Saturday, March 27, 2010

Low VOC, No VOC, No Odor, or Stinky?

I recently started reading a Greenie blog called Green Living Q&A. The owner and editor, Debra, posts on a wide range of topics and although I had never commented before I have been an avid reader for the past couple of months since my sister introduced me to the site.

While catching up on blog reading, I came across a post where a reader had requested information regarding Acri Soy Grout Sealer and people’s impressions of it as a low VOC option. The reader went on to discuss a paint selection they had made long ago and how it had touted a no VOC claim but stunk to high heaven after it dried. (You can read the original question post here.)

As a decorative painter and Greenie this fueled me to post back a fairly lengthy comment with regards to the differences between VOC and odor as they are not the same.

“I don't have any familiarity with the grout sealer but am very curious to hear if anyone else does as tile is something we've considered doing and have looked into these types of grouts.

What I do know is that low VOC does not mean no odor when it comes to paint. VOC is the chemical gas that is released after or during the drying process, the odor is a separate beast all together and is not necessarily related to the environmental function of an item. An orange has an odor, a strong one at that, but it is pleasant & natural so it doesn't bother us. Just as an example.

As a painter & decorative finish artist my preference on paint (after trying MANY believe me!) has been either Benjamin Moore Eco-Spec or Sherwin Williams Harmony. They do still have an odor but the harmful chemicals will not linger as it dries. Benny just came out with Natura (no VOC even in the tints, no odor) that I haven't tried yet but plan to include in my arsenal. More expensive, true, but a far better quality paint and less harmful overall. Anyway, good luck with it!”

I imagine it is a common misconception in the world of building supplies, paint in particular, for consumers to think that reading ‘no VOC’ on the label means it won’t smell bad. That is not at all the case all the time.

Please also bear in mind that tinting paint will generally add VOCs to the latex base. So even if you are grabbing a 100% VOC free paint base off the shelf, the minute you ask the person at the counter to turn it into that beautiful color ‘Wildflower’, not only the colorants but, VOCs are added.

From all I’ve read, Home Depot sells an exclusive line called Freshaire Choice. A zero VOC paint, that apparently also makes use of 0% VOC in the tint as well, it is a considerable eco friendly option (recycled materials, soy based inks, even the paint chips can be recycled!). It is not a no odor paint however so bear that in mind when using it and ventilate properly while applying.

If I use Natura or Freshaire Choice to tint my ECOglaze, a truly safe finish will be applied. That’s kind of rad, I will definitely check it out.

I hope that my explanation helps to debunk the no VOC = no odor myth and that those interested in painting with no harmful gasses released (and also a less stinky environment) will shop wisely with a firm eye on the label of the item they’re buying.

Are there other paint options you love that are no VOC, low VOC, no odor or low odor that I may not have discussed here? Please share!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Eco Fashion Friday Catching Back UP with threadUP

Good morning all you fine fashionable folks in bloggyland! Another week has passed and it is hard to believe but we’re already back around to Eco Fashion Friday! I recently got word from my friends over at threadUP that the clothing exchange website for kids is open and ready to rock!


We profiled this company and their unique concept back in January. The company facilitates the exchange of gently worn clothing. This particular division works with kids clothing and although I don’t have any kids of my own, I know a few people who will benefit greatly from the advent of this awesome concept!

How does it work? Easily!

Parents get on the website, list a box of clothing (that their child has out grown) to send, then pick a box to receive from another parent. Done. Plain and simple. Just that easy!

Signing up is quick and membership is free. Oh yes, that’s right. All you pay for is the shipping cost to send the box then sit back and wait for new clothing to arrive for your own little one!

With the rate at which kids grow and outgrow clothing this is just a fantastic concept.

If you’re a parent short on time to shop, looking to get rid of some clothing out of your kid’s closet and want to replace it rather inexpensively then get over to


And join Ryker in packing up a box of your own gently worn clothing for another kid to enjoy!

Thanks threadUP for pioneering such a time and money saving venture for so many parents out there! ♥love♥

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Produce Bags Are Perfect For…

Every once in a while I like to discuss the ways to extend the lifecycle of something that may be deemed as not as awesome for the planet so today’s topic is produce bags. These thin, usually transparent, plastic bags have not been as aggressively marketed for replacement as their two handled take-it-home counterparts, so most of us end up coming home with a handful of them every time we hit the store.

