June 17th, 2009
If you’re like me, then you know that feeling of confusion and disappointment you sometimes feel after going shopping for a new green product. You’ve done your research to find the right item and you’ve checked online versions of a store to see that they have it, but when you get there that specific lightbulb, organic cotton t-shirt, or MSC-certified halibut on sale is nowhere to be found. In its place are ten other options that might or might not offer the same benefits you were looking for.
Fortunately, there are some great tools/services/websites that can help you sort through options as you’re standing there in the store. Some are text messaging-based services, others are simple websites easily navigable on a cell phone, and still others that use the latest iPhone apps and related technologies to make shopping decisions easy and nearly real-time. Here’s a rundown on some we’ve found to be most helpful.
Green Household Products. Good Guide is a relatively new company that aspires to provide information on the health, environmental and social impacts of common products that we use in our home. They cover over 70,000 products so far in food, personal care, toy and household products category. The best part is that these ratings and reviews are available via an iPhone app and also via SMS / text messaging. You can get information on products by searching on product categories, product names, and also on the bar code (the numbers that appear right beneath it). To use it, simply send a text message to “41411″ and then include “gguide” and whatever you’re searching on in the message body.
Example: You’re in a store comparing two green cleaning products (let’s say Seventh Generation Shower Cleaner and Tilex Fresh Shower Cleaner). Text “gguide seventh generation shower” to 41411, and you get a report back showing Seventh Gen’s Shower Cleaner overall score of 8.5 and Health, Environmental and Social scores of 8.0, 9.2 and 8.4 respectively. Text “gguide tilex shower” and you soon get an overall score of 5.4 (8.0 Health, 3.5 Environmental and 4.9 Social). The website provides much more information about what’s behind these rankings. Fast, easy and helpful!
Seafood. Seafood is a veritable minefield of sustainability choices. The global seafood industry is very poorly controlled, meaning that you can find fish in your local grocery store that should instead be on the endangered species list. Fish can also pose health risks due to the accumulation of mercury and other toxins in fish at the top of the food chain. How it’s grown can make a huge difference — the same seafood farm-raised might cause environmental problems, while the wild-caught version might be fine. And it’s highly seasonal/local, so you’re never quite sure what you’ll find in the store.
This handy one-page guide from Neil Banas (brought to my attention by Grist) lays it all out on one easy sheet, clearly showing pitfalls such as choosing between Alaskan wild salmon (nearly the best) and Atlantic farmed salmon (nearly the worst). If you don’t have room in your wallet for that, though, try out the Blue Ocean Institute’s FishPhone text messaging service. Text a message starting with “fish” followed by the name of the fish you are looking for to 30644 and receive a short report on the merits of that particular option in a few seconds. The same content is available at the URL http://fishphone.org, which is specially formatted for viewing on mobile phones.
As an example, texting “fish bluefish” (a relatively common East Coast predatory fish) to 30644 and you get the following message: “YELLOW: some environmental concerns: HEALTH ADVISORY: High mercury, PCB and pesticide contamination. “Fish salmon” returns several different messages depending on the point of origin and whether it was wild caught or farm raised.
Other Categories. We’ll post updates on other helpful services as we find them. Please feel free to bring any of your favorites to our attention!
Popularity: 6% [?]
June 16th, 2009
Father’s Day is this Sunday– but then I’m sure you already knew that. (Don’t worry– I can’t see your look of panic.) Why not make this the year that you fete your father the green way. No more silly neck ties, dumb polo shirts, or $4 greeting cards. We’ve got some great ideas for you, naturally.
Give the gift of your time. What does your dad really want more than anything else? To know that you love him and want to spend time with him. So take him out for brunch, or on a hike, or out to see a comedy show. Spend time just the two of you. No plastic packaging required!
Give another experiential gift. Does your dad secretly want to be a rock star? Get him some guitar lessons. Does he bang the tennis ball around? Get him a session with a tennis pro. Do you live near the ocean? Get him a surfing lesson. Remember that learning new skills keeps us all young at heart.
Make dad a love collage. Make like you’re 12-years-old again and cut up photos from magazines and paste them on a big sheet of paper. Show dad how you feel about him through visual images and text clippings. It will make him feel young again and it will be a very personal gift. And you’re recycling!
