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

Monday, July 07, 2014

An environmental law school that walks its talk

An electric care gets recharged while parking.

The Eco-cowgirl visits Vermont Law School

The Eco-cowgirl has just returned from a visit to  a law school which focuses on the environment. The Vermont Law School is a private law school in South Royalton and is ranked #1 in environmental law for U.S. News and World Report.

 Rebecca was visiting a Northland College friend, Elizabeth, who is attending the school. While there the cowgirl noticed parking spots with outlets to plug in electric cars, composting toilets and quaint old houses and schools that had been re-purposed as offices and classrooms for the law school.

A composting toilet at the law school.

When the school expanded, regular flush toilets would have put too much of a demand on the municipal water supply. By installing composting toilets the school is both conserving water and preventing excess nutrients and and phosphorus from entering the rivers and lakes. (Water treatment plants can put a lot of nutrients and phosphorus into the natural water supply. This is bad for aquatic life and water quality.)

According to the school most people have a positive impression of the composting toilets after using them. Forty-four percent of the students make a conscious choice to use the toilets (rather than flush toilets) and 42 percent show off the toilets to guests.

Other sustainable features on campus including passive solar buildings, and food composting. 

The Worthy Burger

The Worthy Burger is a re-purposed train depot serving local food. Rebecca enjoyed grass feed beef. (Veggie burgers were available) And to quench their thirst the Eco-cowgirl and Elizabeth enjoyed ice-cold ice tea.

Photos by Rebecca Bischoff

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Getting my weekday lunches ready on a Sunday night

Organic, gluten-free, non-gmo, soy free, whole grain and vegan crackers.Top photo homemade butternut squash soup.

Lately the Eco-cowgirl has been preparing healthy, organic, vegan lunches for me to bring to work.

She says this butternut squash soup needs to be heated up on the stove and not with the microwave.

The ingredients in the soup are: butternut squash, green bell pepper, spinach, salt, pepper, cilantro...

She brought the soups over when I wasn't home, while we were talking on the phone she could hear the microwave going off.  That wasn't a sound she wanted to hear. We will have to ask her specifically why and use that in a future post.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

The Determined Yager-Bischoff Women speak about toxins on your skin and in our water

Rebecca and I gave a talk to the Lester River Chapter of the AARP. We talked about the toxins in the "beauty" products and foods. If you look closely on the counter behind us you can see that our hosts got out two china cups for us after they heard that Naomi will chose not to have coffee rather than use a Styrofoam cup. Mary Wright is in between Rebecca and Naomi.

Did you know that the FDA does NOT regulate the cosmetic industry, yet the skin is the largest organ of the human body and we absorb the ingredients from shampoos, soaps and and perfume into our blood. Now, all humans on every continent have something in their bloodstreams that our ancestors did not...toxins. 

I'm holding Ellen Sandbeck's "Organic Housekeeping," and Rebecca is holding "NO MORE DIRTY LOOKS: The Truth About Your Beauty Products and the Ultimate Guide to Safe and Clean Cosmetics" by journalists Siobhan O’Connor and Alexandra Spunt, we spoke about the harmful ingredients in skin care products and home cleaning products. — at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Duluth MN.
Contact us if you would like us to tailor an environmental talk for your group. naomi At sundogpress  DOT com.  OR phone Two One Eight Seven 28 One zero 10.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Are you drinking processed water?

My sweetie recently got these BPA-free water jugs for us to collect "wild water!"

When I was traveling I heard a podcast that made me think about drinking water in a totally different way. Just like food in our culture, water has become highly processed, going through many filters and chemical treatments before it ever reaches our mouths.

I'm not saying it's bad to remove contaminants from water, but along with contaminants important nutrients are also lost and some chemicals are added. That's why I've been using spring water as my main source of drinking water.

Check out this link to see if there's a spring near you!

Monday, April 07, 2014

Melting snow exposes plastic

This photo may look dirty, icky and grey, but it was a welcome spring sight to me.
Yesterday I was excited to see running water. It's been a long winter and with snowbanks surrounding me  I was excited to see the water. I was remember smiling and thinking about it as I was hurriedly walking to my car. My smile quickly faded as I noticed some plastic bottles in the news stream running down the side of the avenue. "I should pick those bottles up, or they will end up in Lake Superior for eternity," I thought to myself. But I was busy with work and I had on a pretty, filly white shirt. I kept heading for my car. As I got into my car I noticed a empty plastic grocery bag and decided that I could pick up the trashy plastic and place it in the bag.
I could not get in my car and drive away without picking up these bottles.

I grabbed the bag and started picking up plastic bottles, and noticed more and more plastic. I just keep picking it up while trying to avoid soiling my frizzy long sleeve silky shirt. I knew the plastic I was picking up was just a drop in the bucket. I told myself to pick up ten pieces of the most non-compostable litter that I saw. I left a piece of cardboard in the stream. I could have spent all afternoon on this street and I had other things to do, and it wasn't even my neighborhood. I wondered if when I walk my dog if I should pick up plastic.  I used to do that but gave it up because I was doing more stopping and pickup up of plastic than walking the dog.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Trying not to use plastic

Miss Naomi here:
Well, I've been environmentally conscious for several years now, but this December while I was trying to clean up my work office I noticed that I had quite a few plastic bags to throw out. It bothered me that I used so much plastic. I was tempted to save the bags. I am a saver. It is just so hard for me to throw out anything that is still usable. But I knew if I kept them they probably wouldn't get used and would just add to my mess.

That's the long way of saying that I was considering to make my new year's resolution not to use plastic bags. (The ones in my office were sandwich bags, which indicated that I was being environmentally aware on some level because I must have packed my own lunch. Bring you own lunch saves of the environment and is usually more healthy for you, but that is a whole new blog post.) 

So here it is the middle of January and I've felt like I hadn't implemented my no plastic bag use policy.
Today,  went to a mainstream grocery store. I thought about bringing my own bag...lord knows I have enough of them, but I couldn't find any clothe bags, except for ones that had a competitors logo on it. I didn't want to be tacky and bring a competitor's logo into a store.

Anyway, I had a list of items I needed to get. Some were for my husband. First all he wanted cherry juice, because whatever is in cherries relieves his condition. But it can't be just any cherry juice, it has to be real cherry juice. We've learned that the hard way. Many brand try to pass their product off as "real" cherry juice. The brand we have to by is Indian Summer.
As I searched in the juice aisle I notice that ever single bottle of juice was plastic.
Next I wanted to get some potatoes. I only wanted  a few small ones and they were in the bulk section. There were plastic bags for the customers to take to carry them. I knew I could put some in my cart without a bag...but I want to contain them somehow. I noticed that some onions and other produce were packaged in paper sacks. I walked around the produce section looking for empty paper sacks but could not find any. Finally I found a clerk and told him that I wanted to get some bulk potatoes and I didn't want to use the plastic bags and did he have a paper sack I could use. He went to get me one. He went behind a door for employees and came back with one little bag sack for me. Had he come back with a  couple paper sacks I would have put some of the bulk chocolate covered nuts in the second bag. I didn't feel like asking him to trudge back and get another paper bag and I knew I didn't really need the chocolate cover nuts, so the store just lost an impulse purchase sale from me.  I wonder why they don't have more paper sacks available? Do they cost more money or make mess on the retail floor?  

Next up was for me to get my husband some milk. I found it, but I think the carton has a lining of plastic. (That's also another blog post.) I do know that it had a plastic spout. I'm not sure why cartons now have this.

Milk cartoons now have this plastic spout.

I decided that I would like some quick cooking rice. Everything was in a plastic bag-type container. The only thing I could find in a cardboard box was macaroni and cheese. Since I eat vegan mac and cheese was not an option. I try to eat organic and now most of the food, even if it is organic is package in a plastic bag.

This rice is in a plastic container.

Some frozen orange juice is in a cardboard container, but most is in a plastic container.
My husband also wanted some orange juice so off to the frozen aisle I went. Lots of the frozen juices there were in little cylinder plastic containers, but I opted for the juice in the cardboard cylinder with the metal ends.  

If you want to use less plastic it seems like a person will need to do a lot of cooking from scratch. My lifestyle is so busy that I really have time.