Greening Your Clothes: Quality Classics or “Crazy” Wins!

September 24th, 2010

When green gal Diane MacEachern proposed that the Green Moms Carnival look at the eco-impact of clothing for this month’s carnival, I hesitated.

When I think eco, I think of organic cotton, bamboo, and hand-me-downs or “vintage.”  But when I look at my closet – especially my professional garb – I see few of those items.  They just don’t cut it for days when I’m out pitching business for my green marketing firm, 4GreenPs.

Anna, Maryanne and Lynn Green Shorty Award

“The Sexy Green Moms” (according to MC Hammer): Anna Hackman of GreenTalk, Yours Truly, center in my Classic Talbots Suit, and Mary Anne Conlin of NotQuiteCrunchyParent in basic black with boots (not shown!)

But of course being a green gal myself, I’m not totally unaware of the impact of my purchases. It’s just that most of the gorgeous organic cotton clothing I’ve found tends to be styled for casual wear, as opposed to professional outings – like the one I went to this morning at DC’s beautiful Willard Intercontinental Hotel, which played host to the Green Business Awards of Greater Washington.

What to do?

I’ve always favored the classics. Perhaps too much so. When I look back at photos of myself in my 20s, clad in Jones New York business suits, I wish I had stepped it up a bit to take advantage of my youth. But in those days, that just wasn’t the route to “shatter the glass ceiling.” Remember that term?

So as you may have guessed, I’m a Talbots fan.  While many women have considered Talbots a tad too conservative, they’ve stepped it up so much that my friend Julie Power from Moms at Work recently blogged, “Talbots, Why Don’t You Suck So Much Anymore?”

Fashion perspectives aside, what I like about Talbots from a “green” perspective is two-fold:

  1. You can find high quality, classic clothing that lasts many seasons.  By the time I’m ready to hand it off to a charity, it’s still wearable clothing (just not for an important business meeting!)
  2. And I’ve yet to find another line that does this – tell me if they do – but I LOVE the fact that Talbots uses the same colors from season to season. This means that if I buy a skirt with brown in it last spring, and then I find a cool brown sweater the following fall, they’ll match. No problem. This enduring quality is what I love. I don’t feel like I’m contributing quite so much to our “disposable” society when I know that I can wear, update and re-wear the same clothes over…and over…and over.

Now, on the flip side, I’ve found that if you buy REALLY crazy clothes, they too, stand the test of time. They’re so crazy, no one else has seen them!

And no, I’m not posting any photos….

Eco friendly clothing. What do you think about it?

Check out a great round-up of posts on eco-friendly clothing over at Big Green Purse on Monday, when Diane runs the September edition of The Green Moms Carnival!

– Lynn

– Lynn

@GreenMoms Take On Cosmetics: Safe or Unsafe? And Should We Support the Safe Cosmetics Act?: It’s the Green Moms Carnival!

July 31st, 2010

We’ve got a wonderful round-up of posts from members of the Green Moms Carnival, women who have been following the debate about cosmetics ingredients for years, and have interesting stories to share.

Let’s start off with Diane MacEachern of Big Green Purse. Diane blogs “evidence is emerging that the cumulative use of these products may be contributing to asthma, the onset of puberty in girls as young as three years old, and even the feminization of baby boys. Because cosmetics, soaps and shampoos are washed down the drain, they get into our water system, where they’re wreaking havoc on wildlife. And what about their relationship to breast cancer?”

But Diane doesn’t leave us hanging – she gives three common-sense ways we can reduce our exposure to the potential risks of cumulative exposure to low doses of chemicals.

Beth Terry of Fake Plastic Fish tells the story of why she tried to get away from a cute seat mate on a recent flight. “His Axe cologne, or whatever heinous product he was wearing, made my eyes water, nose itch, throat close up, and left me with a throbbing headache.”

That’s something I’ve experienced as well. Once you stop using synthetic fragrances, it’s hard to even be around them. A walk down a grocery store aisle – or a whiff of last year’s BlogHer room drops – can leave you feeling miserable.

Lisa from Condo Blues recounts an interesting discussion with a research scientist from a personal care company.

