Sunday, December 07, 2014

A solar powered backpack

This summer I subscribed to soniastravels she has some great ideas on how to pack, what to see and where to stay. Today I was surprised when she talked about a solar powered backpack.The backpack appears at 1:22 in this video. And here is a link to the manufacturer: Birksun 

Saturday, December 06, 2014

One of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint

For me one of the easiest ways to reduce my carbon footprint is to adopt a plant-based diet. 
When we first moved to our new town (Duluth, MN) we lived close to my husband's work and he could walk, ride the bus or bike. And we felt we were doing our part to be sustainable. But later we purchased a house where the bus only comes by once an hour. That's not as convenient and I'm not organized enough to get out the door on time, sometimes I miss the bus and I don't want to wait for it. I have a car, so I end of using the car. Also I have a job as a journalist where I have to be out an about. So that's just easier if I use the car. Soon I am using the car much of the time.

About 9 years ago I learned that eating meat uses a lot more of the earth's resources. But I never crunched the numbers. This past week Rebecca and I attended a movie at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. The name of the movie was Cowspiracy.  By watching this movie I renewed my commitment that eating a plant-based diet is one of the best ways to lower my carbon footprint.

Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.

WorldWatch, November/December 2009. Worldwatch Institute, Washington, DC, USA. Pp. 10–19.

One hamburger requires 660 gallons of water to produce – the equivalent of 2 months’ worth of showers. [iii]

Catanese, Christina. “Virtual Water, Real Impacts.” Greenversations: Official Blog of the U.S. EPA. 2012.
“50 Ways to Save Your River.” Friends of the River.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Staying green while interviewing for a new job

I've made a pledge not use Styrofoam or bottled water.  
Staying green while interviewing for a new job can be kind of tricky when interviewers are trying to be polite and offer you food or drink. So if you are green, think ahead on how you are going to react to have the proper interview etiquette   

When I interviewed for my day job, my prospective supervisors and employers offered me bottled water. We were in a fancy conference room and I could see a little kitchen off to one side. I could see a sink and cupboards, so I told them that if they had tap water,  I would prefer that to bottled water.  But I didn't tell them I had taken a pledge not to drink bottled water. I didn't think my job interview would be the best time to bring that up. 

Also when I'm interviewing and offered a cup a coffee, I will quickly scan the area to see if it will be served in a Styrofoam or a ceramic cup.  If it is a Styrofoam cup I will politely decline, but I don't say why. 

So, if you are environmentally minded, made a commitment to staying green and also job hunting, think ahead to what small curiosities might be made to you during an interview and practice how you will react. Remember to stay polite and keep a smile on your face. 

Monday, November 03, 2014

airport design reflects the geography

Recently Miss Naomi traveled by air to the Ozarks. It is refreshing to see how much the airports and hotels have changed in the past couple years in order to incorporate eco-friendly aspects into their daily functions.

What a refreshing site to see. I always worry about whether or not it will be recycled when I leave trash behind on the airplane.

I had some magazines that I was finished with and I recycled them here when I got off my flight.

The Springfield Airport has a river theme. This design was on most of the information counters.

My hunch on the river design was confirmed. I think the EcoCowGirl/GeoGoddess would approve of the plan to reflect the geology of the Ozarks. (The EcoCowGirl/GeoGoddess is Rebecca)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Which protein powder is the best?

So today, the Rebecca, the Eco-cowgirl, writes about protein powders.
One of her friends had a brownie recipe calling for protein powder and the store had so many choice that it became confusing to know which was best. 

The Eco-cowgirl writes about protein powders here:

I totally understand the confusion on protein powders. There are so many options and even in natural food stores carry powders that aren't healthy. I'm with you that we should stay away from most soy-based products. We already have way too much estrogen and estrogen mimicking compounds in our environment.
So far from my research the best quality protein powders are hemp and whey. They have the complete amino acid profile our body needs and are the most bioavailable sources for your body

We already have too much estrogen and 
estrogen mimicking compounds 
in our environment.

I'm still on a mostly vegan diet so usually use hemp-based protein powders. The downside of hemp is that it can be a little harder do digest if you're not used to the fiber content and isn't usually the best tasting unless you blend it with something a little tastier like fruit. I like to use Manitoba Harvest brand hemp protein powders (chocolate is my favorite

And another good vegan brand that is better tasting and a little easier on the system when you're just starting out is Vega protein powders. They are a blend of sprouted brown rice, pea, hemp and saviseed protein, so you still get a complete protein blend and some of them even have greens added to them for an extra kick of nutrition.
I'm not quite as familiar with the whey protein powders since I haven't looked at them for a while, but I would suggest making sure they are from grass-fed cows that haven't been given hormones (rgbh). Some people say that concentrate is better than isolate because is it in a more whole food form, but I'm not sure that it really matters as long as the whey is from a quality source.
Another thing to look out for and try to stay away from is artificial sweeteners (splenda, aspartame, sucralose, etc.) and fillers (artificial flavors, soy lecithin, cellulose gum.)

stay away from is artificial sweeteners 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Miss Naomi's husband loves perfume

Zents is a natural line of fragrances

It's my wedding anniversary today, and my husband loves perfumes, but I rarely wear them. I feel bad for him because it seems like that would be an easy thing for a me to do to turn an ordinary day into a  romantic evening ... just splash on a little perfume. 

