Sunday, May 31, 2009

Off to the Movies

I'm drafting this on Saturday, because tomorrow and Monday I will be in Raleigh-Durham interviewing at Duke! Woo hoo! And not just any management program, but an Environmental Management program. It is my dream job, but I imagine there are four or five other candidates who think the same way. Duke! Wish me luck, put me in your prayers, vibe me some good vibes, whatever it is you do for good energy.

Meanwhile, I am treating you Sunday and Monday at the Movies. Did your folks ever let you go to the movies two days running?? I've loaded you up with some of neat video clips - sometimes funny, maybe even a work of art. Most with an enviro message (would you expect less?), but maybe a surprise. So go get yourself some popcorn, and get comfortable. See you when I get back from Duke!

this is for kids, but will appeal to adults too
if you like is just one of a series, available on YouTube.

one minute on packaging

Emissions Admissions

maybe a spoof, maybe some truth.

quick, cute and metaphoric.

home made - littering

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Shark Break

Appreciate your world! The shark will follow your cursor around. Change the fish by clicking one of the fish icons at the top of the screen. Fun for kids of all ages.

Click here to get more mini-SharkBreak widgets -

For a bigger, better version that lets you change your underwater scenery and the type of fish, go to

Friday, May 29, 2009

It's Not All About You, Charlie

One good link leads to another. Or one good lead links to another. After reading my May 27th blog on the best and the worst seafood for you and the environment, reader Karen Nemsick wrote to say the Monterey Bay Aquarium website also has good information. But that's not the half of it. The Aquarium also had some seriously guerilla-style ideas to get friends and your local restaurants thinking about healthier seafood buying practices. But I'll come back to that (and give you a link) in a few minutes. Some serious stuff first.

While snoogling around the Aquarium site, I found a link to some deeper information about mercury levels. I know some of you come here for the short version, and it's here, presented simply and visually on a map linked below. And I don't want to scare you, but after reading a bit, I realized this is serious enough to offer you enough information to keep you safe. It turns out it's not all about canned tuna. First, check this visual link, courtesy of U.S.A. Today, to a map showing mercury levels by area of the country, and listing the local fish to avoid - those most mercury-impregnated: .

If you have more time, here are three articles focusing right in on the science. Any of them is excellent alone. If you're a news hound like me, you won't find them overly repetitive. They all have a different focus.

A New York Times article here:

An article from Deep Sea News here:

U.S.A Today weighs in here:

Now, as promised, here's the link for a little guerillafish warfare on the seafood front. Download free these printable cards from The Monterey Bay Aquarium (use card stock) to hand out at restaurants that either compliment them on their purchase of safe seafood, or (very gently) chastises them and ask that they be more aware. They are tastefully done, non-offensive. The cards have a fun fish photo on one side and the message on the other. There are many other tools for seafood lovers on the Aquarium's website, as well as some pretty interesting info on the Aquarium itself (duh!). Link in at or go straight to the hand-outs: .

By the way, I don't want to do a disservice to Starkist Tuna. Starkist tuna is wild caught, and the company has had a dolphin-safe catch policy since 1990 - possibly the first company to do so. About their mercury levels, I prefer to quote their official site FAQ. Note, however, that this information applies only to their "light meat tuna," and not their white tuna:

"Q. Is there Mercury in Canned Tuna?

A. Canned tuna is safe and canned light meat tuna is listed on the EPA/FDA advisory as one of the fish that has very low levels of methylmercury. The trace levels of methylmercury found in canned tuna are far below the 1.0 parts per million (ppm) standard the FDA has set as safe. FDA testing has shown that canned light meat tuna has an average of 0.1 parts per million (ppm) and that Albacore (white meat) tuna has an average of 0.35 ppm. StarKist has appropriate testing procedures in place to ensure that both our light meat canned and white meat canned tuna are well below the FDA limit of 1 ppm."

You can read the rest of their FAQ at , or learn more at the FDA's website at or the FDA Center for Food Safety Information Line, 1-888-SAFEFOOD.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

50 Ways To Lose Your Rubbish

Still working on my interview presentations - with a lot less stress, since Jody and I are doing our synergistic creative thing. But it's not your loss, because I couldn't have written a simpler, more "to the point" article on basic recycling than the one I found on The link below takes you to a list of 50 things easily recycled, and gives you some advice about how to make it happen.

Now, I warn you, it seems pretty clear that the site owners came up with a good piece of content and surrounded it by click-through advertising, with the idea of raking in a little dough for themselves. But good content is good content. And to their credit, the site isn't the visual chaos one finds on some ad sites, tastelessly plastered with jarring multi-colored advertising. The owners have kept it simple and tolerable.

Don't stop at the list of 50. In the left hand margin are additional content links, to a Recycling Center Locator, a blog, information about recycling your Electronics, Water Conservation Tips, Home Energy tips, Earth Day and Environmental Data. Scroll past the ads in the left-hand margin, you'll find a link to Footprint Calculators, Recycling Techniques, Car Donation Charities and Recycling News. It's worth the trip!

Top 50 Things To Recycle and Reuse

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Which Seafood is Safe to Eat?

I've enlisted my daughter's help with graphics for an interview presentation, so I'm on the run. My script's gotta be done before she wakes up (noonish).

