- @kellyrobin Mmmm. Organic candy canes and hot chocolate.. I'm in. 1 hour ago
- RT @World_Wildlife: RT @WWFnews: Study: U.S. can’t keep up with loss of ecologically-sensitive wetlands wapo.st/1gjRE00 2 hours ago
- @zebrafinch Happy for you to get some good news! 🌺💗☀🌷 2 hours ago
- Ok. Don't tell on me if I put a smidge of coffee in this hot chocolate. Because snow traffic. 2 hours ago
- @beautyonearthor @GreenEaseApp Interesting tip! 2 hours ago
- So in love with the Wool Buddy felting kits @ MOMs. Especially the sheep. And the shark. And the penguins. #holidaygifts 2 hours ago
- RT @FoodDay2014: .@JohnsHopkins committed to 35% #realfood annual purchasing by 2020! Read more on the blog: bit.ly/1ktz9nj @RealFo… 2 hours ago
- Know what would be great this afternoon? Hot chocolate, that's what. Maybe with a dash of nutmeg. 2 hours ago
On a recent early Fall day, in the wee hours of morning, about 20 MOMs employees showed up at the parking lot in College Park and piled our sleepy selves onto a mini-bus for a trip to adorable Kutztown, PA to see the home of the Radius toothbrush.
Radius is a brand we’ve carried at MOMs for many, many years. Most of us know Radius for their large and odd-looking toothbrush. Besides those memorable toothbrushes, Radius also makes silk dental floss, and travel containers for toothbrushes, razors, tampons and such.
After a lengthy drive, we got to Radius more than a half-hour late for our tour. We climbed the steps to an old brick building and climbed more steps inside. Suddenly, feeling a little groggy, we found ourselves in a cathedral, of sorts. The radius offices are contained in a beautiful old brick farm building that was restored, painstakingly, by the founder of Radius, Kevin.
After settling in, we learned about the history of toothbrushes (and the lack of innovation and improvement in their design over the past 100 years), and the history of Radius. Kevin and his friend were determined to create a toothbrush that worked with the human hand, not against it. They envisioned a toothbrush that would gently distribute pressure all along the gums and tooth surface, without damaging the gums and tooth enamel.
Their fantasy toothbrush would be easy to hold, and it would feel good to use it. A toothbrush that felt good to use, would help keep us brushing for longer. And it would last a long time, since it would not need, nor would it encourage, the typical human’s habit of jamming and ramming the toothbrush along the teeth. The bristles would remain vigilant, use after use, for many months. This would reduce waste.
From this fantasy, the Original Radius was born: a specimen of ergonomic design and flawless function. It is made in both left-handed and right-handed versions. Later, an extra-flexible version made from recycled rubber, called the Scuba was launched. And years later, Radius offered up the Source toothbrush, which can be fitted for either lefties or righties, and allows for replaceable heads on a recycled-material handle.
A Kidz version, smaller and softer, came to be, and then a Totz version, and a Baby version. All were made specifically with the intent to start humans off on the right, er, foot, when it comes to brushing their teeth. The Baby version is even made to be chewed, as a baby might be prone in the earliest stages of oral health, and to be used by a helpful parent to brush the baby’s teeth for them.
The floss came to be one of my favorite items when Radius came out with a cranberry floss. As many of us in the natural health field know, cranberry helps keep bacteria from sticking to bodily surfaces.
This is one of the ways that cranberry helps alleviate minor urinary infections. Adding cranberry to floss means it can help work against bacteria in those tight little spaces between teeth. I was sold.
At some point during all these years of innovation and product launches, Kevin’s daughter, Saskia, became CEO of Radius. Her tireless enthusiasm is apparent as she continues to push the innovation forward, rejecting subpar prototypes and designs with ease, quite to the dismay of her father and the other designers. That kind of mix of talent can keep everyone in balance, allowing only the best to hit the shelves.
Saskia’s mother is a shipping manager, and she was rushing around checking on orders and putting out proverbial fires as we sat and listened to our lesson.
We took a tour, downstairs, of the equipment that bristles the handles and packages the final products. It was cool to see these items were actually being made in the US. I realized right then that I had expected that this kind of production didn’t really exist in the US anymore, having noticed for so many years that almost everything a US consumer uses these days is made in China, Taiwan, or India. It seemed like a mirage.
