do it.

Getting my supplies ready!

Getting my supplies ready!

Ok so you spent one whole day and now the machine is set up, woo hoo! Now, what will we sew?! For inspiration I turned to my favorite homemaker, Caitlin of Hardly Housewives. I started with a beginner project, Embellished Dishtowels. Again, I’ll let you read through Caitlin’s post for instructions but here are my tips for true beginners (like me!):

1. Go to Joann Fabric. They are super nice and will help you buy pins, thread, etc. Buying fabric proved completely overwhelming for me so I started out by buying these pre-cut squares (which are perfect size for embellishing a few dishtowels). You’ll see them in the store near quilting and though they are more expensive than buying by the yard, they are still cheap ($3 per square) and didn’t give me anxiety like walking through the fabric isles did.

2. It’s ok to buy these cheap dishtowels at Target (that’s what Caitlin uses and she’s a pro).

It takes a little while to get the ironing and pinning down. Pin farther away from the edge than I did here!

Pin farther away from the edge than I did here!

3. Get ready to do more ironing then sewing. Ironing (after washing/drying the fabric) is BY FAR the longest part of the process. You iron for an hour and then sew for 2 minutes, be prepared. When ironing use a ruler to make sure the fabric is straight (you fold in the edges to create a clean line- check out the Pacifier holder post below to see tips on ironing).

 

Other fun things to sew and give to friends (except not to mutual friends because they already received these from me!):

  • Embellished burp clothes. Similar to dishtowels and also makes a great present. Beginner notes: Go to Target to get the pre-fold diapers. I believe they are these ones, but it’s helpful to hold them up and make sure they are the size of a laptop (13″ or so). I messed up and bought the three-fold ones at first and they were HUGE. I apologize to those who got these in the mail.
  • Napkins. Beginner notes: these are the hardest of the four and I’ve only made one set. I had a tough time keeping them square so measure as you go and make sure everything lines up.
First try at a finished product.

First try at a finished product.

As you can see from the above I’m still figuring out corners and how to end the stitch. Since a baby is going to puke all over this anyways, I sent them out as is. If you figure out how to do corners please let me know – good luck!

Baking Soda for Everything

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As I continue my journey into SF hippiedom, I’m into making things myself these days (or at least attempting to).

Val, a friend of mine and true DIY queen, is on a mission to empower people to create their own beauty products so they know exactly what they’re putting on their skin and hair (as we’ve already discussed – many over the counter products contain petrochemicals, parabens, and gross things like that). I went to her first DIY beauty-product class to try my hand at making products from scratch that work as good, or better, than those we buy. The night I attended, we created a coconut oil scrub, citrus astringent and a custom moisturizing face oil. I was nervous that the products would be complicated to make (I’m super lazy), and was pleasantly surprised that it was actually super easy.

We started with the coconut oil scrub (sounds dreamy right, and you’re already willing to shell out $12 for a bottle). Well save yourself some cash and a whole lot of time and mix equal parts coconut oil and baking soda in a bowl and stick it in a little tub (you can even use an old product tub). Yes, that’s seriously it. Use it as you would any exfoliating face wash: 2-3x/week, wet, rub on and rinse. You’ll feel the oil on your skin after you rinse and understand what moisturizing really means. You can also try sugar and salt instead of baking soda to get the right grain of exfoliation for you.

Benefits/things to know:

  • The commercial moisturizers you’re spending a fortune on contain mostly water, which makes you feel like your skin is being moisturized, but as soon as the water dries, your skin becomes dry again.
  • Coconut oil instead provides deep (and actual) moisture.
  • It also helps strengthen underlying tissues, remove excessive dead cells, improves dark circles and helps with wrinkles.
  • Baking soda is a common cleanser and odor neutralizer and doesn’t seem to dehydrate my skin or strip away healthy oils.
  • I have rosacea and the combo proved too much exfoliation for my rosy cheeks. Now I use the scrub as an all over body wash and use coconut oil (w/o baking soda) around my eyes. I also use coconut oil on my hair about once a month to make it shine (heat up 3-5 tablespoons, pour and rub into your scalp or just the ends, wrap it up with a shower cap or old t-shirt, leave it on for at least 2 hours though 4 seems to be my sweet spot, shampoo it out. Mine usually takes 2 shampoos to get the greasy feeling out but it’s magic on your locks.
  • This combo is also super cheap. Baking soda is about $1/box and coconut oil is $12 for a sizable tub. I still haven’t worked my way through either the box or the oil and it’s been about 3 months.
  •  I also use the baking soda/coconut oil scrub on my teeth once or twice a week. Baking soda is an amazing way to whiten teeth and lift those annoying wine/coffee stains (I drink a lot of wine and coffee) and with the coconut oil it rubs on really easily and makes my mouth feel nice. Here is a good list of other ways to use baking soda.
  • Liv Tyler and Emma Stone also use baking soda to bathe so it really isn’t that weird.

