Friday, May 31, 2013

The Incredible Health Benefits of Ginger Root

Ginger root was first cultivated in South Asia, eventually spreading to East Africa and the Caribbean. Today, you can find it everywhere.

The root may look measly and weak, but just like its taste, ginger bears some robust health kicks. Filled with cancer-fighting antioxidants and mighty anti-inflammatory benefits, ginger is your key to vibrant health and a slim figure. The incredible healing power of the herbal root is in your reach, and there are many ways to enjoy the health benefits of ginger in your day-to-day life.

Ginger root has only 80 calories per 100 grams and contains essential nutrients and vitamins, such as vitamins B6 and B5, potassium, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Individual vitamin and mineral appreciation aside, the health benefits of ginger root are extensive and benefit the body on a holistic level, in ways that can’t be adequately numbered and listed. However, a few of ginger’s most salient health features are enough to convince you to incorporate it in your daily diet:

Ginger root contains essential oils such as gingerol, zingerone, shogaol, and farnesene. Gingerol and shagol have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Zingerone gives ginger its pungent flavor and is effective in treating diarrhea. Because ginger packs such significant anti-inflammatory benefits, it has been known to be particularly beneficial in reducing joint pain. It packs antibiotic and anti-fungal properties and prevents diabetes. Ginger has also been shown to overcome several types of cancer cells, such as lung, ovarian, colon, breast, skin, carcinoma, prostate, and pancreatic.
Ginger can also help you to lose weight. According to a study conducted by the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University, ginger consumption led to an increase of the thermal affect of food, triggering reduced feelings of hunger. Don’t only look better in bed with ginger, but also experience an increased sex drive with it too!

Add a thin slice of fresh ginger root to hot tea or use it in a summer-apropos lemonade. Get creative with recipes involving ginger, from biscotti and ice cream, to fish cakes and clay pot chicken.

[via ecosalon]

Thursday, May 30, 2013

25 Unhealthiest Conventional Foods [Infographic]

If the danger of toxic chemicals in your food isn't enough, take some of these stats into consideration when expounding the virtues of organic, especially in the case of the 25 unhealthiest conventional foods, listed below.

[via New Hope 360]

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Health Powers of Asparagus

Asparagus found to have anti-cancer properties.

A new study published in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology found asparagus contains certain compounds that have substantial anticancer properties. Researchers tested the compounds, known as shatavarins, on test tubes of human breast, colon and kidney cancer, as well as on mice with breast cancer.
All the results showed that shatavarins had potent toxicity against cancer cells. Extract of asparagus administered orally in doses of 250 and 500 mg/kg body weight for 10 days caused a significant reduction in tumor volume and tumor cell count.

Asparagus may help prevent diabetes.

In addition to the anticancer properties of asparagus, it may have some anti-diabetic properties as well. Researchers at the University of Karachi in Pakistan found that high doses of asparagus extract had a positive effect on insulin output by the pancreas. The findings add to a 2006 study by the British Medical Journal that found the vegetable triggered an 81 percent increase in glucose uptake by body tissues. Therefore, asparagus can help diabetes by stimulating an increased production of insulin, in addition to enabling the body to absorb more glucose.

Asparagus may prevent a hangover.

Those who celebrate the New Year by drinking too much alcohol may prevent a hangover by taking asparagus extract. Chronic drinking can cause detrimental changes in the liver, as well as the unpleasant symptoms of a hangover. Scientists at the Institute of Medical Science and Jeju National University in Korea found the asparagus extracts “significantly alleviated” the cellular toxicity of alcohol, a benefit that translates to lessening of a hangover and protection of liver cells.

Asparagus offers up tremendous cardiovascular benefits.

This vegetable contains a compound called rutin that can help prevent deadly blood clots, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Moreover, asparagus is a good food source of folic acid, a nutrient that helps counter the bad effects of homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood linked to increased cardiovascular risk.

Asparagus can help balance out your electrolytes

Adding to the list of impressive health properties are three more benefits. Asparagus is a rich source of potassium, a mineral that regulates fluid balance; so the diuretic effects of asparagus can reduce bloating in the tummy area that sometimes occurs after eating a big meal. The vegetable also has anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Is lettuce making Americans fat?

Guest post from Brad Shepherd of Fooduciary, via New Hope 360.

The truth is, weight gain or loss is about much more than calories in and calories out. More important than the quantity of calories is the quality of calories and what those calories are saying to your body. The information shared to your genes from broccoli calories is much different than what comes from cookie calories. But it seems there may be an additional level to this story—fat chemicals.

Environmental chemicals known as obesogens are found in many places, including pesticides used on conventional produce. They program our bodies to store fat and develop disease and do so to such an extent that, in theory, a head of conventional romaine could actually cause more weight gain than a grass-fed burger.

Obesogens belong in the class of chemicals known as endocrine disruptors. This class of toxins simulates the effects of natural hormones and disrupts normal hormonal responses. In terms of weight gain, “chemical calories” may actually be more significant than the caloric value of those calories.

How do obesogens exert so much influence? One method is by disrupting the normal release of leptin, the hormone that tells the brain you’re full. In addition, obesogens encourage the body to store fat by reprogramming cells to become fat cells, and they also contribute to insulin resistance. What’s more, they’re inflammatory substances, producing oxidative stress and causing damage to the body’s energy source, mitochondria, which then has a cascade of negative aftereffects.

Certainly some people are more sensitive to these toxins than others, though some are highly susceptible. Obesogens can have significant effects on children in utero, causing the fetus to produce more fat cells and increasing the likelihood of childhood obesity.

At the source

With those types of concerns and possible outcomes, the big questions are, where do these chemicals come from and how do you avoid them?

Meat and dairy are two major sources. Commercial meat production operations are permitted to use a variety of six hormones to promote growth in beef cattle or milk production in dairy cows. Studies have shown that people who eat hormone-treated beef have higher levels of foreign hormones in their blood and tissues, and one study with 10 universities as participants states a connection can be drawn between hormones found in dairy and the drastic rise of obesity rates.

Fish aren’t off the hook either. The feed pellets given to farm-raised fish include antibiotics that are classified as obesogens, and the flesh of farm-raised fish has been found to have high levels of pesticide residue.

As mentioned, conventional produce is another large contributor. The sprays used on crops are estrogen mimickers and thyroid disruptors, both attributes that promote weight gain.

Sadly, there’s more. BPA and other chemicals in plastic disrupt the endocrine system and increase the size of fat cells. Same goes for the pesticide residues, traces of pharmaceutical drugs and other toxins in tap water (The National Institutes of Health classifies tap water as a major source of endocrine-disrupting chemicals).

