Thursday, April 29, 2010

LED lighting comes indoors

My one green thing today: Replaced a conventional lightbulb with an energy efficient model, and how! We easily screwed an LED light bulb, which uses 80% less energy than an incandescent one, into the lovely old green glass leaf pendant hanging in the stairwell. Its warm light many tiny light efficient diode cells gives it the look of a glowing golden beehive. It uses only 8 watts to shine as strong as the 75 watt incandescent we replaced, and, with a correlated color temperature (CCT) of 3000K (kelvins), it produces the same warm glow. With a lifetime of 50,000 hours, our LED will last 10 years if it burns 12 hours a day, and we use it for about half that much time.

In the 20 years of use we can expect from it, we'd save about $200, so the $70 (gulp!) bulb should pay for itself at least three times over, given Hawaii's energy costs, which, at 26.71 cents per kilowatt-hour, are the highest in the nation, nearly treble the national average of 10.54 cents per kwh.

Oh, and it burns at room temperature, so it won't heat the house, and it's mercury-free.

For more about energy saving lightbulbs, electronics, and appliances, and healthy green living tips and choices for food, water, home cleaning and decorating, recycling, personal care,apparel and transportation, see my new book, Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices.

For more seasonal green living news and shopping lists, see my home page, Ask me questions there, or in a comment to this blog. I will respond!

To find the kilowatt hour cost in your state, go to

Our Array Lighting Par 30 LED from Nexxus was a gift from our son, who does energy research. Its casing is made from recycled plastic.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Natural Laundry Brighteners

My One Green Thing Today: Wearing gloves, presoaked stained dish towels in washing soda, a natural mineral powder, mixed with cold water. Why gloves? While far gentler than chlorine bleach on our bodies and the environment, washing soda is naturally caustic. Or wear reef shoes!

Monday, April 19, 2010

choose certified organic bamboo

Why feel bad about bamboo?

Finally, the FTC says it’s going to start regulating green marketing claims. The agency is publishing a series of Green Guides on the topic. But why the across-the-boad crackdown on fabric labeled bamboo? FTC says it carries the false implication that the product is green, when in reality the processing is highly polluting. The resulting rayon fabric, FTC says, contains no trace of bamboo, so the label is doubly misleading.

True, green labels continue to proliferate to a dizzying degree as companies large and small in every sector jump on the natural products bandwagon. Greenwashing companies charge green premium prices without having to pay for third-party-certified ingredients or production methods. To date there’s been little oversight of these claims beyond USDA certified organic food, fiber and plant-based cosmetics, the EPA’s Energy Star, Water Sense and Design for the Environment (DfE) labels, and stringent private non-profit certifications such as Forest Stewardship Council and Rainforest Alliance.

As almost everyone knows by now, “natural,” “nontoxic,” “eco friendly” and so on are meaningless, per Consumer Union’s Greener Choices excellent But at the consumer level there’s been a long-term love affair with bamboo anything, from flooring to furniture to apparel. It’s gotten to the point where the word “bamboo” itself on a clothing label implies green provenance. The rationale was admittedly vague for bamboo, as for hemp. “Bamboo is a grass that doesn’t require pesticides, fertilizers or lots of water,” many company websites say. But they don't verify that their bamboo is actually grown sustainably, much less processed without a toxic footprint. This has bothered me for years.

Now that it’s officially bothering the FTC, I’m reconsidering, especially since the message of their “Don’t be Bamboozled” campaign is so blatantly self-congratulatory. Yes, the processing's toxic and what you end up with is plain old rayon that could have come from any cellulose source. But if you're going to make rayon anyway, isn't it better to encourage bamboo cultivation and harvesting, rather than cutting forests? When it comes to forest products, such as flooring, furniture and paper, “There is FSC-certified bamboo that has been certified by the Rainforest Alliance’s SmartWood program, although it’s a very tiny amount,” says Abby Ray of Rainforest Alliance.

“Keep in mind that bamboo is an especially fast-growing tree and water efficient, certainly in comparison to cotton,” says Ben Block of the Worldwatch Institute.


Some bamboo is certified organically grown, and the clothing is made in the U.S. with the approval seal of Green America, formerly Co-op America, which requires fair labor standards. This is certainly a step up from rayon made of cellulose taken from trees, causing deforestation. There are now some certified organic bamboo products from conscientious companies, which are also cleaning up the production process, using less toxic solvents. Bamboosa, for one, is remarkably transparent about its sourcing and processing.

While I welcome the FTC’s more vigilant stance it needs more clarification. At a time when consumers are trying to make greener, healthier choices by demanding transparency about the source of food and other products, from farm, forest or mine through processing and delivery, see Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles for instance, for FTC not to allow companies to say that a fiber made from bamboo is no longer bamboo is facetious.

I say, bamboo feels good and it should. Choose certified organic bamboo fabric and wear with pride and comfort.

For more information:

Bamboo helps save forests per Mangrove Action in Indonesia, reported by Worldwatch Here’s a document that explains the certification of bamboo:
Worldwatch Flushing Forests, bamboo fiber used for “washi” toilet paper in Japan

Recycled, FSC certified office paper

Bought 30% recycled printer paper, certified sustainably sourced by Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) at Office Max. A ream is 25% off for Earth Week! Definitely affordable, especially when you print and copy on both sides to save paper.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Green nontoxic silver and CD cleaner

My One Green Thing Today: Cleaned deep dark tarnish off Civil-War-era silver with old toothpaste, and repaired a beloved but lightly scratched jazz CD. Silver filled the cracks, and I smoothed with a soft cloth. Now the antique is sumptuous and bright, Bill Evans Trio plays uninterrupted, and there was no trauma to my respiratory tract or skin from solvent fumes or corrosive ingredients.

For more info on corrosive metal polishes, see Washington Toxics Coalition,