Thursday, June 4, 2009

Product Review: Stonyfield Farm Organic

Back when I was first switching to organic dairy and soy products I tried a lot of yogurt. For years I'd stuck primarily with one conventional yogurt brand, so the experiment was rather traumatic at first. (I nearly gave up trying to find a new favorite altogether when I tried a popular soy yogurt and was scarred for life - I have never tried another...or soy ice cream, for that matter, yet I do enjoy other organic, non-GMO soy products on occasion.)

But then I tried Stonyfield Farm Organic yogurt and found that it was quite pleasing to the palate. I wasn't yet a groupie, but the happy cow logo, the lack of sugar in the plain version, a clear statement that the product contained no preservatives or artificial ingredients, no growth hormones, no pesticides, and no use of antibiotics, and the company's commitment to donating a portion of their profits to environmental causes sufficiently satisfied my desire to remain a conscious consumer. I later found out that they also have a solar roof which produces some of their own renewable energy, their packaging is BPA-free, they purchase carbon emissions offsets, and that the company partners with Preserve (the company that makes my toothbrush) to recycle packaging into toothbrushes, razors, and more! To learn more about the company's environmental practices, click here, and see the information at the bottom of the partnership page about how and where to send your used yogurt cups.) The site also has coupons available, for those who wish to live organically on a budget.

I had begun purchasing the plain yogurt in the larger containers in order to cut down on plastic use and per-meal cost. It wasn't until I decided one day to try one of the myriad of flavor choices that I struck gold, though. I brought a Chocolate Underground individual yogurt to work with me one day, and as I (mostly mindlessly) began to consume it I was caught by surprise. I literally stopped to check the packaging - had I actually bought yogurt? I was sure what I was eating was an ice cream sundae or a Boston creme pie. Nope - still yogurt. I checked again - live, active cultures, same happy cow, still organic. Huh. Wait. STOP! Fat Free?????? Only 170 calories? I was in Heaven, and I felt the need to shout from the mountain tops!

In fact I did text my foodie friends immediately, only to come down from my high several minutes later and realize that if the entire world began to relish in the chocolatey goodness that is Chocolate Underground, it would be flying off the shelves so fast that I wouldn't be able to find it anymore. On the other hand, I just can't keep this secret - it's too good not to share! The other downside is that this Chocolate Underground only comes in the individual containers, thereby creating more plastic waste. Yowza, what a buzz kill. If you purchase them, check to see where you can recycle these containers in your community, or check the link above for information about how to send your containers back to Stonyfield for recycling.

Incidentally, I had a similar experience (of checking to be sure I wasn't eating a ton of sugar and fat and hormones) with the Stonyfield Farm Organic Creme Caramel Lowfat Frozen Yogurt. (Click on the name listed under Lowfat Frozen Yogurt for nutrition information.)

Mmmmmmm....moooooooo! There's very little that makes me happier than enjoying (mostly) guilt-free dairy from happy cows! :)

Friday, May 8, 2009

New Format: Confessions of a Consumer

Photo by Loving Earth (whose photos I LOVE, btw) on Flickr using Creative Commons.

While I've happily switched many of my regular habits and favorite brands in favor of more "green" ones, I find that there are still some things I'm reluctant to change, and I'll readily admit that there are some others I doubt I will ever change. This internal battle sometimes makes me cringe with pangs of green guilt. There are degrees of change - greenwashing (not at all green) , green "light" (only marginally green), and like a cave woman (which I imagine would be the ultimate "green" lifestyle), and I'd say that on an average day I'm living at about "green medium", smack-dab in the middle. I often fantasize about BIG changes - installing low-flow, combination sink/toilets, installing solar panels and light tubes in the roof - but without the financial means to also make big changes comfortable and manageable, many of the bigger changes just aren't feasible. I won't stop dreaming, but sometimes I have to remind myself that it's okay to make change in stages, and to hold onto a few guilty pleasures.

Choosing the degree of eco-change to incorporate into our individual lives is a personal decision, one that is affected by economic, sociocultural, familial, interpersonal, psychological, experiential, geographic and other constraints and personal preferences. In short, it's subjective. There are a handful of changes we can make to conclusively effect greater change, but to my knowledge no one has come up with a formula that works for everyone, in every circumstance, to lighten our carbon footprints on the planet. I believe that the most important change we can make as individuals is to be conscious about our choices - to think about what impact we have with each choice and proceed in accordance with our own unique consciences.

All that stream of consciousness is just a philosophical way to introduce the next new post format on Great Green Blogs: Consumer Confessions. In my confessions, I'll 'fess up to the green efforts I'm particularly falling short on, or old habits I have reverted to. These posts will serve in part as satya (truth) and swadhyaya (self-study, or self-reflection). I invite you to share your own confessions in the comments section. Come on, it'll be cathartic! :)

What habits or products are you most reluctant to change?


