An Earth Minute.

March 31st, 2008

Did you observe Earth Hour? Or were your plans derailed, like mine were, by the reality of your life?

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I had the best of intentions, I really did. At 7:50 p.m. Saturday evening I ran around the house, turning off lights and prepping. Then I remembered that DH was out picking up our kindergartner from his best buddy’s house. If I turned out the front light, they might slip and fall in the dark, I worried. So I left it on. (“At least it’s a compact fluorescent,” I thought).

I grabbed Baby Boo, ready to carry him upstairs to bed, when I realized that it was awfully treacherous going up those dark stairs with a 30 pound writhing bundle of joy. I considered candles but quickly rejected that option as too dangerous with a toddler in the house. Never mind that for thousands of years toddlers survived in dwellings lit solely by candlelight. I turned on the hall light – just so we could make it upstairs safely.

A few minutes later, our 5-year-old came running upstairs, excitedly telling me about his latest adventures. He flipped on the light in the darkened room. Before I could admonish him, “Turn it off! It’s Earth Hour!,” his little brother was jumping all over him. They looked like two little puppy dogs at play. I gazed at them adoringly, happy to have light to see them (and to make sure Baby Boo didn’t roll off the couch!).

I started to feel irritated that things weren’t going according to plan. At that point, I reminded myself of the advice a life coach had shared with my Mother’s Group: If you have kids under age 5, be kind to yourself and lower your expectations!

Finally, well after 8 p.m., I left Baby Boo’s room and made my way up to Big Boy’s room to say good night. All the upstairs lights were blazing. “It’s Earth Hour!” I hissed.

“But you promised me my allowance and a game of Rat-a-Tat-Cat,” he protested. I had promised, so I relented. Plus, I never can resist a good game of Rat-a-Tat-Cat, and it’s hard to play when the Boo Bear is awake because he toddles through all the cards.

DH turned off all the lights, save the light in Big Boy’s room. We played, we laughed, we joked.

Night night.

“See, all the lights are out now, Cutie Pie,” said DH.

It was 8:59 p.m. The last minute of Earth Hour.

We observed Earth Minute.

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Did you observe Earth Hour (or Earth Minute) ? What was it like for you? Please leave a comment and share!

Updated (5/17/08) Check out this piece in the Washington Post about Earth Hour’s real impact – or lack thereof.

A Great Excuse to Try Some Organic Beer

March 29th, 2008

OK, so you’ve decided to switch off the lights at 8 p.m. in honor of Earth Hour. What then?

How about kicking back with some great Organic Pale Ale? DH just returned from Whole Foods, tickled to death that he scored this fantastic LaMar Street Organic Pale Ale on sale for $5.99 a six pack. Actually, he bought a case, so there was another discount, which made it $5.69 a six pack. We’ve seen comparable organic beers at $9 or $10 a six pack, so this is a great deal. A legitimate excuse to try some organic beer.

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I just found a site that has a bunch of posts about saving money at the grocers. Not too many on organics, but a few… you can check out Crystal over at Money Saving Mom.

Have fun!

–Lynn

Easy Green Weekend Project #2: Earth Hour

March 27th, 2008

Looking for something fun, easy and green to do this weekend? Do you ever ask yourself how you can make a difference with one small action? Here’s an idea: Why not turn out the lights for an hour and join in on “Earth Hour?”

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Launched just a year ago in Sydney, Earth Hour is now a global movement to show just how much energy can be reduced in one hour.

Join in on Saturday evening at 8 p.m. local time.

Fun, Easy and Green. And Making a Difference!

– Lynn

And The Best Way to Raise a Healthy Eater…

March 26th, 2008

A while back I blogged about “10 Tips for Raising Healthy Eaters — Even Away From Home.” Much to my chagrin, it occurred to me later that I had actually forgotten the most important tip.

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Involve your kids in cooking. Teach them to cook. Or if that’s not your forte, sign them up for cooking lessons.

The sooner kids learn that food is a creative process – that it’s something you make, not something you get from a box – the sooner they’ll start to really appreciate food. This means they’ll naturally gravitate towards real, healthy food, as opposed to processed foods. (And yes, there’s plenty of processed organic food nowadays too!)

Have you taught your kids to cook? I can’t wait till they can do all the cooking! Works for me!

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Greenwashing Earth Day! Oh, No! Say It Ain’t So!

