Category Archives for World

From the Road – Akron via Chicago and Philadelphia

Coming home from a fabulous weekend sharing the tools of #yoga and #mindfulness along with playfulness, creativity and love with 20 now newly-minted #kidsyoga teachers. Looking down on some of the amazing things humans have built in our short history lit by a gorgeous autumn sunset. Contemplating how many of the people below me are frightened, angry, and unable or unwilling to see another point of view and hoping what I and so many others are doing is helping in some way. #grateful

We are an impossibility in an impossible universe.” -Ray Bradbury #awe#wonder #latergram #nofilter

Writing on Women’s and Babies’ Issues at Care2 Recently

Two Care2 stories hit close to home this week.

The first was a report that drinking water with levels of arsenic considered accpetable by EPA might cause prenatal growth and development problems and reduce the nutrient availability of breastmilk. Having worked on the campaign to get the arsenic limit lowered to its current level while at U.S. PIRG, I remember how hard fought that standard was. New research indicates the new it may not be protective enough afterall.

“Safe” Levels of Arsenic in Water May Harm Babies and Mothers “Safe” Levels of Arsenic in Water May Harm Babies and Mothers

When researchers from the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth began feeding mice low levels of arsenic considered safe for human consumption in drinking water by the Environmental Protection Agency, they intended to study the heavy metal‘s affect on the immune system and susceptibility to the flu, but they didn’t get that far . . . Read more and join the Conversation at Care2.

Birth Choices Under Assault in North Carolina, 7 Midwives Shutdown Overnight The second story could easily have been written about Maryland, where midwives operate under similar restrictions to the ones that shut down 7 North Carolina midwives when their supervising physician informed them he would no longer sign their licenses.

Birth Choices Under Assault in North Carolina, 7 Midwives Shutdown Overnight

The state of North Carolina is one of only 5 in the nation that requires certified nurse midwives to practice under a physician who signs their license in order to deliver babies. Last week the doctor who worked with 7 of the state’s 11 homebirth midwives notified them that he would no longer certify their licenses, effective immediately. One doctor shut down 4 midwifery practices over night, leaving dozens of women, some very near their due dates, scrambling for alternative care . . . Read more and join the Conversation at Care2

Green Your Cycle in 2012 with Reusable Feminine Hygiene Products

Greenmoms1

For this month's Green Moms Carnival, "Resolutions to Fight Climate Change" hosted by Strocel.com, I'm getting personal, really personal. 

But let's start with the big picture:

  • E-Magazine reports that, in 1998, 6.5 billion tampons were thrown in the garbage or flushed into our already overburdened sewer systems and 13 billion disposable menstrual pads were thrown away. 
  • The Center for Marine Conservation reported that more than 170,000 plastic tampon applicators polluting our oceans were collected during beach cleanups in 1998 and 1999. 
  • Most disposable menstrual products are virgin paper products and deforestation in the tropics accounts for nearly 20 percent of human-generated, climate-changing carbon emissions.

Add the global warming and trash concerns to worries about dioxin, a cancer-causing bi-product of bleaching paper and cotton, and many women are choosing reusable menstrual cups instead of disposable tampons (brands and resources outlined below the jump).

While feminine hygiene products may not be the biggest environmental threat or the most effective way to personally address global climate change, if you've already tackled things like your home energy efficiency, shifted to renewable energy, and reduced the carbon footprint of your personal transportation, then you might shift your attention to some of the other ways you can make a difference. Shifting away from disposable feminine hygiene products is an easy lifestyle change to that still makes a difference.

Feminine Care Products Are A Big Industry
We've all seen the ridiculous commercials of women wearing clingy white outfits and dancing on the beach because of the freedom delivered by whatever disposable product they've chosen. In fact, several brands of hygiene product go right to the root word for freedom in naming their products: Libra and Libresse are brands of tampons.

There's money in menstrual products, a lot of it. One market analysis predicts that the industry will gross $14.5 billion dollars a year by 2015. (That's a lot of freedom!) But that same analysis warns that "Reduced acceptance of throwaway convenience and increased emphasis on resource optimization, environmental benefits . . ." are among the challenges facing the industry.

