An April Breeze and a Soothing Candle

April 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog, Consumer Goods, Front Page, Recycling, Reviews, Slideshow

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Linnea's Lights candles are double-wicked and long-lasting. Photo: Brigette Fanning

I had already mistaken this abnormally hot April day for summer. After lighting a Linnea’s Lights candle, I could swear it is mid-July.

The Linden candle smells crisp and fresh, complementing the breeze coming from my open window on this beautiful night. It adds a light, unobtrusive scent to my bedroom. Plus, it’s handmade of natural soy wax with two lead-free, cotton wicks, and packaged in recycled materials.

Soy candles are clean burning, meaning they don’t produce black soot like traditional paraffin candles — something both my landlord and I can agree on. Paraffin is made from petroleum; burning a paraffin (wax) candle releases eleven known toxins into the air that contribute to global warming. An added cost-saving benefit is that soy burns longer than paraffin wax. My Linnea’s Light’s candle boasts “60 hours of illumination.”

The soy wax used in Linnea’s Lights candles is completely natural and free of any genetically modified materials, herbicides, or pesticides. It’s also biodegradable. The lower melting point of soy is what allows it to burn longer than conventional candles. Conventional candles also leave a pool of wax at the bottom of the container, whereas soy candles burn completely. Plus, soybeans are grown in the United States, supporting our local farmers.

The company uses recycled materials for packaging, and the glass container can be recycled when the candle burns out. Photo: Brigette Fanning

All of the fragrances used in Linnea’s Lights candles pass the California Proposition 65 list of cancer-causing ingredients. They’re free of any petrochemical (paraffin) by-products. Each candle is hand-poured in the Midwest, then packaged by hand in Indiana. The soy wax is produced in small batches and triple scented, increasing the life of the calming fragrance.

The company is committed to using recycled products. Their packaging contains recycled paper, and soy- and water-based inks. The glass vessel, however, is not made of recycled glass, but is recyclable after use.

Linnea’s Lights candles come in 16 different scents, including such enticing names as Blue Agave, Pomegranate, Black Vanilla, and French Pear. A teaser on the website indicates that limited edition scents for holidays and special occasions will be released soon.

The website has a link to their online retailers: 11 companies offer Linnea’s Lights candles. The double-wick candles sell for around $28.00 to $30.00 on the various sites, making them a bit expensive for everyday use. But the investment is worth it, since breathing in paraffin emissions is damaging to the lungs, especially for those with asthma, emphysema, or other lung conditions.

I have kept my candle burning far into the night tonight. After a long day, nothing has been more relaxing than enjoying the night’s warm breeze and the candle’s soothing scent.

Small Print

Blue Planet Green Living received a free sample of the products described in this post. No other compensation or incentive was provided.

Blue Planet Green Living’s review policy is to only review those products we feel merit overall positive comments. If we do not like a product, we do not review it. We are not influenced by complimentary products and provide our honest opinions. For more information, please visit the Policies tab on the top navigation bar.

Blue Planet Green Living has an affiliate relationship with If you purchase this product or any other products through Amazon by clicking on our affiliate link, Blue Planet Green Living will receive a small financial compensation from Amazon, which we use to sustain this website.

Brigette Fanning

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Salba Smart – Super Bowl Treats that Are Good for Your Heart

Salba Smart sells a wide variety of delicious — and healthy — foods for your Super Bowl party or any other occasion. Photo: Courtesy Salba Smart

On Super Bowl Sunday, when you dip your hand into a bag of pretzels or grab some chips and salsa, you can take good care of your heart while indulging your junk-food craving. Yeah, I know. You’ve heard lots of claims of “healthy” foods that “taste good, too” — but do they?

Many of the “healthy” snacks I’ve tried are less than satisfying. But Salba Smart snacks are both delicious and good for you. My friends and I can testify to their taste, and the fact sheets give ample evidence of their health effects.

Pretzels: Good, good, good!

Delicious and crispy, even after two weeks! Photo: Courtesy Salba Smart

A couple of weeks ago or so, a representative from Salba sent Blue Planet Green Living a big box of samples (gratis) for us to review. As I write this post, Joe and I are both eating Salba Smart pretzels. “Good, good, good!” he says spontaneously. “I like these a lot!” He’s munching pretzels while working at his computer (presumably being careful not to drop salt crystals in his keyboard). We’re not exactly fighting over the bag, but we’re each making sure we have a stash on our own side of the desk.

I’m a little bit surprised there are any pretzels left, come to think of it. We began sampling them just after the box arrived two (or was it three?) weeks ago. We started with the Thin Twisted Pretzels (made with organic flour). These are the ones that look like they’re tied in knots. We made short work of that 7 oz. package in just two days.

Then we started on the pretzel sticks  — the bag we’re deep into tonight. We had been interrupted by a trip out of town for a long weekend — and had forgotten about them by the time we got back.

So, now we’re digging in once again to sample more of the Salba goodies so I can write this article. The strange thing is, these pretzel sticks are still crisp and fresh some two weeks after opening them. I don’t eat pretzels all that often, yet it occurs to me that pretzels do go stale. But these didn’t. Hmmm. That’s a definite plus.

Nutritional Benefits

But taste and crispness are not what’s most important. The reason Salba Smart pretzels (and all the other Salba snacks) are good for you is the grain they’re made from. Grown in Peru, Salba is a white relative of the small, black chia seeds, those little seeds you wet and stick to a clay chia pot. But, according to the literature provided with our samples, Salba is leagues ahead in health benefits. If you’re curious about the difference between Salba and chia, you can read a fact sheet on the Salba website.

Following are some facts nutritional facts about Salba, provided by the company:

    • Higher in Omega-3 than flax and salmon
    • Higher anti-oxidants than blueberries and pomegranates
    • Plant origin ensures maximum absorption and health benefits
    • 0g trans fats, 0g sugars, o gluten and certified non GMO

Salba is the richest whole food source of Omega 3 fatty acids and fiber found in nature. Every serving of Salba provides over 3,000 mg of Omega 3’s and over 5000 mg of dietary fiber. It is also high in antioxidants, protein, calcium and iron. Salba has less than 0.5 g net carbohydrate per serving.  It is all-natural, has no trans fat, is gluten free, has almost no carbohydrates and is non-GMO.

Ounce for ounce Salba grain provides three times more iron than spinach, 15 times more magnesium than broccoli, and six times more calcium than whole milk. Salba grain is the only food, (including grains, vegetables and fruits) that is part of each of the six groups of the USDA Food Guide Pyramid.

A Medical Patent

What? A healthy grain has a patent? And it’s not GMO? That seems counter-intuitive these days. Yet, it’s true. The Salba seed was developed over 15 years of selective breeding — natural plant breeding, no gene splicing. The growers received a medical patent (60-274.256), described by the company literature as follows:

This invention is in the field of the management of diabetes and is concerned with dietary approaches to such management, more particularly, it is concerned with methods of improving associated metabolic abnormalities, specifically with Salba, and methods of use in these seeds in lowering blood pressure, blood glucose and post-prandial glycemia, as well as associated risk factors such as inflammatory factors (hi-C reactive protein), coagulation (fibrinogen, factor VIII, Von Willebrant and fibronolytic factors such as t-PA, iron status and endothelial function.


The Salba salsas are good — but don't expect them to be hot! Photo: Courtesy Salba Smart

Okay, so your heart health isn’t the foremost item on you mind as you reach for a snack during the Super Bowl — or while watching a movie, waiting for your kids at soccer practice, or any other time you might want something to munch on. Most likely, you’re looking to satisfy your palate. Salba can do that too, depending on what kind of flavors you prefer.

