Friday, October 30, 2009

Eco Fashion Friday Halloween Costume Final Reveal

The final installment in the October Eco Fashion Friday Halloween Series is finally here! We have reviewed tips and tricks on how to have a more Earth conscious holiday from goodies to eat and give away, to ways we can create our own trick or treat bags from reusable canvas bags.

I promised one last tutorial on how I created one of my accessory items before I show the final look so here it is -- Legwarmers from an old sweater:

I bought an XL sweater at the Salvation Army Store, brought it home and laid it out flat on the floor.

With shears I cut off the sleeves along the main seam.

From the armpit angle I then cut straight across to create a tube from the lower portion of the sleeve.

I put them on with the widest part around my ankle so they would fit over my boots and the finished edge of the cuff was at my calf so they wouldn’t slip down. The main part of the sweater will be lined and then used to create a soft throw pillow (I’ll share that project later).

Any idea what I am going as?

Well I’m sure you have all figured it out by now but my outfit was inspired by Madonna’s Lucky Star video!

Here’s Madonna:

And here’s me:

I had such a blast creating this costume and going for that big hair, lace gloves and lots of layers look that Madonna made famous. Tomorrow night we will be attending a party and I can not wait to show off my costume. I opted for sleeves and not a mesh shirt because Boston can really be cold on Halloween night and I wanted to be comfortable all night long.

The only items that were purchased brand new were the jewelry pieces and the wig. Every single piece (except likely the wig) will be worn again (frequently) because separately they are all just great clothing items that fit well and are functional. But every once in a while I think it will be a little fun and toss on my 80’s revival outfit. Minus the big hair of course!

Happy Halloween everyone!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Earthworm Cleaning Products Series Drain and Septic Treatments

In our continuing series on Earthworm cleaning products which I received from Clean Earth Brands to review and Leaf Rate, today I will be talking about two products -- the flagship product Drain Cleaner and a non-liquid based Septic Treatment.

All the drains in our bathroom tend to be slow so I decided to test out the Drain Cleaner in the tub, sink and toilet. Following the packaging directions I shook and poured a few ounces down each drain. The toilet received about half a bottle and a flush, as instructed.

The directions indicate that slow drains should be treated with 6-8 ounces 3-5 nights in a row. I used it for three nights in the tub and sink and overall I have actually noticed a difference! Especially when taking a shower because we utilize a drain trap that catches hair but it tends to slow the flow of water.

I will not say it has been fixed 100% but it certainly is faster so I believe I will continue to use it the next two nights and see if that finishes off any clogs that might be trapped. As with the other products I have already reviewed the ingredients contain preservatives but this one also contains fragrance. Again, I would like to be clear as to the birth place of this fragrance -- is it natural?

Overall I am pleased with the performance and encouraged that this is another product comprised of 80% water as well as natural enzymes and surfactants as this makes me so much more confident about using it in any capacity let alone pouring it directly down the drain and I am granting the Drain Cleaner a Three and a Half Leaf Rating! ♥love♥

As far as the Septic Treatment goes I unfortunately will not be able to grant a Leaf Rating as we do not have this type of system so I can not test it out. Matt has given the two boxes I received to a friend at work and asked him to make some mental notes as to the viability of the product so I should be able to report back on this one with some feedback soon.

In the meantime, I can share some of the information directly from the box. They claim the product is 100% biodegradable and made using sustainable ingredients; it is petroleum, phosphate acid and chlorine free. Additionally it will not release odors, vapors or heat while it cleans and it is even good for greywater treatment systems. They recommend using a whole box once per month.

In completing some additional research I discovered that most septic systems are not recommended to have any additives as the system itself should already have sufficient enzymes to enable breakdown of solids. I am not sure as to the validity of either claim considering I do not have this system so I suggest doing your own research prior to purchasing, like all products.

We will return with the rest of the Earthworm series beginning on Sunday November 8, 2009!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Earthworm Cleaning Products Series All Purpose Cleaner

In this continuing series on Earthworm (by Clean Earth Brands) cleaning products which the company sent to me to review and leaf Rate, we turn today to the All Purpose Cleaner. I used this product on something that would truly test its capability -- our thirty year old, off-white, heavily dinged kitchen table.

According to the directions I shook it well, sprayed it on and let it sit for 3+ minutes while I took the photo of the product and got my rag ready. We use old tee shirts as rags so I pulled one apart and got a clean section dampened.

The smell was pleasant on this item as well, no chemical but I couldn’t put my finger on its somewhat nutty aroma. Reading the ingredients and seeing natural surfactant I imagined it is likely coconut oil base.

Here’s a before and after photo of the table side by side:

I used flash for both photos but even without the pictures I could see the difference right away. It isn’t as if we had never washed this piece, the table gets wiped down with a warm soapy sponge after every meal, but clearly we had been trapping dirt and grime in all the little divots regardless! With a tiny bit of extra elbow grease I was able to take almost all of the dirt out of every crevice including the smallest of holes. I was floored!

But just a word of caution -- My rag had a slight white film left on it which I imagine was the paint from the table so I would not recommend this product for painted surfaces (we are stripping and refinishing this piece this winter so I was not overly alarmed).

Just as I mentioned yesterday with the Mold and Mildew Treatment -- ‘The proteins in this product actually convert the organic yuckies into nutrients and water and they are safe to use around pets and humans’. Again, the final ingredient is preservatives and because I am very curious as to what that preservative is, I have now reached out to the company for clarification.

I am granting a Four and a Half Leaf Rating to the All Purpose Cleaner!

Earthworm this one has me so psyched and I fully intend to use it over and over on all my hard surfaces like countertops or even my office desktop! ♥love♥

Up tomorrow I share thoughts on Earthworm Family Safe Drain Cleaner and Septic Treatment.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Earthworm Cleaning Products Inch Up the Eco List

For quite some time now I have been very concerned with the products we use in our household to clean as I do not want to wash loads of chemicals down the drain. We have experimented with an array of products containing natural surfactants such as coconut oil and I have found that these cleaners do just as good, or better, of a job than their chemical based counterparts. So when Earthworm (by Clean Earth Brands) sent me two boxes full of natural enzyme based cleaners to try I was truly looking forward to putting them to the test.

Today’s review will focus on the Mold & Mildew Treatment. Tomorrow and Thursday two more products will be tested and reviewed and then beginning on Sunday November 8th I will run a six day series to individually use and rate the rest of this company’s fine products.

We are not ghastly people when it comes to grime but like most people, the bathroom is one of those rooms we despise cleaning but simultaneously get the most satisfaction from when it is sparkling. I noticed a bit of mildew in a corner of the tub so I put the Mold and Mildew Treatment to the test first. The instructions say to shake, spray and let sit 5+ minutes to allow the enzymes to work before scrubbing.

The smell was pleasant, clean without being chemical. Almost Earthy but not in a crunchy-crunchy sort of way, more fruity. I allowed it to sit while I wrote up the start of this as well as did a little company research online.

When I used to clean with caustic chemical based products there would be no trace of anything organic, even the deepest recess of the caulking around our tub, but I also knew that was going right down the drain. I went back in to scrub the Mold and Mildew Treatment and found it had foamed up into an almost chunky liquid. I scrubbed and all of the reddish mold came off with very little effort. The blacker areas were mostly stains built up over years of this being a rental apartment and did not budge much.

Here’s an after photo of the same corner I took the product photo in:

There definitely is quite a difference!

The proteins in this product actually convert the organic yuckies into nutrients and water and they are safe to use around pets and humans. Clean Earth Brands proudly displays their National Green Energy Council seal on their website as well. Reading the list of ingredients however the final is trace preservatives. I would like to know what percentage the trace is as well as what it is to deem its environmental impact as well.

Overall I was happy to use this 80% water based product as I know it is a far safer alternative so I am granting a Four Leaf Rating to the Mold and Mildew Treatment!

Nice way to hit the ground running right out of the box Earthworm! ♥love♥

Up tomorrow I tackle the Earthworm All Purpose Cleaner by using it in the kitchen.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Peter Mulvey Wrapped the Long Haul Tour and is Relaxing Back Home

Back in September, musician Peter Mulvey set out on his bicycle along with a few other dedicated individuals to bring his music 1100 miles across the northeast United States. Now that he has been home for a while we caught up on how the tour went and more importantly, how he held up after such a lengthy journey in just seventeen days.

I asked him -- What was it like biking across 1100 miles of the United States? Peter was happy to oblige my curious questions and I hope everyone enjoys learning a little more about this talented guy’s environmental dedication, regardless of how modest he is about the accomplishment.

Is this the longest bike tour you have done so far?

By far. The first two bike tours were under 500 miles, this one was over 1,100.

Was this the first year you had company for the entire ride?

Yes- there were five of us almost the whole way, Brianna, Heidi, Josh, and Andy. The camaraderie was great.

How did you get yourself ready to do such a long ride?

Pretty simple- I rode 800 miles in June and another 900 in August. Luckily my work hours are flexible enough that I had the time.

How did your fans respond? Were they taking photos of the bike?

I didn't usually bring the bike to shows- it was usually back at the hotel. Really, in some ways the biking part of this wasn't that big of a deal- it was fun to talk about, and joke about, but in the end I was just commuting to work like anybody else, except for the high mileage.

Did you get a chance to sight see at all along the journey?

Of course. Especially on a recumbent, you can't help but sight-see. You're sitting back, looking at everything. We didn't have any slack time, though- when you have 140 miles to go, and you know it will take from sunup to sundown, you really can't just follow a sign that says "Scenic Overlook 4 miles Thataway."

What is one thing did you wish you could have carried with you on the bike but didn't?

A book. I wouldn't have had time anyway, but it felt weird to travel without a book.

Is this something you plan to do every year?

Until they stop me.

How far around the country are you willing to go?

Next year I'm interested in combining rail travel with bicycling. I figure that's a fresh new concept. Maybe it'll catch on in, say, Europe.

Most importantly, how do your legs feel now that it is done?

Well, they feel strong. My knees hurt a little bit during the mountain climbs, but overall my body held up very well.

What was your greatest challenge riding so far (geographically speaking)?

The Green Mountains in Vermont and the hills in New Hampshire. That was tough, especially on a recumbent.

What was your greatest accomplishment of the journey?

Just doing it. It's one thing to say, in the winter, "I'll be biking 1,100 miles this September." It's another thing to actually do it.

To pick up any of Peter’s CDs feel free to visit his website.

Wholly Guacamole and Salsa is Wholly Yummy!

Recently I was sent some salsa and guacamole from the company Wholly to taste test and review and these folks did impress me with their approach to natural ingredients and customer service. I had a sizeable concern regarding the packaging which was easily resolved.

Wholly shipped me samples of their new individual salsa snack cups in mild, medium, hot and garden fresca, as well as a box of their individually wrapped guacamole snack packs. Matt and I tucked in for dinner one night and he grabbed for a hot while I decided to try the garden fresca.

We both immediately noticed the salsa smelled delicious and Matt’s first reaction was that it was “quite good” and tasted very “fresh”. I read through the ingredients and that is likely due to the fact that there are no preservatives in their product. Same holds true for the guacamole and I was excited about this.

At only fifty calories per cup of salsa, and a fairly generous portion at that, it is certainly a healthier alternative when grabbing for a snack. The guacamole is a higher calorie content per pack (100) but it too was fresh tasting. We both noted it was a little flat compared to the homemade version but that it would be a fantastic base to jazz up with individually desired ingredients.

Now for the bummer news. We finished our snack cups only to discover that there was no recycling symbol on the bottom of these one time use items. Yikes. And because the cover is a peel back there would be no way to reuse these for any kind of small food storage. The larger packages of both salsa and guacamole (as well as the guacamole snack pack) are a thin plastic bag type with a peel back top while the salsa cups are hard PET based plastic.

This deflated my happiness as I truly feel that one time use items made from rigid plastic are a big environmental concern, especially when non-recyclable. So I reached out to the company and when I heard back they emphatically indicated that the cups are recyclable as it is “part of [our] manufacturing standards”. In fact the representative I got in touch with had not been aware the symbol was missing and sent her own inquiry to the cup manufacturer, thanking me for the head’s up.

It never hurts to ask when unsure about these kinds of things as many of us might have thrown the cups away, not knowing they could be put in the recycle bin!

All in all I am super impressed with the company and their product and I am granting a Four Leaf Rating to Wholly!

With an eye on all things natural and excellent customer service Wholly really exhibits a positive human experience all around! ♥love♥

Friday, October 23, 2009

Eco Fashion Friday Halloween Costume Creation

In our continuing theme of creating as eco friendly a Halloween as possible this year, I promised to share some of my own tricks and treats when designing and building my very own costume.

Last week I shared a video for Fashion by David Bowie indicating that the decade it was released was a hint for what I was going to be this year. This week I will be sharing where I picked up the goods for my costume, photos of de and re construction of one of the items and a video of my pictures detailing how I put one of the pieces together in well under twenty minutes!

The photo above shows most of the pieces I will be using to create my costume. From left to right, top to bottom row:

1. Women’s XL sweater -- Salvation Army; will use scrap to make a pillow
2. Lace bottom leggings -- purchased retail, will reuse for workout after Halloween
3. Men’s 2XL neck -- Garment District (second hand shop in Boston); will use neck scrap as winter wind headband
4. Women’s S cotton ribbed tank -- Salvation Army; will use often after Halloween
5. Ruffle Large maternity shirt -- will use as a dress over leggings; Garment District (not to be used in Halloween costume after all, found a skirt that will work better and will also be reused as an everyday item after Halloween)
6. Bangle bracelets -- retail, Garment District, will reuse as fun jewelry
7. Hobo purse -- Garment District; will get a lot of use after Halloween!

First and foremost I must stress that I washed everything before working with any of it. With that said today I am going to share a quick video detailing how I turned #3 into a really cool slouch shirt.

In the video I suggest using a zig-zag stitch to close up the neck opening if needed. Here is a little explanation -- turn the garment inside out, take the ruler and place one end at the neck center point while the other rests on the shoulder seam. Mark with chalk line and pin together. Zig-zag stitch along this line then cut off the excess fabric above the stitch. This will keep the slouching shape but close the neck opening if it is too wide.

Next week I will share a pictorial on creating costume accessories from #1 as well as the final finished outfit! Have you guessed what my costume is going to be yet?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Off-roading with The Grownup Noise -- Back Home in Boston

They saw crazy thunderstorms, braved breakdowns and played their melodies to countless thousands across the United States and now The Grownup Noise are finally back home, safe and sound in Boston gearing up for their final show of the fall.

The tour this summer was a bit more whirlwind than last, not to mention they played slightly larger venues with more recognizable names on the bill. These folks deserve a big shot of killer success because they are a caring and fun band who just rock.

Especially because the AC in the van died somewhere in Tennessee in the middle of the summer. Even more so because they sprang a hole that had to be patched on the fly.

But speaking to Adam Sankowski, bassist for the band, it would never be obvious they had a moment of trouble because this band takes it all in stride!

Year two in the veggie different was it from last year?

There were tons of differences. First off, grease was everywhere for the most part, or restaurants were very excited to see us! Because of the drop in fuel prices, used veggie oil is worth less too (which isn’t necessarily a good thing for the environment) so a lot of the start up environmental companies that were around last year, and who made it difficult for us to find it, simply were out of business. So we had to spend a bit less time convincing restaurant owners to give it to us, and most of them had heard about what we were doing so there was a bit less “you drive your van on what?”

This year was also different in that we had a lot of mechanical problems with the system, and our tank got a crack in the seam and started leaking. Not a fun time on the tour, but we worked through it and my genius mechanical roomie and I are going to re-do the entire system when we get the chance. So although there were problems we learned a lot too. It's still an emerging technology and we’re basically trying to figure out how to collect, filter, heat, and burn garbage on the go, which is no small feet. So it seems like whenever we head out on the road there is always some new, easy to fix, but stressful at the moment problem that we have to learn about and fix on the road. There just seemed to be more of them now that she’s got two years of veggie oil in her. Like I had no idea that it will clog your fuel injectors after some time so that you can’t go over 45 on the highway. It was an easy fix, just pouring in injector cleaner, but it can be stressful when you can’t go over 40 mph on veggie fuel on the way to Chicago…

Now that traveling by grease is "old hat" did the newness wear off or are you still in love with Lorian?

Well, Lorian and I will always be in love, especially since she’s 21 plus now and can finally buy me beer. She’s an old van, but they really don’t make them like they used to. With all of the problems we had with the veggie system at times, we didn’t have a single mechanical problem with the van itself in all of the 6,000 plus miles we drove. And she’s a 1988. Plus the van was totally top of the line in 88’ so although she looks like a mobile late 80’s history museum right now, she’s probably the nicest thing I’ll ever own.

What was Kyle's impression of this form of travel since it was his first year in the van? (Kyle Crane, Drummer)

He loved it on so many levels. Being a professional drummer he lives on about 5 dollars a week. Nobody is better at not spending money than Kyle, and nobody loves free stuff more than him. So the concept of not paying for gas blew his mind. He was a fast learner and very excited to collect grease.

Are Paul and Katie still fans? Who of the four of you did the most driving? (Paul Hansen, lead vocal & guitar; Katie Franich, cellist)

I think that they are… I think the tank busting on the west coast was stressful for everyone and made us realize how easy it is for this system to break and how we really are kind of “riding the line” with the van. Touring with it is a lot of fun, but at the end of the day we are traveling with a lot of hot grease and with that comes great responsibility and that we probably need to re-work the system if we are to go out in the same van again.

We all split a lot of the driving pretty equally. Paul did a lot of the driving out west but that’s because I got internet from my phone and I did a lot of emailing and sending of our press releases out, and bugging people to come to shows. But we all did our own heroic ten hour drives at times.

Since gas prices have dropped so much from last summer, do you think it was still a financial savings?

Yeah, totally. Maybe not just from this summer but if you combine the two summers… I mean, I hope so! If we really figured it out, maybe it wouldn’t be if we had a super fuel-efficient brand new van, but Lorian gets like 3 miles to the gallon so veggie fuel is our only real option. All I know is that when the system wasn’t working so well in Chicago we had to drive for a day before we could fix it and it was a solid 200 dollars in fuel for the day, so I can’t imagine doing that everyday. Nobody came back in any real debt and we are able to support ourselves throughout the month simply through touring, and I can’t imagine doing that and paying for gas.

Did you find it more difficult to obtain grease this time around? Were there any places you went back to that you stopped at last year?

Like I said, it was much easier. And yes, we kept a log of all the good grease spots so that made it easy to find old ones. We visited at least three or four and the one in Minneapolis was one of the best grease “scores” of the tour and they were so nice and excited to see that we came back.

Tell us about any issues you faced this year you didn't encounter last year with the van itself.

Like I touched on previously, we had problems with the injectors, the internal heating system (to heat up the veggie oil) and our actual tank cracked. Nothing worse could have happened than that… Basically everything that could go wrong did the second time. But it has inspired us to re-do the entire system. Keep an eye out for a “Grownup Noise” signature veggie van system soon!

Talk to us about breaking down, how difficult was it to find someone who would service the van?

Well, we really lucked out because our major breakdown happened between Seattle and Portland and the inventor of our entire veggie system and the pioneer of lives in Portland. He hooked us up with an amazing welder on a Sunday. And my roommate is a diesel mechanic so he talked me through fixing everything else over the phone (re-wiring the tail lights, fixing A/C, cleaning the injectors). We call it “Sean-star”.

How likely do you think it is the van will make it for another tour next summer?

Honestly I think that Lorain might be brought out to pasture soon… or sold to a younger punk band that’s full of energy and maybe has a budding young mechanic as a drummer? I mean, I love her dearly but it is a 20-year-old van. She’s old and it might be time to just stay on one coast. If we just tour the east coast in the near future we’ll use her, but heading all the way out to the west coast is a bit much for her and we might be on borrowed time anyways with her.

But, my genius mechanic roommate and I are going to invest in a much newer van, research all the other new systems and companies that are out there and then create our own. I’ve seen a hundred things at this point that can go wrong with a veggie oil system and I think that between to two of us we can design something really good. At least we have some good ideas on how to improve the system and we might try putting the design under the van, functioning almost as a traditional gas tank…but that’s another interview!

Do you have any photos you would like to share?

Yes, they are up on our Facebook!
You can view them here: 2009 Summer Tour

When are your final shows and where can we all get out to see you?

Final shows? Well we are going “underground” for the winter to finally finish our second album, which is a long time in the making, but we have no plans of stopping anytime soon!

We’re playing our “last show for a good while”, our “recording hibernation” kick off show, on Saturday, October 24th @ TT the Bears in Central Square Cambridge, MA (10 Brookline St.).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sun Crystals are Sprinkling Weddings with Sweetness!

What could be better for a busy bride than to have every last detail of her wedding planned for her? Sun Crystals all natural sweetener wondered the same thing and tomorrow, October 22, 2009, these folks are going to help a whole bunch of “sweet couples” tie the knot or renew their marriage vows at Foley Square in NYC.

The campaign is a simple concept -- “To celebrate the introduction of the SUN CRYSTALS® Brand, the first all-natural, low-calorie sweetener that marries stevia and sugar cane, two plants nourished by the sun. The event also highlights the brand's commitment to environmental sustainability. McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, with its SUN CRYSTALS® Sweetener Product is a member of 1% For The Planet®, donating 1% of its sales this year to the American Solar Energy Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the use of solar energy, energy efficiency and other sustainable technologies in the U.S."

Get it? Marry, celebrate, commitment…it was an easy leap for Sun Crystals to bring the idea to light but the best part of all is the word “sun”.

The entire day’s events will be fully powered by rolling solar panels. Very cool!

Sun Crystals sent me the information on this event and I was thrilled to do a little write up on it but when I also received a sample of the product, well, I thought that was really sweet of them.

Get it? Sweet? Okay, okay, I know.

The sweetener is created by blending stevia and pure cane sugar, is 100% natural, low in calories (only 5 per packet as opposed to 15 in sugar) and boasts that only half as much is needed to do the job of sugar. On the back of the bag there is even a recipe for oatmeal raisin cookies and a claim that this is suitable for people with diabetes.

I am impressed that they are involved with 1% for the planet and that this year they are going with donation to solar energy as alternative energy sources will greatly assist with reducing climate change worldwide, allowing the sun to continue to help grow the very plants used to create this product.

The only information I could not find is if this product is sifted with bone char (so I am unsure as to its Vegan-ness) and whether or not the cane sugar is unbleached.

Overall I think what they are doing is sweet and I am granting a Four Leaf Rating to Sun Crystals!

Good luck with the nuptials tomorrow couples in NYC and thanks for keeping your eye on the Earth and its resources Sun Crystals! ♥love♥

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The EcoBags Series -- Day Three: Reusable Canvas Bags

In the final day of our continuing series I am going to be reviewing this super sturdy canvas bag that EcoBags has sent me to try out. It is a fun bag and definitely does the job.

You probably all remember I reviewed another reusable bag in the past; for trips to the grocery store that would still be my first choice because it has the reinforced square bottom but this canvas bag from EcoBags is going right into my car so I don’t forget it when shopping for everything else!

The straps impressed me because they are long enough to go over my shoulder. Most canvas bags only provide hand held sized straps so this will be ideal when out walking around a fall festival or craft fair or even at the mall. The seams on his bag are double stitched to avoid fraying, just like their produce bags.

Also the same as with the produce bags, the more of these that are purchased, the price will come down. One bag sells for $16.00 but two or more are only $13.99 each. For a printed and unlined canvas shoulder bag I was impressed with the price point. Additionally, a portion of the purchase price is donated to the Environmental Media Association.

This is just one of many options available in the canvas bag line; the printed line alone offers twenty fun designs. All the canvas bags are created from responsibly harvested cotton and this one in particular is 100% organic.

I am a little concerned at the cost, as I have seen bags that have more pockets and a similar size selling for less.

Overall I am thoroughly excited to have my car canvas tote to ensure I never go with paper or plastic again and feel this bag is deserving of a Four Leaf Rating!

Thanks for keeping a responsible eye on the planet through use of your socially and environmentally responsible practices and products EcoBags, I can not thank you enough for the opportunity to test out your cool products! ♥love♥

Monday, October 19, 2009

The EcoBags Series -- Day Two: Reusable Produce and Grain Bags

EcoBags is back with another offering for me -- their produce and grain bag!

The bag is super sturdy and made from 100% unbleached cotton. Right on the tag it even indicates that fair wages were paid and fair labor practices were adhered to. This made me happy to see, especially because the bags are made in India.

The cotton gauze version is light weight, but sadly not light weight enough to be a zero impact on the scale. I weighed one of the plastic produce bags I have (I rinse & reuse these until they are no longer functional just as a side note) on my postage scale and it registered at zero. This produce and grain bag from EcoBags came in at a full ounce. This would definitely impact the cost of goods when shopping.

The great news however is they are not solely created to use in the grocery store. All manner of dry goods can be kept in these useful bags such as bulk rice or pasta, and they are perfect for storing veggies in the fridge after picking up at the Farmer’s Market.

At a suggested retail of $15.00 for five of the full sized produce bags (the same type that EcoBags sent me to try out) the value is good, especially due to the fact that they can be washed and reused many times over in comparison to a thin plastic bag which can tear after as little as two uses (one in some cases although I have had some last up to 12 uses). They are not indestructible though so be mindful of how much gets stuffed in so the seam remains intact.

I was also impressed that they carry ten different types or sizes of this kind of item and the prices come down as the number of purchased items goes up. The final thing I really liked was that the seams were stitched under so there was not fraying fabric inside the bag. It gave them a nice finished look and function.

Overall I think this is a nice alternative to plastic bags and feel great about granting a Three Leaf Rating!

Thanks for such innovation EcoBags, can not wait to talk about your canvas bags tomorrow! ♥love♥

*The photo used is from the EcoBags website, nothing I took was coming out fit to print, I only received one bag from these folks Thanks!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The EcoBag Series -- Day One: Loofah-Art Kitchen Scrubber

We have all been there, on the stove sits a daunting pot with something burned/caked/cooked onto the bottom of it that our everyday sponge just will not handle. We do not want to waste the water it would take to soak it for hours and steel wool pads sometimes contain chemically enhanced detergents, so what should we do when trying to remove something so stubborn?

I recently received this Loofah-Art Scrubber from EcoBags and I must say, after using it a few times for just the very scenario described above I am in love with this little apple shaped cleaning tool!

Most recently I used it (with just a little water added to the cleaning pad itself) to remove some completely dried vegetable soup from a bowl and it took it off with no problems and little pressure. Rinsing the scrubber utilized far less water than soaking the bowl would have. Listed online for $3.99 the scrubber is completely biodegradable, since loofah is a plant, and the package indicates that the dye is vegetable based.

I liked reading that a portion of the proceeds from Loofah-Art sales help to support the funding of schools, medical care and decent living conditions in the countryside in India where they are created by independent farmers and fairly paid workers.

There are 55 different designs for both the shower or kitchen (on the Loofah-Art website, EcoBags shows different options based on availability) so there is likely one to fit in with any d├ęcor or preference. I love my apple; it was the perfect choice for Loofah-Art to allow EcoBags to send me to review as I have some apple items already hanging around my kitchen!

The scrubber dried relatively quickly but I will say it was a bit stiff to work with at first and slightly rough on my hands as I do not wear gloves when washing dishes by hand. Also, there is a minimum order of two scrubbers required on any of these, including the body loofah which retails for $14.99 and is substantially larger of an item (I found this slightly odd). I will definitely be curious to see how long the Scrubber lasts before it either begins to emit an odor or begins to break down.

Despite some personal preferences, this is definitely a more environmentally sound option than similarly designed nylon based versions, and I am awarding the Loofah-Art Kitchen Scrubber a Three Leaf Rating!

Not only is this product functional but it is attractive and eco-friendly! Nice work! ♥love♥
Coming up tomorrow -- the reusable Produce Bag

Friday, October 16, 2009

Eco Fashion Friday Off to Shop and Create

Hey friends and fans, this week I am taking Eco-Fashion Friday off to work on a few things for my own home made Halloween costume.

Next week on Friday I will be posting the early stages of my home made elements. My costume is slated to be comprised of pieces which I intend to repurpose, upcycle or reuse in other ways after Halloween is over. With that in mind today will be spend plotting and planning the perfect costume functionality.

While I take some time to draft up a plan why not take a few minutes to listen to an oldie but goodie on our favorite Friday topic over here at GLR -- Fashion by David Bowie. Bear in mind the decade this song was released as a hint on what my costume will be…hahaha!

Come back next week to find out what my costume is!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cooking the Whole Foods Way Was a Welcomed Gift

Matt and I recently moved into a new apartment with not only a much larger kitchen than any of our previous places but also a dishwasher, shockingly, a first time appliance for both of us. We have both long been interested in expanding our horizons over the stove but nothing is more dream-crushing than being faced with mountains of dishes after a yummy meal. So when we moved here we were determined to start experimenting. As our housewarming gift my Mom gave us the cookbook Cooking the Whole Foods Way by Christina Pirello to start us off on the right track.

Boy did it ever!

This book is packed with over 500 recipes, all Vegan approved mind you, as well as tips, guidance and even a glossary right in the front of the book (no idea what daikon is? Don’t worry, she tells you!). She debunks the myths that: it is difficult to eat healthier, foods like this can only be purchased in special stores, it is really expensive to eat like this, that it is difficult to make these meals.

As a budding, yet still a complete neophyte, chef I found a few of the recipes I came across in this book slightly daunting, it is true. Additionally there are definitely recipes that can not be created without a few necessary appliances so there will be additional up front costs if you desire to create these. Some of these include a food processor and/or pressure cooker.