But first, I want to share a wonderful link for seafood and sushi lovers like me. The Environmental Defense Fund created charts showing which seafoods are your better choices, based both on health (e.g. whether a fish is heavily mercury-laden) and on the welfare of the species. Here's a preview. Click on any of the fish listed below and you'll be whisked directly to a page explaining why that fish got the particular rating it did. The EDF website has a full chart and even a print-down version of a sushi chart that you can take along on your next sashimi run,


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Seven Sins of Greenwashing

Green-wash (green’wash’, -wôsh’) – verb: the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.

From comes the 2009 Greenwashing Report. The site, with its catchy cartoon graphics and excellent explanations, is worth a visit.

The Seven Sins:

1. Sin of the Hidden Trade Off

2. Sin of No Proof

3. Sin of Vaguenss

4. Sin of Worshipping False Labels

5. Sin of Irrelevence

6. Sin of the Lesser of Two Evils

7. Sin of Fibbing

Monday, May 25, 2009

Znout: Inspired

Green weaver seeks
Cyber bits of fertile thought
Znout: find your vision.

I'm so jazzed about Znout that it inspired me to haiku! Znout is an alternative search engine that uses ad dollars to buy renewable energy consumption credits to offset CO2 emissions associated with search engine activity. Free to you and me.

Just Do It. Add Znout as your home page or as a secondary home page that pops open automatically when you open your browser. Directions:

IE7 & IE8 users: click Tools on your browser menu, select Internet Options, and then add to the list of tabs that open automatically (in the open box under Home Page). Anyone reading this who uses a different browser, I'd appreciate it if you'd please leave directions in the comments section.

More info from Znout's About section is below. If you're so inspired, leave me a haiku in the comments!

From Znout's website:

A Google query consumes as much energy as one hour of light "A single Google query consumes as much energy as an 11-watt light bulb does in one hour." (

"Electricity generation required for information and communication technologies is currently responsible for 2% of global CO2 emissions" (Techcrunch)

Thus the CO2 emission of the IT industry totalizes to even more than the emission of the whole worldwide aviation industry.

The solution: Znout "Znout" stands for "zero negative output". Znout is a CO2 neutral Internet search engine that turns your web searches into green web searches.

How it works: The whole energy consumption at Znout is being measured by us and our independent partner CO2stats.

We measure not only the energy consumption of our own servers, but also the CO2 emission of the whole network infrastructure that is being used. Even the energy consumption of your own computer is being statistically determined and added to the sum.

At the end of each month renewable energy certificates (similar to carbon credits) are being bought in order to balance out the environmental footprint caused by Znout. This makes your searches become eco-friendly.

Znout finances the purchase of these CO2 certificates solely from advertising revenue. So for Znout users searching green is absolutely free.

So far more than 4,238,522 watt hours have been "turned green" thanks to Znout. You can click here to have a look at the environmental footprint of Znout and see how much carbon dioxide we currently save.

Other good reasons to use ZnoutZnout is not only eco-friendly; there are many other good reasons to use Znout:

Privacy: We do not save any user data, search queries or IP addresses in order to protect your privacy.

Best search results: Thanks to our partnership with Google we can deliver you excellent search results. So "Zero negative output" is also true for the results you get at Znout.

Independence: Though we partner with Google, we don't depend only on their services. Thus we can also offer you other search functions like Wikipedia search or dictionary search.

Search plugin for browser: With the Znout search plugin you can search the web much faster than you did before by using our indicators.

Save energy: In the upper right corner of our starting page you can set up a black background color for Znout. This will save you up to 30% energy while you search the web.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Putting Rumors to Rest

I find I'm doing a lot of "de-bunking" these days. Misleading advertising on the one hand, but also vicious rumors about what the EPA or other agencies and organizations are up to. For example...

I recently received a notice about the EPA doing research that exposed kids to pesticides. In fact, the EPA planned to study kids who are exposed, but obviously (even I am not that cynical) the EPA would never intentionally expose kids to pesticides in this day and age. Yes, yes, I remember Agent Orange, but we're not talking about the CIA, the military or the Justice Department here. It's just beyond me to imagine that the EPA could go there.

I don't want to spend too much of my time on this, but I do want to give you a link to Snopes,, or find just environmental stories here, Snopes is a phenomenally useful website that researches the stories that travel around the web by email, blog or news outlet, confirming or debunking, setting the record straight. Snopes looks at all sorts of myths, not just environmental ones. The next time your Aunt Carol from Israel sends you a questionable story, you can look it up and let her know if it's true or not! (Love you, Doda Chana!)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Google Jeopardy - Answer: (13.5 bill ∻ 31) ∻ 1000 = x(.6)mile


What is the daily greenhouse gas emitted as a consequence of all Google searches described in the number of miles an average car would have to travel to emit the same amount of greenhouse gas.

And how many miles exactly is that?

Before today, I never flashed on the fact that Google might use a ton of energy. I started thinking about it when Joe Bigelow, a member of LinkedIn's "Green" group, mentioned a dark version of Google, "Blackle," as an energy saving alternative to Google.

Looking into it a little, I found green consultant Mark Ontkush's blog, EcoIron. In 2007, Mark calculated the energy consumption associated with the white background screen on Google, which motivated a virtual frenzy of dark screened creations, including Google-based search engines like,, and LOTS of others. Good ideas, no?

Ontkush said a dark Google would save 750 MWh a year. While Ontkush was correct, his calculations are true only for CRT monitors - the old monitors that most of us have replaced with LCD. He did those calculations in 2007, and there are even fewer CRT monitors today. Still, it's relevant for those who do own a CRT, common in some countries around the world.

Even so, unless YOU own one, using won't save a single Kwh.

