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Dig Dirt Like Michelle Obama!

Michelle Obama is planting an organic garden at the White House. If the nation's first lady can dig dirt, can't you? What better way to get fresh, locally grown, organic vegetables and herbs?

Plus, you can't beat the price. For a couple of dollars in seeds, you can enjoy an entire summer's worth of crops. In fact, gardening can save you hundreds of dollars in food each season you grow your own.

Follow these Top Ten Tips to get started.

 


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6 Baby Bottle Makers Ban Bisphenol A — But What About Other Chemicals and Products?

Six major U.S. baby products manufacturers agreed to remove the toxic chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) from baby bottles, in an agreement reached with the Connecticut Attorney General.

Said Environmental Working Group, the non-profit research institute that's been advocating BPA-free products, "The action represents a critical breakthrough in protecting infants from the hazards of the synthetic estrogen and plastics component, which leaches easily into formula and food from BPA-laden food packaging.

"The industry agreement effectively recognizes that BPA is too dangerous for infants."

At least as far as baby bottles are concerned. Says EWG, "there is much more to be done. Other states and the federal government must take additional steps to see that this toxic hormone disruptor is removed not only from plastic baby bottles, but from the linings of cans for infant formula and other foods and from other sources of exposure such as sippy cups and bottled water bottles."

“Today’s deal underscores the need for the Congress and the Obama administration to overhaul federal chemicals policy to protect infants and children from exposures to toxic chemicals,” said Environmental Working Group (EWG) Executive Director Richard Wiles.

“When the public is forced to rely on state actions to achieve nationwide protections, we know the federal system is broken,” Wiles said.

In their news release, EWG reports that U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) will soon re-introduce The Kid-Safe Chemicals Act in the Senate, with companion legislation to be offered in the House, according to California Congressman Henry Waxman (D). The legislation proposes a major overhaul of federal toxics chemical law, requiring that manufacturers demonstrate that chemicals are safe for infants and children before they enter the market.

The Toxin-Free Toddlers and Babies Act sets an upper limit of 0.1 parts per billion (ppb) of BPA in bottles and cups. The measure also proposes to bar can linings and jars found to leach 0.1 ppb or more of BPA into any liquid, food or beverage designed for children 3 and under.


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Want to Save 40,000 Trees? Buy Recycled Toilet Paper

Charmin, Kleenex Cottonelle, Quilted Northern and Scott are among the toilet papers and tissues that do the most harm to forests and the environment, according to a new report by Greenpeace.

The non-profit research group evaluated dozens of brands of toilet paper, facial tissue, paper, towels, and napkins according to three criteria:

  1. How much recycled content they contained
    Using 100% recycled content helps protect forests because it significantly reduces the demand for trees, especially trees coming from native forests.

  2. How much of that was post-consumer waste
    To get the top ranking, at least 50% post-consumer waste needed to be used in manufacturing the product.

  3. How the paper was bleached
    The top-ranked products are not bleached using chlorine, which can create the toxic byproduct dioxin.


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Buying in Bulk Just Saved Me $20!

save money going green

Given how jittery the economy is, it's easy to get the jitters yourself when it comes to going green.

Isn't it great to know, then, that choosing the greenest option when you shop can actually be the most economical way to shop, too?

This was brought home to me in spades this morning, when I was stocking up on cat food. Now, there's nothing particularly 'green' about the food I feed my cat Midnight - nothing organic or free range or locally grown. But I had a choice between the package it came in. I could either buy individual four-pound bags, or one large 10-pound bag (which is far less energy and resource intensive to produce).

When I looked at the price difference, it was easy to make up my mind: one 10-pound bag actually cost $20 less than three four-pound bags! Twenty bucks! I couldn't believe it. ...


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10 Surprising Reasons to Eat Less Meat

You don't need to be a complete vegetarian for your diet to help protect the planet. Just eat less meat. Here's why:

1. Save the rainforest

World Wildlife Fund estimates that, every year, an area of the world's rain forests larger than the state of New York is destroyed to create grazing land. In Latin America, says the United Nations, some 70% of forests in the Amazon basin have been cut down to raise cows.

2. Refresh the air

If you've ever driven by a feed lot, you've probably had to hold your nose. No wonder. About 1.4 billion metric tons of solid manure are produced by U.S. farm animals each year - 130 times the quantity produced by people.This figure includes pigs and chickens as well as cattle, but cattle are the single largest source.

3. Keep water clean

Two-thirds of the beef cattle raised in the U.S. are fattened up using hormones like steroids, testosterone and progesterone. When the cows pee, they can pollute surface and ground water with all these chemicals, affecting the ability of frogs and fish to reproduce, too. ...


