Photo via Flickr: Terren in Virginia

If you haven’t stocked up yet on sweets for the trick-or-treaters, there’s an easy choice you can make to go greener this Halloween, and it doesn’t involve shelling out a lot of dough for organic candy: Buy Nestlé instead of Hershey’s.

Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff over at Mommy Greenest tells us that evidently Hershey’s still hasn’t cleaned up its act when it comes to fair labor practices. And when I say “fair” labor practices, I’m not talking about making sure that workers get their full 30-minute lunch break; I’m talking about not perpetuating child slave labor.

She writes:

I’ve written about the sad irony of child slave labor producing the candy that we give our children before, but now a new report by the The Payson Center for International Development at Tulane University specifically holds Hershey — the biggest US chocolate manufacturer — responsible for the continued prevalence of child labor, forced labor, child trafficking, and verbal, physical and sexual harassment in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, where the company sources much of its cocoa.

Nestlé, on the other hand, has instituted The Cocoa Plan, by which the company is working to improve social and environmental conditions for its cocoa farmers. Among the initiatives? Improving access to water and sanitation, preventing malaria, and improving the quality of locally sourced raw materials.

Baby Ruth or Butterfinger?

–Jennifer Grayson

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WATCH: Green baby on a budget

October 26th, 2010

[Watch video on WGNTV.com]

If you think the word budget shouldn’t come within 10 sentences of the word baby, think again: Babies actually require very little in the beginning. They don’t need much entertaining, the milk is free, and all those bouncers and activity stations and fancy outfits will do little more than add clutter to your once well organized abode once you realize that your little one is a sleeping/eating/pooping machine that will turn whatever outfit he or she is wearing into a giant napkin.

You want to make sure, however, that the essentials you do buy are as safe and healthy as possible. There are more than 80,000 industrial chemicals on the market in the United States today, few are regulated, and many of the most harmful ones — like BPA, formaldehyde, and dioxin — make it into baby products.

So check out some of my favorite picks for a lean, green nursery, above, that I shared with WGN Chicago viewers last Friday. They’ll leave you with enough spare change to start Junior’s college fund.

–Jennifer Grayson

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I’m heading to Chicago later this week, and one thing will be new about my traveling experience: Since the last time I’ve flown, full-body scanners have made their way to Los Angeles International Airport. Haven’t seen one yet? These hotly debated new security fixtures act like a virtual strip search, using X-rays to produce images of everything from your boxers to your kidneys.

The first point of contention is that this new technology is an invasion of privacy; the second — and the one that’s more relevant to this blog — that it may be hazardous to your health. The TSA and FDA are saying that the low dose of radiation doesn’t pose a threat; some scientists are now calling that into question.

From Time Magazine:

After studying the degree of detail obtained in the seconds-long scans, the scientists wondered how the radiation exposure could be so low. The answer, they concluded, lay in how the manufacturer and government officials measured the dose: by averaging the exposure from the beam over the volume of the entire body. This is how scientists measure exposure from medical X-rays, which are designed to zap straight through bone and tissue. But backscatter beams skim the body’s surface…if the dose were based only on skin exposure, the result would be 10 to 20 times the manufacturer’s calculations.

Even if it is the amount of exposure that government officials say it is, I refuse to be a guinea pig for an experiment on the cumulative effects of low-dose radiation. (Remember shoe-fitting fluoroscopes?) I’ll be requesting a frisking instead.

–Jennifer Grayson

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Milk-less Monday?

October 18th, 2010

Photo via Flickr: www.bluewaikiki.com

Like a lot of vegetarians/flexitarians (I’m the latter), I rely on dairy for a big chunk of my calories. When I was pregnant, my calcium cravings were particularly intense: I could easily clear a four-pound tub of yogurt a week. But all that’s over since I discovered my little lady is sensitive to milk; as long as I’m breastfeeding, it’s good-bye gelato.

After giving up milk products for a month now, I started wondering: What impact does going dairy-free have on the planet? Factory farms aren’t just for meat, after all; there are 9 million dairy cows in the US, and the methods used to produce conventional milk (organic is only 1 percent of the market) take their toll on the environment. (Not to mention human health — see last week’s Eco Etiquette.)

And that’s when I discovered a very inconvenient truth: According to a recent study, chicken has a lower carbon footprint than dairy. Should Meatless Monday now also be Milk-less Monday?

–Jennifer Grayson

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Mommy greenest? Not exactly

October 1st, 2010

Having a child isn’t exactly green, but I always knew I could at least be the greenest mommy on the block. Not as easy as I thought: I’ve been truly humbled by how gloriously some of my eco efforts have failed since welcoming our beautiful and healthy Isobel Beatrice into the world on Aug. 30.

There have been some successes, of course: It turns out that cloth diapers are a cinch, thanks to receiving four months of diaper service as a gift; and I swear that the gentle swaying of our organic Hushamok is the reason why Izzy’s been practically sleeping through the night since Week 2 (more on that to come).

But oh, have there been failures. Turns out that no matter how proficient you are at carving out your perfect little eco existence when it’s just you (or you and your husband), all of that goes to &$%# once you become a parent. To wit:

  • The natural birth I had planned so long for: Not so natural (though I did avoid the dreaded C-section)
  • The piles of takeout containers from all the food so generously ordered for us in those early days when we were too tired to cook
  • The piles of baby gifts taking our apartment from sustainably spare to bursting at the seams (sorry, not trying to be ungrateful!)
  • The disposable diapers (albeit chlorine-free from Seventh Generation) we’re using at night since realizing she was waking up every two hours from feeling the wetness of the cloth diapers
  • The air conditioner we had to buy when the thermometer hit 113 in Los Angeles this week

I’ll elaborate on all of these in the weeks to come, but here’s the bottom line: I have newfound respect for all of you out there who are trying to balance what’s best for the environment with what’s best for your family. Looks like the new mommy me is going to have to be a lot more flexible.

–Jennifer Grayson

Do this now: Looking for great green parenting advice? There is a Mommy Greenest! Click here.

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Photo via Flickr: Clay Irving

Is Gulf seafood safe to eat? FDA and NOAA have maintained since the spill that it is; this, despite congressional testimony in August that revealed that some of the more crucial testing had not been conducted.

(My favorite reassurance comes from the Q & A section of the FDA site: Available information indicates that the dispersants being used to combat the oil spill do not accumulate in seafood and therefore there is no public health concern from them due to seafood consumption. Really? I think I’d like to hold off until I hear more about that unavailable information.)

Well, here it is, via HuffPo:

Researchers testing the waters off Louisiana in June found hugely elevated levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, some of which are known carcinogens.

The researchers from Oregon State University say that a device taking samples just off the shore of Louisiana’s Grande Isle registered a 40-fold increase in PAHs between May and June.

What’s worse is that the sampling device was specifically designed to measure the fraction of PAHs in the environment that could make their way through a biological membrane.

“This is a measure of what would enter into an organism,” said Kim Anderson, an OSU professor of environmental and molecular toxicology.

I don’t like to say I told you so, but I told you so. For the full read, click here.

–Jennifer Grayson

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