Acure in Accra

Hello fellow green girls and lovely readers!

I am checking in from Accra, Ghana, where I am currently studying abroad. Though I am learning more than I could ever have imagined, most of this illumination is coming from beyond the classroom- where I am interacting with people, tasting food, observing all sorts of cultural practices, and forging connections that I hadn’t realized were already there.

From the standpoint of sustainable development, Accra, as a burgeoning city of international and economic importance, has been extremely interesting to witness, since the normal conventions that protect the natural environment, prevent disposal and buildup of excess waste, and are not easily identifiable here. I can and will write another post entirely on this matter!

For now, I wanted to talk about a way in which I’ve brought a little bit of my own eco practices to Ghana, ones that stay with me no matter where I am.

Last week, I backpacked around Ghana with friends for my spring break. It was a lot of travelling coupled with a LOT of things to see, from the west coast, to the central cities, to the north, where we arrived at our destination of Mole National Park, Ghana’s largest wildlife reserve, (elephants, monkeys and warthogs, oh my!)

Along the way, we took many a bucket bath, one of my new favorite forms of getting clean: you know exactly how much water you’re using (and conserving) because all of it is present in the bucket you poured right in front of your feet. Bucket baths outside are even nicer- you get bathed by the sun and the water all at once!

No matter my location or what kind of shower I am taking, I am sure to always have the products that make me and my environment feel our best, with a mission I feel proud about, ingredients that are socially responsible and good for the health of everyone involved.

Acure Organics is a line of body and hair care that uses only organic and fair trade ingredients, free from animal testing, parabens, sulfates, and other harmful synthetic chemicals and preservatives. Naturally Acure makes me feel and as clean and fresh as I possibly can, since you can’t get much more pure than the mission they stand by!

Beyond the content of the products that you put on your skin, the packaging is always 100% biodegradable, 100% BPA free, with cartons made from 80% recycled paperboard, and using vegetable based inks, among many other sustainable components. The Acure office is 100% solar and wind powered, free from paper waste, and complete with its own composting bins.

Acure strives to highlight the important connection between our bodies and our environment, planting a tree with every body lotion sold, and initiating projects like showyourfaceproject.com, to empower young consumers to know the importance of their choices, and make them count.

Since living in the dry heat of Accra, I’ve been using the Argan Oil for my body and face several times a week to replenish the moisture that’s stripped away. I love the body and face lotions, and use Acure facial cleansers every day. Essentially my body is refreshed with Acure during every stage of the day, and I really couldn’t be happier to support a company such as this one, which works to make the environment as clean as it makes my body.

How do you use Acure?

Acure Morrocan Argan Oil + Argan Stem Cell Shampoo and Conditioner  (& small facial cleanser sample) on the ledge of my bucket bath
Acure Morrocan Argan Oil + Argan Stem Cell Shampoo and Conditioner (& travel sized facial cleanser sample) on the ledge of the communal bucket bath area in Larabanga, Ghana
story1

Green U Part 3: Storytelling

 

My life is a story, your life is a story, and the earth is a story. We’re all simultaneously part of our own stories and each other’s. I’ve been unknowingly learning about the art of storytelling my entire life, but it wasn’t until I took an American English class in the 11th grade that I began to learn about storytelling from a more intentional standpoint.

Whenever I think of storytelling or a “Story of Self,” I remember Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” composed of 52 parts that he included in the 1891 publishing of his book Leaves of Grass. My English teacher assigned us to write our own “Song of Myself,” and mine is far too juvenile immature embarrassing underdeveloped to be shared here, but I will give you a small glimpse of 16-year old Julia: “I have a film projector in my mind that can only play back certain clips over and over and over again.” I find that line to be a fairly accurate representation of me in my current state. Anyway, I didn’t realize storytelling could be a tactic in the environmental movement until I noticed that a workshop on this subject was being held at the Southeastern Students for Renewable Energy Conference that I attended in Asheville, NC back in 2011. It was offered again the following year in Tallahassee, FL. Furthermore, ever since I began involving myself in the Real Food Committee at the University of Alabama, we’ve underscored the value of sharing stories and it’s been a part of every one of our events on and off campus. I now believe storytelling to be a pivotal tool in building and sustaining community. Because what is community? Isn’t it in its most basic definition, a set of connected relationships based on one or more common ideas and beliefs? And what are real relationships? A healthy relationship can only exist in accountability, encouragement, and trust. So what does Green U have to do with all of this?

story2
PGC 2013 finalists participate in roundtable discussions with speakers

Green U reawakened my fascination with the power of a story. I have developed a deep passion for hearing and sharing stories – both my own and those of others, and Green U articulated why and in what capacity I want to pursue my passion. Each and every speaker shared their passion through their stories. And this is why I learned so much. We will never reach people and achieve true solidarity and community without vulnerability, which requires a certain amount of trust. These speakers trusted us and trusted themselves enough to share pieces of themselves, and ultimately this vulnerability on their part opened up the conversation for genuine discussion and the bridging of worthwhile relationships.

A few stories really hit home for me.

First, Renee Sharp shared the successes of the Environmental Working Group over the past few months and years. I learned the importance of continuous action. The organization didn’t stall or wait, rather, they continued to push for more research and more change despite their many successes. This “what’s next?” mindset is one I think we can all aim to embrace.

Second, Nick Magel of Causes outlined his personal journey and how he’s been applying what he has learned about activism and engagement into his own life. Just as newcomers to civic engagement and leadership have to find a starting point in the movement, grow in involvement and knowledge, and then continue to evolve into a deeper understanding and a deeper commitment, Nick has grown in a similar manner: he’s been involved in activism and various campaigns for much of his life, but now that he’s working at Causes and overseeing many different campaigns, he is helping others be successful in their own initiatives using the tactics and strategies that he has learned over the years. Now his interests have broadened and he pursues engagement, empowerment, and collaboration among all members of environmental and social campaigns.

Finally, I was inspired by NRDC Youth Coordinator Rob Friedman’s openness in sharing why and how he is passionate about protecting the planet and its people. He shared a moving story of his leadership growth through experience and his travels and conversations with people of many different perspectives. There is not much I love more than hearing people talk about their past and how they have processed what they have learned, and Rob did just that.

Many others, namely Marci Zaroff, Erin Schrode, Jessica Shade, and Anna Cummins also shared their perspectives on the importance of stories. Honestly, I wish I could have sat down one-on-one with each of these incredible people to just listen and open up meaningful conversation about lessons learned and pivotal or touching memories from their lives.

Green U 2013 reminded me of my passion for conversation, relationships, and how perspective is one of the most important tools we have.

story3

So these are my questions: what are the stories that you want to share? How have your learned from your interactions with people in your life? What are you doing to open conversation in the future? Are you engaged in positive, meaningful relationships with the people in your life? Think it over, write in your journal, call your mom, post here, do what you want, but YOU have a lifetime of stories to share. Don’t forget that YOUR perspective is unique and powerful.  Today, I’ll leave you with a bit of wisdom from Rob Friedman. He wrote to me in an email a few days prior to Green U something that I think defines my purpose for this post and ultimately my passion in this movement as a whole. He told me, “most of my passions stem from the fact that as people, we’re all connected by our humanity, regardless of where we’re from. Finding the intersections that exist between us, as humans, is what’s going to get us to where we need to be in eliminating injustice.

Julia

IMG_1767

Green U Part 2: The Speakers

 

Saturday. My favorite day of all the days. Saturday is the day that all of the nationally and globally-recognized leaders share what they do and what they’ve learned. It’s kind of like TED talks on a more intimate level. After the speeches, finalists gather around tables and discuss what they’ve learned and the questions they have for the speakers. After three years of this, I’ve been able to talk with some fairly notable and world-changing people, from the lieutenant governor of California at the time to Adam Werbach (the youngest ever president of the Sierra Club) and many others. I want to share with you a few tidbits of what I learned this year.

Debbie Raphael, the director of Toxic Substance Control for the State of California, pulled at my heart strings when she passionately proclaimed that consumers shouldn’t have to be rich or educated to be healthy; in other words, socioeconomic status currently affects Americans disproportionally when it comes to interaction with toxic chemicals. We need to start asking the right questions, like “Is it necessary?” and “Are there safer alternatives?” when it comes to products on the market. Simply asking “Is it legal?” and “Is it safe?” perpetually stalls us in a paralysis of discussion. The answer to those questions is simply more study; consequentially, manufacturers have more time to continue producing their toxic products.

Anna Cummins, founder of the 5 Gyres Institute, gave us three bits of advice that I’ve known but never tire of hearing: 1) Find your tribe and your allies, 2) Expand your message through community and 3) You have the responsibility to research for yourself. We DO have the responsibility to research and I will NOT stop, not now or ever (Rob Friedman had a similar message, more on him later).

Amy Halman, President and formulator of Acure Organics Skincare (basically supplements + nutrients for skin), spoke into our vulnerabilities and gave us much-needed encouragement about our appearance and our mission. She reminded us that Hollywood and manufacturers do NOT define beauty. She kindly stated, “What makes you stand out is passion for yourself and for the planet. That makes you stand out more than outward appearance.” She motivated us and told us that the manufacturers have underestimated our passion and voice. OUR generation will make the difference and shift the power of money ($170 billion is spent globally on cosmetics each year) to support worthwhile products and organizations.

Next we heard from Nick Magel, the Campaign Manager for all things Environment, Food Safety, and Wildlife at Causes.com. I was given the opportunity to introduce him at GreenU, therefore, I was able to speak with him extensively before the conference began. During his presentation, he added a lot of emphasis to his Story of Self, which I’ll discuss in Part 3, but he decided to take action in protecting the environment because of his passion and love for the outdoors. He was inspired by the people that were directly affected by dirty practices like mountaintop removal and how they were self-organizing and taking on powerful corporations. He boiled it down to a few questions that we need to be asking ourselves – are our decisions helping our passion? How can we develop our lives and community in tandem? And are the people around you keeping you sustainable?

Renee Sharp, Director of Research at Environmental Working Group, followed with an appropriate message. Renee discussed all of the things that she and her fellow scientists are learning about toxins in our bodies, but she also encouraged us that data is accessible and relatable to our lives. She shared her mission to “make people think about toxic chemicals in a new way.” I was encouraged by her message because after every study that she explained she moved on to a new one. The “What’s next?” mindset was a pivotal part of her organization’s success and I believe this to be a powerful and essential mindset to our journeys. The EWG could have stopped and ridden the wave from each study but they decided not to be stagnant. They didn’t stop uncovering the truth, and we shouldn’t either.

Our next speaker spoke about corporate sustainability in an incredibly fascinating way. I always love to hear from the perspective of corporations aiming to be environmentally sustainable because it is the field that I probably understand the least. Steve Pinetti shared what he has learned in his years working for Kimpton hotels, the first models for “green” hotels. This hotel chain practices over 40 different ways of being sustainable and Steve has been at the forefront of it all. He noted the importance of refusing unsustainable practices (they’ve been turning away phonebooks for years), changing behavior rather than simply writing carbon offset checks, and sticking with a goal and seeing it through to completion. It took the Kimpton hotels 18 months to change their cleaning supplies because of the complexity of the issue, but they did it. Two things that he mentioned struck a chord: “Going green in business is not for the weak at heart,” and “Going green is a journey that never ends.” Couldn’t agree more.

We then heard from David Lannon, the VP of Operations at Whole Foods Market, discuss the WFM initiative to deeply embed every product and project with purpose. Whole Foods has stuck with the mantra “Hand Up Not Hand Out” in order to establish real and two-way relationships with producers and support interconnectedness within the communities that receive micro-loans from the grocer. He discussed the Café Ubuntu project, in which Kenyans own and operate a coffee bar in their country using coffee they’ve produced. Basically, coffee can change the world, Whole Foods has made it the centerpiece of sustainable livelihood, and it is important to set goals constantly with a “say YES” mindset.

After about an hour of roundtable discussion and a delicious lunch, we continued with speakers.

Erin Schrode, young eco-renaissance woman working for Havas International, shared her story of growing up as eco-child learning from the passion and activism of her mother, Judi Shils (founder of Teens Turning Green). She inspired us and said, “We move mountains speaking truths.” She also elaborated on the importance of asking, “Where am I supposed to go and where have I been?” We must remember where we have been and use what we’ve learned to approach the future with confidence and passion.

Caroline Beckman, Head of Business Operations at Suja Juice, spoke next, encouraging us to ask “what?” and “why?” always. Her main message was to start with the end result in mind and be transparent about what we do and why. Everything is about WHY and knowing where the root of an action is will create success.

Following Caroline, we heard an interesting and refreshing perspective from Jessica Shade, the Director of Science Programs at the Organic Center in Washington, D.C. Jessica described her initial motivation as stemming from her Great Aunt’s successful pursuit of a PhD in Argentina during the 1940’s. Inspired and grateful for her privilege, Jessica switched from studying Art to Biology during her undergraduate career. She realized, “Doing art doesn’t preclude me from being an environmentalist. The environment encompasses all subjects.” Her message particularly resonated with me when she told us, “You’re not always going to feel like you belong. Everyone feels it, and it’s called  the Imposter Syndrome.

We then heard from Marci Zaroff, the President of Portico Brands and the Founder of Under the Canopy organic bedding. She coined the term “ecofashion” in 1995 when she wanted to translate what she was learning about food into the world of clothing and design. Marci is dedicated to infusing stories into clothing and changing the world of fashion and textiles with organic cotton.

Rob Friedman was another gentleman with whom I had the opportunity to briefly talk prior to the conference. After I quickly introduced him as the Youth Engagement Coordinator at the Natural Resources Defense Council, he shared his Story of Self in becoming a part of the environmental movement. He learned leadership through experience and wants to weave together policy, science, and storytelling in order to create change and push for clean energy and clean communities. Rob’s mantra is “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop;” I might have to adopt this one as well.

The day concluded with Caitlin Bristol, Manager of eBay Green and Sustainability and the current Board Chair of TTG. Year after year she has successfully offered engaging and insightful wisdom to each of the finalists. She encouraged us to NOT be bystanders but read, research, and ACT! It is common for us to get overwhelmed with the magnitude of what’s ahead and stories based on quantity won’t always resonate with our audience, so it is important to ask questions that resonate and strike a balance with emotions and pure data. She ended by discussing the need to make sharing easy, as it is coming back into style and is an incredible way to practice conservation.

This post may have been incredibly long, but I feel that it is important to share what I’m learning and what other people are sharing. I’ll be reflecting more in Part 3, the last of my GreenU posts.

What do you think? How do these stories and questions affect you? Comment below!

Julia

From left:, Lucia, Ashley (Green Girl), Me, and Anna (another Green Girl!).

Green U — Part 1!

 

Although the next two weeks of school are my last of the semester with finals threatening me with dirty glances, for the past  few days I’ve been sitting in my Georgia home, celebrating Thanksgiving with my family and trying to remain wrapped in a quilt for as long as possible. I’ve been mixing Chemistry and cooking, Spanish and pleasure reading. I’m analyzing maps and planning Christmas gifts. Stress isn’t just looming, it’s here, but my balance is keeping me sane in the meantime. I still can’t help but dream of the beautiful West Coast I left behind last Sunday when I made my trek back East. In San Francisco, the weather was golden. The hills of Sausalito absorbed the sunshine and filled me with physical and emotional warmth. I couldn’t have asked for a better atmosphere. But why was I in San Francisco? Let me explain….

