Monday, March 28, 2016

Working on the "Such a Pretty Face" speech

"Such a Pretty Face: how cosmetics impact your health and the environment," is the title of our speech for the AAUW Minnesota State Convention on April 30 in Duluth.

Rebecca takes notes as she re-reads "Not Just a Pretty Face"

"Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry" by Stacy Malkin

Anyone who uses soap, male or female is using what the FDA considers a cosmetic or beauty product. Most of us use several everyday. You most likely use a health and beauty product to be clean and presentable. You want to look good, but sometimes the use of the products can be unhealthy for both our bodies and the environment. 

Acne plagued me as a teenager, I used all kinds of special soaps and facial scrubs. Invented in the 1970s, I may have been an early microbead adopter using the special acne scrubs my dermatologist prescribed. It wasn’t until recently the microbeads became a popular product in many facial scrubs and toothpastes. Microbeads are extremely small spheres of plastic that act as exfoliating agents, they are so small — about the size of a grain of sand — that when they pass down the drain and onto the water treatment plant, the treatment plant is unable to filter them out and then the microbeads get dumped into our waterways and lakes. There are about 300,000 microbeads in a tube of facial scrub. Once in our lakes and rivers these little particles act like a sponge soaking up toxins, such as pesticides, heavy metals, and phthalates. Phthalates are hormone disrupters. Birds, fish and other marine animals mistake the plastic for food. And we in turn eat the fish. Microbeads have been found in tuna and swordfish.

In 2015, researchers estimated that more than 8 trillion microbeads entered our waters everyday. That’s enough to cover the surface of 300 tennis courts a day.  

Image by Sara M. Kross, from "Scientific Evidence Supports a Ban on Microbeads"
published in Environmental Science & Technology

In December 2015 Congress passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act. The use of microbeads in personal care products will be banned beginning June 2017. Now many companies are phasing out the use of microbeads. 

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Superior, including assistant professor of chemistry Lorena Rios-Mendoza, are credited for sparking the discussion of the prevalence of microbeads in the Great Lakes. She made headlines in the Duluth News Tribune in August 2013. And soon there was a buzz in the environmental world about these plastic beads. 

Rios-Mendoza is not only a researcher she is an advocate and is tackling the problem you could say one grain of sand at a time. According to the Duluth News Tribune during a press conference she reminded people of the three R’s of sustainability -- reduce, reuse and recycle -- when it comes to plastics.
"But I have a fourth one:” she said at a press conference. “Refuse.”
This is a story of hope. Environmental advocates have been concerned for years about these tiny spheres of plastic. The research and subsequent laws pertinent to the use of microbeads in health and beauty products can serve to inspire us that tackling environmental problems and big companies is not hopeless. Our voices matter and large companies listened. 

Many years ago lipstick contained lead and the ingredients in mascara blinded some women and led to the death of another. In our Such a Pretty Face speech, we are not here to alarm you. But we will make you aware of some harmful products you may be using every day.  

I don’t want to give away our whole speech on this blog, and you may have already heard of the microbeads issue. On April 30, you can expect to learn more about cosmetic safety and ways to reduce your exposure to dangerous chemicals.  

We are not out to strike fear or panic, you but to give useful advice so that you can make your own decisions.


Monday, March 14, 2016

Naomi recommends you read this great memoir revolving around sustainable, healthy eggs

Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm - from ScratchLocally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm - from Scratch by Lucie B. Amundsen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lucie Amundsen’s Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm - from Scratch took me on a roller coaster of emotions. From frustration to happiness to sadness to pondering about what will be around the corner. I’ve “read’ it twice on Audible. Kate Reading narrates it and does an excellent job. The only glitch I noticed is that Kate Reading mispronounced Shakopee, but that doesn’t affect the story and only those familiar with the Minneapolis/St. Paul suburbs would notice.
Full disclosure: I am Lucie’s alley neighbor.
This book is memoir and a how-not-too. The writing style is casual, easy-to-read (listen) and interspersed with self-deprecating humor. Sandwiched in between humorous paragraphs and yarns of the struggles of her family, she gives a mini-education in economics, sustainable food and agricultural businesses. However, Amundsen teaches economics in a palatable manner. I eat a plant-based diet, so I don’t eat eggs, but that doesn’t stop me from supporting the Amundsen's for trying to make a difference in America’s food supply. The Amundsens ARE making a difference. And they caught the public’s attention by naming their business Locally Laid rather than Amundsen Farms.

The printed version includes footnotes to cite the information on economics, agriculture and food.

One of my favorite lines is, “Americans tend to be put off by evidence of where their food comes from.” Amundsen wrote this when explaining the egg washing process, something that is not done in Europe. Today so many americans don’t understand the origins of their food. They want it wrapped up and sanitized and whether a plant-eater or a meat-eater, Americans don’t want to know the nitty gritty details of food production, but they should because our health and economy depends on this knowledge.

I have many favorite parts, here are some of my favorite scenes:
-Their friends helping them build chicken coops during “freezing drizzle punctuated with the occasional driving hailstorm: this is springtime in the Northland.” The reader feels their cold physical struggle along with the warmth of their friends.
-The chickens’ arrival. Nine-hundred chickens sweltered in a semi-truck on the Interstate before reaching the farm. Lucie and the children were shocked at the treatment of the chickens. The chicken supplier grabbed the limp, the overheated, chickens and threw them into coops.
-Lucie’s trip to Maine for a class to dissect chickens, While there she learned about chicken anatomy and experienced an epiphany moment when she figured out why their chickens internal clocks were screwed up.
-The Amundsen’s mixing with cultures other than their own, like their visit to Amish famers; and the visit from glitzy California PR to the egg farm.
-I related to the scene where Lucie stood up for her own dream, which included living in town close to the children’s schools and her off farm employment, not out in the country. I could see myself in that scene. Mothers tend to become courageous when realizing the need to role model strong behavior for watching daughters.

There isn’t a chapter I didn’t enjoy. And I plan to listen again.
Anyone who likes to eat should read this book. It would be of particular interest to  locavores, the environmentally conscious, and those with a commitment to sustainability.

The book starts in 2012 and flashes back to 2010, the year we moved near the Amundsens. When we became neighbors the Amundsen’s had a chicken coop near an alley we share. We knew that Jason had lost a job and felt really bad for him. But I didn’t have much sympathy for him when he greeted me in the alley and told about some land he found to rent to raise chickens. He told me to be sure and tell my husband. (My husband was raised on a farm.) I figuratively threw cold water on him saying, “You know my husband could have been a farmer, but he chose not to. It’s hard work.” I thought Jason was crazy.
And this is how the book took me on a roller coaster ride. Lucie has a cheerful, fun personality and Jason is sincere. As I read, Lucie’s vivid writing showed gave a glimpse of hard they worked. Of course I already knew that farmers work damn hard, but yet reading the book I felt bad for not be more supportive of the family. I thought that they were romanticizing the farm life. Later as I read, I had an I told-you-so feeling. But by the middle of the book I was cheering this family’s passion and commitment to healthy food, local economy and animal welfare. I came to admire understand their tenacity.

  Locally Laid How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm - from Scratch by Lucie B. Amundsen

I am grateful for families like the Amundsens who work to bring us healthy, sustainable food. And for writers like Lucie who use their craft to explain its importance in an entertaining manner.
Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm - from Scratch

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