Blog

Zucchini Lover
[ posted by Rene Loux ]

Ten Tips for a Greener Home - NSF Int'l
[ posted by Rene Loux ]

Bad Ass Chicks Dinner
[ posted by Rene Loux ]

Winter Skin - staying hydrated, supple & glowing
[ posted by Rene Loux ]

New Ways for the Olympics to Go Green
[ posted by Rene Loux ]

Fair-Trade Fashion
[ posted by Rene Loux ]

Safer Plactic
[ posted by Rene Loux ]

Antibacterial Au Naturelle
[ posted by Rene Loux ]

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
[ posted by Rene Loux ]

Squirt's Blog - Birds: the good + the not so good
[ posted by Rene Loux ]

MPG
[ posted by Rene Loux ]

Whole, Green, Now
[ posted by Rene Loux ]


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Zucchini Lover

Posted by Rene Loux - Jul 22, 2011

Zucchini Lover

 

Zucchini Lover

I’ve been having a summer love affair with zucchini. Plentiful, versatile, adaptable, firm yet yielding to the right handling, readily available, a prolific producer. What more could one desire in a lover? 

Anyone who has dared cultivated zucchini in their garden knows well that when in fruit, these tangling, garden-monger vines produce more squash than one knows what to do with. Roasted, grilled, stuffed, marinated. Zucchini bread anyone? They one of the easiest and most abundantly rewarding specimens to grow. Seeds of Change proffers more than a dozen seed varieties for organic summer squash to grow a bouquet of shapes, sizes and colors. However, be forewarned, these vines need room to roam.

While zucchini may not pack a powerful burst of flavor on they’re own, they’re a succulent stage for a cornucopia of dishes. Very low in calories (17 calories per 100g, or about 40 calories for ½ lb.), zucchini is a lovely source of antioxidant Vitamin A and C as well as folate to protect cells and foster new growth. Zucchini is rich in potassium, which is a chief intra-cellular electrolyte that helps balance body fluids and counter-balance the effects of sodium.

One of my absolute favorites ways to finesse this fruit is about as simple as it gets: grilling it. Grilling it dry in fact. No oil, no salt, no seasoning. Those come later. Simply slice into 1/8-inch pieces, length-wise or across, as you please. Grill until golden and just beginning to blacken either on a proper grill or simply under the broiler. Then drizzle with a clean, beautiful extra-virgin olive oil and a nice pinch of flaky sea salt and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper for a bit of a kick. Ta-da. That’s it. This is also a simple yet divine treatment for fennel. Dry grill sliced fennel and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Maybe a squeeze of fresh tangerine, grapefruit or orange (alas citrus is in season during the polar opposite time of year in the Northern hemisphere).

If you’d like to invite a little more pizzazz to your plate, try zucchini ribbons with a fresh (ie: raw) sun-dried tomato marinara or a fresh (ie: raw) alfredo sauce (dairy-free by the way). Simply peel zucchini into ribbons with a vegetable peeler and toss lightly or smother with one of these sauces. It all depends on how saucy you fancy yourself to be.

 

 

Sun-dried Tomato Marinara (raw)

With dynamic texture and layered flavor, this raw marinara leaves nothing to be desired. Fresh diced tomatoes offer a succulent, juicy texture and softened and blended sundried tomatoes lend deep body and flavor. Roma tomatoes are a good varietal as they are firm and contain few seeds. Heirlooms are ideal when in season – choose a varietal that has more meat and less seeds. This marinara is excellent on raw zucchini ribbon “pasta”, traditional pasta, to top vegetables or as a spread for bruscetta.

Yield: about 5 cups

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups sun-dried tomatoes

6 Roma tomatoes (or 4 large heirloom tomatoes), seeds removed and diced (about 4-1/2 cups)

1 clove garlic, finely minced

2 green onions, chopped

1 cup fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves

¼ to ½ teaspoon dried chili flakes pepper (optional)

1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried oregano)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2-3 teaspoons agave nectar, maple syrup, or raw honey

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

sea salt to taste

fresh ground black pepper

Procedure

Cut sun-dried tomatoes into pieces and soak in just enough water to cover them until soft (10-20 minutes).

Cut tomatoes in half. Scoop out seeds and dice.

In a food processor, chop garlic, green onions and herbs finely. Add drained sundried tomatoes, olive oil, sweetener and apple cider vinegar or lemon juice and chop in pulses. Do not blend until smooth.

Add tomatoes and chop in a few pulses just to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Serve with vegetables prepared any way or use to layer in Summer Squash Portobello Lasagne.

  

Zucchini Linguini with Tomatoes and Alfredo Cream Sauce

A smooth alfredo cream sauce compliments delicately peeled zucchini tossed with succulent diced tomatoes for an outstanding palate of flavor and texture. Serve as fresh as possible for best results.