View from Cavallo Point
View from Cavallo Point

Every year Teens Turning Green hosts a competition throughout the month of October that culminates in the “final challenge,” what I like to call TTG’s annual conference, held in San Francisco in November, aptly named Green U. In fact, this past weekend was my two-year anniversary of the first time I attended Green U. Needless to say, I was thrilled to return. The first year I went to Green U, I was a finalist in Project Green Challenge. Now I wear many hats – I’m a mentor to current finalists, I introduce the main speakers, and I help set up for various meals and functions, but mainly I aim to assist everyone in every way possible and facilitate meaningful discussion. I am so blessed to have been able to be a part of the inaugural year of PGC and every time I return to California I feel recharged and ready to tackle even more environmental issues than the last. Teens Turning Green has changed my life and taught me about my personal stewardship, conservation, and responsibility on this earth, and this ties into my faith as well. I’ll discuss this more later, but I am grateful for this organization and the people that make it breathe.

From left:, Lucia, Ashley (Green Girl), Me, and Anna (another Green Girl!).
From left:, Lucia, Ashley (Green Girl), Me, and Anna (another Green Girl!).

Green U 2013. Yet again, a life-changing event. I rolled into San Fran Thursday evening and in the blink of an eye I was on my red-eye flight out early Sunday morning (12:45 am, to be exact). What happened between my arrival and departure had a profound impact on my thoughts, lifestyle, and future. On the first day, finalists learned about cooking healthy and sustainable foods using techniques like shopping at the farmers market and, my favorite, FORAGING, with guidance from Alicia Funk, author of Living Wild. Then, the finalists got pampered and dressed head-to-toe in recycled, organic, sustainable, and all-natural skincare/makeup and clothing (thanks to the wonderful and generous sponsors!). They participated in the finalist photo-shoot and I helped coordinate this part of the day. The day ended with our opening-night dinner and a truly inspiring and engaging speech from a personal hero of mine, Annie Leonard of the Story of Stuff Project (if you haven’t seen her videos, click here). She discussed her entrance into the environmental movement and what she has learned about the impact of solidarity and her personal narrative along the way. This speech was probably my favorite part of the day and a great way to transition into Saturday’s festivities. Even though I felt a bit disconnected at first (I was still recovering from my stressful week of school), I was overjoyed to be spending time with my dear friends and embracing the beauty of Marin County. As the weekend continued, I became re-engaged and gave my green batteries a much-needed recharge.  Unfortunately, I was unable to hear the finalists’ presentations and participate in the campaign-building that happened on Sunday because I had to leave early, but what I learned throughout the weekend as a whole was well worth the relatively short period of time I was able to stay in California.

Judi Shils, founder of Teens Turning Green, discussing the importance of eating Fair, Local, Organic, Seasonal, Sustainable, and Non-GMO foods.
Judi Shils, founder of Teens Turning Green, discussing the importance of eating Fair, Local, Organic, Seasonal, Sustainable, and Non-GMO foods.

I’ll be sharing what I learned on Saturday in Part 2. Stay tuned!

Two of my friends involved in TTG -- JJ works as project coordinator and Anna's a fellow Green Girl!
Two of my friends involved in TTG — JJ works as project coordinator and Anna’s a fellow Green Girl!
485476_745189538843755_879698200_n

100-mile Dinner at Epiphany Cafe

I support the Real Food Movement because it promotes a tangible connection between people and their community. Not only does it support the farmers that grow the food, but it sparks conversation, nourishes our bodies, establishes a respect of life and ethical treatment of animals, and it is an expression of stewardship towards the earth’s resources. I have a passion for conversation that I discovered when I first started going to the farmers market in my hometown. No longer did food purchasing exist as merely a transaction, but as a connection between people and the start of worthwhile relationships. My disillusionment with purchases was vanquished and I awoke from my slumber. I opened my eyes to the world around me–the members of my community, the food that was entering my body, and the connection that we all have to the source of our nourishment.

Food Day 2013 (now over one month ago) at the University of Alabama and the city of Tuscaloosa, AL was a whirlwind of activity and engagement. We tabled outside for about 6 hours during the day to increase campus awareness of what the Real Food Committee is doing to incorporate more “real” food into the campus dining halls. We teamed up with Bama Dining and the Student Dietetic Association to anchor the hype of Food Day and the Real Food Challenge. We hosted a photo petition and also asked students to sign statements of support for our movement. Hoorah! It was a great success. And that was still while the sun was up….

Later on, the real excitement kicked into full gear. We’d been planning a local food dinner since January and Thursday night was finally the night. It was what we’d been waiting and planning for and we had to do everything just to calm our nerves and step into the roles we had claimed for ourselves.

the flyer for our dinner

At the beautiful and gracious Epiphany Café on Greensboro Ave, right in the heart of downtown Tuscaloosa, we hosted a 100-mile Dinner for the community – city and campus included. Everything served was grown or raised within 100 miles of our town to be aptly labeled “local.” Furthermore, much of the food we had acquired was sustainably raised by other real food standards (fair, humane, and ecologically sound). And not only was our food local, but it was all donated, the space was opened freely for us to use, and the staff and chefs at Epiphany cooked all of our food for us at no charge.  The music was provided by two friends of mine & their fiddle, guitar, and mandolin, and a student at UA designed our logo that was spread far and wide on posters and emails and flyers and tickets.