Among the other challenges for the industry, an aging market share as baby boomer no longer need them. Kotex, a brand I definitely grew up thinking was for old people, is trying to capture the teens and tween audience by mocking the marketing  previously used by Kotex and other brands.

Their "Get Real" campaign offers tampons and pads in bright colors and encourages girls to "take a stand against bland" by ordering custom designs on their pads. No, seriously.

Are Reusable Menstrual Products Going Too Far?

The decision between cloth and disposable diapers, something a baby will wear for about 3 years, gets a lot of press and is an expected eco-decision facing a new parent. Yet the decision between reusable and disposable menstrual products, something a woman will use nearly three months a year for most of their lives, is not even one many women consciously made.

I'm not really that nostalgic for the technology of my grandmother's era, it wasn't that long ago that reusable products were the norm. Today though, shifting from disposable tampons and maxis to a menstrual cup or reusable pads requires you to reject the notion that manufacturers are trying to sell you that your entire life can be neat, tidy, convenient, and, if you want, sweet smelling.

But if you're found this Green Moms Carnival blog because you are a mom, you've already been disabused of that notion and know that life is messy. By the time you've lived through the exploding diapers phase of infancy and survived potty training and the recurring stomach viruses of the preschool years, your entire perception of what's messy and gross may have shifted.

I actually discovered my first reusable pad in college when I was seeking to be more radical in my life anyway.  I purchased a set as an act of rebellion against corporate control of my cycle and ordered a Keeper not long after.  Since then, it seems a lot less radical. I find them more comfortable and convenient than tampons and disposable pads ever were.

 

Saving Money with Reusable Menstrual Cycle Products

Keeper_tampon_green

The makers of one reusable menstrual cup estimates that disposable products cost an average of $4 USD per month, but no doubt some women spend more. A decade of using a reusable cup would save the user hundreds of dollars.

Most women probably spend $4-10 USD month on menstrual pads. Over a lifetime of menstrual periods, that adds up to a couple thousand dollars, at least. Reusable cloth pads require a larger initial investment to either purchase or sew, but last for years and years.

The Reusable Menstrual Cup is a Green Alternative to Tampons
The reusable menstrual cup has been helping women manage their moon cycles for nearly a century with U.S. patents dating as far back as 1932. Cups are worn like a tampon and must be emptied and rinsed, or cleaned out with toilet tissue, every few hours. Unlike tampons, cups are made of a nonabsorbent material such as natural gum rubber (latex) or medical grade silicone that leave no fibers behind and are not drying. Menstrual cups can be used overnight and during sports activities or any other time you would wear a tampon. Available in several designs, most are compatible with intra-uterine devices (IUDs) and other birth control methods. Costs vary by make and model but are generally around $35 USD.

  • The Keeper is a Food & Drug Administration approved latex cup available in two sizes that has been on the market since 1987. The Keeper is made in the United States, may last up to 10 years, and comes with a 3-month satisfaction guarantee for women wanting to try out a reusable menstrual cup. Fun tidbit about The Keeper: The 1992, the female scientists of Biosphere 2 chose The Keeper as their form of feminine hygiene.
  • MoonCup (US) is manufactured by the same company as The Keeper and it is identical except that is is made of medical grade silicone and can be used by women with a latex allergy.
  • MoonCup (UK) is manufactured by a Good Shopping Guide certified Ethical Company in the United Kingdom. The silicone MoonCup is available in Boots Pharmacies in the UK and online but may not be shipping to the United States due to a trademark dispute with the above mentioned MoonCup.
  • Diva Cup is the Canadian competitor to the Keeper and Mooncup by a mother and daughter business out of Ontario. The silicone cup is available online and from distributors world wide. Retail locations in the United States and Canada include Whole Foods and Yes Markets.
  • LadyCup is manufactured in the Czech Republic but can be shipped world-wide. The company claims to have improved flexibility of the silicone cup, which is available in several colors, and boasts a completely smooth design (no embossed logos on the product) for ease of maintenance.
  • FleurCup, also silicone, is made in France and boasts easy insertion and extraction due to the cup's removal tab design. The company's frequently asked questions web page (in French) has some very nice animated graphics showing folding techniques for insertion that should be applicable to many brands of menstrual cup. (Told you this was going to get personal.)
  • Lunnette is a Finnish company that manufactures both an uncolored silicone and blue cup. The blue cup may not be available in all countries due to importation approvals.
  • MiaCup is a silicone cup manufactured in South Africa. The company donates 5 South African Rands to Food & Trees for Africa with every purchase.

