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A lot of consumers think they are doing a good thing by buying cage-free eggs. And they are. Supporting growers who provide more humane conditions for their chickens is a positive thing. But if you conjure up a vision of chickens pecking in a pasture when you reach for that carton of cage-free eggs, think again. Cage-free does not mean chickens roam freely, or even that they have access to the outdoors.
This article about the largest egg producer in Oregon expanding cage-free to 8 percent of its total production offers a good examination of the issue. Check out the photos of a cage-free henhouse teeming with some 40,000 chickens.

Mr. Moon and his chickens on his farm.

Mr. Moon and his chickens on his farm. Photo courtesy of Thomas Osborne.

Safeway is taking a step in the right direction with its certification requirements for humanely produced eggs (see this Seattle Times article). But we’ll continue to buy our eggs from John Moon, an eightysomething farmer in Terrebonne, OR who produces free-range eggs, honey and vegetables on his farm near us.

Here in the Northwest, we love salmon and work to protect our salmon runs. Wild salmon could potentially be threatened if GMO farmed fish escape, not to mention the unknown effects on human health. The possible benefit of somewhat cheaper salmon is not worth the enormous risk. Sign this petition to let the FDA know you won’t eat genetically modified fish.

The International Environmentally Friendly Vehicle Conference starts Monday in Baltimore.

The Honda Hit EV

The Honda Fit EV is one of the vehicles featured in next week’s International Environmentally Friendly Vehicle show in Baltimore, MD. Credit: Honda

In this slideshow you can see the featured vehicles. To see the photo captions, select full screen mode and click on the “Show info” link in the top right corner of the screen. Many thanks to my friend Gay MacGregor of the EPA for alerting me to this.

Sustainable Travel section of traveloregon.com

Visit the Sustainable Travel section of traveloregon.com

I love living in Oregon, and love that our state tourism agency actually has a section of its web site devoted to green travel.

Nan Hawthorne made a good point in response to my post about the donut soap featured at the Cedarbrook Lodge: Isn’t a liquid soap the greenest of all because there’s no waste? I didn’t know the answer, but found this article by Eric Bartels of Pamplin Media Group that explores that whole question: “Liquid soap vs. bar soap”. He concludes “… bar soap is the clear winner on the sustainability front.”

A year ago I wrote about discovering an organic version of Preen weed preventer that I was going to try in my vegetable garden. It utilizes corn gluten to prevent weeds. I applied it last July, and it did do a pretty good job of preventing new weeds among my lettuce, beans and peas, so I was happy. Until this spring, when in a OSU Master Gardeners ™ advanced training class I learned about some recent research on the effectiveness of corn gluten. We master gardeners are all about science and what is proven to work. As professor Linda Chalker of Washington State University explains in this cogent summary, researchers found corn gluten can be effective against new weeds in controlled conditions, but it is no more effective than good mulching, which is a LOT cheaper. And corn gluten isn’t very effective in the Western US if applied in the spring when conditions are moist. A five-pound container of organic Preen costs $15 at Home Depot. If you have materials like grass clippings, sawdust, or bark on hand, you can gain as much benefit by mulching well with those.

It’s one thing to build a green house: solar PV, solar hot water, sustainably harvested framing, recycled wood fiber & cement blocks for exterior, metal roof, recycled decking, efficient windows, no-VOC paint, permeable driveway, Dark Sky exterior lighting. We’ve done all that.
But on a day-to-day basis, what you do inside matters too. Toxics abound, hidden in seemingly innocuous household products and food containers. Unlike foods, cleaners are not required to bear ingredient labels, so it can be hard to know what you’re getting. This great checklist from the Environmental Working Group tells you not only what to avoid, but safer alternatives to choose.

At a recent stay at a Seattle hotel — Cedarbrook Lodge, I highly recommend it, read my review (scroll down to Jan E.) — I encountered a product that was new to me, Green Natura soap. What’s new about soap? This soap is shaped like an oval donut. Yes, with a hole.

Green Natura soapWhat’s the point of that? To quote the packaging, “This innovative ergonomically shaped waste-reducing soap has been designed to eliminate the unused center of traditional soap bars.” The label goes on to say the soap has no animal fats or byproducts.

The packaging, too, is green in that it’s made from recycled paper with soy ink. (Of course the fact that there is packaging at all is NOT green.) Whether soap with a  hole is in fact less wasteful for hotels is debatable (see a discussion). I can attest that the peculiar shape is easy to hold onto (although “ergonomic” seems a bit of a stretch). The exfoliating soap felt like most oatmeal soaps, but richer. The same manufacturer also provided a smaller facial soap shaped like a leaf (no oatmeal).

These soaps are sold online for about $1 a bar at the web sites of hotels managed by Xanterra Parks & Resorts, such as Yellowstone National Park’s..

I’m going to the Tour of Solar Homes today to see if I can discover new ways we can live more lightly on the planet. This year it’s free for the first time, a welcome development.

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