Saskia wrapped up the afternoon after teaching us a bit more about Radius. We oogled our goody bags and asked questions, said our good-byes and headed out the door. We saw the solar panels next to the building that supply 85% of their power.
During the long trip back, I couldn’t help but realize how cool the Radius company is, and I was excited to try out my new toothbrush. While at first it was a little odd, I soon realized – it felt really good.
Alyssa works in multiple MOMs locations.
I started working at the MOM’s Organic Market Alexandria store towards the end of June this past summer. I was so excited at the prospect of getting to work with a company that truly walks the talk of its mission: Protect and Restore the Environment.
As a college student, I was the president of our environmental club, Earth Emerson. Studying at an arts school where students were wrapped up in their personal, creative projects, it sometimes seemed like a hopeless cause. The club was small, predominantly female, and fairly disorganized, but I continued with the group making it my own personal mission to get Emerson students to wake-up and save the planet. I succeeded in promoting and creating change at Emerson College, but sometimes students would just walk right by our tables where we would try to raise awareness. They generally acted like we weren’t even there, unless there was free food. It was disheartening and even frustrating at times, but no battle was ever won by doing nothing.
Working at MOM’s has truly restored my faith in humanity. I am so excited with my newest endeavor as Alexandria’s Environmental Restoration Captain. I’ve been able to come back to my roots, and this time I do not feel like my community is blindly passing me by. Employees and customers come in with their kitchen scraps to compost, items to recycle (often those that are so often over looked and thrown into the trash), and they teach me every time I get a new question about the process of composting or recycling. They truly care about their personal impact on our environment.
While there are still many employees and customers that are learning and slowly adding more environmentally conscious practices into their lives, I am constantly in awe of their genuine interest, concern, and hunger for knowledge on how to start turning their everyday practices around. Just the fact that these individuals are shopping at MOM’s is a huge step in decreasing our environmental footprint. Buying bulk foods decreases the amount of packaging going into the landfill. Buying organic decreases the amount of pesticides used during production, which leads to less run-off and erosion protecting our water sources and fertile lands. Buying sustainably harvested fish and pasture raised eggs and meat is a vote for better fishing practices and ethical meat production. Just being a MOM’s shopper is supporting a small business that cares and gives back, buying carbon offsets and providing waste management services that our local, state, and federal government somehow seem to over look making easy and affordable. By supporting MOM’s customers are able to give back without having to do anything other than their weekly grocery shopping.
So, here’s to you, MOM’s customers, employees, and Scott: Thank you all for restoring my faith in humanity. Be the pebble. Make a ripple. Send it out and let’s keep our amazing community of green-minded individuals growing, teaching, and walking the talk.
Kristen works at MOMs Alexandria.
Recycling isn’t very intuitive. Some sorts of plastic can be recycled, some sorts of packaging can’t, it varies in every county… I know I’m guilty of pitching something into the recycle bin and hoping I made the right choice!
Thankfully, Google directed me to The Daily Green, which breaks down what types of plastic the numbers indicate, and what our recycled things become after we toss them in the bin:
- polyethylene terephthalate: soda and water bottles, salad dressing bottles.
Recycles into: fleece, tote bags, carpet.
- high density polyethylene: cereal box liners, butter tubs, juice jugs. Recycles into: pens, benches, fencing.
- Vinyl or PVC: detergent bottles, siding, medical equipment. Recycles into: decks, flooring, mats.
- low density polyethylene: squeezable bottles, shopping and dry cleaning bags. Recycles into: compost bins, shipping envelopes, floor tiles.
- polypropylene: ketchup bottles, straws, bottle caps. Recycles into: signal lights, ice scrapers, rakes.
- polystyrene: disposable cups and plates, egg cartons, CD cases. Recycles into: insulation, foam packing.
- Miscellaneous: 5 gallon water jugs, sunglasses, computer cases, PLA. Recycles into: custom made products.
But to recycle properly, you need to know more than just plastic types and numbers. Many counties have distinct recycling programs that only take certain forms of the plastics/numbers above. My county (MoCo!) accepts plastic bottles 1-7 (except 6) but no plastic wrap, bags, or film.
And what about the things that are less straightforward than plastic bottles, like toothpaste tubes? Thankfully, TerraCycle exists. You can join a brigade, or waste collection drive, and contribute all sorts of items you would normally trash (For example, TerraCycle has a brigade for Neosporin tubes!).
There’s more: PLA
PLA is Polylactic Acid, also known as biodegradable plastic. It comes from renewable sources such as corn and tapioca root. Only about 20% of plastic bottles are recycled, the rest ending up in landfills and our oceans. A biodegradable alternative is a step in the right direction.
Since MOM’s launched Stop the Stuff in 2010, we stopped selling bottled water and have taken many steps to eliminate our plastic waste. We use PLA for our produce bags, sample cups, and Naked Lunch.
Be aware: PLA is not usually recyclable in your blue bin, nor are PLA bags to be recycled with traditional plastic bags. As my county plainly states, “we cannot accept for recycling any biodegradable or compostable plastic items.” I hope this will change soon. In the meantime, you are welcome to compost your PLA or bring it to MOM’s to put in our compost bins.
This post is the conclusion to a previous post. Check it out here.
In Olympia WA, Alaffia is a small company that receives raw ingredients from their Togo women’s cooperative, then packages, labels and ships finished products for sale to retailers in the US. Alaffia is proud to provide gainful, rigorous employment to about 50 employees in Olympia. Still, the profits from the company mainly make their way back to Togo, to invest in existing and new programs to support Alaffia’s pledge.
After meeting Olowo-n’djo for the third time, I find myself tempted to sell all my earthly possessions and move to Olympia where I would sleep on his family’s doorstep until he set me to work doing some magnificent, if not difficult, task to aid in the Alaffia pledge.
But then again, I know that I have a role in the Alaffia pledge here at MOMs.
My role is to help educate and inspire our customers to purchase the items that support gender equality and community empowerment.
What I’ve come to realize in the days since Olowo-n’djo‘s most recent visit is that I can make a pledge myself. As an average user of body care products, I estimate that I spend about $60-$75 per month on hand soap, body wash, bar soap, shampoo and conditioner, and body lotion for me and my husband. If I pledge to purchase only Alaffia products (including Alaffia’s Everyday Shea or Everyday Coconut) to fulfill these needs, I’ll be supporting the hard-working women of Alaffia’s cooperative and the Alaffia programs that are succeeding in boosting opportunities and gender equality in Togo.
On a selfish note, the truly cool thing about my Alaffia pledge is that I don’t have to sacrifice anything. The Alaffia and Everyday Shea products are no more expensive than the products I normally purchase for these purposes. The products smell beautiful without artificial perfumes, thanks to their rich botanical ingredients. And the products work great: the sudsy moisturizing washes and shampoos; and creamy, buttery conditioners and lotions certainly are top picks amongst their peers.
To pledge something like this means I have to make a concerted effort, though, to focus my rather unwieldy body care-purchasing habits to this line; forsaking many others, no matter the coupons, or nifty little two-for-one bargains that may adorn displays of other brands. [Honestly, I don’t buy dollar deals on junk products anyway.]
My pledge isn’t about giving money away.
And it’s not about quitting my job and devoting my life to serving a distant community (although I certainly admire either of these sacrifices). Instead, it’s about boosting the value of the products the artisan women in Togo make, which is immeasurable in its effect, thanks to Olowo-n’djo and Rose, and their Alaffia pledge.
Check out Alaffia at MOMs, or a number of other retailers, or visit their website for mail order.
All photos used are either from Alaffia’s various sites, or were supplied by MOMs employees, like Kathleen in the Timonium store.
Alyssa works at multiple MOMs locations.
Often when a passionate and enthusiastic person, concerned about human rights and environment, decides to focus their energy on making a difference they look to support charitable organizations that may offer funds, education and outreach to communities that either need help, or organizations of people that have the means to help others.
It’s an honorable and admirable move, to devote one’s work and life to helping others. And yet, it’s not the only way to make a difference.
Alaffia has been a long-popular line at MOMs, with their fair trade shea butter products, including African black soap, lotions and haircare products made with neem, coconut, lemongrass, and goat’s milk. These extremely nourishing products are made from rich, native ingredients from West Africa, largely Togo. Just as important is the way in which, and by whom, the products are made.
When Olowo-n’djo was a child in Togo, which is considered by the UN to be one of the most impoverished countries in the world, he lived with his mother in an 8×7 shelter with 7 other siblings. He grew up seeing poverty and oppression looming over the people, especially the women, of his community. He also saw a rich heritage of artisan techniques that were passed down from one generation of women to the next. And he saw that formal education, reading and writing, were nearly unattainable by most women. Shea nuts, one of the few natural resources in the area, were stripped from the trees and sold to low-bidding European and American corporate buyers for a tiny fraction of its worth.
Eventually, having graduated from UC Davis later in life, he returned to Togo to find not much had changed for the better, and decided, with his wife Rose, to start a cooperative of women from various villages to harvest and make shea butter in the traditional way.
At the birth of Alaffia, Olowo-n’djo and Rose made a pledge to fight for gender equality and community empowerment through fair trade.
The cooperative is owned by the women who make the shea butter, and with their fair trade wages and benefits they are able to support their families, send their children to school, and provide guidance and support to their impoverished communities. Their traditional, artisan techniques that were once fading into the past are now valued and respected, and surviving.
Alaffia’s pledge is not just a slogan or a nifty graphic on the label – Olowo-n’djo and Rose, an ethnobotanist once stationed in Togo with the Peace Corps, have never quit finding new ways to turn Alaffia’s profits into growth and empowerment for the people of Togo:
Bicycles for education – the teen pregnancy rate is high amongst young women and girls, partly due to sex demanded as currency for “taxi” rides to school. Alaffia started a bike collection program in Olympia WA, where Olowo-n’djo and Rose live with their two daughters, which has supplied more than 5000 bicycles to kids in remote villages in Togo. A bike mechanic travels to the villages to help maintain the bikes year-round. The bikes allow many girls who would not be able to maintain a typically heavy load of household chores and walk a long distance to school, to be able to do both.
Maternal health clinics – the rate of maternal morbidity is high in West Africa where an estimated 225 women and more than 1200 newborns die every day from complications from childbirth. Medical assistance and prenatal care are out of reach for nearly all women of Togo. Alaffia has started and supports multiple maternal health clinics which are making a difference in the lives of pregnant women and their families. In their first 4 years, the clinics have treated 740 women, and have incurred zero maternal deaths, and zero newborn deaths. Run by Olowo-n’djo’s youngest sister, Ibada, a trained midwife, the clinics also help combat the common practice of female excision (circumcision).
School support – Alaffia provides school construction, tin roofs, desks, seats and school supplies to various schools in Togo, which allows a better education opportunity for many students.
Environment & Reforestation – Trees in Togo are disappearing at an alarming rate, from both logging and for wood to cook and heat water. Alaffia plants fruit trees, and native shea trees to help provide environmental restoration as well as resources and food for the people of Togo.
Basket-weaving cooperative – basket-making is another traditional, artisan skill that provides employment in the form of an Alaffia-made cooperative of women, much the same as the shea butter cooperative. Trees that have additional value besides wood, are better looked after and maintained by their communities.
To learn more about Alaffia and their work, check back later this week for the conclusion of this post.
Alyssa works in multiple MOMs locations.
October is non-GMO month. What does that mean? GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism, which refers to the genetic engineering of a plant (or animal) by scientists. Many consumers are concerned about the impact of genetically engineered plants on the environment and on our bodies, and are fighting to make GMO labeling mandatory on product packaging.
Genetic engineering requires direct manipulation of the plant. Scientists splice isolated genes from another organism into the DNA of a plant (or animal) to create a particular outcome. For example, Monsanto spliced a pesticide-resistant enzyme from bacteria into soy, so that the soy became resistant to that pesticide. Many people worry about the long-term effects of this type of altered plant. No long-term testing of the impact of GMOs on the human body or environment is available yet.
Buying certified organic is the best way to avoid GMOs and to have an overall positive impact on our planet. The National Organic Program requires that no “synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering” are used on organic products. Buying organic also ensures the absence of many other negatives, including exposure to toxic chemicals (pesticides and herbicides), antibiotics and hormones, water pollution, soil erosion, and more.
Non-GMO month was started in 2010 by the Non-GMO Project to raise awareness about genetically engineered foods. High-potential GMO ingredients include conventional corn, canola, soy, beets, cotton, and derivatives such as malt, citric acid, maltodextrin, and soy lecithin.