Pulchritude: Peppermint

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Synonymous with winter, “freshness,” and wellbeing, peppermint is believed to be native to a vast region spanning Europe, Northeast Africa, and West Asia. Peppermint is a perrenial herbaceous rhizome that grows between 12 to 35 inches in height, with broad dark green leaves that are 4 – 9 centimeters in length and 1.5 – 4 centimeters in width. The plants flowers are 6 – 8 millimeters in length and approximately 5 millimeters in width, with petals that are light purple in color. Contrary to popular belief, Pepermint (Mentha piperita) is actually a hybrid species, being a natural cross between Watermint (Mentha spicata) and Spearmint (Mentha aquatica). Peppermint is commonly used in aromatherapy as it is believed to promote memory, calm, and alertness. Peppermint oil(Mentha piperita) is also used either topically or internally to treat a variety of conditions including nausea, vomiting, irritable bowels, indigestion, sinus and respiratory infections, colds, gas, cough, muscle pain, headache, toothache, treating viral and bacterial infection, among several other reported uses. Peppermint is also used to flavor various candies including breath mints and candy canes, which are typically sold during the winter.

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Organic Produce Believed To Limit Pesticide Exposure

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February 5th, 2015, Lindsey Konkel–People who eat organic produce may have lower levels of some pesticides in their bodies than people who eat similar amounts of conventionally grown fruits and veggies, according to a new study. 

The study is among the first to predict adult exposures to organophosphate pesticides based on people’s usual diets, the researchers said. Organophosphates are the pesticides commonly used on conventionally grown produce.

Scientists studied nearly 4,500 people from six cities in the United States, and collected dietary information, including the types and amounts of produce eaten in the past year and how often participants ate organic foods. The researchers estimated pesticide exposure by comparing typical intake of specific food items with average pesticide residue levels for those items.

To check their estimates, the scientists compared the calculated pesticide exposures to the levels of breakdown products from pesticides excreted in the urine of a subset of participants.

When matched on produce intake, people who reported eating organic fruits and veggies at least occasionally had significantly lower levels of pesticide residue in their urine than people who almost always ate conventionally grown produce.

Those who “often or always” ate organic fruits and vegetables averaged approximately 65 percent lower levels of pesticide metabolites in their urine than those who “rarely or never” ate organic.

Organophosphate pesticides degrade quickly in the body, so a urine test alone can only detect a person’s exposures in the past day or two. But “by combining with information on typical diet, we can begin to estimate a person’s long-term exposures,” said study author Cynthia Curl, an environmental health scientist at Boise State University in Idaho.

Still, the findings may not represent a person’s total exposure to pesticides. While organophosphates are the most commonly used insecticides on conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, the researchers did not estimate exposure to other types of pesticides that could have been applied to the produce.

Compared to guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the results of this study “do not suggest unacceptable risk” from organophosphate pesticides, even for people with the highest exposure levels, the researchers wrote in the study.

However, current guidelines were devised in large part to protect farm workers from acute poisoning and may not adequately reflect the risks associated with lower levels of exposure to organophosphate pesticides or to mixtures of pesticides that may be part of the diet. “Researchers are just beginning to understand these risks,” Curl said.

Recent studies in mothers and children have suggested that prenatal organophosphate pesticide exposure may be associated with attention problems and developmental delays in children.

The new “research provides another piece of evidence that consumption of organic foods may reduce pesticide exposure,” said Jonathan Chevrier, an epidemiologist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who was not involved with the study.

Some types of conventionally grown produce are lower in pesticides than others. For those interested in reducing exposure to pesticides, Curl suggested using the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list to see which fruits and vegetables tend to contain more pesticides. “This can help [people] pick and chose when to buy organic,” she said.

The findings were published online  (Feb. 5) in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

(via Yahoo! News [LiveScience.com])

     

    Fashion Brand Pushes Growth, Talks Sustainability

    We typically don’t delve into fashion here, but since it is New York Fashion Week, here is an interesting article discussing brand responsibility to people and the environment.  How many of you have thought about the point of origin of your clothes, beyond the store or retailer you purchase it from?  What do you think of this company’s actions on sustainability and human rights?

    Sharon Edelson, NEW YORK — H&M’s ambitious agenda — which includes expanding its product offerings, creating another stand-alone brand and opening more and more stores worldwide — may seem at odds with sustainability and human rights.  But not to Karl-Johan Persson, managing director of Hennes & Mauritz AB.

    The Swedish retailer this year will open nearly 365 stores — almost one of every day of the year — and the size of those stores is increasing.  At a time when retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. are building smaller units, H&M in June unveiled a 57,000-square-foot flagship on Fifth Avenue and 48th Street here, and a 63,000-square-foot unit will bow on West 34th Street here next year. H&M delivers dozens of new styles daily to its stores, a massive logistical effort repeated 3,388 times around the world.

    Persson defends the retailer’s seemingly endless quest for growth — even as he acknowledges most consumers have enough “stuff.”  In his view, H&M needs to grow because “consumption creates lots of jobs.  To consume less of everything could have a negative effect on the economy. Sometimes, when we’re speaking about fast fashion, it’s connected to a negative impact on the world. The customer is getting good value for their money. It creates taxes and jobs in developed countries and creates a lot of jobs in the developing world. The one thing is the environment. The right response is to continue consuming, but to consume from companies that are responsible. Tesla is a great example. They’re cracking the code.

    Of course, Persson believes H&M is another responsible company. “On the environmental side, we want to continue to grow while respecting planetary boundaries,” he said. “We have to change how fashion is made. We have to make more with less. We have to go from a linear model to a circular model. We recycle in all stores the H&M brand and other brands. We’ve collected 8,000 tons of garments.  We’re closing the loop, getting fibers or yarns back into production again. We’re investing in finding new materials and recycling Tencel. Our R&D is finding solutions for fibers that can be reused and at scale. We’re optimizing this so it can be scaled up. If we do this, we’ll have a major positive impact on the world.”

    To the frequent contention that fast fashion is disposable, Persson said, “We want to make fashion affordable, so it’s not throwaway fashion. We see a trend of a lot of companies growing in the low-price area. We want to offer good design and affordable, good quality. We’re investing in improving the quality.”

    Persson discussed H&M’s future in an interview following a speech he gave at the BSR 2014 Conference here.

    The company’s portfolio includes H&M, COS, Monkey, Cheap Monday and & Other Stories. “We’re looking into new ideas to broaden the H&M concept portfolio,” Persson said in the interview. “It’s too early to talk about, but we’re developing another concept. It’s a new brand. We’re also broadening the H&M brand and developing new categories. We’re constantly growing at H&M, and when we find new concepts that the consumer likes — like sportswear, shoes and home — we’ll make sure we have the space in stores to showcase them.”

    H&M was slow to join the e-commerce wagon, launching a transactional site 13 years after its arrival in the U.S. in August 2013. “We’re working a lot on omnichannel,” Persson said. “We’re working on scanning and buying products in store, click and collect, and returning in stores.  All stores will be able to access online [e-commerce]. We see our online shop growing faster than our physical stores. We have to find ways to make the in-store experience better and more exciting. One way is customer service. It’s a work in progress.”

    The retailer is looking for growth in the U.S. and China, and new markets such as Australia, India, Peru and South Africa. With global sales of $17 billion in 2013, H&M is the second-largest apparel retailer in the world after Zara parent Inditex. The global apparel market is estimated to be $1.1 trillion.

    “Do [we] want to be the number-one fashion company in the world,” Persson asked, rhetorically. “When I’ve said, no, people have looked at me like I’m not telling the truth. We want to become the biggest and we could expand quicker in the race to be number one, but who knows where that will take us. If we become number one, we become number one. If it’s three or 10 or one, it will happen [organically].”

    Regardless of Persson’s attitude toward growth, the retailer has been castigated for its emphasis on low prices, which naturally lead to low wages in third-world countries where it sources, especially Bangladesh and Cambodia.

    “When you look at costs, H&M produces different materials but using the same suppliers as some high-end brands,” he said, arguing that the price consumers are charged for a product doesn’t necessarily impact wages.

    During his speech at BSR, Persson said that H&M last year launched with experts and global trade unions a fair living wage road map. “It’s a complex issue,” he said. “It’s based on a four-way collaboration between H&M, our suppliers, the suppliers’ workers and the government [of Bangladesh].

    “Higher wages will mean higher prices,” he added. “Are we prepared to pay higher prices without passing them along to the consumer? Yes. It’s already impacting margins. All the pressures are coming from analysts and investors. You have to be prepared to sacrifice short-term profits for long-term profits. There’s too much short-term thinking, especially in the fashion industry. It’s bad for the environment. There is a lot more that can be done from the standpoint of the industry. We’re not in any way alone, but there are companies that are not doing enough.”

