The week flew by leaving me with a few Groovy Green things to share. After taking time off for Thanksgiving I spent most of the week playing catch-up. While I was responding to emails and writing a few things came across my desk that I thought worthy of sharing.
Your couch is toxic
On Wednesday a startling new study came out in Environmental Science and Technology, showing that couches across America contain high levels of toxic chemicals. Great coverage of the study can be seen on the front page of the Chicago Tribune. The study found that 85% of couches tested contained toxic or untested flame-retardants. And the newer the couch, the more likely they were to contain toxic chemicals. The use of flame-retardants has increased over the years and now over 94% of new couches contain one or more of these toxic chemicals. Not good.
What can you do?
That’s the 20 million dollar question! The bottom line is we need better laws to prevent this from happening. We need the Safe Chemicals Act to pass. Take action today and join the movement today to help limit the use of toxic chemicals in our couches and other consumer products.
Opinionated friends rock!
Big thank you goes out to my friend Mary from In Women We Trust (IWWT) for putting together a fantastic list showing how some of the speakers on IWWT “speak out regularly to keep pushing the culture into a green and socially sustainable direction.” Seeing it on paper really gave me perspective and reaffirmed that we are all doing something pretty spectacular. Thank you Mary for including me on your list.
As the holidays come knocking on our doors I want to give a big shout out to a few of my wonderful sponsors whose long-term support help keep this blog rolling. Please take a minute to check out their sites and share some love. Maybe you’ll even find something special for the holidays.
Mightynest-Shop for a stylish, eco-friendly and non-toxic home. Super products on this site! They’re offering free shipping on orders over $50.
Essential Safe Products-Offering 20% off of all products right now with free shipping on orders over $100. ESP is a place where you can find non-toxic and safe products, and also great tips and information to help you make healthy lifestyle changes.
Abe’s Market-Offering free shipping through the end of the year. Abe’s Market sells natural, organic and eco-friendly products.
The Organic Mattress-With a brand new online store, this little gem of a shop offers organic mattresses, bedding (even for baby) and more.
BagInspiration-It’s your one-stop shop for stylish and trendy eco friendly bags of all types
Starlight Creatives-The most delicious, hand-decorated cookies. I dare you to try to eat just one.
There you have it. Have a groovy green weekend y’all.
Ask a group of friends to come over for a sustainable garden party and they will come. I know from firsthand experience. Not exactly knowing what they were in for, they showed up out of sheer curiosity and a knowing that food would be involved!
What is a sustainable garden party?
About a week ago I was asked by DailyBuzz Healthy Living (I’m a contributor to the site) to throw a sustainable garden party in honor of Lightlife‘s new Frozen Veggie Burger. I’m a big fan of veggie burgers and try to always keep them in my freezer so I’m prepped and ready for a Meatless Monday meal. I searched high and low for these new burgers, but to no avail. Since they are a hot new product they are just beginning their distribution and haven’t made it into my neck of the woods yet.
Since the burgers weren’t an option I was given the go-ahead to test out any Lightlife product. I’ve always seen Lightlife products next to the tofu and tabbouleh at Whole Foods, but have never tried them. I picked out a few Lightlife products and brought them home-ready to get creative.
Now onto the sustainable portion of the party. In addition to testing out some new products I knew that I was going to keep this party as ec0-friendly as possible.
We started off setting the table with reusable napkins. Reusables were used for the entire party-no plastic cups, paper towels, plastic utensils or single-use plates.
Energy efficient lighting
Throughout our house we’ve gradually switched most of the bulbs to either compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) or light emitting diode bulbs (LEDs). CFLs use 75% less energy and produce 75% less heat than incandescent light bulbs. Our refrigerator, shown in this video clip uses LEDs. LEDs last for years and use only 2-10 watts of electricity (1/3rd to 1/30th of incandescent or CFL bulbs).
There were empty glass bottles decorating my counters from beer, wine and a few fancy drinks that we tested out in our Blendtec blender. Recycling was a breeze and everyone pitched in. We all made the effort to throw anything that can be recycled into our recycle bin.
Now the best part: the food! Everyone brought something to share. We kept this meal vegetarian and I don’t think anyone went home hungry.
I had quite a few boxes of the Lightlife Chick’n Style Seasoned Veggie Strips so we decided to whip up a batch of stir fry. They are made from soy and are vegan, GMO-free, fat free and packed with protein (14 grams per serving).