Fragrances found in household and beauty products make the list, and so does that microwave popcorn your coworkers love so much. The popcorn, as well as non-stick and water-resistant products, contains perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), an obesogen that promotes tumor growth. Female fetuses exposed to PFOAs are three times as likely to be overweight or gain weight easily.

It seems that these obesogens are everywhere—one study showed 93 percent of Americans have BPA in their bodies. The question is, how do we make sure we’re part of that other 7 percent?

How to avoid obesogens

The good news is that we can control and limit much of our exposure, and the results can be dramatic. In one study the participants lost an average of 15 pounds in just six weeks by avoiding obesogens. How do you do that?
  • First off, buy your food from sources you can trust that use chemical-free growing methods. Buying from local farmers and ranchers who use sustainable production methods is ideal. Choose organic when shopping in the grocery story. If you can’t afford to buy everything organic, familiarize yourself with the Environmental Working Group’s list of the Dirty Dozen, the most toxic conventional produce you should make it a priority to avoid.
  • Avoid conventional dairy (milk, butter and cheese), and be very picky about your meat. Pasture-raised, grass-fed and grass-finished are the best options, and that goes for eggs as well. Make sure your seafood is wild-caught, and avoid canned options unless they’re from a reputable source like Vital Choice. Wrap your meat and cheese in butcher paper or wax paper instead of plastic shrink wrap.
  • Speaking of plastic, always verify your water bottles and food containers are BPA free, and even better, use glass, ceramic or compostable materials when possible.
  • Of course only drink filtered water, and add tub and shower filters to your wish list, since your skin is no barrier to obesogens.
  • Make your own fragrances with essential oils, buy natural versions or do without. This goes for home and body. Cosmetics are a common source of harmful toxins.
  • Make your popcorn from scratch with organic corn or buy brands that state PFOA-free on the label. And for the rest of your cooking, ditch the non-stick. Stainless steel and cast iron are better options.
  • If you can believe it, high-fructose corn syrup makes this list as well (how is that stuff still allowed in food?!!). HFCS affects appetite by interfering with insulin and leptin, so there’s one more reason to always avoid it.

Foods you should eat

Finally, some great news: there are foods that can help you eliminate the toxins you do come in contact with. All vegetables are fantastic for aiding the body in its detoxification and elimination processes, and cruciferous veggies are the superstars in this regard. Kale, cauliflower, broccoli and other crucifers metabolize the harmful forms of estrogen and show them the exit when they’re all done.

All that said, this article isn’t meant to scare you into becoming a subject for the sequel of What About Bob? Just as our immune system protects us from foreign invaders, most of our bodies are naturally good at eliminating toxins if we give them the fuel they need to do it and make a conscious effort to keep our exposure levels at a minimum.

Go out and enjoy life, try to be mindful of the sources of these fat chemicals, feed yourself clean food, and watch those fat cells melt away.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

7 Ways To Kill Poison Ivy Without Using Roundup

7 ways to get rid of Poison Ivy and Poison Oak without using harsh and toxic chemical sprays. Listed in order of distance from and contact potential with plant.

  1. Graze a goat there.  Spanish and Angora goats are especially fond of poison ivy.
  2. Vinegar spray.  White vinegar will kill poison ivy, though it might take a few days to notice.  Fill your garden sprayer with straight, undiluted white vinegar and take aim at the poison ivy leaves and crowns. Try not to soak the ground, since it will result in inhospitable acidity in the soil. If you want, you can use calcitic lime to neutralize any vinegar in the soil afterwards.
  3. Salt, water, and natural soap spray.  Mix 1 gallon of water with 3 lbs of salt until well dissolved, add 1/4 cup of natural dish soap. Spray poison ivy leaves. This solution could also kill other plants in the area, so take care not to over do it.
  4. Gin Spray.  Mix 1 oz gin, 1 oz apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon baby shampoo, 1 quart water.  Spray onto leaves and crown during hot part of the day.  Should be dead by the next day.
  5. Burn the roots with boiling water.  A good option if you just have a few stubborn plants or vines in flowerbeds or near walkways.  Take your tea kettle full of boiling water and slowly drizzle on the very base of the plant.  This might take a few applications over a few days, but will eventually do the trick.
  6. Smother it.  Using cardboard (best option) or newspaper, cover the entire area with cardboard, then cover the cardboard with straw, wood chips, or grass clippings to keep the cardboard in place.
  7. Pull it out.  The fastest and most effective (and most dangerous) way to get rid of it is by pulling, or chopping it out with a maddock.  Make sure if you chop it out that you get down about 8 inches and pull the vines and all the roots out too. Fifteen percent of people are not allergic to poison ivy.  So unless you are one of the lucky few, wear gloves and wash thoroughly afterward!

Natural Remedies for Summer Skin Problems

Sometimes summer can be tough on your skin, especially if you’re fair-skinned or sensitive. Between insect bites, rashes, and summer acne, it can be enough to make you want to cover up and hide out.

Common Summer Skin Problems

• Sun Allergy
There are three different types of sun allergy; polymorphous light eruption, solar urticaria, and light-sensitive eczema. Sun allergy is caused by an excess of histamines or a reaction to antihistamines and some arthritis medications.

• Insect Bites and Stings
There are too many mosquitoes, ants, spiders, and bees out there to avoid them all. Whether you’re camping in the deep woods or just hanging out on your back deck, insect bites and stings are just part of the summer experience.

• Sunburn
If you’re fair-complected, sunburn is always a concern. When using sunscreen, be careful of the brand you use. Research has shown that many commercial sunscreens contain dangerous toxins that may increase your chances of developing skin cancer.

• Rashes
One of the most common summer skin problems is the dreaded rash. Sun allergy, hives, poison ivy, and heat rash can turn smooth, blemish-free skin into an itchy nightmare.

• Summer Acne
It doesn’t seem fair. The warmer the weather gets, the worse your acne and that’s when you’re showing off your skin the most. Heat, humidity, and excessive sweat irritates your pores, worsening acne breakouts.

• Razor Bumps
Razor bumps are the worst. Sometimes it doesn’t seem to matter how sharp your razor is or how carefully you shave, you still get those unsightly and embarrassing bumps.

• Dry Skin
Your skin loses more moisture in the summer months. It’s also exposed to UV rays and salt water that can crack and roughen even the smoothest skin.

The Best Summer Skin with Natural Remedies

You can have the best summer skin ever with these 5 versatile and inexpensive natural remedies:

• Coconut Oil
Many commercial skin lotions contain toxins, skin irritants, and carcinogens (cancer-causing agents). To keep your summer skin smooth, glowing, and blemish-free, switch to organic coconut oil. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a potent antioxidant that fights inflammation and the free radicals that cause premature aging.
You can also prevent razor burn by shaving with coconut oil. Coconut oil lubricates and protects your skin. Just step into the shower and allow the warm water to open your pores. Slather on a generous amount of coconut oil and shave as you normally would.

• Witch Hazel
Witch hazel is a mild astringent that takes the sting out of bug bites, soothes hives, and treats sun-damaged skin. It even helps treat and prevent summer acne breakouts. This inexpensive skin remedy contains tannins to treat inflammation and balance your skin’s delicate pH balance. For quick relief, pour some witch hazel onto a clean cotton ball and smooth over irritated, sunburned, or bug-bitten skin.

• Rubbing Alcohol
Most summer skin problems are no match for the drying effects of rubbing alcohol. This cheap natural skin remedy instantly takes the sting out of sunburn and dries poison ivy to prevent spread.

• Apple Cider Vinegar
Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar is a good natural remedy to keep in stock during the summer months. Apple cider vinegar takes the heat out of sunburned skin almost instantly. It contains malic acid, a powerful antibacterial agent that treats and prevents summer breakouts.

• French Clay
There are plenty of mud masks on the market but a lot of them contain dangerous additives. French clay contains only one skin-soothing ingredient: Green clay. This highly-absorbable clay contains healing minerals like silica, magnesium, potassium, titanium, sodium, and phosphorus to soothe and detoxify your skin. Use it weekly to clear up acne breakouts and tighten pores.

When you get rid of summer skin problems, you’ll be proud to show yourself to the world.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cocktails with Medicinal Roots

A toast to your health  [via Mother Nature Network]

Although tonics and bitters made of herbal extracts, spices and the bark of exotic trees have faded from pharmacy shelves as elixirs, they live on in cocktails, grandfathered into drinks in splashes and dashes to create some of the most memorable and enduring cocktails imaginable. Here are recipes for six cocktails with medicinal roots.


 Gin and Tonic

Quinine-based tonics helped the Brits build an empire by warding off malaria in the sweltering topics. Sipped over ice, the classic gin cocktail has a spiky edge to it.

Prep time: 5 minutes  | Total time: 5 minutes | Yield: 1 cocktail

  • 1/2 tray ice
  • 2 ounces dry gin
  • 3 ounces tonic water, or to taste, preferably Schweppes
  • 2 wedges fresh lime
Fill an old-fashioned glass halfway with ice. Add gin. Top with tonic water. Rim the glass with a lime wedge and squeeze a few drops of lime into the glass. Stir lightly. Add a fresh piece of lime as garnish.


Pink Gin

Purists note that traditional pink gin calls for gin and bitters and that's it. Bitters contain all manner of herbal exotica dissolved in alcohol, and were used traditionally to settle the stomach.

Prep time: 5 minutes | Total time: 5 minutes | Yield: 1 cocktail

  • 1/2 tray ice
  • 2 ounces dry gin
  • 1 ounce Cointreau or triple sec
  • 4 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 4 dashes Peychaud's bitters
Fill a small sealable glass jar with ice. Add gin, Cointreau, Angostura and Peychaud's bitters. Seal and shake well. Pour into a short glass filled with ice.


Dark and Stormy 

The national drink of the tiny island nation of Bermuda, the dark and stormy is more like air conditioning for the taste buds, both sparkly and light. Adding candied ginger gives the cocktail an extra bounce, and like bitters, is known to settle the stomach.

Prep time: 5 minutes | Total time: 5 minutes | Yield: 1 cocktail

  • 1 tablespoon candied ginger, sliced
  • 1/2 tray ice cubes
  • 2 ounces dark rum
  • 4 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • 8 ounces Reed's Ginger Brew
  • 1 wedge lime, optional garnish
Place candied ginger in the bottom of a well glass. Fill glass nearly to the rim with ice cubes. Pour bitters and rum onto ice. Add lime juice. Gently stir and top with ginger beer.


Horse's Neck

Named for the spiraling lemon peel garnish resembling a horse's neck, this concoction is a refreshing combination of bourbon, bitters and ginger ale.

Prep time: 5 minutes | Total time: 5 minutes | Yield: 1 cocktail

  • 1 lemon
  • 4-5 ice cubes
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 4-5 ounces ginger ale
Using a potato peeler, remove lemon peel in one continuous motion. Drape peel over rim of a tall glass. Fill glass nearly to the rim with ice. Add bourbon and bitters. Gently stir and top with ginger ale to taste.


Champagne Cocktail

A great way to serve champagne on a budget, and the minor additions round out the flavor. The more you sip the more you'll like it.

Prep time: 5 minutes | Total time: 5 minutes | Yield: 1 cocktail

  • 1 cube sugar
  • 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 4-5 ounces low- to mid-priced champagne
  • 1 lemon peel, optional garnish
Add sugar cube to the bottom of a fluted glass. Add bitters. Pour champagne and lemon peel.



As the name implies, Old-Fashioned cocktails have stood the test of time. The original cocktail called for water, sugar, bitters and spirits — that's all. The simplicity of the drink allows you to mix and match.

Prep time: 5 minutes | Total time: 5 minutes | Yield: 1 cocktail

  • 1/2 tray ice
  • 2 ounces bourbon or rye
  • 1 teaspoon grenadine syrup or 1 cube sugar
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 3 ounces club soda, or to taste
  • 1 orange peel
Combine the bourbon, syrup and bitters in a sealable glass container filled with ice.  Shake and strain into a short glass with filled with ice. Top with club soda.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

5 Tips to Cut Your Electricity Bill

From Expert David Johnston

Cutting back on your energy usage is one of the best ways to bring down your electricity bill. But did you know that making simple changes to not just your wattage consumption but the way your home retains and expels air can dramatically transform the way you experience your spaces and use electricity? Joining us this week to share 5 Tips on how we can better green our homes is green visionary and sustainable pioneer David Johnston who focuses on easy changes you can make with your appliances, air exchange, insulation and even windows that will pave the way to dramatic savings. Undoubtedly an expert on all things energy, David shares his over 30 years of experience and gives us a snapshot of some of the best ways we can reduce our energy consumption by up to 50%!


When  your family’s energy bill is running high, there are a number of quick and easy changes that can be made that focus in on changing day to day habits. Every household should start noting how much energy is used per room per day, looking at how and how many rooms are being lit up at night, what appliances are running and the like. We’ve mentioned this here on Inhabitat before, but one of the easiest changes you can make is swapping out your energy hungry incandescent bulbs for green picks such as LEDs. These hogs are not only costly to run, but in the grand scheme are quite bad for the environment given their short life spans. The vast majority of people are also unaware of how many phantom loads are running throughout their homes. Phantom loads may seem like a small and pesky problem, but these loads can account for up to 15% of a house’s energy bill.

Unfortunately, the way the vast majority of appliances are designed today, they are built to run 24/7. You may not realize this, but because of it, day in and day out, you are using more energy than you think. One of the easiest things that you can do to alleviate this issue is to get a power strip and centralize where all your appliances draw their power. With a power strip you can easily shut things off when you are not using them. Experts say that 15-40% of energy consumption is behavior based, and the first move you should make is to think about what you can control right now.


Every house in America is under-insulated, and 120 million of these homes are in such a state that a thorough energy audit is warranted.  Air leaks account for 25-30% of an average energy bill, and this is one of the most profound steps that you can make for the betterment your home’s comfort and reducing the amount of your monthly bill. Energy auditors are ell-equipped with the right tools and knowledge to quickly pinpoint problem areas in your home. When your auditor does arrive at your doorstep, you should be sure to trail him or her like a shadow – walk with them throughout the process so that you can best understand the issues in your home that are causing problems.

The first thing your auditor will do is a “Blower Door” which is one of the most effective ways to determine a home’s overall leakiness as well as to pinpoint specific leaks. A blower pulls air out of the house, lowering the air pressure inside. The higher outside air pressure then flows in through all unsealed cracks and openings. While conducting this test, a smoke pencil or infrared camera may be used to illustrate the air leaks. These tests determine the air infiltration rate of a building, and give you an idea of where you need will need to start to add weather stripping, caulk or more insulation. You’ll likely be surprised to find that you have air leaks on places you wouldn’t even suspect.

The second thing your auditor will do is take an infrared camera and survey your spaces and detect air leakage within building envelopes. This step is best done on cold days, where the camera will reveal exactly where you have insulation voids. The infrared camera is essentially Superman vision for air leaks, and it will even do you one better by photographing those trouble spots so that you have a digital record on hand to quickly tend to these spaces.

The third step your auditor will undertake is called a “Duct Blast.” The Duct Blast will tell you where in your ducts air is leaking. In most homes. thermostats will be set up in rooms at the top of the house, and this is what is gauging and regulating the heat below. A lot can happen between the basement and top floor as air travels through your ducts, and air loss is one of them. Leaky ducts require your systems to work harder to regulate and provide the hot and cool air expelled throughout the house. In fact, anywhere a duct changes direction you are likely to find an air leak. Ducts can be sealed on your own, with duct-mastic available at any hardware store – just get ready to venture into some dusty spaces! Finally, an auditor will provide you with a standard visual inspection, evaluating the design of your spaces and providing you with thorough notes on the situation at hand, and you can start pursuing a contractor or begin making the upgrades yourself.


A common fear of those looking to upgrade their home is that if they tighten homes up too much, they will find themselves in a dangerous and unhealthy living environment. The reality is that anytime you burn something in a house, you need oxygen – this includes water heaters, stoves, furnaces and more. Given that every house will find air leaks one way or another, this shouldn’t be a concern for most. On average a new home will have a Natural Air Change Rate (NACR) of 2 hours, and for an existing/older home, a rate of 30 minutes. Specifically, the NACR is the amount of time it takes indoor air to clear out in place of fresh air from outside. Building codes in fact stipulate strict rules that require that any structure with a NACR of three hours or more must be ventilated mechanically. So unless you’ve sealed up you home like a vacuum, you shouldn’t have to worry about this issue.

A real concern does however lie with new homes with leaky duct work. Too many leaks can give way to negative pressure in a home and affect appliances that carry a lot of destructive weight. Negative pressure occurs when indoor air pressure is less than that of outdoor air pressure, drawing outside air into the home. When too much air is being sucked into the house, in turn carbon monoxide can easily start to be distributed through the house without anyone being the wiser. Most heating appliances will produce by-products of mainly water and carbon dioxide, but if the combustion from these processes aren’t provided with enough oxygen, carbon monoxide is formed. Carbon monoxide is well known as the silent killer, and as David tells us from his experience, just 10 years ago, one third of the homes in both Colorado and California were suffering from this problem. Ironically, those who have an older home in hand don’t have much to worry about – these houses are typically leaking so much air that their high NACR mitigates the issue completely.


Sometimes it’s not within our budgets to take on a full upgrade that could cost upwards of $10,000. If you’re going to have to pick and choose, David suggests prioritizing what needs to be done like so: 

STEP ONE: Sort out your air exchanges Make air exchange your number one priority. Reducing the intake and outtake will give you the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to cash savings and comfort in your home. If you can’t invest in a contractor, there are plenty of references out there that will arm you with exactly what you need to work on your own. David himself has published numerous publications focusing on how the everyday person can make the upgrades themselves with materials easily found at a local hardware store. Some excellent references authored by David include: Green from the Ground Up: Sustainable, Healthy, and Energy-Efficient Home Construction; Toward a Zero Energy Home; and Green Remodeling : Changing the World One Room at a Time .

STEP TWO: Clean out your attic Once you’ve gotten your issues with air exchange squared away, David recommends looking next towards your attic. You should clean out that entire space – and he means wipe away all that existing insulation so that you see the bare bones of the construction, specifically, the top of the ceiling that sits right under your feet. If you’re able to see what’s going on from overhead, you can spot the points of leakage, be it through gaps, recessed lighting fixtures, vents and more. After you’ve singled out all those trouble points seal them up tight! More insulation is key, and as David states “When it’s cold outside you put a hat on, and it’s basically the same idea when it comes to your house.” Your new insulation, in part to seal up cracks, should be at least one foot thick. Cellulose is a green, quick and easily available option that you can pour all over the ceiling without issue.

STEP THREE: Clean out your basement and crawl spaces The third thing everyone should be mindful of is the basement and crawl spaces. You should seek out all the crack, gaps and leaks and pack in as much insulation as you can in these spaces. Special attention should be given to sealing up all your air ducts. Duct-mastic is a readily available sealant that comes in a paint-like consistency and can be brushed on all of the joints of your ducts. There are also companies all across the country who will come to your home just to do this. Pipe insulate is another great way to reduce your energy costs. In fact, just these three steps alone can give way to up to a 30% energy reduction and will cost you just $1000.


