Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sun Blocking Swimwear

Surf Stylin’ Coverups

Greenfemme’s visiting Honolulu, where I was born and raised, and as there’s a south swell cranking, I’m in a rush to hit the waves. If you like to snorkel, swim and surf, I recommend wearing sun-blocking swim tops and bottoms that rate Ultraviolet Protection Factors (UPF) from the Skin Cancer Foundation. Where your skin is covered by these tightly woven fabrics, you can leave off sunscreen lotions, giving yourself—and the living polyps in coral reefs—a break from some potentially hormone-disrupting chemicals (see “Top 10 Sun Protection Tips” on the home page at And they also help keep you warm.

Body Glove’s 50-UPF (that’s the top rating) 540 shirt in nifty white, silver and black, $34.95; or an O’Neill long-sleeve in navy, charcoal and black, $49.95, at

Solarweave chlorine-resistant Lycra shirts in stunning fuchsia (the better for lifeguards to see you with!), $79.50; unisex swimshorts, $38, or tights, $49, and baby longjohns, $49, all 50-UPF, at

Note: Make sure sun protective clothing doesn’t fit too snugly, as if it’s stretched taut, that distends the tight weave and reduces the UPF!

Last-minute Tip: In a pinch, I find that a regular surfer poly or nylon “rash guard” works fine at preventing sunburn.

Go for it! Next, Sunblocks: The Scoop on the Goop.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Greener Sun Hats

Hats On!

To help ensure happy, green, sunburn-free summer memories, please see the new Top 10 Sun Protection Tips at In addition, if you're a Greenerpenny daily email subscriber, you’ll be automatically receiving your free Sun Protection Shopping List. If not, you can sign up for email tips, or just the list, at

Topping the list: Shade your face and eyes from the sun’s damaging UV rays, and help protect the planet with a sustainable topper.

Greener Fabric Hats:

Understated, soft and chic, broad-brimmed Hemp Hats, floppy or safari style with chin strap, in greyblue, dark green, brown, black, size M and L, $30-35,

Kangol organic cotton visor with Roo logo in black, beige, army, white, $22,

Organic cotton visor from Sierra Club,

Organic cotton stretch brimmed cap, in sage, grey, olive and tan, $22,

Tilley T4 Hemp Hat, certified 50 UPF (ultraviolet protection factor), 71/8” to 7 ¾”, $62.10 at

Wash your hat with a petrochemical-free laundry detergent such as those from or To remove stains, presoak in washing soda; Arm and Hammer’s version in the yellow box can be found in the laundry aisles of supermarkets or at

Cool Hemp Bucket Hat, $26.50, romantic soft Cloud, $24.50, and other styles, all one size, by Lost Coast Hemp,

Sustainable "Straw" Hats

Sisal hat, handwoven from the fiber of agave cacti, with a colorful geometric band, S-XL,, which buys from members of the Fair Trade Federation.

Rainbow sun hat in pastel blue, yellow and pink, made of renewable raffia harvested from palm trees, one size, about $40 at

Ladies Collapsible Seagrass Hat (with rayon crown), one size, $34.50 at

Fedora-style, Fairway Golf Hat in breathable straw, rated by the Skin Cancer Foundation as excluding 98% of UV rays, S/M-XL, about $40,

Straw, grass and raffia hats can be wiped clean with a damp cloth.

Friday, May 18, 2007

washing soda

Washing and Hoping

On a recent warm spring evening, the Green Man merrily( sautéed local skate while wearing an unbleached linen camp shirt made in Hawaii. After dinner, the shirt smelled powerfully of fish, but the Green Man refused to consign it to the washing machine, which, he argued, drains the life essence of his favorite things. “You may turn up your nose at skate, but it’s not dirty,” he said. “Besides, washing machines use so much energy that you’re not green if you wash your clothes after wearing them only once.”

True, I said, but what about the brown stain in the vicinity of his navel? His face drooped. “The brown butter,” he said.

“Actually,” I said, “this is an old chocolate stain.”

“Then it’s hopeless,” he said mournfully.

“No. Give it to me,” I said, and put it in the bathroom sink. Wearing rubber gloves I scrubbed the shirt with a paste of washing soda and cold water. Like bleach, washing soda is caustic and can burn skin, but unlike chlorine bleach it doesn’t give off fumes that can irritate the eyes and respiratory tract; chlorine bleach can also form toxic organochlorines in waterways. In two minutes the spot was gone. “Wash it in cold water and the machine will use 90 percent less electricity. And remember to put in a full load so we don’t waste energy,” I said.