“One of the biggest secrets about what chemicals (or not) is in a product is what makes up the product’s fragrance,” she notes.  “Last summer, I had the chance to talk to a representative from a large personal care company. She claimed that even her company didn’t know what was in the fragrances of their products because they buy the fragrance from a special fragrance house that has a super secret formula and ironclad nondisclosure agreement that says the fragrance house won’t tell the company what’s in the signature scent of their brand of shampoo.”

Katy at Non-Toxic Kids makes a case for showing The Story of Cosmetics to friends who may be unfamiliar with the battle for safer cosmetics. As she puts it, “Why should you care?  There is a growing body of research showing links between many of the chemicals in our personal care products and serious diseases and conditions.  Chemicals like triclosan, phthalates, parabens are in most cosmetics.   Phthalates are often labeled as “fragrance”.  Triclosan is labeled as an “antibacterial.”

And no one is looking at their synergistic effect on our bodies, especially those who are developing and growing at rapid rates:  our children.   The companies who make these products are using many chemicals that have never been independently tested for safety.  That’s right, never.”

Linda from Citizen Green presents a well researched post that follows-up on Katy’s assertion. As Linda blogs, “Only 11 percent of the 10,500 ingredients in personal care products have been assessed for safety by the cosmetics industry.”

And that’s the reason Deanna of Crunchy Chicken blogs “Make sure you start checking your product labels!” 

Karen of Best of Mother Earth pulls no punches when she asks, “How can cosmetic companies like Estee Lauder raise funds for cancer research and produce products with carcinogens in them? Shouldn’t they start in their own back yard and produce a safe cosmetic in the first place?”

I always especially enjoy the contributions of our Carnival members from outside the United States. In Amber’s post at Strocel.com, Story of Cosmetics:  Canadian Edition,  she blogs about the situation in Canada – how in some ways it parallels the situation in the US, and yet how there are subtle differences. For example, Canadian cosmetic makers are required to list ingredients – “but not all of them.” Huh? So what good does that do? But Amber’s main message is one that is universal:

“But we must recognize that the beauty industry is trying to sell us stuff, just like any other industry that markets consumer goods. They want us to believe that we are flawed and need their stuff. If we aren’t concerned about the state of our skin or the shininess of our hair, we’re not going to shell out for products to fix them. Even initiatives like the Dove Movement are marketing campaigns aimed to make us feel favourable towards a certain brand.

My daughter Hannah is 5 years old. I don’t want her to feel that she needs to coat herself with stuff to be OK, and I especially don’t want the stuff she coats herself with to contain toxins. That’s why I want to see change in the cosmetics industry.”

I always see  myself in Micaela’s (aka Mindful Momma’s) posts.  Maybe it’s because we have kids around the same age, and while we are passionately committed to living sustainably, too often our lives intersect with the real world of Toys R Us and Pokemon.

In her post, “Maybe I Just Bought the Wrong Stuff,” Micaela blogs,  “In The Story of Cosmetics, Annie Leonard comes out and says what a lot of us might be thinking when it comes to buying cosmetics and personal care products:  “maybe it’s my fault…maybe I just bought the wrong thing”…meaning it’s our own damn fault for buying personal care products loaded with toxins and petroleum products…because we didn’t take the time to research the hell out of them before we went to the store.

I’m telling you – that is often how I feel.  And it’s very frustrating.”

Frustrating? Lisa from Retro Housewife Goes Green goes even farther when she blogs, “I don’t know about you but I’m pissed off at the amount of work I have to do to keep myself and my family safe from cancer causing chemicals. We need to change the whole system and work together to demand safer cosmetics.”

I’m with Lisa  – the whole system needs to change, and in my opinion, that includes regulation. But I’m not so sure the Safe Cosmetics Act is the answer. Check my post out here, where I blog about what I’ve learned in two years of following these issues – the things people inside the industry have told me – and my surprise and concern about the backlash opposition to the Safe Cosmetics Act that is being led by small, independent cosmetics makers.

Jennifer Taggert of The Smart Mama (and an attorney)  voices her concern that the Safe Cosmetics Act may mean for small businesses. Jennifer has a unique take on this, and her full post is worth a close read. Here’s an excerpt:

“I bring the CPSIA up after watching The Story of Cosmetics because well intentioned legislation can go badly wrong.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t urge you to understand what it is you are buying. To adopt the precautionary principle in your purchasing decisions.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t think we should advocate for sensible legislation and regulations.

But that’s it – the legislation and/or regulations must be sensible. And that is hard to do. The devil is in the details. Overbroad legislation has unintended consequences and collateral damage.

As said by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis:

The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”

What do you think?

Leave a comment and let us know!

And did you know you can get ALL of our posts pushed out to you via Twitter? Just follow us here:  http://www.twitter.com/GreenMoms

– Lynn

Copyright 2010 OrganicMania


NO, Of Course I Didn’t Buy That “Organic” Shampoo & Then Tell The New York Times About It!

July 14th, 2010

Well, it is true that I did tell a New York Times reporter that I was “furious” about a so-called “organic” shampoo that was anything but organic – or even natural. I even sent him the blog post I wrote about it, which you can read here.  In the post, I wrote about how I picked up the “organic” lice shampoo and then realized it was anything BUT organic.

usda-organic-label-lg

“But skeptic that I am, the first two things I do when I see anything labeled “natural” or “organic” is to check the ingredients list and to look for a USDA organic certification label. Despite the “organic” claims, I didn’t see a USDA label on the Fairy Tales bottles, but I did see a long list of non-organic ingredients including major no-nos like parabens and fragrance.

According to the Environmental Working Group, “parabens can disrupt the hormone (endocrine) system, and were found in the breast cancer tumors of 19 of 20 women studied.” And the EWG reports that fragrance should be avoided in children’s products because of allergens that may contain neurotoxic or hormone-disrupting chemicals. (You can learn more about fragrance through this informative EWG video clip).”

So yes, it’s kind of a thrill to see myself quoted in The New York Times. But honestly, anyone who reads my blog posts or tweets knows that I would NEVER buy an “organic” product that does not have the USDA Organic Seal or the new NSF/ANSI 305  seal. (My original post pre-dated the introduction of the NSF seal).

That’s also why I wrote, “So dear readers, please look for the USDA Organic seal and READ LABELS on personal care products, especially those marketed to children or used by women during childbearing years.”

NSF_logo

You may wonder why I was “furious” if I didn’t buy the product.  I’m still furious. I’m furious that companies greenwash and prey on mothers’ fears, urging them to buy products that are not what they are promoted to be – organic.  Mothers look for organic products because they (correctly) believe them to be purer and safer for their kids than products that are not organic. As I told the reporter, I’ve been saddened to see organics pioneers (many of them women) work long and hard to bring truly organic products to market – only to have  their USDA certified organic products shelved next to fakers – products with organic on the label but synthetic ingredients inside. Of course they’re cheaper! They’re easier to make!

I’m glad that Whole Foods is cracking down on this, but I’m not entirely optimistic that things will change without a major education campaign from the Organic Trade Association. Surveys have shown that consumers believe “natural” is better than organic – even though there are no standards governing the use of the word “natural.”

So – looking to go organic? Look for the USDA Organic label or the NSF/ANSI305 label.

Anything else? Well, it’s just Greenwashing at the Kiddie Hair Salon (not the supermarket, as quoted!)

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2010

Walmart Knows What’s Best for Us Green Moms. Right?

October 14th, 2009

As a child, my mother used to drag me out to endless open houses. It was fun to look at the gorgeous new homes for sale and to dream. But invariably, we would laugh. She’d point to a kitchen door that was too far from a countertop, or a window that was ill placed, or a closet that was too small, and say with a loud HUMPPH, “Must have been a man that designed this house. They have no idea how we women live.”

My mother’s  words came back to me when I learned from my friend, the green blogger  Mary Hunt of In Women We Trust that  Walmart is developing its new sustainability index without ANY consumer input.    What’s more, they’re charging companies $250,000 to participate in the process of setting the standards. They’re even charging to attend webinars to learn how the index works!

sams-choice-fair-trade-organic-coffee

Pictured: Sam’s Club Fair Trade Coffee for sale at Walmart.  Cheapest price I’ve ever seen for Fair Trade coffee!

Some of you might be thinking, “Who cares?” Most of my friends don’t shop at Walmart. In fact, most actively avoid the place. I recall a “Green Moms” dinner once where only two of us had even tread foot inside a Walmart.  But as I’ve blogged herehere, and here, I actually do shop in Walmart from time to time, and I’ve eagerly cheered them on as they’ve stocked more fair trade, USDA organic, and eco-friendly items.   After all, as Walmart goes, in large part, so goes Middle America. And this is why Walmart’s Sustainability Index is so critical to all of us.

A large selection of Clorox GreenWorks products at a Walmart -- all for $2.98 per bottle.

A large selection of Clorox GreenWorks products at a Walmart -- all for $2.98 per bottle.

By virtue of its sheer size, Walmart’s standards will become the de-facto standards for all products. It doesn’t matter if you’re buying at Walmart or your local corner store. If your favorite products are carried at Walmart – and this includes green favorites like Clorox GreenWorks, Horizon USDA Organic milk, most major organic jarred baby food brands,  and many other household brands – your product will be designed to meet Walmart’s standards. Their standard will of necessity become our standard, because the manufacturers will (rightly so) insist that they can’t meet multiple standards. They’ll choose one standard to meet, and if Walmart insists on a Sustainability Index before the US Government mandates one, well….you can guess whose standard will become the de-facto standard of the land.

Others who pooh pooh the need for consumer input might reason, “Well,  the companies know what consumers want, don’t they?”  Hmm…if all companies knew what mattered most to consumers, all companies would be fabulously successful with amazing, defect-free, safe, functional products.

So Walmart, if you decide you do want consumer input, we’re happy to give it. Just don’t charge us for the privilege, please.

And to hear what other members of the Green Moms Carnival are saying about Walmart’s Sustainability Index and its impact on consumers, please check out Mary Hunt’s blog, In Women We Trust, where she hosts this month’s Green Moms Carnival on Sustainable Standards: What’s the Consumer’s Opinion?

– Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

Update – 10/28/11  Since I wrote this post, Walmart has updated its site with links to both the Sustainability Index webinar (which you can watch for free) and a PDF of the Supplier Sustainability Index. — Lynn

It May Be April Fool’s Day, But Toxins in Baby Bath are No Joke

April 1st, 2009

It sounds incredible: probable human carcinogens like formaldehyde in children’s bubble bath. Yes, today is April Fool’s Day, but this is no joke. This is the sad reality of the state of our personal care products industry.

How did we get to this point? It’s a function of our regulatory system (or lack thereof as some might say). According to the non-profit Environmental Working Group, “The nation’s toxic chemical regulatory law, the Toxic Substances Control Act, is in drastic need of reform. Passed in 1976 and never amended since, TSCA is widely regarded as the weakest of all major environmental laws on the books today. When passed, the Act declared safe some 62,000 chemicals already on the market, even though there were little or no data to support this policy. Since that time another 20,000 chemicals have been put into commerce in the United States, also with little or no data to support their safety.”

And if this is news to you, you may be asking why you’re learning about this only now. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics just last month released its “No More Toxic Tub” report, which included lab results showing that personal care products are commonly contaminated with formaldehyde or 1,4-dioxane – and, in many cases, both. According to the report, “These two chemicals, linked to cancer and skin allergies, are anything but safe and gentle and are completely unregulated in children’s bath products.”

But you know what? This isn’t new news. It may be new to you because perhaps you’re a new parent who is just for the first time paying careful attention to what goes into the bath water with your baby. But the fact is, you can find reports like this one about 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde dating back to 2007 – and I imagine, even earlier. (Updated 4/3: Here’s a link reporting that in 1982, “the industry-funded Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel noted that the cosmetic industry was aware of the problem of 1,4-dioxane in cosmetics and was making an effort to reduce or remove the impurity.” )

The makers of these products claim they are completely safe and meet all government requirements. J&J’s products are bearing the bulk of the criticism from today’s Green Moms Carnival because of J&J’s ill-timed “Big Bubblin Stars” video campaign. But the fact is, J&J does meet all US requirements. Levels of formaldehyde in the J&J products are even below EU levels, which is significant because many American consumers try to follow EU standards for personal care products because they believe them to be safer than the US standards.

But the issue is not J&J’s products alone. Why? We are exposed to thousands of personal care products over our lifetimes. If each one of these products leaches trace amounts of potentially toxic chemicals into our bodies – as tests like the EWG’s “Body Burden” test have shown – then the effect is a cumulative one. And when you’re talking about infants, small children, and young people in their reproductive years, the potential effects are really unknown. We do know that chemicals have been linked to cancers. We do know that we’ve seen a marked decrease in fertility in this country and an increasing number of reproductive diseases. Are they connected to repeated chemical exposures from birth on? I agree with Dr. Philip P. Landrigan, Professor and Chair of the Children’s Environmental Health Center at New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He says, “Children are not simply ‘little adults’. They are uniquely vulnerable to toxic exposures in the environment. Exposures in early life can affect human health over the entire life span. We need to find definitive answers about the relationship between toxic chemicals and health so we can protect our children now and in the future.”

In response to past criticism, J&J’s spokesperson Iris Grossman has said, “It’s important to stress that all our products are within the FDA limits.” But that’s just the problem. Are the FDA limits appropriate? Unfortunately, one of the legacies left us by the Bush Administration is the public’s fundamental distrust of our regulatory system. The public has just been burned too many times by lax oversight. Look at our financial markets. The SEC claims it wasn’t aware of the extensive use of derivatives in our secondary markets. Heck, I remember learning about derivatives way back in ’97 when I was at Georgetown’s Business School. No, I didn’t understand them, but I still remember scribbling this note: Derivatives: Stay Away!!! Then there’s the sad state of our food safety oversight. How many more people will have to die of salmonella before we get that under control? What about the lead in children’s toys? I shouldn’t have to cart my toys over to The Smart Mama for a thorough lead inspection.

Many will advocate for more regulation, such as the Kid Safe Chemical Act supported by the Environmental Working Group. But regulations don’t always work as intended. The CSPIA, enacted to prevent the sale of items containing lead, has inadvertently caused many small makers of children’s products to go out of business because they couldn’t afford to comply with the testing requirements imposed by the new law. Then there’s the response to the banking crisis. While the government was celebrating the passage of TARP, the bankers were celebrating the fact that the law didn’t require them to start lending again. How do I know that? I first learned about it at a Washington Christmas party, well before that scandal had finally hit the press. And now that spring is here? The credit markets still remain frozen.

So is The Kid Safe Chemical Act the answer? Will it cause more problems than it purports to solve? Will it inadvertently cause harm to the natural and organic purveyors, by causing them to comply with burdensome regulation, just like what happened when the USDA Organic regulation and the CSPIA was passed? I don’t know. I don’t claim to be a regulatory expert. But I do know something about marketing. And I know that the profit margins on personal care products – beauty products in particular – are incredibly high. It is a very lucrative business, and in most cases the biggest expense is not producing the product, it’s marketing. It’s paying for all the free samples and glossy magazine ads that personal care products companies routinely hand out.

Of course, it’s a different matter in the natural and organics market. There, the cost of all natural alternatives to synthetic chemical ingredients is high. And consequently, on a percentage basis, they spend less on marketing than companies like P&G or J&J.

As an MBA and a New Jersey native, I have very dear friends who have worked at leading personal care companies like J&J, Bristol Myers Squibb, and P&G. Of course they believe their products are safe and comply with US law. But that’s not the whole issue. Someone – either the personal care industry as a whole – or the US government – needs to take a closer look at the 82,000 chemicals used in our personal care products to assess the likelihood that they are contributing to our sky high cancer rates and the increasing incidence of reproductive abnormalities.

And as a former newspaper reporter, I know that there are two sides to every story. So I called J&J before publishing this blog post. I wanted to understand their stance on the Kid Safe Chemical Act and the possible adverse affects of long term exposure to the multitude of chemicals in our personal care products. Their spokesperson, Iris Grossman, could not respond to these questions, although she did offer to put me in touch with their “Mommy blogger” person. I pointed out to her that if she couldn’t answer my question, I didn’t think a “Mommy blogger” specialist could either. Then the shock set in. As a marketing and communications professional, I know that every company has a set of standard Q&As used to respond to the media. I asked her if this meant that NO ONE had ever asked these questions before:
- What is J&J’s stance on the Kid Safe Chemical Act?
- What does J&J think about the adverse affects of long term exposure to the thousands of chemicals used in personal care products?
- Is this issue even being discussed at the industry level, through groups like the Personal Products Council?

So what can you do? Here are a few choices:

1. Sign this petition in support of the Kid Safe Chemical Act.
2. Fill out this web form to contact J&J and tell them you want them to lead an industry-wide effort to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act. Or, leave a comment on the J&J blog.
3. Contact the Personal Care Products Council here and tell them you expect a better response to the EWG report than the one that their Chief Scientist gave US News & World Report. “These are issues that have been around for many, many years, so it’s not new news. The thing that impressed me was the low levels of dioxane that were found in these products, which indicates to me that the industry is doing its job in keeping this potential contaminant down to a low level.” (And yes, I’ve called the Personal Care Products Council and am just waiting for a call back).
4. Check the EWG’s Skin Deep data base to find safer alternatives to the products identified in the Campaign’s report.

5. Use fewer personal care products and try to find those with fewer, simpler ingredients.

6. Contact your Congressional representatives to let them know you support Kid Safe. Support is especially critical in Pennyslvania and California.  This press release from Senator Lautenberg’s office includes good background information on the bill.  If you or someone you know lives in PA, check out this link.

If you live in CA, check out this link.

What do you think? Please leave a comment and share. And if you want to talk about the issue, I’ll be on the radio today along with Jennifer Taggert, The Smart Mama, and Lisa Frack of the Environmental Working Group. You can listen to us here and call in with questions at (530) 265-9555.

Thanks for reading this far! This was a longer than usual post, but I felt I needed the space to make these arguments.

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

10 Tips for Eco-Friendlier Fast Food Dining

May 20th, 2008

Let’s face it, it’s the rare person who does not at some point end up in a fast food joint. As we’ve discussed here before, trying to eat healthy & organic while on the go can be a real dilemma.

The fact is, there truly is no Broccoli Heaven. So when you find yourself in a McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Burger King, or other fast food place off the interstate, don’t despair. Here are ten steps you can take to make your dining experience a wee bit more eco-friendly.

fast-food.jpg

1. Bring your own cup.
2. If you didn’t bring your own cup, request a glass or regular cup — you know, the type that can be washed! Otherwise, odds are you’ll be given a plastic disposable cup or “kid cup.”
3. Remember that salad dressing will be brought to you in a plastic cup or pouch unless you request otherwise. You can skip the dressing, or ask for it to be poured directly on your salad. (You might want to ask for half the usual amount!)
4. They’ll bring too much stuff. Ask for just ONE condiment cup instead of TWO.
5. Go topless. Why use lids? Save the plastics!
6. Don’t take a “doggie bag” (often a Styrofoam container) unless you are really certain you will eat the leftovers. Do you really want all those extra calories anyway???
7. Tell your server that you don’t want a straw. No plastic straws!
8. Order vegetarian. Meat products are a significant contributor to global warming. Think pizza, fries, or a garden salad.
9. Bring your own napkins to avoid using paper napkins (keep cloth napkins in your car).
10. Don’t take more plastic cutlery than you need – you’re not setting the dinner table!

Works for me!

If it doesn’t work for you, talk to the manager. Customers have power!

Oh, and to answer my bloggy friends Gift of Green and Julie – with no Broccoli Heaven around, we went to Pizza Hut!

Broccoli Heaven

May 18th, 2008

Ah, spring weekends – the time to hop in your fuel-efficient car and head out to the beach or parts unknown. But with kids in tow, you’re decidedly less footloose and fancy free than you used to be. We’ve had discussions here before about what a dilemma it is to be Organic & On the Go. Where do you find a decent place to eat off America’s highways?

This weekend, DH and I really thought we had the problem licked. A simple 2 1⁄2 hour trip and we were loaded and ready:
Organic Apples, washed, and knife – check
Organic Rice Cakes – check
Organic American Cheese – check
Organic Carrot Sticks – check
Home Made Organic Whole Wheat Bread – check
Biodynamic Cookies – check
One gallon water jug and BPA-free cups – check

Unfortunately, traffic lengthened our trip and before long we heard the incessant whine every parent dreads. The “I’m hungry!” kindergartner whine.

“Eat your rice cake,” was our response.

“No, I’m really hungry. For a real meal. Not these SNACKS. I want to go to McDonalds.”

“There are no McDonalds along this road, honey,” I responded.
“There’s only Broccoli Heaven.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s a new organic fast food place where they serve broccoli. And you can get organic milk too,”I jested.

“I DON’T WANT TO GO TO BROCCOLI HEAVEN, I WANT TO GO TO MCDONALDS!”

“Well, we’re not going to McDonalds. Eat your rice cake.”

“You’re starving me!”

“Honey, we’re not starving you. Look at all this food in the car!”

“These are snacks. I want a meal at McDonalds. And besides, Broccoli Heaven doesn’t exist.”

“Really? Why do you say that?”

“Because broccoli doesn’t go to heaven.”

Boy’s got a point. Can’t argue with that.

Wonder how McDonald’s is coming along with their Organic and Eco-Friendly Happy Meals!

Happy trails!

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

The $5 Loaf of Bread: Will You Keep Buying Organic Foods?

May 13th, 2008

With food prices on the rise, it seems nearly everyone is reconsidering their organic purchases. And of course it’s all over the media – in  Newsweek and even in local newspapers like this one. That’s one reason why OrganicMania is tracking some of the few remaining “good deals” on organic foods every Friday, and why we’re even gathering tips like these from organic grocers themselves.

I’m not the only one who has resorted to buying the ingredients to bake bread, instead of shelling out $5 a loaf. Fact is, I’ve heard from several people who have started baking their own bread. And these are busy parents who have better things to do than to bake bread! If that’s not a sign that people are changing their buying patterns, what is?

But what about those items that you can’t simply replace with home made? Will you keep buying organic?

Most people who go organic do it out of health concerns for their children. Increasingly, women go organic during pregnancy. That’s not going to change. OrganicMania’s prediction is that USDA certified organic foods targeted at pregnant women and children will continue to sell well.

And of course, the main reasons – Organics’ Four Factors – haven’t changed. Buying organic is still the best bet for people concerned about avoiding chemical pesticides, protecting the environment and farm workers, animal rights and taste.

But with home values shrinking and gas and food prices up, for most folks, something has to give. And that something will include some organic foods. But as any parent knows, we’ll sacrifice something for ourselves before we deprive our kids. OrganicMania is betting that cut-backs in organic spending will not affect foods purchased for pregnant women and children. If anything, there’s more and more focus among women on going green and organic – which will offset any cutbacks on organic food spending for pregnant women and young children.

What do you think? Have your buying habits changed recently? Leave a comment and share!

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Green and Organic Savings Friday: Organic Milk, Bread & Tea

May 2nd, 2008

Rising food prices are all over the news these days. I was actually afraid to set foot in the store this week, nervous about just how high prices were going. Yes, I keep thinking about how blessed I am to even have the choice of organic food vs. conventional, but it still doesn’t help when you hit the check-out line.

So let’s go back to basics, and focus on some savings opportunities with organic milk, organic bread, and organic tea.

While I’ve always loved the taste of Honest Tea iced tea, I must confess I was not buying organic tea leaves for hot tea. Until the OrganicMania interview with Seth Goldman, CEO of Honest Tea, I considered organic tea “nice to do” but not a necessary organic expenditure. But when I asked Seth how he became so interested in organics, he explained that it was his interest in tea that led him to discover organics. It turns out that tea is one of the most pesticide-laden products out there, and in some countries, really nasty pesticides like atrazine are used on tea plantations. Did it ever occur to you that tea leaves are not rinsed off until they hit the hot water of your tea kettle? (You can read the OrganicMania interview with Honest Tea’s Seth Goldman here).

