Archive | July, 2009

Confused About Organic Sunscreens & Ingredients?

Please note: In May 2010 the EWG strengthened their safe sunscreen requirements so the top list has now changed in the EWG sunscreen database. To read more on these new recommendations, please read the latest Mommy Footprint article called EWG Sunscreen Guide & Surprising Truths Parents Need To Read.

The toughest product to truly understand and learn about from a safety and organic standpoint has been sunscreen. I recently noticed that two of the top sunscreens rated for safety and UV protection from the EWG (Environmental Working Group) market themselves for being so effective because they do or don’t contain either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the core active ingredient. Confused?  To give you an example, the #1 rated Soleo Organics sunscreen has in bold letters on the box NO titanium dioxide. The only active ingredient listed on the back of Soleo is Zinc Oxide with 22.3% concentrate. The also very highly ranked (via EWG) California Baby sunscreen has only one ingredient listed within its active ingredients ~ titanium dioxide.  Isn’t this the same ingredient that Soleo proudly boasts about not using ~ yet both are ranked super high?

Since parents are so ingredient savvy these days, I’m sure the watchdogs at Environmental Working Group have received questions on this interesting debate regarding which active ingredients to look for when choosing a safe sunscreen for your family. They are doing their best to clear up some of the confusion starting with a 6 part series (the first was published Monday July 27th called About Those Mineral Sunscreens) in an effort to transfer all product knowledge and make us all sunscreen experts. Lisa Frack is a very smart, informative and well written analyst that is writing for this series.  I’ve been a big fan of Lisa’s and she is the perfect person to make this tough subject easier to understand.

The EWG have also posted a very handy 2009 sunscreen report that is 1-page and easy to read.  My favorite part of the guide is the condensed listing for ‘best easy-to-find sunscreens’ because we all know sourcing organic sunscreens on the fly is no easy task. Well worth a quick glance and something you can print and carry if purchasing sunscreen in a retail store if you don’t have this information in an electronic form.  This has arrived in the knick of time as I’ve finished my bottle of Soleo and California Baby sunscreens and to be honest, I won’t be a repeat customer on the zinc oxide Soleo sunscreen. I cannot justify spending over $30 for a bottle. The 2.8 oz bottle that I paid $32 only lasted my beautiful 4 children 1 week and with the heat wave the West Coast is experiencing, it’s not a practical solution for my family. I don’t think it’s fair that certain brands of sunscreens are targeting safety for families and children and then set their price point that high.  I think even paying $15-$20 is high, but is a way more affordable option for families wanting the safety and solid ratings from sunscreens listed within the EWG sunscreen database. Continue Reading →

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Grotto Spa and Treetop Tapas ~ Best Destination Spa

We’ve been back at home for a full week and I’m still enjoying the relaxation my spirit and body desperately needed and received from our Parksville vacation.  We kept very busy with the kids for the first half of our trip, but thanks to the family friendly amenities offered from the Tigh-Na-Mara resort, we spent most of the second half of our trip relaxing and spending time with our kids. 

Saving the best for last, Ray and I enjoyed an evening of pampering from the Grotto Spato celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary on July 17th. Thanks to the babysitting services offered from the Tigh-Na-Mara, we skipped away to enjoy 4 hours of heavenly relaxation at the Grotto Spa and Treetop Tapas & Grill. We were supplied with 2 babysitters that our children were already comfortable with because of getting to know them earlier in the week during activities like “kids club” & “dinner and a movie”.  It was just so lovely to leave our bungalow without any kids upset because they were already engaged by Kelly and Leah. As a mom – getting to enjoy my massage and time alone with Ray, knowing our kids were happy, content and well taken care of was wonderful. I was so incredibly relaxed after my massage, I couldn’t even remember I was a mother of 4 <grin>.  We had no idea Grotto Spa was one of the top spa facilities in Western Canada when we booked our vacation.  It was an absolutely wonderful and magical discovery once we walked through the doors.

We were delighted with the 5 star level of pampering we received at Grotto Spaand like the rest of the Tigh-Na-Mara resort, the customer service was simply amazing.  My hour long massage flew by because I was chatting with my Spa angel who was an Island local. It was so good to chat with someone who has lived their whole life on Vancouver Island. The business model of sourcing and supporting everything local is well demonstrated throughout the Tigh-Na-Mara and Spa. The Grotto Spa features an amazing organic seaweed skin line made by an Island local.  The Tigh-Na-Mara gift shop is also loaded with local artisans, soaps and bath balms made by a local Sydney company, and candles from Granville Island. Even the art work on display throughout the Spa is locally crafted wood burl art and it’s a special detail that I noticed right away.

Back to our spa escape…. I enjoyed my 60 minute massage, then met Ray in the mineral pool where we spent the next 45 minutes de-toxing in the 2,500 square foot mineral pool, having fun moving between the ‘cool splash cascading waterfall’  and whirlpool in between mineral pool treatments. From there, still in our bath robes, we took the elevator up to the 3rd floor and enjoyed a bottle of wine and endless tapas at the Treetop Tapas & Grill. Our server Richard, was extremely friendly, efficient and knowledgeable about the 20+ different plates of tapas that were brought to our table (our favorites being the cod with shitakee mushroom and the prawn and scallop dish).  We managed to work our way through the entire menu…plus some, finished our bottle of wine, toasted our 10 years together, and mused about the old days as we held hands across the table. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate our anniversary, just the two of us…thank you “Grotto Spa”…we’ll be back.

