Monthly Archives: February 2012

Amazon Goes Green

Quick Friday post in case anyone’s in an online shopping mood this weekend! Amazon has got with the program and has launched Amazon Green, which let’s you search through baby products, home goods, toys, sports, books, etc and only pulls up ‘green products’.

My first question was, what makes something ‘green’. Amazon is taking a unique approach and actually using customers as the vetting resource. Amazon Green lists products that customers tag as the best green products and they also offer definitions and more information (of organic cotton and soy fiber, or of ENERGY STAR® rating lists), if you click on the right-hand side bar ‘what makes … green’.

I think this approach is interesting and innovative, and I love that they are educating people in the process. After my own quick search I found a great list of organic, low-water, low-energy, cradle to cradle, products. Like all things, you must of course read the description before purchasing, but this is a really great simple step to narrow down your purchasing options.

Happy Friday!

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Paper Products Revolution

The magic of Sundays; a cup of homeheated chai and almond milk, a wide open blue sky, sun blasting through our windows, and our upstairs neighbor serenading me with ‘We are Young’. An inspiring morning indeed.

On to personal paper products (PPPs include tissues, TP, napkins & paper towels)! Paper products are pretty serious bad news for our forests and environment. Numbers: Each American uses 50 pounds of PPPs each year, and 1 tree produces 100 pounds of paper (EPA). So we’re each using ½ a tree/year (x 312 million = 156 million trees in the US alone!) Globally we use 270,000 trees a DAY to flush, blow, or wipe up, wasting water, reducing animal habitat, emitting CO2, and of course using bleaching chemicals (WWF). The majority of big labels use virgin pulp, but there are two simple things YOU can do.

1- Switch to 100% recycled and high post-consumer recycled brands. Post-consumer is important because this paper was once an office report, newspaper, or magazine and while it’spassed it’s ability to be turned back into that, it can find new life as your tissue! There is no reason to not use recycled – it’s just as comfortable and absorbent (we use 365, Seventh Gen, & Green Forest and I love them all) and it really helps: a ton of paper made from recycled fibers instead of virgin fibers conserves 7,000 gallons of water, 17-31 trees, 4,000 kWh of electricity, and 60 pounds of air pollutants (US DOE). What’s that, you want white toilet paper? Weird because have you seen a white tree (ok white birch maybe, but they don’t make tp!). Well hopefully this will help: You are rubbing your private areas with bleach. Gross.

Choose brown over white!

Good* Tissues: (*Good = 100% recycled + 80% or above post-consumer): 365 Whole Foods, Green Forest, Natural Value, Seventh Generation, and Marcal has a new line. AVOID: Kleenex & Puffs.

Good TP: 365, CVS Earth Essentials, Fiesta, Green Forest, Natural Value, Seventh Gen, Trader Joe’s, Earth Friendly and April Soft. Avoid Charmin, Cottonelle, Angel Soft, Quilted Northern, Target Brand!

Good Napkins/PTs: 365, CVS Earth, Earth Friendly, Fiesta, Green Forest, Natural Value, 7th Gen, Small Steps, and TJ’s. Avoid Bounty, Scott, Target and Viva. Read the label! Carefully! You are looking for recycled fiber content and post-consumer levels.

My favorite People Towel

2- Try Resuable Options. I don’t think I’ll ever really do any sort of reusable tp, and handkerchiefs kind of gross me out on the tissue side (but I promise to try!), BUT the easiest switch has been in napkins/paper towels. So far I’ve checked out People Towels as a reusable paper towel/napkin option for personal use. They are designed to bring with you to dry your hands after going to the bathroom (mainly in a public place/work), but I also use them after washing dishes. They are SUPER absorbent and soft (it’s a cross between a washcloth and a sports towel) and I stashed a few around the house/at work. They are also adorable so that’s a bonus. They are machine washable and because they’re made from organic cotton and soy-based ink they are biodegradable at the end of the lifecycle- yes!

