Monday, 15 October 2007

True or False: Organic produce is not fertilized

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If you believe organic produce is grown without fertilizer, then you are wrong. But don't get too upset, as you envision chemicals dripping all over your sweet squash and succulent strawberries.

All plants require nutrients to thrive, therefore, organic farmers must fertilize their plants. But they do it with natural materials like compost and manure. Hmmm. Which sounds better -- chemicals or manure?

Anyway, anything used in organic farming must be produced following the guidelines set forth in the USDA National Organic Program Standards. Take a look for yourself and discover exactly what these farmers do to make our food flourish.

Eco-friendly fitness clothing a click away

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Being a steward of our natural resources is a gratifying adventure. Whether global warming is a theory you embrace or dismiss, most of us are varying shades of green when it comes to the footprint we leave on the environment. Maybe you are an avid recycler, drive a hybrid, a Sierra Club member or simply grow heirloom tomatoes in your garden. Each and every decision makes a difference.

Even the fitness clothing we purchase can impact the earth's natural resources, depending on the philosophy of the clothing manufacturer. Design, durability and use of recycled materials go a long way to lessen the stress on our planet.

Based in Boulder, Colorado, GoLite is a leading manufacturer of lightweight outdoor adventure clothing and gear. Their designs use less raw materials, incorporate recycled contents where feasible, and they even offer a lifetime guarantee on every product to reduce consumerism. Other on-line clothing manufacturers to consider are Gaiam, Patagonia and Timberland. Check out this recent article summarizing the philosophies of these four eco-friendly sources for fitness clothes and gear. GoLite and Go Green!

Using food to maintain a youthful look

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Would you be willing to change your diet if it meant you could look younger? It's a pretty intriguing possibility, isn't it? According to this piece, author Dr. Steven Masley who penned the book Ten Years Younger Diet suggests adding a number of food items to your daily meals in order to look and feel younger.

In the article, the items are described in a range of ways:

  • cancer-fighters (leafy green veggies and lean proteins, seafood, beans and legumes)
  • foods that help you maintain a healthy weight (soy and whole grains, cruciferous vegetables, berries, nuts and flaxseed)
  • items that lower cholesterol (garlic, herbs and spices, green tea)
  • foods that stabilize blood sugar levels (non-fat yogurt, red wine, cocoa and chocolate)

Everything on the list is relatively easy to find at a local supermarket, and also quite simple to add to your diet. If you want to read more about each of these youthful foods and just why they're so good for you, take a look at the full article here. I think we all know that eating well is the key to healthy insides but I think it's pretty encouraging to know that it's also helpful when maintaining a healthy-looking exterior.

Eco-fitness tools at your disposal

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We only have one Earth. And one Life. And one chance. So we might as well do things right, like preserving the gifts bestowed upon each one of us, say the powers that be at A.R.E. Naturals, an on-line shop offering products made from materials drawn purely through the generosity of Mother Nature.

This shop has quite an inventory of green items -- stuff for the kitchen, the bed and bath, the garden, the mind, and of course: The body.

Check out these fitness tools. There's a bamboo yoga block, a hemp yoga mat bag, and a hemp yoga bolster. How about a natural rubber fitness ball? Or natural rubber weight balls? These are just some of the finds you'll discover with one swift click of your mouse.

If you're an earth-loving enthusiast who lives and breathes the green life, this may be just the stop for you. If you've located other great green fitness locations, drop us a comment and let us know how to get there.

Daily Fit Tip: Start a recycling program in your area

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Yeah, I know -- recycling may not appear to be related to the topic of fitness. But in reality, it is! Maintaining a healthy, fit lifestyle not only includes the physical being, but the emotional and mental one as well. Doing small parts to help the planet definitely falls into this venue.

Where I live, some of the smaller communities have no curbside recycling. In an age of many adults being overworked and having less time that ever before, trying to mount a recycling project that requires effort by those needing to recycle can fall flat on its face.

Enter a hybrid trash collection/recycling program. Talk to your local wasts disposal authorities and find out if adding a separate recycling program onto trash trucks would make sense. Then, the only effort to get consumers to recycle is to have a bin where plastic, paper and glass products can be collected. Encourage this and get involved with the city council if necessary. One by one and little by little, the difference can be made.

