Desert Essence Organics Hand Wash – “Clear Skin, Clear Conscience”

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“Where can I get this?” my 90-year-old mother-in-law asked. She was washing her hands with the complimentary sample of Desert Essence Organics Hand Wash I had received from the company. “I like this soap!” she said.

I smiled. “Yeah, I like it too, Lucille.”

“Really, where can I get some?” more forceful this time. She wanted me to know that she really meant it.

That’s high praise from Lucille. For several months, Joe and I have been helping care for his mom part of every week since she broke her wrist in October. We’ve assisted her with countless hand washings, shampoos, and showers. This was the first time she had applauded a product that we had used in her care. And, boy, did she say it with enthusiasm! …

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Ecopreneurs Make High Performance, Eco-Friendly Cleaners

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“Necessity is the mother of invention,” so the saying goes. Ask Mark Cunningham about Bayes Cleaners, and you’ll find out how the need for a premium, eco-friendly cleaning product launched the company he shares with partner Matt Bays. Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) spoke with Cunningham about Bayes Cleaners after trying — and liking — several of the company’s products….

CUNNINGHAM: My partner, Matt Bays, and I were talking about how we had just both installed stainless steel kitchens, and we couldn’t find any stainless cleaners that worked. I must have tried five or six different kinds of cleaners, and he had tried some as well. We said, “Hey, if anybody ever comes out with a stainless steel cleaner that works, they’re going to make a lot of money!”

We met the next day, and decided to get serious about developing a stainless steel cleaner. We both were into recycling at the time. We both had young kids, and using nontoxic products was important to us. We said, “Let’s make sure that whatever we come out with as a stainless steel cleaner not only works better than anything on the market, but it’s safe.” …

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Storms of My Grandchildren Provides Ample Evidence of Global Warming

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Those of us who have been following developments on climate change and global warming are asked, “If the planet is getting warmer, why is it so cold in 2009?” James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climatologists, says that he often is asked the same question. So, he has published an essay titled, “If Its That Warm, How Come Its So Damned Cold?” and placed it on his website….

I have just read Hansen’s new book, Storms of My Grandchildren: the Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity. The book is a wonderful example of science written with clarity.

More importantly, Hansen tells policy makers what they need to do to reverse the steady climb in greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide. He argues for stopping the burning of all fossil fuels….

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Gently Used Wedding Gowns — More than a Fashion Statement

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You can use eBay and Craigslist to buy anything from boats to aquariums to musical instruments. And when it comes to your wedding day, you can use them to buy your dress, centerpieces, or other décor — but huge Internet marketplaces make this task seem daunting. Some sites, like PreOwned Wedding Dresses, Recycled Bride, and Bride Share, and have narrowed the focus to make online shopping for gently used wedding items simple for brides-to-be….

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A Conversation with Larry Long, Lifelong Activist and Folksinger

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Smithsonian Folkways recording artist Larry Long has been an activist for decades. At various times he has used his musical talents to help organize citizens in protest and in celebration. Throughout his long career, he says he has, “employed art and oral history for the benefit of reconciliation and building community.”

Among Long’s many successful projects was the creation of the Mississippi River Revival. He is a longtime friend of famed folksinger Pete Seeger, whose acclaimed Great Hudson River Revival has been instrumental in cleaning up the Hudson River, and who has mentored Long over the years. Today, Larry Long serves as executive director for a nonprofit called Community Celebration of Place….

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Healthy Child Healthy World Provides Tips for Healthy Teething

January 22, 2010 by  
Filed under Babies, Blog, Children, Front Page, Parenting, Slideshow, Tips

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Do you remember when your molars slowly poked through the surface of your gums? They were probably pretty tender and uncomfortable. But you knew what was happening: You were growing up! You were getting more of those permanent teeth that made you a “big kid.” So even though it was a bit unpleasant, you managed to brave your way through it — or maybe you took a baby aspirin or Tylenol to ease your misery.