There are designers of canvas, nylon, even woven jungle vine sacks out there who specifically create these types of bags and although I really want to remember to buy some I have yet to do so. Even me, the Greenie, ends up sometimes home with plastic.

So what do I do?

First of all I try to reuse them as long as possible AT the store. After a couple of trips I will wash them out & dry them and stick them right back in the reusable shopping bags in my car. I will do this until they spring a small hole (usually after about 5-8 trips on average depending on the volume & item placed in the bag). That way they get a good long life and I figure I save about 30 - 48 bags in total (6 bags per trip on average).

When I think that they have outlived that part of their journey I then transfer them right into my trash cans. The bathroom, office and living room in our house make use of small trash cans for convenience sake. Produce bags are like a perfect fit for these cans to protect the bucket from make up remover, food wrappers or even gum from smearing the bottom.

Because this trash is never heavy it’s alright if there is a small hole in the bag when it goes into the can. And because they are clear they don’t mess with the attractiveness of the style of the buckets. I leave them in there and just dump the trash out into our large bag until there are too many pieces of gum or other sticky things attached to the sides; that is usually after about a month. I estimate this saves an average of 3 new bags per week.

All told by utilizing these produce bags over and over again I estimate my personal plastic bag savings as about 9 per week, an average savings of about 36 bags in a month. I would like to try to start purchasing reusable produce bags in the future but for now I am proud to do what I can to make the most with what I’ve currently got.

Also I am going to try to keep an eye out to see just what kind of produce bags my store uses as I discovered The Brenmar Company while researching this article. These folks offer pre-rolled produce bags to consumer stores that completely biodegrade in 3-5 years in a landfill because they make use of oxo-biodegradation.

For more information on oxo-biodegradation.

What creative uses have you found for produce bags?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Burt’s Bees Natural Toothpaste

Recently I received a free sample tube of Burt’s Bees Natural Toothpaste in the mail. With six different versions in their toothpaste menu they sent out a 0.5 oz tube of the multicare with fluoride for me to try.

The first thing I noticed right away is that it is a thicker paste than the brand I currently use, it was heavier at first gliding across my teeth, but it did foam up nice and the heavy feeling went away in just a second. The flavor is good, very minty but not knock you over strong. Best of all? My teeth feel cleaner than with the toothpaste I currently use! I didn’t see that coming; as a coffee drinker it’s important for me to have a great toothpaste. I think I might have found my new favorite.

The package claims it is 99.2% natural which is a pretty high number. Burt’s Bees makes use of natural cranberry as its plaque fighter. According to the website, cranberries contain a nutrient known as Proanthocyanidins [PCAs] and this is good because:

“Studies have shown that PACs inhibit oral bacteria from sticking to the surface of teeth, thereby helping prevent plaque formation before it starts”

The paste also contains calcium and phosphorous but does not contain SLS (Sodium Laurel Sulfate), artificial flavors, sweeteners, color or preservatives. And they never test on animals.

Online a 4 oz tube goes for $5 which is competitive compared to my usual brand. Plus the product is currently available at 11 major retailers (including Whole Foods, Safeway,, Duane Reade, etc), coming soon to Target, Walmart and Rite Aid, and of course can always be purchased on the Burt’s Bees website.

The company has a long and solid track record of caring about the planet and the people who reside on it by providing natural products that work. I’ve been a fan of their lip balms for years already and now they can add me to the list of toothpaste converts as well! Due to their strong commitment to a more natural life I am granting Burt’s Bees multicare with fluoride toothpaste a Four and a Half Leaf Rating!

Want to get your own free sample and check it out for yourself? Just head on over to their website and fill out the brief information to get yours!

Thanks for your attention to our pearly whites Burt’s Bees and for doing it with a natural twist. ♥love♥

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ziploc Evolve Bags Make the Effort Toward More Responsible

This past week my bloggy friend Anna, from the super cool Etsy shop Almost Precious, and I worked out the details for me to ship her a whole bunch of beading supplies. Then while grocery shopping I happened upon these new Ziploc® evolve™ sandwich bags and I was intrigued to say the least.