While windows are a much more expensive upgrade than some of the tips mentioned above, they can make a huge difference. If you live in an area that experiences the four seasons at full-blast, you may notice that during these times there are areas of the house you just don’t want to be. This is mainly because you are likely the owner of major air leaks originating from windows and doors, and it’s no surprise that a lot of discomfort can result from poorly insulated windows. The new technology being applied to windows is nothing short of amazing, and there are four types of windows that you should reference if and when you decide that this is the right choice for you: Single pane windows, Double pane windows, Low-E windows and our new favorite, Super Windows. In practice windows are each given an R rating signifying their level of insulation (note that wall insulation will carry a rating of between R19-R20).

Single Pane: Single pane windows are common in older homes and feature a single glaze. These windows are a poor choice if you live in an area with notable changes in temperature throughout the year. These windows carry an R1 rating. 

Double Pane: Double pane windows will have two panes or glazes and carry an R2 rating

LOW-E Windows: LOW-E windows are a popular choice for those more concerned with energy consumption in cooling and heating. In the winter, the windows will reflect heat in ,and in the summer reflect the heat out. These windows register an R3 rating.

Super Windows: Super windows are the newest generation of windows that feature multiple layers of film between each glaze or pane. This solar regulating material is applied between each pane, and amazingly, these windows can have R ratings of between R7-R11. Marvin Windows now makes their own super window, a triple pane with a krypton/argon/air gas mix in between the panes, which ups the thermal performance significantly, reaching an unparalleled level of insulation that will knock hundreds of dollars off your energy bill.


Working in the business for decades, David will tell you that many of these alterations are a great way to save money in the long-run, but ultimately what most people are aiming for is to find a level of comfort that will maximize the happiness of those in their homes. All of these upgrades have the power to change the way a space is experienced phenomenally, and not only will you be able to recover dead areas of your home, but you may just find that several new cozy spots will be born anew!

[via inhabitat]

Monday, May 13, 2013

Are “Natural” and “Organic” Cosmetics Necessarily Better for You?

Navigating the beauty industry isn’t unlike watching an episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County—you’re equal parts baffled and alarmed, there are flashes of self-loathing, and although you have a sneaking suspicion that it’s bad for you, you can’t help but breathlessly indulge. Throw in abarrage of mostly meaningless buzzwords like “natural” and “organic,” and it’s no wonder most of us are at sea.

Mia Davis, former organizing director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and currently the safety lead at Beautycounter, is at the front line of a new revolution to replace toxic chemicals in cosmetic and personal-care products with healthier alternatives. Ecouterre spoke with Davis to learn why it’s perfectly legal for beauty firms to use ingredients linked to cancer, how to spot greenwashing in the beauty aisle, and what we can do to make sure our products are truly safe.


You were the organizing director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics for five years—tell us about the work you did.

The campaign is a coalition of nonprofit organizations that work to ensure our skin care and makeup are safe for long-term use. Seems like a no-brainer, I know. But right now, it is perfectly legal for cosmetics companies to use harmful chemicals linked to cancer, reproductive problems and other serious health impacts. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t have the power to ensure that these products are safe before they hit the market. They can’t even do a recall of unsafe products.

The FDA doesn’t have the power to ensure that these products are safe before they hit the market.

Since “cosmetics” is a catchall term for virtually everything women, men, and kids use on their skin, this affects all of us. On average, women use more than 10 cosmetics a day, but everyone uses multiple products—even those of us that are pretty low-maintenance. So our exposure to cosmetics chemicals really adds up, and some of the chemicals are potent at extremely low doses (like hormone disruptors).

Luckily, the campaign has had a lot of success moving the market away from toxic chemicals. [It's] working to pass common-sense federal policy that will empower the FDA to protect American consumers from these unnecessary toxic exposures.
Can you tell us a little about greenwashing in so-called natural and/or organic products?
Greenwashing is when companies use deceptive “green” marketing practices (basically, talking about how “green” or “eco-conscious” they are, but not really walking the walk).

Many consumers think that “green” products are always safe and nontoxic—it’s not necessarily the case.

Many consumers are left thinking that “green” products are always safe and nontoxic, which isn’t necessarily the case. After all, heavy metals are “natural.” And, on the other hand, there are natural ingredients that manufacturers buy from ingredient suppliers that come preloaded with preservatives, but since the preservatives aren’t an individual ingredient, they don’t always appear on ingredient labels.

For example, I could buy aloe vera with preservatives from a supplier, put it in my lotion, and not list the preservative on the product label. Some of the companies that claim they are natural and that they don’t use synthetic preservatives are really misleading the consumer. Not cool.


It seems like there’s a division emerging in the natural beauty market. There’s green/organic/natural. And then there’s safe. What are your thoughts on this?
I don’t think that there’s a hard division; but as I indicated earlier, sometimes there is overlap between these terms, and sometimes, not so much. I think that many consumers understandably assume that natural equals safe, and safe equals natural.

Claims like “chemical-free” or “100 percent natural” are often false (nothing can be chemical-free since everything is made of chemicals.

Claims like “chemical-free” or “100 percent natural” are often false (nothing can be chemical-free since everything is made of chemicals), so try to look at little deeper before purchasing. If you’re interested in purchasing products with ingredients that are truly organic, look for the U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified organic seal—which means that 95 percent of the ingredients are organic—or NSF/ANSI 305 certification—at least 70 percent of the ingredients are organic. The Natural Products Association certification indicates that you’re getting natural ingredients, and this standard also takes into account safety.

Folks should become avid label-readers and work to avoid some of the most concerning chemicals found in cosmetics, like triclosan in hand soaps, parabens in lotion and shampoo, and undisclosed “fragrance” in a myriad of products.

“Fragrance” can be dozens or even hundreds of secret ingredients, some of which are hormone disruptors.

“Fragrance” can be dozens or even hundreds of secret ingredients, some of which are hormone disruptors (like phthalates and musks), so be sure to choose fragranced products from companies that disclose all of their fragrance ingredients.
What are you working on now?
I’m working with a team of social entrepreneurs to launch Beautycounter, coming winter 2013. Beautycounter will have chic, effective, and safe skincare and makeup products.

I’m excited to be working on a solution to this environmental and public health issue—we need more companies out there offering safe products that people actually want to use. Beautycounter will empower women and challenge the status quo. People can learn more and stay in the loop at
[via ecouterre]

Your Healthy Gardening Guide

There's nothing like heading into your yard on a warm spring day and getting your hands dirty -- in a good way. "Gardening can be great for reducing stress," says Alexis Chiang Colvin, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. "You're out in the fresh air and sunshine, getting your daily dose of moderate exercise."

But you want to do it safely, without bug bites and back pain. Follow these ground rules to enjoy the growing season in good health.

Add Herbs

Get more from your patch of green by planting these easy-to-grow, healthful herbs in your garden, suggests Brian Hetrich, ND, of the Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach, Fla.:

Basil. This highly fragrant plant packs vitamins A and K, and its essential oil has been shown to have antibacterial properties.
Grow tip: An annual, basil can thrive inside or out (plant after the danger of frost passes). It prefers sun and moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil combined with compost. Space about 12-inches apart, water at least every other day and harvest select leaves when the plant is about 10-inches tall.

Rosemary. These leaves have compounds that might help boost the immune system and improve digestion and memory.
Grow tip: Plant this tender perennial in the ground in warm climates or in pots you can move indoors during winter. It prefers slightly alkaline soil and lots of sun. Space at least 24 inches apart, and keep soil moist until the herb is established, which may take a year.

Mint. Great in tea and even in savory dishes, mint can aid digestion, and it also provides vitamins A and C.
Grow tip: Plant seedlings in moist, well-drained soil in a sunny spot, spaced about 15 inches apart. (Mint spreads rampantly, so consider using pots.) Keep well hydrated, watering at least every other day. Removing the leaves from the top of the plant will encourage new growth down the stem.

Pain-Free Positioning

Using your body properly will help you avoid aches later. While standing, keep your back straight with your knees bent slightly, neck and shoulders relaxed.

Get low. Don't bend from the waist. Instead, kneel on a cushion or sit on a stool (or an overturned bucket), as long as it's low enough for you to maintain a straight back. Make access even easier by planting a raised bed (about 10 inches high) and using tools with longer handles.

Lift smart. For heavy items, squat down and engage the muscles in your thighs and butt when you stand up, keeping your knees bent and back straight. Hug heavy pots or bags of soil close to your body as you straighten.

Switch it up. To avoid repetitive stress injury, rotate tasks that involve doing the same motions again and again (raking, digging) every 15 to 20 minutes and briefly rest or stretch in between.

Keep it clean

Infection might not seem like a big gardening hazard, but the soil in your yard might be, well, soiled with lead and other toxic chemicals from old paint and plumbing, contaminants from pesticides and parasites from pet or wild-animal droppings (hello, giardia and toxoplasmosis), not to mention tetanus and E. coli.

The best defense is to invest in a quality pair of gardening gloves -- either thin and fitted for tasks that require dexterity, or leather ones in a gauntlet style for when you're clearing brambles or thorny bushes. If you do get a cut, nick or scrape, wash it thoroughly with soap and warm water to keep the risky stuff from getting into your bloodstream and potentially causing an infection.

Avoid These Plants And Bugs

Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac can be tricky to spot. Generally, poison ivy climbs or creeps. Its leaves come in threes and can be shiny green or reddish, with smooth or jagged edges. Poison oak also grows in clusters of three, with leaves that resemble true oak leaves. You'll know poison sumac as a rangy shrub, with smooth-edged green leaves with red stems. If you brush up against these plants, immediately wash with cool water to remove the oils from your skin, and wash clothes in hot water.

Ticks. To steer clear of Lyme disease, wear long pants tucked into socks. Check yourself and pets when coming inside. Find a critter? Use tweezers to pull it up and out; wash with soap and water. See a doctor if you get a rash or fever within a few weeks, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Bees. Bees want nectar-filled flowers, so don't resemble one: Avoid bright floral clothes and scented lotions. And always wear shoes -- many stings happen from stepping on bees. If you get stung, wash with soap and water; remove the stinger by wiping with gauze, says the CDC.

Mosquitoes. They mostly just cause itchy welts, but mosquitoes can carry disease. To keep them out of your yard, remove breeding grounds, like buckets, empty pots and anywhere else water collects. They tend to bite at dawn and dusk, so if you're out, wear a repellent with DEET.

Stay Sun-Safe

Whenever you're outdoors, the sun can damage your skin, so slather on a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30. Don a wide-brim hat, as well as long sleeves and pants, all in lightweight materials -- you don't want to get overheated! Head indoors midday, when the sun is strongest. And don't neglect hydration: Sip from a water bottle every 15 minutes.


Stevia: Good or Bad?

Sugar is one of the most dangerous ingredients on the market. It’s addictive, added to almost every processed food, and will make you overweight, depressed and sick if you eat too much. In fact, Americans eat close to 130 pounds of the stuff per person per year (4 times more than the recommended daily allowance), likely because it is so addictive. That’s why it’s exciting to know there are alternative sweeteners made in nature, like “stevia,” that don’t wreak havoc on your health – or do they? That’s what I went on a quest to find out. Here’s what happened…

What Is Stevia? 

For those of you that are hearing about stevia for the first time, it is a plant that is typically grown in South America, and while its extract is 200 times sweeter than sugar, it does not raise blood insulin levels. That’s what makes it so popular. However in 1991 the FDA refused to approve this substance for use due to pressure from makers of artificial sweeteners like Sweet n’ Low and Equal (a one billion dollar industry). But in 2008, the FDA approved the use of rebaudioside compounds that were derived from the stevia plant by Coca-Cola (Cargill) and PepsiCo – hmmm doesn’t that sound suspicious? Not until a major food company got involved did stevia become legal, and only after it had been highly processed using a patentable chemical-laden process…so processed that Truvia (Coca-Cola’s branded product) goes through about 40 steps to process the extract from the leaf, relying on chemicals like acetone, methanol, ethanol, acetonitrile, and isopropanol. Some of these chemicals are known carcinogens (substances that cause cancer), and none of those ingredients sound like real food, do they?

The whole leaf stevia that you can grow in your backyard (and has been used for centuries in countries like Brazil and Paraguay) remains a non-approved food additive by the FDA. However, rebaudioside A (the stevia extract) that was approved by the FDA has not been used for centuries and long term human health impacts have not been studied and are still unknown. The sweetener/sugar industry wields powerful influence over what is ultimately approved at the FDA, and this is just another example where they are influencing decisions that don’t make sense. How can a chemically derived extract be deemed safe in processed food and a plant from mother nature not?

