Archive for January, 2009

happy heart day gift ideas

January 27, 2009

I think that if you’re lucky to have someone special in your life, you should treat every day like it’s St. Valentine’s Day. But I do like the ceremony of the so-called Hallmark holiday — exchanging small tokens of affection, enjoying a quiet dinner together, sharing words of love and appreciation.

If you’re celebrating the day with your Valentine, skip the Whitman’s sampler and bouquet of (pesticide-full) roses for something a little more original and, of course, eco-conscious.

Adopt a penguin
These adorable and threatened flightless birds
are a symbol of fidelity; they’re known to mate for life. You can make a symbolic adoption through the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and get one of these cute plush Emperor penguins for your sweetheart. ($50 tax-deductible donation)

Tell them they’re hot
Here’s another one from WWF: an organic cotton t-shirt that makes both a compliment and a statement. Telling your love that they’re “hotter than they should be” with this shirt helps WWF’s climate and conservation efforts. ($50 tax-deductible donation)

Bejewel them
Show off to your lady with this gorgeous recycled metal peacock cuff bracelet from Alkemie. Made in California. ($170 from eConscious Market)

Pick flowers that make a difference

Defenders of Wildlife Majestic Sunset Roses

Share the love with your Valentine and a worthy organization with Organic Style‘s charitable organic flowers. Choose your favorite org, including Defender’s of Wildlife, Co-op America, and Heifer International. (Starting at $44.95)

Tea for two
Mighty Leaf’s
Organic African Nectar
Tea is full of soothing anti-oxidants on account of the Rooibos (African Redbush) tea leaves and tropical fruits and blossoms. It’s a perfectly sweet way to wind down after a romantic dinner for two. (4 oz loose tea, $9.95)

Whisper “olive juice”
But then tell them how you really feel. If your lover is an olive lover, this organic olive sampler from VivaTerra will win them over. (small, $19)

Indulge them with organic chocolate
Chocolate is said to be an aphrodisiac and has been shown to activate mood lifting agents in the brain. Well you’ve hit the chocolate happiness mother lode with this Organic Chocolate Decadencefrom VivaTerra. ($110 including root bowl)

Give a hoot!
Give your sweetie a good reason to write little love notes to you with this adorable notebook made of sustainably harvested birch wood and 100% recycled paper in the good ol’ USA. [$18 at ELSEWARES]

Acquire a unique antique

From Victorian Valentine Cards to Buddhist love amulets, you can find something unusual and one-of-a-kind at an antique shop or on eBay.

Got any other Valentine’s gift ideas? Give your two cents in the comments thread below.

phonebook shmonebook

January 27, 2009

Who needs ’em anyway?
Unless you’re artist Long-Bin Chen, and have the skill to carve up these polluting wastes of ink and trees into the beautiful Buddhas below, you probably don’t even look at a paper phone book anymore.

[Psst… you can catch some of his work as part of the exhibit Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary at the Museum of Arts & Design now through April 19, 2009]

Laura, a supereco follower from Mohegan Lake, NY, asks:

Is there something I can do about the 547 (and counting) phone books I’ve collected? It makes me sad to think of all the yellow and white trees that are killed.

Yes, Laura, there is…

Just a couple of months back I recall getting an Ideal Bite tip with the answer to this exact question.

To stop receiving phone books, register at A note to city dwellers: in that big ol’ pile of yellow pages stacked up in your building lobby is a phone book with your name on it, help make the pile smaller by registering and then telling your neighbors.