But bottom line, there are hundreds of not only simple but relatively quick to prepare and easy to create recipes in this book that will keep even the hungriest eater full and satisfied! With sections on grains, sauces, veggies, pasta, beans, salads, stews and more, Christina covers every angle of deliciousness. There are even 37 pages of deserts to choose from. Of course if you’re anything like me there is no reason to choose when all of them could be created at one time or another!

So far we have only made a few recipes from this book and have also eaten a few more at my Mom’s so I don’t think it would be fair to give a leaf rating just yet, but as far as information and variety goes, this cookbook simply shines! I recommend checking it out for anyone looking to advance their skill set in the realm of Vegan cooking as well as anyone who is interested in learning more about the best ways to eat healthier, whole foods.

Thanks Mom, we’ll have you over for some tricolor spirals with red onion and radicchio really soon!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

LUSH Antibacterial Soap

They have gone and done it again! LUSH Cosmetics has once again sent me something that lathers to check out and review and I was certainly happy to do so; as if I would ever turn away bubbly bath products!

Right off the bat I noticed that this time around they got the packaging right on. The box was still a little bit bigger than the soap but not erroneously so like the last time. Plus they used store bags to stuff it for protection as opposed to new paper. The soap they sent is called 13 Soap (Unlucky for Dirt) which retails online for $6.95 for 3.5 ounces of foamy goodness.

The soap makes use of their new base without palm oil (if you did not read the first LUSH review, you can get it here) and also consists of oregano, sunflower oil, coconut oil and honey, not to mention a slew of additional natural ingredients. The soap smells fresh and clean.

The soap gets its name because it is an anti-bacterial soap. So, bummer for grimy germs, but with winter about to set in around these parts there is nothing better than added defense against them!

My only concern on the ingredient list is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, based on yesterday’s discoveries it nerves me some that they use this but I will continue to research the ingredient SLS due to my unease. At just under $7 this homemade soap is a bit pricier than comparable sized and type handmade soaps.

With all of that in mind I am granting the LUSH 13 Soap a Three and a Half Leaf Rating!

You continue to impress me with your responsible ways LUSH! ♥love♥

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Eufora Hair Care Line Creates Beautiful Hair. Naturally?

A few weeks back I was planning to color my hair as I usually do and Matt remarked that this was my number one environmental impact. I defended myself at the time but it really got me thinking about what products I use, how many of them have unnatural ingredients and what percentage of these products go directly onto my head. I was blown away by the actual number (7!) as I always try my best to be a lower maintenance kind of gal.

I started wondering what could be done, what I could change and where I could find it.

So when I received some hair care products from Eufora boasting natural based ingredients, my split ends came together and cheered!

Eufora’s hair care line consists of twenty four products under just four categories: shampoo, conditioner, styling & finishing. Because I do color my hair, use product just about every day, but only wash it a couple times a week, I am using the products featured in the photo above (Urgent Repair Shampoo, Fortifi Strengthening Spray, Piece Works Defining Paste and Elevate Finishing Spray).

Right away I notice the smell. The shampoo is vibrant with peppermint and the paste has almost a bubblegum undertone but is not a little girl product at all. The strengthening and finishing sprays did not have a uniquely defining aroma.

One of the boasts of the company is that they do not use any “fluff” ingredients. The first difference is that water is not the main ingredient, Aloe Vera gel is. Known for its healing properties, this gel is going to benefit the hair and skin. Per their website, additional ingredients include essential oils and botanicals but do not include “synthetic fragrances, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, carcinogenic or suspected carcinogenic ingredients”. Nice!

So I grabbed the shampoo bottle to verify their claims by checking out the list of ingredients. I must admit I was a little overwhelmed with the list; upon reading the information online I imagined this list would be considerably shorter and contain mostly things I recognized.

The first ingredient was indeed aloe but the second (sodium cocoyl isethionate) was something I had never heard of. The fourth ingredient made me sit up and take notice -- sodium lauryl sulfoacetate. Now I was confused, had they not claimed this was a missing ingredient from their products? I figured perhaps it was different as many times similarly named ingredients can be confused with each other so I began some research.

In looking up Sodium Laureth Sulfate (the ingredient claimed not to be found in Eufora’s products) on Wikipedia I discovered that it is deemed a detergent and foaming agent but that its alternate names did not include sodium lauryl sulfoacetate (the ingredient that is in the shampoo).

In looking up sodium lauryl sulfoacetate Wiki asked if I meant sodium lauryl sulfonate, so I clicked it and was then asked if I meant sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). Upon clicking on this link I was brought to a page describing an “anionic surfactant” commonly used in car wash soap or engine degreaser.

Now I was really confused and continued reading where I was told that although SLS has not been proven to be carcinogenic when used in this manner (shampoo as an example), health concerns have been published regarding this powerful surfactant such as skin hypersensitivity.

Were these the same ingredient or was there simply no information anywhere online regarding sodium lauryl sulfoacetate?

I began to question the validity of the “no fluff” claim and wondered just what ingredients would be a benefit to my head or scalp? There were a total of 47 ingredients in the shampoo.

As a comparison I grabbed my Garnier Fructis Fortifying Shampoo to review the list of their ingredients. Sodium Laureth Sulfate and SLS were both ingredients this shampoo as well.

I am hesitant to grant a Leaf Rating to Eufora or the products I have tested here simply because I feel that a whole slew more research needs to be done with regard to each and every ingredient in their products and I know that will take a rather lengthy time. I will be reaching out as well as doing my own independent research on this concern and will be back with more information, and hopefully a review, later.

In the meantime, this was a great lesson learned that I should be far more cognizant of the products I am shopping for and that a little time spent researching can mean decades of benefit to not only the planet but myself and my family as well.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Nature’s Path Organics Cereal is a Great Way to Start the Day

Upon arriving home from a vacation a couple weeks ago I was pleasantly surprised to find a huge box, sent to me direct from Nature’s Path Organics, sitting by my front door. As most of you have likely garnered by now I love food -- love to eat it, smell it cooking and even have become more adventurous making it at home on a daily basis -- so when a big box of it is dropped at my door free of charge, you can bet that I am more than grateful; anxious to give it a try and share my findings with all of you.

What I found inside was seven boxes of cereals and a few granola bars! Holy cow! I knew there was no way I could eat all of these cereals myself so I called in the troops -- Matt, a friend Dan and my Mom (aka Judi FitzPatrick Studios).

This review is going to be fairly lengthy as I feel it is only right giving a little reaction to each of the products, since they are all so different, as well as sharing information on the company as a whole. Tuck in and be prepared to get a little hungry!

Dan was visiting from out of town for a few days so in the mornings we had an, as Dan so aptly dubbed it, “Executive Breakfast”. The first was the Flax Plus Maple Pecan Crunch. The main reaction he had was “mmm” as he went back for a second bowl. He commented that it was “uncomplicated, they didn’t try too hard with it just maple and nuts”.

The following morning we tried both Flax Plus Granola Vanilla Almond, and Optimum Strawberry & Yogurt. Vanilla Almond received the initial comment “ooh its good” but Dan felt it left a slight after taste which I believe might be from the flax seed oils. I enjoyed the crunch of the Vanilla Almond as it held up great in milk. The Strawberry & Yogurt Dan felt was a little too sweet for his taste but he enjoyed the flavors and textures. That one was actually my personal favorite.

A few days later I had an opportunity to test the Flax Plus Red Berry Crunch. The cereal was hearty and there were a surprising number of berries but my chief complaint is it got soggy fairly quickly. Still tasted great, just a bit soggy. Additionally, while completing the Alzheimer’s Memory Walk Boston in September, we were able to sample the Flax Plus Granola Pumpkin as small pouches were given out to test, so I already knew this flavor was light and also uncomplicated.

