Friday, June 27, 2008

Going Green: Product Review of The Week: Stain & Odor Eliminator

Biokleen Bac-Out Stain & Odor Eliminator is excellent. It works better than Shout that I used before. It removes stains that I was never able to do it with Shout. I am using it mainly for laundry to get rid of those nasty stains that kids collect on their clothes and it works excellent. The clothes come out completely clean.

This unique combination of natural live aerobic and anaerobic enzyme cultures with botanical extracts eliminates a full range of stains and odors from: pets, mildew, oil, grease, food, beverages (even coffee & tea), body oil, soap scum, urine, smoke, drain sludge and more. Great for: carpet, upholstery, laundry, diapers (safe for cottons), bathroom, drains, pet shelters, compost, waste & septic tanks, auto, RV and much more. No animal testing or ingredients. No nonyl phenol or other known carcinogens, synthetic enzymes, glycol ether, alcohol, petroleum surfactants, artificial fragrances or coloring. Contains: natural enzyme cultures, food grade citrus extracts and stabilizers, vegetable-based surfactants and filtered spring water.

The price is a little higher than that of Shout, but is really worth it! You can find it, among other places, at Amazon,, Whole Foods, on the Biokleen website. I strongly recommend this product.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

New Energy: "I'll Follow the Sun"

The Economist has this week a great survey on the future of energy production; as you would expect from the Economist, it summarizes the most important research in the field (wind, solar, bio-energy, etc), weeds the hype behind the current "greener than tough" PR greenwashing, and sticks to it's common sense focus on the economic value of these new technologies. Here's how it's all positioned:

SINCE the industrial revolution 200 years ago, mankind has depended on fossil fuel. The notion that this might change is hard to contemplate. Greens may hector. Consciences may nag. The central heating's thermostat may turn down a notch or two. A less thirsty car may sit in the drive. But actually stop using the stuff? Impossible to imagine: surely there isn't a serious alternative?

Such a failure of imagination has been at the heart of the debate about climate change. The green message—use less energy—is not going to solve the problem unless economic growth stops at the same time. If it does not (and it won't), any efficiency saving will soon be eaten up by higher consumption per head. Even the hair-shirt option, then, will bring only short-term relief. And when a dire prophecy from environmentalism's jeremiad looks as if it is coming true, as the price of petroleum rises through the roof and the idea that oil might run out is no longer whispered in corners but openly discussed, there is a temptation to believe that the end of the world is, indeed, nigh.

So the Cassandras should get pragmatic and look around; the best way to summarize this chase for alternative energy is summarized by The Economist with a Beatles song title, or as they graphically put it:
So it's "Keep It Sunny", apparently... Either you harvest the energy from the sun directly or let nature do its thing and harvest one of the "by-products" (even wind is a result of sun stirring the atmosphere). There is promising research along the whole path between the sun and the fuel.

To me, it was a good information source and I learned a lot about the technologies and trends. I can read through it and eventually make up investment advice, it I am to believe that the next bubble comes from alternative energy (make up your own mind, I'm not that reliable with investment advise :) ). Or, if you think of switching jobs and work in the alternative energy, the names mentioned in the articles are likely to be the next great companies.

Read them, save them and, last but not least, see there is hope and the economic value starts making business sense, so the money will follow. (There's an offer to buy the whole PDF. Read it soon if you're not a subscriber, the links might require a password soon.)

Contributed by "Hubby, the Economist reading geek".

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

“Six Sins of Greenwashing™”

These days I came across the “Six Sins of Greenwashing™ ” and I have found it very interesting to share it. TerraChoice Environmental Marketing Inc. - an environmental consulting agency based in Canada surveyed 1,018 consumer products affirming 1,753 environmental claims and 99% of the products were found to have claims that mislead the consumers.

1. Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off (57%) "Focus" on the positive (and ignore the bad details): A product is “green” based on a single environmental attribute (the recycled content of paper, for example) or an unreasonably narrow set of attributes (recycled content and chlorine free bleaching) without attention to other important, or perhaps more important, environmental issues (such as energy, global warming, water, and forestry impacts of paper). Examples: paper, household insulation products, office technology, ink cartridges, laundry detergents, dish detergent, air fresheners, bathroom cleaners, markers, flooring laminate, bags, multi-purpose cleaners, wood panels, and pesticides.

Sin of No Proof (26%) "Believe": Any environmental claim that cannot be validated by easily accessible supporting information, or by a reliable third-party certification. Examples: household lamps and lights, personal care products, facial tissues and paper towels.

Sin of Vagueness (11%) "Buzz-word du jour": Claims that are so poorly defined or broad that its real meaning is likely to be misunderstood by the consumer such as: “Chemical-free” (everything is made of chemicals), “Non-toxic” (everything can be toxic), “All Natural” (many natural elements are poisonous like arsenic), “Green”, “Environmentally friendly”, and “Eco-conscious” (meaningless without further explanation). Examples: Garden insecticides promoted as “chemical-free”, “Natural” hair mousse, kitchen (wax) paper that claims “recycled content”, general purpose household cleaners that claim to be “non-toxic” without explanation or third-party substantiation.

Sin of Irrelevance (4%) "Meat-free vegetables": Environmental claims that are truthful but unimportant and unhelpful for consumers seeking environmentally preferable products. The most frequent irrelevant claim is CFC-free (chlorofluorocarbons) which is legally banned for almost 30 years. Examples: CFC-free insecticides, CFC-free lubricants, CFC-free oven cleaners, CFC-free window cleaners, CFC-free disinfectants.

Sin of Fibbing (1%) "Let's put some lipstick on this pig": Environmental claims that are false. Examples: “Certified Organic”, (without providing the certification) found on many shampoos; “Energy Star” registered (the Energy Star website suggests this is false); “100% recycled paper” on containers made from plastic found on a dishwasher detergent.

Sin of Lesser of Two Evils (1%) "Organic death sentence": “Green” claims that may be true within the product category, but at risk distracting the consumer from the greater environmental impacts of the category as a whole. Examples: Organic cigarettes (although this may be true, the consumer should be discouraged to smoke); “Green” insecticides and herbicides. This is a great list of white lies (or is it green lies?) that reminded me of this pillow which is guilty on soo many counts... I wish all marketing has as much common sense as the 'Greenwashing' article.

If you want to weed out the buzz from the real green products, you can:

- keep in mind the six sins when you are purchasing products with environmental claims.
- be aware of the labels of the products. I posted earlier lists of cosmetic, house cleaning products, and food labels with a description for each.
- read reviews or write reviews for both good and bad experiences. - read my blog daily (it's green, really :)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Chemicals in the Shower Curtain

I visited some of my friend’s house this weekend and their kid was so happy to have a new shower curtain with fishes all over - she wanted to show it to me. When I entered the bathroom I immediately felt the strong smell of the new shower curtain. It was a vinyl curtain and I recalled that I saw news on TV about the chemicals in the vinyl shower curtain.

A study found that more than 100 chemicals are released by vinyl shower curtains, and some are at levels that violate indoor air safety standards. While the industry claims that the reports are not based on facts and the vinyl shower curtains are safe, the toxicologists are arguing that there is a “range of volatile aromatic hydrocarbons that are coming off” that are dangerous for our health (especially in the confined, small, and humid bathroom when taking the shower). Truly or not, I think it is safer to get rid of those vinyl shower curtains; they are ugly anyway. And there are so many alternatives to it: polyester, cotton, or combination of them. You can find them at Ikea, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Target, Macy's, actually in almost every store that carries out home articles.

Monday, June 23, 2008

What Chemicals Are in Your Child's Car Seat?

Do you know how many chemicals are in your baby’s car seat? When a new baby arrives, every one of us is looking for the best car seat that would protect our little one from a possible accident. But it does not cross our minds that actually by placing them in that thing, we give them everyday an exposure to undesired chemicals. Well, it is very upsetting but it is true. tested various popular child car seats (infant, convertible, and boosters) for bromine, chlorine, lead, and other chemicals (antimony, arsenic, chromium, copper, nickel, mercury). The overall car seat rating (from 0 to 5) indicates the level of concern associated with the materials in the car seat, 0 – lowest concern to 5 – highest concern. The car seats with the low concern and high concern are listed below, but for a full report go here. The nice thing is that if you do not find the car seat you are using on the list you can request the testing for free here.

