Walmart misrepresents products as Organic – again

Wal-MartWal-Mart is in hot water again. A Wisconsin watchdog group, The Cornucopia Institute, has filed legal complaints with the USDA alleging that Wal-Mart, and a North Carolina-based company, HOMS LLC, are violating USDA organic standards by using conventional agricultural oils and other USDA Organic sealingredients in pest control products that utilize the word organic and the green “USDA organic” seal. The products in question are marketed under the Bio Block label.

The USDA Organic label by law can only be used by producers that follow the rigorous standards mandated by Congress and administered by the USDA’s National Organic Program.

HOMS' BioBlock - there's nothing organic about it

HOMS' BioBlock - there's nothing organic about it

HOMS apparently violates this mandate by prominently displaying the USDA Organic label on the Bio Block products without specifying what organic ingredients were used, and without disclosing the identity of the organic certifying agent, also required by federal organic regulations. These products were discovered on the shelves of Wal-Mart stores, resurfacing concerns long held by The Cornucopia Institute, and others in the organic industry, that Wal-Mart has failed to take the organic standards seriously.

This isn’t a new situation with Wal-Mart. In 2007, federal investigators found that Wal-Mart’s store “organic” milk, from Aurora Dairy in Colorado, had “willfully” violated 14 organic standards, including confining their cattle to feedlots, instead of grazing, and bringing thousands of illegal conventional cows into their organic operation.

Cornucopia researchers further found inside Walmart stores that the company was mislabeling conventional foods as organic, including yogurt, sugar, rice milk, soy milk and produce. Even after they notified Wal-Mart’s CEO of the problem, no action was taken to fix the problems until until officials of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the USDA took enforcement actions against Wal-Mart in 2007.

Buyer BewareSo, once again, the biggest retail corporation in the U.S. is playing fast and loose with organics, duping American consumers into thinking they’re buying something that’s healthful.  Word to the wise: if it says organic and it’s at Wal-Mart, you probably can’t believe it. A number of organic-minded groups are keeping an eye on this – and turning up the heat on Wal-Mart. But until the feds step in, buyer beware

Trader Joe's to shift to sustainable seafood

trader_joesAccording to an “Action Issue” posted on their website, Trader Joe’s announced they plan to shift their seafood purchasingto sustainable sources by December 2012.

Joining the ranks of Safeway and Target.  the retailer is responding to consumer feedback and demand. They plan to incorporate seafood traceability as part of their new seafood policy.

Way to go, Trader Joe’s. And score another one for demanding aware consumers!

EPA to designate BPA as "chemical of concern"

nature-wildlifeWith an apparent backtrack, the Environmental Protection Agency has announced it will intensify its investigation into how BPA affects our nation’s wildlife and water supply and will now designate the compound as a “chemical of concern.”

This is a turnaround since their announcement last December of their list of “chemicals of concern” which didn’t include BPA, even after the EPA’s top administrator Lisa Jackson had said that her agency would take a more aggressive approach to regulating chemicals of concern, specifically mentioning BPA as one of these.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates the chemical’s effects in food contact items, reversed its position on BPA, declaring it had some concern for the chemical’s effects on the brain, behavior and prostates of fetuses, infants and young children. To date, 5 states have banned the chemical’s use in baby bottles.

BPA is found in a variety of familiar consumer products

BPA is found in a variety of familiar consumer products

Trace amounts of the chemical have been found in 93% of Americans tested.

The EPA’s announcement is definitely a move in the right direction and paves the way for the potential mandatory removal or BPA from consumer products.

How soon that could come, however, is anyone’s guess.

Celebrate Earth Day with Earth 911

Earth Day logoWith the 40th anniversary of Earth Day almost around the corner, there are lots of ways to begin getting on board and green-up your life a little bit more.

Earch 911 – an excellent  news and information resource – has just launched their “40 tips 40th Earth Day” channel. The site has a variety of useful tips that cover the 3 R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – but also includes a Twitter contest that begins on March 29 and ends with a giveaway on Earth Day, April 22.

“We hope people participate in our contest not only to learn more about how to improve their waste output and environmental footprint, but also to encourage their friends, family, and followers to do the same,” says Colt Melby, CEO of Earth911. “This Earth Day should be a celebration not of what we will accomplish on April 22, but what we will do the other 364 days of the year,” he said.

By simply tweeting the channel’s Web address each day a new set of tips is released, members of the Twitter audience will be entered into a drawing for eco-friendly prizes from organizations and authors. These include:

  • Earth Day 2One home composting starter kit, courtesy of SunChips
  • Two copies of Disneynature’s EARTH, courtesy of Disneynature OCEANS
  • One historic tree sponsorship, courtesy of American Forests
  • One copy of “Ten Ways to Change the World in Your 20s,” courtesy of author Libuse Binder
  • One Interactive Boxed Set of stationery, courtesy of Ecosaurus
  • One, certified CarbonFree® Certified GoECOlife™ SOHO 8-Sheet ULTRA-QUIET™ Paper Shredder, courtesy of
  • Three pairs of Performance Toesocks™ in CoolMax® EcoMade™, courtesy of Injinji
  • One copy of “Celebrate Green!” courtesy of Celebrate Green!
  • One iPad sleeve, courtesy of First World Trash
  • One copy of “Suddenly Frugal: How to live Happier and Healthier for Less,” courtesy of author Leah Ingram
  • Two copies of “The Everything Green Wedding Book: Plan an Elegant, Affordable, Earth-Friendly Wedding,” courtesy of author Wenona Napolitano
  • Eco-friendly T-shirts, courtesy of

Sun Chips – who recently launched the world’s first 100 percent compostable chip bag that decomposes in 14 weeks when placed in a hot active home or commercial compost bin (which from a report I read actually does what it says it will) – will offer tips about their new compostable product line.

This contest sounds like a winner all around – useful tips to boost the green in your life and cool prizes too. Winners will be selected on Earth Day, April 22nd.  To participate, visit the channel for official rules, a list of prizes and daily tips to tweet and also follow Earth911 on Twitter.

Pharmaceutical product stewardship moves towards greater reality

Drugs on tapAlmost a year ago I wrote about the growing problems of medications in our nation’s water supply.

Since then, the problem has grown. At the same time, a number of states and organizations have been pushing for product stewardship from manufacturers. To date, Maine holds the distinction of being the first state to pass Extended Producer Responsibility legislation. It’s widely held that the first products recommended for manufacturer “take backs” will be pharmaceuticals.

Today, Coventa Energy– which develops, owns and operates waste-to-energy facilities throughout the U.S. and Europe – announced it has begun a a free service to local governments as part of its national program to collected unwanted and unused pharmaceuticals.

It’s a good next step. But what’s really needed is standardized, mandated national EPR legislation. Without this, manufacturers can and will continue to drag their collective heels, waving their “not my problem” banner and sidestep what is rapidly becoming a safe drinking water crisis. Surely the politicians can find time to address this potent issue sometime soon.

Living in a green cave?

A couple created an unusual home from this sandstone cave

A couple created an unusual home from this sandstone cave

People are going to great lengths to green their lives. But for some, it goes way beyond recycling or hybrids.

A couple in Missouri, Curt and Deborah Sleeper, built a home inside a sandstone cave. It’s a mix of a comfortable interior in a unique setting.

The home utilizes geothermal heating, eliminating the need for a furnace or air conditioning unit. Built on a 3-acre parcel, the home has three chambers, many retaining their unfinished sandstone walls. These provide natural properties for a comfortable indoor temperature throughout the year. Since the unfinished walls do shed, the Sleepers placed interior roofs and umbrellas over the areas that needed to stay sand free.

avehome 3In the 1970s, this unique location was a venue for rock concerts, featuring stars like Bob Seger, Ted Nugent and Tina Turner.

Ironically, the home fell into foreclosure last year. As their home didnt fit the standard mortgage model, they were unable to refinance. They ended up posting the unusual home on eBay for $300,000.

Cavehome 2Not sure how the Sleepers story ends, but the idea of living in a tricked out luxury-styled cave definitely has a certain appeal to it, don’t you think?

Ford Cuts Energy Costs by $1.2M by turning off PC's!

Ford Motor Co.Electronics are notorious for energy “leaks”. Ford Motor Company is discoveing just how much energy they’ve been wasting when they implemented their new PC Power Management program. The company anticipates it will save $1.2 million when the system is fully implemented. It also expects to reduce its carbon footprint by 16,000-25,000 metric tons annually.

ComputerUnder this new program, power settings on Windows laptops and desktop computers are controlled centrally. This reduces energy waste and allows for optimizing software updates. Shutting down computers that aren’t in use – nighttimes and weekends – also helps reduce weated energy.

Computers will, however, be “awake”, connected to Ford’s intranet so as to be able to receive system updates and software upgrades during off hours.

PC Power Management is being rolled out to Ford”s U.S.-based computer users this month and expanded to Ford operations around the world later in the year.

Ford Lincolm Mercury logoFord’s U.S. facilities have increased their energy efficiency by almost 35 percent since the year 2000. The company is urging their Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealers to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions at their facilities, encouraging employees and customers to do the same, as part of their commitment to sustainability and to the Energy Star program.

All this from just turning off those computers! Now what about turning off all those lights?

Supreme Court again denies measures to protect Great Lakes

Great LakesThe Supreme Court has again rejected a request from Michigan to close two Chicago-area waterway locks to keep Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes.

The high court, along with the federal government, the state of Illinois and Chicago’s sewer authority opposed Michigan’s initial request on the grounds that closing the locks could cause massive flooding and hurt shippers by preventing the continued navigation of vessels on the Chicago waterway system.

Michigan based its second request on its discovery of carp DNA in water samples taken from the Calumet Harbor on Lake Michigan, at the mouth of the Calumet River.

Solicitor General Elena Kagan opposed the request, telling the Supreme Court an injunction could “substantially affect the regional and national economies and greatly disrupt transportation systems on both land and water on which those economies rely.”

Asian carp have already desimaed the Mississippi's marine ecology

Asian carp are already dominating the Mississippi's marine ecology

Environmentalists say the carp, already dominating sections of the Mississippi and its tributaries, could potentially devastate a $7 billion fishery in the Great Lakes and severely impact the lakes, which hold one-fifth of the world’s fresh water.

It’s this writer’s humble opinion and view that the high court seems to be unable to distinguish between protecting the initial economic benefits versus the larger picture – that the invasion of this non-native species could and will substantially damage the ecology o  the Great Lakes in a fashion that may not allow for recovery. And then watch the lawsuits fly!

Big picture – little picture. Hmm . wonder who will win this no-win game?

NYU to install energy-harvesting revolving door

The Revolution Revolving door

The Revolution Revolving door

In August 2008, I wrote about a revolutionary concept – The Revolution Door – a revolving door that generates energy that can be used to help power a building.

New York architects Carmen Trudell and Jenny Broutin created a glass enclosure of lightweight panels joined at a central core, attached at the top to a circular array of wire coils, with a rotating magnet array and a gear/flywheel Revolution Door 1assembly. Push the doors and the the gear amplifies the motion of the wire coil in the magnetic array, producing electricity.

Until now, this has been a fascinating concept. New York University recently gave the architects a grant to install a working prototype on its campus. It will be interesting to see how much electricity – and PR – this experiment generates over the coming months.

Organic Coffee with a twist

coffeeWe’re a country of coffee drinkers. And organic, Fair Trade coffee is, well, like adding good cream to an already good cup o’ joe.

But there are things that while sounding healthy may not actually be healthy. Check out the latest Green Gadget Spotlight and you’ll see what I mean.