Moving on quickly to the last two products (I know, that first one was a lot). We made a super easy astringent (use with a cotton ball to deep clean your face and open up pores or at night to remove make up). Below is the recipe and the highlights are it smells nice, removes makeup and gunk and wakes me right up!

  • 1 oz witch hazel (you can get a measuring cup shot glass that has liquid ounces at Crate & Barrel – that may be obvious to everyone but I’m still learning these things)
  • 3 oz orange blossom water
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • + essential oils. You only need a few drops (seriously 1-3 drops) of whatever you want to smell.I used lemon because citrus seemed a peppy way to wake up in the morning.
  • I know it can be annoying to buy a bunch of essential oils so this one is for the more advanced who want to really experiment and make these products for long term use/savings.

moilAnd finally, and arguably maybe my favorite: facial oil. First of all, I could not believe that there is this whole group of people out there that clean their face (yes clean, not just moisturize) with olive oil and other oils. You can straight up rub oil all over your face (olive oil, sunflower seed oil, etc.) as a cleanser and apparently it’s great for many people. I haven’t made it to that part yet but have started using a facial oil at night instead of a night creme. I made mine with macadamia nut oil (the lightest one for my sensitive skin), 2 drops of vitamin E oil (anti-oxidant but only use a few drops), 2 drops of rosehip seed oil (firming/anti-aging) and 2 drops of sandalwood essential oil for a nice calming night-time smell.

Let me know if you try any of these out and how they work for your skin. While everyone’s skin is different, these are pretty basic and can be a fun place to start when entering the world of DIY products. Use them for a few weeks before you decide if it’s working for you (my face broke out with the oil for about 4 days then calmed right down). Stay tuned for my next DIY adventure: I learned how to use the sewing machine.

A GGG Halloween

Work gets crazy, blog dies down; story of my life. I missed a post on the government shut down and the risk to food safety since the FDA was only checking meat and fish (not fruit, veggies, dairy products or anything else – remember the spinach and peanut butter salmonella recalls?!). You can instead read a good NY Times article about it if you’re interested.

annies bunniesOn to Halloween. I don’t have kids but have been contemplating what to hand out to the few children in our apartment building who will come knocking on our door (oh man I really hope they come!). After much debate, I settled on Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks. One selfish reason is because my husband loves them so we already have them in the house, and if the kids don’t show, he’ll eat them.

The main reason though is that that they are a healthier (and still delicious!) option to candy. At 70 calories per pouch, while they do contain cane sugar, they also are made with real fruit juice, have 100% vitamin C, are gluten free and vegan (so no worries on allergies), and are non-GMO. Most importantly, they have no synthetic colors.

I did a little research on a Halloween candy favorite, candy corn, and was disgusted to learn that there is more than a gram of sugar in EACH piece AND they are filled with Red No. 3. Red No. 3 is a synthetic dye, used to make them orange, which has been given a “high concern” rating by the Environmental Working Group because it’s a carcinogen.

In 1990 the FDA instituted a partial ban on Red No. 3, citing research that high doses have been found to cause cancer in rats, but left it there much to the dismay of consumer protection groups. So while you won’t find it in lipsticks, baking mixes, seasonings or jello, you may still be ingesting it in soft candies, juices, gum, and breakfast cereals. Other candies on the terrifying list: Now & Laters with Red 40 carcinogenic dye, Necco wafers (Red 3 and 40, sweet double dose), and Sour Skittles (Red 40 and Yellow 6).

Annie’s fruit snacks get their color from black carrots, which may lead to… improved eye sight? Check the labels and check yourself before you hand our fistfuls of cancer to the adorable kids dressed as princesses and pirates on your front steps this Halloween!

