My latest post for Moms Clean Air Force talks about how what we do and use at home daily can ripple out and touch a lot more than indoor air. Let me know what you think.
Loving this blog Jeffrey Hollender posted today: If I Wanted Someone To Talk About My Brand It Would Be Alexandra Zissu.
A few highlights:
“If I wanted someone to talk about my brand–especially to moms who own a lion’s share of purchasing power and who vote for change with their wallets (and actions)–it would be Alexandra Zissu.
Alexandra is the author and green living expert par excellence who helped me write Planet Home: Conscious Choices For Cleaning and Greening The World You Care About Most….
Alexandra she has a knack for translating hard to understand sustainability issues and environmental health science into easy, pithy consumer English. She’s passionate about giving people the education and tools to make conscious decisions as they go about their daily routines—and especially about the collective impact this can have. She knows what parents and other eco-interested consumers really want to hear and what they don’t want to hear–drawing on her experience with her own active group of followers via books, articles, blogs, social media, talks, and demonstrations. She also has a deep understanding of the full spectrum of green—from people just getting started to the diehard lifers.
Don’t think that anyone’s going to pull the wool over Alexandra’s eyes. I’ve found her a tough critique of Seventh Generation’s as well as almost every product we reviewed for Planet Home. But that’s exactly what you want. Trust comes from transparency, a balanced perspective on the great, and the not so great. That’s what the best brand ambassador is uniquely able to do. She won’t read from a script, she’ll visit your lab, talk to other customers, do a little bit of her own testing and research, maybe even tell you quietly a few things you might not be so eager to hear….A better brand ambassador you won’t find!”
Read it in full here.
More than half of the population must use them monthly, but do most women think about how fem care (as the industry calls them) products impact the environment or even their bodies? Nope. Kind of a big oversight for something you’re so, um, intimately involved with. Think about it: conventionally produced tampons are made of cotton, which is one of the most highly sprayed crops on the planet. They can also contain plastic, rayon, and are often scented. Here is an excerpt from Planet Home about the risks associated with using them:
According to the National Research Center for Women and Families, approximately 43 million women in the United States use tampons. And no one knows the cumulative health effect of using conventional feminine care products. While the boxes on most drugstore shelves aren’t required to list ingredients, most tampons are cotton or a cotton-rayon blend with scent. Fragrance can contain hormone-disrupting chemicals and can also be irritating to skin, especially in such a delicate area.
Conventional cotton often comes from genetically modified seeds and has been sprayed with pesticides, which is bad for farmers and the environment. According to the Sustainable Cotton Project, cotton farming uses about 25 percent of the world’s insecticides and more than 10 percent of the pesticides. These pesticides used on cotton happen to be among the world’s worst: Five of the nine most commonly used have been identified as possible human carcinogens. Others are known to damage the nervous system and are suspected of disrupting the body’s hormonal system.
Highly absorbent rayon is manufactured from wood pulp, a process that involves bleaching with chlorine-containing substances. The eventual product may contain chlorinated hydrocarbons as well as dioxin residues. Highly absorbent synthetic fibers can be a breeding ground for the bacteria that cause toxic shock syndrome. Although some synthetics have been banned, the FDA still allows the use of viscose rayon in certain amounts in tampons. Dr. Philip Tierno, author of The Secret Life of Germs, director of clinical microbiology and diagnostic immunology at the New York University Medical Center, and a leading expert on the health risks of tampons, says that rayon can still create a breeding ground for toxins. All-cotton tampons present the lowest risk.
Luckily, there are alternatives! And plenty of them. Look to these companies for eco- and you-friendlier fem care:
To avoid using an agricultural/disposable product, you can choose a reusable one. Glenny, my editorial assistant, swears by The Keeper. Here are some of her thoughts on it:
“I purchased my first and only Keeper back when I was a college sophomore, about seven years ago. Short of waxing poetic about it, I will share my top five reasons for absolutely loving my Keeper:
1. It saves me money. As a college student I only had to pay $18 for mine, but you can purchase yours today for only $37! Compare that with the monthly expenditures on tampons and other menstrual products and you’re saving a bundle.
2. Its a small step toward a healthier planet. Made of natural gum rubber it is a zero waste product. No throwing out wrappings and used napkins, no toxic cottons to worry about.
3. I’ve had mine since 2004 and it is still in top-notch condition. Life expectancy is 10 years! Honestly, my relationship with my Keeper is the longest and healthiest I’ve ever had.
4. No toxic shock syndrome. Enough said.
5. Portable! Slip it in your purse for those days when you might start your cycle. No need to lug liners and tampons around with you, and you’ll definitely never have to sneak out to the pharmacy for an emergency purchase. The Keeper is small and discreet, and usually comes with a darling little bag to keep it in.
