Posts Tagged ‘green’

Do You Know Which Cow Your Milk Came From?

Unless you’re a dairy farmer, you probably don’t know. I don’t know either, but I do feel lucky that I can at least check out the cows that provide my milk.  I buy my milk from Merrymead Farm. It’s an adventure when I take the kids with me to buy milk.  You can walk around and check out a giant hog, some rabbits, donkeys, goats, peacocks, chickens and all the cows.  Sometimes the cows are out grazing in the field.  Sometimes they’re in the barn eating.  You can watch them line up to be milked.  You can even watch them during the milking process.   5 feet stands between you and your potential milk source.  If you’re lucky, they might even amble up to the window and moo at you. This scenario is more than enough for me to feel comfortable with how the cows are treated that produce my milk. 

All that aside, the real goal of any dairy farmer is to get his cows to produce as much milk as possible.  That can be accomplished with rBST injections, with painkillers do dull any discomfort, and unnatural diets that increase the amount of physiological issues requiring medication.  All bad methods, and yet common practices in the commercial production of milk.  Remember – rBST, painkillers, antibiotics all end up in your milk.  Research shows that cows will naturally produce more milk when they are happy and content.  I can’t even cite one source because there are so many out there.  I dare you to google it.  Any woman who has ever breastfed probably understands this fact.

Yesterday, I read an interesting and somewhat entertaining article about alternative approaches that some dairy farmers are taking to keep their cows happy, and they are seeing positive results.  Chiropractic sessions to avoid painkillers.  Water beds to take some of the pressure off their joints.  Misting in the barns to cool down the animals.  Even naming the cows can help them produce more milk. 

Cows may not be the smartest animal on the planet, but they too feel pain and discomfort.  They respond positively to human interaction and good treatment.  While I’m not suggesting that we all run out and find a dairy farm that gives its cows daily massages, but it can’t hurt to know what kind dairy farm is producing your milk.  A little education might change your mind about where to invest your milk money.


A Little Lead in Your Lipstick

The FDA examined 400 lipsticks to determine their lead content.  The average content was 1.11 ppm (parts per million) with a range of <026 ppm – 7.19 ppm.  To give some perspective, the FDA’s limit for lead found in candy (why is there lead in candy?!) is .1 ppm, and California states that 5 ppm is the maximum safe limit for lead in personal care products.  Products in lipstick are absorbed through the skin and ingested every time you lick your lips.  We may be talking miniscule numbers, but if you’re using a high lead content lipstick, consider how often you reapply throughout the day or how many times you may lick your lips.  Maybe you should find out how much lead is in your lipstick.  While organic may not be in your budget, you can at least use the results from this study to make healthier lipstick choices.

Would you Buy a Hybrid Car?

I would – in the right circumstances.  With a family of 4 (soon to be 5), a Toyota Prius or a Honda Insight aren’t really options for us.  The SUVs that could accommodate our family are out of our price range.  For example, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid runs about $10,000 more than the non-hybrid.  The Chevy Tahoe hybrid is $13,000 more, and the GMC Yukon hybrid is $12,000 more than its non-hybrid counterpart.  More importantly, I couldn’t find one mini-van, which is what fits our needs the best, in a hybrid version. 

What is interesting is that recent review of hybrid registrations by Polk has shown that only 35% of hybrid owners are replacing their hybrid cars with new hybrids.  If you factor out Toyota Prius owners, who show the highest brand loyalty, that number drops to only 25%.        

You can make a lot of assumptions with this statistic.  The cost differential could take too long to make up.   Previous hybrid owners could be turning to electric or natural gas cars.  Maybe the recent improvements to fuel efficiency in vehicles are more appealing than paying the extra costs related to hybrid cars. 

Whatever the reasons, the number of hybrids being purchased is declining.  I find this disheartening.  I had assumed that as the popularity of hybrids increase, the costs would drop for these vehicles.  There would be more hybrid options, and they would become more main stream, thus reducing our dependency on gasoline as a nation.   It doesn’t look like this is what is happening.  Hopefully, automobile makers will continue to inject some ingenuity in car design to make even further advancements in fuel efficiency to help the average consumer like me.

* Photo from Toyota’s website

All I Want is Fish for Dinner

We’ve all heard about avoiding certain types of seafood because they contain high levels mercury, but there are several other reasons to avoid certain seafood as well. This information makes seafood buying complicated and consuming, especially since most of the products that we shouldn’t eat is what is sold in the typical grocery store.  Here is an interesting link to describe what fish we should avoid in detail. I’m highlighting my favorites.



Imported Shrimp – Imported shrimp are typically farmed shrimp where their growing environment is very dirty. They contain antibiotics to fight diseases and parasites, chemicals that were used to clean their pens, and even mouse and rat hair. Yuck. Eat domestic shrimp instead.
Atlantic Flatfish (includes flounder, sole, and halibut – one of my favorites!) – Avoid these fishes because they are so extremely over-harvested that some only have 1% of the population needed to support sustainable long-term fishing. A good substitute is Pacific Halibut.
Atlantic Salmon – Wild caught numbers are too low! Fish farms are crowded making them ideal conditions for diseases which require antibiotics to keep the fish healthy. Opt for Wild Alaskan Salmon.
Orange Roughy – Very high in mercury but more importantly, it can take 20-40 years for these fish to reproduce! This fact makes it impossible to sustainably harvest even though some Orange Roughy is sold with that label. Even Red Lobster  won’t sell it.
Chilean Sea Bass – This fish which almost always seems to be a special at your favorite restaurants has the same fate as the Orange Roughy. It reproduces late in life and most of what is sold in the US has been illegally caught. Greenpeace has reported that if people don’t stop consuming this fish, it could be commercially extinct in 5 years.

