Tiny, champion Leaf Men. Evil, creepy "Boggans." A talking snail and a comical slug. A handsome rogue who can ride a sparrow faster than anyone around. A teenage girl who tries to run away but learns to ride a hummingbird instead. And a big magical forest that will die unless the Leaf Men, the runaway and the slimy things prevail.
PLUS animation so vibrant and lively you'll feel like you're defending the forest, too - rather than watching it unfold in 3-D.
Team ENERGY STAR, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's program to help kids and families understand why saving energy is important, has launched a contest to encourage kids to tell us in their own worlds why energy efficiency makes a difference.
This month's EcoCentric Mom box is chock full of exactly what I need in dry winter months: soothing organic skin lotions and cremes to moisturize my hands and face, gentle soaps, and cleansers and laundry "berry drops" that put the "clean" back in cleaning.
But first, the food.
I've said before that, as much as I enjoy the new non-toxic products from EcoCentric Mom that I get to try every month, I particularly like sampling the different taste treats that come in each box. This month, those treats included:
Simply 7 Snacks Lentil Chips - These flavorful snacks are made with gluten-free, non-GMO ingredients, have no preservatives, and contain nothing artificial.
PROBAR Meal Bar - A lot of energy bars disappoint - they seem too sweet, too airy, and way too full of processed ingredients. The PROBAR Meal Bar was surprisingly the opposite: very dense and chewy, tasty without being cloying, and so "natural" you could see some of the raw ingredients with every bite. I've got to say, I really liked it.
What do you hope President Obama will do to protect you, your family and the environment during his second term?
At tonight's Green Inaugural Ball, environmentalists, celebrities, elected officials and "green" citizens will make their wishes known as they celebrate not only Barack Obama's re-election but their hopes for the planet during his next four years.
To be held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., the Ball will offer a perfect example of how to throw an eco-friendly party. Guests -- who are being encouraged to arrive via mass transportation, of course -- will dine on organic, locally grown food, including vegetable sushi rolls, butternut squash shooters, and a variety of other vegan and vegetarian offerings. Personally, I'm looking forward to sipping the "OM-bama" cocktail that's been created for the evening (the OM stands for Organic Mixology -- whatever that is.). There'll be plenty of entertainment, too, from the likes of Grammy award winners will.i.am and Paul Winter, New Orleans master trombonist Trombone Shorty, Rock & Roll cover band Camp Freddy, and many more.
Wish you could be at the ball but can't? You can follow it all on Twitter, at #GreenBall2013. And don't forget to tweet your wish, using #greenwish. National Wildlife Federation, whose guest I will be at the ball, will be showcasing the green wishes all around the Newseum. Make one wish, or a dozen. There's no limit on what you can wish for!
Here's how I celebrated Pres. Obama's first inauguration...
What kind of car do you need? Coupe? Sedan? Sports car? Mini van? Something you can zip the kids to school in before you head to work? A small truck to help you cart around your merchandise when you make a sales call or delivery? Whatever your needs, you can probably find what you're looking for not just in style, but in gas-sipping substance, too.
That's the good news at the North American International Auto Show, currently under way in Detroit and soon to be visiting a city perhaps near you. Almost every car manufacturer seems to have gotten energy-saving religion. Big or small, snazzy or sedate, if you're buying a new car, you will have lots of gas-sippers to choose from.
I went to the show as a guest of the Ford Motor Company, but I spent as much time looking at everyone else's cars as I did at Ford's. Overall, I came away encouraged. If people are going to drive (and they are, an average of 14,000 miles per year), they may as well get as many miles to a gallon of gasoline as they can. I've written here, here and here about the impact burning gas has on the environment and human health. The less fuel we use to get where we're going, the better.
Plus, increasing your miles-per-gallon average can save you a ton of money. In the ten years I've owned my Prius, a car that on a bad day averages 37 or 38 mpg and more frequently gets in the mid to high 40s, I calculated recently that I've saved over $6,000 on gasoline. Even after replacing the car's tires and batteries, I came out several thousand dollars ahead.
Here are a few gas-sippers I saw at NAIAS that I particularly liked:
Ford C-MAX Hybrids - There are actually three models of the new C-Max to choose from. The standard C-MAX Hybrid, pictured above, is projected to operate electrically up to 62 mph, with the gasoline engine kicking in when extra power is needed. At maximum fuel efficiency, the car could attain an average of 47 mpg in the city or the highway, or over 570 miles per tank. The C-MAX Energi is a plug-in
hybrid, or what Ford calls a "hybrid plus." The plug-in capability allows drivers to charge fully in less than three hours using a 240-volt charging station, or overnight using a standard 120-volt oulet. The driver can choose to drive electric only, gasoline only, or a combination of gas and electric. Both the Hybrid and the Energi come with a "Smart Gauge with EcoGuide" (pictured at right) to help drivers maximize fuel efficiency. Third C-MAX, the SE, is also for sale. You can compare features of all three here. Note that prices range from $25,200 for the SE to $32,950 for the Energi, though that doesn't include the $7,500 federal tax credit available when you purchase a hybrid or any related state tax credits.
Prius Hatchback -The Prius Hatchback, left, is a roomy hybrid option that is comparably priced to the Fusion or C-MAX. Like the Ford hybrid models it seats five; the hatchback gives it some nice storage space that could accommodate a family vacation, camping trip, or even the dog. Toyota claims the car will get as much as 53 mpg in the city and 46 mpg on the highway, for a combined average fuel efficiency rating of 50 mpg. Toyota also offers a Prius Plug-in with an estimated 95 miles on a charge, plus hybrids in its other popular models, including Camrys, Avalons, the RAV4, and the Highlander SUV.
Tesla Electric Vehicle - I have to say, I suffered a bit of car envy over the beautiful Tesla S (right), an all electric vehicle that is this year's MotorTrend Car of the Year. The car can travel anywhere from 160 miles to 300 miles on electricity only, depending on the size of the battery that's been installed in the car.
I loved the big, clear computer screen sitting right next to the steering wheel on the front dashboard, which would be great for looking at a map. And it seems particularly clean, given that the battery pack is under the floor and there's absolutely no engine front or back.
At $50k+, the car is waaaayyy out of my price range. But a girl can dream, right?
BOTTOM LINE: Almost any type of vehicle you'd need is now available in a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or electric option. Have fun the next time you go car shopping!
Yes, we are, and Barack Obama deserves a lot of the credit.
Despite strident anti-environmental opponents on Capitol Hill,
President Obama has managed to use the power of his office – deployed primarily
through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of
Energy, and the U.S. Department of the Interior – to make our air and water
cleaner, to reduce our reliance on foreign oil, to protect our public lands,
and to attack the climate change that causes extreme weather events like
Is his job done? Not by a long shot. But are we making
progress? Definitely. I’m supporting the President for a second term because
I think he offers our best hope in this election to continue to make progress
in the future.
This all became extremely clear to me earlier this week, as
Hurricane Sandy was ripping away part of my roof. While I huddled in my
basement listening to the terrifying wind and the torrential rain, I found
myself getting mad, not just about what it would cost me to repair the damage,
but about the reasons behind this catastrophic storm. Meteorologists,
scientists, environmentalists, public health professionals, concerned citizens,
and yes, President Obama, have all made the link between burning fossil fuels
like coal and oil and extreme weather events like Sandy, let alone Hurricane
Katrina and many others. And they’ve tried to throw the weight of their various
offices behind solutions that would help wean us from fossil fuels.
Meanwhile, conservative forces in Congress and many state houses around the country have blocked legislation that would reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and opposed efforts to increase energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources like solar and wind. Bolstered by their conservative colleagues on Capitol Hill and pressured by Tea Party activists, Republican challenger Mitt
Romney and Paul Ryan, his running mate, have dismissed climate change, have
literally said they “love” coal, and would strive to cripple the EPA if they
were elected to office.
Maybe to some people, this is just “talk.” But as someone who
has worked in Washington, D.C. to promote environmental protection during the
Carter years, the Reagan years, the Bush 1 years, the Clinton years, the Bush 2
years, and now the last four years of the Obama Administration, I can say, and
say unequivocally, that environmental policy consistently fares worse under
Republican administrations than under Democratic ones. As Sandy has shown, the planet very much faces a climate change tipping point. Obama is on one side, Romney on the other. For me, siding with Obama is a no brainer.
Has Obama accomplished nearly enough? No.
Do I wish more change had happened? Of course.
But we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Back-to-school shopping can put a real dent in a family’s budget and create a carbon footprint a mile wide. Why not set up a school supplies swap with your neighbors before you go shopping? You'll green the shopping beast and save money, too. Another bonus? you'll reduce clutter and teach the kids to share.
* Check the kids' supplies list. Most kids will bring home a list from school, or you'll be able to download one from the school's web site. Ask your child to cross off what you already have or don't want to buy, then circle what's left. When you go swapping (or shopping), work from the list.
• Make an inventory of what you already have. Most families have enough pencils, crayons, glue, tape and markers left over from the previous year to start the new year just fine. In fact, many of us have way too much of this stuff. Figure out what your kids need now, and put aside a few extras for later in the year when your own supplies run up. Then box up your extras so they're easy to exchange.
* Set up a swap in your front yard or garage. Invite neighbors who have their own items to swap.Designate different tables for pens and pencils, crayons and markers, paper and folders, lunch boxes, backpacks, and sporting gear. Ask that everything that's brought be clean and usable. When it comes to lunch boxes, ask that they be metal, plastic free of phthalates and PVC, or cloth. People should bring their own reusable bags to cart their swapped items home in.
* Donate leftovers to a day-care center, or to a charity that provides school supplies to kids in need.
Refrigerators use more electricity that any other single appliance in your home. Why? Because they're on all the time. There are a few ways you can improve the efficiency of a refrigerator you already own, but if you have an older model, it could make a lot of financial sense to replace it with something new - especially if your utility company, like mine, helps foot the bill.
I held on to my refrigerator for 27 years! But finally, we needed a new one. The seals on the old one were cracked, the drawers were broken, the door handle was chipped, and mold was starting to build up in places I couldn't keep clean. The old fridge still kept my food pretty cold, but it was depressing and unhealthy to use. And being as old as it was, I suspected it was using much more energy than newer models.
As you can imagine, I wasn't wild about spending hundreds or maybe even a thousand dollars or more on a new fridge. I was relieved when I learned that Pepco, my electric utility, would give me a $150 rebate if I bought the most energy-efficient refrigerator available to meet my needs. Pepco would also pay me $50 if I let them recycle my old fridge. With $200 guaranteed off the price of the appliance, I went shopping! I ended up buying this Whirlpool pictured above. Here's how.
How much money do you waste buying plastic every year? It’s probably hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. Even though it’s that much money, you may not realize how much you’re spending because so much of the plastic we buy is hidden in products that we think are plastic-free. Fortunately, by following even a third of the suggestions in this new must-read book from plastic-free visionary Beth Terry, you can start saving a lot of that money rather than throwing it away. You might even save enough to put your child through college!
But let’s back up a minute, to the original question. How much money do you waste buying plastic every year? I’ve written about why using less plastic matters here. In short, the stuff is made from oil and other toxic chemicals, can make us sick if we’re repeatedly exposed to those chemicals, and wreaks havoc on wildlife and the environment.
If you’ve given up buying bottled water, use your own reusable cloth shopping bag and maybe grow some (or most) of your own food, your automatic response might be: “Almost none. I don’t buy plastic.”
But chances are, you’re still subsidizing the use of a fair amount of plastic, since almost everything anyone buys these days comes either shrink-wrapped, padded in plastic balls or peanuts (yes, polystyrene is a form of plastic), encased in a plastic package of some sort, or wrapped in paper that’s been coated with a plastic film so thin you don’t even notice it.
One area where I’ve become particularly aware of how much plastic I consume is in the bathroom. Even though I don’t use a lot of cosmetics and follow a mostly “natural” hygiene regimen, now that I’m paying attention, I’m appalled at how many of my personal care products come packaged in plastic. I’ve switched to bar soap that’s sold either wrapper free or wrapped in paper, my face cream comes in glass jars, and my hand salve comes in metal tins. I use wash cloths instead of disposable wipes to remove dirt and make-up, and a crystal for deodorant. But my shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, toothpaste, sunscreen, and mouthwash? They’re all packaged in plastic. Ditto for the blush, mascara and lip gloss I apply.
Using energy efficiently is the key to many of the health, environmental and even financial crises we face. Burning fossil fuels like coal and oil pollutes our air and water, contributes to asthma and other respiratory problems, and is a major cause of climate change. It's up to all of us to do what we can to make a difference, and most of us try to do our part, especially where our families are concerned. That job has gotten a little easier with the launch of Team ENERGY STAR, a new program to get kids and their parents engaged in simple actions that collectively can have a big impact.
The program has received a strong welcome from many moms who have made the connection between their kids' future and the energy we use. Here are some of the reasons why they care and what they're doing about it.