It's State Fair time yet again - which means yet another opportunity for eco-education for me and my kids. In my humble opinion, The Eco Experience at the Minnesota State Fair is the ultimate interactive environmental expo. It's filled with hands-on activities, eye-popping exhibits and demos of the latest in green technology.
The recycling exhibit is pretty awesome:
Drew loves to test his recycling I.Q. in this interactive game:
Trash Mountain is a site to behold:
Check out the latest hybrid and electric cars:
See real wind turbines (on the right):
Try some local food:
Visit the Eco House for green building and landscaping ideas:
I think I've already mentioned that the recycling program here in Minneapolis is less than stellar. The only plastics the program takes are plastic bottles with necks. No yogurt tubs. No take out containers. No plastic bags.
So the other day we took a roadtrip up to the Eastside Food Co-op in North Minneapolis to drop off all of the 'other' plastics that we had saved up for a couple months. It sure was eye-opening to see how much 'other' plastic we accumulated in a very short period of time!
The co-op has contracted with a local business who has a way to recycle these plastics. It's only a pilot program at this point but I'm crossing my fingers that the program will continue because now that I've started recycling these things I don't think I could go back to tossing them in the trash. It's a mystery to me why Minneapolis can't do this when Saint Paul already does...and so many other cities.
Maybe we can eventually have a Master Recycler Program like they do in Portland. It not only educates people on recycling processes and waste reduction but also organizes recycling roundups to collect plastics that are not typically recycled like bottle tops, plant pots and even tortilla chip bags!
My boys are well on their way to being master recyclers themselves! They sorted all the plastics ahead of time (a great numbers game for my 3 year old!) and put the plastics in their proper bins at the site. Yeah, we burned a little gas getting there, but it was a great little recycling roadtrip!
I've been using a of facial moisturizer with sunscreen almost every day for I don't know how long. I've always thought that was a good thing. But now that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has come out saying that 4 out of 5 sunscreens are either inadequate or pose significant safety concerns, I'm not so sure. I checked the ratings for the products I've been using off and on for years (Alba, Avalon, Grassroots, KMF etc..) on Skin Deep (The EWG's cosmetic product database) and they all either have terrible ratings or they are not rated at all.
It's the chemical sunscreen ingredients that are the most cause for concern. Especially oxybenzone, which seems to be in almost every product I pick up. It has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption and cell damage but that doesn't seem to stop most sunscreen manufacturers from using it.
Products that use titanium dioxide or zinc oxide as sunscreen agents are a safer option for the most part...except for the nagging little issue of nanoparticles, the teeny-tiny version of those ingredients that make it easier to rub in (remember the white goop in the tube that would never absorb? Well, nanoparticles solve that problem) The issue with nanoparticles is that they are so small they could be absorbed through the skin and possibly damage cells...and there just hasn't been enough research to know if this is really a big health concern or not. So far, EWG's take is that nanos are still better than chemical sunscreens, but some other groups beg to differ. And then there's the theory that we should go without sunscreen for at least 15 minutes a day in order to get enough vitamin D.
What's a gal to do?
Look for products with reasonable ratings on Skin Deep and hope for the best is my approach. Maybe switch between products with nanos and those with chemicals under the theory that anything in moderation is OK?
I'm picky about the way the product feels on my face too - I don't like the feel of sticky sunscreen all over my face. And of course, cost factors in as well. I'm willing to spend more on facial care but I don't have an unlimited budget for it. A couple products I've tried recently are:
Contains 3% oxybenzone and other chemical sunscreens
Feels really nice on my skin - goes on super smooth and stays that way!
$29.50 for 4.2 oz
I'm also considering KMF Face Factor, SPF 30 (rated 2 on Skin Deep.) It is sold as a sunscreen, not as a face cream - but it might be worth a try especially with its low rating!
Have you been frustrated by all this conflicting information over sunscreens? Do you have a daily facial sunscreen product that you like? Or do you skip the daily dose and just put on sunscreen at the beach? I'd love to know what products you've tried!
I'm done with dryer sheets! After taking the very last piece out of the humongous double-boxed set that I bought from Costco over 2 years ago (!!), I vowed not to buy those nasty little buggers again.
Only recently did I learn that most dryer sheets contain animal fat. Animal fat? I learned that juicy tidbit from the book Squeaky Green by the two guys behind the Method cleaning product company, Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry. (I honestly never thought I'd buy a book about household cleaning, because it is frankly not something I have a lot of interest in but I took one look at this book and I just had to have it. It's funny, smart and actually inspired me to want to clean!)
Eco-friendly dryer sheets do exist. They are biodegradable and use vegetable-based softeners instead of animal fat. Some use essential oil fragrances instead of synthetic. I was kind of hemming and hawing about whether or not to go that route when I came across a product that I had never seen before: The Static Eliminator - a reusable dryer sheet 'system'. The box has the look of something you'd find on an infomercial so I was pretty wary at first, but I found it at my local co-op and I knew it wouldn't be there if the product wasn't any good. So I swallowed the $14.95 price tag and took it home.
I was a little surprised when I opened the package to find 2 big pieces of polyester fabric inside. That was it. Not much of a 'system' if you ask me. I have no idea how these things work, but they do. They are completely chemical free so it must be the fabric itself that is doing the trick.
I like a little scent in my freshly laundered clothes, so I added a lavender dryer sachet from Trader Joe's. It was just the ticket! And I wondered whether I would miss the fabric softening action that I was getting from the Costco dryer sheets but so far I'm not.
How about you? Are there any other good dryer sheet alternatives out there? Do you think that fabric softener is a good thing, or an invention by laundry product manufacturers to get us to buy more product?
In my post for the first edition of the APLS Carnival, I am charged with writing about what I do to live sustainably. Instead of my usual environmental diatribe, I decided to share some thoughts about where I live and the lifestyle that it helps me maintain.
I live right in the heart of Minneapolis in a wonderful neighborhood full of kids and parks and unique small businesses to frequent. But this cozy little neighborhood has seen its share of ups & downs over the years. When my husband and I bought our house 18 years ago (!!), our real estate guy told us this neighborhood was 'dicey' and 'on the other side of the tracks' - but we took the risk and bought a pretty nice house that we could never had afforded anywhere else.
There was a time, after we both finished graduate school and finally had full time jobs that I daydreamed about moving to a 'better' neighborhood and a bigger house with a few more ammenities that I was jonesing for. In retrospect, I'm so very glad we never followed through on that pipe-dream. Because living where we do has made it easier to sustain the kind of life we want to live. One that is community minded and environmentally focused. One that we can afford. One that we love!
Admittedly, it's partly the 'keeping up with the Jones' effect that I'm talking about. I know myself well enough that if I lived in a neighborhood where everyone was hiring a home decorator, I probably would want one as well. If I lived in a place where people drove top-of-the-line cars and wore designer clothes, I would be ever so slightly tempted to do the same. But it's primarily because we're surrounded by like-minded people here. Lots of people in our neighborhood shop at the co-op, compost their food scraps and ride their bikes to work. Just like us.
In a nutshell, I think we are less tempted to consume and more likely to be satisfied with life in our little urban enclave. Here are a few examples:
instead of hiring a caterer for a party, we enjoy making delicious homemade food for our neighbors and friends.
instead of spending money on cable TV and fancy electronics, we save up for a memorable vacation with family and friends.
instead of joining a pool, we take advantage of the many lovely beaches in our town.
instead of heading to the mall for entertainment, we take a family bike ride.
instead of buying a brand spankin' new car, we appreciate our 'previously loved' one.
instead of taking out a loan for 'the big remodel', we update our home slowly but surely...and pay in cash.
instead of bringing our son to a ball game, my husband takes him to volunteer at a food shelf.
instead of a trip to the spa...well, a girl's gotta do something fun every now and then!
We've grown to love our neighborhood and all the diversity it brings to our lives. By living here we are helping to sustain our community and our city. We are living a lifestyle that is based less on consumption and more on experiences...and that is something we want to sustain. We are also helping to sustain the earth by consuming less conspicuously and more thoughtfully. And that's how we built a sustainable life by staying put!
(Please be assured that I'm not trying to say that you can't build a sustainable life in the suburbs...or anywhere for that matter. Not at all. This is simply my perspective on how it worked out for little old me!)
Thomas Friedman took a boat trip with Denmark's minister of climate and energy, Connie Hedegaard to see the effects of climate change on Greenland's Kangia Glacier. This is what he had to say about it:
"Our kids are going to be so angry with us one day."
There's a new acronym floating around the blogosphere and I'm really digging it. APLS. Affluent Persons Living Sustainably. I'm not one to jump on the bandwagon very quickly but this one - well, I jumped immediately.
According to Green Bean Dreams (one of the founders of the concept), here is how to know if you are an APLS:
Do you spend less money than you make?
Do you consciously buy fewer products and, of those products you buy, do you look for used ones or ones that will last longer?
Do you treasure experiences over things?
Do you donate to charity? Time, money or goods?
Do you eat local food? Make your own bread, yogurt, or even your own dinner?
Do you garden? Bike? Hang your clothes out to dry? Compost?
Do you think about your own impact on the environment and what you can do to help our planet?
Do you care about what happens to your neighbor? Your children's classmates? The people manufacturing your children's toys in China?
Do you live a fuller, more meaningful life?
I read that and thought yep, that's me. and my husband. and lots of our friends.
Don't' be put off by the word affluent. It's not about being rich, although relative to the majority of people in the world, most Americans are affluent. But wealth is not just calculated in terms of dollars and cents - it is about so much more. You can live a very rich life by simply appreciating what you've already got.
It's the way that my husband and I have been striving to live for quite some time now. It goes beyond living green...it's a desire to appreciate life, to live compassionately and virtuously. It's about enjoying what you have instead of always wanting more. Like I said, I jumped...how about you?
(if you are thinking about jumping, then read more about APLS here or here...and then consider joining the bushel basket.)