I also tried UnPaper Towels which are billed more for use as a napkin or to replace pts in cleaning. I definitely use the most paper towels when cleaning. The good news- they are awesome as a napkin. They are strong but still soft (it feels different from almost every time of towel I can think of! Thin, cross stitched). They also get better as you wet them. In a water spill test they first moved the water around and picked up maybe 30% of it. Bummer. However, once it was wet it really kept sucking the water in. I used it to wipe up the rest of the water and some tea and it got it all! I then used it to wipe the counter with a cleaning spray and that also worked great. I rinsed it out and then tackled the bathroom and again it performed really well. The only thing I will say is that in our uberwhite bathroom, I need all of the hair/dust to vanish and it’s hard to make that happen with these. They clean and remove about 90% of grossness but I still had to use 1 paper towel to finish things off. This is definitely MUCH better than the entire garbage pail I am used to. When they are soiled just throw them in the laundry.

Medium results on the initial water test, definitely captures and holds A LOT of dirt, also surprisingly useful as bike grease cleaner, keep a stack in the place where your paper towel rack used to be!

Hopefully these two easy steps will help you reduce your impact and go green!

Update- Thanks Em for the great text, here’s where to buy these if you don’t live near a Whole Foods, Trader Joes, or SF hippie store: Wal-Mart now sells Seventh Generation (my personal favorite re: comfort), CVS and Walgreens both sell one version of recycled paper towels and toilet paper (not tissues yet), and if you have a computer you can find them at Amazon 🙂

Side note, what haters will say about the need to switch to recycled or reusable PPPs: They’re compostable. Yep, if you’re lucky enough to live in San Francisco, you have municipal composting and paper towels/tissues/TP can be composted. While this helps reduce the impact, a biodegradable reusable option cuts down on deforestation, water use, packaging, transport, and the energy costs of municipal composting. And we discussed recycled benefits above. It’s renewable. Yep, wood is a renewable resource, however we are cutting down acres at alarming rates and new trees can’t grow back fast enough. If you look at the southern US, longleaf pine forest covered 60-90 million acres just 100 years ago and now only 5% of that remains (EPA). Canada is also suffering as 500,000 acres of boreal forest are lost each year!

See you in hell Junk Mail.

Hello Paperkarma! I LOATH junk mail. Loath it. We have spam filters on email and I have been wishing for a spam filter for junk snail mail. In addition to being SUPER annoying and nothing I would ever read, or do anything with besides rip up and put in the recycling bin, it’s a huge waste of tax payer dollars because the idiotic post office subsidizes part of the cost of this crap mail, AND most importantly it’s a huge Eco-drain. The EPA reports that junk mail produces 4.5 million tons of wasted paper each year (that’s also 105 lbs of CO2 emissions/person/year, 28 billion gallons of water used in production, and a loss of 37 m2 of of natural forest habitat/person/year including cutting down 100 million trees/year).

The answer to my prayers: Paper Karma. It’s an App (you can download it for free now which I just did), that you take a photo of your junk mail and tell them to unsubscribe you and done! It takes a few weeks to get the companies to stop sending you crap (I’ll give you an update on progress/levels of junk next month). I wanted to get this post out now though as the app is free but only for a limited time.

Another option that I recently tried: DMA Mail Makeovers. I went through this process and was a little nervous because it asks for your SSN (but you don’t have to provide this thus I did not), but according to the green world is completely legit, and also will let you unsubscribe from the big ones (credit card cos) for 5 years.

Reducing this junk mail is a simple way to make a real difference and will help stop you from strangling the postman.

One day worth of junk mail

Guest Post! Cups for Women, Which are Sort of Like Cups for Men, Except Not at All Similar Whatsoever.

(Alternate Title: On How Tampons are Full of Chemicals and Bad for the Environment)
(Alternate Alternate Title: I’m sure I’m about to type the word “vagina” several times)

Hi! I’m Leah, and I’m here today to talk about cups. Period cups, that is. Now, when I emailed Sarah with the idea, her hilarious response was “I had to google ‘period cup’ and then spent about an hour reading [about] female anatomy because I wasn’t even sure where my public bone was! Frankly I’m still a little confused.” Well, while I can’t school anyone on female anatomy, I do consider myself somewhat of an expert on alternatives to tampons. And before we go further, let me just say that for those of you who are grossed out, allow me to direct you to the post where Sarah took a picture of her pee. You’re welcome.

