Sunday, November 10, 2013

How Pink Slime is Made into Meat

Renowned chef and nutrition activist Jaime Oliver exposes the malpractice of creating "pink slime" out  of ammonia-treated animal byproducts  (unintended for human consumption). A must-watch video -- especially if you let your child eat at McDonald's ... or at school.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Best Healthy Halloween Candy

Gummy Bears by Yummy Earth
It's that time of year again when green parents want to find healthier ways to let their little ones indulge in sugar. On one end of the Green Halloween Candy Spectrum you have the inexpensive organic lollipops and on the other (quite pricey) end are the organic chocolates. Right smack in the middle is my personal favorite: gummy bears. Kids just go gaga for anything gummy. My favorite gummy brand is YummyEarth. The YummyEarth Gummy Bears  provide 100% of the daily vitamin c requirement, are gluten-free, soy-free, vegan, and organic. They satisfy a child's sweet tooth without being too syrupy-sweet. Unlike many gummy candies and gummy vitamins, Yummy Earth gummies do not stick to your teeth and thus have a much lover chance of contributing to tooth decay. If you want to see your kids smile, pick up a pack of Yummy Earth Gummy Bears today. Available in local health food stores and on

Sunday, October 27, 2013

GMO-Free Tostitos Actually Exist

Organic, GMO-Free Tostitos
There are many restaurant-style tortilla chips on (and in) the market these days,  but in my mind, none holds a candle (or a corn cob) to the crispy, light, just-right salted perfection of a Tostito chip. It's like a bite of sunshine in your mouth. It's just too bad that sunshine had to made out of genetically modified ingredients. That's right - like most corn products, the regular Tostitos brand is tainted by the engineered path by which it obtained its corn. As a matter of fact, the Tostitos parent company Frito Lay is still fighting a class action lawsuit that would like to see the company remove the "all natural" title from its chips since most will argue that corn grown from genetically modified seeds can hardly be called "natural." (Perhaps Frito Lay will change the wording to  "All-Lab Created")  In the midst of this controversy, Frito Lay did something smart: they produced an organic, GMO-free chip that tastes exactly like the GMO version. This one is called "Simply Natural,"  is sold at all major grocery stores, and will run you about one dollar more per bag. Is it worth the extra money to avoid feeding your family genetically altered food? I believe it is - for now. I also believe that if we tell companies we want  more organic, GMO-free products then the demand will push down the cost  and soon everyone will be able to afford to eat GMO-free.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Coconut Oil on Baked Potatoes

So - I ran out of butter the other day and didn't realize it until I was taking the baked potatoes out of the oven. Oh a whim, I decided to use coconut oil in place of butter (with a small dollop of sour cream) and of my gosh -- what a taste sensation! I happened to have Dr. Bronner's unrefined, whole kernel "Magic Fresh Pressed Virgin Coconut Oil" on hand, which is far more hearty and tasty than any other brand I've tasted. It gave the potatoes the slightest tinge of coconut flavor without overpowering them. The best part was the hard potato skin, which (post-baking) I lathered in coconut oil and sprinkled with salt. Voila - a new family side dish! And thanks to the heart and skin benefits of coconut oil, one that is as healthy as it is tasty.

Friday, August 23, 2013

How to Kill Fleas Naturally

Nontoxic Method for Killing Fleas: Apple Cider Vinegar 
Our first family dog - and my first dog since the age of seven - joined our family yesterday. Because she is a rescue who was living in foster care with 8 other dogs until that point, a large pack of fleas decided to come along for the ride. Her wonderful foster mother had her doused twice with serious flea meds, yet there they were: hundreds of flat black specks darting in and out of her soft white fur.   They immediately made me think of the lice I went to war with (twice) on my children's scalps and I couldn't help but wonder if that natural solution would kill this enemy as well. I turned to Google to find out and sure enough, tons of people were having success using the same ingredient I used to kill lice: apple cider vinegar. A solution so simple, it's a wonder more people haven't discovered it.

I ran a bath for my precious new pup last night (her very first night home), soaped her up, then rinsed her off with a solution of 1:1 organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar. I fluff dried her with a towel and this morning -- all we could find on her were dead fleas. No more live ones! As a bonus, her fur was extra shiny and soft (just like my hair is when I find time to do a vinegar rinse to it). Now I'm planning to try the vinegar rinse on our dog weekly to see if it helps keep future infestations at bay. I'll be sure to  post updates on our progress.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Eco-Friendly Computer Bag by Baggu

 Recycled Canvas Duck Bag by Baggu - Perfect Size for Laptops

It was online love at first sight when I spotted the canvas Duck Bag by Baggu. At 16" high and 10" wide it is the perfect size for transporting a laptop, which is exactly what I was looking for. I'd had my share of ugly, synthetic briefcase-sytle computer bags. I wanted something that was hip and functional and perhaps did not make me look like a laptop toting dork all the time The gorgeous and eco-friendly Duck Bag filled the bill perfectly. It is made out of 100% recycled cotton canvas, comes in 17 fun colors and patterns,  and is machine washable. I loved the Sea shade (see below) but in the end went with Red (above) as I knew it would hide dirt better. The Duck Bag has two easy grab-and-go handles  (perfect for heavier loads - such as laptops) and a 40" adjustable strap (which is great for lighter loads or to strap across your chest as a purse).
Sea Colored Duck Bag by Baggu
The Duck Bag is thick but it is not padded - so it will not be my go-to computer bag for destinations where it might get bumped around. For daily use, however, when I am working at home and then suddenly need to fly out the door with computer in hand and deadlines looming - it is the perfect eco-friendly and dare I say stylish choice for lugging my work around town.

I contacted Baggu to find out where their bags are manufactured prior to making my purchase. Their canvas and nylon bags are ethically produced at a factory in China that adheres to fair wages, fair labor practices and regular inspections.  All leather Baggu products, however, are made in the USA.

The Duck Bag currently retails for $27 and is available at and at other online and local stores. Click here to visit today to view all their adoreable eco-friendly bags, backpacks and purses.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

How to Tell if Sugar is GMO-free and Vegan

Organic Pure Cane Sugar - Guaranteed to Be GMO-Free and Vegan
Sugar is not good for anyone - plain and simple - but if you want to treat yourself or your family to something sweet, your healthiest route is to go organic, vegan and GMO-free. The simplest way to accomplish all three is to read the label and look for one simple ingredient: organic pure cane sugar. The "pure cane" aspect ensures that the sugar came from the sugar cane plant and not from a sugar beet, as sugar beet crops are highly genetically modified these days. The "organic" aspect ensures this as well but also guarantees that the sugar was not bleached with bone char, the secret tool used by many sugar companies to whiten to their sugar, even "pure cane sugar." That's right - most white sugar is not vegan. It requires the use of animal byproducts (bone) to make it that white-as-snow color we all associate with sugar. Sugar-in-the-raw and all organic sugars are the exception. Brown sugar, however, is simply refined sugar that has been flavored by molasses (and sometimes artificially colored as well) to  dark it, moisten it and alter its flavor. In other words, unless your brown sugar comes from "organic pure cane" sugar crops, it it is likely genetically modified AND not vegan.

So, next time you're shopping for treats or setting out to make your own, don't waste money on special "vegan" or "GMO-free" packaging. Just look for "organic pure cane" - and you'll have accomplished both.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What $20 Can Buy at the Farmers' Market