Yields: 2-4 servings

 

Ingredients

Alfredo Sauce:

1-1/2 cups whole raw cashews, soaked (raw cashew pieces can be used)

1/2 cup pinenuts

6 tablespoons good olive oil

1/3 cup lemon juice

1 clove garlic

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

2 cups filtered water, or as needed

1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

Zucchini Linguini & Tomatoes:

6 cups “peeled” zucchini (about 4 zucchini)

1 large organic tomato, diced (preferably a firm heirloom without many seeds)

 Garnish:

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 tablespoon paprika

 

Procedure

Alfredo Sauce:

Soak 1-1/2 cups of cashews in 2 cups fresh water for 30 minutes. Drain and rinse.

In a blender:

Blend drained cashews, pinenuts, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, nutritional yeast and 2/3-cup water into a smooth cream. The sauce should be thick, but able to pour. Add more water as necessary for desired consistency.

Fold in finely chopped parsley

Zucchini Linguini:

Peel the skin from the zucchini. Continue to peel the zucchini to the core with a peeler. Keep turning the zucchini as you peel to create delicate linguini ribbons.

Service:

Serve the zucchini linguini on a plate. Cover with diced tomatoes.

Spoon a good amount of Alfredo Sauce onto each serving and gently toss to mix.

Sprinkle with chopped parsley, paprika and black pepper.

 

 

 

 

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Ten Tips for a Greener Home - NSF Int'l

Posted by Rene Loux - Apr 21, 2011

Ten Tips for a Greener Home - NSF Int'l

NSF International, The Public Health and Safety Company™, a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization, is the world leader in standards development, product certification, education, and risk-management for public health and safety.

NSF is widely recognized for its scientific and technical expertise in the health and environmental sciences. Its professional staff includes engineers, chemists, toxicologists, and environmental health professionals with broad experience both in public and private organizations.

1/ Replace disposables. Consider replacing disposable products you use in your home with reusable ones. Rechargeable batteries, washable food storage containers and using cloth towels instead of paper towels for cleanup are all great ideas.

 

2/ Buy used or borrow/rent. Buy used or recycled products whenever possible. If you only need something temporarily, check with friends or neighbors to see if you can borrow the item or consider renting it.

 

3/ Pack lighter. An extra 10 pounds per traveler requires 350 million more gallons of jet fuel per year.

 

4/ Use color to save energy. Paint your home a light color if you live in a warm climate or a dark color if you live in a cold climate to help reduce energy consumption.

 

5/ Go native. Fill your yard with native plants to help cut down on watering needs. Collect rainwater to use for irrigation. Don't use automatic timers for sprinklers ... manually turn your irrigation system on/off and only water plants and lawn when truly needed.

 

6/ Dry clothes outdoors. Take advantage of nature and try drying your clothes outdoors. Not only will they smell great, but your utility bills will be significantly reduced.

 

7/ Think local. Consider buying produce, meat and dairy products from local suppliers. Not only does this support local business, but less natural resources are used to package and transport the food.

 

8/ Choose eco-friendly cleaning products. For many cleaning tasks around the home, a simple mixture of vinegar or baking soda in hot water can be used. If purchasing store-bought cleaners, look for those with the U.S. EPA Design for the Environment (DfE) logo.

 

9/ Choose eco-friendly building materials. Look for building materials with either a SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) or FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) label, which indicates the wood was responsibly grown and harvested. When replacing flooring, purchase eco-friendly versions such as carpets made from recycled materials or flooring from sustainable resources.

 

10/ Go digital. If your family still receives printed publications, consider subscribing to the online version. Digital music and movie downloads are a great green alternative to purchasing hard copy CDs and DVDs.

 

11/ (plus 1 for good luck!) Increase water efficiency. Install low flow faucets and shower fixtures and take shorter showers, which will cut down on both water usage as well as water heating costs. When replacing appliances, look for water-saving versions with the Water SenseSM label.

 

More information can be found at nsfsustainability.org

 

 

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Bad Ass Chicks Dinner

Posted by Rene Loux - Feb 26, 2011

 

photo

 

 I hosted a dinner last night for a small gaggle of dynamo women. My gal pal Alexis Jones, who founded a contagiously cool organization called “That Girl”, calls a group to court about once a month for dinner. It’s a rotating gang from a diverse sector of professions and passions – writers, producers, musicians, heads of NPOs, athletes, jewelry designers, actors, PR mavens, the list goes on. The concept is simple: to gather, meet, eat, let our hair down and connect. The results are riveting and inspiring.

When Alexis sent word to a more intimate group of 10 or 12 of us this month, I suggested to come on up to my house instead of pow-wowing at a restaurant. It would give me a purposeful excuse to cook a great meal and I have been obsessed with Moroccan cooking lately. I made two tagine dishes using a magic-carpet-ride blend of spices to pair with traditional couscous along with a heap of salad from the farmer’s market, haricot verts, bruschetta with vine-ripened cherry tomatoes and grilled artichoke hearts. For desert, the decadent chocolate mousse I make using avocados. This chocolate avocado recipe has evolved with me over the years and is mind-bendingly good. And chocolate chip cookies. And lots of wine. What can I say, I am a foodie to the core and any excuse to cook is a good one. A Bad Ass Chicks Dinner is one of the best excuses i can conjure.

It’s rare to be surrounded by such a number of solid, dynamic women in one place without an agenda. Women who walk in the world in many different ways and have one thing in common: wanting to connect. We typically go around the table to refresh our connection, introduce ourselves to newbies, and say a little something. Last night the “little something” was: what makes you most happy right now in your life?

One of the gals who has an impressive pedigree in film production and has been shifting her work towards projects that actually inspire her, not just bring home the bacon, said that she has a pin that makes her happy. The pin, she said, was given to her by her mother who passed away when she was 17 and is nothing fancy. No diamonds on this broach, or even precious metals. In fact, it’s kind of campy, like something from a craft fair with wood veneer and a pedestrian font inscribed on it. It reads: “She didn’t always follow the recipe.” I had the chicken-skin chills that arise when the veils are thin and when for a moment it’s possible to catch a glimpse into past and future dimensions all at once and everything is clear. For one, I can’t follow a recipe to save my life. I can write them walking backwards in heels with my eyes closed, but as a life-long contrarian per se, I’ve never followed the recipe as a whole. Looking around the table I saw that none of these fabulous, beautiful, empowered, savvy and skilled women followed the recipe either. Brilliant.

 

The fork in the road that’s been less traveled or never tried has largely been the one that draws me. There’s something of the ecstatic in not knowing exactly how it will turn out. For me, some of the most enriching and rewarding experiences have been yielded by an unabashed willingness to dare the unknown. At the end of the day, when I’m on my death bed, these are the words I hope will be on my lips with a smile: She didn’t always follow the recipe. And it was grand.

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Winter Skin - staying hydrated, supple & glowing

Posted by Rene Loux - Jan 23, 2011

Winter Skin - staying hydrated, supple & glowing

 Winter elements can take a toll on skin. Cold conditions and indoor heat are stressful for skin and increase aging factors, causing dehydration, chapping and dryness on the skin’s surface and in the deeper dermal layers.

There are a number of ways to counter harsh winter elements to keep skin soft, hydrated and radiant and measures to defend against pre-mature aging factors.

Natural over Synthetic Ingredients

Plant-based ingredients nourish and hydrate skin. Petroleum ingredients do the opposite. Look for cleansers and moisturizers that contain skin-beneficial oils for healthy, natural moisture that the skin can absorb and retain. Avoid products that contain harsh synthetic surfactants such as sodium lauryl sulfate, which strips the skin of essential moisture and natural oil causing dehydration, chapping and dryness. Petroleum ingredients tend to sit on the skin preventing skin from breathing and imbalance skin’s natural physiological function.

Cleanse gently

Soap and cleansers for the face and body lift dirt and debris, which is a skin-renewing practice, though products with harsh surfactants and petroleum ingredients strip skin of its natural moisture and oils and have a dry, damaging effect on skin.

Look for soaps and cleansers that contain good quality oils (which make facial cleansers and shower gels more nourishing and are saponified to make soap) and gentle surfactants derived from ingredients such as sugar to achieve gentle yet effective cleansing action without robbing the skin of vital moisture.

Moisturize Generously Before Bed

Our skin renews and regenerates itself more actively while we are at rest. Generously moisturizing the face and body before bed will give skin a chance to absorb and utilize hydrating and skin-healing ingredients.

Exfoliate Regularly and Kindly

Use a gentle yet effective exfoliator to remove dry and dead skin cells and to increase cell turnover for a brighter more luminous complexion. Products that contain natural exfoliates such as AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) and glycolic ingredients renew the skin by dissolving the intracellular glue that binds dead skin cells together. Look for products that contain active levels of ingredients but that are balancing and aren’t too harsh for delicate winterized skin. 

Turn Down the Temp

Although there is little as pleasurable than a piping hot shower, hot water strips the skin of moisture. Turn down the temp to preserve your skin (and some energy in the process!).

Moisturize while Still Damp

Apply facial creams and body moisturizers while your skin is still slightly damp to increase absorption. As your skin dries it will act like a sponge to drink in hydrating ingredients.

Chlorine-free Bathing

Installing a shower filter will help keep your skin hydrated and healthy by removing chlorine from the flow, which is extremely dehydrating for skin. Filtering out chlorine from the spray of a shower will also protect your lungs from breathing this chemical and improve the quality of your indoor air overall.

Drink Deep and Up Omega Oil Intake

Deep hydration begins within. Drinking an ample amount of water will help keep your body hydrated and your skin will show it. Try adding a squeeze of fresh lemon to balance the pH of your body, for an extra boost of antioxidant vitamin C, and for a burst of bright flavor. Omega oils are also an essential factor for healthy hydration on a cellular level. Essential Omega 3 and 6 are an intrinsic part of every cell membrane in your body, which is a critical element for cells to be able to absorb and retain the good stuff and expunge the not-so-good stuff. Flax seeds and flax oil, pumpkin seeds and oil, avocados, cold-water fish, and olives are all delicious sources of skin beautifying Omega oils so up your intake of these foods for a hydrated glowing complexion.