March 25th, 2008

Say it ain’t so. If environmentalism were religion, this marketing campaign from my beloved Barnes & Noble would be a blasphemy. Take a look at this pic:

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Yes, you saw it correctly the first time. Did shock and disbelief make you look again? That’s what happened to me when I saw the sign “Celebrate Earth Day…All Products Made from Eco-Friendly Materials” perched above a table of plastic shrink-wrapped notebooks made of recycled paper.

Really? Since when did plastic shrink-wrapped books become eco-friendly? We should all be looking for ways to reduce our consumption of plastic, especially on Earth Day!

Twenty lashes with a wet noodle. This one goes down as one of the worst examples of corporate greenwashing I’ve seen. Sorry to single you out, Barnes & Noble, but please, drop this campaign!

Here’s a free green marketing tip, B&N. Ditch these signs (please recycle them!). How about some free author readings of the “green books” you had on display next to your plastic shrink-wrapped notebooks? Share some ideas from great green authors about how to go green. Now that would be a terrific way for B&N to celebrate Earth Day! Don’t like that idea? How about doing a better job of promoting your used books on Barnes & Noble.com? You know, reduce, re-use, recycle…

Have you seen other pathetic corporate attempts to celebrate Earth Day? Leave a comment and share!

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Interview: Seth Goldman, Tea-EO of Honest Tea, Part 2

March 21st, 2008

Part 1 of the OrganicMania Interview with Seth Goldman is here.

OrganicMania: Honest Tea’s kids’ tea, Honest Kids, is sold in plastic pouches that aren’t recyclable. I know you have information on the wrapper about your relationship with Terracycle, but it’s a bit hard to follow…you have to go to the website to get more information, for example. Not many tired Mothers have the presence of mind to do that before disposing of the packaging.

Seth Goldman: Actually, that plastic pouch is the most environmentally efficient packaging we have. By weight, the pouch is 97% product, and only 3% packaging so there’s very little waste. We’re not using fuel just to ship packaging.

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Since we launched that line last year, several thousand pouches have been collected and turned into bags through our relationship with Terracycle. We are reaching 1,000 collection sites around the country, in places like schools, youth centers, and other places where kids gather.

(Ed Note: You can learn more about this re-use program here.)

Still, it’s a challenge. We live in a consumer society. The definition of a consumer is to destroy, and the definition of sustainability is the exact opposite. How do you live a sustainable life in a consumer society? You’re setting yourself up for a contradiction.

I just participated in a class discussion at the Yale School of Management, and I talked with the students about environmental impacts of business. What we can try to do is to take our environmental practices and our consciousness about our packaging and try to move things in a different direction.

OrganicMania: Still, when we were kids, we just didn’t use this much plastic. I remember paper straws, for example. Couldn’t you use a paper straw with the drink pouch instead of plastic?

Seth Goldman: Well, you need some sharpness to punch in the drink pouch and insert the straw. You couldn’t do that with paper.

OrganicMania: I see there are a lot of issues to consider when looking at which materials to use…it’s especially interesting to hear about the trade-offs between plastic and glass. I think most people are unaware of these trade-offs and just tend to think that plastic is bad and glass is good because of recycling. But as you’ve shown, you can save fuel and cut carbon emissions through plastic use and then encourage re-use of plastic through programs like the one Honest Kids has underway with Terracycle.

Speaking of kids, recently I blogged about what I call “Organic Kid Marketing” – organics companies that are using cartoon characters on packaging to market their products directly to kids. It’s notable that you chose not to do that with Honest Kids. In fact, there are pictures of fresh fruit on the Honest Tea boxes and drink pouches, yet it’s obvious it’s a kid’s drink because of the iconic plastic pouch shape that speaks to kids. Did you have heated internal discussions about whether or not to engage more directly in “Organic Kid Marketing?” And do you know the ages of typical Honest Kids consumers?

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Seth Goldman: It was a deliberate decision not to do something like putting “Elmo” on the package, because we didn’t want to limit the age of the people who would be interested in drinking Honest Kids. In fact, I know a lot of adults who drink it. People write in and tell us, “I drink it in my office,” so it’s obvious it’s not kids who are doing that! We really don’t know the exact age range of most of the Honest Kids drinkers…our information right now is mainly anecdotal. Kids do like to be seen with it. We know we’re not losing opportunities with it because there’s not a character used to market it. In fact, use of a character probably would have limited the market for Honest Kids. I know there are kids in middle school drinking Honest Kids. You wouldn’t catch a sixth grader with a Power Rangers juice box! So while we don’t know the exact age, I think age 2 to 12 is probably the right way to think about it.