What Kind Of Stevia To Avoid

The 40-step patented process used to make Truvia should make you want to steer clear of this stevia product alone, but there are two other concerning ingredients added (not only to Truvia but other stevia products as well). First, erythritol is a naturally occurring sugar that is sometimes found in fruit, but food manufacturers don’t actually use the natural stuff. Instead they start with genetically engineered corn and then go through a complex fermentation process to come up with chemically pure erythritol. Check out the manufacturing process below:

“Natural flavors” is another ingredient added to powdered and liquid stevia products, likely due to the fact that once the stevia leaf is processed it can develop a metallic taste. Manufactured natural flavor is contributing to what David Kessler (former head of the FDA) calls a “food carnival” in your mouth. This makes it difficult to stop eating or drinking because the flavors they have synthesized will trick your mind into wanting more and more. When companies use manufactured flavor, they are literally “hijacking” your taste buds one-by-one; that’s why I recommend putting products that contain “natural flavors” back on the shelf.

“Stevia in the Raw” sounds pure and natural, but when you look at the ingredients the first thing on the label is “dextrose” – so it’s certainly not just stevia in the raw. And Pepsi Co’s “Pure Via,” also pictured above, isn’t exactly pure either with this ingredient being first on the label, too. Dextrose is a sweetener that’s also derived from genetically engineered corn and has a long complicated manufacturing process, just like erythritol.

Even certified organic stevia can have sneaky ingredients added, like this one above which has more organic agave inulin than the stevia extract itself. Agave inulin is a highly processed fiber derivative from the blue agave plant. Also on the ingredient list is an item you are probably familiar with from those little packets sometimes found in boxed goods – silica (pictured). It is added to improve the flow of powdery substances and is the same ingredient that helps strengthen concrete and creates glass bottles and windowpanes. It may cause irritation of the digestive tract (if eaten) and irritation of the respiratory tract (if accidentally inhaled). While it is non-toxic and probably won’t kill you in small quantities, it’s definitely not a real food ingredient I would cook with or that I want to be putting in my body.

How To Choose The Right Kind Of Stevia

Luckily there are ways to enjoy this sweet leaf closer to its natural state… because let’s be honest, the no-calorie artificial sweeteners out there are really dreadful, and no one should consume them (check this post for the low-down on those). So here’s what you can do:
  1. Buy a stevia plant for your garden (luckily it’s totally legal!) or purchase the pure dried leaves online – you can grind up them up using a spice grinder (or use a mortar and pestle) for your own powdered stevia.
  2. When choosing products already sweetened with stevia, look for “whole leaf stevia” on the ingredient label. For example my favorite protein powder is made with “whole stevia leaf” instead of rebaudioside a or stevia extract.
  3. Add fresh or dried leaves directly to tea or drinks for natural sweetness (note the straight stevia leaves are only 30-40 times sweeter than sugar, vs. 200 times using the extract).
  4. Make your own liquid stevia extract (see graphic below for recipe).
  5. If you are not up for getting a stevia plant of your own or making your own extract, remember to look for a stevia extract that is 100% pure without added ingredients (Trader Joe’s has a version in a small bottle).

And when all else fails, choose a suitable alternative and forget stevia altogether. Lisa uses honey and pure maple syrup, and I personally prefer coconut palm sugar, since it is low glycemic (making it more diabetic friendly) and one of the most natural unprocessed forms of sugar available. It is naturally high in amino acids – has 10,000 times more potassium, 20 times more magnesium and 20 times more iron than conventional sugar. I use it all the time in my baking, from pound cake to muffins to a recent delicious cookie that is low in sugar  - check out all those recipes here!

[via FoodBabe]

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Companion Planting

May 15th is the traditional cut off date for a final frost. Meaning, starting next week, everything goes – in your garden. I will be seeding watermelons and transplanting chile peppers. As you prepare to fill your summer plot, consider not only what you’re planting, but where you’re planting. The logic and tradition of companion planting is based on setting up mutually beneficial relationships between plants. This method of organization can encourage pest control and stimulate vigorous growth. It is even said to produce tastier tomatoes.

Every plant demands and provides differently – absorbing certain soil nutrients, attracting specific pests while repelling others. It makes sense, then, to arrange your garden in a way that takes advantage of these individual properties. Companion planting originated with the Native American custom of the “Three Sisters” guild. Historically, Native Americans would plant corn, squash and beans side by side on a small plot of land. The tall stalks of corn provided a trellis for the beans, while the sprawling squash offered ground cover, stamping out potential weeds. Beans, a legume, are nitrogen fixing, and will not disturb nutrient intake of corn or squash.

Trap crops are another example of companion planting. If you are concerned about squash bugs attacking your cucumber bed, plant zucchini nearby. Summer squash leaves are sweeter and more preferable to the pests, thus deterring them from your main crop cukes.

Overtime, growers have collectively developed a comprehensive guide to companion planting. Inevitably, these guides are part truth, part lore, but in any case, a home garden offers the perfect scale in which to trial some of this knowledge. We can’t tend to our garden at all times, so why not let the plants themselves do some of the work?

Here are a few suggestions:

Basil with tomatoes – repels tomato hornworms

Nasturtiums with squash – deters squash bugs

Radishes and cucumbers – trap crop for cucumber beetles

Lettuce and carrots – for best flavor of both

Bee balm and tomatoes – for enhanced tomato flavor

Tomatoes and lettuce – tall trellis can provide welcome shade for tender greens

Monday, May 6, 2013

10 Easy & Inexpensive Tips for an Eco-Friendly Home

Simple yet effective ways to green your home.

Outfitting your home with the latest and greatest environmentally friendly appliances and accessories may make you super trendy, but it can also stress your budget and actually end up being bad for the environment. How can that be? Throwing out one appliance or accessory to replace it with another can be an expensive habit, and the more you throw away, the more stuff ends up in a landfill.

Rather than diving in headfirst, start adding eco-friendly touches to your home in small but meaningful ways. The following 10 tips are a good start for those who want to go green.

1. Replace only when needed

Unfortunately, many people think part of going green means getting all new stuff — not true. One great thing you can do for the environment is to learn to not be so disposable and to use everything until it's worn out.

2. Second-hand stores

Anything that gets thrown away is bad for the environment. Become a frequent contributor to second-hand stores, and shop them often. You’ll be surprised at the little treasures you’ll find, and you can request receipts for tax-deductible donations.

3. Antiques

Taking the used furniture idea a step further, antiques are a wonderful way to go green and to add aesthetic interest to your home. You don’t need to fill every nook and cranny with antique furnishings; a few pieces here and there fit in every home and are great conversation starters.

4. Rethink art

Look for artists who specialize in reclaimed or recycled pieces. Artwork doesn’t tend to be a huge environmental hazard, but by adding artwork with an environmental spin, you inspire your family and others. Who knows, you may be so inspired that you actually take up a new hobby and become an artist yourself!

