Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Eco questions: Paper or plastic? Cloth or paper? -

This is an article written for the Chicago area, but the stats and analysis are quite interesting. If you are wondering what the impacts are of some of your consumer choices...napkins, cups, bags, diapers, take a peek.

Eco questions: Paper or plastic? Cloth or paper? -

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Shampoos, conditioners, lotions, oh my.

Do you read labels of the products you buy? Do you understand them? I don't. Someone once told me that you should only by things that you can pronounce everything on the label. Seems like a good rule of thumb. This is true for processed foods, but also important are the personal care products that we use on a daily basis. Some of the preservatives and chemicals used in these products have been linked to causing cancer, disease, delayed development in children, hormone imbalance and more. Aluminum, which causes brain damage, is found in most deodorants. Would you be surprised to know that Petrolatum- a petroleum derived material (YES! the stuff in gasoline) is in most lotions. I was shocked to find it in Aveeno--which I had presumed to be some sort of natural organic type lotion given it's sticker price. So even for those lotions which look to be OK, you have to check the label.

I'm not an expert in this field, but I do know where to go when I have a question. The environmental working group has created a website called skin deep. You can search their database of personal care products. They give a safety rating for the product and explain what the risk is associated with the ingredients in the product.

Black women who treat their hair, beware what those chemicals are doing to you internally. And while I don't know the chemistry outcomes, I do know that your skin is porous. Anything that is liquid that you apply to your skin will get into your system. I don't want us to stop supporting black beauty salons. I'm just hoping someone will create a less toxic solution.

My tips for being safe:
- Avoid all major brands if possible.
- Try using natural oils instead of deodorant. I've often seen these sold by NOI brothers and sisters.
- If you don't want to try that, look for deodorant brands that don't have aluminum or pthalates.
- Try buying in bulk from a natural foods store or co-op. These places usually have natural shampoos and conditioners, you just need to bring your own bottle (which is better for the environment anyway)
- Try using generic brands from larger natural food store chains. Whole foods has their 365 brand which is much cheaper than that name brands, and you can buy big bottles.
- Get over the cost of the healthier stuff and don't overuse what you buy, it pays off in the long-run. This was a huge one for me. I'm pretty cheap when it comes to this stuff, and usually purchased things based on price than quality before I started looking into these ingredients. I thought about it though, and it actually takes me a really really long time to use a bottle of shampoo, or even lotion. One bottle lasts me between 6 and 9 months. I realized its because i'm not only budgeting at the grocery store, i budget when I use the product as well. So even if I buy a bottle at $10 (high end of the cost spectrum for me) and use it for 6 months (low end of the use spectrum), the cost is .055 cents a day. That's not much for staying clear of questionable products.
- Get used to the au natural look. You are beautiful anyway. The less product in your hair, the better off you are.
- If you must, this is a nice how-to to manage black hair for growth more naturally. Tips include eating healthy and drinking lots of water.

The power behind words - Sustainability

Sustainability is an interesting word. Recently a classmate of mine broke the word down into the two words that are inherent: sustain and ability. The ability to sustain--what are we trying to sustain? In Portland, I have heard a community leader often mention that poor people are not trying to sustain their current impoverished situations. But sustainability is not about maintaining. It is about sustenance, the basic nourishment and support we need to get through life. So what do we then define as basic. Of course food, clothing, and shelter fall under this category. but those are outcomes of something else.

I believe that our sustenance comes from healthy community. I am not talking about just a neighborhood or a church or what we usually jump to when we think of community...because they may or may not be examples of a HEALTHY community. In healthy communities, hard problems are tackled with open decision processes. All people interact on an equitable level, because each person's perspective is valuable to the whole. The goal is the betterment of the community, not the individual, and thereby every individual is uplifted. Poisonous behavior and destructive behavior is self-policed. The key to a healthy community is around is that which must be nourishing and supportive, not judgmental and destructive.

So sustainability is derived from healthy communities, which are rooted in good, democratic communication, where all voices are heard and valued. Healthy communities also seek self-preservation in balance with the natural environment, by practicing stewardship. If one sees their individual responsibility to protect and nurture others and their environment, in return they will feel whole and fulfilled by the gifts they will receive in return.

Brown people have been taught to be dependent on an economy that takes advantage of us. We are disempowered daily through the myth of scarcity. This has been destructive in our sense of community, as we've strived for independent wealth and power, at the expense of those around us. When truly we are abundant. We have talent, skill, ingenuity, compassion. We can choose to not participate. Seeing participation in this vacuum economy (where the money goes up, but it doesn't come down)as a calculated choice, rather than a necessity. But it can only be done in community.

Sustainability is sustaining our ability to thrive, not just survive. And that can only be done when relationships to one's full environment where both nature and people are in balance.

There is power in this, by claiming sustainability as one's own right, you are claiming entitlement to your health and your happiness for today and generations to come.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Linking health to climate change

It's kind of a no brainer isn't it? Reduction in greenhouse gases= less pollution = better health outcomes. Yale just figured this out.

So why isn't pollution seen as a terrorist threat? Unfortunately because those who are disproportionately affected tend to have the least power in society: communities of color and low-income communities.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Uh oh, it's that time of year again

Yes, tis the season to go shopping. Or at least that's what corporate America would like us to think. I just read this blog, and I am not religious, but I fully respect the commentary on this blog post. I think the holiday season should be a time for reflection, family, and setting your sight towards the new year.

There are many options that don't include participating in the shopping madness on Friday.
- Volunteer for a day
- Go for a hike
- Have a board game party
- Have friends over for leftovers
- watch a movie
- organize a clothing swap
- make your gifts for Christmas (like a calendar with family photos)
- balance your checkbook
- reasses your budget
- wash your car
- anything but go shopping :-)

Friday, November 20, 2009

African American Outdoors website

Rue Mapp started this website to as a way to feature African-Americans in the outdoors and connect through social media to others of a like mind.

Portland has a similar organization called the African American Outdoors Association. The organization has a similar purpose in encouraging folks to try different outdoor excursions together. Going in a group definitely helps. Their trips have included hiking, biking, horseback riding, rafting, canoeing, camping, and last winter they partnerered with the Ebony Rose Ski Club for snowshoeing, downhill skiing and cross-country skiing. Having participated, it's a great comfort to be able to bring my family, and get to know more black people in the community with similar interests in the outdoors. It's non-threatening, and all about having fun together.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

What does an environmentalist look like?

Please watch my short video. The purpose of this movie is to counter stereotypes both within and outside of the black community that we are not environmentalists. It is part of who we are, it is part of our nature: