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Tag Archives: Eco-Living

  • Day-tripping for mushrooms with a toddler

    Killian, trying to wrap his mind around the friendly stranger showing him strange things growing out of a cardboard box.

    The single best thing about building Grommet has been watching the ongoing success of our Grommet partners, like Back to the Roots Ventures. The founders are two young guys who came up with the idea to recycle coffee grounds into mushroom growing kits. I took a road trip to visit them at their Oakland CA facility, with my two-year-old nephew Killian in tow. Community outreach is a big part of their ethos at BTTR, so the team was most welcoming to a little boy.


    Before our arrival, we negotiated our car around a live police sting operation (seriously) to get to the Back to the Roots office and manufacturing facility. Killian was not impressed with the Oakland Police Department activities, but this little red front loader going into Back to the Roots really got him going.

    Our host for the tour, Mai-Ling Garcia, is in charge of their direct to consumer (as opposed to wholesale) operations. She is standing in front of a bunch of BTTR mushroom growing experiments in this photo. I guess you could call this area their R & D lab.

    It was fun to see the original Back to the Roots boxes. It’s come a long way! These older versions do not communicate enough value or enable gifting. With Daily Grommet’s video format we can work around compromised packaging, but it is a very real problem when the Grommets get send out “into the wild” to compete on store shelves.

    Visible behind the green packages are some cool hydroponic experiments happening. This is part of BTTR’s mission “to make food personal.” I.e. they are working on bringing production into the home in all kinds of ways.

    Here is what the Oyster Mushrooms look like at first, and then a couple days later. (Kind of an eerie blue color to begin. Not something you would pop into your mouth on a woodlands ramble.)

    This is Nikhil Aurora, co-founder, with the rest of us. (The man sports a constant smile!) I was lucky to catch him, as he had unexpectedly pushed back a trip to D.C. Nikhil was headed there in a few hours because he and his co-founder were scheduled to receive a big deal White House Empact100 List award.

    Here’s the reason why Nikhil delayed his trip: he had a last minute command-performance meeting with the Peets Coffee retail team at the BTTR facility. This meant a lot to me because my sister Lisa runs supply chain operations for Peets. In a bit of serendipity last year, I connected her with Nikhil to help BTTR increase its flow of used coffee grounds from Peets’ coffee shops. I love when we can pitch in and help break a log jam for a Grommet partner, by virtue of our networks.

    In this clean room is the man who expertly blends the mushroom spores, coffee grounds and growing medium to create each hand-packed kit.

    BTTR is on track to hit $5M in revenue in 2012. Their holiday ramp-up is yet to start but here are hundreds of kits “aging” before they are sent out for distribution.

    It’s so great to see where these hard-working entrepreneurs have taken such an improbable idea. I look forward to seeing what Nikhil and his co-founder Alejandro Velez do next. Whatever their new product might be, the Grommet community will be very interested.

    This is Killian saying goodbye to the BTTR team…who all work out of this same turquoise colored room partitioned off from the production facility.

    Finally, here is the original 2011 video we produced about Back to the Roots mushroom growing kits. They keep on selling, the mushrooms keep on growing, and BTTR is really making food personal.


  • Eco Friendly Finds

    Going "green" it is for anyone who wants to take one step today towards doing better by the Earth. Here are several products that can help you get started.

    Pearls Premium

     If you love a green lawn but dread the maintenance, check out Pearl’s Premium grass seed. It was developed by environmentalist Jackson Madnick, who spent six years researching lawns that grow slowly, require less water and don’t need chemical fertilizers to thrive. Grow an easy organic lawn this spring.


    These reusable grocery and produce bags are designed to maintain optimal humidity and air flow which will keep fruits and vegetables fresher, longer. ChicoBags eliminate the need for single use plastic bags -- a much more earth friendly way to grocery shop!



    Tap the sun with the eGear 5-in-1 solar travel kit. The base stores energy from the sun, and you can use it to power five different attachments: a small LED flashlight, radio, fan, reading light or USB charger. You just choose the component you want, then slide it onto the body until it clicks into place.




    The “Zero” nylon messenger bags from Rickshaw Bagworks is designed to eliminate wasted material. Scraps created during production are used in the bags and shipping materials, so nothing gets tossed. Read more about this here.



    Why toss wool balls into your dryer? We’ve discovered lots of reasons. They’re a clean, natural alternative to conventional dryer sheets and fabric softeners. They can cut drying time by as much as 40%. Plus, these handmade wool dryer balls are great for reducing static electricity and fluffing out wrinkles.


