You Can Vote for the Future: Tonight Till Midnight EST

April 29th, 2010

Friends, please take 2 minutes NOW (or before midnight EST) to go to
http://bit.ly/Vote4Green (a link to the White House website) and cast a “5″ vote for EnvironmentalCharter High School in LA.

Why?   The voting closes tonight at midnight EST and Environmental Charter High is the only “green” high school among the six finalists competing to win President Obama’s  Commencement Challenge.

I’ve been privileged to get to know some of these students through my work with my client Green My Parents. They are incredible, amazing kids who are leaders in building a brighter, greener future for all of us.

Here’s how they tell the story (from White House site):

ECHS is alive.  We’re blocks from the world’s most congested freeway, yet we step onto campus with fruit trees and a running stream of reclaimed water, which was once asphalt, and we know we’re in an environment designed to envision a better life.  As freshmen evaluate community health, sophomores debate the sustainability of progress, juniors examine the American dream, and we ask, “How are we powerful?” In our urbanite amphitheatre, we showcase art, host composting workshops, and train freshmen for success at ECHS. We give tours and present solutions and best practices, so 98% of us feel comfortable public speaking. With more graduation requirements than schools nationally, we pack our schedules with AP and college courses and exceed service requirements.  ECHS is challenging; but, we thrive – we’ve learned education is empowerment and graduation is a milestone on our journey to a better world. We are 68% Latino, 20% African-American, 78% low income.  Arriving 2.5 grade levels behind peers in math and English, by graduation we outperform national averages. 92% of us were accepted into universities in 2009 and most are first in our families to attend.  We’re prepared to redefine the American Dream, rewrite our futures and heal our planet.

Go. Now. Vote. Please:

http://bit.ly/Vote4Green

Thank you so much.

(And obviously, if you’re on Twitter or Facebook, please spread the word – hurry!)

Lynn

The One Where I Call My DH a Nerd in Our Hometown Paper: The Washington Post!

April 23rd, 2010

TNT 1:2

Seriously, I did get his permission before sending the blog post off to education writer Valerie Straus at The Answer Sheet,  billed as a “school survival guide for parents and everyone else.”

“How could I argue?” he laughed.

In addition to being very smart, my darling husband of 11 years is very funny!

It was all for a good reason – I was trying to point out that my husband and I are far from slackers in the education department, but we are apparently slacker parents when it comes to how some families handle the rigors of assessment testing in the second grade. (Or so we’re told).

Anyway, you can check out the post here.  It’s called, “Who’s Afraid of the TerraNova 2 Test?

Would love to get your thoughts!

And yes, for someone who cut her teeth at local newspapers, studied journalistic ethics under Nat Hentoff, and regretfully left the newspaper industry, this little post has me more than tickled pink!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2010

Earth Day Reverie

April 22nd, 2010

For a green blogger, what one chooses to post on Earth Day carries quite some significance.

I debated.

Lynn_ED_photo

I thought about adding my voice to those expressing disgust at the commercialization of Earth Day.  But I tried that two years ago.

And this year?

The same company that I took to task on Earth Day 2008 had their PR firm approach me about publicizing their tactless displays…

I thought about writing an update about  “A Travesty on Earth Day.” It was two years ago Earth Day when  a Bethesda developer chose to chop down eight beautiful, healthy, four-story high, towering trees in the heart of downtown to make way for a condo building….

photo empty lot

Two years later…and those trees are gone forever, with no luxury building in sight.

I thought about writing an update post on the launch of my client, Green My Parents.

web ad_0041910_outlined

But heck, I spent the better part of the day tweeting about Green My Parents anyway!

Instead, I decided the best thing I could do for Earth Day was to get outside.

Watched as  my eldest boy admired a tree branch.

BB_ED_branchphoto

Let my younger son think that leaves were a type of “toy” from the Earth.

Boo_EDphoto

And me? There’s nothing like lying in the soft, sunlit grass – enjoying Mother Earth. (Even when reminders of the constant pull of our commercial culture are literally right at hand).

And your Earth Day?

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2010

A First Look at What the New Safe Chemicals Act May Mean for Parents: It Won’t Be an Immediate Panacea

April 15th, 2010

This morning, the Safe Chemicals Act,  long awaited legislation to reform the nation’s outdated chemicals law, The Toxic Substances Control Act, was introduced in Congress. This came in response to years of lobbying by environmental health watchdogs like the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families Coalition; Healthy Child, Healthy World , The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and The Environmental Working Group; physicians like Dr. Alan Greene; authors like Stacy Malkin of “Not Just a Pretty Face,”  Diane MacEachern of Big Green Purse, Jennifer Taggert of The Smart Mama’s Green Guide, and Nena Baker of “The Body Toxic,” and yes, activists like Moms Rising and bloggers like my Green Moms Carnival friends.

