Friday, May 28, 2010

Quick Suggestions for Picnics this Weekend

The easiest way to be a little greener during the holiday weekend is to cut out the soda in plastic bottles. Go for cans instead. Aluminum is much more likely to be recycled. Of course, feel free to stick to the beer and wine in cans. ;)

When shopping for your picnic stuff, make sure you take your reusable bags. Other things are right out of the last few posts I had recently... avoid paper plates, avoid plastic utensils, avoid paper napkins... see how LITTLE trash you can accumulate this Memorial Day! Set the tone of your summer.

That's it! Just a quickie! Have a great holiday weekend!

Good Rule of Thumb: if "disposable" is in the name....

DON'T use it!!!

There are obvious exceptions that we can't avoid. But we're intelligent people, and I'll not dwell on those things. I'm talking more things that we use for the supposed convenience, when really, the non-throw-away alternative is not so terribly un-convenient. There are things that are made to be disposable, but when you have a non-disposable alternative, why not use that instead?

The main things that come to mind are disposable razors. Why use these? Because they are cheap? I know razor refills are pricey, but if you break it down, they last a lot longer than the cheap-o plastic things. I'm Italian, therefore I am hairy, and Italian hair ain't no fuzzy soft downy stuff. It's resistant. But I can make that razor head last a LONG time with no major blood-lets. And I use coupons and I stock up when they are on sale. Heck, you can buy them on eBay at a reduced price. Disposable razors are a very big waste of plastic, and they are not needed. Stick to the much much smaller bit of waste in the razors with replaceable heads. 

Forks, knives, spoons? Easy to avoid. ESPECIALLY in the home. For outdoor activities, get bamboo utensils or hit the thrift store and get a set you won't care about if any gets lost. I can't quite recommend the compostable ones, unless you are a really good composter. They resemble plastic too much and they get in the recycling, and we're not good at dealing with that yet. Better to reuse a set from the thrift store, for sure. Those were already made!

Paper napkins? Cloth instead. Kleenex? Hankies instead. Paper towels? Real towels and rags instead. Paper plates? Covered that last time. Dixie cups in the bathroom? Unnecessary. Wash a reusable one. Plastic wrap? Foil instead. Or containers. 

There are SO many ways we can save resources. Easing away (or going cold turkey) on disposable stuff would be such a giant help... let's try it. Let's all work on consuming less of everything. We'll be healthier, and the planet will be healthier, and that will make us healthier... it's a perfect circle.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Wash a plate, for crying out loud.

I get it, I really do. Cookouts, picnics, that sort of thing... you don't want plates around. I don't agree, but I get it. I would rather see people pick up bamboo plates or palm leaf plates or even plates from the thrift store to use outdoors. But, that aside, what REALLY gets to me, and no excuses here AT ALL, is the use of paper plates IN THE HOME. Chinet ad: "Chinet Casuals. Every day of the week is the perfect day to use them."

REALLY??? What gives with this??? I saw an ad for Dixie Ultra (Georgia-Pacific, haven't picked on them yet) paper plates, and yeah OK for the shots around the BBQ, but in the home? In the kitchen? At the TABLE??? Most of the examples of usage in the commercial were IN the home, AT the dining room table. No. No no no no no no no. No. There is NO reason to use paper plates or Styrofoam plates or toss-away plastic plates in the home. EVER.

Bring on the excuses...
"Kids." Um... more reason to NOT use disposable plates. You know, because of saving the planet for them and such. Afraid they'll break real plates? OK... so? Plates break. Not valid. No time to wash real plates? NOPE. You made the kids, you make the time to steward the planet for them. Anyone who doesn't "have time" to wash plates should not have taken the time to have kids. Kids take time. Deal with it.

