The Clean Hippie

Seeking the sustainable life in New York City

How to do The Jazz Age Picnic at Governor’s Island July 27, 2010


Bring a parasol to keep the hot sun at bay.


Invest in some dance classes before hand or show up before 12 to get a free one so you can take full advantage of the brass band

…Or just wing it.


Don’t wander too far away from the dance floor, you don’t want to miss the beautiful singing.


Red lipstick is key.


Accessories make the outfit.


Guys look hot in suspenders, hats, and bow ties.


Don’t be afraid to show off your best assets…


Bring some blankets on which to stretch out


Kids are more than welcome!


Peach is perfect.


Bring a camera so you can capture the beauty….


How to Grocery Shop the Green Way, and My New Fave Grocery Store July 24, 2010

Last Friday evening I had plans to go see a movie (or two) with Vicki, but she had come down with strep throat. As I rode the elevator down to the lobby at my work, I wondered what I would do with my night. I could call some friends, but instead I decided to have a low key night in, and cook for myself.

I hardly ever cook. I know that it’s a great thing to do, but when I get home at eight every night, and want to get up at 6 the next morning…well, I have my priorities. So I relished the thought of having an evening to practice my cooking skills and get a good night’s sleep. (Yes, this is old woman behavior. No, I am not ashamed.)

I had visited the Westerly Natural Market a few times before, but in a slap-dash, grab-and-go sort of way. Located at 54th and 7th Avenue, Westerly Natural Market is like a more authentic version of Whole Foods. Instead of well-dressed, gossipy girls, there was a pair of old woman trading witty banter as they perused the full four aisles of natural supplements. Instead of women dressed head to toe in Lululemon, there was a woman dressed in t-shirts and jeans, with a fair-trade looking purse slung over their shoulder. There was a guy wandering around with both a shopping bag and his bicycle helmet slung over his arm.

I enlisted my iPhone to help me with my mission to cook something easy and healthy. I’ve been saving recipes on Delicious, and now pulled them up using the Delicious App. I chose Lamp Chops with Pistachio Tapenade, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen.

Westerly Natural Market has a basic produce aisle, four aisle of supplements and pills, and three or four aisles of both gourmet and beautifully packaged foods, and foods that looked like they had been lovingly cooked and packaged in someone’s apartment in Brooklyn. I wandered up and down, looking for my ingredients. (“Mmmm, homemade peanut butter granola! FOCUS Alden”.) When I couldn’t find the garlic, the manager cheerfully showed me to them, piled in a cardboard box on the floor, underneath the apples.

I picked up organic pork chops instead of the lamb, filled a reusable produce bag with bulk pistachios, grabbed a glass jar of green olives (instead of plastic, my dears), and a jar of capers. The recipe also called for fresh oregano and parsley, but seeing that those herbs were packaged in styrene and plastic, I decided to try it without.

And check this out! Westerly has a NUT BUTTER MAKER. Oh my gosh, it makes me so excited. I tried to make my own almond butter the other night at home, but I got bored with the process and didn’t want to subject Vicki to more than 15 minutes of the high-pitched food processor. So the result wasn’t awesome. So here was the solution: at the top, a whole bunch of nuts. You just press down the lever and out the bottom comes nut butter. I can’t wait to come back with an empty jar and fill it up with this stuff. (Little things get me excited, yall.)

I wasn’t even finished. I rounded a corner and saw a shelf of sun tan lotions. I’ve been meaning to get new sunscreen, since apparently skin cancer is on the rise partly because of tanning bed, and partly because sunscreen itself can give you cancer. Oh, but life has a sense of irony.

I whipped out my Good Guide iPhone app and started scanning. Nature’s Gate got a 1 for health out of 10. Really??? That’s worse than conventional make up and shampoo. I mean, this is supposed to be organic stuff! I picked up another “organic” brand and it also got a 1. I scanned another – Kiss My Face – and this one got a 3. At this point I was bored with the process, and figured, what the heck, a 3 is better than a 1. I tossed it in my basket.

(If you want to do better than I, check out Good Guide’s online guide to sunscreens. Hint: Coppertone sucks.)

Finally, I tossed some Burt’s Bees Radiance Day spf 15 in my basket (Good Guide score of 6.8 overall, 5 for health) and paid for my items. I was so freakin pleased with myself, what a green shopper I was!

In summary, for a great green shopping experience:

1. Use your iPhone’s helpful apps for identifying healthy and genuine products. The iPhone also has some fun price comparison apps.

2. Go organic, free range, cage free, and hormone free.

3. Come prepared with produce bags and reusable shopping bags. I keep my reusable Lululemon fold-up bag in my purse at all times, with a produce bag tucked in the outside pocket.