So, for the ladies: We’ve got two options for our time of the month, right? Pads or tampons. Pads are uncomfortable and huge and make you feel like you’re wearing a diaper. Tampons, on the other hand, are pretty convenient, comfortable, and portable. They seem like the easy choice.  Or the easy choice…until you consider that 1) Tampons are made of cotton; 2) Cotton is an insect-heavy crop. 3) Farmers treat insect-heavy crops with pesticides. In equation form, tampon = (cotton + insects) * pesticides. In layman’s terms, you’re putting cotton soaked chemicals inside your body for up to 8 hours at a time, every day, for the duration of your period.  And that’s just assuming that the cotton has been treated with pesticides – in researching for this post I came across some terrifying case studies of the actual ingredients in tampons. I’ll spare you the details, but…yikes.

Not only are tampons made out of God-knows-what chemicals, but have you ever thought about the amount of waste that they generate? Let’s do some more quick math: The average woman menstruates for 41 years.* Let’s say the average period is…5 days. And in those 5 days, the average woman uses, say, 5 tampons a day. So, we’ve got 5 tampons/day * 5 days * 12 months * 41 years = 12,300 tampons per woman. If you’re using tampons with applicators, that’s a whole lot of waste generated over the course of your lifetime.

But wait! There is an alternative to tampons! One that is better for the environment and for your body! It’s called a menstrual cup (by brand name diva cup, femmecup, lunnette, moon cup, etc). Menstrual cups are usually made of rubber or latex (although if you’re allergic to latex, they also make them out of silicone), so there’s far fewer chemicals associated with them. They are also reusable, so you only need to buy one every year or so (instead of going through a box of tampons per month).

The idea behind a cup is that instead of absorbing the blood, like a tampon or pad, it collects the blood, sitting way lower in the vaginal canal than tampons, which sit up near your cervix (for those of us who need a quick anatomy lesson, I would recommend turning on Google’s moderate safe search, at least, otherwise you’re opening yourself up to all sorts of visual trauma). Cups are definitely different than tampons or pads, and like with anything, there are pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Cost. A cup costs between $20-$30, but if you’re only buying one every one-two years, the cost is much cheaper than tampons.
  • Comfort. Eat, sleep, dance, run, ride, swim, pee, whatever. The cup doesn’t move or shift.
  • Convenience. The cup can stay in for up to 12 hours, and holds up to an ounce of blood (most women bleed an ounce over their entire period), so you won’t ever be caught without it.
  • Cramps. Less cramps, that is. This one might be subjective, but I have far fewer cramps with the cup in than I ever had when I used tampons.
  • Chemicals. There are none.
  • Compostability. I actually mean that the environmental impact is quite low, but I was on a roll with the “C’s.”

Cons:

  • Blood. Since the cup collects, instead of absorbs, it can be a little unsettling the first time you take it out and see a bunch of blood. If you’re a fainter, you might want to prepare yourself (or just dump it out without looking).
  • Learning curve. Remember the first time you tried to put in a tampon? I think I went through an entire box before I figured it out. With the cup, it will probably take you a whole cycle before you get used to it. There’s a bunch of websites that help give ideas about how to insert it, though.
  • Leaking. It’s not actually leaking, so much as a feeling of wetness that it may take awhile to get used to. Again, the cup collects at the opening of your vagina, not up by your cervix, so there’s more moisture as the blood’s not being absorbed by cotton. This actually seems more natural to me, but I’m probably just used to it.

For those of you who I’ve sufficiently turned off tampons, I highly recommend trying the cup. I’ve seen them at Walgreens and Whole Foods, or you can order them online. Also, if you want to give it a try but don’t want to make the commitment to buying a reusable cup, the company Softcup makes disposable cups, which are probably good to learn on until you’ve figured out what works best for you.

Good luck and thanks for reading! And, let that be the first and last time I type the phrase “vaginal canal.” 🙂

*source

About the Author: Leah and Sarah work out together at least once a year, and only complain for about 90% of the time. She is currently training (and raising donations!) for the AIDS/LifeCycle, and blogs at teamspringer.com, where she promises the only time she writes about bleeding is when she falls off her bike.