Made by utilizing 25% less plastic (than their original Ziploc counterparts), by utilizing less overall energy consumption in their production (intended to help reduce emissions), through the power of wind energy (up to 50% of the energy associated with the creation will come from wind power) and packaged in recycled cardboard (100%, 35% of which is post-consumer). These bags are a step in the right direction.

Now I know what many of you are thinking, they are still plastic, still using fossil fuels and still part of a ‘one and done’ mentality and that is definitely all true but sometimes change comes in the form of baby steps for some who might be more resistant. Busy parents who still package their kid’s lunch in sandwich bags at least have a more environmental option now. I feel better knowing that if they were going to buy them anyway, at least there are smart choices to consider.

Over time, this awareness in behavior might transition into packing sandwiches in reusable containers, but in the here and now I like to see companies making some kind of step, any step, towards a more responsible option. And they were only about $.30 more expensive for the box of 50 bags as compared to the store brand sandwich bags.

I can’t Leaf Rate the bags as I’m not really sure how they work, my whole intention was to use them for separation and storage during the shipping process and I imagine Anna will see to it they are disposed of properly as she is a fellow Greenie. Perhaps she will also be so kind as to let us know how they held up during shipping and if they are a decent storage option on the whole??

If you’re a person who plans to buy them anyway, I recommend looking into Ziploc® evolve™ as a more responsible option.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Eco Fashion Friday is Back!

Good morning friends! It has been far too long since an eco fashion feature happened over here and because of that I’m planning to showcase a few today. I am not assigning leaf ratings to any of these shops today but please note they are all members of the fabulous Team EcoEtsy! Over the course of the next few weeks I plan to further investigate these fun, breathtaking, funky and cool shops and do true full features on each so stay tuned!

This men’s tee comes from HorisJapanBlue and utilizes natural indigo in a Shibori pattern to transform the natural cotton tee. A great one of a kind piece for the guys at $36.

Upcycling pieces from trashed men’s suits, this hip and funky Chase Handbag comes from mandinka. $120 is a steal for a one of a kind luxe bag. This is on my birthday wishlist, hint-hint Matt!

Water based ink and canvas make up this bucket for single sock storage. Seriously inklore, this could NOT be any cuter or more functional! Hard to believe its only $30.

This organic cotton sateen dress from windyhillfibers is perfect for the upcoming warmer months. Tie in front or back, wear with a jacket or not, the $95 price tag buys multiple looks.

A recycled denim cloche hat goes with anything, dress it up with a fancy ribbon or keep it casual with shorts in the summer. AnnyMay this is an adorable piece at only $30!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sustainability on ski resorts' to-do list

Note: Hey there, Jenn-fans, it's her favorite sister-in-law, Melissa. Long time no post here, but this story seemed made for GLR, so here goes.

I just got back from Pat's Peak, a ski area in Henniker, NH. Just for the heck of it, as a way of reliving a nice day on the mountain, I grabbed one of the Peak's brochures from our motel's tourist info area. I wasn't hunting for an environmental angle, but, lo and behold, the brochure referred to something called Sustainable Slopes. I had to know more.

Sustainable Slopes is a National Ski Areas Association charter introduced in 2000 as "a framework for sustainability in our operations," according to charter documents. More and more ski resorts around the country are signing on, along with participants from resorts in Canada, New Zealand and Spain. The purpose: to get participating resorts moving in the direction of lessening their environmental impacts in a host of areas.

Under this banner, many ski areas are turning to alternative snowmaking technologies and purchasing -- and in some cases, installing -- wind power (even if it's in the form of offsets) to cut their use of fossil fuels and increase efficiency. Some are also using bio-fuel to heat guest areas and bumping up their on-site recycling efforts.

Many are encouraging guests to cut their motors in dropoff and pickup areas rather than idling. Others are promoting carpooling as an option -- even offering ways to match skiers who are driving with ones who need a lift.

Like any other green effort, this has its doubters, most of whom say that without accountability built into the program (it's currently voluntary and unregulated), this amounts to the ski resort industry slapping green-tinted goggles on its customers.

