Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Best green lip protectors

Nontoxic Lip Balms

Protect your kisser! To keep from licking hormone-disrupters off your winter-cracked lips, choose from this plethora of phthalate-free products, all of which use essential plant oils rather than synthetic "fragrance." THE BODY SHOP Hemp Lip ProtectorAt a recent Jets game (remember the last one they won?), a green guy said it saved his lips from cold wind splice and the green tube showed off his team spirit. Body Shop is a Campaign for Safe Cosmetics' CSC signatory. $8. BURTS BEES Beeswax Balms, Lip Shimmers The quickest of comforters: Burt's clear balm (Natural Products Association certified) and new Rescue Lip Balm, which blocks UV rays with natural titanium dioxide. Burt's has also signed the CSC pledge. $3-5. DR BRONNER’S Lip Balm This USDA certified organic balm comes in "naked," lemon/lime and ginger phthalate-free flavors. Yum. A CSC signatory. $2.99 DR. HAUSCHKA Lip Care Stick or Balm One of our top faves. Moisturizes with jojoba wax and carrot and rosehip extracts; $12.95 or $14.50. OLA HAWAII Tropical Melody Lip Balms (pictured) The islands in winter! Banana, coconut/lemongrass, liliko'i (passion fruit) and mango aromas will warm your lips and hearts. We can't get enough of 'em. $6. ORIGINS Lip Balm Their USDA certified organic stick is pure salve-ation. Completely odorless and taste-free, slicks on effortlessly. WELEDA Everon Lip Balm With shea butter, vanilla and rose. Cheap, creamy, and long-lasting. $3.50-4.99.
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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Top Green Holiday Gifts 2009

Green Gifts, Carbon Footprints and All

Buy local, or not? It’s the holidays, right, so anything goes? Not quite. Every product has a carbon footprint, that is, the carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas, released by the burning of fossil fuels used to manufacture and transport it. Some manufacturers are trying to measure and reduce the carbon footprints of a bevy of products, from food to electronics to fashion with the help of new labels being developed by the UK’s Carbon Trust.

When you can, buy locally made goods to give to those who live near you. Deal face to face, smile to smile, be an engaged and integral part of your local economy. Then, if you can’t find what you’re looking for in a local shop, feel free to order online.

Now for the goods.

Culture’s the ticket: No matter where you live, you can give tickets to concerts, plays or services in your recipient’s local. No shipping, no fuel miles. We gave our son and his girlfriend tickets to “Wolves at the Window,” a production of Brits Off Broadway within walking distance of their New York apartment. They not only went, but loved it, and asked for more!

Alternate Ashtanga: Gifts of yoga classes keep on giving, and yoga studios are trending green. In Honolulu, Diamond Head Yoga, founded by surfer Randall Poulson, uses energy efficient LED lighting and recycled hardwood floors. Find a low-impact teacher and venue near someone you love at

“I encourage students to bring their own mats, which cuts down on spreading germs,” says Poulson, and we agree. We’re partial to Think Sport’s thick new PVC and polycarbonate mats. They’re PVC and polycarbonate free, so no phthalates or Bisphenol-A. Same with these other eco mats. Think ecoyopi, or for Pilates, too.

Help your significant other get core strength (and flat abs) with lessons from a certified Pilates instructor. To find a studio near you, go to Pilates Studio Search.
In my case, the slopes of Diamond Head, or Leahi (forehead of a tuna) also house a great Pilates place, Aware Aligned Awake, founded by another surfer, Cristal Mortensen.

Speaking of surfing, it’s chilly, even in Hawaii, when the north wind blows! For the oceangoer on your list, consider a warm-up cap made of a sustainable fiber. An organic cotton cap and tote bag are included when you give a $44 membership in the non-profit Surfrider Foundation, which is dedicated to protecting water quality and conserving natural beaches and waves. Or check out the organic cotton, wool or recycled poly caps by Patagonia.

Speaking of Patagonia, their Footprints Chronicles are a fun way to comparison shop based on the carbon and energy consumed by their products, say, Mongolian cashmere vs. recycled poly fleece. Watch your back:

Electronics, or rather, Computers? Think takeback, nontoxic and read this for what to do.

Tech gadgets: Give Memory: Photos are nice, especially when the albums are stored on tiny flash drives, or memory sticks. I want one for each writing project! Smart power strips are a great way to save energy.

Green Books:

*One of my favorite practical guidebooks for protecting children from unnecessary toxic exposures is now out in paperback. Healthy Child, Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home, by Christopher Gavigan for It includes advice from witty, down-to-earth pediatrician and author Harvey Karp, and reminiscences from Tobey Maguire, Michelle Obama, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tom Hanks and others.
*Of course, you can’t go wrong with Al Gore’s new book, Our Choice, of which 100% of the profits go to the Alliance for Climate Protection.
*Buy Fred Krupp’s and Miriam Horn’s LastStop Earth from the Environmental Defense Fund’s book store, and help benefit this non-profit.
*The Surfrider Foundation and landscaping expert Douglas Kent collaborated on Ocean Friendly Gardens: A How-To Gardening Guide to Help Restore a Healthy Coast and Ocean. This manual details ways to create water-conserving landscape designs and irrigation, while preventing runoff that deadens our marine environments. Order through Surfrider.
*Budding citizen journalists should read Elizabeth Royte’s Garbage Land and Bottlemania before they ride along to the source of trouble, and, to deepen their analysis of media, her The Tapir’s Morning Bath. See Royte’s blog

Speaking of bottles, make this the season you give everyone on your list a reusable water bottle that’s PVC and BPA-free.

Tote bottles and who knows what in a cute recycled bag from Olive and Myrtle, which also has fresh-looking recycled paper journals, plus traditional toys, and more.

Bicycles: The latest are commute-and-carry haulers, some with buckets. See my article in E. Magazine.

Personal Care: Go gentle on yourself, and support rainforest communities, with
Alba Botanica’s Rainforest Rescue containing Andiroba and Brazil Nut Oil from Forest Stewardship Council-certified forestlands. The Body Shop carries FSC-certified foot files and nail brushes. Eco elegant! For travel, we love l’Occitane’s little tins of pure shea butter, fairly traded, and their certified organic lavender body lotion. For both fairly traded and organic soaps, give Dr. Bronner’s. For plenty more delectable, phthalate and paraben free cosmetics, see my list.


The most sustainable clothing fiber, even greener than organic cotton, is something post-consumer-recycled. And it doesn’t have to be from Goodwill, although their designer wares are as chic as any. Look for local designers who make new designs from old materials, like 1979, whose Made in Hawaii tops and frocks use soft, faded material from vintage men’s aloha shirts. Or Soozou, which makes beach bags and totes from used sails. Timberland’s Earthkeeper line, with those tags giving the carbon footprint of the item, looks pretty irresistible for someone with a weakness for boots.
Moving on…

Jewelry: In an era of conflict diamonds, the mindful consumer will seek out jewelry that’s ethically sourced as well as free of the taint of ecosystems destroyed by arsenic from gold mining. No such problem with Meesah’s earrings and bangles made of repurposed fishing lines or Bakelite fragments! For more ideas see The Green Guide’s jewelry guide.

Edibles: My Dad always says he wants nothing more for Xmas than good health and a package of fresh-baked cookies from Dancing Deer. The latter I can give him. After all, it’s only once a year! For the rest, buy from your local farmers, who will be happy to fill your gift baskets with fresh selections. Find them by entering your zip code at Local Harvest .

The cook will welcome something earthy and authentic, like an unglazed soapstone pot from Vermont,, or a terracotta tagine, from

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Oh, and you can preorder my book, Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth through Simple, Everyday Choices, for delivery in March, here.

Happy Holidays, one and all!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Lead-Free Green Toy Tips and Shopping List

Every year, toxic levels of lead are found in name brand toys, bought in mainstream stores, in tests by the Center for Environmental Health. This, despite federal legislation passed in January 2009 banning lead and phthalates in toys for young children. No need to panic; there are plenty of lead-free toys. Here’s how to find them.

First, what to avoid. Items in ever category, from painted wood blocks and wire bead sets to action figures, plush toys, cheap jewelry and decorated water bottles, have been recalled for high levels of lead.

Check your child’s wish list against this U.S. Centers for Disease Control list of toys recalled for lead levels by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC).. You can also search CPSC’s recalls by month. Give heightened scrutiny to imported toys made in Asia, and other countries that lack lead regulations. When in doubt, don’t buy, even if they’re from formerly trusted name brands.
Lists are just the tip of the iceberg. By the time most toys get recalled, they’ve already been sold. Give strict scrutiny to imported toys, including those with big U.S. brand names. Exception: Toys with an independently-verified CE safety label from the EU.

Here’s what to look for:

*Toys sold by trusted retailers you can talk with, and who can verify their products come from manufacturers who avoid lead. Like The Playstore.
*Toys bearing the CE label and an independent third party’s verifying stamp.
*Green toys made in the USA or Canada of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) wood, like many by Holgate, Rosie Hippo and others, or the colorful tea and cookware sets, trucks and more made from recycled plastic milk jugs by companies like Green Toys.
*Mothering Magazine's current issue with 24 green, nontoxic, fair-trade toys, including a crocheted astronaut and rocket ship!
*Toys made by PVC-free companies on Greenpeace’s Toy Report Card.
In addition to phthalates, PVC plastic often contains lead.
*Shop using Healthy Child Healthy World’s downloadable toy list, also on mobile. ***PLUS*** A great gift for parents: their practical environmental health book, out in paperback this year, by Christopher Gavigan.
*Toys tested for lead and phthalates and vetted for safety by Good Guide and their partner Healthy Stuff, where you can search by brand.

Beyond safety, there are other criteria, so check out Huffington Post’s 15 worst tasteless and offensive toys on sale this year! Ho-ho-ho!

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Friday, November 13, 2009

BPA-free sport and baby bottle list

To ensure that your reusable bottle, or your baby's nurser, isn't releasing Bisphenol-A (BPA) into your favorite drinks, first check that the bottles aren’t polycarbonate (PC) plastic, which contains the hormone-disrupting chemical. Here is GreenerPenny's newly updated shopping list for BPA-free bottles for baby, you and kids.

BPA-free BOTTLES List (Note: Many come in sippy cup or 12-oz. kid-size versions, too, and some offer water filter/purification attachments) Stainless Steel: Camelbak Ecousable's stainless steel bottles have nifty new half-turn loop tops. Enviro Products makes an "I Bottle My Own" version for clean water non-profit Riverkeeper . Classic Kleen Kanteen (incl 12 oz), at Thermos compact stainless bottle with cup lid ThinkSport Stainless Courtney, a reader, comments that this shapely, grippable double-walled stainless model is her fave. Lined Aluminum: Sigg's new EcoCare lining, in bottles made since August 2008, has been independently tested and found BPA-free. The old linings contained BPA. BPA-free Plastics: The newest plastic in sports bottles is Tritan copolyester, which has the clarity and colors of Lexan without the BPA. Tritan Bottles: Cambelbak Tritan REI Nalgene OTG Tritan (12 oz) and (HDPE #2) loop-top bottles Polyethylene (PETE #1): Katadyn (contains a carbon water filter) and Novara Flowers widemouth bottle, at Polypropylene #5: Rubbermaid Chug Sport, Sippin' Sport Somafab Crystal Polypro ThinkSport Tupperware kids' bottles, including Kung Fu Panda, Little Princess and Dora; Impressions lidded tumblers (12 oz.); Ice Prisms Bowls and Tumblers (however, the pitcher that comes with the set is PC!) BABY BOTTLES

Dr. Brown's
Evenflo Classics

Non-PC Plastic (BPA-free)
Adiri (#5)
Bornfree: either polyamide (PA) or polyethersulphone (PES)
Gerber Fashion Tints & Clear View (#5)
Green to Grow (PES)
Medela breastmilk storage and feeding set
Playtex (#4)
Sassy MAM (#5)
Think Baby (PES)

