Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Go Organic and Eat Fewer Pesticides

As mentioned in a previous post The Dirty Dozen, it is important to seek out pesticide-free fruits and veggies whenever possible.  The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has come up with a Shopper's Guide to Pesticides and Dr. Andrew Weil, renowned medical expert on natural health and wellness, tells us why and how he uses the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides.

 For more information, go to:

Happy Eco-Stepping to cleaner food and better health!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Saving Civilization is not a Spectator Sport - Lester R. Brown

Earth Policy Institute

By Lester R. Brown

Earth Policy Release   
Book Byte   
April 22, 2010   

Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization by Lester R. BrownGiven the enormous environmental and social challenges faced by our early twenty-first century global civilization, one of the questions I hear most frequently is, What can I do? People often expect me to talk about lifestyle changes, recycling newspapers, or changing light bulbs. These are essential, but they are not nearly enough. We now need to restructure the global economy, and quickly. It means becoming politically active, working for the needed changes. Saving civilization is not a spectator sport.

Inform yourself, read about the issues. If you want to know what happened to earlier civilizations that found themselves in environmental trouble, read Collapse by Jared Diamond or A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright or The Collapse of Complex Societies by Joseph Tainter. My latest book, Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, can be downloaded free of charge from Earth Policy Institute's (EPI's) Web site,, along with complementary data sets and a slide show summary. If you find these materials useful in helping you think about what to do, share them with others.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Birthday, Earth Day!

Since this blog is dedicated to all of the little things or eco-steps we can take to make this world a better and healthier place for us, I would be remiss if I did not at least acknowledge that today marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, along with the 91,100,000 other sites that Google returned when I typed in "Earth Day."  I feel somewhat of a kindred spirit with Earth Day since I am also turning 40 this year (gasp!).  40 seems like a good age to look back and reflect upon one's life and experiences, and then to look forward to the good that is yet to come.  It is somewhat of a milestone.  In the last 40 years, we have learned a lot about the environment and our impact on it. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Eco-Steps Toward a Better Tomorrow

The Conscious Shift in Consumer Behaviors

Sunday, April 11, 2010 by Ted Ning
The global economic downturn has not only affected many people’s wallets it has also caused a dramatic shift in the way people look at the choices they are making in their lives. In the U.S. there is a strong desire to be self reliant and to conserve resources as people prioritize their spending and behaviors towards more purposeful decisions. Choices as small as bringing meals to work rather than eating out, taking public transport instead of spending on gasoline and garden grown foods rather than store bought foods are some examples of trends that are picking up. These are changing the way companies approach green business strategy.

Today not only LOHAS consumers but ALL consumers are demanding a greater value from products and services. This value is derived from a strong desire to make the most of everything that a person has. Considerations including investment, functionality and cost are being assessed and are creating new dimensions of ROI that are increasingly a part of the emotional and social values a brand typically provides.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Breaking the Curse of Bigness

An Eco-Steps non sequitur... 

Breaking the Curse of Bigness

Resilience depends on diversity, but banks and businesses just keep getting bigger. How can we break the cycle?

photo by D'Arcy Norman
If we were to boil the financial crisis down to its root cause, we could sum it up with former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’ phrase, the "curse of bigness.” The crisis was caused by massive industry consolidation, which leads to destructive corporate behavior because the decision-makers at these vast institutions are so far removed from the impacts of their decisions.
Perhaps the best way to understand the problems inherent in an economy that separates actions from consequences is to look at its opposite.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Healthy Home Tips: Checklist | Environmental Working Group

Earth Day is coming!!  

Healthy Home Tips: Checklist | Environmental Working Group

EWG Action Fund's Healthy Home Checklist

Ready to create an eco-healthy home?
We created this Healthy Home Checklist for you to use as you walk through your home -- and open your bathroom cabinet, look under your sink, and check those laundry supplies. It's an easy, hands-on way to create a less toxic environment for your family. When you're done, you'll breathe easier (literally!) knowing that you've tackled the toxics that matter most in your home.
Before you get started, get the basics from EWG's Vice President for Research, Jane Houlihan, who helped a Maryland family identify the toxic chemicals in their home on this televised home visit.

Check your house for common toxic chemicals and choose safer alternatives with this simple checklist for less toxic living.
When you finish your checklist, click here to send us an email letting us know how you did. Got lots to change or is your home already eco-healthy?

