Author Archives for sgudersmith

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.


  • 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.”


  • 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.” 🙂


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, 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:

Oh we let it mellow.

3 pees already! (I know I struggled with whether to include a visual...)

If it’s yellow…well you know how that one goes. I don’t know why we are so grossed out with a little pee in the toilet. If you’re drinking enough water it isn’t even that yellow and doesn’t smell and you can vastly reduce your water usage by flushing only when you need to (definitely flush #2 and after 5 pees or so- figure out what you can get away with without a clog!)

If you live in an apartment/house/condo that was built before 1992 chances are you have a toilet that uses 3.5 -5 GALLONS of water in each flush! Each person flushes the toilet an average of 7 times a day (thanks google, but count yourself! I go all the time because I’m constantly drinking water), which means you’re consuming 25-35 GALLONS of water a day just in toilet flushing! Luckily in 1992 the U.S. got serious with the Energy Policy & Conservation Act made it mandatory for all toilets to be 1.6 Gallon flushers. Most of the high-efficiency toilets (HETs) are 1.28 gallon flushers now & if you search really hard you can find ones that only use 1 gallon. But here’s the thing, if you’re flushing 7 times a day even in the most efficient toilet you’re still using 7 gallons of water simply for pee; what a ridiculous waste! Just to give you a comparative figure, the average person in a developing country uses 2.6 gallons a day for EVERYTHING (cooking, washing, drinking, & sanitation if they have it).

I hope you join me in the yellow revolution!

A few other quick water saving tips:

  • Taking shorter showers. I now only wash my hair twice a week (and I have BEAUTIFUL healthy hair for the first time ever) so my showers are super short: in, wet, lathered, rinse.
  • Turn off the water while you’re shaving your legs. You won’t freeze to death and you’ll get used to it quickly.
  • When you’re doing the dishes (if you don’t have a dishwasher- dishwashers are more water efficient!) soap them all up while the water is turned off and then rinse. You won’t run the water as much and the continuous flow means it takes less energy than if you start/stop

Apartment Composting :)

I’ve been in bed with a nasty cold for a few days and am happy SF has municipal composting so all of my tissues can go right in there. It’s hard to be ‘green’ when you’re sick- I don’t want to do anything but I can handle bringing my tissues downstairs to the composting bin. If you aren’t lucky enough to live in a city that has municipal composting (it’s incredible- everything can go in, milk cartons, chinese food containers, pizza boxes!), and you don’t have a backyard, you can try apartment composting. In New York We actually kept all of our compost in a bag in the freezer (yes I know it doesn’t break down there), and then once a week I brought it to the union square farmers market where they have a composting bin that anyone can add to and plastic bag recycling. I also sometimes would bring it to whole foods if I was feeling lazier and add it to their compost!

Most people shy away from composting in their apartment because of the worms. I have never had worms so I can’t totally attest to it, but I think an even easier solution might be what my brother (yes the Republican) is trying in LA. He’s following a no-worm plan where the basics are just air, giving it a good stir often, and they’re starting with just veggies before diving into everything. I think its important to start small and see what you can handle – does it smell? Is it leaking? Do you have the time? Starting with some basic veggies that break down quickly can help you ease into the process so you aren’t totally overwhelmed. Here’s the plan they are trying out: Continue reading

Even Fox News is Going Green

Woah. When Fox News is posting articles on ‘How you can go green in 2012’, you know we have reached a turning point in sustainability. Sustainability is no longer just for the hippies and environmentalists, although we are definitely still leading the charge. Although this article lacks in any real substance or innovative thinking (it basically pushes organic farming and better lighting options), it’s good to see a growing trend among the often anti-eco republicans. Sustainability has been pushed in republican circles as being about cost-savings and job creation, things that side of the bench is likely to support. I’m glad that (even though it’s poorly written/not very interesting) this is an article about sustainability for sustainability reasons. Costs aren’t even mentioned! The author writes, ‘Organic products nourish our bodies without also exposing us to the harmful chemicals that pervade traditional farms.’ And this leftish hippie definitely agrees!

Living Social deal makes reusable bags sustainable & cheap!

If you haven’t had time yet to purchase your reusable sandwich & snack bags – you’re now in luck! Living Social has a great deal where for $10 you can get a $22 credit to Re-Pac Bags (they retail for $6-$10 ea). I haven’t used one yet (just bought the deal) but it seems like a cool company- a woman started it after feeling awful that she was making so many lunches a year in plastic bags. She uses polyester/nylon so that mold can’t grow, they’re machine washable, (I’m excited to try out the zipper vs. velcro), and have a lifetime warranty. This would be a really easy way to cut down on waste, save you money & it’s a good deal (I just love a good deal)!