In our package, we got three jars of Salba salsa: Mild, Medium, and Hot. All three have a fairly heavy tomato taste. I don’t particularly care for hot, spicy foods, so I was quite happy with both the Mild and the Medium. Joe and I took the Medium and the Hot salsas to a potluck, and the general feedback from attendees was that the Hot just wasn’t hot. I didn’t try the Hot salsa, so I can’t say that firsthand, but it fits with my impression of the mildness of the other two varieties.

Potato Crisps

The Bar-B-Que Potato Crisps — not my fave, but someone sure liked them. Photo: Courtesy Salba Smart

We received several types and varieties of chips. The Baked Original Recipe Potato Chips are somewhat sweet, and not very salty. They have an interesting — and unusual, I think — flavor for a potato chip. I can’t quite describe what they taste like, but they’re totally unlike any potato chips I’ve eaten before. I’m not a huge fan of them, but they’re not offensive; maybe they’re just too bland for me.

The Baked Bar-B-Que Crisps disappeared fairly rapidly — but it wasn’t me who ate them, as I don’t care much for barbeque flavoring on chips. Someone made short work of them, though. My only evidence is the tiny pile of crumbs left in the bag, but that’s good enough to see that whoever ate them liked them a lot.

The third variety of potato crisps is the Baked Cheddar & Sour Cream Potato Crisps. Again, most of these disappeared somehow (we’ve had a number of gatherings of family and friends in the past couple of weeks), though not quite as many as the Baked Bar-B-Que Crisps.

Organic Tortilla Chips

Take your pick of three: Organic White Corn, Organic Yellow Corn, or Organic Blue Corn Chips. Photo: Courtesy Salba Smart

Probably the most universally popular item we received (though it’s not fair to compare them to the pretzels, as we apparently forgot to share those with anyone) were the tortilla crisps. We had a bag of Organic White Corn Tortilla Chips, a bag of Yellow Corn Tortilla Chips, and a bag of Blue Corn Tortilla Chips.

At one potluck dinner we attended, I asked some of our friends to tell me which kind they preferred. Some were adamant that they liked the white corn variety. Equally as many were adamant that they liked the yellow corn chips. My own favorite? The blue corn chips, hands down.

Another friend, Miriam (BPGL’s international editor), wrote the following after trying some of the chips at a potluck, then agreeing to take the remainder home to review:

When I grabbed a few corn chips from a bowl at a potluck recently, I was unprepared for the delightful discovery I was about to make.  I’m not one to rave about food products, although I am a person who cares about what I put in my body and reads labels. What I discovered first of all was the unusually robust, nutty flavor of the not-too-salty, extra-crunchy, organic yellow corn tortilla chips manufactured by Salba Smart. After I read the label, however, I decided I would probably never buy another brand again:
    • 8x more Omega-3s than salmon
    • 30% more antioxidants than blueberries
    • 25% more fiber than flax seed
    • 6x more calcium than whole milk
    • 2x more potassium than a banana
    • 15x more magnesium than broccoli
Wow! I immediately checked the local food co-op to see if they were on the shelf. Not. Today I’ll take them the (empty) package and see what I can do about getting them on the shelf. These are just too good to ignore.

I also received the following message from Gay, Miriam’s sister, with the subject line “Where did you get these?”

Miriam brought home a pkg. of chips that were really good plus quite healthy which she said you gave her.  I’ve looked several places for them, but no luck.  Do you remember what the brand was and where you got them?  I’d like to get some.

Salba Whole Grain

Salba whole grain tastes delicious on cereal. Photo: Courtesy Salba SmartSo, enough about snacks. I want to tell you about my absolute favorite Salba product, and it has very little to do with snacking. The product I like best is the whole grain Salba. To be quite honest, I didn’t bother to open the package until just a few days ago. I wasn’t all that interested in spreading a bunch of tiny seeds on top of my cereal or salad. I eat plenty of seeds and nuts to get protein (I’m almost a vegetarian — getting there), and didn’t care to add another one.

Still, in the interest of writing a fair review, I opened the package and sprinkled about a teaspoonful on my cereal. I figured it would be akin to eating bird seed. But I was wrong.

The Salba quickly softens around the edges, but stays crunchy on the inside. It’s a bit sticky when wet, and clings to the bowl if it escapes floating in my (rice) milk. It’s easily digestible, and didn’t cause me any kind of stomach upset.

I like the flavor of the Salba seeds. Again, I’m not sure how to describe the flavor — maybe a bit nutty, but not really. A bit sweet, but not terribly. “Pleasant” is about the best description I could come up with.

Joe typically doesn’t like to sprinkle small seeds, such as flax, on his food. But he tried the Salba, and he likes it, too. Now we sprinkle the Salba seed on our cereal every morning. We haven’t tried it in salads or sauces, yet, as suggested on the package, but it’s only a matter of time. Given the heart-healthy benefits of Salba, it will remain a consistent part of our daily diet.

By the way, there’s a ground form of the Salba seed, too. I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s going to be perfect for adding to cranberry bread or zucchini bread the next time I bake.

Where to Find It

You can purchase Salba products at any of the following:

Whole Foods Market

Vitamin Cottage

If you cannot find Salba products at your local food co-op, share this article with their purchasing department or customer service. Or send them to the Salba Smart website.

The Small Print

DISCLOSURE: Blue Planet Green Living received free samples of each of the Salba Smart products discussed in this post.

Blue Planet Green Living has an affiliate relationship with If you purchase any products through Amazon by clicking on our affiliate link, Blue Planet Green Living will receive financial compensation from Amazon.

Blue Planet Green Living’s review policy is to only review those products we feel merit an overall positive review. If we do not like a product, we do not review it. We are not influenced by any samples and provide our honest opinions.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

3 Products We Love for Skin, Face, and Hair

Three product for review

Avalon Organics Olive and Grape Seed Fragrance Free Hand & Body Lotion, Moroccanoil, and Sweet Skin by Sweet Wheat

Today’s post is a review of three products for body, face, and hair that I’ve come to love. When we review products on Blue Planet Green Living, we look at them with the following criteria in mind:

  • High quality product and/or performance — based on our own, subjective criteria.
  • Not tested on animals.
  • Contains organic ingredients (if applicable).
  • Rates Low Hazard (0–2) or Moderate Hazard (3–6) on Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database.
  • Uses minimal packaging that can be recycled and/or is made of recyclable materials.
  • Average or below-average price compared with similar goods.

Just to be clear, we won’t review a product if we don’t like it enough to say positive things. (Has that happened? You bet it has. But those products shall remain nameless; there’s already too much negativity in the world.) If we get a product as a free sample, we’ll tell you so. Otherwise, you can be confident that we paid for them, just like any other consumer would. And that’s the case with all three products today: We bought them.

1. Avalon Organics Hand & Body Lotion

Avalon Organics Olive and Grape Seed Hand & Body Lotion

Avalon Organics Olive and Grape Seed Hand & Body Lotion is gentle and long lasting. Product photo: Avalon Organics

Joe loves this product as much as I do. We generally buy the Olive & Grape Seed Fragrance-Free variety in a 12 fl. oz. bottle (currently $11.45 plus tax & shipping). But, because we like to buy in larger quantities, we have also purchased a bottle of the Aloe – Unscented (currently $19.95 plus tax & shipping) to try.

Both products score a 2 on the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Datbase, which is at the top end of the Low Hazard range. Cool.

Another great thing about these lotions, besides the all-important lack of added scent (a lot of fragrances cause me to have asthma), is that they don’t dry out our skin. They feel creamy going on and last all day.