Emily and Colin played beautiful music for us
Emily and Colin played beautiful music for us
1392667_745187605510615_1296135111_n
Radishes ready for prep
487606_745186978844011_1747944510_n
Epiphany, a beautiful Tuscaloosa institution.
941808_745188455510530_1288516356_n
can you say K-A-L-E?
1378523_745189668843742_275991756_n
part of our wonderful Real Food team. our director, Olivia is bottom row on the left. I’m on the far left of the top row!

485476_745189538843755_879698200_n

We served guests from 8:30 until 11:30 and I heard only positive remarks about the food and atmosphere. Many claimed it was the best food or the best type of dish they had ever eaten. Needless to say, we were thrilled and we are still on a cloud of disbelief and satisfaction from our evening at Epiphany. We just about made our fundraising goal of $1600 and we have established our campus organization as legitimate and worth supporting. I can only imagine the ground we will cover and strides we will make as our committee continues to grow in conversation and action with the Tuscaloosa community. I look forward to sharing our progress here. As always, it is a pleasure to share my journey with you all and I encourage you to ask me anything or share your own real food journey in the Comments section below or on the Ask page.

 

Wishing you love and joy today!

Julia

11_05_13_UnderTheCanopy-112

Curious about Cotton? (you will be now!)

Hello readers,

Sitting at home? Great. I want you to take a quick look at several items around you, ones we use everyday. Your bed sheets, your towels, the t-shirt you’re wearing, the denim in your jeans. The paper towels you use to clean up messes and the rounds that remove your makeup.

What do all of these items have in common?

Cotton is one of the most versatile and prevalent materials in our world today, with so many everyday items made from this fiber. Due to its high demand, 25 million tonnes of it are produced each year.

Cotton’s dominant presence in the textile industry forces us to continuously clean and clothe ourselves with it. Considering this, shouldn’t we expect for it to be safe and free of contaminants? In fact, we shouldn’t even have to worry about whether or not it’s being held to strict standards.

Unfortunately, we must worry. Cotton happens to be the most heavily sprayed crop in the world, boasting more than 10% of total pesticide use and nearly 25% of total insecticide use globally. With such extensive chemical use, it becomes more shocking that only a mere 2.4% of agricultural land is taken up by cotton production worldwide.

For both the producer and consumer, pesticide-ridden crops pose serious health risks. For this reason the production of organic cotton has become a viable industry in and of itself, and one we should all support, not only for our own personal benefit, but for its sustainability and for the ethical missions behind the companies and organizations who support it.

Below are some incredible proponents of organic cotton- brands whose missions and products come highly recommend by myself and are 100% Green Girl Approved.

 

Under the Canopy

People often make the mistake that conscious products have less aesthetic appeal and cost way more than their conventional counterparts. This is definitely not the case!

Under the Canopy is a textile company that carries out sustainable practices in its mills and dye-houses, while making beautiful products that appeal to the mainstream, and of course, highlight organic cotton!

Under the Canopy’s bedding collection made its debut at Bed Bath & Beyond this summer, proving eco success by selling out within the first month!

Through this partnership with Bed Bath & Beyond, Under the Canopy’s products have become more accessible to the public, providing all people, regardless of their background, to buy organically while avoiding the splurge.

Under the Canopy proves to be the perfect alternative!

Swisspers

Swisspers is a common household brand, one I was familiar with growing up, since my mother and I used them for practically everything: makeup and nail polish removal, moisturizer application and tons of other uses.

As I became more aware of the importance of keeping toxins away from my skin, especially my face, I discovered Swisspers’ organic cotton line, which is sold in most places that the original ones are sold. This simple switch was uber convenient, and I personally found the price difference to be worth the squeeze, especially with my health now in the picture.

Natracare

An ethical, smart, and empowering company, Natracare made major headway by using organic and biodegradable material to replace conventional materials to make the most personal, and therefore significant, of products: pads and tampons.

I’ve been using Natracare for the past year. I feel so much better knowing that these products are required to meet certain standards before entering my body. I honestly couldn’t imagine myself reverting back to the conventional ones I used to expose my body to. I will never compromise when it comes to these types of products.

Join the Daisy Chain and take a look at this chart and see where your favorite feminine care products fall on various ethical qualifications:

 

Women’s Voices for the Earth

Girl power and environmentalism join forces through the brilliant and inspiring minds behind Women’s Voices for the Earth. Speaking of organic cotton in feminine care products, Teens Turning Green and a few other organizations have joined Women’s Voices for the Earth to co-release “Chem Fatale“, a scientifically supported report that exposes the potential health effects of toxic chemicals in conventional feminine care products. Scary stuff indeed! Yet, avoiding the situation altogether by ignoring the facts poses detrimental health effects to ourselves, our loved ones and even the environment. Read, get informed, and even take action here!

