Twelve Endocrine Disruptors to Avoid

Yesterday, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a “dirty dozen” list of endocrine disruptors to avoid, similar to their dirty dozen list of produce to buy organic.

Endocrine disruptors, quite simply, are chemicals that interfere with hormones in the body. They’re particularly scary because very small amounts can have very big effects, particularly during development.  

You and I don’t have unlimited time to investigate every single ingredient in our shampoo, so it is great to have a list like this to know what to look for, just like we know to buy strawberries and apples organic but not worry too much about avocados.

Most of the endocrine disruptors on the list are names you will recognize, big baddies like lead and dioxin, but some you may not recognize by name.  The list describes in plain English what is so bad about these chemicals and gives suggestions for avoiding them; most enter our body either through food or water.  It’s definitely worth taking a look at. Continue reading

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A Chemist’s Response to “How Junk Food Can End Obesity”

This post is for Steph, who wanted to know what I though about the Atlantic’s July/Aug cover article. 

Last March, my mother was oh so excited that McDonalds’ Shamrock Shakes were back, but I spoiled her fast food party plans with this info graphic on the ingredients in one of those processed premixed cup-full-of-chemicals.

Just look at this image, and you will never want one again, not because of the calories, carbs, fat, and sugar, but because of all that other crap in there too. I prefer my milkshakes made with good old ice cream and milk, hold the polysorbate 80 please.

As an environmental chemist and foodie, I have a lot to say about David H. Freedman’s Atlantic piece “How Junk Food Can End Obesity.”  His main argument is that we can solve the obesity crisis in America by putting pressure on the fast and processed food industry to be healthier, rather than shunning it altogether.  The nineteen page article also devotes a significant amount of space to disparaging the grassroots real food movement and getting the science of common food additives disturbingly wrong. Continue reading

Product Review: Safe and Effective Shower Products that we LOVE

Guess what everybody? After a few flops, I’ve finally found a few body products that I like!

Finding safe, effective, and affordable body products has been quite a challenge.  (If you missed why I am doing this, read this.) Many of the most promising looking products are stupidly expensive, and cheaper ones tend to be the most toxic.  Walking into the body products section of Whole Foods is so intimidating when I don’t know what I want, and we have spent hours standing in those isles looking up the safety of products/ingredients on our phones before buying anything.  Hopefully this post will help save you some shampoo isle angst. Continue reading

Composting at Olde Dartmouth Farm

This morning, Taylor and I visited a farm near my parents’ house in Massachusetts with a huge composting operation.  My father bought some fresh compost recently for his garden and brought us along to take a look at where it came from.  The main operation is a horse farm, run by the wife of the farmer we met with. They board 18 horses and give riding lessons.  The farmer, Tom, cleans out the stables every day and uses the manure to make compost.  He has four huge piles, and all he does is move the decomposing material from site to site every few months, which turns it over and allows it to air out.  The last pile is rich, dark, and earthy smelling.  He sells the compost to local gardeners, farmers, and businesses.

Tom also told us about his other green practices on his land, which he is hoping to improve with grants from the government.  The land is sloped to reclaim all rainwater that falls on it, forcing it into a little pond.  Tom is hoping to build a basin next to the piles of compost to let the water settle and filter before transferring it to the pond, and then he is planning organic gardens for the land around the pond.

He mentioned that he had wanted to install a huge wind turbine to generate power, but his neighbors made so much of a fuss about it being unsightly and the vibrations being disruptive that he gave up.  This is happening all over the area because a few poorly engineered projects have given wind a bad reputation.

Visiting this farm has inspired us to get to work on our own compost. (Worms are next!) It’s comforting to stumble upon green practices and people who really believe sustainability is important. Hopefully we can visit more green or organic farms in the future.

The Little Things

Lately, I’ve been feeling frustrated in my quest to “green” my life, and I realized today it’s because the desire to green me has turned into a desire to green the whole world. I want so badly to convince others to believe in what I doing, to understand that we’re destroying our bodies and the environment without even knowing it.  In my attempts to thoroughly research everything I want to blog about, I get distracted by trying to find a perfect solution. I need to remind myself that the little things do make a difference even though they can never be perfect and that eventually I will figure out what to do with all of this knowledge.

In the spirit of making the little things count, here are some of the ways Taylor and I have greened our lives recently:

  • This past weekend, I roasted a whole chicken. A two and half lb. free range organic chicken cost about the same as buying just one lb. of chicken breasts, and we got a fancy dinner out of it, sandwiches the next day, and about 2 quarts of stock to make soup. Buying a whole bird is more sustainable because processing and packaging are minimized. Plus, it was local!

 chicken Continue reading