The Bee’s Knees (and lips and feet and hands…)

burt's bees lip balmThis is probably the most popular stick for chapped lips since ChapStick. I bought a stick years ago and jumped on the Burt’s Bees bandwagon. Since then I’ve tested at least one product in every one of their categories. They are high quality products with natural ingredients and the company is one of the greenest in the US. On their site you can find great information about their green efforts. Some of the highlights from my reading include:

• “By teaming up with North Carolina Green Power and Renewable Choice Energy, we’ve offset all our operations to 100 percent carbon neutral.”

• “Even in our offices, break rooms now have composting bins, as well as reusable and compostable utensils—they’re made from potatoes!”

• In 2002, co-founder Roxanne used some of their profits to buy “tracts of forest land in northern Maine to preserve them from development. This purchase marked the beginning of a long-standing relationship with The Nature Conservancy, which over the years, has helped conserve 185,000 acres of Maine forest land.”

You can find all this and a lot more on their web site. It’s very thorough and easy to read. For something their site doesn’t offer, here are my top recommendations:

Foot CreamTheir Coconut Foot Creme is just short of magical. Even aside from the fact that I am crazy about most things made from coconut, this creme went above and beyond my expectations. After a lifetime of shoeless modern dance and a general preference for barefeet, I had almost resolved that my calloused soles were here to stay. However, when I went to my friend’s Costa Rican wedding in December, I had my first pedicure. It was fantastic, embarrassing, and pretty funny. My mom and I had them done at the same time. The women doing it only knew Spanish, and we knew none. So while my mom’s beautician was finishing her dainty feet, the lady working on me was still grinding away on my leathery hooves. I tried to look sheepish and grateful. I’m not sure what she thought, but I admired her perseverance and straight face she did a great job. After that, I really wanted to keep my feet feeling like feet. This creme has the look and consistency of honey, but is smooth instead of sticky. Because it isn’t mostly water like a lot of lotions, it doesn’t evaporate, it soaks in and truly, deeply moisturizes.

Hand Creme The Almond Milk Beeswax Hand Creme just plain works. No more dry, cracking wintery hand with this stuff. It is top shelf, all the way.

Burt's Bees' Baby Bee Bubble Bath This is Burt’s Bees’ Baby Bee Bubble Bath. (You gotta love a company that loves alliteration this much, right?) I went to the local Skin Care Shop to find some bubble bath for my boyfriend for Christmas. (The boy just loves baths, and anyone who loves baths, needs some good bubbles.) They had three bubble baths. Two were in sleek, design-y bottles and one was for babies. After some deliberation, I bought the baby bath. The bottle was recycled, the ingredients were natural, and it even cost less.

March 3, 2010 at 12:33 am 1 comment

Waste Not

Yummy garbage

I just found an article about clever uses for food scraps. My favorite suggestion was saving bits and pieces of things for making stock. Have a bag or three in your freezer dedicated to these pieces. When you collect enough, make stock. I think using animal bones for stock is common, but the ideas that caught my attention were making vegetable stock out of the ends of carrots, celery leaves, parsley stems, etc and making seafood stock out of vegetable bits and discarded shrimp tails, mussel shells and the like.

I also really liked the idea of freezing citrus rinds so that when you need some zest, you don’t have to mess up the whole fruit!

February 26, 2010 at 5:09 pm 1 comment

The Bloom Box and Hope

Bloom Box

I am an optimistic person in general, but I am a pessimistic environmentalist. I will do many things for the Earth and for people, but I don’t have much faith that we will ever sufficiently solve our problems and stop mistreating the planet. I suppose it’s that I love individuals, but mistrust the collective. However, watching and reading about the Bloom box today, I felt hopeful. The Bloom box is a power source produced by fuel cells. Powered by oxygen and fuel (such as natural gas or bio-gas), the fuel cells create electricity. One thin wafer of a fuel cell disk creates enough energy for one light bulb. Stacking them together generates more power. These stacks are the heart of the Bloom box. If you’re interested in learning more, the 60 Minutes video gives a very good overview.

I know this isn’t completely new technology. I know it just recently hit the market, issues have been found, and doubts have been voiced. But I didn’t think about all that. For a few minutes I just let myself believe that it was possible that someone had created a solution — that there was a brand-new energy-producer that would change our lives and the environment right now. I was overwhelmed thinking about it. Maybe that’s weird. Maybe most environmentalists are driven by their hopes for the future instead of their guilt. I hope that is true, but if you’re reading this and you are the type who worries and sometimes feels overwhelmed about the tremendous peril this planet is in, take a few moments and imagine that we didn’t botch this up yet. Imagine a future not of surviving, but of thriving.