"Guests." Bridal shower, party, etc? Like the Chinet brand "Cut Crystal - sophisticated disposable tableware" (their words, not mine). Nope. Command more respect by figuring out how to have a gathering without 50 bags of trash, and show people how it's done. I really don't care if your plates and silver all match. Or again, look into bamboo or palm. Something, anything reusable. Don't want to wash after the grand party? Frickin' build that time into the planning of the party, and GET HELP from someone else doing the planning with you.

"Compostable/recyclable/biodegradable." Nope, nope and nope. I don't believe enough people out there actually compost to make that a viable excuse. If you do, YOU get a pass. And ONLY you. Have at. My hat tips to you. Everyone else, no. Recycling? There's already enough stuff out there that goes in the bins but doesn't actually get recycled. No need to add to it. Biodegrading plates? Nice try, but we all know that when something hits a landfill, it gets covered and never sees enough light or air again to actually biodegrade effectively, if at all. So no.

"Waste of water to wash dishes." NOPE. It takes more water to create the throw-aways than your washing would ever take. Especially if you are being water-conscious in your washing techniques.

Anything else? No? OK... dear readers... I know YOU guys avoid these things, and now you are equipped with all the counter-points you need for everyone else. Sorry. I know you'll stop getting invitations to friends' and neighbors' gatherings. that's OK - you didn't really like them anyway. And that's one less potluck invite to have to lie your way out of. We the Living can have our own wonderful gatherings and show these people how it's done! No paper/plastic/Styrofoam, no 2-liter plastic bottles (cans and glass only!), no paper napkins... let's start a picnic revolution!

Careful, though. You could end up like me. I just don't go anywhere. Hahahhahahaa....

Friday, May 21, 2010

Just a question today...

I'm pondering something, and I don't quite have an answer. These companies that I am talking about here... sure, they are definitely greenwashing, but does the end here justify the means? Is it helping? Is it a move in the right direction?

Sure, I think we can spend our dollars more wisely, and smaller companies with a REAL green agenda are better... I guess I just don't see enough of a change, and I think we're running out of time. Especially with the BP... "thing." I don't even know what to call it.

Just throwing that out there for all of us to think about, because I'm really not sure myself. I'll just keep picking at them for now. I'm sure they can handle it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Come on.

Nature's Source. That's a new offering by our family company, S.C. Johnson. Yes, they are at it again. Oh, no, not being green, GETTING the green... from you. Now, I know, I know, they really are a conscientious company. They do a lot of good. They really do. I don't mean to bag on them as much as I do... oh, snort, of course I do.

It's really not so much the product line this time, as the idea of this product line. Here we have wonderful natural earth-friendly cleaners for everything in SC Johnson's line. Shout for laundry stains, Windex for glass, Scrubbing Bubbles for the bathroom and toilet bowl and all-purpose (you know, because you NEED 3 different cleaners for all those areas. Ka-CHING!). All re-formulated and re-packaged as Nature's Source. So, you have your familiar names, but now you can feel good about them! They're all good now!

Well, as usual, I have a few concerns. One: are they still making all the old formulas? You know, those ones with all the non-natural stuff and toxins? And if so, how can the company be true to the "green" commitment? Sure, THESE products may be fine, but are you going to stop polluting the planet with the old stuff? No? I didn't think so. Anti-green point #1.

Two: this is where the "come on" comes in... It isn't easy to research the "real" price this line from here on my couch, because stores cannot sell it online because they can't ship it to you. Because it's still considered some un-shippable hazardous product. (Anti-green point #2?) The prices I did manage to find were all right around $5 per bottle. FIVE BUCKS?? For window cleaner? What does it do, bring its own maid??? OK, seriously, the reason I mock is because for under a dollar, we can purchase a bottle of white vinegar and add a little bit to it to plain old water and use that as perfectly wonderful and effective glass cleaner. That one bottle will last a while. You can even buy it in a glass bottle and reuse the spray bottle you already have.Now THAT'S green. Some people kvetch about the smell of the vinegar and that's why they won't use it. I guess these are the same people that love the smell of bleach and use disposable diapers on their babies. Look: the smell of the vinegar dissipates in moments. I should know; I use apple cider vinegar as a rinse for my hair. Amazingly enough, I do NOT smell like a salad all day. I'm not here for those people; they'll never ever listen to me. All we can hope to do is eventually out-number them, or shame them into submission. :)

All that's happening here is that a company is jumping on the green bandwagon and greenwashing their way to profit. Sure, they might even be great products. But with other companies out there who are green all the way through, like Method and Better Life (, or the stuff we already have around the house (white vinegar, lemons, Borax, baking soda), we do not need to fork out $5 and more for their super-special crap which really isn't that super-special. Just expensive. Don't fall for it. The planet ain't gettin' better with these products, but S.C. Johnson A Family Company IS gettin' richer.

Monday, May 17, 2010

How can you go wrong with a name like Earth Options?

We should probably all scream like the cartoon bugs in the commercials when we see Raid. Brought to us by our lovely friends at SC Johnson. Earth Options? Really??? "Contains a plant-based active ingredient derived from Chrysanthemum flowers." Well now, how can THAT be bad??? It's flowers! "Kills Bugs Dead (R) using the power of plants." Hmm. You know what else is a plant? Hemlock. Another? Oleander. Nightshade. Belladonna.

My point is that just because something comes from a plant as purdy 'n' good-smellin' as a Chrysanthemum doesn't mean we should go spraying happily all over, or that the product OR the company is suddenly wonderful for the planet. This is greenwashing on a massive scale. The derived ingredient are pyrethrins, which are found in other sprays by other companies all over. Yes, when I had a particularly bad case of little white bugs in my plants, I would seek out a spray with pyrethrins, because it was the only thing that seemed to work. I did this long before Raid and SC Johnson came out to declare a so-called environmentally-friendly product. In fact, I would be willing to bet they had plant sprays with pyrethrin already, but due to the desire to "look" a little greener, they came out with a green bottle and slapped some hooey about plants on it.

Lest we really fall for this "natural" stuff they are trying to peddle, let's look at the warning straight from the website: "ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS: This product may be hazardous to aquatic invertebrates. To protect the environment, do not allow pesticide to enter or run off into storm drains, drainage ditches, gutters or surface waters. Applying this product in calm weather or when rain is not predicted for the next 24 hours will help to ensure that wind or rain does not blow or wash pesticide off the treatment area."

Um. Uh...

IN WHAT WORLD is that at all an Earth-friendly product??? Wouldn't an Earth Option be one that doesn't negatively impact the Earth???  Call me crazy.

The are other things that work. Banana peels keep aphids from roses. Borax can prevent roaches or ants. In fact, I recall one time at my grandparents' home, and there was a huge big old conglomeration of ants in a crack in the cement of the driveway by the garage. I guess today we would spray the hell out of them. But my grandmother had a different approach: she went in the house and put a kettle of plain old water on to boil, then brought it out and dumped it on them. OK, yeah sure they were horrifically boiled alive like tiny tiny little lobsters, but hey it worked, and no chemicals were needed.

Bottom line: Earth Options by Raid does not a green company make. And don't you dare fall for it. If you want a pest question answered, by all means do a little research on greener options or ask me. I'll be happy to do the research for you. Bugs have been around forever, and I'm sure Mother Nature has a way to handle them all without killing the rest of us.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Green Products by Non-Green Companies, To Buy or Not to Buy?

Every company out there is making a "green" option product. Dish detergent? We have our old stand-by's but oh here's an Earth-friendly option! Laundry detergent? Cleaners? All of them are jumping on the band wagon. Do they care about the Earth? Snort. Of course not. Do they care about profit? Why, yes of course. That's why they are in business, after all. Do they think they can scam some money from the green movement with a little bit of greenwashing? Hell yeah! Are their products really any greener? Well, let's see.

