Surferbird News-Links, 13th Edition


Welcome to Surferbird News-Links. Join me on an exploration of health, food, science, and the environment. For more information on the name and origin of Surferbird News-Links, see here. Oh, I almost forgot; there's always an earworm at the end of every edition.What's an earworm? you ask. Well, scroll on down to discover!

Surferbird News-Links, a weekly summary from across the web



Green textiles - let's begin with some arts and crafts!

Thanks to Susi Batstone (@SusiB348) on Twitter, I learned about two new websites that upcycle textiles. Both of these artists deserve an entire blog post each, at some point. Today, I'm merely making an introduction. But my hope is that you'll mosey on over to their websites and bask in the creativity and the richness of heart and spirit. This, at least to me, seems to be the way forward in our consumerist society.

The Woolly Pedlar makes new clothing and home furnishings out of waste knitwear. These imaginative, original designs are available on the Woolly Pedlar website. I'm already lusting after one of the bedspreads.

IswasCottage (@IsWasCottage) turns fabric discards and vintage treasures into lovely new pieces for your home and wardrobe. I love the cloth baskets for home organization!


Six women who'll inspire you to use less plastic ( - Are you looking for additional information on living plastic-free, or at least using much less plastic? Well, I met Michelle of Being-PALL (Plastic A Lot Less) on Twitter this past week. She's one of the six featured women in the article link above. She and these other websites will be hopping on over to my resource page!

It's been a busy week here in my wood. So I only had time to explore Michelle's site. I already knew about Beth Terry, who's also featured in the article. I hope I get to meet some of these path forgers in person one day! Take a look, and be inspired.

Microbead update -I've reported in several posts about the harmful effects of microbeads. So, we'll jump straight into the latest updates. Treehugger posted an article on companies that have banned microbeads.  In addition, the article contains two links to Greenpeace score cards for various manufacturers.

The UK announced recently that microbeads will be banned in beauty products by the end of 2017. Many retailers and manufacturers have already voluntarily banned microbeads. Unfortunately, the new law doesn't apply to cleaning products.  And unless I'm missing something, this is also true in the US, where companies have until July 1, 2018, to stop adding microbeads to toothpaste and beauty products such as scrubs.

They're still permissible in deodorants, lotions, makeup, and household cleaning products. Big, big bummer. Please, say it isn't so!

Drinking water and chemicals

Even though many of us have thrown out our Teflon, PFOA remains in the environment( - PFOA is a toxic chemical used in manufacturing Teflon. For some reason, it took the state of New York a year and a half to warn the residents of Hooksick Falls, NY, that it was in their drinking water. I've been following this story since it first came out here back in January ( It's quite a story - with main characters like DuPont and the unwavering lawyer who rose to challenge them.


Have you thought about growing milkweed? ( - Monarch butterflies face serious threats from weather, loss of forest habitat, climate change, and glyphosate ( Roundup). From growing milkweed to participating in community projects, this article offers information on ways to help save the monarchs.

Climate change

One hundred thirteen days on renewable energy in Costa Rica (as of 09/02/ - Now, that's impressive. But what's more impressive is that they're on track to break last year's record of 285 days on renewable energy from hydroelectric, geothermal, and solar sources. Costa Rica plans on being carbon neutral in 5 years.

Most noteworthy is that most people think of only wealthier countries, like Sweden, achieving such an impressive feat. In actuality, quite often it's the richer countries that lag in renewables - like the US (13.4% of energy from renewable sources in 2015). Time to rev things up!

What if all the ice melts?

Grab some popcorn, and pull up a chair. Well, there's barely enough time for the popcorn. This is a short movie narrated by Bill Nye, which explains what would happen if all of Earth's ice melted.


The commercialization of organic food ( - Have you checked out the ingredient list on packaged organic food lately? As my 13-year-old son would say, That's cringe worthy. Yes, indeed. Organic processed food is not as pure as one would hope it to be.