And that’s another positive part of our deal with Coca Cola. We’ll get a lot more distribution of Honest Kids, including, hopefully, at places like McDonalds.

OrganicMania: Obviously, your professional life is all about organics. What about your personal life? You have kids, too. How do they deal with all the focus on organics?

Seth Goldman: We’re vegetarian, we eat mainly organic, we have a composter in the back, we drive a hybrid, I ride my bike a lot…but that said we’re living in a consumer society so we deal with the same contradictions everyone faces. My kids are sometimes teased about it, but in a fun way.

OrganicMania: You’ve used your blog, Seth and Barry’s Blog, to address customer concerns about Coke’s investment in Honest Tea. When you’re not doing your own blogging, which blogs do you enjoy reading?

Seth Goldman: I like reading Emily Bazelon on Slate, I like reading some of the blogs on Inc.com and Stonyfield Farm’s blog.

OrganicMania: Thanks so much for your time, Seth! This has been a really interesting discussion – I think people will enjoy it.

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Interview: Honest Tea Tea-EO Seth Goldman (Part 1)

March 20th, 2008

Big news hit the organics world in early February, when Coca-Cola took a 40% stake in Honest Tea, the nation’s best selling and fastest growing organic tea company. Seth Goldman, Honest Tea’s co-founder and “Tea-EO” sat down with OrganicMania in March at Honest Tea’s light filled, eco-friendly headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland for this interview touching on sustainable packaging and the organics movement.

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Note: With my background in corporate marketing, I’m accustomed to seeing CEOs flanked by their PR people. Given Coke’s considerable stake in the company, I half-expected a visitor from Atlanta to join us. But it was just Seth and yours truly for 45 minutes. Here’s what was discussed:

OrganicMania: What sparked your interest in organics and sustainability?

Seth Goldman: I’ve always had environmental awareness. I’ve always spent a lot of time outdoors. I worked at Calvert Group where they had environmental screens. I was leader of a campus group for students for responsible business, now called NetImpact, although I was more focused on economic opportunity than environmental issues.

After starting Honest Tea, it was only natural to get more focused on and more concerned about the environment and agricultural practices. One of the things I learned is that tea is one of the few products that is never rinsed. If you have a tomato or an apple, you can easily rinse it before eating it. But if chemicals are sprayed on tea leaves, the chemicals stay on the tea leaves until hot water is poured in the teacup. In countries like China and India, there is a lot less oversight. Unless there’s an organics inspector, it’s safe to assume atrazine is used, which is the herbicide believed to be responsible for dual sex frogs. There are concerns about safety and the affects on people. So it was in the process of learning about tea for Honest Tea, that I learned about organics. We looked at every responsible option available to us. And the beginning was the use of organic sweeteners.

OrganicMania: What about packaging? One of the main issues that bothers green consumers, like those who come to OrganicMania, is that even if you take the time, energy and money to seek out an organic or green product as an alternative to a traditional product, odds are the organic or “green” product will still be packaged in plastic or some other environmentally-unfriendly packaging. How long will it be until we have biodegradable packaging for organics and green products? What kinds of strides are being made in that area?

Seth Goldman: It’s an evolution. There are no simple answers, although technology is advancing, and that will help. One example of this is corn resin, which can be made into biodegradable plastic for some products. But that won’t work with Honest Tea, because we heat up to 180 to 190 degrees and biodegradable plastic couldn’t withstand that kind of heat. Some biodegradable plastic will work with commercial composting, but not with home composting, and commercial composting is not yet widely available. You can’t put biodegradable plastic in a recycling bin because the plastic is not a PET, and so that bottle contaminates the waste stream.

There are some interesting ideas being proposed, for example, to increase the use of recycled content. Coca-Cola is doing a lot of this, and through Coca-Cola, we’ll now be able to increase our recycled content. Can we get to over 20 percent recycled content in our bottles? I would love to see us go further in that direction. On our own, Honest Tea doesn’t command enough attention from suppliers to make them supply us with recycled content in our bottles, but when we are associated with the world’s largest beverage company, we have a better chance to get their attention.

