Sunday, December 28, 2008

After Christmas Sales - 10 Ways to Go Green

Unseasonably warm, hmm.

Here's your chance (10 ways to be exact) to get those green shopping juices going and still be green. There are bargains to be had as the big box stores try to unload their too big inventory. But first the number one concern:

If you are a big light person (still?), have you ever checked out your electrical bill for December? Usually there's a big bump in use and it all comes down to the holidays and mostly lights. Remember, that your extra electricity is pumping out pollution and CO2 at the power plant (our local Bow Plant is the worst I am sad to say) so anything you can do to reduce power is a good thing but the biggest way to get those reductions is with the first tip:

1 -For all of you who have not made the switch to LED Christmas lights, now's your chance. They are on sale at all your basic stores - Home Depot, Lowe's, Target etc. So run or pedal fast and snatch these bargains up for next year. LED lights use 1/10th, I repeat, one tenth of the electricity compared to conventional lights. Some folks have balked at the price, which has come down, so if price has been your sticking point, there's no excuse now. And remember, this is money well spent. Conventional string lights last 2 years where LED's should last many years. So save, save, save...the planet.

2 - Also along side of many light displays are timers. These too should be on sale. Timers are another way of saving electricity (i.e. pollution/CO2) and can be useful for anything electrical any time of year. It's always handy to have a couple of these on hand.

3 - Christmas Fabric is also on sale at your major sewing centers. So? (Sew?) You Say? This is the ideal time to make the switch to fabric bags and stop using wrapping paper all together. Anyone can make a basic bag or have someone who knows the basics do it in exchange for some fabric. They'll think it's such a good idea, they'll want their own!

4 - Small appliances will also be on sale - toaster ovens, crock pots etc. These are good items in lieu of using a large oven. There are savings to be had.

5 - Candles are usually part of the post holiday sale. Don't go cheap though, stick to soy and 100% beeswax for your health and the environment.

6 - Reusable napkins and table clothes with holiday themes will also be on sale. If you don't have your cloth napkins yet, now is a great time to start. Chances are you can get some colors that might work for all year round too.

7 - Look for gifts you can give for next year that do not use batteries!

8 - Invest in a rechargeable battery pack, solar is even better!

9 - Bake ware is often on sale - the cookie sheets, baking dishes etc. If you haven't yet, now is the time to invest in glass baking dishes or solid stainless steel, and forgo the Teflon and non-stick products.

10 - Green ornaments will also be on sale. Look for fair trade ornaments made out of earth friendly materials for instance, things like gourds. You can also support your local arts and crafts center and buy locally made hand crafted ornaments, earth friendly much preferred.

Did I miss anything? So now's your chance to go after those Christmas Sales and get those shopping juices out of your system, help stimulate economy AND go green.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

FDA Reconsiders BPA Plastic Bottle Risk - Merry Christmas!

Light snow - how appropriate :)


I couldn't believe my eyes - I thought it was a joke. How long can you keep tossing this issue around? But it's true! The FDA is going to reconsider the risk of BPA in plastic bottles.

The NY Times broke the story yesterday, please read the article for details. I've been covering BPA for awhile. There is good information on the right side panel of this blog. If you would like to read previous writings just click here.

Maybe the FDA sees the writing on the wall. Maybe the FDA sees a new wave coming through in January. But for what ever reasons they are taking these bold moves (yes bold, after saying no for so long, its pretty hard for anyone to "reconsider" something), this is a great day for public safety.

I do believe!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Underwear Project at Allegheny College - Pants Off to You!

Beginning of a blizzard - just beautiful.


I love passionate college students. The world is at their finger tips to make a difference and it made my day to see this group of dedicated environmental students make their point at Allegheny College. The point being...hang it up. Hanging up laundry that is.
The Underwear Project at Allegheny College - they did their homework. They've got the CO2 facts down. And now it can come live to you via their video with just the right mix of facts, passion and home grown charm.

Think our youth isn't engaged? Think all they do is party? Think again and watch this video. It will give you hope for our future. Enjoy!


Underwear project at Allegheny College from The Meadville Tribune on Vimeo.

To all the students involved in this project... My hat's, rather pants, off to you!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Green Emergency Kits - Earth Friendly Survival

It's dark out!



In case you haven’t heard, the State of New Hampshire has been declared to be in a state of emergency. A few days ago we were hit by the worst ice storm in history. Over half the state remains in the dark and without power even after 3 days which is pretty nasty given that it is December. Shelters have been created, schools and town facilities, if they can be, are available for showers and people scramble to keep the pipes from freezing.

I was pretty lucky since I only lost power for about 10 hours, most of which was during the night. I did lose my phone service and Internet which I thought, at the time, was more of a nuisance. However, I think differently now.


So here I sit writing by Freeplay Lantern (no Internet) in the dark because we now have lost our power due to winds. In fact, even a larger portion of the surrounding area is without power and school is canceled again. I thought I would be fully prepared in the event of a power failure, but I definitely need to update my “green emergency kit”.


Going into this, I thought I had enough clean burning candles, beeswax and soy, but clearly I do not. As I began to run out of my too few supply of soy and beeswax, I had to resort to some old paraffin candles, the ones in glass jars that are heavily scented which I shall remain nameless. (I rarely throw out anything).Well it didn’t take long before the over powering stew of smells gave me a headache and tickled my already sensitive cough. Needless to say I cringe at the soot damage going on now. So I guess I need to stock up on more beeswax and soy candles for sure. I recommend the soy be in a heavy bottom jar for safety and placed on a good coaster in case the glass gets hot. You can get them in tins but make sure they go on a hot plate. Beeswax doesn’t need to be in a container, but I would get pillars no higher than 5 inches for safety’s sake. Three inch tall pillars are ideal since they are very hard to tip over. While the scents are nice for a single candle, when you have a house full of lit candles, the smells get overwhelming. So stick to unscented soy for your emergency kit. Same goes for beeswax. Besides, why ruin the good natural beeswax scent anyway. So this takes care of one kind of your light source.


Of course there are battery powered lanterns and flashlights but unless they are rechargeable, they are far from eco friendly since you can quickly go through a ton of batteries. You also run the risk of not having enough batteries or old dead ones by the time they get used.


There are some fine solar panel charging lanterns out there but not many quality ones. The technology is far from perfect so you get what you pay for. I have opted for the crank lantern by Freeplay which is working just great. They say I should never have to change the LED bulb or the rechargeable battery pack, ever. Plus Freeplay runs the Freeplay Foundation that does quite a bit of goodwill and is currently working in Rwanda and giving out free flashlights that use solar and crank for power. Nice company. Besides the lantern, Freeplay has other flashlights and radios that are both solar and crank. Lots to choose from. That should do it for light sources.


Since we have no power or phone service, the good old fashion radio is key in these times of emergency. Luckily we have one in the house, actually two, and old fashion battery sucking kind and the new crank one from Freeplay. The Eyemax has an incredible sound and a small built in LED light. It also comes with a weather band option. What else do you need to stay in touch with the world?


I won’t bother with heat since that isn’t really part of an emergency kit but there is one more thing that is…water. Not just for drinking, heck a jar of juice can satisfy your thirst. I’m talking about basic water for your everyday ablutions, you know, the morning ritual of face, teeth and oh yes, the toilet. Since most of us really don’t want to pull out the survival school manual and poo bags, it comes down to having enough water on hand for those special moments. (no I won’t say it) So make sure you always have several gallons of water stored away somewhere. Every few years, replace the water for safety purposes. The quantity depends upon how many people are in the house and…other things. The suggested rule is one gallon per person per day.


A couple more things for earth friendly survival are wet naps, though if you have water, not necessary. A solar panel charger for small items might be nice or a crank charger for cell phones. Just a thought.


So to recap, here is a list for your “Green Emergency Kit”:


1 – Candles – stick to unscented soy and beeswax. And have more than you think you need.

2 - Flashlights – look for crank or shake flashlights with rechargeable battery packs (that never need replacing)

3- Radios – Look for solar or crank or a combo solar/crank radios.

4 – Water – Have several gallons on hand, one per person per day.


I have to sign off now since my battery is about to di…………….

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

To Cut or Not to Cut - Eco Christmas Trees

Back to rain, too bad.


So it's that time of year when greens begin to adorn...everything and it's time to "put up the tree". Since the green movement has progressed, there is the occasional discussion about what constitutes an environmentally correct or eco Christmas tree. So here are my latest thoughts on the topic.

Artificial, the traditional type, is made of one thing - plastic. They do offer the person with tree allergies a chance to have a tree but other than that, I believe they are not worth the environmental impact. Why?

The carbon footprint for making these plastic trees in China is huge. Then add that most are made from PVC and have lead in them, and it becomes almost impossible to justify. I know they are reusable, for a few years, but then what? You can't really mulch them and spread them around, now can you? Discussion over... almost.

So what about all those cut down trees? How can any good environmentalist condone this? Well the reason (excuse?) is that standard curbside or cut your own Christmas trees are farm raised, as in an agricultural business. Sort of like growing a bunch..a lot.. of asparagus. This promotes farming and gives many farmers a winter income, especially around here in New Hampshire.
Tree farms provide birds some habitat but so would letting the trees just continue to grow. Not very convincing is it?

Farmed raised trees are often given pesticides just like other crops which really isn't good for anything or any of us. There are many farms that have gone organic because of this. For a biased view but with worthwhile information, the National Christmas Tree Association has a website so you can find a local farm.

If you have your own land, you can just go in the woods and cut down a straggler, maybe a tree that needs to come out since it might split and make a mess later on. You can also grow your own and you don't need much land either. It's really fun and very rewarding.

Another option is a potted tree that you can plant later on but they can be pretty finicky so be careful. Having a perpetual tree that you decorate during Christmas is a viable option. Norfolk Island Pines are perfect for this.

There is something lovely about cutting down your own Christmas tree. Maybe it's more about family and the hot chocolate after. Either way, I'll opt for the eco Christmas tree with the real smell. Happy trimming.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Eco Friendly Ornaments - For Greener Holiday and Christmas Tree Trimmings

Light dusting of snow on the ground and more to come - yeah!


It used to be that if you wanted to do your Christmas tree up in a "back to nature" kind of way (that was before earth/eco friendly) you resorted to options like popcorn strings (cranberries too) and real pine cones with maybe their tips painted white dipped in sparkles, maybe. And don't forget the chains of paper strung around the tree too. Hopefully with old, not good for anything else paper. The finally of course would be gingerbread cookies.

Of course you could then up the ante and do the DYI ornaments made out of things around the house, like bells made from egg cartons (each little cut out indent, hang upside down and make green) hanging tin can tops, cork tops with 2 pipe cleaners for moose antlers, old light bulbs ( the old kind, not cfl's) and, if you really want a challenge, eggs with a hole on the side for the scene of your choice.

That was then. Now comes the 21st century eco friendly, earth friendly, cradle to cradle green Christmas tree ornament options. Oh, and remember fair trade if you dare to go outside the country.

For local options, you might find someone who does felting from old wool sweaters. They make wonderful little ornaments. Local artisans also have brought back old European traditions like Stroh Stars, a northern German tradition of working with grass and wheat reeds. The idea of using something recycled or something that you could actually even compost (the ultimate in cradle to cradle). Recycled glass is becoming more available and has that nice traditional feel.

Making ornaments from gourds is a specialty from Peru. They make them into all sorts of things by etching them. Just make sure if they are colored, it is with a safe dye or paint. They are just as nice plain and the seeds shake inside. Ornaments can also be made from different types of grasses and are quite something with unlimited ideas. Other options are ornaments made from orange peels (very cool), soda cans, and rolled up newspaper.

Another very cool idea is ornaments made with some kind of tree-free material (hopefully recycled) with wild flowers seeds in them. For something more traditional, Maple Landmark out of Vermont has plain wooden ornaments made from properly forested tree.

Any other ideas? Let me know! The more options the better. Going green with eco friendly ornaments is not only an option but totally doable. Have fun.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Global Day of Climate Action - Today! Dec. 6th

Lovely cold December morning.


Big day today, Dec. 6th, all over the world called Global Day of Climate Change. It is a chance to recognize what the number 350 means. Check out these excellent videos and most importantly, pass it on:

- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7mETr1SqXk - Act NOW

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOAtbWHWJqk 350.org - only 1 minute & 30 seconds!

Need something to do today? Find something fun and meaningful somewhere in the world right here:

http://www.globalclimatecampaign.org/

Now. take action.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

One in 3 Toys Is Toxic - Please Santa, Deliver Healthy Toys

Beautiful December morning, frost in the air.


I might have been ahead of myself suggesting plain wooden rattles as a safe option, as this latest article is after the fact. But these recent research findings must get out to the public.- they are very troubling. One in 3 toys is considered toxic in the U.S.A. !^$%!^%???

CNN reported the research (thank you for making this national news) but its origins are also reported from the eco-based Ecology Center out of Michigan who has links to a consumer oriented group called www.healthytoys.org. Please read one of these articles, its our children after all.

Here are highlights to wrap your head around:

1 - 1/3 of the toys had "high" or "medium" levels of chemicals of concern
2- Lead was found in 20% of the toys
3 - 10.7 % had lead above the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended ceiling of 40 ppm.
4 - 18.9 % of the toys contained detectable levels of arsenic
5 - 4.2 % had detectable levels of mercury
6 - 2.9 % had bromine at concentrations of 1,000 ppm or higher (flame retardant)
7 - Not ALL the toys were from China, many made right here
8 - Children's jewelry is the worst, is 5 x's more likely to contain lead above 600 ppm

BUT...
1 - 62 % tested contained LOW levels of chemicals of concern
2 - 21 % contain NO chemicals of concern. (and these were not just plain wooden toys either, just toys made right)

The irony here is how children are exposed to chemicals. Our e-waste is going to countries, mostly in Asia, where children pick through toxic e-waste looking for marketable bits. Their exposure is frightening. Yet here in this country, our children are exposed to similar chemicals through their toys and play. What's wrong with this picture?

Please Santa, deliver the kids some healthy toys.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Safe Baby Rattles - Wood Is Good

It's dark out!


Toys have been getting a lot of deserved attention lately as the expose of toxic plastics continues. But what about baby toys or their play things? Here's the tattle on the rattle...

Babies really can't "play" and so they are restricted to things that they can hold in their tight little grasp. And what goes in their hand, also goes in their mouth. Historically speaking, babies have been given a combination of things that rattle (to ward off evil spirits) and things to chew on (even stones strapped to sticks!) Humans have been using "natural" materials up until... plastic. My opinion is there is no safe plastic, not any number - no how- that should be sucked on or chewed on or gummed on by a baby, period. Since there is no further discussion of plastic, what's next?

There is the fancy heirloom silver or stainless steel rattle that is beautiful, easy to wash, sounds nice (usually), dents when dropped - but hey, it's an heirloom. I don't know about you, but sucking on something cold (unless you need teething comfort) gives me the shivers. It probably hurts too when you whack it up against the face.

There are also soft toy rattles, even some made out of organic fibers. My concern about those is that, given the sucking power of babies, there is a risk of small fibers breaking off and being ingested. What dyes were used? What chemicals were used for fabric processing?

That narrows the choices down to wood - good old mother nature...wood is good. Wood is receiving a revival, not just because plastic is bad, but because wood actually might be good. Research coming out of analyzing wooden cutting boards has shown that wood might contain some antibacterial properties that plastic doesn't. Makes sense Mother Nature would have some built in protection.

When looking for wooden baby rattles, look for the following properties:

1 - Soft, well sanded edges
2 - easy grip
3 - solid construction
4 - not too big
5 - not too little
6 - unfinished surface OR edible finish

Let me finish with... the finish. You might find some products that say "safe non-toxic finish". What exactly does that mean ? Nothing really, it is up to you to find out what they mean. The reason is because the two most popular finishes are food grade mineral oil and water based epoxy/polyurethane type paint. Since there is no regulation on what these are called, companies have taken upon themselves to call them non-toxic. (nice marketing idea, eh?) Food grade mineral oil (like baby oil) is nothing more than what is left after the production of crude oil (as in what we heat our homes with), like paraffin to make candles. It is no different than a baby sucking on a paraffin candle. Food grade is just a bump up from really disgusting crude oil, but make no mistake, it is still petroleum. (petrolatum when in cosmetics)

The safest option really is unfinished wood. There are finishes out their that combine vegetable oils and beeswax but rare to find. So remember when that label says "Non-Toxic", ask "How?".

After all, what would you want to suck on?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

As the Economy Tanks, Don't Forget the Environment

Much clearer today, a nice November day, as it should be.


With my eye on the environment and the economy, it is obvious national attention is centered on the economy. As it should be really since this is the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, affecting millions of folks, even world wide. But this new focus should not lessen the severity of what is happening to the our environment. What was a nice, increasing green movement has seemingly been put on the back burner - a very dangerous place.

Two new articles point to the increasing, disturbing evidence that the not so good global warming predictions are turning out to be more severe. For instance, the logical thinking that reducing CO2 emissions would eventually (like soon, a few years or so) result in a lowing of atmospheric CO2 has just been thrown out the window. In fact, scientists are reporting that it could take thousands of years to reduce the level and that the problem is once CO2 is produced, it's here to stay, maybe forever. Say what? Now that demands a holy @$*%! response.

Another report on the continuing rise in temperature
, summarizes the effects as evidence supported by well known scientific studies and publications with excellent links for further details. This is a really hit home article for anyone who still needs a shot of reality. Pretty hard to run away from the real science and facts behind this article. If you need to sink your teeth into a whole book of facts, try the recently released "The Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth's Climate" by David Archer. This should be on everyone's holiday list.

We, as in humans, usually like to tackle things one at a time. But we can not afford to do that right now. There are two catastrophic events going on right now that require equal attention - the economy and the environment. The goods news out of this is both can benefit from each other if the solutions for each include the other. Some call it the new green economy and there certainly is some truth in this idea.

The challenge then is to keep both of these in mind with your daily decision making. Luckily a lot of green behavior (energy efficiency for one) and consideration for the products you buy can save you money - a win win for all.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Your Green Turkey Options - Take That Butterball and Stuff It

The pollution is exceptionally bad this morning, hazy, pink and thick. Very disturbing.


So I just picked up my natural locally raised turkey for the big day tomorrow which set me back a whopping $2.99 per pound. I had ordered a "fresh turkey" assuming it would be organic but no one asked me, so I got a "natural" one instead. The organic one would have set me back $4.99 per pound.

Meanwhile, the grocery stores are selling "specials" at .49 cents per pound. A financial person would call me nuts. A vegetarian would say I'm cruel. An environmentalist would say "right on". (yes, I know the most environmentally thing to do is not eat meat at all, but I have a family to feed so I stay local, local local) But it did get me wondering, "Is it worth it?"

The piles of turkeys you see in the traditional grocery store, most notably Butterball, are of one commercial type - the Broad-Breasted White (BBW) variety, bread over the years to create super sized breasts. Bred to grow very fast (with a little help from hormones), they are fed genetically modified corn and soy meal and if were allowed to reach adulthood, would not be able to fly (because of big breasts) or enjoy a little nooky (because of big breasts). Over 400 million birds are raised each year, an over whelming number in the south, in huge factory settings and crowded cages, requiring vitamins and antibiotics to ward off disease that comes with crowded conditions. (the industry will tell you to keep you safe from salmonella but we know better) An investigation into these factories was captured on video and if you can stomach it... warning - I had to stop after 3 seconds. Then you have companies like Butterball that add insult to injury and inject saline, sodium and other stuff into the big breast to keep it moist after it has been frozen for so long.

So what's a green turkey lover to do? One other option is to buy the new(ish) heritage types that are making a nice comeback, part of the heritage livestock movement. Heritage turkeys were the old fashion variety of turkeys before the "industry" settled on the BBW and went crazy over breeding its big breasts. Just like there are many breeds of chickens (like dogs and cats), there are many breeds of turkeys that were bred and registered. Some of these were a result of mixing European turkeys and a little American Wild. Buyer beware though, any farmer can take a nice heritage turkey and still feed in genetically modified corn and soy, and still give it antibiotics.

Other terms to consider are "pastured" "free range" and "natural". Pasture raised does indeed mean the turkey enjoyed the great outdoors, hopefully eating just grass but with no guarantee of anything else. "Free range" is a joke, meaning they have access to an open door, during limited times, to a possibly tiny outdoor space. Big deal. "Natural" usually means not fed any antibiotics or hormones, but the rest of all of the above conditions may apply.

There are some quick sources that can take you to local sources for turkey. Eat Wild promotes eating pastured raised animals. Local Harvest can give you the nearest turkey farm given your zip code. Plus they have much more general good farm, food, co-op and CSA information. The new Eat Well Guide is a fantastic source for looking up organic food.

So after doing all this research, I have come to the conclusion that the $2.99 per pound price is indeed worth it. (especially since one website had organic turkey for $10. per pound!) I would have preferred organic since there is no indication of what the turkeys were fed, but I now know better. I did look up the farm from where my turkey came, and it does say no "drugs" and all, so that is good.

I am still a reluctant meat eater (Fast Food Nation did it to me) but have narrowed myself to eating organic (or no antibiotics/hormones/GMO's) and animals that enjoyed a good life and were humanely treated. I live where hunters eat their own meat which I much sooner endorse than cruel factory raising conditions. Call me a product of my environment. I enjoy watching many a wild turkey feed in my field knowing they have been around for hundreds, maybe thousands of years, and were part of the human condition that preceded the early settlers.
Happy (green) Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Clothes Drying Racks - Build It Into Your Life


Clear and cold, but that darn brown haze on the horizon just hangs there.


So with my mind wondering back to Italy, I still have some thoughts to share. And besides, I don't want my laundry art photos to go to waste. I was so impressed with small yet important lifestyle differences in Italy, that it bares my continued blogging.

Washing clothes is one of those necessities in life, like eating and taxes. It's a daily, or at least weekly, chore that's been around as long as humans have worn clothing. And so a household has to some how accommodate washing laundry and therefore clothes drying. It was clear in Italy that clothes drying in the form of hanging it outside is the first choice for most homes.

Clothes drying lines or clothes drying racks are built into the frame work of homes, balconies and/or windows. Look closely at the above photo and you can see that the balcony railings extend and hold several lines for clothes drying. This is a real commitment to hanging your clothes out to dry, it's just what is done. Laundry isn't shamefully hung out the back of the home, it's hung right out front for the world to see. And I love it.

And if there isn't a balcony, the rigs are built into the side of the building with easy window access.

While admiring this lifestyle and the beautiful colors it adds, I can't help but be amused by the idea that some are offended by hanging clothes. You know those covenants that restrict outside clothes drying. I just don't get that. Is it the underwear? Doesn't everyone wear underwear? I think if you walk through any mall in the U.S. you're likely to walk by several stores with displays that could pass for soft porn. I find that more objectionable than the real world of undies hanging out to dry.Others must find it amusing that we even have these restrictions. I find it ridiculous. I'm all for civil disobedience in this case.

Hanging your clothes on a line or clothes drying rack really doesn't take that much time. The time is little enough to easily build it into your day, into your life. It's a commitment, a lifestyle, a pledge that will make a difference - an environmental difference for us all. Ciao!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

We Should All Follow Denmark's Green Footsteps - Or Bike Paths


It's November, no leaves, but no snow - cold wind.


My daughter just reported back from Denmark after visiting a lifelong buddy who was also doing a semester abroad. (man these lucky kids) And what amazed her most about this small but sweet ancestral country? (her grandmother was Danish) It was the bikes, lots of them.. more than she has ever seen before.

And folks use them too. Copenhagen is no slouch of a capital so it must have been fun to see so many bikes maneuvering around a city with around one million people. The bikes aren't fancy either. There are many a plain old one gear bikes that get people around just fine. And they probably won't be stolen either.

Imagine if all these bikes were replaced with cars? Ouch. But that isn't likely to happen since Denmark has adopted a green mission and has reduced its CO2 since the 1990's. (remember the Kyoto agreement was first signed in 1992) Denmark ranks 36Th in CO2 emissions per person compared to the U.S.A. in 10Th place. So I imagine one less car helps.

Denmark is considered one of the greenest countries in Europe. They have communities that are zero waste or darn close to it. Can you imagine zero waste? They are also taking advantage of their water surroundings and making the most of wind power. Their efforts are to be applauded though are considered more a way of life after riding the band wagon for over 15 years now.

Where would we be now if we had started 15 years ago? More bikes? Maybe, maybe not. But more of other green ideas for sure.

So keep up the great work Denmark and thanks for being such a beacon for us newbies.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

BPA Leaches in Supposedly Safe Products - Thank Goodness for Watch Dogs

Cccccold - Like it should be.


Thank goodness for some feisty reporters from the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. Susanne Rust and Meg Kissinger have been relentless in keeping BPA in the news and keeping honest facts emerging from the secret plastic world. The American Consumer owes a great deal of debt to this sleuthing duo.

They just recently had 10 containers analyzed for leaching BPA and the results are disturbing, because some are containers were not suppose to be an issue. Imagine my surprise when containers made from plastic 1,2 and 5 were shown to leach BPA. What's next?

One of the products they analyzed were Munchkin Bowls. Now on the Munchkin Website, they claim "Non-toxic Plastic safe for baby". I suppose that "safe" word is the sticking point. According to the leaching results, the munchkin bowls did leach, and in amounts that the experts say do cause harm. I can't find what number the munchkin bowls are, but I think its a 1,2, 4 or 5, ones considered "safe".

The big message from this recent analysis is certain plastics that were thought to not leach, are leaching, and heating any kind of plastic in the microwave probably is buying you some added, unwanted hormone disrupting chemicals in your food.

Thanks Meg and Susanne. Thanks for putting all the pieces together and finding answers to consumers' concerns. There are still a lot of products being passed off as safe and I for one am grateful to these two diggers. Keep on the digging!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Clean Coal - Do I Look Stupid?

Rain, cold bbbrrrrr. Finally November.


Who came up with the term clean coal? It's laughable really. Does the coal industry think we are that stupid?

I thought I knew the basics of coal - it's basically dirty, really dirty, has been and will be. Then the presidential elections brought the term clean coal to the surface as one of the viable solutions to our energy needs. As I repeatedly heard this term, I figured a new breakthrough had occurred that missed my radar despite being fairly tuned in. I guessed some new technology was about to take over that I just hadn't come across it yet. It sounded pretty good.

Finally, a headlines caught my eye, and my time, and I was able to get updated, which then lead to more articles and some more googling. And what a disappointment it was. It showed me the power of marketing, well chosen words, and of course ... money.

My uncle was in the coal industry, and I remember him working on a way to filter the burning of coal. He worked on it for years. He had many other patents under his belt but he really wanted to find a way to have coal burn cleanly. He knew this was important, that it would solve the pollution problems and it wouldn't hurt his wallet either. That was early 1970's.

Not a whole lot has changed. Coal is still very dirty. The burning of coal for electricity is responsible for 40% of CO2 released in the U.S. The CO2 is bundled with lots of other really bad stuff too: mercury, lead, heavy metals and the longest list of pollutants compared to any other form of energy production. It's dirty, dirty, dirty.

There are lots of ideas about "cleaning" or "washing" coal, or pumping into the ground (with no proof of long term safety) but not a lot in practice and seems to be a waste in and of itself compared to putting that technological effort and money into something else more clean, more efficient and renewable. What happened to our push for renewables????

There are 100 coal plants in the works for the US right now. In China, about 2 plants PER week are being built. That was not a misprint. I just can't get my head around that idea. This is totally counter to the efforts needed to curb CO2 emissions to reduce climate change. This scenario offers little hope.

So if you have been scratching your head about "clean coal", join the club. It's sort of like artificial grass, compassionate narcissist, painless torture, victimless crime or... healthy cigarette. You have to admit, clean coal is in the top 10 for oxymorons. Seems like anyone can call anything what they want, wrap it in some pretty words and voila, life is okay. Boy was I duped for awhile, but not stupid. Beware those words that sound too good, they probably are.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bloomberg wants to Tax Plastic Bags - Yes!

Finally seasonably cold, cloudy but clear.

What a great idea. Plastic bags are one of those ridiculous modern conveniences that has made a mess of our environment. From processing to their long drawn out end (plastic can be around for a thousand years minimum) they could easily be the worst useless polluter of modern people.

Okay, so New York City Mayor Bloomberg is desperate to raise money for his city and he thinks a 5 cent tax on plastic bags will cough up an easy 16 million, but if it means fewer bags, I'm all for it. Any money initially raised would probably dwindle as it has in other taxed cities but I say take it and run into a cleaner environment.

New Yorkers waste an estimated 1 billion bags annually which is equivalent to about 120,000 barrels of oil. (that's barrels not gallons) Since only 1-5% of the bags get recycled, disposing of them becomes a huge issue. Many unfortunately end up in our oceans, polluting our marine life and killing birds.

While I was recently in Italy, walking along the cliffs of the beautiful western coast, I looked down and my serenity was interrupted by a bag floating in the water. The moment was ruined for me. I wondered who would have let that happen. Why didn't they retrieve it? Is anyone going to get it now? (I couldn't get down to it, I really was on a cliff) How long before a bird pecks away at it? It happened again later on the trail. It made me sad to think that plastic is so apart of every one's world.

Now in Florence, a plastic bag will cost you 30 Euro, about 45 cents. I am not sure if it is a tax or city mandated but either way, my daughter and her friends are sure to bring their cloth bags when they go shopping. And they are none too happy when they forget them.

I won't go into all the plastic bag facts here but they are staggering, try the link if you dare. And because of the facts, I applaud Mayor Bloomberg for wanting to encourage people to reduce their waste of plastic bags, however method he suggests and for whatever reason.

You go Michael!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Laundry Art


Over cast day, mild temperatures prevail.

Okay, so I am hooked on these beautiful Laundry Photos. Just look at the colors. Maybe it brings back glorious memories of spending the day walking along the Italian coastline, stopping at villages for a meal and then topping the day off by watching the sunset over the Mediterranean, but you have to admit, this is one heck of a photo. This really is laundry art at its best.

So how is it this way of life, of hard work that we as Americans would claim we don't have time for, result in some pretty darn happy people (and great photos)? Why are we still bustling around, with no time to do anything, and what do we have to show for it? Is it the 2 person income required to survived or maintain a certain lifestyle that leaves no one at home to do those mundane jobs a home needs, like laundry?

I am getting into sticky territory here but I can't figure out how a simpler life but with more household "jobs" to do results in a relaxed lifestyle versus our hurried, harried lifestyle with all its modern conveniences.

What the heck happened? Is our time falsely taken up with too much technology in TV and computers? How is it Italians still have time to begin their evening meal after 7 pm (the restaurants open at 7 pm the earliest, some not until 7:30 pm) and have a leisurely meal. Banks close for nap time and don't open until 9:15 AM (not 9 because workers get there at 9 and need 15 minutes to get ready to open), and they close at 4:15. (not 4:30 because they need 15 minutes to shut down)

And what the heck does this have to do with climate change?

My laundry art is my reminder to you that mundane, saving the planet efforts can fit into your lifestyle. That many things we claim can't, can fit into our lifestyle. That a simpler life can be a happier life. Perhaps some reflection about our lifestyle is in order. Think of doing laundry as...making art? Yes, that's right. So when you need some motivation, think ... laundry art. (Isn't she just so cute?)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Pope Goes Green - And So Goes Italy

Early morning, warm November, hmmm.



I couldn't believe my eyes. What a statement this makes. Here we are at St. Mark's Square, Venice, perhaps one of the the largest plazas in the world, home to ancient religious customs and amazing human works of art and low and behold, a sign of modern environmental concern. The not-so-attractive tubular CFL (compact fluorescent lightbulb) ready to go in a gracious pink glass lantern.

I had already noticed during my trip the more-than-I-was-used-to green living behaviors such as rain barrels, recycling, outdoor laundry hanging, and CFL's. In fact, I did not see one old fashion incandescent at all. So what gives?

Are we that behind the eight ball that a quick trip to Italy smacks me to realizing that we have a lot more work to do? Is our country still in denial about climate change or is getting Americans to do something en mass sort of like herding cats? Or is it that the highest religious, most notable position on earth is demanding that the citizens of this planet take notice and action?

I had heard that the Pope had gone green. In fact he talks about our responsibility to the planet a lot. He calls it a "moral issue" and "a grave responsibility to preserve [the earth's] order for the well-being of future generations". I like that idea. You go Pope Benedict XVI.

The Vatican is actually the world's only sovereign state that can claim to be carbon-neutral. That is so cool. The city, country, or what ever it is, just installed solar panels, lots of them. Talk about setting an example to the world!

So my theory is that this is an example of trickle down Popeness. Whatever you want to call it, and what ever it takes, Italians have made a big dent in their carbon footprint. The birthrate in Italy is one of the lowest on earth, down to 1.2 per woman. I don't think the birth rate is a function of the current green Pope, but it is an interesting coincidence.

I applaud the Italians and the Pope for doing such a good real green job. Maybe we can actually learn from others, so ... change your light bulbs, please.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Italy Recycles - A Lot

Unusually warm, calm day - I'll take it.



I wasn't in Italy nearly long enough but the days were packed and wonderful. I did have the chance to go to several different cities and was pleasantly surprised to see that, not only did they manage their recycling well, but it seemed to be quite consistent in all the places we visited.

Every city or village I went to seemed to have a well established recycling program that was mostly in the form of designated banks of recycling totes or large bins. It seemed that it was the responsibility of each person to take care of their own waste and take a hike to the bins. In Bologna, every one to three blocks had a row of 3 to six bins that were designated paper, metal, glass, (okay so lots of wine bottles) plastic, trash and/or compost. Yes, that's right, compost. One big huge bin, as large as the others, labeled "organici". Including international symbols for "No Dairy and No Fats", which was no small feet.

Where the heck did this compost go? I hope they actually do compost it or send it to a local pig farm. It was pretty impressive either way.

What was truly amazing was where all these bins were located. So in downtown Florence, it was to be expected but the shocker was our Cinque Terra hike along the Mediterranean. This was a remote area along the west coast accessible best by train. The villages were difficult to get to, a couple were down right sitting on top of cliffs. So out in the middle of no where, down narrow very steep curvy streets were banks of recycling bins. I was hard pressed to imagine what type of vehicle could even get to them, let alone empty them. Check out the photo looking down a steep hill side. I was impressed.

The train stations were well equipped with recycling bins, nice round brightly colored ones, very modern with 3 choices. The bags were clear which apparently causes some controversy all over (not very nice looking, like laundry you know) but when people can see through the bag to the other items in the bag, the dumper are more likely to get it right.

My daughter and her roommates were keeping their plastic bottles until further notice since in the heart of ancient Florence, bins are a little bit harder to come by. Indeed, lack of sidewalks, lack of width of roads is a major issue. But at least they were mindful of recycling. I hope they find a place soon.

By the way, November 15th is America Recycles Day. I thought I might mention it now in case you want to plan something for it. We have much to do as a Nation in this department. We waste WAY too much. Seeing other countries' efforts is a reminder that we all too often have too many excuses to do something as easy and as important as recycling.

What have you recycled today?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

FDA Doesn't Do Their Homework on BPA - So Who's in Charge?

Time change is great for early morning views.


Finally truth prevails. The FDA Subcommittee did the right thing and concluded that the FDA didn't do their homework. It was a unanimous vote I might add. For the full report click: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-10-31-bpa-fda_N.htm . It is an excellent report and I urge you to read it.

Seems at the root of all these FDA issues is...who's in charge? The article makes reference to Andrew von Eschenbach who was appointed and heads the FDA and it is important to understand who this guy really is. His bio initially sounds good, an M.D. (no guarantee to real interest in health!), a cancer survivor but then it goes downhill with his huge links to the drug company industry. And we know what that means.

So back to the original article about the subcommittee conclusion. Von Eschenbach is doing some serious back peddling and ridiculous justifying why the FDA isn't taking a stronger stand about the dangers of BPA. He says they used the latest research ( basically a fib, oh alright...a lie) and then talks about not taking a hurried, alarming response so as to avoid reacting to every new study that comes down the pipe. Hello???? How long has BPA been reported to cause hormone disruption? Try decades? So let me get this straight, there's a fire in the building and because we're not really sure things continue to burn and can get out of control, we'll just stay inside for further evaluation? Let's remember, a lot of doctors still smoke too.

I guess it is the prerogative of any administration to appoint whom they wish. This very premise is why electing the right people for the job is so critical in all facets on our country. Think about that when you vote from here on out and forever. From Town Hall Clerk, to Mayor, to ...President. Will they appoint folks who will do the right thing? Or will they put in old buddies with agenda's and links to big money.

So, go out and VOTE. (didn't think it would go here did you?)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Green Eyes in Italy - Laundry Photos Make Art



What a sight. Italy in the sunshine, the steep green hillsides terraced with grape vines, brightly colored houses and ...laundry. Lots of it.

Statistically 95% Americans have dryers compared to 12% Europeans. (Hopefully the use of the dryer is coming down in this new age of energy reduction since the dryer is the second energy household hog after the refrigerator.) My guess is most of those 12% Euro's are in the northern climates, particularly England. If I were a betting environmentalist, I would say less than 1% Italians have a dryer.

Why bother with a dryer? The weather is mostly glorious, balconies are easy to hang from, you save tons of money and...colorful, waving laundry is ... beautiful.

My daughter's apartment, with 6 other female college roommates, didn't have a dryer and not one complaint about having to hang it out. They also had a tub sink with a rubbing board in it that they used. Their sheets and clothing were scattered all over the place but the bathroom was well equipped with lines and so were many of the windows. So now my daughter has no excuse, eh?

I became snap happy with all the opportunity to make laundry art. Laundry photos in Florence, Venice and along the Mediterranean. I have quite a galley to share. Stay tuned for more laundry art and why you need to hang it out too.

Ciao.

FDA and BPA Infighting Continues

Plunged in darkness this morning. We need that time change quickly.


The "Science Board" on the FDA evaluating BPA is going back to the chalk board for some more lessons on how to interpret real science. Someone in Milwaukee is staying on top of this issue and we should all be glad for this kind of tenacious journalism. Please read the article as it covers the highlights about the process up to now about how our government lacks the fortitude to do what it was assigned to do and that is to protect us from bad things. It also reminds us the power of outside interests and how money speaks so loudly in Washington.

In an earlier blog I commented about Dr. Philbert. For the record, Dr. Philbert who chairs the committee, a man who could possibly have a conflict of interest after receiving a 5 million dollar donation for his academic department, is not being allowed to vote on the BPA matter but being allowed to stay on. bloody #=!(@^%!

Stay tuned for the outcome... and happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Safety - No PVC Please

Most leaves have turned to brown with the occasional yellow tree, clear and cold.


Yikes. One day to Halloween and one day to give you the heads up. This wasn't on my radar until I received an email but this is just one more thing we need to think about in our plastic engulfed world.

Most Halloween masks are made out of PVC. Just google it and wham o, there they are. Can you imagine giving your child a PVC mask to breath through? Holy cow! No wonder the costume isle always has this odor to it. The masks out of PVC, and all those plastic capes... yup, PVC.

I always made my kids' costumes so I guess I forgot about this aspect. And the kids love to pull them out and "remember this one?..." Don't have time?. Sure you do. Think simple or let them figure it out, they love it! Try makeup or face paint, what kids doesn't like fun makeup. Just beware those ingredients too. Make sure you are not put in the lessor of 2 evils situation.

Remember the plastic rule: if it smells bad, it is bad.

And remember to roast the pumpkin seeds...yum.

Happy Halloween. (and my daughter at 17 just went down stairs and pulled out an old red cape so she can be...well you know.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

6 Candle Burning Tips - Tis the Season

Rain, rain, rain - it's okay.



After cigarette smoking, burning paraffin candles is the #2 cause of poor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). The burning of paraffin candles releases at least 11 toxins, two of which are well-known cancer causing agents, benzene and toluene. Black soot, or carbon, coats your walls, curtains, and windows with a fine layer of black. Ever have to wash down woodwork covered with black soot? The small particles of soot also travel deep into your lungs. Many paraffin candles still have leaded wicks (added to prevent the wicks from bending!) which, when burned, leave the lead suspended in the air, eventually falling to the ground as house dust. Any added artificial fragrances, like Yankee Candles, when burned ( see the video) cause the IAQ to drop further. Paraffin is non-renewable being made from the leftovers of petroleum production and is then bleached, creating dioxins. Burning paraffin candles create the same fumes as from burning diesel fuel.


Consider the new soy wax candles or the ancient beeswax candles. Soy lasts 20-50% longer than paraffin, burns cleanly, and is made from a renewable source. 100% soy is relatively soft and is sold in containers such as glass or tin. Unlike paraffin, soy wax cleans very easily with hot soap and water. 85% of the soy grown in the U.S. is genetically modified, so look for soy candles that contain non-GMO soy.


Beeswax candles have been around for thousands of years. Like soy, beeswax candles burn cleanly and have a high melting point so they don't drip or smoke. Beeswax has a light honey scent and can be molded into various shapes while being solid enough to be free-standing. They may be more expensive initially, but they last 3-5 times longer than paraffin, (really they do!) so the burning cost per hour is actually less. Be sure to ask for 100% beeswax candles since in the U.S., a candle has to be only 51% beeswax in order to obtain the label "Beeswax". Pure beeswax candles normally develop a white film (or "bloom") caused from minerals rising to the surface which can be wiped off leaving a beautiful glow. Either way, by burning soy or beeswax, you can enjoy that warm and fuzzy feeling and clean air at the same time.

For more information on healthier indoor air, The American Lung Association provides these "Top 10 Tips for a Healthy Home", Top 10

Six Candle Burning Tips -

1 - Switch to Soy and Beeswax candles
2 - Keep all wicks trimmed to 1/4 inch at all time,
a tall bright flame is a dirty flame, time to trim
3 - Minimize drafts which cause smoking and dripping
4 - Avoid artificial fragrances
5 - Never burn wicks with metal, it might be lead
6 - NEVER leave a candle unattended

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What's In Your Halloween Candy?

Frost on the pumpkins and grass - finally, it's very late in the season. (?)

Recent headlines about melamine (an industrial plastic resin) being added to infant formulas are of great concern. Over 53,000 children in China have been sickened and some deaths have occurred. Melamine is used in the plastics industry to make bowls and plates, glues, counter tops, and fertilizers. In an effort to increase their output, it is believed that suppliers in China actually diluted their milk, then added melamine - a completely non-food item - because of its high nitrogen content. The added melamine can trick lab tests which indicate a higher protein content because protein, like melamine, is also high in nitrogen. And it's cheap to make.

Melamine

Several dairy organizations in China are responsible for adding melamine to their dried milk to make the milk appear to have a higher protein content. Apparently this has been known for some time but has been slow to be publicized. In the mean time, tainted milk by-products have circulated world wide where we now find it in...candy. How low can you go?

This is not the first time melamine has entered our food chain. Back in 2007 melamine was found in feed stock used for cattle and fish consumed by humans. It was also determined to be the cause of thousands of pet deaths in the U.S. from pet food contamination.

Back to candy... Contaminated candy was found in four stores in Connecticut. Melamine was also found in Cadbury candies, Snickers, M&Ms, milk chocolate made by Mars, as well as Kit Kat wafers made by Nestle and a biscuit by Lotte Confectionery Co. manufactured in South Korea. This is not an effort to scare as much as point out how far tentacles can reach and to also question: just what does go into our candy anyway?

So what's an eco-conscious Halloween participant to do? My advice is to stay local. Head to your favorite locally made, candy shop and take advantage of the peace of mind that comes with buying local. Be sure to ask where their ingredients come from. My guess is that they will have an answer and will be confident about what they sell.

Purchasing certified organic candy , such as Yummy Earth,is another way is be sure your candy is safe. Either way, you can be sure that your little (and big) Halloween visitors will be safe from melamine.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Canada Bans BPA in Baby Bottles - It's Official

Glorious fall day in New England - the colors are amazing.


Yes that's right. It is finally official. Canada has the courage to tell the baby bottle industry it can no longer use BPA in plastic baby bottles. Canada says BPA is Toxic. Congratulations Canada for taking the better safe than sorry road. Please Read:
http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=e81a7270-aec9-48cb-aad3-b74df38feec0

This says it all!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

FDA in Sticky Situation

Low level clouds, sweet birds chirping with bursts of color poking through.


The FDA relationships are just a little to cozy for me. Dr. Martin Philbert Chairs the FDA Subcommittee that is making all these recommendations of BPA, pretty serious stuff. Dr. Philbert's other hat is director of the Risk Science Center at the University of Michigan.

The FDA asks its committee members to disclose gifts so as to avoid conflict of interest. But it seems that Dr. Phillips had a memory laps or at least is sticking to the excuse that the recent 5 Million dollar donation to the UM Risk Science Center from a Mr. Gelman is no big deal because it was not a personal gift. Turns out Mr. Gelman is a supporter of BPA and poo poos all this science on BPA safety or lack of. And guess how Mr. Gelman made all his money? Making medical supply devices out of...BPA. HELLLOOOO, conflict of interest?

The links provided above tell the story. They are good reads from good newspapers with their own good links. What they can't do is jump up and down, and tell the world how ridiculous and outrageous this is - that these conflict of interests continue to infiltrate our government agencies. These are not little decisions that are being made, like a bridge repair or something. These are impacting regulations that affect all of us through the insidious chemicals in our environment, bought and paid for my big money.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinal has asked for Dr. Philbert's resignation, so I'm not that off base here. If you want to do the same, here is the link to the FDA Contact page:

http://www.fda.gov/comments.html

Imagine if everyone today wrote? I just did, now its your turn.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Cotton Industry Begins Discrediting Campaign

Mornings are dark now but the glow of the moon makes it beautiful.


Let the games begin... Seems the Cotton Industry is worried about the growth of organic cotton ( I would have thought that all kinds of cotton were a good thing, but heck, what do I know.) So to safeguard their niche of conventionally grown cotton, the industry has produced this really tacky quiz to discredit YOU. By using the "always" and "never" words in carefully selected questions, it can seem like being green isn't all its cracked up to be.

The website Fabric of Our Lives is touting cotton as "natural" (that's another blog), green and environmentally friendly. Their "Did You Know" page is fluffed with veiled answers and blatantly not environmentally suggestions like dry cleaning because they (shirts) "require professional pressing and finishing, such as starched oxford shirts." While discussing permanent press fabric they omit the nasty little detail about the chemicals used to soak the fabric straight - DMDHEU - a formaldehyde based chemical. The bleaching process using chlorine is totally not part of any discussion that I could find. Never mind the whole anti-staining and nanotechnology also invading the cotton industry.

They have also teamed up with Macy's to promote their Reusable "Natural" cotton bag. Reusable bags are key to the new world life style but using recycled cotton sure makes a lot more sense, and they do come in organic cotton too. The website even has the gall to have an "earth-friendly"section which basically pushes conventional cotton. This is "green washing" at its best.

Though cotton is a plant (duh) the conventionally grown cotton industry took the growing of cotton to new heights and has done a lot of damage along the way. As with many conventionally grown products, the over use of pesticides and fertilizers, soil erosion and water pollution is taking its toll on our environment. And this includes cotton. The comparison between conventional cotton and organically grown cotton is huge, as is the processing as well.

And what about the labor issue? Ever wonder why cotton can be so cheap? They aren't making a living wage and that's for sure.

So buyer be ware. You'll probably start to hear about the virtues of "natural" cotton if the campaign succeeds in getting their message out to the masses. Remember asbestos is natural too so take little stock in the word "natural". Certified organic cotton assures you a quality, earth-friendly product but it is best to look for fair labor/wage practices as well. This is a winning combination that the cotton industry isn't willing to tackle.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Phthalates Linked to Smaller Penises

Even on this glorious cloudless morning, the horizon hints of brown. :(


So as to avoid beating a dead horse, I will simply encourage you to read the article that I referred to before about phthalates linked to smaller penises and feminized male genitalia. (Who know s what the heck happens to the inside of girl babies.) The scientific article in whole is available only through purchase so this is the next best thing - a comprehensive summary.

Please note the reference by the ACC. At least the writer did justice to who the ACC actually represents and what their first priority is.

Please keep in mind that phthalates are everywhere. Please read the ingredients in personal care products, particularly lotions and hair products. Phthalates are added to plastics to make them soft. And most importantly, keep soft plastic toys away from kids who still put things in their mouth. Those damn rubber duckies...

Monday, October 6, 2008

SIGG - Still Not Green and Here's Why

Perfectly clear morning, more color popping up.


It is time to update some facts and commentary with regard to the previous SIGG vs Klean Kanteen blog. There are 3 areas of "greenness" that I would like to update and clarify.

At the top of the list is the amount of energy required to make the product, its carbon footprint and pollution, typically the first and most important eco criteria of any "environmental" product.

First stainless steel. There is no doubt that producing stainless steel is energy intensive and grossly polluting, pumping out 2-8 tons of CO2 per ton of steel. Using recycled steel greatly reduces CO2 by as much as 60-75%. Luckily this has been common practice for so long that 66% of the steel is from recycled steel. A Klean Kanteen spokes person verified that their steel is 50% recycled content prior to the introduction of the alloys. In addition, there is no lead in either aluminum or stainless steel, the seams in the KK bottles are welded (melted) not soldered.

The manufacturing of virgin aluminum is more polluting than steel, releasing 18 tons of CO2 per ton of aluminum. One source says that manufacturing aluminum releases 10 times the CO2 vs steel, per ton. The manufacturing of aluminum is responsible for 1% of the CO2 released world wide with most of the energy needed in the initial smelting phase. Using recycled aluminum saves 95% of the energy, CO2 and pollution. Recycled aluminum offers the greatest opportunity of reducing CO2 compared to any other recyclable product while at the same time not losing any of its integrity.

In the perfect world we would have a water bottle made out of impervious non-breakable 100% recycled content glass. But our world isn't perfect and so we pick and choose what's next in line. With Carbon Footprint in mind, using part recycled stainless steel over virgin aluminum wins hands down. If all the soda cans can have a high recycled content, so can SIGG. I will maintain my position on this as I find it incomprehensible that SIGG washes itself environmental yet uses virgin aluminum, while recycled aluminum would only use 5% of the energy.

With regard to the potential of BPA in the SIGG lining, this is considered a product's chemical footprint. For review, SIGG's only one test for BPA did not show any BPA "detectable" above 2 parts per billion, PPB. They did not test below 2 PPB. Since my first blog about SIGG vs KK, more research has shown disturbing findings of hormonal disruption from gender bending chemicals - BPA, Phthalates and pesticides. In one study the serious affects of BPA showed at 1 PPB, with affects also down at 1 parts per trillion, PPT. The gold standard is to test using the calibration of PPT, parts per trillion, not PPB. SIGG claims 0% leaching but what they don't put in parenthesize is (above 2 PPB). Is this a big deal? My opinion is if genitalia are being deformed at PPT, then BPA seems to be a problem. BPA has traditionally been part of an epoxy mix and until proven innocent, I think it is fair to be cautious given that continued research shows that minute levels of gender benders do bend the genders. A quote from Environmental Defense of Canada, "Concentrations at much lower levels (parts per trillion) have been found to cause adverse health effects in animal studies." From a biological stand point, humans are part of the animal world.

The last area is labor issues. Most of us would prefer if products were made in our own back yard (unless it is polluting then its okay to have it made in China) (you know that is sarcasm, right?), employing our neighbors and feeding our own economy. I am not happy that KK is made in China, and as a reminder, the new SIGG stainless steel bottles are also made in China. So KK visits their factories 4-5 times per year and SIGG says they have full-time employees located there. I am not sure where "there" is - could be in the next city over - but I hope to find out. Either way, being made in China goes against the grain of many. However, the global economy is here to stay. China is where the steel is made. So either, you don't get steel, or you work with China to change and improve their labor issues. Both SIGG and KK have tried to be responsible in addressing this labor issue. Some small stainless steel water bottle makers have no idea where the factories are even located. So at least the 2 biggest manufacturers of water bottles are taking steps to insure good manufacturing practices. Not my preference by any means, but it is a start. As consumers, it is our job to hold companies accountable for their labor conditions - so go forth and question. China has been in hot water recently but it is also a huge country. Just like we would not want the world to assume that all of our banks are corrupt, (my local bank is fantastic) so we should not assume that all of China has bad working conditions. To do so is...uh...prejudice.

So let me recap:
1 - Klean Kanteen's partly recycled stainless steel produces 10 times less CO2 than SIGG's virgin aluminum..and the winner is...Klean Kanteen.

2 - Klean Kanteen's food grade stainless steel is not lined while SIGG's aluminum is lined with an undisclosed epoxy lining that has not been tested below 2 PPB, where levels show birth and genitalia abnormalities... and the winner is... Klean Kanteen.

3 - Klean Kanteen's factories are in China, supervised and visited 4-5 times per year. SIGG's aluminum bottles are made in Switzerland and the stainless steel bottles are made in China with full time employees. It is my opinion that you can not assume that a factory in a given country has a given working condition. Yes there are trends to be sure, but the subjectiveness of this comparison can not guarantee anything...and if there has to be a winner...SIGG.

So in summary, my personal eco criteria considers carbon footprint first, followed by chemical footprint, followed by social footprint. This is an environmental blog first, not a humanitarian blog, though it does not diminish my personal interest and commitment to social and labor issues. Therefore, I stand by my original assessment which is: SIGG aluminum water bottles are not green in and of themselves, only in that they are reusable, and that Klean Kanteen is the greenest choice for reusable water bottles.

Whew.