Verda Vivo

Verda Vivo means “Green Life” in the universal language of Esperanto.

Book Review: Shift Your Habit March 7, 2010

I recently received a review copy of the book, Shift Your Habit: Easy Ways to Save Money, Simplify Your Life, and Save the Planet. It will be available for sale on March 9. The author, Elizabeth Rogers, an environmental consultant, is also the co-author of the New York Times best seller, “The Green Book”.

The book is packed with practical and easy ways to reduce your impact on the environment and save money at the same time. The book is organized into categories, such as home and garden, kids, pets, work, travel and transportation as well as holidays and celebrations. Each shift is explained in terms of what habit you can shift, how much money you can save, the impact to the planet and how it’s good for you too. If you adopted all of the shifts in the book, an average family of four with a pet would save $48,000. That should make anyone sit up and take notice! The shifts that the author proposes are easy to do and inexpensive. It all adds up!

Since I am a cleaning fanatic, I was very excited to see the easy to use chart of homemade cleaners, including everything from glass and toilet cleaners to wood furniture polish and fabric softener. My copy of the book is already looking well-loved as I have picked it up numerous times to read and re-read sections as I continue to shift my own habits and paradigms. You can pre-order Shift Your Habit: Easy Ways to Save Money, Simplify Your Life, and Save the Planet today at Amazon.

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What’s in Your Shampoo? April 14, 2009

A bottle of TRESemmé shampoo.
Image via Wikipedia

Ever shampoo your hair and then get a skin rash or hives? How about pimples, dry scalp, dandruff or contact dermatitis? Maybe you’re allergic to the chemicals in your shampoo. In addition to an allergic reaction, you may be exposing yourself, unnecessarily, to chemicals that can do far more damage.

Preservatives (Parabens)

One of the most common cause of negative reactions are the preservatives used to protect against product contamination and bacterial growth. In addition to allergic reactions, parabens can disrupt the hormone (endocrine) system and were found in the breast cancer tumors of 19 of 20 women studied. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) tested urine from 100 adults and found parabens in nearly all.  (Environmental Working Group – Parabens)

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to believe that at the present time there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of cosmetics containing parabens, they in fact, do NOT regulate parabens in cosmetics. In the meantime, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently funded a case study on the toxicity of parabens in wastewater to fish. Considering the FDA’s glorious record in safeguarding our food supply, I’m not convinced they’re guarding our best interests as far as the cosmetics industry is concerned.

Parabens can be listed as:

  • benzylparaben
  • butylparaben
  • ethylparaben
  • isobutylparaben
  • isopropylparaben
  • methylparaben
  • parabens
  • propylparaben
  • sodium methylparaben
  • sodium propylparaben

Organic products may use the natural form of preservatives such as citric acid or a derivative.

For more information, see Healthy Child, Healthy World – Use Precaution with Parabens.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

One of the most common ingredients in shampoo is a common detergent: sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). SLS is used in shampoo because it strips out oils and, despite its name, has a low sodium content. However, SLS can cause contact dermatitis by irritating the skin. Some companies have tried to link SLS and cancer but TreeHugger did their own research in this article: Common Eco-Myth: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) Causes Cancer. So, while, you can dry your hair and scalp to a fare-thee-well, there is no hard evidence linking SLS to cancer. Depending on how greasy your hair is, choose your surfactant accordingly.

Gentle Surfactants

This list of surfactants are gentle but don’t cleanse as well.

  • cocamidopropyl betaine
  • cocamphocarboxyglycinate-propionate
  • sodium lauraminodipropionate
  • disodium monococamido sulfosuccinate
  • disodium cocamphodipropionate
  • disodium capryloamhodiacetate
  • cocoyl sarcosine
  • sodium lauryl sarcosinate

Harsh Surfactants

The following list could cause an irritated scalp or be drying to hair.

  • sodium lauryl sulfate
  • TEA-lauryl sulfate
  • sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate
  • TEA-dodecylbenzene

For more information, see Healthy Child, Healthy World


Diethanolamine, more commonly called DEA, is not only a suspected carcinogen, it has been shown to negatively affect the development of memory cells, making it a particularly dangerous ingredient for pregnant women to use. One of its derivatives, triethanolamine (TEA) has also been shown to be carcinogenic.

Diethanolamine appears as:

  • Cocamide DEA
  • Cocamide MEA
  • DEA-Cetyl Phosphate
  • DEA Oleth-3 Phosphate
  • Lauramide DEA
  • Linoleamide MEA
  • Myristamide DEA
  • Oleamide DEA
  • Stearamide MEA
  • TEA-Lauryl Sulfate
  • Triethanolamine

For more information, see Healthy Child, Healthy World – Diethanolamine and U.S Food and Drug Administration: Diethanolamine and Cosmetic Products.


Methylisothiazoline, or MIT, limits the potential for microbial contamination in water based solutions. It has been shown to cause neurological damage, potentially putting a fetus at risk for brain damage. The chemical might also be a factor in the development of Alzheimer’s and other nervous system disorders.

For more information see Medical News Today: Shampoos with Methylisothiazoline May Pose Risk for Unborn Babies.


Most hair care products have some form of added fragrance. Fragrance is considered a trade secret and does not have to be revealed. Fragrances are considered to be among the top five known allergens and are known to both cause and trigger asthma attacks. All I have to do is walk by a perfume counter to trigger a reaction.

Natural Shampoos

You can find “organic” or “natural shampoos” on the market. Bypass the marketing on the label and go straight to the list of ingredients to make sure you’re getting a product without synthetic chemicals. They are likely to be more expensive than the drugstore brands that contain potentially harmful chemicals. However, what many people don’t know is that you don’t have to wash your hair more than once or twice a week. In fact, it’s healthier for your hair to wash it less frequently, as it gives the natural oils (which is what really creates shine) a chance to replenish themselves. I know, I know. When I was much younger, I washed and dried my hair every day thinking I needed to. These days, I usually skip the shampoo and wash my hair with conditioner. Then I let my hair dry naturally. My hair has never been in better shape.

If you have dandruff, give yourself a natural hot oil or deep conditioning treatment, which is far better for your scalp than dandruff shampoos.

You can also make your own shampoo:



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The CSA of Summer is Gone August 28, 2008

Filed under: food,garden,green — Daryl Laux @ 6:31 am
Tags: , , ,

Our summer CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share has ended and we have decided not to purchase the fall share. The reason? Too much squash. You know what happens when you plant squash seeds. They grow, then they grow, and then they grow some more. I’ve made squash sloppy joes, squash casserole, squash pasta and squash frittatas. I’ve sauteed, steamed, and stir-fried squash. I like eating what’s in season but can only eat so much squash. I would have liked more string beans, cabbage or even eggplant in my share. Unfortunately, the monsoons damaged the farm’s pepper and tomatoes plantings so there wasn’t any available in the summer share. We may sign up again for the spring share. The spring lettuces were wonderful and I tried vegetables that I would not have otherwise. I will hunt for arugula and fava beans when they are available next spring. Too back I can’t think of fava beans without this quote from Silence of the Lambs popping into my head, “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”

Fortunately, a weekly farmer’s market opened up locally which means we can still stock up on organic and local produce but can choose those veggies we enjoy. We ventured out during last night’s rainstorm to find a few plucky vendors huddled under the eaves of the city’s municipal buildings. Anything for homemade bread and tomatoes!

Related Posts: Life is Like a Box of Produce

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Inner-City Farms August 7, 2008

I grew up on a family farm and have had a vegetable and fruit garden the majority of my life. I’ve canned, pickled, dried, and frozen vegetables and frequented Farmer’s Markets and U-Pick farms to augment what I didn’t grow myself. Currently we have a CSA subscription and pick up our share of organic vegetables weekly. If you’ve ever tasted a peach picked from a tree or a tomato off the vine, you know there is no comparison to “store-bought” for flavor and juiciness. Add this to rising food costs and fuel prices and suddenly urban farming makes sense.

So I wasn’t surprised to learn in a recent Time article, Inner-City Farms, that the most recent Farm Aid concert was held in Manhatten, New York. According to Farm Aid president and founder Willie Nelson:

“Some people thought that bringing Farm Aid to New York was a bold move. But there is good reason to invite urban Americans to appreciate the tastes of food grown close to home…People can keep family farmers on the land with their good food choices.”

Urban gardening can save money as well as the environment:

  • Added Value – High school students at the community farm in Red Hook, Brooklyn, last year supplied Italian arugula, Asian greens and heirloom tomatoes to three restaurants, a community-supported agriculture buying club and two farmers’ markets.
  • Growing Power, a Milwaukee non-profit organization, grossed over $220,000 last year from the sale of lettuces, winter greens, sprouts and fish to local restaurants and consumers. All grown on 1-acre.
  • SF Victory Gardens 2008+ is a two-year pilot project to support the transition of backyard, front yard, window boxes, rooftops and unused land into organic food production areas.

