GIVEAWAY! Balinese Earrings from Sandpiper Imports

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Looking for the perfect gift for a woman with discerning taste and an interest in the exotic? Courtesy of the good folks at Sandpiper Imports, Blue Planet Green Living is delighted to offer you the chance to win these beautiful brass earrings from Bali.

Sandpiper Imports sells gorgeous jewelry and accessories hand-crafted by Balinese artisans. We haven’t tried any of these products, but they certainly look beautiful on the website. Even better, the products are Fair Trade, meaning that the artists are not being ripped off by the retailers. And, one more good thing— the founders, Sara and Erika, donate a portion of profits to two charitable organizations in the artisans’ communities: Bali Animal Welfare Association and Bali Adoption and Rehabilitation Center.

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Diversely Sustainable Cities: Naples and SongDo

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Sustainability may not be a new global trend, but it’s certainly growing. Long-standing environmental heroes, like Curitiba, Brazil; San Francisco, California; and Oslo, Norway, have inspired citizens across the globe to begin sustainability projects in their own cities.
Though “green” cities all far surpass environmental performance goals, they each have unique approaches and innovations, demonstrating that a collective commitment to the environment, paired with creativity, really can change the world.

Today, we’ll look at two diverse cities that are making huge environmental strides: Naples, Italy, and SongDo, South Korea….

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Edible Gardens Make Summer Tasty and Fun in Iowa City

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When I first moved to Iowa City, I decided to try and conquer my terrible sense of direction by walking around and getting to know the area. Instead, I did what I always do. I found one path that took me from Point A to Point B, and I started taking that path every day.

Along my walk is the Robert A. Lee Community Recreation Center. I first noticed the Recreation Center because I was looking for a gym to attend while living in Iowa City (I can proudly say that I’ve been to the gym a total of one time.) But, I was more intrigued by the garden attached to the side of the building.

Normally I would ask someone about the garden, receive a short explanation, nod my head and go on my way. But, this summer I am a Blue Planet Green Living intern. I get to satisfy my curiosity by being a journalist. So, last Wednesday Hayley Noneman, a summer intern with Iowa City Parks and Recreation, took me on a tour of Parks and Recreation’s garden projects….

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Take the Itch Away with Motherlove Green Salve

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Last week, I was sitting at my computer alternately scratching my first mosquito bite of the season and trying to page through my emails. No stranger to itching, I had remnants of poison ivy dotting my left knee. My second case of poison ivy so far this summer, darn it all.

And even though symptoms of my annual battle with the toxic vine are lessening each year thanks to a concoction my pharmacist sells, the itching is enough to drive me somewhat mad.

So, when the following email came up on my screen, it immediately caught my attention:

“I’m writing on behalf of summer and all things itchy and scratchy. Figuring Iowa is full of mosquitoes after all the 4th of July rain, I’m reaching out to see if you’d be interested in reviewing the Green Salve from Motherlove Herbal Company. It’s saving our skin over in Wisconsin. Thanks!

Julie — the new Blog Review Mother for Motherlove Herbal Company”

No way I’d turn down that offer. I immediately wrote back….

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Surf Sweets All-Natural Treats Get Thumbs Up

July 14, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog, Food, Front Page, Nutrition, Organic, Reviews, Slideshow

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If you have young kids, you’re no doubt careful about what snacks and treats they eat at home. But everywhere else they go, their diet is pretty much out of your control. If you want to allow your kids occasional treats but still protect them from artificial dyes and sweeteners, Surf Sweets candies may be a good choice.

Gummy Worms nutrition facts. Courtesy: Surf Sweets

Too much sugar in anyone’s diet is a bad idea. And it’s a really bad idea for children with a developing weight problem. My best recommendation is to give your kids healthy foods, including lots of raw fruits and vegetables for snacks. But let’s face it, most of us want a little snack from time to time. And if your child is going to have a sweet snack, it’s way better to give them a healthier alternative than most of the candies on the market….

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Striving for Sustainable Design

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Eco-friendly, or “green,” design options are better for everyone involved, from the builders and painters to the people who use the completed structure. The new norm is sustainable design, and “green is the new black” in building and decorating homes, offices, and other buildings.

The primary purpose of sustainable design, according to Wikipedia, is to “eliminate negative environmental impact completely through skillful, sensitive design.” Sustainable design includes green building materials, paint/stain, flooring, counter tops, furniture, hardware/fixtures, lighting, and even decorative accents.

It may sound easy, then, to choose sustainable products and materials when you are building, renovating, or improving a home. Yet, there’s still much to learn in this relatively new field, and the importance of doing things right is overwhelmingly obvious. After all, the more resources we use right now without acknowledging the necessity of sustainability, the less we will have to work with later….

