Make life a little more earth-friendly without going to extremes.

October 2008 Archives

No TLC for BPA or FDA

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Bisphenol A, an agent in plastics, is under fire again.
Rightly so.
Here's the short version:
What's the problem? Some people thing BPA is dangerous, especially since kids get a lot of it in their tiny bodies from plastic baby bottles. The FDA studied it, said it was safe and invited other scientists to look at the report.
What's new? Now, other scientists have and they say the FDA study was badly flawed and that BPA might not be as safe as the FDA claims.
What's next? The FDA will meet Friday to discuss this. They could issue a new report on BPA's safety ... sometime in the next five years.
What should I do? You can wait for the report in five years, and hope it says you're OK, or you could work at cutting your BPA exposure now.
Download the file here or read on to see a nice question-and-answer piece the AP put together to explain the situation.

This is so cool. is holding their fourth expo next month in Chicago.
It's three days focused on local and organic foods. Sure, there's business-to-business stuff (ie programs to match local farmers to companies buying food), but there's plenty for your and me too.
There are 120 exhibitors to get info and buy from and all three days feature presentations that sound like a lot of fun, like "Organic Eating on a Dime," "Locavore Holiday Planning" and "Mixing Up Local Flavors."
This isn't a bunch of hippies telling you to eat dandelions. Presenters include folks from major companies looking to green up, reps from shops that offer organics, local brewers and a lot more.
Seriously, this looks like so much fun. It's a like a Trekkie convention, if you're a Trekkie (or Trekker, whatever they call themselves now.) This is three days about the stuff we're into.
Here's the need to know: It's Nov. 21-23 at the Chicago Cultural Center. Tickets are available (cheaper) online or you can get them at the door, but some stuff is selling out. Get 'em now to be safe. You can pick what you want to go to and buy tickets for just that. For instance, pay $15 bucks in advance to attend a single day. That's less than a ticket to a movie and burned nonlocal popcorn that's probably genetically engineered.
You're not going to kill yourself with burning up gas to get there, and the event prices aren't going to finish off your wallet either.
I could tell you about the whole schedule and everything, but I'd probably be sobbing and screaming, "I wanna go" to my husband by the end of it.
Save his eardrums. Go to
Then, go the expo.

Even if you buy the cheapest store brand of shampoo, you're still paying.

Shampoo costs include:

  • $1.50 or more at the store

  • The damage the chemicals do to the planet

  • the money it takes to remove those chemicals from the water to make it potable again

  • The money it costs the recycle the bottle, if it's recyclable plastic

  • The energy lost in manufacturing the package and product

  • And the damage it does to your hair that makes you buy conditioner, starting the cycle all over again.

Yuck. But no one is stepping up to going shampoo-free either.
Except me.
The shampoo-free movement is gaining ground, and not through alienation of those around us. About six weeks ago, I decided on a whim to stop using shampoo. I read about it on the Angry Chicken blog, which included a link to a very handy blog entry that acts as a shampoo-free how-to.
The short version: You don't have to be a slave to the packaging and chemicals of commercial shampoo. People got along without it for centuries and were still pleasing enough to get mates.
The shampoo-free thing involves using baking soda - the environmentalist's friend - in lieu of shampoo. It's cheap, it's consistent, it's not tarted up. Then, I use apple cider vinegar as a conditioner, just like my mom and grandma did back when we thing people were just being frugal but they were also being green.
Follow the link I provided for a way better explanation of why you should do it and how you can do it.
A word of warning: For the first two weeks, your hair freaks out. It's like a meth addict going cold turkey. Your hair is addicted to the chemicals in shampoo and breaking that's going to be ugly before it gets pretty.
Not one of my co-workers has said, "What's up with your head?" so I think it's going OK. And the two co-workers who know what I'm doing said I pretty much look the same. (I did make one do a sniff test to disprove her theory that I would smell like vinegar.)
Now, of course, I'm going to feel like one bad hair day will make everyone think this green option is not an option.

The way I figure it, I'm:

  • saving money.

  • keeping the chemicals and packing out of the environment

  • and staying away from the products that I frequently had allergic reactions too.

For more, just Google "shampoo free" and "baking soda." You'll hear everyone's tales of success and get tips if you're having trouble breaking your addiction.
Have you gone poo-free? Am I behind on the curve?
Or do you think I'm a hellacious beast bent on destroying the one thing that elevates us about the rest of the animals? Sound off below.

organicmac.jpgKraft Organic Macaroni and Cheese
I come from a family that calls Kraft mac and cheese "Kraft dinner." And we accept no store-brand substitutions, even when money is tight. (The only exception is, of course, homemade mac and cheese.)
My husband is a Kraft mac fanatic. So when we went to scoop up more while shopping, he excitedly grabbed for the organic. I suggested we get half organic, half regular, just in case.
I confess, I prefer the regular.
I know the organic is better for me. I do. If I'm going to eat neon orange fake cheese powder, it should be organic.
But I couldn't get the damn powder to mix in.
My husband, trying to be helpful, says, "Did you read the instructions?" as though I haven't made hundreds, probably thousands, of batches of this in my nannying days.
It clumped. It stuck to the pan. It stuck to the spoon. It wouldn't dissolve and stick to the noodles.
My husband, having seen me add the organic milk, declared it a tasty success.
But he picked up a different brand of organic mac this shopping trip, making me think the organic thing is more important than the product itself. God bless him for sticking to his guns, but I might just reduce my mac intake while I stick to the less-healthy version.