Joe has some particularly raw patches that develop on the backs of his hands in winter. We haven’t used much of the Aloe variety yet, so I can’t say much about it. But the Olive & Grape Seed variety is one of only two products he’s found that heal his skin and make it feel better. The other product — from another company — recently added a particularly strong scent, so he was thrilled to find this lotion. We’re eager to see if the Aloe lotion is as good as the Olive & Grape Seed. If so, in the future, we’ll opt for the Aloe’s larger, more economical, bottle.

We also like that Avalon products are not tested on animals. They’re hypoallergenic and vegetarian. They “do not contain parabens or other harsh preservatives, mineral oil, artificial colors, or synthetic fragrances….” The company also claims to support “sustainable agriculture and relentlessly seek out organic ingredients,” though if there’s an explanation of exactly what they mean, I haven’t found it on their website. And the price is reasonable. What’s not to like?

2. Sweet Wheat Sweet Skin Botanical Moisturizing Cream

Until I bought this cream and started using it about a month and a half ago, the skin on my cheeks was a bit dry and flaky. Now it’s smoother, softer, with no flakes. I still see wrinkles, but I think my skin is healthier.

The product information on the Sweet Wheat website lists these ingredients:

  • Pro vitamin B5 (to nourish the skin)
  • Marine algae (for its mineral content
  • Carrot oil for vitamin A (promotes the healing of skin)
  • Calcium (to nourish and enhance elasticity)
  • Calendula Oil, zinc and lavender (for their healing properties)
  • Green Tea (a powerful antioxidant)
Sweet Skin by Sweet Wheat

Sweet Skin comes with a jar of white cream and a vial of Sweet Wheat to mix in it. Product photo: Sweet Wheat

When I opened the package (just a small, thin cardboard box), I found both a 1.5 oz plastic jar of a white cream and a small plastic vial of dark green liquid that contained the sweet wheat serum. The directions said to cut the top off the vial and squeeze the serum into the cream. I’ve got to say that wasn’t the most pleasant-looking concoction when I finished. I mixed the cream and the serum to make a gooey paste that’s a light tan speckled with green. Oh, and it’s pretty sticky on my face.

I tried looking this product up on the Skin Deep Cosmetic Database, but it wasn’t rated. Apparently, it has not yet been reviewed. But, since it’s made from “a pure vegetable base” and “organic wheat grass juice powder,” I feel pretty confident that it’s safe to use.

Besides the stickiness, the only real drawback for me was the price, at $39.95. That’s not out of range compared to many cosmetic products, but it’s not exactly a bargain-hunter’s dream, either.

3. Moroccan Oil

Moroccanoil tames wild hair and gives it a shine.

At the salon where I get my hair colored and cut, a very attractive woman named Cheryl works at the front desk. Her hair is straight and glossy, perfect every single day. I finally asked her what on earth she uses on her hair to get it so gorgeous. She walked me over to the product display and showed me: Moroccanoil. I bought it on sight, and I’m now a devoted fan. My hair is straighter, more manageable, and glossier than it ever was before. This stuff ROCKS!

The online catalog says, “We include our signature argan oil in all our products… [I]t is a powerful antioxidant, UV protector, and free radical neutralizer, rich in vitamins…” But is it safe? I checked out the Skin Deep and couldn’t find a product titled Moroccan Oil. But I did find argan oil, and it scores a perfect 0. There were other “moroccan oils,” but they were either chamomile or rose, and both got good ratings

The website also states that the products are not tested on animals and contain no animal ingredients. In addition, it says, “Whenever possible, we use recycled packaging materials.”

You can purchase Moroccanoil at many fine salons. I looked for a way to buy it off the website, but couldn’t do so. The price I paid was $39 for 3.4 fl. oz.

The Small Print

DISCLOSURE: Blue Planet Green Living purchased all of these products and received no compensation in any form for this review.

Blue Planet Green Living’s policy is to only review those books we feel merit an overall positive review. If we do not like a product more than we dislike it, we do not review it. We are not influenced by any free samples and provide our honest opinions, both positive and negative.

Blue Planet Green Living has an affiliate relationship with If you purchase any products through Amazon by clicking on our affiliate link, Blue Planet Green Living will receive financial compensation from Amazon.

Blue Planet Green Living is a Shop to Earn/Shop to Earth member. Avalon Organics and Sweet Wheat products are featured on Shop to Earth. If you purchase Avalon Organics or Sweet Wheat products through Blue Planet Green Living’s Shop to Earn/Shop to Earth affiliate link, Blue Planet Green Living will receive a 15 percent cash reimbursement.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

HappyBellies Organic Brown Rice Cereal – The Perfect First Meal for Baby

Stella can't get enough of the HappyBellies Organic Brown Rice Cereal. Photo: Katie Roche

When my little one was ready to add something more than breast milk to her belly, I felt very unprepared. Food suddenly seemed like a very daunting, complicated thing. I’d seen how different foods had affected her when transferred with varied results through my breast milk, so I started my search for the perfect first food. It was a no-brainer that any food entering my baby’s body had to be organic, and most of my research turned up rice formula as the best option. Rice is the easiest to digest and less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Rice it would be.

With obvious relish, Stella helps herself to cereal. Photo: Katie Roche

As it turned out, there were really only a few organic rice cereals on the market, and HappyBellies was the only one to offer an organic cereal made of brown rice. Brown rice isn’t a different grain than white rice, it’s really just white rice with the brown cover removed. By definition, leaving the brown cover on the grain qualifies it as a whole grain.

For my own consumption, I tend to choose brown rice over white because it contains more fiber, keeps better form from stew to stir fry, and gets less congealed when fulfilling its destiny as a leftover in the fridge.

Brown rice also contains more nutrients — like magnesium, manganese, and zinc — that are slightly reduced in the process of removing the brown coating to get white rice. Removing nutrients just seems silly to me, especially when it requires more resources. Like peeling a potato, the “skin” of the rice is where the goods are. Alas, with HappyBellies Organic Brown Rice Cereal I had found my baby’s perfect first food.

A satisfied customer of HappyBellies cereal. Photo: Katie Roche

Mixed to a soupy consistency with breast milk, Stella loved her first “meal,” and I had the added happiness of knowing that HappyBellies had boosted the basic cereal with some Dr. Sears’ approved additions.

The label boasts that the cereal contains DHA or Docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that is also prevalent in fish oils and that has been shown to support eye and brain development. HappyBellies has also been fortified with essential vitamins and minerals and includes probiotic microorganisms, which aid in digestion help to keep the digestive system regular.

I’ve seen how probiotics do me well, and I love the idea that Stella’s little system can have the same natural and simple benefits. To this day, when my little one is backed up, I mix a little of this cereal with water, and she is back on track. If she’s really backed, up some prunes mixed with HappyBellies Organic Brown Rice Cereal is the powerhouse option.

From her first meal to where she now stands (or rather walks!) at 9 months, HappyBellies Organic Brown Rice Cereal is a staple in her diet. It thickens up runny baby food, mixes well with water, breast milk, or formula, and is a nice warm porridge for breakfast on a chilly day.

HappyBellies, made by HappyBaby. Photo: Courtesy HappyBaby

Heck, Stella likes it so much, I’ve even tried it. Not bad, though I’d prefer some real brown rice mixed into a nice curry; she’ll get there eventually. Baby steps…

Katie Roche
Contributing Writer
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Product Review – Vivesana Solar to Polar Sunscreen

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Use sunscreen to protect against UVA and UVB rays. Photo: © Lucky Dragon –

The most important function of a sunscreen is, of course, to protect your skin against UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays. But that’s not the only element to consider when choosing what to slather on your skin this summer. Most sunscreens are made with synthetic substances, as well as water and alcohol. But wouldn’t you rather use a sunscreen made with natural and organic ingredients?