Matt had a nice big bowl of Sunflower Agave Plus Granola Crunch and was overall very impressed. So impressed in fact I asked him to shoot me a couple of his thoughts and here is exactly what he said:

“The Agave Sunflower Crunch was a pleasant surprise. The combination didn't work in my brain, but the flavors worked very well together. It was lightly sweet like a honey-cluster cereal, but the sunflower seed flavor balanced the flavor of the cereal well. I will definitely keep this one in the house from now on for a quick snack or healthy breakfast.”

Finally, I sent my mom home with a box of Flax Plus Pumpkin Raisin Crunch. Upon careful inspection of the box as well as the cereal my Mom deemed that “The flakes are much like any other whole grain flakes - tasty, crispy, not too sweet, a pretty shade of tan.” Unfortunately she was a little bummed that there was a decent amount of crunch but not much pumpkin or raisin included. She did think it was more yummy than the one we received on the walk but was keen to point out “a serving is 3/4 cup, not an entire cup, so it is much higher in fiber than the others, but also higher in calories when compared by dry measure”.

Overall it seems the four of us were mostly impressed with the yummy factor of Nature’s Path. Now I was off to discover just how cool the company itself really is.

On the homepage we are greeted by the motto “Eat well. Do good.” They have meant this for the past sixty years the company has been growing; it all started with an organic berry farm in 1949. The first experiments with cereal came in about 1971 as the company was focusing on all natural and organic, hand made foods for their supermarket LifeStream in Canada. Nature’s Path Food, Inc got its humble beginnings in 1981, introduced the breakfast line in 1985 and debuted their first cereal in 1988.

These folks are true innovators in the realm of awesomeness -- they were the first cereal company to ever be certified organic, they installed an organic garden and composting area outside their building in Richmond, British Columbia, they signed the Declaration of Sustainability and they firmly believe “Do good and it keeps coming back to you.”

I could go on for days about all the good these folks do! Their website is chock full of info on their involvement with organic agriculture, their amazing employee treatment (including incentives to buy hybrid vehicles and tuition assistance), purchasing of Green energy credits to offset plant generated energy, composting food waste, Their EnviroKidz efforts, and donating line waste to local farmers, in addition to so many other initiatives.

Want more anyway? The boxes are a great source of information and provide a good read while chowing down: They introduced the EnviroBox (10% less box) to save water, energy and paperboard (144 tons!). The box itself is even created from 100% recycled material.

So I took a trip to the cereal aisle in my everyday supermarket; want to know what I discovered? Not only is this brand widely available but the prices are in many cases less than those of the refined sugar and artificial flavoring varieties right next to it. Score!

With such a solid eye on the planet for so many decades, an amazing focus on social consciousness and humanitarianism, as well as maintaining the planet through organic practices, and just all around yummy products, I am granting Natures Path Organics the ever sought after and much coveted Five Leaf Rating!

Cereal lovers, snackers and those concerned with the way packaged foods are processed these days will all fall in love with at least one of their amazing flavors; I strongly suggest testing out a few to find your favorite. Thanks for such a strong eco focus Nature’s Path! ♥love♥

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Vlaskaas Cheese from Beemster is Yummy for a Great Cause

I recently had a block of Vlaskaas cheese from Beemster (a company based in Holland) shipped to me to test, research and review and as a self proclaimed cheese lover I might have already been slightly biased when it arrived at my doorstep. But I put my personal love for milk protein aside and vowed to be completely professional on this review.

The first thing I noticed was the pink ribbon on the package and included blurb that for every pound of Vlaskaas sold between September 15 - October 31, Beemster would donate $.50 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. They also guarantee the minimum donation to be $10,000. I was impressed by their effort to support such a worthy cause in the fight against Breast Cancer.

Next thing that jumped out was the fact that this cheese is 100% all natural ingredients -- cow’s milk, salt, cheese cultures, rennet and annatto -- just six ingredients keeps the cheese in its purest form.

While reading through the story about the inception of this cheese I learned that it was invented as a snack for workers during the celebration time of the harvesting of flax. The recipe is the oldest in the line but was introduced the most recently as it was revived in about 2004 when the festival was also reborn. The literal translation of Vlaskaas is Flax Cheese.

Their pastures are 100% pesticide free and along with companies like Ben & Jerry’s, Beemster is part of the Caring Dairy program. The program includes efforts to provide enhanced love and, well, care for their cows. They have opened up the available space each animal has to move while inside (including the ability to simply lounge and relax), allow the animals to range freely among the pastures and just generally treat their cows with love and respect. Cool!

It also does not hurt that it was amazing on top of our vegetarian chipotle chili the other night and even better naked on wheat crisp crackers a few days later. Cheese does not usually last long in our house but this one seemed to go particularly quickly.

With only six cheeses in their line Beemster is able to consistently focus on the treatment of their animals, as well as the quality of their cheese, and by donating time and monies earned to such fantastic charitable organizations they certainly had no trouble impressing me. With all of this said I am granting Beemster Vlaskaas a Four Leaf Rating!

Next time I am in the cheese aisle you can be sure I will keep an eye out for Vlaskaas; keep up the great work Beemster! ♥love♥

Friday, October 9, 2009

Eco Fashion Friday Halloween Series Costume Creation Tips

Here are some more tips in the continuing series here at GLR about how to create a more eco-friendly Halloween this year!

eHow has a great article on ways to be Earth friendly this Halloween. My favorite tip of all here is raiding the closets of family and friends. Some clothing buried deep in an older family member’s closet could be perfect to complete a retro look, or pieces from their collection might just be the perfect accent like a brooch or a nice pair of shoes.

Get creative in your own closet! Last year my husband, in the business for thirteen years, went as an Out of Work Mortgage Banker. He got dressed as he normally would for work but put on pants that had shrunk, wore a pair of really scuffed shoes, un-tucked one side of his collar shirt, buttoned it askew, tied his tie haphazardly and messed up his hair. I think he even had a folded up resume in his pocket. It was hilarious and timely and did not cost a dime.

Trade costumes with a friend. One of the biggest bits of waste on Halloween is in fact the costume. Worn for just one night then given away we can greatly increase the lifecycle if we hold onto it and exchange with a friend or colleague the following year.

If you must buy new, think of going with something handmade. One of our favorite shopping experiences here at GLR is the community of unparalleled artists and designers over at Etsy. I typed the words “Halloween costume” into the main page search field and got a hit of just under 13,000 results. Chances are there will be something there to suit every need or desire imaginable. Not only is it nice to support independent artists but most items are going to be one of a kind (OOAK) so you won’t arrive at the party in the same outfit as a friend!

Sew your own. In a week or two I will be sharing the makings of the costume I am creating for myself this year out of a little creativity and a couple T-shirts. I am still working on sketches and the overall concept but stay tuned for at least half of a costume created from very simple sewing techniques as well as extremely inexpensive items from thrift shops or my very own closet!

Photo thanks goes out to Judi FitzPatrick Studios again. Thanks Mom!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Eat Healthy: New source for nutrition info and options

Hola, Jenn-folk! Melissa here. Jenn recently got a tip to check out the site below. Because it's a parent-oriented site, and, um, because I am one, she asked me to take a stab at reviewing it. Here goes!

Before I go too far here, I suppose I should admit that I am presently eating candy corn. And that my kids like a Happy Meal (and dislike most vegetables) as much as the next kid. But like any other parent, I aspire for my kids to be healthy and to learn how to keep themselves that way by making good dietary choices, at least most of the time. I also like to be in the loop on what ingredients and foods are considered -- by groups whose opinions I respect -- to be safe for consumption.