If stuff is not more your style, we have some good ideas too. How about a comfy hammock for pops to laze away in the summer breeze? Or how about a solar charger for your dad’s phone and iPod? Or some comfy organic cotton pajamas or a robe (both on super sale now). One of our favorite green merchants, Gaiam, has all of these and much more on sale (you get $20 off orders of $100). Just click here to visit Gaiam and use code AFGRN6 to get your savings. Must order by June 30.
When all else fails, resort to power tools. What guy doesn’t love a drill or a chain saw? It’s weird, but true. CPO is a company that reconditions power tools– that’s right, recycled tools. They have great brands like Makita, Bosch, Ryobi and much more. You’ll save money too.
Popularity: 2% [?]
June 4th, 2009
Happy June everyone! We’re eager for summer to arrive– aren’t you? There are many things we can all do to ensure that we have a fun, eco-friendly summer. Read on and get that barbeque apron at the ready!
What You Need to Know Before You Mow
As the grass grows longer, we get the mower ready to go to work. You will probably be shocked to learn that gas mowers are MAJOR environmental offenders. According to the California Air Resources Board, lawn mower engines contribute 93 times more smog-forming emissions than do cars on a gallon-for-gallon basis. The pollution from a year’s use of an average gas-powered lawnmower is equivalent to the pollution from driving a car 86,000 miles. YES, it’s that bad. And some chainsaws and trimmers are even worse.
So please consider ditching your gas mower and getting either a battery powered or push mower. This Brill Luxus 38 push mower gets great ratings for usability and effectiveness. And there are some great cordless electrical mowers here, too.
Don’t Be an Enviro-Hog at the BBQ
When we have a summer BBQ, most of us generate a pretty impressive amount of waste. You can cut down on the trash going to the land fill in several easy ways. First, make sure to put out two trash cans: one for the food junk and one for recyclable glass & cans. As you know, if you don’t have a separate can, people will dump all of their cans and bottles right in with the other trash. If you don’t have a second can, then put out a cardboard box and write RECYCLE on it. Then you can toss the whole box in the recycling bin after the party!
Next, don’t use traditional paper plates and plastic utensils. Get yourself some compostable and biodegradable alternatives. These are just as functional as the plastic/paper kind but will decompose over time. Or if you don’t want to go that far, look for paper plates and napkins made out of recycled materials.
And what about the left-over veggies, salad and buns? You know where those go–right into your handy composter, to make healthy mulch for the garden.
Be Water-Wise this Summer
Don’t forget that water is one of our most valuable natural resources. In the Western US this summer we’ll be facing a fierce drought, given what little rainfall we’ve had so far this year. Please be sure to conserve water by 1) watering only in the early morning when the sun and evaporation are lower and 2) adjusting your sprinklers so that they only water your yard and not your driveway or street.
With all of the outdoor recreation and beach trips, showering can increase over the summer. Save as much as 40% of your water and energy per shower with this new Delta Fluidics showerhead that offers low-flow efficiency and high-flow comfort.
Cool It with a Ceiling Fan
Energy Star ceiling fans are much more efficient than air conditioners and can cool your house by a few degrees or more. Run a ceiling fan instead of AC whenever you can, and even if you do run AC, run it at a higher temp and use the ceiling fan to recirculate the cool air. See our selection of Energy Star ceiling fans here.
Kids at Loose Ends? Here is a Great Game!
Get the Bioviva board game and teach your kids about our global environment. This award-winning game will help instill in your kids, and yourself, an interest in learning more about nature and our planet. Multiple choice question cards cover topics such as solar systems, plant/animal behavior, evolution, and environmental protection. Kids earn eco-points by correctly answering questions, with the winner being the first player to collect the required eco-points for the locations listed on his or her destination card. Find the Bioviva game here.
Don’t Put Toxins on Your Family’s Skin - Sunscreen and Insect Repellant
Standard insect repellants contain chemicals that not only repel bugs but also are toxic to humans. And sunscreens also often contain harmful chemicals. Protect your family with toxin-free insect repellant and healthy sunscreens.
We hope you all have a wonderful summer! Keep your mind on relaxing– and protecting the Earth at the same time.
Popularity: 4% [?]
May 21st, 2009
We’ve written many times in the past about CSAs– Community Supported Agricultural cooperatives. These are programs where community members support local farms by ordering their local produce in bulk. You can find hundreds of CSAs across the country at Local Harvest.
Well I had bemoaned for a long while the absence of a CSA in central Los Angeles. Can you imagine!? A city this big!? There were places to the North and South and, yes, they would deliver– but at a pretty steep price. Now there is a new CSA that is dishing out delicious fruits and veggies right at Fairfax High School at Fairfax and Melrose. Hurray! I went today and got a glorious bag bursting with grapefruit, oranges, peaches, cherries, spinach, cilantro, onions, broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes, and more. All for $25– take that Whole Foods! I am in organic food heaven.
The mastermind behind this new CSA is Sara Marie Paul, who is a dyed-in-the-wool organic vegan. You can get your order in to her by each Wednesday at 7PM but emailing here: Sara [@] CSACalifornia.org. (Also check out the CSA California website here.) Then you can pick up your food at Fairfax High on Thursday between 2-4PM. A portion of proceeds also benefit the development of the Fairfax High School Garden Project!
Popularity: 3% [?]
May 15th, 2009
Summer is just around the corner, and this is the time of year when we really ramp up our lawn activities– watering, fertilizing, mowing, etc. And all of these can have major negative environmental consequences. Did you know that over 50 million Americans mow their lawns each weekend, and that mowing contributes as much as 5% of the country’s air pollution? And it’s staggering to realize that the average American grassy lawn can use over 20,000 gallons of water each summer! So, a major part of any green home strategy should be to embrace eco-friendly lawn and garden care.
Here are 12 ways you can make sure you have an eco-friendly lawn this summer
1. Collect rain water and use it for your plants. Getting a rain barrel or two for your yard is a simple way to collect and reuse Mother Nature’s water. Just put it under your gutter’s down spout and you’ll be amazed how fast it fills up. Click here for rain barrels.
2. Make sure you’re not over-watering. Most of us over-water our lawns. Do you have moss growing on your driveway or sidewalk or in your garden? That’s a sign you’re watering too much. Do you have pools of standing water anywhere? Another sign. You can buy a very inexpensive lawn moisture meter that will tell you if you’re over-watering. You might also consider getting an intelligent irrigation control system that attunes your watering to the weather and your lawn’s needs.
3. Don’t hose down your sidewalks and driveway. That water is a valuable resource and the water you send into the gutter is carrying oil and a host of chemicals out as run-off that go on to pollute our rivers, lakes and oceans.
4. Get a push mower for your lawn. Traditional gas mowers are horrible for our air quality and contribute to global warming. They are major environmental offenders. A good-ole push mower is the eco-friendly solution. (Or if you can’t go all the way to push style, get a plug-in electric model– better than gas.) Find mowers here.
5. Say no to leaf-blowers! The gas-powered leaf blowers some people use are major carbon emissions culprits. Say yes to a broom! Your waist-line will thank you too.
6. And when you’re done mowing, leave your clippings on your yard. Those grass clippings make great mulch and will help you save water as well.
7. Be sure to compost your other yard waste. If your city doesn’t collect green waste for composting, please get a composter and do it yourself. It’s super easy and the composter will turn your waste into great mulch for use throughout your yard and garden. Find composters here.
8. Embrace native plants. Plants, flowers and grasses that are native to your region are the most atuned to soil, climate and water particularities. They are great water savers and will thrive with less care than tropical and other imported varieties. And they are gorgeous! Learn more about native landscaping here with our book collection. Or contact a green professional landscape designer or maintainance provider from our green services directory. We have eco-minded landscaping experts listed across the United States.
9. Are you addicted to the look of grass but live in a high-drought area? You may want to consider synthetic grass. It uses no water, lasts over ten years, and looks & feels surprisingly real. Learn more about synthetic grass here.
10. Why not start your own organic food garden? Nothing could be better for the planet or your health. Learn how to get started with organic gardening here.
11. Use non-toxic fertilizers and pest-control agents for your garden and lawn. Not only are these better for your plants (particularly any food you might eat), they reduce the amount of toxins that run-off into our waterways. Find safe alternatives here.
12. Use solar or LED lighting in your lawn. Solar lighting is obviously an energy-saver. If you don’t find solar lights bright enough, check out LED lights—they are very bright and use very little power. They will last 5-10 times as long as standard outdoor lights. Find energy-efficient lighting options here.
Popularity: 5% [?]