Friday, December 31, 2010

When You Wish Upon A (Times Square) Ball

Last night, John did a comedy show in Times Square. The day before New Year's Eve and the area was already a complete zoo. It took us longer to get from the subway to the theater than from our apartment to Times Square.

Thousands of tourists were wandering around, staring at the giant crystal ball, or rather, where the giant crystal ball was going to be placed on top of the lovely Toshiba sign. Although right now the only thing that was dropping was people's resistance to buying those awful plastic hats and other accoutrements which are required for New Year's Eve.

I have actually never taken part in this New York City tradition. At one time I thought it would be a cool idea but as I get older, the idea of being trapped in a space with no bathrooms surrounded by thousands of people has pretty much lost its appeal.

Bathrooms and crowds aside, I was curious to learn just how eco-friendly this ball drop would be.

The Waterford Crystal Ball which weighs in at over 11,000 pounds, is illuminated with over 32,000 Philips LED lights. That was encouraging.

I also found out that Duracell will be illuminating the "2011" numerals with human power for the third year in a row! How is this done you ask? Last year, my good friend Audrey, her daughter Mackenzie and me rode stationary bikes that were set up in Duracell's Power Lab in Times Square. Each push of the pedal captures our energy and converts it into power.

So far, so good! But then . . .

Thanks to Carnival Cruise, there is a big wishing wall in Times Square where thousands of visitors can leave their hopes and dreams for 2011.

On an official piece of 2011 confetti.

And at the stroke of midnight, one TON of these wishes will be dropped on Times Square.

I'm sorry...I just have to catch my breath for a second.


That's one ton of paper falling to slushy, post-blizzard streets, clearly unable to be recycled. That's 24 trees that will no longer get to have their branches blow in the wind. All to say Happy New Year! (More like Crappy New Year)

I boycotted the wishing wall and vowed to make my wish on the crystal ball as it hits the "2011" numerals. Eco-friendly and magical.

I leave you with this...

Tonight at midnight
Anticipate with delight!
Forgo the confetti
And have your wish ready
For 2011
Will bring nothing but heaven!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ornaments On The Tree

Even as a child, in the not-so-green 1970's, I remember traditions that helped make a Green Christmas.

My mom would bundle up my sister and me and take us for a walk down the block to Mrs. Randall's house. Mrs. Randall was an older woman who had a tree farm. She also was the only person in the neighborhood who would hand out apples on Halloween.

The four of us (mom, dad, Melissa and me) would pick out our tree (which I'm fairly certain wasn't covered with pesticides) and take it home, where my dad would then secure it to the bannister for dear life. (This was the result of my cousins and I running around our living room one December evening and knocking over the tree. Our parents came back from a night on the town to find all of their precious decorations in pieces on the floor.)

My mom would get our ornaments from the attic and my sister and I would run to the box and argue over which ones were ours.

We carefully hung each ornament, reminiscing about where it came from and fighting for prime front-of-the-tree real estate. Early on, my mom and dad made up a rule that was pretty eco-friendly -- only ornaments with meaning could go on the tree.

The ones I remember most clearly were the angels. Mine was green, Melissa's was pink. Although even that was debatable. They were gifts from my grandmother.

We had antique ornaments -- the kind made from glass -- from our neighbors, The Jobin's. They were very delicate and only mom was allowed to hang those up.

As we got older, my parents started a new tradition. Each year, we'd get an ornament representing something from that year. Like the year I went to Ireland with my mom and she got me a lamb. It's a tradition that I continue with my niece and nephew.

Our magnificent tree towered above us, its festive branches protecting us and our gifts while each ornament -- and its memories -- glowed from the lights. We marvelled at our tree every chance we got.

As the years went on, our real tree was replaced by a fake one because of my sister's asthma. Now we know that a fake tree is worse than a real one because of all the BPA's and formaldehyde used to make it.

Now in New York City, my Christmas trees come from city sidewalks. Temporary forests magically appear outside drug stores and Starbucks. This year, John and I went to find one in the arbor outside a local deli. Actually, I had already picked it out. It was this big, round, fat Fraser fir that I had seen on the corner for weeks. It was meant for us. Every time I passed it, it said, "Take me home!" (And "Don't settle for the asking price!")

The salesman saw how much I loved it and gave us a great deal. Like Upper East Side Paul Bunyans (or so we thought), we declined to wrap the tree in plastic (of course) and shlepped our new green friend four blocks to our building, where we carried it up six flights to our apartment. Once inside, we realized we had the perfect tree . . . and the smallest stand.

I went back to the nursery-deli to buy a bigger one. Our salesman looked both ways and told me to take it . . . his boss wasn't there. I thanked him profusely! We now call him Deli Claus.
Every night I lay on my couch and gaze at the ornaments. A penguin in a pink tutu from my dear friend Ruth in Ireland. A glittered sea shell from a trip to Florida to visit my family. A giant Paddington Bear - my most favorite bear of all. And a personal favorite -- a giant sequined ball with a snowman on it, taken when I was living in Washington, DC during a visit to see the National Christmas Tree. Many of the ornaments had fallen and broken and this was one of the ones we salvaged.

These ornaments allow me to remember my mom, dad, sister, good friends and memorable trips that have contributed to our special tree.

And every night I wander over to Mrs. Randall's house in my mind and remember the amazing childhood Christmases that I was blessed with.

I wish you all the greenest of holidays with lots of memories!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Picture Perfect Packages

One year, my mom gave me a photo album for Christmas. It's a cardboard album, kind of like a children's board book. It's red with a Christmasy design on the cover and a green satin ribbon that ties it together. Every year I put a picture of John, me and Bailey in it representing that particular year's Christmas.

I love pulling it out and looking through it but this year, I realized I forgot to add 2009's picture.

I went online to the Kodak Gallery where I store many of my pictures that I want to print and found the perfect one. I ordered it immediately.

A couple of days later at work, I was informed that I had a package. I went downstairs to our receiving dock and was handed a good-sized box. 12" x 10" x 1", to be exact.

I hadn't ordered anything so I couldn't figure out what it was. An early Christmas present perhaps?

I got it back to my office and opened it. Inside was a piece of heavy-duty cardboard covered in plastic wrap. I opened it and removed a blank, yellow piece of paper that had been resting against the cardboard. What was behind the piece of paper was appalling.

Behind the piece of paper was my Christmas picture. A 4" x 6" picture, to be exact.

I immediately went to Kodak's website and filed a complaint with their customer service.

