Category Archives: Product Reviews

Ain’t it S’well?

My local hardware store is amazing. Cole Hardware is a small, locally-owned chain here in San Francisco that carries everything  from classic hardware store nuts and bolts to fun kitchenware, Soda Stream carbonators and accessories, toys and even freshly-popped popcorn. Besides the awesome selection, the kind, friendly and helpful staff, and the awesome rewards program, one of my favorite things about Cole is their monthly newsletter, Hardware Hotline (you can read it online here). Full of home improvement tips, local and store news and even coupons, the newsletter is a treat to receive in the mail each month. I know – I’m excited about receiving a hardware store newsletter in the mail. If you told my 10-years-ago self that, she would laugh for a very long time. And then take a vodka shot.

Anyway, I just received the November issue of Hardware Hotline, and was excited to find a piece on S’well water bottles. While I’m a Klean Kanteen devotee of late, I’m always looking for other fun new pretty green products, for myself and for gifts (hello, upcoming holidays!). I was particularly excited at the mention that the 25-ounce S’well bottle (they also come in a 17-ounce size) is perfect for bringing along a bottle of wine to events like picnics, outdoor concerts or the beach, where glass is not allowed. The bottles are very pretty – I’m a big fan of their sleek design and fun color selection (they come in 17!). They’re also non-toxic and BPA-free and insulated to keep your cold drinks cold and your hot drinks hot. Better still, 10% of all sales go to a partnership with WaterAid to build safe water sources in Africa and India. That’s S’well, for sure.

I’ll definitely be looking for a S’well bottle next time I pop into Cole. If you can’t find them at a store near you, you can buy the bottles on S’well’s website!

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A Few of My Favorite Things

It hasn’t been so easy being green lately. A trip to Thailand (oh, the plastic!) and several other international trips will do that to you.

However, as I suddenly find myself with a little more time on my hands and no more long flights on the horizon (until I figure out how I want to cash in all those frequent flier miles, that is!), I’m rededicating myself to my pretty green efforts, with a little help from some of my favorite things.

1. Klean Kanteen Water Bottle with Sports Cap

I used to be a devoted Sigg girl, and I still think they’re great. But when I found this bottle at my local Whole Foods, I knew it was the one for me. The sports cap is great for the gym (though fair warning: it does squeak a bit. I choose to think of this as a way to educate the plastic-bottle-carrying girls in my kickboxing class. Squeak squeak, look at me, I’ve got an awesome reusable bottle!). Mine’s orange (go Giants!) but they come in tons of great colors. Plus, they’re BPA-free and responsibly made. Find one near you here.

2. My Kindle

Like many others, I resisted the Kindle for a long time. How could it replace the feel of a real book in your hand, or the smell of a great bookstore (am I the only one who loves the way bookstores smell?)? But after losing a book I was excited about on my flight to Thailand, I finally caved, and I’m so glad I did. I’ve been reading more than ever, love that I can instantly buy a new book as soon as I finish the last, and honestly find it much more comfortable and easier to hold than a paperback. I know there’s been some debate about how green Kindles really are, but after reading a report that says “printed books have the highest per-unit carbon footprint,” and “on average, the carbon emitted over the life of the device is offset after the first year of use,” I feel comfortable with the decision. Of course, I still continue to visit and support my favorite local bookstore, and think books make wonderful gifts. Some of my favorite reads since I bought the Kindle: The Help, Sarah’s Key, Bossypants, The Glass Castle and Spoiled. What are you reading? Any recommendations?

3. The Train

You know what’s awesome? Taking the train. Over Memorial Day Weekend, I hopped on Amtrak and went down to visit my friend Janet of This Confetti Life (if you’re not already reading her blog, you must!). My friends in London teased me about the six hour each-way journey – “you know you could get from London to Paris and back to London and back to Paris in that amount of time” – but the hours flew by while I read my Kindle, chatted with my friendly fellow passengers, napped and visited the snack car. Before the trip, I didn’t know what to expect, but I was beyond impressed. The seats were huge and comfortable, the staff was friendly, funny and helpful, and the scenery was great. It’s so much easier than traveling by plane: you can bring liquids on board, you don’t have to get there hours in advance, and it’s generally pretty darn affordable.  Plus, there’s that little matter of your carbon footprint. According to this Newsweek article, “Hands down, traveling by rail is the most fuel-efficient and least-carbon-intensive way you can go.” All aboard!

So there you have it: a few of my favorite pretty green things. What are your favorite eco-friendly discoveries or rediscoveries of late?

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I Love You More Than I Love Candy

Pretty Green Sister, my go-to green resource, left for Israel today. For two months. I’m excited for her, nervous, and wondering what I’m going to do without our multiple simultaneous Facebook Scrabble games. She’ll be working on a kibbutz, and then an organic farm. What an adventure! I think she’s going to have the time of her life, but I’m really going to miss her! I already do.


Karen loves ice cream more than anyone I know. Yes, more than you. It’s only fitting, then, that my favorite quote of hers involves her beloved frozen treat. I can’t recall if I’ve mentioned it here before, but it bears repeating:

“Most people say they love ice cream, but what they don’t know about me is that I really, really f***ing love ice cream.”

So when I saw this darling card, made of 100% recycled paper by Ghost Academy, I knew it was meant to be. For the record, we’re also both big fans of candy, having been limited to just one piece a week on Candy Day as kids (it’s a long story). And we’ve been trying to cut back on extraneous gifts just for the sake of giving – no use giving someone something they don’t need that will only end up in a landfill. A heartfelt card was the perfect bon voyage.

Ghost Academy specializes in “handmade frivolity,” illustrated by the talented Megan Gray. Find her darling, block printed cards at a store near you. And look – she has a blog!

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Product Review: Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt

One of the great perks of blogging is that occasionally people want to send you free stuff! Sweet! Even better when it’s a product you’re really excited about. I’ve been a fan of Stonyfield Farms for a long time, especially because of their partnership with Preserve, their emphasis on organic products, their use of milk from family farms, and their environmental practices. So when Kristina from Stonyfield offered to send me some coupons, I was psyched.

And when the package came, I felt like one very lucky blogger!
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Check out that bounty of coupons and the cool reusable bag! Thanks, Kristina!

I was especially excited to try Oikos, as I’m a big fan of Greek yogurt, and don’t often see organic brands. While I tend to generally purchase locally-made organic plain yogurts like Wallaby and Straus, neither of these brands make Greek yogurt. And I must say, Oikos is some of the best Greek yogurt I have ever tried. It’s rich, creamy, delcious and packs 23 grams of protein and NO fat per serving. Amazing. This stuff definitely does not taste fat-free! My favorite way to enjoy it is with Stahlbush Farms Marion blackberries – I pack a little container of yogurt and frozen berries in the morning, and by lunch the berries have defrosted and perfectly sweetened the yogurt. Yum! While I usually buy plain Oikos and add my own fruit to it, the vanilla is absolutely amazing as an occasional treat – it’s better than most desserts! The plain is so thick and rich that it’s a great substitute for sour cream, and also works as a great way to cut back on oil in muffin recipes and other baked goods.

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I will say that I prefer to buy the 16oz, as opposed to the smaller, single-serving size, because the container is a great size for reusing (it perfectly holds a sandwich on an English muffin, for example!). Stonyfield seems to have given a lot of thought to their packaging, most of which is admittedly over my head, but I’d love to see a larger, 32-oz size, and a lid added to the indivudual-serving size to make the container reusable.

Oikos might not be the cheapest yogurt on the market (the 16oz generally runs around $5 or so at my local Whole Foods – I think everything’s more expensive in SF, though), but for me, it’s well worth the price!

What do you like to add to your yogurt? Anything unusual besides fruit or honey?

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Green Skin

No, I’m not talking about this look:

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but it is pretty wicked, as my friends in New England might say. 🙂

Awhile back, my sister told me about this cool website, Cosmetics Database, where you can look up beauty products and see their score in terms of safety and environmental impact. You can search via keyword for a particular product you’re interested in, or search a topic like “Makeup” or “Skincare” and sort by score.

I have been trying a lot of different products lately, searching for the right balance of eco-friendliness and effectiveness. I just realized I’ve been stuck in the A’s – most of the products I’ve been using are by Alba, Avalon, Auromere Ayurvedic, Almay and Aveda. Heh. Many of these fall in the mid range, with a score of about 4-6. I’m not crazy about this, but I haven’t found anything I love with a lower score… yet. Avalon Organics is a great line my sister likes, but I’m not crazy about the smell of lavender, which is in the shampoo best suited for my hair. I swear, I’m the only person who feels this way – everyone I know loves the smell! I adore violet, but lavender, not so much. I would like to try some of their other shampoos, though. I’ve been using their Vitamin C Moisture Plus Lotion SPF 15 which I like, but rates a 6 out of 10 on the hazard scale. I was using Giovanni shampoo for awhile, which you can buy in bulk at my local co-op. I liked it, but it wasn’t perfect for my hair, which tends to be kind of coarse. If I’m not careful, I lose the battle of the Jew-fro. 🙂 Aveda has a reputation for being “natural” and “plant-based” but many of their products still contain fragrance and less than natural ingredients.