    Evan Healy

     Evan Healy takes a different approach to skincare. As a trained aesthetician, Evan believes in the skin’s ability to achieve optimal balance with just a minimum of help. All the products in her evanhealy line are made from organic, plant-based ingredients, and there are no perfumes added. These organic skincare products will have you looking great and feeling wonderful about the ingredients you are putting on your skin.



    Let’s start with the obvious question: What is this thing? Lunette is a sylicone menstrual cup, a reusable enviornmentally-friendly alternative to tampons and pads that collects the menstrual flow rather than absorbs it. 


    Better Life

    Sage, lavender, chamomile and coconut oil sound more like ingredients in a facial cream than a household cleaner,  but that’s the beauty of these incredible cleaners from Better Life. More than 99% of the ingredients used in Better Life’s non toxic cleaning products are natural or derived from natural, renewable resources.



    The name Zkano is derived from a Native American word that describes “a state of being good.” That sentiment perfectly captures describes these organic cotton socks -- good for the environment and good for the people who wear them.

    Looking for more eco-friendly products? You can see more by browsing our  Green Product gift guides.

  • Farm babies and yarn for eco-conscious knitters and spinners.

    Spring on a farm can mean only one thing -- Farm Babies! 

    Farm babies

    Adorable twin goat kids are the first new members born this spring into the Angora goat herd at the Juniper Moon Farm outside of Charlottesville, VA, and they will be watched and adored mostly via the Internet by knitters and spinners waiting for the fall shear and the opportunity to knit their fleece. 

    Juniper Moon Farm owner Susan Gibbs is the originator of the yarn and fiber CSA (community supported agriculture), and she sells shares of both her spring and fall yarn harvests to eco-conscious shareholders who get not just beautiful yarn but also membership in a community that supports this small farm and seeks a deeper connection to its wool.  Susan posts pictures and videos of her goats, Cormo sheep and Maremma livestock guardian dogs on her blog (http://www.fiberfarm.com/blog) and also offers a peek into the life of a farmer who loves what she does and who doesn't shy away from showing how hard it can sometimes be to pursue her dream.

    At the same time, she teaches shareholders about caring for livestock. Juniper Moon animals enjoy a natural diet of fresh Virginia pasture and hay for most of the year, and they’re well tended throughout their lives by Susan and her small team.  She also shares the many steps in raising these animals and processing their fleece.  In fact, if you own a share, you can track it from the Shearing Day harvest to the long road trip Susan’s farm hands make to a small family-owned mill that turns the wool roving into yarn and then back to the farm where the yarn can be hand dyed and then shipped out to you. 

    And this year, the whole cycle starts with these two newborn Angora goats, Gonzo and Camilla.  They’re named after Muppet characters because the shareholders held an online vote.

    Farm babies

  • Our guest goes bananas for green cleaning (literally).

    You know how there are some people you just click with? Well, Leslie Reichert is one of those people for me. I first met her on Twitter and was instantly swept up in her stories about her great-grandmother and her passion for simple, low-cost green cleaning.  Of course, we decided to feature her book - The Joy of Green Cleaning -- and in the process, Daily Grommet made a great friend whose expertise has come in handy again and again. For today's Grommet, she joins Joanne to share our latest discovery (Spoiler alert:  Leslie gives away the name of today's Grommet in her guest post below, but I figured it was ok to give you a sneak peek just an hour before it launches!).

    Leslie Reichert is Daily Grommet's guest for today's green cleaning product reviewBehind the Scenes at Daily Grommet, by Leslie Reichert 

    Yesterday I was doing what I usually do on a Sunday – trying to get a head start on my home before the busyness of the week overwhelms me. Right in the middle of scrubbing my kitchen sink, my email pinged me. I knew I should ignore it, but since I’m curious by nature, I had to go see who wanted me. It was my friends at the Daily Grommet, inviting me to write a blog post to go along with today’s Grommet. I had a choice:  continue on with my cleaning or write for you. I chose writing over cleaning! The dirt’s not going anywhere and I figured catching up would give me something to do today…. :)

    So let me share with you what it’s like to find two companies that are helping people like you learn how to green your cleaning. When the Daily Grommet called and asked me to be their “cleaning expert” and participate in some of their product features, I was so excited! The Grommet’s headquarters is about an hour away from me, so it was like having a neighbor call and ask for a hand cleaning their home.  Even better was when they told me our first segment was going to be a product called Eco-Me. I’ve known this company for years and it’s one of the best tools to help people start mixing their own cleaners. You can’t ask for a better DIY kit for green cleaning than their starter kit -- tune in at noon and you'll see what I mean. 

    So off I went to The Daily Grommet to show the camera and all of you this great product that will be your first step in learning that mixing your own cleaners can be good for you, your family and the environment. If you decide to give it a try I’d love to hear what you think.

    And while you’re at it, let me know your favorite recipe for cleaning by posting them in the comments here. I’m in the middle of my second book right now and if you have a great green recipe with a story to go with it, I’ll include you in my book! So share those stories about some “green” tricks that really work.

    My all time favorite:  using the inside of a banana peel to polish leather shoes. That’s right, the inside of the peel has an oil that leaves your leather shoes looking like you used polish. Just buff them with a shoe brush or microfiber cloth and you’re all set. Okay, there’s my favorite. Let’s hear yours!

  • Greening Your Family

    Greening Your Family by Lindsey Carmichael, MPHThose who follow Daily Grommet know that we're always on the lookout for widgets, gadgets, and gizmos that make our lives easier. We're especially keen on handy guides -- and that's exactly what we found in Lindsey Carmichael's book Greening Your Family (Peter E. Randall, 2009).

    Lindsey, who has her masters in public health, got a firsthand education in ridding her home of harmful chemicals and toxins in her efforts to help her son Liam fight asthma. She knows this is serious business, and if you've ever worried about the lengthy ingredient lists on your shampoo and cleaning supplies, you'll love that she gets down to business quickly. Her chapters, covering all sorts of food, personal care, and cleaning products, offer easy-to-read charts of "ingredients to avoid" and "safe products." Good thing the book is compact because you'll want it in your purse the next time you go shopping.

    For example, here's her list of safe all-purpose kitchen cleaners that are free of synthetic chemicals with known links to health problems:

    • Biokleen Super Concentrated All Purpose Cleaner & Degreaser
    • Bon Ami Cleaning Powder
    • Citra-solv Conentrate or Ready-to-Use
    • Earth Friendly Products Parsley Plus All Purpose Kleener
    • Ecover All Purpose Cleaner
    • Method All Purpose Cleaner
    • Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day All Purpose Cleaner (previously featured on Daily Grommet!)
    • Planet All Purpose Spray Cleaner
    • Seventh Generation Natural All Purpose Cleaner
    • Shaklee Basic H2 Organic Sugar Super Cleaning Concentrate

    Of course, if you'd rather make your own, Lindsey has suggestions for that, too: White distilled vinegar is an excellent antibacterial and antifungal, she explains. Mix with a few drops of your favorite essential oil in a spray bottle, and you'll find it does the job and only leaves your preferred scent behind.

    Grommet Interview with Lindsey Carmichael, MPH, author of Greening Your Family

    Your book makes it so easy to find safe products, but of course, sometimes it's actually a little hard to part with products we know and love around the house. What, in your opinion, are the worst offenders? What should get tossed first?

    No doubt we all have some favorite products that are tough to part with. I would first evaluate the products that are used and consumed by children, and let that guide the ‘tossing’ decisions. I would start by filtering my water, swapping the family’s most popular produce for organic varieties, and I would opt for hormone and antibiotic free dairy and meat products. Next I would eliminate personal care products that contain phthalates (often disguised as the word fragrance) and parabens. Lastly, ditch those conventional brands of dryer sheets! They contain truly terrible stuff (ingredients that are known neurotoxins and carcinogens)! There are some safe brands of both fabric softener and dryer sheets, so it is possible to have our clothes smell good, without compromising our health.

    How has going green affected your family's health? Any big changes?

    Lindsey Carmichael, author of Greening Your FamilyThe change has been significant. I buy totally different brands of products today than I did five years ago. We are members of a local CSA (Community Supported Agricultural Farm), which has had a great impact on the volume and variety of produce that we consume. I am confident the air quality in our house is significantly better than it was when I used conventional cleaning products and stored various toxic things in the house. My son’s asthma is greatly improved, and collectively we eat better than we ever have. If it’s true that you are what you eat, I feel pretty good about where we are today! We are all very healthy.

    There's a great chart in the book showing produce items and their pesticide load. Avocado and onions had the lowest levels, which seems to make guacamole the world's healthiest food. What are some of your favorite healthy, low-tox things to make for your family?

    Tonight we’re having vegetarian burritos with plain organic yogurt and organic salsa. Other healthy family favorites for this time of year include chicken curry over brown rice, fish chowder (with a tomato base), baked fish, and chicken or blackened shrimp Caesar salad on organic romaine.

    Visit Lindsey's blog at www.lindseycarmichael.net

    Grommet Giveaway

    You can buy Greening Your Family here, or you could win a copy by posting a comment today. The contest will remain open until 9pm and we’ll use Random.org to pick a winner. What are you waiting for?

    General contest rules: To enter, you must be a U. S. resident, and at least 18 years of age. No purchase necessary. The winners will be randomly selected by Daily Grommet and we will select one person to win a CD for every 20 people who comment (one entry per person). Employees, contractors, and the families of employees and contractors of Daily Grommet, Inc. are not eligible to enter. Void where prohibited. Contest will run from 10am through 9pm ET, December 10, 2009.

    Now that you're in a green mood, browse the rest of our green and eco-living Grommets here.

  • Make your holiday season a bit more "green"

    The colors of the season are traditionally red and green. In keeping with the green side if things, let's highlight some Green Grommets.


    Worm-Hearted TerraCycle not only sells organic fertilizer in recycled plastic bottles, they boast an entire line of 100% recycled products. Whether you go for fertilizers, cleaners, or any of their “zero carbon footprint” products fashioned from recycled drink pouches (the pencil cases are fun), you’re gifting something cool and helping the earth. ($10.60 and up) Learn more about how Terracycle creates products from waste here.



    Not Your Mother's Pocket Garden. Woolly Pockets are flexible, breathable, and modular gardening containers. Not quite a pot, more interesting than a window box, these planting “pockets” allow you to place one plant in just the right spot. Woolly Pockets are earth-friendly because they are made entirely from recycled plastic bottles. Perfect gifts, they're lightweight and fold flat, which makes them very easy to use, move, and store just about anywhere. ($39.00 - $247.00) Buy Woolly Pocket gardening pockets for vertical wall gardens here. 

    PossibilitreeTree For Life. Imagine Christmas without having to find, haul, water, and dispose of an evergreen tree, but still being able to bring a piece of nature into your home for the holidays. That was the inspiration for architect Richard Babcock, who designed this stunning handmade wooden tree, the possibiliTree. ($160.00 and up) Buy the possibiliTree wooden holiday tree here.



    earthfriendsDon't Slip In Downward Dog. JadeYoga makes mats using natural rubber, which is a renewable resource tapped from rubber trees. The company’s Jade mats contain no PVC, synthetic rubbers or other ozone-depleting substances. They’re made in the U.S. in compliance with all environmental and labor laws. ($59.95) Buy Jade Harmony's eco-friendly non-slip yoga mats here



    Recycled float roap mats

    Doormats From The Sea. These cheerful, handmade mats from Maine Float-Rope Company triple the feel-good factor. Designed by environmentalist Penny Johnston, they help save whales, provide financial assistance to Maine lobstermen, and protect the environment. ($49.95 and up) Buy the Maine Float Rope company doormats here.



    MokugiftPlant A Tree. Good news: Yes, you can do something about global warming! And it’s surprisingly simple. Just plant a tree. Besides providing beautiful foliage and cooling shade, trees help trap ozone layer-depleting CO2 emissions, minimizing the effects of climate change. Planting is a cinch with Mokugift. You don’t have to dig deep into your pockets or even lift a shovel. And it’s as easy as sending an e-card. ($1 per tree) Learn about mokugift.com and how to plant a tree for charity.



    Smoothing the Way. Pacific Shaving Oil adds that oh-so-desirable layer of lubrication and moisturizer so the razor doesn’t rip over the surface like sandpaper. Made from plant extract essential oils and packaged in small, travel-friendly containers, this shaving oil can be used with or without additional shaving cream. You'll get at least 100 shaves from each little bottle and for every bottle sold, a tree will be planted. It’s good for your skin, for your wallet, and for the earth. ($17.85) Buy Pacific Shaving natural shaving oil here.


    AnnMadeRecycled, Wearable Art. Ann Skydell Harmon believes that “recycling can be beautiful.” There are so many levels of meaning to Ann’s “wearable art.” With Ann-Made Jewelry ou can show how much you care about the planet and be stylish while doing so. Being green is the new black, after all. ($18.50-$22.50) Buy Ann-Made Art's soda can tab recycled jewelry here.


    TwistA New Twist. Twist Clean eco-friendly cleaning sponges and cloths—smart buys that virtually eliminate the need to buy expensive and bulky boxes of paper towels, nasty steel wool scrubbers, and bacteria ridden sponges. Once you try these supple, malleable, flexible, bendable European cloths you’ll be hooked...and want to share them with the people in your life. ($15.00) Buy Twist natural sponge, biodegradable cleaning cloths here.

    Holiday cloth gift bags

     Green wrapping. Wrap your gifts the eco-friendly way. These cloth gift bags from Living Ethos really show off founder Josie Gaillard’s keen eye for fabric, with sophisticated options like Regal Damask Blue and the modern Deco Maze. There are also kid-friendly patterns that are lively and fun without being too juvenile. ($28.00 for a package of four bags) Buy LivingEthos holiday cloth gift bags here.

    See more green eco-living gifts here.

    See what unique gift idea Daily Grommet has discovered today!

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  • As featured in:

  • Today Show
  • Real Simple
  • The New York Times
  • Fortune
  • Inc Magazine