Friday, October 31, 2008

Artist Spotlight: Louise Cady-Fernandes of The Hole Thing

For quite some time I have been interviewing artists who live and work green for The Organic Mechanic. Louise Cady-Fernandes of The Hole Thing in Lexington, Massachusetts was pleased to share some information with me and I felt that now with both blogs it would be fantastic to give her double the exposure so this interview will be posted on both blogs today.

Can you tell us a little about what it is you do?

I create a line of whimsical felted wool sweaters, housewares, and accessories, that are made from recycled sweaters. Many of my sweaters have die-cut holes in them which create windows for whatever is worn underneath. The circles that come out of all the holes are recycled again onto other products.

How long have you been creating felted items such as clothes, housewares and accessories?

I came up with the design concept in November of 2005 while I was at Susan Bristol Inc. I worked there in knitwear design for 16 years. I made a felted "hole" sweater for myself never intending for it to turn into a business, but the idea quickly caught on. THE HOLE THING hit the market in September of 2006.

What is the creative process behind your work? How does an idea take shape?

THE HOLE THING grew out of my love for both polka dots and felted wool. For years creating a sweater with holes had been on my list of things to make for myself. I didn't want to knit it though as that seemed too monotonous. Then one day, while I was making a blanket out of old sweaters that I had felted and cut into squares, it came to me to make my hole sweater out of an old felted sweater. The creative process for my line is continually evolving and expanding which I love. Now I have 18 products that include among other things, scarves & hats, candle holders & vases, note cards, and a felted jewelry line that incorporates the leftover holes that are punched out of all the sweaters.

Where do you acquire the wool used in your designs?

I shop at thrift stores, but I also get lots of hand me downs from friends and family. My 86 year Mom also gathers old sweaters for me occasionally. I usually buy between 30-50 sweaters at once.

Why recycled/upcycled wool?

Why not? There is so much of it out there. Anytime we can use what is already available a new product doesn't need to be produced. This is terrific because virgin resources aren't being used for production. New products take precious energy to create, and often have hazardous environmental waste such as dyes and other pollutants. New products also consume lots of energy because they need to be packaged and shipped long distances.

How do you feel that using upcycled, and natural, wool helps the environment?

see above.

When did you first become interested in living and working in a green way by repurposing?

Both of my parents grew up in the depression and living a more minimalist life kind of seeped into me like osmosis! My dad was forever running around turning off lights, my mom cleaned out jars of mayonnaise etc with a spatula to "get every little bit". For me being green isn't a sacrifice or a challenge, it is something that brings me pleasure. I am forever thinking about how I can do things more thoughtfully. The beauty of THE HOLE THING initially for me was as much about the design as it was about having a business that upcycled.

Has any one green practice become second nature, something you personally do every day?

I would have to say that my greenest practice is being conscious about what I do- I am always wondering how I can do something in a more environmentally mindful way. For me it's just about paying closer attention.

What green practice do you recommend readers try?

Gosh there are so many! How about this- try getting organized enough so that you only have to grocery shop once a week. I know this sounds horrendous but it honestly only takes a few minutes of planning each week. Shopping once a week not only saves on repeat, gas guzzling trips to the grocery shore, but it also saves on trips to get take-out food and all the wasteful packaging it creates. My website has lots of other great green tips.

As an independent artist what is your greatest challenge?

All the different hats that need to be worn. My favorite thing is to design. Luckily though, I think I am about equally right, and left, brained so at least the book keeping and other logistical tasks are a little more satisying for me than for most artists. For instance I like to balance my checkbook and I know that this is a rare thing for most everyone.

Do you remember the feeling of your first sale? Has that feeling changed now that you have sold many more items?

I do remember the excitement of my first sale. I think I like doing craft shows because although the excitement has diminished, the feeling gets created over and over again. I love to see the happiness that my whimsical designs provide people. It makes me happy.

What is your advice to a fellow artisan who is new to their industry?

Figure out how much you want to make per hour for your work. Then keep track of how much time it takes to create what you make and how much your supplies cost etc. This has been very helpful to me because I know immediately which of my products are cost effective and which aren't. My other advice in business is to plan on making mistakes. They will teach you and will act as arrows pointing you in which direction to go in next.

Do you have online presences where readers can learn more about you?

Yes -- The Hole Thing
(Editor’s Note: Louise also has an Online Shop on Etsy)
Is your work featured in a boutique or other brick & mortar location?

I am in nine stores. The newest one is a wonderful new store called Bead and Fiber in Boston's south end on Harrison Avenue.

Because of Louise’s efforts in utilizing upcycling, natural fibers and her constant environmental eye in everything she does I am granting her a solid Four green Leaves!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

To Dye For

A while back I wrote in my other blog about dying my hair bright red and in the comments section a couple people mentioned that they prefer to use henna instead of so many chemicals. After having dreamt about henna tattoos last night, I woke up this morning realizing it was time to look into this process, especially since my roots are starting to grow in.

Henna, as defined on is: An Asian shrub or small tree, Lawsonia inermis, of the loosestrife family, having elliptic leaves and fragrant flowers. The natural aspect made me feel much better about using it on my body, and subsequently washing it down the drain, so I pulled up quite a few websites dedicated to the history of henna, where it originated from and its early uses, as well as differences between the dyes used in body art as opposed to those used for hair. The natural source of the pigment comes from the leaves of the plant. The most reliable way to achieve the best results is through mixing of the powder of the leaves with other natural sources (such as lemon juice, tea, oils, wine, nutmeg, cinnamon, etc.) depending on the color desired (in its natural state the pigment dye released by the leaves is a reddish-orange tone, black henna has an indigo additive to darken it).

I discovered this website, Henna for Hair, dedicated to about 200 different people and how they have achieved their henna hair colors. As I read through many of the individual stories it occurred to me why so many more women and men choose to dye their hair through the salon or little box of chemicals -- henna application sure is a lot of work! Although, as the process becomes more familiar, I imagine the work involved is less than it first appears.

Mystified at the different mixes of color, especially those in the bright red family as that is the color I seem to be gravitating toward lately, I read through handfuls of the stories. Many of the henna mixes will need to sit in a bowl overnight to release the dye and it was made very clear that pre-mixed paste is likely loaded with just as many chemicals as the box kits. Many of the stories involved putting a shower cap, foil, and a towel on top of the color, and leaving all of them on over night. There was no single mix that I read about which suggested leaving the color on for less than four hours.

The pro to this time investment is the insanely gorgeous color these people have achieved without chemical interference. Almost all of the colors shown I have had on my head at one point or another. They wash the color out and sometimes complete a vinegar rinse which helps remove the remainder of the dye in order to prevent it from transferring to the towel (something I wish I knew months, scratch that, years ago!). I am anxious to attempt this very different style of application of color and am scouring through these individual color mixes to see which I like the most. Due to the con of time investment but the super environmental pros of this plant based dye, and the ability to achieve such vibrant color through its use I am granting henna as a natural hair coloring alternative Four Green Leaves!

After the application, I will report back and let everyone know how it went; luckily I have pixie short hair so it should be a little bit easier to complete.

Have any of you used henna?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

One Voice, Singing in the Darkness

Those of you who are Barry Manilow fans will recognize the title of this blog as a line from one of his songs however I use it as it completely embodies just what we as environmentally aware individuals are doing to come together collectively -- sing loudly on our own so all our voices end up joining together as one in the end. There are many musicians who, through their recognizable names and faces, are fighting for humanitarian or environmental efforts so we all have a chance to survive on this planet. These are two of my favorites who not only spread their message but also live it everyday. Who are your favorite eco-musicians?

