Thoughtful Back-to-School Clothes Shopping

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I recently bought a dress with the above tag.  Handmade in India and Nepal by Mata Traders, a “design-driven, fair trade brand helping to end global poverty”,  I thought why can’t more clothes be manufactured under these much more humane and fair conditions? Why aren’t more clothing manufacturers motivated with these values rather than greed and quick profit at whatever cost? Part of the problem is that there is a huge demand for inexpensive everyday clothes, usually manufactured in China and often under horrible conditions.  And who pays the price for cheap? The workers and the environment.

Fair trade clothes aren’t necessarily a lot more expensive than mass produced clothes.  I prefer buying better quality, thoughtfully made clothes that cost a bit more than cheap, mass produced ones. I just buy fewer.  Thankfully as the organic and sustainability movement grows, consumers are more conscious of how their clothes are manufactured and under what conditions.  As a result there are increasingly more fair trade companies from abroad and here in the U.S.

As you start your back-to-school clothes shopping for your kids or your fall shopping for yourself, look for stores that are likely to carry fair trade clothes with this Fair Trade USA label or a comparable label like the one above.

Fair Trade USA “enables sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model that benefits farmers, workers, consumers, industry and the earth.”

Wherever you shop, even chain stores with “fast fashion”, ask the sales clerk about responsibly made clothes.  It’s all about educating, voting with your pocketbook, and thoughtful purchasing.   In other words, create the demand.  As the demand increases, so will the supply and that’s how change happens.

Click here for a list of fair trade and ethical clothing companies available on line.  For you Cape Cod readers, visit Shift Eco-Boutique in Hyannis or Orleans, a boutique with fabulous eco and ethically made clothes and accessories.

Shift Eco Boutique

For general back-to school green tips for kids of all ages, click here.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Some information compiled from http://fairtradeusa.org/.

Watch Out! Read the Labels…..

 

 

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What could be a more perfect hot summer day treat than an all natural fruit bar made with real fruit or fruit juice, no sugar added, and an excellent source of Vitamin C? But before you take a bite, turn the package over and read the label. There you will discover several unwanted and possibly dangerous ingredients – sorbitol, polydextrose, sucralose, acesulfame potassium, polysorbate 80.

 

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What’s the big deal?

 

For starters, “No Sugar Added” is highly misleading.  It should really say artificial sweeteners added and three different kinds at that!  Notice too the asterix after sorbitol which says, “Sensitive individuals may experience a laxative effect from excess consumption of this ingredient.” According to WebMD, “This medication is used as a laxative to treat occasional episodes of constipation.” It is also used as a sweetening agent in medicinal syrups.  The side effects of sorbitol are nausea, gas, diarrhea, stomach cramps or anal irritation.” Who wants a medication, especially a laxative, in their popsicle?

Acesulfame potassium is also an artificial sweetener 200 times sweeter than sugar. According to medicinenet.com, “Acesulfame K (as it’s also known) contains the carcinogen methylene chloride. Long-term exposure to methylene chloride can cause headaches, depression, nausea, mental confusion, liver effects, kidney effects, visual disturbances, and cancer in humans.” Sucralose is another chlorinated artificial sweetener like aspartame, often referred to as “sweetpoison” and reputed to be one of the most dangerous artificial sweeteners of them all. Polysorbate 80 is a surfactant and emulsifier used in cleaners and personal care products.  So, what’s it doing in popsicles?

Yesterday I served these fruit bars to some visiting relatives.  My husband bought them and I thought they looked okay. Later after reading the label, I wished we hadn’t served them.   It’s so easy to be misled by packaging – that’s the intent.

What can you do?

 

With any packaged food, make it a habit to read the label.  As Michael Pollan, the food writer and activist says, “Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.”.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Information from http://www.webmd.com and http://www.medicinenet.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conserve Water This Summer!

 

We are having a beautiful summer in Massachusetts – clear blue skies, dry air, not too hot.  Ideal, but we need some rain! Though we have had some rain the past few days, we haven’t had nearly enough.  Several towns are facing mandatory water restrictions and many have voluntary water bans from the Department of Environmental Protection.  Much of the Northeast, parts of the Southeast, and scattered areas in the Midwest are abnormally dry.  The West continues to be in serious drought conditions.  Conserving water is a must!

Here are two major areas where you can conserve water.

Watering Your Lawn

A lush green lawn is lovely, but turf grass is our largest irrigated “crop”, using as much as half of all fresh water used in urban areas each year. Typically, at least half of all water consumed by households is used outdoors. Lawns require two-and-a-half to four times more water than trees and shrubs, and a typical suburban lawn uses 10,000 gallons of water over and above that provided by rainfall in a single year. Wow! Here are a few suggestions to conserve water with your lawn.

