Using palm oil = harm and destruction (here’s why…)

palm plnttnUntil recently I had never really heard much about palm oil… but as soon as I did, everything changed.

More and more, palm oil is commonly being used as an ingredient in everyday products including margarine, shortening, baked foods, cookies, candies and even soaps, candles and personal care products. Its main purpose, aside from its “binding properties”, is to replace trans fat that we’re all trying to avoid, however, there is also a great sacrifice being made through the acceptance of palm oil as our alternative to such things as hydrogenated oil…

… The sacrifice is vast amounts of rainforests and the animals that make the rainforest their home. These forests are being cleared at alarming rates to make way for palm plantations and to keep up with the demand for the product. Malaysia and Indonesia account for 83% of the production and 89% of the export of palm oil.  Within these countries the threat is enormous for endangered species including orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinoceroses.  The threat is the greatest for the orangutans, as they live ONLY in these areas that are being cleared to make way for the palm oil plantations.  As you can imagine, the occurrence of hunting and poaching these poor animals has dramatically increased as well, and it is estimated that 50 orangutan are being killed each week.  At this rate, their existence is limited… and I find that absolutely heartbreaking and unnecessary.orang tans

It’s also important to realize that when this deforestation occurs and the rainforests are burned, they release decades of stored carbon back into the atmosphere, contributing to the tragedy of global warming.

Also keep in mind that, though the health effects of palm oil may be a BIT less with palm oil as a substitute, it is NOT a heart-healthy food or adequate hydrogenated oil substitute, like olive, soy or canola oils.  It is only a smoke-screen used by manufacturers because it is a cheap substitute and keeps the words “trans fat” off of the content label.

Sadly, the demand for palm oil is expected to double in the next 10 years… IF we continue to support the products that are using this oil as a “new” substitute.  This is NOT an option.

When you are shopping, DO NOT PURCHASE products containing palm oil.  By NOT buying, and selecting products without palm oil, it speaks loud and clear.  It means you will not support this product and the harm and destruction it is creating!

(* Note: the image above shows a palm oil plantation as it butts up to a rainforest that has been cleared for this crop.)

Making sense of paper content…

recyc ppr 2The other day my dear friend, Jenn, contacted me looking for some advice about purchasing paper. Knowing that all of the information spewed on the package of  a simple ream of paper – content percentages, certifications, etc. – can get overwhelming, I decided to share my answer with everyone and clear up the confusion.

It’s first important to understand what all of the potentially confusing terms mean, so here goes…

  • Recycled content – simply means that the paper has been made from some recycled content that has been reprocessed.  The important thing to look for is the percentage.  The claim of “recycled content” can mean that a mere 1% is recycled, so don’t make any assumptions based on the use of these words… you are looking for a quantifiable percentage.
  • Post-consumer – this paper was previously a consumer item that has been recycled into a new post-consumer paper fiber.
  • Pre-consumer – this paper was previously a by-product of paper manufacturing that has been recycled into a new pre-consumer paper fiber.
  • Forest Stewardship  Council (FSC) certified paper – this certification simply assures that the paper is made from new fiber that comes from a sustainably managed forest.  This does not mean it has any recycled content unless it says tree

So, which one do you choose?

Here are my thoughts… choose the paper with the highest percentage of post- and/or pre-consumer content.  Yes, 100% is absolutely the best. You may also find a combination of both, and whether it is post-consumer or pre-consumer, it doesn’t matter… it has been recycled regardless and the only difference is where the recycled content originated.

Given the choice of “50% post-consumer” or “30% post-consumer/30% pre-consumer”, go for the 30/30 blend because the combination actually means that 60% of the content is recycled.  Add the percentages together for the percent of total recycled content.

FSC certified sounds lovely but, in reality, it’s still new paper… meaning trees (albeit from a sustainable forest) have been cut for its production.  However, if you cannot buy 100% recycled content, it is definitely better to choose something with the FSC certification (so you at least know the forest is sustainable) and with at least some percentage of post- or pre-consumer content.

Confused yet? 🙂

Bottom line, it’s the total percentage of recycled content that matters… the higher, the better. If your wallet (or your company’s budget) can afford it, 100% recycled content is 100% the best.

Where, O where, should the Christmas remnants go?

xmas strgeThe post-holiday wrap-up is being wrapped up! So sad to see it all come to an end, but alas… it’s back to the less dreamy and festive real world!

Hopefully we’ve all made wise choices about bidding a fond farewell to everything that’s come our way throughout the season and even thought ahead to preparing for next year (… yes, next year!).

