Sunday, April 29, 2007

It’s Monday. Eat Chocolate!

There’s a reason we reach for chocolate when we’re stressed. It tastes good, it lifts the mood. Now, as it turns out, dark chocolate may lower blood pressure almost as well as medication does, according to an analysis of five studies, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine on April 9 of this year.

In four of the five two-week studies, participants’ systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure dropped to averages that “would be expected to substantially reduce the risk of stroke (by about 20 percent), coronary heart disease (by 10 percent) and all-cause mortality (by 8 percent),” the authors wrote.

The benefit is attributed to procyanid, a type of polyphenol, or plant compound, found in cocoa. Alas, milk chocolate won’t do the trick, because milk proteins block the absorption of polyphenols

How much do you have to eat to get the benefit? Three and a half ounces of dark chocolate a day. That’s 100 grams, the size of a hefty bar of Green & Black’s. That’s also 500 calories, more or less.

Gaining a lot of weight, of course, would negate cardiovascular gains. While stopping short of recommending that those of us with hypertension substitute chocolate for medication, the researchers say we might try to consume it instead of other high-calorie desserts. Good idea!

In addition to our health, we can do some good for the environment and labor by dosing ourselves with dark delights from the following companies, whose candies are certified organic and fairly traded. Green & Black’s, at Certified shade-grown by the Rainforest Alliance (preserves rainforest canopies and habitat) Plantations Arriba, Just fairly traded
Enjoy eight days a week.

Please share this tip with your friends and send them to Thanks!

Friday, April 27, 2007

A Gleaming Green Bathroom

A reader writes: “I have major lime and water deposits in and on shower rails. I’ve tried hydrogen peroxide and different commercial products. What do you recommend?” For tough jobs, such as lime deposits in showers, try AFM Super Clean Concentrated All-Purpose Cleaner/Degreaser, free of ammonia and chlorine. Note, It should be diluted first: AFM advises one part cleaner to one part water for heavy jobs such as lime deposits, and rinsing well after using on metal. Weaker solutions are sufficient for different jobs, such as routine cleaning of countertops, porcelain or metal. $6.95/ quart at . For shower heads clogged by mineral deposits, remove and immerse in warm white vinegar; let soak for 4-5 hours, then scrub with an old toothbrush. Other quick, least-toxic scrubs include plain old baking soda, chlorine-free Bon Ami scouring powder (a mere $1.29 at drug and grocery stores), or cream cleansers by Earth Friendly, , Ecover , , and Seventh Generation, . In a pinch, squeeze that toothpaste tube! Toothpaste works pretty well as a cream cleanser and metal polish. Recently, when guests were arriving and I’d run out of cleaning stuff, I used Colgate to clean and buff the scummy, tarnished fixtures on my bathroom sink. When using any cleaning product, including greener ones, do wear gloves, keep away from eyes, and ventilate well, as even plant-based ingredients can give off irritating fumes. Store well out of reach of pets and children. Please forward this blog to any interested friends, and send them to

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Weekend Penny: Good Food

Farm Fresh

More and more consumers want to know what’s in our food and where it comes from. The melamine-tainted chow that’s killed pets came from China, and now the FDA is testing Chinese wheat, corn and rice additives that go into processed food for people. Some breads, pasta, cereals, pizza dough, protein shakes, energy bars and baby formulas are being examined for melamine.

And unfortunately for shoppers, the U.S. has no mandatory Country of Origin Labeling, except for seafood. See

All of which makes locavores, who try and eat only food that’s grown within a hundred miles of their homes, look more savvy than crunchy. Non-extremists do make exceptions for coffee and chocolate, thankfully! Click here to get the Green Man’s take on this hip trend.

Good Easy Green Food Tips

Go a little local:

Buy early spring produce and organic or grass-fed animal products at the farmers’ market (find one near you at

Eat more vegetables, as the government and nutritionists recommend.

