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February 3, 2016 / Green America

Why Allergy Sufferers and The Sleep-Deprived Find Relief With A Natural Latex Mattress

Guest post by Cheryl Hahn, Owner, CozyPure(R), certified member of Green America’s Green Business Network

NATURE’S ABSOLUTE BEST MATTRESS MATERIAL

In 1931, the world’s first latex mattress was introduced as an alternative to horsehair, kapok and cotton batting. The features were appealing. It didn’t have to be flipped, it stayed fresh, it stayed responsive, supportive, and it kept its shape. The many benefits of a latex mattress made it a huge success with consumers up through the 1960’s.

PROVEN TO PROVIDE HEALTHIER SLEEP

In 1954, Dr. Theo Lammers from the Institute of Hygiene at Gutenburg University proved latex foam contains exceptionally high anti-bacterial properties, making it the hygienic ideal for mattresses, superior to all other materials. The study showed that latex mattresses are unsurpassed in comfort and support, it showed exceptional durability, it stays cool, and is the healthiest choice due to its high anti-bacterial and allergy-free properties.

IDEAL FOR ASTHMA AND RESPIRATORY DISORDERS

Further work in 1956 by Doctors Fuchs and Gronemeyer at the Asthma Clinic concluded, “the advantages of latex foam mattresses have been outlined by health and surgical authorities and the bacteriostatic (capable of killing bacteria), as well as fungus, and mite resistant properties of latex material found by Dr. Lammers is confirmed.”

Throughout the decades, the cost of this premium material made it more expensive for manufacturers to produce and consumers often didn’t want to buy this higher priced option. In order to offer lower-cost mattresses, latex was soon overshadowed by beds made with lower-quality materials such as synthetic batting and petroleum-based flexible-plastic foams placed over innerspring coils.

BOUNCING BACK

I’m Cheryl Hahn, the founder of CozyPure, an organic bedding company based in Norfolk, Virginia. In 1991, our flagship mail order catalog, Tomorrow’s World, was one of the first companies to offer a selection of natural latex mattresses made with organic cotton and wool. Back then, over 20 years ago, we reintroduced this “tried-and-true” mattress from the 1950’s to consumers across America. I admit it was difficult because it entailed a LOT of education on our part. Our passion to offer only the best healthy, green products provided the dedication to push forward and inform folks about the amazing benefits.

Fast forward two decades and consumers are beginning to understand the value equation of their purchase and realize that investing in a quality latex mattress will pay for itself many times over the lifetime of use it provides. Unfortunately, this spur of interest also made manufacturers take notice, with clever and often deceptive marketing which can fool consumers who don’t have all the facts.

GET THE FACTS

Buyer beware. The popularity of latex mattresses comes with a price to the consumer. Most “natural” latex really only contain a percentage of natural material. Many “so-called” latex mattresses often contain only a small layer of latex surrounded by foam. Large amounts of unregulated chemicals can be found in almost all synthetic foams (including soy-foam and memory foam).

Polyurethane foams are derived from oil (not very earth-friendly) and the basic ingredients include polyols, isocyanates, blowing agents, and other additives including flame retardants. According to a recent EPA report released in August of 2015, most of these newer chemicals still have limited data with cause of concern about carcinogenic effects.

Although PBDEs have finally been phased out due to documented health hazards, new alternative chemicals are now being used in their place during the manufacture of flexible polyurethane foam. In addition, many fabrics are coated with both stain-resistant chemicals and flame retardant chemicals.

Even materials such as “organic cotton” are being advertised on certain mattresses when in fact the fabric is blended with synthetic polyester. In this era of popularity for latex mattresses and “green”, it’s imperative for the consumer to do thorough research so they can be 100% sure they are getting the product they think they are purchasing.

HOW IS NATURAL LATEX RUBBER MADE?

Rubber tapping is the process by which rubber is harvested. An incision is made in the bark of a rubber tree, which cuts through the bark so the latex drips into a collecting cup. The work is done at night or in the early morning before the day’s temperature rises, so the latex will drip longer before coagulating and sealing the cut. Rubber tapping does not hurt the trees and it’s a great way for the indigenous people to make a living using their natural resources.

Each rubber tree weeps about one tablespoon of latex daily and a Queen size six-inch core needs the daily output of 2500 trees, spread over 12 acres of rubber plantation, providing a living to eight rubber tappers. Interestingly, these rubber trees account for the removal of 143 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the environment every year.

Don’t let the “creaminess” fool you. Our natural latex rubber is made from the milk of the Hevea Brasiliensis (rubber tree), so some folks think it will be too soft (like milk). Actually, natural latex rubber is the firmest, heaviest and most durable component you can use inside a mattress. Once the rubber tree milk sap is harvested and baked, this solid, thick core can last for decades offering you support and comfort -WITHOUT the chemicals.

Latex allergies? No worries. The allergic proteins in latex are completely removed when made into a soft natural rubber foam. Plus, it’s encased and covered inside organic cotton so there’s never direct contact.