Make sure all of these activities made your “to do” list, including:

  • Recycling your cut Christmas tree.  Check out Earth911 to make sure it gets recycled into mulch or composted, or if you have woods or a ravine near your house, add the tree back to nature and animals will surely turn it into a wonderful winter tree_live closeup
  • Recycling materials from gift packaging, boxes from shipments and everything that gets a thumbs-up from your recycling can. If you have a lot of boxes, list them with BoxCycle or save them, along with any reusable packing materials, for when you need to ship something.
  • Folding and storing all gift bags to be put back into circulation next year. Even ribbons, bows and tissue paper can get more than a single use.
  • Taking advantage of those clearance sales and purchase LED lighting for next season’s energy-efficient decorating. Check out… they’ll accept your old incandescent lights and give you a 15% discount on a new LED purchase (now, until February 28, 2010)!
  • Making way for new gifts… but simultaneously continue to gather items around home (clothes, toys, books, household items) that will now be cast aside and donate them to charity for the ultimate in reuse.
  • Recycling all of the Christmas cards you received with St. Jude’s Ranch for Children.  (This non-profit organization cares for abused, abandoned and/or neglected children.)  They accept used greeting cards and the children remove the fronts, attach them to a recycled paper back, and turn them into new greeting cards… and then sell them! This is a great option to traditional paper recycling and a great cause to support.  Your cards will christmas cardsbe accepted until February 28, 2010.  Just bundle them up and mail them off to:

St. Jude’s Ranch for Children
Card Recycling Program
100 St. Jude’s Street
Boulder City, NV 89005

I’m certainly anxious to get my life back in order after some fantastically crazy holiday madness… and if you love to organize and clean, I’ll send you my address.  Be here in an hour.  I’ll leave on the lights and one massive pot of (organic) coffee!

Another (not so) funny story about my “tree obsession”…

CBR002294So, here we go… again.  If you’re a regular reader, you know that I don’t cut down trees, don’t like trees being cut down and detest when anyone needlessly DOES cut them down.  Unfortunately, we are squarely located between two families that looove to cut down trees.  And unfortunately, the other day was ANOTHER one of THOSE days.

Scenario: Me. My son.  Getting ready to take him to preschool.  Doorbell rings.  At my door, a man from a tree service.

Tree Killer: Hi, ma’am.  We need to cut down a large tree in your neighbor’s back yard and we wanted to ask if we can anchor to one of your trees for the removal.
Me: No.tree stmp
Tree Killer: No?
Me: No. I don’t want you to cut down the tree.
Tree Killer: Okay, well, the tree is coming down anyhow and your cooperation will really help us assure that it safely lands in the right place.
Me: No stopping it, huh?
Tree Killer: Umm, no.
Me: (few deep breaths, few moments of thought) Well, if you have to.  If it’s a safety issue, then I suppose.  But I swear, if you hurt my tree, my tree and I will sue you.
Tree Killer: (baffled look) I assure you, ma’am. Your trees will be fine.
Me: They better be.

Did that make me sound insane? Maybe. Did I care? No.  But really… can you imagine that court document:  Mom Goes Green & Mrs. Maple vs. Tree Killer.  Kind of funny to imagine? Well… yea!

But sincerely, I am that passionate about trees.  They serve so, so many purposes.  And I know some people may think I’m crazy, but too bad.  (Do you happen to know that trees can actually improve your life too?) Someone once sent me a comment (in response to an earlier “tree post”) that said maybe I should “worry about something important for a change”.  Well, buddy, trees are important.  Cut them all down and let’s just see what happens.  On second thought, that’s an experiment I don’t want to endorse.  It has disaster written all over it.

Vacation, nature, and a bit of irony…

Yes, summer is dwindling… and as I spend small portions of days preparing to send our kids back to school I keep running across reminders of the vacation that was nodunes-kidst so long ago, but seems so long ago.

The drive took us through breathtaking views of West Virginia mountains where we were awed by trees as far as the eye could see.  It was amazing to see so many undisturbed miles without areas cleared away for development.  My views on chopping down trees are no mystery.   Can you just imagine how invigorating the air in the middle of those mountains must be?

I think about our kids running wild over the Jockey’s Ridge sand dunes, the largest active dune system in the Eastern US.  What a difference to those treed mountains… conditions on the dunes are so harsh, vegetation can only grow on the outskirts.  But the sunset… ah, the sunset.   The silhouettes in this photo are actually our precious kids, standing where the top of the dunes (that are believed to have been formed millions of years ago) seem to meet the sky.

And what beach vacation doesn’t include lots of ocean time.  Just the sound relaxes me.  I could watch the waves for hours on end and I get seaglasswrapped up in how vast and amazing the ocean is.  The irony is that one of our favorite adventures was trying to find sea glass washed up on the shore.  This sea glass is actually glass that has found its way into the ocean and gets tumbled and smoothed by the water, sand and salt.  Every time we found one it was like finding a real gem and then I start to wonder what it came from, where it originated, who touched it before us and even how it wound up in the ocean.  Yes, ironic that Mom Goes Green and family found treasures in something that started as ocean litter!

The point of all of this is simply that experiencing the mountains, the sprawling dunes and the incredible ocean reminds me of another quote by Divamish Indian Chief Seattle:

“Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints.”

… tread lightly in our daily lives, because this planet is truly amazing!