Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Little Blog's First Press Mention:

We've gotten our first small piece of press, kids. Small is beautiful. Check it out.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Last Minute Green Gifts Galore - Hurry!

Some last minute suggestions for eco-friendly gifts to buy from local stores.

For the traveler. Does your friend have a favorite city? Feet First Sewer Manhole Cover Doormats are made from 100% recycled truck tires. They are exact reproductions of the manhole covers from LA, Paris, London or New York. Funky and green - ready for your muddy boots. Find them at Greater Goods, 1626 U Street NW, for $24.

Maybe for the new homeowners? A lovely vintage condiment set ($26) or a wine and vinegar set ($25) with a modern sensibility. Looks like something Jonathan Adler would use for inspiration . . . but not made in China, these are original, one-of-a-kind pieces. Find them at Millennium, 1528 U Street. [Note: Millennium carries one-of-a-kind, vintage products, so this exact item may not be available by the time you make it to the store. So hurry! Or, you can always pick another fabulous gift from their great vintage collection.]

For the Bead Lover! Get them these beautiful recycled glass beads ($15-30 per string) made in Africa from Beadazzled, 1507 Connecticut Ave., NW. They come in a variety of hues and are fair trade.

For the bohemian fashionista: Rich, textured fabrics were all over the high-fashion runways for Fall. But if you can't afford the latest Balenciaga, then trot on over to Beadazzled (1507 Connectivut Ave., NW) and get your fashionista this beautiful bag made from vintage Thai fabrics ($36). (Model on left in Nicole Miller; model on right in Anna Sui.)

For the cook: The Cucina line of soaps and other kitchen-oriented products are all natural. The scents are amazing and are meant to mingle well with your favorite chef's signature dishes. Homerule, 1807 14th Street, NW, has a great collection of the Cucina products. Everything from hand soap to kitchen sprays ($6.99 and up). Homerule also has several other lines of natural or organic products like Korres, Juice Beauty and Anthony for Men.

For the friend on the go go go go go: This little gadget is super. From the Solio site:

When on the go power for your gadgets is key, plug into the Solio® Hybrid 1000. This hybrid boasts a powerful solar panel and battery in an incredibly compact and slender case, conveniently geared with a built-in rugged carabiner and cable. The Hybrid 1000 is simple to use. Just clip on, plug in, and charge up! Universal Charger – Power virtually all your electronic devices. Works out of the box with most common mobile phones, MP3 players, and GPS units - simply change the adaptor tip. Stores Power - Charge your devices anytime, day or night. Internal rechargeable battery stores power for up to one year. (A full Solio H1000 will charge a typical mobile phone once or give 10 hours of MP3 music - just 1 hour of sunshine = 15 minutes talk time or 40 minutes of MP3 music).* Hybrid Charger - Charge anywhere on Earth. Plug into the Sun and charge Solio through its solar panel, it’s free and green! Or use the included tip to charge from the USB port of any computer.

Find it for $75.00 at Greater Goods at 1626 U Street, NW.

relevant thoughts from poet e. e. cummings

pity this busy monster,manunkind,

not. Progress is a comfortable disease:
your victum(death and life safely beyond)

plays with the bigness of his littleness
-electrons deify one razorblade
into a mountainrange;lenses extend

unwish through curving wherewhen until unwish
returns on its unself.
A world of made
is not a world of born-pity poor flesh

and trees,poor stars and stones,but never this
fine specimen of hypermagical

ultraomnipotence. We doctors know

a hopeless case if-listen:there's a hell
of a good universe next door;let's go

- e. e. cummings

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Green Gift Guide - DC - For Everyone!!

So, here are some ideas for everyone and anyone else on your list . Or even yourself. Or even me.

Part I: Gifts that are not things at all.

The gift of a night out:

Your friends love food. Even more, they love food that they don't have to buy, cook or clean up after. Especially after the stress-filled, busy holiday season. And, luckily, the Washington, DC, area has a growing collection of restaurants that focus on organic and sustainable food. Here are a few good choices . . . run on out and get some gift certificates and give your friends a night off from cooking after the holidays.

Hook, 3241 M St. NW; 202-625-4488. Why I love Hook: Well, first of all, the chef, Barton Seaver, is super hot. I mean hot. Here's a pic. So anyway, besides the fact that the chef is hot - and young - and, obviously brilliant, he also runs the first sustainable seafood restaurant in DC. The restaurant serves only sustainably-caught seafood and locally-grown produce, and tries to educate its customers about the plight of the oceans.

