Overcome Obsolescence by Buying Sustainably

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I’ve been writing about sustainability and green lifestyle for a while now. But the recent demise of my kettle, after only three years of use, got me thinking about sustainable consuming in a way that was much closer to home.

I am in my kitchen, drinking a cup of tea, made with water that was boiled in a milk pan. It’s what I’ve used for the last few weeks because I made the decision never again to buy a kettle that is made deliberately to break. Trying to find a sustainable alternative has not been easy. Planned or built-in obsolescence is common practice, especially in electrical products.

Unsurprisingly, I was not able to find an electrical kettle with a warranty that stretched beyond five years. But what I did stumble over in my travels across the net was the term heirloom design….

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Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion—A Guide to Staying Stylish While Keeping the Environment in Mind

March 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Books, Clothing, Fashion, Front Page, Slideshow

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Before last month, the last time I read an entire book was December 1999, after I got the third Harry Potter book for Christmas.

However, I completely absorbed myself in “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” by Elizabeth L. Cline on a Saturday afternoon as a result of her easy-to-read writing style and well-researched chapters. Cline sets out to investigate the impact of “fast fashion” retailers like Forever 21 and H&M—stores that have prices so low that clothing becomes practically disposable—on the environment, the economy, and the typical American consumer’s lifestyle. But it starts out as a personal story beginning when Cline finds herself at Kmart. Standing in front of an expansive rack, she recklessly purchases seven pairs of $7 canvas flip flops that had been marked down from $15 and is inspired to look into today’s fashion consumer lifestyle.

The result? A book covers so many topics that it’s impossible to touch on everything in a review. Cline discusses how clothing has become a trillion-dollar global industry, the plummeting price of apparel, the move to overseas production, the separation between cost and quality, the effect of our increased consumption on the environment, and so much more. After reading this book, I was inspired to reflect upon my own fashion choices. I’ve made some changes as a result….

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The Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Mystery: What’s With All the Labels?

December 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Beauty Products, Blog, Front Page, Slideshow, Take Action, Vegan

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Like a lot of people, the thought of applying cosmetics that were once slathered into rabbits’ eyes or forced down rats’ throats makes me want to make a mad dash for the makeup remover. But navigating the sea of cosmetics and decoding their labels to figure out which were and which were not tested on animals can seem tougher than getting “Call Me Maybe” out of your head. So I looked into some of the most common labels found on cosmetics, and here’s what I found…

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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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My 5: Louis Hayner, CSO, Alteva

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Louis Hayner, Chief Sales Officer for Alteva, responded to our favorite question for the folks we interview. Alteva provides hosted unified communications to businesses. Following is Hayner’s response.

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

* Implement Hosted Technologies.

When a customer chooses a hosted vs. premise-based phone solution for its communications, they contribute to an overall reduction in resources and costs of power and cooling by up to 84 percent. By reducing energy consumption, they reduce the carbon dioxide gas emissions produced as a byproduct of generating electricity.

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The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Making Natural Soaps

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Soap: Laundry soap, dish soap, hand soap, body soap, shampoo. Until I thought about it, I never realized how much soap I bought and used on a regular basis.

What if I started making all these different types of soap at home? With The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Making Natural Soaps by Sally W. Trew and Zonella B. Gould, I not only learned how to make the household product, but how to do it in an environmentally conscious way.

Homemade natural soaps have tons of benefits compared to commercial soaps….

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Naturally Fresh Deodorants – Odor Protection without Health Risks

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When you work at a busy Mexican restaurant with a broken air conditioning system in the middle of summer, you worry about sweat and body odor.

So I was really nervous when I tested Naturally Fresh Deodorant Crystal in Tropical Breeze before a hectic weekend shift. I normally return from work covered in my own blood, sweat, and tears, and other people’s chili con queso. I need a deodorant that works.

I had my doubts about the product because, though I’ve eco-tized most of my toiletries, I haven’t been able to give up my tough Sure brand deodorant/antiperspirant that I buy from the drugstore. I’m so paranoid about sweat and bad odor that I ignore the warnings about aluminum, the active ingredient in traditional deodorant/antiperspirant.

But I was really surprised by Naturally Fresh….

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The Green Garmento – An Eco-Friendly Dry Cleaning Tote

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“Using The Green Garmento for your dry cleaning is similar to the reusable totes movement, which started as something grocery stores were offering and has changed the way people do their grocery shopping,” says Jennie Nigrosh, president and co-founder of The Green Garmento.