After waiting for a response for almost three days, I finally received an email. After a token "we're sorry" and "we'll pass off your complaint to the powers that be," they blamed their packaging on the US Postal Service! They clearly weren't aware that the US Postal Service actually strives for a green footprint!

No, no. They weren't getting off this easy.

I wrote back. This was not acceptable! What were they going to do? They were at risk of losing a customer.

Two weeks went by. No response.

And then...I heard from them.

More token apologies for my inconvenience. MY inconvenience? How about the tree's inconvenience?!

They further explained how they strive to have your photos arrive safely. Really? I've ordered from other photo websites. Wouldn't a simple cardboard or padded envelope have sufficed?

The next paragraph: "You might consider our level of packaging to be way above standards, when compared to others within the industry. Please note that this is done to assure the overall safety of your placed order."

Above standards? What standards? I just want my small, flat picture!

They ended by "understanding my concerns," forwarding the email to their labs and offering me a $5 coupon on a future order. Don't think I'll be taking them up on that. Can you imagine how five pictures would be packaged? I'd need a cab for the box to get home!

After this atrocity, I started to re-think my shipping methods. Of course Christmas is the time for exchanging presents with loved ones near and far. And I, like many, will be shipping gifts.

So instead of buying boxes, I've been taking boxes from work. Not new ones! Ones that our orders were shipped in...reused.

I'm also cutting down on my wrapping paper supplies. During the holiday season, Americans will throw away approximately 4 million tons of wrapping paper and shopping bags.

This year, think of creative ways to wrap your presents. How about wrapping your gift in a brand new dish towel or a comfy sweater? Or use the funny pages, paper bags from the grocery store or recycled wrapping paper.

Regardless of what you use, make sure to reuse or recycle it and don’t forget to bring along your reusable bag on your holiday shopping spree!

But please don't send 4" x 6" good wishes in a 12" x 10" package!

Happy shopping (and shipping)!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Shopping in a Greener Wonderland

This past weekend, the Holiday Market in Union Square opened. There is a holiday market in Bryant Park, one in Grand Central and one in Columbus Circle, but this is my favorite as it has the most booths and I've been very lucky in the past finding fun, eco gifts.

I dragged John down there to help me go on my green expedition.

Or so he thought.

I really dragged him down there to give him ideas of what he could get me for Christmas.

I could barely contain myself as we made our way into the maze of red and white striped kiosks.

Hats, chess boards, hot apple cider and Turkish tiles. Nothing eco yet. Puppets, wooden cutting boards (not sustainable wood), ornaments. Zilch. Where were the green booths?

As we turned a corner, I saw a giant painting of a guy catching a wave on his surfboard. AH!

I grabbed John's sleeve and pulled him over there, almost tripping on a small child.

The painting was in a booth from She Hit Pause Studios. The photographer, Matt Schwartz, was there and I noticed he had several surfing paintings among other interesting pieces like a girl pulling a wagon full of record albums and one of bougainvillia flowers.

I struck up a conversation. Turns out, these weren't paintings but Polaroid photographs that he stretches and then transfers onto water color paper, creating a unique effect.

He travels the world and in between photo shoots, he grabs a wave (or two).

John and I looked through every one of his pieces and each one was more beautiful than the one before it.

It was hard to decide which surfing one I liked best. Was it the girl paddling out? Or the group waiting for the perfect wave with pelicans hovering above them?

I strongly suggested to John that one of them would be the perfect present. I figured I could let him decide as there should be some element of surprise!

As we were about to leave, Matt told me how he donated some of his work to a green school in Mexico and that he was hoping to volunteer there. I became instantly jealous. This is how I should be living my life. (

I thanked him, told him we'd return and we were on our way to discover the next eco booth.

We didn't have to walk far before we stumbled upon an old favorite, Engage Green. I found them several years ago and have many of their products, including my favorite make-up bag made from recycled paper and a messenger bag made from recycled plastic bottles. I was very excited to see their 2010-2011 line of products which included a very fun red backpack. (

I was feeling good, still high on the surfing photographs. At this point, John was overwhelmed by the sea of kiosks and I knew he needed a quick fix...of glühwein. This mulled wine is a German holiday specialty. Here in its non-alcoholic condition it was more like a really good hot grape juice.

My quick fix was from the organic chocolate shop called NibMor. The most amazing, delicious, creamy cup of hot chocolate you'll ever taste. I'm drooling just thinking about it. (

Down the aisle a bit was it's counter-part, MissTea. An array of organic teas that serve everything from the common cold to relaxing before bed. It's sold in simple glass jars that make for the perfect eco gift. (

As we made our way through, we ended our journey at Copa Soaps. Again, an old favorite, their handmade, all natural soaps smell incredible while give a gentle exfoliation and a fantastic clean. This time, we went home with Ginger Carrot. (
It was a successful mission and I got some great gift ideas for the wonderful people in my life.

As for me, I know the idea is to "reduce" but even a die-hard greenie like myself likes to open something on Christmas day. And what better present than a useful gift which supports a local artisan who is also respecting the environment?

I hope the glühwein didn't go to John's head and he'll remember what I showed him.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanks-greening!

When I was young, Thanksgiving was one of my favorite holidays. It was always spent with my family (mom, dad, and Melissa), my uncle's family (George, Carol, John and Shannon) and my grandmother ("Babi" (pronounced Bobby) - Polish for grandmother).

After dinner, the kids would quickly exit the table. There were some serious games of hide and seek, Barbies or Star Wars but as we got older, the kids would head off to the movies to see the latest holiday release.

Every year, one thing was for certain...there would always be a good laugh.

One particular year, my mom had redone the house and took everyone on a tour, proudly showing off the new curtains she had just made for my sister's bedroom. After the tour, we made our way downstairs to the table.

By this time, everyone was quite ready for the turkey which had filled the house with that great Thanksgiving smell and had been sitting on the table just waiting to be eaten.

We all filled our plates, eager to dig in.

But even as our stomachs cried out for the food, the key was to create the perfect first bite.

A little turkey, a dollop of mashed potatoes, a taste of the green bean casserole, a bit of cranberry sauce and finally, a dip into the gravy.

Our forks quickly found their way to our salivating mouths when my mother said...

"If anyone's is cold, let me know".


And then my grandmother lifted her plate from the table and announced "Well, mine is!"

We all looked at each other and held up our plates as well.

I miss those days very much, especially now that my mom, Sheila, and my Uncle George are no longer with us.

Back then, our turkey wasn't organic, our vegetables came from cans (that I'm sure were coated in BPA) and our milk wasn't from grass-fed cows.

Today, if my mom were still with us, I'm sure I would be saturating her brain with information on organic foods, locally grown foods, BPA's and anti-biotics...and she would soak it up like a sponge.

This year, I will be spending my Thanksgiving with John's family in Tarrytown. His mom, Maryann, has informed me that their turkey will be organic along with organic veggies!

Here are some things that you can do to green up your Thanksgiving:

1. Buy only as much as you need and carry it home in your reusable bags.

2. Recycle what you can.

3. Choose an organic or anti-biotic free turkey. (Local turkeys are the best!)

4. Choose as many local and organic fruits and vegetables as you can (and if you need to use canned food, look for BPA-free cans)

5. Use real plates and utensils instead of paper and plastic and wash them in the dishwasher which uses less water.

and finally,
6. Give much thanks for the people around your table. Cherish each one of them.

I would like to give my deepest thanks to all of you. I love your comments and your willingness to take this green journey with me every week.

Have a Happy (and green) Thanksgiving!

Picture Notes:
-Mom on our trip to Ireland, one month before her last Thanksgiving.
-The Marshall Family Thanksgiving Day table.
-John in front of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Earth Balloon - Thanksgiving Eve, 2007

Sunday, November 14, 2010

America Recycles Day!

Today is America Recycles Day!

Your most likely are aware that our landfills are overflowing. Overflowing with objects that can take 500 years to decompose. Overflowing with food scraps that give off methane gas (more potent than carbon dioxide) as they decay. Overflowing with trash that finds its way into our rivers and oceans killing our marine life.

But you can help! Every item you leave out of your trash makes a difference.

We're all familiar with the easy stuff -- glass, aluminum, plastic and paper. But what those odds and ends that you're not quite sure what to do with? What about those things you didn't know could be recycled?

For instance...

Have you been throwing away your old eye glasses? "Recycling" those bottle caps? Trashing those ripped socks?


There is a place for all those just have to know how to find it!

Old Electronics - Look for an e-waste event in your area. Google "e-waste recycling" with the name of your city and you will get a list of recycling centers and events in your area. E-waste is usually limited to computers monitors, printers, scanners, fax machines, copiers, routers, hubs, modems, TV's, VCR's, DVD players, A/V equipment, cell phones, pagers and PDA's.

Eye glasses - The Lions Clubs collect used eye glasses then clean, sort and distribute them to people in need in developing countries.

Old Clothes - We all know you can take your old clothing to Goodwill or Salvation Army, but what about those socks where you can now see your beautiful little pedicured pinky toe? The t-shirt that has so many holes, it woudn't be fit for a lazy Sunday lying on the couch? Cut them up and use them as rags around the house. They're great for dusting and wiping up spills.

Old Towels and Sheets - Donate them to your local animal shelter. They wash and use them in the animal's cages. Some shelters will even take old t-shirts.

Brita Filters, Yogurt containers and all #5 Plastics - Most recycling programs don't accept #5 plastics because it's too expensive to recycle them -- but Preserve does. Preserve is a great company that makes razors, toothbrushes, plates, utensils, collanders and other products from #5 plastics. Click here to find your nearest Gimme 5 recycling box.

Bottle Caps - This is another one of those things that most recycling programs don't accept. Aveda will take them off your hands and turn them into new caps for their products. And sometimes, if you get a nice sales person, they'll reward you with a free sample or neck massage!

Finally, I've found that Earth 911 is an excellent resource for all your recycling questions and needs. And I recently found this website, "A Million Ways to Go Green" which has a page dedicated to the most important things to recycle.

So before you go to bed tonight, as yourself "What did I recycle today?" Whatever it was, you helped to Keep America Beautiful!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

America Recycles Day - Monday, November 15th

Old Electronics. Paper. Plastic. Aluminum Foil. Old Pots & Pans. Plastic Bags. #5 Plastics. Old Clothes. Old Towels. Old Sheets. Used Brita Filters.

Collect them all this weekend and I'll tell you how you can particpate in America Recycles Day on Monday, November 15th...take the pledge!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Plastic Sandwiches and Drumsticks

When I found out there was going to be a green event at Biz Bash (the yearly special events expo for event and meeting planners) I felt like banging on a drum. Literally.

Fortunately, this turned out not to be a problem.

A group of percussionists were promoting their business at the expo. They would come to your place of business and lead you in some sort of rhythmic activity. It seemed like it was Stomp meets The Office.

They handed out drumsticks to everyone who came by and invited them to play on chairs, drums or whatever was in their path. It was fun. It was cool. But I couldn't wait for the green session.

Or so I thought.

It was called "Do You Measure Up? The New Measurement Standards for Green Events." Not the sexiest title, but hey - green measurement standards are my favorite kind of measurement standards.

I arrived early to get the best seat, eager to absorb all of the innovative green concepts.

The head of the conference came in to introduce our speaker and mentioned that because it was a green event, all their presentations would be available as downloads only . . . no paper handouts!

The speaker stepped up to the mic. She was from Wisconsin. "Oh, good" I thought. Wisconsin must be green, with all its mountains and cheese.

Then she began speaking. In initials. CMP. MPI. ISES. These were the certifications and organizations for event planners.

I began to get twitchy in my seat. This was not interesting. What about the measurement standards?

"Event planners all over the world are moving towards greener events."

Yes! Here we go.

She said London's Olympics would be the greenest ever. Canada was creating an official green certification process for event planners. And the U.S. was doing . . . nothing.

She then thanked us and left the stage.

That was it? The greenest thing I had experienced since getting there was the carpet.

I moved on to the showroom which was filled with caterers, florists, and entertainers. There had to be something green in there.

The first caterer I stumbled upon was the DJ Caterer. This was a guy who played music while serving BBQ pork sandwiches on non-recyclable CD jewel cases. I gave him credit for his creativity. I hesitated as I took the sandwich and wanted to give it back when I realized how wasteful this was going to be, but I had already touched it. So I took the jewel case and tucked it in my bag and recycled it when I got home.

Lunch was next. A plastic container had a sandwich wrapped in plastic, plastic forks wrapped in more plastic and several plastic condiment packets. I don't know which had more plastic, the sandwiches at lunch or the sandwiches on the DJ's CD boxes.

As lunch ended, I watched as all this plastic was being thrown away. Trash cans full of brochures, lunches, food. It was their own mini-landfill.

To take a break from it all, I went back to the percussionists. They were a great group and a lot of fun.

After they gave you the drumsticks, you could keep them as souvenirs. Or you could throw them in the trash. Which is where I saw them. Dozens! Drumsticks that could have been left for others or donated to someone who wanted them. But these drumsticks had been tossed aside like . . . toothpicks.

My head was spinning and I started to see spots. Not green ones. These planners were all buying into this wasteful culture.

I left feeling disappointed. But rather than be defeated, I went back to the office (with my drumsticks) and started pounding out my own plan. To reduce waste, incorporate recycling and bring green awareness to our events.

I realized that you don't need a green measurement standard event to go green. It would have been nice, but if you use a little creativity, like DJ Wasteful Plastic and Pork did, you can always measure up.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Confessions of a Farmers Market Shopper

A confession: I am a recovering non-healthy food shopper.

Before I went green, I avoided healthy places like the plague (if you can call a health food store a plague). I wasn't used to them and didn't trust them. When John and I lived in L.A., our apartment complex included the Erewhon health food supermarket, one of the best in the country. It scared me so much I forbade John to shop there. (He told me later that he used to sneak in and buy one or two things so I wouldn't find out.)

Now I do as much organic shopping as possible, but old habits die hard. When we lived ten blocks from Union Square, we almost never went to the farmers market, even though we loved it. Now that we live way uptown we go even less.

Three weeks ago, however, we fell in love with all the delicious locally grown food we bought at a Farmers Market in . . . New Jersey (we were visiting friends). I decided if I could bring vegetables back from the Jersey shore, I could get on the subway and go back to Union Square.

So this past Saturday, I went back and found . . . it was still an ordeal. While I love being surrounded by all the fresh fruits and veggie, I still hate the crowds. Every square inch is covered with lettuce, potatoes and people. And I'm not sure all the people are organic.

In the past I've never been sure exactly what to buy at a farmers market. Or even how much for that matter. Each stand is filled with crazy looking, root-type veggies with names like celeriac or rutabagas. I thought a rutabaga was something people drove in the 30's.

But Saturday, I had a different experience. I decided to embrace the process and conquer my inner non-organic shopper.

I took my time, took in all the sights and smells and patiently made my way over to each stand. I picked things up, smelled them, thought about what I might do with them and found myself standing with a parsnip in one hand and a bunch of kale in the other.

With no idea of how I wanted my food to taste, I decided to go for how it would look - I went for amazing colors. I grabbed red onions, blue potatoes, rainbow carrots! If nothing else, my plate would look like there should be a pot of gold at the end of it.

I took all my beautiful finds home and spread them out on my counter. I took a photo. And then I panicked. What had I done? How was I going to eat these visuals?

My friend Jules had taught me some recipes, so I pulled out my cutting board. I started to chop and slice, throwing everything into a bowl. I took out two chicken breasts, drizzled agave on top and laid them in a casserole dish. I scooped in all the veggies around the chicken - the rainbow carrots, the parsnip, the bright red onions and garlic. I coated them with olive oil, masala and curry powders and then roasted it for an hour in a 400 degree oven. What came out of the oven surprised me. It was like getting a delicious, fragrant, pat on the back from the farmers market!

The next morning, I used some more of my farmers market ingredients for breakfast. I sliced up blue potatoes, diced the most tear-jerking onions ever and roasted those babies for an hour. Then I took my farm-fresh eggs, some more onions and peccorino cheese and made a kick-ass omelet that was so healthy a doctor would prescribe it. Everything was so fresh! I declared my lifetime membership in my local diner over.

I couldn't remember what I had been so afraid of. Loss of convenience? Greater expense? I didn't experience either of those. I realized what I was afraid of was leaving the comfort zone. But I had found something better. And tastier.

As I looked I my plate, I realized that I really did get my pot of gold...not one filled with coins but one filled with good health for me!

Friday, October 15, 2010

How Much Water Are You Wearing?


That's the topic of today's Blog Action Day -- an annual event in which bloggers from all over the world post about the same issue to raise awareness and trigger discussion about a topic that affects all of us.

Water is already one of my favorite topics.

So today I decided to wear 400 gallons of it.

How, exactly? A big bowl that fits over my head? A dress with special compartments filled with the clear stuff?

I don't have to get that complicated. I just have to throw on a plain, cotton t-shirt.

Yep...according to Treehugger, that's about how much water it takes to grow the cotton to make one cotton t-shirt: 400 gallons.

Hard to believe, right?

Between my husband and I, we have over 40 cotton t-shirts, which means we have used 16,000 gallons of water. Never mind drinking, brushing our teeth, flushing the toilet or cooking. This was just for souvenirs from old Dylan and Duran Duran concerts.

I freaked. This is me we're talking about. The one that yells at the people in the bathroom for running the water. The one that complains about guys hosing down sidewalks on a rainy day. And here I am with a chest of drawers that holds enough water to fill over 33 hot tubs! [Note: avg. hot tub holds 475 gallons]

And it's not just our clothing that's a problem.

According to the Blog Action Day website:

-38,000 children under the age of 5 die from unsafe drinking water all over the world.

-A lack of water contributes to poverty, with parents and children too ill or too busy collecting water to go to school and work.

-Nearly one billion people lack basic access to safe drinking water.

-Even though people in the US have access to clean water from their taps, they drink an average of 200 bottles of water per person each year. Over 17 million barrels of oil are needed to manufacture those water bottles, 86 percent of which will never be recycled.

We take water for granted. It's something that is always there for us and we use it as if it were an unlimited resource...but it's not.

So the next time I go to a concert and want to take home a Simon LeBon T-shirt, I'll think, do I also need to be taking home all that water? Instead, I'll save the $35 and invest it in more H2O-friendly fabrics like bamboo or hemp.

Water makes up 60% of our bodies. It doesn't need to make up that much of our wardrobe.

Join me in taking inventory of our closets and see whether you have a pond, a lake or an ocean.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Let's Be Fair

October is Fair Trade Month!

Fair trade? What on earth is fair trade? A Mickey Mantle card for a Sammy Sosa? A Sponge Bob Silly Bandz for a dolphin one?

Not quite.

Fair Trade makes sure that farmers work in the best, safest conditions, get the best price for their goods and encourages them to protect the environment.

From the Fair Trade USA website:

"Fair Trade Certification empowers farmers and farm workers to lift themselves out of poverty by investing in their farms and communities, protecting the environment, and developing the business skills necessary to compete in the global marketplace.

Fair Trade is much more than a fair price! Fair Trade principles include:

Fair price: Democratically organized farmer groups receive a guaranteed minimum floor price and an additional premium for certified organic products. Farmer organizations are also eligible for pre-harvest credit.

Fair labor conditions: Workers on Fair Trade farms enjoy freedom of association, safe working conditions, and living wages. Forced child labor is strictly prohibited.

Direct trade: With Fair Trade, importers purchase from Fair Trade producer groups as directly as possible, eliminating unnecessary middlemen and empowering farmers to develop the business capacity necessary to compete in the global marketplace.

Democratic and transparent organizations: Fair Trade farmers and farm workers decide democratically how to invest Fair Trade revenues.

Community development: Fair Trade farmers and farm workers invest Fair Trade premiums in social and business development projects like scholarship programs, quality improvement trainings, and organic certification.

Environmental sustainability: Harmful agrochemicals and GMOs are strictly prohibited in favor of environmentally sustainable farming methods that protect farmers’ health and preserve valuable ecosystems for future generations."

You may have seen the label on coffee as that is one of the most popular items that is sold Fair Trade, but you'd be surprised how many products in your daily use you should consider buying Fair Trade: Fruits, vegetables, juices, chocolate, tea, nuts, spices, cotton, flowers and even soccer balls!

I've become much more conscious of Fair Trade products. It's better for the workers, better for the enviroment and better for us.

Let's be Fair!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Two Years & Gazpacho

John and I recently went to New Jersey to visit friends and found ourselves in Long Branch at the beach. I love going to the beach off season -- cool sea breezes with that amazing ocean air and not a lot of people around.

We walked the boardwalk with our friends and their baby. I told John if this community weren't a zillion miles away from NYC, I'd beg him to move there.

As we were walking, I spotted a green awning that served as the roof for... a farmers market. Hooray!

We made our way over. It was small, but full of brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Add in the smell of the earth from the veggies and the salt from the sea, I was in sheer heaven.

I wanted to buy everything, but what stood out were the most incredible heirloom tomatoes. Huge, crazy-shaped, edible objects that looked more like art than food.

John yelled out, "Gazpacho!"

"Yes!" I shouted back as everyone stared at me.

The first time I ever had gazpacho was at John's parents' house. His mom made this amazing cold soup concotion that had chunks of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, fresh from his brother's garden. It was almost like a salad.

I tried to make it once. Mine was turned out more like salsa. I watched John eat it.

"How do you like it?"

"It's good," he replied.

"Does it taste like your mom's?"

"Uh... It's different."

I learned early on never try to re-create a recipe that his mom makes won't win.

This year I had found another gazpacho recipe from Mariel Hemingway's cookbook. I'd wanted to try it but was afraid to. This was the perfect opportunity. If it turned out well, then I could claim it as my own. And with these gorgeous tomatoes, I knew this was going to be special.

I pulled out our reusable bag and carefully chose my favorite ones, trying not to go overboard since heirlooms are not only known for their big shapes but their big pricetags.

Heirlooms at the farmers market in our neighborhood are $9 a pound!

I asked the owner the price and braced myself for impact.

"$2 a pound."

Was this possible? Without asking again, John and I immediately began putting more in the bag.

We gathered a few more items like cucumbers and peppers. Cucumbers...three for $1! My itch for wanting to move there got stronger.

We got home and I carefully removed each tomato from the bag and began making the gazpacho.

I took the first tomato and make the cut. The colors inside were even more spectacular than the color outside! Yellow, orange, red!

I couldn't wait to try it. My concoction!

This recipe was chunkier than the last time, yet soupier than John's mother's. The coloring was different, too. Less red and more... brownish red. Or reddish brown. didn't look gross!

Once again, I watched John taste it. My nerves were on edge. He swallowed the first spoonful and I looked for a wrinkled nose or slight smile.




"You like it?"

"Oh my God! This is incredible!"

Hooray! Success!!

"It's completely different from my mom's."

Uh oh. Was that a bad thing?

"Is that a bad thing?"

"No. I love it!"

Then I tried it. I loved it too! This was definitely a keeper.

Local. Organic. Delicious. What could be better?

* * * * *

For two years I have been writing about my experiences in going green and it's been a lot like the gazpacho.

I've learned that you don't abandon an effort just because one recipe didn't work out or the ingredients didn't blend the way you thought they would. Greening your life -- like gazpacho -- can take some time to get just right. But even gazpacho that isn't quite there is still gazpacho.

Going green is not about perfection. It's about a willingness to try, to make mistakes, and to run the risk that someone might wrinkle their nose or laugh.

Even one small step can make a huge impact.

Thank you so much to all of you who have been with me from the beginning and those of who are just joining me on my journey.

To use one more gazpacho analogy, we're all in this bowl together.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Family Beach Clean-up

A couple of weeks ago, my sister, niece, nephew and I went to the Ron Jon resort in Cocoa Beach, Florida. It's a great place for families with a big pool, a lazy river and a water slide. But the best part is that it's a only a short distance to the beach.

On that Saturday morning, the kids and I set out to check out the waves and do a little seashell hunting.

We were quickly disappointed when we found very few seashells but plenty of trash.

Straws, bottle caps, plasic bags...all lined up neatly where the foamy water met the dry sand.
I pulled the kids aside and explained how dangerous all of this waste is to the sealife and how the fish can choke on the small pieces of plastic, often mistaking it for food.

Theresa, who is fourteen, had heard my lecture the last time she and I were on the beach a few weeks earlier. Once I started talking, she gave me the classic teenager eye roll and continued down the beach.

Robert, who at eight hasn't had time to hear all of my lectures, listened closely and began to help me pick up trash. Our blue sand pail filled up quickly.

"Is this bad ,Auntie?" he would ask as he held up an unidentifiable piece of plastic.

"Throw it in!"

When Robert found an unopened water bottle, he couldn't believe it.

"Why would someone do that?" he shouted.

I wished I had an answer. I could only hope it fell out of someone's bag and the person didn't notice. I hated to imagine that someone deliberately threw it there.

We walked farther down the beach, picking up trash and the occasional seashell, which was now even more of a treasure. We made a lot of headway and decided it was time to head back.

In the distance, we saw Theresa coming toward us with huge handfuls of seashells. When she got closer, we saw that she, too, was carrying trash.

I was touched that, beyond the eye roll, she had heard me.
And I was so incredibly proud of both of them!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mission WWO-Success!

In my last post, I talked about embarking on the official Weekend Without Oil challenge which took place this past weekend.

At first I remarked that I was fearful of what crazy things they were going to ask me to give up but quickly discovered that it wasn't going to be as hard as I'd imagined.

Eat more local and organic foods, walk more, use your reusable bag, eat more veggies, don't buy new clothes, make-up or electronics, drink tap water. Basically things I was already doing. This was going to be a piece of cake (made with vegetable oil)!

I chose to accept this mission.

And I learned that this green stuff takes even more thought than I realized.

Because I've been going green for a while now, a lot of it is second nature and I don't think about it. But sometimes, things become so routine that I become sloppy and occasionally, that non-green thing slips in. And that was what was so important and eye-opening about this weekend.

I decided not to go to the beach and instead, had lunch with my mother-in-law who was in the city for the day on Saturday. We ate at Le Pain Quotidien. I chose this cafe because I know they use a lot of organic ingredients, their furniture is made from reclaimed wood, they use "green" cleaners and energy efficient lamps. Perfect for my oil-free weekend.

I ordered an iced tea/ favorite. The waiter placed it on the table, along with a sliver of lemon garnish and an oil-based product. One that you use to sip drinks. One that I usually opt out of. But this time I didn't. There it was, smiling at me, as if to say, "I gotcha!"

I had barely made it into the day and I already felt defeated by . . . a straw.

I quickly forgave myself, ate my delicious gazpacho and enjoyed the conversation.

After lunch, I headed over to the store to pick up supplies for dinner. I got to the store, placed my items on the conveyor belt and dug in my purse to pull out my reusable bag...only to find out that I had forgotten to put a new one in because mine was in the laundry.

"You've got to be kidding me!" I said aloud as the cashier was about to place my first item in the plastic (oil, oil and more oil) bag.

She looked at me as if she'd done something wrong. She hadn't...I had.

"Sorry...I forgot my bag. I'll just carry the stuff."

She looked at me even more strangely. I paid for my items and walked out of the store with groceries in hand. And elbows, wrists -- anything that would hold my unbagged groceries.

The best thing about this weekend without oil was that I did a lot less shopping. I stayed home the rest of Saturday and read.

Sunday was a much needed rainy day so that kept me indoors. Until it was time to grab a few things for dinner and this time I sent John out...bag in hand.

He came back from his trip to the store with a horrified look on his face.

"What?" I shouted.

"You're not going to believe this!" he exclaimed.


"There is a sign that I've never notice before hanging in the produce section. It says that the fruits and vegetables have been waxed for freshness. And one of the things keeping them fresh is petroleum!"

My mouth hung open. I had no idea that when I cooked vegetables in oil they may have already been covered in it. Was this going to have to be a weekend without vegetables? My head started to explode.

Because he's so awesome (and afraid of me), he told me he fled that store and went to another one where he was fairly certain that the vegetables were oil-free. At least we hoped.

I was proud of myself that I had cut out so much oil of my weekend, but disturbed that there was so much oil to cut out. With all the attention focused on the Gulf, I couldn't believe all the places oil has gotten into that we overlook on a daily basis. Common, everyday items we never even think about.

I mulled this over with a glass of oil-free tomato juice.

No straw.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Weekend Without Oil

I came across this website today...Weekend Without Oil. This Saturday and Sunday, the partners (Treehugger, Climate Counts, etc.) of the movement are asking everyone to live, well, a weekend without oil.

I have to admit, when I first read the headline, I was a little intimidated to read the list of things they wanted me to give up.

My first thought was my air conditioner. I live on the 6th floor of a 6-floor walk-up. I do not have to tell you that after hiking up the stairs, entering a warm, sticky apartment was not on my top 10 list.

My second thought was travel. I want to go to the beach this weekend...would I still be able to take the train?

Finally, the thought that frightened me the most, food! So much of our food comes in packaging made from petroluem.

I decided to put on a brave face and click the link.

It was a one-page, non-intimidating website that, along with telling us that the US is one of the largest oil consumers, was trying to get 166,000 people to lesson their oil load this weekend. Each pledge accounted for about 6 gallons of oil.

I was still nervous. But as I read their list of 11 actions, I felt a wave of relief come over me.

They weren't asking me to live in a sauna. They didn't mind that I took the train to the beach. And they weren't asking me to starve...just to eat less meat and delicious, local, organic foods which, let's face it, shouldn't I be doing anyway?

Here is what they ask...

1) Walk or ride your bike: Avoid using cars and if you must, always try to carpool. Transportation accounts for 40 percent of our petroleum consumption and is easily one of the biggest areas we need to improve upon.

2) Enjoy the outdoors: Avoid buying new sporting equipment, since oil makes up nearly 25% of rubber. Footballs or basketballs, for example, can last for many years and used equipment is often just as good and will reduce demand for oil needed to make new rubber.

3) Use reusable bags: Avoid disposable plastic. Plastic bags are a huge waste for very little benefit. Nearly 10 percent of U.S. oil consumption, approximately 2 million barrels a day, is used to make plastic products alone.

4) Be conscious about what you eat this weekend: You can reduce oil demand by changing your diet to eat less meat, more local foods that require less transportation and organic food, which doesn't use petro-based fertilizers.

5) Don't buy new make-up this weekend: The majority of cosmetics are petroleum-based, including lip gloss, face powder, nail polish, and more. So avoid buying new make-up products this weekend and research the brands when you purchase in the future.

6) Drink tap water: Avoid beverages bottled in disposable plastic, they make up nearly 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year, so get a reusable bottle and fill it up.

7) Make your electronic gadgets last: Avoid buying new electronics. Electronics take a lot of oil to produce and the gadgets you already have can last much longer than the rate at which new ones are released.

8) Go to the movies or stream them on Hulu: Avoid buying new DVDs/Blu-Rays, as oil is a key ingredient in their production, packaging and shipping.

9) Skip buying new clothes that weekend: Swap clothes with friends or check out the local vintage store. The less new clothes you buy the less oil is used in the manufacturing process and transportation.

10) Head to your local library or read online: Avoid using a printer and buying printed material including daily newspapers. Printing doesn't just waste paper, nearly 100,000 gallons of ink each day is used on daily newspapers alone.

11) Spread the word! Get 3 friends to sign the pledge and help raise awareness on ways they can help reduce their dependence on oil-related products.

I hope you'll join me this weekend in using at least 6 less gallons of oil! Not too hard, right?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Lonely Orange Folder

Once again I found myself digging through the trash at work to remove some sort of paper product that belongs in our recycling bins.

The culprit this time...a filing folder.

The beautiful, bright orange folder was sitting on top of the day's trash, ready to be used again but needlessly folded in half. It was if someone had said, "You are not worthy of re-use, orange folder!"

I gingerly pulled it out and found that thankfully it did not have the remnants of someone's lunch spilled on it. I smoothed it out and placed it into the proper recycling bin.

When I sat back down at my desk with a big "harumph," my office mate quickly said, "Oh no," and her face got red. I knew she didn't do it and I told her not to worry. I didn't care if there was red in her face as long as there wasn't any orange in our trash.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Clean Coast Petition Acknowledged!

I recently signed a petition to my senators to pass the Clean Coastal Environment and Public Health Act of 2009. This bill directs the EPA to modernize the technology we rely on to tell us if beach water is safe for swimming. It also takes steps towards tracking and solving our sources of beach pollution.

I sign a lot of petitions and I never really know if my voice is heard...until now.

I received this reply from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. I thought it was pretty cool!

August 9, 2010

Dear Meredith,

Thank you for contacting me about the Clean Coastal Environment and Public Health Act of 2009 (S. 878). I support this important piece of legislation which will amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to update provisions relating to water monitoring on beaches. Specifically, this bill will correct the two main problems regarding beach monitoring: that current testing methods do not cover the full spectrum of waterborne pathogens and other forms of contamination. Currently the results are too slow, taking anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to process from the time the sample was drawn.

This legislation will protect American families who frequent our beaches by directing the Environmental Protection Agency to complete its validation of a rapid water testing method, which would give beach goers same day information about water quality conditions, by 2012. This bill will also require health officials at beaches to make quicker decisions about beach advisories and closures. Another great feature of this legislation is that it will provide funding for coastal communities to study, identify and correct sources of beach water pollution.

The Clean Coastal Environment and Public Health Act of 2009 will ensure that beachgoers get timely and actionable information about the conditions of the water they swim in and provide local communities with the resources they need to identify and eliminate sources of pollution.

Thank you for contacting me regarding this important issue. Please stay in contact with my office regarding any future legislation or issue that may concern you. For more information on this and other important issues being discussed in the United States Senate, please visit my website and sign up for my e-newsletter.

Sincerely yours,
Kirsten Gillibrand, United States Senator

Monday, August 9, 2010

There's No Such Thing As A Free Sample

My family has one rule when we go to Costco . . . go on an empty stomach.

Everyone knows that Costco is famous for their low-cost, jumbo-sized items, but in my family, it’s the sample stations that are the real bargain . . . free lunch!

We make our way up and down every aisle, tasting all of the yummy delights. Sometimes we split up and when we run into each other, we compare notes: “Did you try the shredded beef near the frozen section?” or “Oh my God…the cake over there is to die for.”

I've only ever gone to Costco when I’m visiting my family in Florida because there weren’t any in New York City . . . until now.

Recently, one opened in Harlem and a good friend has a membership. She invited me to go along with her and I happily accepted. I didn't tell her about the Forbes Family Rule, but I figured she'd pick up on it soon enough.

As we made our way along the first aisle, we hit our first sample station. Asian noodles! My mouth watered.

Ravenous shoppers flocked around the server, who scooped slippery noodles into little plastic cups. I stuck my hand out just in time to grab the last one. What had been hidden behind the sea of grabby hands were little plastic spoons, one in each cup.

I wanted to boycott this sample, but I'd already touched it.

I downed the noodles in one bite and then had to jam my used plastic cup and spoon into the overflowing trash can. What had I done?

The next station was cherries. I love cherries and was dying to have one. An older woman was passing them out, this time in paper, not plastic cups. I hesitated, but before I knew it, she had stuck one in my hand. I looked inside and saw one cherry. One, lonely cherry in one, single cup. Once I removed it, I had a clean paper cup in my hand and once again, found myself jamming it into the overflowing trash.

I thought about the tree that made the paper cup and the tree that bore the luscious cherry. I wondered if they had somehow been reunited. I hoped not.

As we passed other stations and I spotted each stack of paper and plastic cups, I lost my appetite. I was no longer interested in eating any of these samples, let alone making a meal of them. The Forbes Family Rule was being overruled by Meredith's Injunction Against Wasteful Packaging.

I left the store with agave, a pineapple and a sense of frustration.

I thought about the tray of Asian noodles that held nine samples that disappeared in nine seconds and the 15 people waiting to grab the next batch of samples.

I started to do some math in my head.

Let’s say that in a five-minute period, a server hands out five sets of samples (nine in each set). That’s 45 cups in five minutes. Let’s say the server does this for 20 minutes. That’s about 180 cups.

At any given time there are at least three sample stations operating in that 20-minute period. Now you’ve got 540 plastic cups being thrown away into our landfills.

Consider that this is happening all day long. Now we’re taking my basic math to another level.

An average piece of plastic takes 20 years to decompose but a plastic cup can take up to 250 years! All for some free noodles?

So how free are the free samples? What is Costco really costing us? Do we have to choose between convenience and sustainability? Can't we save money AND the planet?

The next time I go to Costco, I will make sure that I’ve had a hearty meal ahead of time because the lunch I get there may be free, but it's one I can no longer afford.

Monday, June 14, 2010

An Inconvenient Spoon

Let's face it. There are things in life you have to do that are not convenient. Going to the DMV, cleaning gum off your shoe and taking a reusable spoon with you as you head out to lunch.

The other day, a co-worker came up to me and asked me if I had a plastic spoon. Isn't that like asking the seagulls if they like oil?

Once I had picked up my jaw from the floor, I said, "Are you seriously asking me this?"

She stared at me with a half smile, gave a nervous chuckle and said, "Yeah."

I counted to ten. I replied, "I have a metal spoon you can use."

Another blank stare, another crooked smile. "No."

"Why not?" I asked, trying not to run screaming down the hall.

"Well," she said, "it's for my yogurt."

Flashback to a previous blog about a woman who announced that she could only eat ice cream with a plastic spoon, because a metal one got too cold, so she couldn't taste the flavor.

"Are you telling me that yogurt only tastes good with a plastic spoon? Is that what you're telling me?"

She laughed and slapped her knee.

"No, no. I'm taking my yogurt outside and I don't want to carry a metal spoon around."

I wanted to slap her knee for her.

How big did she think the spoon was? Her cell phone was bigger than the spoon.

"Don't ask me to find a place to put it," she said.
I was about to give her a not-so-nice suggestion where she could put it. Instead, in my usual cheerful-but-trying-to-make-her-feel-bad way, I told her that I was unable to help her.

She went off and no doubt found a more willing petroleum-based utensil supplier. Ever since the BP disaster, it's been hard to even look at a plastic spoon without seeing the oil that was used to make it. Not to mention that plastic forks, spoons and knives are not recyclable, so they end up in our landfills, beaches, and oceans. Americans toss out enough plastic utensils each year to circle the equator 300 times.

