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Sunday, July 18, 2010

On Toilet Paper! by Jennifer Gannett

We don't know each other very well, but I think its time we began talking about something you aren't hearing very much about, even from the greenest of corners. Toilet paper. Yep!  Ohhhh, there are so many people who love to ask enviros, "do you use toilet paper?" as if use of toilet paper and advocacy for our planet's resources need to be mutually exclusive.  Even No Impact Man's Project got the GOTCHA! treatment around the tissuey substance in a New York Times headline.
But did you know that most toilet paper (considered a consumer "low involvement catagory" by the industry) is made from virgin trees? Last year, the New York Times reported that millions of North American trees are harvested for toilet paper, including trees from old growth forests.  Old growth to wipe our butts!?  How can that be?  Well, while a years-long campaign by Greenpeace against leading toilet tissue manufacturer Kimberly-Clark was called off in 2009 after the corporation announced a revised fiber-procurement policy, that doesn't change the fact that a lot of trees are still being cut down for our bums and spills!  This is so silly.  We can do better for our collective greener future, especially in light of the fact that the trees are carbon sinks and harvesting them has an impact on global climate change.

According to the Times article, less than 2% of U.S. homes use recycled toilet paper, so there is a great deal of room for improvement. So the most obvious place to begin is to switch out your virgin pulp-sourced toilet paper (and paper towel and facial tissue) for recycled brands.  You may need to experiment to find the level of, ahem, comfort, that suits your family.  If you are very picky about toilet tissue, as we in the U.S. have become thanks to very clever marketing, you may be interested in reading this article from Grist on which recycled brands fared best (the overall winner was Seventh Generation double rolls).

Other options for those willing to further increase their green cred include the use of pee rags or bidets.  Ask Umbra over at Grist has some thoughtful words on the use of these toilet paper alternatives.
Much of the same goes for paper towels (though I have found that any of the recycled brands are perfectly efficient for cleaning up, say, cat puke).  Try laying in a supply of towels, washcloths, or ready made rags – for real green bonus points, cut up some old stained t-shirts-- and have them readily available to wipe up the inevitable spills of juice, water etc.  Another benefit to this method of cleaning is that you can let the activity be child-led if you have wee ones and have no worries about wasting paper towel!  There are also a variety of re-useable cloth and microfiber products available.  My absolute favorite paper toweling replacements are Skoy cloths. These little gems are durable and absorbent.  But we use plenty of old washcloths and even old cloth diapers leftover from my child's infancy to clean up our daily spills of water, soup, juice etc.
Note that this post isn't just overly-earnest enviro handwringing. Market shares of premium and ultra-premium (such as new three-ply toilet tissue) continue to grow, despite economic tumult and lean times. In fact, Kimberly-Clark is paying out dividends and industry analysts are watching the market carefully as an indicator of the economy! In the meantime, as usual, consumers create the demand and the market.  Knowledge is power, friends, so take this information and please use your new-found TP power accordingly!

Jennifer Gannett lives outside of New York City with her family.  A long-time environmentalist, in her free time she enjoys cooking and eating mouthwatering vegan fare, daydreaming about crafty projects and advocating for animals and the environment.  She is a frequent contributor to

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Did You Know?

If every household in the US replaced just one bottle of 25 oz petroleum-based dish liquid with a 25 oz plant-derived product, we could save 129,000 barrels of oil which is enough to heat and cool 7,400 US homes for a year!

(Source: Seventh Generation)

Clean Green, read labels (and be very cautious if the manufacturer doesn't list their ingredients) and buy plant-based supplies. It's easy, it works and it's green!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. - Part III

After talking about reducing our stuff/waste/environmental footprint in Reduce.Reuse. Recycle. - Part I and II, let's move on to Reusing.
Go for seconds! (and I'm not talking about the buffet here :-) Reusing means using things a second, or third or forth time.
Here are a few ideas how to get started:

