Dallas City Bag Ban: How to remember reusable bags at the store

How to Remember Reusable Bags at the grocery store | Living Consciously Blog

Since I’ve been crunchy for longer than it was officially cool to be crunchy, I was super excited about the Dallas city bag ban, because it means less waste and less danger to the wildlife. We lived next to White Rock Lake in Dallas for many years, and it always made me sad to see the hundreds of thin white bags lining the shore and being eaten by wildlife who later died. Bag litter is so ubiquitous that They Might Be Giants even wrote a whimsical song about a plastic bag floating along a walkway and attaching itself to the legs of passerby.

Anyway, things haven’t been so celebratory for a lot of folks in the area. The first time I visited Target after the bag ban took effect, the cashier was so defensive about it that she was actually rude when she gave me my free reusable bag (TIP: Target was giving out free reusable bags, at least the first few days!). It was like she fully expected me to throw a fit. I think she might have gotten that response a few times already, which totally explains her surliness.

I know that I spent a few years at first trying to remember to bring my own bags, and there’s nothing more annoying than PAYING for something that you know you already own, but forgot to bring. I made the following video to show you my best tips on how to remember reusable bags at the grocery store. (If you can’t see the embedded video, click here)

To recap what’s in the video:

The door of your car.

Behind the seat of your car.

Tiny, tiny bags. – here’s an affiliate link to the bags I mentioned that fold up into themselves.

Bags that fit in other bags. – another affiliate link to the 5-pack of bags I mentioned.

You don’t use as many. – you can pack a reusable bag completely full and it won’t break.

TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL: produce bags. – affiliate link to mesh produce bags. Or reuse the produce bags that you already have.

I’ll try to have a video next week reviewing the different types of reusable bags. Let me know if you have questions in the comments!

All the Drama on the Internets #5: NPR GMO bias?

Every so often I like to give you a bulleted list of some recent “green” stories in the news and why half of the people are excited to hear about the news or study and the other half are super offended by it for some reason. DRAMA ENSUES. Almost 100% of the time, I am somewhere in the middle. I just figured that some of you might want to know what’s out there and read for yourselves. Just in case you aren’t already immersed in social media 24/7 like I am…

Food Babe speaking at ShiftCon | Living Consciously Blog

On Thursday I ignored the article NPR published calling Food Babe an alarmist because I didn’t want to draw attention to it (still refusing to link to it). Yesterday I spent most of the day watching my private Facebook groups of green/holistic/real food bloggers argue over whether the attack on the food movement by NPR was warranted, if it damaged us all in our efforts to raise awareness of the issues with our food system, and whether Vani should really be allowed free speech like the rest of us. OK, so I made that last part up, but kind of not really. Because whether we like her message or not, whether we agree with the way she says it or not, I don’t think we can argue that she has a place at the table (so to speak), just like any of us with a blog.

If you aren’t familiar with Food Babe, go ahead and look her up. She’s so huge I don’t even have to link to her. Do I read her blog? No, not regularly. Mostly because I am orthorexic, and if I read too much about the tiny details of chemicals in everything I start starving myself. But here’s the thing: most people are not like me. In fact, most people are the opposite. The majority of Americans eat the food they find in the middle of the supermarket, the Standard American Diet, which (aside from being woefully nutritionally deficient) is full of so many chemicals, additives, preservatives, and overall fake-ness that our bodies don’t even know how to function properly. What’s worse is that most people actually feel like they are eating healthfully because our government requires pretty much no labeling or explanation of what is really inside our food when it comes to GMOs, synthetic chemicals, and ingredients that are banned in the UK and other industrialized countries.

Food Babe’s value is that she uses the sensational-type headlines that Americans consuming mass media find intriguing. “You Won’t Believe What’s In Your Yogurt – And It’s Not On The Label!” , “If You’ve Ever Eaten Pizza Before, This Will Blow Your Mind (Maybe Literally)“. Are they the kind of blog post titles you’d find on my blog? No. But they work for her and they draw attention to her message. She also has the guts to go after the big corporations and she’s had some very impressive wins – getting Kraft to remove the artificial orange from their macaroni & cheese, alerting us to the yoga mat ingredient in Subway buns, telling us all that the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte is deadly.

OK, so it’s actually things like that last one that get us into trouble.

Does the Pumpkin Spice Latte have bad ingredients in it? Yes. Should we be putting that crap in our stomaches? Not really. But will one latte really kill us? No. No, it won’t. But…

Here’s the thing: those nasty chemicals like the ones in the Starbucks latte might be small in the latte, but they are in EVERYTHING we consume. Those little tiny bits of chemicals in your coffee creamer, in your sandwich bun, added to your lunch meat, in your salad dressing, in that artificially-colored yogurt with aspartame that you had for a snack, the eggs McDonald’s sells that have 17 ingredients (look it up) — it’s the accumulation of those chemicals that is the issue. And that is what Vani has spent the past several years exposing, one at a time. She is there to teach those who aren’t aware to start thinking about what they are eating, to ask “why?”. I think she has a place. She is good at what she does, and she is drawing our attention to very important issues.

Obviously, my technique in encouraging consciously living and eating is different than hers, but I also don’t grab the kind of attention she does from the mainstream public. I think that a lot of you were probably already on your way to making better choices when you found this blog. She writes the kind of headlines that reach people who aren’t seeking ways to change, and causes them to consider something for the first time.

I am a little disappointed in NPR. We’ve been members of our local NPR station the entire time we’ve been married, and my husband was a member for years before we were married. We will continue to support our local NPR station. It was unsettling to see that there was only one side represented in this article, with heavy quoting from a pro-GMO group but not representation from anti-GMO groups at all.

Just this morning, NPR released another article putting GMO ingredients in a negative light. Because so many vitamins added to processed foods are manufactured using GMO ingredients, the cereal makers who have agreed to remove the GMOs from their cereal are left with cereal lower in added vitamins. I say good! We should not be relying on sugar- and grain-filled cereal each morning to meet our nutritional needs with manufactured vitamins. We should be getting these vitamins from whole foods — fruits and vegetables and superfoods throughout the day. If moving toward fewer GMOs also moves us toward more whole foods, GREAT!

But, NPR…not so great, guys. Not so partial. I would definitely not go so far as to say that there is a NPR GMO bias, but I would like to ask: Where is representation from our side in these stories?

GMO Labeling is NOT impossible: picture proof

If you live in a state that has proposed labeling Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in food, if you stand up for #LabelGMOs on social media and have been attacked by anti-labeling trolls, or if you have had any conversation at all with someone who is anti-GMO-labeling, you will have heard this claim: GMO labeling is prohibitively expensive and time consuming for companies. The argument goes like this: companies will have to do allll this extra work to identify GMOs in their products, then oh nooooooo, all the ink it will require to print the labeling! So prohibitive! All that ink! All that knowing-where-the-ingredients-come-from! It will make even the largest companies fold under the sheer prohibitive cost! It’s anti-capitalism!

Well, I’m here to tell you that all the “expensive”, “difficult”, and “prohibitively expensive” work has already been done by many of these major companies who are leading the charge against labeling in the United States. GMO labeling is NOT impossible, pictures are below. Leah of Mamavation (and founder of Shiftcon) is currently on a European trip and was kind enough to send back pictures of the GMO labeling and altered ingredients found in the UK versions of popular products here in the U.S. She has posted them on her Facebook page over the past week or so, and I thought I would compile them for those of you who do not follow her.

Popular US products with GMOs removed or labeled in the UK versions. Note that many are actually manufactured in the US! | Living Consciously Blog

Notice in these pictures that the several of the products with GMO labeling are manufactured in the U.S. It’s not that these products are manufactured in the UK for the UK, as special products only to be sold in Europe. They are made and labeled here, right alongside the product sold to Americans unlabeled. U.S. families are the only ones left in the dark as to what is actually in our food products. Not labeling these products here in the U.S. is conscious choice, one that is requiring companies to actually produce multiple lines of packaging (often in the same facility) to keep GMOs hidden from Americans.

Another interesting fact noted on the graphic is how the FD&C artificial colors have been removed from the UK versions of food. You might be wondering why there rarely artificial dyes in the UK versions of food. Artificial food dyes that have been found to cause hyperactivity and to exacerbate nervous conditions such as ADHD in children (PDF of study summary here) are forced to contain a warning label in the UK stating “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children”. In order to avoid having to include this warning on their foods, companies who sell products in EU countries have self-regulated and removed artificial food dyes, substituting natural dyes (Mercola report source here).

I get particularly annoyed that the same products are manufactured without artificial food dyes overseas, because I have talked to several of these large brands at the Expo halls of major blogging conferences and have been told over and over that they “can’t” remove the food dyes because “it would change the quality of the product”. Apparently those were all lies, because these products already exist without the food dyes in the UK!

I guess it’s not surprising that marketers lie to us. But, I think it is time to hold them accountable. The next time you hear the argument that GMO labeling is prohibitively expensive or too laborious, help me spread the truth!

#ShiftHappens: Going to ShiftCon 2014 this week!

ShiftCon Media Conference 2014 #ShiftHappens

I am beyond excited to be traveling to LA at the end of this week to finally meet so many of my green/holistic/real food blogger friends in real life at the first annual ShiftCon Media conference!! Here’s a quick summary of what the conference is about:

ShiftCon was born out of the idea that together we can create a profound impact on the world around us. We can literally shift how we eat, raise our families and our impact on the environment. That shift has begun, and now it’s time to come together and leverage our collective influence to accelerate that shift. ShiftCon was created to give wellness and eco-friendly bloggers a place to network, share ideas, learn from experts, empower one another and organize their efforts into activism. This is a one-of-a-kind conference bringing together some amazing people with amazing talents and passions. Shift happens, be part of it.

