This month’s box is no exception. Here’s a rundown of the
dependably surprising items I found. (NOTE: If you’d like to receive your own Ecocentric Mom box every month, you can sign up here. Big Green Purse readers get a 10% discount on any subscription plan you choose.Be sure to enter code ECOMOM10 at checkout.)
7th Heaven 100% Natural Face Mask – This mask
uses Moroccan Clay infused with fresh fragrances of apricot and orange to
hydrate, cleanse and tone skin. After
you use it, moisturize with…
Danielle Nierenberg of The Food Tank suggests 13 important ways we can reduce the environmental impact of growing, processing, marketing, and disposing of our food. Take a look at the list. I hope you'll add your own recommendations!
1) Eat more colors The colors of fruits and vegetables are signs of nutritional content. The American Cancer Societyreports that richly colored veggies like tomatoes can help prevent cancer and heart disease. Eggs that have brightly orange-colored yolks are also high in cancer-fighting carotenoids, and are more likely to be produced by healthier chickens.
2) Buy food with less packaging Discarded packaging makes up around one-third of all waste in industrialized countries, impacting the climate, and our air and water quality. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’sanalysisof different packaging for tomatoes found that polyethylene terephthalate (PET) clamshell packaging increases tomatoes’ associated carbon emissions by 10 percent. What's better? Choose foods you can buy in bulk, and bring your own bags - even to the produce aisle.
3) Choose seasonal produce Many farmers markets, including the New York City Greenmarkets, offerguidesabout which products are in season. Locally sourced, seasonal products can also be found at major grocery stores. Or sign up for a weekly CSA, which provides a mix of fresh, seasonal produce throughout the year. Other programs, such asSiren Fish Co.’s SeaSAin San Francisco, offer seasonal meats and seafood.
If you like surprises, an EcoCentric Mom Boxis just the thing for you. Every month, this box full of eco-goodies shows up at my door and I have no idea what's going to be inside. I hate to admit it, but I always hope there will be some new food try, and generally there is. But I'm also likely to find new cosmetics, some new kind of soap, coupons that offer significant discounts for e-stores I didn't know existed and lately, perfume. This month's box contained all that and more. The biggest surprise was a $50 gift card to itrain.com, an online source for downloadable workout programs, music, and HD videos.
I decided to use the gift card when I would need it most: after I snarfed down the food.
Nature's Bakery Fig Bars - These are not your normal gummy Fig Newtons! The actual cookie (see photo) is made from stone ground whole wheat flour; yes, it tastes "healthy" - but it's delicious, too. The filling is thick,
hearty and flavorful. Fig filling is what you expect for a fig bar, of course. But the raspberry-filled bar was just as tasty. Other benefits: these bars are dairy free, contain zero transfats, are kosher, and are made in the USA. Definitely something I'd put in my or my kids' lunch or take to the gym with me instead of a power bar.
Go Raw Spirulina Energy Bar - I was expecting this crunchy snack to taste, well, icky. But it's light, flavorful, and the faint banana taste might make it very popular with kids. PLUS: it's free - as in gluten, wheat, nut and GMO free. Organic, too.
EBoost - Here's an alternative to the powdered sugary energy drinks you might be mixing up. EBoost is sugar-free, contains no artificial flavors, and has only 5 calories per serving. Add it to still or sparkling water for a refreshing drink.
The Forum focused primarily on women because women spend 85
cents of every dollar in the marketplace – and we’re not just buying cheese
doodles and diapers. As I say here on CCTV, the national television network of China, we buy more clothes.
More food. More cosmetics and personal care products than men. We also
buy more electronics, more home furnishings, almost as many tools, just as many
cars. Women are spending billions of dollars, day in and day out, year in and
But even with all that clout, we won’t be able to use this
power of the purse effectively until we achieve true gender equity
worldwide, points that both Ban Li, Deputy Counsel of the Shaanxi
Women's Federation, and Liane Shalatek, Associate Director of the
Heinrich Boll Foundation North America, made very powerfully.
