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  Greenrightnow.com
 at  http://www.greenrightnow.com/mystateline/2012/01/30/get-healthy-scents-this-valentines-day/

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

How do your potatoes grow?

Image from www.toxictaters.org

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  http://www.toxictaters.org/

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