Distressed Jeans: The Ugly Truth

They are the season’s hottest fashion, especially among teens. I know I am not going to be popular when I tell you the bad news. I am sure you already have heard about fast fashion and are aware of the problems, but distressed jeans are a double trouble. If you care about the environment and about social issues: NEVER EVER buy them again.

It takes around 7,500 liters of water to make a single pair of jeans, according to the UN. A study by Levi Strauss & Co found that producing one pair of Levi jeans requires 3,781 liters of water. Not sure who is right here but it takes a lot of water for sure. But that is not the only problem, in addition to the water, it’s the high level of pesticides used in producing cotton and the harmful chemicals used extensively in the denim’s dyeing process. This water is usually dumped untreated into waterways in developing countries.

Denim Sandblasting

After all that water and chemicals used to create the jeans, distressing them is an additional step or steps. As the name suggests, jeans are literally blasted with sand to soften the fabric and wear them down. The distressing of the denim is achieved by repeated washing, rinsing, chemical blasting with toxic substances such as silica as well as dye stripping or bleaching with potassium permanganate. All these chemicals are toxic to wildlife if let into waterways and to the workers who inhale it can lead to silicosis in the lungs.

Now what about the ones you already have? Use them until they disintegrate, do that and do not ever buy them again. I am tempted to tell you to get a used one, but I strongly believe it’s better not to wear them at all. I personally think it’s absurd to wear something new that has been aged for you. Next time you buy jeans, check my list of second hand clothes shops to get a used denim and if you like distressed ones, age them yourself by using them! You can also watch the documentary film: River Blue and share this post with all your contacts, especially young people.

9 Green Actions to take during the Pandemic

While taking care of ourselves during these stressful and confusing times, we should not forget to also take care of our home planet. Relaxing some environmental initiatives was the right thing to do at this time. Retails stores have banned reusable shopping bags, and some of us are using disposable gloves, masks and sanitary wipes. Grocery stores have stopped offering bulk staples and they are wrapping individual baked goods in plastic. We are all probably using more tissues and paper towels at home, too; our family certainly is. One tough decision for us was to switch to a larger outdoor trash barrel. We now produce more trash than before the pandemic.

These are some guidelines that I believe we should all follow to keep ourselves and others healthy and be respectful to the members of our community:

Right outside Target. Honestly? Target team members are risking their lives for us.

Dispose of your wipes, tissues and gloves properly. Keep a bag in your car and dispose it in your outdoor trash barrel before entering your home. Do not toss them in the streets.

Don’t spit in public places, ever.

Don’t hoard food or essential supplies. You should only buy enough for a week. There’s more than enough for everyone if you just buy what you need for one week and leave some for others.

Now that you’re confined in your home, you may have more time than before the pandemic. Why not try some new plant-based recipes? Check out these websites for delicious ideas: forksoverknives.com, ohsheglows.com, onegreenplanet.com.

How many toilet paper rolls do you use in a week? That’s all you should have in your home.

Compost your food scraps, either in your backyard or by subscribing to City Compost or Black Earth, which are fully operational during this pandemic.

Start a vegetable garden. Stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s are open and they carry seeds and plants. If you don’t have a green thumb and still would like a veggie garden, you can hire Green Abundance by Design.

Instead of ordering books or movies via Amazon, read and watch online using the free library services like Hoopla or Kanopy.

Don’t let your cat roam outside. There’s some evidence that cats can get covid-19, and that they are more susceptible than dogs; however, it is still unclear if they can pass it to humans. Also, cats that kill wildlife can bring toxoplasmosis into your home as well as infected ticks.

Now more than ever, please don’t be selfish.

And last but not least please pick up after your dog and dispose your bag properly in a trash receptacle, not in the hiking trail or in the woods!!! That’s bad karma even if nobody is watching you.

How we created a humane backyard

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When it comes to caring for my yard and gardens, I am a minimalist. We don’t apply pesticides or fertilizers and in my gardens you will only find perennials. We don’t trim down dead plants in the fall, or remove dried leaves from the gardens, only the ones that have fallen on the lawn, since they provide a home for insects and bees. When our milkweed dries out in the fall, we don’t cut it down. I love to see when the seed pods start breaking and the beautiful translucent seeds are carried away on windy days. Milkweed is a necessary plant for butterflies and we all should have some in our yards. The rabbits in our neighborhood love our clover and dandelion flowers that we let grow in our lawns, lawns that we have kept to a minimum. The squirrels love the seeds and acorns that have fallen from the trees, so we make sure to leave an area where the acorns are not collected as yard waste but left for wildlife. We never spray and celebrate the holes in our leaves, a sign our garden is sustaining the insects that feed birds and other animals.