 

 

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New Ways for the Olympics to Go Green

Posted by Rene Loux - Jan 21, 2011

New Ways for the Olympics to Go Green

This article has been contributed by Co-writer by Nerissa Barry and Daniel Fielding

Many have begun to speculate about which country will win the bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Many believe that the United States is a serious contender to win the bid. If they do indeed, not only is the United States Olympic Committee USOC looking to further athletic achievements, but to make substantial environmental changes to the event. This began with naming Andrew Liveris and Dow Chemical the worldwide partner in the Olympics for the next decade.

While there is a lot of talk about the athletic victories that could improve (during the last winter Olympics, Vancouver 2010 games

, the United States won the most metals, nine gold, fifteen silver, and thirteen bronze) there is even more talk about the major changes that may take place in making them more environmentally sound.

As fantastic and unifying as the Olympics are, it's quite a carbon-rich event. So while these changes may only seem minor, they're actually a huge deal. It has been estimated that over 2/3 of the carbon emissions from the event is a result of some of the 1.5+ million attendees traveling (mostly via airplane) to and from the event.

CEO Andrew Liveris and USOC members are looking to do more by following the lead of the 2008 Summer Games that were held in Beijing. The 2008 summer Olympics made great efforts to showcase conservation practices and sustainable energy sources, Exactly what environmentally friendly services did the Olympic facilities feature?

  • Solar power - Used to light lawns, courtyards and streets at several venues, including the Olympic Village. A 130 KW photovoltaic system illuminated The National Stadium, where events such as athletics and football were held.

  • Water Conservation - Waste water collected from the Qinghe sewage treatment plant was filtered and used for the various heating and cooling needs throughout the Olympics site, yielding a 60% savings in electricity. Rainwater was collected from around the grounds, collecting over 75,000 gallons by using water permeable bricks, pipes and wells installed on roofs, roads and green areas.

  • Natural Light - Remember the famous 'Water Cube' where the aquatic events were held? The walls of the National Aquatics Centre provided natural light, and for the interior of the building, specially designed 'beam-pipes' funneled sunlight into corridors, toilets and car parks at venues, including the Olympic Green.

  • Recycling - The 2008 Olympic hosts aimed for a 50 per cent recycling of waste including paper, metals and plastics at venues. A modest expectation, considering that a test run carried out during the 11th World Softball Championships held in 2007, achieved a nearly 90 per cent recycling rate.

While the Olympics in 2008 had great new ways of filtration and insulation for the events. That vision has progressed to include dozens of other products which will help reduce waste and promote conservation. You can expect these products to appear at the coming events over the next decade and be a part of the USOC recommendations.

 

 

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Fair-Trade Fashion

Posted by Rene Loux - Dec 14, 2010

Fair-Trade Fashion

 

Eco-Fashion
 
Ethical & Fair Trade Fashion
            “Fair Trade” clothing has been emerging in the eco-fashion scene as an ethical, socially-responsible code of manufacturing conduct. When it comes to specialty foods like coffee and chocolate, the term “Fair Trade certified” is an established, verifiable standard with clear criteria. When it comes to clothing, the term is used with a looser definition, less monitoring and less authenticated documentation. This is not to say that fair trade clothing doesn’t authentically exist. More accurately, it’s left to the designers and companies to define thier ethical and “fair trade” practices and to monitor and enforce standards.
For the most part, companies that tout “fair trade” clothing follow a manufacturing code of conduct that includes some or all of the following attributes:
– fair wages and working conditions
– barring child labor and sweatshop practices
– adhering to civil labor and safety laws
– environmental sustainability, and equitable partnerships between overseas producers and North American marketers. 
 
To get a more solid and clear picture of what “fair trade” means to a given company means, dig into the company’s Code of Conduct or mission statement description and look for details, which often appear on the websites of clothing designers and companies that publicize the term “fair trade”. Most designers and companies that are genuinely adhering to fair trade protocol will not be shy to share and post their measure of standard.
 
Concern, attention, and demand for ethical, fair trade garments have come of age, in part, as response to media exposure of transcontinental corporations that have capitalized the advantages of reduced trade barriers and transportation costs. The result of lowered trade barriers and cheap shipping are a big part of why a considerable amount of manufacturing has moved out of the U.S. to developing countries where few ethical labor standards may exist, and even fewer may be enforced. However, terrible labor conditions exist in the U.S. too. Sweatshop labor is not cool, domestically or abroad. Some of the biggest brand-name transcontinental corporate tyrants are changing their ways, thanks, in large part, to media exposure and consumer demands. And in the simple economic law of supply-and-demand, consumer interest, pressure, and demand for ethical clothing is a sound catalyst for socially-conscious supply. It’s becoming cool to care. “Activism is the new chic,” writes Newsweek’s Jessica Bennett, “and we, the consumers, have become the new activists – saving the world one credit-card transaction at a time.”
 
