Are You Unintentionally Supporting False Organic Brands?

November 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Body and Bath, Consumer Spending, Front Page, Greenwashing, Organic

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Fake organic labelling undermines the companies who really care, dilutes the growth of the organic sector and compromises the health of people and planet. As consumers we need to do our best to boycott companies guilty of greenwash.

A recent report published by The Soil Association reveals that Organic is steadily working its way into the mainstream. With the growth of global organic sales up 25% in the past three years and sales of certified organic health and beauty products increasing in 2013 by 5.6% to £31.8 million in the UK, the importance of organic products in the mind of the average consumer is demonstrably on the rise….

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American Wasteland by Jonathan Bloom

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If you’re like most people, you were probably shocked by a report released earlier this year that found that up to half of the world’s food is wasted. When hundreds of millions of people go hungry every day, how is this possible?

This is just one of many questions that journalist Jonathan Bloom explores in his book American Wasteland. Every day, Americans waste enough food to fill the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena, Calif. Bloom opens American Wasteland with this sobering statistic, and it just gets more depressing from there.

Depending on whom you ask, we squander between one quarter and one half of all the food produced in this country (40 percent is the figure that’s often used). Fruits and vegetables are allowed to rot on farms when the price for a particular crop would be less than the cost of harvesting it. Grocery stores throw out perfectly edible food that has reached its “sell-by” date (which is not the same as an “eat-by” date). Consumers let food go bad in the fridge—on average, we each waste 25 percent of the food that we bring into our homes—or leave half-eaten entrées behind at restaurants. Much of this wasted food ends up decaying in landfills, spewing out methane gas….

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A Road Trip to Remember

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Recently, I took a road trip up to Oregon with my family to enjoy the outdoors and visit some of the oldest and biggest trees of the western coast. I enjoyed visiting with my family and sharing knowledge about the trees, such as the type of tree, its age, and the breathtaking feelings that come to me when I am amongst these giant ancient forests. Many of these trees are over a thousand years old and have managed to survive thoughtless deforestation!

Along with all of the spectacular rivers, mountains, wildlife, and scenery, I saw a few telltale signs of man’s greed impacting our Earth.
One thing I noticed on my recent trip was a decreased number of lumber mills from similar trips that started in 1990. We are led to believe that lumber mills are closing down due to environmental concerns. If that were true, then we could logically assume that we are not continuing the destruction of forests in our country and are managing our natural resources better. However, this is not the case!

There’s another reason lumber mills are closing, but it’s probably not what you think….

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Groovy Globe: Chic and Conscious Clothing

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As a consumer who tries to purchase organic and ethical products, I’ve discovered how difficult it is to find clothing that matches my values.

When I look through my pantry, I see fair-trade coffee, hormone-free poultry, organic fruits and vegetables, and Rainforest Alliance Certified tea bags. All of these products were purchased from within minutes of home at my local supermarket. In the last few years, I’ve noticed how much easier it’s become to purchase environmentally conscious foods without having to go to a specialized store.

But when I look through my closet, I see an expanse of polyester, rayon, nylon, viscose, and, of course, cotton — which, according to, is the most toxic crop on the planet as it accounts for a quarter of the world’s insecticides and more than 10 percent of worldwide pesticide sales.

An Easy Choice

Recently, I was introduced to Groovy Globe, which sells 100-percent organic apparel. T-shirts are made from 100 percent organic cotton and totes are made from 100 percent recycled cotton, as well as silicone wristbands. Never has it been so easy to make an eco-friendly fashion statement for less than $30–$40….

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Sustainable Fabrics: Eco-Friendly Clothing

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If you’re interested in finding ways to reduce your carbon footprint with small, daily changes to your lifestyle, there are a lot of options to cut waste and reduce pollution on a personal level. You can recycle, use green cleaning solvents, switch to organic foods, and make many of your own products at home in bulk (5-gallon buckets of homemade laundry detergent, for example) in order to cut back on disposable packaging waste.

But did you know that you can also support sustainable farming by purchasing clothing made from eco-friendly fabrics? Not only are there a wide variety of clothing options out there (with even some big-name designers jumping on the bandwagon), but there are also plenty of reasons to make the change….

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The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting by Chris McLaughlin

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Maybe you’re already a gardener, ready to plant some vegetables to reduce your grocery bill and gain some peace of mind about what additives you will not be putting into your family’s bodies. Or, maybe you secretly yearn for a yard filled with colorful flower blossoms from early spring until late fall.

If you see yourself in either of these scenarios, then The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting: Turn your organic waste material into black gold, is for you. No, this isn’t a book about planting a garden. It’s about how to nourish the soil you will use to grow amazing veggies and posies. And, I have to say, it’s even fun to read….