One of my all-time favorite musicians is Jason Mraz. The reasons for this are not strictly linked to his beautiful music or lyrics but to his strong planetary and humanitarian efforts as well; he genuinely seems to care greatly about the state of our planet. Not only do I support his art from a musical standpoint but I am an avid reader of his blog as well. Over the past year that he has been writing, he has shared information on his: diet change to raw foodist, carrying of a Sigg to replace plastic water bottles, support of local artists, tour in bio-diesel busses, concern that he is not very eco-friendly due to his flight paths, support of humanitarian causes and many others. One of his most recent efforts is teaming up with Bruce Parry and Brett Dennen to record a song (Long Road to Forgiveness) for Survival International. Truly inspirational.

A local act, The Grownup Noise caught my attention when a close friend told me of them and their plan to convert their 1980’s, diesel van into one that runs on vegetable oil, in an effort to save the environment as well as some cash on their summer tour. Cool! I met up with their bassist, Adam, at their kick off show in Boston and through shared information, links and photos, compiled a fantastic three part story of the entire process from installation right up through wrapping up the tour. To follow the journey please visit these three links -- Part I: The Band Gets a Van, Boston Based Band The Grownup Noise Kick Off the Veggie Van Tour and The Grownup Noise Part II: Touring, With a Side of Fries.

The inspiration for this post comes from the song by Barry Manilow, referenced above, so for those who are unfamiliar with it, here are the lyrics. It is a story about one individual starting the movement of joining together for a common purpose. We do not have to be celebrities to have a huge impact, all it takes is one effort in one town by one person and eventually all of those "ones" will add up to tons!

One Voice
Just One Voice,
Singing in the darkness,
All it takes is One Voice,
Singing so they hear what's on your mind,
And when you look around you'll find
There's more than

One Voice,
Singing in the darkness,
Joining with your
One Voice,
Each and every note another octave,
Hands are joined and fears unlocked,
If only

One Voice
Would start it on its own,
We need just
One Voice facing the unknown,
And then that
One Voice would never be alone,
It takes that
One Voice.

It takes that
One Voice.

One Voice
Singing in the darkness,
All it takes is
One Voice,
Shout it out and let it ring.

Just One Voice,
It takes that
One Voice,
And everyone will sing!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Everything Green Living Book

About three weeks ago at my local Barnes and Noble I quite by accident stumbled across this book and wow am I ever happy I did! The Everything Green Living Book is a thorough guide with oodles of pertinent information, but it is written in a very easy to understand voice making it a fantastic resource for not only a beginner but an expert looking for a few new tips or tricks. The cover caught my eye immediately, due to the words Green Living, and as I continued to visually scan it, I noticed the recycling symbol in the upper left corner. This book is printed on 100% post consumer waste paper. Hooray! I was intrigued and began to flip through.

There are twenty chapters, 277 pages of jam packed information, covering everything from the world as it stands now through how to be environmentally responsible even when we die. The foreword is written by Christopher J. Maron, Program Director of the Adirondack, NY Nature Conservancy and he encourages adopting our own conservation ethic. Flipping the page, prior to even viewing the Introduction, there is a list of Ten things each person will take away after pouring through this book and the final one caught my eye “If you take an ecovacation, you’ll be helping the environment while supporting a local economy and having a great time.” Again, this piqued my interest but I was determined to read through the Introduction before going back to the table of contents to scan for the chapter containing information on ecovacations.

Upon reading the Introduction I chuckled as it clearly states “Many people may be surprised at what topic piques their interest.” I was not as much surprised as I was curious what advice this book would include for taking an ecovacation so as I completed the Introduction, I flipped right over to Chapter Thirteen, Vacations and Travel. The thirteen pages in this chapter review terms, pros, cons, how to do it, parks (in the United States), souvenirs, festivals and stay-cations. Included are questions, facts, tips and alerts in separate little boxes to punctuate the information. This format is true for all the chapters and not only does it make the book extremely easy to navigate but helps to hone in on specific bits of information within each larger category as well.

The end of the book includes three Appendix sections including resources (books and websites), a glossary of terms and finally a quiz to determine our own footprint. After completing reading the section I was most interested in it was clear that the level of available information could not be matched in any of the other books I owned and I went back to the beginning to read through the entire book in just two nights! When I came to the very end my brain was buzzing with such a great feeling I was truly inspired -- this book is one of the reasons I started writing this blog, researching local groups and decidedly becoming more involved in maintaining the environment around me. For all of these reasons and more I recommend that everyone check this book out (as a side note I checked with my local library to see if it could literally be checked out however the network of libraries that includes my town does not carry this particular title however I strongly encourage everyone to look into that in their own area as a greener option).

With all of this in mind I am bestowing a Five Green Leaf Rating on this wonderful resource material!

To purchase the title you can either click on the cover image above and be taken to Barnes and Noble online or feel free to check out the Adams Media associated website where the book can be purchased direct.

Please note the cover photo is not stolen from the internet but is my own book which I scanned in.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Happy Trails To You

A couple days ago we discussed some of the ways to have a more environmentally conscious holiday season. One of the largest contributors of carbon emissions is through travel in a vehicle. For those who are traveling by car it is important to ensure proper maintenance is done prior to leaving on the big adventure so carbon emissions are reduced. There are three easy solutions for quick and inexpensive maintenance that will greatly help -- changing out the air filter, proper tire inflation and tread and reducing drag.

The videos below are just over a minute long or less and show how easy it can be to do these simple fixes ourselves. Of course the option to take the car in to a mechanic for a complete maintenance overhaul is always a great idea before a long road trip but it is best to contact the repair shop of choice at least two weeks prior to the scheduled travel date to ensure an appointment is available, especially at the holiday season when hours may be different or appointments are booked out well in advance.

This video shares how to change the air filter on our cars. Changing the air filter allows the car to intake proper oxygen levels thereby reducing engine contaminates and providing better overall gas mileage. An air filter is relatively inexpensive considering the importance; a standard filter for my Toyota Corolla will run about $15 at a local Auto Zone.

In this video we learn the importance, not just for environmental reasons but safety as well, for proper tire inflation and tread. A tire gauge can be purchased at any auto parts store and they are generally about $3.00 for the pen style (please note there are digital models available that are more expensive). Some pen style gauges like the one seen in this video also have a tread gauge attached. The cost will go up only slightly for this addition.

One of our newest readers, Hyla of Green Earth Journey, made a fantastic recommendation to lessen the stuff in our vehicles to reduce drag and improve gas mileage. For many families there will be at least one child in the car which can significantly up the stuff factor. So what do we do to lessen the burden? First estimate how long of a trip it will be. If a family visit will last a couple weeks why not consider shipping a small box of toys or other items in advance; one full shipping truck is a great improvement over 50 half full vehicles. For shorter trips, be sure to take only what is needed for the time that will be spent. Before leaving on the journey, open up all areas of the vehicle and remove what is not needed. Many times we are on the go and unused items can build up in a vehicle and become forgotten. A good example of this is my own trunk; I carry my ladder with me to job sites but it certainly does not need to accompany me to Thanksgiving dinner. Remove the unneeded items from the interior areas (do not forget to check the trunk and recycle whatever possible) and then bring the car to a car wash for a quick scrub and vacuum. Removing all excess from the vehicle including dirt and debris will greatly improve the efficiency of the automobile.

For a total investment of less than a tank of gas, we can all travel safer and more environmentally friendly this holiday season.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Spreading It Around With Three Green Leaves

Since starting this blog I have had so much encouragement for the effort and so many suggestions of topics to discuss that I was overwhelmed and excited all at the same time! It was wonderful to see that so many people were committed to living more eco-friendly lives and I was thrilled to share information with them.