If my co-worker fully understood hat her choices were between supporting the industry that's hurting the seagulls or carrying the metal spoon, I wonder which one she'd pick?

Or anyone, for that matter.

Please tell me you'd carry the spoon.

Monday, May 24, 2010

I'll Have A Turkey and Paper, Hold The Plastic

We tend to order out a lot at my work. A favorite is a luncheonette that makes yummy sandwiches and salads.

One day while placing our lunch order online, a bright red paragraph came up on screen letting us know that to help the environment, the take-out deli would no longer provide plastic utensils, condiments or napkins.

I was so excited! Finally! We have an entire drawer full of leftover plastic utensils and a basket as big as a pond overflowing with condiment packets.

We placed our order and waited for our new eco-friendly lunch to arrive.

The delivery man arrived with a big plastic bag. Inside the plastic bag was a paper bag. Inside the paper bag were our sandwiches...wrapped in three layers of paper surrounded by an elastic band. Tucked neatly inside the elastic band was another slip of paper which listed the ingredients of our sandwiches.

To top it all off was a stack of napkins. At least there were no utensils.

As I pulled out the last sandwich out of the bag, there was a final slip of paper. A shiny, bright note announcing that to help the environment, they would no longer be providing utensils, napkins and condiments.

Hmmm. Is it really a green initiative if it includes extra paper to repeat the initiative that you just announced on-line?

And does your sandwich really need the tissue-like piece? What is that for? It always gets wet and sticks to the sandwich, anyway.

And the piece that they wrap around the sandwich and cut through. Do they really need that to hold the sandwich together?

It's enough to make you want to prepare your own lunch. Which I should be doing anyway.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Green and Natural

A few weeks ago, I was looking to find a new facial cleanser. My favorite, Stella McCartney, has been removed from all of the shelves in the US because somehow the organic standards of the EU are worse than the American standards. But that's another blog.

In my journey to find my new cleanser, I travelled to "earth-friendly" stores like Origins and Aveda as well as Sephora to compare products and find one made with the safest ingredients.

After misleading experiences in both Origins and Aveda (both of their products carried at least 2 of the danger list ingredients...see link below), I was off to Sephora.

Upon arrival, a young man came over to me and asked if I wanted help. I explained to him that I was looking for a cleanser that was made with botanical ingredients, minimal chemicals and most importantly, no parabens.

He was very excited about one of the eight brands that are displayed in the "Naturals" section of Sephora.

"All the stars use this one!" he exclaimed holding up a colorful tube.

Well, if the stars use it! I excitedly picked up one of the jars and began to read its contents.

"Oh, you don't have to do that! They are completely free of all the bad stuff."

I trusted him and took home a sample. But something was bothering me. I put the sample aside and went back to the store to do some more research.

I snuck into the store and looked down each aisle carefully so as not to run into him. Finally, I found the product and read the label. It had parabens! I breathed a sigh of relief that I hadn't used the sample.

I decided to check out the other 7 brands against their big wall decorated with pretty green leaves, obviously showing the correlation between nature and these products.

One actually had a list of all the things that supposedly weren't in it on the box, including parabens, yet when I read the label on the jar, it had parabens!

I frantically picked up the other pretty, leafy, flowery patterned jars. Fragrance, parabens, more fragrance! What was going on here?

I pulled a very nice saleswoman to the side and asked her to tell me what Sephora's definition of natural was.

She smiled and said "You are the first person that has asked me that question!"

Really? Was she kidding me?

"Sephora's "natural" products are the ones that contain the least amount of bad things."

Ok. I could accept that. It was unfortunate that only 2 of the 8 products were truly natural. But at least they were trying. And they were honest and up front about it. With me anyway.

But what about all those poor people who want a better product and don't ask what their policy is? Maybe I should stand there with a sign telling them. Hmmm.

Read those labels! Become acquainted with what the nasties are. Know what you're putting on your body, your children's bodies and what's going back into the earth via your drain. Remember that your skin is your largest organ!

Here's a partial list of the most common ingredients to avoid. I pulled this list from a site called Northwestern Health Sciences University but these lists are everywhere...just google them. I liked this one because it had explanations of why these products are bad. And there is a cool app from Gorgeously Green that also has these lists at your disposal.

Good luck and I wish you a very clean and natural shower!

Coal Tar
Function: This chemical helps stop itching, controls eczema, and makes hard, scaly, rough skin soft. It is also used as a colorant in hair dyes.
Product types: shampoos and hair dyes.
Health concerns: International agency government research on cancer says there is enough evidence to suggest that coal tars are carcinogenic in humans. Coal tar has been banned by the European Union since 2004.

Function: This chemical acts as a disinfectant, germicide, fungicide, and preservative.
Product Types: deodorants, nail polish, soap, shampoo, and shaving products.
Health Concerns: This is considered a possible human carcinogen, may trigger asthma, irritates eyes and the upper respiratory tract, can damage DNA, and is banned by the European Union.

Parabens (methyl, ethyl, propyl and butyl)
Function: These are a large group of chemicals used as preservatives in cosmetics to prevent bacteria, yeast, and mold formations in products such as toothpaste.
Product Types: moisturizers, shampoos, conditioners, hair styling gels, nail creams, foundations, facial masks, skin creams, deodorants, and baby lotions.
Health Concerns: This chemical may impair fertility; alter hormone levels; increase risks for certain types of cancers; alter reproductive development, cause skin irritation, rashes, and allergic reactions; and some studies have found parabens in breast tumors.

Function: These are industrial chemicals used as solvents and plasticizers in cosmetics.
Product Types: nail polish, deodorant, fragrance, hair spray, hair gel/mousse, and lotions.
Health Concerns: Phthalates can damage the liver, kidneys, and lungs and acts as a reproductive toxin in males.

Function: Talc is designed to absorb moisture.
Product Types: blush, powder eye shadow, perfumed powder, baby powder, deodorant, and soap.
Health Concerns: Talc is a proven carcinogen and is linked to ovarian cancer. The chemical has particles similar to asbestos and data suggests that it can cause lung tumors.

Sodium Laureth/Sodium Laurel Sulfate
Function: Acts as a penetration enhancer.
Product Types: shampoo/conditioner, bar soap, body wash, face cleanser, liquid hand soap, acne treatment, hair dye, mascara, shaving products, moisturizer, toothpaste, sunscreen, makeup remover, perfume, cologne.
Health Concerns: This chemical alters the structure of the skin and allows chemicals to penetrate deep into the skin, increasing the amount of chemicals reaching the blood stream.