Riding the elevator for our anniversary dinner

Scents and perfumes can be a conundrum for me as I have a very strong sense of smell, and I sneeze easily. I consider myself "a canary in a coal mine." Smells may not bother others, but if they bother me I'm betting there is some toxic ingredient inside of them.  Many of the mainstream perfumes contain chemicals that are known to cause headaches or exasperate asthma. 

But for our anniversary this year, I actually asked my husband for a gift of perfume. It's from a company that I just learned about the other day while shopping in a gallery in Canal Park in Duluth. The company named Zents uses natural ingredients. 

There is a reason mainstream perfumes should bother me. According to the Environmental Working Group's Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, many of the ingredients used in perfumes are associated with hormone disruption and allergic reactions. 

I know one of the first things I noticed when I went from working out of my own home to working in a large office building was that many people wear perfume or cologne. 

Zents co-founder Cord Coen says in a statement on the perfume line: “Many people get terrible headaches near department store fragrance counters or can’t wear scent at all because of this sensitivity. But the light and pure essences of Zents make it tolerable for many of those people.”

According to the Environmental Working Group:

Some hidden hazards that may be lurking in products that contain synthetic fragrance include:

Allergens and sensitizers: One in every 50 people may suffer immune system damage from fragrance and become sensitized, according to the EU's Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products and Non-food Products. Once sensitized to an ingredient, a person can remain so for a lifetime, enduring allergic reactions with every subsequent exposure. Fragrances are considered to be among the top five known allergens and are known to both cause and trigger asthma attacks.

Phthalates:  Most fragrances don't list phthalates on the label, but hide them under the term, "fragrance."

Neurotoxins: Chemicals that are toxic to the brain.

Synthetic musks: Research by the Environmental Working Group has even found synthetic musks in the umbilical cord blood of newborn U.S. infants.

I haven't had time to dig deeper to see if the Environmental Working Group has researched Zents, but my hubby gave me the gift this morning, and I dipped some fragrance on my wrists named Oolong and another named simply: Water.  I'm enjoying a pleasant wafting of fragrance coming up form my wrist as I type this blog post. No twitching nose or sneezing.

It's really a gift to both of us.

Read more about Zents written by Barbara Kessler on

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

How do your potatoes grow?

Image from

The eco-cowgirl, Rebecca, has returned from her trip to Vermont.  And just about as soon as she returned she was ready to join her mother in an effort to learn more about food, sustainability and health. The cowgirl's grandfather spent a career involved in potato research. In fact, when her mother, Naomi was a little girl, one of the first words out of her mother was "potato warehouse." The family lived in Maine and the Upper Red River Valley of the north because those areas grew a lot of potatoes. Naomi would like to consult with her father to see if he had any opinions on the drift of pesticides, but he died in 1986. Pesticide use really took off in the late 1970's and it seems much has changed in the world of agriculture since then. 

Last night we heard from a group of people who say their health has been compromised because of pesticide use on the farmland near their homes. 
Members of the Toxic Taters Coalition are traveling around the state this summer, sharing their stories in communities across Minnesota. On July 8 they visited Duluth, Minn. to talk to a small group of people who had gathered at the University of Minnesota, Duluth campus. 

Carol Ashley of Park Rapids, Minn. says that pesticide use on potato fields compromised her health. She has moved but says she won't stop fighting for others' health.

Lex Horan is an organizer with Pesticide Action Network

Bob Shimek is a member of the White Earth Band, he says A lot of the long-term, chronic, low-level exposures to pesticides  are not well understood.

Carol Ashley lives in Park Rapids, Minn. and tells her own story of health problems which she said she believes can be attributed to the drift of pesticides used on potato fields.
In central Minnesota, large-scale potato production covers the landscape for thousands of acres. The Toxic Taters Coalition is a group of rural residents who live near these potato fields. They are small farmers, White Earth tribal members, parents, grandparents, and other community members who are dealing with health problems and livelihood loss from pesticide drift.

Bob Shimek is a member of the White Earth Band of Indians. He says there are a lot of potato farms on the reservation  that use pesticides and that most of these fields are farmed by RDO. RDO is a larger corporate farm which grows most of the potatoes for McDonald's. 

He became concerned about RDO's use of pesticides after he had come to the complition of a project to make a school more energy efficient and improve the air quality. "We’d just gone through a huge process of auditing the cleaning chemicals, the solvents, the cleansers, the energy consumption, and the waste stream," he said, "To not only make the school more efficient but also to improve indoor air quality for the children that were attending that school." That's when they realized that there was a potato field a stone’s throw away from the school. And in the middle of that field, sat a center-pivot irrigation system with two chemical tanks."  They installed a drift catcher near the school's air intake. A drift catcher can detect pesticides. Now he says, "We know that pesticides are all over the world, including in the HVAC system on the Pine Point School."

Pesticide Action Network
Lex Horan of Pesticide Action Network says that McDonald’s has incredible influence over the way potatoes are produced, as they are largest purchaser of potatoes in the United States. McDonald's gets many of their potatoes from RDO. 
Horan says RDO’s application of pesticides is drifting into rural communities. Communities in rural Minnesota have measured the fungicide chlorothalonil and other pesticides drifting into their homes, farms, schools, and businesses.  Bob and Carol are two people who have told their personal stories.

Pesticide Action Network says, "French fries are delicious, but they shouldn’t come at such a cost."

The network contends that McDonald's has the power to make a difference by pressuring their potato growers to decrease the use of health-harming pesticides, to set a standard that potato growers release information about the chemicals they use on their crops, fund an independently-funded  public health study on the impacts of the fields near communities. And insist that potato producers adopt sustainable agriculture practices.

If you want to learn more about this group visit their website at