One of the topics raised with my sister in law was that of household cleaning products. She was already doing some research on various products so I asked if she would be interested in completing a write up on her findings so I could share it with everyone. She was definitely excited to dig into the topic even deeper and she emailed me her final piece just the other day.

When I got to the end of the editorial I noticed she was unsure how many leaves to give to each company so the ratings posted below are my interpretation of each strictly based on her findings; I intend to do some research into this topic myself as I am currently using one of the products she mentions. I love the way it works and was pleased at its lack of environmental impact but now I also feel it requires more investigating as Melissa has indicated.

So without further ado, here is her first GLR piece!

The Jury Is Still Out

A big ol' can of worms

OK, for me, the whole issue of what constitutes a "green" laundry detergent just got murkier.

I have been using Seventh Generation laundry detergent almost exclusively for about six months, and feeling pretty good about that, though I knew in my head I didn't really deserve to feel pretty good about it, since I simply picked it up because it was in the "green" section of my grocery store. It's the same kind of shortcut as voting the party line because you were too lazy to read up on the candidates (not that I've ever been guilty of that! not me!).

Cut to last weekend, when I ventured to a different grocery store. I was walking up the detergent aisle and two labels leapt off the shelf at me: One was for Purex Natural Elements, and the other was for Arm & Hammer Essentials. I'd never seen either of these products before, so I picked up both bottles and noticed that they shared "coconut-based surfactant" as a key ingredient.

OK, so a little less call for petroleum...a good thing, right? And my mind started turning over what it means (if anything) for some of the more traditional suppliers of detergents to begin offering greener alternatives.

A case of consumer demand making inroads into the manufacturers' consciousness? One would hope. Or a sop to shush up those consumers while these mega-manufacturers continue to rely on the same old (none-too-eco-friendly) brands as their flagship products? ("Hey, we're trying...yawn.") I am not a person who inherently distrusts all corporations as evil empires, but my healthy skepticism was activated.

Foggier and foggier

Well, lo and behold, turning my Seventh Generation bottle around at home revealed that its key ingredient, likewise, was derived from coconut. Now I was more confused...did this validate the new, big-brand offerings, or lessen the shine on my Seventh Gen stuff? Hmmm.

So off I went to Treehugger to see what they had to say. My search didn't reveal anything much about Purex's offering, but they definitely weren't thrilled about Arm & Hammer's product. Here is an excerpt from Arm and Hammer Essentials (not so fast!):

"Since they think 'Treehuggers' are their target market I think we should let them know that the product has some merits, but using palm kernel oil and coconut oil isn't one of them.

Reduced packaging is great. Reduced energy for transportation is great. Saving money is great. Using an ingredient that promotes the severe deforestation of Southeast and Pacific Asia, not so much... "

Uh, yikes! I knew there had to be a catch!

Coconut: Savior of the planet or...?

While trying to learn more about the coconut connection, I found another Treehugger reference to a "green" cleaner in another category -- Clorox's Green Works cleaners -- not being all it's cracked up to be, due to the coconut issue. Here are two excerpts from Introducing Clorox’s Green Works Cleaners:

"They say their alkyl polyglucoside comes from coconut oil and their ethanol and glycerine from corn oil; while that's better than using petroleum-derived alternatives, there are still major issues with rainforest habitat destruction relating to harvesting coconut oil ..."

"Treehugger's final take on that: "Green Works is better than a conventional alternative, but not perfect."

Anyway, I started to wonder why the coconut-based surfactant is bad for Arm & Hammer but OK for Seventh Generation -- at least from Treehugger’s perspective. Maybe there's some subtle difference that would only be known to chemists. I didn't find an answer so far, but I'm still looking.

So for those keeping score at home:

Purex, Arm & Hammer, Clorox and even (sniff) Seventh Generation will all receive an honorable Three Green Leaves due to their commitment to attempt to be more Earth friendly and the strides they are taking to get there ahead of the pack.

The jury is out, it would seem. Anyone have anything illuminating to say on this topic? I hope so! The takeaway here seems to be that we all need to do the legwork before assuming anything is really as good as it sounds. Sigh. I won't be pouring my Seventh Generation detergent down the drain (other than in the usual clothes-washing sense), but my feel-good vibe is not quite what it was, at least until proven otherwise.

Note: For a fairly detailed explanation of what to consider, in looking for laundry detergents, you can check out The Green Guide report and jump to its product comparison...however, there are not a lot of reviews in to date.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Eco Holidays

Since I was raised in the United States in an Irish Catholic household these are the holidays I personally celebrate. I would love to hear about any and all traditions or holidays that readers embrace and how this year might be the one where an environmental twist can be placed on those celebrations!


For the past couple weeks we have been saying that for Halloween this year we will wear our most tattered clothing and go as out of work bankers. When I was a kid, that same costume was called a Hobo when a clown face was added. It is difficult to imagine myself fitting into my old Halloween costume this year so I am on the prowl to scour my closet and come up with alternate solutions by utilizing items I already have or can acquire very inexpensively.

This trend seems to be catching on as I was reading some comments on my personal blog from Julie. She said:

“So, I pulled out my sewing machine the other night. It's been a while. But it was fun, and I was pretty proud of my "freehand" upcycled creation. The four of us are going to a costume party for Halloween, and since the boys are going to be Batman and Robin, DH & I are going as The Joker & Catwoman. So, I converted a goodwill shirt into a shiny (literally) new green vest for the clown-faced villain in my life. Basic, but like I said, I'm happy with it. :) Still, I need to make a headpiece/mask/ears & tail for my costume, and convert a yellow t-shirt into a cape for Robin...”


Then there was the year that my sister in law spray painted cardboard boxes and glued on cups to turn my nephews into Legos.

When a child goes out trick or treating the signal for where to stop for treats is a porch light left on so how can we simultaneously conserve energy? Perhaps install a CFL bulb prior to that evening. Or there is always the option of placing this little baby out on the stoop: A solar powered lantern. Charge it that day in bright sunlight and it will hold a thirty hour charge. The candy will run out before the lantern light does!


Countless gallons of fossil fuel are burned on the biggest travel day of the year. Gallons of water are down the drain. Electric usage soars while the oven runs for six continuous hours, the television stays on for the football games while everyone naps on the couch and extra lights are turned on all over the house.

So what can we do about it while we still enjoy a hearty meal and laughs with our respective relations?

For starters those hosting this festive occasion can purchase just what is needed of locally grown and organic food. Less fossil fuel is burned because the items have less distance to travel and with no added chemicals it will be a healthier meal all around.

Family and friends who are headed out in their cars to take advantage of this healthier feast can definitely improve their emissions by completing a few small steps prior to the date of travel. Have tires checked and inflated to proper pressure, make sure oil and filter changes as well as tune ups are all up to date. A properly working vehicle is key!

It might seem difficult to reduce a carbon footprint while flying but we can -- pack a travel mug in our carry on bag to fill up with a beverage of choice once past security, attempt to carry on only reducing the weight of baggage on the flight (basically do not over pack), park in an out-lot and take the shuttle to the terminal (less time cruising for a perfect parking spot, carpool instead) and plant a tree (or ten) upon returning home to help offset some of the carbon utilized while on the plane.

For those with a dishwasher that like to rinse dishes, fill a dishpan or the sink halfway with warm water and soak the dishes rather than spending time running them under a faucet. This will cut down on wasted gallons of water and improve the efficiency of the dishwasher. For those without a dishwasher just add soap to the warm water and let the dishes soak. Wash them all at once and rinse them all at once.

About a half hour after the meal is over most everyone stretched out on the sofa (bed, floor, chair) will be passed out but the television will still be running for the duration of that nap. Why not set the sleep timer to turn off after an hour? Encourage guests to be mindful of leaving lights on throughout the house, turn them off when leaving a room.

