Monthly Archives: January 2013

An “Awwwww…” Moment – Dolphin Gets Help From Divers

I say this post on the Raw Story this weekend, and just had to share the video. A dolphin with a hook in its mouth and fishing line tangled around it approaches some divers and allows them to help it.

All in all, an amazing video and one very fortunate dolphin. Just remember that most of us are better off alerting the professionals if we see a dolphin or other aquatic mammal in need of help.

Eco Friendly Workout Gear

My husband and I joined a local gym recently. We had talked a few weeks before about keeping an eye out for an affordable gym membership, and it should surprise no one that this happened shortly after the new year began. What better time for a gym to entice new members than when resolutions are fresh, right?

We were both quick to recognize a problem, however. I almost always wear jeans, not exactly suitable gym workout attire. My husband also lacked appropriate clothing for the gym. We actually had to go shopping for stuff to wear to the gym. At least we both had suitable shoes.

A lot of the workout gear out there really isn’t all that eco friendly. Still, there are some worthwhile options to consider.

Eco Friendly Workout Clothes

Gaiam is a wonderful source for sustainable workout clothes. They use organic cotton, recycled polyester and other such materials. also has a nice selection, but you have to find their eco-friendly department.

The recycled synthetic fibers really can be better in workout clothes than natural, much as I generally prefer natural. They may better wick away moisture – that is to say, sweat – which is why you see so many workout clothes advertising that feature. You don’t need new materials for that – some recycled fibers do that just fine.

Tencel (or Lyocell) is popular. It’s made from the cellulose in wood pulp. Modal is also popular, and also comes from spun cellulose, generally from beech wood. You may be able to find workout clothes with these materials.

Workout Shoes

I like my New Balance shoes. I got them from Planet Shoes. They sell footwear at environmentally consciously as they can. They even offer Carbon-Free Shipping, which means that you pay a fee so they can offset the carbon resulting from the shipment of your shoes.

Planet Shoes has a nice selection of athletic shoes. You should be able to find some to suit your needs there.

Know Where Your Towel Is

You should bring a towel with you when you work out at a gym. It amazes me how many people don’t at my gym, one of my few disappointments, but at least the gym provides a spray cleaner and towel in a few spots around the gym, so you don’t have to worry about things staying too nasty from other people’s sweat staying on the machines.

Still, you should be wiping down the equipment after you use it. It doesn’t take a big towel to do this, so bring the size you need – smaller if you shower at home rather than at the gym is fine. I’m just using a towel that I already had, no need to buy a special towel just for use at the gym, seriously folks. Using one you already have is better than buying some organic cotton towel you don’t really need. But if you really do need towels, organic cotton’s a pretty good way to go.

Water Bottles

I remember the last time I had a gym membership, call it 15 or so years ago. I don’t know that many people at all brought bottled water to the gym – I think most people just used the drinking fountain. I know I did. I could be wrong about that, it has been a long time.

These days, practically everyone has a water bottle. Unfortunately, they’re mostly the usual plastic bottles intended for a single use. I see a few reuseable water bottles, but not that many. Seeing all the treadmills, bikes and elliptical machines with bottle holders was a welcome surprise to me.

I love my stainless steel water bottle. It’s a steel Thermos Intak, not a specifically eco friendly brand, but quite durable. My husband has a large Klean Kanteen, which goes to work with him also. Both have been around the house for a few years now, and are holding up really well. My husband’s bottle has a few dents from going to and from his work all the time, but nothing that’s a problem.

And remember that water is just fine for most people working out. Most people really don’t need a fancy sports drink to recover from a workout.

Gym Bags

I’m only mentioning gym bags because some people use them. I don’t. I change clothes at home and don’t shower at the gym, so I don’t need one. It would be a waste for me. My gym doesn’t have things like swimming pools or saunas, so there’s no need to bring a change of clothes there.

Think first about whether or not you need a gym bag, then about what you can use instead. You may well have a bag of some sort that will do the job. You’ll probably be mostly shoving it into a locker while you work out, after all.