Recently, I received two sample tubes of Vivesana Solar to Polar sunscreen to review. The packaging looked interesting, promising “70% Organic, 100% Natural” ingredients with a high SPF of 40 on the Ultra formula and 42 on the Baby product. But I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I pretty much forgot about it for several days. The sunscreen tubes sat on my desk until this past weekend, when Joe and I were invited for a boat ride with friends.

Putting It to the Test

Vivesana Solar to Polar Baby and Ultra Sunscreen formulas. Photo Courtesy: Vivesana

Saturday bright and sunny, with a temperature of about 80 F. As we set out from the dock, I used the cap to puncture the seal on the metal tube (Note: Metal, not plastic — there are no BHAs in this container), which was sealed as tightly as a tube of medicine. When I started to squeeze, I was disappointed when it appeared, at first glance, to be much like pure zinc oxide. I’m not a fan of a thick layer of white goop on my nose or other body parts, though I understand that some people feel they need that much protection from the sun. I squeezed it onto my palm and started to liberally slather Solar to Polar Ultra on my bare skin. I was surprised when the Vivesana sunscreen did not stick in a goopy blob; it blended into my skin rather quickly, and didn’t leave much of a white coating. Don’t get me wrong; it didn’t slide with the ease of Coppertone or one of the other thin liquid sunscreens. Vivesana is a thick cream, and though I didn’t go into the water that day, I am confident it won’t wash away like a thin liquid will. And that’s good news.

Our friend Rob slathered the Vivesana generously on his ears and nose, and didn’t rub it all the way in. For an hour or so, he had white streaks showing exactly where he had used the cream. If he’d had a mirror available, he might have chosen to rub it in all the way. But it didn’t matter. By the time we got to our lunch spot across the lake, there were no traces of the sunscreen left. It had soaked in nicely.

Did it protect us? Yes. Ordinarily, I’d have had sunburn on my nose and shoulders, but that day, I had no sunburn at all. Despite not wearing a hat, Joe had no redness on the top of his shaved head — an area that is usually highly susceptible to sunburn. Rob, too, reported himself sunburn free. Mark, our host, already has a deep tan, so he used a sunscreen that didn’t have as high an SPF, with no ill effects. So, Polar to Solar was a success for us, as far as protection.

But Rob wasn’t crazy about the feel of the Ultra cream on his skin. He reported that it felt “sticky.” Joe said, “It was kind of thick. But since it was my first time out in the sun, I wanted that extra protection. I liked that it didn’t have much of a scent. And it turned invisible and dried right away.” As for me, I had doubts at first. I don’t really care for thick topical ointments like zinc oxide, but Vivesana won me over.

Value Added

I found another benefit last night, while working on this article. I rubbed some Ultra on one of my heels, which tend to be rough and cracked all summer. This morning, when I woke up, my Vivesana-coated heel was significantly softer than the one that hadn’t been coated. This isn’t the main selling point for the product, of course, but it is a wonderful added value. I also liberally rubbed the Ultra cream on my left arm last night, checking the way it felt, how long I thought it remained slightly sticky, and so on. This morning, even after showering, I was very surprised to note that my Vivesana-coated arm was soft and supple, compared to my un-coated arm. That was a very nice surprise.

Another friend, Shanti, who has lovely, dark, soft skin, tried both products on different hands. After a few minutes, I asked her what she thought. She pointed out that the Solar to Polar Baby sunscreen left her skin feeling even softer. The Solar to Polar Ultra was soft, too, but didn’t seem to have soaked in quite as much as the Baby formula. Once she pointed that out, I realized that I could also perceive a difference between the two.


Both the Vivesana Solar to Polar Ultra and Baby formulas have gentle scents, with the Baby sunscreen being the lighter of the two. As a person whose asthma is triggered by certain fragrances, I was grateful that these two caused no reaction. However, I definitely prefer unscented products, as do many people I know. This afternoon, Blue Planet Green Living’s new university intern, Megan, applied the Ultra to her arm and echoed my wish that the product be unscented. You may feel differently, of course — after all, there’s a thriving perfume industry, so my preference for no scent can’t be universal.

What’s Inside?

So, we know Solar to Polar works as a sunscreen, and that it even has side benefits in making skin softer. But what about the ingredients? Since the packaging says “70% Organic, 100% Natural,” I’d expect to see real plants listed, not a bunch of chemicals that I can hardly pronounce, let alone understand. And that’s exactly what shows up on the label.

The tube lists an impressive array of inactive natural ingredients that look like part of a recipe for something you might want to snack on (once you get past the Latin names):

* Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil
* Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Oil
* Cera Alba (Beeswax)
* Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil
* Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil
* Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil
* Alumina (Natural Mineral)
* Stearic Acid (Natural Fatty Acid)
* Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil
* Glycerin
* Tocopherol Acetate (Vitamin E)
* Helianthus Anuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil
* Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract
* Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract
* Camelia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract
* Matricaria Recutita (Chamomile)
* Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Seed Oil
* Green Tea Fragrance (Natural)

The Active Ingredients can hardly be called appetizing:

* Titanium Dioxide — 8.5%
* Zinc Oxide — 3.5%

Checking the Database

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about using the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Cosmetic Database to check out ingredients in sunscreen. I couldn’t find Vivesana Solar to Polar in the EWG database, so I looked up the active ingredients, which I already knew EWG had rated as effective.

Here’s what the database’s has to say about zinc oxide and titanium dioxide:

Zinc has a long history of use in sunscreen and other skin care products; little absorption and no adverse health effects are reported. Some sunscreens with zinc contain nanoparticles which do not penetrate skin but may pose toxicity concerns if inhaled or in the environment….

Titanium dioxide has a long history of use in sunscreen and other products. It appears safe for use on skin, due to low penetration but inhalation is a concern. Some titanium sunscreens containing nano-size particles may have greater toxicity to body tissues and environment.

The last sentence concerned me a bit, until I did some more research on the EWG site. As it happens, nanoparticles haven’t been shown to penetrate healthy skin. Still, I don’t like the idea of nanoparticles in cosmetics, as it’s a bit early in the game to know their long-term results.

But it’s a moot point, according to the package the Vivesana sunscreen arrived in. The box label reads, “No Parabens. No Phthalates. No BPA. No Nanotechnology.” The website confirms all this, though I have to admit it’s a little disconcerting that I can’t find the same assurance on the tube itself. “No Nanotechnology” is conspicuously absent, though “No Parabens. No Phthalates. No BPA.” are all clearly marked.

According to the EWG, both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide run another risk, one that I hadn’t even considered: “Persistent and/or bioaccumulative, resisting normal chemical breakdown in the environment; building up in wildlife, the food chain, and in people; and lingering in body tissues for years, or even decades, after exposure.” Now that’s a scary warning. On the flip side, if these two chemicals are the best we have available, and they prevent skin cancer, it’s a trade-off we may have little choice but to make.

A Company with Soul

Business is business, and we all need to earn a living. But some companies come across in their advertising and their websites as being about much more than just making a buck. This is especially true, Joe and I find, with the ecopreneurs that we meet. By and large, they are as passionate about the planet and its inhabitants as they are about their own well-being. Vivesana seems to be no exception. Although we haven’t yet met the owner, Dan Signorelli, we are very impressed by his philosophy and his business. We’ll be chatting with Dan in the near future, and will share with you what we learn about his company, but I want to give you a taste of what you can find on the Vivesana website:

“Vivesana means “live healthy”. We began with doctors, teachers, artists, farmers, chefs, athletes, lawyers, moms, dads and little kids who take that motto to heart. We wanted safe, natural and effective products. We wanted labels we could trust. We wanted companies to have broader goals than the bottom line. [Read More]

Chemistry Without Chemicals

Starting from scratch is liberating. It’s where innovation is born.
We use photo-protective organic botanicals to triple the SPF provided by our natural minerals while providing deep moisturization. We use potent antioxidants to aid skin before, during and after sun exposure. We removed water, fillers and all synthetics. We were left with the first 70% organic high performance and baby sunscreen on the market, which also happen to be…

  • Stronger, with higher SPFs – by far – than all other all-natural sunscreens.
  • Greener, being the first high performance and baby sunscreen with over 70% organic, sustainably-farmed ingredients, and using domestic, BPA-free packaging
  • Clearer, due to relatively low mineral content and a high level of photo-protective organic botanicals
  • Safer, without synthetics, phthalates, parabens, nanotechnology, plastic tubes, or anything at all from China

A Discount for Blue Planet Green Living Readers

Vivesana is actively promoting their sunscreens among readers of certain eco-friendly blogs. They picked Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) to be one of the first sites to review their products. Even better, they’re offering a 25% discount for BPGL readers through June 30, 2009. Go to to learn more about their sunscreen products. Select the items you want, then at checkout, enter PROMO CODE: BPGL&vive25 to get your discount. Now, go enjoy the summer sun!

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

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Product Review – Larabar Apple Pie Bar

Last week, when I wrote a review of the Bora Bora Organic Almond Sunflower Bar, I mentioned that I’d purchased another bar as well. The Larabar Apple Pie bar is, according to my 29-year-old son, Aaron, “Not as bad as you would expect from an all-natural bar. Pretty cinnamony, with a little less apple taste than cinnamon.” Overall, he said, “It had more flavor than you would expect from something without artificial flavors added.”

Larabar Apple Pie Bars are packed with raw dates, almonds, unsweetened apples, walnuts, raisins, and cinnamon.

Larabar Apple Pie Bars are packed with raw dates, almonds, unsweetened apples, walnuts, raisins, and cinnamon. Photo: J. Wasson

I suppose that’s high praise from a guy who thinks Mountain Dew is the nectar of the gods. For comparison, he also had tried the Bora Bora bar, and reported “It had no taste. It was very bland.”

But we differ. Joe and I both loved the Bora Bora bars because of all the nuts and fruits they contain. The Larabars are good, too, in our opinions. They’re made of a mixture of dried dates, almonds, unsweetened apples, walnuts, raisins, and cinnamon. The ingredients are formed into a dense bar that is packed with flavor and nutrition.

I’m not a fan of cinnamon, so that flavor is a bit heavy for me. Joe, who loves that spice, finds it perfectly satisfying. Although the texture is primarily like dried fruit smooshed together (in a very pleasant way, mind you), there’s still enough of a crunch from the occasional nut to appeal to those of us who like a firm texture. In fact, it’s the nuttiness that I like most of all.

So, what about the nutritional element? Here’s what the Larabar folks have to say about their Apple Pie Bar:

  • All natural, unprocessed
  • No added sugars or sweetners
  • Raw
  • Non-GMO
  • Non-irradiated
  • No sulfites
  • No fillers
  • No preservatives
  • Gluten free
  • Dairy free
  • Soy free
  • Vegan
  • Kosher

Ingredients list for Larabar Apple Pie Bar.

The Larabar Apple Pie Bar has a bit of fat — 10g, to be exact. And half the bar’s total calories (180) are fat (90). Not great. But no transfat, so that’s a plus.

On the other hand, it’s real food, not artificial sugars and fluff. And it has actual vitamins and minerals, as opposed to a lot of the other snacks I might try.

At $27.99 for 16 bars, the cost is $1.75 each. But deduct the $4.19 cash back (for shopping through your own eCommerce site), and we’re down to $1.49 each. (Shipping charges apply if your total order is less than $167.) Most likely, you can also find Larabars at your local co-op or health food store.

Overall, though the Larabar is more expensive than a candy bar, it’s no contest when you compare the effects of the Larabar ingredients vs. typical junk food on your body.

Have you tried a Larabar? Let us know what you think.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Related Post:

Product Review: Bora Bora Organic Almond Sunflower Bar

Product Review – Bora Bora Organic Almond Sunflower Bars

You eat snacks, don’t you? Most of us do. And if they’re good snacks — natural, healthy foods that aren’t too high in refined sugars, salt, or the dreaded high-fructose corn syrup — we can even feel good about eating them. At least that’s what I told myself when I set out to review a couple of natural and organic goodies for this website.

From time to time, at Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) we receive sample items for review. As I’ve said in previous posts, those items are free, and it’s fair to keep that in mind. We do our best to be unbiased, but we’re not immune to feeling bad if we can’t say something nice. So, Joe and I decided, if we really don’t like something, we simply won’t review it. No point adding to the negativity of the world.

The Bora Bora Organic Bars are a delicious snack food, packed with nuts, raisins, and more.

The Bora Bora Organic Bars are a delicious snack food, packed with nuts, raisins, and more.

Sometimes, however, we purchase the items we review. And that’s the case with the food item I’ll write about today. We’ve been trying to eat more healthy foods, and with access to all sorts of good choices on our e-Commerce site (Blatant bias alert! Earnings from our e-Commerce site support BPGL, but you can most likely find this item in your local food co-op, too), I took some time to make a selection.

Because Joe is supposed to stay away from certain foods, our choices were a bit narrower than many of yours might be. Here are the criteria we used to identify the snacks we purchased:

1. Healthy snacks with no pineapple, oats, cashews, or milk products. Unless you have similar sensitivities, this doesn’t really apply to you. If you are sensitive to gluten, peanuts, or other foods, you’ll need to make a list of your own.

2. Made of organic or natural ingredients. Natural was okay, but organic food was definitely preferable.

3. A good value for the money. Value is a relative term, of course, but what it meant to me was to find a dense food, filled with nutrition for a reasonable price.

So, I set about finding two snack bars to purchase. Because of the way our e-Commerce site works, some of the items from the earth-friendlier side of the shopping site are available only in bulk. That turned out to be true of the two foods that I purchased.

I looked at a few of the many stores offered on the green side of the e-Commerce site and found several items to choose from. But if they met the last three criteria, they frequently didn’t meet the first one, because many of the items contained one or more of the foods Joe shouldn’t eat. Other than that, it was a surprisingly easy quest. We settled on the Almond Sunflower Bar from Bora Bora Organic Bars and another bar, which I’ll review in another post.

Bora Bora Organic Bars — Almond Sunflower

This one’s densely packed with healthy ingredients. The bars are sweet, but not too sweet; chewy without being a jaw breaker; and — in both Joe’s and my opinions — delicious. They also met all three of our criteria:

1. With “raisins, peanuts, sunflower seeds, agave syrup, almonds, Brazilian nuts, walnuts, crisp brown rice, rice syrup, and pumpkin seeds,” we were already salivating just by reading the ingredients list. And no pineapple, oats, cashews, or milk products to be found.

2. Although the ingredients list doesn’t specifically say “organic raisins, organic peanuts, organic sunflower seeds” and the rest, the label indicates that the bar is organic. That’s comforting.

3. The appearance of value starts with the delicious, healthy ingredients. Every one of these Bora Bora bars is densely packed with nutritious foods. On a couple of occasions, we each ate a bar at lunchtime instead of taking on something bigger.

But that’s not the only part to the value equation. The other is cost. At $1.71/oz., these 1.4 oz. Bora Bora bars are not cheap. But, if you factor in the shopping discount ($4.30 for the case of 12), then figure out the cost per oz., you get $1.45/oz. To put that in a bit of perspective, at the advice of a friend who is a naturopath, today at our local co-op I bought some items for making an herbal tea. The herbs ranged in price from $0.82/oz for scullcap to $1.88/oz. for white willow bark. (And I won’t even eat those.)

