With the current economic crisis,
no one wants to waste money on frivolous purchases or unappreciated
gifts. This holiday season we can vote with each dollar we spend
by purchasing healthful products for everyone on our gift list.
This also sends a message to corporate America that we care about
the products we use, the health of those involved in the manufacture
process, and the long-term effects on the environment. The focus
of this column has to been to inform readers of the many ways we
are exposed to toxins in our environment from pesticides on food,
toxic chemicals in personal care products, EMF exposures from cell
phones, hazards of plastics and Teflon, and other assaults to our
health. The intent is to raise awareness and empower consumers to
make wiser choices in the market place. Choosing healthful, organic,
Fair Trade products benefits everyone on our gift list, as well
as workers and the environment.
Products from China have been a major cause of concern in recent
months. First, it was contaminated pet food and tainted pharmaceuticals.
Then, it was lead in children's toys and jewelry. Now, it is the
milk scandal. The banned toxic chemical melamine, normally used
in plastics and fertilizer, was added to milk powder to boost the
milk's apparent protein content. The tainted baby formula has sickened
over 6,000 infants in China, causing kidney stones and renal failure
in children and killing four babies.1,2 This serves to make us all
the more vigilant about the products we buy.
Whether we are shopping for a gift for a spouse, child, aging parent,
friend, colleague, teacher, or staff member, there are many ways
to improve upon the usual flowers or candy. More unusual but very
useful gifts include EMF protectors, organic foods, clothing, cosmetics,
and more. Gift shopping takes place all year long with births and
birthdays, graduations and retirements, engagements, weddings, and
anniversaries. Once we begin to think about healthier gift giving,
it becomes a mission, at least for some of us.
A high percentage of cut flowers are raised in Central and South
America where temperatures are moderate and labor is cheap. Pesticide
exposure to workers is seldom regulated, nor is pesticide contamination
of soil and water. Florists who handle the flowers in the United
States are also exposed to toxic pesticides, as are the individual
recipients who handle the flowers again when removing them from
the box, trimming, and placing them in a vase. I shudder to think
how many beautiful wedding cakes are decorated with pesticide-laden
flowers, and no one gives it a second thought. A much better solution
is to purchase organic flowers that minimize damage to the ecosystem,
improve conditions for farm workers, and are more healthful for
Last year, I received an organic bouquet of the most outrageously
colored roses that my daughter ordered for a special occasion. The
company, Organic Bouquet (www.OrganicBouquet.com,
1-877-899-2468) ships flowers directly from the farm and guarantees
at least seven days of garden fresh beauty. They also offer organic
fruit, cheese, wine, cookies, tea, wreaths, tea, and gift sets.
Health care professionals who like to keep fresh flowers in their
waiting rooms and offices might wish to consider voting with their
dollar for organic bouquets with a handy supply of business cards
that patients could pick up for ordering their own organic flowers.
Another company that offers a selection of organic flowers, as well
as organic seasonal fruit and organic chocolate, is www.CaliforniaOrganicFlowers.com,
530-891-6265. Their flowers are cut fresh in the early morning for
Buying organic flowers helps support a healthy bee population, which
is of utmost importance at a time when honeybee colonies are suffering
severe losses around the world from Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
Much of the food crops we eat depend on honeybees for pollination.
Buying local honey helps local beekeepers stay in business. Beware
of cheap imports, especially from China where products have been
adulterated with sugar substitutes and toxic ingredients. Buying
organic honey is an even better choice.
When choosing an appropriate gift becomes overwhelming, gift certificates
are simple and welcomed solutions. Since everyone eats, a gift certificate
to a local health food store where the recipients can happily choose
their own gifts is always appreciated. Wise shoppers already familiar
with health food stores will truly value such a gift, and for others,
it can provide an opportunity to a whole new world of healthful
Organic foods are healthier for the consumer, agricultural workers,
and the environment. Avoiding toxic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers,
and genetically modified foods is a great way to help ourselves
and others. Where access to health food stores is limited, the following
mail order companies offer a large variety of healthful selections.
While not endorsing any particular company, several suggestions
are made available for readers' convenience.
The Grain & Salt Society (www.celticseasalt.com,
800-867-7258) offers high quality Celtic sea salt, specialty oils,
condiments, organic nut butters, jams, pickling crocks, spices,
juicers, personal care products, and much more.
Natural Lifestyles (www.natural-lifestyle.com,
800-752-2775) carries a wide variety of organic dried beans, grains,
herbs, teas, Fair-Trade coffee, and condiments, and personal care
products, water purifiers, organic clothing, cookbooks, and more.
