Posted by Norman Fong, May 23rd, 2013
Coffee drinkers are joining the green crowd by selecting eco friendly coffee options. We will examine some of the attributes you should look for when shopping for coffee.
Coffee plantations sometimes cause land to be cleared and pesticides and chemicals to be used. Newer shade plantations use natural tree canopies allowing animals to survive in trees while coffee can be grown in a more eco friendly method.
Cleaning up Coffee Processing
Coffee is a huge industry, but throwing away items during the creation of coffee, can be a hazardous problem. Caffeine rich waste cannot be just thrown away. It would cause issues with germination of seeds and plants. Waste needs to be decaffeinated before it could be tossed out safely. They are working on genetically modified bacteria to decaffeinate waste at the University of Texas, Austin.
Fair Trade started in 1998, in the USA. It allows farmers to band together and sell directly to major corporations. Previously farmers sold to middlemen, who sold to other middlemen, each marking up the price. In the end, farmers would receive pennies for their output. With Fair Trade they get a much more reasonable payment.
A product with the Fair Trade label assures consumers that the product came from a sustainable farm, and they received a fair price for their crops. The supply chain is audited from the actual farm through to the grocery store. Most of the revenue that keeps Fair Trade going is earned from this audit and certification service.
Fair Trade Coffee
Fair Trade coffee is coffee purchased usually directly from coffee growers at a fair and reasonable price. The price is usually higher than regular coffee. The growers should have better working conditions for workers as well as better economic incentives. Sustainability practices should also be better with Fair Trade coffee.
Sierra Club Coffee
The Sierra Club offered its own blend of Fair Trade Coffee for a time, which was even grown under diversified shade and the natural habitat of many song birds!
Be sure to store your coffee in a dry, dark place. Do not stock up too much, as coffee is best enjoyed fairly fresh.
Keurig or Single Serve Coffee Makers
Convenience has made Keurig and other brands of single service pod coffeemakers all the rage. Senseo and other brands have also become very popular. You do pay a premium for the coffee and more waste is created, so please recycle single serve coffee containers if possible. If you cannot recycle the K-cup, at least open it up and remove the coffee grounds and compost them.
We recommend users purchase a ekobrew Cup, Refillable Cup For Keurig K-Cup Brewers. this cup is a refillable coffee filter that will save you money as well as prevent waste.
Fair Trade Coffee and Eco Friendly Coffee, Green Keurig Single Serve Coffee Filter
How can you have more ‘green’ tea? (Pardon the pun) Drop the tea bags and use loose leaf. I noticed that the tea we have been purchasing from Trader Joe’s is not all that eco. Individual tea bags are sealed up to increase freshness but create more waste. It’s all about going back to simpleness. Yes we compost the tea bags, but switching to loose leaf tea cuts out all the tea bags, individual tea bag wrapping, etc. Organic tea is even a better bet.
Eco Friendly or Green Coffee Paper Cups
We saw this cup at a museum store that looked like a standard coffee cup but was made with porcelain. It is called “I Am Not a Paper Cup” and is dishwasher and microwave safe, $12 from Amazon. eco cup is another similar reusable coffee cup or beverage cup.
Many coffee shops will not allow you to use your own cup, claiming health code problems. Starbucks sells a $15 reusable Venti cup and applies a 10-cent discount on the price of the drink of your choice each time you bring your cup in and order. Apparently these sold out an are being scalped on eBay.
I wonder how many other coffee places will let you use this. Most independent coffee shops have no problem with this. Just thinking about how many paper cups are tossed each day is mind boggling. Few people wash their coffee cups and recycle the cup and plastic top.
If you brew your own coffee, use a reusable coffee filter made with hemp, cotton, or plastic that can be washed after each use.
Posted by Norman Fong, May 20th, 2013
Having an Eco Friendly Green Memorial Day is more and more desirable these days. How can you green your Memorial Day.
- Buy your meats to be barbecued, vegetables, and other food from a local farmers market or from local sources
- Carpool or take public transportation to picnics or events
- Rent or buy your decorations and picnic items from used stores like Goodwill. Reusing items that you already have is even better.
- Compost any waste, etc.
- Give out green oriented treats like organic fruit, re-purposed trinkets
With a little preparation we all can make a difference, even on Memorial Day.
Losing Weight During the Holidays, Diet vs Exercise and Walkstation – Multitask – Fight Obesity, Exercise while Working
Posted by Norman Fong, May 13th, 2013
The holidays are here! The media has reported that the average person gains 7 to 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Ouch. Big dinners, more alcohol, more snacks, more finger foods, tempting desserts, and appetizers. How can we work to combat those pounds?
