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Follow our journey as we build Puristics, a new brand of anti-aging skin care without harsh chemicals. For us, the past 3 years have been filled with "aha" moments as we educate consumers about label literacy - knowing the ingredients in your beauty products, since harsh chemicals can end up on your skin. We welcome you to learn from our experiences both as businesswomen and busy moms, and please share your own stories, too!

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Thursday
Nov182010

Doing What We Can

I was looking today at this great but somewhat disturbing scorecard assembled by Green Media Toolshed.  Scorecard (scorecard.org) is an interactive database which enables users to get information about pollution and toxic chemical problems in any community.  Just search your zipcode to see the information for your county.  It’s very informative and pretty sobering - - not unlike the Skin Deep database from the Environmental Working Group.

Now that I know the air pollution scores for my county, will my asthma seem worse when I run outside?!  Jokes aside, it sometimes seems as if we’re surrounded by startling levels of chemicals in our air, water or land and that we’re somewhat powerless in the whole equation.  Even when my kids thought I could solve every problem (before my supermom cape ripped), they knew that I couldn’t single-handedly prevent pollution from the companies operating near us or reduce the amount of traffic on the roads.
 
But, there are things I can control.  Take the example of dangerously high levels of lead found in reusable grocery bags.  USA Today reported on the studies conducted on these bags and how we can manage the risk (Lead in Reusable Grocery Bags Prompts Call for Federal Inquiry).   The story was also picked up by Tampa Bay  OnlineWhile I was disheartened to learn that my precious reusable grocery bags had been found to contain high levels of lead  (findings corroborated through several independent studies),  I learned that there are steps I can take to eliminate my exposure to the lead in bags.  Additionally, New York Senator Chuck Schumer is calling for the FDA and EPA to investigate these types of bags.
 
So how am I going to control my exposure in this particular instance?  I can replace the bags I’ve acquired from the grocery store with unbleached-cotton canvas bags that I can wash regularly.  I might even cajole my kids to personalize them with paints and markers.  This will eliminate lead exposure from the bags completely.  As an added bonus, I can throw them in the washing machine every so often to eliminate the bacteria that have come along for the ride. Unwashed bags can be a source of cross contamination. (Bacteria May Grow in Reusable Bags, But Don’t Fret, npr.org) - - washing is easy, so why take a risk?
 
As my family is quick to point out, I can’t control everything (particularly them).  However, each small step I take to safeguard my health or my environment helps me to feel less powerless and helps me to accept those things I cannot change.  The change in grocery bags isn’t a big change, but it’s a small way I can make a difference.  I’d love to hear of the ways you’ve found to make a difference, no matter how small or inconsequential you think they are.  All of our changes and choices do add up. 

Wednesday
Jul212010

Don't wait for the government to act. You have power too.

At the risk of repeating myself, look at labels.  Environmental Health News reported recently on legislation in California that will force manufacturers and importers to reduce the use of toxic chemicals in consumer products.  We know the path that legislation almost inevitably takes before regulations go into effect.  Bills are written and re-written by well-meaning lawmakers influenced by industry, consumer advocacy, environmental and other groups.  At the end of the day, it’s tough to know if the list of banned substances represents what’s truly harmful or not and if it’s comprehensive enough.  While California is most definitely a bellwether state for environmental reform (the California Toxic Substances list has helped to guide some of the ingredient choices for the Puristics products at Scerene Healthcare), it’s one state.  I live on the opposite coast from California, will the proposed regulations have any impact on me and my family?  Hard to know.

Instead of waiting for the government to decide what’s good for me, I’m reading, investigating and making those decisions on my own.  The decisions are far from perfect, but I’m certain that by reading labels and making informed purchase decisions, I’m protecting my health better than any government regulation ever will.  I also know that every time I spend money on a personal care product or food, I’m casting my vote.  Increasingly, I’m trying to cast those votes in favor of products without potentially harmful chemicals.  To go even further, I’ve started to investigate developments in so-called “green chemistry”.  Green chemistry advocates are working far upstream from the final consumer product by finding ways to formulate raw materials and product ingredients with fewer potentially harmful chemicals so the end product is healthier at every step of the process.  (For more on Green Chemistry,http://www.epa.gov/gcc). 

So please, read up on the bill in California.  Read up on other legislative activity around the Country. But most importantly, read labels.  Know what you’re putting in your body and on your body and make your own choices.

To read the report from the Environmental Health News, click on the link. http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/california-unveils-proposed-regulations-to-rid-consumer-products-of-the-riskiest-toxic-chemicals

Saturday
Jun262010

Can a change be right even if it's not perfect?

Ugh! The bickering about “green” really gets me down sometimes.  I was reading an NPR story online about the bacteria colonies that may or may not be forming in my reusable grocery bags (http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/06/25/128105740/plastics-industry-funded-study-finds-bacteria-in-reusable-grocery-bags&sc=nl&cc=sh-20100626), and I noticed a link to an older story questioning the greenness of reusable grocery bags.  Starting with the first question. Yes, apparently there are bacteria growing in my bags.  I can wash them if I’m worried, but it’s by and large not a big deal.  The article suggests the usual cautions with raw meat, cross-contamination and e coli risk.  With 4 kids and 2 dogs tracking into the house any manner of things, I’m not going to sweat this.  I’ll continue with the bags.