Enjoy more vegetables! Liz in New York City writes, “I’ve been eating so many veggies lately—ever since I picked up Patricia Wells’s new cookbook. (
String beans, carrots, beets, radishes…fennel and endive are at the top of my list right now. Really tasty and I don’t have to fire up an oven—just chop and toss!”

Tender new spring spinach is everywhere now. For a quick vegetarian supper, sautee onions and garlic in whatever oil you prefer or that’s produced closest to you, add sliced mushrooms and a pat of butter for flavor, and, at the last minute, stir in a bunch of well-washed spinach. Serve over pasta or rice, or in a tortilla.

In grocery stores, look for signs and labels that identify vegetables, fruits, meats and dairy products by state, country and region.

For recipes and advice on eating local, see, founded by Jessica Prentice, author of the lovely cookbook Full Moon Feasts ( and

When you can, choose certified organic produce and meat, and certified humane or grass-fed animal products, which, incidentally, contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids that you can offset against those saturated fats. In up to six states, now, FDA is quarantining hogs that may have eaten melamine-tainted food. For more reasons to eschew conventionally produced meat, such as animal confinement in factory farms, and water pollution from overflowing waste lagoons, see

At the Union Square farmers’ market in Manhattan, I bought apple/cranberry juice from Red Jacket Orchards, whose fruit is farmed with integrated pest management (IPM), using beneficial insects and turning to synthetic pesticides only as a last resort. I asked Max when their first fruit crop of spring comes in. “Strawberries. In May,” he said with a smile.

That’s just around the corner!

Please send these tips to any interested friends, and ask them to check out

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A is for April, Allergies and Air Conditioners

A is for April,Allergies and Air Conditioners

Overnight, literally, the cherry trees and lilacs have bloomed on our block. Flowering plants, which held back during a cold April, are now “just exploding” in the warmth, Professor George Hedrey of Queens College said in a New York City scientists’ talk on climate change. Meanwhile, the allergic are exploding in sneezes.

Central Park in 2007 is 2 degrees F. warmer, on average, than in 1907. The first blooms of spring are arriving earlier throughout the U.S., Dr. Hedrey said. Southern plants are moving north. And ragweed, powered by higher atmospheric levels of CO2, the greenhouse gas, is doubling its pollen production.

Allergy season is arriving earlier and lasting longer, according to the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. How to cope?

The Pollen Dodge:

Check local weather reports for air quality, including pollen counts and smog, which can make allergies feel worse. If pollen’s high, exercise or do errands in the morning, before airborne particles rise with the heat, and close windows, especially later in the day. For local pollen levels,

When necessary, turn on the air conditioner to filter pollen and pollutants out. April is a good month to buy before demand and prices escalate. For energy- and emissions-saving models that are at least 10% more efficient than conventional ones, see

Cool Tip: Turn a.c.s off when you don’t need ‘em, and keep your thermostat at 72 degrees or higher in warm weather. For every degree above that, you’ll save 121 lbs. of carbon emissions.

While global warming will mean milder winters and less heating demand for much of the U.S., more and longer summer heat waves will increase air conditioning demand that will “more than offset any reduction in heating,” accrding to Professor John Waldman of the City University of New York Institute for Sustainable Cities.

Use a doormat and leave shoes by the door so particles don’t get tracked in. Natural coir and jute, groovy striped doormat, $21.95 at; striped or bird-and-leaves pattern coir doormats, $19.95 at Colorful recycled flip-flop doormat, $49 from,featured in Elle Magazine (check out their stylin’ green May issue!

Death to Dust Mites: These microscopic mites infest rugs, drapery upholstered furniture and bedding, and their droppings are a potent allergen. Eliminate them by washing pillowcases, sheets and duvet covers twice weekly in hot water. For extra protection, you can zip your mattress and pillows into a cotton barrier-cloth encasement, on sale right now from $65-100 at They sell organic cotton encasements, too. Or try your nearest home products store. Avoid encasements made of vinyl, which is softened with toxic phthalates. For more on phthalates, see

Please share these tips with any interested friends and recommend Thanks!


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

bright dinner & lighting ideas


The longer days feel luxurious, never-ending. It would be nice to bring some of that brightness indoors!

But first, what’s for dinner? It’s never too early in the day to start thinking about the main family meal. Along with the first new spinach at the farmers’ market, one of spring’s bright spots is the first lobster of the season. On the sustainability index, Maine or New England lobster (with the claws) gets a “good” (but not “best”) rating from the Monterey Bay Aquarium,
as a population not currently overfished.

Want to know what’s sustainably fished in your part of the country? The Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program has printable regional fish species wallet cards. Perfect for enlivening dinner conversations!

Although these mighty crustaceans do contain moderate mercury (a nervous-system toxin that can cause birth defects and learning problems), the Natural Resources Defense Council,
says lobster can be safely eaten up to six times a month—but that, alas, would be unsustainable for our budget. Plus, given the precarious balance of the oceans, it seems a bit much.

For an easy lobster pasta recipe, see

Night Brights

I just bought a four-pack of Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) for $7.97 at Home Depot, That’s a good price for these energy-saving bulbs, which do initially cost more than incandescents, but hey, prices are dropping--a couple of years ago one CFL could run you $11. Plus, over its lifetime(an average 10,000 hours compared with 1,000 hours for an incandescent), a CFL will save you at least 50% in electricity costs and 55 lbs. of atmosphere-warming CO2 emissions. Home Depot’s come with a 9-year warranty. The bulb fits nicely into my goose-necked desk lamp and, true to its name, provides a “soft white” light that’s easy on my eyes.

CFLs do, however, contain small amounts of mercury and so when they do give up the ghost they should be disposed of as hazardous waste. Some Home Depot stores take back CFLs for recycling, as do all Ikea stores,
For safe disposal sites in your zip code, see or

Day Lighting

Window washing lets the sun light your interiors by day, saving on electricity and the global warming emissions from coal-burning power plants. Choose white-vinegar based products free of toxic, eye-watering ammonia. I’ve stuck with the first I tried, Earth Friendly Window Kleener,,800-335-3267, but similar least-toxic ingredients are contained in Ecover Glass & Surface Cleaner, 800-449-4925 and Seventh Generation Glass & Surface,802-658-377.

Or, mix your own window/glass cleaner with a few drops of dish soap and a quarter cup of white vinegar in a quart of water.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Greener, Cleaner Diet

A Greener, Cleaner Diet

If food security isn’t national security, what is? For the latest, human food chain implications of the tainted pet food debacle, see this week’s Word of the Week at But before you get too alarmed, check out some frisky creatures in the real O.C. at

Back to the news: For weeks, U.S. pets have been made ill, and several have been killed, by a contaminant in the wheat and rice gluten used to fortify pet food. The culprits are wheat and rice gluten imported from China and laced with melamine, a common fertilizer.

Now, it turns out that some Northern California pigs raised for human consumption have eaten some of the suspect pet food, and their urine shows traces of melamine, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). While CDFA and USDA were able to warn most buyers of the suspect pigs before their meat could enter the commercial food supply, two custom slaughterhouses, American Hog Farm and Bar None, had already sold some of the meat to private customers, whom CDFA is contacting. For more info, see or call 916-654-0504.

Food insecurity is rampant enough with domestic products, not to mention imports like wheat and rice gluten floating around undetected in processed food. Last year we had fatal outbreaks of E. coli that caused recalls of spinach. There were also recalls of ground beef and lettuce, and salmonella in tomatoes sickened many, as well. Earlier this year, peanut butter was recalled due to salmonella. Looking down the road: As demand from Wal-Mart and other mega-retailers increases sourcing from abroad, will organic food from China be safe? It depends on whether vigilant inspectors enforce organic standards on farms and in processing plants.

Organic or not, it’s processed foods rather than fresh whole foods that more easily thwart ready solutions to food contamination problems, if only because of their many ingredients, which can be sourced from all over the globe. For instance, the exact ingredient causing the sickness in pets has yet to be identified; melamine is thought to be a non-lethal indicator of the presence of more toxic substances. For lists of recalled pet foods, go to

Another link to national security is our food system’s heavy consumption of fossil fuels. The thirty percent of the average American’s diet that consists of meat, eggs and poultry is responsible for the release of 3,274 lbs of global warming emissions a year. This comes from the petroleum used to make the fertilizer and pesticides used to grow conventional corn and soy for animal feed, the fossil fuels burnt in transporting animals and their products, and the methane gas released by cattle intestines (which some enterprising dairy farmers are capturing for use as biofuel).

What to do?

It’s simple. Follow these tips.

Eat less red meat (because it’s heavy in saturated fats, you’ll be doing your cardiovascular system a favor, too.)

Vegetarian diets release half the carbon of a 30% meat eaters’ diet.

Substitute poultry and eggs for red meat, and you’ll still save over 950 lbs. of carbon a year.

When you do eat red meat, make it special. Choose certified organic or certified humane, which restrict animals to vegetarian feed, or meat from grass-fed animals raised by farmers who provide written assurances of such. When cattle are fed a grass-only diet for the last five days before slaughter, E.coli in their guts is reduced by 1000%.

Choose more locally grown meat, dairy and produce, and you’ll reduce fossil fuels used in shipping food an average 1,500 to 2,500 miles from farm to table, as the Worldwatch Institute reports. See

Eat whole, rather than processed, foods. Processed foods are cheaper than fresh vegetables and fruits because of U.S. government subsidies, as Michael Pollan writes in the April 2nd New York Times Magazine. Processed foods are also full of added sugars and fats, warns Marion Nestle, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at New York University and author of Food Safety and What to Eat? Because of this cheap but fattening food, 32% of Amerians are obese—and growing, Pollan and Nestle concur.

Know where your food comes from and how it was produced by buying it from farmers’ markets and relying on meaningful labels. For where to find local food sources, from farms to restaurants, see, and For the farmers’ markets nearest you,

Missed a tip? Don’t worry. See my Daily Tips blog at And please tell your friends to visit.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Earth Day Weekend: Coffee, Cleaning, Carbon & Water Savers

For some, spring is time to clean. For others, it’s time to dawdle and smell the flowers. On the eve of Earth Day weekend, some go to benefits, such as the one for Riverkeeper on a restored Hudson River pier. My friend Rolf, on the other hand, is going to pick up trash along the riverbank. For fun in the Real O.C., see I’ll do my usual Saturday green thing--shop for locally grown food at the farmers’ market (to find a greenmarket near you, go to

But first, a cup of coffee.

At this time of year, the returning migratory songbirds provide sweet wakeup calls, and to support them I recommend bird-friendly coffee, grown in the shade of conserved tropical rain forests that serve as their winter habitat. A pound of organic shade grown (look for the cute green parrot stamp) certified by Conservation International, is $13.45 at Starbucks stores, and it tastes sweet and smooth. The beans are grown in the forest understory near the El Triunfo Biosphere Preserve in Chiapas, Mexico. I’m also enjoying Dean’s Bean’s “Birdwatchers Blend,” about $10 for 12 oz. at Whole Foods Markets or Indulge in Plantations Arriba shade-grown chocolate, at And, for your cereal, Chiquita organic bananas are shade-grown, too (for more info, see
For an in-depth report on the Amazon, and compelling photos, see Alex Shoumatoff’s fine story in the May “green” issue of Vanity Fair,

Quick Water Save

Global Warming will lead to more water shortages, according to the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. So while the coffee’s brewing, I’ll turn off the tap as I brush my teeth—a good, easy way to save up to 10 gallons of water a day. Plus, every time you turn on the tap you use energy. Water pumping is the greatest single drain on electricity in California, according to the San Juan Water District’s website, full of useful tips. Http://

Cleaning and Saving Energy: The Fridge

To make room for fresh seasonal produce, it’s time to remove that mouldering winter vegetable raw stew that’s been slopping around in the bottom of the refrigerator bin. A scrubby sponge dipped in a solution of white vinegar, warm water and a couple drops of dish soap will freshen things up nicely, using baking soda to scrub crusty spots.

