December 26, 2011

Natural Solutions For Dry Winter Skin

As temperatures drop this winter, so does the moisture in our skin. Switching to a heavier moisturizer can help sooth dry, dull, or chaffed skin, as can these simple home remedies for treating dry winter skin naturally.

Moisturize from the inside out.
Start by drinking plenty of water and consuming a diet rich in biotin, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acid, vitamin C, and beta-carotene can help make skin less prone to dryness. Try foods like eggs, almonds and walnuts, oranges, mangoes, carrots, dark leafy greens, and cold-water fish like wild Alaskan salmon, anchovies and halibut.

Check your cupboards for all natural moisturizers.
Nutrient-rich oils like olive, grapeseed, and almond oil all make great moisturizers. You can massage oil into dry skin for a few minutes before going about your usual cleansing routine. You can also add a few drops of oil (olive, grapeseed, almond, or vitamin E) to your regular moisturizer to boost its effects.

Honey is another great, all natural emollient. For a skin softening facial mask, apply a thin layer of honey (raw and natural is best) all over, allow it to sit for 20 minutes, and rinse with warm water. You can also apply honey to chapped lips and rough heels and elbows at night.

Think sweet to exfoliate.
Foods like pineapple, papaya, and pumpkin are rich in alpha hydroxy acids – a natural exfoliator that helps slough off dead skin. For an all natural AHA mask, simply mash or puree the fruit and apply it to a clean face for 20 to 30 minutes before rinsing with cool water. Then moisturize as usual.

Sugar mixed with oil (any of the aforementioned oils will work) makes a great skin softening scrub. Simply mix equal amounts of fine brown sugar and oil, massage into rough, dry skin for a few minutes, and rinse. Moisturize as usual.

For skin too sensitive for AHA, try yogurt. The lactic acid in yogurt makes it an effective, yet gentle exfoliator. Apply plain Greek yogurt to a clean face and allow it to sit on the skin for about 20 minutes. Then, rinse with tepid water and moisturize as usual.

Now go out and enjoy the winter with soft, glowing skin!


December 17, 2011

Eating Seasonally This Winter

Buying local is a great way to get fresh, healthy food that hasn’t been chemically modified to keep its appearance after traveling half way around the world. Buying local means buying seasonal . . . purchasing fresh produce, meat, and seafood when it's in season in your area. By buying in season you get the freshest, tastiest food at the best price, while eliminating the environmental damage caused by shipping food thousands of miles.

You can better plan your meals around what’s in season with the seasonal food guide available from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Now that winter is at our doorstep, we here in the northeast can look forward to seasonal beets, cabbage, carrots, onions, oysters, potatoes, rutabaga, snap peas, squash, and turkey.

Eating seasonally is a great reason to try new foods. Check out the seasonal recipe guides from Allrecipes, Epicurious, The Food Network, and Cooking Light. Martha Stewart's Seasonal Produce Recipe Guide, in addition to offering seasonal recipes, lets you know what produce is in season, what to look for when selecting a particular type of produce, and how it should be stored.

Try eating seasonally. Your taste buds, wallet, and planet will thank you!


December 10, 2011

Green Ways to Save Money

Being green shouldn't require spending a ton of green. In fact, going green is one of the best ways to save money. Nothing drives me crazy more than green living advice that consists of little more than a list of stuff to buy. “Stuff” does not make you green. Green is simple. Green is easy. Green is cheap! Here are some of what I consider to be the best ways to save money by going green.

Stop buying cleaning products. You can clean your whole house with a few simple products like vinegar, baking soda, and peroxide. Cut up old t-shirts and towels for rags and you’ll save on paper towels and sponges as well. Cleaning green saves you money, reduces waste, and eliminates the need for chemicals that are harmful to you and the environment.

Prepare your own food. Pick up a morning coffee and buy some lunch and you’re easily spending $10 a workday. That adds up to about $200 a month, $2,400 a year! Invest in a thermos and brew your own coffee and you’ll break even after about a week. Plus, you’ll save all those throwaway cups. Pack a lunch (in reusable containers) and you’ll save money, avoid preservatives, and eliminate unnecessary waste (think of all those ketchup packets and napkins in take-out bags). Keep a stainless steel bottle of home-filtered water) handy and you’ll save money on bottled water (which is often no cleaner than tap water) and cut down on waste.

Buy less. Buy used. Instead of buying new books, CDS, DVDs, and video games, see what’s available at the public libraries in your area. Library consortiums allow you to borrow from the libraries in several neighboring towns. Used books stores are also great and often have more than just books. If there are none available in your area, check out Amazon's and Barnes & Noble's used books selection online.

Make your junk someone's treasure. Instead of throwing out clothes, furniture, appliances, tools, sports equipment, toys, books, and housewares, try selling them. Have a yard sale, use Craigslist or eBay, and check out local consignment shops. You’ll make money, while keeping those items out of landfills. Another option is to organize a swap with friends. Narrow it down to a category like clothes, home goods, or children's items, set a date and time, put out some snacks, and prepare to swap! Donate any goods you can’t sell or swap. Freecycle is a great online nonprofit that helps you to donate to people in your community.