There is nothing quite like taking an entire day to give thanks and show gratitude for the wealth of things we have in our lives and one of them is the environment. For a complete list of some great tips check out this site.


In decades past this was the time of Yule logs burning and smells of cinnamon mixed with winter pine. A time when kids were on break from school so they could have snowball fights, go sledding and build snowmen. A time of frosty noses and family, friends and fun, peace and joy. More recently this holiday has turned into a race to the mall where countless items are purchased for individuals we barely know perpetuating a cycle of disposable consumerism. Acknowledging each other and the fuzzy feelings we have with a special little something is perfectly wonderful but maybe it is time to think outside the box stores to do something that will bring an even greater sense of warmth to everyone involved and give back to humanity at the same time.

Shop local. Instead of driving miles away to a mall or other big box retailer, explore the cities or towns we live in to bring our dollars back into our own communities. This will help boost local economies, keep people employed and build relationships in the places we all live.

Buy handmade items from independent artisans. When we absolutely have to shop online, consider purchasing something more unique from an artist who put their heart and soul into creating that item. Independent artisans are to the internet what local retailers are to a town. The service is always more personalized and generally the products are of a higher quality. I suggest starting the search on Etsy where each shop is independently owned and the items are as unique as the shop names.

Consider donating to a charity in someone else’s name. With amazing success this is something my Mom instituted last year in an effort to rid her home of stuff. We jumped on the train and it was amazingly successful throughout our family. There is something out there that everyone believes in whether it is environmental or humanitarian in nature. There are many on the receiving end of the donation who benefit so the giver and recipient both feel great about doing something special for someone else.

Create a personalized gift. One year for a holiday I purchased a simple plastic box frame, some tiny accoutrements (a plastic phone, a shoe, etc), glued them to the face of the frame, printed a photo of my sister and I and put it inside. She still has that gift to this day. Using our imaginations we can create all kinds of heartfelt gifts that will be cherished for years.

Simply spend time with someone. The holidays can be a difficult time of year for many people. When we embrace what the spirit of the holiday season is all about we will find that sharing a cup of tea over great conversation on a Sunday afternoon is a far greater gift than anything purchased.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Moving With the Times

There is something to be said for technology, the small little chrome and black devices we all carry around with us are sleek and snazzy; a status symbol or just a great way to keep in touch with people when our business takes us far from home. What happens when we decide we have outgrown a black and chrome color scheme and that “clunky old” gaming system and want to show off our red or pink or blue gadget replacements and sleekly designed game hard drive? There is a cell phone, MP3 player, laptop, digital camera and gaming system to get rid of so just throw the old ones in the trash right?


Companies are now taking of advantage of ever changing technology trends and jumping in to assist with the e-cycling of those old items by handling what is known as e-waste. Not only will they take them back and properly dispose of them -- either refurbish and resell or e-cycle appropriately -- but some companies will even pay a small fee in cash or gift cards to garner those items.

When replacing old technologies we sometimes go to chain outfits such as Staples, Office Max or Office Depot. Office Depot just moved up about five branches on the Green Leaf Tree as they have now partnered up with ecoNEW to provide trade in for gift certificate service. So how does it work? The old item is researched on the ecoNEW website (ElectroStore portal must be acquired first), a value is placed on the old technology, an ElectroStore credit is issued with a UPS shipping slip, the item is shipped back, verified and a gift card to the retailer of choice is sent to the consumer.

What about those folks who do not want to turn their stuff into more stuff but would like to sell for cash without the hassle of listing items online over and over again?

Right here in Waltham, Massachusetts is a company called Gazelle (formerly Second Rotation) which receives, values, and turns old electronics into cash for the consumer. This company deals with less items than some of the others as they are only willing to accept eleven different types of electronic hardware (they do not accept old printers for example) but for those they do accept a consumer can (as their website states) “get green while being green”! As technology age increases the value decreases so that is something to be aware of. Selling back old electronics will likely not pay the mortgage but they will be kept out of landfills.

It is estimated that 2.25 million tons of electronics were deemed unworthy in the twenty four month period of 2006-2007. Only eighteen percent of those were e-cycled, a whopping 405,000 tons. That leaves 2,249,595 tons of electronic equipment to be placed in landfills. Ouch.

A fantastic example of rapidly changing technology would be the digital television switch over coming to all homes as of next year. With this mandated switch to DTV in February of 2009 there are going to be quite a few televisions that are deemed outdated. I strongly encourage everyone to begin research now for a location where these can be dropped (getting this done early will decrease chances of being turned away on the switch date due to high demand). Not only will it save a huge tonnage of waste in landfills but it could even pay back with a little pocket lining green.

Keeping up with trends is fun but landfills are not so that is why I give e-cycling companies such as ecoNEW and Gazelle and partners of their mission, such as Office Depot, a Four Leaf Rating!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Putting My Mission Where My Mouth Is

Last night was this month’s meeting for my town’s Sustainable group that I discovered two days ago and we braved the dipping temperatures to take in what this committee is all about. None of us were disappointed and came out even more jazzed to do more! There were eleven of us in attendance at the meeting plus two guest speakers and other absent members were referenced as the night went on so it was clear this is a decent sized group with a common goal in mind.

That goal includes efforts such as Local First -- an initiative to promote the environmental and community building aspects of shopping for products and services in our own towns first, 150 Households -- an effort to encourage 150 residents to sign up for the New England Wind Fund which will allow for the town to garner one 2kW photovoltaic panel and The Energy Smackdown -- a contest including 3 town teams with ten families per town pledging to reduce energy consumption over a one year span. My brain was swimming in a sea of beautiful, algae free, carbon low, green water by the end of the meeting just thinking about the ability to get involved with some of these efforts as well as those proposed for the coming year’s focus.

At the end of the evening the Webmaster and I chatted about this blog and the fact that the committee website is receiving a major overhaul in the very near future. He asked if I would allow an RSS feed from here on the main website and also if I would be interested in doing some content rich article writing on pertinent local information. Um, hello of course I am interested! Yippie! It made me feel great to know that I can use my own area of talent to provide back to this amazing group.

As we drove back to my Mom’s to drop her off we all discussed some of the ways we are already making differences but also some of the things we do that, according to what we discussed during the evening, are not very sustainable and what the trade offs are for each choice we make. In the end all of us are committed to make a concerted effort in helping to protect the planet and that is what truly matters. It will be fun to get out there and become even more involved with our local community to further enhance those commitments.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Eco Movie Bio-Dome Gets Two Leaf Rating

As many of you know I also contribute to another environmental blog called The Organic Mechanic. My basic job description over at TOM (hey, there is TED why not TOM too right?) is to locate, interview and post anything related to artists working in an environmentally friendly way. I have been writing for them since June and it has been going pretty well but sometimes it is difficult to ensure a person responds to the questions sent to them. There is only so much email stalking I am willing to take part in. When the interview responses began to thin out I shifted gears to expand my horizons on the type of posting I was putting up there. The following review of Bio-Dome is a reprint of my original TOM post with only slight modifications for grammar and the title; I figured readers of GLR would like to check this out as well. Enjoy and if you do rent this movie, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Released in 1996, Bio-Dome attempted to bring an eco-conscious attitude to the forefront of the burned out minds of teenage boys everywhere through use of crass humor and wild fantasy (such as the fact that not one but two attractive and intelligent women could actually be interested in the lead characters Bud and Doyle). If there was not an environmental back plot this flick would be classified, like many other movies starring Pauly Shore or Stephen Baldwin, as a “stoner” movie but because there is an effort to include a fantastic moral message, the bad acting and terrible script take a back seat in this review.