The refrigerator is our single biggest energy draining appliance, responsible for up to one-fifth of household energy costs. You can save up to 700 pounds of greenhouse gases a year with easy refrigerator maintenance. Turn the refrigerator thermostat up from 37 to 40 degrees, and remove the things stacked on top, which make it work harder and burn more electricity. For the same reason, one should clean the refrigerator coils at least once a year.

Why not now?

For how to find your condenser coils (in back, underneath?) and then what, see Whatever you do, remember to UNPLUG THE FRIDGE first, so you don’t shock yourself. You can use a dust buster or a vacuum with a hose and crevice attachment to hoover the thick, caked dust off the coils. But to really dislodge dust in between there, use a refrigerator coil brush, $4.99 at, or $5.71 at

Canister (hose) vacuums with HEPA filters, which trap microscopic allergenic particles, are getting more affordable. The Hoover Constellation S3341, with crevice-cleaning accessory, is $250 at

One last fridge test: Close a dollar bill in the door—if it stays put, your seal is energy tight and your food is safer. If it slides down, time to replace the gasket—quite a production, I’m afraid, but there are helpful tips at Time for a new fridge? Energy Star models certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) use about 15% less energy than conventional new fridges, and 40% less than pre-2001 models. They can save you over 500 lbs. of carbon emissions and up to $70 a year. For models, see

Lightbulb Bonus

If you’re feeling energetic on Earth Day Sunday, go and claim a free compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL) at Home Depot, which is giving away 1,000,000 nationwide (until supplies run out). CFLs last up to 10x longer than incandescent bulbs. Find stores near you at Or buy a CFL for $5-8 at your hardware store. As these carbon-saving bulbs do contain toxic mercury, when they finally burn out, years from now, remember to dispose of them safely at your local hazardous waste pickup or site (see

Please share these tips to your friends and send them to Thanks!


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Give Me That Sexy Green Body—Without the Phthalates

At a recent Newsweek conference, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger called upon greens to get fit and swell the ranks with sex appeal. As Georgetown students lined up to ask questions, Arnold beat them to the punch. “You look all pumped up. Did you work out this morning?” he asked a student in a baseball cap and tight t-shirt. “Look at those triceps. You are environmentally muscular,” the Governor proclaimed.

Alas, most Americans over 20 can only hope in vain for such praise. Sixty-six percent of us are overweight, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). And as if too many calories and too little exercise weren’t bad enough, some new studies are linking chemicals in everyday products to obesity. One scientist even coined the term, “obesogens.”

Exposure to phthalates--chemicals widely used as synthetic fragrancing agents, as well as in plastics--correlates to abdominal obesity and insulin resistance in U.S. adult males, according to a March, 2007 study in Environmental Health Perspectives online. The CDC says that all Americans have phthalates in our bodies, and previous studies have linked the chemicals to subtle genital and reproductive hormone changes in male infants. As the babies were exposed in the womb and through breast milk, women would be wise to avoid phthalates, too.

What to do? Read labels on products, especially ones you apply to your body. If you see the stand-alone term “Fragrance,” it’s likely synthetic and has phthalates, according to Consumer Reports. Choose products whose labels specify that they’re perfumed only with plant essential oils, organic where possible.

Greenerpenny’s Synthetic “Fragrance”-free Faves

Rose Day Cream, body lotions and new eye cream by Dr. Hauschka

Terressentials Left Coast Lemon Shampoo,

What Greenfemme wants for Mother’s Day: Skin treats from Stella McCartney’s new Care line, at

For the Green Man:

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps with organic manly essences of olive, hemp; Sun Dog body lotion in Patchouli Lime,

Men’s Spice Island After Shave Balm and Men’s Ginseng Biotin Shampoo,

For Couples: Coco Zum Chocolate Body Butter, Yummy!