It’s like Leah read my mind when she organized this conference! The agenda pretty much encompasses everything involved in my blogging journey to live consciously. THIS is why I blog, because we have to shift the paradigm. And better yet, at the conference the food will all be organic, GMO-free, and as conscientious as possible. I’ve been speaking to several other attendees and we are pretty sure we can continue to eat grain-free, dairy-free and sugar-free even while at the conference! You know that I have loved my annual giant blogging conference, but there is NO WAY I could have maintained that kind of food purity at that event since I am currently on my liver detox.

At other blogging conferences, I’ve spent half my time in the Expo hall talking to vendors about why they weren’t more environmentally responsible, why they used toxic chemicals, and whether their products contained GMO’s. It will be totally amazing to go to an Expo hall and not be on the defensive!

You can follow me on my journey! I will be live-tweeting from as many of the sessions as I can (follow me on Twitter) and documenting all my amazing blogger friends meetups on Instagram. During the month of October, my Instagram yoga challenge will be #LetsGetFlexy, so be sure to look for yoga poses at the conference — maybe I’ll even incorporate some yogi friends (acro, anyone?)!

There will be some “controversial” speakers like the internet-viral blogger Vani, aka Food Babe. You have to follow me to hear what she says to a group of similarly-minded bloggers!

Feel free to tweet me, leave comments on my Facebook Page, or comment on my Instagram photos with things you’d like me to find out or ask the collective green/holistic/real food bloggers that I know and those that I meet!

There is no “microwave safe” or “dishwasher safe” plastic

Heating Plastic: there is no "microwave safe" or "dishwasher safe" plastic! Why and how to avoid heating food in plastic | Conscientious Confusion

Our trusty old dishwasher finally died lately, and I am super excited to have a shiny new one. Those 2-3 weeks handwashing dishes were no fun! But, regardless of whether we have a working dishwasher, there are always dishes in my sink. Why? Because I always hand wash plastics.

Why handwash? First of all, plastics are made out of chemicals. Yep, there is no natural substance out there which can be harvested to produce plastic in it’s final form. It’s all created in a lab. Most plastic is made flexible by PVC, a chemical that is well known to be toxic. Even plastics that are made without PVC are made of other chemicals. You can pick plastics that are “safe-r” to hold food by using this handy list, but there are no completely non-toxic plastics.

Here’s the thing: those chemicals are made active again when the plastic is heated. By default, any plastic that is heated will be releasing some of it’s chemical components. That is why plastic dishware degrades, gets spots, and warps over time. The chemical components of the plastic are slowly breaking down (read more here and here and a more technical study here. Relevance to cancer from chemicals in plastic.). When it comes to dishware, the heat allows those chemicals to mix with our food. Do we really want to be eating a side of chemicals with our meal? Remember that the FDA does not approve chemicals used in houseware (they only oversee Food and Drugs) — there is no regulation of the materials being used in your plates/bowls/sippys/storage containers.

You’ve seen the plastics labeled “microwave safe” and “dishwasher safe”, right? What does that even mean? The definition of “microwave safe” and “dishwasher safe”, as far as I can tell from online research, comes from appliance manufacturers. Both terms mean that your dishes won’t be visibly damaged, melted or broken in the appliance, not that the dishware won’t leach chemicals into your food. In other words, there is no “microwave safe” or “dishwasher safe” plastic.

Ideally, it would be fabulous to own no plastic food containers or items at all, but I have two preschool children. I do still use a microwave. With children this young, I still do not have the bandwidth in my food prep time to forego the microwave altogether for quick meals like leftovers and lunches, so stainless steel isn’t always practical. When using the microwave to reheat even something small, transfer the food to a glass container.

Tip #1: I bought small glass bowls from the dollar store specifically for reheating. I have about 4 of them so that there is always one clean. I just pop whatever I want to reheat into these open bowls and toss them in the microwave. The bonus is that I can also safely put them into the dishwasher.

Tip #2: To make storing and reheating from the refrigerator easier, I have replaced all of my formerly plastic storageware with glass food storage (affiliate link). These sets are easy to find at Target, Walmart, Amazon, and even Costco. I replaced it slowly, over time, when I could find sales and coupons. It can be pricey to do it all at one time, although Costco will frequently have good deals on glass storageware.

We have been working on teaching the kids to use glass responsibly. I still don’t allow them to have glass containers unsupervised, but they are getting much more mindful. Soon I hope to transition completely away from plastic cups and bowls for them and to ceramic and glass, which is what we use for the adults in the family.

For more information on the toxicity and environmental impact of plastic, I highly recommend my friend Beth Terry’s book “Plastic-Free: How I Kicked My Plastic Habit and How You Can Too” (affiliate link).

How do you avoid plastic in your home? Do you have any favorite products that you like?