health

This is a listing of some of the green-themed films that came out in the last couple of years. Click on each of the links below (or go to IMDB.com) to see previews/trailers, reviews, and descriptions of each film. Click here to see my previous listing of green-themed films; it lists movies that came out between 2006-2011.

Scroll to the bottom of this post to see a list of some green film festivals; those websites provide information on more films, including some brand new ones that haven’t been shown widely yet.

Energy / Power

 

Health / Toxic Chemicals

(Note: Many of the films in the Energy section above also relate to health issues, especially Hot Water, Gasland II, and the Atomic States of America)

 

Food / Agriculture

 

Animal Sentience / Animal Rights

 

Environmental Movement / Activism

  • Green Gold (2012) – Entire film is available to watch online

Water

 

More:  See my list of green-themed films that came out between 2006-2011.

If there are other relevant, recent films that you’ve seen and would recommend to others, please add those in the Comments section below.

Green Film Festivals

These are a few of the annual film fests that I’m aware of. Please let everyone know about others by contributing a Comment! Many of the festivals’ websites feature video clips or entire films (short and full-length films), and they list many additional, new, independent films, beyond what I’ve listed above.

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March 25, 2014
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The Goldman Environmental Prize is the world’s largest and most prestigious annual award for grassroots environmentalists. Goldman Prize winners are models of courage, and their stories are powerful and inspiring. “The Prize recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk. Each winner receives an award of $150,000, the largest award in the world for grassroots environmentalists. The Goldman Prize views ‘grassroots’ leaders as those involved in local efforts, where positive change is created through community or citizen participation in the issues that affect them. Through recognizing these individual leaders, the Prize seeks to inspire other ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world.”

This year’s six prize recipients (one from each of the six inhabited continental regions) are:

  • Kimberly Wasserman (Chicago, IL, USA) — Fought to get local, polluting, coal power plants shut down; leading community greening projects
  • Jonathan Deal (South Africa) — Fighting against hydraulic fracturing (fracking) gas extraction
  • Azzam Alwash (Iraq) — Restoring marshes and protecting water resources
  • Nohra Padilla (Colombia) — Instituting recycling and waste management programs
  • Rosanno Ercolini (Italy) — Fighting toxics from incinerators and spearheading a Zero Waste movement
  • Aleta Baun (Indonesia) — Protecting sacred forestland from marble mining

Click on each recipient’s name to read—or watch a brief, well-made video—about their remarkable efforts and achievements.

Here’s the three-minute video about Kimberly Wasserman, who “led local residents in a successful campaign to shut down two of the country’s oldest and dirtiest coal plants — and is now transforming Chicago’s old industrial sites into parks and multi-use spaces:” 

Last year’s recipient from the U.S. was Caroline Cannon, who has brought “the voice and perspective of her Inupiat community in Point Hope, Alaska to the battle to keep Arctic waters safe from offshore oil and gas drilling.”

Posts on Goldman Prize winners from previous years:

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April 15, 2013
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Some people might call me a chocolate enthusiast…or, a chocoholic. I crave chocolate. And I usually indulge this craving, because after all, high-quality dark chocolate has been proven to have a slew of health (physical and mental/mood) benefits.

I have a little bit of chocolate almost every day. Not a lot on any given day, mind you…but since my cumulative consumption of chocolate is considerable, I’ve been very pleased to find that many of my favorite chocolate bars are made by companies that address the social and environmental issues related to the production of chocolate.

The following chocolates are a few of my favorites; and they are all made with organic ingredients and/or their cacao has been sourced through fair-trade arrangements. Some of them also support other types of sustainability or conservation programs and practices, which are noted below. I am not being paid to recommend any of these companies or products.

1. TCHO

  • Organic (certified by CCOF)
  • Fair trade (certified by Fair Trade USA)
  • Started the TCHOSource program “to obtain the best beans in the world while enabling the producers of those beans to earn a better living.” They “partner with growers and coops and transfer knowledge about growing and fermentation to enable farmers to escape commodity production and become premium producers and to create a relationship of mutual self-interest that goes beyond Fair Trade.”
  • They also “raise consciousness about the reality of modern slavery in our industry and in the world, and set an example by refusing to use cacao produced by slaves.”
  • Manufactured in San Francisco

 

I recently tried TCHO’s SeriousMilk Milk Chocolate “Cacao” bar (with 53% cacao), and I think this has now become my #1 favorite chocolate bar.  It’s the perfect balance between milk and dark chocolate. I look forward to trying their other bars, as well.

 

2. Newman’s Own Organics

  • 100% organic (certified by Oregon Tilth)
  • Rainforest Alliance Certified, which “guarantees that the cocoa in our Signature Series was grown on farms that meet comprehensive standards for sustainable farming, protecting soil, waterways and wildlife habitat as well as the rights and welfare of workers, their families and communities.”
  • “We have confirmed in writing that the cocoa products we purchase have been produced on farms that treat their workers fairly, and pay them a fair wage. Our suppliers do not and will not support any farms or plantations that mistreat children and adults or engage in Slave Trade Practices.”

My favorite Newman’s Own Organics bar is: Dark Chocolate (54% cocoa), which is a light/creamy dark chocolate.

 

3. Endangered Species Chocolate

  • Some of their bars are organic (certified by Oregon Tilth)
  • “10% of net profits donated to charitable organizations supporting species and habitat conservation in harmony with humanity”
  • “100% ethically traded: Cacao used to create our All-Natural and Organic chocolate products is grown on farm co-ops that foster responsible labor practices, community enrichment and sustainable farming… On-the-ground endeavors, like Project Ecuador are helping empower communities in cacao growing regions.”
  • “All of our chocolate is shade-grown.  Shade-grown chocolate supports lush forests and the species that thrive there promoting biodiversity, providing shelter for migratory birds, and combating global warming.”
  • Information about an endangered species is provided inside each wrapper.

My favorite Endangered Species Chocolate bar (that I’ve tried so far) is: Dark chocolate with Cranberries and Almonds.

 

4. Seeds of Change

  • Organic (certified by QAI)
  • “Directly contributes 1% of its net sales to sustainable organic farming initiatives worldwide.”

I’ve had their Milk Chocolate, and Milk Chocolate with Puffed Grains, and they were really tasty. I haven’t tried their various dark chocolate products yet, though I plan to. (One point against this company’s chocolates: I don’t love that they put 3 small, individually wrapped bars inside of the larger package. Though the smaller serving sizes are good for portion control and for keeping the unopened chocolate fresh, using that extra wrapping material seems a bit wasteful.)

 

You can find many of these chocolates at most Whole Foods stores and other natural foods stores. There are a number of other companies that make organic chocolate and/or fair trade chocolate (e.g., ALTER ECO, Equal Exchange, Amy’s, Theo, Angell, and Divine, to name just a few; commenters have also recommended Taza and Green & Black’s). I haven’t gotten around to trying all of them yet, but I surely will in the near future…

P.S. Fine chocolate makes a great last-minute gift for any chocolate lovers you know!

What’s your favorite kind of organic or “ethical” chocolate?

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December 16, 2011
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The following is a partial list of environmental non-profit organizations that have a national (U.S.) or international scope and that take a broad approach to sustainability. These 15 groups address a wide spectrum of environmental issues; they are not single-issue organizations. Due to their holistic perspective, many of these groups do work that—directly or indirectly—promotes greater social and economic equity, as well as environmental sustainability, as all of these issues and conditions are inextricably connected to each other.

Please click on the links to learn more about the work that each of these groups is doing.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of sustainability-minded organizations.  For a longer list, see this set of links.

In addition, there are many single-issue environmental organizations (and local, state, and community-level organizations) that do good and important work in their respective areas and issues. I have highlighted such groups in past posts (e.g., organizations focused on green schools, environmental education, green affordable housing, green building, sustainable communities/planning, etc.), and will highlight other types of green groups in the future. (Update: Our newer posts provide lists of organizations related to resilience; sustainable agriculture/farming/food; and green business.)

If you have a favorite green organization that you’d like people to know about, please share that in the Comments.

* Full disclosure: I have worked on projects for the organizations that are marked with an asterisk.

Related Post: Lesser Known Organizations that are Worthy of Support  [added Dec. 2012]

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November 3, 2011
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Take a peek at The Green Spotlight’s Facebook Page to see our daily blurbs and links. Anyone can view the page, whether or not you have a Facebook account. But if you do have an account, be sure to click on the “Like” button to join our growing online community (if you haven’t already); then you should be able to see The Green Spotlight’s posts in your daily Facebook news feed.

Please visit the Page to get a sense of the wide variety of topics that are featured. Here’s a sampling of a few of the solutions, efforts, and success stories that we’ve spotlighted on the page in recent weeks:

  • the electric DeLorean, coming out in 2013
  • LEED for Homes Awards: this year’s winning projects
  • hybrid wind/solar systems
  • Reinventing Fire, the new book by Amory Lovins
  • Earthjustice
  • Global Community Monitor
  • Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
  • Green Corps’ Field School for Environmental Organizing
  • Silent Spring Institute
  • Arctic Live
  • Revenge of the Electric Car (new documentary)
  • CleanTech Open: this year’s finalists and Forum
  • Brower Youth Awards: videos and info about this year’s winners
  • Solar Decathlon home design competition’s winning projects
  • DIY solar installations in Ypsilanti, Michigan
  • how to size a solar PV system for charging an electric car
  • B Corporation legislation passed in California
  • quotations from Ray Anderson, Buckminster Fuller, Annie Dillard, and others
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October 26, 2011
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Most conventional paints and coatings contain and emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Some types of VOCs contribute to smog, and many VOCs are emitted or “offgassed” indoors and contribute to indoor air pollution. VOCs can cause respiratory problems and some are known carcinogens.

I have written a 4-page overview of VOCs and other toxicity issues related to paints and other types of coatings. For the free download, just click on this link:

How to Select Less-Toxic, Low-VOC Paints, Primers, Stains, and Coatings [PDF]

Fortunately, almost every major paint manufacturer (and retailer) now has a low-VOC or zero-VOC product line. Most of these products are also low-odor, as some VOCs are responsible for to that noxious “new paint smell.”

I maintain an online product listing of Low-VOC and Zero-VOC Wall Paints, which I recently updated. The listing includes natural paints (e.g., plant- or mineral-based), as well as more conventional synthetic (e.g., latex/acrylic) paints.

A few paint manufacturers, such as AFM Safecoat and YOLO Colorhouse formulate their entire line of paints and primers to be low- or zero-VOC and low-toxic. While most low-VOC paints are interior paints, some brands (including those two) also offer low-VOC exterior paints.

My listing indicates which paint lines have been Green Seal certified or SCS Indoor Advantage Gold certified. GreenGuard also certifies paints; it has a basic Indoor Air Quality Certified program, as well as a more stringent Children and Schools Certified program. All of these certification programs are primarily focused on testing products’ VOC emissions.

Unfortunately, synthetic paints often contain other toxic compounds, beyond VOCs, such as phthalates (which are endocrine-disrupting chemicals), propylene glycol and glycol ethers (PGEs), certain heavy metals, and toxic biocides or fungicides. (Green Seal’s certification standard prohibits the use of some of those compounds.) See this Pharos article for additional information on paint toxicity.

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September 26, 2011
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This is a listing of green-themed films that came out in the last few years (between 2006-2011). I have not seen all of these films, so I can’t say that all of them are worth seeing, but many of them have won awards or been critically acclaimed. Click on the links below (or go to IMDB.com) to see previews/trailers, reviews, and descriptions of each film. Scroll to the bottom of the post to see a list of some green film festivals; those sites provide videos and information on even more films.

UPDATE: Also see our newer post on Green-themed Films 2012-2014.

Films on energy, fuel, and/or climate change:

Films on food and/or farming:

Films on other topics (e.g., health/toxins/pollution, water, localization, dolphins, etc.):

If there are other relevant films that you’ve heard of or seen and would recommend to others, please add those in the Comments section below.

* Films that are marked with an asterisk are films that have a more positive or funny bent than many of the others. There are only so many bleak films about reality that people can watch in a row without getting depressed or angry and feeling helpless to make a difference. I find that it’s best to take in some positive stories, solutions, and humor now and then, to keep myself sane and motivated…

UPDATE: Also see our newer listing of Green-themed Films from 2012-2014.

 

Green Film Festivals

These are a few of the annual film fests that I’m aware of. Please let everyone know about others by contributing a Comment! Many of the festivals’ websites feature video clips or entire films (short and full-length films), and they list many additional, new, independent films, beyond what I’ve listed above.

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August 1, 2011
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“Bed bugs” are small nocturnal insects that feed on blood. (Cimex lectularius is the most common species of bed bug.) Some people who are bitten by them get itchy welts on their skin. However, the bugs have not been found to transit any diseases to humans.

Bed bugs are typically found on mattresses, box springs and bed frames, bedding, clothing, and in any dark cracks, seams, or crevices in beds, furniture, walls, or floors. They can travel through water pipes, wall voids, and ducts, and can spread from room to room.

Adult bed bugs are about 1/4-inch long and 1/8-inch wide; younger ones are smaller (often about 3/16 of an inch long or the size of a pinhead). They have flat, grayish-brown or reddish-brown bodies with six legs, and after feeding, they become round and red. They give off a sweet, musty odor. Their eggs are white and very small, and their excrement appears as tiny brown or black spots, which can look like small blood stains if smeared.

Here are some rules for prevention, as well as tips for getting rid of bed bugs if they do appear.

Keeping Bed Bugs Out

  • Consider getting a protective plastic cover for your mattress(es) and box spring(s) to keep bugs out/off of the bed. Tape up any tears or holes that appear in the mattress, box spring, or plastic covering.
  • Eliminate excess clutter (particularly near your beds and clothing), to reduce the number of places where the bugs can hide.
  • If you have been staying elsewhere or traveling, check your luggage and belongings for bed bugs before bringing them inside. Unpack your clothes directly into the laundry and wash everything with hot water.
  • If you are considering buying any used/second-hand items, check them carefully for bed bugs before buying them, and wash them before bringing them into your home.

Getting Rid of Bed Bugs

While some pests can pose health concerns for building occupants, so can many pesticides. Pesticides and insecticides are poisons, and as such they are often poisonous to humans (and pets) as well as to pests. Studies have linked some pesticides to cancer, birth defects, neurological disorders, and immune system disorders, as well as allergies. Therefore, pesticides should only be used as a last resort.

If the steps below are not sufficient to eliminate a bed bug problem and an insecticide must be used, ask an experienced professional to recommend the least-toxic insecticide that will be effective, and have it applied by a professional who will take safety precautions. The bed bugs’ eggs are not affected by insecticides, so the treatment will probably need to be applied several times to kill the hatchlings. Note: Bed bugs have become resistant to some pesticides, and using harsher pesticides could just end up making the bugs stronger, as they could build up resistance to those.

If you want to research insecticide options on your own, check out the EPA’s Bed Bug Product Search Tool.  As a general rule, avoid products that are labeled “Danger—Poison,” as those tend to be the most toxic to humans. Never use pesticides indoors that are intended for outdoor use. And don’t use (or allow others to apply) any product that does not specifically list bed bugs on the product label. Some sticky traps are designed for bed bugs. (Note: Baits for ants and cockroaches will not work on bed bugs.)

But before using any pesticides/insecticides, first try these non-chemical strategies:

  • If you think you’ve found bed bugs, first make sure that’s what they are. Have a professional identify them, or using a flashlight and ideally a magnifying glass, compare the bugs to photos of bed bugs to make a positive identification. (There are many websites with close-up photos of the bugs. Just do an online search for “bed bug” images.)
  • Infested materials can be rid of bed bugs by being heated to at least 113 degree for an hour (or by being frozen at less than 0 degrees for at least 4 days). Many bed bug extermination services now use cryogenic freezing methods (e.g. the Cryonite system) to kill the bugs.
  • Wash your bedding and clothing with hot, soapy water, and dry them on the hottest dryer setting.
  • Vacuum cracks, crevices, and other hiding places in walls, floors, and furniture where adult bed bugs or eggs are found. Dispose of the vacuum contents right away in a sealed trash bag, in an outdoor garbage bin.
  • Use hot, soapy water to wipe all surfaces and crevices where the bugs might be living.
  • Seal up any cracks where the bugs are living. Seal/tape up any tears in mattresses or other areas where the bugs could hide.
  • Eliminate excess clutter (particularly near your beds and clothing), to reduce the number of places where the bugs can hide.
  • Try sprinkling food-grade diatomaceous earth in areas where the bed bugs have been seen, to prevent them from hiding in those places again. (Food-grade diatomaceous earth can be found at many feed stores, garden centers, or hardware stores.)
  • If a mattress or box spring is infested with bed bugs, it will probably need to be disposed of (unless the entire thing can be put into a large freezer), as the bugs can live inside the mattress where they can’t be reached. Mattresses should never be treated with insecticides, unless a specialist verifies that the treatment is non-toxic to humans. Infested mattresses should never be donated, but can be recycled. When disposing of a mattress or other infested objects, deface them so that others will not be tempted to take them home.
  • Tightly wrap in plastic any infested possessions (including mattresses) before carrying them out of a room for disposal, to avoid spreading the infestation to other rooms.

Consult with a licensed, experienced pest control professional for further advice and treatment options.

For more information, go to these webpages:

EPA’s Bed Bug Information

Beyond Pesticides: Bed Bug Info (factsheet, articles, etc.)

New Natural Bed Bug Busters (Mother Earth News article) – Includes a non-toxic product recommendation

Nontoxic Bed Bug Control is Possible (San Francisco Chronicle article) – Includes a non-toxic product recommendation

Center for Disease Control’s Bed Bug FAQs

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April 27, 2011
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Fleas and ticks (and mosquitos) can bring severe itching, allergic reactions, discomfort, and even serious diseases (such as lyme disease) to your pets, so it’s important to protect your pets from them. However, studies have found that some common flea and tick control treatments—products that are readily available at stores and have been recommended by many vets—aren’t just harmful to fleas and ticks; they can actually poison pets, and some are also dangerous to humans and other animals.

Some conventional flea and tick treatments (including many of the topical, spot-on treatments that are applied directly onto pets’ skin, as well as flea collars, powders, and sprays, and even some ingestible products) contain highly toxic pesticides, some of which have been shown to cause a range of serious reactions in pets, from skin problems, vomiting, and excessive drooling to neurological problems (e.g., seizures or uncontrollable shaking), heart attacks, and death. So, tragically, some pesticides end up serving as pet-icides

The Center for Public Integrity did a study in 2008, and found that at least 1,600 pet deaths related to spot-on treatments were reported to the EPA over the previous five years. According to the NRDC, cats may be more susceptible to adverse reactions than dogs, since they are more likely to lick the treatments off of their fur and they often lack enzymes for metabolizing or detoxifying the pesticides. Many of these pesticides are toxic to humans, as well, and children are especially vulnerable to exposure.

Avoid products that contain pyrethroid, pyrethrin, or permethrin pesticides, organophosphate insecticides (such as tetrachlorvinphos/TCVP; chlorpyrifos, dichlorvos, phosmet, naled, diazinon, and malathion), carbamates (e.g., propoxur, fenoxycarb, and carbaryl), or Amitraz. [This list was updated on May 26, 2010.] Many common flea/tick control products contain at least one of these ingredients. (Towards the end of this post, you will find a link to a listing of some specific products to avoid.) Please note: Never use products on cats that are meant for use on dogs (and vice versa), and never give your pet more than the recommended dose.

It’s disturbing that so many of us might have been unwittingly sickening our animals (and possibly shortening their lives) by using these products, often at the recommendation of our veterinarians, who trusted the manufacturers’ assurances of the products’ safety. It’s yet another example of how you can’t trust that a product is safe just because it’s been allowed into the marketplace. According to the Humane Society, the EPA did not start reviewing pet products for safety until 1996, and there is still a backlog of products that need to be tested. However, the overarching problem is that some ingredients that the EPA had deemed “safe” clearly were not. In 2009, the EPA announced that it would be developing stricter testing and evaluation requirements and could place new restrictions on flea and tick products.

Fortunately, there’s no need to wait for those changes to take effect. Safe and natural alternative products and methods for controlling fleas and ticks already exist. Here is some guidance from the NRDC on ways to prevent flea problems. And when treatments are necessary, some pet supply stores and many online sites (see links below) now carry flea and tick products that are made up of plant-based ingredients, such as peppermint oil, citrus oil, clove oil, or Neem, which is a natural insecticide that comes from a tree. See the NRDC’s Flea and Tick Product Directory to look up the ingredients and risks of specific products. Some flea and tick solutions can even be made at home. Fleas and ticks are repelled by rosemary, thyme, eucalyptus, and lavender. So to ward off the bugs, you can tuck sprigs of one or more of those plants under your pet’s bed cover (or under your rugs), or boil some of those herbs in water and pour the cooled water onto your pet, rubbing it into their coat. (Note: Some herbal or “natural” ingredients can cause allergic reactions or toxicity in animals. Be sure to test any treatment in a small dose first; and always apply treatments sparingly and only as needed. Also, never use pet products that contain pennyroyal oil, which is toxic to animals. Furthermore, while some sources say that adding a little bit of garlic to a pet’s diet will repel fleas, other reputable sources say that garlic can be toxic to dogs and even more so to cats, even in small amounts; so I steer clear of using garlic, just to be safe.) If your pet has a flea infestation that does not respond to any of the plant-based solutions listed above, look for the lowest-risk commercial products listed in the NRDC’s directory, which include Spinosad-based products, such as Comfortis.

NRDC’s research has identified many common products that should be avoided, due to their high toxicity risks. According to the NRDC, such high-risk products currently include K9 Advantix II, and a number of products made by Hartz, Sentry, Sergeant, Vet-Kem, Adams, Bio Spot, Happy Jack, Verbac, Zodiac, and other companies.

To take action on this issue, print out some of the info from the links below, bring it to your pet store and to your veterinarian, and ask them to stop selling flea control products that contain the most dangerous pesticides (and to start selling the lowest-risk products), to protect the health of pets and their people.

Resources for More Information:

The following are a few online stores that specialize in natural and non-toxic pet supplies. (Note: This list does not constitute an endorsement of any of these companies):

Related Post: Selecting Safe and Healthy Pet Foods

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April 7, 2010
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