Not all products will be available for shipping to all countries.

Reusable Menstrual Pads are a Green Alternative to Disposable Maxis

Reusable_menstrual_pad

The most difficult thing about switching to cloth menstrual pads will probably choosing a brand and style. The choices in patterns and fabrics are nearly endless. There is organic cotton, linen, fleece, wool, plain un-dyed, bright colors, cute fabric patterns, snaps, elastic, velcro, stuff-ables, all-in-one, and more. But at it's simplest, a cloth pad is absorbent and comfortable. Many women prefer the experience of cloth to wearing disposables, and women with sensitive skin or feminine discomfort may enjoy them more than most. 

It is not possible to list every manufacturer of cloth menstrual pads. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of small businesses, many run by work at home moms (WAHMs), sewing and selling pads from a variety of materials (nothing bland about the pads above). A few of the better known companies selling cloth pads, panty-liners, and even complete menstrual underwear including the following:

  • Glad Rags are made by a U.S. company out of Oregon. The company makes all-in-one panty-liners and stuff-able menstrual pads in organic or conventional cotton fleece, as well as overnight pads and waterproof carry bags. The company offers several starter kits as well as kits designed to provide for all your needs during a menstrual period. Glad Rags are available to purchase online or through a variety of retailers including Whole Foods and MOM's Organic Markets in the United States.
  • Many Moons, out of Victoria in Canada, offers a similarly designed pad to Glad Rags but with an optional nylon liner. They offer four sizes – overnight, mini, regular/maxi, and youth – in either "pastel" or "wild" fabric design sets.
  • Luna Pads are designed differently than Glad Rags or Many Moons in that they come with a liner that snaps around a woman's underwear and pads that sit on the liners secured by small elastic straps. The company claims the design is more convenient because the pads can often be changed without needing to change out the liner. The company, based in Vancouver, Canada, offers a variety of sizes and fabric options and a hand flow chart to help customers decide which styles and quantities to purchase.

Sewing Homemade Menstrual Pads
Depending on sewing skills, making homemade fabric menstrual pads may be the most economical option of them all. Many small businesses selling cloth pads got started in this way. Fabric options for homemade pads are limitless and many women report success re-using old t-shirts and other absorbent scrap fabrics with softer, sometimes prettier, choices for a top layer.

There are numerous patterns available on the Internet appropriate for even novice sewers, many of whom may note that it doesn't matter very much if the hems are sewn straight because no one will see them. Another option is to purchase a few pads and copy the design you like best.

Caring for Cloth Menstrual Pads
Pad manufacturers will likely include washing instructions but most will recommend a simple cold rinse followed by a machine wash. Drying instructions may also vary, but both line drying and machine drying are options.

Because the pads will be worn near sensitive skin, fabric softeners, perfumes, and dyes are usually not recommended.

Other Eco-Friendly Tampon Alternatives

  • Sea Sponge Tampons may appeal to women who find a cup uncomfortable. The sea sponge is an animal, so vegetarians may have ethical issues with their harvest and use as tampons. Sponges are rinsed between uses and must be disinfected between cycles. Environmentalists will want to take care that sponges are harvested in the least harmful manner possible to the ocean floor.
  • Reusable Tampons made of cotton or knit are becoming a cottage industry. Much like a very small cloth diaper, they are washed and reused. 

More Environmentally-Friendly Disposables
Many women find menstrual cups and reusable to be more convenient and more comfortable than disposables. Women who do not find reusables to be appropriate or convenient can still lighten the environmental load of their menstrual period. Organic and unbleached cotton and bamboo tampons and recycled paper pulp pads should be available wherever natural products are sold from manufacturers worldwide.

Large portions of this post were originally published on Suite 101: Save Money with Reusable Menstrual Cycle Pads: Cloth Sanitary Napkins are Eco-Friendly Alternative to Disposables and Save Money with Green Menstrual Cycle Products: Environmentally-Friendly Feminine Hygiene Alternatives to TamponsCopyright Jennifer Mueller.