He looked worried. “The washing soda won’t hurt the other clothes?”

“No. It’ll just brighten them a bit.”

“You’re awesome,” he said.

“So was the skate,” I said, and without further ado we began sorting the laundry together.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Wrap Gifting


Continuing our resource-saving theme of making the wrapping part of the gift (see Tip #10 for Mothers’ Day Gifts at, my greener girlfriend Christy Wise sends this idea: Wrapsacks. These bright cotton gift bags are meant not only to be reused, but can be passed along and are completely trackable! Think of the tagged green leatherback turtle Stephanie Colburtle, Stephen Colbert’s adopted daughter in the Great Turtle Race organized by Conservation International. So, too, you can adopt and track your sack. And, yes, they come in a turtle print (and a couple dozen other tropical motifs).

Christy received a birthday present in a new wrapsack, registered it online, and recently put a gift for a friend in it and released it, tagged, into the wilds of the U.S. Postal Service. Almost 20,000 sacks have been registered to date. “I’m looking forward to following my bag’s progress in the ‘Journeys’ section of the website,” she says. The only problem we foresee is parting with these bags in the first place. Gift bags from $2.24 to $6.74 (extra large),

Organic Cotton Gift Bags

For $2, Patagonia stores sell beautiful organic, formaldehyde-free cotton sacks made from clothing scraps that tie closed with a selvage ribbon. The large ones also make great pillowcases or laptop travel slips. To find a retailer near you, go to and click on “find Patagonia,” or call 1-800-638-6464.

For an unbleached, undyed wrapper, choose a medium (10 x 12”) or large (12 x 15”) Organic Cotton Sack with drawstring closure, strong enough to haul up to 10 lbs. of fresh produce. $3 or $4 each; $2.70 or $3.60 each for 5-10; $2.45 or $3.20 for 10 and up. A 3” x 5” mesh “soap bag” with drawstring doubles as a wash cloth (put those slivers of old soap inside) or a gift bag for a brand new bar. Buy one for yourself, one for Mom, one for Dad (his day is on the way): $4 each, all from Please share this tip with any interested friends and send them to I deeply appreciate all your blog and website mentions! Thanks,

Monday, May 7, 2007

Green Power for a Cool Planet

Choose Green Power for a Cooler Planet

Perhaps the single biggest way individuals can help dial back global warming is through the power we use to light, heat and cool our homes. The burning of fossil fuels to produce electricity is responsible for about 40% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

What to do?

Easy steps such as turning off lights and air conditioners when we’re not using a room will also save money on our electric bills. In addition, in some states, consumers can now choose green power through their utilities. And most of us want to! Three-quarters of Americans are willing to pay more for energy produced by renewable sources such as solar or wind, according to a New York Times/CBS news poll released in April.

In green power states, utilities provide lists of green sources to choose from on your utility bill. For options in your state, go to

Friday, May 4, 2007

Mother's Day Shopping List

More for Mom

Pretty Little Nothings

Moms adore receiving those little luxuries we never buy for ourselves.

If Mom’s eyes start to water on her day, it should be from joy, not a reaction to her makeup. But some conventional cosmetic ingredients, like Quaternium 15 and petrolatum, can cause irritation or allergic reactions. Formaldehyde and “coal tar colors” have been linked to cancer. “Fragrance/parfum” can mean synthetic scents containing toxic phthalates, associated with abnormal development in animal and some human studies. Parabens have caused proliferation of breast cancer cells in lab tests.

Eye Makeup Alert: In April 27, after investigating several cases of lead poisoning, the New York City Department of Health issued a warning against imported kohl, kajal and surma eye makeups containing the neurotoxic metal. In violation of U.S. FDA regulations, none of the products displayed ingredients lists.

The following are free of the worrisome ingredients above.

Aveda’s Petal Essence eyeliners, in “Cacao,” “Black Orchid” and other colors, are made only with plant oils and least-toxic minerals such as iron oxides. And the pencils themselves are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood. Triple Action double-pointed, two-color pencil can be used to accent eyes, lips or cheeks, $18; Eye Definer pencil, $12,

For the face, Dr. Hauschka’s Quince ($29) or Rose Day Creams ($39) smell delicious as they moisturize and tone the skin.

For the body, Pharmacopia’s lotions with certified organic olive oil and herbal infusions, and essential oils of ginger, citrus, rosemary or lavender, $16.99 at

For Mom’s hardworking hands, put a Badger in her bag and lighten her load. Tiny .75 oz tins pack a lot of comfort. Certified organic olive and aloe vera extract, cocoa and shea butter, plus essential oils of ginger/lemon, tangerine, mint, lavender/orange or rose. About $5 at Lip balms, $3, also come unscented.

