Only last week I wrote about being a non-consumer for Earth Day . . . And I did celebrate Earth Day this year by unplugging (mostly), not buying anything, cooking nourishing meals, and getting outside as much as possible. It is always a great time to sort out my priorities, and I usually find a bit more balance between my ideals as a green diva and the reality of the world I try to live in harmony with. Let’s face it, this is what makes me a green diva!
I strive to be more conscious about everything I do and the potential impact it has on me, my family, my community, animals and ultimately the earth. Seems lofty, right? Well, thankfully I don’t have to live off the grid and make everything by hand, which is an awesome concept, but probably not realistic for me at this time. There are companies making progress in providing healthier, more sustainably manufactured products that keep people and planet higher on the priority list.
We get offered products to review EVERY day — some rather large and expensive things like cars, which are fun reviews, but most are practical, every-day things. We have gotten backed up with a nice bounty of great things we chose to review and play with, and finally spent some time focusing on most of them. We decided to dedicate a show to sharing about our favorites, and well, we just didn’t have enough time, so there is another roundup coming soon!
Important note: we are never compensated for the reviews, and we only review products that we like and want to recommend. So, while we don’t get paid cash, we do have a lot of fun and hope to offer some good ideas for our listeners to try new healthy products that are good for us and better for the environment.
I will list some of the products from this week’s review show, but to see the full post by our awesome intern GD Jamie (this was her last show and we will definitely miss her – great job, we love you Jamie)
Pure Sky Living offers an alternative to reusable paper towels. They are durable, 100% all-natural cotton towels that will allow you to finally kick paper towels — and save a few trees! When you buy them just remember to wash them in cold water a couple times, so they become more absorbent.
Wean Green is a Canadian company dedicated to providing safe and environmentally friendly products. There glass food containers are created for babies and kids, but can be used by anyone. They are handy and so much better than plastic containers. An added bonus is that Wean Green is a partner of 1% of the Planet, an organization dedicated to building and supporting an alliance of businesses financially committed to created a healthy planet.
The Original Green Pan
The GreenPan uses Thermolon, a non-stick technology that is heat resistant and will not release toxic fumes. GreenPan products are also cadmium and lead free and emit 60% less CO2 emissions producing Thermolon than traditional coatings. Green Diva Meg got to try the egg expert which makes the perfect breakfast egg.
Balance Bar was one of the originators of energy bars and sent us their new Balance Bar Dark. We were like locusts and descended upon the box as if we hadn’t eaten in 17 years — I think we loved these. We got to sample the dark chocolate crunch, the chocolate peanut, and the dark chocolate coconut. Green Diva Mizar barely even let the other Green Divas try the dark chocolate coconut bars because she loved them so much.
The foundation of Bixby Bar ($15.99 for 4 bars) is pure chocolate, completely free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), preservatives or added sugars. All their chocolate is combined with exotic spices, healthy nuts and dried fruits. All ingredients are natural or organic and delicious!
For the last two weeks the Green Divas having been munching away on Crunchies ($4.99). We were lucky enough to be sent the Roasted Veggies and Tropical Fruit variety but they have many more and they are all freeze-dried, sugar free, gluten free, with no preservatives and high in fiber. Just beware they are most definitely crunchy!
After Green Diva Meg wrote about earl grey tea, Numi Tea sent her a package of their Aged Earl Grey, which has already disappeared because she loved it so much. Numi is 100% natural, organic, and uses eco-responsible packaging.
SHOES (green divas LOVE their shoes!)
Naya sent me a pair of sandals, which didn’t exactly fit, so I gave them to our intern GD Jamie as a goodbye gift — she earned them! These shoes don’t compromise style, they are fashionable and environmentally friendly, because Naya uses materials that reduce environmental impact. They will definitely go with any summer outfit.
Teysha sent an adorable pair of flats to me, and they are my new go-to summer shoe. The shoes are unique, handmade in Panama and Colombia and help to create jobs for women, who might not have jobs otherwise. A portion of their proceeds got to Global Village Initiative which works to incubate social enterprises, provide educational opportunities, increase food security, create access to technologies, and off set their environmental impact through reforestation and sustainable development.
I was sitting at my desk last week staring at my tea cup, which is ALWAYS full of some form of earl grey tea during the daylight hours. My love of this tea goes back far enough that I’m not really sure when I became hopelessly hooked, but it was probably my summer in England in the early 80s. THAT is a whole other story, but I know it was before I met and dated my wild Englishman for several years in the later 80s, because to my shock and horror he drank plain ole Lipton’s (although he did school me on the proper way to prepare a pot of tea – yes, there was a cozy involved).
Tea is one of those commodities that should be subject to Fair Trade standards and in my humble opinion should be organic and non-GMO as well — for the enjoyment and health of the tea drinker as well as those who work on the farms, which are often in faraway places where the potential for unsafe and unfair practices has been common.
It was in my afternoon early grey haze that I pondered the journey this tea made to my pantry and while I knew the brand I was drinking was all of the above (fair trade, organic, non-GMO), I wondered about how some of the other popular earl grey brands would compare . . . ooooo! An idea?
GD Mizar, Gina and I decided to each do some research on one popular brand and see what we could come up with. Because there are literally THOUSANDS of types of tea, from white to green to black to red and too many herbal and flavor combinations to try to categorize, we decided to just focus on one type of tea. As I was writing this, one additional company, which is worthy of a mention got my attention with a timely press release, so there will be 4 brands featured.
The main questions we asked were:
1. Where was the tea grown?
2. How was the tea grown? Using chemical fertilizers and pesticides or organically or other?
3. Who actually grew and harvested the tea, and how were they treated?
4. How much does it cost?
but first . . .
Who is this Earl Grey anyway?
The 2nd Earl Grey was prime minister of England back in the 1830s, when tea drinking was already a national obsession. There are several stories about the origins of Earl Grey tea in England. One debunked legend that one of the Earl’s men saved a young Chinese boy from drowning and the grateful father presented the Earl with tea that was flavored with the oil of bergamot, which is an aromatic citrus fruit — a small orange tree (Citrus bergamia). Of course, as it turns out the Earl never went to China, so there goes that fun story. It is likely that a Chinese diplomat presented the then prime minister with a gift of this specially flavored tea, and apparently he liked it. Jacksons of Piccadilly claims to have been given the original recipe by the Earl himself back in 1830, and continue to produce it as it was originally formulated.
There are many variations, like one of my favorites, lady grey, which is generally earl grey tea with lavender and Seville oranges. But, if you are like me, you become accustomed to your favorite blend.
A little more about black tea in general
Most of us know that tea originated in China as a medicinal drink way back around 1500 – 1050 BC. Tea played and continues to play many roles in Asian cultures from a formal tea ceremony that originated in China, but was developed by Buddhist monks in Japan into a mindful art. India, which is now well-known for growing some of the most popular brands of tea in the west, was introduced to tea by the British, who were fed up with the Chinese monopoly of this addictive commodity, in the 1800s.
Tea was introduced to western culture via Portugal via priests and traders who had dealings with the Chinese in the 16th century. The English, who elevated tea drinking to a cultural obsession, didn’t catch on till the 17th century. In my research, I found a page devoted to the history of tea in England that is pretty informative for anyone who is interested. Then you have the defiant Americans, who were as attached to their tea as the Brits (remember, they were still English at that point), who got all uppity because of the oppressive British tax on tea and dumped a mess of tea from English ships into Boston harbor in 1773 making tea (or the addiction to it) a catalyst in a historic revolution.
The many colors of tea
Black, green and white tea is made from the camillia sinensis plant. Their ultimate color is determined by how they are processed.
I’ll take mine black – the leaves are crushed and fermented. Black tea is fully oxidized. Black tea contains theaflavins and thearubigens, which help to reduce bad cholesterol and lower the risk of stroke and heart attack. And, of course it has 2 to 3 times more caffeine (unless it is a decaffeinated variety).