Natural latex rubber is proven to be the very best component used in mattresses and offers a healthier sleeping environment. It’s naturally dust mite resistant; it’s breathable so you don’t sleep hot; it’s resiliency is known to last for decades; it’s responsive support offers comfort and proper alignment.

Not only is natural rubber an excellent choice for better sleep, it’s also made from a renewable, sustainable resource so it’s wonderful for our dear Mother Earth. Conventional mattresses that use polyurethane foam, including memory foam, is derived from petroleum. Here at CozyPure(R), we get our 100% natural latex rubber direct from the beautiful island of Sri Lanka, known for the finest rubber plantations in the world. No synthetic latex. No poly foams. No fillers. No lies.

Most manufacturers that make mattresses with real natural latex rubber also use organic cotton and wool in the cover, another natural resource that’s better for you and better for the environment.

TEMPERATURE REGULATING WOOL HELPS KEEPS YOU DRY

Wool provides a temperature-controlled sleep environment that’s perfect for your body. No matter the season, wool is able to maintain the perfect body temperature. In the winter, wool produces warmth without overheating and has the ability to keep you comfortable, and in the summer you don’t overheat because of its moisture-wicking process.

The average sleeper loses a pint of moisture every night and wool is able to absorb this moisture without feeling damp. The cells of wool fibers are able to quickly and efficiently absorb and evaporate moisture. Due to the natural crinkled structure, wool has an enormous capacity to store air. This property allows your skin to breathe as you sleep surrounded by natural, dry warmth – without the clammy feeling associated with synthetic materials. You’ll wake up well-rested and refreshed. It’s the perfect ingredient for your mattress and comforter.

CALMS THE HEART FOR DEEPER SLEEP

Studies show that the heart rate is significantly lower when sleeping with wool. Feathers, down, polyester and other synthetic fibers had no effect on (and sometimes increased) the sleeper’s heart rate. A lowered heart rate induces a deep, relaxed sleep.

NO DUST-MITES, MOLD OR MILDEW

People with allergies are able to use wool products because it is resistant to bacteria, mold and mildew which can trigger allergic reactions. Wool is also dust-mite resistant because it evaporates moisture rapidly and dust mites can’t thrive in a dry environment. Our wool is not chemically acid-washed, and it’s also completely covered in organic cotton, so even people with wool allergies can enjoy sleeping with a CozyPure(R) mattress and comforter.

NATURALLY FLAME RESISTANT

Using only wool, we passed Federal Regulation PART 1633 – Standard for the Flammability (Open Flame) of Mattresses – so we don’t need to add any FR barrier or chemicals.

Because healthy bedding materials are becoming more popular, many manufacturers are now adding wool as a marketing tool – but that doesn’t mean the wool is the actual fire barrier. In most cases you’ll find they add wool under the fire barrier just so they can “claim wool” simply to sell their mattress.

CERTIFIED ORGANIC COTTON

Most consumers are unaware of the abundant textiles available to manufacture “green goods” and the opportunity to market products deceptively, otherwise known as “greenwashing.” A perfect example is mattress ticking, the fabric used on the outside of a mattress.

Many mattresses offered today are marketed with “organic cotton” or “bamboo” fabric, however they neglect to tell you the content breakdown. For example, mattress knits are comprised of three components: the face (top side), the fill (inside), the back (bottom). The majority of “organic cotton” knits feature organic cotton only on the top side. That is, the inside and bottom of the knit is made from polyester. These fabrics are advertised misleadingly to the consumer as “organic cotton” even though only 33% of the fabric is really organic.

Adding synthetics defeats the purpose of creating a natural sleep system that breathes. Man-made synthetic materials can trap heat and moisture which won’t allow breathability of the fabric. Also be sure there are no chemical finishes such as formaldehyde, which is often used on wrinkle-resistant sheets.

THE PERFECT COMBINATION

By using only three of nature’s finest ingredients – natural rubber milk, pure wool and organic cotton – we as manufacturers can offer people comfortable, healthy sleep without harmful chemicals. The materials are wonderful for folks who have allergies or suffer from comfort issues. The fact that everything is renewable and sustainable makes a natural latex mattress the perfect combination for both people and planet.

 

Eat well. Sleep well. Be well.
Cheryl Hahn, Owner
CozyPure ® organic mattresses and bedding
http://www.cozypure.com
cozypure_1

February 1, 2016 / Elizabeth

Chocolate is Big Business on Valentine’s Day

Between the  gifts for sweethearts and the cards for colleagues, Americans spent nearly $19 billion on Valentine’s Day last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Part of that spending, a whopping $1.7 billion, was spent on just candy and chocolate. It’s likely that 2016 could yield similar figures.

But how much of this money makes it’s way back to cocoa farmers?

Cocoa Infographic v3Annually, the global chocolate industry commands more than $83 billion.  Since most chocolate on store shelves in the United States comes from West Africa, Green America has been persistently pressuring US cocoa companies to step up and take care of the workers—and child laborers—in their supply chains.