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Practical Farmers of Iowa Field Days June 18 and 26

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Whether you’re a farmer or a wannabe, the Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) Field Days may be of interest to you. Two upcoming events, June 18 and June 26, are geared for farmers (and farmers at heart) who strive for sustainability along with production.
June 18: Improving a Perennial Pasture

What does it take to establish and care for a pasture with perennial plants? One that is good for grazing a growing herd of cattle? Come find out from farmer Nathan Anderson of Cherokee. Together with his dad, Randy Anderson, and his fiancée, Sarah Joachim, Anderson participates in a Practical Farmers of Iowa project to monitor “ecological productivity and financial indicators” related to improving pastures and grazing systems….

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The Heifers Are Strolling in Brattleboro, Vermont

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Spain has the running of the bulls. Brattleboro, Vermont has Strolling of the Heifers.

Ten years ago, Strolling of the Heifers got its start in order to educate the public, especially schoolchildren, about sustainable local agriculture. It began with 10,000 attendees, the weekend long event now attracts more than 50,000 visitors from across the country.

Orly Munzing, Executive Director, says, “The goal is to connect people to the food they eat,” and to benefit local farmers.
Free Events

June 3–5, attendees can enjoy all events for free, including the featured Heifers parade, a green living expo with bands and food, a bicycle tour of local farms, and more. There’s even a sandwich competition in which the winner will be flown to Australia for the international competition….

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Notes from India: We Are Poisoning Our Planet

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How does one think or write about pollution of water and soil (not dirt, as this website makes an effort to point out) without spreading guilt in the heart of people who take their humanity seriously? It’s not easy, though you will notice I have tried. There isn’t a new fact that I bring to you — but just the fact that we have so much inertia of inaction and perhaps more so in thinking.

All of us use the three-pronged plug for electrical appliances. The third, thicker pin is for the earth. So with any amount of electricity we consume, the earth has to be a party to it. This is fine, scientifically, but it reflects our attitude towards the earth, which we symbolically call “Mother Earth” in most societies. What if, someday, our mother stops taking all the third-pin electricity?

Just now this is a hypothesis of nonsense. But a very similar thing has happened. In many instances, the earth has stopped cleansing itself. If the earth had legs, she would have run away from us by now….

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Try This Delicious Anti-Aging Tea from Supple Skin

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For most of the past decade, I’ve been a coffee lover. As a former road warrior, I frequented a lot of city coffee shops and drank my share of airport coffee. But I’ve found something new to quench my thirst and soothe my spirit: La La’s Tea from Supple Skin. It’s filled with “Anti-Aging Antioxidants” that are not only healthy, but also delicious. Fancy that: a beverage that tastes good and does good for your body at the same time….

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Super Natural Home by Beth Greer

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Every once in a while, I’ll read a book so filled with helpful information that I want to remember every single thing it says. Super Natural Home by Beth Greer is that kind of book.

From the introduction, where I learned that the author had been healed of a 5 cm benign tumor in her chest by changing her diet, to the fact-filled chapters jam-packed with tips and suggestions, to the list of resources in the back, this is a book that gives value on every single page….

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Practical Farmers of Iowa Offers Free Field Days

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Despite its name, Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) isn’t just for farmers. And it isn’t even just for Iowans. In fact, anyone can attend the free field days presented by PFI on members’ farms; they’re a welcoming and diverse group. Of course, as you might expect, most PFI members are farmers, so field-day events are targeted largely to their needs.

According to the organization, “PFI’s programming stresses farmer-to-farmer networking through research and demonstration, field days, conferences, and more.” But non-farmers might be surprised at how relevant some of the topics are to anyone who has a yard or a plot of land. Here are a few of the 30 topics scheduled throughout the summer and fall of this year.

July 10-Weed “Appreciation – Grinnell

July 17-Scheduling Crops for Storage – Minburn …

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Sowing the Seeds of Sustainability

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Economics. Environment. Equity. Though the word “sustainability” means various things to different people, it can be pared down to just these three words. True sustainability must take into account all three concepts. The reason most of humanity does not understand this is because we cannot grasp how all three can work at the same time.

Humanity is good at the economic portion. Capitalism focuses on economics and often neglects environmental and social issues; in many cases, economic success comes at the expense of the environment and social equity. Even capitalism does not always work: When our banks fail and need federal bailouts, we end up in a recession. Our economy is based upon the consumption of dwindling and non-renewed natural resources — how long can this last? …

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Fauna Extreme Tees – for Inspiration and Style

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If you’ve worn bamboo fabric, you know that it is incredibly soft and comfy. The tees from Fauna Extreme are no exception. I was in love with the organic fabric the minute I touched it. Unfortunately, my medium height and not-quite-as-svelte-as-I-wish-I-were frame didn’t do much for the long, slender shape of the tee. Broyles had warned me that the tees run small, and she was right.