Last year, we hired Andrew Whittaker from Green Abundance by Design, a local Permaculture designer with extensive knowledge of native plants. He designed and created for us a beautiful drought tolerant native garden featuring a gorgeous tree, tall grasses and bushes that provide food for wildlife and eye candy for us. Birds, insects, rabbits and squirrels feast in our garden, and it is especially rewarding to see birds feeding their babies red berries from the bushes in the spring. We also have a bird feeder that we refill from the first snow day until the first signs of spring. In case of extreme temperatures, we hang seed cakes for the squirrels next to the bird feeder. We love them and would never dream of harming or relocating them, which is not only illegal but cruel since that means separating families and most of the time killing them as they will get confused in an unknown territory and become easy targets for predators.

I have started to dislike manicured gardens because I don’t understand who their owners are trying to impress. Certainly, they are not helping the environment. Our yard is simple to maintain, and we don’t need to hire landscapers with noisy leaf blowers. Our gardening chores are easy; we don’t spend a lot of time clearing our yards. We do very light weeding about three times a year, mow the lawn tall twice a month leaving all the cut grass in place for natural fertilizer, and trim bushes so they don’t touch our house. We have several evergreens that I remember not liking at first but now I realize that’s where the birds sleep at night.

Finally, one of the most important things we have done is to plant nine trees on our property to benefit wildlife and the environment. Even in a small land like ours that was possible.

Recycle Smart – Let’s Do Our Part!

Probably you have already heard the news: China is no longer accepting our recyclables because they are too contaminated. These restrictions on the import of recycled paper and plastics are driving up recycling processing costs. Recycle Smart is a new Massachusetts initiative attempting to increase recycling while also educating us about what can and cannot be recycled.

The #1 problem is plastic bags. It is especially important that you DO NOT place any sort of plastic bags in your recycling bin. This includes plastic bags of any kind. Yes, that bag of frozen peas is a plastic bag as well as that bag of frozen blueberries. They go in the trash. Do not recycle them. At the recycling sorting facility, plastic bags get caught in the machinery, causing work stoppage and worker injuries.

For more info please visit: www.recyclesmartma.org

I fixed it! Six things we saved from the landfill

In our throwaway culture, we often assume that the cost of repairing a broken item is higher that the cost of buying it new. But we forget that there is also another cost associated when we send that item to the landfill. In my quest for creating as little trash as possible, only this year I saved six items from the landfill. I am including the contact info of some local fixers here too.

Dish Rack: This is my favorite dish rack in the world. We got it at Crate & Barrel over 10 years ago, they don’t make these anymore. One of top wires got unwelded. I took it to Paglia Welding in Marlborough and the owner graciously fixed it. It took him one minute.

Reclining Patio Chair: After a few years of lying under the sun, the cords of this favorite chair disintegrated. We bought new cord and re-corded it. Now is good as new.

Electric Stove: This one came with the house and there was never a good reason to “update” it. It works great. I keep it very clean and it looks like we just bought it. When we had a problem with the oven door and one of the burners, we called Belcher’s Appliance. They are very knowledgeable and professional. I also feel good supporting a small, family owned and local appliance company.

Lunch Box: The mesh of this lunch box got ripped from carrying heavy water bottles. It just took a needle and some thread to fix it. I know yellow would have been much better but I only had grey.

Sweater: The elbows of this nice sweater got holes worn in them. I took it to our favorite tailor in town and she sewed some nice matching elbow patches. Good for a few more years now. Esmeralda’s Seamstress & Alterations.

Pencil Sharpener: Yes, this cheap thing that only costs 50 cents got unglued at the first touch; a couple of drops of Gorilla Glue fixed it.

7 things you won’t find in my kitchen anymore

Packaged fruit juices

Yes, I am talking about 100% natural fruit juices with no sugar added. They are nothing but empty calories. They are deprived of most vitamins since they have been pasteurized to stop from spoiling quickly.

Making your own juices and smoothies is fun and so much healthier. Once you have a blender, all you need is fruit and water or plant-based milks. If you have a little more time, get a juicer and juice your own oranges, apples, carrots, celery, cucumbers, peppers, etc. They will give you a boost of energy and nutrition right away.

Animal milk

Milk is what comes from the mammary glands of female mammals after they have a baby and is intended for their babies only. Humans are the only species who drink the milk of another one. Modern cow milk, including raw and organic milk is full of estrogens, pus and growth hormones not intended for humans. Recent, important studies find many problems with dairy consumption. If you are worried about keeping your bones strong, remember that the best way to have strong bones is by exercising your body on a regular basis. Take a look at my post about dairy here.