But I did digress. The next article I found was a London Sunday Times article blasting the carbon footprint excesses of internet usage, The article was at least loosely based on a study done by Harvard Professor Dr Alexander Wissner-Gross, a physicist and Environmental Fellow at Harvard University. The Times said that two Google searches emit as much greenhouse gas as boiling the kettle water for a cup of tea (a decidedly British comparison).

Actually, if Google hadn't rush to defend itself, I might not have given that article much thought. I mean, who knows how much CO2 a stove emits as it readies water for tea? I assume not so much.

But Google did. Like King Kong off-handedly swatting away the planes, Google's explanation unintentionally back-handed me against a hard, cold wall. Google's official blog translated the tea kettle claim into a more familiar equivilent for we statesiders (miles driven):

"...the typical Google search returns results in less than 0.2 seconds. Queries vary in degree of difficulty, but for the average query, the servers it touches each work on it for just a few thousandths of a second. Together with other work performed before your search even starts (such as building the search index) this amounts to 0.0003 kWh of energy per search, or 1 kJ.

For comparison, the average adult needs about 8000 kJ a day of energy from food, so a Google search uses just about the same amount of energy that your body burns in ten seconds. In terms of greenhouse gases, one Google search is equivalent to about 0.2 grams of CO2. The current EU standard for tailpipe emissions calls for 140 grams of CO2 per kilometer driven, but most cars don't reach that level yet. Thus, the average car driven for one kilometer (0.6 miles for those in the U.S.) produces as many greenhouse gases as a thousand Google searches (emphasis my own - they wouldn't have been so stupid as to emphasize this)."

OMG - Say what?? A thousand google searches produces the greenhouse gas equivilent of .6 mile? There must be zillions of google searches a day! Hold on while I google it (ouch ouch ouch ouch!).

Up comes this, from, a firm that tracks search engine activities of all sorts: In April, 2009 alone, 13.5 billion google searches! The data is here, As you will see, Google has by far the largest market share of the search engines.

Doing the math, if I'm understanding Google correctly, that amounts to the same greenhouse gas emissions as:

driving 260,820 miles each April day
driving 7,824,600 miles for the month of April
driving 95,199,300 miles each year, extrapolating

Thanks, btw, to my friend John Goren, appellate attorney in Dallas who is also very handy with a calculator. He did the math and checked it three times. Although not until after we went 'round and 'round about whether to use the "Google engine only" statistics or the "expanded statistics." It went more or less like this:

Me: " says the expanded statistics are more accurate. Read the news story you sent me on it,"
John: "The Google blog source says their servers are extra-efficient, so their calculations might not apply to the expanded search sites. Read the blog you sent me,"
Me: "Well, if that's the case, then the expanded search emissions equivilent has actually got to be higher than a strictly google search, so the figures we give will be low. But still more accurate than leaving out all the hits caught up in the expanded search."
John: "OK."

Maybe Google will weigh in on this (I rather hope so), but John knows when to back off.

Ok, this is not the whole story.

First and foremost, we are the search engine. I mean honestly, how can I blame Google for the effect of my own search-mania? And Google the company espouses a firm commitment to sustainability. It has furthered this commitment in many, meaningful ways. You can read about them here,, and here, for a start. I would have found you more links, but I'm now feeling very frugal about searching beyond my means.

Although I suppose, in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention a blog blasting Google execs for owning a very eco-inefficient jet plane. Especially now, owning a plane feels a little like AIG officials taking their raises. Well, ok, not exactly. We're not subsidizing Google. But still. In fairness, TreeHugger also links the reader to earlier blogposts where it lauded the search engine giant for sustainability initiatives:

But angst gives way to innovation. Thanks to Megan Letts, also of my LinkedIn Green group, here are two Google platform search engines trying to put their money where their (our) emissions excesses are. Meet and Forestle uses its advertising revenue to protect endangered rainforest regions. Znout uses its advertising revenues to buy energy certificates that offset the energy consumption of its own servers and also the CO2 emission of the whole network infrastructure that is being used when you do a Znout search - including the energy consumption of your own computer!

Feeling rather guilty here (I don't really know anyone who uses Google more than I do), I think I'm going to try Znout for awhile. Unless they offer the same "scholar preferences" I can load onto Google scholar, I probably will continue to use Google for my academic research. But the more of us who migrate to sites like Znout, the more advertisers (and $$ to purchase trade credits) those sites will get. And the more likely Google is to implement some sort of trade credit program itself.

Tis a sad day in Googleville today....

Photo credit:

Thursday, May 21, 2009


You've heard of the butterfly effect, the notion that even minor activity somewhere on the planet, as small as the beat of a butterfly's wings, has global repercussions. I offer up the World Watch Institute story below, which explains the far-reaching ramifications of global warming. Reading material like this motivates me to keep up the green behavior. And makes me sound good at cocktail parties!

Public Health Leaders Stress Climate Risk Worldwatch Institute

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

EcoGeek explains Cap-And-Trade

If you're not exactly sure what to think about the new Obama administration cap-and-trade regulatory proposals, or not even sure what cap-and-trade is, listen to Hank Green, the EcoGeek, explain it. Ummm, be forwarned. Multitasking while listening to the EcoGeek is impossible. EcoGeek speaks fast. Maybe even a tall full-caff beverage to prime your ears before you listen!

I want to thank my readers for their forbearance this week while I grade papers. I hope you've enjoyed these informative video clips I've offered up as a substitute. Maybe you enjoy them more!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Curiouser and Curiouser....