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The Greenest Cell Phones

If you're in the market for a new cell phone, consider one of these "green" models that were featured at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

Motorola's MOTO W233 Renew

Motorola MOTO W233 Renew

Cost: $9.99 with a two-year contract; buy through T-Mobile.
Motorola's MOTO W233 Renew is constructed of plastic made from recycled water bottles and can be completely recycled. It comes in packaging made of 100% recycled paper and includes a prepaid shipping envelope so you can easily recycle your old mobile phone. PLUS: Motorola pays to offset the carbon emissions created during manufacture and distribution, along with the first two years you use it. (Its carbon offset payments are going to support methane gas capture at a landfill in New Bedford, MA). ...


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How to Buy Organic Nontoxic Flowers

organic flowers

For Valentine’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries or other special occasions, giving flowers often seems like a gift from Mother Nature herself.

But when flowers are doused in pesticides and transported long (i.e., energy-intensive) distances, their eco-appeal quickly evaporates. The health impact conventionally-grown flowers has makes them even less desirable.

Consider this: Seventy percent of U.S. flowers are imported from Latin America, where growers in Columbia, Ecuador and other countries use pesticides that have long been banned in the U.S. A 2002 survey of 8,000 Colombian flower workers revealed exposure to 25 carcinogenic or highly toxic pesticides that are not used in the United States.

Often, women flower growers suffer impaired vision, asthma, and miscarriage or give birth to babies marked by lower birth weights and higher blood pressure. Thirty-five out of 72 Ecuadoran children tested by the Harvard School of Public Health experienced organophosphate pesticides in the womb while their mothers grew flowers. These children later suffered both higher blood pressure and poorer spatial ability than kids who escaped prenatal exposures. Overall, according to a study by the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF), two-thirds of Colombian and Ecuadorian flower workers suffer work-related health problems ranging from impaired vision and neurological problems Some women give birth to stillborn infants, or see their children die within a month after birth.

Meanwhile, the International Labor Organization estimates that 20 percent of flower workers in Ecuador are children, who are more vulnerable to chemical hazards than adults because their immune systems and vital organs are still immature. According to Environmental News Network, roses can contain as much as 50 times the amount of pesticides that are legally allowed on the food we eat. The U.S. requires imported flowers to be bug-free, but unlike edible fruits and vegetables they are not tested for chemical residues. So even if you’re not growing these flowers yourselves, you may still be bringing the chemicals used on them into your home.

Fortunately, shoppers have a whole bouquet of alternatives to conventionally grown flowers and plants. ...


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Organic and Fair-Trade Chocolate Taste Test

divine chocolates

Any day is a good day to eat chocolate as far as I'm concerned. But on no day is it so special as on Choc bar Valentine's Day, when heart-shaped boxes full of cocoa-based delicacies can keep people (well, me) happy pretty much all day.

That's particularly true if the cocoa is produced organically. Cocoa powder is derived from cacao seeds that grow in pods on the cacao tree. The tree's botanical name, Theobroma cacao, means "food of the gods," nomenclature with which I wholeheartedly agree. Cocoa "beans" are only called that once they're removed from the tree. What does any of this have to do with the environment? The cacao tree grows in the rainforest. Ideally, cacao trees will be grown on small farms, in the shade, to keep rainforests intact and reduce pesticide use.

Even better is organic cocoa that is also produced according to Fair Trade principles, ensuring that farmers are paid a decent wage for their work and no child labor is involved. In countries like Cote d'Ivoire in West Africa, children are being used like slaves to produce cocoa, with profits going to fund the country's civil war.

Online, at natural foods stores and food coops, and increasingly at local grocery stores, you can find organic, fair trade cocoa and chocolate. Here are some brands to look for: ...


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What Peanut Butter Is Safe to Eat?

peanut butter

What peanut butter products are safe to eat?

Earlier this month, products containing peanut butter produced by the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) were discovered to be tainted with salmonella. Over 488 people have become ill; six have died.

The government has issued this list of products consumers should avoid. It is quite extensive and probably includes some of your favorite brands, so please review it carefully.

The FDA says so far, no brand name peanut butter sold in grocery stores is linked to the outbreak. Your Jiffy, Skippy and Peter Pan should be safe.

Many schools do not serve peanut butter because so many kids are allergic to peanuts. Schools that do serve peanut butter that they got from PCA have had their supplies recalled.

The FDA says you would be wise to avoid foods like processed cakes, candies, cookies and ...


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The Green Inaugural Balls Promise Celebration With 'Minimal Impact'

Environmentalists will be decked out in a hundred shades of green over the next few days as they celebrate Barack Obama's inauguration with no less than three "green" balls -- and I'm going to two of them!