With some great savings opportunities this week, now’s a good time to make the switch to organic tea. Allegro organic tea is on sale at Whole Foods, 2 packs for $7.00, a significant savings off the regular price of $4.99 a pack. And the Mambo Sprouts coupon book, available at the customer service desk or the check-out registers, includes a coupon for 55 cents off Good Earth organic tea. With the coupon, Good Earth tea is $3.44 at Whole Foods. Good Earth looks like a really sustainable green company – in addition to being organic, the tea bags are unbleached, and the packaging is 100% recyclable with soy based inks. Plus the tea bags are not wrapped in plastic overwrap, as so many tea bags are.

Now that you can relax with a good cuppa tea, what about the kids’ lunch bags? Lots of school kids pack organic milk in their lunch bags. My son drinks regular white milk – not chocolate, not vanilla, not strawberry – but I could never find the money-saving bulk containers of Horizon white milk. Finally, at the Tenleytown, DC, Whole Foods, I found a carton of 18 Horizon organic milk boxes for $13.79 – or 76 cents per package. This is quite a savings over the 3-pack packages which sell for close to $4. More savings on organic milk? Check out this link where you can register for Stonyfield Farm coupons, including fifty cents off a half gallon of organic milk.

As for bread, who can resist home baked bread? I was indulging that weakness with the delicious breads at the Spring Mill Bread Company located in my local MOM’s. Yet with the price of a loaf of fresh baked organic oatmeal bread hitting nearly $5 a loaf, and many loaves well past the $5 mark, I decided it was time to call it quits on this little luxury. Instead, I picked up some basics – organic whole wheat flour, yeast, salt, and white organic flour. For about $1 a loaf, we now have freshly baked organic bread that is even better than the bakery’s bread. And it’s not at all hard to bake. More on that in another post!

Happy shopping! Do you have any great organic or green savings to share? Please leave a comment!

Carnival/Mr. Linky Update – Still working those darn MIS issues to get Mr. Linky working properly. Hopefully we’ll have everything ready to go next Friday to start our own mini-carnival on Green and Organic Savings!

In the meantime, OrganicMania is participating in the Festival of Frugality for the first time.

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

You Read it Here First: School Lunch Controversy on TV

April 10th, 2008

This post about school lunch attracted the attention of a TV reporter, who came out to interview OrganicMania about the state of school lunches. You can see the results here. (Just go to the segment filmed on 8 April, 16:05 minute mark.)

At the close, the reporter notes that school officials said they will not introduce organic food because of the expense.

I don’t know of a single parent who approves of the school lunch program. Why won’t school officials consider creative ways to improve school lunch, rather than dismissing suggestions because of cost?

Here are some ideas:

- What about getting “Big Organics” companies to subsidize organic milk? Other companies subsidize their products in an effort to target a growing market, so why not engage the dairies in an attempt to get hormone-free milk in the schools?

- How about charging a subsidy on top of the organic lunch to subsidize the Free and Reduced Price Lunch Program? Parents who disapprove of the nutritional content in school lunch are already paying a premium to make lunch at home. The school system could use its purchasing power to negotiate discounts on higher quality ingredients that would match what parents are making at home. Not only would parents pay less, but they would gladly save themselves the time and trouble of making lunch at home if their children were assured of healthy, nutritious, fresh meals with organic ingredients where they count most (the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” plus milk and carrots would be a great start!)

- What about rallying behind the innovative “Farm to School” program, which connects schools with local farms to deliver farm-fresh food to the public schools?

If you live in Montgomery County, Maryland and would like to learn more about nutrition in the schools, please attend a Montgomery County Council of PTAs meeting on nutrition and physical activity, to be held April 22nd from 7 pm to 8 pm in the auditorium at the Carver Educational Services Center, 850 Hungerford Drive, Rockville. Kathy Lazor, MCPS Director of Food and Nutrition Services, will talk about nutrition issues and MCPS initiatives. (She is the official interviewed in the TV segment).

OrganicMania will report on this meeting, because the issues discussed there will be relevant not only to Montgomery County, but also to parents facing these issues in their local schools.

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

And for more info, check out these older OrganicMania posts here, here and here and this great post from Expatriate’s Kitchen.

(And speaking of Expat, she’s running a great carnival at Eat.Drink.Better).

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008