SF’s Homeless Problem is NOT Sustainable

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Sometimes a picture replaces the need for words. I took this picture from my bicycle around the corner from where I work, from where Twitter employees work, in the Mid-Market/Tenderloin neighborhood of SF. Every day I see people that don’t even look human – drugs and extreme poverty have destroyed their bodies, their faces, their eyes, their souls. This is how the other half lives. I don’t have an answer, I don’t really even have a post, right now I just have a picture.

What’s the deal with those pesky parabens?

If you’re like me you only buy paraben-free lotions, shampoos, deodorants and makeup. If you’re also like me you only kind of know what parabens are and why they are bad for you. So, here’s all you need to know about parabens to sound more educated at your next dinner party: 

parabenParabens are a class of (mostly synthetically produced) chemicals, used as preservatives in the cosmetics and pharma industries. Companies use them because they are cheap, help products last on store shelves, and because they prevent the growth of microbes.

Here’s the controversy: #1 absorption, #2 cancer, #3 hormones.

Well ok #1 isn’t up for debate, parabens can be absorbed through the skin, blood, and digestive system; fact. “If these substances are in your blood, they’re also in your liver and in every other place in your body,” explains Torkjel Sandanger, head researcher of a Norwegian study on parabens.

#2 Parabens have been found in breast cancer tumors; fact. In 2004 researchers in the UK detected parabens in the breast cancer tumors of 19 out of 20 women studied, and discovered that the parabens came from something applied to the skin such as an underarm deodorant or cream. The controversy kicks in because it was a small study and did not prove a causal relationship between parabens and breast cancer. Denmark has banned parabens, the EU flip flops on it every few years (currently allowed in up to 0.4% concentrations), and the FDA says they are no biggie because the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (an INDUSTRY-SPONSORED organization) says they’re no biggie. I’m siding with Denmark on this one.

#3 Parabens have been shown to mimic estrogen (which plays a role in breast cancer and is why your 9 year old has boobs); fact. Parabens bind to estrogen receptors on cells and disrupt hormone function (this effect is linked to increased risk of breast cancer/reproductive toxicity). On this one the FDA says it’s ‘aware that estrogenic activity in the body is associated with certain forms of breast cancer. Although parabens can act similarly to estrogen, they have been shown to have much less estrogenic activity than the body’s naturally occurring estrogen.’ Well great, I’m glad that the chemicals we’re putting into our bodies are LESS estrogenic than what’s already going on.  Really though, I don’t want anything but my natural estrogen floating around in there.

As always make your own decision, but no seriously stop slathering chemicals on your body and for the love of God please get paraben-free, aluminum free deodorant!

My DOT

I was at a networking event tonight (hosted by my fabulous old friends at Sustainable Brands) and was asked to wear a DOT, a blue button where I’d write my commitment to ‘Do One Thing’ for the world. At first I thought, holy shit are you copying my GGG website because that’s legit what I’m trying to get people to do, and then I realized the event was also hosted by Saatchi S who has been doing DOT since 2006 when they started it with WalMart. In 2006 I was still traipsing around Australia and had a belly button ring (truth).

Then I thought, ugh I already do a lot of things (biking to work, composting, reusing, going organic/local/fair trade/ethically-made), you want me to add another thing!? I told them I couldn’t do it, I was already the most sustainable person in the room (that may have been the wine talking..). I quickly realized I was full of crap and that we can all Do One (more) Thing. My buddy Mike had a really good one, to smile at 3 strangers a day. Spreading cosmic happiness human to human. Another gem came from my friend Jess (who side note is the most fun human I’ve ever met), who is going to buy clothing and things second-hand (craigslist, buffalo exchange, etc.).

I settled on ‘buy less packaged goods’. I’m going to make an effort to go to the amazing grocery stores out here that sell things in bulk (Rainbow, Berkeley Bowl, even isles in WFs) and bring my reusable bags, pouches, and tupperware to stock up. I’m also going to get my reusable salad bowl back out of storage. In truth I stopped bring it around SF because all takeaway containers here have to be compostable  vs. the styrofoam in NYC. I know however that producing and breaking down those compostable takeaway containers uses energy, water, and resources and I could just as easily bring my own bowl/container. I’m also going to continue to stalk the most incredible grocery store/idea of all times, In.gredients, based in Austin, to see if they’ll let me open one for them in SF. Ingredients is an entire grocery store that only sells things in bulk. Bring your own milk jug, juice container, jar for olive oil, granola bar bag, etc. Incredible, f’ing incredible. In.gredients, please come to SF, I will work for you for free.

