Monday, May 28, 2007

Summer Sun Protection

Now that summer is upon us (well, some days it feels like it is, and some days it feels miles away here in the NW) it is time to think about sunscreen and sun protection. The American Cancer Society recommends this motto for sun protection: Slip! Slop! Slap! Wrap! Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, and wrap on sunglasses.

For sunscreen, choose a broad spectrum that offeres both UVA and UVB protection. Chemical sunscreens work by being absorbed in to the skin, and physical or mineral ones protect by forming a barrier on the skin. Zinc oxide or titanium dioxide offer the best UV-spectrum coverage and are well tolerated by children. It is also the safest ingredient for the environment. You want to stay away from ingredients such as PABA, Padimate-O, or Parsol 1789 (avobenzone) because they can cause stinging or redness. Make sure to apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside, and reapply every 2 hours if you are not in the water, every 30-40 minutes if you are. Also, don't be stingy with the amount of sunscreen you are slathering on. It is recommended to use one full ounce every time you apply. *Do not apply sunscreen to infants under the age of 6 months*

Here is a short list of sunscreens that have zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as the main active ingredients, are broad spectrum, and have SPF 30 or higher:

  • All Terrain Kisdport SPF 30+

  • Badger Sunblock SPF 30+

  • Blue Lizard Australian SPF 30+

  • California Baby SPF 30+

  • Dr. Hauschka Sunscreen for Children and Sensitive Skin SPF 30

  • Earth's Best Sun Block SPF 30+

  • Jason Sunbrellas Mineral-Based Sun Block SPF 30+

  • Mustela High Protection Sun Lotion SPF 50

  • UV Natural Baby SPF 30+

In addition to sunscreen, you want to be careful about you amount of sun exposure and the timing. Dermatologists recommend staying out of the sun between 10 and 4 - I don't know about you, but for us that is not realistic. For us it is usually 12 0r 1 - 3 or so, as we need lunch and naps still. When we are out in the sun, both my kids wear wide brimmed hats that cover their neck and ears and sunglasses with UV protection. When we are in the pool or at the beach, which is a lot of the time, both kids also wear UV protective swim shirts and shorts. Lands End carries a great selection of UV and rash guard protection swimwear.

Here's wishing you a safe, happy summer, full of fun and sun!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Vegan Pizza

This is my new FAVORITE!!!

Pizza dough (I use Trader Joe's already made pizza dough you roll it out yourself, but use whatever you like)

Pizza sauce.. again whatever moves you

Lot's of veggies - I like mushrooms, zucchini, bell pepper, sun dried tomatoes, onion, and olives (I said it was a lot) LOAD 'EM on!

And the non Cheese: RAW Cashews! About a handful.

Put it all in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes. (follow package directions for the dough you use - and check often because you don't have melted/browned cheese to be your guide.

So this is a slack recipe (my favorite) and I can whip it up while the babies are snoozing and have time to eat and clean up too! YUM!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

CFLs and Mercury...

Being the good little stewards of greenness I'm sure most of you have already heard the news that the compact fluorescent lightbulbs that everyone is touting as environmental contain mercury. I was disappointed to hear this, but did some research. There is a risk, but according to Wendy Reed, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, in the long run the CFLs produce less mercury than the coal-fired power plants.

Check out this link to NPR.

The EPA is working with the retailers that sell the bulbs to start recycling programs as well. Ikea is the only one that has stepped up to the challenge so far. Apparently in some states it is illegal to throw away the bulbs, but even in those states few make the effort to recycle them.

GE is also concerned - though the levels of mercury are small in each individual bulb if the sales explode like anticipated (thanks to the BIG GREEN push) the levels of mercury hitting the garbage cycle will be huge. GE is looking at ways to decrease the amount of mercury and come up with better ways to recycle it.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Recipe-less Soup

I found some excellent guidance on how to just 'throw together' some soup without a recipe. I'm no chef and I'm excited to try this. You can check it out at The Mommy Spot. Diane shares lots of great advice there! This soup is veggie and I love that she uses the veggies that are typically discarded after making the stock. You get all the nutrients and they stay out of the garbage or composter!

Vegan/Vegetarian Diet Considerations

The research continues. I am reading "Becoming Vegan" by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina and I feel that if we/I am going to promote vegetarian/vegan lifestyle I need to point out important things you need to be aware of while adopting this lifestyle.

This book is a great resource. I've enjoyed the fact that it doesn't just wax poetic about how wonderfully healthful the vegetarian/vegan diet is... it also points out the pitfalls and things you need to look out for. They also give scientific information in easy to understand terms. Nutrition and healthful lifestyle is similar to this whole 'green' thing in that it can get rather overwhelming. For me living the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle kind of dumbs it down for me. It really ends up helping me to make consistent choices - I can't really eat most processed foods when I'm staying away from animal products so the choice is made for me. :)

Two main topics of consideration when adopting a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle are B12 and Essential Fatty Acids (Omega 3 and Omega 6)


Vitamin B12 helps build genetic material and is important for cells that reproduce rapidly - such as red blood cells, it protects the sheaths around our nerve fibers and working together with other B vitamins it converts foods to energy that our body can use. In addition B12 helps rid the body of homocysteine which if built up in the body can injure the inner lining of artery walls leading to heart disease. - excerpt from Becoming Vegan.

