Back to School Week: The Eco-Classroom

Green MommyBefore The Green Mommy started wearing a cape and officially began protecting the planet, she was a fifth grade teacher for 15 years. She worked hard to educate her students and often that meant being creative with how she did so. She had organized boxes of “bits and do-dads” to make science, math, and history hands-on. These were things that she came across herself (that others didn’t see the potential in) and were given to her (by those who did). She was “green” then without even knowing it.

This week, the Eco Women have been helping you out with “going green” for back to school. The Green Mommy is here today to get you thinking about ordinary things you may have sitting around in your home that a classroom could get a lot of use out of. I’m sure you wouldn’t be surprised to know that there’s a lot of hard working teachers out there who purchase supplies for their classroom with their own money. Giving them quality supplies is something many of them would appreciate. Think about leaving a message for your child’s teacher or art teacher and ask them if they could use any of the items listed below in their classroom. They may appreciate it more than you would think.

Here’s a list of items to consider:

  • a box of gently used crayons or other art supplies
  • buttons or pom-poms
  • old magazines
  • paper that could be used for drawing
  • glass baby jars with lids
  • toilet paper/paper towel rolls
  • plastic yogurt containers with lids (if your town doesn’t recycle #5 plastics)
  • gently used books for the classroom library
  • carpet squares to make a cozy “reading corner”
  • junk mail envelopes where the corners have been diagonally cut off and made into book marks
  • gently used t-shirts, jeans, or sweat pants for the nurse to have as “back-up” clothes for younger children.

Or, you can suggest having a “teacher’s wish list” at your child’s school, like they do where Enviro Girl’s little Super Heroes-in-training go. Teachers keep an updated list of items they really need in a notebook that’s excessable near the main office so visiting parents can easily take a look. Something they desperately need might be collecting dust in your attic!

Can you think of anything else that should be added to the list?

A list no Eco Warrior should be without

Green MommyThere’s almost nothing the Green Mommy loves more than great online resources — ones that she can go back to again and again to get consistent, reliable information. Here’s a list of some of her favorites:

Friends of the Earth: This group has tested car seats, strollers, infant carriers, walkers, and other baby related gear for their levels of halogenated fire retardants and rated them with high, medium and low levels.

Healthy Car: This site lists car seats for their levels of toxic chemicals, such as bromine, chlorine, and lead.

Healthy Toys: Healthy Toys has tested 1,500 toys and children’s products for bromine, chlorine, lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic and given them a rating of low, medium, or high.

What’s On My Food: This site has a searchable database that allows you to see residue data from pesticides on food and information about each of the chemicals. You can check a list of 89 foods or search by pesticide name.

Environmental Working Group: The Eco Women have mentioned this site many times, but it really should be repeated for how helpful it is. Do you need information on safe sunscreen, personal care products, or the top foods you should buy organic? The list goes on and on for helpful information at this site.

Environmental Defense Fund: Visit this site for a handy card to keep in your wallet showing which fish are safest to choose when you’re deciding on dinner at a restaurant or supermarket.

The Soft Landing: The Soft Landing’s site and blog are favorites of mine for up-to-date, reliable information on many BPA, PVC and phthalate-free feeding supplies for children and babies.

Do you have any favorites of your own that we should all visit? Let us know!

You’re kidding, Coca-Cola, right?!

The Washington Post reported last week that Coca-Cola, Campbell’s, Del Monte, and other manufacturers of canned foods and beverages, met to come up with a public relations and lobbying strategy to stop the government from banning the use of Bisphenol-A, or BPA, from being used in the linings of metal lids and cans.

BPA is an endocrine disruptor which mimics estrogen. It has been shown to cause impaired brain and neurological functions, testicular and breast cancer, chromosomal and reproductive system abnormalities, early puberty, adult-onset diabetes, and obesity and resistance to chemotherapy. It can be found in some plastics with recycling code “7″, the lining of canned drinks and foods except for Eden Organic’s canned beans, canned baby formula, the lining of baby food jars, some plastic reusable water bottles, and some baby bottles (for a list of BPA-free baby bottles and other plastic baby items, click here). Canada and Suffolk County in New York have banned BPA in baby bottles and other states plan to follow suit.

The Washington Post obtained internal notes from the meeting which reported executives’ strategies on how to halt public concerns over BPA. Here are some of their ideas:

  • Use fear tactics: “Do you want to have access to baby food anymore?”
  • Highlighting costs of food with and without BPA: choosing the more expensive product that is frozen or fresh or foods packaged in cans
  • Using a public relations campaign: “Their ‘holy grail’ spokesperson would be a ‘pregnant young mother who would be willing to speak around the country about the benefits of BPA.’”

The Environmental Working Group, a group that advocates on Capitol Hill for health-protective policies, is asking us to speak up to Coca-Cola and Del Monte about this issue. Here’s what we can do:

  • Call these toll free numbers to protest: Coca-Cola 1-800-GET-COKE, ext. 2 and Del Monte 1-800-543-3090
  • Use this sample script if you’d like: “Hello, My name is ______________. I’m shocked and disappointed in your unethical approach to business when it comes to BPA – placing profits ahead of my family’s health and using fear tactics to placate consumers about a clearly dangerous chemical. BPA needs to go – NOW. Thank you.”
  • Send EWG an email describing the conversation to:     ewg@ewg.org
  • Get your friends to call.

There’s power in numbers. Let these big companies know that their customers have a voice that they should actually hear.

Photo from Flickr by Lepti

Photo from Flickr by Lepti

Who doesn’t want to be “Gorgeously Green”?

Some people want to be “crunchy green” and others would like to be a “shade of green”. But Sophie Uliano can help you to be “Gorgeously Green“. This book highlights 8 steps to live a more earth-friendly life without sacrificing:

book

  • Becoming aware – This first chapter describes what it mean to go “green”, how it’s easier than you think, and why we all should do it.
  • Green Goddess – This next chapter lists great information on what ingredients to stay away from in cosmetics and personal care products for you and your baby. Specific products are listed for hair, body, and oral care.
  • Your Green Temple – This chapter focuses on taking care of your body with a “green” focus. I’ve never taken a yoga class before but the twenty pages of yoga poses were illustrated so simply that they actually got me to try some out.
  • Soulful Shopping – This chapter guides you through changing your shopping habits so your choices make less of an impact on the earth. Sophie gives loads of specific website listings for clothing, pet supplies, jewelry and more.
  • Your palace: Creating the home you deserve: This chapter delivers many specific examples of “greener” choices when it come to household cleaners, laundry cleaners, saving energy, gardening, and what to look for in furniture. There’s even some great tid-bits  for polishing wood, keeping moths away, and a list of products to make your own cleaning solutions.
  • Every Last Bite: This chapter is all about food – choosing organic where you should and don’t need to, safer fish choices, and pantry items you should always have on hand so healthy “eco-minded” dishes are always possible. There’s also 22 pages with recipes for main meals, side dishes, muffins, desserts, and smoothies.
  • Out and about having fun: This chapter focuses on driving, flying, entertainment, and vacationing – all with a “green” focus and specific web sites to help you do so.
  • Go supergreen: The final chapter focuses on how to become an activist and gives some handy checklists to help you with being “greener”.

Not only does Sophie deliver great resources and information in this book but she also has a very informative web site with blog entries, cooking videos, and a message board with tons of questions and helpful answers.

Going “green” just got a little easier, all in one convenient, compact resource!

Product Review – Bummas

Right before Girl Wonder was born, I made sure to visit Skin Deep to find a diaper cream that had a “safe score” rating for it’s ingredients, just to have it handy in case it was needed. Not surprisingly, many “popular” brands didn’t have a rating I was comfortable with. Talc and powder were both items I didn’t purchase due to current findings that it can get in the air and therefore into little lungs.