Tiny babies don’t know what’s happening when their teeth start to emerge. But they know they’re miserable — and they generally make their parents miserable, too. Not intentionally, of course. They just get fussy and gnaw on whatever they can find — clean, dirty, toxic, or furry; it doesn’t matter to them….

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Brooklyn Free School Plans Service Learning Project in Tanzania

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Imagine you’re attending a public school where you can determine what you will study based on your interests. Imagine planning a trip that you will take with your classmates, teachers, and parent volunteers half a world away. Now imagine that you are only six years old.

Students at the Brooklyn Free School in Clinton Hill (Brooklyn), New York, are experiencing a very different kind of education — one that teaches independence and responsibility, as well as academics, art, and all other subjects. In a few weeks, 11 students, ages 6 to 17, and 13 adults will be traveling to Tanzania on a remarkable service learning field trip — one that the students helped to plan and fund….

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Bayes Cleaners – Safe, Effective, and Economical

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When Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) received a complimentary box of sample cleaners from Bayes, we passed out some of the products and kept some to review ourselves. Following are the collected comments from our review team.
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One of the features that attracted us to the home we purchased a year ago was the kitchen full of stainless steel appliances. Little did we know what fingerprint magnets they are, especially with three young children around. I also had no idea about how to properly care for the appliance surfaces. Little did I know that typical household cleaners are too abrasive or corrosive for the stainless steel finish. Bayes Stainless Steel Cleaner/Protectant was a great find for us….

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Benefit for American Red Cross at Devotay This Sunday

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Devotay, 117 N. Linn Street, Iowa City, Iowa, launched Benefit Sundays last month to give back to the community by partnering with a local charity.

This Sunday, the restaurant is partnering with the American Red Cross’ Haiti Relief Fund. According to Devotay line cook, Jeremy Tole, the restaurant had taken 10 benefit reservations for about 25 patrons as of Friday night. They’re hoping for even more people to designate their reservations in the name of this Haiti relief effort.

Haiti is the hemisphere’s poorest nation, and many survivors have no access to water, food, shelter, or healthcare, according to Devotay’s website. The charity proceeds from Sunday’s meal will assist the American Red Cross in their work with earthquake victims in Haiti….

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Haiti on Our Minds

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Like many of you, I’ve been watching three days of news reports streaming from MSN.com and CNN.com. As I sit here in the comfort of a sturdy Midwestern home, I grieve for people I have never known. I watch in frustration as the planes land with supplies, yet reports from the streets are that aid is not reaching those who are most affected and most vulnerable.

What amazes me is the overall calm that has prevailed so far in this desperately poor country, even in the face of a disaster of massive proportions. Men, women, and children alike wait for help that is far too long in coming — in a relatively orderly manner for the most part. Yes, there are outbreaks of violence and looting. But the astonishing thing is how long peace reigned before any trouble began — and that it still reigns still over most of the capital city.

Speaking to an MSN.com camera crew, one young man with a clear American accent said, “I don’t expect you to get it to us immediately. But at least give us something, so we can have courage.” …

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My 5: Jody Sherman, Sprout Baby Founder and CEO

January 14, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog, Ecopreneurs, Front Page, My 5, Slideshow

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Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) asked Sprout Baby founder and CEO, Jody Sherman, two questions we like to ask all our interviewees.

BPGL: What are the five most important things we can do to save the planet?

SHERMAN:
* Commit to making one positive change a month that will reduce your personal impact on the environment. It takes time to get into the habit of doing something, and then it becomes second nature. I started with something simple: putting recycling bins in my house. At first, sorting trash seemed like a chore, now we don’t even think about it, we just do it. Then I started picking up trash every time I went surfing. Before long, that became part of my after-surf ritual. I keep adding things monthly, and I don’t find it overwhelming that way….

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The Aquaponics Guidebook (an e-Book)

January 13, 2010 by  
Filed under Agriculture, Aquaponics, Blog, e-Books, Front Page, Slideshow

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The Aquaponics Guidebook by Bevan Suits is a solid, informational e-book with practical suggestions for starting your own small- or large-scale aquaponics operation. By the time you finish this book, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to get started creating your own aquaponics farm….

