Annie Leonard

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GREEN TIP: Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period than any other time of year. This extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra ton of garbage per week. Give the planet a gift, take control of your waste this year.

The Use Less Stuff Report offers a checklist of simple things you can do to reduce waste while you eat, drink, and make merry this holiday season. Here are a few:

  • Turn down the heat before your holiday guests arrive. You’ll save energy while the extra body heat of your guests will warm up the room.
  • After your holiday parties, don’t throw away the leftovers. Put them in containers and send them home with guests.

At least 28 billion pounds of edible food are wasted each year – or over 100 pounds per person. Putting one less cookie on Santa’s plate will reduce his snacking by about 2 million pounds.

  • During the nation’s busiest shopping season, bring your own shopping bags.
  • Consolidate your purchases into one bag rather than getting a new bag at each store on your shopping rounds.

If each household canceled 10 mail-order catalogues it would reduce trash by 3.5 pounds per year. If everybody did this, the stack of canceled catalogues would be 2,000 miles high.

  • Plan your shopping in advance. Consolidating your shopping trips saves fuel.
  • Rather than piling up “stuff” under the tree, think about what friends and family really want or need. Give gift certificates to a favorite store or restaurant or make a charitable donation in his/her name.
  • Give gifts that encourage others to use less stuff, like a book about making crafts from reusable items, a cookbook for leftovers, a reusable tote bag and so on.
  • For kids, start a savings account or give stocks or bonds. It’s fun to watch money grow and it teaches children the value of financial conservation.
  • Donate unwanted gifts, along with last year’s gifts that the kids have outgrown, to charity.
  • When buying electronic toys and other portable items that are used regularly, remember to buy rechargeable batteries to go with them.
  • Make new tree ornaments out of things you already have around the house, or from materials you might find in the backyard: twigs, bark, flowers and herbs, pine cones and so on.
  • Old clothes and jewelry make a great dress-up box for kids.
  • Tools and gadgets make a great idea box for a young inventor.
  • Give the gift of an experience: tickets to concerts, tickets to a museum, tickets to a sporting event, gift certificates or even gifts of your own time.
  • Tie a bow around oversized gifts like bicycles or CD racks, instead of wrapping them in paper.
  • Wrap gifts in old maps, newspapers, Sunday comics or fancy holiday gift bags. Kids’ art work is a perfect wrapping for presents to proud grandparents.
  • Use brown paper grocery bags to wrap small-to-medium size boxes that have to be mailed.

If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.

  • Compost your food waste. Fruits and vegetables and their peels, pits and seeds are all perfect for composting – a great natural fertilizer.

Source: Use Less Stuff

My Green Side’s web pick of the week:

The Story of Stuff Project

The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute cartoon about trash – looking specifically at the way we make, use and throw away Stuff. Today, with over 15 million views and counting, The Story of Stuff is one of the most watched environmental-themed online movies of all time.

Annie Leonard, the creative force behind The Story of Stuff, founded the non-profit Story of Stuff Project in 2008 to respond to tens of thousands of viewer requests for more information and ways to get involved. They create short, easily shareable online movies that explore some of the key features of our relationship with Stuff—including how we can make things better; they provide high quality educational resources and programs to everyone from teachers and people of faith to business and community leaders; and they support the learning and action of the over 350,000 members of the Story of Stuff community.

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by Wendy Gabriel

GREEN TIP: Empty your bathroom cabinets and take a look at the labels on your personal care products. Are you are using the safest ingredients for you and your family?

There are so many choices out there for shampoo, conditioners, make-up, deodorants, baby care products… the list is endless and, unfortunately, the majority of them are made from chemicals that are toxic to our bodies. And even more bothersome, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently has no authority to require companies to assess ingredients or products for safety. FDA does not review or approve the vast majority of cosmetic products or ingredients before they go on the market. The agency conducts pre-market reviews only for certain color additives and active ingredients in cosmetics classified as over-the-counter drugs.

I discovered the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Reviews database when we had our second child. I was looking up a trusted baby lotion that we were going to use on our little baby. I was horrified to find that it was loaded with toxic chemicals.

I know. Toxins in baby products? 

Dozens of children’s bath products analyzed at an independent laboratory in 2009 were found to contain formaldehyde and 1,4 dioxane, two chemicals that cause cancer in lab animals and are classified as probable human carcinogens. Popular brands containing these chemicals include Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, Sesame Street Bubble Bath and Huggies Naturally Refreshing Cucumber & Green Tea Baby Wash. The companies argue that each product contains just low levels of these toxins – but there shouldn’t be any carcinogens in baby shampoo at all. Period. The good news is, many companies have already figured out how to make excellent products without the toxic chemicals. Source: The Story of Cosmetics: Frequently Asked Questions

To learn more check out:

I recently viewed Annie Leonard’s newest, The Story of Cosmetics. She has an excellent way of getting to the heart of an issue in a really disarming manner. Take a look:

Here some more interesting information from The Story of Cosmetics: Personal Care Product Myths and Facts page:

Myth: Cosmetic ingredients are applied to the skin and rarely get into the body. When they do, levels are too low to matter.

Fact:People are exposed by breathing in sprays and powders, swallowing chemicals on the lips or hands or absorbing them through the skin. Studies find evidence of health risks. Biomonitoring studies have found cosmetics ingredients – like phthalate plasticizers, paraben preservatives, the pesticide triclosan, synthetic musks, and sunscreens – inside the bodily fluids of men, women, children and even the cord blood of newborn babies. Many of these chemicals are potential hormone disruptors that may increase cancer risk. Products commonly contain penetration enhancers to drive ingredients deeper into the skin. Studies find health problems in people exposed to common fragrance and sunscreen ingredients, including elevated risk for sperm damage, feminization of the male reproductive system, and low birth weight in girls.

Myth: Products made for children or bearing claims like “hypoallergenic” are safer choices.

Fact: Most cosmetic marketing claims are unregulated, and companies are rarely if ever required to back them up, even for children’s products. A company can use a claim like “hypoallergenic” or “natural” “to mean anything or nothing at all,” and while “[m]ost of the terms have considerable market value in promoting cosmetic products to consumers,… dermatologists say they have very little medical meaning.” An investigation of more than 1,700 children’s body care products found that 81 percent of those marked “gentle” or “hypoallergenic” contained allergens or skin and eye irritants.

Myth: FDA would promptly recall any product that injures people.

Fact: FDA has no authority to require recalls of harmful cosmetics. Furthermore, manufacturers are not required to report cosmetics-related injuries to the agency. FDA relies on companies to report injuries voluntarily.

Myth: Consumers can read ingredient labels and avoid products with hazardous chemicals.

Fact:Federal law allows companies to leave many chemicals off labels, including nanomaterials, contaminants, and components of fragrance. Fragrance may include any of 3,163 different chemicals, none of which are required to be listed on labels. Fragrance tests reveal an average of 14 hidden compounds per formulation, including potential hormone disruptors and diethyl phthalate, a compound linked to sperm damage.

Myth: Cosmetics safety is a concern for women only.

Fact:Surveys show that on average, women use 12 products containing 168 ingredients every day, men use 6 products with 85 ingredients, and children are exposed to an average of 61 ingredients daily. The large majority of these chemicals have not been assessed for safety by the industry-funded Cosmetics Ingredients Review (CIR) safety panel.

TAKE ACTION and SUPPORT the Safe Cosmetics Act 2010!

My Green Side’s web pick of the week:

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a coalition effort launched in 2004 to protect the health of consumers and workers by securing the corporate, regulatory and legislative reforms necessary to eliminate dangerous chemicals from cosmetics and personal care products.

Editor’s Note: Each Wednesday My Green Side brings Simple Tips for Green Living to The Christopher Gabriel Program. We also highlight a favorite green site each week. You can stream the segment at approximately 1020am (CDT) every Wednesday at

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