Tuesday 28 June 2011

a green produce fling

How cute is this banana box from Lettuce Deliver?  Almost as cute as the name of my organic produce delivery company. I love a good pun.

My local shops don't have a good selection of organic produce, so when a girl at work turned me onto this amazing company (thanks Anna!) I jumped at the opportunity.

They deliver anywhere in Sydney for $6.60, and let you select pre-arranged produce boxes or individually select items; you can also order cereal, pasta, chocolate, personal items and meat.  I generally only order produce, but I have ordered Meredith Valley Chevre and can attest that it's the same price as in my local deli.

So, why do I prefer to eat organics?
  • Overwhelming evidence that organic produce maintains higher nutrient levels compared to traditional farming methods
  • So that I ingest fewer chemicals from synthetic pesticide residue
  • To keep our water and soil free from toxic run-off resulting from synthetic fertiliser and pesticide use
  • To reduce greenhouse gas emissions since nitrogen (a very potent greenhouse gas) is present in many synthetic fertilisers
  • Organic farming uses less energy.

I love getting my delivery each Thursday (even when the box isn't as awesome as this week's) filled with beautiful organic produce.

Along with every delivery comes a newsletter where Lettuce Deliver shares all the happenings in the Autralian organic produce industry; it's clear they have great relationships with their suppliers, referring to everyone by their first name, and I feel honoured to be eating food grown by this lovely community.

Thanks Lettuce Deliver! Keep up the great work.

For my US readers, I found this resource for organic produce delivery in most of the country (sadly Utah is not included), and here is a link to the Organic Consumers Association, which lists where you can buy organic goods in all states.

Happy organic eating, everyone!

Saturday 25 June 2011

product of the week: DIY cards

Product of the week usually celebrates a company with an amazing green product, but this week I'm making a special exception to celebrate the power of reuse.

I made this adorable card yesterday for my little 1 year old friend's birthday (he's practically famous, actually, starring in Daddy's Little Miracle).

Happy Birthday little fella!

The elephant body is from scraps of Christmas cards I made a few years ago, and the sparkly elephant ear is leftover shelf liner I bought for a bedside table I found on the side of the road . . . wow, I am a greenie . . .

Even before I was super green I loved making my own cards, a trait I picked up from my paternal grandmother, but today they all tend to have a reuse/recycle element.  I use new blank cards and envelopes (I bought a pack from a craft store a few years ago, $5 for 50 cards and envelopes), but the embellishments are all created by yours truly.  I save every piece of card, paper, ribbon and gift wrap that I receive and store it in my 'craft drawer' for later use on personalised cards or gift wrap. 

The work in progress. . .
Next time you want to give a card, have a go at creating your own - you'll never turn back!

Thursday 23 June 2011

a green cow fling

The other day I grabbed my KeepCup and moseyed to Bacino for a coffee.  While the barista was making my coffee he asked in his beautiful Italian accent,
"Do you mind if I ask you something bella?" (see why I love going to Bacino?)

"Of course not."

"Why do you get the soy?  As as coffee lover I do not understand why people go with this skim or soy milk."

"Oh, um, I try to not eat cow products," I explained.

"Ahhh, you're a vegan?!" he smiles, pleased to have figured out the reason for my soy.

"Not exactly," I continued, "it's for environmental reasons."

He paused for a moment but then quickly accepted my reasoning and continued to whinge about people who order soy or skim because it's "healthier", and similarly people who use Equal instead of sugar.  To this coffee connoisseur, only full cream milk and raw sugar were acceptable additions to coffee. (For the record, his coffee is a double ristretto with full cream milk and half a sugar.)

So, what is my beef with cow products anyway?  

I've infamously requested no beef on weekends away and meals out with friends, but I'm not a full vegetarian. I eat some form of meat (usually chicken or pork) about once a week, so what do I have against these beautiful creatures?
Helloooooooo beautiful cowwwww!
 In 2006 the UN reported the livestock industry was responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, higher than all forms of transportation combined (planes, cars, trains and freight).  (A more recent study by Worldwatch has increased this impact to 51%) Additionally, we are increasing our meat consumption, roughly doubling it since the 1950s, and it's expected to double again by 2050 - meat has quite an impact on climate change (not to mention food supply, but that's a whole other kettle of fish, as is sustainable fishing . . .)

Cattle was identified as the worst perpetrator, both because of how much beef is consumed, but also because of cows' digestion which causes them to belch methane (a very powerful greenhouse gas, 21 times stronger than carbon dioxide) - the ruminant family includes cattle, sheep and goats, and they represent 37% of the world's methane emissions.  Yikes!

When I learned about the environmental impact of livestock I made the decision to cut my emissions by cutting beef from my life - I didn't eat a lot of meat anyway, so for me to have the biggest impact meant stopping consuming the worst offender, beef.

For awhile I allowed myself beef once a month, but I have now decreased significantly to the point where I don't really like the taste of it anymore.

I also realised that milk cows have the same stomach systems as meat cows, so I should decrease my milk consumption.  I've long enjoyed soy milk in my cereal, so it was only natural I adopt soy in my coffee, swap to soy ice cream and seriously think about my cheese consumption.

(I confess, I haven't made much change to my cheese consumption.  I mean, there's just no soy substitute for a creamy bouche d'affinois or a sharp parmigiano reggiano!  What can I say, I'm still on this green journey.)

So, what can you do?  If you love your meat, giving it up or even cutting down to once a month may seem out of the question.  If you're inspired to make a change, why don't you take the suggestion of Graham Hill, founder of Treehugger.com, and be a weekday vegetarian?  Brilliant idea and easy to keep track of how much meat you're eating - watch it on TED and see what you think!

Saturday 18 June 2011

product of the week: paw paw ointment

Now that winter has settled in I'm using even more of my beloved Paw Paw ointment than normal on my chapped lips and skin.

All you Aussie gals who are also addicted to the stuff may not realise that the old favourite in the red tube is actually petroleum based - yuck! The packaging doesn't list all of the ingredients, but it contains up to 50% petroleum jelly (umm, greenwashing anyone?).  There are conflicting reports on exactly how dangerous absorbing petroleum-based products through your skin is, but I'm since committed to a world free from polluting non-renewable resources like petroleum anyway, I'm happy to pass them by in my beauty products.

Thankfully there are a couple options on the market full of delicious, natural and safe ingredients to keep me in my paw paw habit.

This is Suvana's latest packaging
redesign - loving it!
Suvana Paw Paw uses 98% certified organic ingredients:

Castor Seed Oil, Beeswax, Coconut Oil, Cocoa Butter, Paw Paw Extract, Honey, Jojoba Oil, Vanilla Bean Oil, Candelilla Wax, Carrot Oil, Stevia Rebaudiana Bertoni Extract, Natural Vitamin E.

Now doesn't that all sound better than 50% petroleum jelly?

The honey adds a nice sweet touch to the taste, too. Divine!

Before I found Suvana I'd been using Simmons, I found it through Musq:

Ingredients: Fermented fresh paw paw, Rhus succedanea (summac berry)wax, glycerine, canola oil, hydrogenated castor oil, beeswax, corn starch.

Not quite as delicious as Suvana, but still a definite improvement.

So next time you reach for the Paw Paw, reach for the yellow ones intead - you should be able to find them in your local health food store.

Thursday 16 June 2011

a green fling lesson: greenwashing

I've been greenwashed!

Nothing frustrates this greenie more than greenwashing.  Never heard of it?
Green-wash (green'wash', -wosh') - verb: the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company of the environmental benefits of a product or service.

Terrachoice has a great website that covers the seven sins of greenwashing - I highly recommend a quick read of the sin explanations, from the hidden trade-off, to no proof, to irrelevance to out and out fibbing.  Greenwashing can be deliberate or not, but is anything that misleads the consumer into thinking she or he is buying 'green' when they are not.  Unfortunately while eco-labelling is not mandatory and we're learning the intricacies of sustainability, it seems we'll all be touched by greenwashing - even me.

It's embarrassing to admit, but I've just been greenwashed by my hair salon (sigh...).  I won't be naming and shaming here, just sharing my story so you can hopefully learn from my experience.

Over a year ago I received an e-newsletter from a local salon who claimed they had gone green - they'd switched to green power, were using natural detergents and cleaning supplies, offering organic coffee, tea and wine to their clients, and had switched to Aveda* hair products and colouring.  This greenie was ecstatic!  When I called and made an appointment I checked that they definitely used Aveda (my previous salon had recently switched from Aveda to another brand), and made sure to tell them the reason I was coming was because they had gone green - I love rewarding moments of green enlightenment!