Photo credits: Menstrual cup vs. disposables illustration courtesy of The Keeper, Inc. Reusable pads photo courtesy of Obsidian Star.

If You Give a Mom a Muffin

The poem below was emailed to me this week.  If you are a parent who's read the "If you Give a Mouse a Cookie" book series by Laura Numeroff, this may strike a cord.

If You Give A Mom A Muffin

Muffin - IMG_0246 by Beth Brubaker

If you give a mom a muffin,

She’ll want a cup of coffee to go with it.

She’ll pour herself some.

Her three-year-old will spill the coffee.

She’ll wipe it up.

Wiping the floor, she’ll find dirty socks.

She’ll remember she has to do laundry.

When she puts the laundry in the washer,

She’ll trip over boots and bump into the freezer.

Bumping into the freezer will remind her she has to plan for supper.

She will get out a pound of hamburger.

She’ll look for her cookbook

(“101 Things To Do With a Pound of Hamburger”).**

The cookbook is sitting under a pile of mail.

She will see the phone bill, which is due tomorrow.

She will look for her checkbook.

The check book is in her purse that is being dumped out by her two-year-old.

She’ll smell something funny.

She’ll change the two year old’s diaper.

While she is changing the diaper, the phone will ring.

Her five-year-old will answer and hang up.

She’ll remember she wants to phone a friend for coffee.

Thinking of coffee will remind her that she was going to have a cup.

And chances are…

If she has a cup of coffee,

Her kids will have eaten the muffin that went with it.

 ___

**Naturally, we'd be using a veg-friendly alternative around here.

I was unable to find the poem's original source or a website belonging to Kathy Fictorie, the credited author.* See editors note 5/21/2012.

I did find creative moms out there turning the poem into a cute DIY gift. Pamela Donnis designed a 4×6" card (left) for the poem and attached it to a package of muffin mix with a bow.  She has shared the image file on her blog. I found alternative versions using homemade muffin mixes as well.

Maya's current favorite from the series is "If You Give a Pig a Pancake."  We don't own that one and she recently requested it at bed time. I found a version on YouTube being read by another fan. Enjoy.

Is a web video of a child reading a book aloud with copyrighted images an example of online piracy? Probably, but if either piece of proposed federal legislation known as the "Stop Online Piracy Act" and "Protect Intelectual Property Act" passes, a single complaint to my web hosting company could result in Puddle Jumping in DC being shut down over it, no due process, no notice.  Find out more. Contact your members of Congress.

* Editors note 5/21/2012: I was contacted by Beth Brubaker, apparently the actual author of the poem. Read her "If You Give a Mom a Muffin – STOLEN!" post here.  The irony of the topic of this post and the saga of this poem is not lost on me.

Photo credit: Muffin by flickr user Nicola since 1972, used by Creative Commons license.

Where Is Your Old Cell Phone? U.S. E-Waste Across the Globe

Mobile Phones Old and NewOriginally published on Care2.

Were you one of the millions of Americans to get an upgrade to one of your electronic devices this holiday season?

You know you are not alone, of course. According to the Electronics Take Back Coalition, consumers in the United States will replace approximately 400 million consumer gadgets this year.

Tiny Fraction of Obsolete Electronics Are Recycled
Do you have any idea what happens to all the old cell phones, laptops, vcr players and other obsolete electronics we discard every year? Approximately 14 percent of those devices will be “recycled,” but e-waste recycling in the United States usually means exporting electronics to developing countries and what actually happens to the materials and the workers at recycling facilities is poorly regulated and sometimes completely unknown.

Some electronics will be broken down to recover valuable metals from its components and some will get a second life in the importing country’s consumer market. David Biello of Scientific American discovered this when he covered the climate talks in South Africa this fall. The cell phone he rented during his visit was clearly used, still bearing a photo of a woman of European descent and the contact information of the previous user’s friends.

Earlier this year, a team of MIT researchers set out to find out what happens to all our old electronics by turning them into little investigative reporters that send data and images back to the team from all over the world. They outfitted the devices with GPS units and programed them to send coordinates and video images back every 15 minutes. The video below provides a snapshot of the data collected so far.

  

Poorly Regulated E-Waste Recycling Is Really Toxin Exporting
While only the working electronics sent back video images, the team also tracked broken and useless e-waste destined for resource recovery. According to Backtalk:

“One reason why obsolete electronics are transported over large distances is the sparse geographical distribution of dedicated recycling facilities. For example, only thirteen facilities in the world are certified to smelt and recycle the cathode ray tubes of old television sets – and all are in Asia. For these components, environmentally sound recycling is critical, since the glass of these TVs and monitors can contain up to 20% lead by weight.”

E-waste recycling internationally is a crude and dangerous industry. Workers often break apart electronics with hammers or even by heating components to melt out valuable material, releasing toxins with little regard to their own health or the environment. And it’s not just the recycling workers whose health is harmed.

“A study published last year in Environmental Health Perspectives found that children in Guiyu [a town in China were e-waste is recycled] had lead levels 50 percent higher than those in surrounding villages and 50 percent higher than safety limits set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lead is known to cause brain damage.” (Scientific American)

Take Action: Stop global toxic dumping! Make it illegal to send toxic e-waste to developing nations.

What You Can Do to Stop Toxic E-Waste Exporting

1) Definitely recycle your old electronics, but choose a responsible recycler. Approximately 85 percent of e-waste ends up in U.S. landfills where toxins leach into the local environment and valuable minerals are lost. e-Stewards certified recyclers are committed to responsible recycling that doesn’t export toxins to developing countries.

See the Electronics Take Back Coalition’s guide to e-recycling for more suggestions. (And yes, delete your data first.)

2) Support electronics take-back programs and laws to require manufactures to implement them. The consumer electronics industry is extremely profitable, in part by hoisting the cost of disposal of their products onto the general public. In response to popular demand, companies like Apple and HP will take back your old electronics, sometimes for discounts on new purchases.

3) Support federal and state legislation to prevent e-waste exporting. Several states have passed laws to regulate the disposal of e-waste and bills have been introduced in both chambers of the U.S. Congress. Find out about state legislation and support the bi-partisan Responsible Electronics Recycling Act of 2011 (H.R.2284 and S.1270).

 

Photo credit: Old phones by flickr user CannedTuna, used by Creative Commons license.

Gas in the water, toxins in the baby shampoo, coal ash in Lake Michigan!

Found myself writing about chemicals out of place. Recently on Care2:

My Water’s On Fire Tonight [Video]

My Water’s On Fire Tonight [Video]

Recent reports reveal that hydraulic fracturing, a form of natural gas drilling that involves injecting toxin-laden water deep underground, may have been responsible for earthquakes in England and Oklahoma and the Environmental Protection agency announced that it will investigate the drilling method’s impact on drinking water. . . Read more.

Toxic Chemicals in U.S. Baby Shampoo, Why?

Toxic Chemicals in U.S. Baby Shampoo, Why?

It’s pretty clear that formaldehyde, used to embalm corpses, is not a health elixir. What’s less clear is why Johnson & Johnson thinks it’s a good idea to put this carcinogen in baby shampoo. . . Read more.

Powerplant Mudslide Dumps Coal Ash into Lake Michigan

Powerplant Mudslide Dumps Coal Ash into Lake Michigan

Just weeks after the U.S. Senate voted to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate the disposal of coal ash, what’s left after coal is burned in a power plant, a mudslide on the banks of Lake Michigan sends tons of the stuff into a drinking water source for 10 million people. . . Read more.

Catfish, Global Warming, and Barbie vs. the Rainforest – Recently on Care2

Virginia Anglers Catch 143-pound Monster Catfish

Virginia Anglers Catch 143-pound Monster CatfishNews outlets are calling the 143-pound blue catfish hooked by sport fishermen in Virginia a monster of our own making. The fish caught by Richard Nicholas “Nick” Anderson and his father and brother in John H. Kerr Reservoir, known locally as Buggs Island Lake, broke the state record just set in March by a 109 pound catfish, and may break the world record for largest fish caught. Biologists for the most part are not cheering the opportunity for more fisherman to catch a “big one” in Virginia waters. (more)

All Eyes to EPA on Global Warming

All Eyes to EPA on Global WarmingThe U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants under the Clean Air Act last month when it denied a petition by several states to force power plants to reduce pollution. (more)

Showdown in New Jersey Over Climate Pollution Pact

Showdown in New Jersey Over Climate Pollution PactIn response to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s announcement that he would pull out of a multi-state agreement, known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, to reduce global warming pollution from power plants, the state legislature has passed three separate bills to prevent RGGI withdrawal. While no one expects Governor Christie to sign the bills that reach his desk, environmentalists such as Jeff Tittel, Director of New Jersey Sierra Club, say the votes indicate that the legislature would support legislation blocking the regulatory changes Christie will need to pull out of the agreement. (more)

U.S. Regulators Help Nuclear Power Plants Meet Safety Standards…

U.S. Regulators Help Nuclear Power Plants Meet Safety Standards by Weakening StandardsA very cozy relationship exists between the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and thenuclear power industry in the United States according to an Associated Press investigative report that found “proof that aging reactors have been allowed to run less safely to prolong operation.” ( more)

To Win Back Ken, Barbie Pledges to Stop Destroying Rainforests

To Win Back Ken, Barbie Pledges to Stop Destroying RainforestsAfter last week’s banner-dropping stunt at Mattel headquarters by Greenpeace, deforestation concerns began dominating the discussion over at Barbie’s Facebook page. It got so bad that Mattel temporarily shut down the page to comments. Greenpeace launched its social media campaign and PR stunt on Tuesday morning, calling on Mattel to stop purchasing paper pulp harvested from the last habitat of Indonesia’s orangutans and tigers; by late Wednesday, Mattel’s response was posted front and center on the company website. more

 

Tornados, Fish Farms, and Barbie vs Orangutans – Recently on Care2

Don't Make Connections Between Extreme Weather Events (VIDEO)

tornados, hurricanes, floods and climate change. . . because that might might lead you to conclude that global warming is already happening, warns Bill McKibben in a Washington Post oped.

In the wake of the devastating tornado's in Joplin, MO, and a record year for tornados, floods, and wildfires worldwide, author and environmentalist Bill McKibben makes the case that the extreme weather patterns predicted by climate science models look awfully like what we've been experiencing . . . (more)

June 12, 137 comments

NOAA OKs Factory Fish Farming for the Gulf of Mexico

factory fish farming, gulf of mexicoThat the U.S. government agency responsible for managing the nations fisheries falls within the agency responsible for international trade is painfully clear with Thursday's announcement that NOAA will finalize regulations for open ocean aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico. The press material accompanying the announcement leads with the Commerce Department objective of closing the seafood trade gap, not with the importance of managing a stressed natural resource, fisheries, or ensuring the health of an ecological and biological wonder, the world's oceans . . . (more)

Jun 10, 62 comments

Ken Dumps Barbie to Save the Rainforest, Protect Orangutans and Tigers

Barbie manufactuer Matel accused of endangering Indonesian wildlifeWould you ditch your girlfriend of 50 years if you discovered she was complicit in the deaths of endangered orangutans and tigers? That's the call Ken made when he discovered the boxes in which Barbie dolls are packaged contain mixed tropical hardwood from Indonesia's rainforests. At least that's back story to a campaign stunt by Greenpeace on Tuesday calling on Mattel to set corporate policy eliminating rainforest sourcing of paper for packaging . . . (more)

Jun 7, 70 comments

 

 

Should We Put a Price on Services Rendered by Nature?

Started a new conversation over at Care2 this week. Check it out.

beeValuing Green in Greenbacks: Should We Put a Price on Services Rendered by Nature?

"According to the United Nations Environment Programme report "Mainstreaming the Economics of Nature," failing to value the Earth's natural services, such as bees pollinating the world's food supply or forests filtering clean drinking water, is a problem. Their solution: put a dollar figure on it. . . " (more)

Water water everywhere . . . on Blog Action Day

More the 5000 bloggers are writing about water today for Blog Action Day.   Why? Because unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation cause 80 percent of diseases and kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.

A colleague recently pointed me to this stunning graphic about how war over water could kill even more people in the future.  Check it out and then sign the petition.

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