Right now, I’m using Alba Coconut Milk Extra-Rich Hair Wash and Mango Moisturizing Conditioner, which smell great but rate a 5 on the hazard scale. Not bad in the scheme of things, but not great. I also hate the amount of plastic I go through with these products! Buying in bulk is a great option, as I mentioned, but that’s not an option for everyone, and sometimes they don’t have the right products that work for specific hair needs.

mango conditioner

For soap, I really like Dr. Bronner’s. I’ve got a bar of the Citrus and of the Almond right now and they’re great – and only rate a 2! I used to be a Dove addict, but this has been an easy switch. They smell delish! Looks like Dr. B also makes a full-line of other products, so I’m going to keep my eyes open for those. Their Magic Liquid is great, too, for a variety of purposes, but it definitely doesn’t cut it as a shampoo for my hair!

soap

There are so many products labeled eco-friendly out there right now, but it’s hard to know which are real and which are greenwashed. Hopefully Cosmetics Database can help us sort through and find what we’re looking for!

What eco-friendly beauty products do you like? How do they rate on the hazard scale? Have any to recommend to me?

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Whole Soy & Co: I’m in Love!

Though I love tofu, I’ve never been a big fan of soy milk. At least not of Silk, or the unsweetened kind from Trader Joe’s. Just not my thing. I’ve tried a few different soy frozen yogurts, and found them to have that same funky taste I think soy milk has. Until I discovered the perfection that is Whole Soy & Co. frozen yogurt.

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I was first drawn in by their Chocolate Hazelnut flavor, and OMG, this stuff is good. It has an absolutely amazing flavor and only 120 calories and 2.5 grams of fat per serving. I have a container of their Swiss Dark Chocolate at home right now, taunting me as I try to cut a little bit back on sugar this week. We’ll see how that goes. 😉 I had some the other night and it seriously was better than some full-fat ice creams I’ve had. A few weeks ago, I had some of the Mocha Fudge, and later that night, I was literally so happy that I wasn’t sure if I could sleep. I don’t know if it was the caffeine or what, but seriously, I was giddy. I had a small scoop in my coffee the next morning (hey, people put cream and sugar in their coffee, right?) and I was totally in love with life that day, too. I don’t know if I can account it all to the frozen yogurt, but I think I will so I can eat it more often. 🙂 They have a few other delicious-sounding flavors – Vanilla Bean, Crème Caramel and Black Cherry – and their products are certified vegan, Kosher and dairy-, casein- and gluten-free. I have yet to try their soy yogurts, but I definitely plan to in the near future, especially after learning more about the company.

Whole Soy & Co. is locally based here in SF, but that’s not the only that makes them pretty green. Check out their Sustainability Statement for some amazing facts about what they’re doing!

Some highlights:
* They are independently-owned
* Their products are certified organic
* They source their fruit locally
* They pay livable wages
* They encourage their employees to take public transit (and almost all of them do!)
* They give back to the community
* They source their sugar and cocoa from socially and economically responsible cooperatives
* They participate in a CSA
*They got rid of their plastic lids to keep them out of the waste stream, but will send you one if you want to reuse your yogurt cup (which I recommend you do!)

There are too many wonderful things to list here, so please take a look at their website, and definitely try their products if you see them in stores!

A socially and environmentally responsible company that makes an outstanding product? I’m in love!

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Toothpaste Follow-Up

A little while back, I posted about my trouble finding a natural toothpaste that didn’t taste terrible. I think Tom’s of Maine is gross, and I wasn’t ready to go as far as brushing with castile soap, yikes! The problem is, most of the natural toothpastes I’ve found at health food stores are not ADA-approved, I think because they don’t have fluoride. Since I have braces, I need to be extra careful with my teeth, so I kept looking at all the options and going home empty-handed.

I finally picked up a tube of The Natural Dentist in Peppermint Twist at Whole Foods, and am liking it so far! Things I like: it’s made in the USA, it doesn’t come in a box (check out the stats – toothpaste in boxes contributes more than 28 million pounds of packaging to the waste stream, yikes!), they print with soy ink and their products are cruelty-free. The company also believes in sustainable agriculture. They use no alcohol, petroleum byproducts, or artificial dyes, sweeteners or flavors. Check out their site for a description of What is Natural and their FAQS about specific ingredients. They even have a kids sparkle toothpaste with naturally-occurring mica! Per the company website, Fluoride is the only cavity-prevention ingredient recognized by both the American Dental Association and the FDA. So for now, especially with my braces, I’m sticking with it.

toothpaste2

My only complaint would be that it isn’t super, super minty, which I am used to after years of using artificially-sweetened (blech) toothpaste. But I think I’ll get used to it, and it has a pleasant taste, nothing like other ones I’ve tried!

You can find out where to buy their products here and get a $2 off coupon on their site!

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