4. Avoid plastic packaging where possible. Embrace the shabby chic aesthetic of jars on your shelves.

5. Read the ingredient label. A long list of scientific gibberish is NOT a good sign. Also, avoid high fructose corn syrup like the plague. In fact, if the food does not come with an ingredient list at all(“peanuts.” “grapes.” “wild rice.”) that’s the best. (Trust me, this is good for your long-term health AND your waistline.)

6. Unless you are in a lovely health foods store, stick to the edges of the grocery store like it’s the shopping district and and the center is a dangerous food ghetto. That’s where they stick on the deceptively delicious and highly-processed crap that you are better without.

7. If you don’t see a healthy and conscious brand, ask for it. They might take a hint and start carrying Burt’s Bees and Method like so many conventional convenience and grocery stores.

Anyway, I am happy to report that my pistachio tapenade pork chops turned out beautifully, even without fresh parsley, and Vicki scarfed hers down even with the strep throat. Really, if you have any brains you’ll try this simple recipe. Unless you are like Vicki, who apparently is afraid of anything involving heat. In that case, pass the recipe along to your roommate and have her cook it for you.


A Country Wedding July 16, 2010

My friend Irene is an amazing woman.

When we were in high school, while I was off spending my whole allowance on Abercrombie clothes, Irene would head over to Goodwill on the first Saturday of every month, it being the 50% off day and all. That just blew my mind – Goodwill is cheap enough, but half off too?? And she would put together the cutest outfits from all that junk.

Fast forward five years and Irene is getting married. No wedding planner for this girl – she’s got a huge network of family in friends all living within 20 minutes, and she took full advantage. She had a family member take the pictures, another do hair and makeup, another bake the wedding cake, and another bake cupcakes. She designed her own invitations, save the dates, and programs, and had her sister who works at Kinkos print them up. She even put out matching Sodoku, word search, and Mad Libs with the programs at the service. We had a great time filling in the Mad Libs with dirty words for Irene and Anthony to enjoy later.

After the wedding everyone drove out to the Jorden farm, where friends on four wheelers directed parking. The pouring rain from the morning had eased somewhat, and all the ladies had changed into flip flops and the men into short sleeved shirts and shorts. It was a good thing it was casual too, my hair was a hot mess in the humidity.

Having green as the color scheme made everything easier too. At midnight the night before the wedding, a band of friends and family were hanging green lanterns from the ceiling of the tent and cutting greenery from the side of the road to put in the vases. A family friend stayed up until four AM early in the week hand peeling tomatoes for the salsa. Family and friends even stole all the chairs from a firehouse and classrooms around the town (to be returned, I’m assuming) and covered them with white covers. The tables had green burlap sack. My favorite part, of course, were the mason jars Irene had been slowly collecting over the months. I used mine over and over – first for beer, then for alcoholic snow cones, then for wine, then for liquor.

At the edge of the tents was a home made corn hole game that kept the kids and the grownups alike busy. As night descended over the farm, fireworks smuggled up from South Carolina exploded in the sky. The tables were put away and in their place popped up a mini city of tents.

Two of the boys grabbed their guitars from home and plugged them at the barn to jam out. We finished the night sitting around, sipping beer, reminiscing about high school and dancing like hippies to guitar riffs.

I don’t think Irene had sustainability in mind at her wedding. After all, it was catered by a delicious but conventional barbecue joint, and there were plenty of plastic cups and styrene plates available from the caterers and beer trailer. (That’s right, there was a beer trailer. MADNESS.)

But even if she wasn’t actually thinking “What is the most eco-friendly way to pull this off?” I still consider it mykind of wedding: hand-made, thoughtful, and genuine. It wasn’t pretentious, or wasteful, or extravagant. As usual, Irene looked at her budget and created her way around it with joy and laughter. All anyone could say was “That was a really good wedding.”

Congratulations Irene!


Ask Your Dr for Alternatives July 15, 2010

Filed under: health,Tips — Alden @ 6:06 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Sometimes you shouldn’t always blindly follow your doctor’s directions. And I’m not talking about homeopathic medicine and natural remedies here in lieu of science. Please take your prescriptions. Well, unless you are 300 pounds and diabetic. Then some weight loss might do the trick. But I digress. What I’m saying is that if your doctor tells you to do something that seems like it might clash with your eco-minded values, just explore your options.

This is a silly little example, but this morning I had an appointment at the dermatologist. I just have a tiny little red dot on my cheek that seems to be permanent, and I wanted it gone.

The dermatologist, Dr. Persaud, was super nice, and after zapping my annoying little red mark, she told me to apply Aquafor twice a day for a week. I thanked her and headed out to the reception area. Then I thought twice and popped my head back in.