The plot is simple -- A couple of unattractive, lame guys with a generally cavalier attitude about the planet miraculously manage to date environmentally stringent and beautiful women then through a course of predictably moronic twists, somehow become locked inside, destroy and subsequently end up saving an entire, working eco-system.

Does this concept sound a bit far fetched? Remove the idiot character factor and that leaves us with a sealed, working eco-system. This notion is one that dates back to the early 1800’s when a British physician discovered that plants could grow under glass. It would be fair to assume that Nathaniel Ward would be proud to learn his findings were used as fodder for a comedy which is the basis for why this movie will get a positive review here.

Some concepts discussed in the movie are recycling, land clean up (litter is discussed several times) and an appreciation for Earth Day. The movie is not a motion picture epic but holds a slight bit of predictable humor while it promotes bettering the environment. That is a notion we should all support so I give this movie a Two Leaf Rating.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sharing Is Caring

I am a member of Focus the Nation, a non-profit organization that is committed to fight for clean, renewable energy resources. This morning their news letter arrived in my inbox detailing some of the upcoming events and where they would be held. All the way at the bottom was a link to which was described as a service that will stop all unwanted junk mail for five years. Having never heard of this particular organization before, I went to the website and read each page, looking to gain a broader perspective on what and how they do it. For $41.00 (US) they will contact and stop all unwanted mail for five full years -- catalogs, credit card offers, fliers -- anything with a name and address on it and $15.00 of that donation goes directly to an organization in the drop down menu. It sounded pretty good (especially since FTN was in the list), but while reading through the list it occurred to me that many of the organizations on it were local to southern California.

I love SoCal but presently live in Massachusetts so my wheels began to turn and I realized that the only organizations I currently belong to as a member are all national. This made me stop to think -- where are my local organizations and how can I find them? I thought about the saying:

Think Globally. Act Locally.

Now that is not to say that acting globally does not help because I do truly care what happens to the rest of the world but starting at home will give me more pride in actually being able to watch that effort come to fruition.

So where can I research local organizations? How do I join them? What makes them reputable?

I had a lot of questions and only the internet to guide the origins of my search. So I opened up Google and typed in “Environmental Org my hometown and state”. To my surprise and delight my own town website came up with links to three committees and the Sustainability Action Plan. The Town Selectmen voted eight years ago to join with the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign that would require a plan be put into action.

Eight years ago! I felt like I had a lot of catching up to do! My town issued part one of their Sustainability Plan just two years ago and a committee was formed so the first thing I did was register for an account to their website so I could learn more about upcoming events and town meetings. I learned that the next will be held tomorrow night at 7:30 PM and emailed the moderator of the meeting to see if it was open to the public. Finally, while waiting to hear back I called my Mom, who also lives here, and asked if she too would be interested to attend if we were allowed and she said sure!

There were two additional committees listed and I fully intend to research both in the same manner in order to get more involved right here in my own town. I will continue to donate to and support larger organizations such as We, 1Sky and Focus the Nation but to begin an effort right here in my own town makes me feel more connected to the air my own community breathes every day.

What are you doing to support local organizations? Tell me about your experiences!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Time For A Makeover

One of the most popular terms from yesterday seemed to be upcycling because so many of us artsy types do it in our every day work. Material selection is not just reserved for the aisles of a local Michaels or JoAnn Fabrics anymore. So many artists are finding new ways to use formerly loved items in their work and it is causing an entire community of advanced creativity to spawn!

I have interviewed some of these artists before with regard to their thoughts on living and working green and if you have some time on your hands please swing by The Organic Mechanic (or via the image on the right side bar) and click on any of the Artist Spotlight links (postings from mid June to present) to read some amazing stories of fantastic artists and designers.

I am picking out a few artists to feature here today because their creativity in reuse astounds me and that is why I give each of these artists Four Green Leaves!

Courtney Watson of TwIsTeD upcycles formerly used telephone wire to make her funky and bold jewelry line.

Karen Dengler of Retired Records upcycles vinyl albums into just about anything from home goods to jewelry to purses, very cool!

Intarsia artist Theresa Ekdom of Wood N Goods uses scrap and cutoffs to create her amazing inlaid wood designs.

To say Eric Masters of IMOTIME only upcycles items into clocks would be a complete understatement, the items are wacky and it works!

Ingrid McEntire of Creations by Ingrid truly embodies what it means to upcycle, utilizing anything from candy wrappers to men’s suits in her amazing creations.

These artists are just a small number of those who are utilizing unique, upcycled materials to create amazing, functional items. By supporting the efforts of independent artists such as these folks and others we can keep a staggering amount of waste out of landfills.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Whatchu Talkin Bout?

Here I am rambling on about all this environmental whoo-ha and it just occurred to me that some readers may be new to the eco lifestyle and have no idea what we are all going on about over here. How dare I post a bunch of bloggity blogs without first sharing what all of those fancy terms even mean?! Well before those fantastic people glaze over and click away, I will share a list of a bunch of environmental based terms and what they mean to me. I encourage everyone to post in the comments if you have questions about certain terms or have a different opinion on what it means to you. Please note there are some terms I will just post the dictionary definition for because they just seem to sum it up so nicely. Now in no particular order, let’s get talking people!

Environment -- The most important of all the terms. To me this is the all encompassing, includes everything term. The environment is not just the untouchable ozone layer or air we breathe but also the house we live in, the car we drive, outer space, the job we work at, the websites we surf, the water we swim in, fish, drink, the tiny little ant that crawls across the sidewalk to the greatest desert, the smallest creature on the planet, the polar ice shelf, You, me, all breathing things, you get the picture. If you experience it at any time with any of your six senses then it is the environment. Treat it well.

Green -- This is a toughie because everyone has a slightly different take on what this means but to me, green means being, doing and promoting the betterment of the environment as much and as often as possible. What is your take on this word as used in an environmental capacity?

Recycle -- Probably the most widely used and recognized term where environmental living is concerned. The dictionary defines this as: to treat or process (used or waste materials) so as to make suitable for reuse. This is important to remember – anything recycled in a traditionally adopted manner must go through another process to become something else. It will save that thing from being placed in a landfill (trash heap) but a process must be completed again to make the new item.

Upcycle -- Sort of like recycling except the item in question is generally not completely reprocessed, just repurposed or reused. Here is the difference: With recycling, I put a plastic bottle in my bin, it is taken to a plant, melted down and reformed into a plastic shopping bag. With upcycling I take a plastic bottle, cut it in half, coat the bottom with sticky back felt and use it as a pen holder. There is a process involved in repurposing that bottle but a lower impact process environmentally speaking. And I have a personalized, kick ass new pen holder to boot.

Eco -- This is simply the prefix used to shorten the length of an ecologically responsible word. Instead of saying “that shopping bag purse is an environmentally responsible item” we can be lazy and say “I love her eco-friendly purse!”. Eco-conscious, eco-responsible, eco-blogger, eco-mom, etc. What eco- do you define yourself as?

Repurpose -- Dictionary says: To use or convert for use in another format or product. This is another term for recycling, upcycling or reuse.

Earth Day – This is the day we greenies get to share the love of our blue and green marble in space with a whole slew of people that may not be focused on it any other time of year. There are amazing conventions, group meet ups, talks, discussions, actions and many other activities planned all over, you guessed it, the Earth on this day. In 2009 it is on April 22. Get involved!

Solar -- Fun in the sun baby! The heat and energy produced by everyone’s favorite flaming ball of gas is known as solar.

Passive Solar -- Collecting and using the rays of the sun without any mechanics. This is something I do every day and discussed here.

Photovoltaic Panels -- Cells in the form of flat panels (photodiodes) used to collect the suns rays and regenerate that into electric energy. This is known as Active Solar and they are sometimes referred to as PV’s.