Low Concern High Concern
Infant Graco–SnugRide Emerson (8465EME3)
Evenflo–Discovery Infant Churchill (3911698)
Graco–SnugRide Lindsey (8465LRD3)
Graco–SnugRide Family Tree (8645FMT2)
Peg Perego–Primo Viaggio Toffee (P73RU46)
Combi–Centre EX Mango (808660)
Convertible Cosco–Scenara 5-Point (22120POL)
Safety 1st–Alpha Sport (22452RB)
Eddie Bauer–Deluxe Convertible Hampton (22740HPN)
Eddie Bauer–3 in 1 Convertible Montecito (22759MTT)
Graco–Toddler SafeSeat (Step 2) (8B00BDR)
Graco–ComfortSport Convertible Watercolor Flowers (8C03WCF)
Cosco–Alpha Omega Elite (22155BDF)
Britax–Marathon Platinum (E9LO6B9)
Boosters Evenflo–Big Kid No-Back Gold Dust (3331703)
Eddie Bauer–Summit Booster Astoria (22862AT1)
Britax–Parkway Express (E904157)
Graco–TurboBooster SafeSeat (Step 3) Glory (8693GLY)
Graco–TurboBooster Emily (8498DEH) 5
Graco–TurboBooster SafeSeat (Step 3) Athens (8674ATH)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Going Green - Product Review of The Week - Baby Bottles

Since recent voluntary recalls of baby bottles containing Bisphenol A, I looked through the stores to see how many manufacturers are actually trying to change their bottles made from polycarbonate. Surprisingly or not, there are not so many companies that do it. Companies like Advent don't even bother while other companies are trying to add new bottles free of BPA without necessarily removing the ones made from polycarbonate. I am using for my baby the Evenflo Classic Glass Nursers glass bottles with silicone nipples (bought separately); they are excellent and durable; they seem a little heavy at first and I was wondering if my baby will be able to learn to drink from these heavy bottles by himself and he does it; we all got used to it. They come in 4 oz and 8 oz bottles and are cheaper than other glass bottles. I would like to see why Dr. Brown's or BornFree Vented Glass Bottles are so expensive; it is glass in the end. I have tried Sassy MAM, but the plastic smelled so bad even after repeated washes and sterilizers; I had to return them to the store. Although there are alternatives like the new plastic polyethersulphone (PES) and the polypropylene (PP) - considered safe, when it comes to my baby I take no risk anymore. Glass should be safer than any plastic.

I will try to come up with a list of companies that have BPA free baby bottles.

Glass bottles PP bottles (#5) PES bottles
Evenflo Classic Glass Nursers (4oz and 8oz) $5.99/3bottles Medela Breastmilk Storage and Feeding Set $23.99/1set BornFree Bottles (5oz and 9oz) $17.99-19.99/2bottles
Dr. Brown's Glass Baby Bottles (3.5oz and 7oz) $35/2bottles Sassy MAM Assure UltiVent (5oz and 9oz) $11.99/3bottles Green To Grow Bottles (5oz and 10oz) $7-10/1bottle
BornFree Vented Glass Bottles (9oz) $10.99/1bottle Gerber Nurser Clear View (9oz) $5/3bottles ThinkBaby Bottles (5oz and 9oz) $10.99-14.99/2bottles

Gerber Fashion Tints (5oz and 9oz) $8.88-7.88/3bottles

Dr. Brown's Polypropylene Baby Bottles (8oz) $16.95/3bottles

Adiri Natural Nurser Ultimate Bottle $12.32/1bottle

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

To Sunscreen or Not To Sunscreen

Summer is here and the same old problems associated with it are here too. To choose between so many sunscreens is quite challenging; and then to decide whether to use it all the time or not it is another challenge. It is well documented that people are getting too less Vitamin D (essential for helping people to fight the winter germs, summer colds, depression, aches and pains, diabetic afflictions, heart disease, and a wide range of cancers).