Small Packages of Food
Food manufacturers understand that smaller portions of food make you feel like you are eating less. People can graze on snacks throughout the day and feel better about themselves. Watch out for this psychological trap. Some of the mental concepts they use:
- Wrapped candy like Hershey Kisses tends to be eaten more while we are alone
- Smaller packages of food cause us to eat less than a larger package
- Resealable pouches infer freshness
- Healthy items like fruit and humus are now being sold
- If a package has multiple servings, like potato chips, people will eat the entire thing anyway
- People ate more stale popcorn from a larger container than a smaller one
- Small bite sized chunks of food are seen as having fewer calories, causing people to eat more
Tips to Maintain Your Weight
Exercise and keep going. Do not abandon your exercise routine during the holidays. Work out longer or just start to exercise. Shoot for 30-45 minutes, three to five times a week. Having someone push you to exercise works.
Runners and walkers received similar health benefits in a American Heart Association study. If the two burned the same number of calories during exercise, they experienced the same reduction in risk for diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. The more they exercised, the more their health risks got lower. 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise is recommended.
A recent Time Magazine article raised eyebrows with the proclamation “Why Exercise Won’t Make you Thin”. The article sums it up with the fact that its what you eat, not how hard you’re exercising that will help you lose weight. Consistent exercise routines are the best. Having short bursts of time when you exercise could lead to adding weight.
So we need to focus on eating less and eating right.
Tips For Eating Better During Difficult Times
1) Fill up your stomach with low calorie healthy foods including fruits and vegetables. Shoot for 7 servings or more a day. Fill up BEFORE you head to a party.
2) Avoid areas with temptations. Do not hang out by the buffet table or dining table.
3) Splurge on that fatty item, but limit it. Be a picky eater, do not waste your calories on items that are not worth it.
4) Drink low calorie drinks that will fill you up. Mineral water anyone?
5) Use a small plate, avoid sauces, load up on low cal salads, and focus on socializing not eating.
6) Visualize the party or holiday dinner ahead of time, and think about how you are going to attack the situation.
7) Learn to override your cravings. A thought is just a thought that doesn’t require a rush to action. Think before you put something in your mouth. Will putting this item in your mouth make you that much happier.
8) Drinking cold water helps the body burn more calories, so skip all those calorie filled drinks.
Get a dog? Average dog owners exercise up to 6 hours more a week than those who work out at a gym. Beware, some dog owners are obese and typically mirror the appearance of their dogs.
Walkstation – Multitask – Fight Obesity, Exercise while Working
Details from Steelcase just introduce the new $4199 Walkstation.
This combination height adjustable desk integrates a treadmill. It is designed low speed operation with maximum speed of 2 miles per hour. This might sound like a very slow pace, but it is very hard to use a mouse when walking. People also need to worry about accidents.
Multitask! Fight obesity, improve your health, and exercise while Working. Or spend more time working and less time outside the office.
Somehow this product reminds us of this:
Green EcoMill Treadmill
Woodway has a new EcoMill green manually powered treadmill that uses zero electricity. It has a battery that recharges as the user exercises. Many treadmills uses almost 1000 watts of power. Wow, that is one major step forward.
These guys even make a Desk Mill Desk Treadmill
Posted by Norman Fong, May 13th, 2013
Solar water heaters are placed on roofs and absorb the sun’s energy to heat water, which is then stored in a water tank for later use. Some include a gas heating system for backup.
I took the picture shown above in southern China. Solar water heaters are ALL over the place there. They must be cheap and cost effective for such widespread adoption.
Solar Water Heater Requirements
Many of these are similar to Solar Electric site requirements.
- Un tree shaded area that is Southerly facing
- Amount of sun received in a day
- Temperatures that are not below freezing
- Enough roof space and angle.
California Solar Water Heater Rebates
California utility regulators have recently approved rebates of $350 million over the next 8 years to encourage the use of solar water heaters. California Solar Initiative (CSI) Thermal Program is the solar rebate program for California consumer that offers incentive rebates of up to $1,875 for solar water heating systems installed on single-family homes. Rebates are granted in the form of a one-time payment that is based on how much annual energy the system is expected to displace.
Water Heated by the sun.com is a website setup by California utilities to promote this product.
The 30% Federal Tax credit for EnergyStar rated solar water heaters could reduce the cost of these expensive solar water heater by 15% to 25%. The Federal Tax Credit expires December 31, 2016. Average systems cost from $6500 to $10,000 before rebates. Rebates are retroactive to August 2009, so apply if you already had a system put in. Many other states have similar rebates.
Multifamily and commercial buildings are also eligible for special rebates up to $500,000. The goal is to add solar water heating to reduce natural gas use by about 200,000 single-family homes.
Local utility companies administer the rebate, so check with your local utility company. PGE has a page outlining the program that also covers San Diego Gas and Electric Rebates (SDG&E), Southern California Edison Rebates (SCE) or Southern California Gas (SoCalGas). These rebates are in addition to the Federal Tax Credit for solar water heaters.
The payback of a Solar Water Heater occur over a long period. Water heating bills should drop 50%–80%, making payback times at least 10 years after rebates. Systems should last for 25+ years allowing for a $8000 to $12000 savings over the 30 year life of the solar water heater. Gas rates many rise in the future, helping to shorten payback times. SEIA.org has a dealer locator for solar water heater installers.