Please circulate this tip and send friends to Thanks!


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Cleaning Secrets: Rug Rat

The Green Man and I have a bagless upright vacuum cleaner with a cleanable, reusable HEPA (high efficiency particulate) air filter, the kind that supposedly traps microscopic particles as small as .3 micron. That means it’ll trap allergenic dust mites and cat danders (although we have no cat, being allergic). The lack of a dust bag means less clutter in landfills.

Despite being thus equipped, my family will do almost anything rather than vacuum. We owe this quandary to instructions in The Green Guide, for which, as editor at the time, I was responsible: “Asthma and allergy sufferers should not empty the dust compartment.” This suited me, as I’ve been asthmatic since childhood, but The Green Man was not pleased to be stuck with the chore. (As for the Green Offspring? Don’t even ask.)

Then, last winter, The Green Man himself, whose allergies had been worsening over the years, started wheezing. He was diagnosed with asthma, the incidence of which has increased by 40% since 1980 in the U.S. alone.

We have not touched the vacuum since. Instead, Dear Reader, as reported in USA Weekend, I use a rag wrapped around a push broom to pick up dust floors, then a damp t-shirt around the same broom to mop. Because they collect fewer allergens and toxins than wall-to-wall, we have small cotton and wool area rugs, which I take up on the roof and beat (wearing a dust mask), then pop in the washing machine and hang dry. We have only one wool Oriental rug that is too large and valuable to beat and wash, and here is what I do: I take a rag dipped in hot water and a few drops of dish soap, wring it out, and wipe the rug clean, periodically shaking dirt, hair and dust kitties into a trash bag. It’s like a facial for the rug.

In the alternative, those in the market for an effective vacuum cleaner should check out

Please send your friends to!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Free the Trees: Lower Your Paper Profile

Earth Day is a-comin’ in (Sunday, April 22). Greenies, it’s our day! No more doom and gloom. Time to do our circle dance, singing of recycling, reducing and reuse and that closed loop of zero waste which is the greenie’s golden ring. (See "Cradle to Cradle,"

Recycling Paper

To find out about curbside collection and other recycling options in your zipcode, go to

Sometimes it’s not so easy: A reader writes that there’s no curbside pickup of recyclables in her neighborhood, and while she can drop off beverage containers in the next town over, they don’t take paper. What to do? First, look on the web or in the government section of your phone book for your City or County Public Works refuse department. Ask them for the nearest location to you. And raise a ruckus! Go to for a toolkit on how to jump start recycling where you live. Also contact your state Public Interest Research Group for help. Find it through

Easy Paper Reduction Tip

Stop the paper torrent at the source by taking your name off those catalog lists. Producing junk mail consumes about 100 million trees and 28 billion gallons of water per year, according to

Do it for $1 at, the site of the Direct Mail Association (but it can take up to 6 months to get rid of all unwanted catalogs). Also see

Or, subscribe to a service, such as, which, for $3/month, keeps you off new lists. And each month they’ll plant a tree in your name somewhere in the Americas, Haiti, India or Senegal, choosing drought-resistant and income-producing varieties that suit local ecosystems. This makes them my pal Erin’s choice–she says her mailbox can almost breathe.

Or just contact the companies and organizations you don’t want mail from. Andy Postman cancelled 10 catalogs in 22 minutes with 8 phone calls and 2 emails, as he reported in The New York Times, calculating that he saved almost half a tree and 154 pounds of CO2..

Now, if we could only get rid of those bills!

Please share this tip with any friends who may be interested by sending them to Thanks!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday the 13: Joy Luck Wood Polish?

Polish without Petrol

For sprucing up and protecting your wood furniture, cutting boards and salad bowls, here are some greener, healthier alternatives to petroleum-based synthetic oils and fragrances.