  • I can't repeat it enough: being green means choosing reusables over disposables (from water bottle to picnic dishes to napkins and shopping bags etc. etc.
  • As far as reusing other stuff goes: be creative and think out of the box. Magazines can be used for craft projects with kids, creating greeting cards, use in scrapbooks,...
  • Received greeting cards can be used for creating unique collages, in scrapbooks, for new cards, as bookmarks etc. etc.
  • Used envelopes can be reused! When I first heard people did that, I thought how cheap they were! Man, was I wrong. Why not give an envelope a second go-round?  Scratch out the address, tear off the stamps and use it again!
  • I reuse almost all of my glass jars (think nut butters, fruit spreads, fruit sauces etc.). Either for storing dried foods such as nuts, dried fruit, flour, coconut flakes and the like (the big plus here is that I don't have to worry about leaching plastics!), or for vases, stationary holder (pens, tools etc) or art projects
  • The same goes for nice-looking bottles: the smaller ones with a good lid I use as a water bottle (until I figured out which store-brought one is safe enough to use). I also store my water kefir in reused  bottles. And another idea is to use bottles as unique candle holders, vases for single flowers - other ideas, anyone?
  • I have seen cans being used as flower or herb pots or stationary holder. They look especially nice when decorated with ribbons
  • When it comes to gift wrapping, I have never understood people who throw away gift bags. I wrap my gifts in packaging paper and/or fabrics, but when one of us receives a gift in a gift bag or nice wrapping paper, I'll always reuse it for another present.
  • Reusing also applies to clothes: instead of throwing away outgrown kids clothes, pass them on to younger siblings, family and friends. For adult clothes that no longer fit or please, how about a swap with friends?
  • Same goes for toys, electronic equipment, furniture, DVDs, CDs, VHS (yes, some people still have a VHS player!!!) and almost anything you can think of. If you want to get rid of stuff but don't know anybody who wants it, you can always post it on freecycle or craigslist
  • I guess composting is a form of reusing as well. In any case, I strongly encourage it, no matter in what situation you live. There's always a way to compost, if you're willing to make that change in your life.
  • Baby gates that are no longer in use or are defect can be used as a clothes drying rack (placed over a bathtub) 
  • Scratched CDs or DVDs can be attached to the back of a bike as a safety reflector
  • More or less every single household thing can be reused at least once (the tinfoil from that last pizza take-out for example - if you do use tinfoil anyway, why not give it a second round for some other leftover food? Squeeze containers (for mustard and the like) are great for cake decorating. Toothbrushes make good cleaning utensils for hard-to-reach spots (unless it's a Preserve toothbrush - they sell with a stamped and addressed pouch that you can use to send the brush back once it's done. Awesome!) The list is endless!
The main thing is to be open and aware. Trust me, once you start, you'll find so many ways how to reuse things. I'd love to hear from you - please share your experience with me!

    Tuesday, July 6, 2010

    Recipe: Nut Bites

    These are super easy-to-make and (for a change) look good as well, at least so I think.

    You'll need:

    * 1 cup raw almonds coarsely chopped (by hand or in blender)
    * 1 cup raw walnuts (coarsely chopped)
    * 1 cup maple syrup
    * 1 cup raw almond butter
    * 1/2 cup shredded coconut flakes

    * extra coconut flakes for covering
    * raw cocoa or carob powder for covering

    Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Put the bowl in the fridge until the mixture is a little hardened (1/2 hour should do it).
    Prepare two little containers with the coconut flakes and the cocoa or carob powder.
    Form bite-sized balls with your hands and roll them in the coconut flakes and the powder.

    Store in a glass container in the fridge.


    Friday, July 2, 2010

    3 Ways To Have A Healthier Summer by Lori Rothbard

    Did you know that you have alternatives to using chemical-based products for summer health challenges...
    sunburn, bug bites, cooking burns, heat stroke and more?

    Young Living Essential Oils are products that families all over the globe use to ensure a happy and healthy summer.

    1. Sunburn: Lavender Cooling Mist is your best friend for quenching the heat and pain of a sunburn. The aloe vera and lavender combination puts out the fire and promotes healing to damaged skin. Spray directly onto the affected area and repeat every 10-15 minutes until desired relief is achieved. Also, keep a bottle of Young Living's Lavender essential oil handy for bad burns whether from the sun, the grill or campfire *
    2. Bug Bites: Because of their outstanding antiseptic and oil soluble properties, Young Living Essential Oils are ideal for treating all kinds of insect bites. Young Living Essential Oils such as Lavender and Peppermint reduce insect-bite induced itching and infection. Another oil recommended for itchy bug bites is a blend of Young Living Essential Oils called Purification. Place 1 drop on the insect bite to cleanse and soothe itching.
    3. Heat Stroke: Avoid it! Staying well hydrated is probably the most important step to avoid heat stroke. Add 2 drops of Young Living Lemon oil to a quart of water and 1 tsp. YL Blue Agave Syrup for refreshing healthy lemonade. Stay cool by adding Young Living's Peppermint oil to your drinking water (1-2 drops/16 oz water). Keep a misting bottle of water and YL Peppermint oil to spray on your face (with eyes closed!), legs, arms, back of neck etc. (Peppermint mist recipe: 2 oz of purified water and 4 drops of peppermint oil, double if you need more. Shake and spray. Lavender Cooling Mist can also be added to cool an overheated person).

    Now you have powerful protection for you and your family from the discomforts of the summer season.

    * These suggestions are applicable only when using Young Living Essential Oils.

    Lori Rothbard is a Livingston resident and CEO of New Jersey Essential Oils Healthline. She has been a guest speaker at the Essex County Environmental Center on the topic "Uses for plant-based therapeutic essential oils" and has also been a speaker on the topic of "Going Green with Essential Oils".

    If you have any questions about Young Living Essential Oils, you can contact Lori via the NJ Essential Oils Healthline at 973-789-6253 or via e-mail at

    To find out more about Young Living Essential Oils, visit or

    Notice: This information is intended for educational purposes only and is not meant to substitute for medical care or to prescribe treatment for any specific health condition. Please see a qualified health care provider for medical treatment. We assume no responsibility to, or liability for, any person or group for any loss, damage or injury resulting from the use or misuse of any information in this post. No express or implied guarantee is given regarding the effects of using any of the products described herein.