Archives for July 2010

Greener Back to School for Kids and Adults

jar of pencilsThinking about greener ways to go back to school isn’t just for kids. Most adults use many of the same kinds of supplies that kids use in school. We may no longer need crayons, but we all use paper and writing utensils and scissors and tape. We all eat lunch and need some way to carry our gear around.

I’ll be writing about ways to green your back-to-school purchases in the coming weeks and I’ll include items for adults as well. We’ll look at school and office supplies as well as green backpacks and messenger bags and briefcases.

But for now, a few general tips:

One of the best ways to be greener with your supplies is to buy less. Take a thorough stock of what you already have and then organize those supplies so they’re easy to find. If you have something at home that will work, don’t feel pressured to buy something new just because it’s on a list.

When you do purchase new, go for products made from recycled materials and avoid chemicals whenever possible. Pass on PVC and BPA. The easiest thing to do is look for products that say they are BPA and PVC-free. If they don’t say it, they probably have these chemicals in them.

Also consider buying things that will last. You can pick up a backpack for $5 at some stores, but is it really worth it if it has to be replaced several times over the course of one school year? Why not buy one quality bag that will last? You may end up spending less money in the long run and for sure you’ll end up creating less waste.

Stay tuned for product suggestions and reviews. If there’s anything in particular you want me to focus on, please email more or let me know in the comments.

Photo Credit: Merelymel13

Bike Your Way Green

I like to ride my bike, but I don’t do it as often as I’d like. I’m also fascinated by bike culture (I think I always have been) and find myself wanting to know more about what makes a “good” bike, what all the components are, why some people love certain saddles over others. The environmentally friendly aspect of biking makes it even more appealing. Biking is catching on lately — not just the Lance Armstrong serious racing kind of biking, but the everyday commuting kind. People wearing street clothes and business suits are giving up cars in favor of bikes.

I’m intrigued.

I’ve come across a few bike sites lately that I’d like to share with you. Most of them feature beautiful photography of both setting and the bikes themselves. Be sure to check them out when you have the time

Ecovelo: Alan and his wife, Michael, have chosen to go “car-lite,” meaning they use bikes as their primary mode of transportation, though they do still keep a small car in their driveway for use in times of illness or travel that doesn’t lend itself to biking. It’s fascinating to read about their day-to-day lives on bikes. They also provide plenty of wonderful photos and reviews of bikes and components, as well as biking news. I’m hooked on their site.

Let’s Go Ride a Bike: Another new favorite. Trisha, who’s based in Nashville, and Dottie, who’s based in Chicago, make biking look beautiful. Their blog is all about biking with style, often in heels, never in spandex. Like Ecovelo, there are wonderful photographs. There’s also a handy How-To section for those interested in getting started with bike commuting.

Rowdy Kittens: Tammy Strobel’s blog is more about living simply than specifically about biking, but there’s a lot of great information there. In an effort to simplify their own lives, Tammy and her husband sold their cars and now go everywhere by bike. Tammy’s also written a wonderful ebook called Simply Car-Free: How to Pedal Toward Financial Freedom and a Healthier Life that will teach you how to save money and get started riding more and driving less. It’s a bargain at only $9.95 and includes a money-back guarantee.

I’d love to know in the comments if you ride a bike and if so, what kind of bike do you have?

Photo Credit: Marc oh!

What Is Wrong With High Fructose Corn Syrup?

High fructose corn syrup is one of the main ingredients in almost any processed food. You’ve probably heard nutritionists and environmentalists say it needs to be avoided. There’s a popular commercial running on television involving two mothers at a birthday party laughing about all the hype and insisting that in moderation, high fructose corn syrup is a “natural,” wonderful thing. It should be noted that this ad is sponsored by the Corn Refiners Association.

So what’s a person to do? Believe HFCS is evil and try (possibly in vain) to avoid it, or roll with it and accept the fact that it’s in nearly every factory made product we consume?

I’ve done some digging and hopefully what I’ve found will help you make more informed choices for you and your family.

The Primary Question

Is high fructose corn syrup worse for us than sugar?

The Answer

We’re not sure. Some studies have been conducted, but many have been deemed flawed or not comprehensive enough. For sure, more research needs to be done.

Other Questions

What is high fructose corn syrup?

According the the Mayo Clinic online,

High-fructose corn syrup is a common sweetener and preservative. High-fructose corn syrup is made by changing the sugar (glucose) in cornstarch to fructose — another form of sugar. The end product is a combination of fructose and glucose. Because it extends the shelf life of processed foods and is cheaper than sugar, high-fructose corn syrup has become a popular ingredient in many sodas, fruit-flavored drinks and other processed foods.

The reason that high fructose corn syrup is cheaper than sugar is because of huge government subsidies that go to growers of corn.

So What’s the Big Deal?

The bottom line is that high fructose corn syrup is simply another form of sugar.  Marion Nestle, author, food policy expert and professor (she holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology and an M.P.H. in public health nutrition) writes, “Biochemically, [HFCS] is about the same as table sugar (both have about the same amount of fructose and calories) . . .”

But here’s the problem, Nestle adds, “[high fructose corn syrup] is in everything and Americans eat a lot of it—nearly 60 pounds per capita in 2006, just a bit less than pounds of table sugar.   HFCS is not a poison, but eating less of any kind of sugar is a good idea these days and anything that promotes eating more is not.”

So what are we to do?

1. Read labels. This is one of the most important things you can do. HFCS is in nearly all processed foods. If it’s the first, second or third ingredient, then there’s a lot of sugar in that product. It’s probably best to skip it.

2. Eat more real food. Go for foods that don’t come with an ingredients list.

3. Avoid sodas. These drinks are notoriously high in HFCS.

4. Be aware that it’s very difficult to consume sugar “in moderation” if you don’t know how much you’re eating. Start paying attention to what’s in the food you eat so you can make more informed choices about your sugar consumption.

Let me know if you have more questions about high fructose corn syrup and I’ll do my best to find the answers. If you found this post helpful, please tell a friend and consider tweeting it and/or liking it on Facebook.