Wood Furniture

Gently refresh finished wood by mixing a few drops of lemon essential oil and white vinegar in a cup of warm water, and applying with a soft clean rag. Available at your local natural food stores, or at, where a half-ounce of organic lemon essential oil is $4.20, and a half-ounce of conventional lemon oil is $3.19. Unfinished wood is simpler yet--clean and polish with a half-olive-oil and half-lemon-juice or half-white-vinegar solution. Try different combinations until you come up with one you personally like–for instance, Annie Berthold Bond, author of many green living books including Home Enlightenment, likes jojoba oil. Not in a mixing mood? My Hawaiian koa wood jewelry box has had its glow renewed by Caldrea’s Lavender & Pine Wood Furniture Cream for finished wood, based on lemon balm, jojoba oil, beeswax, carnauba wax and vinegar, and fragranced with essential oils of lavender, pine needle and cedarwood. No toxic phthalates (see Daily Tips for April 9 and 10 at About $10 at some pharmacies, home improvement stores or Wood Salad Bowls, Cutting Boards Food-grade oils are the rule for conditioning wood food prep surfaces or containers, but most salad oils will turn rancid–not to mention sticky and gummy, as happened with the lovely koa salad bowl I inherited from Grammy Nez Pennybacker. Food-grade mineral oil won’t degrade, but it is made from petroleum. To the rescue: Green home diva Debra Lynn Dadd, author of Home, Safe Home, who recommends walnut oil, which will not rancify. Plus, it’s delicious and full of omega-3 fatty acids, so use liberally on your salad! Caution: Natural or not, cleaning solutions should be kept out of the reach of children, as everything from petrochemicals to pure plant essential oils can be toxic if ingested. Please share this and other free tips with your friends, who can subscribe at

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Arnold Speaks

That Sexy Green Tan

Global warming aside, we’ve been having an unseasonably chilly spring, and I am as pale as a non-chlorine-bleached sheet. So when I saw California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger take the stage to address an audience of students, journalists and environmental leaders at a Newsweek Magazine conference in Washington D.C., my first thought was: He’s so tan!

Arnold, balancing the globe on his fingertip on the cover of this week’s Newsweek (April 16), recently signed legislation that will "reduce California’s greenhouse-gas emissions across every sector of the economy," as the magazine reports, dubbing him the "Green Giant." He spoke of a new environmentalism, fuelled by "passion, not guilt." He called upon people who care about the planet to make green "hip," even "sexy."

Drawing inspiration from the Governor’s healthy glow, I decided to get some color on my skin. As sunbathing (wearing sunblock, of course) is out of the question in this frigid April, I turned to some tinted moisturizers, makeups and self-tanners.
I’ve no idea whether Arnold’s tan came from the sun or a product, but as this he-man is used to wearing makeup for television and film, other men can rest easy about applying a little color without fear of being labelled girly.

The following products are free of the most problematic hormone-disrupting (see "Word of the Week" at and allergenic chemicals currently known. However, before applying, always do a patch test, as everybody’s different and any makeup can cause skin reactions in sensitive individuals.

Tinted Moisturizers and Makeups (with sunblock added, measured in sun protection factor, or SPF)
Juice Organics (SPF 30),
Bare Escentuals i.d. bareMinerals Powder Foundation (SPF15)
Jane Iredale mineral powder, my favorite–it evens the complexion and absorbs oil–

Self Tanning Creams (note, these do not contain sunblock)

Lavera Sunless Self-Tanning Lotion, http://www.lavera/
Jane Iredale’s H\E Bronzer for Men,

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Reusable Organic/Fairly Traded Shopping Bags

In 2005, only 5.2 percent of U.S. plastic bags were recycled, according to the EPA. Now, in a move against global warming as well as overflowing landfills, San Francisco has become the first U.S. city to ban the use of non-biodegradable plastic shopping bags by supermarkets, drug stores and other big retailers (ninety percent of grocery bags are made of non-biodegradable polyethylene, whose production consumes petroleum and natural gas and releases CO2 into the atmosphere). And Ikea, which has used 70 million plastic shopping bags a year in the U.S., is now charging 5 cents per bag, donating the proceeds to American Forests.