When we got back to the bungalow, we were greeted with hugs and kisses and heard about the great time our kids had thanks to Leah and Kelly. The kids couldn’t wait to tell us about their evening. They ate pizza, read books, went on a nature walk and had fun at the playground…sounds like they had almost as much fun as we did. What a way to spend our final day in paradise. It couldn’t have gone better.

I also wanted to mention how Eco-minded the resort is. I can’t help but notice this aspect of a company and the Tigh-Na-Mara is leading the way in all regards. I’ve mentioned their local footprint, but they also offer guests recycling amenities, have greened up their off-site events ~ when dishes cannot be used they use earth-friendly tableware, they don’t use paper towels in the Spa or restaurant bathrooms (cloth towels are washed and reused) and green cleaning supplies for each cabin are on-route to the resort. There are also ‘protected’ arbutus trees that bend and reach into the beautiful Island skies ~ the resort is very respectful of even pruning these beautiful protected trees. End-to-end this resort has it all with family, child, and earth friendly services and attention to details that brought on the WOW factor to guests looking for a resort dedicated to keeping their guests happy and returning year after year.

Ray and I would like to thank all the great staff at the Tigh-Na-Mara resort for making our stay an extremely memorable and enjoyable one. We would especially like to thank Kelly, the marketing coordinator for all her special attention and commitment to ensuring that our stay was top notch. Mission accomplished Kelly.  We can’t wait to return next year – all 4 kids are already asking when are we going back!

Family rating – Parksville and Tigh-Na-Mara get a unanimous 12 thumbs up. 

 

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Toxic Experiment With Everyday Products ~ Slow Death By Rubber Duck

Have you heard the buzz about the book called Slow Death By Rubber Duck?  The two authors are leading environmentalists in Canada, Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, and by using their own bodies conduct a 4 day experiment to document how using everyday products known to contain BPA, Phthalates, Teflon, (to name only a few!) and what the effects in their system will be. The experiment could be compared to the Supersize Me documentary, but these results are more shocking because most people know that eating nothing but McDonald’s food is really bad for you.  The results from Slow Death By Rubber Duck might shock you, but because so many of these products are used in the food and products we are in direct contact with, it’s better to learn how to eliminate these chemicals that enter your children and family’s bodies. For example, did you know that newspaper ink contains high enough levels of BPA that can absorb through your skin?  I was surprised by this and many more sources the authors uncover.

Rick and Bruce tested the levels of these 7 chemicals from their experiment: Phthalates, Teflon, Flame Retardants, Mercury, Triclosan (antibacterial), Pesticides, and BPA.  First they attempt to detox their bodies fully from these chemicals, test/document the levels in their blood and urine, then expose themselves to these chemicals through everyday products and food that are known to have high content.  Then they re-test their blood and urine and publish the results. The most shocking part of the experiment for me was not only the high levels in specific chemicals, but also the realization that trying to eliminate levels of chemicals like BPA and Phthalates is impossible. Rick would know better than anyone else (he’s the Executive Director of Environmental Defense for Canada) what to avoid and he consulted with scientists that have been studying these chemicals for years. He could only get the levels of these chemicals low but not at zero because he realized for example if he’s trying to avoid all phthalates though personal care products, the chemical might wind up in milk he drinks because a farmer might use soft tubing containing this chemical to remove milk from a cow. Tracking this and proving it back to the dairy supplier would be impossible. Thinking that your coffee is okay to drink but then realizing the coffee shop selling it has parts of their coffee machine made with polycarbonate plastic – now the coffee contains BPA.  Really, until our Government steps in and bans and controls these chemicals we are faced with a long road with our health chemically polluted. 

  Continue Reading →

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Vacation Paradise ~ Tigh-Na-Mara

This article is starting the old fashioned way (pen to paper) – while I look across miles of sandy beach and crystal clear waters.  As I sit in a beach chair on a beautiful sunny day and write this article I am watching my children exploring tidal pools teaming with an abundance of magical sea life, running from one tidal pool to another, splashing and having the time of their lives.  I can’t help but think how lucky we are to be here.  Where are we, you ask? No we’re not in Mexico or Hawaii…we are in beautiful Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, such a magical place and just a short drive and ferry ride from our home.  In this day and age, with the economy and the environment being what it is, vacationing locally just makes sense.  Especially since we live near one of the most beautiful islands on the globe.

Recently voted 10th on a list of top 10 Islands in the world (wow!!) by Travel and Leisure, its’ easy to see why… Vancouver Island is spectacular. A great local, easy get-away for West Coasters and Pacific Northwesters and well worth the travel for families further away.   As for accommodations, we couldn’t have picked a better place for our family.  The Parksville resort Tigh-Na-Mara nestled between the forest and the ocean front in Parksville has elevated what will become an annual vacation for our family.   I’m proud to support a local vacation destination and love the pampering we’ve received.  How awesome to get the entire experience of a sea-side vacation and not have to worry about passports or boarding a plane.  The combination of the Tigh-Na-Mara’s family friendly activities, rustic cabins and award winning dining and spa services seems to have every aspect covered for families that want the combination of family time and adult pampering.