That’s my DOT for now. What’s yours?

You can always message me if you need inspiration: gudergoesgreen@gmail.com!

in.gredients

Hide your kids, hide your wife.

While the above may be an exaggerated blog title, this is the headline I wake up to:

Major Retailers Sell Carcinogenic Shampoos, Lawsuit Claims

And I thought: no wonder everybody knows someone that has cancer, and about that gem of a news story from 2012. Maybe we should stop putting cancer in our F’ing SHAMPOO.

The culprit ingredient is cocamide diethanolamine (cocamide DEA), used to make foam and bubbles, which was added last year as a known carcinogen to Cali’s Proposition 65 list (chemical disclosure law) based on the assessment by The International Agency for Research on Cancer (part of the World Health Organization and super legit).

The Center for Environmental Health (kickass NGO focused on protecting people from toxic chemicals) bought products around the bay area and had them independently tested, as companies were supposed to remove it by June. Testing found 98 products contained the chemical and offenders included Colgate Palmolive, Paul Mitchell, Lush, and store-brand products purchased at Walmart, Trader Joe’s, Kmart and Babies R Us.

To see the full list of shampoos you, your kids, and your wife should definitely not be lathering on click here.

Seeing is believing: GHGs

My husband will tell you I’m a verbal processor. I need to say things out loud, or keep rambling, until I figure out what I mean. But that’s not important today. Today what’s important is that I’m also a visual learner. I love to climb cooling towers to see what those giant fans look like, see the reverse osmosis water filtration system in action at a paper plant, and see for myself where the compost goes in San Francisco.

One thing that’s tough to see: Greenhouse Gases (GHGs). Quick science lesson to make sure we all actually know what those are (because I guarantee you’ve said GHG but might still be a bit fuzzy). We’re talking gas in the atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation in the thermal infrared range. Basically these fuckers trap in the sun’s heat and greatly affect the temperature on Earth. They don’t however prevent the solar heat from coming IN.  Solar radiation comes towards the earth and: a small portion is reflected back to space by the clouds (~20%), a large portion portion is absorbed into the earth (~50%), and the remaining bit hits the earth and bounces back towards space. GHGs then capture this heat as it bounces back towards space. The good news is, without them, it’d be super cold so we need them.

GHGs

You may be saying I already knew that, BUT did you know that water vapor (yes good ol H2O) was the most abundant? I know right! The ones we typically focus on (because they’re the ones that we put into the atmosphere in droves) are carbon dioxide and methane (cow farts!). Which brings me to the bad news. Since the Industrial Revolution burning of our beloved fossil fuels has contributed to a 40% increase in the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere from 280 to 397 parts-per-million (ppm) today- and it’s the concentration that screws us because it means more molecules out there to trap more heat in. Check out 350.org to learn more about why the Earth should only be at 350ppm/why we’re screwed.

Just so we’re all on the same page – global warming isn’t up for debate (scientific fact). GHGs contributing to global warming isn’t up for debate (scientific fact). What is still debated (scientist consensus is ‘very likely’ but not fact) is whether humans are causing climate change (anthropogenic climate change if you want to be fancy). Decide for yourself. Here’s a graph from NASA (you’ve heard of them right?) that shows global temp going way way back. My feelings align with the scientific community: we’re definitely causing it and need to cut the shit.

proxy-based_temperature_reconstruction

So back to visual learning (told you, verbal processor). I came across this great visual that shows us what GHGs would look like if we could see them on the street. In 2010 New York City added 54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (equivalent) into the atmosphere. The team at Carbon Visuals made a two minute video of what this would look like (1 ton of CO2 would fill a sphere 33 feet across). Click on the first image to watch the 2 minute film or check out these pics:

What the amount of GHG emissions produced in NYC in ONE DAY looks like:

1 days of NYC emissions

What the amount of GHG emissions produced in NYC in ONE YEAR looks like:

1 year GHG NYC emissions1 year of NYC emissions - 54mil metric tons

Of course we can see the effects of the GHGs we’re releasing (like woah) into the air – increased number and severeness of forest fires, hurricanes, tornados, tropical storms, floods; breathing anywhere in China/India; and the Maldives disappearing just to name a few…

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

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