Socially-conscious business are in vogue. Marketing strategies and initiatives that are for-a-good-cause are gaining momentum in popularity and success. The EDUN collection, created by U2 singer Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson, has heroically raised the bar, making ethical clothing as cool as it gets. EDUN is working with the premise of “trade, not aid” to foster sustainable communities and long-term economy in Africa, South America and India, instead of simply supplemental charity. The movement of “trae, not aid” is in accord with the well-know proverb, “give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a liftime.”
 
It is growing to go both ways: socially-conscious companies like EDUN have woven environmental sustainability into the protocol of fair trade manufacturing, just as more and more eco-friendly fashion brands are incorporating ethical practices as a standard code of conscious conduct.
           
As with most things in life, there seems to be a bell curve of ethical, fair trade clothing manufacturing in what it means and how it’s being regulated and enforced. Although a gap still exists between the pursuit of justice and its realization, ethical fashion has hit the radar. It’s not without need of improvement, but fair trade fashion standards and popularity are growing and strengthening. While it’s probably as difficult to raise a family on minimum wage in countries abroad as it is domestically, there are some formidable designers and companies that are pushing the envelope with terms of engagement. In time, with the vote of consumer dollars, a certified Fair Trade Standard develop for the garment industry will be established, as it has in the food industry, with meaningful criteria, enforceable standards and a recognizable stamp of approval.
 

 

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Safer Plactic

Posted by Rene Loux - Mar 05, 2010

Safer Plactic

Plastics are a ubiquitous element of our daily lives. Let’s face it, they’re everywhere – holding the food we eat and the water we drink, constructing the toys our kids play with, the bottles they nurse from, and the sippy cups they graduate to. Plastics house the computers we work on and the remotes that control our entertainment systems. They make up the interiors of the cars we drive. They’re cheap, versatile, and convenient. What’s not to love? Plenty. Plastic are taking a serious toll on our health and environment. Plastics are made with petroleum, a nonrenewable resource with a host of human and ecological concerns at every stage of its lifecycle, from extraction, through processing and use, to disposal in landfills and by way of incineration. Though seemingly über-convenient for holding food and drink, plastics have been found to leach chemicals into that food and drink.

Let’s face it, using plastic is up there with death and taxes in inevitability. But that doesn’t mean we have to sit back and take what’s being fed to us on a polyethylene spork (that strange hybrid spoon-fork utensil). There are simple skills you can learn to help you pick plastic products more wisely.

 

1. DON’T MIX HOT FOODS AND PLASTIC.

Putting hot stuff in plastic containers is never a good idea. The chemicals and additives in plastic, which are not especially stable, are released when plastic is heated and can leach into food and drink. Fatty foods and plastic are the worst combination of all because the chemicals in plastic are more soluble in fat, so they leach greater amounts of those chemicals into fatty foods.

2. USE LESS PLASTIC CLING WRAP.

Plastic wrap is a mainstay in kitchen everywhere, though its clingy convenience comes at quite a cost. Most plastic wraps are made with the worst kind of plastics (PVC and its cousins), which are laden with softening chemicals like phthalates and plasticizers that are believed to readily migrate into foods. Please, for your sake, never put plastic wrap in the microwave – try covering food with a glass or ceramic lid or plate, unbleached wax, parchment paper or a paper towel instead.

Reusable glass containers with lids and unbleached parchment paper are great, greener alternatives for storing food.

3. TOSS OUT OLD, SCRATCHED PLASTIC CONTAINERS.

Plastic containers that are scratched and cracked leach more unwanted chemicals into food and drinks than new containers do, Any plastic that is worse for the wear should not be used for foods. As plastic containers wear out, replace them with glass containers with lids for long-lasting, safer food storage. Unfortunately, many plastic containers can’t be recycled, but they can be repurposed for organizing stuff in drawers, closets, and offices or used as gardening tools.

4. GO FOR GLASS CONTAINERS.

For food storage, glass containers are the safest, greenest, most long-lasting way to go. They come in all shapes and sizes, and with tight-fitting lids for all of the convenience and non of the concern. A n eco-bonus is that glass containers can last for decades, and even if they suffer an untimely demise, they can be recycled with the glass bottles.

5. RETHINK PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES

Plastic water bottles are the bane of eco-green living, and they’re pretty impossible to avoid. The reality is that we require fluids to live and we need something to carry it them in. Plastic bottles have been the standard up until recently, but glass and stainless steel water bottles are great, green options that will let you avoid ingesting the chemicals that migrate from plastic and contributing to the 30 million plastic water bottles disposed of every day in the U.S.

