Photo via Flickr: Spigoo

Photo via Flickr: Spigoo

Every time I walk by the Abercrombie & Fitch store at The Grove, an outdoor shopping mall near my home, I think, This should be illegal. No, I’m not referring to the half-naked underage models who pose out front (though the chain should be given some sort of demerit for tastelessness); I’m talking about the repulsively chemically smelling fragrance that is pumped throughout the store.

It’s so powerful that passers-by within 100 feet are bowled over by the smell. The other day, I was driving past The Grove with my windows open, and actually got a noxious whiff.

Turns out, the stuff is not only foul-smelling, but truly toxic: A new analysis by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a national coalition of health and environmental groups, reveals that the Abercrombie fragrance — along with other top-selling celebrity fragrance products like Britney Spears Curious and Calvin Klein Eternity — contain dozens of secret chemicals that can trigger allergies or disrupt hormones.

Environmental Working Group, who assessed data for the 17 products analyzed, found them to contain:

  • 14 secret chemicals not listed on labels due to a loophole in federal law that allows companies to claim fragrances as trade secrets. American Eagle Seventy Seven contained 24 hidden chemicals, the highest number of any product in the study.
  • 10 sensitizing chemicals associated with allergic reactions such as asthma, wheezing, headaches, and contact dermatitis. Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio contained 19 different sensitizing chemicals, more than any other product in the study.
  • Four hormone-disrupting chemicals linked to a range of health effects including sperm damage, thyroid disruption, and cancer. Halle by Halle Berry, Quicksilver, and Jennifer Lopez J. Lo Glow each contained seven different chemicals with the potential to disrupt the hormone system.

The analysis couldn’t be more timely: Last week, President Obama’s Cancer Panel released a study sounding the alarm about toxic chemical exposure and cancer. To date, there are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market in the United States, the majority of which have never been studied and are not regulated.

Click here for the full report.

–Jennifer Grayson

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downtown

The 2010 Women of the Green Generation Conference will be hosted at the LEED-certified eco-luxury Evo South building in downtown Los Angeles. Photo via Flickr: Todd Jones Photography

Are women, by nature, more interested in environmental issues than men? Rebecca Harrell Tickell, producer of the award-winning film Fuel and author of the upcoming book Hot, Rich & Green: The Secret Formula Women Are Using to Get Rich and Save the Planet (Living Well Publishing, 2010), asked me this question a few weeks back, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since.

Sure, there are plenty of prominent environmentalists who are men (Al Gore, for one, not to mention Rebecca’s husband, Josh Tickell); and in my personal life, I know just as many men as women who are concerned about the direction our planet is headed. But I do think the way women communicate — wanting to connect with one another, being willing to open up about their individual experiences — presents a unique opportunity to spread the word about green issues.

That’s why I’m so excited for the Women of the Green Generation Conference taking place on June 12 here in Los Angeles. Founded just one year ago by musician-with-a-vision Kris Wiley, Women of the Green Generation brings together LA-area women interested in starting or expanding their eco-driven businesses. The green networking group has proven such a hit, in fact, that it’s since attracted coverage on CNN, the LA Times, and numerous green lifestyle blogs.

The all-day event on June 12 will give attendees the chance to check out a slew of sustainable products and services, not to mention sit in on a number of thought-provoking discussion panels. Scheduled speakers include Rebecca Tickell and yours truly, as well as:

Over 300 women and 50 green businesses are already expected to attend, so snap up your ticket before it’s too late (space is limited).

–Jennifer Grayson

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Photo via Flickr: 100five

Photo via Flickr: 100five

Since Mr. Beef Cheeks himself announced that he will be bringing Meatless Monday to all 14 of his US restaurants, I’ve had Batali on the brain. Or rather, his recipes. Seriously, in my book the man can do no wrong: His emphasis on locally sourced ingredients; his love for simple food, beautifully prepared; and his new cookbook Molto Gusto (Ecco, 2010), which showcases meals where vegetables, not meat, are the star.

The famed chef recently said that animal-based protein “has been intensely over-represented on the plate,” and I couldn’t agree more. I’m not for giving up meat entirely — in fact, I think it’s crucial that we support our local and sustainable animal agriculturalists, however small in number they may be — but do we have to eat so darn much of the stuff? If we all become accustomed to eating less meat, then it might actually be feasible to support the United States on a system of local agriculture.