Wordle: Untitled

This isn't so much eco but it's a lot of curiousity. I've always wondered how those word collages get made. Simple! Just paste any text into wordle or any URL, and the application will take the most prominent words and create the collage for you. Upload any report to create a cover graphic, or your child's latest story. What fun!

EPA Director Lisa Jackson on Daily Show

Jon Stewart is smart and always funny. "Could you tell whether your office had been used?" "Why didn't the 17,000 EPA employees just overthrow your predecessor?"

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Lisa P. Jackson
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Lorax speaks for the Trees


Dr. Seuss's The Lorax is more than just a cartoon movie. It's a lesson about the earth, its carrying capacity, and the impact of industry. Watch it to learn, or just for fun!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Apparel, Bags, Jewelry with Recycled Plastic Bags

This will interest only those of you who are crafty. But I like this idea because the bags are truly being reused. Not, as often happens, used to carry lunch, to give a bag-full of grapefruits to friends, to line a trash can. That's not recycling. That's just postponing their trip to the landfill by one use.

The link to information on these three items, plus jewelry and other interesting objects, is below.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Juicy as in Gossip

Dear Ms. Price,

On behalf of the Florida Department of Citrus, I am writing in response to your recent article on the Ecocurious blog entitled "How fresh is your OJ?" Please allow us to clarify some information.

Orange juice is one of America's healthiest morning beverages. People choose orange juice for its great taste and nutrition profile. One 8-ounce glass of 100 percent orange juice delivers essential vitamins and nutrients to support good health and counts as almost 25 percent of the USDA-recommended daily fruit and vegetable servings, based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Research shows orange juice is more nutrient rich than many commonly consumed 100 percent fruit juices, such as apple, grape, pineapple and prune. Orange juice is a convenient, naturally nutritious beverage that can be a healthy part of most diets. Orange juice is processed in strict compliance with all USDA and FDA regulations. By utilizing state-of-the-art technology, we're able to provide people across the country with a consistent supply of high quality, nutritious orange juice year round.

Please visit for clear, concise information about orange juice.

Please feel free to contact me at 863-499-XXXX or if you would like to discuss further.

Karen Mathis

Karen Bennett Mathis
APRPublic Relations Director
1115 E. Memorial Blvd.Lakeland, FL 33802

# # #

Ms. Mathis,

Thanks for your note. I appreciate your desire to contact me.

May I ask you, is anything I said in my blog actually wrong about how orange juice is processed? Nothing in your note actually contradicts what I said in my blog. I did not say it has no health benefits, nor did I say it's bad for you.

I took issue with the fact that OJ is not really a "fresh" juice (by lay standards, not the FDA's) and that processing, while done for good reasons (storage, health), changes the aesthetics and vitamin value, and has to be adjusted for flavor, etc, before being sent to market. If this understanding isn't accurate, I'd like to be corrected.

If you had a chance to look, you may have noticed I wrote about Hewlett Packard's ink cartridge recycling program, unwittingly using out-of-date program information for HP. When approached by HP with better information, I did correct the information gladly in a later blog. If, in fact, my description of the way OJ is processed is faulty, and the impact of processing on the juice, then I am willing to address that too.

Sandy Price

# # #

Ms. Price,

We believe that it is more accurate to say that orange juice is a naturally nutritious beverage that can be a healthy part of most diets. In fact, the USDA MyPyramid includes 100% fruit juice as a nutrient-rich choice from the Fruit Group.

Also, 100% orange juice is made only from oranges. Orange juice is made by capturing the volatile aromas and flavor compounds, which are lost during pasteurization, and restoring these compounds to the juice.

Thank you for the opportunity to clarify this information.

Karen Mathis

# # #

Ms. Mathis,

I see what you said as simply being a prettier crafting of what I already wrote. Not more accurate, but more palatable from the industry's perspective. I did not say orange juice is unhealthy. I said that processing it renders it less healthy and less aesthetically pleasing than it started. I believe you know that to be factual. You can easily find several peer reviewed studies about the effects of pasteurization on orange juice in scientific journals - as I did.

And, I believe my blog actually does say that the "flavor packets" are made from orange juice components that were separated into constituent compounds and then added back later.

Finally, it is misleading to leave out of your message the fact that orange juice (whether store bought or squeezed at home) can be unhealthy because of its high fructose (sugar) content. In fact, I wonder if you are including calories when you say "nutrients," which would be even more misleading. About a year ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics put out a warning about juice, as it contains so many sugar-derived calories that it can keep a child from getting enough of the other foods they need. And they tagged 100% juice as being one probable factor in childhood obesity. Here is just one of many sources to this effect:

Nobody, least of all me, is telling anyone not to drink orange juice. I will still purchase it for my guests, etc. But consumers should be able to have full information in order to make healthy choices.

I appreciate your attention to my blog, but I think I'll stick by what I've written unless there is something factually inaccurate.

And there isn't.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009


This is a story about soybean oil, palm oil, small unwanted visitors, and President Obama's way with words. Not in that order.

I've been reading lately about the way President Obama is shifting the dialogue with the Arab nations away from an "us-them," "good guy-bad guy" conversation to one focused on mutual respect. We're not going to stop going after terrorism. But we will no longer treat Arab nations with disdain simply because they are Muslim. One columnist, I cannot for my life recall where I read it, actually counted the number of times Mr. Obama used the word "respect" in speeches about the middle east in the course of one week. I, myself, did an "all these words" search on Google for the words "Obama," "respect" and "Islam," and got 283,000 entries.