No matter which option you choose, make sure you’re thinking about your body and the environment. You’ll be much happier because of it!”
This week I asked my editorial assistant (sounds much better than intern, no?) Glenny Cameron if she’d mind sharing what she has learned/what she didn’t know before starting to work with me a month or so ago–if anything. Needless to say I’m extremely touched by what she wrote. She’s amazing. Seriously, this is an inspiring must-read. Thanks, Glenny. Have anything to add to her thoughts? So curious!
Before working with Alexandra I considered myself a very environmentally aware person. I buy organic, I shop locally, I reuse plastic bags and refuse to buy bottled water. Fortunately (and unsurprisingly), there are loads and loads of things to learn about the sustainable lifestyle, and I thank Alexandra for engaging me in them. There is always more that can be done, more of the world to save. So, here are the top five things I’ve learned in the past few months, complete with excerpts from The Conscious Kitchen and Planet Home. Some are small and silly, but we all have to start somewhere, right?
I love bananas. They are now a guilty pleasure. Enough said.
There are a number of items in your fruit bowl (and in your cabinets – see chapter seven) that might be certified organic but fall into the realm of still not being great to buy. In this realm, no exotic is more widely available, or controversial, than the banana. The ubiquitous yellow fruit is nature’s perfect answer to packaged goods – every parent’s nutrient-dense dream snack. Yet, it’s a deeply flawed food. Its pretty much the poster fruit for how confusing trying to eat consciously can be. Bananas are grown very far away, are environmentally destructive, are often harvested under conditions unfair to laborers, and the variety we all eat will apparently be extinct in the not-so-distant future. The greenest and most environmentally devoted eaters around don’t eat bananas, or refer to them as a guilty pleasure…Americans eat as many bananas as apples and oranges combined. Food for thought.
2. Organic cotton.
This is a difficult topic because most of my clothes are not made with organic cotton. The main reason is that organic cotton can be very expensive and I am at times, very poor. Another reason is that most of my clothes shopping is done in secondhand or vintage stores, where you will rarely find organic goods. [Note from Alexandra: Secondhand is better than newly manufactured organic cotton items. Go Glenny!] After learning that cotton is the most heavily sprayed crop in the world (accounting for 25% of annual insecticide use globally!) I made a conscious decision to switch to organic cotton whenever possible. This meant buying new sheets, towels, and looking into organic cotton alternatives for the clothes I buy new (socks, underwear, etc.). Although I haven’t completely revamped my wardrobe, I now sleep soundly in my organic bed. [Another note from Alexandra: Awesome!!] Check out ecochoices.com for more information on worldwide cotton production.
I know that all of the nasty chemicals that are found in plastics aren’t news to anyone reading this site. They weren’t to me either, but I needed a push to start actively avoiding them in my life.
BPA – a hormone disrupter (it mimics estrogen) that has the FDA, Health Canada, and the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program, among other entities, in a tizzy, and parents and hikers across the nation switching their baby and water bottles to BPA-free versions. Manufacturers have taken consumer temperature and are busily marketing “safe” plastic products. Unfortunately, some of the resulting BPA-free items contain other chemicals that are new to this arena and haven’t exactly stood the test of time.
Phthalates – this family of chemicals, which make plastic flexible (among many other things), are endocrine disrupters and reproductive toxicants. The are currently being voluntarily removed or banned from everything from nail polish to neonatal tubing to toys. They’re less ubiquitous in a kitchen than BPA but are likely found in certain plastics (like meat and cheese wrappings) as well as PVC (vinyl) flooring and even in cleaning-product fragrance.
Sure, I use (organic) cotton totes and only use my plastic bags for my garbage can, but I when I looked in my cupboards I was ashamed to realize how much food was stored in plastic containers. My cereal and pastas were in plastic bags and my fridge was filled with leftovers in plastic tupperware! What was I thinking? So I threw it all out and bought loads of canning jars to use as storage instead. I even moved my spices. It was easy! [Yet another note from Alexandra: Nice! Love this!]
4. DIY cleaning.
I must confess, I have a fairly high tolerance for dirt and dust and have never lived in a sterile environment. Perhaps it’s leftover from growing up in the country, in a house where the windows were always open and pets of all kinds were rampant. I truly believe this is why my brother and I have incredible immune systems.
That said, most of my cleaning was done with minimal products, usually just water. On the occasion when I was inspired enough to actually use some disinfectant, I turned to the all-natural brands like Seventh Generation or Ecover. Fortunately, Alexandra’s tips on DIY cleaning have buffered my “do less” attitude toward cleaning while still keeping my apartment germ free. I’ve even passed these tips on to my mother, who I can thank for fostering my housekeeping habits (or lack thereof).
-Soap plus water equals mopping solution.
