Archive for ‘Environment’

March 15, 2012

Would You Put That Toothpaste On Your Lungs?

Do you know what the largest organ of the human body is?  The heart?  The lungs?  Let me give you a hint, if you’re thinking internal, you’re way off base.  The largest organ happens to be the skin.

So let me ask you another question.  If you had your lungs or your heart or any other internal organ hanging on the outside of your body, exposed to everything in our world, would you continue to use all the same products you use today?  If you answered, “no” or even had a slightest twinge in your stomach and the thought, “I don’t know”, then I would ask, “Why you are using those products on your skin?”

If you don’t know the answer, or never thought of it that way, don’t feel bad, I didn’t know what to say when someone asked me either, but it certainly got my attention.  So how do you know whether what you are using is good or bad?  Well, the Environmental Working Group has an excellent product database, called the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.  The database has over 69,000 products, in it.  Each product is given a score based on  the ingredients in the product and any health concerns such as cancer, developmental & reproductive toxicity, allergies and immunotoxicity and use restrictions related to those ingredients.  You will know, at a glance whether you should be concerned about products you’re using or considering purchasing, because they use a stoplight color coding along with the score.  Green (0-2) for low hazard, yellow (3-6) for moderate hazard and red (7-10) for high hazard.  Unfortunately the majority (not all) of the products offered through mass merchandisers are not in the green category.

So if you haven’t checked out your sunscreen, make-up, shampoo and conditioner, tooth paste, etc. on the site yet, I highly recommend that you do.  It can be kind of eye-opening and even somewhat alarming, but don’t sweat it and don’t stress if your products come up in the yellow or red, use the database as a tool to seek out something better for your health.

And you think it doesn’t really matter that much, don’t forget that if you wouldn’t put that toothpaste on your lungs, or that lotion on your heart then you might want to reconsider using it in your mouth or on your skin.


June 25, 2011

Edible Weed #2, Glowing Vinaigrette & Lessons from Austria

Maybe you saw the comment on my first edible weeds post reminding me of when my eyes were first opened to the concept of weeds being edible.

When I was in college I was fortunate enough to be able to do a study abroad program in Graz, Austria.   That trip left a huge impression on me.  I lived with a wonderful host family and made life-long friends.  It’s also where my eyes were opened up to what incredible consumers we are in the US.  At times I almost felt guilty for being from the US, even embarrassed.  I think we’ve made great strides in the years since I was there, but we’re not even to the level of consciousness now that Europeans were nearly 20 years ago.

Their impression of us was that everything is big.  Big houses, big cars, Big Macs.  My impression of them when I first got there was that they did everything the hard way and everything was small. Small cars, small houses, everything they bought came in small packages, with very little packaging.  That was the first time I’d seen the small rectangular cartons that we can now buy broths, milk, etc. in.  At the time they were foreign to me, including lunch.

Lunch is the main meal of the day in Europe, which when you think about it, is way healthier than eating the main meal in the evening like the majority of Americans do.  When you eat in the middle of the day you’ll get energy when you’ll use it vs. filling up when you’re winding down at the end of the day when we don’t need it and then turn it into storage!

I’ll never forget the day I sat down to lunch with my host family and looked at the salad we were having.  Everything in my bowl looked peculiar.  The vinaigrette dressing was glowing green, but that wasn’t as disturbing as what it was on.  I thought I was going crazy, but this “lettuce” that was in my bowl looked a lot like leaves of the most common weed at home.  Since I’d just gotten to Austria and was still getting used to “Styrish” (the dialect in the part of Austria I was in) I thought something must be getting lost in translation.  Did my host mom just say we’re eating dandelions for lunch?  I laughed so hard at the concept.  I mean seriously, these people are eating for lunch, what we are determined to destroy with chemicals everyday!  Then I tried it.  Awesome!  The combination of the glowing green vinaigrette (made with pumpkin seed oil) and the dandelions soon became one of my favorite salads.  The next phone call to my parents I told them to quit putting chemicals on the lawn – the dandelions were lunch!

So there you have it, edible weed #2.  Dandelions!  Other than your front yard, dandelion greens can be found in co-ops, farmer’s markets and the mixed greens in most supermarkets.

Now run out and pick yourself a salad! (Unless of course you put chemicals on them, then definitely stay away!)


May 6, 2011

Plant sales and Living Green!

Can you feel it?  It’s like a buzzing, fluttering, whooshing sort of feeling.  It’s everywhere!  Spring is FINALLY here in Minnesota and the energy is amazing.  The sun is shining and we’re supposed to have a near 70 degree day.  This week I got 3 new issues of gardening magazines, 3 plants and seeds for my Children’s Garden arrived and plant sales are everywhere!  I love it, I love it, I love it!

Much as I’d like to keep it a secret, I have to put a shout out to the HTC Plant Sale located at the Hennepin Technical College Brooklyn Park Campus. Although there are many plant sales out there, this one is close to my heart. Not only because I went to school there, but also because the plants being sold are grown and cared for by the Landscape and Horticulture students.  Deb Kvamme, one of the instructors, is one of the most passionate plant people I’ve ever met, so she makes the sale very fun.  They always have the standard bedding plants, veggies and herbs, but if you get there early enough, you’re guaranteed to find something unique as well.  There are 3 greenhouses bursting with plants and the sale is run like a well oiled machine.  It’s worth the drive.  The sale runs May 5th, 6th and 7th from 9am – 7pm.  Go!  You won’t be disappointed!

Another plant sale “must do” this weekend is the Friends School Plant Sale held at the Minnesota State Fair Grounds Grandstand.  If you’ve never been there, it’s GI-NOR-MOUS.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  They even produce their own catalog with plants that are available at the sale.  View it online, it’s an impressive list to say the least!  The Friends School sale runs Friday, May 7, from 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., Saturday, May 8, from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and Sunday, May 9, from 12:00 noon – 4:00 pm. Sunday is discount day.

While you’re at the fair grounds visit the Living Green Expo.  There you can learn about how to live a more mindful, sustainable life.  There are seminars and vendors with everything from gardening and composting, to cooking, to solar, wind and water, to energy savings, to rain gardens and permaculture and even organic lawn care just to name a few.  The Living Green Expo runs Saturday, May 7th from 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Sunday May 8th from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Do you have a favorite sale I didn’t list?  Let everyone know!

Not in the Twin Cities?  Check your local paper or garden club for sales, grab a friend and go!

Enjoy all things green this weekend!


April 22, 2011

Earth Day – What can I do better?

Today, April 22nd, is Earth Day.  The first Earth Day was in 1970 and essentially began the environmental movement.

Those who know me, know that protecting the environment is something very important to me.  We need to take care of what we have so it will still be around for our children and children’s children.

When I was young my parents taught me not to waste.  For as long as I can remember we recycled.  Mostly cans and newspapers.  We had a can crusher.  Remember those?  I had a blast crushing cans!  Talk about making recycling fun. Okay, I’m an only child, sometimes it doesn’t take much to entertain me.

Today I have mixed recycling that gets picked out at our house, #5 containers go to Whole Foods for the  Gimme 5 recycling program, plastic caps go to Aveda, fruit and veggie scraps, paper products, coffee grounds, filters, etc. all go out to the compost bin (future black gold for the garden!).  I try to be environmentally conscious with everything I do.   There are still many things I could change or improve upon.  Although I try to make a point to walk to places that are close to my house rather than driving, I still drive a car and fill it with gas.

When I was in college I was fortunate enough to go on an exchange program in Austria.  Aside from really improving my German skills, I learned a lot about life.  When I first got there, I was frustrated by the lack of convenience.  It took a while to adjust to the fact that I couldn’t shop when I wanted to.   When I shopped I couldn’t just go to the grocery store for everything either.  I needed to go to the butcher for meat, the baker for bread.  Oh, and I still haven’t found bread like I had in Europe. I LOVE good bread!

On Tuesdays I couldn’t wait to get out of class.  I would race through town, trying not to sprain my ankle on the old cobblestone streets. As I rounded the corner I prayed he would be there.  On the corner outside the bookstore, there would be a man with a waist-high basket filled with fresh pretzels.  These pretzels were like nothing I’d ever had before.  Slightly crisp on the outside, light on the inside, a dusting of flour on the surface, and the flavor was wonderful.  If I got there at the right time, they would still be slightly warm too.  If I was a few minutes late, he would be gone.  Sold out.  I hated those Tuesdays!

As I adjusted to life in Austria I really came to love it and appreciate the simplicity.  My host family was wonderful.  I learned so much about so many things that had to do with the culture, but also just about life.  I learned what the rest of the world thought of the US, unfortunately not all of it was good.  When I traveled on the weekends with friends we would be warned not to tell people that we were Americans.  Tell them you’re Canadian.  Europeans saw us as wasteful, driving big cars, living in big houses, eating lots of ketchup and using and abusing the planet.  At first I was offended, it hurts to hear those things, but then I realized, sadly, that much of it was true.  My goal was to let them know that not all Americans are like that.  Some of us do care, a lot and not all of us have ketchup with every meal. At the same time, I realized that there were some things I could be doing better.  I chose to learn from their stereotype of us and try to live more mindfully upon my return home.

Each year, for whatever reason, Earth Day reminds me of this experience.  It’s a day I reflect.  I try to figure out something I could do better.  Something to live more mindfully, sustainably.  It’s hard to change your entire way of life and sometimes it’s not practical.  For example if you work 25 miles from home, it probably doesn’t make sense to ride your bike to work every day, especially if you’re a sales rep. but maybe because you drive a lot during the week, you make a point to drive less on the weekends.

I haven’t decided for sure what I’ll do this year, but my goal is to leave this place better than the way I found it.

I’d love to hear what you are doing.  Share your thoughts and ideas.  It just might spark something for someone else.