From all indications, the President's words are having an effect. This week, Iran released Roxana Saberi, the American freelance journalist arrested for illegally buying a bottle of wine. Her charges were then converted to working without a press credential and espionage. Over loud U.S. protests and even despite an unprecedented letter written by Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, asking the judges to make sure Saberi had a fair trial, Saberi was summarily convicted and tossed in jail. Then, POOF! She is out.

So I thought I'd try a little Obama-style detente myself. With some bugs.

I have a minor ant problem of unknown origins, and a fly problem of my own making. I leave my back door open so the dogs can get in and out. And because I like fresh air. Trade off. Fresh air for bugs.

Fortunately, there aren't many ants. They march one-by-one, but that is the extent of familiar ant behavior. Oddly, there are more ants at night (maybe 15 or so at any given time), but far fewer by day (maybe three or four). Looking like little scouting parties, they are always far from any obvious point of entry. They are clutzy. Often one of them will turn around, bump into the fellow behind him, have a longish rant about the accident, and then finally turn forward and continue on. I've watched them for as long as my ADD-addled brain will allow, and have yet to see them make it all the way to a point of exit.

There aren't many flies either. But it doesn't take many of those fat, filthy little buzzers pub-crawling on the rim of my ice tea glass, or grazing one of my precious dark chocolate covered espresso beans (COME ON!) to get my dander up. To put this in context, one summer during college I waited tables at a restaurant in Vail, Colorado called the Iron Kettle. One morning, I had a large mug of lukewarm coffee waiting for me on a ledge in the kitchen, from which I hurredly swigged between table trips. The last swallow yielded something unexpectedly solid. Can you guess? What I spit back into the mug was a horse fly. There was unrestrained gagging, lots of screaming, customer interest, and an unhappy boss. I am not exaggerating when I say that the gag response hasn't ended for me to this day. I cannot think about that episode without gagging.

I imagine that fly, if it had any last thoughts, was no happier about its fate than I. And I imagine the flies in my kitchen would also prefer a happy ending. Still, I have an aversion. And I don't want to share my espresso beans.

I tried rerouting the ants with lemon juice. I tried placing bitter liquid barriers along every crack, crevice and window ledge. I hung a towel from the door to the lintel to discourage the flies from entering. I built a little insect restaurant that I hoped would attract my visitors and allow me to move them all back outside. I tried reasoning with them. Yes, I talk to ants and flies. I even used the word "respect" several times, hoping to recreate the Obama magic.

But ultimately, I opted for Ortho's new line of non-toxic insecticides. Yes, I feel guilty. But at least I killed them with soybean oil, the active, non-toxic ingredient in Ortho's new product, EcoSense Indoor Insect Killer. Killing bugs with soybean oil made me feel somewhat better about being a murderess. Until I started reading up about the product.

First, it turns out that EcoSense is not actually eco-friendly. Non-toxic, yes. Eco-sensible, no. I suppose EcoSense is a more marketable branding decision than NonToxicSense would have been, but it is not a more ethical marketing decision. Ortho's online data page says that anyone placing information about the product into an ad or other presentation material must use the following disclaimer near the product:

DISCLAIMER TEXT: “Not intended to imply environmental safety either alone or in comparison to other products.”

Whoa! It's near impossible to fathom how the company could believe that the name "EcoSense" would not imply environmental safety.

Wondering what could be non-toxic but still earth-unfriendly, I checked the other, "non-active" ingredients: Polyglyceryl oleate (a vegetable-based emulsifier) 3-7%, Lauric acid (another fatty acid found in coconut and palm oil and believed to be an anti-microbial) 3-7%, Sodium Caprylate (salt and another fat-derived acid with anti-fungal properties and a bitter taste) 1-5%, and Sodium Benzoate (a commonly used food preservative) 0.1-1%. I'm guessing the culprit is the Lauric acid. Lauric acid is a by-product of palm oil. Seventh Generation has a great article posted about the enviro issues associated with palm oil. Here's the short skinny:

"The ugly side of growing palm is that, in order to make way for large-scale plantations, vast tracks of old growth rainforest in places like Indonesia and Malaysia have been clear cut. As the global demand for palm oil skyrocketed over the last 20 years (with an almost six fold increase in production), deforestation has continued on an epic scale. It’s a ticking environmental time bomb."

Palm oil is in so many products we use. According to Seventh Generation, more than fifty percent of all cleaning products contain it, so it's pretty hard to avoid. However, Seventh Generation is currently doing for palm oil growers what Starbucks has done for fair trade coffee, and palm oil can now be obtained from growers using sustainable practices.

You know, I don't want to over-malign Ortho. I think it's good news when a company comes out with a non-toxic insecticide. On the other hand, the name EcoSense is very misleading. And I would like to see Ortho go the rest of the way toward sustainability, and opt for sustainably grown palm oil. My plan: to write the Ortho people and ask them to get ahold of the 7G people for help finding sustainable palm oil sources. And to take them to task for mislabeling and misleading.

It's simply a matter of R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

All That Paper We Dump In Recycle Bins...Goes Where??

