Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Plastic Hotel

We checked into a hotel the other night, and the front desk clerk cheerily informed us that our room had just been renovated!  We were a little apprehensive, knowing how toxic building materials can be, but we figured we'd give it a try.

Stepping off the elevator, we found ourselves in a highly toxic soup.

The entire floor had recently been covered with a heavy-duty synthetic (plastic) commercial carpet, cemented to the floor with a toxic adhesive. The combination was enough to make your eyes water and your throat hurt.

The room itself was no better, with a new vinyl (plastic) floor, vinyl (plastic) wall covering, and wood-grain plastic furniture. We both felt dizzy from all the fumes.

Fortunately, not all the floors had been renovated, and we were eventually given a room on an "old fashioned" floor. But the experience made us think: how many people would just put up with the smell, and never associate their headache or nausea or dizziness with those toxic chemical exposures?

Hotels have a responsibility for the welfare of their guests, and should make certain that renovated areas are fully ventilated to allow toxic products to outgas before guests are booked in.

Plastic may make our life cheaper and in some cases, easier, but its impact on our health and our environment is significant.  

Thursday, April 5, 2018


In one of the iconic scenes from the 1967 movie The Graduate, the character played by Dustin Hoffman gets a word of advice from one of his father’s friend about his future. "Ben, I want to say one word to you. Just one word: Are you listening? Plastics, Ben. Plastics.”

There’s probably no way that author Charles Webb or screenwriters Buck Henry and Calder Willingham could have known how prescient that line was, but today, the same advice could be given to many college graduates, but with a completely different meaning. 

In 1967, the word “plastic” was understood to mean something modern, advanced, wonderful. In the 1980s the word “plastic” carried a pejorative connotation, used to describe something cheap or flimsy. 

Today, the word plastic has taken on a new meaning: a worldwide pollutant. Plastic litters our streets, our parking lots and our beaches. It collects in giant gyers in our oceans, and now has been discovered in our drinking water, including our bottled drinking water. Plastic fibers from our clothes fill our lakes and rivers, and fish caught in some of our most pristine lakes have flesh filled with synthetic plastic fibers. 

This is a worldwide problem, and it won’t be solved overnight. But let’s start with this: be aware of the plastic around you, and do something every day to help stop the growing problem. Pick up a plastic bag or water bottle off the street. Recycle every possible piece of plastic you can. Bring your own bag to the store to avoid using single-use plastic bags. 

Today’s college grads may have a future in plastic, but that future will be figuring out a way to get ourselves out of the plastic mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Green Body: Color Without Worry

Fear of grey hair seems to be a common phobia, right up there with fear of sharks. Unfortunately, numerous scientific studies have indicated a strong link between permanent hair dye and diseases such as bladder cancer, multiple myeloma (cancer of the blood cells) and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. 

What to do? 

Don’t despair about your hair! Safe and beautiful vegetable-based hair dyes such as Herbatint and Naturtint are growing in popularity. Like the well known henna products which have been around for years, these products have no health risks associated with their use, and they leave your hair soft and manageable. 

If your hair salon doesn’t carry non-toxic hair coloring products yet, bring your own next time you go.  Learn more at http://grassrootsinfo.org/personalcare.php

Friday, March 30, 2018

Green Living: Flower Power

When it comes to celebrating an anniversary, recognizing a special milestone or just making up for bad behavior, it’s hard to beat a bouquet of flowers. But recent media reports of exploited workers and heavy pesticide usage in the commercial flower industry have made it more difficult to order flowers without guilt. Until now.  

Organic Bouquet has become the market leader in the distribution of exceptional flowers grown without pesticides on farms which respect the health and well being of workers. Buying organic flowers supports local community agriculture, helps protect workers from exposure and keeps pesticides out of the environment. 

You can purchase organic flowers at many local florists (and if they don't carry them, ask them to!), or you can order online at www.organicbouquet.com. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Hormone Havoc

Hormones are one of life’s special miracles. At incredibly low concentrations, these chemical messengers circulate through our body, telling cells how and when to grow, what to produce, when to divide and when to die. They regulate the development of sexual organs, the immune system, the liver, blood, kidneys, muscles and brain. 

But…. synthetic chemicals can interfere with this process by blocking hormones from their cell receptors, or bind with receptors themselves. Either way, the natural hormones are prevented from carrying out their functions, often with serious and life-long consequences. 

What to do? Avoid cosmetics with parabens, non-organic dairy products and other products with hormone disrupting chemicals. You can find more information on our website, and our friends at EWG have a nice blog listing of five things you can do to reduce your exposure to hormone disrupters.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Now We Know: RF Radiation Can Cause Cancer

For more than fifty years, electrical engineers and the telecom companies they work for have assured us that radio-frequency radiation, or RFR, is not strong enough to cause cell mutations resulting in cancer.

But over the past few months, several large peer-reviewed studies have cast serious doubt on that

A study released last year by the National Toxicology Program of the National Institutes of Health found that lab animals who were exposed to RF radiation for long periods of time had a statistically higher rate of certain types of cancer than animals that were not exposed.

Then last week another major study of more than 2400 animals showed that long-term exposure simulating typical cell tower exposure resulted in higher rates of brain and heart tumors than the control group.

And just in case you thought these animals were being blasted with ultra-high levels of radiation, both of these studies looked at levels of radiation that were actually lower than our current government standards.

So now we know that RF radiation is capable of causing cancer. Now the question is, how much radiation can humans endure before cells are impacted?  And exactly how much radiation is being emitted by the various devices we use every day, as well as the wireless transmitters that dot the landscape of our lives, sending and receiving signals from those devices?

Watch this space.

Report of final results regarding brain and heart tumors in Sprague-Dawley rats exposed from prenatal life until natural death to mobile phone radiofrequency field representative of a 1.8 GHz GSM base station environmental emission 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Water We Use - and Could Re-use

We took the train across the country a few years ago; I had an ASCAP Board meeting in Los Angeles, and Patti had some people to meet in San Francisco. The train is a great way to see the country, relax for a few days and avoid the heavy environmental impact of jet travel. On the trip we met a fellow with an amazing story about water.

This was during the severe water crisis in California, and he told us he had recently been "turned in" by his neighbors in San Diego because his lawn was lush and green, while everyone else's was turning shades of brown. Strict water conservation measures were in place, and watering your lawn was strictly forbidden.

Turns out this guy was an engineer, and had rigged up his own sophisticated "grey water" system to re-use the water from his washing machine, shower and other relatively "safe" water sources. He had a large storage tank in his basement, a set of filters and a small pump to feed his outdoor hose, which he used to water his garden and his lawn.

As we were building our latest Grassroots project How Green Is My Town?, we added a question about whether or not your town offers permits for greywater systems. It's something any town can do, and it saves incredible amounts of water!

On this international water day, we're reminded of our clever friend in California, and we're mindful of the ways we all squander this most precious resource without thinking. If you want to see how smart and serious people around the country are addressing some of our most vexing environmental problems with ingenuity and style, check out How Green Is My Town?

And please fix that drip in your sink :-)