Greening the Red, White & Blue: Making Your 4th of July Celebration More Eco-Friendly: Ten Tips

June 29th, 2009

fireworks

This year, with increased awareness of the dangers of perchlorates in fireworks displays, people are wondering what they can do to make the 4th of July more eco-friendly. Here are ten tips to help you get started.

1. About the perchlorates issue: Yes, fireworks contain perchlorates,  which are toxic and have been linked to a host of health issues, especially when they get into the drinking water supply. If your local fireworks are exploded over fresh water bodies, such as small lakes or rivers full of fish, you may want to have a talk with your local authorities. I’m checking this out now and once I hear back from some experts, I’ll share the latest with you. There are “green, eco-friendly” fireworks in development, but none are on the market yet, at least to my knowledge.

2. Skip the plastic streamers, metal jingle jangles, and other traditional décor and look for paper decorations made of recycled stock or at least paper decorations that you can easily recycle.

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3.  Consider recycled paper plates. I found the ones pictured above  at my local Giant store in Bethesda, Maryland, for a price comparable to regular paper plates. They’re cute and an eco-friendlier choice!

4. Running out to pick up a grill? Diane MacEachern has some great tips on solar-powered and other “green grills”at her Big Green Purse blog here.

5. If you’re still using charcoal grills, reconsider. The prices of gas grills have dropped dramatically – I’ve seen them on sale for just $95 at KMart  – and they’re a more Earth-friendly choice than charcoal.

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6. If you must use charcoal, Diane MacEachern suggests using
lump charcoal instead of briquettes, which may contain coal dust and other additives. Diane says to look for hardwood briquettes from forests certified by the Rainforest Alliance’s SmartWood program, or lumps made from coconut husks. Cow boy Charcoal, sold at Lowe’s, Trader Joe’s and under the Whole Foods 365 brand, makes chunk charcoal out of wood leftover from furniture making and construction.

7. Planning the menu? Re-think the beef. Beef is a key contributor to global warming. Can you go veggie? There are great veggie alternatives available like delicious veggie burgers, soy-based corn dogs, and of course the old staples of potato and pasta salad.

8. What’s for dessert? It’s berry season! Finally, organic strawberries and blueberries have really fallen in price. in some locales, you can still get out there and pick your own, as we did! (Just remember to bring your own container so you don’t have to use the typical plastic containers which the pick-your-own places will give you!) You can even make a red/white/blue dessert with organic strawberries and blueberries and vanilla ice cream.

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9. Getting the yard spruced up? Cleaning yard chairs and looking to kill weeds? Use a simple vinegar and water mix. Want to cut the vinegar odor? Add parsley or lemon.

10. If you’re heading back home after enjoying time at the beach, you may want to check out the local farmers markets. Prices are generally cheaper there.

What are your 4th of July eco-tips? Leave a comment and share!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganiczMania 2009

Michael Jackson, The Iron Curtain, and Freedom

June 26th, 2009

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For all the memories of dancing the night away to Michael Jackson’s tunes, the one that haunts me most is of hearing his music from behind the Iron Curtain.

It was so long ago – more than 25 years now – that it’s easy to forget that back in those days, travel beyond the heavily fortified Berlin Wall was hard. I confess, I  had to lie to get through. Passing myself off as the fiancée of an East German couple’s grandson – who was in fact passing himself off as their grandson when he was actually just the son of some old and dear friends of theirs -  I was allowed a family exemption to travel to Hirschfelde, a tiny town near the “DreiLanderEck” of Poland, East Germany and Czechoslovakia.

Everything was different there. Fear. Poverty. Hunger. Dreariness.

And then, from the snack bar of a state forest in the middle of  Nowheresville, East Germany, I heard it.

“She Told Me Her Name Was Billie Jean, As She Caused A Scene….”

It was incredible. There I was in Ronald Reagan’s Godless Communist state, with East German army guards all around, “enemies of capitalism,” “enemies of democracy,” and there was Michael Jackson too. And then I saw the little smiles, the tiny bemused smirks from the people in that gray place.

It was then that I realized Michael Jackson was so much more than a Motown legend. He brought joy and happiness and hope to the world. He united all of us in our common humanity.