  • Do you cook with non-stick cookware? Replace with cast-iron, stainless steel, or glass when possible. Stuck with it? Take care not to overheat it, which releases toxic fumes. Learn more.
  • Do you use plastic food containers? We recommend glass over plastic. Never microwave food in plastic containers. For baby, use glass or BPA-free plastic bottles. Learn more.
  • Do you filter your tap water? Check EWG's online tap water quality database for local contaminants and a filter that removes them, if needed. Look up your water.
  • Do you drink bottled water? Kick the habit. For water on-the-go, get a reusable water bottle, like stainless steel (not plastic or aluminum lined with plastic). Learn more.
  • Any canned food in the pantry? Cook with fresh or frozen whenever possible; most food cans (including liquid infant formula) are lined with bisphenol-A (BPA), a toxic chemical that leaches into the food. Learn more.
  • Do you eat conventionally grown produce? Check EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides to be sure you buy organic when pesticide residues are highest.
  • Do you use iodized salt? You should. Iodine is necessary to maintain healthy thyroid function. Learn more in our video.
  • Do you eat high-mercury fish? Ask before eating and head for the lower-mercury types (especially for pregnant women and young children). Get the safe fish list.

  • Do you use air fresheners? Don't! Most contain a number of toxic chemicals that contaminate the air you breathe.
  • Is there fragrance in your personal care products? We don't know what's in "fragrance," so it's safer to choose all fragrance-free personal care products. Always check ingredient lists to be sure. Learn more.
  • What kind of toothpaste do you use? Choose fluoride-free for kids younger than 2 and teach older kids to rinse and spit; fluoride is toxic if swallowed. Also, pick a paste without triclosan -- you'll see it on the ingredient list. Learn more about fluoride and triclosan.
  • Do you use liquid hand soap? If so, avoid anti-bacterials -- the American Medical Association recommends against using them at home. Learn more.
  • What material is your shower curtain? Avoid vinyl shower curtains. If you get a new curtain (whatever the material), leave it outside for several days before using.
  • Do you have extra products? Less is more. Skipping cosmetics like hair spray and detangler, body sprays and powder is less toxic -- and cheaper!

  • Are your cleaners green? It's hard to know without a full ingredient list, which most products don't have. Find out the ingredients by calling the manufacturer, avoid the toxic ones and choose green-certified products whenever possible. Learn more.
  • Do your product labels list all ingredients? Most don't, but they should. Support companies that disclose all ingredients by buying their products -- you have a right to know. Learn more about labeling.
  • Do you need all those products? Most homes can be safely cleaned with a few non-toxic ingredients: vinegar (it's anti-bacterial), baking soda, water, a HEPA vacuum, microfiber mops and cloths -- and some elbow grease! Skip laundry products you don't need, like dryer sheets, fabric softener, and chlorine bleach. Learn more.

  • Was your home built before 1978? If so, it probably contains lead paint. When repainting, use a wet sanding technique to reduce dust, choose low VOC paints and always paint with the windows open for good ventilation. Keep kids away from rehab dust and loose chips. Learn more.
  • Got foam furniture? Foam products (like stuffed furniture and mattresses) are often treated with toxic fire retardants, so keep them well-covered. Ask whether a product is treated before you buy and choose naturally fire-resistant materials, like cotton and wool, when possible. Don't "protect" your fabrics and carpets with sprayed-on chemical coatings -- simply clean spills quickly. Learn more.
  • Do you use compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs)? They contain mercury and should be handled and disposed of with care. Use them where there's no danger of breaking near children; clean up broken bulbs quickly and safely. Learn more.
  • Do you use pesticides or insecticides? Try non-toxic alternatives first; pesticides are a last resort. If you choose to use them, store them out of reach of children. Organic gardening is healthier for kids and pets, since they live closer to the ground.
  • Do you have a wood deck, picnic table or playground set? Those made before 2005 likely contain arsenic. Test to confirm and either replace with safer wood or reduce your exposure by sealing it, replacing high-use areas and washing hands after touching, especially before eating. Learn more.
  • What materials are your kids' toys made from? Top contaminants to avoid are: lead paint, play make-up, cadmium and lead in play jewelry, and phthalates in soft plastics (like teethers and rubber duckies). Choosing non-toxic toys for young kids is especially important because so many end up in their mouths.
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Monday, April 12, 2010

To Soy or Not To Soy... That is the Question

It seems the more I read about food, the less inclined I am to be waving any sort of banner in anyone's face about what we should or should not be eating.  Why?  As hinted at in previous posts, I am coming around to the notion that what we choose to put in our bodies is a highly personal decision. And that what we eat varies greatly depending on geography, demographics, religious beliefs, nutritional beliefs, and perhaps above all, food availability (or scarcity). 

That being said, I believe that we should educate ourselves with as much information (conflicting though it may seem) so that we can make the best possible decisions for our health and for the well-being of the plants and animals we share the planet with.   It would be great if we could actually trust our food suppliers and believe that what is marketed to us as "healthy" or "good for us" actually is.  Which brings me to the topic of veggie burgers.  They are quite often offered up as a meat-free "healthier" alternative to conventional burgers.  But are they really?

Friday, April 9, 2010

McNuggets for Social Change

McNugget Backlash: Is Fast Food on the Run from Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution? - DailyFinance

The experiment that TV chef and raconteur Jamie Oliver says "always works" to turn kids off processed food failed in Huntington, W.Va., where the obesity rate is above the national average.

When he showed children how chicken nuggets are made -- grinding up the least desirable parts of a bird, gloppily straining out the bones, and adding flavorings and fillers -- he expected them to refuse to eat them. Instead, after having cried "ewww!" and "gross!" they each asked for a patty, answering his bewilderment with: "We're hungry!"

While the stunt missed the mark on his Food Revolution TV show, it hit home for many kids and parents. One blog post on the topic , in which the author said her kids had watched and decided never to eat a chicken nugget again, was still the most popular post on the site days later.

People Are Talking

Oliver is getting people talking -- and changing habits. An informal poll of my Twitter followers found that about half were put off chicken nuggets for good, and the rest had previously rejected them. A friend who edits a parenting magazine said she had "told dozens of people" how the unappealing ingredients made her "queasy." Another friend decided to forgo her usual annual spring treat of McDonald's (MCD) chicken McNuggets, solely because she and her kids watched Oliver squish raw chicken through a strainer. A long screed from a San Diego writer told how her family was giving up chicken nuggets, too.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Surrender Your Soles!

In the spirit of eco-stepping to a more sustainable, happier world:

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April 8th is TOMS One Day Without Shoes. This is the day that we spread awareness about the power a simple pair of shoes has over a child's life. Most children in developing countries grow up barefoot. This leads to many diseases, hardships, and prevents the children from attending school. Through everyday encounters with domestic poverty, we are reminded to appreciate having food and shelter. But have you ever considered how lucky and blessed we are to have shoes? Imagine a life without them; constantly being aware of the ground in front of your, suffering regular cuts and scrapes, tending to infection after each walk, and enduring not only terrain, but the heat and cold too. 
By going a day without shoes you will be helping spread awareness of the simple solution to a huge pressing problem. Wearing shoes and practicing primary hygiene can prevent both infection and disease due to unsafe roads and contaminated soil.
Here are 5 interesting facts about our soles:

  • In some developing nations, children must walk for miles to school, clean water and to seek medical help.
  • Cuts and sores on feet can lead to serious infection.
  • Often, children cannot attend school barefoot.
  • In Ethiopia, approximately one million people are suffering from Podoconiosis, a debilitating and disfiguring disease caused by walking barefoot in volcanic soil.
  • Podoconiosis is 100% preventable with basic foot hygiene and wearing shoes.

Come take a walk with TOMS! GO SHOELESS APRIL 8th, 2010!!!

Or, if that's really not an option for you, you can donate some gently used shoes to organizations like Soles4Souls.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Food for Thought from Stephen Colbert

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Thought for Food - Corn Diapers, Fatty Foods & Jamie Oliver
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Reform

New Uses for Old Pantyhose

I am no fan of pantyhose.  The mere sound of the term "pantyhose" is just not appealing.  Who named them anyway?  To make a long story short, a guy by the name of Allen Gant invented them back in 1959.  They were quite revolutionary in that they eliminated the need for multiple "foundation" garments (thank you!).  Sure, the word "hosiery" is far better and sounds way more sophisticated, but still... in my book, they're pantyhose.  In my opinion, they're hard to put on, they run or rip if you look at them cross-eyed and they're just all around gosh-darned uncomfortable.  And at the end of a workday, ladies, who isn't rushing home to rip them off and do the "pantyhose free" dance (you know you know this dance)?