Nigrosh’s product is a dry cleaning bag that consumers use over and over again, both as a hamper at home and as a way to transport their dry cleaning without plastic bags. “Way beyond the fact that we have an interesting product that helps make life easier, helps to organize your closet, and helps you be green all at the same time,” Nigrosh adds, “it’s a new category.

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) interviewed Nigrosh by phone from her California office to learn more about The Green Garmento as well as its acceptance in the dry-cleaning world and in homes around the nation….

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Take Action Today to Support the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010

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In our house over the past two years or so, we’ve been carefully examining every personal care product we buy. If you’re a long-time reader of Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL), you already know that we are huge fans of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and their Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database. Today, we received […]

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ECOS Free and Clear Laundry Detergent

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Used to be, we had very few choices in laundry detergent. And all of them had fragrances that were so strong people could smell us coming. Now, with Free and Clear detergents as an option, we no longer have to walk around smelling like some chemist’s idea of nature. ECOS Free and Clear All Natural Laundry Detergent is one of many options available to people like me, who would rather not have to smell my clothing all day (or anyone else’s).

But there are other good things about this item in the Earth Friendly Products line, like no itching….

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Scented Cleaning Products May Harm Your Health

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Cleaning products that are artificially scented with smells like lilac, lemon, pine, and tropical rainforest may be popular with consumers, but the fragrances themselves shouldn’t be. Each fragrance is potentially made up of hundreds of chemicals — many of them toxic, according to Erin Switalski, executive director of Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE).

“It’s basically chemical soup in a lot of these products,” Switalski says.

WVE is a national organization that works to eliminate toxic chemicals that impact women’s health. The group compiled What’s That Smell?, a landmark report that examines the health effects of hidden fragrance chemicals.

Women are disproportionately affected by the chemicals in fragrances since they use them more frequently than men. They also experience more health effects from the fragrances, such as skin rashes, headaches, and breathing problems. Plus, they can pass chemicals on to their children during pregnancy and breastfeeding….

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Biokleen Soy Toilet Scrub – Green Cleaning for Your Bathroom

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What do you use to clean your toilet? You want it to be clean and look clean. But, since you’re concerned about the environment, you surely don’t want to use a toxic product that is bad for wildlife or one that pollutes the waterways.

Yet, it’s easy to fall for advertising hype that tells consumers the only way to really clean that toilet bowl is with heavy-duty chemicals. Of course, no marketer is going to admit that a product contains toxic substances. The story is always about how “sanitized” or “fresh” your bathroom is once you use Product XYZ.

But there are better ways to achieve a clean bathroom than to pollute yourself with VOCs and pollute your local waterways with bleach or other toxins.

Biokleen Soy Toilet Scrub is a non-toxic, biodegradable product that won’t leave your head spinning with fumes or send harsh chemicals down your drain….

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Wicked Fresh! Toothpaste Saves Your Breath (& Your Friends)

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Go on, admit it. You’ve had bad breath — and on more than one occasion. If you were lucky, you figured it out yourself and quickly brushed or rinsed or even chewed some gum. Or maybe a family member had the kindness to tell you before you went out in public. Worst-case scenario, you didn’t figure it out until people started backing away or covering their noses.

It’s an embarrassing situation, and I’m pretty confident when I say we’ve all been there. (If you think you haven’t, be really brave and ask someone who loves you enough to tell the truth.)

Tom’s of Maine is known for making quality natural products, and their toothpaste is no exception. Their new Wicked Fresh! fluoride toothpaste is specially designed to fight bad breath caused by VSCs — volatile sulfur compounds — created by bacteria in your mouth.

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Radius Scores with Source Toothbrush and Natural Floss

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How many times a day do you brush your teeth? If you follow the advice of WebMD, you’ll brush twice a day – morning and night. (You’ll also floss once a day.) So, in a given year, you’re brushing at least 730 times. But when you count the strokes of the toothbrush in your mouth, you’re talking about a number in the thousands. Doesn’t it just make sense that you’d use high-quality tools for something you do so often to protect your oral health?

For years I’ve used whatever toothbrush my dentist gave me at my semi-annual checkups and with replacements from my local drugstore in between visits. They’re fine toothbrushes. Soft bristles. An relatively comfortable handle. Colorful and sometime even fancy, but certainly serviceable. And until recently, I thought of them all as disposable.

When I received a free sample of the Radius Source toothbrush, I got a whole new experience with dental hygiene. Once out of the package, its unique, molded shape fit my right hand perfectly….

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Parsley Plus All Surface Cleaner Does It Right

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When Earth Friendly Products makes the claim that they’re eco-friendly, they have the credentials to prove it. This family-owned business makes and sells super-effective cleaning products, including Parsley Plus All Surface Cleaner. In my opinion, this is one of the best all-around cleaners available — and that includes both natural and toxic cleaners. I love how well it cleans, what it’s made of, and even how it smells. I can’t say all that about many other cleaners — can you?

Like pretty much everyone we know, Joe and I are busy people. Sometimes we don’t get around to doing all the cleaning tasks on our list as quickly as we’d like. Recently, we let our upstairs tub and shower go just a little too long between cleanings. When we were sprucing up the house for a family party, we kicked into gear for a quick spritz around the house before everyone arrived. I got ready to tackle our upstairs bathroom. Oh, boy.

To say that the white walls of the tub and shower enclosure were looking a little gray might actually be an understatement, but let’s just leave it at that. I grabbed the bottle of Parsley Plus All Surface Cleaner and started spraying about a three-foot-square section of a shower wall. Then I turned my attention to the sink while that part was soaking….

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My Deodorant Is a Stainless Steel Bar

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When the public relations rep for De Odor Works contacted me to try their new deodorant bar made of stainless steel, I was skeptical, but willing. After all, I’ve seen concerns in the media about the connection between deodorants/antiperspirants and everything from Alzheimer’s disease to breast cancer to kidney disease. So, trying a deodorant that doesn’t have chemicals in it seemed like a good idea.

But let’s talk about the difference between a deodorant and an antiperspirant. Sweat itself doesn’t smell. So sweat is not the enemy. Your body — and mine — has several kinds of bacteria that live on the skin, and some of those cause odors. It’s not the bacteria themselves that smell, either, but the waste products they produce after eating those sweat-laden, dead skin cells then “breaking down protein into certain acids,” according to Medical News Today.

So, the upshot is that we don’t really need to prevent sweating, we need to prevent the bacteria from excreting their foul-smelling waste products on our skin. That’s what De Odor Works, manufactured by Abbott Research Group, Inc., is supposed to do. “Its secret,” Abbott Research Group says, “is the unique reaction that occurs when ordinary running tap water and stainless steel combine to neutralize odor. Using stainless steel with running water is a recognized method of eliminating the volatile sulfur compounds (VSC) that cause odor. Stainless steel is biocompatible to human tissue, so you can use De Odor Works anywhere on your body without any adverse effects.”…

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Christopher Drummond Eye Shadow Rocks!

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When you want a burst of color on your eyes, you normally have to wear heavy, cakey, powdery eye shadow.

Not anymore. I reviewed Christopher Drummond Beauty’s eye shadow in petal-pink and sky-blue, and fell in love with the iridescent, jewel-toned colors.

My favorite was the sky-blue. Sometimes people shy away from this bold color, fearing they’ll look like Mimi from old episodes of The Drew Carey Show. With this loose-powder eye shadow, users get a beautiful burst of blue that isn’t overpowering. I wore the shadow both to work and out to dinner, and got so many compliments on how pretty it was. It’s appropriate for all occasions, whether fancy or casual.

Plus, it’s made from all natural ingredients, and it’s vegan. All Christopher Drummond’s products comply with the EU Cosmetics Directive and have no known potential carcinogens. Scarily, many companies in the cosmetics industry sell products that contain ingredients banned from food. The company is affiliated with The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, PETA, and Green People. At the time of this writing, Christopher Drummond Beauty products have not yet been evaluated by Environmental Working Group on their Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database….

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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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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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Old Clothes Cluttering Your Closet? Swap-O-Rama-Rama!

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I’ll bet you have clothes in your closet that you haven’t worn for years. And how about shoes? How many of those are cluttering your shoe rack or heaped on the floor?

The vast majority of people reading this post have clothes that you’ve forgotten about. What good are they doing cluttering up limited closet and drawer space? Isn’t it time to tell them to move along?

After all, someone, somewhere, would love to have a gently used pair of jeans in the size that no longer fits you. Or maybe they’d enjoy those black pumps you only wore a couple of times before deciding they’re not really your style. And that cool outfit you bought that turned out to look better in the magazine than it does on you? Yeah, somebody else would like that one, too.

Swap-O-Rama-Rama (SORR) is an event designed to solve the problem of too many clothes and too little space. At a Swap-O-Rama-Rama, you donate your lovingly worn or long-forgotten clothing at the event, then take home something that’s just right for you today….

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