Replacing animal milk in our household was easy. We have so many alternatives these days: almond, soy, oat, coconut, hemp, rice, cashew and so much more. Try experimenting, and if you have the time, make your own milk; it’s worth it.

Gluten free baked goods

Gluten is bad for you only if you have celiac disease. New studies have shown that the so-called gluten sensitivity is mostly in people’s heads. It is true that our modern wheat is different than the first wheat people initially cultivated, but that’s true for almost every single crop we consume now. Artificial selection has always been a part of agriculture.

If you aren’t diagnosed with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, know that gluten-free doesn’t necessarily mean healthy—and gluten-free baked goods like bread, cookies, and crackers often are packed with more refined flours, artificial ingredients, and sugar than traditional baked goods. Plus, they can cost up to twice as much as you’d normally spend.

Red meats

About 10 years or so ago I stopped eating red meat (beef, pork, lamb) mostly for ethical reasons. I wanted to become a vegetarian but was not ready to quit poultry and fish. After a few years of not eating them, I was not happy preparing them at home either and so I stopped feeding them to my family.

To replace red meat, I have incorporated more vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts, and plant-based foods. My dishes are more colorful, delicious, and healthy now and even my son has started cooking with the different vegan cookbooks I have purchased.

There are also health reasons to skip red meats from your diet. For red meat, there was evidence of increased risk of colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancer. Take a look for yourself at this important announcement from the American Cancer Society here.

Processed meats

We are so accustomed to eating processed meats like hot dogs, bacon, ham, deli meats, sausages and others that we tend to forget they have to go through a lot of processing.

Processed meats are typically made from red meats high in saturated fats, and they contain high levels of advanced glycation end products (AGEs): inflammatory compounds that are created when these processed meats are dried, smoked, and cooked at high temperatures. Not to mention, those nitrates and nitrites in cured (and natural, “uncured”) meats can turn into carcinogenic nitrosamines when exposed to high heat.

In a 2015 study from the World Health Organization, twenty-two experts from 10 countries reviewed more than 800 studies to reach their conclusions. They found that eating 50 grams of processed meat every day increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. That’s the equivalent of about 4 strips of bacon or 1 hot dog. The study is found here.

Microwave popcorn

The smell that first hits you when you open a bag of popcorn is actually a chemical called diacetyl, a synthetic butter flavoring added to the product. People who work in the factories developed a problem called “popcorn lung” from inhaling the gases with the diacetyl in it. Most manufacturers have removed diaceytl from their products, but it’s been replaced with other kinds of butter flavoring that some government scientists say are just as bad as the original stuff.

Another problem is perfluorooctanoic (PFOA), a chemical that lines the bag, also used to make Teflon. The Environmental Protection Agency has identified PFOA as a “likely carcinogen.”

The alternative is easy and trash-free: simply place 1/3 cup popcorn kernels in a large pan on your stove top on medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil or coconut oil, cover the pan, and wait. Once the popping starts slowing down, remove the pan from the heat. Transfer to a bowl, add salt, and enjoy healthy popcorn!

Bagged greens

Washed and bagged greens can be a time-saver, but they can cost twice as much as buying the same amount of single leafy greens and they are never as fresh as their counterparts. Buying a head of fresh lettuce and a bunch of spinach will also make a delicious salad; you will save money and eat fresher. You will also avoid creating unnecessary trash. Try making your own salad dressing too.

7 things you won’t find in my house anymore

There used to be a time when I viewed these products as household staples. Over time, as I became aware of the environmental problems and the excessive and unnecessary amount of trash we create, I stop using them, and no, I don’t miss them. Life is easier, my house is sparkling clean and I feel much better about it

Paper Napkins: I used to have them at every meal. It never occurred to me that they require a vast number of trees to make. The paper industry is the third largest contributor to global warming. What I use instead: beautiful, colorful cloth napkins. I have a basket full of them; they add a splash of color to my kitchen.  My family uses them for 2-3 meals before laundering.

Plastic Food Wrap: Have you ever smelled that stuff? It stinks because is coated with chemicals that you definitely don’t want near your food. What I use instead: I mostly use Pyrex with covers or Mason jars to store food. Sometimes I cover my bowls with clean dishes and when I need a tight closure; I use aluminum foil, but very rarely.

Plastic Trash Bags: I know, I used to believe these were a necessity, but ever since I started composting and consciously shopping, my trash is so dry and tiny, my large garbage bags were way too big and wasteful. What I use instead: I line my small trash can with a paper bag and dispose it once a week. I don’t even need to bring my outdoor trash to the curbside every week. I can do it every other week along with my recycle bin. Life is easier and I save the city people time and energy.

Commercial Cleaners: if you look under my kitchen sink you will find: white vinegar, baking soda, unscented dishwashing detergent and Murphy Oil for my floors. That’s it. Well to be honest, I still have a left over Windex bottle that I use to clean my cars’ windows. To polish my wooden tables I use olive oil, it works great.

Ziploc Bags: I used to purchase them for my son’s lunches to place his sandwiches or fruit. I don’t use them anymore for the same reason I don’t use plastic food wrap. What I use instead: I have a drawer where I keep all my used bags: from breads, beans, granola, cereals, etc. I simply use them the same way, some of them even have the zip closures.

Plastic Retail Bags: It’s so easy not to use these polluting items, especially since they are being banned one town at a time these days. Simply, bring your own reusable bags wherever you go, even if you are shopping for clothes. If you go to the grocery store, bring at least 6 large ones and always keep 1 or 2 in your handbag and car. There’s no excuse for single use. Every month or so toss them in your washer to refresh them.

Dryer Sheets: Honestly I only used these ones when I was living with roommates. Ever since I have my own household I have never used them. What I used instead: sun and wind energy: in the warm months we hang our clothes outside and in the winter months, we hang them down in the basement where we have installed some liners. In the rare occasion we need to use our dryer, we don’t use these silly sheets. I don’t even remember what they are for.

37 Resolutions for 2018

This is the list of my top “Green Resolutions” for the New Year. Any action you take will benefit your health and the health of this planet we call home.

Everyday Actions

  • Reduce the amount of meat and dairy you eat, especially red meat. Adopt Meatless Mondays or even better, become a WEEKDAY VEGETARIAN.
  • Start collecting your food scraps at home and compost them or bring them to a Community Composting Facility near you.
  • Reduce the amount of disposable plastics you use. Replace plastic plates, cups and utensils with reusable ones like ceramic plates, cups and silverware. HAVE MINIMAL WASTE PARTIES.
  • Reduce your junk mail by going to any of these websites and following instructions: https://dmachoice.thedma.org or www.catalogchoice.org.
  • Recycle right and when in doubt throw it out. Go to your town website and get updated information, print it and put it next to your recycling bin.
  • Bring your own reusable bags when you go shopping. Keep them in your handbag and in your car. If you forget, ask for a cardboard box or skip the bag and carry your own item to the car. AVOID PLASTIC BAGS.
  • Choose local and organic foods whenever possible and try to buy food with less packaging. For example: choose loose corn instead of corn wrapped in Styrofoam and plastic. AND BUY JUST THE FOOD YOU’LL EAT.
  • Use full loads of dishes and clothes on a short cycle if possible and use half the amount of detergent as recommended.
  • Bring Your Own Mug to the coffee shop or ask for a ceramic mug and sit down and enjoy your coffee. AND SKIP THE STRAW.
  • Use kitchen cloths in the kitchen instead of paper towels. Try the Super Amazing Reusable Kitchen Cloth from Trader Joe’s.
  • Use newspaper and paper bags to wrap presents, decorate with dried plants and raffia and re-use gift bags. Gift wrapping paper is not recyclable.
  • Bring your own containers for take out and avoid toxic Styrofoam and extra trash.
  • Filter your own water and home and carry a reusable water bottle. AVOID PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES.
  • Replace paper napkins with beautiful and colorful cloth ones.
  • Think before you print and always print double sided.
  • When you buy paper goods: toilet paper, paper towels and print paper, choose paper with high post consumer recycled content. That way, you are helping to maintain market demand for recyclables.
  • Buy only good quality clothing so it lasts a long time. Ideally buy in consignment stores. Avoid cheap clothing that will soon break apart and will end up in landfills.

At Home Actions

  • Install a clothesline in your yard to dry your clothes in the summer and one in your basement to dry your clothes in the winter. OR GET A STAND UP RACK.
  • When something breaks try fixing it first. If you need to buy a new item consider buying it second hand. Check www.boston.craiglist.org.
  • Watch a video on sustainability: “Bag It”, “Before the Flood”, “Food Inc”, “Cowspiracy”, “Time to Choose”, “The True Cost”, “Forks Over Knives”.
  • Turn off the lights. If you’re not using a room, there’s no need for the light to be on.
  • Consider installing solar panels on your home or purchasing renewable electricity from a reliable supplier. Contact Mass Energy: www.massenergy.org.
  • Replace your conventional bulbs with LED bulbs when they break.
  • Turn off electronic devices when not in use.
  • Contact Mass Save: www.masssave.com for a home energy assessment to save money and energy in your home.
  • Adjust your water heater to 120 degrees.
  • Next time you buy a new appliance, choose one with the Energy Star label.
  • Turn your thermostat down and put on an extra layer. Or get a programmable thermostat.
  • Use re-chargeable batteries only and when they die, recycle them properly.
  • Next time you need to buy a new car, consider a hybrid, electric or super fuel-efficient car: https://www.massenergy.org/drivegreen
  • Maximize fuel efficiency of your car, no matter what model you drive: Keep tires inflated, avoid speeding, and keep your trunk free of excess weight.

Actions In Your Community

  • Support locally owned businesses, shop in farmer’s markets and consider becoming a member of a local CSA farm.
  • Carpool whenever possible – especially if you have a long drive to work or for kids’ sports games.
  • Support safe biking in your community and be careful and respectful with bikers.
  • Do not idle, it wastes fuel and pollutes the air.
  • Learn more about climate change and share what you learn with others, especially with your children.
  • Support local climate action organizations.

Tips for a Better Holiday Season

Did you know the holiday season is the most wasteful time of the year? From Thanksgiving to the New Year, we generate 25 percent more waste than average. We can easily change that. One step at a time.

Share Experiences

Instead of buying something, think about an experience that you can give instead. Dinner for two? A theater show? A day at a museum? A movie? A spa treatment? The options are infinite. That way you can grow memories, not trash.

 Give Homemade

If you prefer to give someone a physical gift, try a homemade one. Use your talents. Do you like to cook? Are you artistic? Do you like to write?

 Shop Sustainably

If your choice is to buy something, stay local:

  • Shop second hand in a nearby consignment or antique store.
  • Shop locally from a small business. It’s good for your community and it benefits the local economy.
  • Visit an open studio in your neighborhood and buy directly from an artist.

Zero Waste Wrapping

Unfortunately wrapping paper, scotch tape and ribbons cannot be recycled due to coatings and dyes. Try these instead:

  • Wrap with fabric. In Japan, fabric wrapping is so prevalent, it’s become an art form called “furoshiki”.
  • Use newspapers and paper bags and decorate with raffia and plants, vines or pinecones.
  • Choose reusable paper or cloth gift bags for simplicity.
  • Cut last year holiday cards and use them as gift tags.
  • And finally, send only fully recyclable holiday cards to family and friends. Remember that photo based cards and cards with glitter, foil or charms cannot be recycled.

Reducing our Trash – A Visual Guide

One of the most daunting issues facing the world today is the mounting waste problem. Because we’re not seeing it, we think it’s not a problem, but it is. In Massachusetts we create so much trash that much of our waste is transported out-of-state sometimes as far as Ohio, at great cost to us, the rest is sent to landfills or incinerators in the State.

This visual guide shows alternatives I have implemented in my household to reduce the amount of stuff we send to the landfill.

Update Oct 2017: I am no longer using Preserve products due to the low quality/design of their products. Instead I am using regular toothbrushes and re-usable razors with disposable blades.

Ban the Plastic Bag! But What Do I Do with my Pet Poop?


I have one cat. This is what I have been doing for years: I cut a paper bag in half, (I recycle the top part) and place the bottom part next to the litter box and scoop daily. Every other day or so I fold the top and dump it directly inside my outdoor trash container. That way I am only trashing about 2 paper bags a week. I know this is not the perfect solution, but this is the one that works for me using the least amount of waste and zero plastic. The paper bags I use are made with post consumer recycled content.


I don’t have a dog but this is what some of my friends with dogs are doing: Bring a large piece of folded newspaper every time you walk your dog,  scoop your dog’s waste with a large piece of newspaper, make a little “tamale” and then throw it in the garbage. If you prefer plastic, take a look at my plastic bag drawer. I keep all the clean bags from newspapers, bread, pasta, nuts, produce, etc. You can start collecting them too; simply grab one of those bags when you head out to walk your dog. Scoop your dog’s waste and toss it in the garbage.

What about biodegradable bags?

Those are not a good idea if they are headed for the landfill. There’s no oxygen in landfills, so nothing biodegrades there. It is best not to buy something new; just reuse some paper or plastic bags as mentioned above.

Bring Your Own Bag Framingham

One of the most rewarding things of being an activist is to work directly with my community, especially with the young generation. From designing the contest poster to selecting the winner logo and finalists. This project was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. Take a look!

Logo design contest poster

Logo design winner by McAuliffe student

Contest winner with town manager Rob Halpin

Contest winner with activists Mike Crocci and Brigitte Griffin