Organic Produce and Raw Dairy from a local Farmers' Market
A lot of folks complain that organic produce and dairy are simply too expensive for their weekly budget. In our family, it is the one thing we splurge on. We are lucky, mind you, because we live in Southern California where sun, produce and happy cows are plentiful. Yet still, even in so cal, many families just don't know how or where to get the most for their money when it comes to organics. Most of the time, it is NOT at your local Wholefoods Store but rather at your local food co-op, chain grocery or best-of-all your Farmers Market. The problem with Farmers' Markets, however, is that they are not always honest. Many of the stands will tell you they are "pesticide free" yet they can provide no evidence for this claim. Last month I decided to visit my local Farmers' Market to see just how much true, certified ORGANIC goods a twenty dollar bill would buy me and I have to say I was impressed. Check out my bounty:

* 1/2 Gallon Raw Whole Milk
* 3 Apples
* 1 head of Cauliflower
* 3 full branches of Broccoli
* 3 heads of Red Leaf Lettuce

Had I gone to a chain grocer and NOT shopped organic, it would have cost me about the same amount. And my food would contain harmful pesticides. And it would have been trucked in from far away. And it would be older and not last as long in the refrigerator. would simply not compare when it comes to flavor.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Healthiest Way to Make Popcorn

Best Air Popper - the Orville Redenbacher Hot Air Popcorn Popper
Did you know that delicious smelling bag of microwave popcorn your co-worker makes every day just might be killing you? Yes you. Even if you are not the one eating the popcorn - you are the one breathing it and what you are breathing is a chemical used to coat the inside of the microwave bags that turns into perfluorooctinoic acid, a known carcinogen, when heated.

Cooking popcorn in a pot of oil is far less toxic but still creates a fried, high-fat food that is not terribly healthy for any one.

With these two options off the table - only one remains: the good ol' 1980's style electronic air popper. Instead of oil, air poppers use electricity and hot air to heat kernels of corns until they pop. The popcorn that results is healthy, light and fluffy - but virtually tasteless. That is until you add a small amount of heated butter (preferably organic and grass-fed) and salt. This simple combination is the easiest and healthiest way to make movie-style popcorn. Yes, the inside of an air popper is made of aluminum and plastic, both of which may cause health concerns when heated. But the exposure these elements have to the heated corn kernels is very brief and because I eat popcorn several times a week, I prefer to take that health risk over eating fried food or ingesting carcinogenic chemicals any day.

There are many air poppers on the market - and I've tried almost all of them. One of the best - as far as numbers of kernels popped and longevity of product lifespan is the the Orville Redenbacher Hot Air Popcorn Popper by Presto. Click here to buy one on today.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Best Cloth Diaper Covers for Prefolds

Imse Vimse "Bumpy Cover" for Cloth Diapers
If you decided to bite the bullet and try cloth diapers - good for you! You will be keeping over 6,000 disposable diapers PER CHILD out of our overflowing landfills. That's 6,000 plus diapers that take over 200 years to decompose. This decision - which is obviously helping the planet - will also save you several hundreds of dollars with your first child and well over a thousand if you are diapering two or more in the course of your lifetime. There are many different types of cloth diapers on the market today but when it comes to covers there is only one standout:  The Bumpy Wool Cover made by the Swedish company Imse Vimse. Don't be fooled by the name - there is nothing "bumpy" about the Bumpy cover. It is made of a thin, flannel-like, soft wool that wicks away wetness while simultaneously absorbing it. The snug, velcro fit makes the Bumpy cover perfect for prefold diapers - the most affordable cloth diaper option. Simply lay a prefold cloth inside a Bumpy cover and attach it to baby. The Imse Vimse Bumpy cover is perfect for all seasons, as it allows maximum air circulation while providing the best leak-proof protection of any cloth diaper cover I have yet to try.

Cleaning Bumpy Diaper Covers is a cinch, as they only need to be washed about once every week or two – unless they get poop on them (mine seldom did) or they start to smell like urine (which, miraculously – they rarely do). Imse Vimse recommends hand washing but here is my secret: I washed mine in the washer - in cold water - and they lasted over six years. I also was very lazy about re-lanolizing my Bumpy covers. I did it once ... in six years.

