Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Riddle Answer - Green TV

Photo by b.frahm on Flickr using Creative Commons.

In a previous post I offered an admittedly no-so-challenging riddle:

What used to come only in black and white and now is green all over?

Lame, I know, but it kept you sitting on the edge of your seat, didn't it? Well, here's the long-awaited answer: green TV.

Last week as I sat down to work on this blog, I was ambushed by greenness in what seemed the most unanticipated of places. I suppose I shouldn't have been too amazed - everyone wants to jump on the bamboo bandwagon these days. But I felt like a kid in a candy store as I witnessed the string of environmental name-dropping in the episode of Bones which aired prime-time on the Fox network on 10/23/07.

While there were a few stock references to "eco-avengers", "granola", and "medicinal marijuana", the familiar terms seemed almost endearing amidst the positively presented green options. It appears that Fox did its homework. (applause!) Over the course of a partial hour (I tuned in late), all of the following environmental topics were raised, many with supporting, and from what I could tell, pretty accurate, facts:
  • Composting
  • CFL lighting
  • Certified organic farming
  • Hazards of pesticides
  • Alternative power (A human-powered bike was used to generate electricity for a blender while making smoothies.)
  • Local growing/eating
  • Energy efficient housing (A reference was made to a 100 square foot house.)
  • Biodiesel fuel
  • Bamboo sunglasses
  • Hemp oil-based products
Unfortunately, a staunch supporter of environmental causes turned out to be the murderer in the episode. (He must not have been a vegan.)

Nevertheless, this type of mass exposure for environmental issues sets my heart aflutter. I can't tell you how excited I am about the week of green TV planned by NBC in it's "Green is Universal" campaign, which begins this Sunday, 11/4/07. (Read what the Chicago Tribune has to say about it here.)

I agree with Ecorazzi's authors in that the greening of TV is just the tip of the proverbial (and now melting) iceberg. However, I believe that bringing green to mainstream is the place to start if we want to reinforce the importance of change in our daily lives. Think about the implications of prime-time TV going green: It means that companies with large sums of money have the support of other companies (advertisers) with large sums of money in giving air-time to these topics. All that money and all those companies have the opportunity to forge change on deeper levels than I can personally. They do so by raising awareness of these issues within their own companies, with their sponsors, and finally in living rooms across the globe. I'd suspect that amounts to a wider audience than this blog could ever hope to generate. Additionally, the more visible green choices become, the less they seem like they're only for the "crunchies" (no offense, Crunchy Chicken).

So while TV is an electric vampire, and an energy hog in general, it remains an effective tool for communicating with the masses. It's about time the big shots decided to wield that power for good.

If you're not a TV person, more power to you! (or less, in fact, as above) If you haven't already, give yours away via the Freecycle Network or craigslist.

For those of us who have a short list of must-see-TV shows (ahem):
  • Keep the TV off (or better yet, unplugged) when not in use.
  • Use the time during commercials to do something productive: exercise (jumping jacks, run in place, crunches, Pilates, or Yoga), pay the bills (online, of course), fold the laundry, hand-wash the dishes...
  • Invite over a bunch of friends to watch your favorite shows. Kind of like car-pooling, but with TV. Don't forget the organic popcorn!
  • Limit the amount of time you spend watching TV each week. Don't let the TV be your boredom-buster default - instead: go for a walk, read a book, meditate, knit a scarf, take a class (vegan cooking or Nonviolent Communication, anyone?), learn a new skill, or start a blog. ;)

Have a Green Halloween

Nothing says "Happy Halloween!" better than a handful of individually-plastic-wrapped, pesticide-laden, high fructose corn syrup-filled candy - well, except for these lovely goodies:

  • Locally raised organic pumpkins, carved with a peace symbol, leaf, or the usual scary (or silly) face. Bake its seeds to snack on later, dry and use to plant next year's crop, or offer them to your neighborhood birds, squirrels, or compost worms. Homemade pumpkin treats are most delicious when fresh and seasonal. Try:
  • Halloween night place a beeswax candle inside a glass or other pre-recycling container inside the pumpkin for an eerie glow without the lead and petroleum found in most candles.
  • Compost any leftover pumpkins, gourds, or other plant-based decorations.
  • Instead of purchasing new plastic decorations each year, consider using vintage holiday decorations or making your own - then reuse them.
  • Make faux headstones from recycled cardboard or packaging materials. List ecological casualties (i.e. extinct animals, the declining quality of soil, pollution and its effects, melting ice caps and sad polar bears, endangered species of plants and animals, etc.) along with a statement about how each became "extinct". For a one-two punch, also list possible future extinctions (i.e. humans, Earth). Be poetic, be funny, or be factual.

  • Hand out sweet-smelling recycled paper pencils (an uber-favorite of mine!) and add green tips that you've written or printed on recycled paper and attached with recycled or reused yarn.
  • Opt for treats with minimal packaging and maximal consciousness. Try honey sticks (may not be appropriate for all ages), organic raisins or other dried fruit, organic juice boxes or cans of carbonated fruit-flavored water, organic local apples or mini pumpkins, gift certificates to local activities or businesses, coins, organic dark chocolate or candied ginger. If you know your neighbors well, you might ask if they would mind if you gave them unwrapped homemade treats like toffee, chocolate covered pretzels, candied citrus peels, or marshmallows. If you have only a handful of special trick-or-treaters, consider giving Preserve recycled toothbrushes or eco-friendly school supplies.
  • Have fun Reverse Trick-or-Treating. Go door to door passing out fair trade, organic candy (or non-candy items, as above). At each house, offer literature (printed on recycled paper) with information about the reasons for choosing recycled, fair trade, organic, and earth-friendly options.
  • Pass out CFL's or soy (or beeswax) candles to your adult neighbors as they accompany their children (these items are not safe for children).

  • Dress as Mother Nature (or Father Nature) as you accompany your child, pass out candy at your door, or attend a costume party. (More green costume ideas here.)
  • Avoid petroleum-based face paints. They smell gross because they are! (Would you slather gasoline all over your face???) Make your own or leave more to the imagination.
  • Ditch the plastic costumes found at your local drugstore and opt for vintage or repurposed items. Old uniforms, dance recital costumes, and even last year's Halloween costume can go a long way. Swap with friends and neighbors, and get creative!
  • Bring a pillowcase (for the big kids) or a sand pail (for the little 'uns) for trick-or-treating loot. This old-fashioned method not only ensures a reusable and multi-purpose bag, but affords more goody-space!
  • If you have the option, walk while trick-or-treating and encourage the kids to do so. You'll save $$$ on gas, save the world from unnecessary pollution, and get some heart-healthy exercise while preemptively burning off those candy calories!
And for some more green Halloween ideas, visit Green Halloween.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Riddles, Reviews, and Surprises On the Way!

For the first half of this post I wish to share with you the fruits of my green-searching - researching green products and practices (see the end of the post for the riddle). I refer to a comprehensive list of do's, don'ts, and dirty dozens (here, here, and here) before deciding to purchase a new product or implement a new household rule. Here's the short version of that list (in no particular order):
  • Organic, when possible
  • Safe (and usually pronounceable) ingredients - the shorter the list, the better
  • Checks out with the Cosmetics Database - I prefer products with a rating of 3 or below
  • Vegan (though I am not)
  • Not tested on animals
  • Minimal and/or recycled/reused packaging
  • Local, when possible
  • Sustainable, where applicable
  • Fair Trade, where applicable
  • Bulk products, when possible
  • Glass or paper over plastic packaging
  • Affordable (which of course is somewhat subjective)
Burghilicious and I recently had a conversation whereby we agreed that there exists no truly environmentally conscious beauty product. They are all inherently additives (applied directly to your face or body, nonetheless), and most are packaged in small quantities, then shipped all across the globe to reach their destination. That said, until and unless I am willing to give up even my minimal makeup and beauty regime altogether, I will continue to search for better alternatives. (In a future post: Mixing your own beauty products.)

Anyway, I've been searching forever for a safer and more environmentally friendly alternative to my favorite lipstick (aptly named
Tenderheart). It took years for me to settle on my signature color, and now that I've used it for all of my adult life I am finding it next to impossible to find a color match for my preferred shade in a greener brand. I thought I'd found one when I discovered Kiss My Face brand 3wayColor. First, it earned a low score (which is good thing) on the safety hazard scale on the Environmental Working Group's Cosmetics Safety Database: Skin Deep. Second, it has titanium dioxide for extra sunscreen protection. Third, it is vegan and was not tested on animals (or so says the product packaging). Fourth, it contains no artificial colors. Fifth, the product is 100% biodegradable! (Though I don't believe that includes the packaging.) But here's what finally sold me on the product: it can be used as either eye color, lip color, or blush, and it smells and tastes like fruit! (In my case, I purchased one that smelled to me like mango.) I'd say the sweet scent counts as a fourth use as perfume. (Read more about the Kiss My Face company and its standards here.)