Palmolive, under Colgate, has a new Pure + Clear dishwashing liquid. "No Unnecessary Chemicals", they say. Hmm. What do we deem necessary chemicals? I looked at the list of ingredients, and it still seems to have plenty of chemicals. That aside... does this one product make up for all the other products Colgate manufactures that all still have the "unnecessary" chemicals? And if they aren't necessary in one product, why are there necessary in all the others? I don't get it. And I don't fall for it. You'd think with a pleasant name like Palmolive, two nice trees, they'd be a little better at this.

These companies seem to think that they can just take the color out and make something clear and VOILA suddenly we're led to believe it's oh-so-much better for the planet. And we'll fall for it. And sometimes we do. I say, let's not. Just because a company makes ONE "green" product, that does not excuse all the other products they continue to make.

Best to look for companies that actually dedicate their entire model to being Earth-friendly. There are plenty and more are coming out every day. As we continue to buy those products instead, the prices will come down, and these other super-companies will get the idea that we ain't fallin' fer their line 'o greenwashing no mo'! It's easy to do your part. Just talk with your dollars and your buying habits.

Let's End Where We Began

Call me crazy, but I don't think we really need to buy chilled coffee drinks from our grocer's dairy section. It's just more plastic.

Europe has a grab-it-shake-it-drink-it product by Emmi. It's a chilled espresso drink made with quality ingredients, and it looks really tasty, but it comes in this useless plastic cup with a plastic lid! Maybe in Europe, they are better at recycling. Maybe they are better at not littering. I don't know. All I know is I don't really want these drinks to catch on. Again, they look wonderfully delicious, but I know us here. We don't need it, we really don't. In this disposable society of ours, it's just another drink-it-don't-think-it product. (wow, I'm having fun with dashes today!) We already have pudding and Jell-O in super little plastic cups, because they are CONVENIENT and we cannot be bothered to make it the OLD way (that might take, oh, 1/2 an hour!!!! Holy crap, who has that kind of time????), so I think adding another plastic throw-away to the yogurt/pudding/Jell-O/fruit cups isn't exactly what we need here.

So... briefly... I'll round out my week with another coffee kvetch. Stay away from this product, and maybe it will go away sooner rather than later.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A New Coffee Low - Timing is Everything

My rant on coffee pods yesterday was apparently just a warm-up. I never imagined that another coffee horror was waiting for me today in Treehugger.

I can't even comment. I'll let you look for yourself:

No, no, no, no, NO!!!! WHAT are we doing???

Sigh. Last post, I said make loud comments around people. With this one, I think we should feel free to actually walk up to someone and knock the cup right out of their hands and yell, "WHATTSAMATTAFAYOU????" right in their face.

No. I kid.

But we do have to stop this one before it gets hold. Thoughts?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Some waste with your coffee?

 The Good Green Witch is a major coffee-hound. Don't talk to me until I have had a few sips of my morning joe. I need coffee so badly in the mornings that sometimes I can't prepare my coffee til I've had coffee. I have very few vices; this is one I will keep, thank you.

Where there's coffee, there's frequently a plastic product to throw away. Lids on take-out coffee, stirrers, those little single-serve creamers... there's no shortage of something to throw away. I try to avoid those things. I make my coffee at home, in a French press. But the cool thing to do now is to have those super-awesome Keurig & Tassimo & Senseo machines that dispense one perfectly measured portioned cup of perfect coffee at a perfect time. Mmmm. You don't even have to open the little cup! You don't have to think about ANY part of it! Just press the button! How accessible! How convenient! (Oops, there THAT word) Have I used one of these before? Yes. Did I love it? Yes. Was it great coffee? Yes. Was it oh-so-cool? YES! Did I cringe at the waste??? Oh yes.

They make it really sneaky, too. They drop the little plastic cups with the perfectly measured portioned cup of coffee back into some little vat for future collection. You don't have to see your waste every time you brew. You can live safe in your false belief that this isn't that bad. But it is. It really is. How many millions of these little cups are going into waste every day? All the offices that use these... all the sets here in Hollywood... and now everyone at home... There is a staggering number of companies who makes these little pods. But hey. This is what "they" call progress. And free enterprise. And capitalism. I call it fodder for the Gyres. And a needless use of oil to make the plastic. Etc.

Setting aside the waste issue for a second... let's look at health. Isn't it supposed to be bad to heat things in plastic? But here we are shooting NEAR-BOILING water through these little plastic doohickeys. Is this how they work? I think so... Oh sure, it's only there for a second. But - but - but... are we thinking about implications over many many cups?? Why are we ignoring that? We are not supposed to drink water from a bottle that has been exposed to the heat of, say, your car for fear of toxins leeching into the water, but we can deal with it if it's in the coffee/tea/hot chocolate? Am I missing something, or am I just crazy? Is it me? Really. I'm serious. IS IT ME??

I'll stick to my stainless steel press. Sure it's a little hot to turn the top, but I can deal. It's thermal, so I even use my microwave less. It's sturdy, it won't break like my last glass one, it'll be around for quite some time. How about you? Next time you see these in the doctors' office (yep, seen 'em there), the auto repair place, the office... ask the people using it how they enjoy those toxins with their coffee. Or pretend you're on your phone and make some comment about how those little plastic thingies aren't getting recycled in any near reality. 

Forgive my grumpiness. I must not have had enough coffee yet today. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Oil Isn't Just About Gas

We're going to get to the end of this blog entry to see how inter-connected the planet really is. Promise.

Oil is gushing into the ocean. Everyone is aware of this; at least, I would hope so. We can't begin to fathom the effects this will have; we can only wait helplessly to see what's going to happen. Yes, we have a dependence on oil. Undeniable. But what else can we do besides cut back on driving or buy a hybrid?

It's not just about gas. Oil pervades our way of life... all around. I found this statistic: One 42-gallon barrel of oil creates 19.4 gallons of gasoline. The rest (over half) is used to make about 6000 other items. Count anything made of plastic to be on that list. If we cut back our use of plastic, we can cut back on our use of oil. Sure, transportation is a leading consumption of oil, but can't we cut back on plastics enough to make a difference?

Let's look at common, everyday items, shall we? Each plastic diaper made uses 1 cup of oil. Think of the millions of diapers made, used, disposed of... that's a lot. Your shampoo has oil IN it and AROUND it in the bottle. Do you really *need* that liquid lotion soap that comes in a plastic bottle, or can you use a nice natural bar soap that comes packaged in paper? (I love my Dr. Bonner's hemp peppermint soap.) Can you find a toothbrush made responisibly? (Sure: Can you buy juice in glass bottles instead of plastic, especially since it is proven that chemicals from the plastic will leach into your juice and glass would be better? Can you GET RID OF YOUR BOTTLED WATER HABIT at last??? Soda? Get it in cans or glass bottles instead, or make your own at home? (They make such things!) I can't think of anyone that NEEDS 2-liter bottles of soda. Sure, you may enjoy it now and then, but how many times do we have to be told how terrible it is for us before we give it up??

I'm not saying get rid of everything. Heck, I'm typing on plastic right now. But cut back where you can, get rid of  habits that you meant to get rid of anyway, and find alternatives. It's NOT that difficult. When we show preferences in our purchasing habits, like buying juice in glass instead, then the comapnies will follow. After all, it's all about profit for them, and if profit means ditching plastic, they WILL do it. And then, not only will we be cutting back on oil used to make these things, we'll be cutting back on all the plastic that is congregating in those huge swirls in all the oceans....

Wait... oil gushing into ocean... plastics ending up in the ocean.... didn't I promise an inter-connection at the beginning? This is one cycle that would be very very good to break. It's up to us. We did it, and only we can stop it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

iPads = eWaste and nothing more.

Earlier today, I posted and commented on an article from Tree Hugger about iPads and how "effed" we all are ( Thanks Jaymi Heimbuch for saying exactly what I feel!!!). This led to a small and fun conversation with a friend. I thought I would share it here. Of course, I have cleaned it up from messy chat-speak so as not to reveal any foibles.