It was just a year ago this month that the Green Moms Carnival bloggers were  taken to task by the chemical lobby and others for our “hysterical” reaction to finding out that our favorite baby bath products contained probable human carcinogens.  Some of us, like Sommer of Green and Clean Mom, who hosted the Toxic Tub Carnival, were even attacked by other Mom bloggers for being so rude as to question those companies that market baby products with 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde.

But in the end, all of our probing, phone calling, and blogging contributed to the consumer outrage that led retailers to pull BPA-tainted products and state legislators to restrict the use of harmful chemicals in common everyday items. Now,  with today’s introduction of the Safe Chemicals Act, we are a huge step closer to an even safer marketplace.

But don’t celebrate just yet – this bill’s not a panacea. I still foresee the most diligent among us dutifully consulting databases to figure out which products are safe to buy. Incredible, isn’t it?  That’s because the bill regulates the EPA, not the FDA – which regulates 1,4 dioxane, as J&J explains on their website.   And because the bill doesn’t mandate that the EPA look at multiple exposures, as the esteemed National Academy of Sciences has recommended. It just “allows” it to do so.

But for those of us who are still waiting for our simple questions about chemical reform to be answered? Well, today we got some answers. Here’s what I asked and here is the response from Dr. Alan Greene, M.D., Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Stanford School of Medicine, author, Raising Baby Green (and every green Mom’s favorite twitter buddy):

OrganicMania: “My readers are particularly interested in probable carcinogenic  compounds like 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde which are commonly used in infant and childrens  baths. Given that there are  80,000 chemicals in the market today – and some of them – like asbestos – are very directly linked to deaths, how likely do you think it is that specific action will be taken against the use of 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde in terms of being classified as most dangerous?”

Dr. Greene “1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde  would meet a a number of the criteria for prioritization. A safety determination will be made early in the process relative to 1,4 dioxane.  Formaldehyde might also get expedited action.”

At that point, Dr. Richard Denison, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund, noted that the FDA has jurisdication over formaldehyde, not the EPA. (But I knew this, thanks to  The Smart Mama.)     As Dr. Denison put it,  “EPA must have authority and the  mandate to look at all uses of chemicals under another agency’s jurisdiction.”

I then went on to ask about multiple, cumulative exposures. Because how are those little babies being exposed to neurotoxins? Its likely through the chemical-laden creams, lotions and potions that the average American woman slathers over her body every day. And as The Smart Mama has blogged, the industry would like us to believe that “just a little bit of carcinogen is okay.

How to tackle that issue? It’s far trickier.  As Maureen Swanson of the  Learning Disabilities Association of America, said, “We would like to see strengthened language that would direct the EPA to go by the National Academy of Science’s   recommendation on looking more closely at cumulative exposures. It is mentioned in the bill, but they are not directed to adopt those recommendations.  How do we enact real reform to make a real difference in our products and in our health risks?..I totally agree..there are a lot of different chemicals which can interfere with the thyroid, and the thyroid gland impacts brain development. It is essential to work on the science, to get stronger language directing EPA to use those recommendations, and to make clear that both versions of the bill define the safety standard and to require they at least take into account aggregate and cumulative exposures. “

Dr. Greene then jumped in to explain, “It’s left to the EPA to flesh out, and there’s no immediate change on that because there’s not science to deal with it {multiple cumulative exposures}. But by requiring the EPA to take those factors into account, we have a structure that moves us forward far beyond where we are now.”

So what can you do?

First, support this bill. It’s the best we’ve got, and it’s the best we’ll get.  Pay attention to the debate raging in the mainstream media and at action sites like Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, the Environmental Working Group’s Kid-Safe Blog, and Healthy Child, Healthy World.

And remember, as you start talking up the Safe Chemicals Act, don’t let anyone accuse you of being a hysterical mom. Or you’ll have to answer to:

Tiffany of Nature Moms Jennifer of The Green Parent, Beth of Fake Plastic Fish Katy from Non-Toxic Kids, Micaela from Mindfull Momma, Alicia from The Soft LandingAnna from Green Talk , Christine Gardner of moregreenmomsAlline of Passion for Green Business , Diane from Big Green Purse and one of Glamour Magazine’s 70 Eco Heros,  Jess from The Green Phone Booth,   MaryAnne   at EcoChild’s Play and Not Quite Crunchy Parent, Karen from Best of Mother Earth, Katherine from the Safe Mama, Sommer of Green and Clean Mom, Jennifer aka The Smart Mama, and of course, me, Lynn from OrganicMania.

Oh, J&J? No need to answer those questions now. I got my answers today.

– Lynn

Copyright 2010 OrganicMania

Another Green Moms Carnival is Up: Spring is for Gardening!

April 14th, 2010

greenmoms1

Head on over to GreenTalk today to check out the wonderful compilation of gardening posts that the lovely Anna has put up on her blog. I lost count, but depending on how you count ‘em, looks like there are 15 to 20 great posts about gardening!