IPods and such are so common at the gym these days. It’s nice to have a little music to keep yourself entertained. It’s not absolutely necessary – so far I’ve skipped it, in part because my husband’s iPod nano would be awkward to deal with, as my gym clothes have no pocket, and the iPod doesn’t have a clip.

If you’re sharing an iPod or other MP3 player, I would suggest getting your own earbuds. It’s just more sanitary.

As far as the environmental considerations, I generally like Apple’s products. They try to make their carbon footprint smaller and limit their use of toxic materials. I’m not always happy with them, and certainly not a raving fan, but they’re pretty good. They also provide recycling programs in many places for their products.

10 Popular Green Products

One of the most popular ways to go green is by shopping green. It’s perhaps not always done right, as people buy more than they need, but it’s usually better than ignoring the environmental impact of products altogether.

Some kinds of products are more popular than others, of course. Today I want to take a look at some of the more popular green product types, what I think of them, and share individual examples.

Eco Friendly Electronics

Eco Friendly Electronics

Electronics are a huge part of modern living for most people, so finding more environmentally friendly options is a big deal. Look for Energy Star ratings and EPEAT registration. Be aware that EPEAT registration doesn’t cover all kinds of electronics, but you can look at the information the manufacturer provides to decide what’s green enough for you. Familiar brands such as Dell, HP and Apple have EPEAT-registered products. EPEAT at this time appears to be mostly for computer products.

Apple MacBook Pro
I’m quite fond of my MacBook Pro, and it’s one of Apple’s products on EPEAT, with a Gold certification.  It’s a good laptop, and I love the mobility, as before I had only owned desktop computers. It has made working from my home much easier.

Samsung UN32EH4003 32-Inch LED HDTV
This is a popular example of an Energy Star television. Nice size, well reviewed by users. It sounds like a good replacement for when an older television needs replacing. Not something that happens much in my family, as there’s one TV in the living room and another, rarely used one in the master bedroom

Organic Food

Chia Seeds

Not everyone agrees about the benefits of organic food, but then it depends on the benefit you’re looking for. Many organizations that compare conventional and organic produce focus on nutrition, but may neglect pesticide and other residues. Organic fruits and vegetables may cost more than conventional produce, but you can get some good deals at farmers markets or through a CSA. It should end up being more local that was too. Just check to be sure you’re definitely getting organic produce.

Chia Seeds
Chia seeds have become very popular as a superfood. I find that soaked chia seeds go well in smoothies and yogurt, plus they can be added to other recipes. The antioxidants in chia seeds are said to be more stable than those in flax seeds, and they’re also high in omega-3 acids, protein and fiber.

Cacao Powder or Nibs
Perfect for chocolate lovers, cacao powder and nibs give you a healthier way to add a chocolate flavor to a variety of treats. It doesn’t taste like chocolate on its own, however; it’s rather bitter. The nibs have cocoa butter in them, but the powder doesn’t, so be aware that there is a difference between them. I like the nibs, but not by themselves. They add an amazing chocolate taste to smoothies. On their own, cacao nibs are very much an acquired taste, but a healthy one if you can manage it.

Baby Supplies

There’s no way around it – babies need a LOT of stuff. My favorite way to deal with a lot of it is handmedowns, and those can cover quite a bit of the clothing and toy needs for the first while. Sometimes even years of supplies, depending on how good a system you have going with family or friends. My youngest daughter, for example, very rarely gets new clothes because she has such an absurd amount of handmedowns, and she’s nearly 4 years old.

For babies, safety is absolutely a concern, which is a part of why people like eco friendly items. It’s one way to avoid potentially harmful chemicals.

Cloth Diapers
I got into cloth diapers with my youngest; couldn’t convince my husband that we could make it wish sooner, and ended up wishing we had done cloth diapers all along. Saved a lot of money with them. We used Bum Genius, but there are a lot of good brands out there. Don’t forget the cloth wipes.

Babies spend a lot of time sleeping (sometimes at the wrong times for new parents!), and so you may care quite a bit about what they’re sleeping on. From the mattress to the sheets, think about your eco friendly options, such as whether the materials used will tend to offgas. Look for Certi-PUR-US certification for mattresses.