To recycle those behemoths, check out Earth911 (or just put them with your paper recycling)

Get more tips for stopping phone book delivery [Huffington Post]

getting involved

January 26, 2009

Was anyone else inspired as much as I was by Obama’s call to service? I mean, isn’t this what the country has been needing — someone who is going to take the lead and guide people to work hard for the country they love? It’s like we’ve all been in a kind of idle for the past 8 years, waiting for someone to tell us how we can help fix things. Not that a lot of people haven’t been doing great things for the world for the past 8 years, but there’s definitely been a lack of leadership from our governmental representatives.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want to contribute. I already have a few ideas for specific issues I’d like to tackle. In case you need some ideas, I’ve put together a little list of ways you can help make the world a better place (a Michael Jackson song suddenly comes to mind):

ReCharge America
The ReCharge America movement is a call to act close to home, well, literally in your home. They lay out a simple 10 step plan for outfitting your home in order to save energy — from swapping incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescents to switching to renewable energy through your electricity provider. Once you take the steps toward reducing energy use in your home, it’s easy to help your friends and family. Get to steppin’.

Power Past Coal
The Power Past Coal project is a collaborative effort to end the country’s dependence on the dirty fossil fuel. You can start your own action, or join an existing one.

Be a Conservation Advocate

What does it take to be a conservation advocate? Passion, motivation, and a little elbow grease. Anyone can do it. You don’t need an advanced degree in Ecology or any other field for that matter. It can be really daunting to think about, but you really could become an advocate with the right guidance and a little self education. Read Conservation International’s guide on becoming a conservation advocate to learn more.

repurposed sign gives birth to new-old restaurant

January 24, 2009

[Image: David F. Gallagher of Lightning Field]

I was walking up Flatbush Avenue a couple of years ago when I noticed this great old sign in a window attached to an empty store front. In gold leaf lettering it read “Prime Meats.” My first thought was, I hope someone saves that sign, it’s just too great to get rid of.

Walking past that same building this week, I noticed the sign was gone. In fact the whole face of the store was gone; only plywood and building permits were visible. I got a little sad for that old sign, but kept a glimmer of hope that someone had salvaged it.

Then I was looking on New York magazine’s site and on the first page of the restaurant section — the sign! And in front of it, two restaurateurs known for their delicious use of local foods: the two Franks of Frankies Spuntino.

One of the Frankies spied the sign just as I had, and thankfully had the perfect spot for it. Inspired by the restaurants of yesteryear that procured goods locally, the Frankies are opening a new place called, of course, Prime Meats, right by the old one in Carroll Gardens.

You can read the preview info here.

I can’t wait to try it, and see that old sign in a new-old place.

the simple truth about coal

January 23, 2009

And the truth is… it’ll never be clean. Coal is a dirty substance. It’s polluting and devastating to mine, and polluting to burn. It dirties our water supply with mercury and our air with carbon dioxide. It is a leading contributor to climate change.

So what can you do about it? Speak out against it. I know, I know. It can be scary to speak up. It’s much easier to fret it and forget it. But that won’t make the problem go away.

Check out This Is Reality to get the facts about coal and then sign up to be a part of the movement that puts a stop to the dirty burning fossil fuel. This Is Reality has a, if I dare say, cute and simple website that makes it all clear. The little canary will show you the way.

stop gas flaring in nigeria

January 23, 2009

At the same time Chevron runs ads urging you to “leave the car at home more,” it is wasting massive amounts of natural gas by burning it in the open air. In Nigeria, these poisonous gas flares release toxic fumes day and night, causing asthma and cancer and worsening global warming.

I just signed a petition at and hope that you will join me, and thousands of other activists, to call on the Nigerian government to put a stop to this horrible practice.

Thank you!

[via Friends of the Earth]

hurray! inauguration day!

January 20, 2009

Watch the swearing-in ceremony live starting at 11:00 a.m.

Share your inauguration day party photos and stories here.

And text OBAMA to 56333 for instructions on how to send in congratulation messages and pictures from your mobile phone.

save handmade toys and clothes!

January 19, 2009

This is sad, but true. It will soon be illegal to sell toys and clothes handmade in the US, Canada, or Europe unless they are put through the same rigorous testing that is now required for large-scale manufactured goods from China. In an already hurting economy, this will put many small business owners, work-at-home moms, and crafters out of business.

