Green Pages — One Woman Asks “How’m I Doin’?”

Circa 2007

I ’m quite sure that most of you are recycling your paper. (The rest of you, get with the program!) Now it’s time to close the loop. This is a vital step in the lifecycle process, as there must be significant consumer demand for recycled products for paper companies to even offer them. Makes sense, right?

Now for the confusing part: Making sense of the mysterious acronyms that tell you what kind of recycling a product has been through. The cryptic symbols are enough to make even the most affectionate treehugger say “fuhgeddabbouttit!” But, never fear, the acronyms aren’t as perplexing as they might seem.

First up, there’s post-consumer content (PCC), which refers to used material collected through household, office and drop-off recycling programs. This is different than “recycled” paper, which is made from pre-consumer content, such as paper trimmings from the paper mill, as well as printer and printed materials that never reach the consumer. (FYI, PCC is also known as postconsumer waste or PCW.)

That pre-consumer content is peachy and all, but I know we can do better. So try shopping for paper products such as printer paper, facial tissues, paper towels, etc., with the highest PCC percentage. Thirty percent is optimal. Look for packaging that displays the chasing arrows within a circle, which indicates that the product contains recycled content. (Don’t confuse it with the chasing arrows, which simply indicate that a product is recyclable.) Check to see if there’s a percentage— preferably high—that indicates the amount of recycled material in the product.

The price will be a bit higher, but you can reduce costs by buying in bulk from online retailers such as Amazon or eBay. Keep in mind that, by purchasing paper products with a high PCC, you are not only closing the lifecycle loop, but you are sending a message that will encourage manufacturers to continue to reclaim and use recycle materials. Believe me, if there’s money to be made, they’ll make it! Ahh, Corporate America—it loves green, too!

In order to make paper white, paper fibers are bleached (yuck!), even though chlorine-free paper quality is optimal. The green alternative, Processed Chlorine Free (PCF) paper, has not been subjected to a boatload of nasty chemicals. It uses no chlorine or chlorine derivatives, thereby eliminating toxic by-products associated with chlorine, such as dioxins. Also, the more unbleached paper purchased, the fewer toxins end up polluting our water, so everyone wins!

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international organization that promotes the protection of the world’s forests. One of the ways it achieves this is through its certification program. Besides vouching for responsible forest management, FSC also offers custody certificates, which provide a guarantee that careful steps were taken from the forest to the consumer, including the processing, manufacturing and distribution phases. When you buy only paper products with the FSC label, you contribute to the preservation of our forests.

Like many folks, I made my New Year’s resolutions several months back. Now, in an attempt to account for my actions, or lack thereof, I thought it appropriate to see where I’m at this fall, as well as where I’m going…

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RESOLUTION 1: Purchase more locally grown produce and work my way toward eating foods grown within 100 miles (a.k.a., “the 100-mile diet”).

I’m actually doing pretty well on this one. My Sunday morning trips to the local farmers’ market have actually become a bit of an addiction! If you’re not shopping at your area’s farmers’ market, you’re missing out on superb fruits and veggies. In addition, my little organic garden is bearing fruit, and I’m up to my eyeballs in tomatoes. My only major failure has been bananas. Not a whole lot of banana farmers live in Southern California, so I’m rationalizing this by buying organic. All in all, I give myself a solid 9 in this area.

RESOLUTION 2: Replace one major appliance with a more energy-efficient model by the end of ‘07.

Sadly, I’m only getting a 1 in this department. Sure, I’ve window-shopped, but plunking down a few grand for the washer and dryer of my dreams is a bit more of a budget-buster than I realized. Thankfully, there are a few months before ‘08 comes a knockin’. Maybe some extra greenbacks will roll my way.

RESOLUTION 3: Get power strips for the kitchen appliances and TV, etc., and remember to shut ‘em off when not in use!

Check! It’s amazing how much electricity we’ve saved. I’m actually doing darn well at remembering to shut them off. I’ll give myself an 8 in this department.

RESOLUTION 4: Replace outdoor garden lighting with solar-powered lighting.

Ding! Solar lights work great, although I admit the quality of the light is a bit dimmer. We’ve gotten used to it, and I feel much better about my previous low scores now.

MY SORTA RESOLUTION 5: Clean up and get rid of all my crap.

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Um, can we go back and recap my some of the successes above?

As I pack my bags for a week of camp with 150-ish stinky kiddos baking underneath the Southern California sun, I’m thinking: Man, I hate it when I stink. At the same time, I don’t relish the idea of slathering my tender underarms with icky chemicals. Oddly enough (and contrary to popular belief), sweat is odorless. It’s that nasty bacteria that gathers on the skin and breaks down the sweat that causes the big smell-o-rama.

Antiperspirants contain aluminum, which has generated greater debate than an inside pitch at my daughter’s softball game. Aluminum has been linked to both cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Women who shave and then immediately apply antiperspirant are especially at risk, according to a 2004 study at the University of Reading in the U.K. Subsequent studies have indicated the presence of parabens in antiperspirants. Parabens are synthetic preservatives found in many personal-care products, which have been linked to various cancers.

Deodorants, on the other hand, neutralize smells and provide antiseptic action against bacteria. So, why not try a natural deodorant? Whether or not the links between aluminum and disease are legit, it seems to me that anytime you replace a chemical cosmetic with a natural one, you’re better off.

There are abundant deodorant choices out there, and while I’m not sold on the crystal-rock solution, companies such as Alba Botanica, Avalon Organics and Jason Natural Cosmetics offer impressive alternatives. Test some of them out and see what works for you. Smell ya later!

by Kristen McCarthy Thomas

Kristen McCarthy Thomas is a public relations specialist with an integrated marketing communications company in Southern CA. She leads the company’s Environmental and Sustainability Task Forces, and helps the company’s 70-plus associates “green up.”

Kristen also writes, which we’ll occasionally excerpt here. She is at work on a book to help parents reduce their family’s environmental footprint through inexpensive (if not money-saving), easy-to-understand steps, as well as to pass the torch of environmentalism to the next generation, not only by action, but through example.

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