T: RD, I'm curious about your hatred of the eBook.

Me: oh?

T: Granted they are not recyclable, but they do prevent paper waste and deforestization. I"m not ARGUING... I just don't see your perspective clearly. I'm trying to learn.

Me: To clarify: I don't hate e-books but e-readers.

T: Noted.

Me: They create a lot of useless e-waste. Books can be made from any supply of recycled, reclaimed paper, no need to de-forest. I've even seen a book made from reused plastic. Also, many publishers are now embracing a print-on-demand system when the book will not be printed until ordered. No waste.

T: Interesting.

Me: A book can be handed down throughout the generations. An e-reader only lives as long as its obsolete date. A book from 50 years ago is still around and able to be enjoyed. Where will any given Kindle be in 50 years?

T: How do you feel about the iPod? Not the iPAD, the iPod?

Me: Well, I have an mp3 player... the tiniest I could get. It holds 250 songs... more than enough. It took a dump one day. I could have replaced it for $20 but instead a found a recovery tool and salvaged it. I love my mp3 player. So far as iPods go, I think people treat them WAY too disposably and I think that Apple, in its pursuit of profit, makes them entirely too short-lived.

T: Okay, so as long as there is electricity and back-up drives, the contents of an e-reader can survive, too, right?

Me: I think e-readers have planned obsolescence. Besides, as my husband is fond of saying, if I drop a book, I pick it up and find my place again. If I drop a Kindle, I have to go buy another.

T: CONTENTS of e-readers is what I said. I have a Sony reader and it's already past its prime. I use it DAILY to read the newspaper, but still... My point is the contents can live on, much like any electronic data can (now) which is similar to any other media--- including Edison Wax Cyllendars and wire recordings... which have been converted to more contemporarly media for preservation.

Me: This is true. But we're talking about the e-waste of the delivery systems.

T: IS there a way that the e-waste can be reclaimed somehow? You would know much better than I.

Me: They claim so. Every unit can be painstakingly disassembled and the various components go their ways.
Which begs the question... is there profit in that? No. And if there is no profit, there is no incentive to reclaim this stuff. So, while in THEORY these things ARE recyclable, in REALITY, they are going to live in a pile in some 3rd world country that we pay to take our trash.

I enjoyed that conversation quite a bit. It's like my friend reached into my brain and asked exactly what I would have wanted to be asked. I love books, I love to read, and you can hardly keep me out of a used book store. I've bought my share from eBay, too. (Re-using!!) I never ever ever ever want an electronic reader. I'm hoping we never see a day where we can no longer get BOOKS. Sure, I'll read on my laptop, but my laptop serves other purposes... it's not just a reader and as disposable as those are. iPads? All I see when I look at them is e-waste. They'll last, what, a few years? Then, it's a new model, a "better" model, something else new and shiny and different. Some argue that Apple will take the units back and do... something (?) with them. Uh huh. Just like when we throw the plastic water bottle in the recycling bin, it's SURE to be recycled. (Um, no.) Not to be overly crass (oh what the heck, that's opening the door to be crass, who am I kidding), but when I see an iPad, I think it is about as useful as the other kind of pad out there... the ones that jokes between such and the iPad have already been made... once used, all you can do is throw it away.

I'm willing to see what we have done with Kindles and Sony Readers in 5 years. 10 years. Maybe putting them on the Moon? Shooting them into space in waste capsules? There's NO PROFIT in breaking them down and recycling them, so that is not going to happen anytime soon. It's just not. All we can do is NOT buy the stuff. But we buy it, because we have to have the latest shiny new object to distract us from oil spills and climate change.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to curl up on my couch with the latest book I bought used off eBay. When I'm done with it... well, I'll still have it. Maybe I'll even, oh, I don't know, pass it along? What a novel idea.