For the people in your life who like to limit their meat intake - or for the people in your life who you would like to encourage to limit their meat intake (there are many reasons to eat less meat: In the summer 2007 report, Livestock’s Long Shadow, UN researchers concluded that livestock contributes to “problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity."), gift them the gift of Vegetate, 1414 9th St. NW. Not only does Vegetate use organic and locally-raised produce, but, dude, it's owned by the awesome DJ Dredd, who you might catch spinning the in the upstairs lounge on Saturday nights.

If Adams Morgan is more the preferred scene for your crowd, The Reef Restaurant, 2446 18th Street, NW, is a good choice. Yes, kids, The Reef is not only the place that 20-somethings go to get totally effed up on Saturday nights, it is also a restaurant that serves interesting food made from only the highest quality organic produce and free-range meats all provided by local farmers. And now that there is no smoking in the main room, you can enjoy your dinner without guessing how quickly most of the colorful fish swimming in the tanks will die from the second-hand smoke. Also in Adams Morgan - esp. for the jazz aficionados - is Bossa Bistro and Lounge (2463 18th Street, NW), which also uses organic ingredients in its menu.

If pizza is more your thing, look to Coppi's Organic Restaurant at 1414 U street, NW. Coppi's boasts sustainably-sourced fish, locally-grown produce, grass-fed/free-range meats and poultry and energy from windpower.

For more restaurant ideas, see the list here.

Friday, December 14, 2007

One last Green Gift Guide Post: Tomorrow

Okay, folks. I am off to a wine party tonight, so the last post for the Green Gift Guide - DC - Gifts for Anyone and Everyone (and gifts that are not things at all) will have to wait until tomorrow. I know that my infinitesimal readership will be waiting with bated breath. See you then.

Green Gift Guide - DC - For Boss/Coworker

For Boss or Coworker

Ah, always a tricky thing to shop for the people you work with. You don't want to spend too much money on the boss, as not to seem like a kiss-ass, but you still want to get something that someone who gets paid three times more than you would appreciate. As for your coworkers, many of them aren't really friends, but we sometimes spend more time with them than with our families. Here are some gift suggestions for the people who share 8+ hours of our daily lives - your gifts will make them smile and will have less environmental impact on the world (but, you don't have to tell them that. Esp. if they drive a Hummer.)

This incredibly stylish notebook by Handmade Expressions is perfect for staff meetings (or venting your work frustrations at lunch). These fab notebooks ($20-25) are made from recycled cotton rags (no paper!!) The leather covers are made from animals who died naturally (really!!). Find them at Hoopla DC at 2318 18th Street, NW.

For the coffee (or sake) lover: Vintage is the greenest green of all and these fab porcelain espresso (or sake) classes are sure to please even the most finicky boss. This set is by the German designer Legardo Tackett and is $45. Find it at Millennium at 1528 U street, NW. [Note: Millennium carries one-of-a-kind, vintage products, so this exact item may not be available by the time you make it to the store. So hurry! Or, you can always pick another fabulous gift from their great vintage collection.]

If you can't yet afford any of the custom upholstered furniture made with Knoll's line of eco-friendly fabrics, then pick up a lovely, soy candle ($25) from Vastu, 1829 14th St. NW. It's made with the highest quality fragrence oils and 100% pure soy (which is much better than traditional candles made from petroleum-based paraffin. Soy candles produce less soot, are less toxic and actually diffuse the scents better.) The scents are as sophisticated as Vastu's furnishings: Cool Cucumber Melon, Lemongrass, Berry Creme Brulee, Blackberry Sage and others. Your office mate will be so impressed that you shop at Vastu. You can say, "oh, I picked it up for you on my last shopping trip there . . ." (wink wink . . . I won't tell.)

Pacifica Soaps smell so incredibly good that I spent over 20 minutes at the display at Homerule (1807 14th St NW) trying to smell each and every one. Each Pacifica bar ($6.99) is hand-made using a biodegradable, vegan, vegetable glycerin soap base, herbs and the signature Pacifica soap fragrance blends of natural oils and essences. N0 animal testing, animal ingredients or artificial colors.

For the co-worker who likes to cook up a storm when they're not working 80 hours a week, get them a Rice Hull Garden from Potting Shed Creations. A USDA-certified organic garden in a pot (which is made of discarded rice hulls). It comes in Chives and Lemon Basil. Find it for $17 at Hoopla DC at 2318 18th Street, NW.

