Monthly Archives: October 2011

Eco Chic

Left to right: Eco-chic designs from Helen Lee, Niki Qin and Camilla Wellton. Gao Erqiang / China Daily

China and Sweden come together for a new approach to sustainable style, Mary Katherine Smith finds out in Shanghai.

Trying to be fashion-forward while at the same time eco-friendly doesn’t mean wearing a burlap sack and 10-year-old T-shirts, at least not for the designers behind the Swedish Institute’s “Eco Chic – Towards Sino-Swedish Sustainable Swedish Fashion” exhibition, currently in Shanghai. Whether it is shoes that are made by hand and use naturally tanned leather, a coat made from recycled polyester or wool products that are locally and organically sourced, each of the Swedish designers featured in the exhibition demonstrate how even fashionistas can be green. The 20 Swedish outfits shown at the exhibition not only push the envelope in their designs and concepts but also show how those in fashion can be more environmentally and ecologically friendly in the way they make their products.

Kajsa Guterstam, the project manager from the Swedish Institute for the exhibition, says the theme is meant to inspire people to be more sustainable one step at a time.

“No one can guarantee to be entirely eco-friendly. It’s really difficult and they might end up not doing it,” she says.

That gives designers the encouragement to make small or significant changes to their production. “It’s a humble way and the only way to move toward a more sustainable way of living.”

While eco-friendly fashions may not be on the radar for most in the industry, Guterstam says it’s an important market. Environmental issues are something we all have to deal with, she says, “so we ask ourselves: ‘How can I contribute to make my living more sustainable?’ Clothes are something that applies to everyone”.

The Swedish labels included in the exhibition were picked based on how ecological the products are, whether they use organic or locally sourced materials, methods of production and whether they reduce the supply chain. Many are leading designers in the Scandinavian country; some have collaborated on special lines for international chains like H&M.

For a few of the featured artists, it is more than just making a fashion statement. “The way you dress yourself expresses how you feel,” says Camilla Wellton, whose fashions are featured in the exhibition. “In turn it shows how (you) treat the environment.”

“Beauty is not about being outwardly beautiful,” says Emy Blixt, founder and creative designer of Swedish Hasbeens, which sells handmade and eco-friendly clogs, shoes and other accessories. “Making goods that don’t harm the environment is also beautiful” she adds.

The exhibition, started in 2008, has already traveled to eight other cities around the world, but its stop in Shanghai is unique. Along with the 14 Swedish designers that make up the exhibition, seven established Chinese designers and two Chinese students from Raffles Design Institute of Donghua University are included in the show.

The Shanghai installment of the exhibition offers a mix of more practical and ready-to-wear items that are iconic, while the Chinese designs showcase how clothes can be fashionable and organic.

While finding organic materials is difficult in China, designers like Shanghai-native Helen Lee are making it their mission. She’s made changes in how and where she sources some of the products and reuses leftover material for other garments or accessories.

She says one way to start is by educating her customers about the value of sustainability. Like Blixt from Swedish Hasbeens, Lee thinks that fashion and beauty go beyond the surface level. “Fashion is about beauty,” she says, “and more importantly, inner beauty.”

Article excerpted from www.chinadaily.com.cn

 

5 Tips for Finding Vegetarian on the Road

This post is by contributing author Lauren Fritsky of The Life that Broke.

As a proud Iowan, I’m a lover of red meat; so, when I’m on the road backpacking, my biggest challenge is finding a steak that can compare with good, Iowa beef. Contributing author Lauren Fritsky has a different problem: finding vegetarian food while traveling the world. Check out these five tips for finding veg-friendly food on your next backpacking adventure.

“Do you have a vegetarian option?”

As someone who doesn’t eat red meat or pork and dates a straight-up vegetarian, I’ve heard a range of laughable responses to this question — everything from:

“Yes, we have fish” to “Just take the ham off.”

Sigh.

If you’re tired of dealing with similar confusion from servers who think that vegetarian means that if the meat’s white, it’s alright, try these tips for actually finding food you can eat on the road.

1. Find restaurants online

Anyone who has stood on a street corner in Asia and watched a shop owner kill a live animal might seriously doubt that vegetarian cuisine is possible in all parts of the world. But it is! Sites like Happy Cow let you plug in your destination and eating preferences to find restaurants around the world.

Veggies on the Road is another resource listing eateries across the globe that offer at least three vegetarian dishes. If you have some semblance of an itinerary, look up your next destination and print out the list of vegetarian and/or vegan restaurants these sites. Don’t forget to smile as you walk away from the cleaver-wielding shop owner to your plate of mock chicken with veggies.