They carry bakeware, pressure cookers, and Silit (Silit.com)
enameled cookware from Germany, a high-tech ceramic fused over durable
steel eliminating the transfer of chemicals into cooked food.
LILIPOH which stands for Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
is a quarterly publication representing the anthroposophic approach
to health, education, agriculture, and nutrition. They offer three
websites for finding local organic and biodynamic produce: www.localorganicfood.com,
Natural Zing (www.naturalzing.com,
(888-729-9464) sells organic wild-crafted food, raw and vegan food,
and health-related products, including goji berries, nut butters,
organic olives, maca, bulk items, and gift and sampler packs.
Mountain Rose Herbs (www.mountainroseherbs.com,
800-879-3337) sells organic herbs and teas in bulk, plus 4,000 other
natural and organic products. Unique items for the younger set are
their books and wild-crafted board game that teaches about medical
herbs and the importance of cooperative teamwork.
The Strand tea Company (www.strandtea.com,
888-718-6358) offers 100 fresh organic biodynamic and regular teas,
gift certificates, tea samplers, teapots, and accessories. They
even carry organic caffeine-free catnip.
Peace Coffee (www.peacecoffee.com,
888-324-7872) sells shade grown, organic, 100% Fair Trade coffee
beans purchased from small farm cooperatives around the world. They
even use delivery trucks that run on biodiesel fuel (vegetable oil)
to further their message of peace.
and Organic Pet Supplies
For the increasing number of individuals who are gluten-intolerant,
a special treat they can enjoy would be most welcomed. Grandpa Po's
sells Nutra Nuts, crunchy organic popcorn snacks with soybeans that
are gluten-, dairy- and GMO-free.
Gluten-free ready-to-cook meals, sides, and baked goods, meals for
children with autism or for celiacs, and casein-free products are
available from www.gfmeals.com,
800-634-1380) offers a wide selection of gluten-free foods and pet
care items. Pet Guard Organics (www.petguard.com)
offers organic food, supplements, and grooming products for cats
and dogs. They do not use wheat gluten or source ingredients from
Wine is a very popular holiday gift item. Health-conscious consumers
are learning about the many benefits of grapes, which are loaded
with vitamins, minerals, and easily digestible sugars and have long
been recognized for their cleansing properties. Grapes are grown
with a lot of pesticides, and many consumers are sensitive to sulfites.
Organic wines are great to give and to receive.
In the Finger Lakes area of New York is the small Four Chimneys
Organic Winery (www.fourchimneysorganicwines.com,
607-243-7502), which introduced organic wines in 1980. In Kettle
Falls, Washington, is the China Bend Winery (www.chinabend.com,
800-700-6123), which offers organic unsulfited wine, organic salsas,
pickles, and jams from their own organic gardens. The Organic Wine
888-326-9463) guarantees 100% satisfaction of their wines, claiming
they are well-tolerated by the chemically sensitive.
Raising organic production a notch higher is biodynamic farming,
which is even more eco-friendly since its methods work with nature
on all levels of planting and harvesting. Two wineries in the Sonoma
Valley area of California run by the Benziger brothers raise biodynamic
grapes. The Benzinger Family Winery (www.benziger.com,
888-490-2739) offers eight biodynamically prepared wines. The Imagery
Estate Winery and Art Gallery (www.imagerywinery.com,
877-550-4278) sells biodynamic, organic, and sustainably grown varieties.
The Cooper Mountain Winery in Beavertown, Oregon, (www.coopermountainwine.com,
503-649-0027) is another small winery offering organic and biodynamic
wines and balsamic vinegar.
Natural and Organic
Personal Care Products
A gift certificate for organic make-up or personal care products
is sure to please any young (or not so young) woman on your shopping
list. These items tend to be a little pricier than what is available
in the discount department stores that flaunt tempting colorful
lipsticks, nail polishes, and eye make-up filled with toxic ingredients.
Giving organic body care products is a wonderful way to help people
we care about avoid inhaling, ingesting, or absorbing harmful chemicals
such as paraben preservatives, anti-microbial pesticides, and petroleum-based
dyes and fragrances.
The following list is a mere sampling of the growing number of companies
meeting consumer demand for organic or synthetic-free products:
- AUBREY Organics (www.aubrey-organics.com)
was one of the first companies offering organic cosmetics.
- Miessence (www.onegrp.com)
cosmetics are both "Australian Certified Organic" and
USDA Organic." (also http://www.mionegroup.com/en/home)
offers a selection of 300 cosmetics, toothpaste, household cleaners,
and personal care products for men, women, babies, and pets.
- Dr. Bronner's (www.DrBronnerSunDog.com)
offers a line of organic lotions, balms, and soaps.