So I asked my friend, Jenny Schilling, to try it on. The shirt fit her perfectly, though a bit on the longish side. Jenny, too, was thrilled by the fabric, as you’ll see in her comments below. The light pink tee I received as a complimentary review product — and passed on to Jenny — is a bit on the pale side for Jenny’s light complexion, so the color isn’t quite what she would have picked. But the Fauna Extreme website shows several rich color choices, too. (I’ll be sure she sees them!)

The story of Fauna Extreme starts with a mom and a marathon. Ecopreneur Sarah Broyles decided to run her first marathon after having baby #1. “One morning, while she was out pounding the pavement, she daydreamed about shirts emblazoned with fast animals like the cheetah and pronghorn,” she writes on the Fauna Extreme website. So, she worked with an artist, who created several beautiful and powerful animal images for a series of tees.

She also did her homework. Broyles, who started out her college career as a wildlife biology major — but graduated with a degree in English — was determined to find the most sustainable fabric, dyes, and inks she possibly could. What she ended up with was 70% bamboo, 20% organically grown cotton, and 10% spandex. The reasons for her choices are many, as she explains on her blog post, “How to Be Eco Fashionista.” …

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9 Months – 11 Buckets of Dirt

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There are many things in life that require patience: the growth of an embryo into a full-term baby, the long slog through a school year, the development of seedlings into luscious tomatoes … and the turning of garbage into rich, healthy soil.

In July of 2009, Joe built a compost bin in our backyard. It was a relatively simple structure that cost less than $100 (it could have been nearly free, if I hadn’t Freecycled the “extra” cinder blocks we thought we wouldn’t need again). We started dumping our food and garden waste — along with contributions from close neighbors — and didn’t give it too much thought.

When the pile grew to the top of the bin, we kept throwing in food. Mysteriously, all summer and into the fall, the pile never grew higher than the lid. We never stopped adding food and leaves and such — even paper towels and toilet paper rolls. We were careful, though, not to add newsprint or any paper with ink on it. Ours is an organic garden.

It wasn’t until winter set in solidly that we had to add more cinder blocks. That’s when the mass froze, and the pile stopped sinking down. (Thank you, Freecycle, for providing more blocks for the extra height.)

Spring finally rolled around, and, as our thoughts turned to gardening, Joe decided to dig out the pile.

Wow! …

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Wembe Soaps – The “Wild Spirit of the Rainforest”

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Get “the wild spirit of the rainforest,” says Wembé about their handmade soaps. Each soap is crafted using plants native to Paraguay. The company sells 15 varieties of the Wembé soaps, ranging in price from $7.00 for the Coconut Exfoliating Blend to $10.85 for the Black Clay Exfoliating Blend.

I tested the Yerba Mate exfoliating blend, Green Blue River exfoliating blend, and White Rose cleansing blend. They all smelled beautiful and instantly softened my hands. Plus, they’re natural and made from organic ingredients. None of the soaps contain silicone, petroleum products, parabens, sulfates, or synthetic fragrances and dyes.

The soaps’ outer packagings were so pretty, I didn’t want to open them at first. When I did, I found one of the most unique products I’ve ever seen. The interesting swirls of color make the soaps look like they came directly from the rainforest. Since they’re natural and handmade, they all vary in shape and size, though the standard weight is 3.75 ounces.

The Yerba Mate soap is vegan and rich in antioxidants. It contains essential oils, exotic weeds, and crushed yerba mate leaves. Plus, its ability to exfoliate the leftover winter dryness from my hands will make it an Iowa essential for the upcoming December and January months. The cost of the Yerba Mate bar is $9.45 for 3.75 ounces….

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Dirt! The Movie – The Soil Under Your Feet Is Alive!

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Since the beginning of time, of all the planets in all the galaxies in the known universe, only one has a living, breathing skin called dirt. — Dirt! The Movie

We wash it off our hands, our clothes, our cars, our bodies. We walk on it, drive on it, dig in it, build on it. We bury our loved ones in it. And in it we grow the plants that feed us. But how much do we really know about the dirt beneath our feet? …

Recently, I received an advance copy of Dirt! The Movie, a documentary that opened my mind to the wonders of soil. I’ve watched a lot of great videos in the past year: Food Inc., A River of Waste, Blue Gold, and more….

But Dirt!, directed and produced by Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow, stands out for me, probably because the content was so surprising and enlightening. Let’s face it, few of us talk very deeply about dirt in our daily conversations. We may complain about the health of the local rivers and waterways. We may talk about the horrible chemicals added to processed foods, the pesticides and herbicides that coat our foods. But it’s not often that we discuss worms and microbes and the exchange of nutrients in the soil. (Well, maybe you do.)

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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

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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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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