Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mother's Day green driving tips

Like Earth Day, Mother's Day should be celebrated every day. Of course, if you're within driving distance of your mom, you may feel guilty for not visiting her this weekend. But some may feel the sting of green guilt associated with carbon emissions and our dependence on fossil fuels, which results in ever-more aggressive oil exploration, drilling, and disasters like the horrific Gulf spill.

Cars are responsible for one quarter of the United States’ annual carbon dioxide emissions, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, and an average American’s car produces 2750 pounds of carbon per year. Taking light rail cuts out 1366 pounds and a city bus cuts 804 pounds of carbon annually, and of course, biking and walking doesn’t give off any carbon emissions at all.

How to make Mom (and yourself) happy without wounding the planet?
The simplest greenest answer would be to not drive, and send local organic flowers, wine & cheese, and chocolates (delivered by a business in Mom's locale), instead.

That said...would Mom really prefer a material gift to a material hug from YOU? Just in case, here are some tips that will increase your fuel efficiency when you drive.

Did you know that road rage can cost you? According to the Department of Energy’s fuel economy guide, aggressive driving, such as speeding, rapid acceleration and braking to get around that jerk on the bike, lowers gas mileage by 33% at highway speeds and 5% at city speeds. Also, Big Green Purse reports that most cars hit their optimal fuel economy at 60 miles per hour (mph), so every additional 5 mph after that costs you an extra $0.l0 in gas. And remember: a little care and consideration in your driving habits may save you more than gas someday.
Ever wonder why Granddad’s 20 year old Cadillac still had such a smooth ride? Chances are he spent every weekend tinkering with it in the driveway, which both lengthens the life of a car and increase its fuel economy. The Department of Energy states that certain types of serious engine maintenance, such as replacing a busted oxygen sensor, can increase your fuel efficiency by as much as 40%. Keeping tires properly inflated will increase efficiency by 3.3% and regularly cleaning your air filter can improve efficiency by as much as 10%. Guess Granddad was greener than he realized.

For more info on green products: Celebrate Mother's Day by giving Mom, and yourself, a subscription to our free newsletter at the website that belongs to this blog: GreenerPenny.com, and enter our giveaway for a $25 organic cosmetics gift certificate! For lists of top green products Mom will love, from personal care to wine, chocolate and fairly traded, sustainably produced clothing and shoes, see my new book, Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

How to green your dirty laundry

How to green your dirty laundry

There are some crazy ideas floating around the scientific community on how to combat global warming. Pumping gigatons of sulfur into the atmosphere; dumping iron into the ocean; and launching trillions of tiny mirrors into space to deflect the sun’s rays are just a few of the more radical solutions to the planetary crisis. But before you stand on your roof and hold up a mirror, remember that the only real, lasting solution to climate change is lifestyle change. We’ve got to stop using so much darn carbon! Today, GreenerPenny looks at the American household’s biggest energy waster according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy: laundry. Waste from doing laundry is huge. The average clothes washer emits 160 pounds of carbon a year; the average dryer, 2,224 pounds. The average American does 400 loads of laundry per year, which amounts to 13,500 gallons of water, or enough for one person’s lifetime supply of drinking water. In this era of peak oil and peak water, what can you do to green your dirty laundry? When you load up, make sure to run entire loads to get the most out of your water, and use the cold setting whenever possible. The ACEEE states that the hot water setting is responsible for 90% of the energy used to run the washer, and costs 5 to 10 times more. Running just half your loads in cold water will cut out 72 pounds of carbon annually. Washers last for about 11 years, so if you bought yours in 1997 or earlier, it’s probably time for a replacement. Opt for an Energy Star model. Over 11 years, one of these energy- and water-saving models will save you $500 and enough water for 6 people’s lifetimes. The clothes dryer is the biggest carbon emitter in this equation, and the simplest answer is to not use it. Take advantage of summer days by line-drying your laundry. Again, even drying only half your loads this way cuts out 723 pounds of carbon per year according to the Green Guide’s global warming calculator. (Some homeowners’ associations have regulations against line drying laundry, calling it “unsightly,” but the national Right to Dry movement has your back on this one.) Line drying may not be an option if it’s snowing outside, so when you do crank up the dryer, make sure you’re using the auto-dry setting rather than the timed setting. Most better-quality dryers have moisture sensors in the drum and automatically shut off as soon as your clothes are dry. Other less efficient models test the temperature of the exhaust air to infer dryness. Either option is better than the timer, which can over-dry your clothes, waste energy, shorten clothing lifespan, and generate pesky static electricity. And try to dry multiple loads in quick succession to take advantage of residual heat. If mirrors in space sounds like a cartoon episode to you, make a habit of going green with your laundry and other common household chores. Future generations will thank you.
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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Saving Money by Going Green

