January 31, 2007

January Wrap-Up

January. The start of a brand new year. And this year, if you're living in the Northeast at least, the start of a chilly winter.

Not surprisingly, we spent a lot of time thinking about ways to keep warm -- from eco-friendly fires to heating pads to, well, adding an insulative layer with organic chocolate and fair trade Ben and Jerry's ice cream.

We warded off cold and flu with EO Hand Sanitizer and Sanitizing Hand Wipes, tackled the drying effects of winter heaters with two adorable Crane's humidifiers (in Penguin and Hello Kitty models), and improved our indoor air quality with the RabbitAir BioGP Air Purifier.

We got crafty, checking out ReadyMade, 108 Ways to Transform a T-Shirt, and Make Magazine.

We looked at ways to improve our minds (reading books like Catherine Ripley'sWhy Ask Why and Michael Pollan's NYTimes piece on nutrition), our bodies (with foods like Newman Organic's Microwave Popcorn, GoGo Rice Bowls, Gnu Bars, and Crispy Pineapple), and our lives (with both energy-efficient fluorescent lighting and daily tips from Ideal Bite). Oh yeah, we thought about working on our tans, organically.

Finally, we did a little navel gazing -- and felt completely justified about it, because it turns out one of us is pregnant! Said navel needed some moisturizing, and we found it with Pond's Cocoa Butter Tummy Butter. Forgive us if our thoughts turn to spring, and with it, Pebbles Organic Cotton Crib Bedding. Look for more baby-related day dreaming as we head in to February.

Jess Brooks Permalink social bookmarking

January 31, 2007

Which Firewood Burns Cleanest

umbra.gifAfter our article a couple weeks ago on True Fuel's new renewable, eco-friendly firewood made from sawdust, we were intrigued to read Grist's Ask Umbra column on "Which Wood to Burn."

In response to a reader's question re: how to reduce smoke and pollutants coming from chimney's and woodburning stoves:

The short answer is: buy a dense wood, buy it split or split it yourself, and give it six months to a year to dry. Mayhap what you see in one chimney vs. another is smoldering, or wet wood, or variation caused by weather and stove type. What you want is a hot, efficient fire followed by well banked coals.

Read the whole story at Ask Umbra.

Jess Brooks Permalink social bookmarking

January 30, 2007

Crispy Green Introduces Crispy Pineapple

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Looking for a more exciting way to get your apple a day? Crispy Green suggests the newest product in its line of Crispy Fruit: Crispy Pineapple.

We reviewed Crispy Green's apples, peaches and apricots last fall, and gave them high marks for portability, nutrition, and tastiness. We haven't tasted the pineapple yet, but are hoping it's more of the same. Only tropical.

Available at Crispy Green.

Jess Brooks Permalink social bookmarking

January 29, 2007

Michael Pollan on Nutrition in NYTimes

28meals_600.jpgMichael Pollan writes about why nutrition studies might be making us food-obsessed, unhealthy and obese in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine. Pollan is the author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, the hardest (and most interesting) look at our food and where it's coming from since Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation. (It's a tougher read, but definitely worth it.)

In the NYTimes article, Pollan muses:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy. I hate to give away the game right here at the beginning of a long essay, and I confess that I’m tempted to complicate matters in the interest of keeping things going for a few thousand more words. I’ll try to resist but will go ahead and add a couple more details to flesh out the advice. Like: A little meat won’t kill you, though it’s better approached as a side dish than as a main. And you’re much better off eating whole fresh foods than processed food products. That’s what I mean by the recommendation to eat “food.” Once, food was all you could eat, but today there are lots of other edible foodlike substances in the supermarket. These novel products of food science often come in packages festooned with health claims, which brings me to a related rule of thumb: if you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid food products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a good indication that it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat.

Read the whole article at NYTimes.com.