It's a point, but here's another: Without snow and temperatures cold enough to make more snow, skiing (especially here in New England) will one day become a memory. So taking on global warming is just self-preservation for ski resorts (though I'm sure there are some who do it for the planet). For those who have figured that out and genuinely started down the road, taking the steps they can as they can, I have only good things to say, so five leaves to them and to Sustainable Slopes for helping the ski industry step up.

Keep on going! For everyone else, you get your leaves on a case-by-case basis.

Note: Here were a couple of read-worthy articles I found when I was researching:

A 2009 list of Treehugger's 7 greenest bets for ski resorts
An MSNBC piece about ski resorts purchasing wind energy offsets

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Tuesday Pretty, What A Deal From Almost Precious!

While perusing the virtual aisles over on Etsy yesterday I stopped by the shop of a good friend -- Almost Precious. Um, not only is this gorgeous but at an amazing price!

To go direct to the item listing page, and snatch up this baby immediately, go HERE.

You had better hurry up though, if its still there on payday I’m definitely going to beat you to it! Beautiful work Anna!

For all of you jewelry designers out there, Almost Precious carries a slew of gorgeous beads and jewelry making supplies at really super reasonable prices and currently has all of her handmade pieces on clearance.

Happy shopping!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Team EcoEtsy I Apologize for Slacking Off!

I am a member of this fine team but it has been ages since I have really participated in the community. Yikes! So now that my work life is taking its turn back toward faux finishing for part of the time, and my novel for the other part, it seems like just the right time to get back to supporting this team and its super creative members once again!

Their blog is really a fantastic place to pick up all kinds of super sweet tips and tricks. I just read this tutorial about how to sew my own reusable tea bag this morning and WOW, what a fantastic idea!

Isn’t it awesome? So simple, yet such a huge environmental impact. For all of those tea drinkers in my life you can expect gifts of a few of these in the future I’m sure!

Anyway, I just wanted to let everyone know that I will be doing a whole lot more features on Team EcoEtsy members again, yakking about the blog and whatnot because it is definitely time to get back to supporting my community.

Oh and Eco-Fashion Friday will be back with a vengeance this week, you won’t want to miss it!

Have a fantastic week everyone!

For more on Team EcoEtsy:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Earth Hour 2010 - Lights Out!

Its back everyone! The World Wildlife Fund supported Earth Hour 2010 is almost upon us! It is time to turn it out, unplug it and turn it off for the planet. Let’s all make a difference and kill those lights for just a short and sweet hour on March 27, 2010 beginning at 8:30 PM. It is based on your time zone so it’s really simple.

Here’s a commercial to remind us what to do in one easy step as provided by the kids of America.

Its right around the corner, are you going to take part?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Blossoming Tree Bodycare Lavender Facial Soap and Lotion

Over the course of the last five or so years, I have seemed to develop sensitive and breakout prone skin. I have tried just about everything imaginable to get my face back to the way it looked when I was a teenager and considering it is the complete opposite of normal, I have been baffled for many years about what to do. Recently I discovered a skin system that has been working fairly well on my breakout areas but was wreaking dry skin havoc on the normal places on my face (cheeks and nose).

When a friend of mine, Lisa Abdul-Quddus, Owner and all around magician of creation over at Blossoming Tree Bodycare, (Etsy shop here) was running a contest to comment and receive a sample of her homemade lavender facial lotion and cleansing bar, I had to give it a shot! I was a lucky recipient of the sample pack and I am fully converted!

The areas of my face that receive the slightly drying cleansing are fully rehydrated with the amazingly rich and creamy lotion. But it is not sticky or greasy, it soaks in but leaves my skin feeling soft and smelling great. With coconut, sunflower and jojoba oils plus shea butter I can definitely understand why. To keep a nice even balance she also includes apple cider vinegar but the recipe starts out with water.

As for the soap, it spawns from organic olive oil, water and other natural ingredients. The ground lavender buds provide just the right level of scrub without being too damaging to my skin and as opposed to those plastic beads in some facial scrubs that will sit on the bottom of the ocean forever, lavender buds will simply go back into the Earth. Since I tend not to use soaps on my face, I keep this baby in the shower as a nice, gentle, underarm exfoliant.

Overall I must say that I am completely blown away by the lavender lotion so I fully intend to get over to her shop (my body lotion is running low!) as I know I can find some yummy goodness to pick up there. Although sparse at the moment Lisa intends to fill up stock soon and in the meantime you can keep your eye on her Blossoming Tree Bodycare Facebook page for information and contests.