This infographic traces the conventional cocoa supply chain in an effort to show where the majority of the money consumers spends on a chocolate bar ends up.

Purchasing fair trade chocolate from companies that have more direct relationships with farmers is important, as is ongoing pressure on manufacturers, processors, and traders, to improve the situation for farmers and their families.

Check out our Chocolate Scorecard to find organic and fair trade options for your loved ones this Valentine’s Day.

Click here to download the 1-page version of our Infographic.

January 15, 2016 / Green America

Why 2016 Is the Year of Solar

Guest post from EnergySage, a partner for clean energy

2016 is the year to go solar (image with many row houses with solar panels on the roofs

2016 is poised to be the best year yet for solar. At some time during the next few months, the U.S. will reach a milestone of one million solar homes, and industry experts predict that this solar momentum will continue throughout the year. If you’ve been thinking about installing a solar energy system, 2016 is the year to go for it. Read on to find out why we’re now beginning the Year of Solar.

Solar is more accessible than ever in 2016 

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research are predicting that the costs of going solar will continue to drop in 2016, while electricity prices are going to continue to increase. Lower costs mean that it will take even less time for consumers to achieve payback on their solar investment, and in 2015, the average national payback period for solar shoppers in the EnergySage Solar Marketplace was just 7.5 years! Solar panels generate electricity for 25 to 35 years, and a shorter payback period means you benefit from more free electricity over the lifetime of your solar energy system.

Experts agree that low-cost solar financing options are necessary to support homeowners installing solar. In 2016, it’s becoming easier than ever to access solar financing, thanks to new state-level initiatives like Massachusetts’ Mass Solar Loan program. Programs like Mass Solar Loan offer low-interest fixed-term solar loans to homeowners, and sometimes offer additional support to solar shoppers who meet particular income requirements.

Get an instant estimate of your solar savings potential!

 

Government support for solar is at its peak

Two significant events at the end of 2015 signaled increased government support for renewable energy, setting the stage for 2016 to become the Year of Solar.

As part of its 2016 spending bill, Congress approved an extension of the federal investment tax credit (ITC) for solar energy. The credit, which was originally set to expire in December 2016, enables property owners to deduct 30 percent of the cost of going solar from their taxes. Now, in a demonstration of bipartisan support for solar, Congress has extended the 30 percent credit through 2019. After 2019, the credit will be incrementally reduced on an annual basis until 2022. In total, that’s a six-year extension!

The extension of the ITC benefits the whole country, not just solar buyers. According to SEIA, the extension of the ITC will add 220,000 new jobs in the U.S. solar industry and result in a $133 billion investment in the U.S. economy between now and 2020. Additionally, GTM Research predicts that there will be 54 percent more solar installed over the next five years due to the extension. Lastly, thanks to the ITC, the U.S. will reach 100 gigawatts of solar by 2020 – that’s enough to power 20 million homes.

But it’s not just the U.S. Congress that recognizes the importance of clean, sustainable energy sources like solar. In December 2015, 195 nations came together at the United Nations and signed the Paris Agreement, a landmark climate accord that sets a global goal of limiting global temperature increases by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the aftermath, solar company stock values soared and oil and gas stocks fell, highlighting the global trend of the 21st century: the era of renewable energy is here, and it’s time to get on board.

Industry growth means more companies are competing for your business

With prices dropping and government support for solar growing, more companies are going to enter the solar market in 2016 to take advantage of increased demand. Increased supply is good news for consumers: solar companies competing for your business results in a better solar value for your money!

When you get quotes from multiple solar companies at once, you can compare them side-by-side and feel confident that you’ve found the right combination of equipment, financing, and installer options. EnergySage is the best place to start: you can use our Solar Calculator to get an instant estimate of how much solar can save you, or register your property to compare multiple offers from pre-screened solar installers at no cost.

Thanks to this perfect storm of falling costs and increased government support, there’s no question that 2016 is the Year of Solar. If you’ve ever considered solar, there is no better time than the present to start exploring your solar options.

January 12, 2016 / andrefloyd

Tea Time for H2OPE: Host A Party, Give Access to Clean Water

H2OPE social media2 blog

Numi Tea, a Green Business Network member since February, 2005, is an organic tea company committed to healthy and ethically sourced products, and the building of a thriving global community. During a recent trip to Madagascar, co-founder Ahmed Reem paid an in-depth visit to the 15 co-op farms that grow turmeric. While there he discovered many of the farmers’ families don’t have immediate access to clean water; instead water is lugged from a nearby river and boiled before use.

When Ahmed returned home he began working with co-founder, and sister, Reem Rahim, on a fundraiser to help. The money will fund the drilling of wells for these 15 farms, helping over 200 families gain access to clean water. What they came up with was a unique way to connect these families’ needs to their consumers, through—of course—tea. It’s called Tea Time for H2OPE.