“Um, can I use anything besides Aquafor? Maybe something more natural?”

She thought for a second and said, “Sure, olive oil would work great.”

I mean, why not just say that in the first place? I would have gone out and bought Aquafor, which comes in a little plastic tube, and is made from petroleum. And I would have used it for a week and then thrown it away. Now instead I will pay zero dollars, won’t put a whole slew of gross ingredients on my skin and won’t waste the resources it took to make it, package it, and ship it out to New York City. That’s a win.

So yeah, just ask questions in your doctor’s office. That’s all!


Overhauling My Beauty Routine July 11, 2010

This post is about cancer sticks.

No, not cigarettes. Yup, there’s a different type of cancer stick, and you just don’t know it yet. It’s your mascara, your lipstick, your chapstick….. From EcoSalon:

To date, the EU has banned 1,100 chemicals in cosmetics; the Food and Drug Administration in America has banned only ten. In fact, Cover Girl waterproof mascara contains the same ingredient (petroleum distillates, an oil by-product) as Dr. Scholl’s Wart Remover—both of which are illegal in Europe…. When I realized that many of the chemicals banned in the EU—but found in FDA-approved beauty products—cause cancer, birth defects, genetic mutation, and organ damage, I wondered: why is our regulation system so different from (and, dare I say, less effectual than) that of our European neighbors?

(Read more here)

More and more people are ascribing to the beauty mantra, “I only put on my skin what I can eat.” After all, you’re not a barbie doll. Your skin absorbs whatever you put on it. So when you smooth lipstick with mercury on your lips or put hair products with formaldehyde in your hair, that’s going to end up in your system. With how absorbent ourAztec Secret Mud, Almond Oil, Pangea Organic face products, pure aloe gel, coconut oil, burts bees chapstick, skin is, why even put petroleum products (Vaseline) or other crazy ingredients on it. Would you eat Vaseline? No. (Unless you’re a beauty queen who smears it on her teeth. If so, you are beyond help sister.)

Scary stuff right? I know I run the risk of sounding a little paranoid, but don’t worry, you can still look beautiful without setting yourself up for some serious medical bills later on. As an advertising person myself, I can tell you most commercials with pretty molecules spinning around on the screen are a really far stretch of the imagination. Has your hair every REALLY looked less frizzy after using that super fancy Pantene Pro-V? Thought so.

Start at the Natural Homemade Beauty blog. It might seem a little bizarre that you can get the same effects from simple stuff like coconut oil, lemon, sour cream, apple cider vinegar, almond oil, and other things you seem more commonly in the kitchen, but it’s totally true! I can attest from personal experience that the tips on her blog has reduced my breakouts and made my skin silky and smooth. And there’s scientific evidence to prove it. Here’s what I’ve overhauled in the past year in my beauty routine:

  • Replaced my foamy pink shave lotion with olive oil. Smoothest. Legs. Ever. Plus it’s cheap and creates less waste.
  • Threw out my Proactiv and bought Pangea Organics. I augment that with weekly facial masks of Aztec Secret mud masks. I’m broken out at the moment, but I attribute that to too much sugar, as usual, and missing my weekly mud mask.
  • Got rid of my fancy lotion and started using coconut oil. I smell really good.
  • Replaced my mascara and eyeliners with brands from Whole Foods.
  • Stopped shelling out for fancy Trish McEvoy makeup and got Bare Minerals instead.
  • Got normal, everyday organic shampoo and conditioner. I tried the no ‘poo method here but it didn’t work because I have insanely thick hair. But even though I don’t have a shampoo that is specially formulated for thick, brown-with-highlights, sorta wavy, 20-something hair, my hair is still silky and shiny.
  • Stopped using gooey $1 lip gloss and started using tinted Burt’s Bees lip stuff .
  • Replaced my deodorant with Avalon Organics spray and Tom’s of Maine Crystal Deodorant. I switch off between the two, but so far both work great.

In summary? I smell delicious, I look at least as good as I did a year ago if not better, I’m creating less waste, spending less money, and taking proactive steps to limit my exposure to carcinogens and other nasty stuff. That’s a win.


What can YOU do to Help the Gulf? June 23, 2010

Filed under: activism,bicycle,green angst,Lifestyle,sustainability,Tips — Alden @ 4:43 pm
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Are you pissed? Of course you are! When something like this happens, our first inclinations is to just boycott the offending company. Sounds easy right? Just don’t fill your tank at BP. Punish the bastards for their lax safety standards, their laughable contingency plan, their outrageous hubris, their lies about the extent of the oil spill, and even now, their bullying of reporters who have been trying to cover the damn thing.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds to vote with your dollar, not when it comes to BP. As this WSJ article points out, BP’s profit from their stations is just a sliver of their overall billions. Who you really hurt when you boycott their station, are the independent dealers who have long term contracts with the company. And even when you bypass a BP and pull into a Chevron. Guess what? You still might be buying BP oil. It’s all mixed up together and delivered wherever. So much for consumer power.