I had no idea we ship a whole bunch of our recycle paper waste to China. Now China is cracking down on recycling firms, whose factory processes aren't necessarily all that clean and green. What will become of all our paper if the Chinese stop taking it? Excellent story...
Paper recycling: China’s rubbish economy -

Monday, May 11, 2009

Calling All Readers! FREE BOOKS

One of my favorite professors, Bob Herman, is retiring. He wrote to ask for recycling ideas for his personal library. I made some suggestions, but promised him I'd scout around for other ideas. I owe Bob bigtime! In the course of snoogling around (snoop + google), I discovered

Recycling has never been so nice. This website allows members to list any books they're willing to give away, and in exchange for giving away books to other members, get any available book on the site. For free. Honest. And there appear to be millions, in every category. You can even select up to three topic categories with an amazing amount of specificity, e.g. Home & Garden + Gardening & Horticulture + Technique + Organic + Desert Southwest.

If recycling books this way isn't green enough, they've got some other green angles. has a mechanism that lets you print a pre-addressed wrapper with the postage already on it. Using book weight information from a book's ISBN number, calculates the postage. That saves paper for labels and stamps. It also saves the drive to the post office. Using their authorized wrapper gets you around the annoying new postal service security rules requiring that you transport packages over 13 oz to a post office for mailing. Yes, there's a small fee - e.g. 43 cents (plus the $2.43 postage) to send Geraldine Brook's "People of the Book" to California.

If it bothers you that is making a service fee off your transaction, decide for yourself whether it's in your best interest to pay the fee or make the trip. has a travel cost calculator. Simply enter the local gas price plus the number of miles to the post office. For me, it's an 82 cent trip, so 43 cents is a still a bargain. And of course, there's a net benefit to your carbon footprint. The icon above-left, by the way, is a link to the site.

So, thanks Bob, for sending me off on a google-chase. And I promise you will never find your wonderful text, " The Jossey-Bass Handbook for Nonprofit Leadership and Management," listed for swap on my account!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

How Fresh Is Your OJ?

I don't buy orange juice that often. The heavy natural fructose content makes me sleepy - not a good a.m. choice! But when I pick it up for houseguests, I buy the premium, not-from-concentrate, with-pulp variety, thinking I'm getting a fresher, fruitier juice. I don't know much about orange juice production, but I've noticed that some OJ has a rather "tinny" taste. I always thought the reason was that cheaper orange juices were made by "squeezing" the rind along with the fruit meat.

Nice theory but no cigar!

Imagine my surprise to discover, while reading a story in Cook's Illustrated online (link below), that even my "premium" OJ is unlikely to be anything remotely like fresh! Fresh, even in a world where food has to be processed, packaged, and transported to market, to me still implies something like days from the orchard to my local grocer. But no. Pasteurization allows processors to store the juice for months on end. And while pasteurization uses heat to kill nasty microbes that might make us sick and to add months and months to juice's shelf life, that same heat also seriously destroys that delicious fresh-squeezed flavor and significantly reduces the vitamin C content. This is true even when the juice was treated with "flash" or "light" pasteurization that supposedly retains more flavor.

So guess what! When processors are ready to send the stored juice out to market, they simply repair the flavor deficiency with chemist-made "flavor packets" containing essences of orange oil and other orange by-products. These by-products have been scientifically "separated" into their constituent parts and stored, later to be reconstituted and added to orange juice as it is readied for market. This way they can ensure consistent flavor from quart to quart through the miracles of science. Wow. Surprise.

So of course I go off on a Google-trail, looking for more information. It turns out that a writer named Alissa Hamilton actually did an entire book about the realities of orange juice. It turns out, most OJ is not only not fresh, it's not all that healthy. According to Ms. Hamilton, a single orange is better for you than an 8 ounce glass of OJ. I googled the number of oranges in an 8 ounce glass, and it's about 3 to 4 oranges, depending on the size of the fruit. How is it, I wonder, that processing for market manages to take a wonderful natural food item and make it "less than"?

Hamilton's book, cleverly titled "Squeezed, What You Don't Know About Orange Juice," and published by Yale University Press, is out this month, and apparently available on

In fairness to the processors, the reason they do this is safety. E. coli and salmonella and goodness knows what other microbes lie in wait for the unsuspecting kid sucking on a juice box. What, if anything, can be done? More googling...(too bad someone doesn't pay me to google), and discovered that science is playing around with alternatives to thermal (heat-based) pasteurization. A non-thermal UV light process is being tested, although its efficacy depends on about a zillion factors like the liquid density, suspsended solids (brix) levels, viscosity, etc. UV breaks down vitamin C too. Maybe more promising is something called "high hydrostatic pressure" pasteurization that has some potential, because it can use lower heat (about 104F instead of 176F), with less damage to flavor, aesthetics and vitamin content.

So, while they're perfecting that technology, I can't think of a single thing to be done about this problem... except to drink more water and get more of your fruit intake from fruit instead of juice.

So, why am I writing about orange juice, and what goes into our bodies? Well, because we're part of the Earth's flora and fauna. In the same way that we have to protect the ecosystem's food sources for fishies, birdies, and forest critters, we need to protect our own food sources. Fresh food is far better for our bodies than food we've processed the fresh right out of. Back in pre-industrial times, we would have eaten whatever was seasonally available regionally. We can't really return to a fully localized agricultural economy because we've populated regions where, at least in some seasons, a return to that practice would mean a very limited diet. But if we begin to practice purchasing flexibility, opting more for fresh, local, seasonal produce, we'd find that overall both our bodies and our planet become healthier.

Of course, if you're lucky (like me) to be living in a house with five grapefruit trees, an orange tree, a kumquat tree, a lime tree, and an apple tree, you can just squeeze your own. Problem solved.

# #

Read the Cook's Illustrated article here: Orange Juice - Cooks Illustrated

Read an interview with Alissa Hamilton from here: Q&A with Alissa Hamilton - The Boston Globe

Check out this cool FDA site: , click search (kinda tiny link top center of the page) and plug in any food item or processing technology you're interested in, and you'll get a lot of information.

I also learned a lot from these studies: Koutchma, T.,"UV Light for Processing Food" Ozone: Science & Engineering; Jan/Feb2008, Vol. 30 Issue 1, p93-98, 6p, and
Polyderaa, A.C., Stoforosb, N.G. & Taoukis, P.S., "Quality degradation kinetics of pasteurised and high pressure processed fresh Navel orange juice: Nutritional parameters and shelf life," Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies, Vol. 6, Issue 1, Mar2005, Pages 1-9. I found these through the University library system. If you want to read and can't find a copy online, just shoot me an email and I'll get it to you.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Quick & Dirty

One of those lucky accidents, I followed a pitch for a green product to a website that also had this slide show presentation. It's a quick, interesting piece that lays out the meat of the problem, and some individual and relatively painless things we can all do to turn things around. I highly recommend you take the few minutes to watch it... I can't get the slide show to run automatically. If you have that problem, you'll need to use your mouse to click the right arrow button to see each new slide. Think of it as finger exercise!

p.s. I had a heck of a time figuring out how to get this slide show onto the blog. In the process, something good came of it, of course. Check out for a free app that lets you upload your slide shows and download others'. Way cool!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Your Two Cents Can Change the World

Do you try green products whenever you can?

Do you share my belief that sustainability is a series of small decisions? Do you sense that the time is right - that people are starting to get it - but that fear - fear of change, of expense, of giving up lifestyle benefits - inhibits their adoption of green habits?

Do you like to write?

If you answered yes to these questions, I invite you to help me build ecocurious. Leave me an email by clicking the link at the bottom of my profile and selecting the "email" function on the left. Together, we can change the world.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Which Title is Better: "A Star Is Born" or "HP Corrects My Error"

I'm not really sure whether today's blog is being posted for the right reason, or for vanity's sake. I've been discovered! Ok, only by a PR person for Hewlett Packard... But let me bask in my 15 minutes, please...

Awhile back I blogged about recycling inkjet cartridges, and noted that not all printer companies have a full "cradle-to-cradle" recycling program. HP was one of the companies my source claimed was not fully recycling and reusing. By cradle-to-cradle, I mean that the material from an old product is reused to create a new product. An alternative to the cradle-to-grave notion, which takes a product from raw materials to its ultimate disposal, cradle-to-cradle looks for ways to turn discarded product into the raw material for another "new" product cycle. This idea really took off with the publication of a book by the same name, by William McDonough & Michael Braungart. An important concept for the planet, I ask my Urban Enviro students read it every year.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand... A few days after my original blog, I ran across and posted a press release claiming HP did, in fact, have a closed loop recycle/reuse program. But I also expressed skepticism. What bothered me was what the press release left unsaid. I remained dubious about the extent of HP's program. My doubt apparently caught HP's attention.

As a new blogger, I was thrilled to be "discovered," even if only by the HP damage control maven, Kihza Davidson. I'm guessing she isn't really following me personally. She probably has some web app that scans the entire web for honorable and dishonorable HP product mentions. If the news is bad, she "goes in." Even so, I felt excited to be noticed! Anyway, Kihza wanted to let me know that HP does, in fact, use a fully "closed loop" (cradle-to-cradle) recycling/reuse system.

I directed Kihza back to my original source material, which stated that HP wasn't fully closed looped, She spent a little time researching it, and wrote back:

"That article you sent over was very interesting. Although I cannot speak for the other printer companies, there is a lot of misinformation about HP and no sources listed, so I was curious where the writer may have gotten those statements. (He certainly didn’t go to!) I did some digging and it seems that much of this article actually was pulled directly from another (very out of date) source that was promoting its cartridge refill services."

Kihza also sent some links to the HP website and other published info about their treatment of used cartridges. It seems that my source material may have been old. HP did, in fact, implement a closed loop system sometime within the last couple years. This is good news for all of us (including me) who own an HP printer (yes, I recently bought a Lexmark for my Arizona digs, but still use an HP Photosmart C7280 All-in-One in my Kansas City abode - private message to Kihza: Kihza, the paper jams a lot - what am I doing wrong?). Anyway, of all the stuff (links) Kihza sent, I think you'll enjoy the video clip below the most. And there's more info at

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Seeking to Save the Planet, With a Thesaurus -

Should we stop talking about "carbon dioxide" and start talking about "moving away from dirty fuels?" That's the premise of this linked article. Author John Broder says more of us would jump on the green bandwagon if we reframed the discussion into a language that spoke to us more convincingly. I think there's a lot of truth to his premise. Read it here: Seeking to Save the Planet, With a Thesaurus -

Having agreed with Broder, the idea of using carefully chosen words to manipulate the unsuspecting public brings to mind at one extreme Nixon-era euphamisms, or movies like "Wag the Dog." On the other hand, why is that any different than choosing your words carefully for a persuasive speech? Political types have long been "framing" discussions as a way of marketing ideas. My favorite book on this topic is George Lakoff's "Don't Think of an Elephant." This is an interesting ethical quandry, and a very good read. Lakoff's intriguing premise is laid out in the first chapter, which you can read for free at the publisher's website:

I do believe people hear a discussion more clearly when it is presented in terms of something they already care about. It's that or educate them to the importance of something they don't know they should care about. But on that score... getting our attention these days, amidst the many sources of media noise and input is, well, a difficult task.