Jess Brooks Permalink social bookmarking

January 29, 2007

Newman's Own Organic Microwave Popcorn

B000CR41MY.01._AA280_PIbundle-12,TopRight,0,0_AA280_SH20_SCLZZZZZZZ_-1.jpg
Can you say guilty pleasure? Newman's Own Organics redeems microwave popcorn with this tasty organic version.
Newman's Own Organics Pop's Corn Light Butter Flavored microwave popcorn features organic corn and organic palm oil. Consumers concerned about fat consumption will appreciate that no partially hydrogenated oils or trans fatty acids are used -- and it contains half the total fat per serving of Newman's Own Pop's Corn regular popcorn. Organic palm fruit oil is not hydrogenated, contains no trans fatty acids, is lower in saturated fat than butter, and has no cholesterol.

Buy a case. It won't last long.

At Newman's Own Organics Pop's Corn Light Butter Flavored Microwave Popcorn. Yum.

Jess Brooks Permalink social bookmarking

January 26, 2007

Weekend Reading: Ideal Bite

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An apple a day...well, you know. And when that apple is a serving of eco-friendly wisdom from Ideal Bite, so much the better. A sort of Daily Candy for the eco-conscious set, Ideal Bite serves up daily columns offering simple "eco-living" tips on ways you can make consumption choices that save the planet, or at least reduce your own environment footprint. Small changes add up, they explain. We agree.

Subscribe to daily tips for free at Ideal Bite.

Jess Brooks Permalink social bookmarking

January 25, 2007

Pebbles Crib Bedding - Organic Cotton

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Are you and/or a loved one getting ready to welcome a new baby to your lives? The "Pebbles" bedding collection from Nest combines stylish design with eco-friendly materials.
Vibrant colors and a playful geometric print are featured on extra soft, 100% certified organic cotton. The quilt and bumper are stuffed with post-consumer recycled soda bottles, that offers cuddly warm comfort to your little one.

Pebbles Crib Bedding Set is available in pink or green.

Jess Brooks Permalink social bookmarking

January 24, 2007

Go Go Organic Rice Bowls II: Harvest Rice

B000FIWDF2.01._AA280_PIbundle-6,TopRight,0,0_AA280_SH20_SCLZZZZZZZ_V53082841_.jpg
We've written before about the convenience and simplicity of GoGo Organic Brown Rice Bowls.

GoGo's Harvest Rice Bowls take the original pre-cooked organic brown rice bowl and add lentils, dried mango and spices. Like the original, the microwaveable bowls are ready in 90 seconds. They're also gluten-free, vegetarian, and certified organic; and they contain no preservatives or cholesterol.

At GoGo Rice Pre-Cooked Organic Steamed Harvest Rice Bowl


Jess Brooks Permalink social bookmarking

January 23, 2007

Humidify Me: Hello Kitty Kid's Humidifier

B000E5VJLU.01-A23NLORBGXOLEO._AA280_SCLZZZZZZZ_V62177565_.jpgLiked our review of Crane's Penguin Humidifier but penguins aren't your style? Perhaps you're looking for something in a Hello Kitty variety? You're in luck.

Available from Wachsmuth and Krogmann.

Jess Brooks Permalink social bookmarking

January 22, 2007

Fair Trade with a Cherry on Top: Ben and Jerry's Introduces New Fair Trade Ice Cream Flavors

ViewMedia-1.jpgFair Trade can be delicious. Ben and Jerry's, which introduced Fair Trade coffee ice cream flavors to their scoop shops and grocery stores in 2005, is continuing the charge with Fair Trade vanilla and chocolate ice cream. The new flavors are available in grocery stores this month.

"Since Ben and I started the business we've used ethical values to guide our business decisions, such as sourcing ingredients," said Ben & Jerry's co-founder Jerry Greenfield when the company announced the move last October. "Expanding from our Fair Trade Certified Coffee flavors to Fair Trade Vanilla and Chocolate is another step forward in our values-led sourcing decisions."