Kids of all ages want toys. The trouble is how quickly the things pile up over time. Add in how often toys are plastic, and it’s not often you can call children’s toys green.

I’ll readily admit to being imperfect in most areas, but especially with toys. My kids do have some handmedown and used toys, including an old Capsela set they enjoy, and a whole lot of LEGOs, most of which were my husband’s from when he was growing up. One thing I will say for those is that once in a while you can take advantage of things lasting just about forever.

Bamboo Toys
Bamboo is very popular right now for toys. More environmentally friendly than wood according to many, it makes some pretty nice toys. There are some nice looking bamboo toy cars and bamboo games available.

Plan Toys
Plan Toys offers a wonderful range of toys that are meant to be more environmentally friendly. They’re also fun. They have a good range of toys, including some very nice dollhouses. There’s even a little vegetable garden for the dollhouse.

Reusable Replaces Disposable

I have a few reusable items that are very much favorites. It’s nice being able to keep one thing rather than throwing many out. The trick here is to pick good quality – I’ve had reusable items that just didn’t last well enough for the difference in cost.

Reusable Bottles
My absolute favorite. I have a reusable bottle that I use every day for my water. So does my husband. My kids take reusable bottles to school rather than juice boxes or water bottles. We have saved a lot of money this was.

My husband has a large Klean Kanteen he really likes. The one problem is that it doesn’t fit in the car’s cupholders, but it’s otherwise a great bottle.

I much prefer stainless steel reusable bottles to plastics or polycarbonates. I’ve had polycarbonate and plastic bottles break on me, but so far no one has managed to break one of the stainless steel ones. Dent, yes, but not severely enough to matter.

Rechargeable Batteries
Rechargeable batteries can be challenging for some uses, but for others they’re wonderful. We have a nice charger that can take pretty much any size, and a stash of batteries.

If the toy or other item is going to sit a lot without being used, rechargeable batteries may as well be taken out. In my experience, they don’t hold a charge for months on end for items that aren’t being used. It’s very frustrating for kids to try to play with a toy they haven’t noticed in some time, only to find out that they have to wait for the batteries to charge. Pulling the batteries on less-used toys doesn’t make them any more ready to go, but it does mean you can use the batteries for more than one thing, and you might be able to move them from toy to toy as interests demand.

Why Should We Be Eco Friendly?

One question I get asked some time goes along the lines of “why be eco friendly?” For some people, it seems like too much effort for too little reason. The reasons just aren’t apparent to everyone, even as others state that it’s obvious.

The need to be eco friendly goes beyond whether or not humans are causing any sort of climate change, even though some want to reduce it to that single reason. It’s a good reason, but it only works for those who agree that there is human-caused climate change. For others, you need more reasons than that.

Why should we be eco friendly?

It’s Good For Your Health

Eco friendly products are generally better for your health. They use fewer toxic materials. And contrary to common belief, they aren’t always of poor quality. Some of my favorite eco friendly cleaning supplies, for example, are at least as effective as their more toxic counterparts. My favorite personal care items are, in my opinion, even more effective than their more common counterparts, and cheaper too. The list goes on.

It Often Saves Money

You save money a few ways by being eco friendly. The simplest is by just not buying as much stuff. One of the greenest things you can do, and it doesn’t cost a thing.

Eco friendly living save money other ways too. Most eco friendly products use less energy, so even some of the things that cost a bit more upfront cost less in the long run. Sometimes the payback takes a while, but it’s usually there.

A good eco friendly product should also be more durable. It’s not terribly eco friendly to be constantly replacing things that should last for years, or even decades. If you can use something that functions just as well, is more eco friendly than the alternative in general, and lasts longer, why wouldn’t you prefer it?

Pollution Means More Than Climate Change

Pollution means more than climate change

People focus on climate change when they talk pollution, but it goes far beyond that. Think about dead zones in the ocean, caused by agricultural runoff. Think about plastic floating in the ocean. Think about the air you breathe.