In addition, the permissible ingredients sneaking into these higher priced foods is increasing. And you don't even want to know which companies get to vote. But wait! Of course you want to know. My respect for Eden Foods increases with each passing day. (Check out their response to BPA.)


Keeping farms small in Africa ( - How food intersects with agroecology, small farms, and big corporations is explored in this compelling interview with Yonas Ylmer - recipient of the 2016 Food Sovereignty Prize. At this point, 80 percent of food is produced by small farms in sub-Saharan Africa. But they will need to remain diligent to keep it that way.

Read about what happens to biodiversity and freedom of expression when corporations move in to "help" Africans by industrializing their food system. However, what inspired me most is the non-adversarial tone Yonas uses to discuss food policy with his opponents, who believe in an African "green revolution."  The US and other industrialized nations might benefit from taking their cues from Yonas Ylmer.

Would you like opium, or coffee with dessert? ( - The news about climate change and coffee wasn't good this past week. But what about growing coffee sustainably? This farmer in Thailand grows coffee on reclaimed opium land. Coffee plants and forests can exist together in a symbiotic relationship. Now, why didn't the news tell us about THIS last week?


Healthy home

The many uses of baking soda (Food52) - And I thought I was the baking soda queen! I found more uses for baking soda in this article than I ever knew existed. But what if everyone starts using baking soda? Is that OK for the environment? After all, everything we do has some sort of impact.

Well, the process of mining the minerals that get refined into soda ash (which is turned into baking soda) doesn't exactly get a clean bill of health, environmentally speaking. But rest assured, according to Grist, we have far more to be concerned about. Still, it's always a good idea to be thrifty- even with baking soda.

Healthy couches ( - The use of flame retardants has become a big concern in the line up of toxic chemicals. If you're shopping for a new couch any time soon, here's a helpful list of retardant-free sofas.

Do you loathe bar soap? ( - Bar soap has both environmental and economical advantages over liquid soap. If you've been "trained" by the mass media to be afraid of the germs in bar soap, well, it's time to take a second look. Beyond the fun of experimenting with the wealth of artisanal soaps available today, bar soap leaves a smaller carbon footprint. Check out my resource page for artisanal soaps and other cleansing options.

Science and technology

Shrinking a robot's bubble  ( - In the past, robots have been programmed to avoid colliding with one another by using algorithms that create an invisible bubble around each one. The problem is that these cautious robots simply stop moving. I totally identify.

Well, all that has changed as roboticists have shrunk the robots' bubbles - allowing the robots to complete tasks within a smaller amount of "personal" space. This has huge implications for the future development of driverless cars and air traffic control.

Green architecture

Straw bale homes - Actually, these homes are built with straw bale panels - using a minimum of wood. The environmental benefits include excellent insulation quality and the use of renewable materials. However, I know what you're thinking. What about fire? Read all about that and more - such as rodent and mold risk - here. One of the best features, though, is the reverent like beauty of these houses.

Explore more

Unretouched underwear ads ( - I don't have much to say about this except that I find it totally refreshing. Take a look.

On being a Mormon and a feminist ( - That you could be Mormon and a femisnist didn't surprise me in many ways. However, I learned a lot about the history and current state of feminism in the Mormon religion.  Do you know who first said, "Well-behaved women seldom make history"? You guessed it - a Mormon feminist.


I was thinking about all the cool friends I made on Twitter this past week - The Woolly PedlarIswasCottage, and Being-PALL (a big thank you to Susi Batstone and Beth Terry for introducing me to these women). Well, I know they're really not my friends in the true sense of the word. However, because of similar interests and their passion for craft and the environment, I have to think they would make lovely companions. Wouldn't it be nice to meet them in person one day?

As I settled into my bed and closed my eyes last night, I reflected on how it would be nice to get to know them. And today's earworm was born. Take it away Spanky and Our Gang - "I'd Like to Get to Know You."

That's a wrap for today's edition of Surferbird News-Links. Have a nice weekend, and keep thinking about that sustainably grown coffee!