“One of our sales reps actually came up with the idea to have tea party,” says Numi Tea co-founder Reem Rahim. “It’s a way for us to get our tea to our fans and have them invite their friends, enjoy themselves, and have fun and drink the tea. But also get educated about the tea and learn about the tea—and at the same time get educated about the world water crisis and what we’re doing to try and help that.”

Get Involved

So Numi Tea is looking for at least 50 hosts to raise a minimum of $50 each to participate in this fundraising event. Once raised, Numi Tea will send a Tea Time for H2OPE kit to help hosts set up their parties. Kits provide about enough tastings for 50 individuals. Inside, hosts will find everything needed to throw a successful fundraiser: an assortment of teas, party favors, a food-pairing guide, prizes for guests, and more.

The idea coincides with Numi Tea’s long-time commitment to donate 1-percent of net profits to fund projects for clean, safe drinking water. The goal of the fundraiser is to raise $15,000 by World Water Day (March 22, 2016).

“It’s kind of a mix of what we enjoy but take for granted in many ways, which is tea” Says Rahim, “But without clean water tea could not exist; so being able to take that moment and appreciate what you have, while giving back to those who don’t, really is the idea.”

Go here to learn more or start planning your own tea party: http://www.numitea.com/h2ope/teatimeforh2ope/

January 7, 2016 / Green America

New Dietary Guidelines Advise Less Sugar, But Lack Clear Guidance On Meat

cow-looking-at-camera-in-pasture---dreamstime_xl_42387359The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released today, but when it comes to making choices for your family about healthy meat consumption, they do not include everything you need to know.

This report, issued every 5 years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is used by policy makers and many medical professionals when considering nutrition programs, such as the National School Lunch program and diet recommendations, like the food pyramid (now MyPlate). These guidelines greatly impact what Americans eat.

Much of the 2015 guidelines echo past recommendations to eat vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, though there were a few new recommendations, including:

  • Cut sugar intake: limit added sugars to 10 percent of daily calories
  • Cut sodium intake: limit sodium to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day

Notably absent from the guidelines are the recommendations that Americans eat less red and processed meat and shift towards a more plant-based diet.  Research by the World Health Organization and others has shown this is key to reducing the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity and diabetes. This exclusion goes against the advice of more than 700 medical professionals, the comments submitted by over 21,000 Americans, and the actions of hundreds of U.S. mayors. Additionally, Green America and our allies submitted a petition to USDA and HHS that garnered more than 150,000 signatures in support of recommendations to reduce red meat consumption.

This exclusion also points to the power of the US meat industry, which fought hard to keep its reputation clean in this version of the dietary guidelines.

However, while the explicit recommendation to eat less red meat is missing from the final 2015 Dietary Guidelines, the recommendation to find protein from other sources, such as nuts, seeds, and fish, was included, which could help Americans trend away from meat-reliant diets. Additionally, the guidelines did point out that most American men and boys consume too much meat, and should reduce their overall intake of protein foods by consuming less meat, poultry and eggs.

Also absent from the Guidelines was the recommendation put forth by Green America and our allies to adopt environmental sustainability considerations for the guidelines, which could have had a tremendous positive impact on American’s health, the environment, and on our ability to access healthy foods in the future. According to the EPA, agriculture in the US accounts for 9% of overall greenhouse gas emissions, and livestock, especially beef, is a major culprit. Conventional, grain-fed, feedlot beef produces five times more global warming per calorie, requires 11 times more water, and uses 28 times as much land as pork or poultry, as we covered in our Green American magazine.

Regardless of these Guidelines, many Americans are already shifting towards more plant-based diets. One in ten Millennials follows a vegetarian diet, forty-seven percent of the population eats at least one meal without meat per week, up from 40 percent six years earlier, and restaurants such as Panera Bread and Taco Bell are offering more vegetarian options. This is good news for the health of people and planet!

What are you doing to reduce the impacts of your diet on the planet and your health?

December 14, 2015 / Todd Larsen

The Paris Accord: A Major Step Forward for International Cooperation on Climate. Not Enough, On Its Own, to Address Climate Crisis

cop 21 2015 Paris

The news from Paris this weekend was huge.  Nearly 200 countries agreed to take action on climate to keep temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius or an even more aspirational goal of 1.5 degrees.  The deal has many positive aspects. Nations will be transparent about their emissions reductions, and that transparency should help to shame laggards.  Rich countries are pledging $100 billion per year in assistance to poorer nations.

Yet, in many ways the deal does not go far enough.  The key goals of limiting temperature change are aspirational and not legally binding.  That is why climate scientist James Hansen has ridiculed the agreement for being insufficient to address the problem at the scale that’s needed. And, developing and poor nations are justifiably concerned that assistance from rich countries will not be enough and isn’t even guaranteed.

Of course, the flaws in the agreement reflect the political realities of the major polluter nations, particularly that of the United States.  The U.S. Congress is under the control of politicians who still question whether climate science is real, favor lavish subsidies for fossil fuels, and fail to adequately support renewable energy development.  As a result, the Obama Administration had to negotiate a deal that did not need Senate approval, and the Paris Accord, with all its strengths and weaknesses, fits the bill.