What else might someone dislike about Bora Bora Organic Almond Sunflower Bars? Take a look at the table below.

Serving size: 1 bar
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat
Amount Per Serving and/or % Daily Value*
Total Fat
11g (17%)
Saturated Fat
1.5g (8%)
Trans Fat
0mg (0%)
15mg (1%)
Total Carbohydrate
18g (6%)
Dietary Fiber
2g (9%)
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower based on your calorie needs.

Given the fat content, a Bora Bora bar probably isn’t something to try if you’re on a diet. On the other hand, if you eat this product instead of chips, candy, or sodas, calorie for calorie, it seems like you’d have to be ahead with the Bora Bora Organic Bar. And, take a look at the following features:

  • All Natural
  • 100% USDA Organic
  • Certified Vegan
  • Gluten Free
  • Kosher
  • Non-GMO
  • No Sugar or Preservatives
  • Trans Fat Free
  • Low Sodium
  • Low glycemic carbs

If any of these matter to you, odds are they matter a lot. The Almond Sunflower bar may not the perfect food (that’s an apple, in my book), and it’s no weight-loss item, but it makes a nice alternative choice for a healthy snack. To find out whether it’s right for you, check the ingredients and nutrition facts with care.

And if you try this organic bar — or want us to review another one — please let us know in the comments field. We value your opinion.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Product Review – Eco Canteen Water Bottle

Eco Canteen bottles and totes. Photo: Eco Canteen

From time to time, Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) gets offers of sample products that people would like us to review. The products (full disclosure alert!) are complimentary, so you should know that at the outset. But there are no strings attached. No one is paying us to say nice things. And no one can dissuade us from saying a product stinks, if we believe it’s true.

If you are considering purchasing this product based on my review, please read this: The first time I tried to contact customer service, I was extremely disappointed — and especially dismayed by reports from dissatisfied readers. The good news is, the president of the company reports having added to their customer service staff in the past week (end of July). He adds, “Our goal is to be able to respond to everyone’s questions or concerns in a prompt and efficient manner.” And as far as I can tell, that’s exactly how each complaint by our readers has been handled. I applaud the company’s efforts to improve, and I continue to support the quality of their product. — Julia Wasson, Publisher

12/30/09 — Since this review was published, we have received dozens of complaints about Eco Canteen, though they have subsided over the past couple of months. If you purchased an Eco Canteen as a result of reading this review and then were dissatisfied with your purchase, please let us know. We’ll do our best to help you get satisfaction. We’ve also received some rave reviews. If you are a happy EcoCanteen customer, please let others know by posting your comments here.

Eco Canteen

The Eco Canteen is a 26-oz. stainless steel water bottle that I’ve been carting around with me for weeks. This is the perfect antidote to plastic water bottles, as any of you metal-bottle-toting water lovers already know. It sits next to my computer in the daytime, on my nightstand while I sleep, and in my car when I travel.

The bottle has a wide mouth that’s perfect for dropping in ice cubes, for taking big gulps, and for washing. (It’s also supposed to be dishwasher safe, though I’ve washed mine by hand.) I’ve found the wide mouth a little risky for taking quick drinks, though, as water sometimes dribbles a little down my chin when I’m in a hurry. What I really appreciate is that the lid screws on tightly between sips. I’m not the most graceful person in the world, and I’ve knocked over a glass or two in my day. The screw-on lid makes this water bottle safe near electronics and impossible to spill if I knock it over it while reaching for the lamp on my nightstand in the darkness of my bedroom.

Even a klutz can't spill a metal bottle with a secure screw top. Photo: J. Wasson

Even a klutz can't spill a metal bottle with a secure screw top. Photo: J. Wasson

Last fall, my daughter, Lindsay, a university student, purchased a smaller metal water bottle from a local sporting goods store for just under $20. Her bottle has a pull top that was hard to pull up for the first few months and, now that pulling the tip up is easy, it no longer seals well. The small opening also requires her to suck hard to get any liquid out, as there’s only a tiny air intake to compensate for the water that flows out of the bottle into her mouth.

For her birthday in February, she asked for a new, stainless steel water bottle with a screw-on top. No problem! We had just received two Eco Canteens. Lindsay got her own stainless steel bottle to review, complete with a zippered, insulated tote. She loves the wide mouth, which prevents her from making embarrassing sucking noises when she takes a drink of water in class.

The EcoCanteen also comes with a carabinier clasp to secure it to a student’s backpack or, in my case, a laptop bag. That may sound odd — to hook a water bottle to a laptop bag. It’s pretty much counter intuitive to attach something that holds liquid to something that runs on electricity — and contains nearly your entire brain. But the secure, screw-top lid is a huge safety feature that I can count on (as long as I remember to screw it on tightly). And this bottle will never crack or break.

We’re all trying to get away from plastic in our drink containers, but this has a plastic lid. I wondered, is there BHA in this plastic? So I checked with Trish, my contact at Eco Canteen. Here’s what she said, “We use # 5 PP plastic in our lids, which has been found to be the most innate of all plastics with no known leaching characteristics. No BPA.” Great news!

On my way to the Kirkwood Community College Earth Day event recently, I tightly screwed on the lid, clipped my Eco Canteen to my laptop bag (which is like an overgrown purse with a flat bottom, so it stands up) and secured the bottle upright. That gave me even greater security that no water would leak.

Once, when I had several things to carry downstairs, I clipped it to my belt loop. (Do hikers really do that?) That was convenient for a short-term solution, but I wouldn’t recommend traveling that way, as it bounced and thumped against my side.

I use my Eco Canteen all around the house. Photo: J. Wasson

I use my Eco Canteen all around the house. Photo: J. Wasson

At only $9.99 plus $5.95 shipping and handling (within the US, I assume), this bottle is a super deal for the money. As a rough estimate, if I calculate $1 per plastic bottle of water and consider that I have consumed at least 1 bottle a day for the past two months (this is a really conservative estimate), then I would have spent at least $60 for bottled water in that time. If I’d paid the retail price for the Eco Canteen, the bottle would have paid for itself with what I’d saved in 15 days. And every day that I use it instead of buying bottled water (which I won’t do anyway), I continue to save money.

There’s an optional, free, insulated tote you can get for your water bottle from the website. Lindsay uses hers on occasion to keep water cool during class. I haven’t used mine yet, but will definitely use it during the summer to keep the bottle from sweating. Be aware, though, that the “free” tote costs an extra $4.95 for shipping and handling. You can also choose to purchase a “kids size bottle” — which looks like it might fit in a child’s lunchbox — at $8.95 plus shipping. It also has a zippered tote available, for the additional shipping charge.

The Upshot

While my exposure to metal water bottles is admittedly limited (this is the only one I have used), the Eco Canteen is a great bargain for the cost. I’ve used mine day and night for more than two months, and I’ll keep using it for years to come. It’s another small step in the direction of sustainability and green living. Do I recommend the Eco Canteen? You bet.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Sneeze Guilt-Free with Greenpeace Tissue Guide

“Did you know? Americans could save more than 400,000 trees if each family bought a roll of recycled toilet paper — just once.” — Greenpeace Tissue Guide

Joe is sitting in our office, coughing and blowing into a tissue (Kleenex). He’s got a mound of them in the wastebasket on the floor next to him. One after another, he blows and performs the other functions that go with a bad upper respiratory illness. Without the tissues, we’d need a dresserful of handkerchiefs, hot water, and detergent — to say nothing of the tolerance required for washing cloths filled with virus-borne nasal fluids. I’m grateful (as he is) for the ready convenience of facial tissues.