One of my favorite and most enduring gifts came from a thoughtful cousin a few years ago: She sent a set of six plain cotton canvas tote bags in various sizes. Just having a plethora by the door makes it easy to grab them when heading out to the grocery store, pharmacy, farmers’ market or the gym. I don’t always remember, but I try to make a habit of tucking a bag into a pocket or purse whenever I go out. One motivator: getting 10 cents’ credit (up from 5 cents, last year!) for every bag I bring and fill at Whole Foods.

Organic cotton canvas totes in natural ($9) or black ($10) are available at, and they get cheaper if you buy 3 or more. They also sell the archetypal French string mesh shopping bag, which scrunches up into a bare fistful, expands to hold a basketball, and never goes out of style. In “fiesta” colors, $10 each, $47 for five.

Some other ideas:

Colorful round, collapsible market baskets woven by a fair trade cooperative in Ghana, $29 at

Elegant cotton totes, embroidered in subtle paisleys by women’s cooperatives in India, $29-39 at, a member of the Fair Trade Federation.

April 10, 2007: Greener Shower Curtains, Mildew Busters

Want cleaner indoor air? Keep vinyl out.

Phthalates are hormone-disrupting chemicals (see "word of the week" at used to disperse synthetic fragrances in air fresheners and personal care products. As plasticizers, phthalates are used to make soft, flexible PVC vinyl toys, flooring, wall-coverings and shower curtains. Scandinavian studies have found that phthalates readily migrate out of vinyl flooring into the air of a home, and have contributed to respiratory problems, including asthma, in children.
Unfortunately, vinyl shower curtain liners are cheap and thus widely viewed as disposable. For instance, my local YMCA replaces the vinyl drapes in the women’s shower stalls every month, picking a different lurid or cloying color each time.
Vinyl is also the least recyclable and most toxic plastic. Its production and incineration create dioxins, which are carcinogenic, hormone-disrupting chemicals that collect in animal fats and disperse far and wide in the environment, having been found in the fat of polar bears and the breast milk of Inuit women.
If you want to freshen up your bathroom with a new shower curtain, you might want to make sure it’s not vinyl. You can find healthier alternatives in cotton duck ($26-26), organic cotton and hemp (about $60 for each) and a sturdy nylon pack cloth liner ($50) at
But if the problem is mildew, you may not need a new curtain at all. Just spray the blackened spots and smears with a vinegar-based cleaner such as Eco Friendly Window Kleener, or a strong mixture of white vinegar, water and a couple of drops of dish soap, leave on for at least 2 hours, and wipe clean with a rag. Add baking soda for scouring as needed. It worked fine on our four-year-old green "Honu" (Hawaiian sea turtle) nylon curtain. Please forward this tip from to any interested friends.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Unclean Air Fresheners

While it may be tempting to mask stale odors with perfume, especially if Mom can’t be dissuaded from dropping by, it’s healthier to open a window rather than spray a so-called air freshener.
Why? Strong or cloying fragrances, whether natural or synthetic, are common triggers for allergic and asthmatic reactions. In addition, most conventional air fresheners use synthetic fragrances, which contain phthalates, plasticizing chemicals that have been linked to cancers and hormone disruption in animal studies as well as genital abnormalities in a few small studies of boy babies in 2005. No reason to panic, as scientists say they can’t draw conclusions until more research is done–but in cases where you can easily and painlessly avoid phthalates, why not do so?
Look on labels. If you see the word "fragrance," with no specific ingredients listed, it’s likelier than not that phthalates are in the mix. That’s because the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t make manufacturers disclose fragrance components, which are considered trade secrets. But manufacturers who use natural plant essential oils readily list these ingredients–and these are the products you should pick.
Try Mate Mist Air Fresh spray with organic orange, grapefruit, lemon or lime ($11.99) at
Or there’s Zum Mist Room Spray ($9.95) or Ecco-Bella Natural Air Fresh ($7.95), with essences of summer fruit, both at