So sit back, relax and prepare to be inspired!

Thanks, Anna, for hosting!

Our next carnival is May 3rd, hosted by Diane of Big Green Purse. The topic? Transportation!

– Lynn

Organic and Green Savings: Gardening Edition!

April 11th, 2010

The next Green Moms’ Carnival, to be hosted on Monday, by the lovely Anna of Green-Talk, is all about gardening.  Last spring, inspired by Anna and her great gardening posts I decided to try raising plants from seed for the first time. It was fun in the beginning.

recycled seed pots

But unfortunately the plants never took.

Fact is, I’m not much for gardening. I can’t even keep an “indestructible” bamboo plant alive on my desk.

deadbamboo

The only plants that survive in my garden are the really natural ones – you know, the ones that come up no matter what you do. (And the ones that our house’s former owner, a Master Gardener, planted and left for us!)

So my bad luck with gardening presented a dilemma for this carnival. What to write? What could I possibly contribute?

For the past few years, I’ve blogged on a semi-regular basis about organic and green savings. Most of the time I’ve focused on food. Never on gardening. So here you go – if I can’t pass along sage gardening advice, at least I can pass along a few tips on good gardening values.

Organic Gardening Soil & Other Organic Accoutrements

In the past few years, the organic gardening trend has really taken off. And frankly, it’s puzzled me a bit. For unless you live on soil that was previously treated with chemicals, herbicides and pesticides, odds are your soil is already organic! There’s no need for fancy “organic” soils and supplies. Save your money for more important organic supplies…plants and seeds.

Which Organic Seeds?  Which Organic Plants?

It’s pretty cool to find all of the grocery stores stocking seed these days – even organic seed. But there’s a price differential – as with most things organic. At the  local Giant and Safeway grocery stores in Bethesda, Maryland, you’ll pay .90 cents more per packet for organic seed versus conventional. Funny how it seems like a lot of money at the time – until you think of how much produce those seeds should yield!

organicseed_Giantphoto

What are you really buying?  For the home gardener, the most important thing about organic seed is that it guarantees that the plants you are growing will not be from genetically modified stock. So which plants are most likely to be genetically modified?  In the US, the vast majority of corn, soy, and tomato crops are genetically modified. Concerns have been raised about what the ramifications may be of ingesting GMOs – a practice that has been banned in Japan and the EU.  There may be some genetic modification of other crops, but it’s not as common as with corn, soy and tomato – so those are the plants and seedlings you should definitely buy organic. By all means, buy everything organic if you can  – just to be on the safe side. But if not, spring for the big 3: tomatoes, corn and soy.

Gardening is Not Necessarily Green

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned on this blogging journey is this: organic does not necessarily mean green. Green does not necessarily mean organic. Organic doesn’t mean fair trade. And the list goes on…..

Same with gardening. If you’re trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle, does buying plants in plastic containers make sense?

plantsmixedphoto

Not only is plastic made from petrochemicals (increasing our carbon footprints and contributing to global warming), but it doesn’t degrade in a landfill or compost heap. The manufacturing process is also highly toxic, often causing health problems for the people unfortunate enough to live nearby the manufacturing facilities. (For more on this, watch Tapped, The Movie).

Sometimes, the choice is easy, like it was at this Giant store. A wooden basket or plastic? For the same price? What an easy choice.

bushelphoto

Other times, you may think you have no choice – just row after row of plastic seedling containers.

But there’s always a better way.  Cardboard, egg crate, and other paper-based materials can all be re-used (and later composted) to make seedling pots.

Talk to your store’s manager. Ask if they can talk to their suppliers about more sustainable packaging.  Even if they can’t change the packaging, surely they can start a take-back program for the little plastic pots.  Write a letter. Ask your friends to do the same. You’d be amazed  at what a little bit of consumer input can do!

Garden. Do it Organically or Not. But  be Green.  Don’t contribute more to the plastic waste stream in your quest to “be green” by planting a bit of garden space in your backyard.

For more tips on gardening, head on over to Green-Talk to hear what the rest of the Green Moms Carnival members have to say about gardening. And for more tips on living life with less plastic, check out Fake Plastic Fish.

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2010

Happy Easter, Chocolate Face!

April 4th, 2010

Easter

I had to share this pic of Boo, because it just encapsulates the joy of a little one, doesn’t it?

Of course, as per usual, I had great plans to write well researched posts about the dearth of fair trade chocolate, easy tips for an eco-friendly Easter, and more.

But at the end of the day, as we  all know, you can’t do it all. Face in front of the computer, or face in front of your loved ones?

I opted for love.

Hope you did too. Enjoy the day!

(Now my DH’s cheese souffle beckons…)

– Lynn

Copyright 2010 OrganicMania