What can you do to make sure you are consuming healthy, sustainable seafood? Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch has a helpful, printable list that you can take with you grocery shopping to help you make good choices. Shop at Trader Joe’s , Whole Foods or Wegman’s who have all made a commitment to selling fish from sustainable sources. If you’re still unsure, ask where the seafood came from. If you’re grocery store can’t answer that question, why would you want to eat it in the first place?

Any other tips, please share.  This topic is new for me and the guidelines are so extensive that I feel like I’m navigating tricky waters (no pun intended!).

Being Fuel Efficient

With a new baby arriving in September, we absolutely had to get a larger car.  More specifically, we needed a car that would easily hold 3 car seats.  For those of you who know anything about me, you know that I am anti-SUV, anti-mini van, anti-anything that is a boat on 4 wheels.  Consequently, our decision to buy a mini-van was difficult to accept.   I was pleasantly surprised to discover that now boats on wheels are made with fuel efficiency in mind.  Sure, we don’t get 42 mpg on the highway, but our new Honda Odyssey gets better gas mileage than my old sedan. 

Honda uses something called vehicle cylinder management to help improve fuel efficiency.  In a nutshell, the car reduces the amount of cylinders it uses based on how it is being driven.  Less cylinders use less fuel.  What I love about this system is while Honda has made all the processing transparent, it tells the driver when it enters this economical phase and exactly how many miles per gallon you are getting at that moment and over time.  With exploding gas prices these days, we all want to drive as fuel efficiently as possible, and I love trying to get the most mpg possible.  Here are my tips on how to save gas from my experiences this last month.

  1. Drive as steady a speed as possible.  Drive on the highway and coast down the hills.  Use your cruise control when you can.
  2. Avoid idling!  Find routes to your destinations with the least amount of traffic, stop lights, stop signs and left turns.
  3. Slow down.  After an 80 mile round trip on the turnpike yesterday, I discovered that driving around 60 mph improved my fuel efficiency over driving at 70 mph, and it didn’t add that much time to my trip.
  4. Buy a more fuel-efficient car.  I recommend a Honda because there is nothing better than feeling like you have some control over how you are saving or spending gas.

For more tips, follow @savegastips on Twitter!

Receipts Are Dangerous to Our Health

When I wrote about the dangers of BPA last week, I was negligent to talk about less obvious exposure to the chemical.  Everyone knows about water bottles and baby bottles, but even more dangerous exposure to BPA comes from receipts. 

Credit: Free images from

The EWG did a study on receipts from various popular stores.  40% of them had BPA on them.  The BPA is coated on the receipt paper and reacts with dye to print the black text on your receipt.  What is really concerning is that when you handle the receipt paper, BPA is absorbed through your skin and if you touch your mouth without cleaning your hands the BPA becomes ingested.  To scare you further, the paper that tested positive for BPA had levels 250-1000 times greater than water bottles.  

Think about all the times that you’ve been out for a quick lunch or dinner, and you were handed your receipt before you got your food.  How many times did you wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before you started eating?  Has you kid ever grabbed your receipt out of your hand while walking out of a store?  Do you work in retail or a grocery store and hand a receipt to a customer with every transaction?

In 2010 when this study’s results were released, BPA was found in samples from Chevron, McDonalds, CVS, KFC, Whole Foods, Safeway, the U.S. Postal Service, and Walmart.   That’s just from the businesses that were sampled. 

The takeaway:

1.  Don’t take a receipt when you don’t need one.
2.  Don’t let your child handle receipts.
3.  Wash or sanitize your hands before you eat (which you should do anyway) after handling a receipt.
4.  If you work in retail, look for a new job.

Can I Have Some BPA with that?

About 10 years ago, a co-worker of mine told me that during college (he was a Chemistry major) that he learned that heating your food in plastic containers can leach cancer-causing toxins into your foods. I kind of smiled and said “Really?” as though I was interested. Today, I dump my food from its plastic container onto a plate before I pop it into the microwave. Oh, how I have changed.

When you start registering for baby items, you really start hearing a BPA. BPA is one of those cancer-causing chemicals found in plastic. I went to the American Cancer Society’s web page and found a page that talks about BPA. Apparently in 2008, the US National Toxicology Program (NTP) released a statement that there was “some concern” over negative health effects of BPA on infants and children. If you don’t see “BPA-Free” on your baby supplies, then maybe you should consider shopping in another store because it seems to be universal that baby items are no longer manufactured with BPA. What does that mean for the rest of us?

When I say “for the rest of us”, I really mean for the rest of us. In this reference to the NTP’s report, a statistic is cited from the CDC. In one of their surveys, 93% of people over the age of 6 were found to have BPA detected in their urine. That means that you and I have BPA in our bodies swirling around in our bloodstream and, possibly, waiting to cause cancer.

You might be thinking, I don’t really care about BPA or you might not even believe that there is any cause for concern. But the changes you can make to reduce your risk of exposure are simple and are also good for your health and the environment. Why not make the change? It certainly isn’t going to hurt you. Here are the NTP’s recommendations to reduce your exposure:

  • Don’t microwave polycarbonate plastic food containers. Polycarbonate is strong and durable, but over time it may break down from overuse at high temperatures.
  • Avoid plastic containers that have a #7 on the bottom.
  • Reduce your use of canned foods.
  • When possible, opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers, particularly for hot food or liquids.
  • Use baby bottles that are BPA free.

Here are my take-aways from this list:

  • Don’t eat processed foods. They are usually packaged in plastic.
  • Buy a reusable water bottle that is BPA free (Nalgene sells a wide variety of them).
  • Don’t put hot food in a plastic container. Wait until it cools before transferring it for storage.
  • Don’t reheat food in a plastic container
  • Use a stainless steel travel mug for your coffee.