Monday, August 22, 2011

Greener less toxic computers and computing tips

A new computer for back to school. Do or don't? In tech purchasing, as in nearly everything these days, it's possible to spend your pennies more wisely for your sake and the planet's, now that companies are being vetted for energy efficiency and reduced pollutants. On the other hand, given the hazardous e-waste released by improper "recycling" (read, dumping) of 50-80% of our e-waste abroad, you might want to hold onto your old machine, upgrading its memory (and saving your money) for as long as possible.

If you really want or need to buy new, ask the company if they'll take your old machine for free recycling.
In a nutshell, here's what to look for new, and what to avoid:

Choose It: Energy Star computers with least toxic contents

Lose It: Computers that waste energy and contain hazardous chemicals

Did You Know? If all computers sold in the U.S. met the U.S. EPA Energy Star standards, we’d save about $2 billion in electricity each year, and reduce as many greenhouse gases as taking 2 million cars off the road.
Toxic brominated fire retardants (BFRs)can migrate out of computers [casings] into house dust, according to a 2004 Environmental Working Group study. Learn about other hazardous chemicals in computers from the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition.

4 things to demand from a new green computer:

It should be energy efficient/ Energy Star compliant.For lists of Energy Star desktops and laptops, click here.
* It should minimize the use of hazardous chemicals. The Environmental Working Group has a list of PDBE-free (toxic fire retardants) computers with links to manufacturers’ websites, while Greenpeace (below)also examines PVC, arsenic, lead and other toxic components.
* Its maker should have a responsible takeback/ recycling program
* The company should be significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
* The company should receive a high rating from the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) and from Greenpeace's annual electronics guide (see below).

Here are the computer companies who scored among the top ten greenest in Greenpeace’s most recent, 2010 Guide to Greener Electronics.

1. Nokia
2. Sony Ericsson
3. Philips
4. HP
5. Samsung
6. Motorola, Panasonic and Sony in 3-way tie
9. Apple
10. Dell

For the details, see Greenpeace's rankings page.

If your student can wait till Xmas, or better yet, the post-Xmas sales, Greenpeace's new guide comes out in November 2011 and I'll keep you posted.

Old or New: Energy saving tips

Whether you keep chugging along with your old computer or buy a new one, you can always improve on its performance and your energy savings by smart usage.

*Use your machine's built-in power-saving features. To learn what they are, how to activate them, and calculate how much you would save, check out the EPA IT Calculator and other tools featured on the Climate Savers Computing website.

Turn off your computer and the power strip when it's not in use. See more tips from the EPA.

If you turn off your PC when it's not in use, you can save 188 kilograms of CO2 and 437 kilowatt hours (kwh)a year. Significant savings, with the average national cost of a kwh topping 12 cents in 2011.

Finding more products

Want more simple green living tips? Subscribe to my free monthly e- newsletter by emailing And, for Choose It/ Lose It lists with brand names in everything from cookware to cosmetics, see my book, Do One Green Thing. Thanks!

Green, Nontoxic Back to School Supplies, Lunch Kits 2011

What I love most about back-to-school shopping is slipping some new green office supplies and lunch totables for myself into the cart. American families are expected to spend about $68 billion on back-to-school shopping this year, so green choices can help stimulate marketplace change. You’ll find lots of planet-friendly, personally healthier products below, plus ideas for lightening the impact on your wallet.

* “Shop” your closets and bins.
Make it a treasure hunt for the kids, giving reward points applicable to new stuff on their wish list. Still-good pencils with worn-down erasers can be renewed with fun eraser caps such as IWAKO’s PVC-free dolphins and monkeys* .Sell old books at cash4books.
*Buy textbooks second-hand. Ask about used book sales at your school or library, or compare prices for titles at
*Drive less. Sparing your car just 10 miles per week can cut your CO2 emissions by 340 pounds per year.Walk, bike, take public transport, combine shopping errands into one trip, and carpool to local stores.
*Roll orders into one. Order green supplies with other families in your neighborhood and have it sent in one shipment to one address.

Pencils and Pens

Pilot’s BeGreen pens are made with 89% PCR recycled plastic bottles, with recycled ink, and refillable.

Earth Zone pencils, which come with a recycled metal sharpener, Greenciles /,in 60 percent PCR packaging, and O’Bon’s wildlife-pattern pencils pencils are all made from recycled newspapers, not wood fresh from trees.
For least toxic, VOC-free art supplies, markers and glues, choose water-based, washable items and look for the Arts & Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) seal. You’ll find it on Faber-Castelli Watercolor EcoPencils made from reforested wood.

Crayons and water-soluble glue made with soy wax, minerals and plant pigments are at Kidzone. And a reader recommends synthetic-free Clementine markers.


Choose products with the highest percentage of post-consumer-recycled (PCR) content you can find. On paper goods, look for Forest Stewardship Council or Rainforest Alliance Certified seals, availabe at Staples and other office stores.

Look for tree-free papers, such as New Leaf’s Farm Fiber Collection. Their 100% PCR banana paper is gorgeous

To hold green paper, Earthbinders are made from 96 percent post-consumer content.

One-stop-shops for recycled paper products, binders, staples, clips, pencils and pens:
The Ultimate Green Store
Staples Eco-Easy directory
Home Depot’s Green Pages

Backpacks: PVC-free, recycled fabric

Chico Bags’ RePete daypack is made from recycled plastics and aluminum.
Ecogear Palila backpack made from RPET (recycled soda bottles), as well as hemp and recycled
cotton ones, can be found at Pristine Planet.

Lunch and drink containers without BPA, Lead and Phthalates,includes a 16-oz. Thermos King insulated stainless food jar with spoon; also, organic cotton cloth or mesh sandwich/snack bags and cleanable wrapping mats.’s back to school page features a frigoverre tempered glass sandwich box, PVC free plastic wrap and soy-wax sandwich bags.

Go Green Lunchbox kits come with a BPA-free covered bento tray, a stainless drink bottle that fits inside, a white board inside the lid for notes to your child, and an insulated, PVC-free bag to carry it all.

Our reader also highly recommends the nontoxic bento boxes, insulated covers and stainless food jars at Laptop Lunches.

For more products, see my lists of BPA-free food containers and drink bottles. For green, healthy product and action tips in every category of daily life, please heck out my home page,, and my green living book, Do One Green Thing!

Thanks all of you for your input and suggestions--just add below to Comment section of this blog!

*Younger Sibling Safety Alert: Erasers, staples, paper clips and other small items are choking risks and should be kept out of the reach of children younger than three.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mango & yogurt cake recipe

This recipe is a tropical--and lighter--adaptation of the traditional pear or blackberry butter cakes I learned to bake in Brittany, France. Our mango tree had a bumper crop earlier this summer so we cut up and froze (see freezer photo, left) what we didn't eat fresh or give away. You can substitute any fruit you like, fresh or frozen! But remember to let fruit thaw before you add it!

INGREDIENTS (I use organic and local whenever possible)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 and 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup turbinado (raw) sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1 and 1/2 cups diced fresh or frozen/thawed mango or other fruit, such as blackberries, blueberries, or a mix.
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, almonds or macadamia nuts (optional).

PROCEDURE: Let butter soften at room temp and beat with sugar till creamy. Add vanilla, beaten eggs, yogurt, blend well. Sift/blend flours and baking soda. Gradually add to butter mixture. Stir in fruit, nuts. Pour into 8 x 8 inch cake pan. Bake in 325 degree oven for 50-60 minutes until golden brown on top and fork inserted comes out clean.
Delicious with ice cream or more yogurt!

For more information about healthy eating choices and organic and other food, personal care and cleaning labels, please visit my home page and blogs at, and, if you like, sign up for my free monthly (if that) e-newsletter of green living tips!