- MyChelle Dermaceuticals LLC (www.mychelleusa.com,
800-447-2076) offers skin products, plus lip, cheek and eye colors
that are free of toxic synthetic ingredients.
- Herbalix Restoratives (www.herbalixrestoratives.com,
866-387-4222) sells chemical-free products for hair care, massage,
men, sports, and dance, plus products and treats for pets.
- The Druide Company (www.Druide.ca,
800-537-8433) in Canada carries all natural balms, shampoos, conditioners,
Babies and Chemically
Many personal care products, including those used on babies and
children, contain harsh or toxic ingredients – for example,
estrogen-mimicking chemicals that are endocrine disruptors. A good
supply of baby-friendly products makes a great gift for new mothers.
Parenting By Nature (www.parentingbynature.com,
800-537-8433) offers 100% chemical-free organic baby care products,
diapers, sleepwear, baby carriers, and a lot more. Eco-Beauty Organics'
208-267-9819) products are designed for delicate baby skin. Organic
baby clothing and linens are available from www.GAIAM.com,
Cell Phone Protectors
You can hardly find an American youth walking around without a cell
phone or iPod stuck to their ear or without their thumbs rapidly
text messaging in the new-age shorthand. The electromagnetic frequency
(EMF) controversy rages on with industry and government denying
any health risks, while a growing body of scientific research from
outside the United States appears to disagree. Finally, experts
in our own country are beginning to speak out about the often-denied
"Limit cell phone use because of the possible risk of cancer,"
is a recent warning issued to faculty and staff at the University
of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute by Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, director.3
Toronto's department of public health has issued a warning for teenagers
and young children to limit cell phone use to reduce potential health
risks, a first of its kind in Canada.4 No one seems to be willing
to give up his or her cell phone or iPod for health reasons, and
trying to convince young people to limit their use is futile. What
to do? Err on the side of caution and use an EMF harmonizer.
Several companies sell little button harmonizers that attach to
electronic devices, such as cell phones, I-Pods, computers, TVs,
household appliances, cars, and more. The devices do not eliminate
the EMFs but alter them to harmonize with the body's own frequency.
EMF harmonizers are available from www.HealthLine.cc,
800-500-9395, and Celticseasalt.com,
800-867-7258. Q-link is a personal EMF protector that can be worn
around the neck. It is available from www.needs.com,
Break the Plastic
Water Bottle Habit
Plastic is everywhere in the modern world, and so are the health
risks associated with the chemicals that leach into our food and
water from discarded plastic. One simple bold move is to substitute
the ubiquitous plastic water bottles with safer stainless steel
water containers. They are available at some sporting goods stores
and from the following sources: www.needs.com, 800-634-1380; www.NubiusOrganics.com,
800-919-2400; and www.natural-lifestyle.com,
Besides reducing personal health risks from plastic chemicals leaching
into our drinking water, this simple act alone will reduce oil consumption
resulting from the manufacture and transportation of bottled water;
reduce toxic dioxins, which are the unwanted byproduct of manufacturing
and incinerating plastics; and reduce tons of plastic accumulation
in landfills. Consider buying a case of stainless steel water bottles
to give as a goodwill gesture to those you care about who are still
using plastic water bottles.
The N.E.E.D.S. company (www.needs.com,
800-634-1380) carries hundreds of products for healthy living including
air and water purifiers, gentle household cleaners and bedding for
the chemically sensitive, books on health, plus vitamins and supplements
at discount prices.
Another source of environmentally friendly products for the home,
including furnishings, organic linens, clothing, shower filters,
air and water quality products, energy-saving products, and media,
The Cutting Edge Catalog (www.cutcat.com,
800-497-9516) carries a huge variety of holistic items including
products for vision therapy, natural home and garden, light and
color therapy, air and water purification, energy testing, personal
care, and more.
There are many more sources of healthful and environmentally friendly
products that would make excellent gifts. It may be helpful to keep
a copy of these websites handy for future gift buying. As consumers,
we vote every day with our dollars. It is hoped this holiday shopping
season more of us will vote by buying products that help sustain
our health, as well as the health of workers around the world and
Rose Marie Williams, MA
156 Sparkling Ridge Road
New Paltz, NY 12561
1. Behind bad baby milk, an ethical gap in China's business. CS
Monitor [online]. Available
Accessed September 17, 2008
2. China milk scandal spreads to Hong Kong. Poughkeepsie
Jrnl. September 22, 2008.
Poughkeepsie, New York.
3. Cancer institute chief issues cell phone alert. Times
Herald-Record. July 24, 2008,
Middletown, New York.
4. Why children and teens should stay away from cell phones. Available
Accessed August 13, 2008.