This was an unusually intimate post. If you didn’t like it or can’t relate, just know that someone tonight felt very good about humanity, and that includes you!

Emotionally, Stephanie.

February 26, 2010 at 12:08 am 5 comments

Winter Games

toronto

I just got back from a trip to Toronto. Visiting in February hadn’t sounded like the best time, but it ended up being great. One reason was that there was unusually little snow, as you can see in the photo. My Canadian boyfriend wants to move back to the area for grad school. In response to my concern about moving to a colder climate, he’s consoled me time and again that it is just a little colder, but snowier. I hope you appreciate the irony that this was my first visit to the area and there was approximately 3.5 feet less snow than there is in my current backyard.

Another factor that made the timing perfect: the Olympics. Not only is all of Canada pumped about the games, but also I don’t have a TV in my house so staying in houses and going to restaurants with television was a treat. Absolutely every TV I saw for 5 days was glowing with the winter games.

Olympic Medals

If you’ve been watching, you may have noticed that the medals look a little more organic than in years past. This is reflecting their recycled nature. Each medal includes a bit of recycled end-of-life electronics known as e-waste. The medals remain mostly pure, but a small amount of other metals is added to harden the medals. E-waste was sourced to reduce the amount of waste going into landfills. Teck, makers of the medals say, “The process involves shredding, separating, and heating of the various electronic components to recover a variety of metals.” Unfortunately, only very small amounts of recycled materials went into the medals. Perhaps if the reaction is favorable enough, they’ll use more in the future!

February 25, 2010 at 12:52 am 2 comments

To-Go Ware

To-Go Ware

I recently had the idea that I should put some cutlery in my car or bag to use on the rare occasion that I have take-out…or on the much more frequent occasion that I buy delicious yogurt grocery shopping and can’t wait until I get home. This is a good solution for my lifestyle, but if you don’t want silverware weighing down your bag or picnic basket, check out these bamboo sets from To-Go Ware. Here are some of my favorite excerpts from the FAQ:

“Bamboo is extremely durable and can withstand a great deal of use without damage. It’s stronger even than oak, and when laminated, bamboo is nearly as strong as soft steel.”

“Bamboo is not a tree — it’s a grass, and it grows like one. Many species of bamboo can grow two feet or more a day. When it’s harvested, it need not be replanted, because it will grow a new shoot from its extensive root system. So bamboo renews itself readily, unlike hardwood trees, which, once cut, are gone forever. Bamboo is an endlessly renewable resource.”

February 21, 2010 at 11:49 pm 2 comments

Eco-Friendly Ski Resorts

snow mobile

That’s a picture of my car. I took that after the first storm. Needless to say, I’ve had snow on my mind. I always enjoy the beauty of snow, but right now, it looks less beautiful and more just plain ridiculous, like a winter designed by Dr. Seuss. It has, however, made me start daydreaming about snowboarding, skiing, and tubing. The wonderful Green section of The Huffington Post featured an article the other day for just such daydreams: Top 10 Eco-Friendly Ski Resorts.

February 12, 2010 at 5:54 pm Leave a comment

Pura Vida!

“Pura Vida” is a phrase used a lot in Central America. It’s Costa Rica’s national motto and can be heard more frequently than “freedom” in the US. The phrase “pura vida” literally means “pure life”, but the meaning is closer to “full of life,” “purified life,” “this is living,” “going great,” or “cool!” An organization by the same name teaches villagers to compact clean, dry plastic trash into used plastic bottles, thereby converting waste into easily-storable and transportable “plastic bricks” for construction. Below is an image of these plastic bricks creating the insulation/foundation of a building in Guatemala.

Mario

casa

Basically, they collected used plastic bottles and stuffed them full of assorted other plastic waste — from plastic shopping bags to snack wrappers — then stacked them within a wire framework. The spaces between bottles were stuffed with more plastic bags, then cement was smeared over it all, creating a surface similar to any other wall. The best part, of course, is the massive amount of waste used. In one project in Granados, Guatemala building a small schoolhouse, they couldn’t find any more plastic waste in the community and had to go to neighboring villages to collect some of theirs!

Cement wall

February 10, 2010 at 7:44 pm 1 comment

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