Today's Consumer Confession: I love my lipstick.

I turn off and unplug appliances when they're not in use, I turn off the tap while I'm brushing my teeth, and I've turned down the thermostat to what feels uncomfortably cold to me in the winter months, but I cannot (yet) give up my favorite lipstick. I realize that my one tube of lipstick per year (it may not last quite that long, but it sure is close) isn't going to save the planet, but I also realize that it's only vanity that keeps me from tossing it. The thing is, it's the most neutral, light color I've been able to find, and it works for day or night, dressy or casual circumstances, regardless of what color I wear. I don't own a cabinet full of lipsticks, so this is pretty much the one I wear every day. (I own a few "special occasion" lipsticks - one red and one slightly more pink.)

In the simplicity category, this lipstick wins. I could easily wear only this one for the foreseeable future. Further, when the lipstick gets down to the tube I use a lip brush to continue to use all the product until there really is none left. I've worked it out to a fine science. ;)

On the other hand, I'm not entirely comfortable with the company or the ingredients, and I know there are options out there that fall more in line with my values.

In my defense, I really have tried to find a lipstick for daily wear that I can wear proudly. I found one that I'm thrilled with (and will review in a future post), but it just isn't my trusty favorite. I haven't given up the search, but for the moment, this is one of my remaining guilty pleasures.

In case you're wondering which lipstick I'm so ga-ga for, it's Different Lipstick in Tenderheart by Clinique.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Lip Service (Product Review: Burt's Bees Lip Balm)

So, a while back I promised to post some product reviews - and then life happened and I didn't get around to doing that. But, I figure, better late than never, no? ;) I'm a big fan of reviews and often wish I can find some for the products I'm interested in comparing, so hopefully you'll find some of this information helpful in your own comparison shopping. :)

In today's post I'll review one of my favorite lip products, but look for upcoming posts on other products in the (relatively) near future. To make things easy, I'm using a 1-5 scale for the review - 1 being the lowest score, 5 being highest. The scores reflect my opinion about each of the products individually, and not in comparison to one another, so the scores are not meant to be ranks between the different products, but instead reflect an overall score for the individual product. The overall product score is simply an average of all the product's category scores combined.

For the Health/Safety category I consult each product's ingredients list and cross-referenced it with EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database. My score is subjective, not scientific, and is not taken directly from the EWG site, so please check their site if you want to see what they think about it. Further, if you have allergies, always consult your physician and the product's ingredients before trying a new product.

Prices, of course, are subject to variability. Where possible, I pulled the price directly from the company's web site.


Burt's Bees - Beeswax Lip Balm
- Overall 4.3 (out of 5)
This is the basic variety in a tube (not tin) - no color, no SPF, and no honey.
  • Aesthetics: 5
Since this lip balm is clear, there's not much to comment on its appearance. It is a balm and not a gloss, and it is virtually impossible to tell (visually) that you have it on. However, I have noticed that whenever I put it on my lips they magically look pinker and more healthy.
  • Performance: 5
This product performs about as well as any other lip balm does, but the peppermint oil makes it so much nicer to wear and smell (if you like peppermint). Many lip balms are made from petroleum byproducts, which just grosses me out; this balm is from beeswax, and so I don't gag when I think about how much of it I must consume with my food and beverages.

It feels light, not gooey, gummy, or sticky, and it wears well under other lip products or alone. It's also important to note that the peppermint oil in this product creates a cool, tingling sensation for a short while after application - if you do not like that sensation, you may not like this product. On the flip side, when I put it on I instantly feel like I have minty-fresh breath! I keep several tubes of this stuff on-hand at all times.
  • Price: 3 ($3.00)
While this tube of "lip goo" (as I refer to all lip balms) will not break the bank and is mostly in line with similar products, the price does seem a little exorbitant. I remind myself, though, that I'll spend just as much on the occasional Starbucks beverage - which I will consume in less than an hour - whereas this tube will last me for months.
  • Health/Safety: 4
There appear to be some concerns with the essential oils in this product, particularly with the peppermint oil. For those who do not have reactions to essential oils, it seems to me to be an otherwise mostly natural product.
  • Enviro-Friendliness: 4.5
The environmental friendliness of this company has come into question since it was purchased by Clorox (see note below), but the Burt's Bees subdivision is adamant that it will uphold the values of the first owners. The company appears dedicated to transparency and offers quite a lot of information on its web site regarding their environmental efforts.

Many vegans will avoid this product because they feel that collecting beeswax and honey is harmful to the bees. However, the company (Burt's Bees, not Clorox) does not test any product or ingredient on animals.