Of course, that’s what Meatless Monday is all about. So in honor of Batali, I’m cooking up one of his fabulous vegetarian recipes: Risotto with Asparagus and Fennel. As meatless and eco-ethical meals go, this one is near perfection. Here’s why:

  • The meal is darn cheap. Yet elegant. You could serve this for a dinner party, and it wouldn’t set you back more than $10 for four people.
  • It’s gluten-free. But naturally so, unlike those corn- and rice-based pastas that turn to mush no matter how carefully you cook them. And believe me, avoiding gluten can be quite the challenge when you’re trying to cook vegetarian — especially vegetarian Italian.
  • Asparagus is in season right now nearly everywhere in the country. And if you can’t find organic, no sweat: Conventional asparagus makes Environmental Working Group’s “clean 15” — meaning it’s grown with minimal pesticides.
  • Here in California, you can forage for the fennel. Just be careful, since the fennel plant looks a lot like poison hemlock. (I’ll be sticking with a head I found at my local farmers market.)

Excited to whip up your own batch? Click here for the recipe. I’ll be posting photos of how mine turned out later today.

–Jennifer Grayson

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Photo via Flickr: Gwydionwilliams

Photo via Flickr: Gwydionwilliams

In the midst of ecological disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and stock market meltdowns, here’s some news to be thankful for: US carbon dioxide emissions are down — way down — declining more last year than at any time since 1949, when this sort of data started being collected by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

So what do we have to thank for the full 7 percent decrease in 2009 alone (that’s 405 million metric tons, by the way)? Pretty much the answer to everything in a country that runs on capitalism: It’s the economy (stupid).

From Environmental News Network:

“The large decline in emissions was driven by the economic downturn, combined with an ongoing trend toward a less energy-intensive economy and a decrease in the carbon-intensity of the energy supply,” said EIA Administrator Richard Newell.

It seems this may be the only bright side of the Great Recession. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell by 2.4 percent in 2009, and much of that decrease was from cutbacks in energy-intensive industries. Output from these industries, such as primary metals (-33.9 percent) and nonmetallic minerals (-17.4 percent) fell faster than total industrial output (-9.8 percent).

Industries also focused a lot on conserving energy from an environmental and economic standpoint. Therefore, energy consumed per dollar of GDP also fell by 2.4 percent.

In plain terms, we need a lot less materials because we’re just buying a lot less stuff. And that — not driving the latest hybrid, not installing rooftop solar panels (though those are both good things) — may be how we as individuals can most effectively fight global warming.

The question is, will the downturn in CO2 emissions continue when (or if) the economy rebounds?

–Jennifer Grayson

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Photo via Flickr: IBRRC

Photo via Flickr: IBRRC

Note: I touch on this briefly in my column for HuffPost about the BP oil disaster, but I wanted to highlight it again here, just in case you skip over this amazing tidbit of brazen irony.

You may have heard about how Proctor & Gamble is graciously donating thousands of bottles of Dawn dishwashing liquid to aid in the cleanup efforts for wildlife affected by the BP oil disaster. The company even touts its own generosity — which includes an additional $1 donation to wildlife rescue efforts per bottle sold — on the Dawn website:

For over 30 years, Dawn has been doing its part to help save wildlife. From donating funds to important conservation projects to giving Dawn dishwashing liquid to clean wildlife affected by oil spills, Dawn knows there are lots of ways to get involved with the cause.

So nice, right? Well, here’s the rub: Dawn dish soap — the very stuff used to “gently” remove oil from the feathers and fur of toxic sludge–coated creatures — is, itself, made from oil.

Dawn, like most conventional dishwashing liquids, contains petro (read: oil) chemical-based detergents, emollients, and fragrance. The website, not surprisingly, doesn’t specifically reveal which ones, but it does provide a link to a wholly generic list of ingredients commonly used in hand dishwashing products.

Since the most this list offers up is terms like “surfactants” and “mildness additives,” I can only be left to assume that the soap could contain toxic petroleum byproducts like alkylbenzene sulfonates and 1,4-dioxane. Of course, these are only educated guesses; there are thousands of industrial chemicals floating around out there, but who knows which ones: Federal law does not require companies to list them on their products, nor conduct any sort of tests to determine if they’re safe.

Want to really help save wildlife from oil spills? Ditch the Dawn for a plant-based dish soap like Seventh Generation. If every household in the US replaced just one bottle, it would save 81,000 barrels of oil a year.

