Saturday, November 29, 2008

Toxic Chemicals, Love Canal, and Our Health

"Today, nearly half of the U.S. population lives within 10 miles of one of EPA’s 1304 active and proposed Superfund sites, according to the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit group dedicated to investigative journalism."
I found a fascinating article via the Canary Report about Love Canal... have you ever heard of it? The name was most appropriate before the residents of the area were given an emergency evacuation due to a gumbo of chemicals that began bubbling out of the ground in the school yard and seeping out multi colored goo from their basement walls, causing birth defects and illness to double in their area. It took a few years and a huge community rising to get the government to buy out all their houses and clean up the mess- for quite a while these residents were told that there was no evidence that it was harming their health.

"... one-quarter of the waste was benzene hexachloride, the main component of the pesticide lindane, a neurotoxin. There were chlorobenzenes (used in the synthesis of DDT) and dozens of other organic chemicals, many of which were known to be toxic. The waste also contained an estimated 120 pounds of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, commonly called dioxin, which is a byproduct of trichlorophenol manufacture. At the time dioxin was buried at Love Canal, it was not thought to cause disease, but it is now known as one of the most carcinogenic chemicals in the world. "

When the community tried to speak out the government said their testimonials to what was happening in their area was "useless housewife data".
This was back in 1978.
Now we are in 2008 nearly 30 years later and much of the same environmental crisis is going on- much of which is on a large & mysterious scale. One of the major problems for Love Canal was that no matter how people tried to use their voices to say something was wrong, the government only would act on substantial data that they could measure by standards they made up. Tests which couldn't measure much of anything at the time, and unfortunately have scarcely been updated in 30 years. Which is where the major problem lies since the standards of the EPA are , ehem , let's say not in the people's favor as much as they are in industries favor. Marketing & money now talks the talk and educates the masses, with nothing but nonsense to make a sale, to get us all to buy into their products and consumerism. Most of the products we buy have never been tested for chemical exposure safety, how they mix with other common products and what's worse is how they are manufactured is polluting our basic needs too- when the US wants even looser restrictions it just outsources their factory to a poor country and poisons their land & people instead. Some of which that very air pollution is blowing back our way.

While standards for toxic dumping (like what happened at Love Canal) have tightened some, we are still behind the times for testing the mixture of chemical products we bring into our home, build our home with, and shop for in stores. If you are questioning whether we are brainwashed into toxic consumerism and educated by marketing and not with real knowledge just look to the tragedy at Walmart where the worker was trampled to death by swarms of anxious customers convinced they had to get a good deal on Black Friday (at the expense of killing someone and injuring others). This type of tragic acceptance & anxiety on a mass scale is what leads to the environmental disaster that is taking place. I am not even speaking about global warming, or animals going extinct, glaziers melting, or trees being cut down at alarming rates - those are the issues that half the country seems to think are silly "treehugger" ideas. The disaster is right under your nose, under your kitchen sink, filling your washer machine, spewing into the air, on your walls and in your bottle of shampoo. The mixing of all the chemical fragrances (perfume, shampoo, lotion), bleach, household cleaners, detergent chems, preservatives & additives in your food, the paint out gassing on your walls that now contains anti-mildew chems too - stop and think about how you are mixing all these each day, and stop to think of how many people you know with chronic, re-occurring, mysterious health problems, ones that are just achy and the ones that are dieing of cancer.

In reality when we buy into the marketing bullshit we are paying big corporations & big pharma to destroy our health, so that they can fly in their private jets, wear expensive clothes, live in huge houses, and buy more destructive junk being sold by another rich company - continuing a cycle of the rich sickening (or killing) the poor for their own luxuries. We are paying their way and paying all the consequences, and the government sits back and let's it happen because these giant companies are paying government officials too. We all know it is happening, so why are we letting it?
Even in economic strife we must stay strong on demanding the health standards we deserve. And not buy into the big corporation's brainwash, because following their lead is creating a mini Love Canal in each of our homes, schools, and workplace - and in the air we breathe, the soil we grow food, and the water that is vital to our life.

Do you live near a Superfund site? Go HERE to check.

Want to learn more about where the stuff you buy really comes from? Go HERE to watch The Story of Stuff.

Watch a Documentary on Love Canal HERE.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Sewing With Organic Cotton Scraps

I am especially proud of this sewing project... not because it is cute but I used organic scrap fabric that I have had for almost two years and to make this shirt it only cost me $2 (and that was 2 years ago)!!! I used another shirt I had that fit well to use as a pattern, and cut around those edges. The sleeves are just two tubes to attach to the arm openings, and the organic fleece scrap fabric in red made the perfect quirky accent. I considered making them into pockets, but left them decorative.
I sewed the entire shirt in a zig zag stitch, leaving the stitch seams exposed on the outside of the shirt. This not only made the project go twice as fast, but gave it an eco crafty cool look :) If you want to hide your seams, then simply turn the shirt inside out.
YAY! A quick easy top with mid length sleeves- making this piece transitional for fall, winter and spring.

Green Friday Coupon

For those of you who love to shop after Thanksgiving but have given up on the crazy mall frenzy of consumerism, I have a online coupon for you at The Oko Box! Save gas and shop from home...
Just type in "greenfriday" in the coupon code box for a 20% discount on EVERYTHING in the store.
The marketing whirlwind created on this day to push many items which are unsafe, slave made, and bad quality should be replaced with planet friendly clothing, useful items, & fair trade! We as consumers are the ones who hold the power to turn our world into a place that is healthy for each person sharing this place, we have the power to change the face of the system.
Shop green, upcycle & recycle this holiday season!
*This coupon ends on November 31st 2008~!*

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Macrobiotic, Gluten Free & Vegan Thanksgiving Meal For One

Thanksgiving (and all meals) are a little tricky for me - I am on a strict gluten free medical diet plus have multiple other food allergies... I have no idea how I got this way except maybe it was all that coffee and Tabasco sauce in my baby bottle. ;) For today's holiday I decided to make a simple stuffed butternut squash & some cranberry apple sauce on the side.
After cutting the squash in half and scooping out the seeds, I pre-baked the squash till it was soft. During that time I put some veggies (carrots, broccoli and leek) & fresh herbs (rosemary, sage and dill) in my blender to get it finely chopped. I mixed that yummy stuff with some cooked brown rice.
While the rice stuffing was marinating I cooked some chickpeas to make a thick sauce with for a good topping on the stuffed squash.
Without cleaning the fresh veggie mix residue from the blender I added the chickpeas in with extra fresh dill and rosemary and blended till ultra creamy. Afterwards I added olive oil to the chickpea sauce... just cause I love olive oil on everything. :)
I then stuffed the squash as much as I could with the "dirty rice" mix baked it on 350 in the toaster oven, until the rice was brown and crispy on the outside.
Topped with the chickpea cream and MmmmmmMmMmmmm. YAY!
While eating all that up I cooked down cranberries & an apple with an ume plum for about 3 hours. I would suggest adding maple syrup or rice syrup to this mix & to place in the blender after because the skins of the cranberries are not easy to chew. (You can also peel them, but blending would be much easier.) Apples don't need to be peeled and if you cook them alone they don't require any blending.
Hope you enjoyed your holiday - mine tasted super good and was 100% organic, vegan, gluten free and macrobiotic!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Love Bug Mating With A ...Fly?

Today was the first time I have ever seen a Love Bug in North Carolina... what made it especially eventful was it was mating with another bug that looked like a little fly! I have seen a gazillion Love Bug mating frenzies growing up in New Orleans, and the males didn't' look quite like this. Can anyone tell me if this is some special mountain man Love Bug, or have a photographed an inter-insect relationship?You can observe here in the side view above, how the head of the male bug is completely different from the head shape of the female Love Bug - and it is the typical body shape of some species of little black flies. So... what is it?
Any Entomologists out there who can give a positive identity to this mystery man would make my day !!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Green Your Thanksgiving

One of the things that always got me all humbug about holidays is the gross amount of waste they cause... cheap processed foods, factory farm turkeys, pesticide laden dishes, throw away napkins, and the encouragement to stuff as much in your face as possible. Not to mention the traveling factor - it's enough to get an eco minded person in a spiral of rebellious guilt.

Here's a few simple tips to keep your holiday waste in check:

1. FREE RANGE! Whatever animal you are eating this Thanksgiving, make sure it had a blissful life on the farm and not a cramped diseased one in a cage. Buy a smaller turkey (cause you know there is always too much leftover) or go Vegan and eat some tofurky. :)

2. ORGANIC (and Local)! Have everyone pitch in their own dish or two and buy organic and local. With the whole family making the meal pot luck style each one will have enough extra cash to make sure the food is chem & GMO free.

3. RE-USABLE ACCESSORIES! Make sure you are not using throw away plates, napkins & forks (unless you get the kind that biodegrade). Soak your dishes in a little warm water before washing so less running water is wasted in trying to get them clean.

4. SAFE CLEAN UP! When it's all over try simple non toxic cleaning tricks like lemons, vinegar & hot water - rather then grabbing the usual harsh chemical soaps & sprays that are polluting our water and soil (and your lungs).

PS- If ya gotta decorate ya house with little turkeys and such- get eco crafty and make your own from things you have around the house rather then getting sucked into the weird walmart world of plastic decor!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

DIY: Organic Wool & Cotton Ear Warmer

I am pretty sure tolerating the cold weather is not in my DNA - as a pure bred Cajun from New Orleans dealing with winter just isn't part of my genetic make up. When the frigid Smokey Mountain wind blows my ears burn like they are on fire, sometimes even with a good winter hat. So I decided to crochet myself a very organic, cute, and warm headband to give my ears that extra protection they have been yearning (burning) for.
This pattern was completely free style - I started with a chain stitch that measured from ear to ear, then did a row of double crochet in the chain. Once I had this foundation, I did a variation on picot & filet crochet which included basic chain, single & double crochet knots. Try to make up your own, it's alot of fun!

After making the lacy pattern, I double crocheted all around the edges from one end to the other - adding a few extra double crochets to make make the knots turn the corners. Do this for a few rows, until you have a good width that'll cover your ears properly. Once this is done, you can add some simple ties on the side (see below) by doing two single crochets attached to the middle side, that turn into just a chain stitch after approx. 5 of them are in place. To make the little pom poms cut a pile of yarn pieces the same size then tie the end of the strap around the middle of the pile.
Even though the yarn is a warm organic wool (purchased at the local yarn store here in Asheville), I wanted it to be nearly invincible to the cold wind - so I added some organic cotton sweatshirt fabric (also locally purchased as scrap fabric). Simply cut out the fabric to match the double crochet area...but not to go under the lace.

Then use a good (not too tight) zig zag stitch to hold it in place.

YAY! On less cold days I can sport this baby by itself... and on killer true winter days I am going to combine this with my wool hat! It's really easy to make and I did it all in one night!!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Toots Uses A Reusable Shopping Bag

My kitty Toots really enjoys this lightweight organic cotton reusable shopper sent to me by designer Meadow. :) I cut a little hole for her to peek out of, since I knew I could sew it back together later... that is if she doesn't want to travel this way everyday. She loved it and purrrred happily in her faux womb.
( Don't mind me being in pajamas/long johns ... it's snowing today and I didn't think I needed to get dressed.) Isn't Toots the cutest !??!

Organic Cotton, Alpaca Wool & Hemp Hats

Winter is really here! I woke up this morning to a white snowy world which amazingly makes even the driveway beautiful. When I used to live in NYC the snow would even make piles of rubble from demolished buildings look like a peaceful mountain. Last night I walked to the health food grocery without a hat on but luckily had a hoody - I can't believe it's already cold enough to need a scarf & hat!
Winter hats are one of the most popular winter items at The Oko Box , prices ranging from a super de duper low $9 up to a still low $30 - this makes giving & wearing green a whole lot easier! I wear the Spider Wool Hat (4th picture below)- and it rocks!
Click on any of the pictures above to start shopping for some great winter accessories now! :)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Multiple Chemical Sensitivities

One of the main reasons I started my organic clothing store was because I learned how the fashion industry was using chemicals & common allergens to stiffen the clothes, strong dyes that were poisonous to our skin & the earth, and fabrics made of chemicals (polyester) or sprayed with chemicals (cotton). Being that I have chemical sensitivities regular 'mall' clothing became something I could not tolerate. I have many customers who also have MCS, who can only wear organic cotton with clay dye, color grown cotton, or dye free - because even the low impact dyes have enough chemical compounds in them to bother people.
I saw this great, sad and very validating video today on MCS - mainly focusing on those brave folks who fought in the Gulf War or experienced 9/11, only to now find they can not go near perfume, smoke, household cleaners, etc without getting extremely ill. Many doctors have tried to blow off MCS as depression or even as some psychosis. As evidence mounts, people start to listen, and researchers unveil the toxicity in many products we've been told were "safe" - the dark cloud of misconception over MCS is being lifted.

Here's a quick list of commonly used toxic products which are disabling to those with MCS:
1. Perfume and Cologne

2. household cleaners (sometimes even the eco ones!)

3. car exhaust

4. scented body care products (like soap and shampoo)

5. smoke (cigs, cigars, trees burning, etc...)

6. new plastic

7. air freshener (spray or plug in)

8. detergent

9. paint (house and art), wood stain, solvents

10. bug spray/pesticides (from a bottle or on food)

These all emit some level of toxicity that effects everyone's health (even if your symptoms aren't as extreme those with MCS) so reduce (second choice) or replace with a healthy version (first choice)!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sewing With Local Organic Cotton Scraps

This eco sweater is make from approximately 12 different scraps of locally woven organic cotton. The eco fashion store downtown (in Asheville NC) sells cheap little bundles of organic cotton, sometimes it's all rolled up and you don't know exactly what you are getting. In this case I ended up with 2 awesome bundles of fleece & sweatshirt fabrics that are now perfect for winter weather! It was really difficult to come up with a whole sweater pattern with so many scraps - so I sewed many of the panels together to make on flat piece of fabric to start with. Don't mind my cold hard facial expression or the funky wet hair ;) ... I am wearing a tank top under the sweater since it is off the shoulder, the front bodice is made up of 6 panels.I made a tie that was attached to the sides in such a way, that if i wanted to wear the sweater in reverse I could just turn it around and still use the ties to make it more fitted. I used a tight zig zag stitch to keep the seams tight, and simply sewed the panels one on top the other rather then creating hidden seams. Gives it a eco crafty look that I LOVE! :)

ON SALE: Organic Clothing For A Great Price

If you are looking for a great deal on organic clothing & accessories I just marked down bunches of goodies at The Oko Box! Organic dresses, winter warmers, and fabulous French organic denim all for half the price. Check out the SALE section and the Under $50 section for some sweet prices on ethical wear. Why wait till after Thanksgiving to have a sale, when you can get shopping done before the time crunch!


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Green Gifts Make The Holidays (and future) Bright

Giving green gets easier every year. The days of earth friendly fashion being dorky, scratchy or potato sack-esque are long over - now you can give great holiday gifts that mean something special for the whole planet. YAY!
Eco Accessories are the perfect way to get multiple gifts for a more affordable price - starting as low as $8 and up you can find the hemp shopper, hand woven hats & scarves, organic cable knit gloves, bamboo hoody, hemp slippers, eco lingerie and organic sneakers!

Click on any of the pictures above and go straight to holiday shopping!

Eco Lingerie: Clare Bare's NEW Holiday Collection!

Clare Bare rocks! Not only does she use upcycled eco minded fabrics with organic cotton liners but her designs are in a retro funky league of their own. These awesome designs are now at The Oko Box - and I think they are the perfect holiday gift for the one you love... a gift that will keep on giving right back to you! ;) These are special edition holiday sets that come with the adorable matching sleep/naughty eyemask for the Evergreen Set & Pink Present Set!!! (The quantities are very limited due to the vintage fabrics... so get yours before the crazy holiday crunch!)