The lip balm's tube is made from recycled plastic and is minimally packaged without the use of shrink wrap. Additionally, the company purchases land in tandem with The Nature Conservancy to protect it from development and has initiatives aimed at contributing to The Greater Good
, including the donation of 10% of profits to selected partners. Further, according to the Burt's Bees website, they were a key player in helping to develop The National Standard for Personal Care Products.
  • Notes:
This has been one of my favorite products for a number of years. I keep a tube of this lip balm in my purse and at my bedside year-round (I put it on every night before going to bed). I've even used it when my nose has been chapped or stuffy; I put a little on my finger and applied it to the nose (so the stick never touched my nose...ew! what where you thinking??), and although the peppermint stung a little at first, the coolness was refreshing and the beeswax protected the skin from further damage.

In 200(7?), the company that makes Clorox bleach purchased Burt's Bees from its original owners, which was the source of much alarm and sadness amongst die-hard Burt's Bees fans. I vowed not to purchase it again and went in search of other similar balms (I did find another similar one, to be shared in an upcoming post). In the end, The Clorox Company and the spokespeople for Burt's Bees said they would maintain the standards of the Burt's Bees company, and as I read the ingredients lists and other reviews and articles from bloggers and news media, I became more comfortable with this fact and purchased a few more tubes. Only time will tell how long Clorox will maintain my loyalty, but for now I'm still a fan.

Please also note that the Burt's Bees web site indicates that the ingredients for this lip balm differ slightly when it is in the tin container.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Winter Blahs - And a Recycled Craft

Around this time of year I get antsy. I want to do all sorts of things, but the snow and cold prevent me from doing many of them. Fortunately, I am a crafty person, and I find ways to keep busy. Some of my favorite winter (i.e. can't leave the house) pastimes include reading, knitting, crafting, sewing, decorating, and cooking/baking.

A few weeks back I decided I wanted to try Martha Stewart's doily snowflake project. I started collecting vintage doilies, and finally got around to the crafty part of the project today.

What I loved about this project most was that nearly all of the supplies required were vintage (i.e. recycled!), budget-friendly, or things I already had on-hand, and the finished results can be reused in many ways. (The only item I didn't already have besides the doilies was fabric stiffener.)

Stiffened Doily Cascade

a few vintage doilies, as many or as few as you like - I spent about $12
fabric stiffener - generic brand, $3.99 at Michael's Craft Store
sponge brush - 50 cents
fishing line - free (if you can bum some from a friend who fishes), or $3-$4
a few small nails, like for hanging pictures on walls

I love Martha and her cohorts, but I felt some essential tips were left out of the instructions on the page (link provided above). I thought I'd also provide an idea of how much this project might cost.

1. First, while the page did suggest to use "fabric stiffener", I'd never heard of such a thing and didn't know where to find it at my local craft store. I wandered the aisles and eventually found it in the paint section.

2. I decided to use a sponge brush primarily because I already had a few on hand, but later determined that it was definitely the right choice as I imagine the bristles of a real brush might get caught in the intricate work of more delicate doilies while brushing them with the fabric stiffener.

3. I squirted a bit of the fabric stiffener into a plastic container, laid the doilies carefully onto a sheet of waxed paper, and then brushed it onto one side of them.

4. In the future, I would probably choose to wash and iron the doilies before trying to arrange and stiffen them. I will also probably stiffen both sides - the second side after the first side is dry. Martha's site says you can iron them after they're stiffened, and I might try, but I perceive that ironing them beforehand might have made it easier to arrange them the way I wanted.

5. I found my doilies on Etsy, but you can also find them on Ebay and in vintage shops or your grandmother's house (ask before taking any!). If you're ambitious you might even try crocheting a few of your own. As I plan to hang them in my window, I looked for doilies between about 4" and 10" in diameter, and I liked them in white or off-white, but you might choose colored ones or dye them yourself (in tea, beets, turmeric, or bright colored dye - all-natural, of course). Martha also says you can do this project with paper doilies, but they're not all that durable, and they're probably not recycled/reused.

6. My doilies were different thicknesses of thread. The ones made from thicker thread appear to require more fabric stiffener, but they may also prove more durable overall. I also found that doilies with ruffled edges or raised elements (flowers, etc.) were more tricky to flatten into shape while brushing them with the stiffener. I'd recommend simpler designs that you know will lay flat, or just enjoy the natural variation that occurs when you try to flatten an otherwise three-dimensional object. ;) I did find that I was able to manipulate the doilies into the shape I wanted after they were saturated with the stiffener (but still wet).

7. I keep some cheap thin fishing line around for beading and other crafts, and I find it's perfect for hanging crystals and other things that I don't want to use colored string or ribbon for. If you can bum some off a friend who fishes, then it will be free. Otherwise, I think a roll is about $3-4, and you can store it for future projects. I think I purchased mine at either a Walmart or Target a while back.

I plan to hang these dried "snowflakes" using the fishing wire and small picture nails in my front window. Seeing them when I come home or looking out through them at the blankets of white stuff covering the entirety of my outdoor surroundings might make the winter seem just a little less bleak. :)

(Waiting for doilies to dry. Will post pic when they're done.)