Does your office coffee suck, but your co-worker or boss doesn't like to spend their money on Starbucks? Or maybe they are actually conscious of the paper coffee cup waste (did you know that due to the petroleum-based plastic lining in most coffee cups, they can not be composted or recycled? Or that Americans use and discard approximately 14 billion paper coffee cups a year?) Either way, this on-the-go coffee press is sure to be a hit. They can load up the press with their favorite coffee blend at home, then just add water at work and voilà, fresh brewed alertness. Find it at Homerule (1807 14th St NW) for $17.99.

Green Gift Guide- DC - For Him

For Him

I find most men exceedingly difficult to shop for. Give a girl a cashmere sweater - any cashmere sweater - and she's blissful (okay, okay, maybe only if the girl is me and maybe only if the sweater is by Stewart + Brown). Guys, on the other hand, aren't so easily appeased. They want gifts that appeal to their interests, to their hobbies . . . So, here are some interest-specific gifts for your favorite guy.

For the wine connoisseur: Get these retro-fab vintage Pyrex carafes/wine decanters ($28 and $30) at Millennium, located at 1528 U Street, NW. [Note: Millennium carries one of a kind, vintage products, so these exact carafes may not be available by the time you make it to the store. So hurry! Or, pick another fabulous gift from their great collection.] And remember, vintage is the greenest green of all.

For the bike buff:
If your man loves the sound of the wind rushing past his ears as he swerves in front of startled tourist drivers on DC roads, he will definitely appreciate this recycled bike chain beer opener ($12). Find it at Hoopla DC at 2314 18th Street, NW (in Adams Morgan).

For the Music Lover: Help your music lover show his admiration for his favorite band by framing a favorite album cover. Som Records (1843 14th Street, NW) - a teeny space in a basement a few doors down from Saint Ex on 14th Street - has a huge selection of used record albums just looking for their forever homes (many cool ones in the $1 bin!). From the strange to the obscure to the albums that made our senior prom after-parties special, Som has it all. Album covers make quirky decorative wall art, as well. Prices run $1-$100. [Look here for framing ideas.]

the well-groomed man: I love what this is called: "The Man Can" , by the Plum Island Soap Co., has a bunch of natural products to keep your man groomed and smelling fine. The can comes with 1 Bar Manly Soap, 1 Very Masculine Bay Rum Oil, 1 Extremely Spicy Shave Gel, 1 Really Scratchy Bath Mitt, 1 Jar Fisherman's Hand Butter ("There's nothing tougher than a fisherman"). Find it for only $55 at Hoopla DC at 2314 18th Street, NW (in Adams Morgan).

For the decorator: As I mentioned before, Millennium (1528 U Street, NW) has an amazing selection of vintage decorative items and furniture. This wrought iron candelabra ($78) caught my eye last time I was there. If you are not sure what to get, the very helpful staff can help you pick something out.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Green Gift Guide - DC - For Kids

For Kids

With all the recent toy recalls, organic and natural toys are definitely an attractive option this year. Here are some ideas from locally-owned businesses that are better for you, your kid, and the planet.

Kennan Knitter Critters are made from handspun wool (from village-raised sheep), knitted by rural women in Kenya. The Critters provide an important source of income for the women. The wool is dyed using only natural native plants. Greater Goods at 1626 U Street NW has a great selection of critters ($16-28) for everyone!

"I am the Lorax! I speak for the trees!" The best environmentally-conscious book for kids evah!! It is never too early to start teaching your small humans about the environment. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. Find it for $14.95 at Greater Goods at 1626 U Street NW.

(Or, even better, buy it used on So, yes, there will be some carbon miles related to getting it here, but the energy and trees(!!) that you will save from buying a used book should surely ease your conscience.)

Plum Island Soap "100% Natural Baby" kit ($45.50) is everything your youngun' needs to be naturally soft and smelling that baby way. The line is scented with pure lavender oil, gentle and soothing for baby's sensitive skin. The kit contains: Baby Soap, Baby Oil, Baby Balm & a Rubber Bath Pal. Find it at Hoopla DC at 2314 18th Street, NW.

"Bottle your style!!" Disgusted by the bottled water craze, but still a bit wary of the DC tap water? Send your kid to school with these snazzy Swiss-made reusable bottles. SIGG bottles ($16-17) are made from aluminum and have a no-leaching inner lining, plus they come in bright kid-friendly (and teenage-friendly) designs. They have become a celebrity favorite! Find them at Greater Goods at 1626 U Street, NW.