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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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Fair Trade Connects Local Producers with Global Consumers

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Zulugrass necklaces are at home in both Kenya’s pasturelands and a trendy boutique in Los Angeles. A colorful, coiled group of The Leakey Collection’s Zulugrass™ strands costs $39.95. But what the price tag doesn’t mention is that the woman who cut, dyed, and beaded the native Kenyan grass into this necklace is earning enough money to feed and educate her family for years to come.

Katy and Philip Leakey founded The Leakey Collection™ after a devastating drought a decade ago destroyed the livelihoods of their neighbors in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley. As the landscape became charred and depleted, the community’s men moved north to find grazing grounds for their cattle, and the women and children were left behind with no source of income….

Recently, Philip and Katy visited one of these retail outlets — Zero Minus Plus in Santa Monica, California — to discuss the local impact of buying fair trade products. “Fair trade is a response to globalization,” Philip said. “Several decades ago, people produced [goods] for their local markets. With the internationalization of markets, many producers lost their buyers.” Fair trade is a market-based attempt to connect these producers with their new, global consumers, focusing on ethical and sustainable business practices….

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Natural Living Expo to Host EcoParty March 27 in Des Moines

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Are you thinking about attending the Natural Living Expo at the Polk County Convention Center on March 27 and 28? If you’re going to be in the Des Moines (Iowa) area that weekend, here’s another reason to include the Expo in your plans: the EcoParty!

After the Expo closes for the day on Saturday (March 27) at 6 p.m., it’s time for the adults to kick back and have some fun. Iowa’s own natural living celebrity, Michele Beschen, will be your host for a food and fashion celebration from 6 to 9 p.m. Beschen, who is the host of Iowa Public Television’s b.organic show, will emcee the EcoParty fashion show….

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Chorlton Big Green Festival Celebrates “All Things Eco & Ethical”

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Community members and visitors in South Manchester, England are gearing up for the second-annual Chorlton Big Green Festival, to be held March 27. In 2009, an estimated 4,000 visitors gathered at the first festival where they learned about livign lighter on the planet and celebrated the green lifestyle.

The 2010 event, which begins at 11:00 AM on Saturday, the 27th, will include a mix of entertainments and exhibits, a bicycle race, and a wide variety of organic foods. “The idea behind Chorlton’s Big Green Festival,” say the organizers, “is to offer local people the chance to sample sustainability in fun and friendly surroundings.”

Several types of events are promised for the day, but don’t miss the lead-off Thursday evening at the What Next? Forum…

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Surface Hair Care Products – Gluten Free, Vegan, Not Tested on Animals

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Over the past several months, I’ve been using Surface Hair Care products as part of my daily routine. With color-treated hair (yes, I’m going gray beneath the blond), my locks sometimes get dry and brittle. The two varieties of Surface products I’ve tried are gentle on my hair and help keep it feeling soft and healthy.

Initially, a stylist friend (Carolyn at Carolyn’s Place, Studio 101, Coralville, Iowa) introduced me to the Trinity line of Surface products. She knows that I’m concerned both about the planet and my own health. Carolyn’s partner had recently been to a Surface product training in Florida and was excited about how environmentally respectful and people-friendly the products are….

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Electronics TakeBack Coalition Promotes Producer Responsibility

February 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog, E-Stewards, E-Waste, EPA, Front Page, Recycling, Slideshow

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Our home stands on top of a toxic waste dump.

And if you’re stockpiling obsolete electronics in the house, so does yours.

That clunky old CRT computer monitor or TV that’s currently collecting dust in the basement, attic, closet, or garage contains anywhere from 4 to 8 pounds of lead. The new flatscreen LCD monitor you replaced it with contains far less lead, so you might think it would be safer for the environment.

Actually, it’s not…

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National Cristina Foundation — Connecting Used Technology to Worthy Recipients

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“The National Cristina Foundation (NCF) is a not-for-profit foundation dedicated to the support of training through donated technology,” says the organization’s website. In 1984, NCF co-founders, businessman David Bruce McMahan and special education instructor Yvette Marrin experienced an “aha moment,” when McMahan’s daughter, Cristina, one of Marrin’s students, suggested her father could provide the school with much-needed computer equipment. McMahan and Marrin made a critical connection between problem and solution that resulted in the establishment of the National Cristina Foundation.

They saw a way to address the convergence of several issues: managing the increasing stockpile of millions of obsolete computers, the benefit access to computers offers disabled and disadvantaged people, and the environmental challenge of responsible reuse and recycling of outdated electronics.