 

To learn more about Safer Plastics and so much more, check out Easy Green Living: the ultimate guide to simple, eco-friendly choices for you and your home by Renée Loux

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Antibacterial Au Naturelle

Posted by Rene Loux - Jan 21, 2010

Antibacterial Au Naturelle

 

Antibacterial products, such as soaps and hand sanitizers, have become part of a daily practice for many, especially during the winter months when indoor air is recycled and germs are most at large. However, there are a few concerns when it comes to chemical sanitizers that are worth considering, as well as some effective natural alternatives that will keep your family and the ecosystem clean and green.
 
 
The skinny on bacteria and antibacterial products
 
 The reality is that there are no more germs today than there were, say, 20 years ago, but it seems we have become more paranoid about them now. With a staggering 700+ antibacterial products on the market, one would suspect that we could sterilize bacteria from existence. While it’s true that there are incalculable amounts of bacteria everywhere, chemical antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers may not always be the answer for confronting them for a few good reasons.
 
 
1. Not all bacteria are bad.
 
A lot of bacteria are benign and some are truly helpful. For instance, the bacteria in out guts are absolutely essential for digesting and absorbing food, and they are an important part of our immune system. Antibacterial soaps kill bacteria indifferently, wiping out the good and the bad with broad strokes.
 
 
2. Overusing antibacterial cleansers may weaken our immune system.
 
Bacteria and germs are everywhere in every season, but they typically have a tough time infiltrating our bodies because we have many levels of natural defense. We are designed to fight off mild bacteria and germs. Your body is quietly, heroically doing it right now. However, the immune system gets lazy and weak when all the day-to-day defense work is done for it. This becomes a bigger issue when really nasty stuff comes along. A strong immune system is one that’s in fighting form.
 
 
3. Casual, regular use of antibacterial products promotes the growth of resistant strains of bacteria and germs.
 
This spells trouble for antibiotics in the big picture. Over time, our most effective antibiotics may be rendered useless. We need antibiotics and antibacterials for the really nasty bacteria and pathogens like Staphylococcus and E. coli, but not for common bacteria and germs that mill around in the bathroom.
 
 
4. Research is linking too stringent hygiene with an increase in allergies, especially in kids, and notable increases in asthma and eczema to boot.
 
 
Two Effective Words: Soap and Water
 
The largest study done on hand hygiene shows that nothing works better to get rid of disease-causing bacteria and viruses than good ol’ soap and water, period. The best way to protect yourself from everyday germs is to wash your hands several times a day. It’s as simple as that.
 
 
 
Triclosan: The Antibacterial with Hazardous Side Effects
 
Triclosan is one of the most common ingredients found in synthetic antibacterial products. It’s a broad-spectrum biocide that kills everything in its path, but its hazards to human health and the environment are not trivial. Triclosan is a type of phenol that, though it has antiseptic properties, is a chemical pollutant that persists in the environment for a very long time and bioaccumulates in humans and animals. It’s acutely toxic to aquatic life and causes serious havoc in water ecosystems. One of the big concerns with triclosan is that it’s highly reactive with compounds like chlorine, both in the environment at large and possibly at home when mixed with chlorine-based cleaners. The interaction creates carcinogenic compounds like chlorinated dioxins and chloroform. This is not a good picture to be in. Choosing nontoxic, biodegradable products that use the naturally antiseptic powers of plants and essential oils instead of products containing triclosan is clearly the clean, green way to go.  
 
 
Essential oils: Naturally Antiseptic and Good Smells Too
 
For eons, essential oils derived from plants have been valued for their medicinal and therapeutic properties. Modern science has verified the value of many traditional oils, especially for their antiseptic, antibacterial, antimocrobial, and antiviral qualities. The most notable essential oils in this regard are cinnamon, clove, lavender, lemon, lemongrass, orange, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and tea tree.
 
Add a dozen drops of essential oils to your favorite (plant-based, biodegradable) liquid hand soap and shake it up for a fine way to improve the natural antibacterial action of good ol’ soap and water. Mix and match fragrances for a bouquet of aroma with healthy hygiene. Pure essential oils are available at most natural markets and from online sources. They aren’t cheap, but one bottle can easily last a year. 

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The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Posted by Rene Loux - Oct 16, 2009

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

 About a thousand miles off the coast of California in the great blue Pacific Ocean, there is a flotsam of plastic that covers hundreds, possibly thousands of miles. It's called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (and various iterations on the theme) and it's largely governed by the gyre in the North Pacific Subtropical Zone, which is a fancy term for a bunch of clock-wise-circulating ocean currents that converge in this moderately stationary part of the ocean. It migrates north and south seasonally, as much as a thousand miles, but one thing's for sure: it's big. The verdict is out on definitive answers about the volume, primary sources, density, and average size of the debris, but another thing's for sure: it's growing. When I first heard of it, about 6 years ago, it was estimated to be roughly the size of Texas. At the time, I could hardly believe it - how could pollution of that proportion be so relatively unknown? Now, some estimated the Great Plastic Patch to be twice that size. Could it have grown that fast? It's hard to say.