2. Say it right

Some people are unsure of what vegetarian really means. The same goes in foreign lands where definitions for the practice may differ and language barriers can make it difficult to find what you want. This resource from the International Vegetarian Union supplies key phrases in many languages to help you find veggo on the road.

You can also use the Veggie Passport iPhone app to translate your food preferences into 33 languages.

So the next time you’re in the Czech Republic, you can confidently ask “Mate take nejaka vegetarianska jidla?”

3. Get aPPetizing

Speaking of apps, you’ll never go hungry looking for vegetarian or vegan food again if you have an iPhone. Apps like VegOut and VeganSteven let you find restaurants near you and even pull up the menus.

4. Don’t eat at local restaurants

Weird tip, huh?

If you’re having trouble eating meatless at the local restaurants, try hotel dining areas — even if you’re not staying there — and pubs.

Many people don’t think to try and dine at accommodations they haven’t booked into, but the public is free to eat at places like Marriot. Hotel menus often have a wider variety of options than some of the local eateries, including vegetarian, depending where you are in the world.

Pubs might also have bar menus full of non-meat fare. Even if you have to build your dinner by ordering a baked potato, side salad and hummus with bread, it’s better than nothing.

5. Eat what you want, where you want

Did you know that Minnesota actually has a law allowing anyone on a restricted diet to take their own food into any restaurant and eat it right there? Individuals can also ask the wait staff to heat up their food in the oven or microwave.

It’s worth checking if areas you’re traveling to have similar laws.

Even if they don’t, other vegetarian travelers have had success asking restaurants to heat up or cook their tofu, rice or veggies. Sweetness will take you a long way here, so be polite and overly thankful if you’re accommodated. Convenience store microwaves are another option for heating up your homemade or store-bought vegetarian meal if you find an obliging clerk.

Depending on where your travels lead you, you might always have to stay on your toes to find vegetarian. But a little Internet and iPhone savvy plus some local know-how should keep you up to your elbows in tofu from Tampa to Tokyo.

What are your tips for finding vegetarian on the road?

Article excerpted from www.backpackingmatt.com

12 Things You Should Definitely Buy Organic

By now, we all know there’s a benefit to buying some stuff organic. But these days you’re faced with the option of getting everything organic — from fruits and veggies to mattresses and clothing. You want to do right by your body, for sure, but going the all-natural route en masse can be pricey.

So we wondered: What’s really essential for our health? That’s why we came up with this definitive list. Here’s what should be in your cart — and what you don’t have to worry about.

Beef

You’ve probably read plenty of stories about the risks of eating chicken. But the most important protein to buy organic may well be beef. “Research suggests a strong connection between some of the hormones given to cattle and cancer in humans, particularly breast cancer,” says Samuel Epstein, M.D., professor emeritus of environmental and occupational medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health.

Specifically, the concern is that the estrogen-like agents used on cattle could increase your cancer risk, adds Ted Schettler, M.D., science director at the Science and Environmental Health Network.

Though there are strong regulations about the use of hormones in cattle, “not all beef producers are following those regulations strictly, and some studies continue to find hormone residue in cattle,” Dr. Schettler says.

When you buy beef that’s been certified organic by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), you’re not only cutting out those hormones, you’re also avoiding the massive doses of antibiotics cows typically receive, which the USDA says may lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in people.

Strawberries

Strawberries may be a superfood — but they pose a potential risk unless you go organic. In addition to having up to 13 pesticides detected on the fruit, according to an Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysis, conventional “strawberries have a large surface area and all those tiny bumps, which makes the pesticides hard to wash off, so you’re ingesting more of those chemicals,” explains Marion Nestle, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition and public health at New York University and author of “What to Eat.”

If you can, also skip conventional peaches, apples, blueberries, and cherries, which are typically treated with multiple pesticides and usually eaten skins-on.

Cookware

Your pots and pans are just as crucial to upgrade as the food you cook in them: “Most nonstick cookware contains a fluorochemical called PTFE that breaks down to form toxic fumes when overheated,” says Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., a senior scientist at the EWG. “Those fumes can coat the inside of the lungs and cause allergy-like symptoms.”

Tests commissioned by the EWG showed that in just two to five minutes on a conventional stove top, cookware coated with nonstick surfaces could exceed temperatures at which the coating emits toxic gases. Switch to stainless steel, ceramic, or cast iron cookware.

Popcorn

The linings of microwave-popcorn bags may contain a toxic chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, which is used to prevent the food from sticking to the paper. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PFOA is a likely carcinogen.

“We don’t know all of the hazardous effects of PFOA yet, but we have some evidence of a link to cancer, as well as to effects on the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems,” says David Carpenter, M.D., director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany.

Pick up an air-popper or make your popcorn in a pan on the stove top.

Yard Pesticides

Some lawn and garden pesticides contain suspected carcinogens, according to EPA data. Long-term pesticide exposure may be related to changes in the brain and nervous system, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center reports.

“Not only are you breathing the chemicals in, but you bring them indoors and onto carpets via your shoes,” says McKay Jenkins, Ph.D., a journalism professor at the University of Delaware and author of What’s Gotten Into Us?

Healthier brands like BurnOut and EcoClear are made from vinegar and lemon juice, and are effective weed-killers. To find less-toxic lawn-care companies in your area, go to Health.com/lawn-care.

All-Purpose Home Cleaners

Time for spring-cleaning? Using common household cleaners may expose you to potentially harmful chemicals. Ammonia and chlorine bleach can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. And some cleaners contain phthalates, some of which are endocrine disruptors, meaning they interfere with normal hormone activity, says EWG senior scientist Becky Sutton, Ph.D..

Although there’s no definitive proof that phthalates cause problems in humans, “the greatest concern is how early-life exposure will affect male [reproductive] development,” Dr. Carpenter says. There’s weaker evidence, he adds, that phthalates affect the nervous and immune systems.

Go natural with the cleaner you use the most frequently and in the most places, such as kitchen-counter spray — look for brands approved by Green Seal or EcoLogo, two organizations that identify products that have met environmental label guidelines.

Water Bottles

You’ve probably heard that many hard, reusable plastic water bottles could be bad for you because they may contain BPA, or bisphenol A, another endocrine disruptor according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

“For adults, the biggest concern with BPA is that it may increase the risk of breast cancer in women and reduce sperm counts in men,” says Dr. Carpenter, who explains that BPA can leach out into the water in the bottle. To be safe, sip from an unlined stainless steel or BPA-free plastic bottle.

Food-Storage Containers

BPA strikes again: Many food-storage containers are made of the hard, clear polycarbonate plastic that may contain BPA. As is the case with water bottles, the BPA can leach out of the plastic in these containers and seep into your leftovers.

“The leaching is increased during heating, but it also leaches to a smaller degree even when cold foods are stored,” Dr. Carpenter explains. Glass containers are your safest — not to mention planet-friendly — bet. Both Rubbermaid (at left) and Pyrex make glass ones with BPA-free plastic lids.

Milk

The milk you’re drinking may not be doing your body good: Dairy products account for a reported 60 to 70 percent of the estrogens we consume through our food. If that seems like a shockingly large number, it’s mainly because milk naturally contains hormones passed along from cows.

What worries some experts is that about 17 percent of dairy cows are treated with the hormone rBST (or rBGH), which stimulates milk production by increasing circulating levels of another hormone called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1).

“Elevated levels of IGF-1 in people are associated with an increased risk of cancer, including breast cancer,” Dr. Schettler explains. In fact, the use of rBGH is banned in Europe and Canada. Although research has yet to definitively conclude whether drinking rBGH-treated milk increases your IGF-1 levels high enough to cause concern, Dr. Schettler says it’s advisable to buy milk that hasn’t been treated with it. So pick up milk that’s labeled rBGH-free, rBST-free, or is produced without artificial hormones.

Celery

When researchers at the EWG analyzed 89,000 produce-pesticide tests to determine the most contaminated fruits and vegetables, celery topped the chart. “In terms of the sheer number of chemicals, it was the worst,” says Sonya Lunder, senior analyst at the EWG.

Celery stalks are very porous, so they retain the pesticides they’re sprayed with — up to 13 of them, according to the EWG analysis. Lunder also advises buying organic bell peppers, spinach and potatoes because they scored high for pesticides, as well.

Tomato Sauce

When picking up tomato sauce or paste, choose the glass jar or box over the can. “The lining on the inside of food cans that’s used to protect against corrosion and bacteria may contain BPA,” explains Cheryl Lyn Walker, Ph.D., a professor of carcinogenesis at MD Anderson Cancer Center and past president of the Society of Toxicology.