I recommend purchasing four to six Imse Vimse Bumpy diaper covers per stage (size) of diapering. It's a bit of an investment, but well worth it...and will save you plenty in the long run. Imse Vimse Bumpy covers are sold on Click here to purchase the Imse Vimse Bumpy cover.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Benefits of Glass Food Storage Containers

Glass Food Storage
As far as I'm concerned, one simply can not have enough glass food jars for storage. They can be used for everything you buy in bulk - but also for anything you buy in plastic (like cereal) that you wish to get OUT of plastic ASAP. Like rice, for example. I don't buy rice in bulk because I find the quality and taste goes down too much when its exposed to prolonged air. Instead, I buy rice in prepackaged plastic or paper bags and transport it to its designated "rice" jar.

By storing food in glass jars instead of plastic, you lessen your exposure to the the toxic hormone disruptors found in plastic. Food also tends to taste better when stored in glass, because unlike plastic, glass does not absorb the taste and smell of what was previously stored in it.

When buying items for your bulk jars, bring the jars themselves to the store. The store will happily weigh the jars for you (when you arrive) and not charge you for the weight of the glass when you check out. Remember, glass storage is NOT just for bulk items. You can use them in the meat and cheese departments as well. Of course, for meat and cheese, you'll want smaller, more rectangular glassware like those made by Pyrex (see below). Glass food storage jars are available in local super markets, Macy's, Bed, Bath and Beyond and

Pyrex Glass Food Storage

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How to Clean Wood Floors Naturally

All-natural, hardwood floors are great for our health (because, unlike carpet, they hold no allergens) and are great for the planet (because they can last decades without needing to be replaced). Not to mention, they're downright gorgeous. A lot of folks are stumped, however, when it comes to how to clean wood floors. There are a lot of unnatural AND natural products on the market that claim to be excellent floor cleaners, but why waste your money (or health) on those when a bucket of water, some clean rags, and a little vinegar will do the job just as well - if not better - at a fraction of the cost?

How to Clean Wood Floors (Hardwood, Bamboo or Engineered):

In a bowl, bucket or sink combine FOUR parts water to ONE PART distilled white vinegar. Dampen a mop or soft rag with the 4:1 mixture and wipe across small areas of the floor. For example, start by cleaning a 4ft by 4ft section and before you move onto the next section, swirl the dampened section with a clean, dry rag until all moisture is alleviated. If you leave wetness on wood (like you can on tile or other surfaces) you will eventually ruin it. It will become watermarked and the wood will begin to slowly warp. Drying small sections of wood as you clean will avoid this disaster ... and will prevent unattractive streaks.
To clean sticky spots or occasional spills, make a small batch of the 4:1 water and vinegar mixture, then spot clean and immediately dry.

Another option that works well on food spills and sticky areas of wood flooring is natural orange cleaner. Simply spray some on the mess and wipe dry with a clean rag. Orange Plus by Earth Friendly Products is a good choice. Or, better yet, skip the extra plastic bottle purchase and make your own orange cleaner, which is also great for cleaning counter tops AND degreasing stove tops. Barbara H. Peterson shares a terrific recipe for homemade, all-natural orange cleaner on her self-sufficiency and sustainability blog "Surviving the Middle Class Crash". (Love that name!)  To visit her blog and learn how to make her natural orange cleaner, click here.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Packaging-Free All-Natural Soap by One With Nature

Package-Free, All-Natural Soap Bars by "One With Nature" at Whole Foods Market
In my on-going quest to live as package-free as possible, I came to discover the 100% unpackaged Dead Sea Mineral Soap display by the company One With Nature at our local Whole Foods Market (pictured above). I'm telling you, the display itself drew me in and won me over. I love that the company does not provide any paper or plastic bags to hold their soap and that the display is all wood and uses a chalkboard instead of a plastic sign for product information and pricing. And speaking of price, this all-natural soap is merely $1.99 per bar. My favorite is the Shea Butter bar, which contains a very mild scent. (I am not a fan of spicy or floral scented soaps - even those with 100% natural fragrance.) I find that the moisturizing shea butter and dead sea mineral ingredients make my skin feel extra soft.