There are other advances in packaging that are exciting. For example, looking at second uses for products. What about peeling off the skin on a product? So that even if the outer skin couldn’t be recycled, the inner skin could be recycled. These are just ideas, but again, this is part of the reason I’m excited about our deal with Coca-Cola. The Coca- Cola R&D centers are doing a lot of interesting research in these areas.

Visit OrganicMania.com tomorrow for Part 2 of this interview with Honest Tea co-founder and “Tea-EO,” Seth Goldman, where he’ll continue the discussion about plastic packaging, sustainability, and Honest Tea’s deal with Coke.

What do you think about Seth’s viewpoints? Leave a comment and share!

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

5 Ways to Go Retro For an Eco-Friendly “Green” Easter

March 19th, 2008

Perhaps the easiest way to think about how to “go green” for Easter is to think back on how you celebrated as a child. Did you have zillions of plastic eggs and small trinkets made of Cheap Plastic Crap stuffed in your basket? It’s doubtful. Easter used to be a simple affair. A basket full of jelly beans and chocolate, and some colored (real) eggs was all it took to send a child into spasms of joy at the Easter Bunny’s bounty.

So why do we think kids have changed? Simply because the retailers now encourage us to buy Cheap Plastic Crap trinkets and plastic eggs for Easter? Think again. Try to remember how you celebrated as a child and what made you especially happy. Why not take your cues from that experience to continue your family traditions?

Here’s what works for me.

Say Yes To:
1. Real eggs. Who needs plastic? Dye some eggs and scatter them around the yard for an old fashioned Easter Egg hunt. Granted, you may not want to eat those eggs that have been sitting out in the yard, but just keep some dyed Easter Eggs in reserve in the fridge to enjoy later.

2. Paper or straw baskets. Remember basket weaving? Who needs to buy plastic baskets? You can either re-purpose some straw baskets you probably have lying around the house already or pick some up at a thrift shop. Or simply make your own baskets. Here are some instructions on how to do this.

3. Thrift shop favors. Dying to dress up your house more? Looking for some crazy decorations? Check out your local thrift shops or even antique shops. Odds are you’ll find beautiful old Easter decorations at a fraction of the price of new favors.

4. Organic, fair trade or “natural” chocolates. Okay, this one may not be so retro. We all inhaled hydrogenated oils back in the day. But now there are other, healthier options. If you can’t find or afford fair trade or organic chocolates, look carefully at the labels. I blogged here about a nice little “Made in Vermont” bunny that has all natural ingredients.

5. “Paper” grass. Try shredding some construction paper, gift paper or even comics to make the grass instead of buying plastic grass. (And if you already have the fake plastic grass, just save it and re-use for future Easters!)

Happy Easter!

Do you have any other tips? Leave a comment and share!

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

If IBC is So Rare…

March 18th, 2008

If Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) is so rare, why did I learn yesterday of yet another case of IBC? This time, it’s my former boss’s daughter-in-law.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, stop what you are doing, bookmark this post to return to it, or read on. You could save the life of a woman you love.

IBC is the rarest and most aggressive form of breast cancer. It does not present with a lump. IBC may look like a rash, a bug bite, a bruise, or even mastitis. Bottom line: if a woman notices a change in her breast, she needs to contact her doctor right away to rule out IBC.

My very first post on OrganicMania was about IBC. You can read it here. I dedicated that post to two friends who are fighting IBC. And this post is dedicated to Adriana, with a million billion wishes for a full recovery.

To learn more about IBC, visit ToddlerPlanet – a wonderful blog about fighting IBC and raising kids. There you’ll find wonderful posts like this one about IBC (including links to IBC-specific cancer organizations) and this series of many posts about how to help a friend with cancer.

And pass this post on to the women you love. Now.

– Lynn

“It’s Not Organic, But It’s Made in Vermont”

March 16th, 2008

“What does that mean?” I asked DH who returned from a jaunt to Whole Foods where he was tasked with picking up some organic, fair trade chocolates.

“I don’t know! I’m in OrganicManiac Hell!,” he sighed in exasperation. “Doesn’t ‘Made in Vermont’ mean its good”?

What a brand image for the state! Kind of like “Paris fashion,” perhaps?

So I checked out the label on the Lake Champlain bunny he brought home. He’s right – it’s not organic, but there are no hydrogenated oils or corn syrup, and no preservatives.

Maybe it’s true – if it’s made in Vermont, it has to be good!

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania