Eco-Conscious, Green Consumer, natural foods

Why Organic Food Is Becoming An Even Better Choice

For years, I’ve compromised. I prefer organic coffee, but it’s always been so pricey that I’ve mixed it half and half with cheaper Fair Trade but not organic coffee. Every once in awhile, I’d check the prices of organic coffee, but every time, even the store brand was much more expensive than the generic non-organic.

That’s why I was stunned when I checked it a few days ago and found that the store brand organic was actually cheaper per-pound than the generic non-organic coffee I usually buy. What’s going on here, I wondered. Well, whatever is going on, it’s going on with other foods too. The organic cereal that Daughter loves is cheaper than the giant cereal conglomerate’s non-organic and so were dozens of other items.

I have no actual proof for why this is happening, at least here in the Northeast, but I have a theory. Organic food production doesn’t use chemical fertilizers. Most organic producers didn’t have to adapt their growing practices when prices started rising, because they’d started out with a business model that uses less energy than big agro-businesses.

I suspect that their delivery fleets are more fuel-efficient also, because the kind of business owner who believes that organically grown produce is better is generally more eco-conscious. So as fuel prices rise and chemical fertilizers and pesticides add to the cost of the corn in your frozen dinner, Annie’s macaroni and cheese dinners are priced to compete with that orange-colored competitor from the Big K.

It will be interesting to see if this trend continues.

Authors: Rachel M. Gonzales from

activism, Eco-Conscious

The Buzz From Europe Could Save Our Food Crops

Germany and France have banned a class of pesticides linked to Colony Collapse Disorder, even though scientists don’t believe it’s the whole reason for the problem. On the other hand, when heaps of dead bees coated in clothianidin were found beside corn fields, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the pesticide wasn’t a bee’s best friend. Ditto for imidacloprid another pesticide which causes bees to become disoriented.

So when will the EPA realize that these pesticides are killing bees? And why aren’t more people concerned about the bees’ disappearing? It might be because so many people regard bees as a nuisance – just another bug that stings you or buzzes you when you’re out trying to enjoy your yard. There are traps for bees at my local hardware store and I know plenty of people who’d just as soon swat bees as attract them to their gardens.

I wonder how long it will be before people realize how closely our survival is tied to the survival of bees? It’s estimated that bees are responsible for one out of three bites of our food. Some of the many crops that they pollinate are corn, berries, peaches, soybeans, cucumbers, cherries, pears and pumpkins. Bees are entirely responsible for the pollination of apples, so if they disappear pollination will have to be done by hand – a very labor intensive and maybe impossible process.

Bees contribute billions of dollars to agriculture and also pollinate animal-feed crops, which would deeply affect the beef, pork, and poultry industry. Actually, no one knows what would happen if bees disappeared completely, although Einstein said that – if bees disappeared –  all life on earth would disappear in four years – and who am I to disagree with Einstein?

I don’t want to find out what the loss of the world’s bees would do to our planet. As I type this, swarms of bees are humming in the giant comfrey plants outside my window and I want to hear that sound throughout the summers that I have left on earth. I want to know that my children and their children will see and hear bees in their gardens and yards after I’m gone.

I’m going to do everything I can to support bees and get pesticides that harm them – and us – out of our food chain. I’m going to support research that is investigating other possible causes of Colony Collapse such as cell phone and wi-fi. Some researchers say that bees refuse to go near a beehive that has a cell phone near it and that cell phone and wireless signals are confusing their navigation system. While this needs more research, it’s definitely not going to be a popular finding if it proves to be true. Who wants to give up the convenience of our wireless techie toys, eh?

But while we wait for other solutions and research to point to all the reasons for CCD, it’s reasonable to support a ban on the pesticides that have obviously killed bees, like Europe is doing. After all, my theory is that anything that isn’t good for bees, isn’t good for us. Here are some links to organizations that are working to curb pesticide use:

And for more information on Colony Collapse and how to help save bees you can buzz on over to the National Resources Defense Council’s site. Save the bees and the sweet life they provide for us.

Author: Nelle J. Hussey from

Eco-Conscious, Green Consumer, Plants and Gardening

When Life Hands You Lemons, Make a Safe Weedkiller

That’s what the folks at Nature’s Avenger Organic Herbicide did. I know, because Stephanie sent me a bottle to try and I have to say that I’m impressed. Not that I hate weeds or use a lot of herbicide, but there are some places – like in front of our garage door – where the dandelions and sow thistles are starting to take over. Even better, Geekdaddy got a chance to use something with a name that sounds like it belongs to a superhero without me yelling at him for destroying the environment. (He belongs to the school that thinks that if a product isn’t toxic, dangerous, flammable, glowing in the dark and able to render you unconscious when used in enclosed spaces, it won’t work.)

Nature’s Avenger’s most active ingredient is d-Limonene which is citrus oil from lemons and other citrus fruit. You may have noticed it in your shampoo (Aubrey makes a great one with Shea Butter) where it leaves your hair squeaky clean without drying it out. It’s also in pet shampoos to help with fleas and odor, and in cleaning products and detergents as a degreasing agent. It works on weeds by stripping away their waxy cuticle and dehydrating them.

What I find amazing about Nature’s Avenger Herbicide is how fast it works and how easy it is to use. Stephanie and the instruction booklet emphasized that it has to be shaken just before use, so Geekdaddy shook it up well. He reports that the spray nozzle on the bottle is very well made, unlike a lot of sprayers that practically sprain your wrist after a few sprays. You just spray it until the plant is covered, which is easy to tell because Nature’s Avenger forms a white emulsion.

The product brochure says that it takes an hour or two for most plants, although some large stubborn weeds may need a second application. The geek said it worked even faster than that on narrow-leaved weeds and, yes, the huge, mutant dandelions that tower over our walkway took two applications, but they ARE the weeds that laugh at weed whackers and the kids have reported hearing “Fee-fi-fo-fum” in that area.

The brochure also says that you can plant where you’ve used Nature’s Avenger in four hours or so, which I find remarkable. I’m a skeptic though, so I waited four and a half hours and planted some pansies. That was two days ago and they’re still looking very healthy. Grass is starting to come up where the dandelions were and the dandelions haven’t come back, so the taproot must have been killed.

I think this is an excellent product, because it could knock other toxic herbicides out of the market. It’s gotten lots of press and was even used when the EPA and National Park Service de-weeded and then replanted the National Mall in Washington, DC. The Discovery Channel’s News featured it in an interview with Paul Tukey of, as I mentioned in a previous article, which is where Stephanie noticed it and offered to let me try a sample.

So, if you think that the only effective way to kill weeds is with Roundup or other chemical herbicides made from synthetic chemicals such as glyphosate, you might want to read about glyphosate’s alarming effects on humans here and turn to the only natural organic herbicide that works in two hours or less and is completely non-toxic to humans.

One last note: My favorite weedkiller, up until now, has been vinegar or boiling water poured full strength on them. However, the vinegar didn’t work very well, even with several applications and the boiling water splashed my foot and gave me a nasty burn. I was thinking of getting some so-called “natural vinegar” herbicide, but I’m glad I didn’t.

The stuff is 20% Food Grade Vinegar (Acetic Acid), so wouldn’t you think it’d be safe? Turns out that any concentration of acetic acid over 11% can cause serious burns and even blindness if you splash yourself with it, as I am so prone to do when I pour anything from coffee to wine. Worse, Acetic Acid at high concentrations is extremely flammable, so storing it in the garage may not be such a hot idea, no pun intended.

Then there are the “soapy” herbicides, which are fatty acids and don’t work well unless the fatty acid is synthetic, expensive and not-organic. Corn gluten works so-so if you spread it before the weeds show up, but it attracted mold and our Black Lab, Jetta, who ate enough of it to have digestive problems.

That’s why I’ll be sneaking up on a dandelion this afternoon with the spray bottle of Nature’s Avenger in hand. I love the bright little yellow flowers and will let them have our four acres of fields around the house, as long as they share it with the other wildflowers. But when they get to the point where the car can’t get into the garage for weeds, it’s time for them to go. Thanks, Stephanie.

activism, Eco-Conscious, Green Living, In the News

Fishy, Froggy and Frightening

I just read a brochure outlining Safe Eating Guidelines for Fish and Shellfish in Maine. It’s put out by the state of Maine, where sport fishing is a big part of the economy. In it, Maine environmental officials urge that pregnant women and children under 8 limit their intake of some fish to two meals a month.

I don’t know about you, but when I see a warning like that, it doesn’t make me run right over to the calendar and circle the two days I’m going to put PCB‘s, Dioxin, Mercury and DDT on the dinner table.

Nope, freshwater fish caught in Maine have been off our menu for years. Ditto for fish caught offshore near the estuaries where toxins accumulate in shellfish, lobsters and fish.  We do eat wild-caught salmon, chunk light tuna on occasion and shellfish from unpolluted waters.

You might want to check your state’s advisories on fish and anything else you might eat that comes from fresh or saltwater. Also, none of these advisories take into account any of the other toxins our bodies imbibe from water, air and food. This stuff is cumulative and also most likely has a synergistic effect when combined.

And while we’re floundering around in murky waters, let’s not forget to help out our froggy little friends who are sinking fast. Fish and shellfish aren’t the only species that are facing extinction. Take a minute and hop over to Save the Frogs where you can learn more about why we can’t wait to do something about the threat that hangs over the future of whole species of frogs and toads.

Kids will like Cool Facts About Frogs and you can print out posters, donate to the non-profit organization or surf the links to other amphibian resources. Or just revel in the many beautiful pictures of these amazing little creatures and find out what a Caecilian is when it’s at home. Hey, my spell-check dictionary didn’t know what it was, do you?

Authors Bio: Patricia from Bornand raised in the Saginaw Bay Region of Michigan, I have always been the generally curious sort (sometimes too curious – sorry Mom and Dad!). When applying for jobs in high school, I begged my parents not to make me turn in any more applications until I’d heard back from the public library about a page position. Fortunately they called me back, and it set me upon the path toward librarianship…

Plants and Gardening

Put Pep In Your Peppers and Perk Up Your Life

Eating better is a lot easier if you have a garden to provide fresh veggies. But if you’re like me and kind of jaded after gardening for many years, maybe it’s time for a garden makeover. One way to do that is with novel gardening techniques.

You’ve seen those upside-down tomato growing devices on TV. In spite of my aversion to infomercials, I have to say that I was fascinated the first time I saw one of them. However, I still have more common sense than money, so I searched the Net for homemade versions.

Here’s a link to a great site that will tell you everything you need to know to create your own gravity-defying tomato, pepper or herb plants. I’m planning to try strawberries, tomatoes, herbs and small cucumbers in mine, but I think they’d work with almost any fruit or veggie that isn’t too heavy.

If you try them, let me know how they work for you. Send photos.

If upside-down gardening doesn’t ring your bell, let me know that too. And if you can think of any novel gardening techniques that can revive longtime gardeners’ interest in digging and delving, I’m all ears.

Green Living

How Natural Is That Natural Fiber?

My daughter needed a sheet set for her new full size bed, so off we went to one of those linen stores where aisles full of sheets in all sorts of fibers quickly had us totally confused. She’s ten, so the main thing she cared about was getting the color she wanted in her bedding – something that would match her new Pink Webkinz frog. I’m a little older and wiser, so I was concerned with getting sheets that didn’t contain toxic chemicals.

I was delighted to find some very pretty pink Modal sheets with a tag that assured us that they were made from beech trees from sustainable tree farms where no pesticides or toxic chemicals were used. They were wonderfully soft and silky and my daughter fell in love with them, so we took them home, washed them and put them on her bed.

I was so happy with our purchase that I told a friend about it and she asked me if I’d looked up Modal fiber on the net or done any research on it. I was ashamed to admit that I hadn’t. (Sheesh! I do research for a living.) I was even more ashamed to admit that I’d trusted a tag on a sheet, rather than doing my own investigating.

So I looked up Modal and found that it isn’t quite as innocent and natural as the tag implies. Yes, the beech trees are raised without pesticides or other synthetic chemicals if the Modal comes from the EU. (Ours did.) But the manufacturing process includes using caustic chemicals to break down the fibers, similar to the way rayon, another “natural” but not organic fiber, is made. True, there were probably no residues in the sheets, but there was also no assurance that they hadn’t been dyed with harsh, synthetic dyes either.

Some Modal is dyed with non-toxic dye and some isn’t. As a skeptic, I tend to think that if it doesn’t say non-toxic dyes, it probably was dyed with synthetic ones. Unfortunately, our sheets didn’t say they’d been dyed with non-toxic dyes, so I’m just hoping that whatever dyes they used don’t leach out of it over time. Obviously, I have some more investigating to do, although the sheets are on the bed. They were very expensive and I’m convinced that they have to be healthier than non-organic cotton or polyester.

All this research led me to wonder about other so-called natural fibers like bamboo, hemp and Tencel, which is made by the same company that makes Modal. From what I can glean from the Net, unless the garment is certified organic, there’s no guarantee that it’s any more natural than any other fiber that is produced through a chemical process that uses chemicals – usually caustic chemicals – to break down the fiber into a pulp that is then spun into threads. The company that makes both Modal and Tencel touts its award-winning manufacturing process which – in the case of Tencel – recovers 99.5% of the solvent, but then where does the other .5 percent go? Into the fibers?

I understand that there are two types of bamboo fabric and fibers – one that is made from whole bamboo that is spun into fibers and one that is processed into pulp first. The former is considered more natural than the latter. Tencel is reputed to be made with fewer chemicals than Modal, but still uses a solvent in the pulping process. Hemp, cotton and bamboo are only really “natural” when they’re certified organic and untreated with formaldehyde or flame retardant or any other VOC.

It’s a case of “caveat emptor” but when hasn’t the buyer had to beware of misleading claims. All I know is that I’m going to be much more careful from now on when I’m choosing fabrics for clothes or bedding. If it’s not organic, I’ll assume that it has something in it that I don’t want next to my skin or on my family’s beds. Hmm, sounds like I’m going to be waiting for sales to be able to afford any future natural fibers, because organic garments and bedding are really pricey, and now I have a better idea of why they cost so much.


Are You Guilty of These 10 Frugal Sins?

Being frugal is the “in” thing to do nowadays. What with the economy going to Hades in a handbasket, we’re all doing what we can to save as much money as possible. Sometimes, it seems like we’re all competing in the Frugal Olympics. Next event: saving the most money on groceries. But before you go for the gold, let’s make sure that you’re not cheating.

We all know someone who takes those little pink sugar packets from fast food restaurants, don’t we? Maybe you do it. After all, you bought something there, maybe a coffee or an order of fries. So, why shouldn’t you take a few sugar packets? Well, beside the fact that you don’t intend to use them in that coffee you bought, which is what they’re there for, it’s just unethical.

Taking sugar, salt, napkins, straws or anything from fast food restaurants is only okay when you’re going to use them for the meal or snack you just bought. If you take 10 napkins, just so you can have some extra in the car, it’s not a crime. But it’s tacky at the least. If you take a lot of napkins or straws or ketchup packets, it’s stealing.

So is “sampling” fruit, veggies or open packages while you shop for groceries. If you open the packages, yourself, it’s even worse. One of the reasons grocery prices are so high is because of the amount of food that’s lost to damage or theft. And, of course, it’s unethical.

Also, while we’re in the grocery store, damaging a package and then asking for a discount because it’s damaged goods is also unethical. And what with hidden cameras in stores, it might get you into a lot of trouble.

If you don’t buy your kids what they need like shoes that fit and decent clothes, it’s unethical and also emotional abuse. Who wants to feel like their parents don’t love them enough to provide their basic needs? Being frugal shouldn’t mean being mean.

Mooching off friends is pathetic, but many people do it. They never pick up the check at restaurants and bars. They show up at mealtime at their neighbor’s house and bring their kids with them, but they never invite their neighbors over to their house. They borrow things and “forget” to give them back. They never pitch in when there’s a neighborhood cleanup, but they’re always right there at the block party, enjoying the free pizza that they didn’t chip in for.

Food pantries are wonderful places when you don’t have enough money to feed your family. But some people who do have enough money for food treat them as if they’re the local supermarket. They show up and take free food when they should be donating to the pantry, not taking food from other people who really need it. Just because something is free doesn’t mean that you’re entitled to it. Save it for those who really need it.

Worse than raiding the food pantry is lying to state or federal welfare officials to get services when your income level is too high for them. Maybe you can do it with some creative bookkeeping, but the penalty if you get caught is very high. Although on the plus side, if you’re charged with defrauding the federal government, you won’t have to worry about food and board for many years.

While there’s no prison term for giving loved ones tacky gifts, there is a social cost. So next time you think you can get by with a cheap present, ask yourself if it’s worth risking the love you have for your wife or child. Sure, one lousy gift isn’t going to make them divorce you or move out, but not caring enough to choose something you know they’ll like might get them thinking about the other ways that you show that you don’t care about them and their feelings. It’s a slippery slope and you should think twice about being too frugal to show love.

Another slippery slope is taxes. No matter how strongly you feel that your tax rate is too high, it’s not okay to fudge on your return. It’s also very likely to cost you much more than you save by lying. Tell the truth to Uncle Sam. If you want to save money on your taxes, get yourself a good accountant. It’s money well-spent.

Have you ever switched a price tag? Did you think that putting the higher price tag on another item was okay, because that way the store would get its money from someone else? Well, when you switch a price tag, you’re doing two things wrong. You pay the lower price, which is unethical. Someone else, all unknowing, pays a higher price for an item. So you’re doubly wrong. Leave the tags alone and just don’t buy things that are too expensive for your budget.

Frugal means living within your means and not spending more than you have. It doesn’t mean being so cheap that you squeak or make Jack Benny look like a spendthrift. Life is too short to pinch pennies at the expense of your ethics, family or friendships. Be thrifty, but don’t forget to enjoy life and give more than you get from the world.

Eco-Conscious, Frugal Tips

It’s Spring! Time to Think About A Greener Winter

I’m just back from my spring vacation and feeling refreshed and ready to tackle all the things I’ve been putting off. At the top of my list is Winter. That might sound a little odd considering that the leaves are unfurling on the maple where a pair of cardinals hunt for buds and bugs outside my window, but stay with me here and I promise it’ll make perfect sense.

As I’ve said before, we live in a drafty, old house whose saving grace is that it’s in the middle of sixty private acres of woods and fields. Also on the property is a small building with two studio apartments in it, where my late mother lived until October of 2005. Now, we use it for storage and for a guesthouse, mostly in the summer. Although we installed a pellet stove three years ago, and although we keep the heat down to 68 in the daytime and 55 at night, and even lower at the apartment house, our oil bill is enormous and getting bigger with each winter.

Every winter, we resolve to do something about it and every spring, when warm weather comes, we promptly get sidetracked by gardening and outdoor pursuits. Then, before we know it, it’s fall and we’re scurrying around, trying to weatherstrip and figure out how to cut down on heating costs. This year, it’s going to be different. This year, we’re going to prepare for winter during spring and summer.

While we were on vacation, the kids and I brainstormed and came up with several ideas to save money and help the environment next winter. First on our list of things to do is weatherstripping. Our doors and windows are old and we can’t afford new ones, so we need to do more than stuff the cracks with plastic bags, like we did with the door in the basement. The frame is so warped that no amount of weatherstripping completely fills the cracks, so in desperation one cold winter’s day, I shoved supermarket bags into the cracks around it with a piece of old wire. It worked, somewhat, but it wasn’t pretty.

Next week, a local carpenter is coming over to give us an estimate on weatherstripping all the doors and windows – the right way. In our windy, top of the hill location, we need more protection from the winter blasts than just shopping bags can give us, that’s for sure. If the frames need to be squared, he’ll be able to do it so that the weatherproofing will work.

In order to pay for the carpenter, we’ll be saving money by hanging the clothes outside to dry. In the warmer weather, this is easy, but we’re going to continue to do without the clothes dryer even when it’s cold. Of course, in Maine, hanging out clothes in the winter can mean frostbite and frozen clothes, so we’ve come up with another idea.

We already use clothes racks in the basement near the furnace for delicate items all year ’round. Why not add some more racks and a retractable line or two and use them to dry all the clothes when it’s too cold to hang them outside? That way, the humidity from the clothes will also add moisture to the dry winter air that bothers us all winter. The exercise from hanging them and retrieving them won’t hurt my winter weight gain either, let me tell you.

With the dryer shut off and saving us about $60/month, we’ll be able to turn our attention to another big utility hog – the room over the garage. It’s zoned with our bedroom, bathroom, living room and study and it’s not very well insulated. Of course, the unheated garage beneath it doesn’t help and then there’s the fact that it faces northeast, where most of our windiest, coldest weather comes from. So, we’re going to get rid of it.

No, not by hiring a demolition expert. We’re going to have a heating technician cap off the pipe to the baseboard heater that goes to it. That way, we can just close the door to the room’s stairs and keep the heat in the rest of that zone. We don’t use the room in the winter anyway, only in the warmer months, so the cold won’t hurt it.

We’re going to do the same thing on a more drastic scale to the apartment house. We’re having an expert “weatherize” it by draining the pipes, filling them with food-grade antifreeze and doing whatever else needs to be done to get it through the winter without heat. Because its oil tank is outside, we have to use a higher grade of fuel for its furnace, so this should save us a bundle.

I’m sure there are other things that we’ll discover while we’re waging our campaign to make next winter less costly than this winter was. I’m thinking we could paint the outside of the basement wall black instead of white and get some passive solar heating going and Son is thinking of making a solar window heater he’s seen plans for.

What about your house? Did it cost you a bundle this winter because it isn’t weatherized? Are there things you could do, like drying clothes on a line instead of in a clothes dryer, that would help the environment as well as your budget? Or do you know someone who could use your help with projects like these? Maybe an elderly relative or neighbor or a single mom or dad who’s struggling to make ends meet. Whether you do it for yourself or someone else, it’s never too early to prepare for winter.

Authors bio: Brooke from, Spokane has the potential to offer a special quality of life offered no where else on earth. Our story is one of unwavering enthusiasm, and belief in the transformative power of Spokane’s continued redemption and rebirth.

natural foods

What’s Eating You – Or Vice Versa?

Food prices are rising, but unlike much of the rest of the world, most Americans have a variety of foods to choose from. Walk down the aisles of any supermarket in the US and you’ll see vegetables glistening with drops of water from the misters over them, rows and rows of red, juicy steaks, roasts and burger, fish from oceans, lakes and fish farms and canned and frozen meals and snacks. No wonder we’re so healthy with all this to choose from. But is this food as good as it looks?

Nutritionally, foods grown with conventional farming methods isn’t as nutritious as food grown organically. Chemical fertilizers deplete the soil. They don’t encourage soil organisms that promote the biodiversity of worms, nematodes, bacteria, minerals and enzymes that organic farming does.  Chemically fertilized soil is sterile soil. Not what you want your carrots and peas grown in.

Conventional farming also uses synthetic pesticides,  herbicides and fungicides. These chemicals remain in the soil for lifetimes and have adverse effects on our bodies. Although they’re regulated by the government, for the most part, they’re declared “safe” one at a time, not on the basis of how much of all of them someone would take in by eating the normal American diet. Babies and children, especially, with their growing bodies and higher intake of some of these foods (think apples, peanut butter and cereal grains) may be more affected by toxins.

Meat contains antibiotics and meat animals are often raised in horrible conditions, crowded together in their own filth and easy prey for disease. If cows aren’t fed on grass, their meat’s nutritional value is not as high and beef cattle (and sheep also) may be legally given growth hormones, which can act like estrogen on humans. These growth hormones have been linked to developmental delays in children and to cancer. And while growth hormones aren’t allowed in poultry-raising, low doses of arsenic are and chickens are often raised packed so closely together that some of them suffocate.

Then there’s the growth hormone, rBGH, they give milk cows that often gives them mastitis, a painful inflammation of their udders, which means they need antibiotics which show up in their milk. Another thing that shows up in milk from cows who are given rBGH is Insulin Growth Factor 1 or EGF-1, a hormone that is linked to colon, prostate and breast cancer in humans. Europe and Canada have banned rGBH, but until the US does, buying organic milk is the only way to know for sure that it’s not in the milk you drink.

Canned food almost always contains BPA that leaches from the plastic lining. Frozen food comes in plastic trays that also leach BPA and it almost all of it contains GMO (genetically modified organism) as does most processed food whether in bags, boxes, cans or bottles. GMOs are plants that have had a gene from another plant or organism “spliced” into their DNA. One problem with GMOs is that people who are allergic to something may unknowingly eat something that contains the gene from what they’re allergic to.

Another problem is that no one knows what effect eating GMO food might have on the unsuspecting people who eat it without realizing it. Because there’s no law mandating labelling of GMO food, there’s no way to tell if it’s in your food from looking at the label. There is a list of GMO and non-GMO food at The True Food Shopping List where you’ll also find more information about food safety.

So, enough with the doom and gloom. A person has to eat, so what do we do about all this? Well, we each have to decide to what degree we are willing and able to pursue safe food. Money, of course, is a factor, as is availability of organic, natural and locally produced food. In my case, I only buy organic meat, milk, veggies and fruit.  If I can’t afford organic, I don’t buy it. I usually buy organic bread, but sometimes opt for the store brand of sprouted grain bread. Once in awhile, I buy frozen food, even a frozen dinner, with the theory that “once in awhile” won’t kill me.

When it’s available, I buy local, organically raised food, but that’s not often for fruits and veggies in Maine. The only fish and shellfish I eat are wild-caught. Unfortunately, there are few organic restaurants nearby, so when we eat out, we just try to choose the most natural offerings. And, of course, we garden. Although my three-year trial of going vegetarian made me realize that I’m a confirmed omnivore, I love veggies, especially when we get to pick them fresh from our own garden. Just maybe, that’s the best way to be sure that your food is safe: grow it yourself.


It Isn’t Easy Being a Green Tween or Teen

Back in the late 60′s , when being green usually meant that you had sneaked a cigarette, I argued unsuccessfully with my mother over wearing makeup. I was for it; she was against it until I reached the magic age of fifteen. For some reason I never did fathom, in those days, that was apparently the age all parents had agreed upon as being appropriate for female cosmetic use. True, some of my more daring schoolmates snuck cocoa colored lipstick into their pockets and applied it on the bus, but most didn’t. However, like me, they couldn’t wait to apply the potions and polishes that their older sisters and cousins wore.

Now, I have a tween, an 11 year old daughter who is already begging me for nail polish, lipstick and anything else that will make her look like Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana. She and I are having some of the same discussions I had with my mother, but because I’m NOT my mother, we hold them a little differently.

Rather than forbidding her to “make herself up like a hussy”, which is what my mother did with me, we talk about why it’s not such a hot idea to paint, polish and perfect herself with the stuff that comes out of those little tubes, bottles and pots. For instance, we talk about what’s in all the glamourous potions that make you look better. We also talk about why it’s good to realize that it’s not necessary to enhance your looks on a daily basis and how looking like yourself is the best thing most of the time.

Recently, she found some water-based, “non-toxic” nail polish at a health food store and you might have thought she’d found the holy grail. Excitedly, she showed me the beautiful colors it came in and assured me that there was nothing harmful in it. Then I got her to look at the label and we saw that there was polyurethane in it. She pouted. I went to look at organic honey. She came over to me and asked if she could get it and only wear it once in a long while for special occasions.

I thought about it and said she could. Her face lit up like the sun and she floated out to the car and then to our hotel where she applied two coats of the magic elixir to her fingernails and toenails. That was two days ago and most of it has worn off, but she hasn’t asked me if she can reapply it and the bottle is still in her backpack. If she does ask, I’ll remind her that it’s only for special occasions and has an ingredient that isn’t good to put on her skin more than once in a long while.

I’m sure I’m not the only one facing the cosmetic clash with a daughter. Now, however, girls start wearing makeup and nail polish when they’re toddlers and no one seems to think anything of it. I even know Green mamas who let their tots smear their lips with bright lip gloss that has artificial flavors, colors and petroleum products in it. These are the same mothers who won’t let their kids have anything with corn syrup in it. I don’t get it.

It seems to me that, along with issues about self-esteem, body image and feminism, girls need to know what kind of chemicals they’re putting on their skin. Educating them about carcinogens and endocrine disruptors like parabens, phthalates and BPA is just the start of it. What about the animal products in some cosmetics and the animal testing? What about petroleum products, hormones, nano particles and all the other things that are on the label?

And it isn’t just girls. Boys use cosmetics too, even if the products have “manly” names and black, chunky bottles to make them more acceptable to boys. Even harmless-seeming things like hair gel, shave cream and deodorants have things in them that they need to know about and think about before using.

A bright spot in all of this is that most teens and tweens are eco-conscious and can be reached on that level. So, that’s where I’m trying to make a connection with my daughter. She cares about the planet and the animals and plants on it. She knows that what we’re putting into the air, water and soil is hurting the earth. She’s all for going green when it comes to products that we buy. I’m just hoping that it will carry over into her choices for personal care products and cosmetics in future, both for the planet’s sake – and hers.

Authors: Kristin J. Lavigne from