  • Mow high.  Longer grass encourages longer roots, which require less water and food. It also holds moisture better.
  • Avoid mowing during the hottest part of the day.
  • Don’t mow if you don’t have to.  Save the gas instead.
  • When you do water, water deeply and infrequently.
  • Water between 4 and 6am when the demand is low.  After 10 am much of the water evaporates.
  • Check your automatic sprinkler system periodically to make sure the heads are actually watering the lawn and not the sidewalk or your house.
  • Since there seems to be a trend towards hot, dry summers, consider re-landscaping to minimize grass areas in your lawn, lowering your demand for water.  Think about “Edible Landscapes” – they make good sense!
  • If you can, let your lawn go dormant during this drought period.  Lawns are supposed to go dormant in the summer – we just keep them artificially green by watering.  If your lawn has a good root system established, it won’t die and will bounce back during the cooler temperatures of fall.

Washing Your Car

When we wash our car at home,  try to avoid washing near the storm drain. Water run off  goes right into storm drains and eventually into rivers, streams, creeks and wetlands.  You can cover the drain with a rubber mat or wash the car on grass or gravel and let water seep into the ground.  If you do this, make sure to use non-toxic, biodegradable detergents.

To cut down on the amount of water you use when washing your car, try rinsing with rainwater collected  in a bucket or rain barrel.  Use a bucket instead of a hose for washing and use the hose only on the final rinse.

Other Ideas

Turning the water off when you brush your teeth or shave, running the dishwasher and washing machine only when full, shortening your shower are a few other easy ways to save water.  Click here for more ideas.

Water is a precious resource – let’s all do what we can to conserve!

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

Don’t Let Mosquitos Bother You This 4th of July!

Fourth of July is around the corner – fireworks, barbeques, games, swimming, camping and all those other wonderful outside summertime activities, and mosquitos. For those of us who are mosquito magnets and looking for a safer alternative to DEET, there are personal insect repellents containing botanicals like citronella, basil, lavender, geranium, lemongrass, peppermint, rosemary, cedarwood, and tea tree. While these are mildly effective, the longest lasting and most effective botanical is Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, according to the Environmental Working Group. (The Environmental Working Group is a consumer watchdog organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.) In fact, the CDC recently confirmed that Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus can be as effective as DEET in repelling mosquitoes.

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus is a plant-based repellent oil made from the leaves of the Eucalyptus Citriodora tree from tropical northeastern Australia. A 30% concentration of Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (with 19% PMD, a naturally occurring substance) provides up to 6 hours of protection against mosquitoes and ticks.

Repel makes a Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent Pump Spray and is available on-line. I prefer to support local cottage businesses selling insect repellents at my local Farmers’ Market. Check yours to buy some too.  When buying a mosquito repellent, always read the ingredients to make sure they include Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (not to be confused with eucalyptus).

Insect repellent sold at my Farmers' Market

Insect repellent sold at my Farmers’ Market

 

For more ideas for mosquito control, click here.

Summer goes by quickly – don’t let mosquitos and ticks keep you inside!

 

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus is not for use on children 3 and younger, can possibly irritate lungs and has possible allergens.

Information compiled from ewg.org. and treehugger.com

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

“Eat Your Vegetables Day” on Friday!

According to my calendar, Friday, June 17 is “Eat Your Vegetables Day” (who designates these days?!) While everyday should be “eat your vegetables (and fruit) day”, it’s always good to bring awareness to the importance of healthy, seasonal eating.

By eating with the rhythms of the season, Mother Nature provides us with just about everything we need. Take watermelon, tomatoes and strawberries for example. Their high water content helps to keep us hydrated and protects and preserves skin cells so the skin is tighter, smoother and better able to retain moisture.  Their high lycopene content is a powerful antioxidant and helps ward off sunburn. A health and wellness coach I know calls these fruits “edible sunscreen”. When are watermelons, strawberries, and tomatoes in season?  In summer, when we need it most!

Nectarines and cherries are also summer fruits, which contain nutrients that help correct sun damage from the inside out.  They contain vitamins and minerals that control inflammation and free radical damage. Cherries contain inflammation-fighting anthocyanins and melatonin, which may boost UV protection and encourage cell growth.

Cucumbers are 96% water and contain most of the vitamins and minerals you need everyday. Take them along on your kayak or bicycle outing – they make a great energy boosting snack and help keep you hydrated even better than sports drinks. Cucumber is especially beneficial for the skin when eaten or put directly on your skin.  (Rub a slice of cucumber on your cellulite and wrinkles to tighten the skin.) Celery is another nutrient rich summer vegetable high in water content.  Green leafy vegetables are full of powerful beneficial nutrients that are good for just about everything! Loaded with potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory proprieties, it’s important to eat them everyday.

In this abundant time of year, summer fruits and vegetables are the perfect way to stay hydrated and cool and maybe ward off a sunburn! And nothing tastes better or is better for you than fresh, local fruits and vegetables. Make everyday “eat your vegetables day”.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Farmers’ Markets Are Back!

It’s that time of year again  – farmers’ markets are back!  Lettuces, kale, swiss chard, pea greens, radishes, strawberries – there’s lots of early spring produce, especially with greenhouse grown vegetables.  You can also get locally raised eggs, meat, and poultry, fresh-baked goods, honey, locally produced cheeses, local wine, potted plants and herbs, handcrafted soaps and lotions, and artisanal items.  Every week it’s something different.

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Freitas Farm

Advantages of Locally Grown Food

The average food travels 1500 miles from farm to plate, consuming large quantities of fossil fuels and generating major CO2 emissions. Produce is picked unripe, then gassed to ripen, or processed using preservatives or irradiation, losing important nutritional value.   With farmers’ markets, food is grown locally, eliminating all those CO2 emissions. Produce is usually grown organically without chemicals or using sustainable farming practices.  It’s picked at peak ripeness and is fresh and nutritious. There is nothing tastier than a vegetable or fruit straight from the farm.

English: Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) with vari...

Photo by: Wikipedia

When you shop at a farmers’ market, you are supporting local farmers and the local economy. The farmer sells directly to the customer and middlemen are eliminated.  The money stays in the local economy and the farmer gets more of his profits.

Connect with the Farmers Who Grow Your Food

In this era of prepackaged foods, there is little direct connection to our food.  At a farmers’ market, you meet and get to know the people who grow your food and they get to know the people who eat the food they grow.

Farmers’ Markets Foster Community

Farmers’ markets bring the community together; they are a place for neighbors and friends to connect and a place to meet new people.  Participating local musicians, food trucks, art shows, and children’s activities make food shopping a real event.

I noticed at our Sandwich Farmers’ Market today, everyone was happy.  Farmers’ markets provide an old-fashioned respite from our fast-paced, wired lives.  And who doesn’t prefer freshly picked, nutritious and delicious food!  Check out the farmers’ market in your area.

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Monopati Farms – delicious Greek goods

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com

Some information compiled from winchesterfarmersmarket.org.

 

Happy Green Memorial Day!

English: Barbecue Bosanski: Roštilj Deutsch: Grill

English: Barbecue Bosanski: Roštilj Deutsch: Grill (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This Memorial Day weekend, make your cookout eco-correct.  How?  It’s easy….

Think outside the burgers/hot dogs/potato chips box and focus on healthier options instead – turkey tips, wild fish, grilled tofu, grilled veggies, grass-fed beef, free range chicken, sweet potato chips and lots of different salads made with organic fruits and vegetables.  Farmers’ markets are just getting going, but you can still buy fresh, seasonal, and somewhat local fruits and vegetables. Perhaps you have lettuce ready for harvesting from your own garden.  Add delicious and nutritious vine ripened tomatoes and watermelon to your meal – they contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, which also wards off sunburn!

When it comes to grilling, a charcoal chimney is an easy way to start your grill and much safer than lighter fluid if you don’t have a gas grill.  Make sure you use natural, hardwood charcoal instead of the conventional briquettes.  Try filling at least half your grill with produce.  Produce is not only healthy and low-calorie, but also doesn’t produce the carcinogens that can form on grilled meats.  Always cook over a low-to-medium flame and avoid over-charring; flare-ups and smoking oil create carcinogens.  Marinating or basting with oil, honey or a barbeque sauce will provide a barrier and help prevent charring.

I prefer reusable dinner plates and utensils, but if you are having a crowd disposable is easier; just make sure they are compostable or made from recycled, BPA-free plastic.  Whole Foods carries a good selection of biodegradable disposable plates, cups and utensils.  Cloth tablecloths and napkins are a nice touch, but you can easily find recycled paper napkins and cloths at most supermarkets.

Organic, chemical free sunscreen and insect repellents are a much healthier and safer alternative to conventional products.  Consider spraying your yard in advance with a garlic spray to ward off mosquitoes. Start your cookout after peak sun time, between 10 and 2, and provide shade for your guests.

Compost leftover fruits and vegetables, and, don’t forget to recycle cans, bottles and other recyclable items!

Whatever you do to honor the start of summer, make sure you are good to the earth.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

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