The Green Environmental Ball: Maximum Celebration, Minimal Impact kicks things off Satuday, January 17 at 8 p.m. in the Mellon Auditorium, just a stone's throw from the White House. Various speakers will include Chris Paine (producer of the film 'Who Killed the Electric Car?'), Margie Alt, Executive Director of Environment America, and Graham Hill, Treehugger founder and now a muckety-muck at The Discovery Channel (The Discovery Channel's Planet Green network is the prime sponsor of the event). But the highlight of the evening will no doubt be the performance of Wyclef Jean, the Haitian-born Grammy Award-winning "musician/producer/social activist."

Every facet of the Green Inaugural Ball has been designed to reduce its impact on the environment, say event organizers. That means the "heavy hors d'oeuvres" will be organic, many of the drinks will be organic, throwaways will be at a minimum and recycling will be done to the max (hence the mantra of the party). Event organizers are even purchasing carbon credits to offset the transportation of all truck deliveries and staff commutes....


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Trader Joe's Sells a Lot of Worthy but Overpackaged Foods

brown thumb down

As much as I love the product variety at Trader Joe's, I hate the packaging waste.

Everything - apart from a few bananas - comes wrapped in excessive plastic or paper. What gives? On a recent shopping trip there, all the fresh produce seemed to be hermetically sealed: one barrel was full of pairs of zucchini trapped on small polystyrene trays bundled in plastic. Another featured pairs of apples similarly presented. Elsewhere, the store was selling over-sized boxes of organic tea bags - the tea bag was the same size, but it was encased in a large cellophane wrapper, then packed in a box that seemed to be 30% bigger than the standard size. Is that ok because the tea is organic? ...


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3 Green Investments with the Best ROI

save money going green

Saving energy makes sense any time, but particularly now, given our short supplies of oil and the pollution and climate change we create when we burn any fossil fuel.

Still, you may be among the millions of people who have not yet incorporated energy conservation into your daily routine. Why not? The number one reason for most people is money - not necessarily real money, but definitely the perception that it will require a lot of money to put energy-saving strategies to work in your home.

I say "perception," because that's often what it is. Many consumers are under the generally false impression that adopting 'green' (i.e., energy efficient) technologies is beyond their financial reach. And especially during these economic hard times, even the suspicion that something will cost more is enough to deter its purchase.

That's why the concept of Green ROI - return on investment - is so important. Green ROI offers a way to calculate what the purchase of a green product is worth both in the short term and a longer way down the road. In other words, if you spend xx $$$ on a green product today, how long will it take you to realize a gain - in real dollars - and make the purchase worthwhile?

Well, consider a few of these Green ROI calculations, courtesy of GreenandSave.com, and based on a ten-year performance period: ...


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Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs Save Her $400 Every Year

one in a million campaign

If you're one of those people who want to "go green" but think they can't afford it, meet Sue H. of Dewitt, Virginia.

This "One in a Million" grandmother of two has found that shifting her spending to products and services that offer the greatest environmental benefit actually saves her money - especially when it comes to energy.

The One in a Million campaign inspires consumers to shift at least $1,000 of their existing household budgets to greener goods. The idea isn't to spend more money, just to make "green" a priority when you do shop. In many cases, the new purchases are not only better for the planet. They're great for your pocketbook, too.

Here's how Sue shifted her spending:

save money going green

Date: Item / Money Spent

04/'07: '07 Honda Civic / $17,500
04/'07: front loading washer / $1,000
'06-'08: 50 CFL bulbs / $200
01/'07: Water heater blanket / $20
01/'08: Weather stripping / $10
01/'08: 8 pairs of thermal drapes / $500
05/'08: Bamboo bathroom flooring / $400

Total: $19,130

Sue says she's "pretty much a typical 60ish woman" with three grown children, two grown step-children, and seven grandchildren. Retired, she sews, does some crafting, reads and gardens. When I asked Sue what inspired her, here's what she said.

"The green thing? It really began for me in the 70's when we planted our first garden. ...


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Top 10 Ways to Green the White House Grounds

white house

Also see Top 10 Ways to Green the White House

1. Eliminate use of pesticides and herbicides

The White House perches smack-dab in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, where the main source of pollution is chemical runoff. Eliminating toxic landscape chemicals would help protect the quality of one of America's most productive estuaries.

2. Go native

Replace large sections of the White House lawn with native trees, bushes and flowers. Need some advice? Ask the native plant societies in Maryland and Virginia.

3. Plant an organic vegetable garden

EatTheView.com is encouraging the First Eaters to plant a "Victory Garden," with produce going to the White House kitchen and local shelters. ...


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