Save Holiday Driving

Many of us are hitting the roads during the Holiday Season. You can be extra safe driving and are rewarded by saving some green. Hybrid owners are not the only people who can tread lightly on the environment. Driving smoothly at the same speed by avoiding stop and go increases your fuel mileage. Avoid frequently speeding up and slowing down and go easy on the breaks. Use the cruise control on the highways if you have it. The closer you maintain a speed between 55 and 60 is best. Every 5 miles that will cost you an extra 10 cents per gallon. And all of these tips reduce the amount of carbon emissions released by your car. Safe travels and Happy Holidays!

Evading the Parabens

One of the chemical groups I am eliminating from my life is the parabens.  Parabens are used in almost all moisturizers and skin creams, shampoos, conditioners, makeup, deodorants, and even in most baby moisturizers and other baby lotions.

Why the worry?  Parabens can cause skin irritations, contact dermatitis and allergies.  Worse though, in a study of breast tumors, scientists found parabens in every sample.  Parabens have also been linked to ovarian cancer, uterine cancer and testicular cancer.  They are also suspected to effect fetal development.

They act as estrogen mimics, which is a bad thing because increased amounts of estrogen over a lifetime is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. Most people expose themselves to parabens daily, and most people are exposing themselves to parabens more than a few times a day.

The parabens can be found in your ingredients are listed in order of strength:  butylparaben, isobutylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben.  My advice: carefully read your ingredient listings and steer clear of any of these.  Most organic products do not contain parabens, by the way.

Congress Passes Energy Bill

Today, the US Congress has passed an energy bill that some are calling “historic.”  Here are key pieces:

  • 35 mpg fuel efficiency by 2020 (which still puts us behind many other nations)
  • push toward more biofuels beyond petroleum-based fuel (which makes up 97% of our fuel needs)
  • stronger standards for buildings and infrastructure.

One thing that makes this significant is that environmentalists,  business, & security interests came together to make this possible.  For more info, take a look at the BBC article, “US Congress approves energy bill.”

Bali Climate Conference

In case you missed it, the Bali Climate Conference has come to an end.  I’ve felt that the coverage of this important conference has not been spectacular.  For a recap, you can visit the PBS News Hour piece, Bali Climate Conference Ends with Compromise (you can watch, listen, or read the transcript).  The bottom line is that a new “road map” (is everything a road map these days?) for climate change was negotiated, but the US, which is the only leading industrial nation to not agree to the old “road map” from Kyoto Japan in 1997.  Let’s hope that our country catches up to the late 1990s at some point.

Exposed – The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products – An Excellent Read

The author of this book, Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for American Power, spoke on NPR a couple of weeks ago (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16616951). I listened to Mark Schapiro speak about the issue of chemical regulation in America versus the European Union (EU) as I was driving home from Indiana late on a Monday night. So many emotions overcame me. I was intrigued, shocked, horrified, sickened, and inspired all in that hour drive. Slowly, over the past year and a half, I have been going toxic-free, organic, and fair-trade. I didn’t throw everything out and start over, but I have been replacing empties with healthier and socially just options. This book reinforced my decision to do so.

The most shocking aspect of Mark’s talk and of the book is that companies like Procter and Gamble for instance produce two sets of products: one that is chemical, toxin, and carcinogen laden for the United States; and another set of the same products for the EU that do not contain these health-harming chemicals.

While I do not typically like to read about politics (mostly because they are over my head – I’m a biologist remember), I found the politics presented in this book are easy to follow. The book is a short read. It only took me a few days. And I was very easily pulled through.

The concept that I struggle with the most in regard to this chemical issue is that these large corporations have the money to make the healthy and moral changes, but they spend the money lobbying to prevent stringent laws from being passed. I am curious about what is their motivation. Why can’t they just do what is right?

One Book, One College Candidates…

The birth of this blog came from our desire (wish, goal, whatever) to create a dialog about stustainability issues as we explore these issues as part of our One  Book, One College program for the 2008-2009 school year (next year).  Right now, we are in the midst of selecting a title, and we have some worthy nominees on the list.  Here is the current list.   

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for American Power by Mark Schapiro
Chew on This by Eric Schlosser & Charles Wilson
Garbage Land by Elizabeth Royte
Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Plantet U by Michael M’Gonigle, et al
Plan B 2.0 by Lester R. Brown
Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert
Silent Spring by Rachel Carsons
The Orchard Keeper by Cormac McCarthy
Feed by M.T. Anderson