Other Ideas

Best Organic & Natural Clothing in DC: Yiro at 3236 P Street, NW. No dull colors here! Although everything at Yiro is made from organic and natural materials, it is incredibly cheerful and bright - stripes galore! This is quality stuff, people. They also provide a variety of services for parents and parents-to-be including preparation and delivery of organic food, researching preschools and connecting you with the perfect mural artist for your small bundle of joy's room. They have a nice selection of toys, clothing, furniture and mother-to-be products in a wide range of prices. (Although this store is not easily metro accessible, you can reach it by taking the G2 bus from Dupont Circle Metro; or, by jumping on the little blue bus from Rosslyn Metro, which will take you across the bridge into Georgetown - you will need to walk a few blocks.)

Natural Toys Galore: Just up the street at 1419 B Wisconsin Ave. is Tugooh Toys (202.333.0032). Check it out for a really nice, large selection of toys made the old-fashioned way and designed to make your child even smarter than he already is.

Article From the New York Times: "A World Consumed by Guilt"

Let us set aside the clichés about green fashion, ye cynical Kermits, and presume that everyone is now on board with saving the world by doing our holiday shopping at Barneys, where even the window displays promote eco-friendly clothing.

Let us also presume that organic cotton jeans are good for the earth, and soy-based underwear will someday save the polar bears. Let us carry all our purchases of environmentally sensitive clothing made from bamboo, corn, coconuts, hemp and/or pineapples in our reusable designer grocery bags.

If only buying into green fashion was so easy.

No matter how sincere fashion designers may be in their efforts to embrace the green movement this season, consumers may find themselves perplexed by how to gauge the environmental impact of the many products that claim to be eco-friendly.

After factoring in the fabrics used in clothes and how they were produced, the real benefits of soy versus organic cotton versus recycled polyester may be slight, or confusing, or quite possibly misleading.

“When you only look at the raw materials to ask if something is really green, you are like the blind person holding the tail of the elephant,” said Chris Van Dyke, chief executive of Nau, a three-year-old outdoor clothing line founded on the principle of sustainable practices throughout its production cycle, including the ecological costs of shipping and caring for garments. “There’s a whole lot of other factors you need to assess.”

Some clothes, like Loomstate’s $295 organic cotton jeans — sold unwashed and not color-fast, to save energy — require unusual care. A pair of 2(x)ist soy underwear, $24 at Macy’s, include a warning that imperfections are to be expected. “These characteristics should not be considered flaws in the fabric,” the packaging says, “but rather as an intrinsic quality contributing to the uniqueness of the garment.”

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It's Here!! Green Gift Guide - DC - For Her

This is by no means a comprehensive guide to all the amazing green gifts you can buy - locally or on-line. It seems like every website and publication is doing a green gift guide this year. (Here is a link to the Washington Post's Guide.) But because buying local is best of all (especially if you take the metro or ride your bike or walk!!), I wanted to focus this gift guide on locally-owned stores. However, there are many stores in DC (more and more each day, it seems) that carry eco-friendly products that I didn't include - but I hope to highlight them in future posts. I tried to group them in particular categories for your easy reference: For Her, For Kids, For Him, For Boss/Coworker, For Anyone (which includes a list of gifts that are not things at all). Look for them all over the next few days. Happy Shopping!

For Her

Give the gift of relaxation. The Natural Body Spa and Shoppe, located at 1104 24th Street NW, is a "Green Spa", using all-natural and organic products, maintaining a commitment to working with local organizations and implementing energy saving and sustainable building options. Give a gift card to your lovely lady as a Thank You for putting up with all your "cute" idiosyncrasies (you know what I'm talking about . . .) Services start at $50.

Ow sexy jhoo are in your leetle hemp lingerie! Mon Cherie Bralette ($79) and Side-Tie Knickers ($62) made from soy jersey and hemp. Find it at Setchi Ecoboutique at 1614 wisconsin ave nw.

Sparkly accessories are all the rage and great addition to a more-laid back holiday outfit. And vintage is the greenest choice of all. Find an awesome collection of vintage, one of a kind, sparkly brooches ($15-65) and other things (both strange and beautiful) at Legendary Beast at 1520 U St NW.