Lightlife Chick’n Seasoned Veggie Strip Stir Fry
This recipe is extremely simple. Use the veggies you have in the fridge and cut them into bite size pieces. I happened to have broccoli, peppers, carrots, squash, and sugar snap peas. I always love having the opportunity to use my veggie crinkle cutter.
Take your wok and heat up with 1-2 tbsp of oil and add the Lightlife Chick’n Style Seasoned Veggie Strips. Then begin to add the vegetables. Don’t over cook the vegetables. Make sure you add vegetables first that need a little longer to cook.
Stir fry sauce
4 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. cornstarch
2 cloves garlic, minced (add another clove if you want more)
1/4 c. water
Add soy sauce mixture to the the vegetable Veggie Strip mixture and cook until everything is lightly coated.
Serve over couscous. The dish was so simple and a big hit! Enjoy.
Have you ever hosted or been to a sustainable garden party?
A while back I made a resolution to eat sustainable, locally grown food as much as possible. I’ve done my best, but it’s next to impossible to grow or find seasonal locally grown food year-round in New England. When those cold winter months kick in there’s not a lot growing in our area and we have no choice but to depend upon local markets to bring in produce from other places.
I want my kids to know where their food comes from
The supermarkets neatly package our food and everything is ready for immediate consumption. As we’re going up and down the aisles we generally don’t give much thought to where our food comes from. Most food travels far to reach us- from another state or another country. The grocery store knows no seasons-you can buy organic strawberries in December although they were grown in June and corn throughout the year. Don’t get me wrong-I’m very grateful that this produce is available year-round, but I want my kids to understand the difference.
Ways to connect with food
Many years ago we joined a CSA (consumer supported agriculture). Every week our box is filled with interesting fruits and vegetables grown on a local, organic farm. My kids are interested in what comes in the box each week and it gives us a chance to talk about where the local, seasonal food is coming from.
I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin and spent many Saturdays going to the incredible farmer’s market. It happens to be the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the country. Now that I live on the East Coast I’ve discovered small farmer’s markets while on vacation and larger markets in neighboring towns. Farmer’s market’s can be found through out the world and they range from large to small, but they all have one thing in common: farmers selling directly to consumers without a middle man. When you buy direct from a farmer you’re recreating a connection between the land and the food you eat.
Grow your own
We decided this year to carve out a small garden in our yard and grow some of our own vegetables. HERE are a few photos of the beginning stages of our garden. It’s extremely small since we don’t get very much sunlight around our house. But that small patch of land has a few plants that are growing like crazy.
I know that our garden isn’t going to be a big producer of veggies and it’s not going to impact our weekly shopping list. Our kids are my motivation for planting a garden. They scan the garden daily looking for something ripe enough to pick. When they had friends over this week they all picked one cucumber and divided it into 5 pieces to share. It doesn’t get much better then that.
Check out this incredible plant in our garden. My friends on Facebook and Twitter helped me figure out what it is. Can you guess?
Finally we are seeing small vegetables growing on this gorgeous plant. Can you see what they are?
How do you connect with your food? Do you grow your own, go to farmer’s markets or join a CSA?
This post ispart of the another fabulous Green Moms Carnival carnival hosted this month by the wonderful Abbie of Farmer’s Daughter. Be sure to stop by Farmer’s Daughter next week for lots of great information on ways we can all work towards becoming more food independent.
My Ecobaby Store has been a longstanding sponsor of Groovy Green Livin and I am very grateful to have them as part of our team. I decided it was time for all of us to learn a little bit about this store that was born from the need to provide quality organic products for babies. I had a chance to bounce a few questions around with Dinah, the owner of My Ecobaby Store.
GGL: Why did you start My Ecobaby Store?
MES: I started, “My Ecobaby Store” because I have a very big passion for living a green lifestyle. I love our planet and it’s important to me how we treat it. Having a healthy and happy family is priority number one on my list. My belief is that it starts with our children. I love children and babies. Most importantly, I love seeing them healthy and strong. It’s scary nowadays, with so many different toxic chemicals being put into our products, so we become more cautious about what we buy for our kids. There have been so many reports of toy recalls, BPA warnings, and so on. I wanted to help make a difference and that is why I started, My Ecobaby Store.
GGL: How do you select your products?
MES: Fair-trade practice is a very important to me, so I’m particular about how it is made and what goes into products. I look for very high quality products and not your type products that you would find at a general store. –so lots of research! I look for products made here in the USA and most of my items are. Also, a lot of our items are handmade and customizable is one of the things that make us different.