Non-vegetarians get B12 from the flesh of animals that have eaten things containing the bacteria and fungus that create B12. Vegetarians that consume eggs and dairy don't need to worry about this as much as vegans. Vegans need to supplement with B12 either through foods high in B12 (though these sources have proved to be unreliable - such as algae, spirulina, alfalfa, various greens, and seaweeds) or fortified foods. One good option is Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula Nutritional Yeast Powder or Flakes or other nutritional yeast supplements. You are looking to get between 3 and 6 mcg a day. Check labels of soy milks and cereals as fortification levels vary.

Essential Oils

Essential Oils

When considering a vegan/vegetarian diet you must consider your intake of Essential Fatty Acids - specifically Omega 3s. Omega 6s (Linoleic Acid) are plentiful in most diets - particularly vegetarian/vegan diets - they are found in seeds, walnuts, grains, sunflower, safflower, corn and grapeseed oils. Omega 3s (alpha-linolenic acid) are found in foods that we don’t eat in large quantities such as flaxseed, hempseed, canola oil, walnuts, butternuts, greens and soy. Polyunsaturated fats are not considered essential oils because we can make them in our body from their parent fats – Omega 6 and Omega 3 – or consumed from foods. In the Omega 6 family we can either convert linoleic acid to arachindonic acid (AA) or consume it directly from animal products. In the Omega 3 family we can convert alpha-linolenic acid to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) or consume them directly from fish or microalgae. Though polyunsaturated fats aren’t technically called essential they ARE essential and we need to be aware of them.. particularly DHA. DHA is a structural component in the brain, the retina of the eye and sperm. Low levels of DHA have been associated with neurological and behavioral disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Plant foods provide very little if any Omega 3s with the exception of single celled ocean plants and seaweeds and I don’t know about you, but I don’t eat a lot of those.

When considering a DHA supplement you need to look at the source. Most DHA / Omega 3 supplements are derived of fish. If you are following a vegetarian/vegan diet these won’t work for you. You want to find a supplement that is derived of microalgae such as Dr. Udo's DHA.

Interesting Tid Bit about Vitamin D

Did you know that Vitamin D can be sourced from either animals or plants. I had no idea there were two basic types. Vitamin D2 is plant based (mushrooms, certain seaweeds and yeast) and Vitamin D3 is animal based (fish, sheep's wool, hides or other animal parts such as cow brains). If you choose to avoid animal products all together (and for you vegetarians out there) you need to be careful with some fortified soy milks and food products. When reading labels generally vegetarian products will specify D2, but if they don't you are looking for ergosterol or ergocalciferol on the ingredients list. If precalciferol or cholecalciferol are listed then the Vitamin D in the product is D3 or animal sourced Vitamin D. D3 is usually used in Milk so if you are vegetarian and drink milk and eat eggs, but avoid animal products you might want to check your milk label.

All of this being said, I am not a doctor or nutritionist (maybe some day) so take my statements for what they are... the research finds of a non-professional. I highly recommend that you do your own research and definitley recommend Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis, RD and Vesanto Melina, MS, RD

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Conflict Free Diamonds

Getting ready to ask that special someone the BIG question? Coming up on a big anniversary and just love to buy diamonds??? Check out Brilliant Earth - they create beautiful jewelry using conflict free diamonds and they give 5% of their proceeds to African communities negatively effected by the diamond industry. You can also check out their site to learn more about these negative effects.

Another alternative to buying new diamonds is to hit your local pawn shop or estate sale for beautiful antique rings. It is rather affordable. We got my ring at A & S Jewelry in Seattle, WA. They are jewelry brokers. So my ring isn't MY grandmother's, but it's SOMEBODY's grandmother's. A great hint for recycling. :)And we couldn't beat the price!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Portland Recycles Plastic!

The Portland Master Recycler Program, serving the Portland (OR) metro area, sponsor a "plastics round up" a few times per year, and you can bring all the plastic items that you can't recycle in your bins. Here is a list of what they will take:

  • Plastic bags (dry cleaning, store sacks)
  • Plant containers and trays (please knock dirt out ahead of time)
    Please rinse and separate plastics with numbers by each number separately (bags and plant containers go in the first two categories, no styrofoam food trays even if they have a number).
  • Miscellaneous plastics without numbers (Bottle caps, drink lids, DVD's, CD’s, CD cases, cereal liners, straws, lawn/patio furniture, kids\' toys (think slides!), pet igloos, laundry baskets, kiddy pools, & more. . .bring it, we'll try to take it)
  • Reusable Plastic Items. - We especially love buckets! Master Recyclers label and redistribute them to encourage residents to keep glass separate from other recyclables. Be sure and drop by this section to see if you might find a useful item you would like to bring home.

The next Round Up will be held Saturday, May 19, 2007, 9am to 2pm at the following locations:

  • PCC Rock Creek Campus 17705 NW Springville rd
  • PCC Sylvania 12000 SW 49th
  • Floyd Light Middle School 10800 SE Washington

This event has been sponsored 5 times before, and they have reused and recycled over 25 TONS of plastic. What a great motivator to save all that plastic that is not curbside recyclable and bring it around to be donated. This is definitely motivating me to find a way to collect all my non-recyclable plastics, instead of just throwing them in the trash and knowing they will go straight into the landfill. So, for more information on what they do with the plastic and how they recycle it, please visit I hope to see you there!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Inspiration from a mainstream couple in Seattle

I came across this article from our good friends Todd and Julie. (thanks Todd)

Regular people are out there doing what we aspire to do... they are normal mainstreamers - meaning they aren't over the top living off the grid, they could be your neighbors! You can check out this Seattle Times article to learn more about what this Seattle family is doing to decrease their footprint.

We give you lists and talk about what you can do, but I think 'seeing' another family do it makes it seem that much more attainable. As they state in the article choose one thing you can do and once it becomes a habit either go further with that goal or establish another one.

If you want a starting point you can check your carbon emissions w/ the EPA Personal Carbon Emissions footprint calculator. Make adjustments to see what a big impact little things make.

My big struggle these days is paper towels. We never used to use them, but when the kids started eating it was just SO much easier to grab a paper towel to clean them up. I did start making some rags to use specifically for this purpose, but fell off the wagon. I need to get back to that. On a positive note I purchased some cloth napkins - now I need to find a place to store them and get to using them.

We all have our struggles, but families like the Seattle couple featured in the article give me inspiration to try a little harder! If gas gets to $4/gallon it should make it a bit easier to strap on the sneakers and hoof it to wherever I need to get.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Allison's Gourmet Vegan Cookies... THEY ARE GOOD!

I just have to share these cookies (and brownies and fudge etc). Allison's Gourmet makes fabulous fabulous fabulous vegan sweets.

Admittedly I have not had them in a long while (though I have requested them for Mother's Day) these cookies are FANTASTIC! I was introduced to them by a friend a while ago and I can't even begin to express how DELICIOUS they are, and I am a HUGE sweets fan!

Allison's Gourmet is in line w/ our global perspective and fits in here because the are vegan..
Here are the company's practices and beliefs:
  • We make vegan* desserts that taste fantastic.
  • We seek out and use only the finest organic ingredients available.
  • Our business supports a sustainable planet.
  • Health is priceless -- quality costs more, and it's worth it.

Reduce, Reuse, Freecycle!

Part of reducing your footprint, or being "green" as we call it, is really taking to heart the reduce, reuse, recycle mantra. I want to talk a little about the reuse part of that. We all need to buy things, but there are ways to get great used stuff for cheap or free! is a resource in cities all over the world. Almost anything you could want, you can get on Craigslist. I myself have bought and sold many things (including a car!) on Craigslist and have had great experiences. Furniture, baby stuff, automobiles, yard and garden, hobbies, real estate, etc. - you name it, you can find it. I even used Craisglist when I moved to Portland to network and find out about preschools for my son. Another great online resource is Everything, as the name suggests, is free. People post things they want or things they have to give away. You can sign up for the daily digest, and I find that I get sometimes 3 or 4 digests from them per day, and that is just Portland Freecycle! You have to be quick to respond though, because things go FAST.

If you want to be more extreme in your reducing/reusing goals, check out the Compact groups. Here is an excerpt from the yahoo Compact group :
We are a group of individuals committed to a 12-month flight from the consumer grid (calendar year 2007).
The Compact has several aims (more or less prioritized below):
To go beyond recycling in trying to counteract the negative global environmental and socioeconomic impacts of disposable consumer culture and to support local businesses, farms, etc. -- a step that, we hope, inherits the revolutionary impulse of the Mayflower Compact.
To reduce clutter and waste in our homes (as in trash Compact-er).
To simplify our lives (as in Calm-pact)
We've agreed to follow two principles (see exceptions etc. on our blog).
#1 Don't buy new products of any kind (from stores, web sites, etc.)
#2 Borrow, barter, or buy used.
The COMPACT PLEDGE is an agreement to not buy anything NEW for one year. Exceptions are made for toiletries, food, undergarments, medical supplies and safety equipment. This pledge should be customized according your needs. We encourage you to be honest with yourself & make this your own personal challenge with attainable goals. You choose how extreme to take it.

I am up for trying to buy clothes at consignment shops such as Buffalo Exchange, or sports equipment at Play It Again Sports, and buying toys and clothes for the kids at various sites (Craigslist, local children's consignment etc), but I don't know how diligent I could be about absolutely not buying new for one year. It would save me a lot of money for sure and help with my ecological footprint - but part of this blog is chronicling our path to greenness. In other words, it is a journey - to me, it means that I am not there yet BUT learning and trying everyday. I will, of course, continue to be a Craigslist frequenter and maybe one day I will act fast and get something FREE from Freecycle. I also think twice, or three times, about the purchases that I do make. I just bought a new puzzle for my son, but bought it at a locally owned toy store and the puzzle brand is a very small company that makes it's pieces out of recycled materials. I think if you are a mindful shopper, you can support your local economy and small businesses AND do the right thing for the environment all at the same time!