    Persson said H&M has to “buy more evenly, buy smarter and work with suppliers and the Fair Wage Network, an independent organization. Extreme poverty is falling by 90,000 people every day. We’re leading the way in countries like Bangladesh.  Since 1991, the number has been halved. I was in Bangladesh a month ago to visit factories. Overtime has been reduced and wages have increased. We’re investing in training for technical skills and negotiating skills. We’re working with the government to make sure they enforce the labor laws and that salaries are revised annually.” 

    In its 2013 sustainability report, H&M surprised the fashion industry by listing the names of most, but not all, of its 1,700 factories. “We were a bit hesitant about releasing the list of factories where we do business due to the competition,” Persson said. “We thought we should get it out there and make the fashion industry more transparent and hopefully inspire others to do the same.” The company is now working with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to develop consumer labeling called the Higg Index that takes into account everything from a product’s raw materials to its end-of-life solutions. 

    H&M is the world’s biggest buyer of 100 percent sustainable cotton, and the fiber’s share of the total H&M collection is growing and will continue to increase. “We don’t charge more for organic cotton, even though it’s costing us more,” Persson said. H&M is also developing new care labels with Gintex, called Clevercare that remind consumers of the climate impact of washing clothing, and encourages behavioral changes to reduce the environmental footprint of fashion consumption.

    H&M’s goal of 100 percent sustainability by 2020 is ahead of schedule, Persson said. His commitment to sustainability and human rights, he said, comes from his grandfather, who in 1947 founded the company. “My grandfather often spoke of the importance of long-term thinking,” he said, “that a business must have wider responsibilities than just building profits.

    (via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week)

    Be a Conscious Valentine

    Valentine’s Day is one of many high consumer holiday’s in the United States and aboard.  This Valentine’s Day, challenge yourself to be a conscious consumer and think of the environmental and economic impacts of your purchasing decisions.  You may think: “What does Valentine’s Day have to do with the environment?”  Keep reading!

    Flowers

    An estimated 196 million roses are produced for Valentine’s Day. $1.9 billion is spent annually on flowers for Valentine’s Day.

    Alternative: Instead of purchasing a dozen red roses or a nice bouquet of flowers consider buying a potted flowering plant.  A bouquet of flowers have a short lifespan and will be discarded in the trash within days.  A potted flowering plant has a much longer lifespan given you water it and expose it to sunlight.  If you must buy cut roses or other flowers, at least compost the decaying plant material.

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    Cards
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    An estimated 145 million cards are purchased annually for Valentine’s Day.

    Alternative: Send an e-mail!  We are in the digital age!  While a card is associated with having ‘sentimental value,’ they too often get thrown out, though in some cases they are kept as keepsakes.  An e-card reduces paper waste, [chemical contamination from ink?].  Test out your design skills and create your own card, the sentimental value will withstand.

    Chocolate
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    An estimated $1.6 billion is spent on candy annually on Valentine’s Day.

    Alternative: Cocoa supply is lower than usual due to various circumstances in West Africa.  Not buying chocolate may be hard to avoid.  Why not splurge and buy fair trade, sustainably produced chocolates.

    Food

    Alternative: A fancy restaurant dinner is another ‘standard’ for V-Day that is hard to avoid.  If you must opt for a restaurant meal, consider a restaurant that sources their ingredients from local suppliers.  If you are preparing a meal at home, try to purchase local beef and poultry, or sustainable produced or wild caught fish and shellfish.  Considering by local or organic produce, though local is difficult for most of the US given the season.

    Jewelry
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    An estimated 4.4 billion is spent annually on jewelry for Valentine’s Day.

    Alternative: A jewelry purchase is also difficult to avoid, however, make sure the gemstones and precious metals you are purchasing are ethically produced and conflict-free.

    Preview: Exclusive Zoya Mini Trio

    In January Zoya ran a promotion that allowed its customers to get 3 exclusive mini polishes with their purchase.  The colors were made specifically for a NYFW collection and are not available for individual purchase.

    (L to R) Severine, Anais, Charlott

     

    I wasn’t sure what colors to expect.  My initial reaction was luke warm, however, that may change once I swatch the colors.  The most promising in the bottle are Severine and Charlott.

     

    (L to R) Severine, Anais, Charlott

     

    Severine is a golden olive metallic shimmer.

    Anais is a black shimmer.

    Charlott is a light cream.

     

    What do you think of the trio?

     

    Check back shortly for swatches!  Thank you for reading!

    Many Herbal Supplements Aren’t What The Label Says

    Reading the label does not help if companies are allowed to make false claims about the contents of their products!

    Mary Esch, ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Bottles of Walmart-brand echinacea, an herb said to ward off colds, were found to contain no echinacea at all.   GNC-brand bottles of St. John’s wort, touted as a cure for depression, held rice, garlic and a tropical houseplant, but not a trace of the herb.

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    In fact, DNA testing on hundreds of bottles of store-brand herbal supplements sold as treatments for everything from memory loss to prostate trouble found that four out of five contained none of the herbs on the label. Instead, they were packed with cheap fillers such as wheat, rice, beans or houseplants.

    Based on the testing commissioned by his office, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Tuesday he has sent letters to the four major store chains involved — GNC, Target, Walmart and Walgreens — demanding that they immediately stop selling adulterated or mislabeled dietary supplements.

    Schneiderman said the supplements pose serious risks. People who have allergies or are taking certain medications can suffer dangerous reactions from herbal concoctions that contain substances not listed on the label, he said.

    “This investigation makes one thing abundantly clear: The old adage ‘buyer beware’ may be especially true for consumers of herbal supplements,” the attorney general said.

    The herbal supplement industry criticized the method used to analyze the samples and raised questions about the reliability of the findings.

    Walmart’s vice president of Health & Wellness, Carmen Bauza, said testing by Walmart suppliers hasn’t revealed any issues with the relevant products, but the company will comply with the attorney general’s request to stop selling them in New York.

    “We take this matter very seriously and will be conducting side-by-side analysis because we are 100 percent committed to providing our customers safe products,” Bauza said.

    Walgreen pledged to cooperate with the attorney general, who asked the store chains for detailed information on production and quality control.

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    “We take these issues very seriously and as a precautionary measure, we are in the process of removing these products from our shelves as we review this matter further,” Walgreen spokesman James Graham said.

    GNC said it, too, will cooperate, but spokeswoman Laura Brophy said: “We stand by the quality, purity and potency of all ingredients listed on the labels of our private-label products.”

    Target said it can’t comment without reviewing the full report.

    Nutritionist David Schardt of the Center for Science in the Public Interest said the tests show that the supplement industry is in urgent need of reform, and until that happens, consumers should stop wasting their money.

    A 2013 Canadian government study estimated there are 65,000 dietary supplements on the market, consumed by more than 150 million Americans.  The nonprofit American Botanical Council estimated 2013 sales of herbal supplements in the U.S. at $6 billion.

    The Food and Drug Administration requires companies to verify their products are safe and properly labeled. But supplements are exempt from the FDA’s strict approval process for prescription drugs.

    Schneiderman said tests found no echinacea or any other plant material in bottles of Walmart’s Spring Valley Echinacea. He said no ginseng was found in 20 tests of GNC’s Herbal Plus Ginseng, which is taken to boost energy.

    Other supplements tested included garlic, which is said to boost immunity and prevent heart disease; ginkgo biloba, often touted as a memory-booster; and saw palmetto, promoted as a prostate treatment.

    DNA tests found such substances as rice, beans, pine, citrus, asparagus, primrose, wheat, houseplant, wild carrot and unidentified non-plant material — none of which were mentioned on the label.

    The store chain with the poorest showing was Walmart, where only 4 percent of the products tested showed DNA from the plants listed on the labels.

    The investigation looked at six herbal supplements sold at stores across the state. Testing was performed by an expert in DNA technology, James Schulte II of Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York.

    The DNA tests were done on three to four samples of each supplement purchased. Each sample was tested five times. Overall, 390 tests involving 78 samples were conducted.

    Steve Mister, president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a dietary supplement trade group, criticized the testing procedure and accused Schneiderman of engaging in a “self-serving publicity stunt under the guise of protecting public health.”

    “Processing during manufacturing of botanical supplements can remove or damage DNA,” Mister said. As a result, he said, DNA analysis “may be the wrong test for these kinds of products.”

    Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association, said identification of an herb through DNA testing must be confirmed through other means, such as chromatography or microscopy.

    But Arthur Grollman, a physician and pharmacology professor at Stony Brook University, called the study “a well-controlled, scientifically based documentation of the outrageous degree of adulteration in the herbal supplement industry.”

    (via Yahoo! Finance)