Saving Money by Going Green

The average American household spends $1400 a year on electricity and that number is only going up. In the waning days of summer, how can the average consumer cut energy costs and become more eco-friendly at the same time? We at GreenerPenny have some tips to save both your hard-earned salary and your planet in peril.
As the planet heats up, so may the urge to crank the air conditioner. But the average AC produces 2,263 pounds of carbon per year and accounts for 22% of an average household’s total energy bill. You can cut out 121 pounds of carbon per year by raising the AC to the ideal temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit. And Consumer Reports states that for every thermostat degree raised, you save 3% on cooling costs.
If 78 degrees still sounds too hot for your home to handle, get creative with fans, window shades, and lighting. Electric fans placed near the AC and in the shady parts of the room will blow cooler air into the hotter, sunny parts. Consider investing in an Energy Star rated ceiling fan, which uses 20% less energy than the standard model. Keeping the lights off, the curtains drawn, and the sunrays out will also cool your rooms. Low cost, eco-friendly window tinting is available at Snap Tint or Solar Gard and can save you 15% on your electricity bill.
The AC isn’t the only energy-waster in the house; many of your appliances have “stand-by power,” which means they are sucking electricity even when they aren’t being used. Computers, televisions, and other entertainment devices, the biggest stand-by culprits, produce 2,105 pounds of carbon annually, so unplugging these appliances will save $110 on your electricity bill and 283 pounds of carbon per year. Try plugging these appliances into power strips that can be turned off when they aren’t being used. A good investment is a Smart Strip Power Strip, which automatically turns off itself and your peripheral devices when your computer shuts down.
Even plumbing can be made more energy efficient. Most water heaters are set to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and produce 3,419 pounds of carbon per year. But according to the Environmental Protection Agency, you can decrease heating costs by as much as 10% and cut out 479 pounds of carbon annually by turning your water heater down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lastly, be mindful of energy habits. Careless energy waste, such as not turning off lights when you leave a room, is a luxury that you and the planet can no longer afford. By adopting these and other easy, eco-friendly practices, you can reduce your carbon footprint and save hundreds of dollars every year in energy costs.
Be sure to tell your friends about GreenerPenny.com! Subscribe at info@greenerpenny.com

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Phthalate-and Paraben-free Cosmetics List

The skin is a highly absorptive organ. We want to preserve our skin, but not, of course, with carcinogenic preservatives. Alas, paraben preservatives (methyl-, butyl-, and so forth), which provoke the growth of breast cancer cells in lab studies, are still common in cosmetics. So are phthalates, hormone-disrupting chemicals linked to obesity in men and genital abnormalities in infant boys. Although they’re widely used in synthetic fragrances, you won’t see “phthalates” on any cosmetic label, because fragrance components are protected as trade secrets.

To further complicate the search for nontoxic personal care, few companies list their ingredients on websites, forcing the concerned consumer to stand on tired feet in store aisles reading labels, while balancing bags and trying not to block other shoppers. So Greener Penny has done that research for you.

Following is a list of companies that make paraben- and phthalate-free lip balms, and lotions and creams for face, hands and body. Their sunblocks, if any, use only the natural minerals zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as active ingredients, containing no synthetic, suspected hormone disrupting chemicals such as benzophenone-3, which is found in 97% of Americans’ bodies, as reported by Environmental Health Perspectives.