But just what is aquaponics? Here’s how Suits explains it:

Aquaponics is growing fish and plants in one system, with fish waste feeding the plants. It works in many variations of scale and form, though the basic concept does not change: Fish, bacteria and plants working together in a recirculating, soil-less system. It resembles a living organism, with a heart (the pump) and lungs (aeration). The bacteria remove waste like the kidneys and the liver. It will teach you a lot about food and this ecosystem we call home.

Perhaps, like me, you have walked past ponds and swamps without considering the symbiotic relationship between the plants and the fish living together in the same ecosystem. I’ve heard of growing tomatoes and other plants without soil, but I never gave a thought to growing vegetables together with tilapia, bass, or koi. Yet it makes sense. It happens in nature all the time….

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Backyard Abundance – Reconnecting People to Nature

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Fred Meyer isn’t a man who lets a problem stop him — not even when the problem covers the entire planet.

“Most everyone feels a desire to improve the health of our environment, but when faced with our monumental environmental problems, the task seems too large — understanding how to proceed can feel overwhelming,” Meyer writes at BackyardAbundance.org.

Because Meyer understood that feeling of powerlessness and frustration, he wanted to do something about it — not only for himself, but to help others as well.

MEYER: I started Backyard Abundance because I saw a need in our community for a holistic view of how we could improve the health of our environment. I have always been a big tree hugger. I had been hugging the trees, picking up roadways, planting plants, and doing all that for years — even in high school.

After a while, I had to take a step back and see if what I was doing was actually making a difference. When I did, I saw that the environment was continuing to crumble all around me….

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What’s It Like, Living Green? – Book Review

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More than three decades ago, when I taught first grade, Woodsy Owl, with his admonition to “Give a hoot, don’t pollute,” was one of my few tools for encouraging environmentalism. A decade later, when I taught fifth grade, I had a few more tools at my command, including the famous video of a buttercup traveling down a clear mountain stream to sink in a polluted river.

But I didn’t have near the kind of resources available today. One resource I learned about recently is the book, What’s It Like Being Green? Kids Teaching Kids, by the Way they Live. Author Jill Ammon Vanderwood has compiled an award-winning collection of real-life accounts from children, parents, researchers, and activists, who are making the world greener every day. (NOTE: Vanderwood sent me a complimentary copy of her book upon my request.)

I am impressed with the content and the quality of the information. Equally important, it’s filled with motivational examples of real people (many of them kids) taking action to help each other and the planet. When kids read about others their own age making a difference, they often get inspired to do the same. (It works with adults, too.) …

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Green Weddings – Good for the Planet and Your Pocket

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The average U.S. wedding creates 400 to 600 pounds of waste, according to Kate Harrison, author of The Green Bride Guide. And with nearly 2.2 million weddings in the United States every year, that’s a huge environmental impact.

“It often saves you money and that sends a good message in this economy,” says Harrison. An eco-friendly wedding also conserves money and can promote social justice….

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My 5: Francis Thicke, Organic Dairy Farmer, Political Candidate

January 7, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog, Front Page, Iowa, My 5, Slideshow

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Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) asked Francis Thicke, candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, two questions we like to ask our interviewees. Following are his responses.

BPGL: What are the five most important things we can do to save the planet?

THICKE:

1. Probably the easiest thing we could do collectively in this country right now is to increase the average fuel efficiency of cars on the road. The average passenger vehicle (including SUVs) gets about 22 mpg. Hybrid vehicle technology is already on the road today that can double that mileage, and with plug-in hybrid technology—that is also available today—we could quadruple our mileage.

Clearly, we have the technology available right now to reduce the 140 billion gallons of gasoline used each year in this country to half or less. According to EPA, each gallon of gasoline burned emits 19.4 lbs of carbon dioxide. If we reduced our gasoline use by half, we would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 679 million tons per year, and save more barrels of oil annually than are imported from the Middle East….