Ben & Jerry's purchases its Fair Trade Certified coffee from a cooperative in Mexico; vanilla from Fair Trade Certified producers in India, with producers in Indonesia and Uganda under consideration; and Fair Trade Certified cocoa from producers in the Dominican Republic.

(Thanks to Transfair USA for sending us a reminder.)

Ben & Jerry's Fair Trade Certified line-up now includes: Vanilla, Chocolate, Coffee, Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, and Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz.

Available at supermarkets, Ben and Jerry's scoop shops, and online.

Jess Brooks Permalink social bookmarking

January 19, 2007

Make Magazine

Make-magazine.jpgLike Ready Made? Are you less artsy, more crafty? Got a serious Skunkworks operation in your basement? Is your role model more MacGyver than Martha Stewart? Then you may want to check out Make.

Here's what Amazon reviewer wiredweird had to say about it:

This quarterly magazine really hits the spot, if you're in its crosshairs. It's a clean miss for others.

It's pretty easy to tell whether you're in the target audience. Do you have a closet full of decommisioned PCs, cell phones, and other 21st-century rubble that you just know you could do "something" with? Do you have a Dremel tool, fine-tipped soldering iron, and more than one kind of epoxy in the house? Do the phrases "It works" and "It's beautiful" mean roughly the same thing to you? Does the idea of a home CNC milling machine stir you to jealousy or a quick look at your checkbook? Two or more yes answers probably qualify you as the intended reader.

This is about hacking your PC mouse or the cage for your pet mouse, about resurrecting last year's laptop as an electronic photo frame, and about how simple a robot control can be (you'd be surprised). It's like Popular Mechanics, but for the people who consider software, resistors, and pieces from antique clocks to be interchangeable. Although a few of the ideas in each issue have low-tech appeal, most are aimed at skill sets from "geeky highschooler" to "electronics professional".

Make is published by O'Reilly, famous for its nerd-worthy "animal books" for software developers. If you don't know what I'm talking about, well, you're probably not a software developer.

Subscribe at Make.

Jess Brooks Permalink social bookmarking

January 18, 2007

Rub My Tummy: Palmer's Cocoa Butter Tummy Butter

B000GHDPF4.01-A3HDDZD5V5HUQV._AA220_SCLZZZZZZZ_V65892629_.jpgSo, what soothes itchy pregnant skin, helps reduce the appearance of stretch marks (never too soon to start fighting them!), and smells so good your husband will come up behind you and give you kisses?

Well, if you're me, it's Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Tummy Butter for Stretch Marks.

The packaging is decidedly unappealing - especially compared to all those $30 body butters being marketed to the pre-mommy set. But I'll tell you, once you get past it and dig your hands into the sweet smelling balm, you'll be totally sold on it.

Available at drugstores and from Palmers.

Jess Brooks Permalink social bookmarking

January 16, 2007

Moral Fiber: Gnu Foods' Flavor and Fiber Gnu Bar

GroupShotAD.jpgLooking for a way to break out of your afternoon snacking rut? A tasty, all natural alternative to your Balance Bar? Or maybe you're searching for something to spice up your morning when the bowl of Kashi with blueberries just isn't cutting it. Something healthy, low calorie, high fiber, and quick -- that you can grab and go, eat on the run, and feel good about. Well, we've recently come across something that moves us - in all senses of the word - the Chocolate Brownie Flavor and Fiber Gnu Bar from Gnu Foods.

Gnu Bars
are billed as "functional foods" - designed with health and dietary benefits in mind. Each bar contains 12 grams of dietary fiber (about half the recommended daily value). Plus, they're low fat, contain no high fructose corn syrup, and have only 140 calories per bar. (Compare that to a Balance Bar, which has 200 calories, high fructose corn syrup and other sugars, and contains only 1 gram of fiber per bar.) For those counting Weight Watchers points, Gnu Bars weigh in at 2 points per bar, compared to 4 points for my beloved Luna Bar Lemon Zest, and 5 or more points for the Balance Bar - yikes!

medium-orngcranpack.jpgGnu Bars come in four flavors: Chocolate Brownie, Cinnamon Raisin, Orange Cranberry and Banana Walnut. We did a taste test here at the office, and consensus was -- well, they're actually all surprisingly good. Chocolate Brownie was the hands down favorite (except for the non-chocolate lover), followed by Cinnamon Raisin, Orange Cranberry and Banana Walnut. The taste was characterized as "somewhere between Power Bar and Lara Bar, but really good," "flavorful and chewy," and "definitely more filling than a Luna Bar." Plus, we all agreed that with 50% of the recommended DV of fiber, and no added sugar (except in the Chocolate Brownie Bar, which has real chocolate chips), this bar actually qualifies as a healthy snack.

Gnu Bars are recommended (and, in fact, designed for) people who are trying to get more fiber into their diets. (And honestly, whether we're willing to admit it or not, all of us should be.) If you're not quite ready to come to terms with your fiber needs - I, for one, am NOT ready to start drinking Metamucil (though I do check the daily fiber in my breakfast cereals) - they're a great way to make sure you're getting the fiber you need without mixing up a glass of that telltale orange powder. They're a great snack to keep in your desk -- way better than cookies or other so-called "nutrition bars" -- and at least according to two of the parents in the office, they'd be great to pack in lunchboxes.

Available at GnuFoods.

Jess Brooks Permalink social bookmarking

January 15, 2007

Penguin Humidifier: Breathe Easier

B000GWJD0A.01._AA280_SCLZZZZZZZ_V60821586_.jpgYes, I know there are probably better humidifiers on the market. But tell me, are they this cute?

Found this little fellow at Target this weekend and couldn't be happier with him. He silently pumps mist into the air (through the his beak, of course), and the one gallon tank seems to last forever (18 hours, according to the box). You'll breathe easier, and you'll smile every time you look at him.

Crane's Penguin Humidifier available at Target.

Jess Brooks Permalink social bookmarking

January 12, 2007

Weekend Reading: Why Ask Why (Great Book for Kids and Parents)

Why-Catherine Ripley.jpg Ever wondered why cows moo? Why stars twinkle? Why your hands get wrinkly from staying in the bath too long?

Then pick up a copy of Catherine Ripley's Why?: The Best Ever Question and Answer Book About Nature, Science, and the World Around You. This book, written with young children (grades K-2) and their parents in mind, explores these and other questions a child might ask, and offers simple, easy to understand answers that parents will be glad to have on hand.

Available at Amazon.

Jess Brooks Permalink social bookmarking

January 11, 2007

Fire Starter: Eco-friendly, Renewable Firewood

20031110.jpgGot to love the Dirt Works newsletter. Last fall, it featured a story on how to renovate your lawn. (Rototiller, anyone?) This winter, it's all about eco-friendly, fuel-efficient firewood.

They explain:


Heating our homes these days has become very expensive and those of us who burn wood have probably noticed the price of firewood going up right along with price of oil and gas. Not only that, as more people turn to wood as a home grown renewable source of heat the air pollution levels in our villages and urban areas has increased as a result. In response, we are introducing a firewood product that makes very little smoke and green house gases, little ash and you almost never need to clean the chimney.

This new firewood contains 30% more heat per pound than regular cord wood too and takes up a lot less space. One pallet is equal to about 2 cords of standard cord wood and fits nicely into the corner of you garage or driveway. Even if you don't burn wood full time, you can find uses for this wood product. When purchased in individual packaging it can be used for nearly smokeless barbecues, camp outs, tailgate parties and the like while providing all the benefits of firewood. It's clean, efficient and renewable.

Eco-wood-single.pngThe sawdust logs, from True Fuel are made using heat compression from 100% recycled hard wood fiber from sawmill residue, so no new trees are cut down to make them. Feel good about saving the forest while you're feeling warm and cozy.

Available by the pallet or the pound at Dirt Works.

Jess Brooks Permalink social bookmarking

January 10, 2007

Warm it Up: Maine Warmers Polar Bear Heating Pad

bears3.jpgTime to share with you my favorite gift of the holiday season - a present from my friend Jane. (Okay, full disclosure: we were strolling along Huron Avenue in Cambridge and found a basket full of these critters in Gray Mist, fell in love with them, and each bought one for the other. A perfect holiday gift-giving strategy.)

It looks like a wooly little polar bear -- snuggly, cute, filled with something that feels like an oversized Beany Baby. It's actually a microwaveable (and chillable) heating and cooling pad. You pop it in the microwave for two minutes, and out it comes, all toasty and warm, ready to soothe your achy muscles, relieve cramps, warm the bottom of the bed, or just snuggle up to you and make you feel warm and cozy.

Made in Maine by a company called Maine Warmers, the bear is actually filled with whole corn kernels, so when you heat it, it smells faintly of popcorn. The soft Berber covering is removable and machine-washable. When heated (or chilled), the bear stays warm (or cool) for about an hour -- perfect for warming you up, and releasing the stress of the day.

If the Cozy Bear isn't your cup of tea, it also comes in Wooly Lamb, Fuzzy Bunny and extra long Daschund for wrapping around your neck or waist.

Available at Maine Warmers.

Jess Brooks Permalink social bookmarking

January 9, 2007

Color Me...Tan: Organic Tanning Spray

organic tanning spray.jpg
Thanks to Really Natural reader Laura K. for sending along this blurb on organic tanning spray. The author tried the organic spray tanning at a spa in NYC, but also recommends Decleor Aroma Sun Self Tanning Milk as a great do-it-at-home alternative.

We prefer our skin pale, but if you must bronze, a more natural and/or organic tanning formula seems way preferable to the smelly chemical versions sold in most drugstores.

Availale from Decleor.

Jess Brooks Permalink social bookmarking

January 8, 2007

Lights, Camera...Wait, Check the Lights: NYTimes on Fluorescent Light Bulbs

07hamilton_CA1.190.jpgWilliam L. Hamilton writes in interesting cover page article in "Week in Review" section of this Sunday's New York Times about the rise (and the limitations) of energy saving fluorescent light-bulbs.

WHEN I found out last week that Wal-Mart, America’s biggest company, was putting a push on compact fluorescent light bulbs, hoping to make them a new lighting standard at home because they use 75 percent less energy, last 10 times longer and would save me $30 over the life of each bulb, I thought to myself, what’s not to like?

Well, fluorescent light’s not to like, many people might say.

What’s the problem? For one, it’s not incandescent.

The article goes on to discuss the evolution of fluorescent lighting -- its energy efficiency, its longevity, recent advances in fluorescent coating to make the light almost indistinguishable from incandescent light. At least until you look at yourself under it.

The problem, and Hamilton would argue, the barrier to the widespread adoption of fluorescent light bulbs for home use, is that it makes people look sickly, cool, and, well, industrial, instead of healthy, warm and homey.

Hamilton urges scientists and home designers to look for ways to make the lighting more palatable for home use. In the meantime, he says, don't expect to find it lighting the dressing rooms at The Gap (never mind your neighbor's living room).

Read the full article at NYTimes.com.

Jess Brooks Permalink social bookmarking

January 5, 2007

Weekend Reading: Ready Made Magazine

ReadyMade.jpgCaught the do-it-yourself bug? Feeling crafty? Pick up a copy of Ready Made magazine. This month's (last month's?) issue includes tips on turning old belts into dog collars ("doggie bling"), twist ties into Christmas wreaths, and plastic newspaper bags into creative bows for gifts. Projects range in skill from total beginner to advanced master craftsman level, but always offer inspiration. Maybe you will actually build a living grass sofa in your backyard. Or maybe, like me, you'll feel cool enough just reading about it and stick to the more basic projects. Either way, each issue will offer creative ideas for turning your old stuff into something new.

Available at newstands and hipper supermarkets. Subscriptions available at ReadyMade or Amazon.

Jess Brooks Permalink social bookmarking

January 4, 2007

Do It Yourself: 108 Ways to Transform a T-shirt

generationt.jpg We spent the weekend between Christmas and New Year's doing the winter version of spring cleaning -- out with the old, in with the new. Well, actually, it was more "out with the old (to Goodwill, of course), and in with a little extra space in the house."

One of the challenges I always face when I hit my closet is what to do with all the t-shirts I manage to accumulate. I've got several old favorites which for whatever reason -- too baggy, wrong neckline, no-longer-fashionable sleeves -- end up sitting on the shelf instead of getting worn. I haven't worn them all year, but I can't bring myself to get rid of them.

Which is why I was delighted to come across a copy of Megan Nicolay's Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-Shirt. Nicolay is a crafty do-it-yourselfer who offers, yep, 108 different things you can do with your old t-shirts -- from basic no-sewing-required ideas to crazy high-degree-of-difficulty projects like the "teeny bikini." Patchwork blankets, iPod cozies, handbags -- the sky's the limit as long as you've got scissors, a needle and thread, and the gumption to put yourself in Nicolay's crafty little hands and give it a go.

Available at Amazon.

Jess Brooks Permalink social bookmarking

January 3, 2007

Newman Organic Dark Chocolate Bar

newman organic chocolate.jpgDealing with post-holiday chocolate withdrawal? Try weaning yourself with these: organic dark chocolate bars from Newman Organics. Dark chocolate with just a hint of orange. All organic, and the profits go to charities supported by Newman Organics.

Available from Newman's Own Organics.

Jess Brooks Permalink social bookmarking

January 2, 2007

EO Organic Hand Sanitizer and Sanitizing Hand Wipes

EO Organic Hand Sanitzier.jpgLooking for an organic alternative to those anti-bacterial hand sanitizers? I was pleasantly surprised to discover that EO Organic, makers of some of our favorite hand soaps and moisturizers has come out with two organic hand sanitizing products, both scented with organic lavender essential oil. Both products are made from organic ingredients and are not tested on animals.

EO Organic Hand Sanitizer

EO Organic Hand Sanitizer uses organic (non-GMO) alcohol to kill germs on contact; lavender essential oil to make your hands smell nice, and aloe vera to nourish, moisturize and protect them.

Available at The Vitamin Shoppe.

EO Organic Sanitizing Hand Wipes
EO Santizing Hand Wipes.jpg

EO's handwipes use the same ingredients in a more portable form - handwipes - so you can take them wherever you go. Put some in your pocketbook, your gym bag, your car, your stroller. Regular handwipes are filled with chemicals; the EO version is totally organic. For an added bonus, the towelette is made of wood pulp, so it's totallly biodegradable.

Available at The Vitamin Shoppe.

Jess Brooks Permalink social bookmarking

January 1, 2007

Breath a Little Easier: RabbitAir BioGP Air Purifier

RabbitAirBioGP.jpgWe may be in the market for a new HEPA air purifier. I've got my eye on the RabbitAir BioGP Air Purifier.

It operates in three stages: Stage 1 pre-filters large size particles, dust, pet hair, germs, fungus and mold. Stage 2 is the BioGP® HEPA filter which uses "bio fibers" to destroy bacteria and allergens including pollen, dust mites, bacteria, cigarette odor, fungus, greenhouse gasses, and household odors. Stage 3 is the Honeycomb Charcoal deodorization filter which removes exhaust gas, pet odor, trash odor, chemical substances, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's), household odor, and cigarette odor. Parts are sink-washable and dishwasher safe; and according the the company, the HEPA filter last 3 years (compared to 3-6 months for a typical HEPA filter.)

The Rabbit Air filter is evidently the quietest air purifier on the market, and gets great reviews on Amazon. Plus, Rabbit Air is selling it for 37% off the retail price of $600. (So you get it for $380 vs. $600.)

Available at Amazon.

Jess Brooks Permalink social bookmarking
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