Let’s take the challenge of choosing the right sunscreen. The Skin Deep database findings indicate that out of 1000 sunscreens only 15 % of them provide minimal health risk and adequate sun protection. It seems that the majority of the sunscreens do not protect against UVA rays while the UVB rays are measures in SPF. Both types of rays lead to skin damage and skin cancer. On the other side, 95% of Americans have oxybenzone (an ingredient found in sunscreens, linked to cell damage, allergies and hormone disruption) in their bloodstream. Therefore, choosing the right sunscreen it is hard.

Here are some things to take in consideration:
  1. Check the Skin Deep database to find a sunscreen with less health effects and to protect you from both UVA and UVB rays.
  2. Choose a sunscreen with SPF 30 (after that number the protection increases very little – by 1% to 3%). SPF is a rating for only UVB rays, not UVA rays.
  3. Check the list of ingredients for UVA blockers: Mexoryl, Zinc oxide, Titanium dioxide, Ecamsule.
  4. Follow the instructions on the side and apply the sunscreen correctly; for example, if is says to apply it 20 minutes before going in the sun and every 2 hours – then this is the right thing to do.
  5. Be careful to the sunscreens that claim to be water-proof/water-resistant because the FDA says that these formulas do not dissolve in water but they can be washed off.
Now let's take the challenge of choosing how much sun is enough. There is lots of controversy about this issue; some are arguing that people should stay in the sun at least 15 minutes every day; others are proposing supplements of Vitamin D; and others are using the fact that sunscreens are not efficient so people can get enough Vitamin D. It is hard to reach a conclusion and to decide what to do. It seems that it is the UVB that forms the precursors of Vitamin D in the skin but when is too much it can damage the skin. Whatever decision you make, you need to make sure is the best for your health.

The American Academy of Dermatology provides some guidelines to help us protect from skin cancer and still have fun in the sun.

"Generously apply a water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 that provides broad-spectrum protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays to all exposed skin. Re-apply every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating. Look for the AAD SEAL OF RECOGNITIONTM on products that meet these criteria.

Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, where possible.

Seek shade when appropriate, remembering that the sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.

Protect children from sun exposure by playing in the shade, using protective clothing and applying sunscreen.

Use extra caution near water, snow and sand as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.

Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that may include vitamin supplements. Don't seek the sun.

Avoid tanning beds.Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look like you've been in the sun, consider using a sunless self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it.

Check your birthday suit on your birthday. If you notice anything changing, growing or bleeding on your skin, see a dermatologist. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early."

Given all the chemical ingredients in the sunscreen, I wonder where is the cancer coming from; it is coming more from the sun or it is also coming from the sunscreen and self-tanning products? And I wonder whether the natural way of getting vitamin D might be better than the supplements? After all, the dermatologists care about your skin, not the vitamin D.

Here's the sunscreen I have selected for my kids, one that has no offending substances, does the job and you can still pay for the vacation and buying it.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Is There a True Need for the Perfluorochemicals?

Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) are chemicals found in nonstick pots and pans, stain-resistant carpets and fabrics, stain-resistant paints, flame-resistant clothing, as a part of firefighting foam, wire coating, fast-food cartons/containers and wrappers. They are created to resist heat, water, oil, grease and stains. Studies have shown that 98% of Americans have one form or more of these chemicals in their body. People are exposed through food, water, cosmetic products that contain these chemicals and through environment. These chemicals stay in the body for decades; with time higher levels can be found in the body through the small repeated doses that accumulate over time.

PFCs were found to produce serious health effects including cancer, kidney damage, and liver damage, decreased ability to fight infection, birth defects, reproductive problems and the list can continue for more. EWG recently released a very comprehensive report about these chemicals, their effects and about industry thoughts on the issue.

