Thursday, April 30, 2009

What We Eat When We Eat Alone - A New Book by Deborah Madison

One of the sheer, unadulterated joys of my life is eating fresh, beautifully-prepared food. This kind of food is the inspiration for the Milkweed Mercantile Organic Cafe, and I spend more time than I care to admit reading cookbooks, food magazines, food blogs, gardening blogs, and then trying all of the ideas out on Kurt and whichever friend happens to wander in (they, of course, keep telling me to "keep practicing!").

Because of this food fetish, one of the publications I delight in is the local version of Edible, which is called Edible Iowa River Valley. (Because we are just 15 miles south of Iowa, and about 200 to either St. Louis or Kansas City, it seemed the most appropriate version). I LOVE these people, the food they produce, the food they write about, and the passion with which they do it all.

What brought on all of this (above) Edible love blathering? On the latest email blast, the following video was featured. It is for Deborah Madison (her first cookbook, The Greens Cookbook, was written with Ed Espe Brown. Both are bright stars in the sustainable food galaxy).

What do YOU eat when you're alone? I laughed at how often bacon came up. I tend to gravitate towards breakfast (eggs & bacon), or comfort foods like homemade mac & cheese or tapioca pudding, eaten warm. Sometimes when I'm missing my mom I'll make a brown sugar sandwich (don't knock it 'til you've tried it - spread butter on two slices of bread, generously sprinkle with brown sugar, put 'em together and eat). I make a lot of cookies, but usually tire of them by the second one (thank goodness!).

Time to go finish up the homemade pizza - oh, so good! I think I'll put a couple of fresh asparagus spears on one of them...yummmmmm!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day 2009 - Let's Make a Difference!

Ah, Earth Day. Created in the 70’s to raise awareness, it has morphed into another demon shopping holiday – or has it? As the host of the Green Mom’s Carnival for this Earth Day, I am delighted to share the insights of some very talented, thoughtful women. Always impressive, they continue to astonish me with the ways they look at the world, and how hard they are working to make it a better, and greener, place.

When I received an email notice from American Airlines suggesting that I celebrate Earth Day with a discounted international flight, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. So I was thrilled to read Jennifer Taggart’s (of The Smart Mama) post, which absolutely nails the nuttiness of Earth Day right on its pointed little head in A Cranky Rant on Earth Day. Long live cranky rants!

In 7 Kid-Friendly Ways to Celebrate Earth Day, Jenn Savedge of The Green Parent extorts us get outside, get dirty, and show our kids why this planet is worth protecting,.The best way to teach kids about going green is to help them fall in love with nature.

In a poignant and heartfelt post entitled Take Care of the Earth and Yourself on Earth Day, Anna Hackman of Green Talk reflects on the fragility of life, and turning inward to enjoy the beauty and simplicity of the Earth on such a special day.

Karen Hanrahan of Best of Mother Earth brings gratitude to the forefront in Dear Mother Earth: Thank You for Trees.

Lynn at Organic Mania inspires us to local action in Earth Day and Graham Crackers. Yes, you and I really CAN make a difference!

Beth at Fake Plastic Fish reports on those who have taken the pledge to use less plastic. There are so many ways to less your impact - check out some of these great ideas!

In Earth Day: Looking Back and Thinking Forward, Micaela at The Mindful Momma looks back on some of the eco-friendly changes that she’s attempted to make over the past year or so, admitting that while some have been more successful than others, all have been a learning experience. And isn’t that what it’s really all about?

Diane at Big Green Purse brings us Ten Low Cost, High Impact Ways to Celebrate Earth Day.
These are things that we all can, and must be doing!

The Green Superheroes at The Green Phone Booth (Where Ordinary Women Become Eco Heroes) present Earth Day is For Sharing, where letting their green show around the edges since last Earth Day have inspired people to change their non-green ways, with very non-preachy, creative methods.

Over at In Women we Trust Mary Hunt brings us Viva La Green Revolution! where she says: "Everything is changing for the sake of a better planet - politics, manufacturing, food production, construction, education, media... Everything is getting better, people are talking and nations are looking for ways to put down the guns and work together. That's something to celebrate and turn into your own personal battle cry." We should be so fortunate to have such women in charge of all of our revolutions!

Lisa at Retro Housewife shares a lovely video and a message of hope, while Lisa at Condo Blues double-teams us with both a happy-ending story and a giveaway of Dr. Bronner's soap (which, btw, is certified fair trade and packaged in bottles made of recycled plastic).

And last, but certainly not least, the oh-so-fabulous team of Jenn and Karina at Tiny Choices are campaigning to bring back the drinking fountain in their Earth Day Extravaganza.

Thanks for stopping by. Here's wishing that your own Earth Day is filled with nature, good thoughts and hope for the future.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Blogosphere's Best and Brightest on Evil-Spawn-of-the-Devil Plastic

It's time for the mid-April Green Mom's Carnival, hosted this month by the spunky and unwavering Beth at Fake Plastic Fish. Read what 19 of the best bloggers in the business (plus me, humbled at the company) have to say about plastic, here. You'll be glad you did. And thanks for checking in!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Enough with the plastic, already!

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
—Yogi Berra

If you're reading this blog, you undoubtedly know that plastic is a plague. It is everywhere, and it isn’t going away. Ever.