The Better to See You With

You’ll always shine in Mom’s eyes, so give her Greenwear reading glasses made of 100% reclaimed plastic by ICU, which will also take them back for reuse and recycling. Don’t know her prescription? Get her a gift certificate at

What to read? Let Mom reconnect with the primal mystery of nature in the GREEN MANSIONS—A ROMANCE OF THE TROPICAL FOREST, by W.H. Hudson, first published in 1904 (Lightning Source, 2002). She’ll be delighted and inspired by MY FIRST SUMMER IN THE SIERRA, by John Muir, first published in 1911 (U. of California Press, 1990). Destined to become a classic, THE WILD TREES, by Richard Preston (2007, Random House) is an uplifting saga of the ancient redwoods and the scientists who explore their rich and diverse canopies.

Basic Rule of Mother’s Day: Thou Shalt Not Let Her Cook!

But you can give her a gorgeous nontoxic pan—and cook her breakfast in it. Lodge now sells a preseasoned cast-iron frying pan, $7.95-$24.95 at, which also sells stainless steel and enamelware. Lodge has a new enameled ovenware line, including apple green, at the dirt on nonstick finishes, see Word of the Week on the home page at and The Green Man’s Daily Ramble at

Serve her breakfast in bed on a lacquered tray made of bamboo, a fast-replenishing grass, in orange, green or turquoise. $18.95 at

Does Mom do most of the household errands? Cosset her feet with shoes that tread lighter on the Earth. Larkspur bamboo platform sandals from Timberland, with “comfortia” padding and leather straps in white, brown or black, $80 at
Cushy crisscross slippers in hemp, wool, yak hair and organic cotton, with soles that can pad outdoors, $48 at

She’ll want to stay in bed all day on a dust-mite-busting, unpesticided wool mattress pad, $230/ queen size at Not to mention organic cotton sheets and pillows $49 for a queen set at

This summer, let Mom get away in sustainable style with a white & black paisley quilted cotton bag, free of water-polluting AZO dyes, made by the craftspeople of the Barefoot College of Tilonia, India, which helps rural communities become self-sufficient and preserve their environment. . Entire code Penny07 for free shipping.

For more ideas and products, see “Top Ten Mother’s Day Gifts” on the home page at .

Please tell your friends about us!


Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Green Bathroom II: The Gleaming Bowl

Green cleaning is gentler to the environment and ourselves, but of course we draw the line at germs. Why is it so hard to identify eco-friendly products that disinfect or sanitize? The reason: They aren’t labeled as doing so. A Greenerpenny reader asks, “Could you please recommend a way to clean and disinfect the toilet bowl? I can'tseem to find a cleaner in the (green cleaning) market that specifically does that.” In what might be called the Disinfect Disconnect, products that claim to be disinfectants or sanitizers must be registered as such by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, EPA’s requirement that registered products be tested on animals prevents some companies from making the claim, says Martin Wolf, director of product quality and technology at Seventh Generation. “Our tests showed that our Natural Citrus Bathroom Cleaner with hydrogen peroxide kills germs, but we don’t test on animals,” Wolf says, noting that the company had unsuccessfully petitioned the EPA. Hydrogen peroxide itself is registered by the EPA as an antimicrobial pesticide--for use on hard surfaces in home bathrooms and killing anthrax bacteria, among other tasks. See in some tooth whitening gels, hydrogen peroxide is also less toxic than caustic chlorine bleach(sodium hypochlorite), which is commonly used as a disinfectant but can burn eyes, skin and respiratory membranes and harm aquatic ecosystems. To answer our reader’s question, Seventh Generation Natural Citrus Bathroom Cleaner is a good, easy green way to disinfect the bathroom. So is white vinegar, which in a Purdue University test was rated among “most effective” substances for reducing microbe populations in the bathroom--a category that also included chlorine bleach. See Back to the bowl, Martin Wolf recommends a “two-step method”: Use a toilet bowl cleaner and brush to scrub off stains and mineral deposits; Spray toilet seat, rim and lid with a cleaner containing hydrogen peroxide, let stand for five minutes, and wipe off with a sponge. For products, go to, Greenerpenny adds: You can scrub the toilet with baking soda and wipe surfaces with white vinegar. Wolf says there’s no reason to disinfect the toilet bowl below the water line. This makes sense to me. Once you scrub it, all dislodged residue, including any microorganisms, will be flushed down the drain. But you can add a little non-chlorine bleach or white vinegar to freshen the water in the bowl if you like.