What to do to avoid/minimize the exposure:
  1. Minimize the use use non-stick cookware if you cannot avoid it completely; I am trying to use mostly my cast iron and stainless steel pots and pens. I know, the advantage of the non-stick was that I could use less oil for most meals, but choosing some healthy oils and cooking on a low heat will eliminate that problem easily. Frankly, I found the food more tasty.
  2. Choose clothing that is not labeled stain- or water-repellent (does not carry Teflon or Scotchgard tags).
  3. Avoid the cosmetics having “fluoro” or “perfluoro” in their ingredients. Most common are nail polish, shaving creams, lotions, some powders, and makeup.
  4. Avoid packaged food and fast food containers (e.g., pizza boxes, microwave pop corn, etc). Not all soil resistant treatments are fluoro-based though.
  5. Avoid furniture or carpet that used stain and dirt resistance treatment. If you already have furniture that is treated try to find a cover for it. Not all stain or soil resistant treatments are fluoro-based, read the labels.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Going Green-Product Review of the Week - Paints

According to the EPA, the air inside our homes is about two-to-five times more polluted than the air outside. Paint is a large contributing factor to poor indoor air quality and emits dangerous chemicals, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), even years after application. Choosing the right paint for your house can be a long and complicated task, as it was for me. There are paints that do not have VOCs at all, paints with claimed low levels of VOCs. What I found out is that color tints add about 150g of VOCs back into the paint; so if you add color you get the VOCs. Therefore, one needs to be really careful, because you can get paint with no VOCs and when you add the color you desire, you just made you paint unvalued.

It seems that Freshaire Choice (sold exclusively by Home Depot nowadays) claims that their tints are also zero VOC. It is also at a good price compare to other paints I found on the market. I am curious to see how it works. I included a table below with paints claiming to have zero or low VOCs and some natural paints. This is not an exhausted list, of course, but it can provide a start in case someone is searching for paints. Even though these paints are natural and free of VOCs, they are not free of toxins.

Some reasons for which I have chosen to look for zero-low VOCs paint:

- it is good for our health; the fumes from the paint produce rash, watery eyes, neurological problems, headaches, lung irritation; damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Some organics can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.;

- it is good for the environment; the VOCs increase the greenhouse gases.

Check to see if the paint has the Green Seal on it!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

How Many More Chemicals in Our Water?

I wrote recently about the tap water and bottled water. While it is up for everyone to decide which one is best to use, I continue to be concerned myself about the quality of each. Currently, I use filtered tap water and mineral water in glass bottles. Now, I came across of the results of an analysis conducted by Environmental Working Group (EWG) which shows that in 42 states over the country, the water is contaminated with 260 chemicals, of which 166 are industrial pollutants (solvents, propellants, plasticizers, pharmaceutical production ingredients). Moreover, drugs used to treat depression and epilepsy, sex hormones, and antibiotics represent another category of substances found in our daily “fresh” water. Of course, it is the pollution of the waters that contributes to the load of chemicals in tap water. The problem is that many of these ingredients are not regulated at all, so people, especially those who are vulnerable (children, pregnant women, elderly) are not protected at all against these particular chemicals.

The biggest concern of the EWG is represented by the presence of perfluorochemicals found in the environment and in people. These chemicals are used in the production of non-stick cookware, food packaging, and stain-resistant fabrics (carpet, waterproof clothing). This chemical has been found to lead to liver damage, thyroid problems, high cholesterol in children, inability to fight infection. Well, I was relived when I did not find California on the list with the states contaminated with perfluorochemicals, but what about the other chemicals? The states contaminated with the perfluorochemicals are listed as follows:

Location Details


drinking water serving city of Belpre, Little Hocking Water Association, Tuppers Plains, Village of Pomeroy

West Virginia

drinking water serving Lubeck Public Service district, Mason county

New Jersey

78% of 23 drinking-water systems tested


cities of Oakdale, Lake Elmo, Woodbury, Cottage Grove


Decatur/Tennessee river; Mobile River


Conasauga River; streams and ponds near Dalton, GA; city of Dalton drinking water supply; city of Columbus drinking water

North Carolina

ground water in Bladen County


Chicago tap water


ground and surface water

New York

rivers and lakes


Port St. Lucie, surface water

Lakes Erie and Ontario

Check the quality of your water here, although it seems that many of the chemicals found in the water are not listed because they are not regulated.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Just Back From Vacation

Best way to catch up with what happened while I was gone.... Watch this video - besides other things, a new energy drink - the Liquid Launch - contains all the ingredients of the rocket fuel, not only the perchlorate (found in the our water and food).