Thankfully, Girl Wonder has never had a really bad diaper rash, but she does suffer from minor irritation, so I’ve used diaper cream on occasion.

Over the past few weeks, though, I’ve had to opportunity to try out a product that has to be the “safest” and “eco-friendly” way to take care of diaper issues. Bummas were developed by parents who’s own son suffered greatly from diaper rashes.

Bummas

Bummas

Bummas cloths can simply be used with water to wipe little bums and just as they are to dry them. This eliminates the need to go through hundreds (if not thousands!) of commercial wipes, and therefore never puts delicate skin in contact with synthetic chemicals and keeps non-biodegradable wipes out of landfills. Bummas can also be used with little boys to block “surprise squirts”!

Bummas are:

  • 100% cotton
  • soft cloths made of naturally hypoallergenic and antimicrobial terry cloth
  • 5″ x 7″ in size.
  • won’t pill, shrink, or fade.
  • come in colorful themed combinations with 10 in a pack.
  • will not shrink or fade.
  • are made in California, USA.

After two weeks of using Bummas, I saw a noticeable difference in Girl Wonder’s irritations. Who knew that something so simple could make such a huge difference.

Don’t throw out your phone book – recycle it!

It’s about this time of the year that we’ll find a new phone book on our front door step. It surprising that it’s not one of those things that slowly gone away since you can find so much information on the internet. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t even keep yours or you just need to know where you can take your old one to be recycled, head on over to Earth911.

At the top of their home page, you can enter what you’d like to recycle and your zip code.  A list will then shows up showing you where you can go. While you’re there, take a look at the main menu across the top of the page to see other items that can be recycled that you may not normally think of.

earth911

Thank you Brita!

Months ago, Recycla talked about Brita being “not so eco” here in the United States. Well, Brita has officially “greened” itself here at home so you can start recycling their filters. As of January, you can take your used filters to any Whole Foods store. If you don’t live near one, you can send them to Preserve, a company mentioned here before, that recycles #5 plastics into toothbrushes and other items. Preserve asks that you send the filters in used cardboard boxes by ground shipping to this address:

Preserve Gimme 5
823 NYS Rte 13
Cortland NY 13045

Drinking filtered tap water instead of bottled spring water is now even more eco-friendly!

brita-filter

Eco-Holidays: Buying toys that are simple, safe, and “green”

It’s that time of year again, when we all search high and low for gifts for our little ones, no matter what their age. But this year, it’s a little different with the economy as it is. Many people may be rethinking how much to spend for the holidays. The “After Holiday” discounts have started and it’s only December 4th. It would be so simple to walk into “W Mart” and be done with your shopping. But I’m going to ask you to reconsider this, though.

Because money is tight for many of us, we want to save where we can. Instead of buying the “typical” large, plastic, musical toys this year, how about choosing gifts that will be just as fun, last for generations, and be safer for your children to play with? The key is going for quality, not quantity. Taking this route will also help teach your children to appreciate each individual toy, rather than abundance.

Here are a few toys for you to consider this holiday season.

Giraffe, Cow, and Lion

Organic Soft Block Set, Wooden Mini-Album, and Stacking Toy from Djeco

Stockmar Stick Crayons, Lap Loom, and Organic Playdough

Recycled Cards to Color, Crayon Rocks, and Watercolor EcoPencils

ShainWear, Eco House, Bamboo Collection – Rapelli color Match Dice Game

Green Toys Tea Set, Green Toys Indoor Gardening Set, Plan Toys Balancing Cactus

Choosing toys that inspire imagination will capture your child’s interest longer. This eliminates the need to “buy excessively” this holiday season and making sure they’re “green” can help you feel even better about your purchases this year.

Baby’s first Thanksgiving – making it special

With Thanksgiving around the corner, many of us are planning our menus. What will it be this year – traditional fare or something new? Whatever it may be, effort and care will often go into the preparation. After all, it’s a special day that centers around a special meal.