Recycling and using less energy helps cut down on pollution. In many areas, recycling has become much easier to do than it was in the past. With more energy efficient appliances and lights, cutting down on your power usage is getting easier too. The more people participate in these things, the more everyone can benefit.

It’s Delicious

Ever compare produce from a good farmer’s market or your own backyard garden to produce from the grocery store? Most would agree there’s a difference, and grocery store produce loses. I’m not even getting into organic vs. conventionally grown produce here – food miles make a difference too. Fresher food simply tastes better.

It’s Just the Right Thing to Do

You may not see the immediate benefit of some of the eco friendly things you do. That doesn’t mean there’s no benefit at all. Take a look at where the benefit comes in for the various things you do and buy, and you might be surprised at the impact you’re having. Many of the worst environmental impacts happening right now are affecting the poorest parts of the planet. The part you play in that may be small, but it doesn’t hurt to decrease it.

You’re An Example to Others

Your impact is small, but that’s how many things start. When others see you care about the environment, you’re making it easier for them to care. When others see you not caring, it’s easier for them to not care. Either effect goes beyond you as others take action, at least in part based upon what they see others do.

Top 7 Green Cooking Tools

The kitchen is an important part of the home to take the environment into consideration. What you do there impacts your family as well as the environment. Your cooking tools are one part of that.

Now, I’ll tell you right up front that I’m no fan of nonstick cookware as a general rule. There are varieties out there now that say they’re more environmentally friendly, but I have yet to see nonstick cookware that really keeps the nonstick surface long enough to satisfy me, especially when it comes to skillets. The stuff wears off, whether over a few months or a few years, and then you have to buy new. Not terribly efficient in the long run, if you ask me.

These are all personal preferences I’m listing here. You may not agree, and you don’t have to. I will tell you that some of my preferences won’t work well if you have a glass cooktop rather than gas burners on your stove. Take that into consideration as you shop.

Top 7 Green Cooking Tools1. Cast Iron Skillets

I love my cast iron skillets. They’re heavy, they take a little extra care if I want to keep them properly seasoned, but they last and last. Seriously, my big one belonged to my grandmother and it’s still wonderful. When it comes to being green in the kitchen, pieces that last just about forever rank really high with me.

2. Pressure Cooker

I like my pressure cooker, don’t use it enough, but it’s a good item to have around. Nice, solid, and it speeds up your cooking. That’s the whole point of a pressure cooker. My favorite things to make in them are artichokes. So much faster than cooking them in a regular pot.

The Kuhn Rikon pressure cookers are excellent, although my handmedown Presto is generally good too. Make sure you check reviews for durability, as when I looked at some brands, parts tended to wear out shortly after the warranty expired. Once again, I favor products that don’t tend to need regular replacement as much as possible. Also, if you want to do canning, make sure you select a model designed for it. It’s just easier that way.

3. Bamboo Cutting Boards

The best part about bamboo, environmentally speaking, is that it grows quickly, and so cutting it down to make things has less impact than other woods do. Bamboo cutting boards can work really well, although they can be a little thin. It’s also attractive and durable.

4. Pyrex Storage Sets

Pyrex storage containers are great for getting away from your typical plastic containers for leftover foods. They’re a very durable glass, and the lids can be made from BPA-free plastics. From reviews, I can say that the lids don’t last as well as the containers (hardly a surprise), but I understand you can get them replaced.

5. Pyrex Bakeware

I like their bakeware too. Some of it comes with lids, so it can be used as storage too, but others don’t.

6. Stainless Steel Food Containers

If you want something more durable than glass, stainless steel is a great way to go. Can’t use them in the microwave, obviously, but wonderful for carrying a lunch. Make sure you get leakproof containers if you’re dealing with liquids.

7. Vitamix

While not a specifically eco friendly item, a Vitamix (or Blendtec blender if you prefer), is far superior to a basic blender. If you buy one, you must make smoothies with it. That’s an order. It really make it easy to enjoy a nice, healthy smoothie, and of course you can use it as you would any other blender. Best of all, they last very, very well.