Imagine me here

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Lakeview GMV Color.jpg
Sometimes, we get press releases that get everyone talking.
An e-mail arrived to some of our reporters at the same time the other day, prompting Patrick Ferrell to read it and announce, "But who'd want to vacation in Arcola?"
"Me!" I told me. "What are we talking about?" ("What are we talking about?" is the infamous way I insert myself into the conversations of others in the newsroom.)
He didn't tell me. Instead, he complained that the only thing in Arcola is Amish people and the birthplace of Raggedy Ann.
Again, I say, I'm down with Arcola. Amish people and Raggedy Ann. There is no bad here.
Then, finally, I got the press release forwarded to me because, ta da, it's environmentally oriented.
Green Mill Village, "dedicated to responsible tourism and sustainability," is being built in Arcola. It's a development that includes a hotel, spa, restaurants, etc., powered by wind turbines and solar power.
Amish people, Raggedy Ann and solar-powered spas. Arcola or heaven?
Straight from the press release: The conference center, lodge and spa facility will be designed with a 1940s era theme, reminding visitors of a simpler time with a slower pace.
Again, I say, heaven. I love the design aesthetics from the 1920s through the mid-1950s.
But who cares if your energy is earth-friendly if you feel like you're in a standard, bad-for-the-planet place, right? Relax, perhaps in the spa, because judging from the artist's rendering, it's going to be right up my alley.
My husband and I love driving around Illinois for vacations. We're still emitting less carbon than we would for a flight somewhere and we get to see all the great things the governor hasn't remembered to close or destroy yet. Arcola, which is about 140 miles south of Joliet, been on our to-do list. Perhaps we can bump it to the bottom till this bad boy's done so we can stay overnight here.

KB-CHICKEN-IMAGE.jpgKitchen Basics
Chicken, beef, veggie, turkey, seafood, ham, clam and pork stocks.
This is a stock market that won't collapse.
I love you, Kitchen Basics stock.
Dear readers, you know that I usually tell you what I think of a product, but I don't usually say, "You must by this." That changes now.
You must buy this.
If you're making your own stock, great, but the day you need a fast source, go to Kitchen Basics.
If you just said, "She thinks I make stock? Does she not realize I have a job and kids and errands and ....?" you're probably loyal to College Inn or Swanson broth. It's time to come over to the dark side.
Broth and bouillon are all well and good, but if you want the best flavor out there without chemicals and MSG, you need to be buying stock from Kitchen Basics.
If the recipe calls for broth, pour in the same amount of Kitchen Basics stock. If it calls for bouillon cubes, sub in about a cup of Kitchen Basics per bouillon cube, and reduce the added water by the same number of cups. (Bouillon is a substitute for broth or stock, so a recipe that calls for two bouillon cubes usually calls for two cups of water. Just add Kitchen Basics. Leave out the water and cubes.)
Why is this a green issue? Because you wouldn't believe the crap you're putting into your body every day. Heck, you wouldn't believe what was in the 62 cent pot pie I just ate for lunch.
When you pick up chicken broth, for instance, you can get the MSG-free version. When you do, however, you need to look closely. There will be asterisk, cross or other mark next to the MSG-free claim. This is because the maker will use hydrolyzed soy protein or yeast extract in lieu of MSG. If you're sensitive to MSG, you will have just as bad of a reaction, if not worse, to hydrolyzed soy protein and yeast extract.
If MSG makes you think you are having a hear attack, drink deeply of Kitchen Basics. There's no star next to their claim.
Its safe for the gluten-free crowd and proclaims "all natural" with the ingredient list to back it up. Did I mention I love this stuff?
If you can't have a lot of salt, you know there are no-salt versions out there. But again, they usually up the chemicals to compensate for lack of salt. Now, Kitchen Basics have salt-free versions. (I haven't tried them yet, but will report back ASAP.)
This stuff is so tasty that my husband wants to drink it out of a cup. It's that good. And there are no golden circles of oily fat like you see in broths.
It's in those square containers, not cans, and can be found with the lowlier soups and broths. Your store might only have the big chicken one. Or it might have ever size and flavor from the big chicken to the tiny seafood.
On the Kitchen Basics Web site, you can buy stock online or search for stores near you that carry a specific size and type of their stock.
This was really handy for me one night. I was cooking put two dinners of beef stew and two of beef soup. I need a TON of beef stock. My Jewel carries the 16-ounce Kitchen Basics beef stock. I found out the Meijer near me had the 32-ounce size. I picked up a ton.
Now, I'm thinking about just ordering it by the case.
Try it. Love it. Tell me about it by hitting the comment button below.