  Since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA) first documented it in 1988, increased scrutiny has revealed a complex can of worms. First, the Great Trash Patch is not as visually concrete as one might expect. Robert Knox, deputy director of research for California's Scripps Institute of Oceanography explains, "There may be a misapprehension...that if you got out there and stood on the middle of a deck, you'd see nothing but plastic litter from horizon to horizon...Certainly one does encounter pieces of plastic stuff that are big enough to see. But the other side of the puzzle is all the little bits and pieces of plastic that you can't even see unless you scoop up a sample of seawater and see what's in there."

The density of debris may not be solid enough to walk on, in part because the plastic stuff is breaking down, though not nearly at the rate in which it is accumulating, but also due to the extensive possible depth of distribution. The fact that it's breaking down intersects a causal concern about plastic as a material, which poses a significant danger for the entire marine food chain. The most obvious concern is that larger animals such as birds, fish, and turtles mistaking pieces of plastic for food ostensibly starve to death because their guts become full of indigestible plastic. But a deeper and more complex concern is being raised for small organisms at the bottom of the food chain that are ingesting small particles of plastic and feeding it up the food chain. Unlike polluting debris that biodegrades (meaning it breaks down in to materials that exist in nature or are similar enough to plant and animal matter to be put to use by microorganisms), plastic photodegrades, which means that it will break down into smaller and smaller pieces, but will remain as a petroleum-based polymer even when broken down to the molecular level. What that really means is: plastic never ever really goes away. Climbing up the food chain, where larger animals eat smaller animals, plastic inevitably enters the human food supply too.

  Among the questions about how a diet of plastic will affect the scope food chain over time, one that surfaces with quiet concern is: what's the impact of a massive scale marine breakdown of the plasticizers widely used in plastic, such as BPA (Bisphenol A), which have shown hormone disrupting traits? It's a short stretch of the imagination to be sure we'll find out. The question that is likely the most pertinent is: what can we do to about The Great Pacific Garbage Patch? Learn more, get involved, and opt out of plastic whenever possible. Thanks to increasing interest and media coverage, 2009 marked the year that clean-up efforts have begun on a scale with potential to make a dent in this doozie.

To learn more and to get involved in the action, visit www.projectkaisei.org 

 

 

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Squirt's Blog - Birds: the good + the not so good

Posted by Rene Loux - Oct 15, 2009

Squirt's Blog - Birds: the good + the not so good

Today was one of those days. It was good and not so good. I got busted with a bird in my mouth. Not so good. "Not cool," said Renée, "not ok." She said that cats are largely responsible for wiping out the native birds in Hawaii. How was I supposed to know? She didn't go so far as to say, "bad cat." But I get the feeling it was pretty unacceptable. But what's a cat supposed to do when the birdies are so inviting and delectable and right there. They're begging for it and they don't even hear my friggin bell. Renée says I should eat the cockroaches. Cockroaches?! She says they're crunchy and everyone likes crunchy. They happen to taste very bad. She should try them. Birds are crunchy too I want to tell her. They have nice hollow bones. She shouldn't feed the birds in such close range then. Plus, cockroaches are boring to hunt. I prefer gekos. They are quite a tasty snack and really quite sweet. Renée calls me a killer. Maybe I am. Ok, I definitely am, but when bestowed with such fine teeth and claws that I keep nice and sharp by sharpening them on the soft-top of her stand-up paddle board and the beautiful Tibetan carpets, what's a cat to do?

 

It was a good day because I heard that the entries for the Yesterday's News Do-Gooder contest are poring in, which I understand will benefit my fellow felines who are being looked after in animal shelters. I really feel for them and want the best for them because I was lucky enough to be rescued instead of having to go to one. Renée says that I was produced by the bushes. I think she means she found me in the bushes. I hardly remember it, but I do remember living in a bird cage in her office for a while before I got my bearings around the house (the door to the bird cage was open and it was on the ground mind you). So, I guess I should be grateful for the birds, not only for murderous play, but also for the birdcage I got to live in for a while. Maybe that's why I love to hunt them. Renée says I need therapy because I have all of the food in the world and still I hunt. I'd like to tell her that you can take the cat out of the jungle, but you can't take the jungle out of the cat.

 

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MPG

Posted by Rene Loux - Oct 05, 2009

MPG

 

I recently trumped my personal best MPG (miles per gallon). 42.3 miles per gallon, baby, and it wasn't even in a hybrid. The gleaming moment that I looked at the dash to see those generous numbers was the same giddy surprise of finding a 20-dollar bill in the pockets of your pants after washing them because I wasn't even trying. I must admit, I am an avid hyper-miler - one who strives to achieve maximum MPG by driving ergonomically, accelerating slowly and evenly, maintaining a steady speed, coasting frequently to avoid using the breaks simply to accelerate again, and avoiding coming to a complete stop (obeying traffic laws as much as possible), which kills MPG with a vengeance. But, I was driving out to surf with my friend Helen (Hunt) and the sun was shining down on the blue Pacific casting glassy sets of waves onto Maui's shores, the sound system was just right and my mind was giving me a rest from the constant current of firing of synapses. You could say I was in cahoots. I was on autopilot, driving in a way I've conditioned myself to drive, which is somewhat of a departure from the seduction of double-digit cylinders combusting in sync with tight alignment hugging the asphalt.