The commitment to using organic and natural ingredients wherever possible has earned Blossoming Tree Bodycare a Three and a Half Leaf Rating!

Thanks for keeping your eye on the planet as well as our beautiful skin! ♥love♥

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Eco Joe - Environmentally Friendly Home Selling Helper

My step mother is a Real Estate Broker so for years now I have known about the secret of the use of Saint Joseph that many Brokers use to assist in selling their listed homes. A small statue of Joe is buried in a particular location on the property and it is said he will assist in bringing in a buyer as he was always the guy who helped Jesus have a roof over his head.

The problem with most of the Saint Joseph statues out there is that they are made from plastic and if the Real Estate Agent or owner forgets to dig him back up again after the sale (or in our case can’t break ground due to snow cover!) the plastic and its coating can leech poisonous chemicals into the soil over time.

Probably not what Joseph had in mind all those years ago when he was working in construction right? Likely, no. So instead of using those chemically toxic versions Founder, Cindy Lin, developed and introduced us to Eco Joe.

The packaging Joe come in is minimal, from 100% post-consumer content and printed using soy based ink. It can also be recycled after use and it is recommended all over the box to do so. The company purchases carbon offset credits to account for its shipping impact and each quarter their proceeds support a different charity (they even take requests as to a new one to sponsor!).

But best of all is the statue itself. The 4-1/2” Joe statue is cast out of Earth friendly and non-toxic clay. It feels like one of those bare porcelain statues kids would get in ceramics class to paint but there is not a drop of paint on him. The price for the kit is reasonable too -- listed at just $14.99 as opposed to the plastic version at $10.99 -- well within range for most real estate pros.

With the strong likelihood that this practice will be adhered to by industry pros for generations to come I thin Eco Joe is a truly innovative product that helps keep the impact of divine intervention to the minimum possible, promotes social consciousness through donation to charity, is into recycling and minimal packaging and that is why I am awarding the ever elusive Five Leaf Rating to this cool concept!

Thanks for taking an already existing concept and improving on its planetary impact without compromising its function Eco Joe! ♥love♥

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Boogie Board Paperless LCD Writing Tablet

We’ve all been there, we need to make a quick note and can’t find a piece of scrap paper to write on, our pen runs out of ink or worst of all we get the note written but lose the paper later. If that was a piece of critical information for our jobs we might be up the proverbial creek! Boogie Board has tried to alleviate the potential for any of the above scenarios with its LCD Writing Tablet.

As you can see from the lower right corner of the photo above, I am a note taker extraordinaire! I have countless scraps of paper & pads on my desk detailing all the items I need to complete, research, or file away. Once the task is complete I reuse the rest of the paper or recycle it. So when I was fortunate enough to open up the mail to find this Boogie Board one afternoon I immediately started doing the happy dance!

First off, inside the cover is a statistic that one of these babies per student in one classroom for the life of their education (Kindergarten through High School) can save upwards of 3 million trees. Holy cow that is great! It is great for notes or drawings, then simply push the erase button to free the screen for the next great idea.

The Boogie Board is super thin, only about 1/8” thick at the screen, and the stylus pen that comes with it is telescoping (it extends to double the size). Compared to a small pad of paper, its compact size of roughly 4” x 7” fits nicely on the corner of a desk or in a laptop case and won’t add a whole lot of extra weight. Plus it comes with a cleaning cloth that wipes down the screen, static and liquid free, and the unit is priced at under $30.

There are some drawbacks. It can not be connected to a computer so notes must either be transcribed or a photo needs to be taken if the user wants to save the screen. The screen is pressure sensitive but it does not come with a carrying case (I fashioned my own out of the superfluous cardboard packaging it is shipped in). There is no attached slot to store the stylus so I could see it easily getting lost. Finally, the product runs on non-rechargeable batteries (3V watch battery, sealed) so the unit must be trashed upon the end of their life. Researching recycling options is recommended but to me this is a real bummer.

Overall, I feel the innovation outweighs many of the drawbacks and I am granting the Boogie Board a Three Leaf Rating!

I look forward to where your technological efforts lead in the future Boogie Board! ♥love♥