You know she will love to snuggle up to you in these bright and beautiful eco-silk duvets by Anna Sova ($290 for a Queen) at Eco-Green Living at 1469 Church St NW (that's just a block away from Whole Foods on P Street). The recent construction in the area has hidden this lovely (albeit a bit unorganized) gem of a store that has a great selection of gifts, clothing and home renovation products and suggestions.

Taking the idea of "upcycling" upscale, Preloved redesigns vintage clothing and reuses vintage fabrics to create fashionable, one of a kind pieces of clothing, like this winter "trouser" dress ($179) sold at Nana at 1528 U St NW.

For yoga and beyond: give the gift of this versatile, incredibly soft bamboo/spandex hoodie ($68). Can be worn as a draping cardigan, shawl, hoodie, or tie knotted in front or back. Find it at the Tranquil Space Yoga Studio boutique at 2024 P Street NW. And pick up some yoga passes while you are at it - a very thoughtful gift for your loved one!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Better than Uggs!!

One of my favorite things about this time of year is wearing my yummy, soft sheepskin boots. Unfortunately, like most leathers, sheepskins are often treated with harsh chemicals and dying agents that could end up in the environment. In addition, since much of the less expensive leathers are dyed in places like India and China, there are often environmental health concerns for the workers doing the dying. Often, dying is done by hand without appropriate protection.

Well, I have good news. Warmbat, an Australian company (just like Uggs), just started selling great sheepskin boots made from "Eco-Friendly Sheepskin™". Here are some details:

  • Eco-Friendly Sheepskin™ products are tanned with chrome-free tanning agents that are friendly to the environment as they can be recycled and biodegraded.
  • Eco-Friendly Sheepskin™ process uses chemicals which do not contain harmful chemicals to operatives or the environment.
  • Eco-Friendly Sheepskin™ process permits the main process liquors to be recycled in chrome-free tanning innately.
  • Eco-Friendly Sheepskin™ process liquors not recycled can be safely discharged into fluent treatment plants. Chemicals used in Eco-Friendly Sheepskin™ do not interfere with the physical, chemical and biological treatment systems.
You can buy them here or find a local store (NOTE: only some of their boots are made from the eco-friendly stuff, so look for the logo in the description) :

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Pretty. Sparkly. Energy Efficient.

I am a crow at heart – I am completely mesmerized by sparkly, shiny objects. So, the holidays are always an exciting – and slightly distracting – time for me, as I stop to ogle my neighbors’ Christmas trees, all lit up in their fine domestic glory.

Unfortunately, at the same time, my environmentalist conscience is loudly screeching, “what a waste of energy!” Ouch. But, it’s true. It is a – very pretty - waste of energy. No one needs Christmas lights. But that is, as they say, neither here nor there. Christmas lights are part of our traditions. And it somehow warms the soul to walk down a cold, dark street and see trees lit up in windows.

But, folks let’s be responsible. Here are some thoughts:

  1. Don’t be tacky. First of all, over-lighting your tree or your property is TACKY. There, I said it. You do not need the mechanical reindeer in your front yard. You do not need to hang fake blue icicles off your roof or wrap all your shrubs in strings of large white bulbs. Limit your lighting to a few well-chosen strings on your tree and maybe a few wrapped around your staircase, or a few candles in your windows. It will look classy and you will use less energy. (Look here for what NOT to do – UGH!)
  2. Turn them off. Don’t keep everything lit 24-7. There is no need. The effect is much nicer in the evening. Turn them on for an hour or two in the evenings. You can buy a timer for your lights – and you won’t have to worry about it. They are sold in most hardware stores or pick one up at Greater Goods on U Street.
  3. Use LED Christmas lights. LEDs are Light Emitting Diodes (you don’t need to remember that). They are made from tiny chips that directly convert electricity to light without the use of a filament or glass bulb. It’s like magic. Okay, actually, it’s like science, but the most important thing to know is they burn longer, they burn brighter, they burn much cooler (preventing the risk of fire from a dry tree) and THEY USE LESS ENERGY.

Important note: I am not saying that you should toss all your existing lights in the trash and rush out to buy LEDs. (You know I would never tell you that – I hate waste.) If you already have traditional lights, just use them wisely, use them less. If you are looking for new lights or more lights, buy the LEDs. You can find them right now at Home Rule on 14th St, NW and Eco-Green, which is a block away from Whole Foods on P St., NW in DC. I think some CVS stores are also carrying them. They are priced from $6.99 (at CVS for a short strand) to $24 for a 24 ft. strand. They come in several colors, shapes and sizes.