And today, his music, and the music of other talented Americans does the same in Iran, in North Korea, in Cuba, and in all the other countries around the globe that still hunger for the freedom the East Germans eventually found.

Music unites us all.

RIP, Michael Jackson.

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

Green Moms Carnival is Up: Green Moms Spill Their Eco-Secrets

June 24th, 2009

secrets

Head on over to visit Jenn Savedge’s site, The Green Parent, where you can read all about the “Eco-Secrets” of the Green Moms of the Green Moms Carnival.

While I don’t normally laugh at behavior that’s not mindful of the environment, I know these women – and I know that they live their lives with tremendous  concern for the environment.  Still, none of us are perfect. (Although I do think Beth of Fake Plastic Fish and Diane of Big Green Purse come awfully close to perfection).  Let’s face it, it’s human nature to want to know the “real scoop” and what goes on behind closed doors (or on vacation, in my case!)

As I read these posts, my initial reaction was to howl with laughter and self-recognition. But then these profound words from this OrganicMania  interview with  Seth Goldman, Tea-EO of Honest Tea,  came back to me:

“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.”

He’s so right, isn’t he?

What do you think? Please leave a comment and share!

– Lynn

Copyright  OrganicMania 2009

Photo Credit:  XKCD, reprinted under CCL.

Leaving Green Behind (For My Kids)

June 22nd, 2009

thomas

The week between the end of the school year and the start of summer camp is a rough time.  Many families are left scrambling for child care or trying to arrange play dates to keep the kids entertained.  This year, we wised up and headed out of town for a mini-vacation.

Since I’ve  blogged about avoiding car use for the sake of the climate change fight,  you might be thinking that we hopped into our hybrid for an eco-tour.

But since the theme of this month’s Green Moms Carnival is EcoConfessions, I have to confess that  we don’t even own a hybrid.

Last week, we loaded up our station wagon to join the throngs of tots journeying to see Thomas the Tank Engine and to explore Dutch Wonderland, a kid-focused amusement park I remembered fondly from my 4th birthday.

The irony of this “Green Mom” traveling 400 miles round trip to see the Crown Prince of “Kid Marketing” – a coal-powered train no less – was not lost on me.  Sure, we squealed with   delight when Thomas steamed into the station, but we also coughed and complained when we breathed in the foul coal smoke from Thomas’ boiler.

That’s when I snapped this picture of the pile of coal used to power Thomas, and tried to shake off a feeling of hypocrisy.  Memories of many bloggy conversations with LaMarguerite about coal and global warming and thoughts of Retro Housewife’s upcoming Green Moms Carnival on coal clouded my mind. I sighed and sent a quick tweet about how  the trip was great fodder for this month’s  EcoConfession carnival!

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And it’s not just the travel  – it’s the food and the souvenirs to boot.  Yes, that’s a piece of Cheap Plastic Crap (also known as a miniature plastic train) that my 2 ½ year old is grasping ever so tightly in that photo. Yes, I’m the one who blogged about “Just Say No to Cheap Plastic Crap.” But when it’s  the only thing a darling boy asks for in the souvenir shop, it’s hard to resist.   I pushed thoughts of my plastic-free friend Beth from Fake Plastic Fish out of my head.  And the Star Wars figurine in his other hand? Sigh. Caught again. I’ve clearly bought plastic toys more than once. (Beth, will you still be my friend?)

Heading over to Dutch Wonderland  the next morning, we were greeted by this sign: No Food Allowed.

nofood-photo

We stayed in the car a few minutes extra to fill up on fresh hardboiled CSA eggs , organic cheese and whole wheat bread.   As we entered the park, I managed a sarcastic aside  to the guard,  saying “Oh, since we can’t bring in our own food, I suppose there’s plenty of boiled eggs, fresh organic apples and raw veggies for sale in the park?”   He referred me to the kosher mart as the best bet for “health food.”

koshermartphoto

Since the healthy kosher mart was closed, we ended up with this for lunch.

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But I suppose it’s okay, because the souvenir shop’s organic t-shirts proclaimed, “Dutch Wonderland: We’re Going Green!”

And the most shocking part of my Eco Confession?   We had such a great time that we hope to make this decidedly “un-green” vacation an annual event!