This V-Day go Green not red.

Thanks Bret for the idea for this post!

Oh Valentine’s Day. That Hallmark holiday intellectuals love to despise, environmentalists love to boycott, the non-attached dismiss as stupid, boyfriends fear due to chocolate selection stress, and the day some of us take to show our loved ones a little extra care. In our apartment,we usually do a small thing on the 14th, either breakfast in bed, indian dinner for two, but steer away from excessive consumerism. Last year US consumers spent $15.7 billion on V-day (National Retail Federation #), and again for perspective: providing modern family planning methods to each person on the globe with currently unmet need would cost $6.7 billion (Joel Cohen, Columbia). So that’s the part of V-day that I don’t like to get wrapped up in. However it’s easy to do something special for your sweetie that’s green, not red.

Cards. 1 billion cards are sent each year on V-day (Greeting Card Association) and end up in landfills or are recycled using loads of energy. You all know about fun e-cards (paperless post has the best!) and how sustainable they are, but if you’re craving something physical, pick up a card that’s made of recycled materials.

  • Papyrus has a bunch and even stores like CVS/Duane Reade – just read the back and look for ‘100% recycled’.
  • I also LOVE the Grow-A-Note plantable cards. They are made with recycled paper and flower seeds and the card can be planted and will turn into flowers one day!

Chocolate. I’ve watched The Dark Side of Chocolate one too many times to buy anything that isn’t fairly traded and sustainable. That link will give you the free 30 minute documentary (it’s incredible!) and show you the child slave labor, kidnappings, and environmental destruction that goes to produce our favorite sweets. This V-day opt for:

  • Fair Trade & Organic- Equal Exchange Bars. They definitely carry them at Whole Foods and other healthy food stores.
  • Dagoba – same places to buy, focuses on Full Circle Sustainability- Quality, Ecology, Equity, & Community.
  • Green & Blacks is a good fair trade one that even regular grocery stores are starting to carry
  • There are tons of local brands too just make sure you’re buying FAIR TRADE & read the label to see if they talk about environmental commitments.
Flowers. The roses you see at Stop N Shop or the flower shop are usually treated with heavy chemicals/pesticides. The flower industry is also notorious for poor working conditions (like most agro industries these days) and I’m not into beautiful flowers if I know another person worked 18 hours 7 days a week picking them. Instead perhaps:
  •  My bf shares my eco love and often takes pictures of beautiful flowers and then texts them to me – a modern Bring Your Friend to the Flower.. It honestly makes me light up each time.
  • Instead of flowers buy a plant (from somewhere that sells organic)! Plants are great for apartment aura anyways and this will be more fun then 3-day flowers that cost you $20 and then die.
  • Shop around. Ask your florist if their plants/flowers are ethically traded and what their position is on pesticides. Take the time and do your research!

Instead of a Present. Get creative, that’s what we’re really after.

  • When was the last time you watched the sunset? Take your partner, a blanket, and a bottle of wine and just be with each other. The sun’s natural beauty is better than any sparkly thing I’ve seen.
  • Cook dinner for your partner and make a romantic playlist. Often just feeling special is what we girls want on V-day and the thought of getting to relax and enjoy a partner-cooked meal with specially selected songs would definitely make me swoon.
  • How about a bottle of eco-friendly/organic massage oil or lotion (Whole Foods, CVS is starting to carry Burts Bees products). Read the label to make sure it’s paraben-free, DEA-free and vegan and then rub away your partner’s stress.
  • If you live anywhere warm, what about planning a romantic bike ride for 2? You know those endorphins get all excited with exercise!
  • If you’re looking for something a little spicier this year, check out Earth Erotics selection (who’s slogan, Doing It Green is awesome). They choose silicone based toys instead of the generic ones that usually contain high levels of phthalates (a controversial PVC softener that has been linked to cancers).
  • Make something! What do you have lying around the house? Can you turn it into a picture frame, a card, a present?
  • Donate to your partner’s favorite charity? Nothing says love like supporting their passions!

And if you MUST buy something:

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