Happy lighting!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Green Your Holidays

Some easy tips from Co-op America (I love them!) - with some notes by me:

During the holiday season, waste disposal increases 25% in the United States, causing an extra 5 billion pounds of waste in the landfills according to the Medical University of South Carolina. Plus, travelers will be logging tons of miles and creating tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

Here are tips to help you plan ahead to reduce your waste and green your gift giving this year.

1. Don't Buy Wrapping Paper
Reuse old wrapping paper or put your gifts in reusable bags or boxes. Be creative about giving old materials new life-scraps of fabric, magazines, or calendars make great patchwork bags or collage wrapping paper. [I like to turn brown shopping bags inside out or use newspaper and decorate the packages with lovely, reusable, fabric ribbon. It's also fun to cut out letters from magazines and use them to address the gifts or write something personal. Très chic, très belle.]

2. Send Tree-free Holiday Cards
Search the National Green Pages for cards made from kenapf, hemp, and other tree-free resources. Or, send e-cards and avoid the wait at the post office for stamps. [I personally like actual cards, but I never get my butt around to getting them in the mail on time. Plus, do you really have all your friends' actual addresses? But everyone has emails!]

3. Hold a Zero Waste Holiday Party
Host a zero-waste party. Minimize the garbage by asking people to bring their own cups, plates and utensils if you don't have enough of your own. Use fabric tablecloths and napkins. Then be sure to recycle any post-party cans and bottles and compost food scaps. [My zero-waste holiday party is coming this Saturday. I will add some tips on throwing your own later this week.]

4. Consider the Lifecycle of Electronic Gifts
Some of the most popular gift items for children and teens are electronics like computers, video games, and music devices. But the manufacturing and disposal of these items creates significant human health and environmental hazards. To learn more about the environmental impact of computers and electronic devices, check out the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. The Recycled Video Games Network is a great resource to dispose of old equipment or buy recycled games and systems for less, reducing the amount of new materials made.

5. Give Gifts from the Heart
Instead of spending money on commercial goods, give the gift of your time and talent to loved ones this year. Offer to make dinner, walk the dog, help with gardening or home repairs, or invite friends over for Fair Trade coffee and tea. [If any of my friends reading this want to gift me with dog-sitting, give me a call!! ; ) ]

6. Green Your Holiday Travel
If you are one of the many people planning to log a lot of travel miles this holiday season, don't forget to look into green options for getting around. Better World Travel Club can help you offset the carbon emissions from your travel through their Travel Cool program. Plus, Co-op America has partnered with Native Energy to help you offset your energy impact, including travel impact, fund the production of more wind energy, and generate support Co-op America's Green Energy program.

8. Buy Green Gifts
If you choose to give presents over the holidays, shop with green businesses listed in the National Green Pages. This year, a number of green businesses are offering special discounts to make green gift giving even easier. Check out our Green Gift Catalog. [Better yet, buy green gifts LOCALLY! Look for my eco-gift guide later this week.]

9. Avoid Toys Made with PVC plastic
70% of PVC is used in construction, but it is also found in everyday plastics, including some children’s toys. Vinyl chloride, the chemical used to make PVC, is a known human carcinogen. Also, additives, such as lead and cadmium, are sometimes added to PVC to keep it from breaking down; these additives can be particularly dangerous in children’s toys. PVC is also the least recycled plastic. Find safe toys in the National Green Pages™ »

10. Recycle Packaging From Gifts
To reduce environmental impacts, it is important to recycle all cardboard packaging. Also, reuse peanuts or other Styrofoam packing that comes with gifts or purchases as these items will not de-compost in a landfill (EVAH.) but can be used over and over again for packaging and shipping. The National Green Pages™ contains several listings for easy drop-off centers for both types of waste.

Monday, December 3, 2007

This is Serious. This is Local. Please Read.

This morning, I woke up to a report on NPR on The 2007 State of the Chesapeake Bay Report and the news was not good, folks. In fact, it was awful. Of the 13 measurements used to determine improvements in the Bay’s “health” none had improved and 3 had gotten worse than last year. The Bay is the largest estuary in the United States. It lies off the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by Maryland and Virginia. The Chesapeake Bay's watershed covers 64,299 square miles in the District of Columbia and part of six states: New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. More than 150 rivers and streams drain into the Bay.

Many of you have vacationed on the Bay, driven over it on the way to the shore, maybe even eaten crabs or oysters from it. But the Bay is in serious trouble. Serious. Trouble.


Growing urban development and suburban sprawl are adding to the pressures on the Bay. That means you. Yes, you. And here are some things that you absolutely must do ASAP to help save the Bay.

DRIVE LESS (already!). I know a yoga teacher who drives her SUV 6 blocks to teach class!! I know neighbors who drive to our local farmer’s market even though it is only a 15 minute walk. Don’t be like them. The Baltimore-Washington region has the nation's second worst traffic and ozone problems. Vehicle exhaust contributes more than one-third of all the nitrogen pollution entering the Bay from the air. Walk, carpool, take the metro, be strategic about your car use and combine trips. Get a bike – it will do wonders for your ass, I swear.

Reduce the transportation emissions from transporting your little goodies to your home. Yeah, so the Fedex guy is cute, but absence makes the heart grow fonder. Try to buy local produce. This is easier at other times of the year since most of the farmers’ markets in DC are open. However, the DuPont Farmer’s Market and Eastern Market are open year-round – both a minute from a metro stop. Even Whole Foods advertises “its commitment to local farmers” – if you don’t see local produce at your local Whole Foods, march straight up to the customer service desk and ask that they carry some. (PS – Read this great article from Slate about Whole Foods and Local farmers.)

. For God’s sake, are you really still using all that toxic, synthetic crap to clean your house? C’mon now - it is almost the year 2008. Many of these products contain harmful chemicals such as chlorine bleach, ammonia, petrochemicals, and VOC's – which often end up in the water supply, which ends up emptying into the Bay. There are plenty of natural cleaners out there to clean your home. If you are more thrifty (like me, your partially employed blogger) you can make your own from simple ingredients like Borax, baking soda and lemon juice. Find some recipes here.

By reducing your use of water, you help wastewater treatment plants function more effectively by reducing the volume they process. Take shorter showers and save that bath only for special occasions. (Check out the NAVY SHOWER directions here.) Turn off the water while you’re brushing your teeth, washing your hands, or doing dishes in the sink (this is SO EASY, but many people – even me – forget to do it). Run your laundry and dishwasher ONLY when full. If you have one or two things to wash – do it by hand and hang them up to air dry – fluff for a few minutes in the dryer (if you MUST) to or just run an iron over it. Install a flush minimizer (buy it locally, within walking distance to a metro, at Greater Goods at 1626 U Street, Washington DC.) Or, you can always use the old California stand-by, the “Selective Flush”.

You see that trash on your street? Do you know what happens to it if no one picks it up? It doesn’t just magically disappear. It goes into the storm drain with the next rain and then goes directly into a local stream or river, which eventually empties into the Chesapeake Bay. So those plastic bottles (that should really be in someone’s recycling bin) and foam containers end up in the Bay. And they do not decompose. Evah. They kill wildlife because animals eat them or become entangled in them. So pick up the trash on your block. Get together a group of neighbors and have a clean up day – serve cider and munchies. Wear cute hats. Flirt with your handsome neighbor. (And no, it is absolutely, positively not your fault that your neighbors are complete and total idiots that don’t know what a trash can is or how to use it. There, there. I relate. Seriously.)

For more on the Chesapeake Bay, visit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thoughts on Gift-Giving

I have a complicated relationship with gifts. I grew up in a house where gifts were incredibly important and were often used as a tool for resolving issues or problems. If my mother and I had a fight (which happened often throughout my youth), I would, inevitably, receive some sort of item from her as a sign that she wanted to move on from whatever we had been arguing about. Obviously, this was significantly easier for a child (and adolescent) to deal with (“Oh! The new Guess jeans!! Thanks Mom!”) than trying to delve into the reasons for the complicated and volatile relationship that I had with my mother. It was also easier than confronting my own behaviors – why was I lying to my parents? Why was I drinking so much? It was obviously much easier for her, as well. Gift given. Issue resolved.

But my mother has always been an incredibly talented gift giver. She catches the slightest glimmer of interest, picks up on needs or desires that aren’t even apparent yet, seeks out the newest trends, puts real creativity into gift-wrapping. When things were tough for our family one year, I remember her being sincerely apologetic about not being able to buy better gifts for 9 year old me. It was like she had somehow let me down. (This was before credit cards allowed her to never let anyone else down in the gift department.)

When we lived in the Soviet Union (now Russia) before immigrating to the US, we celebrated New Year’s Eve with a tree and gifts – very much like Americans do with Christmas. The atheist government had outlawed religious celebrations of Christmas (along with outlawing Christmas in general). But the people needed celebrations and, so, New Year’s Eve took the place of Christmas. We continued this when we moved to the US. New Year’s has always been about grand gifts, an elaborately set table, more food than was necessary, and my mother having her yearly glass (or three) of champagne. My mother always valued objects and fashion – it is probably because she had so little access to anything in the USSR, even as a more privileged child of a Soviet government family. She treasured the smallest gifts – and still does. A few years ago she told me a childhood story about a pair of colored tights given to her by a camp-mate from Europe – something that she could never have gotten inside the country - still with a sparkle of longing in her eyes.

We still celebrate New Year’s Eve with my family. This is incredibly convenient as my partner and I can easily spend time with both families around the holidays without much issue. And it is still a big event in terms of gift-giving. I asked my mom if, on the occasion of her credit card debt almost getting the best of her recently (and the impending global environmental crisis), if she might like to forego presents this year. She answered, “but it wouldn’t be a “prasneek” (holiday celebration) without presents!”

My point in sharing all this, is that I will not tell you that you must give up gift-giving at Christmas. Holidays and gifts are, for many of us, emotionally tied to other times, other desires, other memories. Gifts are part of our rituals, our most intimate celebrations. But what you should know is that you CAN buy eco-friendly gifts for everyone on your list. Next week I will do a DC eco-gift guide: presents for everyone on your list – all within walking distance from a metro (to reduce your carbon footprint, of course). There are also SO many online resources now. Here are just a few:

And check out Treehugger’s gift guide for 2007.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Eco-neurosis: Shaving or Waxing?

This is an example of the kinds of things that plague my mind on a daily basis: What is more sustainable: Shaving or Waxing?

I was pondering this the other evening as I was tackling my leg stubble. So, shaving is bad because the razors are made from petroleum-based plastics, the packaging is plastic and shaving makes your hair grow back in thicker and faster, so you have to do it more often and use more razors. It helps if you don’t use disposable shavers and just replace the blades, but the blades still end up in the trash.

If you wax, there are a few other things to consider. For example, what are the ingredients in the wax? Most likely, they are pretty icky, like “Yellow 11” (unless you use a sugar based type). In addition, most of the removal strips (who knows what they’re made from – maybe cotton) out there are not reusable and end up in the landfill. There is also the packaging. I have been using Nad’s strips recently, which come in a cardboard box. Other waxing products come in plastic jars or plastic tubes or plastic roll-on applicators. If you get waxed in a salon, it can also get pretty expensive (less $$ for organic veggies!!). On the other hand, waxing allows you to deal with hair removal less because, for most people, the hair grows back lighter.

There are definitely other ways of handling unwanted hair of course. There is electrolysis or laser hair removal, which I think is probably most sustainable because the hair is not supposed to grow back at all. (This path has always disturbed me. I think, "what if I wanted hairy legs at some point in the future. I couldn't reverse it!") The other OBVIOUS option is just going au natural and ignoring the social pressure. It's actually kind of neat to feel your leg hair rustling in the breeze. If that idea just made you cringe, and you can't afford the expensive options, there are still some things out there to make your hair removal experience more sustainable. For one thing, you can make your own sugar-based waxing substance. I actually remember my Russian friend Oleg telling me about in college – that his mother and sister swore by the stuff. Here is recipe I found on the internet. It is supposed to work very much like Nad’s, which I really like.


Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
clean cloth cotton strips
wooden stick or spreader
Dust the area to be waxed, with cornstarch. Combine the first three ingredients in a clean glass bowl, and microwave for two minutes. Stop and stir your sugar mixture every 20-30 seconds. Let it cool to a comfortable warmth, and, using a wooden stick, spread a very thin layer onto your clean skin. Immediately cover the mixture with a strip of cotton fabric. Briskly stroke the strip several times in the direction of the hair growth, and then, pull the skin taut, and quickly rip away the cotton strip,
against the direction of hair growth. As you proceed, you may need to reheat your sugar mixture in the microwave to keep it warm. Do not boil it or overheat as you could easily burn your skin.

If the DIY method is too much work for you (it can get a little messy), there are premade versions out there. Check out Moom’s Organic Hair Removal at or Parissa Body Sugar also at Or, if your pain tolerance is less than that required for waxing, you can purchase the Preserve razors with recycled handles composed of at least 65% recycled Stonyfield Farm yogurt containers, and with blades that are replaceable. Buy it directly from the company here.

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