The Muppets Go Green!

As a life-long Muppets fan, I was delighted to learn that Disney plans to release a Muppets movie on November 23.

As an environmentally conscious mom, I was especially excited to learn of the plot, which was released by Disney on Friday:

On vacation in Los Angeles, Walter, the world’s biggest Muppet fan, and his friends Gary (Jason Segel) and Mary (Amy Adams) from Smalltown, USA, discover the nefarious plan of oilman Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to raze the Muppet Theater and drill for the oil recently discovered beneath the Muppets’ former stomping grounds. To stage The Greatest Muppet Telethon Ever and raise the $10 million needed to save the theater, Walter, Mary and Gary help Kermit reunite the Muppets, who have all gone their separate ways: Fozzie now performs with a Reno casino tribute band called the Moopets, Miss Piggy is a plus-size fashion editor at Vogue Paris, Animal is in a Santa Barbara clinic for anger management, and Gonzo is a high-powered plumbing magnate. With secret, signature, celebrity cameos, “The Muppets” hits the big screen Nov. 23, 2011.

My favorite muppet is Kermit the Frog, and I heart the actor Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I Love You, Man). I am so glad to see they are teaming up to address an environmentally destructive practice: that of oil-drilling or “fracking.” That should lead to deeper conversations among families about our dependence on oil, something that has been repeatedly addressed at Moms Clean Air Force.

And that is a conversation I look forward to having with my children, who are set to inherit our earth. Yes, I will be taking my kids to see this movie! Did you watch the Muppets as a kid? Who is your favorite character?

By the way, here is one more screen shot from the movie, courtesy of Disney:


Monday Morning Open Thread

Happy Monday, MTs. Has everyone adjusted to the end of daylight savings time? I’m on deadline for another piece and thrashed by sleep deprivation – hey, can y’all think outtie thoughts for Lily’s teeth? She’s teething hard-core and I’d love to see them out, already! Two stories that caught my eye:

Melbourne is one step closer to having a Copenhagen/Parisian-style short-term bike-hire system. The RACV (our state’s equivalent to the AAA) have agreed to sponsor the costs for a fleet of bicycles in return for advertising space, according to The Age.

The bike racks will be no more than 500 metres apart, to encourage users to take one of the bikes instead of a car, taxi or the city’s crowded public transport network for short trips.
The bikes and bike racks will be installed in mid-2010, Mr Pallas said.
Users will have to pay a small membership fee – $2.50 a day or up to $50 a year – which will enable them to release one of the bikes out of automatic racks.
Users then have the bike for up to half an hour for free, and can return it to any of the 50 racks.

I’d definitely give this a go and I think it’d be a great tourist attraction as well – nice way to see my fair city. There are only two problems that I can think of: one, what about bike helmets? You’d have to carry your own with you in anticipation of using the bikes. Two, bike lanes aren’t nearly prevalent enough in Melbourne. The bike lane issue is what keeps me from using my bike more – how I wish we had dedicated, safe, restricted bike lanes like you see in Europe. But not to overlook the good here!

Secondly, I’m not really one to watch Australian Idol; my fave reality TV shows are more The Biggest Loser and So You Think You Can Dance. But this story totally made me go “aaaaaaw“: one of the five finalists quit the show last night to return to his first passion: teaching.

Adelaide teacher Toby Moulton has shocked a national television audience with his decision to opt for his first love, teaching.
Reading from a prepared statement, the Australian Idol contestant said on Sunday night’s show that he could not continue in the singing contest.
Moulton brought the judges and audience to their feet with applause as he told them that the classroom was his passion, despite all the encouragement he had been given to pursue an entertainment career.

Lucky students – and how  great to see a teacher that dedicated to the profession!

How are you all doing today?


A Shout Out to Enviro-Friendly Electronics Companies

Here is some good news all eco-conscientious parents can bask in. Seven major electronics companies, including Apple and Sony-Ericsson, are actively eliminating toxic brominated flame retardants (BFR) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) from their products.

Two non-profit environmental organizations, ChemSec and Clean Production Action, just released a report detailing their efforts. From Clean Production Action’s press release:

“These seven companies demonstrate that there are less toxic and still cost effective alternatives to substances of high concern that do not compromise performance or reliability,” said CPA Project Director Alexandra McPherson. “They are well positioned to gain competitive advantage in a marketplace and regulatory environment increasingly sensitive to the use of toxic chemicals in consumer products.”

High volume uses of bromine and chlorine in flame retardant and plastic resin applications such as brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) gained worldwide attention when scientific studies demonstrated their link to the formation of highly toxic dioxin compounds. Dioxin, a potent human carcinogen that is toxic in very low amounts, along with other problematic compounds, are unintentionally released into the environment during the burning and smelting of electronic waste.  

The current recycling and waste infrastructure to safely reuse and recycle obsolete equipment is insufficient for the fastest growing waste stream in the world. Furthermore, much of the waste is increasingly shipped to developing countries with even less capacity for appropriate waste management.  Many studies document the accumulation of these widespread pollutants in air, water, soil, and sediment, where they are increasingly ingested by humans and animals.

Apple sells a host of popular PVC and BFR-free products, including its iPhones and iPods. Sony-Ericsson is not only eliminating these toxic chemicals from their products but also undergoing the complicated task of taking inventory of all chemicals in its products.

Seagate, the largest disk drive manufacturer in the world, is now making disk drives without chlorine and bromine-based chemicals.

Other companies focused on eliminating these toxins in their products are the Netherlands-based DSM Engineering Plastics, Nan Ya of Taiwan, Indium of the United States and the U.S.-based Silicon Storage Technology.

Here is a shout out to these companies for helping protect our children from the toxic effects of BFR and PVC. Very cool.


Photos from BPA-Free Rally

Sacramento, CA — Yesterday’s BPA-free rally went well. It was attended by at least 125 people — the 125 Kleen Kanteen kids’ water bottles were quickly gone! — and was very diverse with mostly mothers and kids of every hue and ethnic background. Anti-BPA signs were in Spanish and in English.

The speakers on stage ranged from actress Amy Smart (Varsity Blues) and legislators to a prominent doctor named Dr. Greene and an advocate for low-income mothers who asked that BPA-free products be made available at the “99-cent store.”

In case you missed my previous posts, I was in Sacramento yesterday morning joining families and activists to ask the California Assembly to pass a bill that would rid plastic baby products — like bottles — of toxic bisphenol A (BPA).

BPA is a synthetic and estrogenic substance that has been linked to a host of health problems, including early onset of puberty and breast cancer. It has already been banned in children’s products in Connecticut, Minnesota and Canada. Could California be next? Those of us who attended the rally certainly hope so!

Check out some memorable moments:

Afterwards, the kids delivered BPA-free bottles — with messages in them — to Assemblymembers’ offices. If you haven’t already, please call your Assemblymember in support of Sen. Fran Pavley’s bill, SB 797! If you know your Assemblymember’s name and just need the number, call the Capitol Switchboard: 916-322-9900.

Too pressed for time to call? You can sign this letter to your Assemblymember. Thank you all for your commitment to protecting our children from toxic products!


Chemical Industry Trying to Influence CA Assemblymembers — Please Help!

Cross-posted at

A California bill that would get rid of a requirement for toxic flame retardants in the foam of baby products is hanging by the skin of its teeth. It may be a coincidence, but lobbyists working for the chemical industry have been in Sacramento lobbying hard against this consumer-friendly, common sense bill.

CA parents: We need your help!

The bill, SB 772, faces a tough vote in the State Assembly and must gain the signature of Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggar to become law. Our immediate challenge is to keep the bill alive by changing the votes of three Assemblymembers who voted against it in the appropriations committee last week. These members — Charles Calderon, Connie Conway, Diane Harkey, Jeff Miller and Audra Strickland — will have a chance to save this bill by changing their votes when the committee reconsiders it on Wednesday (tomorrow).

The following Assemblymembers, by the way, abstained from voting: Mike Davis, Michael Duvall, Felipe Fuentes, Isadore Hall, Jose Solorio, and Tom Torlakson.

Please help us save SB 772!

The chemical industry has actually gone so far as to organize a “front group“ called the “Citizens for Fire Safety“ that has hired 3 high-priced lobbying firms that control the purse strings to millions of dollars in campaign donations. They have spent quite a bit of time in Sacramento lately as they have much to lose in not having their products required in baby products.

California is the only state in the country to require toxic flame retardants in the foam of all furniture, including places where our babies sleep. Not surprisingly, a study published last year in the journal Environmental Science and Technology found the flame retardant penta-BDE in the dust of California homes at four to 10 times the concentrations found elsewhere in the U.S., and 200 times higher than in Europe. It also found that Californians have twice the concentration of the chemical in their blood as people who live elsewhere in the United States.

SB 772 would give manufacturers of baby items like bassinets, strollers, nursing pillows and high chairs, the choice of whether or not to include these toxic chemicals in their products. It would also require the manufacturers to mention in the exterior packaging of products without flame retardants that they do not meet California’s fire safety standards so consumers have the choice to purchase toxic-free products.

Despite the emotional and inflammatory information spread by the chemical industry, there is no evidence that flame retardant chemicals in foam has shown any measurable benefit in terms of actual fire protection. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), while fire deaths declined by 38 percent in California from 1980 to 1999, the decline in fire deaths was similar or even greater in states that do not require the toxins at all. Considering that most victims of fires die from smoke inhalation and not the actual flames, alternative fire-fighting measures like smoke detectors and sprinkler systems have proven far more effective.

What is certain is that research has shown flame retardants can cause a host of life-threatening illnesses, including endocrine problems, thyroid problems, cancer, and neurological disorders like hyperactivity. And contrary to what “Citizens for Fire Safety“ has said, it is low-income residents and communities of color who are most likely to be exposed to these chemicals and fall victim to these diseases as they purchase products laden with the toxins at the big box stores. Other communities can often opt out of toxin-laden baby products by purchasing more expensive imported or toxic-free “organic“ product lines of baby products. Furthermore older or second-hand products are more likely to have crumbly foam that will escape and cause the greatest health hazard.