The nonprofit organization
Healthy Child, Healthy World is looking out for kids, too, and to that end, it recently debuted a new section on its website called Eat Healthy. And it's jammed with information to help parents make informed food choices -- and tasty meals, too.

The Eat Healthy site's mission (in its own words):

"In a world of processed foods and lean budgets, it can be difficult to make the right choices when it comes to food. Healthy Child wants to make sure that families see the importance of organic foods, non-GMO, and nutritionally balanced eating while encouraging healthy habits."

This site is so packed with information and links that I can barely scratch the surface, but here are some of the key features:

  • Interesting recipes: A sampling from the periodically-updated top level page includes Crispy Baked Taquitos with Black Bean Filling, Asian Style Shrimp Pilaf and Confetti Meatloaf. More are available by clicking on Eat Healthy's "Recipes" link.
  • A sidebar linking questions along the lines of "What is bisphenol-A?" or "I think I have toxic mold in my house. What can I do?" to answers.
  • Links (in the site's "Resources & Advocacy" section) to organizations like Center for Science in the Public Interest, Allergy Kids (raising awareness of food allergies affecting children) and Local Harvest (a site that allows users to track down fresh, locally grown produce anywhere in the country), to name a few.
  • Practical tips-and-tricks articles such as "Low Cost Ideas for Eating Organic," "20 Creative Ideas for Healthy School Lunches," and "How to Eat Healthy When You're On the Go."
  • Guides to what fish are safe to eat, what produce to buy organic, etc.
  • Links to bios on and articles by a handful of "Healthy Eating Experts" who help shape the site's content.

My neighbor Julie, who in her pre-mom incarnation was a science writer, and an avid reader of books such as "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," (both of which are incidentally mentioned as resources on Eat Healthy) was initially a bit turned off by the ad-heaviness of the site. But on further reading, she was happy to see the site's solid connections (via the broader Healthy Child, Healthy World page) to respected organizations like Environmental Working Group, as well as some of the practical "what to avoid" and "how to do this" kinds of lists.

For my part, I had two nits to pick. As I said, there are scads of information here, so it would be easy for readers to get a little overwhelmed (or possibly lost in linkland) unless they took it slowly. And I felt like the "Healthy Eating Experts" section was kind of like a bibliography -- something you maybe have to do to fulfill an obligation, but not the most scintillating use of online space.

On the whole, though, I'm handing out
to Eat Healthy for giving those of us with grand and green nutritional aspirations for our kids the building blocks to make them a reality. (Whew...did I just split something there or what? But you know what I mean!)

When Recycling Options Are Unclear

**please note this is an extremely lengthy post with oodles of information and links; feel free to bookmark to re-read later**

At our most recent Bennetts Brook Green Group meeting, Melissa (our very own MelissaBBGG!) commented on Styrofoam and our local area’s ability or inability to recycle it, despite it being stamped with a big 6. Apparently this type of “plastic” is seemingly non-recyclable in most markets and we all began to wonder ‘then why is it stamped with a recycling symbol?’

First I will share what Melissa wrote in our monthly newsletter and then more on the research that I did upon reading about this confusing issue.

The lowdown on EPS: A mini-rant

OK, you call it Styrofoam+, and so do I, but what I'm really talking about here is EPS, or expanded polystyrene -- the foamy stuff various companies use to pack products for shipping and send your takeout food home in. The short version of what I have to say is, you should not include it with your recyclables anymore, if you have been up to now.

All this past summer, our neighborhood recycling runs to the drop-off included plastics 3 through 7, which the drop-off's web page said was what they took. That, as far as I could see, included 6 -- which, among other items, includes EPS…the drop-off's site didn't specifically exclude we thought we were doing the right thing. And let me be clear here: I'm still thrilled about all the other 3-7 stuff that didn't go to a landfill!

At some point, someone made a comment about how no one really takes 6 EPS, so I started to feel some doubt about the recycling drop-off project. This fortunately happened about the time [our] transfer station began to collect 3-7 plastics. But then I wondered if [ours would] take the EPS.

To get some answers, I got in touch with Laurie Sabol from the Recycling Committee. She says she would recommend not including 6 EPS in recycling. The main reason: there's not much of a market for products made with reclaimed EPS, so most recycling companies don't take it. And if you just go ahead and throw it in, recycling companies have to spend a lot of time picking through their piles to remove it, which I'm guessing will lead to higher fees for users down the road, among other possibilities.

[Another BBGG member] reports after his latest run to the transfer station that the employee he spoke with there says EPS is "not considered a plastic," and it's not recycled there, although the town says it's recycling plastics 1-7 (there are other products marked 6 that, apparently, many recyclers accept). [He] suggested that the 6 marking on the bottom of many EPS pieces might be confusing people, and the employee agreed that perhaps some additional signs might help to clarify what should and should not go into the bin.

Personally, I am frustrated with a capital RRRRR. If EPS can't practically be recycled, I feel that manufacturers' practice of marking it recyclable just adds to consumers' confusion. I know it actually can be recycled theoretically, but that's cold comfort when it's piling up in my house.

I've been on a mission to find ways to reuse the restaurant curbside pickup containers I accumulated over the summer but the real message here, for me, anyway, is that it's time to work harder on reducing use of EPS, at least until recycling it becomes more of a practical reality. I'm aiming to start by writing to places that use EPS and leaning on them to switch to a better choice for containers. And I'll definitely be trying to cook at home more often.

If you're wondering what alternatives you have for the stuff you're stuck with right now, Laurie Sabol has a few suggestions. She notes that packing peanuts, as well as bubble wrap and air bags, are appreciated by UPS stores and antique stores.

Also, the following businesses [Massachusetts only] will take some forms of 6 EPS. Contact one for specifics on what they do and don't allow, and how to get it to them:
• Conigliaro Industries, Inc. 508-872-9668 in Framingham
• FP International 508-832-5369 in Auburn
• Insulation Technology, Inc. 508-697-6926 in Bridgewater
• Foam Concepts, 508-278-7255 in Uxbridge
• Polyfoam Corporation 508-234-6323 in Northbridge
• Storopack, Inc. 508-366-1249 in WestboroughFor another option, you can send EPS to a mail-back location.

For more information, visit

WHEW! I was floored that there was such little information provided to consumers and that most people would see the little 6 and think they were doing right by placing the EPS in a bin. Sadly when the recycling joint picks it out I am quite sure it gets thrown in the trash.

While doing research on where or how to recycle or reuse this EPS, I came across the following website:

Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers

They indicated they have drop off locations as well as a mail back option. I was so excited until further reading indicated they do not take food containers, they essentially only take the stuff used to pack up items for shipping (what is around a computer when you open the box for example).

At least it was a start.

They also offer the Peanut Hotline at 1-800-828-2214 which indicates locations around a five digit zip code who accept packing peanuts for drop off. There were three in my area which was encouraging. Since I have so many products being shipped to me these days, this is something that has been on my mind a lot lately.

The Peanut Hotline refers to the American Plastics Council (1-800-243-5790) at the end of their message as a good resource for more information and they are correct. Their site shares a plethora of plastics information.

I still had not discovered anything I could do with those old food containers though and the bottom line is pretty much every website I went to for information said the same thing: there is low scrap value so most places will not recycle it and due to food “contamination” it can not be sent back.

So what are some things we can do to reuse or at least further extend the lifecycle of this material?

1. If you know you are not the type to finish a meal in the restaurant and tend to bring it home, bring your own reusable container with you when you go out. The server does not have to take it back to put it in a container and these days they tend to bring the container right out to the consumer to do anyway so why not cut out the “middle man”?