Go green – the leaves are withered and steamed. Green tea is un-oxidized, which is why it retains its color. Green tea has loads of a powerful antioxidant, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is lost in the fermentation process of black tea.
White tea? – well it isn’t actually white, but because it is made from the buds and the leaves and is oxidated in a certain way, it has a silvery appearance. It’s all good. And while it has all the health benefits of its black and green siblings, it has the most antioxidants.
Health benefits of black tea
There are literally thousands of claims and studies about all varieties of tea and it’s benefits to our health – well, we have to rationalize this socially acceptable addiction, right? From increasing cardiovascular function to decreasing chances of many cancers to its effectiveness in treating intestinal stress because of its high level of tannins, tea also is credited with some surprising things.
Did you know . . .
black tea prevents tooth decay because of the fluoride it contains
black tea is loaded with antioxidants, such as flavonoids, and is known to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, preventing damage in both the bloodstream and at artery walls, and lowering the risk of heart disease
a compound in black tea called TF-2 causes some cancer cells to go into apoptosis (cancer cell suicide – yes!) while normal cells stay healthy
all tea has phytochemicals. studies show that tea drinkers have stronger bones than non-tea drinkers, and these phytochemicals are the likely cause
the list goes on and on and on . . .
Here’s what we found out about
4 different brands of earl grey tea
No one was assigned this one, but I got a press release at the last minute and I have always liked Numi teas, so I asked if they had an early grey we could feature and they did. I haven’t tried this one yet, but hope to soon!
Where is it grown? Numi works with the Sewpur Tea Estate, a cooperative consisting of more than 330 workers in Assam, India.
How is it grown? Certified Organic and Verified NON-GMO
Who grows it? Sewpur Tea Estate has been working with Numi for two years. Fair Trade funds have been used to build a new school and provide scholarships; distribute fuel-efficient cooking stoves (chullas) and mosquito nets; build new roads; and develop women’s empowerment programs.
This is my current go-to tea that started this fun project. Love the taste, love the price, and I love paisley designs. Here’s a silly pic I took of the inner bag, which is plastic, but I can’t help admire the design: anyway, about the tea . . .
Where is it grown?
How is it grown?
Organic. Only natural, approved fertilizers are used
Where is it grown? Kenya, Sri Lanka, China, some is even grown in Poland. Everything is processed, packaged and produced in the UK
How is it grown? The majority of their tea is conventional and grown with the use of pesticides, but they do have an organic blend
Who grows it? They weren’t clear on exactly how the conventional tea growers were treated, but they stressed their new fair-trade certified varieties meeting the EPP (Environmentally Preferable Purchasing) standards.
How much does it cost?*
$3.00 – 25 tea bags
*as I wrote this question down for these last two that are not organic or fair trade certified, I wish I had the time, energy and brain power to calculate the REAL cost of using chemical fertilizers and pesticides — for the people working on the farms and the environment. Also, what is value of a worker, who is fairly treated and is afforded reasonable living conditions? There are costs for the abuse of people, whether it is economic, ethical, spiritual or cultural but I believe it all of those. I hope that the demand for safe, sustainable tea (and food) becomes great enough that no matter WHAT the cost, it is the standard rather than a specialty.
When did we start naming winter storms, and who the heck came up with this name anyway? Hard to think about a cute little colorful fish whipping the Northeast into such a frenzy. I don’t generally panic when it comes to snow storms – have lived in NJ or New England for my entire life. I feel like an old geezer, “I remember the blizzard of ’93 . . . we had 3 feet of snow and there were 7 foot snow drifts up against the doors and windows . . . ”
My husband and I LOVE a good snow storm, so we were almost disappointed that we only got a foot of snow!