Let’s not let SB 772 die. What can we do to pass it? Call, e-mail or fax a personal letter to your Assemblymember’s office! Let him or her know why this bill is important to you. You can look up your district and Assemblymember here.

Your support will show the entire Assembly that the public is watching their votes. A phone call will help pressure members on the Assembly Appropriations Committee into doing the right thing. Contact your Assemblymember today!

Thank you for your commitment to protecting our children from toxic chemicals.


Monday Open Thread

Color me Pollyanna, take me to task for being naive and cherry-picking my way through the crises, but today, I see some good news that I want to share.

  • Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s pancreatic cancer was detected at the earliest possible stage, meaning that she could be back in court as of the 23rd of February, when the next session starts, according to information from The Supreme Court, via the LA Times

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg went home from the hospital Friday with an encouraging lab report that found no sign her cancer had spread. The 75-year-old had surgery a week ago to remove a tumor on her pancreas.

A 1-centimeter pancreatic lesion spotted by CT scan last month proved benign, according to her surgeon. “But in searching the entire pancreas, [the doctor] identified a previously undetected single, even smaller tumor, which upon examination was found malignant,” according to a statement issued by the Supreme Court.

Dr. Murray Brennan, a pancreatic specialist, removed Ginsburg’s spleen and a portion of her pancreas during surgery Feb. 5 at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

“All lymph nodes proved negative for cancer, and no metastasis was found,” the courtstatement said. Her doctors described her cancer as stage 1.

Justice Ginsberg, I know I’m not the only one who will say this, but I am so grateful for your service and I wish you a speedy and uncomplicated recovery.

  • Upstate NY Rep. Louise Slaughter has proposed the Prevention First Act of 2009. While the title could mean anything, what the act would do is have the Dept. of Health and Human Services provide grants for states for sex ed:

In General- The Secretary of Health and Human Services may make grants to eligible States to conduct sex education programs, including programs that provide education on both abstinence and contraception for the prevention of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.

Jezebel does a snarkalicious, accurate summation of most of the act here, but basically, the act calls for common-sense, age-appropriate, religion-free sex ed, then calls for the funding to make that happen (no unfunded mandates tra-la!). First of all, I’m delighted by common sense. Second of all, I’m further delighted that, should this make it out of Congress in this form (we never count our chickens before they’re hatched), it lands on the desk of President Obama. Huzzah! Rep. Slaughter, well done and you’re fighting the good fight.

  • Finally, the stimulus package. Very few people like it – either it’s too much debt, or not enough money, or not the right stimulus measures, too much/too few tax cuts, etc. But one group is pleased with it: environmentalists. According to this article in Salon:

The folks at the Natural Resources Defense Council were positively ebullient about the bill. “Congress really got it right with this economic recovery package that will deliver jobs and green infrastructure to America,” crowed Wesley Warren, director of programs for NRDC, in a statement. “We need to put America on a path to a clean-energy economy, and Congress has taken a big step forward in heeding this call.”

The stimulus package will invest $37.5 billion in energy. That includes $4.5 billion to boost the energy efficiency of federal buildings; $6.3 billion for energy efficiency and conservation grants; $5 billion to weatherize old buildings, which promises to put idle construction workers back on the job; $2.5 billion for energy efficiency and renewable-energy research; $6 billion for new loan guarantees for wind and solar, and the list goes on.

Australia passed its own stimulus bill late last week, and a significant part of the A$42bn package goes on similar “green“ measures – specifically weatherizing homes/businesses. As with the US, the stimulus package engendered much criticism in Australia, but the weatherizing component was one of the few that went through without much criticism.

So, what’s going on with you this Monday? I’m in Sydney (or, actually, I was in Sydney for my Monday) for a conference that I’m covering for a magazine. It’s one of my last big assignments pre-baby, and incidentally, marks the first time I ever spent a night away from Jessica (I flew up late Sunday night)!


Our Last Social Justice/Activism Thread

Our experiment with a Social Justice and Activism Thread has come to an end, MTs. A sincere thank you to all who participated. A number of us started and finished some pet projects. These projects were mainly around consumption – either buying (and hopefully even wanting) less or making new efforts to buy environmentally friendly products and/or products from companies whose politics we can support. Our efforts were supported by MTs who chimed in with ideas and resources to learn more.

Some of us expressed interest in developing a volunteer project. For me, this proved to be more difficult to pull off. I am still working on it. A friend has suggested that we do something together, and I like this approach. We will be considering a number of ideas, including my idea on how to support single moms who are stationed in Iraq. My latest google search on this narrowed the field a bit, and I’m ready to take next steps.

One of the things I love about MT is that we are a community who tends to make daily choices and just live our lives in a way I believe promotes social justice or social change in some small – and even large – ways. Carry on ladies (and gents), and please do keep us posted.