It is time for me, you, and all of our friends to take action. Just say no to water bottled in disposable plastic bottles, and carry your own refillable bottle. Yes, this is sometimes (often) not the most convenient option. Plastic bottles never go away, the bottled water industry is unregulated (meaning that it is not tested and can be water from the tap at the bottleing plant) and costs from 240 to 10,000 times what you are paying for tap water. So save your cash, buy a filter and a Klean Kanteen.

And speaking of the plastic never going away, if you haven’t already, please watch this brief (7 minutes) Ted video featuring Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. It is absolutely fascinating, eye-opening, depressing and yet inspiring.

You and I and all of our friends and relatives can make a difference. Here are a few ideas:
  1. Make a pledge to never again use plastic water bottles. Give reusable bottles like Klean Kanteens and Sigg bottles to everyone you know for birthdays and other holidays.
  2. The same with soda bottles. If you’re going to drink soda, purchase it in aluminum cans rather than plastic bottles. Yes, the embodied energy that goes into producing a can is higher; however, the likelihood that the can will be recycled is much higher, too.
  3. Stop plastic on land before it reaches the ocean – be responsible for your own plastic, and that of others. Pick it up when you see it, and make sure it gets into a garbage can somewhere.
  4. No more plastic shopping bags. Bring your own reuseable bags.
  5. Consider bringing your own reuseable produce bags, too. You can find some fantastic ones on Etsy.
  6. Patronize only companies that use recycled plastic in their packaging. For example, Dr. Bronner’s products are packaged in 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. If your favorite product does not come in recycled plastic packaging, let the company know that you want it to. Change starts with you!
  7. Consider plastic when shopping. Do you really need individually plastic-packed yogurt?
    Consider making your own food instead of food that comes packaged in plastic: yogurt, mayonnaise, etc.
  8. Use lists like this one when shopping. Perhaps what you’re looking for is made of recycled plastic – if we don’t support the companies using recycled materials they have little motivation to continue!

Working together we CAN make a difference. Now, go save the earth!

“Only we humans make waste that nature can’t digest.” ~ Captain Charles Moore, Algalita

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Shampoo, Sunscreen and Cosmetics – Are You Safe?

Do what you feel in your heart to be right - for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't.
~Eleanor Roosevelt

I’m not much of a make-up wearer. Even before taking up the Ecovillage lifestyle, it wasn’t very appealing. In high school I tried makeup once. But the foundation was gross (how did one manage to scratch one’s nose without wiping it all off?), the mascara smeared under my eyes no matter what brand I tried (and I tried many) and lipstick just plain tasted gross (I now know that it often contains lead – yum!). Why on earth would I want that on my face? I also tried to paint my nails, but jeez, the polish was always chipping, and I simply have too many other things to do besides sit around and wait for my nail polish to dry.

It makes sense that I met my husband on a backpacking trip, where there was more dust than blush. When we got married, our photographer suggested that I wear a bit of makeup for the photos – my friends had to put the makeup on me right before the wedding, and then it all went back into the bag, where it is still sitting, 12 years later…

But enough about that. I used to make product decisions with an eye towards ease of use and a smidgen of common sense. Since then, I’ve learned to read the labels. But what are we to do when the labels are misleading, or incomplete?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees the safety of personal care products in the U.S., but lacks basic authority needed to ensure that products are actually safe. The FDA cannot require companies to test products for safety before they are sold, does not systematically review the safety of ingredients and does not set limits for common, harmful contaminants in products. The FDA also does not require contaminants to be listed on product ingredient labels. As a result, consumers have no way of knowing if their products contain toxic contaminants.

I don’t know about you, but I find this troubling.

I have come to rely on the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and their Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database. It is where I turn when I need to buy products for myself, and even more importantly, products for the Milkweed Mercantile. I trust EWG, and support their efforts. (NOTE: In an effort to be as transparent and ethical as possible, I purposely accept no advertising on either of my blogs.) I also support their Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, which is working to protect your health by eliminating the use of chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects and other health problems.

Some companies are making safer products today and striving for even greater improvements. More than 1,000 companies have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, a pledge to replace hazardous chemicals with safe alternatives and to publicly report on their progress. I encourage you to support these companies.

As an adult, I have a choice about what I slather on my body. If I want to trade off having no dandruff for the scary stuff in, say, Neutrogena Shampoo, well then that's up to me. But kids depend on us to keep them safe.

Children’s bath products are often marketed as safe and gentle. However, laboratory tests commissioned by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found these products are commonly contaminated with formaldehyde or 1,4-dioxane – and, in many cases, both. These two chemicals, linked to cancer and skin allergies, are anything but safe and gentle and are completely unregulated in children’s bath products. To learn more and make your OWN decision about what you want to be bathing and shampooing your children with, click here to read No More Toxic Tub.

I don't use most major brands of shampoo and cleansers - there are many, many brands which use only non-toxic ingredients, have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, are affordable and really work. Why expose myself and my family to ingredients which have not been proven to be safe? Do some investigating before going shopping. Plug your favorite brands into the Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database and see what pops up. If it's good news, fantastic! If the results aren't so rosy, well, that's good too - becoming informed is the first step.

Good luck, and let me know if I can help!