It isn't easy being green - especially when you're urban and love Thai take out. But I'm sure gonna try.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Finding Better Bubbles

I recently picked up a new container of dish washing soap at Whole Foods. It was on sale, so I figured I'd give it a try. (Sales are a pretty large determinant of what I buy.) When I opened the soap I noticed this note on the label, "This product is 1,4-Dioxane free." This made me very happy.

1,4-Dioxane is a scary bugger of a chemical, and it is found predominantly in products that create suds, like shampoos, soaps, bubble baths, laundry detergent, and dish soaps. It's a probable human carcinogen, but because it is most often a contaminant and not an ingredient, it's not listed in products' ingredients. As consumers we have no idea whether the products we're buying contain this chemical or not. What's more, many products claiming to be natural, contain it, too. Buying a products at health food stores does not ensure your product is 1,4-Dioxane free.

Watchdog groups like the Organic Consumers Association are on the case, and each year they test products and publish their findings. The good news is that these tests have motivated green companies to purify their products and rid them of this contaminant.

I wish I could give you a master list here of products that do and do not contain 1,4-Dioxane, but I can't right now. I do promise to list products as I find them though. One great laundry alternative is to use Soap Nuts, which contain saponin, a natural cleaner, and are made from the dried fruit of the Chinese Soapberry tree. I've used Maggie's Soap Nuts with great results, and I plan to buy a bag as soon as I finish my container of Ecos.

For now, I can offer you these two resources:

The 2010 list of tested laundry detergents This list compares conventional and green brands for their 1,4-Dioxane levels. (You'll be frightened by how much of this stuff is in some conventional brands.)

Earth Friendly Products This brand has worked hard to remove all traces of 1,4-Dioxane from their products, including Ecos laundry detergent and Earth Friendly dish mate.

For more information on 1,4-Dioxane, check out the Environmental Working Group.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I Have no Microwave ... and Other Confessions From the Green Edge, Part 2

Some readers have been asking why I've made these choices, so I thought it was time to follow up with Part 2....

1)Saying Goodbye to our Microwave:

About four years ago my husband and I stumbled upon an article listing the top 50 things you could do to make your home healthier. The piece suggested standing six feet away from a microwave while it is cooking and not to look directly into the oven while it is cooking either. We did not have six feet of clearance anywhere. Our kitchen is too small, and we have young children. Our microwave was broken and needed to be replaced, so we decided to see if we could live without it. We could. We don't miss it... except for that odd time that we need to heat something up really fast, or we forgot to defrost meat for dinner. I'll admit, too, that it's hard to find concrete evidence against microwaves especially in mainstream media. Still, anything you need to stand six feet away from can't be that safe. For now, I'm content not to have one.

For those of you who want to learn a bit more, here are two pieces from green news sources:

Nuking Food

11 Surprising Facts and Myths About Microwave Ovens

2) We have no Wifi

Two years ago I began reading about the effects electromagnetic fields (EMFs) have on humans, and I grew concerned about my children who played in front of our wireless router. I talked to my very smart friend, H, a former health editor at a prominent magazine. She had gotten rid of her family's wireless router due to similar concerns. Generally my husband rolls his eyes at my neurosis, but about three weeks after broaching the topic, a large box arrived on our stoop. A week later, he had dismantled the wireless router and set up a LAN line throughout our home. The process was surprisingly affordable and easy. It's not perfect -- we need to reset our router about once every other day, but that's just a question of turning the power off and on. When I asked my husband why he took me seriously this time, his answer was simple. Our kids were, he said, literally in front of our router. The information on safety is not consistent, and he didn't want to risk it ... Of course, three weeks after we dismantled our system, our town placed a wireless router on the light post right outside our home. (Now sticking my fingers in my ears and singing la, la, la...)

If this topic interests you, you can read a bit more about it here:

Press Release on WiFi courtesy of Oppenheim Toy Awards

Ontario town tries to stop Wifi

Can Wifi Cause Birth defects?

3) I hate cell phones:

So this one should come as no surprise given what you've just read above. I'm not even going to list articles here. The safety of cell phones has been in question for years, and enough research proves that cell phone activity does SOMETHING to your brain. To be candid, I feel anxious every time I put my phone to my ear, and I never let me children play with or talk on my phone. (My husband on the other hand...) What's more, there's nothing worse than a bad connection.

I'm not suggesting everyone should chuck their phones. I have one in my purse all the time for emergencies. But many of us survived childhoods with no cell phones just fine. And honestly, if I'm not home, I don't want to talk on the phone. I'm probably out busy doing something. Don't even get me started on why you shouldn't use your cell phone in a moving car - speaker or not.

I use a land line whenever I can, and if I do use my cell phone, I text, I keep the call super short, try to use my speaker or the bluetooth in my car, and I just bought headsets for my husband and I that are supposed to cut down on dangerous rays. Whether or not they work, I can't tell you.

But I'll take this one step further, I won't buy a smart phone, a droid, an iphone, a blackberry or anything that accesses the internet. These phones are constantly searching for signals. I don't want to spend that much time connected to a device emitting so many EMFs. And frankly, I don't want to spend that much time distracted....

4) Getting Rid of My Portable Phones

Remember my super smart editor friend, H? She has an EMF monitor, and I decided to borrow it to find out where the most EMFs came from in our home. I was shocked to discover that the portable phones had higher EMF ratings than our television and computer. This suggests to me that holding a portable phone to my ear is no safer than using a cell phone. If you poke around online, you'll find a slew of alternative website that claim portable phones can actually affect your heart rhythm. What's more, my crappy portable phones break frequently and don't work in a power failure. My $9.99 wall phone is a four-year-old work horse that has never broken.

The next highest EMF ratings came from our dimmer light switch, but I'm not ready to tackle that just yet.

So, I warned you that this was a post from the edge. Most of what I'm suggesting is NOT mainstream, and I get that. My friends roll their eyes because they all think I'm a kook when it comes to these concerns. But nothing in life is free, and maybe there is a price tag for all our conveniences. Just food for thought...