Homemade cleaners make housework less hazardous to your health

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A recent study found that household cleaners may raise the risk of adult asthma, possibly accounting for as many as one in seven cases. The study followed 3,500 people over a nine year period, and found that those at the highest risk were women. Surprisingly, only 1 in 10 of those women stayed home full time. In addition, just one cleaning a week was enough to raise a person's risk. Air fresheners, furniture cleaners, and glass cleaners seemed to be the biggest culprits, though scientists have yet to pin down why.

You don't have to give up your dream of a clean home when you give up household cleaners. Homemade, non-toxic cleaners are inexpensive and easy to make with a few essentials like baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice. And by adding in your own essential oils, you get to choose what your home smells like when you're done cleaning. Another option is to buy earth-friendly cleaning products at the store. Beware of greenwashing, however, where a label makes claims that the product is green when it really isn't. Consumer reports recently did a review of popular green cleaning products, so take a minute to check out their results before you buy.

Lead found in popular brands of lipstick

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The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a consumer group, recently conducted testing on 33 popular lipstick brands and found that a surprising 61% contained detectable levels of lead. About 1/3 of the lipsticks exceeded the allowable level of lead in candy. While these may seem like relatively small amounts of lead, you do apply lipstick to your mouth where some of it inevitably gets ingested.

Makeup manufacturers are striking back, saying their products pass numerous inspections and meet federal standards. In addition, the FDA says that they've been aware of the presence of lead in lipstick and have no plans to address the issue.

I'm not sure, at this point, what this finding means, but I do think it's important for consumers to be informed about what's inside the products they are using. Read more about the issue at the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website.

Halloween: A great chance to recycle old clothes

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Halloween is one occasion where we can get away with wearing bizarre items that have been sitting in the back of the closet for the past few decades. In fact, come to think of it, halloween is a great time for recycling any old thing you don't wear any more -- you can incorporate it into your kids' costume, or even your own! The DIY Diva at the Green Guide has some great suggestions:
  • Paint yellow stripes on an old black turtle neck for a bumble bee costume.
  • Stuff old newspaper in back stockings for spider legs.
  • Cat ears can be made from a head band and some old material, or felt from the hobby store.
  • For a mask, consider a paper mache one or one made from a paper plate.
In my house, we always had recycled costumes, and though I'm past my dressing up days, I'm at the point where I wouldn't consider buying one of those tacky department-store costumes. What do you think?

Seafood: What's good for you & the ocean too

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Eating fish is good for you. Is it good for the environment too? Not always. But a growing number of aquariums and fish conversation programs are offering "guilt-free" guides to help you make the best choices when it comes to buying fish and other seafood.

Fish that are abundant, well-managed, fished, or farmed make the guilt-free list. According to the National Seafood Guide 2007, published by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, here are some of the keepers:

Arctic Char (farmed)
Bay Scallops (farmed)
Catfish (farmed)
Clams (farmed)
Mussels and Oysters (farmed)
Pacific Halibut
Rainbow Trout (farmed)
Salmon (Alaska wild)
Spiny Lobster (U.S.)
Striped Bass (farmed or wild)
Tilipia (U.S.)

Now this list is not exhaustive. You can find more information here. You'll also get a peek at fish that are both high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in environmental contaminants -- like anchovies, oysters, and sardines.

Note: Young children, pregnant women, and anyone who wishes to watch their mercury consumption should always avoid seafood with high mercury levels -- such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.

Study says students binge eat to relieve stress

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We've all heard of the 'freshman 15' -- the legendary 15 pounds that students tend to put on during their first year away at college. Apparently though, that weight doesn't necessarily come from too much partying and late-night study sessions fueled with lots of pizza.

According to the study reported on here, female students who go away to university and live in dorms are three times more likely to develop a binge-eating habit than those who remain at home with their parents. Girls who already had negative body images were also three times more likely to begin binge eating than those who did not.

The many changes that students have to deal with when they first go away to college can be incredibly stressful, and for young people who aren't used to dealing with such heavy levels of stress, binge eating can become a coping mechanism. It's dangerous because it can not only lead to significant weight gain, but developing a binging habit can also eventually lead to bulimia.

If you have a child who has recently gone away for their first year of college and you're worried about how they're coping, take a look at the full article for more information.

The 100 Mile Diet

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Think global, act local ... by eating locally on the 100 Mile Diet.

British Columbia's Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon embarked upon a unique challenge in the spring of 2005. For an entire year, they pledged to purchase and gather sustenance within 100 miles of their home. Considering most ingredients travel about 1,500 miles before reaching our mouths, this was no easy task. No Chilean grapes, no California wine, no Italian risotto.

Alisa and James' great undertaking was life-changing. They ate loads of potatoes until finally locating a local wheat farmer. Buying directly from farmers, they discovered the seasons, the micro-seasons, and even learned the art of canning. Their blog resonated with individuals and grassroots organizations across the country. Check out their book and consider how globalization and industrial food systems impact your diet choices and connections with community.

Give eating locally a whirl -- try cooking one meal a month from local sources or host a 100 Mile Diet potluck. Please, do share your experience!

Organic, free range, cage free -- what does it all mean?

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If you care about animal rights (and I do), then you understand how hard it is to find a cruelty-free egg. But if animal rights aren't on your radar, you may be surprised to learn that eggs laid by healthy, happy hens are more nutritious than eggs laid by birds kept in crowded, unsanitary cages.

The best way to find eggs laid by happy hens is to find a local source. You can visit the farms and see for yourself how the chickens are raised. It's less likely to be a large, commercial operation, and your eggs won't have to travel thousands of miles to reach you. But if a local farm just isn't an option, take a minute to school yourself in egg carton lingo. For instance, did you know "all-natural" doesn't really mean anything? On the other hand, if a package says "certified humane," then you know the farm has been inspected and certified by outside sources.

It's not always easy to find a cruelty-free egg, but you can't beat the benefits. Less cholesterol and saturated fat, more vitamin A and E, and more beta-carotene and omega-3 fatty acids mean more nutrition for you!

Michael Franti on doing his part for the environment

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Folk/funk artist Michael Franti is not only an amazing musician but an outspoken personality on important global issues. So it should come as no surprise that he is speaking out on one especially important issue: The environment. Grist spoke to the artist and here's what he had to say when asked how he and the band try to reduce their carbon footprint:

"We stopped allowing plastic bags (we only use cloth bags), changed all our light bulbs, and have done weather stripping and other stuff to make our home more efficient. We recycle everything and compost everything. As a band, we've done the same thing. In our tour rider, we have a requirement that things have to be recyclable, and we recycle on our bus. This fall, our bus is switching to biodiesel. We try as much as we can to use organic cottons for our merch and hemp paper for our CDs."

Whether we have a band or not, these are just some of the things we can do as well to help curb our impact on the environment. What other things do you do for the environment?

Eco-fitness gear and products becoming more common

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Informed consumers are becoming more adept at looking for products and foods that promote a sustainable living arrangement for our planet, so why shouldn't green exercise equipment be in the mix?

Did you know that natural bamboo has such a high tensile strength that it's used in story-high scaffolding? The natural rods can be used in creative ways for exercise equipment as well.

With eco-living comes those who would take advantage of it (naturally), so if you find that new piece of recreational or exercise equipment is being marketed as eco-friendly, ask questions to the seller and manufacturer. Where is the product made? How is it made? Of what is is made, exactly? Of course, eco-fitness can easily be had without any equipment using only your body. Want a bigger challenge? How about an all-natural Pilates setup?

Lunch Lessons: Improving the quality of school lunches

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Though my older daughter isn't yet old enough to eat lunch at school, I still get the menu each Friday in her backpack: hot dogs (served daily), pizza, chicken pot pie, nachos, all often served with french fries. Rinse, lather, repeat each week. Needless to say, there isn't a lot there to celebrate, even though it is National School Lunch Week. I'm disappointed to see a menu that has changed little since when I was in school, despite everything we now know about nutrition.

Then I came across Chef Ann and her Lunch Lessons site. Chef Ann is working hard to change the way we think about school lunches, including outdated school budgets and our dependency on commodity-based foods. She's an amazing breath of fresh air. Check out her blog and her "meal wheel" for helping parents and kids choose healthy foods. Not coincidentally, I'm sure, she's also celebrating her third annual National School Food Challenge where she asks parents, kids, and advocates to challenge their school systems to improve the nutritional level of their school lunches. It's important to add that Chef Ann focuses on finding local, sustainable sources for school meals.

It's easy to say, "Oh, I'll just pack my children's lunches." (I'll admit it, it's what I thought when I saw our school's lunch menu.) But while that solves the problem for my own family, it does little to address the bigger picture. Chef Ann can help concerned parents approach their schools for a healthier future.

10 greenest U.S. cities

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Our city recently announced that a new power plant would be built in the area -- a coal burning plant. It will sit right next to our existing coal-burning plant, the one that's responsible for our significant air and water pollution issues. It's distressing news for someone who wants to see her city clean up their act, and I wish that my area leaders would look at some of these cities -- Yahoo's top 10 greenest -- for inspiration:
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Austin, Texas
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Boulder, Colorado
  • Burlington, Vermont
  • Madison, Wisconsin
  • New York, New York
  • San Francisco, California
  • Santa Monica, California
  • Chicago, Illinois
Some of the ways these cities earned their way onto this list include: good public transportation, well-kept bike trails for commuting, year round farmer's markets, dedication to renewable energy, and strong recycling programs. Do you live in a green city? What kinds of things does your city do to encourage sustainable living?

Green up your sex life?

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You can apply eco-friendly principles to pretty much every aspect of your life. But even ... your sex life? Yep, according to this article from TreeHugger. They've listed some things you can do and products you can use to protect yourself, protect the environment and still have a great time with that special someone. Some tips?
  • Shower together. Not only do you save water, but you are sure to have a steamy time.
  • When it comes to lubes and lotions, go for the ones that are as natural as possible -- so without artificial colour, scents or tastes. You can even find organic products at some stores.
  • Try bamboo sheets on the bed -- they're sensual and slippery.
  • Try some natural aphrodisiacs. Herbs like ginseng and ginko biloba are rumored to be aphrodisiacs, plus some food items like strawberries, oysters, chocolate and wine. Know of any others?

Birth order: does it matter?

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Does the birth order of children matter in their future success? That question has been the subject of many books and psychological experiments for a long time, although it's just one variable that affects the turnout of that child you know and love.

One thing that continues to strike me with so many recent studies is the lack of variables that are considered when conclusions are put forth. This summer, yet another 'birth order' study was released that concluded first borns have a higher IQ than their younger siblings.

Without knowing the specifics of the study, it's hard to draw conclusions on its validity. Are the differences found in studies like these really significant? Some differences really are not, although scientists like to take any data and make proclamations. As always, read and decide for yourself.

Cancer deaths drop between 2002-2004

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In a report today, federal health officials announced the decline in deaths by cancer is accelerating. Those are nice words. According to the most recent year of comprehensive data, cancer deaths dropped an average of 2.1 percent each year from 2002-2004.

Cancer deaths started falling in 1992, and while this trend is promising, it is nowhere near the 25 percent drop in deaths by cardiovascular disease seen between 1994-2005. For leading cancers, colon cancer deaths realized the biggest drop, -4.9 percent for men between 2002-2004 and -4.5 percent for women. Prostate cancer deaths dropped -4.1 percent between 1994-2004, while breast cancer fell -2.2 percent for women between 1990-2004. Lung cancer deaths saw a -2.0 percent reduction for men between 1994-2004, while women had a much smaller reduction, 0.2 percent between 1995-2004.

According to one expert, the decline is attributed to several factors, including detection, treatments and Americans adopting healthier lifestyles. Makes me feel doubly good for choosing that healthy breakfast before stepping on the treadmill this morning! Read more in USA Today.

Make your CFLs even more efficient with this tip

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Are you using CFLs -- compact fluorescent lamps/lightbulbs? If not,