So what can you actually do to stand up for the pelicans, your grandparents down in Florida, and a better future? Stop buying oil!

Whoa, whoa. Stop buying oil? My goodness that’s impossible!

OK, yes, in the next fifty years, it is impossible to completely get away from gas. But you can try to reduce your consumption. If the average American drove 4.2 miles less a day, we wouldn’t even need offshore drilling. How about that? Only 4.2 miles less a day. You know what that is?

It’s renting a bike at the beach this summer, instead of driving back and forth from your house to the waves. (Bikes make me happy!)

It’s designating one day a week as errand day, and planning accordingly, instead of making lots of little trips. (So much nicer!)

It’s vacationing at the beach that is two hours away, instead of all the way down South. (Screw road trips. Give me the beach NOW.)

It’s skipping the taxi and taking the subway, or better yet, commuting by bike. (Taxis are annoying anyway. Stop honking already!)

It’s picking up your friend(s) on the way to a party and leaving together. (It’s what the popular people do, don’t you know?)

It’s using Netflix instead of going out for a movie. (That sh** is overpriced anyway.)

It’s cooking your own meal at home, with lit candles, instead of eating out. (Now THAT is romantic.)

It’s going out on a sailboat instead of a motor boat or jet skis.

Such little things! Yet they could make a difference. And guess where all these little things are taking you? More time with friends and family, and less time alone in your sad deathbox. Oops, I meant SUV.

You can also use less plastic. Buy glass containers instead of plastic, and buy in bulk. I just love the look of a pretty pantry full of jars, instead of torn boxes and bags. I, for one, wash and reuse my cutlery and work everyday. It’s the little things, y’all.

In the long term, this obviously won’t be enough. We need the infrastructure as a country to support biking, walking, and taking the train, for healthy, fun neighborhoods. But until then, why don’t you get a little exercise in? That bike path is looking pretty good, eh?


Food Washing: Like Greenwashing, but grosser June 22, 2010

Have you read In Defense of Food yet? If you have, then you know the injecting Froot Loops with calcium and vitamin D doesn’t do bumpkus for your health. I mean, that should be obvious. But apparently it doesn’t take much to convince people that it’s OK to feed their kids sugary cereal and Wonder Bread for every meal.

The healthiest and happiest people know that in order to get your vitamins in minerals, you should just go ahead and eat whole foods: fruit and vegetables, whole grains, fish, and humanely-raised meat. Science doesn’t fully understand how vitamins nutrients interact to help or hinder each other within the body. So pulling out one vitamin and saying it might prevent cancer is like saying holding hands and singing kumbaya might prevent a war.

Tell that to the food industry. Now that people are starting to become dimly aware that you need to eat healthy to lose weight, food companies are flailing about, trying to make their crap offerings appear not-so-bad. According to this post on ecosalon, there is nothing to prevent a packaged food brand from making all sorts of crazy claims. Do women actually believe Crystal Light will boost immunity. Guess what drains your immunity? Chemically derived sugars. Wait, isn’t that what Crystal Light is made of?

Ok, sorry. I’m being harsh. Sometimes we just want an excuse to eat what we want to eat. You better believe that if Reese’s said “Made with Real Peanuts!” I would be like, “Hell yeah, that counts as my vegetable for the day!” But still, I think we should be aware of what kind of messages are being used to manipulate us.

Read the post for more goodies like:

  • “Lightly sweetened Frosted Mini Wheats, which are 20% sugar by volume
  • Healthy Choice minestrone soup, which is only “healthy” if you eat half a cup, their recommended serving size. The actual bowl is twice that, and packs a huge punch of sodium.
  • Rice Krispies boost immunity. Really Kellogg’s?

The FDA has only gone as far as to send warning letters to some of the offending parties. In absence of any sort of regulation, I’ve given you a five step process for sorting through the claims of food manufacturers.

1. Read all labels carefully. Keep a look out for claims like “reduces risk of cancer,” “lowers cholesterol,” “weight challenge,” or anything similar.

2. Laugh heartily.

3. Set box back down, walk to the outside aisles of your grocery store.

4. Fill bags with fruit, vegetables, bulk grains,  and freshly butchered cuts of lean meat.

5. Go cook something. Anything. Stick a potato in the oven with olive oil. Throw some brown rice in a pot with soy sauce and chopped onions and carrots. Whatever, just don’t believe a word of what those fools tell you.