Wind Turbine -- Wind, or kinetic, is harnessed through the rotating turbines (blades) and converted into energy. It is deemed a turbine when that energy is converted to electricity. Windmills use the power of wind to run machinery strictly.

Compost -- The dictionary tells us this is: a mixture of various decaying organic substances, as dead leaves or manure, used for fertilizing soil. Scraps of dinner or yard waste (like lawn clippings) can be saved and put back into the Earth to make a more nutrient friendly soil for planting.

Emission -- Basically a fancy-schmancy term for release or discharge. Every time we start and run our cars there is an emission created from the tail pipe for example. Emissions from many sources (methane gas, fossil fuels, etc), has led to increased air pollution across the planet. Using clean power such as solar or wind will help to keep emissions to a minimum.

Sustainable -- Anything that will continue to provide forever is sustainable. Wikipedia states “sustainability has been expressed as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. A fantastic explanation.

Renewable Resource -- Anything in nature that can be reproduced (or naturally recycled if you will) is renewable. A great example of a rapidly renewing resource used for many items would be bamboo. It grows quickly and can be easily replenished (also allowing for sustainability). A non renewable resource would be fossil fuel.

Global Warming -- The dictionary has a nice definition here: an increase in the earth's average atmospheric temperature that causes corresponding changes in climate and that may result from the greenhouse effect. So let’s break that down. The greenhouse effect happens when solar radiation is absorbed by gas in the atmosphere. It is natural and not a bad thing. When more of that radiation is trapped than escapes however it will lead to an increase in the temperature of the atmosphere in question. Temperatures in an overall sense go up and that results in warmer air and water. In our case the temperature on Earth has gone up by one degree in the past century. Now many people might be saying “big deal, one degree is barely noticeable so who really cares?”

Climate Change -- Here is where caring about the one degree really comes into play. Due to that seemingly tiny temperate increase so many things within our global ecosystem have shifted and not in a good way. Beach erosion is directly related as the sea levels begin to rise. When the sea becomes warmer the ice melts, just like in a glass of water. In that glass of water however is not an entire species that relies on the ice being there to survive. Ever wonder why there has been a significant increase in bizarre weather events of late like a tornado in Brooklyn or snow in southern California? All of this is a direct result of climate change.

Carbon Footprint -- Each of us have one because it is the measurable impact we all have on the planet. We can determine how much greenhouse gas is released through our individual daily activities (our personal emissions checklist). There are predictable and non predictable questions in a Life Cycle Assessment that help determine where we each stand and then we can truly gauge the areas we could cut back to help protect the first and most important term -- our Environment.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Getting Involved

A few weeks ago, my Mom and Aunt came over for a pasta dinner and we all got to talking about the state of the country. My mom outright asked what our generation is actually doing about it. Her question was focused on the entire governmental process and the state of our planet. It occurred to me that my mom already had her time to literally march on Washington, protest, fight back. Her generation was fighting to put an end to a senseless war. Where the history books are concerned, that defined them.

As I pondered her question it became clear that I first needed to consider what it was that defines our generation. Are we all bound together by one common purpose or desire? My answer was clear, yes! What will historically be the thing that defines our generation is our desire to provide a clean, healthy, sustainable environment for all future generations so they can live to discover their own definition. Now that I had nailed down the one true thing that characterizes our global generation I needed to determine what we were doing about making a difference -- how were we “marching on Washington”, literally or figuratively?

So what are we doing?

Joining. I posted an interview with Melissa two days ago. She shared this link with a friend who was interested to read about it and they started discussing the potential of getting together to share even more ideas of how they can become more environmental. Later, one of Melissa’s neighbors stopped by and they started talking about the same thing. She has now invited me and my Mom and there could be an expansion in this group to hopefully include her whole neighborhood as well. One person will not change the state of the entire planet, true, but she sure can help get a crowd together to discuss ideas, increase the size of that crowd, encourage that crowd to take part in efforts to reduce energy consumption or waste, bring that crowd out of their neighborhood and onto the streets of the state, encourage that crowd to tell ten friends, and so on, and so on. There are endless opportunities for change by simply starting a small neighborhood focus group.

Donating. There are a slew of groups out there already and they are spreading the environmental word but many of them are funded by donations from us and without those contributions they may not be able to continue fighting for the change our planet needs. These groups are widespread and diverse and there is one out there to fit the ideals of everyone interested in learning more.

Blogging. It may sound small but with the literal thousands of blogs circulating through cyberspace it is almost impossible to not come across one that is environmentally conscious. On my other blog I have links to twenty four blogs that I read consistently. Of the twenty four there are two which are strictly environmental. That leaves twenty two blogs and I can not think of a single one who has not mentioned the planet, eco-friendly lifestyle choices, the environment, their involvement in particular organizations, heck even recycling at some point. The people who write these blogs are online shop owners, moms, musicians, interior designers, accountants, chefs, law students, writers, photographers, graphic artists and range in age from early twenties on up. And that is just my personal blog roll. There are so many others who share this common thread and with such a diverse group concerned with our planet, and talking about it frequently, we have opened up an entirely new world of opportunity to share information and suggestions for ways to help.

Taking action into our own hands at home. I can not speak for the actions of the billions of people on this planet but I can be held accountable for the things that I personally do everyday. In addition to the three things above I also:

☼ Turn off the water while I brush my teeth.
☼ Consciously conserve toilet paper with my “three squares” rule.
☼ Recycle paper, plastic, metal in the conventional way (toss it in the bin for pick up).
☼ Upcycle, recycle or repurpose anything I can. For example, when my grandparents passed away they left behind an entire house full of stuff including clothes and bed sheets. I took that fabric, washed it and cut it up to make some adorable bags, giving new life to something old. What I could not use went to the Goodwill to further extend its life cycle.
☼ Limit my driving. As I work from home or complete jobs and errands locally, my gas consumption plummeted since moving this past spring. A tank will now last me upwards of a month.
☼ Turn things off and unplug what I can. Lights, computers, the toaster oven, anything!
☼ Open the curtains. The living room is an east facing window so I take advantage of passive solar to heat my apartment in the morning and afternoon.
☼ Eat less meat. I certainly have not gone completely vegetarian but at least two meals a week have moved in this direction and I plan to continue to increase that number.

The list here is a small example of what we can do individually and collectively to better our world. I strongly encourage everyone reading to locate and join local groups, donate to support the efforts of larger organizations, discuss the environment either through a blog or any other form of communication and finally look into all the ways to personally take action and then do it. Together, we can fight to protect our planet and go down in the history books as a generation committed to the greater good of the entire world.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Strange Days Indeed

Show of hands, who is a fan of Edward Norton? I will take a tally later but for right now let me share all the reasons why I think he is the Mack Daddy (Is it still hip to use that term? Is it still hip to say hip?)

He is a stellar actor with amazing range; he pulls off just about any role convincingly. The guy could be Mr. America – social activist, intelligent (did I mention he graduated from Yale?) looks great in a swim suit…

All of this is wonderful but when I found out that he was a staunch environmentalist and humanitarian who supports such efforts as BP’s Solar Neighbors program, Enterprise Community Partners (on the Board of Trustees) and Friends of the High Line (Board Member) I went looking for even more information.

Norton appeared on the stage in front of thousands in Washington DC this past April at the annual Earth Day Celebration speaking to the need for us, as a generation, to step up and not only demand, but actually go out and fight for change. Stop driving the gas guzzling, emission producing cars, stop eating trans-fat laden foods, stop being lazy and get out there to make a difference in the planet. This video from YouTube, captured that day, is one of my favorites as it embodies his passion for the planet.

After watching it occurred to me that although he was reluctant to be a big time celebrity, the fact that he is allows his voice to be heard in mass. I decided to rent all his films on Netflix; when he gains fame his name and face are more readily recognized allowing him to spend more time motivating all of us to do the right thing by the environment. While adding movies to the queue I came across a four part documentary series from 2005 hosted by Edward Norton called Strange Days on Planet Earth. The series, presented by National Geographic for PBS, details four of the ways our planet is in danger that we may not even realize: Invaders, The One Degree Factor, Predators and Troubled Waters.

Norton narrates and hosts the entire four hour series describing in detail the state of the planet. He is well spoken and convincing but it is clear that he is not just playing some character this time. This is him speaking to all of us.

The series is compelling and visually stunning taking the viewer all over the globe from locations such as Lake Guri, Venezuela, South Africa, The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia, to our own back yards in the United States. Invaders details the trouble a foreign insect, plant or animal can cause when they are introduced either purposefully or inadvertently to a new eco-system they were never intended to inhabit. The One Degree Factor discusses how distressed the planet has become due to climate change, that every corner of the globe is affected by the increase of the Earth’s average temperature by one simple degree. Predators showcases the need for this group, not the necessity of destroying them, in order to maintain a natural balance within their prey be it plant or animal.

Troubled Waters, the final part of the series, was perhaps the most disturbing to watch but the most critical as well. Through six separate stories Norton introduces us to the fact that Atrazine, chlorine by-products, mercury, nitrogen and any number of the roughly 2,000 newly synthesized chemicals produced by the US each year could be in some or all of the Earth’s waters. Oceans flow to rivers which in turn may end at lakes. Creeks flow into ponds or reservoirs and all of this water eventually finds its way into our system. With the chemical cocktails being introduced in all water (tap and bottled spring water) it is not surprising to find death rates of whales, miscarriages of women or decay of coral reefs on the rise. Just this morning I was reading a blog written by Julie where she voiced the same concerns.

So what can we do about all of this? We can watch the series and then join any and all organizations in our own area to help spread the word and fight for change. I strongly encourage a visit to the PBS website dedicated to the newly expanded series (two new parts have been released; see your local listings for airtimes). There are suggestions on ways to help and links to organizations across the United States where we can all get involved.

Individually we may not be as widely recognized as Edward Norton but collectively we can and will have an even greater overall impact and that is why I am giving both Norton and the Strange Days on Planet Earth series, Five Leaves!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Planet Loves this New Trend!

Warning: For those who are squeamish about “mysterious” girl things you might want to stop reading now, but for those who are not afraid, read on and learn some amazing stuff!

I was recently chatting with Melissa in Massachusetts about all things environmental and somehow the subject of feminine hygiene was raised. We both began talking about former interviews I had done with a couple female Artists who mentioned that one of the ways they were helping to save the planet was through the use of a menstrual cup. I had no idea what that was and Melissa excitedly described its use and function because she too had recently begun using this product and others. I admit that even as a girl it kind of freaked me out to talk about it at first but the longer we discussed it the more Earth friendly information I was ingesting so I decided it was high time to feature Melissa as a pioneer in the fight against landfill increase!

What products are you actually using?

I'm using the Moon Cup, a silicone cup that catches menstrual flow, from GladRags, and Moonpads, reusable maxi pads that are handmade, hand-dyed and made from 100% American-grown organic cotton, from the Etsy shop of epicerma. There are a lot of other options out there, but these are the ones I chose after my research.

What prompted you to give reusables a try?

I live in the 'burbs, in a house heated by oil (we did just buy a more energy-efficient furnace, but that's another kettle of fish), and drive a minivan because I have three kids. So my carbon footprint is starting off kind of sizeable. And these aren't life choices that I a) can or b) am likely to change at this point.

However, I can ferret out the places in my life where I produce waste that can be helped. And as a major contributor of feminine hygiene products to the waste stream since the age of 13, I saw reusables as an opportunity to seriously decrease my output.

Where did you first hear of the Moon Cup and Moonpads?

I read EnviroMom, a blog started by a couple of Oregon moms. It's a great place to grab some fresh ideas for living greener day-to-day. They were recently doing a "One Can a Month Challenge," trying to spur people to reduce their total trash output down to, yes, one can a month for curbside pickup.

To help people meet the challenge, EnviroMom did a series of columns offering room-by-room suggestions of areas to trim waste. And the column they did about bathrooms had a link to another column about one of EnviroMom's founders' experience with reusable feminine hygiene products.

I'd been curious on that subject a while, and the article (called Major TMI Alert) had me laughing out loud, but also seriously considering whether this was something I could try. So I followed her links to GladRags (sellers of the Moon Cup, as well as another brand of reusable pads) and to Moonpads, and read a LOT of customer testimonials before deciding to give it a shot.

What was your initial reaction to it?

I'm far from radical in my approach to greening things up, but this sounded pretty hardcore -- I mean, it's not moving into a 200-square-foot house, but it's definitely something my near-and-dears would consider a little, er, extreme (not that most of them need to know!). And it does have kind of a high ick factor for many people. All the same, I was motivated, and when the products arrived, they didn't appear overly daunting.

The cup, well, is what it is -- it looks exactly like it does on the GladRags Web site. As for the pads, they are actually -- there is no other word -- cute! Moonpads' maker epicerma uses a whole range of really appealing (and did I mention organic!) fabrics and snaps which make a product that could be dull and utilitarian actually kind of fun. Do I look forward to my period just so I can wear them? Get real. But the fabrics at least make them less of a drag than traditional pads.

Did it take some getting used to?

Some of the customer testimonials I'd read talked about people having some initial issues with insertion, but I didn't have any problems make sure you order the right size (based on whether you've given birth and how). And GladRags is candid about saying that the Moon Cup is not for every body: they do have a returns and exchange policy if it just doesn't work for you.

The, um, insertion process, while not really that complicated, does require a little more of an adjustment. Let's just say, if you are squeamish about the amount of physical contact with yourself that's required, OK, this may not be for you. If, on the other hand, you have ever used OB Tampons, or if you can just power through it, you're golden. No big deal.

I will confess that, on heavier days (and sorry, TMI, my heavy days give new meaning to that word), if I have to leave home for more than a brief errand, I either rely on tampons or at least make sure I have some with me in case things get out of hand. But that's not every day or every hour. And for maximum comfort, on those days when things are very light, I'd recommend switching to the pads alone.

The pads do require washing, of course, but all that means is a rinse when you change them and then a spin in the washing machine. I found I needed a few more than the four I initially bought, just so I didn't have to be washing them constantly during my heavier days, but that's about it.

So what do you estimate you save, waste-wise, by using these products?

Again apologizing in advance for TMI, but this is the best way to make this concrete: Over the four heaviest days of my cycle, I was using roughly an 80-count box of the super-size Tampax, plus whatever maxis I needed (maybe eight to 10 per period, loosely) every month -- just for those days (plus whatever I needed to get me through to the end of my period). Now I might use a tenth of that number of Tampax on those days (and only if I'm out, remember), and I have the Moonpads, which cut my disposable pad usage to almost nothing, other than a few liners at the end.

By my reckoning (backed up by the much emptier bathroom waste baskets each month since I started) that's a substantial decrease in cotton and plastic and adhesives and well, other stuff, going to the dump (and being manufactured, and trucked, and you get my drift). And it's adding up every month...or more accurately, it's not!

How about the financial savings from reducing your purchases of disposable feminine products?

The initial investment was around $35 for the cup and about $25 or so for my first four pads. I recently ordered a few more pads, including some for nighttime, for about the same. So total expense: About $85.

I started using the stuff in August, so it's been about three months. One box of 80 Tampax runs about $10 to $15 a whack, so I've more or less broken even on the Moon Cup already. And with probably more than 10 years of menstrual bliss ahead of me still, I have plenty of time to rack up the financial savings. The pads will take a little longer, since the traditional kind aren't that expensive and I didn't use them as much as the tampons (and haven't even run out of what I had leftover before switching), but I'm sure I'll come out ahead in the end.