Thanks @jen__hunt for sending this over!!

For some other eco-coupons: There are some great online deals for companies like Mrs. Meyer’s, Klean Kanteen bottles, and more! Happy sustainable shopping!

Eco-friendly reading alternative…The Library!

I am lucky to have a great bunch of girl friends (one of whom is a librarian!) who recently reminded me how fabulous (and sustainable and free!) the library is. I am a new member of Golden Gate Valley Pubic Library in SF and I love it already. My first pick up was Maupin’s Tales of the City, which is supposed to be a good fall-in-love-with-SF read. I also wanted 2 books that weren’t on the GGV shelves, so the helpful librarian found them in another city library and they’ll be arriving right to me in 2 days.!. I’m still having a hard time believing all of this is free; this will save me so much money. Also, my library card is completely compostable! Yes! Continue reading

Easy tool to track your energy footprint

WattzOn is a super simple website designed to help you track your energy and carbon footprint. Enter in the square footage of your apartment/home, any appliances (fridge, toaster, dishwasher (I wish)), your lifestyle (flights, car situation, food choices), synch up with your utility bills, and then it calculates what you’re looking at as far as planet-impact goes. It’ll also show you how you compare to the ‘average American home’ so you get a real grasp on what your choices mean. It offers areas for improvement, including $ saving tips (especially if you own/are ok with putting upgrades in).

Here’s our apartment’s actual use. We have pretty inefficient electric baseboard heat (which is also wildly expensive) but try hard not to turn it on. I’ve invested instead in slippers, flannel PJs, and am considering a snuggy. Due to our thrifty eco-minded attempts, we’re a bit lower than the average home our size, do not have a driving footprint, and are also very low on food due to not eating meat. Of course we completely blow it in the travel department however with our cross-country flights. Can’t wait til planes can run on bio-fuel!

Enter your stats and see where you line up!

My first real biking to work experience

I’ve been biking to work since 2008. This was mainly due to necessity- there was no where to park in Cambridge and the T was super overcrowded, and because I only had to bike about 1.5 miles. I kept this up at my next job, biking a whopping 1.2 miles each way. I never even brought a change of clothes because I didn’t get sweaty, and I often wore a skirt. I also rode through the Boston Common for most of it on a sidewalk, and practiced my serious face whenever I ended up next to a ‘real biker’. Not really a commuter biking phenom.

That all changed this week when I started my new job in SF and really biked to work. I love my pink bike and I was ready to put it to the test. It’s 6 miles (EACH WAY!) to work, so it took some preparation and a bit more willpower than I thought it would, given the SF hills. I wore my work pants because they’re pretty durable and my Tom’s shoes because they’re much lighter than my running shoes and work just as well. Of course I had my Giro helmet on, my front light and a rear light, and an ankle reflector. Gloves for me are also a must. My backpack also has reflectors on it, which I’d recommend. I threw my work shoes in my backpack (but then left them at work so I don’t have to carry again), brought a shirt and sweater in my bag, and wore a dry-fit workout top under my jacket. I was lucky in that I didn’t get too sweaty since it’s cooler in the mornings, but I’ve ordered some biodegradable body wipes to handle that issue when it arrises. Luckily my office is pretty low key so I can wear jeans & two others bike to work. I also started using a cool cycling app (Strava), to track how fast I’m going, how far I make it, my top speeds, etc.

The days of blow drying my hair and putting on a business suit each morning seem like a far away world. I’m much happier getting to rock out in sneakers and feel pretty kick-ass when I’m on my bike. It’s a bit of a rush to be flying down Polk Street and I get a little buzz thinking ‘holy shit I’m actually doing this.’ It’s a bit of a ‘I am woman hear me roar’ moment. It’s also a nice way to start the morning. I’m SUCH a last minute person, but now I can’t really be. It helps me wake up and I get a good think in on the way to work. The only bummer news is that I’m currently getting passed by the ‘real’ SF bikers, but every day I go a little faster and a few less people fly by. It’s also going to rain next week so I’ll have to tackle that for the first time. That update to come but I do know that fenders & serious rain gear are a must! I promise if I can do this, you can do this. Start small, get yourself a bike and start with a mile. Start in a park or on a less busy street and work your way up to biking to work. I know you won’t be disappointed.

%d bloggers like this: