green living

10pFlower1The organization Bioregional works with communities (as well as businesses, governments, and other entities) to create better places where people can “live happy, healthy lives within the natural limits of the planet.”

They base their work around the following 10 principles of the One Planet Living framework:

Health and Happiness
Encouraging active, sociable, meaningful lives to promote good health and well-being

Equity and Local Economy
Creating bioregional economies that support equity and diverse local employment and international fair trade

Culture and Community
Respecting and reviving local identity, wisdom and culture; encouraging the involvement of people in shaping their community and creating a new culture of sustainability

Land Use and Wildlife
Protecting and restoring biodiversity and creating natural habitats through good land use

Sustainable Water
Using water efficiently in buildings, farming, and manufacturing. Designing to avoid local issues such as flooding, drought, and water course pollution

Local and Sustainable Food
Supporting sustainable and humane farming; promoting access to healthy, low-impact, local, seasonal, and organic diets; and reducing food waste

Sustainable Materials
Using safe and sustainable products, including those with low embodied energy, sourced locally, made from renewable or waste resources

Sustainable Transport
Reducing the need to travel, and encouraging low- and zero-carbon modes of transport to reduce emissions

Zero Waste
Reducing waste, reusing where possible, and ultimately sending zero waste to landfill

Zero Carbon
Making buildings energy efficient and delivering all energy with renewable technologies

The following are the most established One Planet Communities that Bioregional has been working with around the world:

  • BedZED, Hackbridge, Sutton (south London), UKBioregional-BedZED

And these One Planet Communities are currently being developed:

  • Zibi, Ottawa, Canada

One Planet Communities is a voluntary program, and it is not a certification program. Similar frameworks that do offer certification include the: Living Community Challenge, and LEED for Neighborhood Development, and STAR Communities. (Check back soon for a new post about those rating and certification programs.)

Related post:

Sustainable Neighborhoods and Communities


July 30, 2015
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B Corporations (known as B Corps, for short) are companies that “use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.” As of June 2015, there are now more than 1,300 certified B Corporations, in 41 countries and 121 industries (twice as many industries as were represented a year ago). Among the larger and most well-known companies that are certified B Corporations are: Ben and Jerry’s, Method, Patagonia, Seventh Generation, Sungevity, The Honest Company, Natura, and Etsy (which recent became a publicly traded company).

BCorp-620x415Each year, B Lab recognizes a group of B Corps as “Best for the World” honorees. These companies have earned an overall score in the top 10% of all certified B Corporations on the B Impact Assessment, a rigorous and comprehensive assessment of a company’s impact on its workers, community, and the environment. These are businesses that go beyond simply being benign or reducing their harm to society; they make significant efforts to be beneficial and even benevolent.

Dozens of companies made the top 10%. But here are this year’s Best of the Best. The companies that got the five highest scores of all (in the overall Best for the World list) were:

  • South Mountain Company (an employee-owned, residential design/build and renewable energy firm), West Tisbury, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts [They received the top score overall, which is currently 179]
  • Juhudi Kilimo (an agricultural asset financing and training company; lender / credit provider), Nairobi, Kenya
  • Echale a tu casa (self-build affordable housing program and housing improvements production company), Mexico City, Mexico
  • Beneficial State BankBeneficial State Bank (community development financial institution; bank / credit provider), Oakland, California
  • One Earth Designs (sustainable living products, such as the SolSource solar grill), Hong Kong (as well as offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts and in China)


Within the Best for the Environment category, these were the companies with the five highest environment scores:piedmont_logo_LRG_0

  • Atayne (high-performance outdoor and athletic apparel), Brunswick, Maine
  • Dolphin Blue (sustainable products online retailer), Dallas, Texas
  • Method Products (home and personal care products), San Francisco, California

There are also categories for Best for Community and Best for Workers.


Click here for stories about some of this year’s Best for the World companies.

Also follow the B Corps blog and B The Change Media, a new media hub for stories about B Corporations and benefit corporations.

And click here to find other B Corps. (You can search by location, name, industry, or keyword.)

Note: B Corporations and “benefit corporations” are similar but different things. For an explanation of each and the difference between the two, please see our previous post on this topic:

Benefit Corporations and B Corps: Businesses for the Common Good

Other relevant posts:

Beneficial Businesses: Top B Corps of 2014

Green Business, Corporate Social Responsibility, Ethical Finance, and Sustainable Economies


June 10, 2015
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We post morsels of illuminating information and inspiration on The Green Spotlight’s Facebook Page every day. Anyone can view the page, even if you don’t have a Facebook account. But if you do have an account, we hope you’ll click on the page’s Like button (if you haven’t already “Liked” the page).

Please visit the Page to get a sense of the wide variety of topics that it covers. You are welcome to comment on the posts and we hope you’ll share some of our links. To make sure that Facebook will continue to show you our posts on your Facebook homepage/newsfeed, visit our page regularly and give a thumbs-up to (“Like”) your favorite posts.

Here’s a sampling of topics that we’ve highlighted on the page over the last couple of months:

  • Tesla’s Powerwall battery for home energy storage
  • Climate Rides (and Hikes)
  • Hawaii commits to 100% renewable electricity
  • Toxic pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides are really biocides
  • Goldman Prize winner videos
  • RoundUp’s links to cancer and other health and environmental harms
  • Environmental education, curriculum resources
  • Fossil-fuel-free funds have outperformed conventional stock-market funds
  • Community Choice local renewable power programs
  • Mother Earth News Fairs
  • Portland generating electricity via turbines in city water pipes
  • Wind turbines installed on the Eiffel Tower
  • New films: Inhabit, Oil and Water, Dryden, Merchants of Doubt, Mother, Revolution, Planetary
  • Quotations, photos, graphics, cartoons, etc.

May 19, 2015
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Green Business is one of this blog’s main content categories. The following are some of the business-related posts that have been published on The Green Spotlight:

Green products are one subset of the green business category. The following are a few of our posts related specifically to green products:

Additional posts on sustainable business topics will be published on the blog in coming months. Check back soon for more.


April 26, 2015
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Ever since Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring was published in 1962 (sparking people’s awareness of health threats from chemicals, and leading to the ban on DDT 10 years later), an array of scientific studies have shown that various toxic chemicals and pollutants—in our air, water, soil, food, yards, indoor environments (homes, schools, and workplaces), and household and personal products—are causing or contributing to a myriad of public health problems. Such problems Basic RGBrange from asthma, allergies, headaches, and skin and respiratory conditions to serious reproductive/endocrine (hormone) problems, neurological problems (including learning disorders and lower IQ), birth defects, infertility, heart conditions, and many types of cancers. Recent studies have also linked chemical exposure to diabetes and obesity. Children and babies are particularly vulnerable to toxins, including through pre-natal exposures. And people in certain occupations (such as janitors, farm workers, nail salon staff, and some factory workers)—who have jobs in which they are regularly exposed to a stew of toxic chemicals—suffer from higher rates of certain health conditions than the general population.

Unfortunately, many toxic chemicals remain virtually unregulated, and existing regulations are not adequately enforced. Most products and chemicals that are used in products are considered “innocent until proven guilty;” they are assumed to be safe until it’s proven that they’re dangerous. But even when there is strong scientific evidence of the toxicity and harmfulness of certain substances, they are not always banned—or it can take many years of battles to get them banned. Known, probable, and suspected carcinogens and other harmful chemicals are in products that we all use every day. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is the main chemical safety law in the U.S., but it is weak and outdated; it desperately needs to be updated and strengthened, but some members of Congress are currently trying to weaken it further, putting the profit interests of the chemical industry over public health.

A few of the most toxic chemicals/elements, many of which are still commonly found in products, CradletoCradleCertified-NoLevelinclude: mercury, lead, arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde, PVC (poly-vinyl chloride—dioxin is a by-product), phthalates (plasticizers), flame retardants (PBDEs, TDCP, TCEP), cadmium, chromium, hexane, PFCs, trichlorethylene (TCE), and asbestos. And there are many other toxic chemicals and ingredients. See the Cradle to Cradle product certification’s Banned Lists of Chemicals.

Bear in mind that chemicals and pollutants that have negative effects on human health usually have (even worse) negative effects on other species (pets, wildlife, fish, etc.) and on environmental health overall. Our air and water and soil are shared resources, and all living things depend on them for their survival and health. Some of the worst chemicals are classified as PBTs: Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic; these are toxic chemicals that are known to persist in the environment and bioaccumulate in people and/or wildlife (increasing in concentration as they go up the food chain).

All public health—and especially preventive health—efforts should start focusing on reducing environmental (and fetal) exposures to toxins, which means minimizing the production of toxins and pollutants at their source. The World Health Organization estimates that outdoor air pollution alone causes 7 million premature deaths (of humans) each year. If something else were killing that many people, it would be considered a public health epidemic.

The following organizations focus on health issues related to environmental exposures to toxins. Visit their websites to learn more about their efforts and ways that you can get involved:

Center for Environmental Health 

Collaborative on Health and the Environment logo-ewc2

EWG (Environmental Working Group)

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families

Silent Spring Institute

Coming Cleanschf_logo_site

Physicians for Social Responsibility

The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX)

EPA’s Safer Choice product label

EPA’s Green Chemistry information

Union of Concerned Scientists

Several other broad-based sustainability organizations—including Earthjustice, EDF, Greenpeace, and NRDC—also address health and toxics issues, among other issues.

Among the many types of toxins that people are exposed to on a regular basis, some of the worst sources include: power plant emissions, and other oil, coal, and gas industry inputs, by-products, and emissions (including fracking chemicals); nuclear radiation; pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides (including atrazine and Roundup/glyphosate); building materials, finishes, furniture, and furnishings; electronics (manufacturing and disposal hazards); and personal care products (e.g., shampoo, sunscreen, toothpaste, etc.).

These groups are working to reduce harmful exposures to chemicals from the following, specific sources:

Pesticides / food:

Nuclear radiation:

Building materials:

Interior products (and building materials):

Electronics / tech:




Books and Films

Living Downstream (book and film; book written by Sandra Steingraber)

No Family History (book and film; book written by Sabrina McCormick)

Other recent films on topics related to health, toxins, and the environment include: The Human Experiment, Unacceptable Levels, Toxic Hot Seat, The Atomic States of America, Hot Water, Blue Vinyl, and A Will for the Woods. You can find links to these and other films via the following posts:


Other health-related posts:


March 16, 2015
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Some readers might wonder what I do when I’m not preparing posts for The Green Spotlight, as I almost never mention my (other) professional work in my blog posts. I am a sustainability writer, editor, and advisor, and I work on projects for a wide variety of clients.

This is a partial list of organizations and companies that I’ve worked with in recent years. For most of these clients, I have done writing, editing, and/or research (for printed materials or online content) related to some aspect of sustainability. Click on the links below to learn about the important and interesting work that these groups are doing.

CLIENTS  (past and present)Global Green

Non-profit organizations:


Before I formed my own communications and consulting business in 2005, I worked for a public radio program (as a producer and reporter), a green building consulting firm (as senior associate), an architecture firm, and several environmental non-profits:


I also used to do freelance writing fairly regularly, and my pieces were published by the San Francisco Chronicle, Natural Home magazine (now Mother Earth Living),,,, and other media outlets. In addition, I authored a chapter of a book: Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing, edited by Global Green USA (Island Press, 2007).

For the past few years, my blog posts have been published on, as well as here on my own blog (The Green Spotlight). If you’d like more information about my writing, editing, and publications, please see Green Writings and Published Work or my Publications page.



January 22, 2015
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It’s not always easy to tell which products are green, how green they might be, or in what ways they are green. There are no standard, universal definitions for the terms “green,” “environmentally friendly,” or “natural.” However, the FTC has recently created more stringent guidelines to prohibit marketers from making fraudulent environmental claims about their products.

Finding products that have achieved green certifications (from groups that have rigorous standards) can help you separate true green claims from “greenwashing.” So look for eco-labels from legitimate, independent, third-party certifiers (as opposed to industry- or self-administered programs); several third-party certifiers are listed below.

Manufacturers that have had their environmental product claims independently assessed, verified, and certified by a third-party group can feature the corresponding eco-label on their certified products. Be aware that some certifications only verify specific single-attribute claims (e.g., energy efficiency, organic status, recycled-content percentage, indoor air quality/emissions, or biodegradability), while others review multiple attributes related to a certain kind of product (e.g., forest products, paints, cleaning products, etc.). Green attributes can relate to the design, manufacturing, and/or operational (use) impacts of a product, or they can address the full lifecycle impacts of the product: from raw material extraction to end-of-life disposal/recycling/reuse.

Bear in mind, though, that many small companies can’t afford to put their products through a costly certification process, so there are some very-green products that do not have green certification labels. Therefore, it can also be helpful to look carefully at product ingredients and read up on the company’s claims and any outside analysis of those claims. But first, you should have a basic understanding of product stewardship and the criteria and attributes that might make a certain product greener than others of its kind.

Products’ green attributes tend to fall into these four general categories:

  • Public / Environmental Health: pollution reduction during a product’s lifecycle (e.g., reduction of toxic inputs and by-products, and reduction of fossil fuel/energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing, etc.); protection of air, water, and soil quality and climate stability
  • Individual / Household Health: minimized exposure to toxins/hazards for product users’ health and safety
  • Resource Conservation: conservation of natural resources, including water, raw materials (e.g., trees, minerals), land/habitat, soil; reduction of resource extraction, resource use, and waste
  • Social Responsibility: supports safe, responsible, and equitable labor practices, local economies, fair trade, human rights, humane treatment of animals, community vitality

[Note: I’ll be adding additional examples of specific product attributes within these categories soon.]

The following are some of the major certifiers of green product claims, as well as some other relevant standards, rating systems, and online assessment tools and resources. This is not an exhaustive list:

General: Multiple-issue / multiple-attribute


  • Green SealGreenSeal
    standards and certifications for numerous types of household and institutional products; see list below
  • SCS Global Services
    4269numerous types of certifications, including “Environmentally Preferable Product” lifecycle assessment; FSC; FloorScore; FairTrade; specific product claim certifications, e.g., recycled content, etc.
  • UL Environment
    CradletoCradleCertifiedECOLOGO lifecycle certifications, as well as Greenguard chemical emissions certifications and single-attribute claim validations

Other general green product standards and ratings:

  • GoodGuide product ratings (website and app)ecologo-logo










130px-USDA_organic_seal.svg fair_trade_certified_logo-cmyk






Industry- or Product-specific


  • Green Seal (see logo above) has certifications and standards for numerous types of products (e.g., household/cleaning products, hand soaps and cleaners, institutional cleaning products, personal care products, paints and coatings, printing and writing paper, windows, adhesives, paper towels and napkins and tissues, food packaging; cleaning services, hotels and lodging, and restaurants and food services, etc.) fsc
  • Electronics: EPEAT registered products (managed by the Green Electronics Council)
  • Flowers and Potted Plants: Veriflora “Sustainably Grown”
  • For other ecolabels (in the U.S. and in other countries), see the Ecolabel Index.

There are also green certifications for services. While this post is focused on products, rather than services, here’s one example of a green service certification: the Green Shield Certified certification for pest control companies that use good Integrated Pest Management practices (including avoiding use of the most toxic pesticide products).

Other industry-specific green product standards, assessment tools, directories, and other resources:


Also keep in mind that companies that are greener than others (e.g., companies that have greened their internal operations and have active green commitments) are more likely to make and use green products. So also look for products (and services) from companies that have been certified as green:

Benefit Corporations and B Corps: Businesses for the Common Good
Beneficial Businesses: Top B Corps of 2014


Related posts:

For additional information on green products, see:


December 26, 2014

We post morsels of illuminating information and inspiration on The Green Spotlight’s Facebook Page every day. Anyone can view the page, even if you don’t have a Facebook account. But if you do have an account, we hope you’ll click on the page’s Like button (if you haven’t already “Liked” the page).

Please visit the Page to get a sense of the wide variety of topics that it covers. You are welcome to comment on the posts and we hope you’ll share some of our links. To make sure that Facebook will continue to show you our posts on your Facebook homepage/newsfeed, visit our page regularly and give a thumbs-up to (“Like”) your favorite posts.

Here’s a sampling of topics that we’ve highlighted on the page over the last couple of months:

  • SoKind gift registry / wish list website
  • Fresh Cab: safe, natural rodent repellent (repels mice and rats)
  • ELF solar-electric hybrid cargo tricycle
  • Mosaic: Solar energy investment platform
  • Solar power’s exponential growth and grid parity (cost competitiveness)
  • New films: Disruption; Mission Blue
  • Resilient: Soil, Water, and the New Stewards of the American West (short film)
  • Global human population has doubled over the past 35 years (approx.)
  • Drop-a-Brick: toilet-tank water-saving product
  • Air-to-water technologies
  • Indigenous Environmental Network
  • International Dark-Sky Association
  • Quotations, photos, videos, etc.

November 29, 2014
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The following are the posts on The Green Spotlight that provide information and links that are related to energy, power, fuel, and/or climate change—with a strong focus on solutions.

SLB102_Blk_LimeGrThese posts are the most directly related to such topics:

And these posts are also related to energy and climate issues, in ways that might be less obvious but are equally important:

In the near future, we will add posts on fossil fuel divestment and renewable energy investment; local power (local renewable electricity utilities, Community Choice Aggregation); reforestation and carbon sequestration initiatives; and other important efforts to slow/mitigate the progression (and severity) of climate change.

Here are a few other online resources for good information related to climate change and climate solutions:


September 21, 2014
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