In 2009, Consumer Reports tested BPA levels in a variety of canned foods and found it in nearly all of the brands tested, suggesting that the chemical leaked in. “What can happen is that BPA in the lining can leach into the food,” Walker explains.

Mattress

Some regular mattresses may have been treated with potentially toxic flame retardants called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which have been linked to learning, memory, and behavioral impairments, according to Lunder.

Though PBDEs were phased out of mattresses in 2005, they can still be found in other household items, including carpet padding and some electronics. The EWG advises opting for products that haven’t been treated with brominated fire retardants and choosing less-flammable materials, such as wool.

Article excerpted from www.huffingtonpost.com

Firecrackers go green this Diwali

Diwali promises to be truly a festival of lights this year with an increasing number of environmentally-conscious people in the metros, especially in the national capital, opting for eco-friendly and smokeless firecrackers.

Made of recycled paper, eco-friendly crackers do not contain as much chemicals as conventional firecrackers, and thus emit less smoke and noise. “Unlike the normal cracker making method, the eco-friendly crackers are based on vacuum combustion method. These crackers produce colourful sparks with a considerable sound and less smoke,” A. Muthu, a fireworks dealer in Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu, told IANS.

“All the major metros demand eco-friendly crackers, while people in villages and small towns still prefer high-decibel crackers,” Muthu said.  According to a recent survey by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), Sivakasi, home to over 9,500 firecracker factories, produces almost the entire fireworks output of India.

It has increased production of smokeless firecrackers due to rising demand. “With demand increasing for environment-friendly crackers, we are producing more of them by adding less of chemicals like sulphur and potassium nitrate,” another dealer S. Anbumani said.

He said Delhi and Kolkata lead in the purchase of these varieties.  “There is definitely a shift in choice among the customers. Earlier, they used to prefer high-decibel crackers. Now, over 55 percent go for eco-crackers, which do not cause much noise pollution,” said Piyush Sharma, a shopkeeper in Sadar Bazar in Delhi.

Costing from Rs.15 to Rs.3,500, these crackers are also less expensive than the traditional ones. “The ‘magic whip’, a long red-coloured string which doesn’t emit smoke, whistling sparkler and crackling bullet — a rocket which produces a colourful explosion, are good option for kids,” another shopkeeper Shavi Aggarwal said.

And for people who want to have a blast on Diwali, these varities are great for having fun without feeling guilty about harming the environment. “Diwali is known for fireworks, it is not complete without bursting crackers. So the best way is to opt for eco-friendly crackers and save the environment without dampening the festive mood,” said Akhilesh Gupta, a businessman.

Article excerpted from www.deccanherald.com

Firecrackers is going green too? That’s a great news to everyone who celebrate in this festive season. Anyway, be sure to play safe with the fire. Have a fun Deepavali day ahead.

Everyday Green in 4 Simple Steps By Terra Wellington

Many super-busy parents cringe in fear when they see the words “go green,” thinking they don’t have the time or the money to do it, especially in this economy. But the reality is, there are simple ways for families to begin to ease into green living. It is possible to find a way to make healthy choices and protect the planet within the resources we have at our disposal.

So, what are the next steps? There are many things that most of us already do each day that can be slightly altered to inspire you to create eco-habits, instead of eco-obligations. Here are some ideas:

Veg Out 
Try eating less meat — especially red meat. Cows require a lot of feed or grass to survive, they pollute water with their waste, and produce a large amount of greenhouse gases. For you and your family, eating a lot of meat can be strenuous on your digestive system and disagreeable for your overall health. Since you have to shop for food and make meals anyway, why not change it up and eat vegetarian a few times a week. Again, it’s about habits.

Simply Recycle 
Each piece of your trash has a final destination. You have landfill trash, recyclables, compostables, green waste, and donations. Create an easy way for everyone at home to sort their trash into one of these five areas – all on the fly. Make the process painless by having a simple system in place: regular trash bins, recycling receptacles, a bowl for compost items next to the kitchen sink, the green waste bin outside, and a box for donations in the garage.

Slow the Flow 
While it’s great to encourage family members not to waste water, a nearly effortless way to improve on those results and also help your bottom line is to install low-flow fixtures and low-flow toilets. You can easily exchange your showerhead for a water-saving variety that saves a gallon of water a minute. A faucet aerator for the kitchen or bathroom is a cheap replacement and can immediately cut water consumption in half.