How many Leaves would you give to the products? What about the companies?

For those women willing to boldly get out there on this particular ledge, I'd give both products and both companies a firm Five Leaves.

Hooray, the first Five Leaf review! Thanks so much to Melissa for going out on this limb and sharing her very personal experiences. Like Melissa said, the life cycle of using disposable feminine hygiene products sure is daunting considering how many women on the planet need them. Please use the hotlinks in this article to do a little research of your own and consider giving it a try!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Who Knew?

Last night was game four of the ALCS, better known as “the flogging of the Boston Red Sox by the Tampa Bay Rays”. For those not in the know, these games determine who plays in the World Series. As a gal from Beantown I am a true fan of the Sox but seriously, is it not football season? How many more weeks of baseball are there? Geez. Even though it seems late in the year for this summer sport, we have been watching all the Sox games.

I noticed in the past couple weeks that there were commercials with Anderson Cooper from CNN airing during all the games to advertise for Planet In Peril, a show slated to air on CNN on December 12, 2008 about lacking energy resources across the world. He indicated that if we wanted to do something about it now, Americans watching Game 4 of the American League Championship Series should pledge to turn out their lights while watching the game. A fifteen second portion of the commercial is presented by Sharp -- pledge to watch the game with our lights out to conserve energy, taking the Sharp Lights Out Challenge.

Each person goes on over to the website and clicks on their state to pledge to conserve energy then turns their lights off. Sounds like a great thing all by itself but then, surprise a sweepstakes! Grand prize is a 46” LCD Aquos TV, first prize is a 42” LCD Aquos TV. Cool!

The kicker in all of this is that while I was doing my research into reporting on this energy reducing effort and contest I discovered how Sharp is bringing their carbon footprint down in a major way through strong environmental efforts. A small fraction of the things they are doing as a company include:

☼ The world’s largest roof mounted solar panel system on their Japanese manufacturing facility.

☼ A commitment to providing some of the most energy efficient products on the market.

☼ In the next two years they hope to reduce emissions with their products to the same level as what their manufacturing facilities produce so they off set each other.

☼ They have a strong commitment to energy saving technologies in the entire lifespan loop of their products: manufacturing, packaging, transporting, usage and disposal or recycling of the item.

Way to go Sharp! Your efforts to help our planet are amazing and that is why I am giving you a Four Green Leaf Rating! Hooray!

Even though the game is over (and if you’re a Sox fan you are really excited we are not playing tonight) the challenge and sweepstakes is still going strong but only through tomorrow so stop over to the TBS / Sharp website today, click on your state, actually turn off those lights (or other energy sucking devices) and enter the sweepstakes. Who knows, maybe you will find yourself saving even more energy with one of those beautiful TVs.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My Own Worst Enemy Is a Three Leaf Show

Last night was the premiere of a new show on NBC, My Own Worst Enemy, starring Christian Slater as a split personality -- spy killer / family man. It was interesting to see how NBC worked with the concept of the show and how Slater played the character but that was not what grabbed my attention.

(Please note I am about to reveal some stuff that happened in the first episode so if you didn't watch it and want to catch up first, stop reading now and go here. Just make sure you come back.)

A little over half way through the show family man (Henry) gets a visit from a couple bad guys who know Edward (spy killer). Edward had stolen a case from them and through a series of events with a shovel and GPS tracking device, it is discovered that he buried it in a wooden crate about six feet down somewhere in the middle of the desert. As the bad guys sit and watch Henry dig up the case, the ring leader, known as Uzi, asks his non-English speaking cronie to get him some water which we all read on the subtitles. The cronie goes to the back of the car and when he comes back we all expect to see him hand over a plastic bottle right? Much to my surprise and delight he hands over a brand new, shiny, burnt orange colored, metal Sigg style reusable bottle! In the next ten seconds while it makes its appearance on film, he essentially guides our sub-conscious through how to use one by opening and drinking from it right there on camera. Hooray for NBC!

Sadly, the bottle, and the bad guys, are blown up in the next shot but at least there will not be a non-biodegradable plastic bottle melted to the hand of the bad guy for a vulture to come and snack on right?

Because of the clever placement of such a hip product as a reusable metal water bottle and the fact that the show has a certain "I-never-would-have-expected-it-but-I-kind-of-like-it", 24-esque feel, I am giving last night's episode a Three Leaf Rating. Kudos NBC, keep up the good work.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Comprehensive List of Eco Fashion Friday Featured Designers

This list will be maintained and updated weekly as new designers are featured here at GLR. I also strongly encourage everyone to peruse each of these designer’s shops and websites as there is some serious talent among these fashion gurus!

The most recent feature is at the top of the list.

Alexandra Ferguson

threadUP - Open for Business

Eco Fashion Fridays are back!

threadUP Kids -- Clothing exchange

Rusty Zipper says Merry Christmas in Style

Baby its COLD Outside

'Tis the Season -- Burlington Coat Factory Coat Drive


Organic Cotton Band Tees -- Jason Mraz

Halloween Series -- Week 5 (My Final Costume)

Halloween Series -- Week 4 (My Costume Creation)

Halloween Series -- Week 3 (Shopping for My Costume)

Halloween Series -- Week 2 (Eco Costume Tips)

Halloween Series -- Week 1 (Eco Advice)

Bamboo Couture

Threadbanger - Bicycle Cap

Bosom Buddy Bra Recycling

Andean Collection


Threadbanger - Shirred Dress



OneCause -- Feature Story

Zulugrass Jewelry

What Makes Eco-Fashion Trendy?

Jennifer Locke Designs

Revenge Is

Essential Accessories for Musicians

Great Gear For Men


Stephanie Teague of Pretty Birdie

Follow up interview -- Jon Marro from Blend Apparel


Off the Hooks

Green is Black

Good Society

Jess Pillmore of A Second Chance

Jon Marro of Blend Apparel

Jennifer Brown of Under the Root and Quarks

Leanne Marshall of Project Runway

Welcome to the Green Leaf Reviewer

First of all I would just like to say thank you very much for stopping by, we are brand new and hope you will enjoy the format as it evolves through time.

Next I would like to tell you all a little bit about what we do here at Green Leaf Reviewer. Our mission is simple -- review any and all things environmental. Movies, books, music, products, people, everything! The world is the environment and everything in it can be discussed. One day a review may be completed for an eco-conscious movie such as An Inconvenient Truth while the following day I might post a review of my next door neighbor because they tossed a plastic bottle in the recycle bin for the first time. Anything and everything goes.

I will do my best to post a little something everyday but since I am a real life person (waving hi to all current and future admirers!) life sometimes does get in the way. Please bear with me, especially in these early stages as this gets off the ground. With that in mind, I would also like to draw attention to the Google advertisement box on the right side bar. If something looks interesting to you please click on the ad. This will help me to raise funding to ensure this blog can grow. I appreciate it and thank you in advance for your kind click.

Finally, the Leaf Rating System I developed will be applied to every review completed on this blog. As many critics do, I have a rating system from one to five. One is considered "don't waste your time unless you are really bored" while five is "get yourself out there and experience this yesterday!!" Clearly 2-4 are everything else in between. Here is what a Two Leaf Rating would look like:

The opinions expressed with each Leaf Rating are mine alone. I do not expect everyone to agree with everything I say although whether you agree or not please feel free to comment! Getting people to talk about the environment is the best way to bring the issues it faces to the forefront and then fix them!

Thanks for your visit, please feel free to subscribe to this blog so you never miss a Green Leaf!