Day 58–Small Shrimp, Big Footprint

Shrimp Boat

I love good shrimp, especially over grits or in pasta. Living in a state that produces shrimp for the rest of the country, I used to think that most of my shrimp was caught within a two-hour drive from my home. Checking grocery store sourcing, though, I found that most of it is imported. Imported!! Shrimp comes from 120 miles away, but it’s imported from Asia??? Now we get all our seafood local, thanks to Locals Seafood and Earp’s Seafood Market. I recently read a report that has me even more convinced that local shrimp is the way to go.

The article is from Mother Jones Online and it proclaims that “Shrimp’s Carbon Footprint is 10 Times Greater Than Beef’s”. Say what??? I thought grain fed South American beef was the worst food in regards to carbon footprints, but apparently not. Highlighting Taco Bell’s $2.79 shrimp taco and Red Lobster’s “Endless Shrimp” feasts, the article focuses on America’s love of cheap, plentiful food and the practice of farm raising shrimp in Asia. Twenty years ago, 80% of the shrimp Americans consumed came from wild domestic fisheries, with an additional 20% imported. Today those percentages are flipped, with more than 90% of the shrimp we consume coming from outside the U.S. and mostly from shrimp farms throughout Asia.

Why is that bad? Well, to read about it, apparently these foreign shrimp farms are increasingly built on former mangrove forests across Asia. The devastation of the mangroves is huge. Mangrove forests are biodiverse fisheries, where many species lay their eggs and where young fish can develop in clean waters. The cutting down of these mangrove forests results in “fetid dead zones” that are devoid of life except for what is farmed there. Mangroves are also rich in carbon. When the mangroves are destroyed, that carbon is released into the atmosphere as global warming gas. And since the farms can only be used for about 5 years until the water is too toxic and laden with pesticides, viruses and antibiotics, these shrimp factories are not at all sustainable.

So, what is a shrimp lover to do? Well, first, back away from the shrimp taco and all-you-can-eat shrimp buffet, because the odds are good that those shrimp came from someplace pretty gross. And then buy U.S. shrimp, which are plentiful and which will support jobs in fisheries here. Domestic shrimp may be more expensive when measuring by the dollar, but they are less costly in terms of the environment and your own health. Now I just need to find a good recipe for shrimp tacos!

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Day 20–What’s In Your Makeup Bag?

Lotion Bars

We seem to have an astonishing number of beauty products in our house. Between my pre-teen and I, we seem to have enough supplies to open our own Ulta store. Couple that with my husband’s amazing coupon savvy and we also have enough “almost free” deodorant and toothpaste to last the rest of our lives. I know enough to buy unscented products most of the time, but really, I am just now learning about the chemicals and other somewhat bizarre ingredients (placenta? formaldehyde?) that are allowed to be in our cleansers, moisturizers, soaps, shampoo and so on.

I recently heard a great piece on NPR’s “The People’s Pharmacy” about household and food toxins and the impact they have on people, especially children and pregnant women. I had no idea that neither the FDA nor the Consumer Products Safety Commission regulate what chemicals go into beauty products. The terms “natural,” “hypoallergenic,” and “organic” when it relates to beauty products can be used without any proof to substantiate those claims. This concerns me. Greatly. In addition, a recent study from Europe found that all women treated for breast cancer had parabens present in their breast tissue. Parabens are regularly present in such products as moisturizer, deodorant and shampoo.

I did find a great website (referenced in the above “People’s Pharmacy” segment) from the Environmental Working Group called Skin Deep that has tested and rated beauty and hygiene products. Each product has two ratings–one is a numerical rating 0-10 (0 being least toxic, 10=most toxic) based on ingredients and levels of potential toxicity. The other is a rating on the level of date available for the safety of that product (“robust” to “none”). Many products also have a narrative description of why they received that ranking. You can search by company name, by type of product and by ingredient. It’s a nice tool and very interesting, but they really need a phone app so you can take that information with you when shopping.

The website address is http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

Here is what we found:

  • Our deodorants had high toxicity levels for the chemicals and trace chemicals in them.
  • Our toothpaste didn’t fare much better, at medium levels of toxicity.
  • My Boots No. 7 facial moisturizer fared pretty well (better than my old Bobbi Brown products)
  • The Bath and Body Works lotion and body gel soap I received for Christmas are going bye-bye. They were at the highest levels of toxicity (probably due to their fragrance and levels of parabens).
  • Makeup fared so-so. Mascara, due to its petroleum product base tends to fare worse than, say, most lip gloss. Foundation, bronzers and blushes run a wide range from low to very high (glitter products were the worst).

So, what now? Here’s the plan:

  • The worst offenders go first. We will replace our deodorant and toothpaste this week. That’s an easy fix. Other offenders like the Bath & Body Works lotion and soap will go as well.
  • As we run out of our regular, unscented body lotion, we will replace them with lotion that is better. After looking at some prices of the best scoring products ($15 for a bottle of body lotion???), we may try to find other options.
  • Some items, like my Bobbi Brown concealer and foundation? That’s a harder call. I love them and they work so well, it will be hard to switch.

The Big Dilemma

So now that we will be getting rid of some of our old products, we have a dilemma. What to do about the stockpile of products (many unused) that we have now? We don’t want to put them in the landfill, but I feel guilty about giving them to charity when I know they aren’t good for you.

What would you do??