The complete list of ingredients in the Shea Butter Bars by One With Nature are: Saponified Palm and Palm Kernel Oils, Shea Butter, Vegetable Glycerin, Natural Fragrance, Dead Sea Salt, Citric Acid, Salt, Vitamin E

If your local store doesn't carry a package-free soap bar display, contact One With Nature and ask them which stores in your area do:

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Most Eco-Friendly and Affordable Laundry Product

Eco Nuts - An Affordable, Green Alternative to Laundry Soap
For over a decade I've been researching the healthiest, most eco-friendly AND economical way to do laundry. As a result, I've switched brands every time something more pure and less packaged came along. My most were two companies that make highly concentrated, all-natural powders that require a mere tablespoon to clean a large load. While the small and easily recyclable cardboard packaging was great, I was always troubled by the plastic scoop these "natural" companies provided - and that I was collecting on a bi-monthly basis. This over-packaging (something I loath) sent me on a quest to finally give soap nuts a try.

Soap nuts are the reusable dried berries of the Chinese Soapberry Tree (Sapindus Mukorossi) which grows in the Himalayan foothills. Soap nuts contain saponin, an all-natural surfactant that breaks through the surface tension of water to more easily penetrate and clean fabric. There are several online retailers and companies that sell soap nuts to local health food stores and such, but I decided to try the relatively new brand Eco Nuts. Why I chose to go with Eco Nuts was primarily their minimalistic packaging - a small paper box with no plastic whatsoever. Each tiny Eco Nuts box comes with two small, unbleached 100% cotton sacks that hold the soap nuts when you do your wash. I immediately fell in love the fresh, natural smell of the dry berries and was very impressed with how well they cleaned my family's clothes in our front load HE washer.

Eco Nuts claims you can get 100 washes out of their $10 box. That translates to about 10 washes per  grouping of 4-5 soap nuts. I believe this to be true - if you actually have the time to dry your soap nuts between washes. With a large family that does a lot of sports and dirt digging, however, I found that to be impossible. I tried rotating the soap nuts and drying one set while using another, but since I tend to do a whole week's worth of dirty laundry in one day, that was hard to do. I would say, in our family, we get about 70 washes per box, which is still an amazing deal.

Last week we ran out of Eco Nuts and I decided to pick up a box of all-natural powder. My 9 year saw that I was using powder again and exclaimed in horror "Mommy! Where are the Eco Nuts? I love Eco Nuts! They're so much better for the planet!" Her reaction resulted in me (a) immediately adding Eco Nuts to my shopping list for the week, and (b) taking a relaxed breath because clearly the future of our planet is in good hands with this very concerned and highly-informed generation of children at the helm.

Eco Nuts can be found at Whole Foods Market,, and many local healthfood store. To read more about Eco Nuts and all their cleaning products go to:

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Best Glass Water Bottles

Plastic-Free, Metal-Free Water Bottles by Lifefactory
We've never used plastic water bottles for home, kids' school lunches, or for outings or sports activities. Until, recently, we were a stainless steel family when it came to taking water out of the house. We often found our water would taste a bit metallic by the end of the day, but we lived with it because we figured it was the best plastic-free option. Then came Lifefactory bottles - a super safe, colorful glass beverage bottle that changed our family's water-on-the-go habits forever.

Lifefactory's BPA-free, reusable beverage bottles are made from clear soda lime glass, the same glass used to make wine bottles. The glass is wrapped in a thick silicone sleeve that makes the bottle easy to grasp and helps prevent breakage. My kids love the rainbow of color choices. I love the purity and zero-added taste that comes with drinking (or eating) from glass plus the large mouth, which tends to make me drink more water (and who doesn't need that!).

Lifefactory beverage bottles come in two sizes and are available at Whole Foods Market,, and on our Recommended Eco Products page.