So why not make it just as special for your little one? Which would you prefer on Thanksgiving Day – a meal processed months ahead of time, or one that was made from fresh vegetables and produce? If you’ve never made your own baby food, please take a look at an earlier post I did on how easy it really is, not to mention a lot less expensive than what you buy in stores.

Did you know that so many fruits and vegetables can be made so easily by just steaming them in a steamer basket and then pureeing them? Why not consider giving your baby any of these listed below on Thanksgiving Day (remember to always give your baby a new food for 3-4 days in a row to test for allergies – this will mean planning ahead if your child has not had any of these foods yet).

Simple steamed vegetables:

  • sweet peas
  • sweet potato
  • broccoli
  • green beans
  • carrots
  • cauliflower
  • corn
  • parsnips
  • pumpkin

Or, make some combinations:

  • carrots and squash
  • apples and squash
  • carrots and parsnips
  • corn and sweet potatoes
  • cranberries and apple juice

To make turkey:

  • Saute 1/2 cup of chopped carrots and onions in olive oil.  Brown 6 ounces of boneless, skinless turkey breast in the same pot along with a little bit of low-sodium chicken broth. Simmer until the turkey is cooked. Puree to the consistency you want.

If your baby is a vegetarian, for protein sources, you can serve any of these:

  • tofu
  • egg yolk
  • Quinoa
  • cheese
  • beans
  • yogurt

For dessert, how about some:

  • steamed apples and cranberries
  • steamed apples
  • rhubarb and apples
  • pumpkin and apples

So consider a home made meal for your baby’s first Thanksgiving – you just may end up sticking with it long after the holiday is over.

Scare You to Death Week: Melamine tainted food from China

Boo!  All week long, the Eco Women will be posting about the environmental issues that scare them the most.

We first heard of melamine last year after thousands of dogs and cats became ill or died after eating tainted food from China. Then is past September, it was found in baby formula that sickened tens of thousands in China and killed four babies. Soon after, it was Mr. Brown instant coffee and milk tea products that was recalled. In October, warnings were issued on White Rabbit Creamy Candy, which had been distributed to California, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington. Also around that time, Blue Cat Flavored Drink was recalled. Just two weeks ago, South Korea reported processed egg product that was imported from China as being contaminated with melamine and they are now expanding their testing with meat products also imported from China. The melamine found in food was probably used because it causes milk to appear as though it is higher in protein.

First of all, what is melamine you ask? Melamine is an organic compound that is usually combined with formaldehyde to make a melamine resin or synthetic polymer that is heat tolerant and fire resistant. It is used to make floor tiles, whiteboards, dishes, and plates, to name a few. Dishes made with melamine are often those with licensed characters on them. It is not recommended that you microwave these dishes. The FDA has stated that melamine in small doses is safe — sounds like what they’ve said about BPA recently and we all know the controversy over that, right? This Green Mommy is going to play it safe, though, and just avoid it as best as she can. To see a list of melamine-free children’s dishware, visit SafeMama.

How can you avoid melamine when it comes to food? Well, it’s slightly easier as of September 30, 2008, and also confusing. As of this date, here’s a list of foods that will have the country of origin labeled clearly on the packaging:

  • raw beef
  • veal
  • lamb
  • pork
  • chicken
  • goat
  • wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish
  • fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables
  • peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts
  • whole ginseng

Here’s what won’t be labeled:

  • processed foods — Raw chicken, yes, but breaded chicken fingers, no. Fresh or frozen peas, yes, but canned, no.
  • mixed foods — Frozen peas, yes. Frozen peas and carrots, no.
  • meat and seafood sold in butcher shops and fish markets

So better health is the same as it always was — eat fresh foods as much as possible and avoid the processed ones. Just cross your fingers that it’s not tainted with e-coli.