  • City Garden Farms, Portland, OR, whose motto is “The more we grow, the less you mow”, farms a diverse group of sub-acre plots, lots and yards in and around the city. If you have a minimum of 1000 sq. ft. of land City Garden Farms will cultivate it for you in exchange for a share of the crop.

On the vertical horizon, hydroponic skyscrapers, the brainchild of Dickson Despommier, a public-health professor at Columbia University, whose work can be seen at Vertical Farm Project.

Read the Time article, Inner-City Farms.


Related posts:

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Save Water, Ditch Your Lawn! July 15, 2008

First this…

After two straight years of below-average rainfall, low snowmelt runoff and the largest court-ordered water transfer restrictions in state history, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Wednesday proclaimed a statewide drought, the first official drought since 1991. LA Times, June 5, 2008

And then this…

Sacramento couple who let lawn die to save water face $746 fine. Before Anne Hartridge could plan new landscaping, a neighbor complained to the city about her brown lawn, and the Code Enforcement Department slapped the family with a citation. Their small brick home was declared a “public nuisance” in violation of city code section 17.68.010, which states that front yards “shall be irrigated, landscaped and maintained.” After public outcry in support of the Hartridge’s, the city admitted their code enforcement policies may not be drought-friendly, and said they won’t fine the couple.  Sacramento Bee, July 2 and July 3, 2008

Why is a green lawn even an option when drought conditions exist? Hello, Sacramento, ever hear of Xeriscaping? Xeriscape landscapes aren’t just cactus and rock gardens nor do they require vast “seas of gravel and plastic”. They can be green, cool landscapes full of beautiful plants maintained with water-efficient practices.

Traditional landscaping includes the widespread use of lush-looking Kentucky Bluegrass lawns, punctuated with exotic ornamental shrubs, flowers, and trees. While this is great in theory, you and I have seen many a lawn punctuated with weeds, brown patches and dog manure (courtesy of the neighbor’s dog). And it usually is in dire need of mowing. Never mind that you have to douse it with fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and water to keep a lawn in tip-top shape. And then there’s the mowing.

Xeriscape simply means selecting plants for their drought tolerance, and/or ability to thrive without regular maintenance in the climate conditions where they will be used.

Benefits of Xeriscaping:

  • Saves Water– Typically, over 50% of residential water used is applied to landscape and lawns. Xeriscape can reduce landscape water use by 50 – 75%.
  • Less Maintenance – Aside from occasional pruning and weeding, maintenance is minimal. Watering requirements are low, and can be met with simple irrigation systems.
  • No Fertilizers or Pesticides – Using plants native to your area will eliminate the need for chemical supplements. Sufficient nutrients are provided by healthy organic soil.
    Improves Property Value – A good Xeriscape can raise property values which more than offset the cost of installation. Protect your landscaping investment by drought-proofing it.
  • Pollution Free – Fossil fuel consumption from gas mowers is minimized or eliminated with minimal turf areas. Small turf areas can be maintained with a reel mower.
  • Provides Wildlife Habitat – Use of native plants, shrubs and trees offer a familiar and varied habitat for local wildlife.
  • Saves Valuable Landfill Space – Yard waste is a major expense for municipal waste programs, and one for which we individually pay. In addition, most waste–even organic waste–can take years to decompose in a landfill.

Traditional lawn (left) versus Xeriscape (right)


Related Post: Turf War

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Depaving Paradise in Portland July 2, 2008

Joni Mitchell was right when she wrote the lyrics for “Big Yellow Taxi”

“Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot”

Now it seems that is working to reverse the trend.

Depave was created to inspire and promote the removal of unnecessary concrete and asphalt from urban areas. Their vision is simple: “Livable cities where people and wildlife coexist and thrive amidst clean air, clean water, and an abundance of plants, trees, and vegetation.”

The Fargo Gardens project will transform a 3000 square foot asphalt parking lot in North Portland into a community greenspace with vegetables, fruit trees, native plants, and sitting areas. Removal of the parking lot will reduce pollution, and provide land for bird and butterfly habitat, gardens, native vegetation and beauty in an urban neighborhood. The completed site will be used to educate the public about pavement removal and storm water drainage management.

Nearly 150 volunteers showed up for the depaving. The majority of the volunteers were also attendees at the eighth annual Towards Carfree Cities conference. This is the first year that the conference was held in the United States. The asphalt and gravel underneath were loaded into containers and hauled away for recycling. Nothing was wasted.

Ms Angela Goldsmith, of Goldsmith Properties, was originally planning to put a tri-plex in the same parking lot. When approached by to turn the spot into a green space, she felt that the idea was a “no-brainer”. The garden will be open to the public during the day, and rented out for private events at night to help generate income to cover operating costs, Goldsmith said.

Check out the video of the project from StreetFilms.


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WEE Can’t Afford To Be Green July 1, 2008

I got excited when I saw the new “Wee Generation eco-diaper bag”. I thought, that will be perfect for my daughter who is having her first baby this October! Until I saw the price tag. What in the world would make it cost $200? Okay, so 100 percent of profits benefit Healthy Child Healthy World. That’s laudable. Plus, the first 500 bags come with Seventh Generation baby products. I guess you’re out of luck if you buy bag number 501. The bag is made from designer upholstery fabric made out of 100% post consumer recycled plastic bottles (Cradle-To-Cradle Certified fabric by Designtex). Judging from the comments on their blog, most other moms thought the price tag a little steep too.

Let’s talk reality here. My daughter also needs a crib and mattress, bedding, car seat, stroller, baby clothes, and diapers among many other things. Oh yeah, and she still has to buy groceries and pay the rent. A fancy-smancy designer green diaper bag is not at the top of the wish list. I’ll be honest, if I bought absolutely everything green, first I would go crazy trying to research the greenest possible option and second, I’d go broke because buying green is invariably more expensive than “regular” stuff. I’m like anyone else, I have to pick and choose what I think I can afford and have to let the rest go. In other words, I do the best I can.

Maybe it’s time to Get Ready to Rethink What it Means to Be Green:

  1. Live in Cities – Urban Living is Kinder to the Planet Than the Suburban Lifestyle. That makes sense, urban density equals efficiency. My cousin, who lives in NYC, hasn’t owned a car in decades. My step-son, who lives in southern California and bought a house where he afford it, has a 1 hour commute to work depending on traffic. Which is more energy efficient?
  2. A/C Is OK: Air-Conditioning Actually Emits Less CO2Than Heating. It takes less energy to cool a house by 1 degree than it does to heat it. Thank goodness, it would be pretty unbearable to leave the AC off when it’s over 100 degrees outside.
  3. Organics Are Not The Answer: Surprise! Conventional Agriculture Can Be Easier on the Planet. Well, that depends on whether you buy local or not and whether your diet is the typical American, meat-heavy diet. Ever since the biggest ground beef recall in history, I just can’t stomach eating a hamburger. I always think of it as crawling with sh*t.
  4. Farm the Forests: Old-Growth Forests Can Actually Contributeto Global Warming. What many people consider old-growth forests are actually pioneer and early-successional species or even second-growth, a forest that was cut and then replanted. Forests are successional with a climax forest being a temporal phenomenon. Natural catastrophes – tornadoes, hurricanes, fire, insects, and disease – tend to topple climax communities. The fact is, animals such as moose, deer, woodcock, ruffed grouse and a variety of songbirds prosper only in a young forest. Woodpeckers, porcupines, squirrels, and other songbird species are typical of old stands. Both can be managed.
  5. China Is the Solution: The People’s Republic Leads the Way in Alternative-Energy Hardware. This one makes me cringe. They’re dealing with air and water pollution as a result of industrialization and all the while they’re becoming the number one exporter for green products.
  6. Accept Genetic Engineering: Superefficient Frankencrops Could Put a Real Dent in Greenhouse Car Emissions. Plant breeding has been practiced for thousands of years. Optimizing food crops to feed 6 billion people on this planet is a good thing. I do object when companies like Monsanto patent their GE seeds, forcing farmers to sign “technology use agreements” meaning they can’t reuse seed from this year’s crop. All so they can monopolize the market in the name of greed.
  7. Carbon Trading Doesn’t Work: Carbon Credits Were a Great Idea, But the Benefits Are Illusory. My opinion, carbon offsets are feel-good trade-offs and don’t resolve the real problems. If you really want to do something, plant your own tree.
  8. Embrace Nuclear Power: Face It. Nukes are the Most Climate-Friendly Industrial-Scale Form of Energy. Yeah, but I still don’t want to live next to one. Unfortunately, wind, solar and water power have not proven themselves to be economically feasible nor sustainable.
  9. Used Cars — Not Hybrids: Don’t Buy That New Prius! Test-Drive a Used Car Instead. The energy savings of a new car might not offset the energy required to make it. Additionally, personal economics means you should pay cash for your car.
  10. Prepare for the Worst: Climate Change is Inevitable. Get Used to It. “The worst that could happen is the extinction of the human race”, says planet Earth in an article dubbed I’ll be just fine, says Planet.


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