Lisa Jackson's luncheon keynote address was the highlight of the day for many people. As a mom, scientist, and long-time public servant, Lisa has a unique appreciation for the impact consumption has on us as individuals and on society as a whole. She spoke movingly about being the first African-American to serve as head of the EPA and how important it is to bring women as well as people of color and low-income populations into the conversations we're having about pollution and climate change.
Lisa noted that her favorite law is the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act because it empowers people to protect themselves wherever they live. She is also proud of technology EPA has shared with the city of Shanghai to help monitor air pollution there.
Lisa agreed that the way we use both the purse and the pocketbook can inspire manufacturers to reduce pollution and energy consumption.
The December EcoCentric Mom box arrived right in the middle of the holiday season, so I decided to open it in the new year instead. What better way to start off 2013 than by sampling some new organic taste treats and healthy products for my skin and hair?
Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews - There was lots of food in this month's box, but my favorite by far were these candy-like "energy chews." Made with USDA certified organic ingredients that are gluten- and dairy-free, they're wonderfully flavorful but not too sweet. I had intended to eat "just one," but gobbled them all right up once I tasted them.
Tisano Organic Chocolate Tea - I drink at least six cups of tea a day, and chocolate is one of my favorite foods, so you can imagine how much I liked trying out this new combo. One added benefit: though the tea is made from pure cacao beans, it's calorie-free.
Organic Nectars Chocolate Bars - Yes, more chocolate! These bars are certified organic, vegan and completely free of dairy, peanuts, soy, gluten, GMOs and refined sugar. I especially liked the one flavored witht raspberry.
I learned a long time ago not to make New Year's resolutions per se. They could be so general and vague, they could also be frustratingly easy to abandon. Without accountability to anyone but myself, it didn't really seem to matter if what I resolved to do oozed away after a month or two (if I even made it that long!). And the "pay back" or reward for keeping my resolutions seemed hard to measure. Sure, I might have resolved to save more energy or use less water, but without actually measuring what I used or what I saved, there wasn't much incentive to use less or save more.
This year is going to be different. I'm not making resolutions, I'm setting goals - specific goals that will have real environmental benefits and that I can measure with real "before" and "after" statistics.
Though I hope I'll reduce my environmental footprint in all sorts of ways this year, I'm only setting three specific goals in the hopes that a narrower focus will lead to broader achievements.
GOAL #1 - MAKE MY OWN YOGURT
I eat two cups of yogurt every single day - plain, non-fat, usually Greek-style yogurt that serves as the delicious base for whatever fresh fruit happens to be in season. It's a healthy and mostly eco-friendly breakfast - marred only by the fact that I buy the yogurt in big plastic throwaway tubs. When I was in college, I had an electric yogurt maker and made my own yogurt every week. I also made yogurt by mixing milk and yogurt starter in a bowl, then keeping it in a warm oven for several hours until the whole mixture became yogurt-like. Over the years as I was busy raising kids, running a business and writing books, I've gotten away from making my own yogurt. But I'm appalled at how many plastic yogurt tubs I throw away every week. If I made my own yogurt using milk I can buy in glass bottles from my local food coop, I would go from three or four plastic tubs a week to zero. So one goal for 2013 is to start making my own yogurt.
Do you make your own yogurt? If you have a recipe you love, please share it!
GOAL #2 - USE NO MORE THAN THREE PRODUCTS BOTTLED IN PLASTIC IN MY BATHROOM
Want to make your own food gifts for the holidays? Here are two recipes - one for homemade cranberry jam courtesy of Whole Foods, one for homemade applesauce courtesy of me - that are simple, delicious, and guaranteed to inspire anyone who receives them to lick her lips!
This recipe cooks up in minutes. I made a version of it as a cranberry chutney for Thanksgiving, adding a sprinkle of ground ginger rather than nutmeg to give it a little zing. Spoon it into clean glass jars, and wrap in a lovely tea towel - or just crisscross a ribbon around it and add your personalized gift tag.
By the way, I make gift tags by recycling Christmas cards I received the previous year. If you cut out rectangles with pinking shears, they're quite cute!
1 (16 ounces) bag fresh cranberries
2 apples (Fuji, Gala and/or Golden Delicious), peeled, cored and grated
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
HOW TO PREPARE
Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and heat to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring frequently, until cranberries have popped open and mixture is thickened, about 8 minutes. Let cool completely. Transfer to small jars, if desired. Store in refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Apples. That's it. I usually use a combination of Honey Crisp and Winesap, but you should use whatever you like to eat. If you're not sure, just go to your farmer's market - chances are they'll have lots of apples and will be happy to cut you some slices so you can choose one or a combination.
HOW TO PREPARE
Peel all the apples. Cut out the core, then slice into eighths. Put into your food processor and puree.
I like applesauce made this way more than cooking down the apples and then pureeing them or mashing them up. They're more flavorful, and easier, too, as it saves me a lot of time not standing over a boiling pot of apples making sure they don't burn.
One tip: Once I have a big pile of apple peels, I put them in a pot of water and add a couple of cinnamon sticks and some whole cloves. I turn the heat to low and just let the aroma from this apple "potpourri" fill the house. It's heavenly.
This month's "Mom Box" from EcoCentric Mom contained a great assortment of cleaning products, personal care products, and even a few snacks.
On the laundry front, the box included two sample pouches of Ecover Natural Laundry Powder ZERO, as in fragrance-free. I'm partial to laundy powder as opposed to liquid in a plastic bottle, so I particularly like this sample. I should get four loads of laundry out of the pouches, given how little detergent my efficient, "high e" washing machine uses.
The personal care products featured:
Lotus Wei Joy Juice Mist, a combination of blood orange, Davana (strawberry-like) and Marigold essences, plus pink daisy. It comes in a glass bottle, with just a minimum plastic spray pump attached, which I appreciate, as I'm trying to keep my bathroom plastic-free.
Alarming levels of arsenic, a toxin that can cause bladder, lung and skin cancer, are showing up in rice. Why? It has to do with the way we grow food. Soil naturally contains some arsenic. But many of the pesticides and herbicides used on conventional farms add much more arsenic to the ground.
Consumer Reports, which did the research on arsenic contamination in rice, reports that "According to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the U.S. is the world’s leading user of arsenic...since 1910 about 1.6 million tons have been used for agricultural and industrial purposes, about half of it only since the mid-1960s. Residues from the decades of use of lead-arsenate insecticides linger in agricultural soil today, even though their use was banned in the 1980s. Other arsenical ingredients in animal feed to prevent disease and promote growth are still permitted. Moreover, fertilizer made from poultry waste can contaminate crops with inorganic arsenic."
Most plants absorb some arsenic when they are grown. But because rice is grown in water, it absorbs significantly more arsenic, which ends up in the rice grains we eat.
Farmers markets, roadside stands and bins in the grocery store are full of the ripe ingredients that combine to make recipes from La Tartine Gourmande, a new cookbook from Beatrice Peltre that emphasizes fresh, organic and seasonal cooking. The book itself features everything I like in a collection of recipes: simple directions, straightforward lists of ingredients, and beautiful photographs, thanks to the pictures taken by the author herself.
The recipes include breakfast, lunches, dinners and desserts "to inspire." They're as beautiful to look at as they are delicious to taste. And many of them, like the vegetable "tian" described below, offer a perfect alternative to meat on Meatless Monday or any day.
Serve your tian with a fresh green salad tossed with a drizzle of olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar, a sprinkling of sea salt and a twist of cracked pepper. If your diet is gluten free, take another 5 minutes to make some whole-grain couscous. Otherwise, use a slice of whole grain bread to sop up the juices left in the bottom of your dish.
Summer Vegetable Tian
The following recipe serves 4. If that's all you need, you can still double up and freeze what you don't eat, or cover and serve again later in the week.
By the way, a "tian" is a dish from the south of France. It features layers of summer vegetables baked slowly in a low-temperature oven so that the flavors and scents of all the vegetables combine without losing their individual taste. I first tried it at a neighbor's dinner party. As delicious as it was the day it was cooked, my neighbor said it was even more flavorful the next day when the left-overs were re-heated.
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 tablespoon chopped lemon thyme or regular thyme
1/4 cup chopped basil
5 garlic cloves minced
2 Italian eggplants (280 g; 10 oz), sliced into thin rounds
2 zucchini (400 g; 14 oz), thinly sliced (use a mandoline if you have one)