————————————————————————————————————

On Tuesday, November 5th, I attended an awesome event hosted by Marci Zaroff, Founder of Under the Canopy and president of Portico brand. The event was to showcase Marci’s beautiful bed and bath items for the home and other sustainable brands like Suja and Kopali – each of which embrace similar environmental and health standards.

Erin Schrode, Co-founder of Teens Turning Green was present as well, along with representatives from many organizations, public figures and eco business leaders.

Here are a few photos that captured this wonderful evening.

 

Under the Canopy bed sets
Under the Canopy bed sets

 

Smiles with Marci Zaroff, founder of Under the Canopy, and Erin Schrode, co-founder of Teens Turning Green
Smiles with Marci Zaroff, founder of Under the Canopy, and Erin Schrode, co-founder of Teens Turning Green
Me, checking out the soft UTC towels
Me, checking out the soft UTC towels

 

 

Web

HAPPY FOOD DAY!

October 24: NATIONAL Food Day. It happened. What did you do to celebrate? Students across the nation participated in various Food Day events. From festivals to food drives to dinners, 4,500 events happened yesterday in every single state of this nation. Of course, the Green Girls were certainly involved in this campaign to some capacity. But first, more about Food Day.

The Food Day organization aims to educate, inspire, and engage students and communities in standing up to industrialized farming and unhealthy food practices & purchases in the United States.

“This annual event involves some of the country’s most prominent food activists, united by a vision of food that is healthy, affordable, and produced with care for the environment, farm animals, and the people who grow, harvest, and serve it.” – FoodDay.org

Anna

“At UMASS our Food Day was combined with Campus Sustainability Day. We had a green jobs panel, a fair that showcased all the different sustainability student groups on campus, a real food tasting, and the public signing of the Real Food Campus Commitment (from the Real Food Challenge). It was a really incredible experience to watch students, administrators, faculty, and staff come together to celebrate the power of student voice to implement positive change in our campus. Not to mention the food that was served was really good…”

Julia

“At the University of Alabama, we celebrated all day long! From 9 to 3 in our main student center plaza, we tabled to inform and engage students in the movement. We had games where students who successfully placed the tail on a pig or cow or the beak on a chicken or the fin on a fish learned one fun farm animal fact + what it means for the animal to be humanely raised for human consumption. We also hosted a photo petition where students wrote in why they support real food either on campus or in general on a dry erase board and they took a picture. We displayed our “Real Food is Food That Truly Nourishes” wheel and explained our role on campus and what we were doing to integrate fair, local, humane, and ecologically sound food into our dining system using the Real Food Challenge. The day culminated in a 100-mile dinner at a local Farm-to-Fork restaurant, but more on that in a separate post….”

We hope you had a lovely Food Day and continue to support local and ethical food systems. Have a lovely weekend!

Forever green,

The Green Girls

Web

Sunscreen

Green is the new Tan

Sunscreen: Protector or Predator?

When it comes to sunscreen, most of us often find ourselves more concerned with its SPF strength than the actual ingredients! I mean 120+ must be the most effective, right…? WRONG! Let’s think about this for a second. Our skin is the largest organ in our body, absorbing over 60% of what we lather onto it. YIKES! Now just that alone is a cause for concern and the number one reason why we ALL need to start becoming more conscious about the products to which we choose to expose our bodies. So what’s the deal with sunscreen anyway?

We’ve all grown up thinking that we must protect our skin from the sun’s “harmful” rays at all costs. Avoiding cancer and other skin diseases is definitely at the top of our to-do lists – or at least they should be – but what happens when most brands of sunscreen actually contain chemicals that are linked to cancer? Not to mention other health threats like hormone disruption, skin irritation, and even skin damage? Not only that, but most of us don’t truly understand what it is in the sun’s rays from which we need protecting. So here we go, just a quick and dirty lesson on sunscreen and you’ll become a pro when it comes to eco outdoor skin care!

 

The 411 on sunscreen:

Why do we need it in the first place?

The sun’s UV rays come in all different lengths, intensities and are the shortest rays in the visible light spectrum. UV (which stands for ultraviolet) rays are the ones our eyes detect as the color violet. There are three types, which include UVA, UVB and UVC. The UVC rays are the shortest and no cause for concern when it comes to our health. The other two however, require our undivided attention.

UVA rays are the longest and most harmful to our health. They cause damage at the cellular level, increase our risk of skin cancer and even cause photo aging, wrinkles and discoloration of our skin. These rays have the power to penetrate our skin as deep as our second layer of skin, the dermis.

UVB rays are the culprits that cause our skin to tan and burn. They’re just a bit longer than UVC rays and only penetrate the skin’s most outer layer, the epidermis. Though not as harmful as UVA rays, exposure over long periods of time can rapidly age your skin, giving it a leathery or wrinkled look.

The Hypocrisy of Conventional Sunscreen Brands

While the intention of sunscreen is to help prevent the onset of skin cancers and other diseases, many conventional brands of sunscreen contain loads of toxins that actually increase your risk of these problems.

There are two main types of sunscreens currently on the market, Chemical sunscreens and Physical Barrier sunscreens.

Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing UV rays before they have a chance to penetrate and damage the skin. Although that seems pretty kosher, these types of sunscreens are actually more controversial because they penetrate the skin (enhancing skin absorption) and can lead to allergic reactions, skin irritation and other serious issues. To make matters worse, these products use chemical filters as their active ingredients (see the list of No-No Chemicals below)

Physical barrier sunscreens, on the other hand, form a protective layer on top of your skin, blocking and reflecting the sun’s harmful rays. These products use mineral filters as their active ingredients and effectively block UV rays while protecting the skin safely. Minerals used are either zinc oxide or titanium oxide (often a combination of the two). These come highly recommended because they don’t break down in the sun and offer good protection from UVA rays with few, if any, health concerns.

 

The No-No Chemicals to absolutely AVOID:

1)   Oxybenzone: Penetrates the skin (enhances skin absorption), causes biochemical or cellular level changes, allergic skin reactions, organ system toxicity and is categorized as a hormone disruptor. It contaminates the bodies of 97% of Americans according to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

2)   Octinoxate (Octylmethoxycinnamate): Hormone disruptor, reproductive system, thyroid and behavioral alterations. Penetrates the skin and causes moderate rates of skin allergy.

3)   Homosalate: Skin penetration, disrupts estrogen, androgen and progesterone, and sunlight breaks down the chemical into harmful byproducts.

4)   Octocrylene: Causes biochemical or cellular level changes, skin penetration, persistence and bioaccumulation and high rates of skin allergy.

5)   Octisalate: Mild skin penetration.

6)   Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate): May actually speed the development of skin cancer. Many companies add a form of vitamin A to their formulas, utilizing it as an anti-oxidant to slow skin aging. However, studies done by U.S. governmental scientists have suggested that it may speed the growth of cancerous tumors and lesions when used on skin exposed to sunlight.

 

What to look for in a quality, eco-friendly, healthy sunscreen:

1)   Make sure to choose products that contain mineral based ingredients, which don’t penetrate the skin: brands of sunscreen that use only zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, as active ingredients are Green Girl Approved!

2)   Go for non-nanoparticle formulations: nanoparticles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are often used in sun products to minimize the white film these ingredients tend to leave on the skin, however this has raised concern due to its potential to penetrate the skin and cause adverse health effects!)

3)   Choose paraben-free: Parabens are used as preservatives and anti-bacterial agents. In addition to sunscreens, they are often found in many conventional cosmetic and personal care products. The health concern – parabens have been found to alter hormone levels, possibly increasing risk for certain types of cancer, impaired fertility, or alteration of the development of a fetus or young child; studies have found parabens in breast tumors; probable skin toxicant and even animal studies revealing brain and nervous system effects!

4)   Don’t go higher than 45 SPF: After a certain point, higher SPF doesn’t correlate to higher protection; so don’t fall for marketing tactics! In fact, these chemicals have been found to penetrate the skin to cause even more damage than the sun.

5)   Broad Spectrum: Protects against both UVA + UVB rays

6)   Unscented or essential oil based: Watch out for unspecified “fragrance” that could be made up of toxic chemicals.

7)  Water resistant, and lotion based

Now that you know which kinds of sunscreen to avoid (i.e. the ones that contain any of the no-no ingredients) and which kinds to support (i.e. the ones below that will nourish your skin and offer full coverage protection, the eco-friendly way!) it’s time for you to make your pick!

Luckily, we have chosen our top 4 favorite protectors of evil… I mean of UVA + UVB rays… and included a little blurb for you about why they’re Green Girl Approved.

For more information on safe sunscreen and an all-encompassing guide to sunscreens, visit our friends at the Environmental Working Group!

 

Sunscreen

20131017-170057.jpg

Real Food UMASS Amherst & Real Food Rising 2013

What is real food? What does it even mean to be organic, local, ecologically sound, and humanely raised? Look around your campus dining hall, the cafeteria in your workplace, or the food distributors in your community. Do people have access to nourishing food that’s produced in sustainable ways? More often than not, the answer is no. Real Food Challenge is working to change this through education and the purchasing power of colleges and universities.

I suppose it may be helpful to first give a little background on what Real Food Challenge (RFC) is and what this means at my university. RFC is a national campaign to shift $1 billion of the $5 billion college/university food purchasing industry to “real food,” meaning local, ecologically sound, fair trade, and humanely raised. This is a big deal. The University of Massachusetts Amherst signed on to the Real Food Campus Commitment last May, which means that our Chancellor has agreed to transition to 20% real food on campus by the year 2020, and believe me, we are well on our way. We are a school that spends $25 million a year on food through a self-operated system and is ranked the #3 best campus dining in the country. By 2020 we will have shifted at least $5 million a year towards real food. Wow. We are part of a national movement that is changing the trajectory of American agriculture.

I found out about Real Food Challenge after I met fellow Green Girl Julia Whitten at TTG’s Green U in 2012, as well as Raychel Santo and Ruthie Burrows. I learned about the amazing work happening around RFC at their schools (University of Alabama and Johns Hopkins) and watched them attend the summit last year at JHU. I remember looking at their pictures and thinking that this was an incredibly powerful movement and that I wanted to get involved with the campaign at UMASS as soon as I possibly could.

So what does this all mean? Well, UMASS Amherst is the largest school to have signed this campus commitment and our team is established, growing, and continuously learning. We have a food system working team, outreach & events working group, a student facilited internship that is running the Real Food Calculator, and a core team. Not to mention we have an Auxiliary Services that is able and willing to help with this campaign. It also means that not even two months into my first year of college I was boarding a flight to Minnesota to attend the Real Food Challenge National Summit, Real Food Rising.

In all honesty, I really didn’t know what to expect. I was given the opportunity to attend, along with four other members of the UMASS Real Food team and that was that. I didn’t even really have time to think about the summit until the night before when I was last minute packing. After arriving in Minneapolis and making my way over to the University of Minnesota Twin Cities where the summit was being held, I instantly felt the incredible energy coming from this movement and from every individual that was part of it. It only took a few minutes of being there for me to go from feeling like a small part of the UMASS campaign, to a crucial member of a national movement that was working towards a better future. The summit began with some far-from-boring ice breakers, where students had the opportunity to share what brought them there and what they hoped to gain from this experience. It quickly became clear that everyone had a unique and powerful story, but the commonality amongst everyone was that we were young people with a desperate desire to change the way this world works. We were gathering with the hope that through this campaign and the power of our voices and our universities, we could shape a more just world.

One of the best parts of this experience for me was becoming closer friends with the other members of UMASS RFC and realizing what our place was within this national movement. Not only did I become closer with my classmates, but I connected with students from around the country, including students from the University of Washington from whom I learned about Prop 522 and their involvement in the campaign to pass a bill that would require the mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms. I became friends with students from New York to Indiana to Alabama and California. I feel incredibly thankful to be at a school where RFC is having such an enormous impact and I feel overwhelmingly excited to be connected to students across the nation through this network. I think one of the coolest feelings is looking around a room of young leaders and realizing that our voices are in fact powerful and we are effectively working towards a better future.

This past weekend was not only about networking with other students and attending powerful workshops on student-worker solidarity, food justice, and the future of this movement, it was about people coming together. It was about Real Food Rising.

Sustainably yours,
Anna

20131017-170150.jpg

yum

A Better Breakfast

Hello fellow foodies (or maybe aspiring foodies or perhaps just readers who eat)!

I am excited to write to you today about the delicious breakfast I just created before I head to class, as well as how I got the ingredients and why they matter.

Teens Turning Green launched a cool new project, the Conscious Collection, that highlights thoughtfully curated and ethically produced products, under a number of different lifestyle categories, and aims to make them accessible to as many people as possible. The Conscious Collection care packages are a monthly assortment of items designed for college students that include things from food to tea to body wash to dish soap. These packages are an awesome way to get your dorm essentials while ensuring that you are getting the cleanest and healthiest versions of them, AND that you’re getting them for a third of the price it would normally cost if you were to buy all the items individually. I recently received the Fall for Green Conscious Care Package. I fell in love with the Navitas Naturals Cacao Goji Superfood, which was sweet and rich but not too heavy, and could not have been more excited to try the Crofter’s Organic Mango Spread.

The Breakdown

Navitas Naturals Cacao Goji Superfood is created:

  • organic
  • gluten-free
  • raw
  • vegan

Navitas Naturals Cacao Goji Superfood contains:

  • antioxidants
  • amino acids
  • omega fatty acids
  • polyphenols
  • Vitamin C & Vitamin A
  • Iron & Fiber

Crofter’s Mango Premium Spread is created:

  • Non-GMO verified
  • organic
  • gluten-free
  • BPA free

Crofter’s Mango Premium Spread contains:

  • Vitamin C & A

While these terms may seem like just that, terms, in fact they are the indicators of your health, your carbon footprint (think about how, where, and under what conditions the product was made, and what you will consequently do with its container when you’ve finished) and most importantly your strength and authority as a consumer. We drive the markets and we should therefore revel in the opportunity to influence a positive wave of food consciousness. Reading labels is SO important, and Non-GMO, USDA Organic, and Fair-Trade are common and valuable ones to look for when shopping for food.

This morning I toasted a slice of sprouted multi-grain bread, spread some of the Crofter’s mango spread, added coconut chips, cinnamon, and tiny pieces of the Navitas Naturals Cacao Goji Superfood on top, and served it with organic frozen berries on the side. I then brewed some Guayaki Chai Spice Mate. I was delightfully surprised to find that the mango spread tasted exactly how a freshly cut mango would!

I’ve sadly realized that many of the “fruit products” we now eat taste nothing like the original, natural, and fresh fruit it is intended to. My sheer surprise at how wonderfully the mango spread captures the actual taste of mangoes says a lot, unfortunately.

It was the perfect amount of sweetness, and went deliciously well with the cinnamon. This inspired to me to want to use the spread to make chutney or a salsa later this week. The Guayaki Chai Spice Mate isn’t strong, so none of the different flavors present in my breakfast overpowered each other. Now I’m well fed and energized to face my day of classes and club meetings. What are you making for breakfast?

yum
yum

 

An Unconventional Guide to College Living + Program of Teens Turning Green