Since the goals of the Paris Accord are aspirational, it is up to citizens and progressive business leaders worldwide to push for strong measures in their countries to move to a clean energy economy.  This transition needs to protect human rights alongside environmental priorities. An important place to start the transition process is eliminating the vast subsidies for fossil fuels.  Worldwide subsidies for fossil fuels represent an astonishing $10 million per minute, or over $5 trillion per year.  These subsidies are distorting energy markets worldwide, making highly polluting fuels appear to be “cheap,” when they actually have huge environmental and health costs that will be borne by citizens for generations. And, compare subsidies for fossil fuels with those for clean energy – currently only $120 billion per year worldwide. Fossil fuel subsidies are an incredible 125 times greater than clean energy ones.  Despite these imbalances, clean energy is developing quickly around the world, but if there were a level playing field, it would increase even more rapidly, and at the rate we need to address climate emissions.

Here in the U.S., government incentives for clean energy are expiring and failing to be renewed, while fossil fuel subsidies that have been locked in for decades continue without any opportunity for public debate.  Green America is working to correct this issue by promoting Clean Energy Victory Bonds, legislation that would provide $50 billion in dedicated Treasury bonds that support only clean energy and energy efficiency programs in the U.S. This legislation would create over one million good paying jobs in the U.S., and help accelerate wind, solar, and energy efficiency installations across the country. As we work to pass Clean Energy Victory Bonds, Green Americans can take action with us to divest their money from climate polluters and invest in clean energy solutions instead.

It is also essential that the citizens of wealthy countries assist poor countries in adopting clean energy and addressing the impacts of climate change.  It is only fair that the countries that have benefited from over 100 years of unrestricted carbon emissions that helped generate tremendous wealth, agree to help developing countries build their economies with low-carbon technologies.  It is also in the interest of rich countries to do so for their own sake.  For example, if climate change continues on its current path, the United States could experience sea level rises of 10 feet on its East Coast, destroying the homes and businesses of millions of people.

Climate change demonstrates clearly that we are all in this together, and that there is no place for privileging one nation above others.  As the wealthiest country on earth, the U.S. has a special obligation to be a leader, creating a future for its own citizens and people worldwide.  We can all play a role, as consumers, investors, business owners, and voters to ensure that the U.S. is the leader we need it to be.

November 25, 2015 / Elizabeth

Safe, Green and Fair Holiday Gifts for Kids

Gifts.

Celebrating greener holidays can mean reducing the number of gifts you give, choosing instead to focus on relationships and the spiritual meaning attached to the holiday season. Still, many find great joy in sharing gifts with the children in their lives. Fortunately, there are many wonderful gift ideas guaranteed to bring a smile to a child’s face while supporting the giver’s commitment to a just and sustainable future at the same time. The following gift ideas are all from companies that are green, family-owned, or fair trade—or even all three!

 

Toys

Fair Indigo Stuffed Dog

Fair Indigo’s Stuffed Dog

From giraffes, to penguins to raccoons, Fair Indigo’s fair trade Stuffed Animals span the entire animal kingdom. Made by artisans in Peru. $25.90

Maple Landmark train

Maple Landmark Midget Railway Set

Maple Landmark’s Midget Railway box set includes six train cars and is made in the US from sustainably harvested pine. $41.00 Member of the Green Business Network

Upavim Craft’s Baby Cow Snuggle Blanket is fair trade and made of super soft fleece. It will surely delight any baby. $15.50

Global Mamas fair trade Kid’s Cape is perfect for games of pretend. The cape is gorgeously printed with magic stars and moons by artisan women in Ghana. $20.00

The Wooden Wilderness Animal set, available at Naturally Playful, is great for games of pretend and teaching kids about the outdoors. Made in the US. $26.00 Member of the Green Business Network

Fair Trade Winds’ Pixie Ring Rattle is an easy-to-hold crocheted baby rattle. Handmade in Bangladesh from soft cotton by rural women who work flexible hours from home. $16

bella luna wonderworld-little-tool-box-wooden-toys

Bella Luna Work Bench

Bella Luna’s Wooden Toy Work Bench will provide hours of fun for any junior carpenter. Made with sustainably harvested rubber wood and non-toxic dyes. $32.95 Member of the Green Business Network

The Wishbone 2-in-1 Balance Bike, available from Hazelnut Kids, is made from recycled materials. Rather than having to buy multiple bikes to introduce your child to cycling, this one well-made bike can be enjoyed for many years. 3-in-1 bikes also available. $199 Member of the Green Business Network

Pocket Discs are great for playing inside and out. All are fair trade with dozens of designs to choose from. $19.99 Member of the Green Business Network

Color by Nature color pencils are handmade and fair trade in Chile out of twigs. Available at Ten Thousand Villages. $18.00

One World Project’s Muchacho and Muchacha fair trade piggy banks teach kids to save. $30.