In an article from TreeHugger:

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), as passed by the US Congress in August, 2008, inadvertently threatens to take many handmade toys and children’s clothing items off the market. According to the Handmade Toy Alliance, “The CPSIA simply forgot to exclude the class of children’s goods that have earned and kept the public’s trust: Toys, clothes, and accessories made in the US, Canada, and Europe. The result, unless the law is modified, is that handmade children’s products will no longer be legal in the US.” ‘How can this be,’ you may be wondering? Look below for details.

According to the Handmade Toy Alliance, cottage industries – among the smallest of small businesses – simply can not afford the hundreds or even thousands of dollars private labs are charging to certify a product, as per requirements of the CPSIA.

Big corporations are directly responsible for causing the lead contamination problem by outsourcing toy and clothing production to China. Paradoxically, now, small US businesses established to serve a market segment which specifically wanted to avoid purchasing lead- contaminated, made-in-China goods is being squeezed out by a rigid and insensible CPSC regulation, which is cost effective only for high-volume manufacturers.

Read the rest.

But you can help!
Sign the petition to save small businesses making handmade goods.

Who will be affected?
A friend of mine recently expressed interest in getting a handmade doll for her niece — something she knew would be safe. I did a little search on Etsy for dolls and quickly realized that the craftspeople on this wonderful handmade marketplace who make children’s goods will be forced to shut down due to the new CPSIA ruling. To bring attention to this new law and perhaps fund the inevitable, many Etsy crafters are putting hefty price tags on otherwise affordable goods to show how much they will have to pay in order to provide the public with “safe” products. Here are some of the handmade products in jeopardy:

CPSIA Special Floral Vine Jumper 12M-4T by starrclothing ($2,980)

CPSIA Blocks- Don’t be Owly Baby Blocks
by owlpeople ($6,736.50)

CPSIA SPECIAL Upcycled, handmade and certified lead-free Elsa the Elephant stuffed toy by SnuggleHerd ($900)

JUST ANOTHER CPSIA endangered Specimen – 12 inch CUSTOM MADE WALDORF style DOLL by germandolls (regularly priced at $125)

Related videos
In the news: Will CPSIA put stay at home mom…out of business?

One activist’s perspective: CPSC will kill the handmade industry

Just in case you need more persuasion, 101 reasons to buy handmade [via PoppyTalk]

Remember today, the words of MLK:
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

happy MLK jr day!

January 19, 2009

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

smell assault

January 18, 2009

They put the signs up just a day before they committed the heinous act. The signs said they were to begin painting the common areas, including hallways and apartment doors in our building. It was too late. I couldn’t put in my two cents even if I wanted to. Well, maybe they know better, I thought. Maybe by now everyone knows that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that emanate from substances like paint were, as the name suggests, a toxic assault on the health of those who inhale it. I was giving them the benefit of the doubt — maybe they chose low-VOC or no-VOC paints like Aura or Mythic.

No such luck. I could smell it as soon as they began. It doesn’t take much. VOCs like those in paint really smell toxic.

I was surprised to see the painters weren’t even wearing masks, and they’re breathing in the stuff all day. I wonder if they know that the off-gassing of VOCs causes dizziness, aggravates asthma and could lead to kidney and liver damage and possibly even cancer. We at least had a door separating us from the sullied air. And even still we could smell it, so we lit some beeswax candles in our apartment to neutralize the odor.

Paint isn’t the only household product to contain VOCs. Here are some ways to avoid these harmful chems in your home:

  • Choose furniture that’s formaldehyde-free and doesn’t use petrochemical-based adhesives (eg, Vivavi, Totally Organic)
  • Opt for carpeting that’s made from natural materials (ie, wool or seagrass)
  • Use laundry detergent, fabric softener, and other cleaning products that are petrochemical-free (like Seventh Generation)
  • Try natural air fresheners made from essential oils and beeswax candles without synthetic fragrance
  • Choose beauty products without harsh chemicals, like nail polish that’s formaldehyde-, toluene-, and DBP-free

There are also house plants that filter out VOCs, like the peace lily and lady palm. Here’s a list of the top 10 purifying houseplants.

Ah, I’m breathing easier already.