“We felt sure that computers coming out of their first place of use, where they were considered of little value, could be transferred to places where they would be of great value,” Marrin stated. Since that time, the foundation has worked to assure that no functioning equipment that can be repurposed is ever wasted….

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Basel Action Network — Part of the E-Waste Solution

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The Basel Action Network (BAN), is “a global toxic-trade watchdog organization” that works to prevent the dumping of used electronics from wealthy nations to developing nations. With so many companies and charitable organizations offering to collect your used computer, flatscreen TV, or cell phone, consumers are often lulled into the illusion that our used goods are going to be used for good. Instead, many of them end up dismantled, burned, and dumped in Ghana, China, Nigeria, and other developing nations.

BAN — named for the Basel Convention, the UN-administered agreement that regulates hazardous waste shipment — is the world’s foremost organization focused on confronting the environmental and economic ramifications of toxic trade. Working to prevent disproportionate and unsustainable dumping of the world’s toxic waste and pollution on the poorest nations, BAN actively promotes sustainable and just solutions to the consumption and waste crisis — banning waste trade, while advocating green, toxic-free design of consumer products….

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Photographer Della Calfee Focuses on Green Clients

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When Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) interviewed Bay Area artist and ecopreneur Della Calfee, we were intrigued by her self-description as a “green” photographer. How does that look in terms of her portfolio of images? we wondered. And, What kinds of clients hire a green photographer? We asked Calfee about these topics when we spoke with her by phone from her San Jose, California home.

CALFEE: I’ve been shooting pictures for decades, but it was only a couple years ago that I looked back at my body of work and realized that I was a “green” photographer. Once I realized that, something crystallized, and I have been able to move forward with much greater passion and direction and confidence.

To me, “green” means making environmentally conscious choices in every action taken. It means respecting life — including people, but not exclusively. So my photography focuses on clients working toward a better environment. Sustainably produced products; and green-minded services, leaders, and events would all be examples of “green” photography clients. …

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Hall Wines St. Helena Earns LEED Gold Certification

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You’re out to dinner with friends, ready to order a glass of wine with your meal. You look over the wine list, considering your options: White or red? Dry or sweet? Domestic or imported? Organically grown or not? And on and on… But it’s a good bet that you never stop to wonder whether the wine you will choose was produced with energy-savings in mind. For most of us, energy savings don’t spring readily to mind when we’re sitting in a restaurant. But starting today, there’s another factor to consider when choosing a wine…

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Crofter’s Superfruit Spread Gives a Tangy Twist to Jam

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When Crofter’s sent Blue Planet Green Living samples of their new jam, I wondered how different could this product really be? Jam is jam, right? But after one bite into a piece of toast topped with the gooey spread, I knew I was in for a treat.

Manufactured in Canada, Crofter’s Superfruit Spreads are a USDA-certified organic product. The four varieties are named by the continents on which the fruits grow: North America, Europe, Asia, and South America. The spreads are produced by combining morello cherries and red grape with superfruits — fruits with exceptional nutrition and antioxidants — unique to a specific continent.

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The Leakey Collection – Making “Something from Nothing” Creates Sustainability for Maasai Families

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Under the shade of a small stand of acacia trees, more than a dozen Maasai women are laughing, talking, and singing. Their brightly colored dresses create a cheerful contrast with the buff grass beneath them. Nearby, their children run and play together while the women string colored beads cut from strips of Zulugrass.

The result of their labor is both versatile and lovely — necklaces, bracelets, belts, and earrings in a rainbow of colors. Each piece is made primarily of natural materials harvested sustainably from local resources. The jewelry they make will be sold by the Leakey Collection in more than 20 countries around the world…

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Green Living Begins with a Barr Mansion Organic Wedding

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As consumers opt for more earth-friendly choices at home, many are also requesting organic foods at restaurants. But to date, only one venue we know of provides brides and grooms with a fully organic wedding — and all in a setting as gorgeous as any fairytale. Located just outside Austin, Texas, the Barr Mansion is the only certified organic special events facility in the nation. We spoke with Melanie McAfee, co-owner of the Barr Mansion, along with her husband, Mark.

We asked Melanie about the process of going fully organic and what this means to their staff and their clients. But going organic isn’t the owners’ only consideration: They’re striving to buy locally — or at least in the US — and reduce their carbon footprint, all while offering wedding memories to last a lifetime.

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GreenChoice Bank: Green Services You Can Bank On

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Going green as a business makes economic and environmental sense, even in tough economic times. It also provides opportunities to make a positive difference in a community. Like any business venture, a green business requires investment capital and banking services. GreenChoice Bank, led by co-founders, Steve Sherman and Jon Levey, is targeted specifically to address the unique financial needs of green businesses in the Chicago area.

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