Products I love

The range of choices for natural products can seem overwhelming sometimes, especially if you’re just starting your transition to safer products. Over the last several years I’ve tried tons of different brands and products. So, I’ve compiled a list here with some of my personal favorites that I highly recommend as being safe and effective.

I think it’s a given that you can find these products on Amazon, so in this post, I’ll provide info on where you can buy these aside from Amazon.

Desert Essence Cleansing Tea Tree Therapy soap

Why I love this product: I use this as an overall body soap, but more importantly, it’s the best shaving soap I’ve found. And I’m holding it against shaving creams and gels. It’s moisturizing, not strongly scented, and has a great lather. I’ve even used it as a face wash in a pinch. The ingredients are simple, and the palm oil used is certified as sustainably sourced (still not perfect, but it’s better than nothing).

Where to buy:  Vitacost https://www.vitacost.com/desert-essence-cleansing-bar-tea-tree-therapy-5-oz-3 ($3.09 for 3)

Desert Essence Thoroughly Clean Face Wash Original for oily & combination skin*

Why I love this product: I’ve been using this face wash for about 7 years now, it was one of my first “natural” products, and it’s been a staple in my shower caddy ever since. I use this as my basic everyday face wash and I think it works very well.

Where to buy: Vitacost https://www.vitacost.com/productResults.aspx?Ntt=Desert+Essence&N=1306725 ($3.79 – $11.69 depending on size)

Every Man Jack Manual Razor

Why I love this product: It’s the best “natural” razor I have found. The commonly sold brand is called Preserve, which uses recycled plastic – while cheaper, I don’t think they work well and I think I had to switch the cartridges more often. I like Every Man Jack because it’s a reusable one made of a hefty zinc alloy, it has a great feel to it, and the 6-blade cartridges result in a close shave. Additionally, the moisture strip is fragrance free and contains olive oil, chamomile and herbal extracts. Simple, sharp, and toxic-free.

Where to buy: (razor & four extra cartridges)

Gabriel Organics White Seaweed Calming Cleanser and Red Seaweed Gentle Exfoliator

Why I love these products: The ingredients are simple and high quality, and bottom line – they work well. The cleanser feels great to use – it’s not too oily, doesn’t leave a residue, and my skin looks good after using it. The exfoliator is gentle and subtle, but has great results.

Where to buy:

Schmidt’s Naturals Deodorant

I have tried dozens of natural deodorants and this one is by far the best (I will do a natural deodorant specific post in the future). I’ve been using their products for a few years now, and I’ve gotten my boyfriend on the Schmidt’s bandwagon too!

Why I love this product: It’s not gender specific, they have a wide range of scents (include unscented), a line for sensitive skin, and options for sizes and application methods. You can buy the product in a jar as a paste, or in stick for now. My favorite right now is the Lime Bergamot, but I’m also partial to the Ylang-Ylang & Calendula one.

Where to buy:

Jason Toothpaste

Why I love this product: This one is simple – it works. I think their formulations are better than other competing brands. They have a wide range of flavors and some versions without fluoride. Also, they are SLS free (not a guarantee even with natural toothpaste), which is important to me since I’m allergic to that ingredient. I use the deep sea spearmint gel and the powerful peppermint paste (which can be a little too powerful sometimes).

Where to buy:

Pacifica Beauty Alight Multi-Mineral BB Cream

BB Creams smooth your skin tone and even out complexion. Since I have freckles I generally don’t use any sort of concealer, foundation, or face makeup. It just washes out my skin tone and fades my freckles, making my whole face just look weird.

Why I love this product: It evens out my skin and gives me a bit of radiance, without having the fading effect! It’s subtle, moisturizing, and skin-tone matching, which means no hassle of trying to pick the right shade of product to match my skin color. I think this is what makes it effective for someone like me who basically has two skin colors. Also, a little goes a long way with this product, which is always a bonus.

Where to buy:

SheaMoisture hair care products

I’m a big fan of this brand in general, but I especially love their hair care products. I have a lot of skin and scalp sensitivities, and I’ve found their shampoos and conditioners to be the least irritating. SheaMoisture offers an extensive range of products for all different hair types. In general, they’re products focus on strengthening, hydrating, and curl enhancement. They have about 22 different collections that include shampoos, conditioners, and styling products designed for different purposes.

Some of my favorites that I’ve used so far include:

  • The Superfruit complex 10-in-1 Renewal system shampoos & conditioner
  • Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Grow Treatment Masque
  • Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie
  • Coconut & Hibiscus Frizz-Free Curl Mousse

I have slightly frizzy, wavy hair, and I look for products that enhance curls, add volume, moisture, and strength.

Where to buy:

*I would recommend this version for most skin types. Why? Because for some inexplicable reason, the normal skin version has fragrance (parfum) and caramel coloring. Unless you have really, really dry skin, you can always adjust how often you use the face wash or how long you apply the product. I do this in the winter when my skin is a bit on the drier side.

National Mammography Day – Addressing Misinformation

In honor of today, National Mammography Day, and Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I want to address some of the misleading information about mammograms/breast cancer and highlight two amazing organizations to support instead of Komen —

  1. Mammograms are NOT effective for young women. This is because younger women have denser breast tissue. (Also, remember that mammograms are x-rays, which means you are exposed to radiation every time you get one).
  2. Mammograms detect, they do not prevent. Additionally, there are significant problems with over-diagnosis of DCIS, leading to unnecessary treatment and surgery, and false-positive diagnoses. For the age bracket of 40s and 50s, mammography has decreased mortality by only 15%. In contrast, 60% of them will receive a false-positive diagnosis.
  3. Focusing on mammograms to detect cancers and pouring money into “searching for a cure” deflects attention away from true prevention. Very few breast cancers are attributed to traditional risk factors (family history/genetics is only about 10% of cases). Despite evidence, environmental pollution and manmade carcinogens are horrifically ignored and minimized in discourses about cancer prevention.
  4. If you want to contribute money or support organizations that are focused on real prevention and reducing the number of diagnosed cases of breast cancer, check out these two organizations:
    1. Breast Cancer Action – http://bcaction.org/ BCAction focuses on addressing the underlying social, economic, and political structures that contribute to breast cancer, as well as highlighting the environmental causes of cancer. They advocate for women’s rights, patient’s rights, less toxic treatments, and call out Pinkwashers. They also provide scientifically based and unbiased information about breast cancer.
    2. Breast Cancer Fund – http://www.breastcancerfund.org The Breast Cancer Fund addresses the connections between environmental toxins, radiation, and breast cancer.

In summary, I encourage everyone to think beyond the simple pink ribbon awareness of BCAM. If you are interested in learning more about the problematic approach to breast cancer that is commonplace in our society, you can read my Master’s Thesis at my website (www.rerobinson.net) or check out the two organizations noted above.

I would also highly recommend reading the book, Pink Ribbons Inc, by Samantha King.

Alternative Energy Part 2: Wind, Water and Sunlight: Tidal Energy

Ok, I last left off talking about alternative energy and I discussed the problem of fossil fuel reliance. The best options for energy would be wind, solar, geothermal, tidal or hydroelectric. These sources are grouped together and abbreviated as WWS, since they are all created by wind, water or sunlight. Personally, I think the most potential is in solar energy; solar and wind combined would be ideal. There is a myth that only sunny places can utilize solar power effectively, but actually, solar panels can be effective even on cloudy days. Wind power seems like it would be a good complimentary power source. The idea with alternative energy is combining sources, so that each source contributes to the system as a whole to maintain a constant sufficient energy supply.  I’m going to give an overview of the various alternative energy sources scientists are exploring today and analyze their potential pros and cons.

Many questions begin bubbling in my mind when it comes to alternative energy – and specifically in comparing its environmental impacts to fossil fuel.

  1. What would the cost and time be to create an infrastructure for this new type of power supply?
  2. What would we have to change in the following areas/places: manufacturing processes, factories, office buildings, and homes?
  3. What would the individual costs be i terms of the utilities bill?
  4. Where would this energy source be located? Would it affect the ecosystem?
  5. How easily integrated into society could it be? As in, could we take this technology and apply it to things that already exist?
  6. What would the scale need to be to generate enough electricity? (A source of energy would still be impractical and inefficient if it had to be massive in size and it took space away from other necessary parts of life such as forests or farmlands.)
  7. From a cradle-to-cradle perspective: what are the materials being used? How are they made? How much energy is required to produce these materials? Are these materials renewable or non-renewable? What is the waste impact – are they biodegradable or would they fill a dump and leech toxic chemicals into the air and soil?

Tidal Energy:

The first renewable energy source I want to explore is tidal energy, since I have never even heard of this option before. I would guess it’s not very well known, but from my research, I’m finding that it is actually more reliable than solar and wind power options; the problems have been cost and the very few places on the earth where this could work.Advances in technology and design have opened doors more recently to developing this method further. Tidal energy is created by gravitational forces between the sun, moon and earth that causes each coast to have two high tides and two low tides within a 24-hour period. In order for the energy to be gained from this source, the difference in the high tide and the low tide must be at least 16 feet. While tides are predictable and their size can be reasonably well estimated, there are not many places on earth where the 16 feet difference happens consistently. There are two types of methods for capturing tidal energy, and this is where the biggest problem occurs with tidal energy. These methods of using tides to create electricity extremely affect the ocean’s ecosystem.

Rance Tidal Plant

The first method of capture is called a barrage or dam. There are only three barrages in the world currently, with France’s Rance Tidal Plant (built in 1966) being the largest in the world. In a barrage, water is forced through a turbine to create electricity. This happens when the water level on each side of the barrage has reached a great enough difference. Gates open to allow water to flow through, activating the turbines. The barrage is like a dam, but on a much larger scale. It sits at the opening of a bay to catch water as it moved in and out with the tides.

Barrages have extreme environment and economic impacts that must be accounted for in considering them as an alternative for energy. Barrages are expensive to build initially, although they don’t require expensive maintenance once constructed. They also take a long time to construct, and in the meantime the area has to deal with increased traffic, road blocks and

Rance

construction noise. The Rance barrage took five years to build. Although barrages can be useful as roads across a bay, unless they have a feature allowing them to swing open like Seattle’s 520 floating bridge, boat access to the bay is cut off. This could possibly have social and economic impacts upon the coastal town or city. More significant is the environmental impact of barrages. A barrage affects both plant and animal life as it alters the natural flow of the water in and out of an estuary or bay. Fish can easily get killed in the turbines, and the bay’s water quality can decrease as a result of the barrage acting as a road block to the dispersal of contamination. The Rance plant is a good example of the environmental damage that can occur. Because of the barrage, sandbanks disappeared and many species lost their habitat. Other species moved in actually, which changes the diversity of the ecosystem. It is easy for us to disregard changes in diversity and species, but it is one of the biggest environmental impacts humans have and it must be better understood. Changing an ecosystem has profound and last impacts, and regardless of how much people alter their surrounding and separate themselves from the natural environment, we have to understand that we are actually a part of the greater environment, and destruction or changes to nature will eventually impact us.

Underwater turbine

The second method of tidal energy capture is tidal turbines. Underwater turbine technology is much newer than tidal barrages, and they are similar to wind turbines. These are placed at the entrances of bays or rivers where there are fast currents to move the turbines. Since water is denser than air, more energy can be extracted through spinning turbines with water than with wind.  These turbines need to be in water about 60-120 feet deep, and in an offshore or estuary location with winds of at least 5-6 miles per hour. An underwater turbine farm was constructed in 2006 in the East River of New York City, and they are hoping for expansion of that project that will have a generating capacity of 10 megawatts. That would generate enough power for several thousand homes in the city. While turbines are less environmentally destructive than barrages, they are still taking up permanent space in the ocean that aquatic flora and fauna should have free range of. There have also been concerns about the machines being overrun by barnacles and other sea life of that nature.

While tides are reliable and predictable, tidal energy can only be captured during the high and low tides, which totals about 10 hours each day. From that standpoint, combined with the large scale and serious ecosystem impacts, I don’t see tidal energy as a viable solution to clean energy. It is my personal opinion that we should opt to find energy solutions that can be utilized on various scales of size and not alter the environment this much. In finding alternative energy sources, I think it’s important to find one that doesn’t take up undeveloped space. This is why I am hesitant that developing turbines are barrages in water is a good idea, since it expands our development even further, rather trying to incorporate energy production into already developed areas like cities. I think that we should look to solar energy for meeting our needs of the future. And my next post will explore this option!

I’ve been held up…

Hello everyone who maybe reads this? Things have slowed down later due to a couple things. I’m working on the second part of my alternative energy exploration, but its going a little slower than expected. First off, I got sick yesterday morning, so I’ve been spending most of my time sleeping.

Then, Friday evening when I arrived at my boyfriend’s apartment, I found a tiny little nestling on the pavement next to my car. He was about a day or two old, an inch or two long and completely feather-less. He wasn’t injured and was flailing his little limbs around on the pavement. I’m a big animal person, so of course I couldn’t just leave the poor thing there. I was up till 5:30 am keeping him warm and checking on him to make sure he made it through the night. I got a few hours of sleep and then drove up to the NW Wildlife Rehabilitation Center about 12 miles Northeast of Bellingham to give him to the properly trained animal rescue people. According to them, he looked in great shape and were surprised he made it through the night and was so lively. He chirped all the way up to the rehabilitation center and I’m going to call tomorrow to make sure he actually made it. They thought that at that age, even if I got him up there, he most likely wouldn’t make it. But anyway, that was my adventure Friday night and Saturday morning. I got home at about 11:30 am and went back to bed. After a couple hours, I started feeling sick. So I’m trying to get things still up on here, but I’m pretty drained right now. I’ll see what I can do.

In other news though – the International Contemporary Furniture Fair is happening right now in New York City, and according to Inhabitat.com, there are several eco-friendly oriented designers and products being featured.

Check out ICFF’s website: http://www.icff.com/

Or Inhabitat’s coverage of the fair: http://inhabitat.com/inhabitat-reports-from-icff-2011/

Alternative Energy Part 1: Fossil Fuels

I know I haven’t had a good post in a while, and I’m going to try to pick up my pace over the next few weeks. Life has been hectic, and I’m finding it more difficult to formulate topics for blog posts as this is my first crack at a project of this nature. Here’s a more serious post than my past few entries.

Today I wanted to examine some options in renewable energy sources, which will hopefully replace fossil fuels as the main source of energy in the near future. The health of the environment and its inhabitants is heavily dependent upon us converting to renewable and pollution-free sources of energy. Currently, our energy consumption, especially in the United States, is higher than ever. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, electricity consumption in 2009 was 13 times higher than in 1950, amounting to almost 3,741 billion Kilowatthours used in that year alone. As the rate of consumption climbs, we are continuing to tap into sources of energy from natural deposits in the earth that are soon to run dry.

Fossil Fuels:

So to begin with, what are fossil fuels exactly? And what is so bad about them? Fossil fuel sources are coal, oil, and natural gas that is mined and drilled from the earth and burned to extract energy. These fossil fuels were formed over millions of years from animal and plant remains decomposing under heat and pressure. Petroleum, a natural gas, is used in cars and to produce plastics. Natural gas and coal are both burned to generate electricity for heating buildings. In 2009, it was recorded that almost half of the electricity produced in the United States was generated from burning coal (See diagram to the side). Fossil fuels must be burned to extract energy, a process that consequently pollutes the environment with harmful chemicals like sulfur, nitrogen, and carbon. Those three main pollutants alone have far-reaching consequences from contributing to global climate change (carbon dioxide) to causing acid rain (chemicals bond with water vapor molecules to form acidic compounds).

Burning fossil fuels is harmful to humans as well as the environment. They contribute to increased temperatures in cities, creating a phenomenon known as the “urban heat island effect”. Smog, also known as ground level ozone, is commonly found on some of the hotter days in cities, and is caused by Nitrogen Oxides interacting with volatile organic compounds in the presence of heat and sunlight. Heat and smog cause general discomfort, heat stroke, respiratory problems, and even death.

Atlantic city suffers from urban heat island effect: thermal mapping shows heat

Side note: One of the problems I have noticed in the whole debate over climate change, the environment, etc, is that people fail to understand two crucial points. One: the human-environment interaction. Two: the compounding consequences of our actions upon all aspects of life. What is bad for the environment is bad for humans. So, it’s not just about trying to help the environment and saving nature, it’s also about protecting our health and the health of our children.  When I hear people say they don’t care about the environment, I always want to tell them they better not have children, because it would be a cruel thing to do. The state of this planet will impact the health of our children, so why bring a child into the world to make it suffer in a world full of pollution and disease-causing chemicals. The second point I want to raise is that people naturally have difficulty understand far reaching consequences. The conflict we’re dealing with in the modern age is that our brains are still quite primitive and unable to understand consequences on a global scale; we do much better with direct cause and effect that is obvious. While our brains are still stuck on that scale, our actions have expanded to have global consequences. An example of this is air conditioning. Yes, it is hot, so you turn on the air conditioning. This requires electricity, which means fossil fuels are burning. Fossil fuels contribute to increased temperatures in the area you are trying to cool. This doesn’t happen immediately like the cold air you feel from the air conditioning, it occurs slowly over years, each summer hotter than the previous. The urban heat island effect also impact water quality by sending large amounts of hot water directly into streams and lakes, causing a rise in water temperatures. This impacts the ecosystems, contributing to large oxygen depleting algae blooms in water, massive dead zones in lakes where no plant or animal life can survive, and deteriorates overall water quality. So, most likely, when you turn on the air conditioning, this is not what you think about. All you do is flip a switch or press a button without thinking twice.

Okay, back to before that rant — the use of fossil fuels began with the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s. Coal was, and still is, a cheap and abundant source of energy. Coal and oil are resources that will eventually become depleted, and the big challenge right now is pushing forward new technologies for renewable energy immediately and not waiting until we’ve actually depleted our fossil fuels completely. Coal companies began several years ago toting “clean coal” as a way of reducing carbon emissions from coal plants. This is done by carbon capture, which involves catching the carbon dioxide by-product from burning coal and literally storing it underground. This solution is a dangerous one. Many coal plants are not geographically able to store carbon dioxide, and it is also very risky to have large stores of carbon dioxide underground in the event of an earthquake or other disaster. This is not a viable solution in my opinion, since the consequences of a leak seem to great and at the bottom line, coal is still being burned to generate electricity. Another problem with burning fossil fuels is the lack of efficiency. As these sources are quickly depleted, more energy must be put into extracting them from the earth. If more energy is put into extracting coal and oil than we are getting from them., it is an inefficient energy source. Burning coal for electricity is also inefficient because of the lost energy in conversion and distribution. Coal plants generate electricity that is distributed to a network of electricity lines; during the transfer some energy is lost. Alternative energy sources are more efficient because there is not as much lost energy in production and conversion, and the possibility of on-site electricity production is a viable option.

Alternative energy

The most promising options for renewable energy sources are sun and wind power. Technological advances in photovoltaics, solar panels and wind mills would be able to provide the world with all the energy it needs. There was an article published in Scientific American in 2009 detailing how we actually switch to 100% renewable energy production through using all forms of renewable energy. The article can be found online at Scientific American; its long, but it’s a good read and they make some very valid points to support their argument.

So, this is getting quite long, so I have decided to make it a two-parter. Part two will focus on the options for renewable energy sources and the monopoly big coal and oil companies have on the energy production market.