The only bummer is that I’m in the middle of a week-long test drive of the adorable and surprisingly lovable Ford C-Max Energi and while I’m not the least bit worried about driving in the snow – in MY OWN car – I didn’t want to take any chances with someone else’s car. Not everyone is confident or skilled at driving in the snow and even if I am a particularly good snow-driver, there are those times when the dope with the rear-wheel tank applies the breaks at the wrong time and you find yourself helpless as you see one of these vehicles with their driver’s wide-eyed surprise sliding sideways towards you . . . ahhhhhh. Nope. Keeping this little cute car safely parked till we get the roads cleared up properly.
But, before Nemo, we had a particularly awesome show with an all-girl Green Diva studio. Unfortunately Green Dude Eco-Ed Schwartz, who was supposed to be IN the studio with us for the first time, couldn’t make it because he was too busy driving the porcelain bus (icky flu and we thanked him for not trying to be stoic and for staying home!). Sorry Ed! Feel better soon! But we got to talk to Green Diva Correspondent Maggie Miller from Georgia about the amazing eco-community of Serenbe near Atlanta.
Just before the show, we all got a treat and got to go cruising in the Ford C-Max Energi GD Meg’s been sporting around in this week.
Our only hit of testosterone came in the form of our wonderful friend and green dude, Rodman Schley, host of the TV series, The Urban Conversion. Rodman called in to talk about their fantastic adventure to the White House!
With Valentines Day upon us its pretty hard to escape all those heart-shaped, pink and red candies. While they may seem temping, many of them contain GMOs. GMO Inside is leading the push to get Hersey and Mars to stop making candy with GMOs in 2013, or at least to start labeling their products as containing GMOs.
GMO Inside is a coalition of businesses and organizations that support a healthy, GMO-free food system. Their most recent campaign is aimed at Hersey and Mars, that combined comprise nearly 70 percent of the U.S. chocolate market. Both companies have also spent more than a million dollars to oppose GMO labeling in California in the November 2012 election.
Because GMO corn, sugar and soy, which are commonly used for many of Hershey’s and Mars candy products, it may be wise to avoid them if you are trying to minimize or eliminate your consumption of GMOs.
Here are a couple of popular Valentine’s Day candies that contain GMOs:
Reese’s Peanut Butter Filled Hearts – BUMMER*
Valentine’s colored M&M’s
GMO Inside released a Valentine’s Day Villains shopping guide for consumers who want to avoid giving GMO treats to their honeys.
Our Green Diva Correspondent this week Maggie Miller, who called in from Georgia. GD Maggie is a fabulous artist who’s philosophy is to keep her art eco-friendly and sustainable. Some of her designs are in the form of reclaimed and beautifully painted old furniture. See her work on her Etsy site.
GD Maggie told us about the wonderful and interesting town of Serenbe in the heart of Chattahoochee Hill Country, which is about 40,000 acres of rural Georgia and pretty much the last undeveloped stretches of land in the Atlanta area. The founders of Serenbe realized that they had 1,000 acres, which would allowed them the opportunity to create a conscious community — an eco-village that harkins back to the simpler days and is designed for small community living.
This community bases itself on being completely sustainable. According to their website they hold the notion that a community is a living part of its natural surroundings, not something to be at nature’s expense.
One of the coolest parts to this eco-haven is Serenbe Farms — a 25-acre working, organic farm which provides organic produce throughout Atlanta and also to the local restaurants of Serenbe.
The Green Divas Go Cruisin’
GD Meg’s had a special ride this week from the smart folks at Ford, who thought she would look adorable and probably fall in love with their new C-Max Energi. This C-Max is a plug-in hybrid and indeed Ford will have a hard time taking this car back!
Check out GD Meg’s posts her experience with this Ford C-Max Energi:
Today the rest of us Green Divas got to join in on the fun. Green Diva Mizar took the wheel and went joy riding around Boonton Township. Green Diva Meg, Mizar, and Jamie all agreed that this was one cool car.
The car also drove well — it had great pick up and was super quiet. The coolest feature was its backing up camera which shows you through lines exactly where to go and to not go. So, for all you people who can’t back up to save their lives this is the car you need to get.
This week Green Diva (and re-purposing queen) Mizar gave us a great way to use all those fallen tree limbs — thank you new stormy climate! This has been the year of the storms and trees suffer many casualties. GD Mizar’s DIY this week offers one solution by giving instructions on how to make coat racks out of fallen branches. To learn more see GD Mizar’s latest DIY post on making a coat rack from fallen tree branches.
The host of Urban Conversion (and one of our favorite semi-regular guests), Rodman Schley called-in this week to update us on his recent trip to the White House. Rodman along with his wife and kids were given a tour by the White House Assistant Chef, Sam Kass who is also the Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives at the White House. Rodman informed us that only a small portion of the vegetables and fruits grown in the White House Garden are served to the President and his family. Most of it is donated to Miriams Kitchen, a local D.C. soup kitchen. The idea is that everyone should have the same access to the same kinds of food no matter what their socio-economic background is.
Had an excellent ramblin holidaze show this week in the Green Divas Radio Show studio and am thrilled we were able to record AND podcast finally! Even though I was on the tail end of the flu and was perhaps a bit fuzzy (at least vocally), we managed to get some timely, useful and relevant information in. We may have had more fun than format, but hey, we’re all getting into the spirit – or at least trying to – right? If you want some free entertainment with your green holiday ideas, please listen to the latest podcast of the Green Divas Radio Show.
Otherwise, here are some of the highlights . . .
Green Diva Foodie Fun
Green Divas Mizar, Meg and Jamie each offered one of their family favorite holiday recipes. GD Jamie talked about her father’s traditional latke recipe. GD Meg offered up her warm red cabbage salad recipe. And GD Mizar got us really hungry with her creme caramel recipe . . . Check out the full post for all the Green Diva Foodie Holiday Fav Recipes!
Green Diva Mizar’s DIY: Earth-Friendly Holiday Wrapping
Feature Interview: Sarah Finnie Robinson of Practically Green
This week we were thrilled to have Sarah Finnie Robinson of PracticallyGreen.com on the air with us. PracticallyGreen.com is a digital tool that makes being sustainable easy, fun and stress-free. They offer common sense ways to be more eco-conscience without having to go to crazy extremes.
One great feature of the site is the ‘Actions’ feature, which provides users with really simple and practical (practically green, right?) ideas for making green changes.
PracticallyGreen also offers a product section, where they do extensive background homework on every product, so that us consumers can have some confidence that their ‘green’ purchase isn’t green marketing hype or green washing.
Some criteria for the products found on PracticallyGreen.com . . .
They have to be energy-efficient and reduce greenhouse gas emissions
The product must reduce its water usage
Products that claim to be organic must be certified by the USDA
The products may not contain artificial colors, flavors, processed sweeteners, preservatives, and other chemicals or highly processed additives
Morning shows are fun, but they are kind of rough on a Monday morning! I have a new respect for all those morning show professionals who do it 5 days a week!
We had a great time with Ebru Today talking about getting greener in the kitchen. I kept my tips to things that were relatively easy, low or no-cost or in fact saved money. My philosophy on having a Green Diva kitchen is pretty simple and involves for basic ideas: a Green Diva Kitchen should . . .
produce yummy food
Watch me having fun on Ebru TV and learn some simple tips for having a greener kitchen:
6 Easy Ways to Have a Green Diva Kitchen
1. Use Cloth Napkins
Paper products currently account for one-third of the municipal waste in the U.S. – great case for using cloth napkins and dishtowels
Paper products: paper v. cloth napkins – manufacturing cloth napkins takes a little more energy, however to wash and reuse them multiple times makes up for it and saves a LOT of trees
you can also easily make your own from remnants
2. Buy More in Bulk
Buying bulk for dry goods can save on packaging AND money! Example: Organic dried cranberries on average are 98% less expensive than their packaged counterpart
Between a quarter and a third of all domestic waste is packaging: much of it food packaging