Interview with Stacy Malkan of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

At the recent Sustainable Cosmetics Summit in New York, we got a chance to sit down with Stacy Malkan, Co-Founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the author of "Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry". She was a keynote speaker at the event and also gave a great talk about industry regulations and policy falling short of what the new "eco-conscious consumer" is demanding from cosmetics companies.

Stacy emphasized the importance of health when engaging in dialogues about sustainability. As she said in her opening keynote, "the environment is our bodies, our children and our health." We couldn't agree more and we urge you to check out her website and look into the types of products you're putting on your body, in addition to the foods you put in your body! 

You can also check out photos (by our own Mark Boyer) from the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit here and stay tuned for the main summit video, which will give an overview of the major themes discussed.


New Video: So All May Eat

We're excited to release our video about SAME Café in Denver, Colorado, which we visited at the end of our Southwest Tour. This unique restaurant serves delicious organic food on a pay-what-you-can model. And if you don't have a few bucks in your pocket, you can always volunteer in exchange for a healthy meal. The restaurant covers 75% of its total costs with what people put in the anonymous payment box and the rest is covered by grants and individual donations.

The owners, Brad and Libby Birky are two of the most amazing people we've ever met. We left after our day of filming feeling truly inspired by their commitment to making healthy food accessible. They're not just talking about organic food "being too expensive for average people", they're doing something about it! And in the process, they've created a community of customers and volunteers that you can tell feel part of something great.

If you'd like to donate or get more information, please visit the SAME Café website.


Books We Like: The Lost Language of Plants

The Lost Language of Plants by Stephen Harrod Buhner is a fascinating book about the ecological importance of plant medicines to life on Earth. It serves as both an exposé about the pollution of our bodies and environment and a tale that hopes to re-enchant us with the world of nature. Filled with fascinating facts about plant and insect life, chemistry and interconnected growth, it will broaden your perspective on the role of the "things" we normally take for granted.

Here is an excerpt from page 174:

Plants circulate throughout ecosystems, between ecosystems, and across and between continents; the longest seed dispersal distance known (without human help) is 15,000 miles. Plants, in fact, move themselves throughout landmasses and across distances that mere seed dispersal and mathematics cannot explain. The places they move to and the ways they arrange themselves in ecosystems are not accidental and are not random. Plants arrange themselves in ecosystems and throughout continents to fulfill specific functions; their spatial arrangements exist for a reason.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in medicine, health and the environment.


Special thanks to Anastasia Royal for the tip!


Upcoming Event: The Sustainable Foods Summit

We're excited to announce that the 2011 Sustainable Foods Summit will be held this January 18th and 19th at the Ritz Carlton San Francisco. is a proud media sponsor of the Summit and we plan to bring you the best moments via our filming, photography and live-tweeting of the events.

The Sustainable Foods Summit focuses on the leading issues the food industry faces and aims to explore new horizons in sustainability for eco-labels. Issues to be addressed include: How do organic, fair trade and other eco-labels contribute to sustainability? What role should they play in a food industry that is increasingly looking at the triple bottom line? Do they address the sustainability needs of consumers and food companies?

This special North American Summit will hone in on some of the major eco-labeling issues in the food industry, including offsetting carbon emissions, water footprints, buying local and biodiversity. For example, one session will be devoted to ethical sourcing and sustainable ingredients, assessing the ecological and social impacts of raw materials in the food industry. Another session called "The Organic Plus" will provide case studies of organic food companies who are going beyond organic agricultural practices and pioneering sustainability initiatives.

Like previous events organized by Organic Monitor, the Summit will bring together key stake-holders in the food industry and debate these major issues in a high-level forum.? We hope to see you there.

Twitter users: We will be using the hashtag #SFS2011 when tweeting about the Summit.


Our Eco-Friendly Gift Guide for 2010

The 2010 holiday season is finally here and we have some great gift ideas for you! Here are our favorite socially and environmentally conscious picks for the season:

Socks for Happy People

These brightly colored organic cotton socks will not only keep your feet toasty, they will warm your heart. With each pair purchased, the company donates socks to a child in Mongolia through their Buy One Give One Free initiative. The socks come in a variety of colors, stripes and even animal prints. They also have a series of Affirmation Socks that say: "TODAY I WILL SMILE AND FEEL GOOOOD!"


Ethically Engineered

Ethically Engineered's handmade vegan soap is packaged in compostable materials. The Chicago-based company "works to ensure a viable and sustainable product with little to no impact on the bio-sphere" and they even deliver their products by bike! They have a bunch of nice gift sets for the 2010 season including their popular No Bottle Shampoo & Conditioner



These sturdy and stylish boots are made of all natural leather, dyed using formaldehyde free methods and feature a recycled tire sole bottom.
The Thencha boot (pictured here) is a new take on an old classic combining the styling of an equestrian boot with the rugged comfort of a cowboy boot. A perfect gift for your favorite eco-fashionista!


PACT's organic cotton underwear is helping to light up Haiti during the holidays. Inspired by the stories of women in tent camps using the solar lights after the earthquake, PACT has partnered with EarthSpark International to donate a portion of profits from their 2010 holiday collection. The limited edition Winter Lights Collection was designed by Yves Behar and is available in a variety of colors and sizes.


Collective Wellbeing

Collective Wellbeing is the first consumer packaged goods company to have entirely offset its carbon footprint. They also pledge at least 1% of annual revenues to environmental non-profits. Their Holiday Detox Gift Set includes:

  • Charcoal Body Wash - a sulfate-free cleanser with active charcoal and zinc
  • Bamboo/Fennel Seed Body Scrub - rich in vitamins and minerals
  • Aloe Vera/Chamomile Dry Skin Relief - an intensive, moisturizing treatment


Hopefully our picks will get you inspired for a holiday filled with feel-good gifts. If you prefer to make your own presents, check out's Holiday Gift Guide 2010, which has tons of great food and craft ideas for you to share!


New Video: Breeding Survivor Queenbees in New Mexico

During our tour of the Southwest, we had the pleasure of visiting Melanie Kirby, co-owner of Zia Queenbee Company, at her home in the mountains of Truchas, New Mexico. We're excited to release this long-awaited video about her wonderful work.

Melanie breeds Survivor Queenbees that are sold to beekeepers around the country so they can build healthy hives. Her approach ensures that the bees are genetically diverse and by giving their queen bees extra time to mature, they prove themselves to be naturally resilient against disease, pests and weather fluctuations.

Check out the blog post where we shared fascinating facts about bees that we learned during our visit, as well as some behind-the-scenes footage of Dorothée in a bee hat!


Today in Organic: Nov. 2nd, 2010

  • It's voting day! Be sure to find your polling place and support candidates that will help make your community more sustainable. Check out Sierra Club's Voter Guide to find representatives in 12 key states who support clean energy.
  • The Washington Post covers a story about a young Chinese farmer who is sowing the seeds for an organic revolution.
  • A USDA grant aims to enhance sustainability of beginning farmers and ranchers. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) will fund projects to to train, educate and provide outreach and technical assistance to beginning farmers.
  • Amber Turpin at Civil Eats writes about what happens when a small organic farm fails.

Eco-Friendly Style Pick: REVEAL's Bamboo Watch

Known for my punctuality, I'm usually the girl people ask, "what time is it?" After my old watch broke last year, I've been relying on my cell phone to tell the time. But that's all changed now that I'm sporting REVEAL's stylish Chirukin Bamboo Watch.

So why is this watch eco-friendly, you ask? Bamboo is ultra durable and doesn't contain the BPA or phthalates that are common in plastic. As you can see, it has a gorgeous natural color so there's no paint needed. Bamboo is also the fastest growing woody plant on earth and it grows without the need for chemicals or large amounts of water.

This watch is also fun to wear! I like the feeling of the smooth and light-weight wood on my wrist. It's versatile enough to work with all my outfits and actually looks like a cool bracelet until you notice the clock face.

For other styles, be sure to check out REVEAL's Luxury Bamboo Watch for men and Luxury Forest Watch made out of beechwood.

Read more about the company's sustainability initiatives on REVEAL's blog and their rePlant Project in partnership with American Forests .



It's Time To "Face Your Food"! (Video)

Do you ever stop to think about where your food comes from? This World Food Day, FairFood International's new video campaign ‘Face Your Food’ brings together a global online community to fight for a more sustainable food industry.

Lobbying multinational companies to change their production and trade methods requires tremendous public support. This campaign invites people from across the world to film themselves while eating. The video is then automatically slowed down and played backwards. It's an engaging way to face the question: "Where does our food come from?" 

I think this is a great opportunity for folks in the U.S. to show their support not only for this organization, but for the concept of sustainable and fair trade food. I like how easy they make it to participate, you can simply use your computer's web cam to film yourself eating something and the site will turn it backwards and share it on Facebook with all the other entries.

Make your own video here, visit the 'Face Your Food' App on Facebook and be sure to share info on Twitter using the hashtag: #FaceYourFood.



"Living Downstream" Coming to Chicago on Illinois Screening Tour

Happy October! We're excited to announce that the documentary film Living Downstream is coming to Chicago this month on a multi-city screening tour. This must-see film is based on the acclaimed book by ecologist and cancer survivor Dr. Sandra Steingraber. It follows Sandra across North America as she works to break the silence about cancer and its environmental links.

Handsomely photographed and powerfully argued… Steingraber's scientific cool and unflagging sense of mission make for an arresting portrait of a self-styled modern-day Rachel Carson.

     - Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post (04/23/10)

Each screening will be followed by a Q&A session with Dr. Sandra Steingraber and filmmaker Chanda Chevannes. The Chicago event will be held on October 19th at 7pm at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Advance tickets available online or by phone from Brown Paper Tickets or in person at Women and Children First bookstore. Hope to see you there!


Algae Blooms: Industrial Ag's Green Goo

We tend to talk about some of the problems associated with the food system in the abstract. We know that synthetic pesticides and fertilizers contaminate the water system, but its effects always seem to be felt somewhere downstream; out of sight and out of mind.

Here's a story from the Great Lakes region that's both close to home and highly visible:

Back in mid-July, a black lab jumped in Grand Lake Saint Marys – Ohio's largest inland lake – and came out covered in green slime. After wiping some of the algae off his dog, the owner reported vision loss and had difficulty walking, and spent four days in the hospital. The dog later died. Grand Lake Saint Marys stayed closed for most of the summer, and several other dogs died after coming into contact with the water.

The appearance of algae blooms – the rapid increase of blue-green algae in fresh water – results from excess nutrients in the water caused by farm runoff. Cynobacteria, the active ingredient in an algae bloom, contains neurotoxins and hepatoxins, which affect the brain and liver, and phosphorus from agricultural fertilizer is the main culprit.

Grand Lake Saint Marys isn't the only body of water in Ohio that's seen a rise in algae blooms in recent years. The western basin of Lake Erie has been in full bloom, so to speak, since 2007. According to the Ohio EPA, 60 to 80 percent of land in Northwest Ohio is agricultural, and the phosphorus-rich fertilizer used in the fields makes its way towards Lake Erie when it rains. Several independent studies and tests on algea levels in Ohio are being conducted this year, but it seems unlikely that the blooms will stop as long as area farms continue to use large amounts of synthetic fertilizers. 



Organic Pick of the Week: Guayaki Yerba Mate

I don't normally drink coffee (it makes me jittery) but when I need a little morning pick-me-up, I do drink naturally stimulating Guayaki Yerba Mate. A legendary infusion from South America, yerba mate has long been revered as the “drink of the gods”. The leaves of the rainforest mate tree contain 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids and abundant antioxidants. Yerba mate is the national drink of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Southern Brazil where it is consumed 6 to 1 over coffee.

Guayaki makes Yerba Mate in easy-to-use tea bags that you can steep in hot water for a long as you like, depending on how strong you want it. In the morning, I usually drink a cup of hot Chai Spice Mate or Mate Chocolatté with a dash of unsweetened almond milk. The flavor is rich and rejuvinating without the sugar and intense caffeine high of a typical coffee beverage. I also recommend their Pure Empower Mint flavor for a refreshing mid-afternoon break.


Full Disclosure: Guyaki Yerba Mate is one of the fabulous organic brands that partnered with us for our Southwest Tour.


A Late Summer Visit to the Chicago Honey Co-op

For Labor Day, Dorothée and I took a little field trip to the Chicago Honey Co-op apiary in Chicago's North Lawndale neighborhood to snap some photos and chat with Co-op founder Michael Thompson. Six years ago, Thompson struck a deal with a real estate investor allowing him and others to keep bees on the cracked concrete of a deserted Sears Roebuck truck parking lot. Now, after scaling up a bit and ramping back down, the cooperative seems to have struck a good balance with about 60 hives buzzing on the east side of the lot and a lush vegetable garden growing to the west.

Thompson says the co-op has been successful enough that they're no longer able to take on new members. The co-op pulls in enough revenue from local sales of jars of honey, candles and soap to pay Thompson and one other worker part-time wages, but he emphasizes that it's not a huge money-maker.

In terms of amenities, the co-op is a pretty bare-bones operation. Aside from a small tool shed, it's just concrete, hives and the vegetable garden. For water, they attach a hose to the fire hydrant on Fillmore Street. Simplicity is part of the beauty of the Honey Co-op, where Thompson and his co-op members took a forsaken plot of land and created something beautiful and productive.  


The Week in Organic: Food News From the Web


Organic Pick of the Week: Your Local Farmer

Here at, we're always testing new organic products to review for our Organic Pick of the Week series. So it's become easy to choose organic food, beauty and clothing brands that have fancy labeling and a marketing budget to send out samples.

But I'd like to take this opportunity to feature what I consider to be the best organic product on the market: the one grown by your local farmer. In every region of the United States farmers are working hard to cultivate healthy and delicious crops with the simple goal of feeding you. Organic farmers have taken an extra step towards sustainability and invested a large chunk of money and time to grow food without harmful pesticides. That kind of dedication deserves our support.

So this week I urge you to visit your local farmer's market, join a CSA or ask for local and organic produce at your neighborhood grocery store. If you're not sure where to get organic food in your region, check out to search by your state or zipcode.

In the growing sustainable food movement, consumers have the power, so let's use it!