 

Haba Fantasy Blocks

Haba Fantasy Blocks

HABA’s Fantasy Blocks are ideal for creative play. Includes 26 non-toxic pieces, all made in Germany. $44.99

Build a Bouquet, from Green Toys, allows for any little gardener’s creativity to grow. All Green Toys products are made of 100% recycled materials in the US. $27.99.

Fair Trade finger puppets, from Finger Puppets Inc. offer numerous themes of finger puppets for creative play. $2.99 each.

Used Toys: Let’s face it—kids grow up too fast. Because if this, its often possible to find very gently used toys in yard sales, church sales, and on craigslist. Pleygo, a new service specializing in just Legos, makes it easy to buy used Lego sets.

Books

Global Babies includes full color portraits of babies from around the world.

Click, Clack, Moo – Cows That Type tells the story of farm animals who come together in a non-volient way and bargain collectively for better treatment. Available at Better World Books new and used.

Used Books: It’s very easy to find used books on sites like Better World Books. Choose some of your favorite books form when you were young to share with your favorite little people.

Clothing & Accessories

This festive fair trade “Hooty” bib from Upavim Crafts will have your littlest ones eating in style this holiday. $11.50

Monkey Backpack by Handcrafting Justice. This adorable, fair trade backpack is perfect for kids to carry to school or other activities. Made in Thailand, backpacks also come in elephant and owl! $28.00

Safe Sand Indoor and Outdoor sand, available in 25-pound bags, is ideal for sandbox play and molds when wet. Safe Sand is low-dust and non-toxic, with no asbestos, no lead, no crystalline silica dust. $25.00 Member of the Green Business Network

Global Mama’s fair trade sun hat is perfect from shielding new baby on sunny days. Made by artisans in Ghana. $20.00

This fair trade Felted Flower Purse is perfect for carrying any tiny person’s tiny things. Available at One World Fair Trade. $15

Final Considerations

Because so many baby products, like monitors and toys, require batteries to operate, consider a rechargeable battery set as a gift for mom and dad to reduce waste.

And lastly, no products can replace love and care. Any time you can spend playing with the kids in your life will be very well received. If you are looking for activities to do with a little person, consider picking up some art supplies to work with them on a craft project, or take them on a special outing like a nature walk or puppet show.

This post was made possible with the suggestions of many Green America members. Thanks to Carmen, Andrew, Paula, Denise, Alix, Kate, Jennifer, Leslie, Antonie and Jerry.

Find our 2014 Safe, Green Toys recommendations here. 

November 16, 2015 / Tracy Fernandez Rysavy

Can You Get Vitamin B12 from Vegan Sources?

Marjorie Simon-Meinefeld and Jasmine Simon, certified plant-based nutritionists and co-owners of Anything Vegan.

Marjorie Simon-Meinefeld and Jasmine Simon, certified plant-based nutritionists and co-owners of Anything Vegan.

This fall, Green America member Jack Ryan sent us a letter asking if one could get all the nutrients one needs through a vegan diet, particularly vitamin B12. He’d heard that diets without meat are often deficient in B12, and that the vitamin in pill form is actually obtained from animals rather than plant sources. 

We posed his questions to Anything Vegan owners Jasmine Simon and Marjorie Simon-Meinefeld, two sisters who are both certified plant-based nutritionists. While an abbreviated version of their informative response appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of our Green American magazine, we wanted to post the full version here for anyone else who might be wondering how to eat less meat and still get the nutrients you need. 

We’re going to plant some truths about vitamin B12 and pull out the weeds that have grown around it—namely the so-called Vegan B12 Deficiency myths.  People who adhere to a healthy plant-based lifestyle have reduced risks of heart attack or stroke, breast cancer, prostate cancer, obesity, and diabetes, and rarely suffer from osteoporosis, constipation, indigestion, and arthritis. But let’s take a look at some things that vegans and non-vegans alike need to be aware of when it comes to B12.

Our dear friend Dr. Greger (NutritionFacts.org) says “Vitamin B12 is made by neither animals nor plants, but by microbes. Thankfully, in our sanitized world, there are safe, cheap, convenient sources. It is imperative that those eating plant-based include B12 fortified foods in their diet or intake supplements, especially pregnant or nursing women. Eggs and dairy are not optimal sources of vitamin B12 because foods come as a package deal, and eggs and dairy may bring along as baggage saturated fat, cholesterol, and hormones. The easiest and cheapest way to get our B12 is to take at least 2,500 mcg (µg) cyanocobalamin once each week, ideally as a chewable, sublingual, or liquid supplement.” Let’s examine some truths and myths surrounding this important vitamin.

There is such thing as vitamin B12 deficiency. TRUTH. The symptoms include memory loss, confusion, upset stomach, weight loss, very pale skin, stomach issues, exhaustion, and diarrhea. Vitamin B12 Deficiency does exist, but it’s not caused by veganism. It’s not caused from a plant-based lifestyle but usually is a sign of non-related digestive problems where the body has a problem absorbing nutrients from food. Crohn’s disease, pernicious anemia, celiac disease, and other digestive disorders are the usual problems. There are over 5000 possible causes of digestive disorders—and enjoying a healthy, plant-based lifestyle isn’t one of them. Vitamin B12 is present naturally in humans, so those with digestive-related deficiencies usually can’t even be cured by simply in-taking additional vitamin B12 from any source.