Now, onto the second question and story link.  How green are reusable bags? (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=111672574&ps=rs).  The article focuses on the materials and processes used to produce the reusable bags and if they’re cutting into the value of the bags in the first place.  This misses the point.  I switched to reusable bags a few years ago.  Since then, I’ve gotten into the habit of bringing them with me on every grocery trip and keeping a fold-up bag in a pouch inside my purse so I can use it in any store.  It took a bit for my kids to get over the extreme (their view) humiliation when I pulled out a reusable bag in J Crew, but they’ve survived and now understand.  The reusable bags were really just a wake-up call for me.  They made me become more conscious of the excess packaging of so many of the goods I’ve purchased.  I’ve become more aware and have tried to make better choices.   

The thinking that was spurred by the switch to reusable bags has caused me to look at how our family plows through consumer goods.  We had definitely fallen into the trap of tossing out rather than “repurposing”.  We reached for the strongest, latest product to treat any problem and the kids clearly thought that matching pairs of socks grew on the trees out back.  I’m noticing small changes in our attitudes about the products we use and how we use them. Just recently, I had leftover lemons and decided to mix the lemon juice with baking soda to scrub my countertops.  My countertops are sparkling, I put rotting lemons to good use and I didn’t use any potentially harmful chemicals in the process. 

Was this moment brought to me by reusable grocery bags?  Hard to say.  Still, I think the greenness of reusable grocery bags and the greenness of each small step we take cannot be measured adequately unless it’s combined with the value of all of the other related behavioral changes.  It’s maybe just one small step, but that’s the point.  It’s another small step in the right direction.  Let’s quite the bickering and be content with any positive change! 

Thursday
Jun242010

Everyday choices to stay on track

 

I think I’ve gone off the deep end.  I just ate my lunch, which I brought to the office in reusable containers and a reusable bag.  Healthy? Thrifty? Eco-friendly? Yes, all of the above.  As I was eating, I realized that I wanted to hide the origin of my lunch from my work colleagues.  No, I wasn’t eating a 6 pack of Twinkies or a freecycled hamburger from the restaurant next door (gross on both counts).  Among the lunch items for today was cream of broccoli soup that I made yesterday with the broccoli from my CSA vegetable box and some non-fat Greek yogurt in order to up the nutritional value and eliminate the cream (the recipe is below).  
OK, you’re thinking a bit ambitious, maybe a bit holier-than-thou, but not altogether straight-jacket style crazy.  I thought so too until I realized that I was googling “herd-shares” while eating the above-mentioned lunch and thinking seriously about signing up.  At first, I thought a herd-share would be a great way to help my local dairy farmer and get better milk for my family. Turns out that herd-shares apply only to raw milk.  I’m sure raw milk has many virtues, but I’m sticking with pasteurization and skim milk. http://www.realrawmilkfacts.com/related-links/.  
Then, I came across a story about gerry-rigged bikes that can accommodate all sorts of cargo.  I’m trying to use my bike more, but hauling stuff has been an issue. So, I thought for a moment about how I could re-think my bike. http://www.grist.org/article/cargo-bikes/  Kinda cool but kinda weird.  I got over that one too.
Now, I’m re-thinking my choice of grilling fuel after reading GreenerPenny’s blog.  Goodbye Matchlight; fire up the propane. http://greenerpenny.blogspot.com/2010/06/green-grilling-methods.html
So maybe I’m crazy, maybe I’m not.  The point is that I’m faced with choices everyday.  I have to choose how healthy and how green I’m willing to be and let the rest go.  Over the long haul, being conscious of the choices I make will move me toward a healthier, more chemical free place.  What choices have you made as you try to reduce the number of potentially harmful chemicals from your life? I’d love to hear about the crazy ones (for entertainment and enlightenment) and the not-so-crazy ones.  Let me know. 

 

Sunday
Jun132010

Are my small steps making any difference? The Greendex tracks the impact.

I talk often about the importance of making small changes and choices in order to adjust long-term behavior in a way that becomes a sustainable habit.  In an outcomes-based world, how can we be sure that our small changes are making a difference? If we rely only on trust and the intellectual belief that we’re making a difference, then we’re likely to lose steam if things get difficult.  That’s why I’m so happy to share the work of the National Geographic Society with you.  They’ve been grappling with this question but on a gigantic scale.  Over the past 3 years, National Geographic has been conducting a massive global survey and using the data to create a “Greendex”.  

While the results of the Greendex are mixed and compiled at a very macro level, the survey indicates movement in a positive direction and identifies the barriers to longer-term change. 

The good news? Positive change is happening almost across the board.

The bad news? Americans, where the consumer and consumption is king, ranks at the bottom of the list for sustainable consumer behavior (though we’re making progress). 

Not surprisingly, changes have been embraced by consumers worldwide for both altruistic and practical reasons.  Consumers have clearly been making an effort to be better stewards of the environment; however, that stewardship seems to be inextricably linked to cost considerations. But, a large portion of the consumers surveyed also cited environmental concerns.  Certainly, the number of people rethinking energy choices for cost and environmental concerns is likely to increase in the wake of the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Greendex indicates that a barrier to change for consumers is the impression that companies make false claims about the environmental impacts of products and that their efforts aren’t worthwhile if governments and industry don’t also take action.  This is a COP-OUT!  If we wait until all companies are 100% truthful and transparent in the claims they make and governments and industry take every possible action, we will truly get nowhere.  Governments and industry must serve a number of different constituents and conflicting interests.  The pace of change (particularly with governments) is and always will be glacial.  To say that we won’t take individual responsibility until governments and industry show measurable change is lazy and irresponsible.  Each of us can make a difference.  The Greendex demonstrates this.  And, as we each make individual choices, we force our governments and corporations to do the same. 

The marketplace is very powerful.  When we make individual changes in our consumption behavior, we can influence larger changes in ways we may not fully appreciate.  Use your power and read more about Greendex by following this link: http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/greendex/



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