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Plains Justice – CAFOs and Threats to Human Health

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Today, Plains Justice, an environmental law center working on behalf of the public, released “Public Health and Livestock Confinements: Identifying Threats to Human Health.” Donna Wong-Gibbons, Ph.D., author of the report, calls it “a science-based review of some of the available research and literature on livestock confinements, specifically on the possible public health risks associated with those.”

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) spoke with Wong-Gibbons by phone today.

BPGL: What can readers expect to find in the Plains Justice report?

WONG-GIBBONS: The report focuses partially on Iowa, although similar problems exist in other states where there are livestock confinements. It’s designed to be a plain-language document, so that the public, regulators, and legislators can all read it. It’s intended to help educate people about some of the potential public health problems with CAFOs.

Yet, it’s also designed to help educate people about some of the ways that those problems can be addressed. It’s important, when you’re talking about public health, to identify the problem, then to also look at solutions. So that’s what the report is trying to do….

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Brownfield Remediation Provides Local Opportunity

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Late this past fall, Cindy Quast, an environmental engineer with Stanley Consultants’ Iowa City Office, invited Blue Planet Green Living to visit a brownfield site. Quast, a 20-year veteran of environmental consulting, has been cleaning up brownfields for more than 10 years. Joe Hennager and I joined Quast at the western edge of Davenport, Iowa, for a quick course in Brownfields 101.

A chill wind cuts through my coat, and I instantly regret having left my gloves in the car. On the far side of the highway where we have parked, wetlands serve as a buffer zone for the Mississippi River. Eagles nest in the trees high above, soaring over the water to catch their food. A few feet from the busy highway on the near side, environmental engineer Cindy Quast is talking with two men. They stand at the bottom of a small hill that borders a long, private driveway.

One of the men, Wyatt McCain, is taking soil samples from the base of the hill. The other man, Daniel Cook, wears the uniform of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). We walk together to the far end of the driveway, where McCain begins sampling again. Quast and Cook take turns patiently explaining to us the work being done on the site and why it’s important.

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Vaska Herbatergent – High Performance, High Value

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There’s plenty of hype about Vaska’s eco-friendly laundry detergent: The San Francisco Giants use Vaska to clean their dirt-stained uniforms. A “family friendly resort” near Denver uses Vaska to launder their ski patrol parkas. And Joe and I (the staff of Blue Planet Green Living) have done nearly a month’s worth of laundry with Vaska.

While hype is often interesting to read, it doesn’t mean much if there’s no substance behind it. As is our policy, we won’t add to the hype without trying a product for ourselves. So Vaska sent us a free bottle of their unscented Herbatergent (clever name). As is also our policy, a free sample doesn’t guarantee a positive review. It merely guarantees we won’t write about a product if we don’t like it (hey, there’s enough negativity in the world).

As it turns out, we do like Vaska’s Herbatergent, which is why I’m writing about it….

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Notes from Iowa: Peace on Earth in 2010

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As we greet the beginning of a new year and a new decade, let’s remember what is truly important: Saving our planet and caring for each other. We cannot do the first without doing the second. And, if we do not pull together to end the climate crisis, we will have fought each other over a planet that we don’t get to keep. Humankind will be “history,” but there will be no one left to read the records of our misdeeds.

Yet, the climate crisis is far from our only serious problem. We are warring with each other over religion, ethnicity, property, power, and money. We fight and kill each other in the name of our god, presumably the same almighty being we call by different names: Allah or Jehovah or God or Yahweh or another name entirely. To me, it makes no sense. I cannot envision an almighty being who would be pleased to have humans killing and torturing each other in the name of religion. And yet, historically, religion has been one of the major reasons we’ve shed blood, seized property, and enslaved other humans.

In my view, it doesn’t have to be this way. We can — and must — change the way we treat each other and our planet, if we want to survive as a species….

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