2. Thoroughly wash and store old clam-shell polystyrene for this very purpose.

3. Use them for dry storage. Those small ones are great in the bathroom for things like cotton balls or other small, under the sink type items.

4. Make something out of it. Arts and crafts can be a great fall back option -- holiday decorations, numbers for the outside of your house, sculpture art, fabric covered push-pin boards -- the opportunities are only as limitless as the imagination!

In addition, I strongly urge everyone to start writing letters, making phone calls, writing emails, etc to any location that continues to use the polystyrene containers for food take out and request they stop doing so in order for this issue to no longer be an issue. Also, check in with your local recycling centers to see if this type of product is taken.

What have you done with your old EPS?

+ Styrofoam is a trademark of Dow Chemical Company

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

GeoBulb Emits Nice Light at Home

About four years ago we completed a swap of all our incandescent light bulbs to CFLs (when they burned out on their own of course) and it has been easy to maintain CFL usage since as just about everywhere carries them these days. What I do not like about CFLs is that once they burn out (it takes longer but it does happen!) I have to locate a special facility to take them due to the mercury content inside. I wanted to find a way to avoid having to do this in the future. Enter the GeoBulb LED light bulb!

Not only does this bulb contain zero mercury but also zero lead. And it is extremely inexpensive to operate. To run annually: a CFL is estimated at $6.89 whereas the GeoBulb is estimated to cost only $3.97. Nice! I love saving $2.92!

And that is per bulb. In my home we have 10 bulbs this could replace; that is a savings of close to $30 per year just for swapping bulbs.

There is a warranty on these bulbs for a full three years and they are estimated to last upwards of 30,000 hours each, just over three years of usage if the bulb is on nonstop for all three years.

Now for the kind of bad news as far as a cost comparison is concerned.

The bulb itself retails for approximately $100. Now this may sound steep, and it is in the short term, but like anything innovative in the realm of energy savings, its cost benefit should be seen over time. Not only will it help reduce the draw on the energy grid but the landfill will benefit as well. At three years per bulb that is a savings of possibly 3 bulbs per lamp (based on CFL average 10,000 hour lifespan).

It is important to note that these bulbs are not to be used with dimmer switches.

After putting this bulb in my floor lamp I noted some personal preferences that made this bulb not the best choice for me. We do not use overhead lighting in our living room so I like my bulbs to be somewhat bright. As a 40 Watt equivalent this bulb was fairly dim so instead of using it in the floor lamp, I placed it in a small accent light and that made a great difference. My chief concern was the low yet audible humming sound it put out, so I will likely not use this light frequently.

Overall, the benefit of this type of bulb far outweighs the impact and as I mentioned, the minor annoyances were just personal preference so I am awarding the GeoBulb a Three Leaf Rating!

As kinks in early models are worked out and more folks come on board to this type of lighting solution I expect the cost to significantly reduce and little annoyances to be well taken care of. Thanks for being an innovative leader in energy efficient GeoBulb! ♥love♥

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Green Innovations for All Manner of Oils

I have been hearing all kinds of whisperings about the different oils available for a plethora of things from home heat to the oils we cook with so I thought I’d give a run down of some of the coolest innovations I have uncovered recently as well as some of the folks who provide said oils (if possible). Suffice to say this post is going to be fairly link intensive so feel free to come on back and read through anytime!

Avocado oil - home cooking oil (primarily). In a Vegan cookbook my Mom gifted to Matt and I, the author uses almost nothing but avocado oil for her dishes. I had never heard of it and was intrigued. Lo and behold there is an entire Wiki page dedicated to the stuff. Sounds yummy. Next time I am at the supermarket I will be looking for this oil, review to follow!

Algae oil - petroleum replacement. A leader in production of this revolutionary product is OriginOil. The process entails creation of algae (possible without impacting any ecosystems) and subsequent extraction of the oil left behind after the algae mixture is mixed with CO2, water (greywater is preferred) and minerals. The CO2 is dissolved, water hovers in the middle, biomass sinks and the useable oil rises to the top to be harvested. Without having to drill or chop down a plant. Cool.

Flax seed oil - linseed oil, many uses. I have made use of linseed oil as a furniture polish as it leaves a wonderful sheen and strong protective coat when applied in layers. The flax seed is commonly ground up and used in food products. This oil can be used by Raw food enthusiasts as it is obtained through a cold pressing method. This is linoleum (common flooring material) in its pure form. No matter what is done with the oil take care not to place any soaked rags in confined spaces as it is common for them to spontaneously combust.

Coconut oil - a million and one uses! Coconut oil comes in virgin, refined, hydrogenated and fractionated types. When reading the back of a detergent bottle, there are sometimes the words: “natural surfactant” lurking about. Nine out of ten times this natural ingredient is coconut oil. This versatile oil can also be used in cooking, bath and beauty products, petroleum replacements (especially as vehicle fuels & lubricants), for medicinal purposes and a myriad of other applications.

Bioheat oil - home heating oil. Bioheat oil is created when conventional home heating oil and clean burning biodiesel are combined. In a bold move here in my home state of Massachusetts, a mandate goes into effect January of 2010 that at minimum 2% biodiesel must be used in conjunction with all standard home heating oil. This number is low but the effort is high. As the biodiesel movement becomes more standard and homeowners find it is viable, 2% will skyrocket as the years go on; reducing emissions and increasing clean burning fuel sources nationwide.

Image courtesy Domk

Monday, October 5, 2009

Green field trip: Connecticut Science Center

Hola, GLR fans. Melissa here with a tip for a great and green day trip, if you're a New Englander, and a nice destination for Columbus Day weekend travelers.

With Columbus Day weekend just around the bend, it seems like the opportune time to share a great possible excursion. Just off I-84 in downtown Hartford, Connecticut, is the brand spanking new
Connecticut Science Center (this past summer was its first season). My kids are science nerds in the making (a big "yay!" in my book!), and one of my best friends lives not too far from Hartford, so we planned to get our boys together and check out New England's newest place to geek out for fun.

We went expecting lots of cool, hands-on exhibits for giving a fresh jolt to the kids' interest in science and were not disappointed there. There's lots to see and, maybe even more importantly, to do, from building and trying out Lego racers to designing and testing your own paper "helicopter" to building your own noise-producing circuit board. And there's a sizeable area devoted to pleasing even the smallest budding scientists...let's just say waterproof gear is provided!

But working our way through the various floors, I began to notice efforts to incorporate green thinking all over the place. Chatting with an employee, I discovered this wasn't an accident or simply a marketing ploy, but part of the Center's very fiber.
  • Carpets are all made from recycled plastics.
  • Ninety-five percent of the steel used to construct the building is reclaimed from cars and other objects.
  • The "sand" in the river model exhibit is made of recycled plastics.
  • A roof garden, when completed, will help with heating and cooling the building.
  • The Center's cafe offers meals made with fresh, locally-grown and organic foods.
  • The cafe's utensils are made from corn, and therefore biodegradable.
  • Lights in bathrooms and offices are on sensors.
  • Bathrooms have the new "up for #1, down for #2" system for water conservation.
A glance at the Center's green mission revealed even more:
  • The Center is projected to receive a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified rating by the U.S. Green Building Council.
  • Builders used locally manufactured building products, cutting back on transportation impacts and helping the local economy.
  • Down the road, a 60-foot wall of solar panels and a 200kw fuel cell will supplement electrical and heating sources.
Add to that a theater running a film about climate change and a major exhibit that allows visitors to learn about and experiment with a variety of energy-saving technologies, and you've got one green field trip. Oh, and it's just plain cool to look at, and look out of, too! So, New Englanders and/or motivated Columbus Day tourists, get ye to Hartford and check it out!