I look for products that offer the following:
Eco-friendly— the product is kind to our earth.
Organic—safe and natural for your baby, children and mom.
BPA, phthalates, & PVC-Free.
Safety– for your children, if I do not feel if it would be safe for your family. I will not put it in my store.
GGL: What are the top three things people should look for when shopping for safe baby products?
First, I would look at safety and protection. Products need to be safe for your baby.
Second thing to be aware of is the material in the products, so quality is important. There are too many toxic chemicals, so trying minimizing the exposure as much as possible.
Lastly, look for products that make the least impact on the environment. We want to leave our planet a healthier place for our babies.
GGL: You are a carbon neutral shipping company. What does that mean?
MES: Well, that means after your purchase at the end of the check out. One dollar is donated to the Green Air Project (GAP). We help to replenish the forest by planting trees. Clean air is important to us. It not only affects our children but animals too. We want to reduce our CO2 output to zero and do it in a constructive manner.
You have partnered with Green Air Project. Tell us about that relationship.
MES: Our partnership means that every time a product is purchased through our online store, a portion of the funds will go directly toward planting trees. Our partnership with Green Air Project is supporting the environment and wildlife. It’s a great cause and a way to leave a positive impact. It is a great partnership and we look forward to help reduce our carbon footprint with GAP. Stop by Green Air Project to find out more.
Stop by My Ecobaby Store to see all of their products that are deemed safe for your family and the environment. Enter DISCOUNT CODE: GROOVY10 for 10% off of your purchase.
I don’t wear a lot of jewelry. With three boys and a dog, the risk of having my favorite ring end up as a passenger on a Tonka truck isn’t worth it. The possibility of having my earring ripped from my ear lobe during an intense tackle football game doesn’t excite me.
Not wearing jewelry doesn’t mean that I don’t like it. I do. I have my fair share of funky rings, quirky necklaces and dazzling earrings that I pull out on those days my Lululemon pants need a break and I need to put on ‘real’ clothes.
There’s a lot of junky, cheap metal jewelry out there. Many of the brands made in China and India have been found to have the heavy metal cadmium, a known carcinogen, in them. Just recently, many of the most popular retailers stopped selling jewelry that contains more than trace levels of cadmium. To avoid cadmium it’s best to avoid any cheap metal or plastic costume jewelry and go for the good stuff.
The good stuff
Amara Gold is a company that makes gorgeous, elegant and sometimes funky gold jewelry. This is the good stuff. Amara Gold is a unique company, creating its jewelry from 100 percent repurposed gold and silver. Each piece of jewelry comes with a certificate of authenticity that it is made from 100% recycled gold or silver.
The company’s mission is to preserve precious gold and silver that is already in circulation.
Amara Gold prides itself on being a socially responsible and eco-friendly brand of fine jewelry. They use socially responsible labor practices and eco-friendly packaging materials.
The company says:
We avoid the byproducts of traditional mining. Environmental and energy costs to produce Amara Gold and Silver fine jewelry are dramatically less since each piece in our exclusive collection is crafted without disturbing a single cubic meter of earth.
Check out this gorgeous earrings. Most of us know that gold isn’t cheap. It’s expensive. But it’s one of those quality purchases that will last you a lifetime (unless it ends up on a Tonka truck).
Thanks to the kind people at Amara Gold one lucky Groovy Green Livin reader will receive their choice of one pair of earrings valued at $350 or less. WOW!
The Giveaway is now over. Thanks to everyone who entered. Congratulations to Mary Beth E!
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This is part one of a two part series of discussions with Roger Cook and Kevin O’Connor from This Old House. Part one focuses on the host of This Old House- Kevin O’Connor.
Way back in 1979 Boston Public Television (WGBH) introduced Bostonians to a new television show called This Old House. Little did they know that this show would ignite a new TV genre of home improvement shows. The Emmy award winning show is known for its DIY fix-it tips delivered by its friendly cast of characters. It has grown into one of the most popular programs on the network, which has led to various spinoffs including a magazine that reaches my mailbox and over 5 million other mailboxes each month.
This Old House came to town
When This Old House comes to town people stop, look and stare (in a good way). That’s just what happened in my town. It was next to impossible to avoid the excitement surrounding the next This Old House.
In came the cast and crew ready to begin their next project. I was curious to hear about some of their green initiatives when they remodel a home. Kevin O’Connor and Roger Cook graciously agreed to take some time out of their busy schedules to talk ‘green’ with me.
Kevin has been the host of the show since 2003 and was an absolute pleasure to talk with. He was eager to share plenty of ‘green’ home building tips and suggestions. Kevin has written a book, The Best Homes from THIS OLD HOUSE, which tours a few of his favorite completed This Old House projects. In the book Kevin tells us “For nearly three decades the team at This Old House has built sustainably and promoted energy efficiency”. The truth is This Old House was committed to green building practices long before ‘green’ was a buzz word.
So what is a “green” renovation? (This is an excerpt from Kevin’s book)
Well, I’m not sure I could come up with a single definition but I would point to our Austin project (top photo) as a perfect example. Use only the materials you need, be conscious of where they come from and where the waste goes, create a healthy living environment, and know you’re on the right track if you can build a bigger house for more people that uses less energy. It’s a formula that might win you five stars and will always mean a better house.
Thanks to a few enthusiastic folks on Twitter and Facebook I was able to put together a few green questions for Kevin to tackle.
What simple upgrades can be done to a home to make it energy efficient?
Start with an energy audit through your utility company. They are generally free of charge or a nominal fee. Don’t do the audit unless you are prepared to spend. They will provide you with information regarding how to make your home energy efficient. It’s what you do with the information that will make a difference.
The attic is the first spot to look at. Insulation is usually an easy and a cheap way to make your home more efficient. Some homes don’t have any insulation and most don’t have enough.
Who should get an on-demand (tankless) water heater?
Tankless water heaters, also called instantaneous or on-demand water heaters, provide hot water only as it is needed. Kevin suggests getting an on-demand water heater only if you are in the process of changing out your existing hot water tank. A property that isn’t lived in all the time (vacation home) is the perfect place for a tankless. They are a big expense upfront-so you need to decide if you want to spend the money. It is also important to size them properly so you don’t run out of hot water. Kevin had a good tip: You don’t necessarily need a larger tank why not adjust your behavior instead (i.e. take a shorter shower so the hot water doesn’t run out).
I would love to know Kevin’s opinion on metal roofing; it seems like a good idea here in New England.
Metal roofing is the most superior roofing material out there. It’s recyclable and will last several times as long as asphalt. It is also resistant to fire, mildew, insects and rot. The light color of the metal roof reflects the heat of the sun and helps keep the house cooler in the summer, reducing the need for air conditioning. The end result is a reduction in energy consumption and ultimately money saved.
Have you done a “green” renovation project? Tell us about it.
Stay tuned for part two-tips for ‘greening’ your landscaping with This Old House Landscape Contractor, Roger Cook.
Thank you to Kevin for taking the time to chat ‘green’ with me.
[Photo credits: Kevin's headshot by Webb Chappell, Top photo of Austin house by Michael Casey]
This is a much overdue part two to a post I wrote about whether or not to use toxic hair dye when gray hair kicks in. In the original post I shared various options for graying hair, ranging from going au natural to using permanent hair dye.
As a green living advocate, like many of you, I pay close attention to the chemicals that go in and on my body. However, my vanity began taking a stance and made it known that gray hair was not an option. I knew I had to do something to cover up those grays that were glimmering in the sunlight, but toxic chemicals weren’t an option.
Giving henna a try
I have spent the past few months experimenting with all sorts of henna products- trying to find a green, non-toxic option for graying locks that actually works.
I have tried 3 henna products multiple times-I wanted to give them each a fair shot. I only tried the color black for each product (my natural hair color is dark brown).
Received a very low hazard score (this product received a ONE with zero being the safest possible score and ten the most hazardous) on the Environmental Working Groups Cosmetic Safety Database Skin Deep site-my go to site for checking the safety of personal care products.
I could pick it up at Whole Foods and have instant gratification on those really gray days.
Cost: around $10.00 per box. Generally good for one coloring.
The ingredient list was short-just plain ol’ black henna.
Comes with a cap and gloves to use for application.
What I didn’t like:
It’s a 2-step system. First application is a paste that you leave on for 5 minutes and then rinse. Then a second step requires another application of a different paste. This process is more labor intensive and time consuming than the single application system.
After the first step the gray strands turned a slight red color. The second step brought them closer to brown/black.
Very messy application-I may have had something to do with that!
The color didn’t stay very long-it seemed to wash out after a few weeks.
Lori Popkewitz Alper, Founder and Editor of Groovy Green Livin, provides eco-wellness consulting for businesses, schools, homes and individuals; and inspiration for a greener lifestyle through her Groovy Green Livin blog and website. Read more….