Cold and flu season shouldn't destroy ancient trees.  Photo: J Wasson

Cold and flu season shouldn't destroy ancient trees. Photo: J Wasson

Last night, we used paper napkins at dinner (Green Forest). I pulled a single paper towel (Bounty) off the roll to clean up a spill from the floor. And, like the rest of the developed world privileged to have the conveniences of modern hygiene, we’ve also used our share of toilet tissue (Charmin) in the past 24 hours. What we haven’t done — till now — is to look carefully at the environmental costs of the particular tissues we’re using. If you could see my face, you’d know I’m embarrassed at the enormous impact the two of us are having on the ancient forests of this planet.

Whether you’re already a smart eco-consumer or as clueless as we have been on this step in the journey to leaving a tiny footprint, you will find the new Greenpeace Tissue Guide to be an invaluable shopping companion. Greenpeace has rated many of the most popular paper products on grocery store shelves. They evaluated four types of paper products based on three criteria:

  • 100% recycled content
  • ≥ 50% post-consumer recycled content
  • No toxic chlorine compounds used to bleach the paper

Rankings are based on how many of the criteria each product meets:

  • 3 of 3: Recommended
  • 2 of 3: Can do better
  • 0 or 1 of 3: To be avoided

Joe and I were chagrined to see (but probably shouldn’t have been surprised) that most of the products we use are among the big offenders, according to the Greenpeace list. The one exception is our napkins, which were manufactured by Green Forest. They’re made from 100% recycled material, 90% of which is post-consumer waste. The bleaching process is PCF (processed chlorine-free), which uses none of the toxic chemicals known to cause cancer. So we can feel okay about our paper napkins. Better yet, we could use cloth napkins on a daily basis, and just toss them in with the rest of the laundry.

Paper or cloth? It's not just about diapers. Photo: J Wasson

Cloth or paper? It's not just a question about diapers. Photo: J Wasson

My lone paper towel last night had 0% recycled content, 0% post-consumer content, and had been bleached using an elemental chlorine-free (ECF) process, which is better than the old chlorine method, but not, according to Greenpeace, as good as Totally Chlorine-Free (TCF) or Processed Chlorine-Free (PCF). Most of the time, I use small rags or dishcloths to clean up our kitchen messes. So I can either switch to using cloth for every spill, or buy paper towels that score high on the Greenpeace list. An easy choice for me.

[Please bear with me while I take a little side trip here, because in researching ECF on the web, I found a site that claims ECF is “the clear environmental and economic winner” (the Alliance for the Responsible Use of Chlorine Chemistry, whose participants include Dow Corning, the Chlorine Chemistry Division of the Chemistry Council, and Kimberly-Clark — the makers of Kleenex). In fact, there are so many sites claiming how wonderful ECF is that I’m hard-pressed to find info to the contrary. So, I have to rely temporarily (while I continue my research) on the adage, “Consider the source.” Hmmm… in matters of the environment, do I trust Greenpeace or Kimberly-Clark? Another easy choice.]

It turns out that Charmin toilet tissue is made from O% post-consumer content. In fact, it includes NO recycled content at all. And, to make it even worse, our chosen TP is bleached using ECF (chlorine compounds). Secretly, I cry, “But I like Charmin! It’s soft and absorbent. I don’t want to give it up.” Yet, that’s a sacrifice I’ve got to be willing to make. With every flush, my family now sends a small part of our virgin, ancient forests to the sewer. That’s not a fitting end for a grand and dignified old-growth tree.

And what about those boxes of tissues Joe’s been using up faster than a kid can eat a bag of M&Ms? Kleenex is a definite loser on the Greenpeace Tissue Guide scale: 0% recycled content; 0% post-consumer content; and ECF used for bleaching. We haven’t tried the Green Forest alternative or any of the other eco-friendly options. But now that we’ve been publicly shamed into doing so, we’ll be loading our shopping cart with better choices for the planet. Will they be soft on Joe’s oft-rubbed nose? Probably not as soft as what he’s used to. If he’s still on the frequent-nose-blower program by the time we run out of tissues, he may even opt for handkerchiefs rather than rough tissues. But the truth is, we don’t even know if the more eco-friendly tissues are rough, because we haven’t tried them. That’s about to change.

When we switch to more environmentally friendly tissues and a more sustainable lifestyle, we may not find them as soft as what we’ve gotten used to. But we’ll both feel better knowing we’re making wiser choices. It’s a question of honoring our values, which isn’t a question at all, come to think of it. You could call it a no-brainer. We were just slow to catch on. How about you?

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

BPGL Puts Newman’s Own Organics to the Taste Test

About a month ago, we received a large box from Newman’s Own Organics (N.O.O.) in California. It was stuffed with a variety of wholesome goodies, assorted salty snacks, some chocolate sweets, one bottle of olive oil and another of balsamic vinegar.

It’s only fair that we inject a word of warning: We are not foodies. We don’t often write about food, and we don’t list it as one of our areas of expertise (unless you count Joe’s many varieties of “slippery food,” stuff that doesn’t even require chewing). You want to know the exquisite details of how the food feels or tastes on an expert palate? You’d have more luck channeling Julia Child.

The BPGL Video (and Tasting) Crew: Aaron, Justin, and Jake

The BPGL Video (and Tasting) Crew: Aaron, Justin, and Jake

So, back to where the box of manna fell off the UPS truck… Coincidentally (or were they psychic?), our video guys: Justin, Jake, and Aaron — three big appetites in their 20s — came over to work on a project that day. Our friend Sam was here, too. You can guess what happened: mass consumption edging toward gluttony. (We’re not saying who were the biggest gluttons, but it may not have been the young people.)

The snacks didn’t all disappear in one session — there were far too many of them. We shared our treats with friends who passed through our office over the next few days, making sure that we (Joe and Julia) got to taste at least a sample of each item. (Purely in the interest of fair and accurate reporting, of course.)

Miriam shows us the right way to eat a Newman-O's cookie.

Miriam shows us the right way to eat a Newman-O's creme-filled cookie.

So, what did everyone think about the stuff in the box? We each had our favorites, and they weren’t always the same. A couple of items didn’t quite register high on everyone’s taste scales, but when one of us didn’t like something, someone else invariably did. So, here’s a report from the BPGL team (with minor melodrama added, but no truths altered).

Free food is free food, and we definitely appreciated the gift. But, unlike certain media outlets that pretend to be “fair,” we can’t look ourselves in the mirror if we try to fool anyone. So here goes…

Julia: I’m not much of a junk-food junkie. I’ll pass on the sodas (most of the time), candy (unless it’s got chocolate/carob and nuts/raisins), and cookies (except homemade chocolate chip). I’m long past the days when a plateful of sweets could pass my lips without taking up permanent residence on my body. So checking out a variety of snack foods — even organic snack foods — didn’t sound too appealing at first. But it seems I underestimated the allure of Newman’s Own Organics.

Joe: I’m the snack food maniac. I will eat anything crunchy, salty, sweet, or fattening. The more sugar and chocolate the better. My metabolism can handle the sugars — at least for now. I’m the kind of guy who will buy a chocolate chip cookie in every gas station, fast food restaurant, and greasy spoon that crosses my path. When the N.O.O. box arrived, I was worried that anything organic would taste bad. But in the interest of … er… journalism … I engaged in a taste test of my own.


Julia: My very favorite is the chocolate chip version of the Champion Chip Cookies. I usually like chewy chocolate chip cookies (I make them at home with oil, not shortening). These were a bit on the crispier side, but so delicious! I didn’t even want to share them, but I had no choice with Joe around.

Aaron: Cookies? Chocolate chip cookies? Hey, I didn’t get any!

Joe: I know you didn’t, Aaron. I stashed them behind my computer monitor. I latched onto those suckers as soon as Julia turned her head. Crunchy, and just big enough for two good bites each. When I was in a hurry to eat them — like when I heard footsteps — they were small enough to jam a whole one in my mouth to hide the evidence. I doubt if anyone tasted the Fig Newmans, either. Very moist and chewy. The bag fit  perfectly in my desk drawer.

What happened to my Newman-O's?

Joe asks, "Who ate the rest of the Newman-O's?"

Justin: The ones I’m crazy about are the Champion Chip Orange Chocolate Chip cookies. (Couldn’t they think of a shorter name?) Julia and Joe actually let me work on this bag without stealing it away every few minutes.

Julia: It’s good that you liked those, Justin. That way I got more of the regular Chocolate Chip cookies.

Joe: Besides the Chocolate Chip cookies, I focused mostly on the Newman-O’s. Man, the ones with the chocolate centers were really good. Break about six of ’em up in a bowl of cold soy milk and eat it like cereal — pure heaven!

The Alphabet Cookies were like Newman-O’s without the centers. Those were good in soy milk, too. The Newman-Os Mint cookies were a little different with soy milk. Kind of like chocolate-mint flavored ice cream. Tasty, but not very breakfast-like.

Julia: They’re not supposed to be for breakfast, Joe. They’re cookies.

Justin: Hey, I only got two Ginger O’s. What happened to the rest of the bag?

Sam: Well, it’s like this… I had to hide them so the rest of you would leave them alone. Best cookies I ever had.

Aaron: What happened to the Hermits? I didn’t get any of those, either.

Julia: Not to be a spoilsport, but I wasn’t a big fan of those. Somebody ate them, though. Joe, was it you?

Joe: The Hermits were the last to go. One bag had a cinnamon flavor, the other tasted more like molasses. I’ll eat most anything, but I wouldn’t pick those as my first choice. But somebody must have liked them; both bags are empty.

Jake: The Hermits? They were great. Did somebody want some? Too late.


Joe drains all the salt from a bag of Newman's Own Organics Pretzels.

Joe drains all the salt from a bag of Newman

Julia: The Thin Stick Pretzels are totally lickable (if you like to like the salt off a pretzel — and I do). I thought the Honey Wheat Mini Pretzels were delicious, too.

But I wasn’t as fond of the Spelt pretzels. Their redeeming feature is that they’re made with a type of wheat (spelt) that some folks with wheat allergies can eat; so that’s a good thing. But give me the Stick Pretzels anytime.

Aaron: Yeah, I thought the Spelt Pretzels were a little bland, but I liked the Stick Pretzels.

Jake: They all tasted like they should. You know, like real food, not cardboard.

Justin: The Newman’s Own Organics Pretzels were probably the best bag pretzels I’ve ever had. If you’re going for a hard pretzel, this is the one.

Sam: Who ate the White Cheddar Soy Crisps?

Justin: I only ate a couple. They were okay, but I wouldn’t rave about them.

Julia: They reminded me a bit of rice cakes. Crispy and puffy. I liked the white cheddar flavoring, but I’m not the one who emptied the bJoe? … Joe? What are you doing?

Joe: Just licking the inside of a pretzels bag.

Julia: You’d think I never feed you.

Joe: You don’t.

Julia: Oh. Well, that explains it.


Julia: I have to confess that I was driven (“Honest, Judge. It wasn’t my fault!”) to a fit of real selfishness with the dried fruit packages. They “somehow” wandered to my office and hid themselves next to my laptop. I shared — really, I did — just not often. The samples we got included Organic Apples, Organic Cranberries, Organic California Prunes, and Organic Apricots.

While there wasn’t a loser in the bunch, I favored the cranberries and the prunes (yes, the prunes — no smart remarks, Joe). The cranberries were just sweet enough without being too sweet. I wanted to try them in a mixed greens or chicken salad, but my daughter and I ate them like candy. The prunes were chewy without being tough, just moist enough without being gooey, and sweet enough so they didn’t taste like prune juice.

Our friend Gay snacks on Newman's Own Organic Raisins that we bought for a gathering.

Gay enjoys Newman's Own Organics Raisins we bought to share with friends.

Aaron: The dried cranberries were good. Someone (I’ll avoid mentioning names) hogged the rest of the dried fruit.

Joe: I liked the apples especially well — the few that I got!

Sam: Dried fruit? There was dried fruit? How come I didn’t get any?

Jake: No problem here. Like I said, I’m a picky &*(&*(^%^. I might not have eaten them anyway.

Justin: I’m not much on dried fruit, but I did get to sample a dried apple or two. Pretty tasty, considering they’re not my favorites.

Julia: Joe and I liked the dried fruit so well that we bought some N.O.O. raisins for a meeting at our place. They were fresh and chewy, much better than the ones I usually buy (until now, that is). Our friends liked them, too.


Julia: The Spearmint Mints? Delicious. Peppermint? Yummy. Cinnamon Mints and Ginger Mints? Not a fan. I don’t care for ginger or cinnamon, so this is no surprise.

Aaron: I liked the Spearmint and Peppermint Mints. But the Ginger Mints had a bit too strong a taste at first. Once I got past the initial shock of the ginger, it mellowed out a bit. I didn’t get to try the Cinnamon Mints.

Justin: I loved the Ginger Mints! They had an unusual taste. It was different than anything I’ve ever had, and they left my mouth feeling fresh. What I liked best was the way the flavor came out after the initial shock of the ginger.

Jake: I did NOT like the Ginger Mints! But I snagged some Peppermints Mints to take home to my wife. Now those were delicious.

Justin: I thought you said they were for your wife.

Jake: Yeah, well, we share everything …

Joe: There were mints? I didn’t get any mints.

Sam: You snooze, you lose. You’ve gotta pay closer attention to these things, Joe.

So many snacks, so little time!

So many snacks, so little time!


Joe: Did anyone but me get to taste the chocolate and caramel candy? Melt-in-your-mouth fantastic!

Julia: Uh. Yeah. That was me you shared it with. I’m glad to know I’m so memorable.

Joe: I must have been overcome by the taste of the chocolate. Nothing personal, of course.

Julia: Of course. I’m sure you don’t mind that I took the second candy package and kept it for myself.

Aaron: Candy? There was candy?

Jake: What candy?

Sam: I think you may have a mutiny on your hands…


Besides taste (admittedly the #1 criteria for most of us), the real value for us in the Newman’s Own Organics products is that we were eating food that had been organically grown. No scary additives. No dyes. No preservatives. Just healthy, organic food. Sure, some of the goodies have their fair share of sugar, but they’re goodies, after all.

Most of us weren’t keen on anything made with ginger, as the taste was pretty strong. But Sam and Justin liked Ginger O’s cookies, and Justin thought the Ginger Mints rocked!

Anything chocolate, whether candy or cookies, got nods of approval — and didn’t last long.

The dried fruit, presumably one of the healthiest snacks, got rave reviews from those of us who ate them. (Apologies to the rest of the crew.)

Salty snacks were a hit, too. Most of us liked the Pretzel Sticks, though there wasn’t really a bad one in the bunch. No one jumped up and down over the Soy Chips, but no one hated them, either.

The mints were mostly yummy, and we all had our favorites. The Ginger Mints were a hit with one of us, but the rest think they must be an “acquired taste.”

And the olive oil and balsamic vinegar? Looks like they’ll become permanent members of our BPGL family.

We hope you find our review helpful. Our best suggestion to readers is to try a few products for yourselves. Then let us know about your favorites. There are quite a number we haven’t yet tasted, and we’d like to know what you think.

Joe Hennager and Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living

Related Posts:

Part 1: Fishing with Nell

Part 2: Nell Newman: “Late Bloomer” to Organic Ecopreneur

My 5: Nell Newman, Newman’s Own Organics