Just say no to nano

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This just in from the Center for Food Safety:

The Food and Drug Administration is once again holding an "information gathering" public meeting on nanotechnology, a powerful new technology for taking apart and reconstructing nature at the atomic and molecular level. Many new nano-products continue to come to market, at an average of four to five a week. Unfortunately nano-products are still treated by FDA like any other products or product ingredients; yet scientists agree that nanomaterials are fundamentally different substances that create new and unique risks to human health and the environment and need new forms of safety testing.

Yes, this stuff's already on the shelves and you don't realize you're buying it. The CFS says nano-silver is the most common form. And it's used in packaging, appliances and cutlery. And how insidious is this for a largely untested thing: It's being used in baby bottles. Cleaners use nano-silver to kill germs. ("This same powerful strength can destroy important beneficial microorganisms in nature as well," the CFS reports.) Like we needed another reason to be suspicious of all of the commercial germ killers.
Horrified? Do something:
The Center for Food Safety is collecting comments to send to the FDA before the public comment period ends Oct. 24. Visit the NanoAction site to comment. Maybe they won't listen, but at least future generations who have to deal with nano technology fallout can say we tried.

Money woes can do strange things to people.
And right now, we've all got money woes.
If you don't have a job, or you lost your home, you've got bigger fish to fry than trying to make sure you cut your water usage.
If you, like me, just need to start trimming the bottom line -- lest you become an statistic of this economy -- you're probably having a tough time justifying some of your green purchases.
Basically, when everything costs so much, it's hard to drive to Whole Foods instead of Wal-Mart.
True confession: I just ate a $1 Banquet frozen meal from Wal-Mart with an ingredient list that includes sodium phosphate dihydrate, polysorbate 80 and Yellow #6. It's been a long fall from my organic soup.
These are choices I shouldn't be making, but I'm finding it tough to pony up an extra $1 for the recycled toilet paper when the bargain, tree-slashing kind is so cheap. I mean, I'm just flushing it down the toilet anyway, right?
Well, that's no reason to flush the future away, too.
This is temporary. The economy will improve. The Great Depression is called that because we're not still in it. If it was still going on, it'd be called the Horrible Status Quo or Painful Reality Check.
So what's a greenie to do when it's this foul?

Let the slugfest begin

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slug.jpgIn the wake of all of the ant help, I come to you with another plea: A green solution for slugs.
You're ready to say, "Let them be!" or "Bring out the beer that slugs love!" but read on.
Bee has such a bad slug infestation in her yard that she's got dead areas of grass that are practically filled with inch-long slugs. The flooding last month gave them extra moisture and they're going crazy at night.
The poor woman can't walk in flip-flops in her own yard because her toes get slugs wedged in. She needs help.
But toddlers play in her yard. And her dog will eat anything left out in the yard.
Some of the traditional people-safe options (like copper) aren't practical for a whole yard.
More info in case it helps: The sod is just over a year old, and there aren't any other plants in the backyard, where its the worst.
So we need suggestions (and success stories if you've got them) on ways to evict the slugs without burning the dogs' feet or turning the kids into tipsy toddlers.

When I begged for ant solutions, you had them in spades. I needed something that wouldn't kill the earth or my lungs, just maybe the ants.
I'm not saying any of these things are humane to the bugs, I'm saying they are humane to the humans who unwillingly co-habitate with six-legged things.
Some of the genius ideas:

  • Bob in L.A., who has plenty of experience fighting California-sized ants, says a solution of liquid antibacterial soap and water can be sprayed on ants to kill them off.

  • Lena suggests sprinkling a thin line of borax or - wait for it - instant grits. The borax will block the ants from proceeding (inside or outside), while the grits will kill 'em back at the colony, she says. Grits. Can you get any more harmless for your house? I've never heard the grits one, but I'm excited about it. We're big fans of borax, too. It cleans, stops bugs in their tracks and is largely harmless to humans.

  • Bee suggests a recipe she found on the Internet: 4 ounces of peanut butter, 4 ounces of sugar and 4 ounce of boric acid put where the ants feed. The recipe lures in oil-loving ants and sugar-loving ants and off them through the boric acid. You won't want to use it around kids or pets, but it seems much more harmless than spray poisons. Also, Bee needs your help with slug control. I'll find out more details.

  • When KatsMom's daughter was 1, she had to battle ants in a safe way. Her solution: Cinnamon. I love this one. "I sprinkled cinnamon along the areas where they were coming in," she reports. " I guess it messes with their trail scents and also burns their tiny

  • little feet." Love the description, love the explanation. I've heard this too about cinnamon and I like it better than vinegar.

  • Sheila, who is doing an ant battle in her kitchen too, heard that if you leave cornmeal where the ants are coming from, it will kill them. Sounds like the grits theory, meaning there has to be something to this.

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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