What’s your Eco-Confession? Leave a comment and share!  And head on over to The Green Parent on Wednesday, June 24th to read more EcoConfessions from the wonderful women of The Green Moms Carnival.

Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

Eco-Friendly Father’s Day Gifts: 10 Ideas from Four of My Fave Green Dads

June 19th, 2009

With Father’s Day just around the corner, I reached out to some of my favorite Green Dads on Twitter and in the Blogosphere for some eco-friendly gift ideas.  Here’s what four of those   Green Dads  confessed they’d love for Father’s Day.

1.    Michael O’Loughlin of The Better Living Show aka  @molfamily on Twitter is hoping for a reel mower. As Michael puts it, “ My electric one is nice, but not power is even better.  Keeps me in shape also.”

2.    @DerekMarkham, also known to many from his great blogs   Natural Papa and TwilightEarth, has a bunch of great ideas, including  “something to do with shaving (double-edged safety razor or a straight razor – greener than disposables or cartridge razors)”;

3.   Derek would also love ” a solar charger for cell phone or laptop (Solio is a good one);” and

4.    this green Dad  points out that a guy’s got to eat. So Derek says a  “stainless travel coffee mug (save on disposable cups) or water bottle or  some organic Fair Trade coffee or chocolate” might be good options;

5.    and of course Green Dads look great in t-shirts, so Derek reminds us that a nice gift is always  “ an organic cotton T shirt with a ‘green’ slogan on it.” (I like these cute dog-themed soft organic cotton Ts from Fundamentally Dog, a company I did some work for a while back);

6.    NaturalPapa Derek also points out that a bike messenger bag from recycled materials would be a way cool gift;

7.  @GreenDadsBlog is  a Dad with simple desires. He says, “  You kind of stumped me on this one. Personally I’d like to see no cards or gifts purchased, and a simple day spent with family.”

8.  And my children’s very wonderful Dad, aka @organicmania_DH says he’d like some really cool upcycled  or recycled (whatever you want to call it!) ) accessories like these cool DC trolley token cuff links or this neat bicycle chain frame from  ecoartware.com .  (Disclosure: ecoartware is a client of mine).

9.  OrganicMania_DH also says he’s looking forward to a nice dinner out. In past years we’ve enjoyed DC’s 2 Amy’s and  Indique Heights. This year, who knows?  Suggestions welcome!

10. And for those Green Dads who are married to Twitter-addicted Social Media Moms,  we might want to lay off the tweeting and blogging for the weekend!   There’s nothing better than full-on attention from those you love.

Hope you and yours enjoy a wonderful Father’s Day Weekend!

Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

In MoCo? Hit the WholeFoods Kentlands Tuesday/Wednesday for Huge Savings

June 16th, 2009

I have no idea what’s going on at the Whole Foods Kentlands. I normally don’t shop there – not worth the hike from Bethesda. I guess a lot of people feel that way, because they’re cutting prices to drum up business.

Check out these amazing deals:

-    Today (Tuesday) you can get buy one, get one free deals. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know what’s on sale until you get to the store…so if you live a distance, better wait till
-    Wednesday, June 17th and June 24th, when you spend $100 or more you get 20% OFF
-    They also have a sale on Thursday – spend $50 and get a FREE 24-pack of 365 Everyday Value 16.9 oz water bottles.  (I dislike plastic  water bottles, but with summer birthdays coming, they’re not a bad option!)

If you make it to the Kentlands Whole Foods,   let me know!

Happy Shopping!

Lynn

The BPA Battle Heats Up: The Endocrine Society Takes a Stand

June 15th, 2009

The other week I noticed that a somewhat-obscure scientific organization, The Endocrine Society, was meeting in Washington, DC. For a moment, I stopped and wondered if they too might weigh in on the bisphenol A (BPA) debate now raging in DC.

“Nah,” I thought. “They’re non-political. I’ve never heard about them. They’ll just report on research, but they won’t actually make a  statement or engage in the debate.”

Wow. Was I wrong.

As I learned from – once again – the Environmental Working Group – The Endocrine Society actually issued its first ever scientific statement on BPA – the first in its 93-year-history.  The Society warned that BPA and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC) “ have effects on male and female reproduction, breast development and cancer, prostate cancer, neuroendocrinology, thyroid, metabolism and obesity, and cardiovascular endocrinology.”