CO means that the product contains certified organic plant ingredients. USDA certified organic means that the whole product is certified organic, containing at minimum 95% CO ingredients. BDIH is an EU seal barring all petroleum-based ingredients. The new Natural Products Association (NPA) seal strictly limits chemical processing and additives.
GreenerPenny’s Best Nontoxic Skin Care Products List

Aubrey Organics CO

Burts Bees NPA Note: While Burt's persists in listing “fragrance,” usually a tell-tale giveaway of phthalates, company reps have repeatedly assured us that their fragrances are phthalate-free. We believe Burt's; the company is a co-founder of the new Natural Products Association seal, which specifies no parabens or phthalates, and signatory of the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, which pledges to not to use toxins in products.

Dr. Bronner’s Magic and Sundog USDA certified organic

Dr. Hauschka , BDIH.

Dropwise http://www.dropwise.com/, CO

Hawaiian Body Products

Healing Anthropology

Jason Natural Organics and Earth’s Best Organic Sunblock

Juice Organics, 70% CO

Karen’s Botanicals

Kathy’s Family

Kelphead http://www.kelphead.com/moisturizinglotionbars.htm
(lotion comes in stroke-on bars)

Kimberly Sayer

Miessence http://www.mionegroup.com/en/category/1

MoonValley http://www.moonvalleyhoney.com/products/b-lotion_variety_pack.htm (lotion comes in bars)

Origins Organics ; some, but not all, of its skin care line is USDA certified organic, but most products have at least 87% CO.

Pangea Organics, CO

Planet Botanicals, CO Purity Cosmetics

Sensibility Soaps’ Nourish Organic Body Lotions USDA certified organic

Suki , http://www.sukipure.com/product.php?product_id=21, CO, fair trade

Terressentials , http://www.terressentials.com/fffacialcare.html
CO, and body lotions come in flower essences or fragrance free

Weleda http://www.usa.weleda.com/index.aspx NPA and BDIH certified

Specific Products

We also like the following unique products that are free of the worst chemicals, although other lines by the companies may contain ingredients of concern such as parabens, phthalates, cocamidopropyl betaine and sodium cocoyl sarcosate.

Avalon Organics Botanicals: Therapeutic Hand & Body Lotion with Ylang Ylang, and vitamin C and lavender face creams

Ecco Bella facial moisturizer, 70% CO; but caution, at least one of their Ecco Bella body lotions contain parabens

Kiss My Face Obsessively Organic Lime Chamomile Tighten Up Moisturizer , CO

Origins says that it has reformulated all its products to be free of parabens, and that old ones on shelves will be replaced with reformulated products as they’re sold. Origins Hydrating Body Lotion, has 87% CO, and the Organic Consumers Association test, below, found it had no detectable residue of 1, 4 dioxane.

Physicians Formula tinted moisturizer and foundation, SPF 15

Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Body Lotion

Tip: Moisturizing oils are generally simpler and purer than thicker butters and potions. On the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep database, , oils often get a greener rating than creams by the same maker.

Other Toxic Ingredients

For the lists above, we also screened for other problematic ingredients. These include ethoxylated chemicals (including PEG, propylene glycol; phenoyxethanol, ethylene oxide, and sodium laureth sulfate), made by a process that can produce carcinogenic 1,4, dioxane as a byproduct. A recent study by Organic Consumers Association found 1.4 dioxane residues in many products with organic and natural on their labels. In addition, while originally based on coconut oil, cocamidopropyl betaine and sodium cocoyl sarcosate are processed in ways that may release carcinogenic nitrosamines.

Least-toxic, natural alternatives to synthetic preservatives include Grapeseed oil and grapefruit seed oil , which raise no health concerns, according to EWG’s Skin Deep database; however, grapefruit seed extract , used in skin toners and astringents, can sometimes be contaminated with parabens, triclosan (an antibacterial that contributes to the growth of resistant bacteria) and benzethonium chloride, another iffy preservative, according to EWG. See also the helpful glossary of ingredients published by Terressentials.

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