People don’t have to eat meat or other animal products to survive and thrive with B12. TRUTH. Both humans and animals eat food from the soil that contain B12. However since most food animals today aren’t even fed their proper diets, farmers actually inject their livestock with B12 in order to say animal products contain B12.

Vegans need to start taking special supplements or eat nutritional yeast because the only source of vitamin B12 is through animal-based foods (meat, dairy products, etc.) MYTH … and TRUTH. Even if a person only eats plant foods, vitamin B12 actually comes from coenzymes, which are already present in bacteria found on the human body (in and around the mouth, for example). We all should take in Vitamin B12 daily, in small doses.

People need B12 supplements not because of lack of meat or animal products, but because of poor soil in much of the world today that our food is grown in. Even the animals aren’t naturally getting what is needed anymore. All people, not just vegans, should be concerned about proper vitamin B12 intake. And it does not have to come from animal sources injected with it.

There are vegan sources of vitamin B12. TRUTH. Outside of B12-injected animals, B12 fortified foods and supplements are available. According to the Vegan Society, the best thing to do is to look for plant milks, plant yoghurts, breakfast cereals, spreads, yeast extracts, and nutritional yeast products that are fortified with vitamin B12. Or try fortified yeast extract with fortified spread on whole-wheat toast, or macaroni with fortified nutritional yeast “cheezy sauce”. See www.AnythingVegan.com for O’So Cheesy, a delicious plant-based cheese alternative containing Vitamin B12 packed nutritional yeast as well as plant-based protein! You can also chew a reliable vitamin B12 supplement to enable you to absorb as much as possible.

Your doctor can check your blood homocysteine levels to see if you’re obtaining enough vitamin B12. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom. And don’t just accept the quick and easy answer from traditional schools of American medicine. Seek out the medical advisors that have gone above the medical school curriculum and learned the benefits of plant-based nutrition over pills, surgeries, and eating animals. This is not the primary focus in traditional medical schools, so you have to be as proactive with your health as you are with other areas of your life to seek the doctors that have this knowledge.

Vitamin B12 intake should be a small part of your daily decisions. Focus on being a healthy plant eater with lots of water, raw foods, whole plant-based foods, nuts, seeds, grains, fruits, and vegetables. And get outside and exercise in nature for at least 30 minutes a day to help your body operate in its most optimal state.

—Jasmine Simon and Marjorie Simon-Meinefeld

Sources for this article:

November 11, 2015 / Todd Larsen

Sweet! We’re beating back GMO Sugar Beets

sugar beet

GMO sugar beets have only been on the market since 2008, but their market share grew rapidly, with over 90% of sugar beets being genetically modified by 2009.  Now, the tide is starting to turn against GMO sugar beets, with the percentage of all U.S. sugar derived from GMO sugar beets dropping from 47 percent to 41 percent in just one year.

GMO sugar beets were opposed from day one by food advocates, who pointed out that the technology was not adequately tested before launch.  The Center for Food Safety sued the USDA for approving the new technology without performing required environmental testing, and won.  However, the USDA let GMO sugar beets go forward despite the ruling.  USDA ultimately issued an environmental report, but that report ignored the broad environmental impacts of GMO sugar beets, including the likelihood that glyphosate-resistant beets would ultimately lead to superweeds that are themselves resistant to glyphosate, resulting in even more toxic pesticides being applied, as well as the spread of GMO beets to non-GMO fields.

In the intervening years, we’ve seen all the downsides of GMO beets, with growing pesticide use and contamination of non-GMO crops.  What wasn’t predicted back in 2008, was the amazing consumer backlash against GMOs that has grown in just a few short years. GMO Insiders have been a big part of that backlash, creating the pressure on companies like Unilever, Hershey, and General Mills.  GMO Insiders were the driving force in getting Hershey to shift to non-GMO sugar for it Hershey Bars and Kisses, Unilever to launch non-GMO Mayo, and General Mills to introduce non-GMO Cheerios.

We’ve proven that consumers increasingly don’t want GMOs, which in turn puts pressure on packaged goods companies to reject GMO ingredients from suppliers.  Ultimately, this means that more and more farmers will be moving away from GMOs, and in some cases, they are moving towards organics to meet growing consumer demand.

Thanks to all the GMO Insiders who are taking action with us to persuade the world’s largest food companies to move away from GMOs.  Together, we’re having a huge impact and turning the tide against GMOs.  Together, we can shift U.S. agriculture away from GMOs and toxins, and grow the market for organics.

November 11, 2015 / Green America

11 Alternatives to Amazon for Online Holiday Shopping

With the holidays around the corner, you are likely starting to think about ways to appreciate friends and family by giving them a gift. Like many Americans—if you choose to purchase gifts—you are likely to buy some online. Consumer surveys indicate 46 percent of Americans plan to shop online this year. Amazon.com is the world’s largest retailer and is synonymous with online shopping. Over 40 percent of online shoppers in the U.S. turn to Amazon as their first stop.

Last year, we dug into the company’s record on environmental and social responsibility and found Amazon.com to be performing poorly across the board–from dirty energy to worker exploitation.

With Amazon’s most important time of the year for sales on the horizon, we’re taking another look at Amazon’s sustainability practices and have also updated our popular Alternatives to Amazon Guide to Online Shopping. Choosing to spend money wisely, in ways that support our value, can have a major impact. This year, if you are shopping online, consider one of these alternatives.

Amazon Alternatives Holiday Shopping Guide

Company

Products

How They’re Green

Powells Books, Audio Books, DVDs Operates a fleet of biodiesel-powered trucks, purchases wind power, and generates electricity from solar panels on their roof.
BWB Books, Audiobooks, eBooks, Textbooks, DVDs, CDs By offering previously-owned merchandise BWB has recycled and re-used over 250k tons of books and offset 44k tons of carbon emissions.Member of the Green Business Network
vivaterra Home Décor, Accessories, Artisan Goods Offers a wide range of organic, fair trade, recycled, and chemical-free products, made by artisans in more than 20 countries, including the U.S.Member of the Green Business Network
etsy Crafts, Jewelry, Art By sorting for “handmade” consumers can connect directly with artisans around the world to purchase their products.
villages Fair trade Arts and Crafts, Jewelry, Music, Food Handmade jewelry and textiles provide equitable returns to artisans in developing countries.Member of the Green Business Network
ebay Used Goods — hundreds ofcategories Largest online engine for reuse on the planet; allows people to sell items they own and are not using, reducing demand for new manufactured goods and landfill space.
terra exp  Fair Trade Arts and Crafts Supports environmental education in Mayan communities, uses post-consumer recycled paper, hybrid vehicles, and website hosted by 100% wind power.Member of the Green Business Network
worldfinds Fair Trade Gifts & Textiles All products are handmade, often locally, and are shipped using recycled paper, packaging material, and boxes.Member of the Green Business Network
indigenous Fair Trade/Eco Clothing Makes high-quality clothing from natural and organic fibers such as cotton, silk, wool, and alpaca; committed to using environmentally-friendly dyes.Member of the Green Business Network
maggies Fair Trade, Organic Clothing Uses certified organic fibers, purchased directly from growers. Fair labor practices are in place through all stages of production, and manufacturing is limited to North & South America to reduce carbon usage.Member of the Green Business Network
EE  Fair Trade Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, Gifts Sources from over 40 small farmer organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the United States.Member of the Green Business Network
Member of the Green Business Network Designates a certified member of Green America’s Green Business Network®

Amazon’s 2015 Sustainability Report Card:

Environment:

Amazon uses huge amounts of electricity and most of the company’s energy comes from coal-fired power plants. In 2015, in response to mounting public pressure, including our Build A Cleaner Cloud campaign, Amazon’s hosting company, Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced it would invest in both solar and wind energy projects. As these projects come online, AWS will be able to use greater amounts of renewable energy to power its massive network of data centers, which currently run on a steady diet of mostly fossil fuels.

The company has committed to move to 100% renewable energy, however, it has yet to announce a deadline for this goal. Amazon is also still stalling in terms of transparency, refusing to report its energy usage to the Carbon Disclosure Project

Workers:

The New York Times’ explosive expose on Amazon’s white-collar workers revealed that while employees at Amazon’s Headquarters may earn a great deal, they are often subjected to a ruthless working environment. Current and former employees conveyed tales of working for four days without sleeping, developing ulcers from stress, never seeing their families, even being fired for having cancer or a miscarriage and needing time to recover.

Beyond the individuals working at Amazon’s HQ in Seattle, a massive global network of people support Amazon’s operations around the word as contractors and temporary workers. Workers in Amazon’s “Fulfillment Centers” (warehouses) have been found to work non-stop on their feet in non-air conditioned buildings. These same workers are now being forced to sign 18-month non-compete agreements, which prevent them from finding other similar work, should they be let go. The author Simon Head concluded when it comes to labor practices, “Amazon is worse than Walmart.”

Corporate Citizenship:

Like many corporate behemoths, Amazon has a history of shielding profits overseas, and for years, it fought against charging sales tax on its products.  These are just two ways that the Amazon has benefited against brick and mortar companies and small businesses.  Just last week, after years of under-cutting the prices of independent, local book stores and driving many out of business, Amazon announced its first ever brick-and-mortar bookstore in Seattle. This may seem like an odd move for an online company, but then again, as the movement for buying local is growing in the US, and as Amazon faces much less competition in the bookstore business thanks to its own success at selling books online, it’s actually a no-brainer. The Huffington Post shares more about Amazon’s ironic move and its history of undercutting other business.

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