The Society also warned that “The Precautionary Principle is key to enhancing endocrine and reproductive health, and should be used to inform decisions about exposure to, and risk from, potential endocrine disruptors.”

[For more on the Precautionary Principle, see this OrganicMania interview with Diane MacEachern, author of The Big Green Purse and a Founding Member of The Green Moms Carnival].

You can access the entire Scientific Statement here. It’s dense reading, and I confess I haven’t made it all the way through as yet – but what I have read is troubling. The report documents possible links between  endocrine-disrupting chemicals like BPA and a host of serious health issues such as cancer, ADHD, autism, and low sperm count.

In a separate action, EWG President Ken Cook sent a letter to Coca Cola’s CEO in which he noted “More than a decade ago, because of concerns about high levels of BPA in bioassays of teenagers and young adults, most Japanese food processing removed or dramatically reduced the use of BPA in can linings, switching to safer, less expensive PET(polyrthylene terephthalate) film lamination. As a result, a 2002 study found that BPA levels among Japanese students dropped by fully 50 percent between 1992 and 1999.”

Can you believe it? Those numbers are stunning.

When I started OrganicMania, I thought the main health issue we Moms faced was the food we put in our bodies. Little did I know it was just the tip of the iceberg. Plastic bottles, cans, household cleaners, make-up, baby shampoos, lotions and potions –   I’ve learned that substances like these contain minute amounts of carcinogens, endocrine disruptors and other chemicals. Scientists and regulators are still sorting out the cumulative effects of all these exposures.  As for me, there’s enough evidence there to follow the Precautionary Principle. That means sticking to simple, basic foods, make-up and personal care products, buying organic and natural whenever possible, and avoiding synthetic compounds.

I’ll be blogging a lot more about these issues in the future. I feel like the scales have fallen off my eyes. It’s not just about the food. It’s about so much more than that.  What do you think? Leave a comment and share.

Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

Suddenly Single: Those Darn Business Trips!

June 14th, 2009

I was raised by a single mother, so I know full well what a tough job it is to raise kids on your own. And I’m reminded of that every time my DH goes away on a business trip.

This last separation   – dragging on for 10 nights  – was  especially tough. With each separation, I try to learn a new tip, time saving strategy, or  coping mechanism to help me  manage  our household and the demands of two young boys until he returns and is able to help once again.

I’m thinking  about sharing some of my tips, and at the same time, reaching out for advice from other parents who have found themselves in the same situation.

In the meantime, I’m breathing a deep sigh of relief!

Got any tips? Please share!

Lynn

Another Green Moms Carnival Is Up: World Environment Day and World Oceans Day

June 5th, 2009

greenmoms1

Head on over to The Smart Mama to see a small but mighty round up of posts on World Environment Day and World Oceans Day.

Interested in what we’re doing next? Check out the calendar, complete with submission instructions, right here. Hope you’ll join us again on  June 24th for Eco-Confessions with The Green Parent.

– Lynn

World Environment Day

June 4th, 2009

It seems like Earth Day was just yesterday, but here we are at World Environment Day, which falls on every June 5th.  The focus of this year’s United Nations – sponsored event is climate change.

What can you do?

How about planting a tree?

The UN is kicking off a campaign which aims to plant 7 billion trees, one for every person on the planet, by 2010.

Too tired to plant? Too wet outside? (It’s been raining for days here in DC!)

You’re not off the hook that easily!

You can plant your trees virtually.     The campaign’s Twitter account is trying to reach 10,000 followers by Friday midnight. The UNEP will plant one tree for every follower at http://twitter.com/UNEPandYou. (As of this writing, they were short by several thousand, so try to give them a hand!)

And then there’s Mokugift, which has a beautiful interface you can access either from its IPhone app or from its website.  Through Mokugift and a simple $1 donation, you can plant trees in 12 African, Asian or Central American countries. And they’ve just  launched a new partnership with artists and athletes, which you can check out here.

So take a few minutes and plant a tree for World Environment Day – all from your iPhone or computer!

This post is part of a special “mini” Green Moms Carnival hosted by The Smart Mama. Head on over and take a look at a round-up of  great posts about World Environment Day and World Oceans Day!

Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009