Those Shoes are Made for Walking
Are you used to jumping in the car just to pick up milk from the corner store? Before you grab the keys, consider walking instead – to run errands, to get exercise, to go to the park for recreation. Have your children go with you. And as your children get older, they can take on these errands themselves. Walking is free, saves energy, produces no emissions (unless you count the production of the clothes and shoes you wear), and keeps you healthy. Viva la green!

Terra Wellington is the author of The Mom’s Guide to Growing Your Family Green: Saving the Earth Begins at Home. She encourages her kids to walk or ride their bikes to school whenever possible, and she gets her cardio outside for free on most days instead of driving to the gym.

Article excerpted from www.family.go.com

We don’t need to spend a lot to support Go Green action. By following all the 4 simple steps above, this will definitely make a big changes. Let’s start practicing and become a good habit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go Green or Go Home: Tips for Being Eco-Friendly on the Road

This is a post by contributing author Lauren Fritsky of TheLifeThatBroke.com (@LaurenFritsky).

Using eco-friendly products, recycling and eating locally-grown food can be easy — at home. Yet if you’re on a RTW trip backpacking in Thailand, Sydney or Vancouver, you might find it difficult to keep up with your environmentally-conscious lifestyle. To help you stay green while backpacking around the world, we asked some globetrotters for their tips on staying green on the road.

Check out these green travel tips from some travelers in the know…

Creative Commons: MikeBehnken

Christine Amorose of C’est Christine

“I try to minimize my carbon footprint by limiting my use of plastic whenever I can. Instead of using plastic shopping bags at markets or shops, I use my Chico Bag. It’s lightweight and small enough to fit in my purse every day — and doubles as a beach bag or picnic basket when necessary. Instead of constantly purchasing plastic bottled water, I just fill up my stainless steel Klean Kanteen with cold tap water.”

Lara Dunston of Gran Tourismo

“When my husband and I travel, we will always choose a holiday rental over a hotel if we can — and primarily for ‘green’ reasons. By staying in an everyday house/apartment, we’re using an existing resource and one that uses a lot less energy than a hotel, so we’re leaving a smaller environmental footprint. We will recycle if we can, re-use our towels, and not waste food — all things that hotels make difficult to do!

We’re also contributing to a local community, shopping at local markets and using local businesses, and we’ll always buy local, seasonal produce rather than imported products, so all in all it’s a much more sustainable and responsible way to travel.”

Creative Commons: The Wandering Angel

Caroline Eubanks of Caroline in the City

“I’ve been using the same knockoff Nalgene water bottle for the last probably five years. It’s good to refill before a flight instead of spending $5 on one you will throw away. I’ve also stored my toothbrush inside so it doesn’t get dirty, as well as filling it with boiling water to keep my bed warm. Multi-purpose!”

Ben Lancaster of Amateurs in Africa

“Pay a little more. It’s not much difference in price, but using accredited local tour guides makes a huge difference to the sustainability of the local tourism industry and the local communities you’re visiting. The guides are also way better and funnier. Fact.

Unfortunately with limited infrastructure for processing waste, packaging from Western manufactured products is an issue [in Africa]. As such, you’ll often see rubbish being thrown into the streets due to a lack of knowledge and understanding — lead by example and hold on to your waste until you find a bin. Also, ask companies what they are doing to help combat the issue in communities from which they are profiting.”

Lindsey Tramuta from Lost in Cheeseland

“I think one of the best ways to maintain a green lifestyle during travel, aside from choosing means of transportation that will keep your carbon footprint to a minimum (trains, public buses, hybrid vehicles, etc.), is to immediately seek out local recycling centers upon arrival at your destination. If necessary, ask locals where you can recycle plastics, glass, paper and other products to not only maintain the eco-habits you practice at home but to respect the environment you are visiting.”

Nicole Schwab of Chasingwonderlust

“When I travel, I would say that the most ‘green’ thing I usually do is take public transportation and/or walk most places I go. I usually try to see most places on foot for a number of reasons. First of all, I think that’s the best way to get to know a place & discover things you might otherwise miss. Also, it gives me a bit of exercise to work off all the calories I typically eat when I’m on holiday!”

Article excerpted from www.backpackingmatt.com

Fruits and Veggies for Vegans

With a little help of your fantasy even the simplest vegan meal can look gorgeous. As you probably know, vegans do not eat nor misuse other animals for clothing, etc. So do we really need any meat to eat? No, we don’t.

Article excerpted from www.allpics4u.com

These are the fruits and veggies for vegans. Be creative to create a colorful and attractive dish.

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