Over the course of the year I noticed an increase in the range of hair products they sold, not all of them green, and in particular they were pushing the Moroccan Oil brand.  When they tried to get me to purchase it I asked about its environmental credentials, and all they said was that it was green and all natural (a quick look at the ingredients told me it wasn't). Then on my last visit when I walked past the colour cabinet after being rinsed at the oh-so-comfortable-and-decadent massaging chair slash wash-basin, I saw that none of the boxes of colour were Aveda - what?! When I asked about this the response was that Aveda didn't offer the range of colour they were looking for.  By then it was too late, I already had the colour on my head! So in addition to my cut, colour and wash I'd been greenwashed.

Another disturbing fact was that they changed from using natural detergents to wash their towels to using a company called The Big Towel Company - a company selling what they claim to be 'eco-friendly, biodegradable, single use towels'.  The claims on the website make this a tricky one, especially for those just dabbling in the green arena, but my gut feeling was that they were greenwashers.  I called on my favourite LCA expert for his advice to help me sort his one out - thanks Ben! 

Ben explained that the company is making claims without the proof, and leaving out key elements of the process (for instance, it takes a lot of water and energy to turn raw wood into paper, and they have not indicated any accreditation for the timber and its origins - if it's truly sustainable then it would be FSC certified).  They committed sins of the hidden trade-off and no truth in these two facts alone.  In addition nearly all single-use products have a higher environmental impact than multiple-use products, and the salon would be washing and drying using green power, so the salon would be greener if they used cotton towels (organic would be preferred!) and washed in their earth-friendly detergents as they did when they originally went green.

I'm not sure if the salon realises they are being greenwashed and then passing that onto all of us customers or not - I suspect they don't. 

So, what do I do now?  Find another salon, I suppose.  Their moving away from Aveda was enough for me, and the towel thing merely added fuel to that fire.  I think I'll suggest they reconsider using The Big Towel company in case they don't realise they've been greenwashed, just to help clear the air.

So there you have it - greenwashing 101.  I hope this lesson was helpful and encourages you to ask questions and research green claims before you commit to a 'green' purchase.  It can be tricky, but the information is always there if you know where to look! 

If you have any other burning sustainability questions, fire them my way.

*There are rumblings that Aveda itself is greenwashing.  The hair colour products use 97-99% plant-dervived ingredients.  I realise that this means the remainder of the product is synthetic, and don't feel they are deliberately lying.  Also they are the best of the bunch in terms of salon quality colour.  They also have strong sustainability guidelines regarding material sourcing, using windpower and have hired 'Cradle to Cradle' guru Michael Braungart as a consultant to ensure they continue to improve - this is an organisation I'm happy to support.  Other greenies have other opinions.

For now my choice is to use Aveda professional hair colour - I'll write more about hair colour in another post to elaborate on the details, including why this greenie is still colouring her hair.

Monday 13 June 2011

a green baking fling

When I woke this rainy-morning I couldn't think of anything better than a green baking fling to warm my soul (and my kitchen - brrr!).

I definitely didn't want to brave the elements outside, so I took a quick survey of the fridge and pantry to see what I could pull together.  This was super convenient, but it's also the most sustainable way for me to bake (see, not all green things are inconvenient!).

Did you know that Autralians throw away $5.2 billion worth of food each year*? The average American throws away 59kg of food each year, with up to one-fifth of the country's food supply going to the landfill**.  I don't want to be too 'preachy' on this blog, but there's really no excuse for this wasteful behaviour; in addition to the massive inequity when compared with nation's suffering extreme poverty, it's a huge waste of money, resources, and greenhouse gases emitted when growing or producing the food, not to mention the emissions from food rotting in the landfill.

So please, I urge you to consider how much food you purchase and eating everything in your kitchen before it goes off.

Today I was able to bake some super-healthy raspberry-orange-oat-quinoa muffins by mixing together a few recipes I found online (with most credit to this Natural Zest blog):
  • 1/4 C dry quinoa, cooked in 1/2 C water (leftover quinoa purchased package-free from Manly Co-op)
  • 2 C rolled oats (another package-free Co-op purchase, always on hand in our home to make muesli)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Nutmeg, vanilla and cinnamon
  • Dash of salt
  • 2 eggs (free-range, of course, also from the Co-op)
  • 1/2 C soy milk (always trying to reduce my reliance on those gassy cows!)
  • 1/4 C agave nectar (sugar substitute, purchased when I made a fancy coconut semifreddo for my green dinner party fling)
  • 1 C chopped frozen raspberries (also leftover from the dinner party)
  • 1/4 C shredded coconut
  • Zest of one organic navel orange, and juice from half of it (from Lettuce Deliver!)
  • 1 C wholemeal flour
Baked for 20-25 minutes at 170C/375F.

Healthy happy muffins!

Truth be told, they are not the most beautiful thing I've ever baked, could use a bit more sweetness, and would've been greener had I skipped the paper. But, having said all that, they are quite tasty and made a delicious morning tea snack, yummmmmm......

Soups, pasta and couscous are a few other pantry-cleaning food creations I like to pull together.  Once you start looking, you'll be amazed at what meals are lurking in your kitchen at this very moment!

*Affluenza: When too much is never enough, by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss
**US Department of Agriculture 2004, A Citizen's Guide to Food Recovery

Friday 10 June 2011

product of the week: bikini

As a chilly winter settles over Sydney I'm reminiscing about my beautiful summer and my beautiful eco-friendly bikini. . .

At the start of last summer it was obvious I needed a new swimsuit as the spandex of my current suit had taken early retirement and I was in a constant battle against the ocean as to where my suit would end up following a set of waves.

Who knew sustainability
could be this sexy?!
Photo from Faeries Dance
Living in Manly I'm surrounded by every type of cossie imaginable, but I really wanted to find something that wasn't costing the earth so I hit the internet instead of pounding the pavement.  Thanks to ecouterre I found a few great options and eventually settled on the hot Winky Pop by Aaron Chang (photographer) - it consists of 90% polyester from recycled plastic bottles and 10% spandex, and is named after a famous wave Winkipop in Torquay - my surfer hubby was thoroughly impressed.

As an added bonus both the top and bottom are reversible, so it's like buying multiple suits in one (even better for the globe!). 

I purchased my new suit through the website Faeries Dance (not loving the title of this website but appreciate the range of eco-goods for sale). 

After an entire summer I'm happy to report the bikini is not only eco-friendly but ticks all the other boxes required of a great swimsuit - supportive, flattering, and still stretchy enough to survive another summer.

Thursday 9 June 2011

a green clean fling

Whew, say that three times fast!

            a green clean fling

                               a green cleen fleen

                                                   a green cling fling

How gorgeous is this book cover?!

Okay, confession time, Gorgeously Green is like my green bible, and really helped me transition into the green goddess I am today - or am trying to be!  I'm so grateful Sophie wrote that book to encourage ladies like me to incorporate green living into our 'fabulous' lifestyles. 

Many of the changes were easier than I first imagined, like natural beauty products.  But it was a change that I'd never even considered that has been one of my favourite changes so far. . .

I make my own cleaning supplies!

I love the whole green cleaning process: I don't waste plastic bottles because I reuse the same one over and over again; I'm not using anything toxic so there are no dangerous fumes; I can safely prepare food on counter tops cleaned with my solution; I'm not sending anything horrible down the drain and therefor into our land and waterways.  Plus I can create whatever scent I like using various essential oils - with my sensitive sniffer this is a huge benefit!  Add to this the fact that I reuse old t-shirts and yoga pants as rags (I just throw them in the laundry and keep using them for awhile), and cleaning my home has become one of my greenest activities.

So, thanks Sophie and Gorgeously Green, you really have changed my life.

Here is a translation of the cleaning 'recipe' from the book that I've been using as an all-purpose cleaner for the kitchen and bathroom:
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tsp vegetable soap (I get this from the Manly Co-op, and use it as dishwashing liquid)
  • 20 drops tea tree oil
  • 20 drops lavendar essential oil
  • dash of eucalyptus oil
The actual GG recipe doesn't call for the eucalyptus oil and uses 3/4 cup hydrogen peroxide - I suggest you experiment with what you can find in your area to find what works best for you.

A selection of my cleaning ingredients
The tea tree and eucalyptus oils are excellent natural antibacterial and antifungal elements, those of us in Oz should be grateful we have easy access to these fantastic oils.  Make sure any essential oils you use are 100% pure to get the most benefit.

I also have successfully used olive oil as furniture polish and a mixture of lemon juice and baking soda as a spot carpet cleaner.

There are so many options for creating green cleaning solutions that are safe, natural and cheap - I'd love to hear your green cleaning tips or answer any questions you may have. 

Happy green cleaning!