-Soap plus baking soda and a drop or two of water equals excellent mildly abrasive paste. Extras to mix in include lemon, natural essential oils, or even hydrogen peroxide.
-Water plus vinegar equals glass cleaner.
Living alone and living simply means that I have few appliances. I don’t own a coffee maker or a desktop computer. My TV is rarely used. But, for the gadgets I do use – lights, clocks, speakers – I never thought to unplug them when not in use. I admit, my cell phone charger was usually plugged in until reading Planet Home.
Appliances use energy even when turned off. Pull plugs out of the wall to stop energy draw. Alternatively, plug them all into a power strip and turn the strip off when not in use, as well as overnight.
A very simple step towards greening your life.
Last night I drew a diagram of all of the things that I do. It was a dot I called “me” in the middle, and then circles all around me of what I’m working on, involved with, or otherwise doing. The verdict? I’m busy! (And, um, overextended.)
In an effort to make sure blogging doesn’t keep getting back-burnered, I’ve come up with the following schedule. This way you’ll know what I’m posting and when, and can come back to read accordingly.
I’m launching the new schedule this Tuesday, in honor of Earth Week, and will be raffling off several free copies of The Conscious Kitchen and Planet Home to new readers who follow me on Twitter and/or fan me on Facebook mentioning the new, more frequent blog via post or tweet and suggesting one thing I should cover on it.
- TUESDAYS: Look for relevant information and excerpts from all of my books, linked to whatever is happening in the news
- THURSDAYS: Q&A days! You send in your questions, I answer them.
- SATURDAYS: Mish-mosh day, mainly food-related. I’ll be posting farmers’ market videos, ingredient thoughts, recipes, and more.
I promise to stick to the schedule, but of course reserve the right to do slightly less or maybe even more, especially when The Butcher’s Guide To Well-Raised Meat comes out on June 7th.
If you like what you read, please let your friends know about it, and make some noise in comments. If you’re interested in hearing even more from me, sign up for my newsletter, follow me on Twitter, or “like” me on Facebook. I’m on there daily posting links to what I’m reading and thinking about throughout my days.
Back in the day I was a food writer. Which is (part of) the reason I wrote The Conscious Kitchen. Mainly I just really, really love to eat. And especially real food — local, organic, tasty. So I spent some time researching where to eat before heading out on tour. I was really jazzed by what I read about Seattle. There were so many amazing restaurants to choose from that fit in to those categories, and went above and beyond. After much hemming/hawing (and drooling), I settled on Tilth. And here’s why (from their website):
“We feature New American cuisine prepared with certified-organic or wild ingredients sourced from as many local farmers we are able to support. Our executive chef and owner, Maria Hines, is a James Beard Award winner for Best Chef of the Northwest, as well as one of Food & Wine Magazine’s 10 Best New Chefs of 2005. In 2008, the New York Times deemed Tilth one of the best new restaurants in the country. Tilth received its organic certification from Oregon Tilth, an unaffiliated organization that promotes sustainability.”
My kind of place! Unfortunately, the flight from Denver got in too late for us to go. I was heartbroken, but also tired. Sitting at a table at that point would have been tough. So I loaded up at a Whole Foods near my hotel and climbed into bed with lovely regional cheeses and a tasty local wine to drown my sorrows and prepare myself for the next day.
I didn’t do any broadcast in Seattle, so had time to wander around before meeting with local moms in nearby Edmunds. Here are a few pictures of the gorgeous sculpture garden and the sign I saw instead of flying fish (Pike Place Market is renovating!). Seattle reminded me of San Francisco if you crossbred it with Helsinki (my daughter’s paternal grandmother is Finnish so we have spent lovely time in Finland). Happily I managed great coffee and some tasty food before road tripping to Portland later in the day. What a gorgeous drive. I’d love to go back to both.
Oddly, I’m posting this from way up in the air as I finally make my way back to snowy New York City. American Airlines has wireless. Brave new world.
I’m stuck in the San Francisco airport waiting to get home to my family so I thought I’d use this time to reflect on the past few days. Last Sunday I flew from New York, where I live, to Denver. That night I ate at a lively local foods spot called Root Down and attempted to sleep. I’m actually a champion sleeper, but flying, hotels, and not being with my family interfere. Giving talks and going on television also make me nervous; I’m used to writing alone! That said I had a warm welcome and a good segment on Good Day Colorado/Denver’s local Fox station and then met with a bunch of local moms to chat about all things green at the Children’s Museum. A grade school/high school friend who has moved to the Denver area even showed up with her son — so nice to see a familiar face. I’m apparently not supposed to admit that I had some altitude sickness, but I’m an over-sharer. So there. Denver was gorgeous, but I did feel much better once we left.Here are some pictures from Denver. I especially adored the personal greeters in the airport who help direct you to your gate or transportation. This lady (above) even let me try on her fabulous hat.