Come to think of it, that you're even here, reading my modest blog, is a real compliment to my little noise! Thank you!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Local Harvest / Farmers Markets / Family Farms / CSA / Organic Food

Local Harvest, a very cool website:

"The best organic food is what's grown closest to you. Use our website to find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies. Want to support this great web site? Shop in our catalog for things you can't find locally!"

Local Harvest / Farmers Markets / Family Farms / CSA / Organic Food

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Which meat harms our planet the least?

WARNING TO MY VEGETARIAN AND VEGAN FRIENDS. Skip today's article. Or at least skip paragraph three (counting this warning paragraph).

Today I ran across an interesting article online at Slate, by Nina Shen Rastogi, a regular Tuesday eco-blogger (link below). I gathered from the article that she's not a meat-eater herself, but even so, she addressed the question of one of her carnivorous readers: Which meat harms our planet the least?

With apologies to my vegetarian readers (if you're still reading - you were warned), I confess a taste for lamb chops, my grandmother's brisket (marinated, slow cooked second cut - oy vay!), home-smoked barbeque beef ribs, medium rare burgers (no cheese - I keep kosher). I love the smell of turkey roasting in my oven, and I make a wonderful chicken and matzah ball soup. Meats are rarely on my table these days for reasons of health and expense, but they do still occasionally punctuate my life with joy. Yes, joy. So I, too, wanted Ms. Rastogi's advice.

Ok, veggie pals. Come on back.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, the livestock industry is big business, responsible for 40 percent of the global agricultural gross domestic product, employing 1.3 billion people - of those, creating jobs for 1 billion poor. And of course, the industry supplies protein, one third of the world's intake to be specific, and can be both a contributor to health problems and a potential solution to hunger.

On the other hand, the industry also contributes to ecosystem degradation through deforestation for pasture lands and feed crop fields (a whopping 26 percent of the ice-free terrestrial land surface!), and through erosion and the loss of native plants to invasive species due to over-grazing. Obviously, less livestock production would free up land for agriculture to feed the world's hungry. And unless you've been hiding in a cave for years, you surely haven't missed this fodder for every stand-up comedian: Cows contribute to acid rain and climate change by simply, well, burping, farting and pooping (er...eructating, flatulating, and defecating). ("excmoooos me!") Between the cattle bodily functions and the land use, the industry is responsible for 18% of the greenhouse gas emissions - more than the transportation sector! And lastly, there's the matter of all the pesticides and hormones used to raise feed crop, traces of which end up in our soil, waterways and bodies.

Maybe all this enlightenment makes you feel guilty. Maybe not. As an aside, I don't need all this information to feel guilty. Every time I eat a piece of meat, I ask God what must have been going through that Vast Eternal Mind when God decided humans should kill other species to feed themselves. And yet... still I eat meat.

So, returning to the beginning, when I ran across Nina Shen Rastogi's article discussing which meats cause less global harm, I decided I had to share it with you. If you don't have time to read it, here's her verdict: eat chicken and turkey. Otherwise, it's a very informative read.

The link: Which meat harms our planet the least? - By Nina Shen Rastogi - Slate Magazine

One last note: I was hoping to discover that healthier meat (organic, free range, grass-fed meat) reduced the carbon footprint, if not the belching, farting and pooping. The jury is out on this. An English study seems to suggest that humane farming methods such as free ranging livestock actually utilizes more land and more feedcrop, because cows that move (exercise) are hungrier than cows raised with less consideration for their happiness (inside enclosures). On the other hand, certainly cows fed on organic feed or grazed in organically grown pastures reduce the amount of pesticides, hormones and other toxins into the environment.

So, hmmm... I vote for replacing as much of your red meats with fowl as you can bare to do, and for buying local, organic meats, wherever possible. And then, there's this one other idea I have for reducing greenhouse emissions. How about Beano? I found this statement on the Beano site: "Beano is a natural food enzyme that can help prevent gas before it starts. It helps you to digest the complex carbohydrates in your favorite healthy foods. By taking Beano at the beginning of a meal, you can help prevent gas, bloating and other discomfort." What do you think of that?
(btw, apologies to the beano folks, but kudos to my amazing graphic designing daughter Jody for turning a pic of beano into a brand new product! She did the logo too...)

Organic purveyors:
Beano site:
UN Study:
On the confusion around the benefits and definitions of organic beef:
Enviro impacts if everyone ate vegetarian for just one day:

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Bags vs the Bay

Am always pleased when a "message" video is also creative and entertaining. What better way to get a message across?

Friday, May 1, 2009

I upped my mileage 75+ miles per tank!

I tuned my little 2004 Acura TSX before I turned road warrior, driving from Kansas City to Phoenix by way of Houston. Although I was pretty good with scheduled maintenance, I'd let the last one go. Too much going on.

Well, blow me away! For over a month now I've been astounded by the increased gasoline mileage since the tune-up. At first I didn't believe it. Thought it was just good highway driving, and maybe perfect weather requiring neither heater nor air. But I've been tooling around Phoenix for over a month now, air cranked up (radio too!) and the mileage just ROCKS!

FYI, I was doing about 18 and 25 pre tune-up. I'm doing about 24 and 32 now.

Here's a MonkeySee video with maintenance tips to increase good gas mileage: