I let a lot of things go in Summer: the garden is happier with native weeds; just ask it. The house is usually empty because we are outside, so if no one’s there to see the dust fall, is it really dirty? The kitchen is due for a rest, too, I think, though there is the issue of healthy food and market goodies. OK, not everything is “let go.” But my grip is certainly more relaxed.

Much of the cooking, for instance is done on the grill, while we sip a little tequila or white wine on the porch. So I let Don take the reins—or the tongs as the case may be—and proceed pretty unsupervised to that grate. But if left completely to his own devices, he’d just cook his meat, bring it to the little table on the porch and wolf it down. Okay, that’s fine every so often, but this summer I handed him a couple of really nice sauces and marinades to jazz things up that came, not surprisingly, from my blogger box.

Bottle of Dave's Gourmet Creamy Ginger Citrus SauceDave’s Gourmet Creamy Ginger Citrus Hot Sauce was just the thing to smother Don’s chicken and compliment his tequila. The ingredients are fresh and simple—real food, ya know? Red jalapeños, lime and ginger in a rich creamy sauce with a hint of citrus and garlic. Not super hot, as Dave’s other sauces go, and vegan, so it could be for me, too. It’s gluten-free and non-GMO to boot. What’s not to love? And Dave’s Gourmet has a sweet story and a give-back-to-the-community commitment. I figure more of Dave’s sauces will flow over Don’s chicken (and maybe my grilled veggies) during the summer.

Good Food for Good KetcupThen there are the ubiquitous burgers with the obligatory fries. Don gets all his lean ground beef and organic potatoes from local growers, so am I going to let him put some big-name, commercial ketchup full of preservatives and sweeteners and artificial ingredients on his beautiful food. No. But I did give approval for Good Food for Good Ketchup. Don loves the flavor—all real-food ingredients and sweetened only with dates! But here’s what got me:

At Good Food for Good we are committed to making it easy for you to eat healthy while helping someone in need. We make our food with mostly fresh and organic ingredients and ensure it is free of gluten, soy, corn, refined sugars, preservatives or any other ingredients you wouldn’t add if you were cooking yourself.
That’s not all, every time you buy our Good Food For Good products, we donate a meal to feed someone in need. We are a Buy One, Feed One venture.

Sold. And there’s more to the story that just gets better. So smother those fries.


Goddess Garden Sunscreen and Earth Mama Baby Face SunscreenOkay, so Don is set, and I’m off to the pool. But even sun-worshipping me knows that I need at least a little protection. So I just reach for a safe and effective sunscreen, pop it in the pool bag and I’m off, right? Not so fast; it just ain’t that easy any more.
Not only are many sun screens unsafe for people—and the Environmental Working Group has done the legwork for you on this—many of the same products have also been found to be unsafe for the environment. Oh no!

It’s true. Sunscreen joins plastic as a major ocean polluter. In a new article by Jessica Rubino*, New Hope Network’s senior beauty editor, “coral reefs, also known as ‘rainforests of the sea,’ are at risk. Whether on the shore or inland, consumerism—from plastic waste to chemical sunscreens—is harming ocean health.”

So this threat isn’t limited to tourists on the beach. “Sunscreens applied in landlocked states can end up in rivers and streams, ultimately making their way to the sea,” said Rubino. In my area, the river system is huge—the Mississippi, the Missouri and the Illinois rivers are fed by a myriad of streams and creeks and wetlands. So it’s critical that folks in the Midwest are just as consumer conscious as those on the coasts.

If not, we’ve got trouble. According to Rubino, approximately 14,000 tons of sunscreen, most of which is chemical sunscreen, enter waters around coral reefs each year. The nonprofit research organization Haereticus Environmental Laboratory has monitored these declines in reefs since the 1980s (the Caribbean, for example, has lost at least 80 percent of its living reefs), and spearheaded research to pinpoint the cause of these reef declines—and understand how to counteract them. “What it’s finding is that one of the main culprits is oxybenzone, the primary chemical used in conventional sunscreens and which is found especially in many spray-on versions,” said Rubino.

“Nearly everyone travels—and even if you don’t, having sunscreen on your body or urinating it out (who knew that!) is impacting your local waterway, which eventually ends up in the oceans,” explained Vicki Nichols Goldstein, founder and executive director of the Inland Ocean Coalition and Colorado Ocean Coalition.

Most people feel they need sun protection if they are planning activities in the great outdoors. So we are at a choice point, I think. Once again, we feel helpless against such an overwhelming problem, but we are really in control—with our willingness to be informed and our careful use of our most powerful weapon: our money.  “No matter where we live, if we can recognize our impact and that there are solutions, we have a chance to turn things around,” according to Goldstein.

I was excited to see and recommend two such products that arrived in my blogger box just days ago: Garden Goddess Mineral Sunscreen, which is perfect for all-over protection, and Earth Mama Organics Babyface Mineral Sunscreen, perfect for your sweet little ones and gentle enough for your sensitive face. My daughter Heather loves the Earth Mama stick for work—keeps it handy in her pocket for easy reapply.

Goldstein works with mineral sunscreen companies such as Goddess Garden Organics to raise awareness about the issue of ocean-harming sunscreens and believes that consumer awareness, research and responsible business practices could create sea change for reefs. For both the environmental and health reasons, more sunscreen manufacturers are turning to mineral alternative zinc oxide to replace common chemicals. “And although you may see ‘Reef Safe’ or ‘Reef Friendly’ claims on labels, the terms are not regulated, making label-reading a must,” according to Rubino.

So as you head to your favorite pool or pack your suitcase for that vacation on the beach, read all sunscreen labels and buy responsibly. Rubino gives us a handy list of the top toxic eight ingredients to avoid when shopping for sunscreen:
aminobenzoic acid
Don’t support any sunscreen manufacturer that uses these ingredients—protect yourself and the Earth’s precious oceans, rivers and streams. Instead choose mineral-based products such as those mentioned above.

Bag and bowl of Jessica's Chocolate Chip GranolaSo all set and ready to head to that pool…except I need a snack, right? Something easy, cause I’m not going to spend precious pool time cooking. Enter Jessica’s Chocolate Chip Granola…yes, I said chocolate chip. In fact, this good-for-you treat is so chocolatey, I’m keeping it in the little travel cooler. It does melt. I think I’ll manage.

Now I make a darn good Green Gal Granola, but the oven would be on for an hour, so unless I’m up super early (which does happen) I’ll be reaching for Jessica’s granola. And here’s why: An engineer by trade, a baker by heart and a super mom, Jessica has turned her passion for cooking and her commitment to responsible parenting into a group of products we can all enjoy—guilt free, gluten free, worry free. Made with all the stuff I’d use in my own granola, this quick and easy snack is the perfect poolside treat.

So here’s to summer! A safe summer, a green summer, a healthy and a delicious summer! Last one in the pool’s a rotten egg…which would be me cause the water’s still a bit chilly, and I’m such a whimp.

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