Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Resolution: More Online Billing

Ms. Philly Organic is not usually one for New Years' Resolutions. Successful change is usually a long-term process that requires dedication and planning. These skills are normally impaired around December 31. In the spirit of becoming more green, however, Ms. Philly Organic has a resolution this year: switching to more electronic billing and payments.

According to, a household switch to electronic billing and payment saves a tenth of a tree per year and 171 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. Some businesses make donations to environmental and tree planting organizations for each customer who switches to electronic billing. Because Ms. Philly Organic tries to live frugally, she doesn't have a lot to switch and one payment will have to remain a paper check.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dreaming of a Recycled & Recyclable Tree?

Last year we bought a potted tree from an inexpensive, organic chain store. It was very small and didn't grow much by Christmas, which was fine for the grinchy adults of our household but not acceptable to the younger population of our home. It died shortly after Christmas.

This year we found The Cardboard Christmas Tree. The Cardboard Christmas tree is made from recycled corrugated cardboard and is recyclable. A portion of the profits is donated to the Arbor Day Foundation's Trees for America Program. Plus our kids loved it!

The tree ships flat as two cardboard sheets inside another cardboard sheet. It costs merely $22.95 plus another $8 for shipping. This price is lower than advertised prices for live trees (with a root ball for replanting) and is comparable to tree prices that require driving to the suburbs for retrieval.

The tree punches out in two pieces and interlocks together. It even includes punch-out ornaments! We decorated a few but traditional decorations work well. Given the cat population of our house, the included cardboard decorations are best.

Surprisingly the kids jumped excitedly when they saw the tree. We got out the paints and set to work. It was a bit slow but very fulfilling. The kids did something creative and didn't bicker. The process was a bit slow and there is more to paint.

The Cardboard Christmas tree wasn't removed from a forest in Canada and uses recycled cardboard fiber. After Christmas, the tree can go in the recycle bin on the curb or in storage for next year. For each dollar donated to the Arbor Foundation, one tree will be planted in a damaged forest. Painting the decorations occupied the kids constructively. The Cardboard Christmas tree is an inexpensive, green alternative to killing a tree for display for a few weeks.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Nail salons are frightening. Caustic odors from polish, removers, and acrylic nails linger. In open door weather, noxious smells leak out to the street. I fear for the health of the women (and it is almost entirely women who work in these salons), especially those who wear ineffectual filter masks.

The FDA does not regulate cosmetics. Nor does any other agency. Cosmetics often include carcinogens, chemicals that may cause birth defects, and other dangerous chemicals. The Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database rates OPI, a popular brand at nail salons, a “moderate health hazard” and notes that the ingredients include neurotoxins, carcinogens, mutagens, cardiopulmonary irritants, and more.

Fortunately Philadelphia has Juju Spa & Organics. MsPhillyOrganic understands that many cosmetics have a long way to go before they can be considered green or organic. Fortunately, according to Juju's web site, “Juju salon & organics uses only polishes and polish removers that do not contain Phthalates, Formaldehyde, Toulene, Acetone or color lakes (color bases that do not break down in nature).” Simply put, Juju does not smell like a nail salon, in no small part because they do not offer artificial nails. Their products are largely free from the carcinogens, neurotoxins, and other life- and planet-threatening chemicals.

It must be expensive, right? Most nail salons (the kind found on nearly every block in Center City) charge 25 or 30 dollars for a spa pedicure. Toppers Spa charges 68 dollars. Juju charges 42 dollars for a spa pedicure but the regular pedicure is only 32 dollars. The web site has coupons for 10 percent off, which brings the price back below 30 dollars for the regular pedicure.

“But I need my callous removal and scrub and foot washing,” you cry. MsPhillyOrganic recently visited Juju for a pedicure. Michelle didn't just cut, file, and paint. Before I even sat down, Michelle offered a cup of tea. She also warmed up a mint-scented neck pillow. The pedicure began with a a warm soak in a bowl. Next Michelle applied an oil to treat the cuticles and continued to soak my feet. She followed that with an organic scrub. The pedicure took about 40 minutes.

Sadly I forgot my flipflops and damaged my polish with my sandals. A little more time drying would have prevented that mishap. Ten days after my appointment, the polish still looked great and my feet are still soft. Plus Juju sent a postcard with a handwritten note from Michelle and another 10% discount.

So from Msphillyorganic's point of view, Juju's regular pedicure is better than the regular pedicure at typical salons. Not even Topper's offers tea and a heated neck pillow. No Center City $30 spa pedicure includes these free services (although one salon includes hot stones). Most of them use OPI or similar products. Worse, some of the women who do nails may be victims of human trafficking. Michelle was born in New Jersey and is a licensed and fully trained esthetician. With the reduced environmental impact of Juju's organic and less toxic products, this was a winner for me and priced comparable to my regular service.

Juju Salon will be moving across the street in the next few months. When that happens, the manicure and pedicure services will move out of the spa area and into the old Salon space. Please contact Juju or check the web site for changes and updates.