Why avoid BPA? Last spring, the U.S. National Toxicology Program warned that BPA may pose a threat to human health. Studies have connected BPA with diabetes and heart disease in humans, and behavioral and reproductive problems in animals. In lab tests it has caused normal human cells to express genes linked to breast cancer. BPA is already present in 93% of Americans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s “body burden” studies of representative populations. BPA has been found to migrate more readily out of polycarbonate when the plastic is heated, washed in strong detergents, scratched or worn-out. All sports or baby bottles are subject to these conditions, but, happily, not all are made of PC. Nalgene has announced it will phase out its clear, colorful PC Lexan bottles, and Wal-mart has removed PC baby bottles from its Canada stores and pledged to stop selling them in the U.S.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Best recycled paper products for home & office

Although one New York City family famously pledged to live without toilet tissue for a year, as chronicled in No Impact Man, post-consumer-recycled paper is about as low-impact as most of us can get. And actually that's quite a lot. In addition to saving trees, which store CO2 and keep it from further warming Earth's atmosphere, making recycled paper uses about 50% less energy than making virgin paper, according to the California Department of Environmental Management. Carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases are much on our minds this Blog Action Day, whose theme is climate change. Office and School Paper Why post-consumer? Because it means that the paper has actually been used and recycled. Plain "recycled" can include virgin paper manufacturing scraps. So look for at least 30% post-consumer-waste (PCW or PCR) recycled content in all the paper you buy. In an ideal world, we could all afford 100% PCW paper, which saves 5 lbs. Of CO2 per ream (500 sheets), as calculated by Stop Global Warming. But the cheapest I could find in stores was MEAD 100% PCR multiuse recycled copy paper, 24-lb weight, for over $22/ream (500 sheets). Hammermill 30% PCR multiuse paper was about $5/ream. That still saves about 1.6 lbs of CO2! Both papers are available at Recycled Products; 30% multiuse PCR reams can also be bought for about $5 at Staples stores. Recycled Paper with PCW from 30–100 percent, as well as chlorine-free, eco-certified, and tree-free papers can be found from the following makers: Badger Paper Boise Aspen Dolphin Blue Green Field Paper Hammermill Mohawk Paper New Leaf Wasau Staples sells its own, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified brand; its labels say that their 30% PCW paper reduces greenhouse gases by 11% and their 100% PCW stock means 37% less carbon emitted. Online retailers, which often have better prices, include Amazon Recycled Products The Paper Mill Store / Paper Towels, Napkins, Tissues The up-to 80% PCW paper towels, napkins, facial and toilet tissues made by the companies below are also processed without chlorine (PCF), thus keeping toxic dioxins out of the environment. Cascade’s "North River" brand Earth First (at Safeway stores) Planet Seventh Generation, / Whole Foods’s 365 / Marcal contains 20-60% PCR, according to Conservatree. Kimberly Clark's Scott paper products have pledged to go 40% PCW recycled and FSC certified by 2011. An informative place to shop for green papers is Treecycle. Also see Greenpeace's guide, which lists brands of facial and toilet tissues, paper towels and napkins that have at least 100% recycled content, 50% post-consumer-recycled content, and are processed without chlorine bleach. And do your own paper use/carbon emissions calculations courtesy of Environmental Defense Fund. Since it's Blog Action Day, we've signed on to take action to stop global warming here. Please join us! And impress (and motivate) your friends with Pew's global warming facts and stats.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Top Ten Cosmetic Ingredients to Avoid

Here's what to look out for, and steer clear of, on ingredients lists in the personal care product aisles.

1. Aluminum Starch/ Octenylsuccinate: Linked to cancer and developmental/reproductive harm.

2. Antibacterials/ antimicrobials such as Triclosan, which promote the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

3. Coal tar colors: Includes FD&C and D & C colors, especially blue 1 and green 3. Cancer links.

4. Ethoxylated Chemicals (the “PEGs” and “Eths”s): These sudsing/moisturizing agents are made by adding ethylene oxide to fatty acids so they’ll become more water soluble. This process can create carcinogenic 1,4 dioxane. Watch out for PEG-80 sorbitan laurate, PEG-6 methyl ether, Polyethylene glycol, PEG-20, Sodium laureth sulfate,Ceteareth-20 and -30, and many more substances with “PEG”- and “eth” in their names.

5. Formaldehyde: While it won't show up on ingredients lists, this known human carcinogen can be present as a contaminant in nearly all types of personal care products. Look for its contaminated "cousins": diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, and quaternium .

6. Fragrance: Synthetic fragrance using phthalates, isoeugenol, cinnamal, and BHT--a fragrance used to mask fragrance--is linked to cancer and developmental/ reproductive harm, allergies.

7. Heavy Metals: Lead and mercury in lip and eye makeups can cause nervous system and brain damage.

8. Nano particles: Still new on the block, but research indicates they may pose possible brain damage, cancer risks.

9. Synthetic Preservatives: Methylparaben and other parabens have been found in breast cancer tumors and stimulate growth of breast cancer cells in the lab.

10. Silica: A risk mostly when used in powders that can be easily inhaled. Mica and talc, also used in powders, are low-risk, although talc can be contaminated with fibers similar to cancer-causing asbestos.

The list was compiled using Environmental Working Group's awesome Skin Deep Database .

Monday, October 12, 2009

Must-avoid cosmetic and plastic chemicals for women's and our children's health

Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I might have made a more mindful--and healthier--cosmetic choice. But no. I rushed out and bought enough Clinique stuff to score their promo bagful of free essentials. If only they were free of toxic chemicals! First shock: The cute apple-printed cosmetics clutch is made of polyester, derived from petroleum, a nonrenewable resource. Worse, there's yet another plastic pouch inside, made of PVC, the most toxic and least recyclable plastic. Colored bright green, it's got the new-shower-curtain smell of phthalates , chemicals that have been tied to reproductive malformations, obesity and asthma in humans.

But here's some good news: On September 29, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced she's seeking stricter regulation of chemical compounds, and targeted six culprits as top priorities for investigation, including phthalates and BPA (Bisphenol-A), another plastics chemical. A new study, published October 6 in Environmental Health Perspectives online, concludes that mothers' exposures to BPA while pregnant may cause behavioral problems in their daughters; in addition to the growing evidence of nervous system harm, BPA has stimulated the growth of breast cancer cells in the lab tests. How are we exposed to BPA? Through polycarbonate plastic drink bottles, baby bottles, and can linings. For more info and safer products, click here and here. Oh, and here--see the comments regarding Sigg's previous denial that its aluminum bottle linings had BPA. GreenerPenny readers are healthy skeptics.

Oh, and never microwave in any plastic! Use these glass or ceramic dishes instead.
More good news: The list of ingredients in my Clinique booty does not include "fragrance," which, as every good cosmetics sleuth knows by now, is basically code for synthetic scents containing phthalates.

Bad news: Clinique's lovely classic Dramatically Different Moisture Lotion contains parabens, some must-avoid chemicals which have also been found to cause the growth of breast cancer cells in vitro. Would that it were truly so different! Many, many popular moisturizers and other personal care products, including some so-called "natural" brands, use parabens. For healthier choices, see my list of paraben- and phthalate-free cosmetics.

Awareness and early detection are crucial, but October should also be Breast Cancer Prevention month. For 20 breast cancer risk factors to avoid, and why, see this excellent article by Dr. Janet Gray of the Breast Cancer Fund.

For helping to inform our choices, kudos to California, where, since June, cosmetic companies have been required to disclose which of their ingredients are suspected or known carcinogens.
For more info on breaking environmental health news and what we can do to protect ourselves and our families, please subscribe to my free weekly e-newsletter by clicking on the link at or send an email to me with "subscribe" in the subject line at

Thursday, August 6, 2009

"Organic" cosmetics. What truly rates?

A Reader Asks:

"Can you comment on the safety of Physicians Formula organic line and the ECOCERT rating?"

I never cease to be amazed at the prevalence of the word "organic" in the brand names of many personal care products, some of which not only contain not a single certified organic ingredient, but several toxic synthetic chemicals, such as parabens and phthalates in synthetic fragrance! Dr Bronner's and the Organic Consumers Association are suing several manufacturers that list organic claims on their labels but whose products contain 1,4 dioxane, a carcinogen.

As for "natural," don't even get me started. I will restrain myself to repeating that "natural" is an undefined and unregulated claim in the cosmetic marketplace.

What labels are meaningful?

The USDA certified organic seal on a personal care product means that the entire product is certified organic, containing, at minimum, 95% certified organic ingredients. This is still a rarity, but some companies such as Organic Essentials and Origins Organics do make USDA certified products.

Look on labels for "contains USDA (or QAI) certified organic plant ingredients," and you'll be getting a good thing.

BDIH is an EU seal barring all petroleum-based ingredients.

The newis Natural Products Association (NPA) seal strictly limits chemical processing and additives.

ECOCERT is a respected European mark still rare in this country. It requires at least some percentage of certified organic ingredients, and forbids many synthetics and problematic processing that can create toxic byproducts, but does allow some synthetics, so one should still read ingredients lists. Physicians Formula Organic Wear is ecocert certified. But make sure you’re buying the Organic Wear and not their conventional mineral makeup line, which has parabens.

See GreenerPenny's specific product and brand recommendations and critiques here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Foods for the green grill: labels & where to get 'em

To cut back on pollution to the planet and other misery, the green griller serves humanely raised poultry and meat, and local, pesticide-free veggies this season.

You'll want to choose poultry that's led a free-pecking unconfined life, and meat from animals who not only knew what grass is, but spent most of their lives on it. You also don't want any products from animals who've been dosed with antibiotics, overuse of which is leading to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. You'll want the freshest in-season vegetables, free of pesticide residues, grown by local or regional farmers. Here's how to find 'em all:

* Type in your zip code to find local, sustainable, organic meat, dairy and produce from nearby farmers' markets, butchers, farmers, stores, and restaurants, at the wonderful Eat Well Guide site of Sustainable Table, which also produces the award-wining Meatrix film series.
* Look for the following labels on poultry and meat. None permit antibiotics or growth hormones, or feeding of animal parts to animals.
*American Grassfed Association: Cows, sheep, goats eat grass, period, and standards require they spend most of their lives outside in the pasture. Now third-party-certified by the Food Alliance (see below).
*Animal Welfare Approved: This label, which is exclusive to family farms, guarantess outdoor living to cows and chickens alike and recently received top ratings from the World Society for Protection of Animals.
Certified Humane: Oddly for a humane label, pasture time is not specified, although comfortable shelter and gentler handling are.
* Food Alliance Certified: Sets clear ecologically responsible standards for vegetables, fruits and animal raising. Pasturage and humane slaughtering are required .
*USDA Organic: Better for you, but not necessarily for the animals. They eat only 100% certified organic grass, corn or grain, but, while they're required to have "access" to pasture, this is not clearly defined the way it is with the labels above.

For sustainable fish and seafood that's not laced with dangerous doses of nervous-system-damaging mercury or PCBs, shop with the fish cards of the assiduously updating and regionally organized Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch, or the detailed health/safety ratings in Environmental Defense Fund's Seafood Selector, or call the Blue Ocean Institute's Fish Phone to ask if that yellowtail's okay. For a quick roundup of all 3 organizations recs and the issues, check out the Fish List.

As for the vegetables: Organic's great, and so's local. It's high summer, and nearly everything local is abundant and cheap. Look for produce labeled local at your supermarket and of course hit the nearest farmers' market. Locate greenmarkets in your area using the USDA's tool or at Local Harvest.

Even when it comes to frankfurters, you can take the high road with a green "haute dog," as my son Rory Wallace dubbed 'em. Companies whose organic/grassfed hot dogs are available nationally by mail or retail include:
Applegate Farms
Dines Farms
Let's Be Franks
Niman Ranch
Organic Valley
Prather Ranch

For more information, including Choose It/ Lose It charts of meat, dairy, fish and vegetable labels and more, see my new book, Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices (St Martin's Press, 2010).

For frequent updates on environmental health news, products and actions consumers can take, plus to enter monthly raffles of cool verifiably green things, visit the website of this blog, and subscribe to our free monthly e-newsletter. And tell your friends!

Thanks, and happy grilling.