Posted by Norman Fong, May 7th, 2013
Eco-friendly or Green Cosmetics are starting to become mainstream. Companies are touting their products as being natural, no animal tested, organic, etc. There have been lawsuits over the wording. Natural Make Up is becoming more important to the entire cosmetic industry as well to consumers.
What should you look for in a green cosmetic, makeup, lotion, or hair care product?
Safer Lipstick and Lip Gloss
A UC Berkeley researcher found in 2012 that there are many dangerous chemicals in lipstick and lip gloss. Metals were found in every one of the 32 items tested. Toxic chemicals including lead, chromium, and cadnium were found.
A key takeaway is that all these substances are banned from cosmetics in Europe but not the US. Lobbyists and large companies have done a great job preventing safer cosmetics from being mandated in the US.
Consumers shouldn’t have to stay informed about these hidden dangers. Women who apply these products to their lips and lick them will be constantly exposing themselves to chemicals. Does your eco-friendly partner not kiss you? Now you know why!
We suggest you purchase European cosmetics due to their better safety laws. Green cosmetics may not tell you the entire story. You need to dig deeper and understand what’s in the product.
Problematic Ingredients in Cosmetics
The key ingredients to avoid include the following:
- Anti-aging creams with lactic, glycolic, AHA, and BHA acids – Additive that preserves fats and oils
- DMDM hydantoin and Imidazolidinyl urea
Fragrance and dyes – allergies, cancer, nervous system
- phthalate or dibutyl or diethylhexyl or just “fragrance”
- Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone
- Parabens or “-paraben” – Hormone disrupter
- “PEG” and “-eth”
- Sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate – May cause hormone disruption, skin irritation
- Triclosan and triclocarban (anti-bacterial)
- Triethanolamine (TEA)
Here are some specific products with ingredients to watch for
- Hair dyes with ammonia, peroxide, p-phenylenediamine, diaminobenzene; all dark permanent hair dyes
- Hair Removers – Stick to Razors (Electric rechargable or blade replaceable, avoid disposable razrs), waxing with Soy based compounds. Avoid depilatories and Oral Contraceptives and Hormonal Treatments.
- Liquid hand soaps with triclosan
- Nail polish and removers containing formaldehyde, Toluene, Pthalates, Ethylacetate & N. Butyl Acetate
- Skin lighteners with hydroquinone
- Moisturizers containing paraben
- Sunscreens with oxybenzone – Oxybenzone has been linked to hormone disruption and low-birthweight babies.
- Body washes with sodium lauryl sulfate
- Feminine sanitary and hygiene products with bleached with chlorine or loaded with chemical fragrances
- Oral hygiene products with propylene glycol
Many cosmetic make up products have expiration dates, so be sure to observe them.
Triclosan is an anti-bacterial agent that used in many soaps and detergents. Scientific studies show that it disrupts reproductive hormone activities and brain signaling. It may hinder muscles and cause allergies.
Try not to buy any cleaner with this substance. The FDA has concluded that soap with this chemical is no better than plain soap and water.
Nail Polish Problems
A study in 2012 by the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Department of Toxic Substance’s Control together with San Francisco’s Department of the Environment, California’s healthy nail salon collaborative, and the Campaign Safe Cosmetics found that many nail polish products which claim to be free of toxic chemicals, had at least traces of hazardous chemicals.
The following nail polishes were the ones with hazardous chemicals:
- Station 99 basecoat (made by Miss Professional Nail Products)
- Dare to Wear nail lacquer (made by LeChat Nail Care Products)
- Chelseu 650 Baby’s Breath nail lacquer (made by Miss Professional Nail Products)
- New York Summer nail color (made by Miss Professional Nail Products)
- Paris Spicy 298 nail lacquer (made by Mirage Corp.)
- Station 53 Red Pink nail color (made by Miss Professional Nail Products)
- Poshe fast-drying basecoat (made by Poshe Almell Products)
- Orly Flagstone Rush nail lacquer (made by Orli International)
- Nail Art Stripper Brush #117 Magenta Glitter (made by Omega Labs USA)
Testing Cosmetics without Animals
Animals have been used to test the safety of cosmetics for many years. This practice will be outlawed in the European Union in 2013. American companies are now working on computer models with complex algorithms to replace animal testing. These models will use animal testing results from the past to enhance accuracy. In 2012 L’Oreal began working with the EPA on this new testing technology. Lets hope that more companies do the same.
Aftershave for Men
Men take note, slapping on some burning aftershave on your face is probably not the best thing for your skin. Skin irritation and dryness may occur with products containing petroleum and other chemicals. Make some herbal aftershave.
Organic Cosmetics Lawsuit
Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps has filed a lawsuit accusing some of the larges cosmetic firms of falsely advertising products as organic when some contained little organic material, contained synthetic chemicals, 1,4 Dioxane, or used petroleum products.
The term “organic” on personal care products has no meaning unless it is certified by the USDA. So look for this symbol.
Environmental Working Group has a safety guide to cosmetics and personal skin care product that you should consult before buying products.