However, the downside is that the product does not appear to contain organic ingredients, and while the packaging is minimal, there's no getting around the plastic tube, and I couldn't find any evidence of the shiny paperboard having been recycled. Sad day. The company did print "Please recycle this package" on the box, but considering that this company also prints recycling suggestions on their paper-backed foil, waxed paper, and other non-recyclable containers, I can't say that I'm too impressed by the effort.

The biggest problem is that I don't much like the color I selected (Heather) - and special ordered, which is disappointing because having an extra product that I don't love means I won't use it that often and have wasted precious packaging, product, and $$$. Though I tested it on my hand prior to ordering it, the color turns out a bit too light and shimmery for my complexion and makes me look cold or undead - perfect for Halloween, I suppose, but not for the office.
Sigh. Back to the drawing board. Next in line for the role of favorite lipstick is a lip tint from Hemp Organics... I guess I've learned my lesson and will have to test the products directly on my lips for a more accurate color test - I'm just squeamish about doing that with community samplers, even where single-use-and-eco-unfriendly q-tips and tissues are provided.

In the meantime, I'm using a lip brush for every application of my tried-and-true favorite, which allows me to use up the product left in the tube once I've flattened out the tip. (I find this affords me more than 100 additional applications - I probably use it well beyond it's expiration date.)

And now for your long awaited riddle. I don't keep secrets very well, and I'm antsy with anticipation for my next post. Be on the lookout for a surprise post coming soon to a green blog near you, but in the meantime here's a hint:

What used to come only in black and white and now is green all over?

Look for the answer soon! (And more surprises to come!)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day (and other business)

Happy Blog Action Day!

While I am sometimes discouraged by the relentless consumerism I am inundated by daily, or the laughable greenwashing that has become so trendy amongst lazier businesses, I am always excited by the
real efforts of organizations and companies who are eager to be part of bigger change.

Lately, for every smog-inducing, energy-consuming, waste-creating act that comes into my field of view, I notice another conscious, conserving, reducing, peace-keeping, creative solution that lifts my spirits and reminds me that I am
not alone in my beliefs or in my efforts.

For instance, I loved the movie Evan Almighty, the trailers that preceded it, and the dancing credits. (Is there anything better than dancing animals??? Oh wait, maybe hot apple cider or chocolate...) So I was even more excited when I learned that the movie's makers went to great lengths to make green contributions in reality. (The movie trailers hinted at this, but I couldn't tell if they were serious or pulling my leg...)

Therefore, you can imagine my enjoyment that this year's
Blog Action Day theme is the environment. It's on everyone's minds now - and it's about time! The world is listening - global impact, climate change, and ethical life choices have made it into the headlines of our daily news stories. Now it's time for some action!

Here are a few suggestions to get you started, and then check out other blogs participating in Blog Action Day:

* Turn off the water while you shower, bathe, brush your teeth, wash your face. Turn it back on to rinse.
***Even greener: Turn down the temperature of your water heater. Use a gallon (or less) of pre-measured water per day for cooking, cleaning, bathing, etc.

* Turn off lights and any appliances (including unplugging them) when not in use.
***Even greener: Leave the lights off - use soy or beeswax candles as needed. Reduce the number of appliances you use. Get an energy reader and/or audit to help you figure out where to reduce energy output. (BONUS: Money-saving tip!)

* Try out a vegetarian meal, even if only once a week (see Vegetarian Wednesday). Check out Vegetarian Times magazine or purchase a vegetarian cookbook. When not eating vegetarian, use it as a base to insure that you're getting your daily recommended allowance of fruits and veggies, then add in meat, fish, or poultry if you wish.
***Even greener: Go vegetarian, or even vegan, after discussing it with your family and your doctor.

* Find one aspect of your life where you could make a healthier choice for yourself and the environment - and then change it! (Could you give up your weekly salon appointment? Cancel your subscription to the newspaper or magazine that you never read? Reuse a cloth bag at the grocery store instead of using a ton of plastic bags?)
***Even greener: Participate in an eco-challenge! Making big changes is always easier when you have the support and great advice of others in the same situation. (Crunchy Chicken, No Impact Man, Fake Plastic Fish, and Green as a Thistle all have great examples of challenges.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

It's Good to be #1

As difficult as I find this to believe, Greater Cleveland's public transportation system, the Regional Transit Authority, has been ranked #1 in North America. (Yes, you can rub your eyes but that sentence will read the same way the second time.)

Go RTA!!! And now, Clevelanders, go RTA.