Author Archives for sgudersmith

Get Your Green On This Earth Day!

Earth Day, this Sunday the 22nd, is a great time to dive in if you’ve been on the edge of getting into green, make a stronger pledge if you’re further down the spectrum, and CELEBRATE!  Earth Day is your chance to honor the hard work we’ve made happen so far, learn new ways to go forward, and make commitments to keep change moving. It’s also a just great day for a party!

One of my first teenage Earth Day celebrations included a concert at the Meadows in CT, two years ago I planted trees in Staten Island, and this year I’ll be at Ocean Beach in SF cleaning up trash. You can get involved wherever you live! Check out an ED festival, volunteer with a group, or do something at home. The EPA’s list of Earth Day events and volunteer opportunities  lists ways to get involved in each state (just click on your region)! This is the best list I’ve found so far, although Sierra Club does have some cool events in a few cities as well.

If you’re in SF you should definitely join me at SF Earth Day at the Civic Center!

How will you celebrate?!

Easy Ways to Go Greener at Home—This Earth Day!

Plant a tree. This is one of the easiest and best things you can do to make an impact. You’re taking carbon out of the air and providing oxygen and habitat!

Garden! Start an herb garden or just get planting. It’ll be amazing to feel soil between your fingers, I promise.

Get on your bike or go for a walk to do your errands and get some exercise in the process!

Buy that reusable water bottle, now it’s seriously time.

Time to purchase that Energy Star certified appliance you’ve been craving?

Is there a farmers market close by you can check out?

REUSE! Check craigslist, go to second-hand stores and tag sales, or look to borrow before purchasing something new.

Teach your kids about the Earth, recycling, and not wasting. We are definitely going to need their help!

Swing and a Miss: Compostable Sponges Suck.

A friend told me that she tired out Leah’s ‘cup’ and had a hard time with it, but didn’t want to comment about something ‘not working’. I told her to comment away because the things that don’t work are the ones we need to focus our energy on! Sometimes you might need a different explanation, and often the product itself still needs a little tweaking, but that’s how we’ll get to real change. Learning and trying things, seeing how they work, and advocating to make them better. I do try pretty hard to find something that does work in a ‘green category’ before I post, but I often go through a few losers on the way.

One such category is coming up all losers. I still haven’t found a compostable sponge that doesn’t suck. Sponges are one of those annoying trash items that I know must have a suitable green option. I envision all the sponges I’ve used in my lifetime sitting in a landfill in Pennsylvania (because that’s where NYC ships their trash), and it irks me. But, I’ve gone through a few of these bad boys and they’re all completely useless. They tend to absorb water and can clean things that don’t have any build up on them, but a dirty pan after it’s been in the oven, no chance. Or the pot we used to cook rice (I know I need a rice cooker), scrubbed and scrubbed; still nothing.

I’ve tried microfiber, I tried this adorable gem from a farmer’s co-op (thanks Mary!), and I’ve tried Trader Joe’s cellulose sponges. Fine to clean off a non-sticky item, but when it comes to the hard stuff (even if I soak it), fail, fail, fail.

The search will continue and I hope to post an update someday. If anyone finds something that works, let me know!

GUEST POST: Green Mascara

Hey, I’m Jen. I had a professor who once had us stand up in front of everyone to introduce ourselves. She asked the class to take out anything we had that could describe us without words. While my peers fumbled through notebooks, backpacks and purses for iPods and books, I swiftly pulled out a tube of mascara and held it up.

Maybe not the best first impression to give my teacher, but mascara is a big part of my life. Yes I love books, movies, and my family, but mascara is something I just can’t live without. Seriously… I would consider going naked before leaving the house without my beloved cosmetic.

I remember the glorious day I first put it on. It was my first day of seventh grade, my big year, and I needed BIG lashes to go with it.  My hair was half up, half down, my purple bedazzled Gap tee was looking fresh and my eyelashes were skyscrapers. It was the first time I looked in the mirror and didn’t feel like a kid.

From that day on I was hooked. And twelve years later, I’m still in love.

In 2008, I made the decision to only use cruelty free products, priding myself on such a conscious decision about makeup. But it wasn’t until I watched a little documentary that I realized how mistaken I was.

The “Story Of Stuff” Project is an amazing tool that helps us realize what we are doing to the planet, our environment and ourselves. I watched their “Story Of Stuff: Cosmetics” and my head almost exploded.  The makeup we are putting on our bodies is not safe!

The average woman uses 12 products a day. Those 12 small products contain hundreds of chemicals, less than 20% of which are inspected by the FDA. In fact, include elements that are known to cause cancer, asthma, learning disabilities and infertility. Think about putting that on your face for the next 60 years.

The documentary taught me that there are no regulations on makeup in our country. Since words like “natural”, “herbal” and “organic” have no legal definition when it comes to cosmetics, I set out on a mission to find a beauty line that can help me make the right choices for the planet and my body.

And I did.

I found 100% Pure Cosmetics, a company that uses no chemicals or harsh dyes. Their make up is 100% vegan and is even more surprisingly reasonably priced. 100% Pure offers cosmetics, body washes, shampoos, conditioners, and skin care, and is totally committed to the idea of unadulterated products.  Since as much as 60% of topical skin-care products are absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream, 100% Pure has taken on the task of cosmetics with no synthetic chemicals, chemical preservatives, artificial fragrances, artificial colors, harsh detergents or any other unhealthy toxins.

As I looked further into 100% Pure I found that they not only had amazing products but great gift sets. I purchased the FRUIT PIGMENTED 3-pc KIT, which includes a tinted moisturizer, the renowned coffee bean caffeine eye cream and the thing I was most looking forward to: black tea mascara. These three full sized products came to $50.00 with free shipping, which I consider reasonable, especially for the quality and peace of mind.

The tinted moisturizer is sheer yet covers small imperfections. It offers SPF, which is so important if you expect to be outside a lot during the day, and provides a quick way to smooth out your complexion. The Coffee Bean Caffeine eye cream smells delicious and has been featured in a bunch of magazines. It’s not an everyday item for me, but on my tired or hung over days it definitely saves me from looking like an extra on “The Walking Dead”.

The black tea mascara was something I was so excited to try and oddly nervous about at the same time. Now that I know how horrible other brands are, what if I didn’t like it? How could I ever go back?

Thankfully, 100% Pure did not disappoint.

This is the perfect daytime mascara. The black pigment is totally there, the lashes are definitely lengthened, although it does take a few coats to get the volume I like.

Overall, I think I’m in LOVE with 100% Pure. I just can’t help myself from trying more and more make up! In fact, I am expecting more 100% Pure in the mail while I write this. I just purchased their “All You Need” gift set and it is pathetic how often I track the shipping.

So if you’re as blind as I was before, make sure you know what you’re putting on your body. Now, I am constantly on the hunt (pun intended) for better and better green makeup products, and if I find any more I promise to share them with Sarah and the world.

About the Author: Jen and Sarah have dabbled in yoga, gone on a few hikes, and seen a lot of improv together. Jen is a teacher, a student, and as you can see from this post, into cosmetics. She grew up in New England but transplanted herself to Los Angeles where she’s started composting, trying out meatless Mondays, and attempting to walk in heels.

Reusable Water Bottles & What WWD Is All About

Well, I kinda blew it by not posting anything on World Water Day. But celebrate, I did. I celebrated by not taking a shower, doing the dishes in the most water-conservative way I know how, and really thinking about water.

Though the official water day has passed, here are some photos, facts, issues, and ideas to keep water on your mind, and in your actions.

If you don’t have a reusable water bottle, it’s time to buy one. Do it for WWD, do it for convenience, just do it. Plus then you can use the cool new water-refill stations popping up at airports near you (this one @ SFO)! My favorite reusable is the stainless steel Klean Kanteen. Easy to clean, dishwasher safe, light but durable, and BPA free. BPA (bisphenol A) is a polycarbonate plastic that’s been linked to heart disease, diabetes & liver failure in humans, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Try to steer clear of aluminum knockoffs. aluminum, as opposed to steel, isn’t FDA food-grade safe so these bottles are coated with plastic or epoxy liners (read chemicals) = bad news.

My brother rocks the BPA-free plastic CamelBak. These are great IF you have a dishwasher, but without one, the rubber nozzle fills with spit/bacteria and gets super gross. That happened to mine, but his is fine since he puts the nozzle in the dishwasher regularly. Another high-class glass version is from LifeFactory, who also makes sustainable (glass) baby bottles.

Fun SF find: Global Tap water fountains are showing up around town. Love them and their ‘water is a human right, not a privilege’ slogan!

Now onto WWD, which focuses on the amount of water used in food production. This is one of the reasons I’m a vegetarian. It takes 1500 liters of water to produce 1 kg of wheat, but takes 10 times more to produce 1kg of beef due to the need for water in livestock feed production, slaughtering, and meat processing (UN). It’s pretty crazy when you think about the numbers: 70% of blue (drinkable) water withdrawals at a global level go to crop irrigation, not to human needs (UN). Humans all over the globe suffer from a lack of water, because this water is diverted and prioritized to give us steak. This water should be instead allocated to the 1.5 MILLION children who die yearly from diarrhea caused by severe dehydration (WHO).

Lastly, we’ve all be there. You share an apartment with your loved one or have a date over that you want to continue to find you attractive. Bathroom business (read #2) is not attractive, so you run the sink or the shower while probably also making coughing noises. Well, accomplish this and waste water no longer!  Check out this app alternative (thanks Ame 🙂

More Info on Plastic Bag Bans

For those of you more interested in the plastic bag problem, the BBC just published a recent article explaining the different approaches countries are taking to respond to this issue. While some countries (and US cities) have gone the complete ban route, others (like Ireland) have opted for a heavy levy that is adjusted on per capita plastic bag use, and has raised $99 million for their Environmental Fund. I think both paths have merit and it’s a good study to see the different results.

It’s also worth mentioning that if you’ve switched to ‘compostable bags’ make sure you live in an area that has municipal composting, otherwise the bags won’t break down! If you’re using them to send to landfills or in your own backyard, pick ones that say biodegradable so that they will break down with simple exposure to air and time.

There is also a lifecycle assessment at the end of the report (but be wary, you can often get an LCA to say whatever you want it to), that notes paper bags are often just as damaging if they aren’t reused and recycled (we use ours as recycling bags 4-5 times before sending them with the recycling). I mentioned this in my last post, but make sure you don’t buy more reusable bags than you need, as everything has a footprint!

Happy learning!


My Ultimate Challenge: Going Fashionably Green

Buying clothes is where my sustainability quest falls seriously short. I get overwhelmed – should I read CSR reports and check out supply chain practices before walking in a store? My brain also doesn’t go directly to thoughts of organic cotton when I twirl a shirt around, rather if it’ll go with my new jeans (that I also bought without thinking about organic anything). But, the toll of ignoring sustainability, pushing it off because it’s hard, feels hypocritical. So, it’s time to try.

My 'new' purchases

I believe simple attainable steps are the path to real change. Instead of starting with store eco-research, I started with my favorite green go-to, the art of reuse. Today was my second time buying ‘recycled clothing’. Unlike pricey vintage or often smelly GoodWill clothes, recycled clothing stores (like Crossroads in the Haight, LA, NY, Chicago, Portland, & Seattle), carry interesting, clean, clothing. And while you may be hung up on the thought of wearing someone else’s shirt, just throw it in the wash and get over it (hot water kills everything). Though I had to dig, I scored three awesome new shirts for $25 total (one has elbow pads, I’m thrilled). This seems like the easiest way to get my shopping fix in and make sure I’m at least not adding any extra eco-torment to the world.

If you really can’t get on board with hand-me-downs (and it’s ok if you can’t, no judging here!), one of my FAVORITE start-up stores, that just opened online, is SustainU. Talk about cradle to cradle, this company ONLY uses recycled materials in their clothing. Right now their shop consists of t-shirts, hoodies, and the like, but as they expand, I know this will be where I shop. Recycled NEW clothes. Yes!

If you don’t live near a Crossroads or if you google ‘recycled clothing stores’ and nothing comes up in your hood, think about organizing a clothing swap with some friends or at work. Often things I’m ‘over’ are in great shape and perfect for someone else. You can also try your local GoodWill (who knows it may not smell!), or, come visit me in SF and bring an empty suitcase.

San Francisco is the coolest.

In addition to municipal composting, vegan options on many a menu, and bike lanes gallore, SF is home to incredible for-good start-ups like Bicycle Coffee Co. They not only serve delicious organic, hand picked (more sustainable than machine ruined), fair-trade coffee from farmers they have met and visited, BCC also only delivers this coffee to grocery stores and retailers by bike! And, because of their super low-overhead / efficient business model, the prices of their coffee bags are the same as the non-organics sitting next to them. Woah, serious changemaker on our hands here.

This is pretty much my dream, and I continue to allow SF to inspire me to find my for-good venture.

If you live in the bay area, consider switching out your regular cup of joe and instantly make a difference. What a wonderful world we live in, where drinking a cup of coffee can truly make change; in the lives of the Central American farmers, in the air as no-CO2 is added, and as a vote towards making all coffee organic, fair-trade, and sustainable.

Back to the Start

For those of you that haven’t seen this gem of a video from Chipotle, I think it’s awesome. It’s one of the first big-brand ads that shows consumers what their food actually looks like and where it comes from. I know that meat is often rubbed with chemicals to kill bacteria, pork producers in the U.S. alone use over 10 million pounds of antibiotics per year (Union of Concerned Scientists), many pigs, cows, and chickens are raised on factory farms with limited mobility and in unsanitary conditions, and animals are pumped with hormones to grow more quickly, but only after doing my own research. I’m pretty sure main-stream America does not know. And the efforts so far to spread this message have largely come from the NGO and activist community, which often falls on deaf ears (unfortunately).

Although advertising irks me in a serious way, I do love that Chipotle is taking a stand in this video and showing a lot of unknowing Americans what their food system actually looks like (in a not as graphically horrifying way). Check it out and let me know what you think. Of course it’s a pro-Chipotle ad and they have their own motivations, but I think they are passing an important message to a community that needs it.

Chipotle also walks the talk:

  • Since 2001 they source 100% of their pork from ranchers whose pigs are raised outside or in bedded pens, antibiotic-free, and fed a vegetarian diet.
  • Commitment to continue to use their size to increase demand for pasture-raised cows (for meat and dairy)
  • Striving towards 100% of chickens raised without antibiotics and with no additives (like arsenic, a common one, seriously).
  • 40% organically grown beans
  • Family farm-preferred (includes crop rotation, multiple crops one one service, no pesticides)
  • Increasingly using local sources

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!

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!

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