Drive Less. We’re lucky that our family can get by with just one car. My husband takes his bike to the bus stop for work and I work from home. Now, I know this isn’t an option for everyone. But really think about it. Do you absolutely need as many cars as you have or any at all? Are walking, biking, carpooling, or public transportation options? Consider not only the car payments, but the money spent on insurance, gas, and maintenance. Check with your auto insurer. Some offer discounts for using public transportation (you’ll have to provide receipts) and/or for keeping low mileage on your car. Driving less will save you money, prevent ozone-depleting exhaust, and (if you walk or bike instead) improve your health.


December 4, 2011

Green Homemade Beauty Treatments

We’ve gone over how nasty chemicals are being found in our personal care products and how the Environmental Working Group’s cosmetics database can help you find products with no (or at least fewer) carcinogens, allergens, and endocrine disruptors. I’ve even provided a list of my favorite products that are easy to find, moderately-priced, and have a low hazard score in the EWG’s database. If you’re ready to go a step further though, there’s another option that’s easier and cheaper with NO hazard score . . . homemade beauty products!

Here are some of my favorite all-natural beauty treatments that you can make at home. I don’t like getting too fancy, so most are very simple recipes that require little more than a trip to the pantry.
  • Mix 1 part olive oil with 2 parts canola oil to create a makeup remover that’ will help prevent wrinkles and leave your skin feeling super soft.
  • Instead of AHA products to even out skin, try rubbing either the pulp of an orange slice, a pineapple slice, or mashed strawberries on your face. Leave on for 20 minutes before rinsing with lukewarm water.
  • For super soft skin apply half a mushed up a banana to your face for 20 minutes.
  • Add a little sugar, oatmeal, or wheat germ to your regular cleanser for some added exfoliation.
  • Lemon juice or witch hazel can be used to dry up a pimple. You can also mix them with water to create a toner.
  • If you start breaking out, try applying a paste of baking soda and water for 10 to 15 minutes before rinsing with cool water.
  • Gently rub a mix of brown sugar and olive oil on your lips for a yummy lip exfoliation. Follow up with a soothing lip balm. I’m a big fan of Burt’s Bees myself.
  • After shampooing, rinse your hair with apple cider vinegar followed by cold water. It’s worth putting up with the smell (it goes away once your hair is dry) for this kind of shine.
  • If your hair is thick and prone to dryness, you can coat it with olive oil for a half hour before shampooing once or twice a week. Note: There are a lot of different recipes for homemade hair masks. I can’t really comment on them other than to say anything involving honey on your hair is not a good idea. At least not long, thick hair like mine. Learn from my homemade beauty faux pas!
  • I always keep pure Vitamin E oil (check the label to make sure it’s not mixed with soybean oil or other diluting ingredients) on hand. It’s great for dry lips. When my skin gets especially dry in the winter, I add a couple drops to my regular night cream. Sometimes, after my morning moisturizer, I dab a tiny (and I mean teeny tiny; the oil slick look is not pretty) bit on the very tops of my cheeks for a subtle sheen.

Over time you'll learn which products work best for you and soon enough you'll be coming up with your own green homemade treatments. Have fun!


December 1, 2011

Genetically Modified Foods

The arguments over genetically modified foods continue to heat up. In early October, the Center for Food Safety filed a petition with the Food and Drug Administration to require the labeling of genetically modified foods – a measure already taken by the EU, Russia, Japan, Australia, Brazil and China. Later in the month, a coalition of health, food safety and environmental organizations presented a petition with over 264,000 consumer signatures calling for a ban on the new genetically modified sweet corn from agricultural biotech giant Monsanto. Then, in November Peru’s congress imposed a 10-year moratorium on imports of genetically modified organisms.

But what exactly are genetically modified foods and why are they so controversial? Genetically engineered crops are plants that have had their DNA altered with genes from other organisms to make them more pest-resistant or change some of their characteristics. The vast majority of soy, corn, cotton, sugar beets and canola seed grown in the U.S. is genetically engineered.

Proponents of GE foods say they are the only way to keep up with the demands of a fast growing human population. Yet France, Italy, Japan and several other countries have banned them because of health concerns and worries that GE crops may spread their engineered traits to other plants.

Since they were only introduced in 1992, the long term health effects of GE foods have not been studied. Some research suggests that GE crops and the pesticide used on them has led to the development of “super weeds” resistant to that pesticide. In a lab animal study, genetically modified soy was shown to cause serious health problems in third-generation hamsters. They included infertility, low birth weights when they did reproduce, an increased infant mortality rate, and hair growth in the mouth. And a Russian study demonstrated that the genetic engineering process itself can cause changes that scientists cannot foresee.

So, what's a consumer to do? For help making informed decisions about your food, check out the Non-GMO Project, “a non-profit organization created by leaders representing all sectors of the organic and natural products industry in the U.S. and Canada, to offer consumers a consistent non-GMO choice for organic and natural products that are produced without genetic engineering or recombinant DNA technologies.” Using their site, you can find products certified to contain no genetically modified material through the Non-GMO Project's 3rd party verification program, petition your favorite food makers to get certified, and sign the Non-GMO Project's Consumer Pledge to demonstrate your support. It also helps to buy organic whenever possible, especially the most common GE crops (soy, cotton, canola and corn) and avoid processed, packaged foods since most of them rely heavily on GE corn.

Remember: The way you spend your grocery money sends a message to food retailers and processors. Show them you are not willing to be anyone's science experiment.