5. Study materials

Learn what material items are made from and the environmental impact of those materials. Look for natural and organic materials (like 100 percent organic cotton sheets), fair-trade products, recycled plastics, reclaimed wood and bamboo products. This takes a little time and effort, but you’ll be a more educated consumer overall, and that’s a good thing.

6. Government programs

If you need to replace an appliance, check to see if there are any government programs that offer tax rebates for new energy-efficient appliances and fixtures. This is a win-win situation: You get a more efficient appliance and a tax break, and the environment isn’t taxed with still more carbon dioxide emissions or energy overuse. Turn it into an even bigger win by donating functioning older appliances to a charitable organization and help other families in need.

7. Plants

Literally going green in your home is great for the environment, as plants express your desire to be environmentally sound and help process and clean the air inside your home.

8. The right paint

Older paints release volatile organic compounds, meaning they have toxic fumes that remain long after the fresh paint smell goes away. Look for low- or no-VOC paints, so your home’s air stays as clean as possible.

9. Light bulbs

You’ve heard it for years, but compact fluorescent lights really are a more energy-efficient solution, and they’ll last longer than traditional light bulbs. By buying CFL bulbs, you’ll save money in the long run, and lighten your impact on the environment. Just remember that CFL bulbs contain mercury and must be disposed of properly - you can't just toss them in the trash when they need replacing. Most communities offer free hazardous waste disposal at select sites and times during the year. You can bypass the whole issue by investing in energy-efficient and non-toxic LED bulbs. They are more expensive initially, but prices are getting more reasonable, and they will literally last almost a lifetime which makes them less expensive in the long run.

10. Learn DIY 

Learn how to do some things yourself, and you’ll find you don’t need to replace everything — you can fix it, re-cover it, decorate it or give it new life in a variety of ways. Your DIY skills may actually become a hobby or even a potential income maker as you hone your skills. Take it a step further: Learn to build and repair things in an eco-friendly way, and you’ll not only see your items as things you can breathe new life into, but you’ll start seeing everything that way.

Less is more

These ideas are by no means the only ways you can begin adding environmentally friendly touches to your home — they’re just a few tips to get you started. You’ll find that as you learn more about what is good for the environment and what harms it, you’ll uncover new and innovative ways to bring eco-friendly touches to your home.

One key to remember is that being environmentally conscious is not necessarily about buying new, more expensive items. It’s about wisely choosing which items to keep, which to replace, what to repair or refinish, or what to repurpose entirely. The most eco-conscious homeowners are not looking for the biggest house filled with the newest, most environmental products. They’re going the opposite route entirely and thinking smaller, used, antique and “less is more.”
[via GAIAM Life]

Friday, May 3, 2013

HerbDay 2013 set for May 4

The eighth annual HerbDay, an event sponsored by the HerbDay Coalition, which includes the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), is set for Saturday, May 4. HerbDay is an internationally coordinated series of independently produced, public, educational events celebrating the importance of herbs and herbalism.

HerbDay was conceived to raise awareness of the significance of herbs and the many ways they can be used safely and creatively for health, beauty, and culinary enjoyment. Greater familiarity with herbs will increase informed use of herbal products and build public support for maintaining personal choice in the use of botanicals.

AHPA encourages the herb and botanical products industry to support and participate in this national day that provides an inexpensive marketing and branding opportunity for companies that market these products to consumers.

Self-directed events across the country have attracted the participation of herbalists and health care providers, authors, teachers, herbal products manufacturers and marketers, schools, organizations, media, retailers, botanical gardens, healthcare professionals and community organizations.

The volunteer-based HerbDay Coalition, consisting of the American Botanical Council, United Plant Savers, AHPA, the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, and the American Herbalists Guild, hopes you will join it as a participant in the 2013 HerbDay and in its efforts to foster future events.

Attend a HerbDay Event near you!! Happy HerbDay!

[via NewHope 360

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The 2013 Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen Produce Guides

For the ninth year, the Environmental Working Group has released its popular Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce, which includes the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists of the most and least pesticide contaminated fruits and vegetables.

As always, the samples tested by the EWG are thoroughly washed and peeled so that the areas being tested reflect what's actually consumed. Forty-eight products are reviewed and ranked based on an analysis of more than 28,000 samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and federal Food and Drug Administration.

The best way to avoid pesticide-contaminated produce is to select organic fruit and vegetable options. "When given a choice, more consumers are choosing organic fruits and vegetables or using EWG's Shopper's Guide to find an easy affordable way to avoid toxic chemicals," said Sonya Lunder, an EWG senior analyst. "They want to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables without eating too many pesticides. And they want to support local farms and agriculture that is better for the environment."

But, the EWG also advises that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whether or not they're organic, is more beneficial to consumers' health than the risks associated with consuming the pesticide contaminated fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables—organic or conventional—should always be washed thoroughly before consuming.

For the second year, the Dirty Dozen list also includes several added items in its "Plus" category, highlighting two crops: domestically grown summer squash and the extremely popular leafy green category of kale and collards. While these crops did not meet the traditional Dirty Dozen criteria, they did test positive for contamination with pesticides that can be particularly damaging to the nervous system. And with the growing kale-obsession taking over our nation, it's important to consider organic options whenever possible.

The Clean Fifteen list focuses on the conventionally grown crops with the least amount of pesticide residue (yes, there are some safe ones out there!), giving consumers safer options when selecting non-organic fruits and vegetables. It's also a great resource for sub-ins of items on the Dirty Dozen. Can't find organic apples? Have a conventional cantaloupe or kiwi instead. No organic potatoes? How about non-organic sweet potatoes?

Consumers who routinely shop at farmers markets can also talk with their farmers directly about the use of pesticides on their crops. With organic certification a costly procedure, many non-organic growers are actually using organic methods.

The Dirty Dozen Plus
1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Cherry Tomatoes
4. Cucumbers
5. Grapes
6. Hot Peppers
7. Nectarines (imported)
8. Peaches
9. Potatoes
10. Spinach
11. Strawberries
12. Sweet Bell Peppers

13. Kale and Collard Greens
14. Summer Squash

The Clean Fifteen
1. Asparagus
2. Avocados
3. Cabbage
4. Cantaloupe
5. Sweet Corn
6. Eggplant
7. Grapefruit
8. Kiwi
9. Mangos
10. Mushrooms
11. Onions
12. Papayas
13. Pineapples
14. Sweet Peas (frozen)
15. Sweet Potatoes

To read the full report, go here.