–Jennifer Grayson

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Photo via Flickr: Penningtron

Photo via Flickr: Penningtron

Swapping the treadmill for the track may help curb energy consumption, but here’s another green reason to consider canceling your gym membership: It turns out that exercising in the great outdoors can greatly improve mental health.

The best part is, you don’t even have to find the time for a full-fledged wilderness trek; a mere five minutes in a green space like a park or garden can help eliminate stress and improve mood, report UK researchers in the latest issue of the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

From the BBC News:

The research looked at many different outdoor activities, including walking, gardening, cycling, fishing, boating, horse-riding, and farming in locations such as a park, garden, or nature trail.

The biggest effect was seen within just five minutes.

With longer periods of time exercising in a green environment, the positive effects were clearly apparent but were of a smaller magnitude, the study found.

Looking at men and women of different ages, the researchers found the health changes — physical and mental — were particularly strong in the young and the mentally ill.

Interestingly enough, the most beneficial setting for exercise may combine a bit of blue with that green; even more of a brain boost was found to take place in an area with a body of water, like a lake or river. Paddle boating, anyone?

–Jennifer Grayson

Do this now: Need some gym-free exercise inspiration? Check out tonight’s episode of The Lazy Environmentalist on the Sundance Channel, which features a green workout with my friend and trainer-to-the-stars David Shamash.

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fridge

This is not my fridge. Photo via Flickr: Susansimon

I didn’t have time to go grocery shopping this weekend, and the contents of my pantry and fridge are looking pretty meager: a bag of lentils, a jar of tomato paste, a can of chopped tomatoes, a couple eggs, a container of yogurt, scraps of cheese, a few eggplants, and some old onions and garlic. I might be able to run out later today to pick up a few items at the store, but first, I like to play a little game called Shop Your Fridge.

I talked about this a bit in a HuffPost column (“Is Wasting Food a Sin?“), but here’s the gist: I pretend I’m on Top Chef and that my challenge is to make a gourmet dinner out of what I have left in the house. Some recent winners: spring pea risotto (Arborio rice, chicken stock, and frozen peas); pasta con le sarde (linguine, sardines, and bread crumbs); and cranberry wild rice pilaf (wild rice, frozen cranberries, and toasted pecans).

Am I being overly thrifty? I don’t think so: Forty percent of all food produced in the United States winds up in landfill, where it decays and emits the powerful greenhouse gas methane).

Today’s added challenge: It’s Meatless Monday.

Luckily, there’s an amazing online resource for pantry leftovers, courtesy of the UK-based campaign called Love Food Hate Waste. You just take a look at this list, click on whatever food you have in the house, and voilà! — a bunch of recipes pop up that’ll turn your odds and ends into gourmet magic. You can also search specifically for vegetarian recipes.

So what’s on my Meatless Monday menu for tonight, based on the seemingly scanty offerings I listed above? Lentil, Aubergine, and Tomato Moussaka — yum! — and all I have to pick up at the store are a couple of peppers and a container of cottage cheese.

–Jennifer Grayson

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pam

May is Pregnancy Awareness Month (PAM), and no, it isn’t about informing people concerning the condition of pregnancy (I think we all know how nearly 7 billion people wound up on this planet); it’s about educating pregnant women and new parents about how to make healthy — and earth-friendly — changes in their lives.

To that end, the folks at PAM are throwing an amazing kick-off event this Sunday at TreePeople headquarters in Los Angeles that you won’t want to miss, if for nothing more than to see yours truly strut the runway in a fantastic prenatal fashion show presented by Expecting Models. The celeb-studded celebration will also feature:

  • Panel discussions with pregnancy and green lifestyle experts, including filmmaker Ricki Lake, eco activist Anna Getty (PAM founder), renown pediatrician Dr. Alan Green, and Shift Your Habit author Elizabeth Rogers
  • Makeup tips from model Josie Maran at the Holistic Mommy Spa Lounge
  • Book signing with Trista Sutter and and Jessica Denay, authors of The Hot Mom to Be Handbook
  • A performance by Scott Stapp of Creed
  • More than 30 pregnancy and mommy vendors
  • Raffle prizes
  • Yummy organic snacks
  • And much more!

To read more about the event, which is free and open to the public, click here. Hope to see you there!

–Jennifer Grayson

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