    

I drive a Mercedes, which makes me laugh, grateful, and laugh some more. Laugh, because if you told me 15 years ago that I would be driving a Mercedes, I would laugh in disbelief (same goes with my golf game and the stiletto heels in my closet). Grateful, because it's a beautifully sexy car that drives like butter. Laugh some more, because I can coax this high performance car to compete with the MPG that only hybrids are supposed to achieve. In fact, this car gets better MPG by quite a bit than the Lexus hybrid my husband drives. It runs on diesel and is supposed to get 23 mpg city/32 mpg highway. 42.3 mpg is a benchmark I hope to visit regularly, but I hover in the 37 to 38 mpg regularly. What am I doing that's so special? Nothing more than what every driver can do: drive sanely and smartly. It's not rocket science: I am able to drive just as far as the average American (12,000 miles/year) on about half the amount of gas, which in Hawaii will save me about $600 a year. That's less than the $900+ it would have saved me last year when fuel prices peaked well above $4/gallon, but no small change.

    

So, what, if any, is the greenest kind of car? For most Americans, the car with the lightest footprint is probably the one you already have, simply driven more smartly. Not only will this conserve the enormous amount energy and fuel it takes to manufacture a new car, but it may quell the surge of road rage. As someone who continuously weighs and balances my consumer habits for sustainability and appreciates high performance stuff, I reason with my desires for new and improved stuff all the time. The car I would really like is the Telsa Roadster. Zero to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds on pure electric power at the cost of about 1-cent per mile, no emissions, and the voluptuously svelte body of a Lotus. Oh, baby. However, at close to six figures and no one in Hawaii to fix any problems that might crop up, I rest my case to be satiated and grateful for a very nice car that I already own outright. And one that I can finesse into better MPG than the hybrid parked next to it.

 

 

 

 

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Whole, Green, Now

Posted by Rene Loux - Sep 21, 2009

Whole, Green, Now

 

  Every generation has cornerstones and milestones that define the credo of the age. Rarely, a piece of work emerges that remains a current affair long after the debut splash passes. The convergence of ecology and economy has never been a more contemporary and critical issue for our world. Not only to survive, but also to thrive. Welcome to the Whole Green Catalog.

 

  The original Whole Earth Catalog was a revolutionary publication that became a touchstone for a generation. It transformed the very context of information with the birth of spherical thinking. Some largely credit it as the catalyst for what we now know as the Internet and its blogosphere. It was the first analogue web of information, fusing two seemingly autonomous hemispheres - the back-to-the-land movement with the dawn of the information age. It struck a chord that resonated with a generation and fundamentally laid the groundwork and structure for generations to come. Today, our world is interconnected, interdependent and access to a universe of information is at our fingertips.

 

  The call to immediate action to quell the perfect storm of global climate crisis, dwindling resources, and an unsustainable model of consumer appetite and growth is upon us, all around us, and growing in urgent proportions. We are in a time of great change amidst a shift and growth of commerce and fiscal power. In a polarized world of ideals, beliefs, politics and economy, never before have our choices as consumers mattered more. Every day, the choices we individually make – consciously or unconsciously – carry immense consequence. Whether the ripples we create, individually and collectively, are a wave of positive momentum for a cleaner, greener, safer and sustainable future or contribute to an insatiable tsunami set on course to consume our world is entirely up to us. Each transaction we make is a vote toward the world we want to live in. Each choice can work to benefit you, me, and the greater good; ultimately, our global community and our whole Earth’s environment.

earth by you.

 

  So, how in the Earth’s name do we make the right choices, especially in the face of endless supply of goods and services lobbying for our attention and devotion? One at a time with the help of the Whole Green Catalog. It’s a wealth of green information and green ideas, not just things, that are available and accessible to everyone. Being “green” is a nonpartisan choice; it’s nondenominational and it doesn’t have to do with your zip code. This book illustrates a broad, new horizon of possibility, discovery, and potential. We’ve filtered, distilled and catalogued the best and brightest green products and services on the planet (that’s why it’s called a Catalog), that are ripe and ready to be engaged and put into action. It’s a tool to segue and harness curiosity into action. We recognize that fundamentally, we all need things with which to live in the world, make our lives easier, furnish and interface the many moving parts of our lifestyles. The things we choose (or don’t choose) for our own lives, in the aggregate, have a deep reaching impact, for the better or for the worse. The only way to live long and prosper is with continuous regeneration and sustainable growth. The future is written one day at a time.

 

 

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