Monthly Archives: December 2012

Reused and Reusable New Year’s Decorations

By Leah Kaminsky

Every year on December 31, partygoers the world round gather to celebrate the beginning of the New Year. But starting fresh doesn’t have to mean going back to square one with your decorations. It’s easy to stay green with a few creative DIY ideas…and a willingness to rethink just what those holiday decorations from earlier in the month can do.

1. Decorate Your Door With Timely Snowflakes

If you’re missing that holiday wreath, there are plenty of ways to decorate your front door. As demonstrated here, turn those holiday snowflakes into the perfect New Year’s decoration by stenciling the year onto a burlap sack and attaching it to the front of your snowflake. If you don’t have a snowflake hanging around, cut your own out of paper and use an exacto knife to cut the shape into thin white foam board. To hang it from your door, all you need is hot glue and a magnetic clip.

2. Get Festive with Wrapping Paper

Think wrapping paper is the ultimate in waste? Think again when you turn that paper into streamers or confetti. All you need is a good pair of scissors and a love for tearing things up!

3. Light Your Way to a Lucky New Year

In southern climes and beyond, black eyed peas are the traditional New Year’s good luck treat. Fill a candle holder with uncooked beans, add a nice soy candle and light your way into the New Year. Caveat: You can reuse the beans from year to year (they last a long time), but eventually you will need to replace them. And definitely don’t plan to eat them.

4. Make a New Kind of Tree Tradition

Just because the holidays are over, doesn’t mean every kind of tree must be banished from your home. These ornament trees are as festive as can be, and they’re much more sustainable than cut flowers. Even better, they’re easy to make. Just gather a few sturdy sticks, place them in a vase, and hang your ornaments. Though you can use whatever ornaments you please, try sticking to silver and white to pay tribute to the Times Square ball.

5. Keep Track of Time With Tinsel

This is one of the few times of year when your party guests will actually want to stay keenly aware of time’s passing. String yarn or ribbon across the mantel, shape and staple tinsel into the numbers for next year, and hang them from your string.

Reusable New Year’s decorations are well within your reach. And what better way to usher in the New Year than with a little bit of a green tinge?

A Journey with Breast Cancer, Part 3: Skin is In

By Jeanne Romano

As you probably know both chemo and radiation treatments are very effective parts of your cancer treatment. However, in targeting cancer cells they can also damage healthy cells – anything that grows quickly, like your skin. So it’s no surprise you’ll probably encounter (if you haven’t already) itching, rashes, sensitivity to the sun and even an allergic reaction or two. Nice, huh?

MY OWN EXPERIENCE REVEALED TWO THINGS YOU SHOULD AVOID. THEY’RE EASY TO OVERLOOK AND MIGHT WORSEN YOUR DISCOMFORT: 

If at all possible, only wear cotton clothing next to your skin –something made of natural fibers. Maybe wear an all-cotton camisole or T-shirt under other materials to prevent dry skin reactions.

TIP: Try washing your clothes in a mild, organic, scent-free or all-natural  laundry detergent. No bleach or fabric softeners.

You may want to avoid all scented soaps, bubble bath, etc… depending on the brand they may contain drying and irritating agents that could trigger or worsen dry skin.

If at all possible, avoid direct exposure to the sun. That lovely warming orb might trigger photo-toxic reactions in your skin which may cause some unpleasant swelling, redness, blisters, and peeling. “Gosh, when you put it that way…” If you plan to be outdoors, try using an organic sunscreen or moisturizer. SPF15 (or greater) is the usual recommendation.

It may help to wear special protective clothing that shields your skin from the sun. This type of clothing has special built-in SPF protection. You might also want to buy a product that adds sunscreen in the wash. The reason I mention it is because of those sneaky overcast days.

Try not to indulge in long, hot baths. Even though a hot soak sounds so relaxing (even therapeutic) than let’s say a lukewarm shower, hot water has a tendency to dry out sensitive skin.

OBVIOUSLY THERE ARE TONS OF PRODUCTS OUT THERE TO HELP YOU THROUGH THIS. HERE’S WHAT WORKED FOR ME:  

HYDRATE. I can’t say recommend this enough. Try drinking at least two to three quarts of water or non-caffeinated, alcohol-free beverages every day. I know what you’re thinking. You’ll probably spend half your day in the bathroom. Annoying yes, worth it? Absolutely.

Hydration also means your skin. Organic moisturizers such Aloe Vera are the way to go. They’re formulated to promote moisture in skin cells and create a barrier on the outermost layer of your skin. This layer is designed to protect your sensitive skin. The old standby baby oil might be just the ticket for slavering on after taking shower. Baby oil is made to penetrate baby skin and create a protective seal, locking in much needed moisture. If it works for baby, it just might work for you.

It’s a good idea to wear rubber gloves when washing dishes or handling cleaning products. During chemo and radiation your hands might be sensitive and showing signs of irritation. For an additional barrier, try thin cotton gloves beneath the rubber or vinyl gloves to further protect your skin.

TIP: Inflammation often responds well to the application of a cool, wet (cotton) cloth.

I sprinkled simple cornstarch on my skin to relieve itching. You may prefer cornstarch to talcum powder, which may cause some irritation.

Don’t forget to chat with your doctor and/or medical team about your skin. If you experience some tenderness it might be possible to reduce your dosage of chemotherapy or radiation – remember your medical team is there to help you – and you are the most important part of the “team.” Don’t be silent about your discomfort; there are alternative drugs. Be sure to let someone know if you feel burning in your skin during the administration of chemotherapy. Burning may be an allergic reaction to the intravenous tubing.

Take extra care to protect your skin if you receive radiation before chemo. Your skin might develop something called radiation recall –which might cause (more good news) painful blistering or peeling.

When therapy is over your skin should rebound, although not immediately. It might take a while so be prepared for the possibility of some lingering irritation and/or soreness. There might also be some scarring. The best product I found (and still use) for reducing the look of scars and rejuvenating skin is Strivectin-SD.

According to the American Cancer Society, it usually takes six to 12 months for the skin to return to normal. Just so you know, my skin was back in less than that. Yes, there are still some dry patches but for the most part, because I asked questions and did some additional research, I took extra care. Some patches are still a bit rough however in general my skin is in fine condition. And soon, yours will be too.

Gift Giving Guide for the Non-Green Relative or Friend

By Leah Kaminsky

For the green consumer, holiday gift shopping can be a stimulating opportunity to flex their green problem-solving skills. Sick of wasteful wrapping paper? Use newspaper. Tired of cheap, throwaway clothing? Give organic.

That’s well and good when giving gifts to friends and family who have a bit of an eco-bent, but what’s a greenie to do when giving gifts to someone who’s staunchly non-green? Let’s do some strategizing.

The Profile:

  1. Your relative who grew up during WWII, when canned goods were practically a patriotic duty. “We ate beans from a can and we liked ‘em that way!” Warning: This person may not be a big consumer, but they’re likely clinging to chemical-laden housewares.
  2. Your shop-a-holic friend who cares only about more, more, MORE, regardless of where “more” comes from. Warning: May be a fan of saying, “That sounds delightful, darling. Just delightful!”

The Gifting Challenge:

The Non-Green Relative or Friend either pays no attention to green trends or actively despises anything that disrupts their regular patterns of consumerism. The green movement may make them feel guilty, which can spark a visceral reaction against anything interpreted as being eco-friendly.

The Solution:

There’s only one way to give green to the non-green friend: don’t let them know you’re doing it. Such gifts could include:

  1. A cookbook…that just happens to slip in tips on buying local produce.
  2. Jewelry…that’s sustainably made and purchased from a small, local vendor. Who needs to know?
  3. A bicycle…with an electric boost. This will be especially good if your gift recipient is into gadgets.
  4. Everyday goods made from BPA-free materials…that distract the recipient from their inherently green nature. For instance, this reusable coffee mug, which features a major youtube meme, will have any pop culture fan in hysterics before they realize you’ve tricked them out of using paper coffee cups.
  5. Products they’ve asked for…but with a green spin. If, for instance, you find “books” on your recipient’s holiday list, swap a new book with something secondhand, or buy them an e-reader.
  6. Products you present as being cool new trends in generaland not just to the cool green movement.

Voila! With a little creativity, you’ll turn this time of consumption into a time of sustainability. And your decidedly non-eco conscious friend will be none the wiser.

Natural Nails

By Leah Kaminsky

It doesn’t take a genius to guess that nail polish is filled to the brim with nasty chemicals. All you need is a nose and a closed room.

In fact, most nail polishes contain what is called the “toxic trio”: dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene and formaldehyde. Together these chemicals have been associated with asthma, developmental and reproductive problems in lab animals, hormone disruption, dizziness and increased cancer risks.

But for those of us who love the sight of cheery, polished nails, there are a few key steps we can take to mitigate the risks.

1. Polish at Home

While professional manicures might feel good, all that time your fingers spend soaking in chemicals is sure to add up. Whether it’s methacrylate chemicals in gel polishes or acetone in nail polish remover, you want your interaction with these chemicals to be short and sweet. Polish at home to control your exposure.

2. Go for Water-Based Polishes

Water-based nail polishes can be removed with nail polish removers that are less harsh.

3. Ventilate

As much as you may love painting your nails in the privacy of your own room, it’s best to polish outside when you can, or at the very least in a room with a window and/or a fan.

4. Try a Natural Polish

While the natural label isn’t a guaranteed chemical-free experience, natural nail polishes are worth it if they’re from a brand you trust.

If all else fails, just try to go longer between touch-ups. Painting your nails every other week will cut your yearly exposure in half without significantly affecting your style.

Green Your Holiday Celebrations

By Leah Kaminsky

There are few times of year quite as homey as the holidays. From the smell of ham roasting in the oven, to the sound of latkes crackling in oil, to the warmth of kindling roaring away in the fireplace (or at least on the TV), it’s not hard to look forward to all the holidays have to offer. Yet, take a look at any post-holiday trash bin (or, more likely, bins plural) and it’s easy to see this isn’t the greenest time of year – despite how that Christmas tree or wreath might make it appear.

But not to worry. There are plenty of ways to keep your eco-conscious clear so you can enjoy those holidays and still keep your eco-friendly morals high.

Buy local and organic. Look to your neighborhood organic food supplier for delicious holiday produce, using classic holiday spices to give non-traditional holiday produce the right feel. More good news: turkeys are native to just about every climate, so you’re sure to find a sustainable turkey farm near you. The same goes for sustainable pig farms. Find your farm first, research its philosophy, and order early, as they tend to have a limited supply.

Forget the wrapping paper. Newspaper, fabric and magazines have much more personality than traditional wrapping paper. Even old paper calendars will do the trick.

Buy energy-saving holiday lights. Many stores now offer LED holiday lighting, which offer substantial energy savings over traditional lights. Good for the earth, good for the wallet!

Make your tree just a little greener. Buy from an organic, pesticide-free tree farm as near to your home as possible. And when the holidays are over, search for a tree recycling program rather than dragging the tree to the curb. Many cities will gladly turn your tree into mulch or wood chips.

Rethink holiday cards. Holiday cards are a great way to show your friends, family and colleagues that you care, but let’s be honest here: how long does anyone keep all but the most important cards before chucking them into the trash can? Rethink your strategy by reducing the number of cards you send, opting for a paperless e-card, or buying cards made from materials you know can be recycled…even if that means saying no to glitter.

With a little forethought, having a green holiday is entirely within your reach. So green your traditions and enjoy all the season has to offer!