Since arriving here on Saturday, we have gone to a local farm where our children got to ride ponies, milked and then bottle fed that milk to baby goats. We have played mini-golf and gotten soaked on bumper boats equipped with water guns.   We spent an afternoon at the unique Coombs market and had a great lunch on an outdoor patio while goats walk around on the roof eating grass right above us.  The best part is that all this was within 15 minutes of the hotel!

While at the resort, parents are able to relax and watch kids play unscripted in nature with shovels, buckets and imagination in-hand. The perfect environment for families of all ages, but for our family, wonderful because of how safe you feel with young children.  Tigh-Na-Mara is located right at Rathtrevor Beach, where you can walk out into the ocean for a kilometer and still only be ankle deep, which makes it the perfect beach for families with young children.   When the tide goes out it leaves hundreds of tidal pools perfect for toddlers to splash in and big kids to boogie board.

I’ve always thought the concept of ‘kid’s clubs’ and babysitting services were only available on cruise lines or all inclusive resorts, but that is not the case.  Tigh-Na-Mara offers a wide variety of family and kid friendly activities during the summer including, swimming and tennis lessons, build your own bear workshops, Campfire stories, cave tours, dinner and movie for kids, qualified baby sitting services and the very impressive “Tigh-Na-Mara Kids Club” which offers a variety of games, arts and crafts and activities such as treasure hunts and beach tours.  The kids club is safe and supervised by several of the resort’s knowledgable and friendly staff who ensure that all the kids have a great time.  It runs all day and parents can drop off and pick up thier kids at thier convenience.  And did I mention that it is complimentary for hotel guests. Wow…that blew me away.

While the Tigh-Na-Mara keeps your children happy and engaged, high end adult amenities are on-site like the Cedar Dining Room, Copper Lounge, and Grotto Spa.  We have a spa package booked including the Grotto Mineral Pool, infused with natural minerals and elements to detoxify our weary bones <grin>.   Funny, the last time we treated ourselves to this sort of luxury was on our honeymoon in Antigua 10 years ago.  It’s been a busy couple of years creating our wonderful large family…so we are so looking forwards to the spa.  It’s so great to know that childcare is readily available so we can enjoy this time together.

When on vacation, the whole idea is family bonding, spending time concentrating on each other without outside distractions and we have definitely been able to do that. However, it is also important to give the kids some independence and make new friendships while taking some time to enjoy some time alone as a couple.   Ray and I will be celebrating our 10 year anniversary during our stay here and have already booked our spa time followed by a scrumptious meal at the “Treetop Tapas and Grill” which is exclusive to spa guests and where we will be dining in our bath robes.  Needless to say, we don’t do that type of stuff everyday.  The options offered at the Tigh-Na-Mara are truly the best of both worlds. 

We are just half way through our vacation and have three glorious days left.  I may just have to write another post when we get back home.

A sneak peek of the spa.  .  .  I’ve been in love since I saw this picture on the Tigh-Na-Mara’s web site.  This is the kind of natural beauty everyone needs to pamper themselves with occasionally. 

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DIY Pads & Reusable Menstrual Products

A question that bothered me for some time was recently answered by the folks at Lunapads. Have you heard about this company that sells reusable menstrual products?  It might come as a surprise these options even exist. The response to my last article about dioxins in bleached disposable tampons and pads was terrific and I received lots of emails from loyal users of Lunapads and The Divacup saying how much they LOVE these alternatives.  These products are reusable options for menstrual care that helps protect women against nasty chemicals in traditional products (tampons and pads) while also helping the environment.  Isn’t it funny how we try and keep bleached products away from baby’s bottoms by switching to cloth diapers, but don’t stop to think about ourselves and the harm we are causing by using tampons that contain chemicals?  

Lunapads are a reusable option to pads and liners that are simply washed after use.  We know that traditional pads have chemical residues and using 100% cotton or organic cotton against this area of the body is a healthier solution.  For the environment, think about 14 billion pads going into the landfill every year in America.  Saving money is also a solution with Lunapads because you are investing in a product that will last for years.  There is a comparison chart on the Lunapad site that does a great job of showing customers the money they will save over 5 years of using the lunapad liners and pads. 

Now back to the question I wanted answered. I have lots of clothes, towels, etc. that have rips that keep me from wanting to donate them. I can’t bring myself to just throw them in the trash ~ there must be a way to reuse them.  Via twitter, Lunapads answered my question: DIY menstrual pads.  Their blog post includes the pattern and 2 part video (featuring one of the co-founders of Lunapad) and it’s very easy to follow and even a novice person with a sewing machine could sew these. I think it’s pretty cool that the company that created these pads would show women how to make them if they can’t afford to purchase them, or are looking for a way to reuse materials they already own to reuse into pads. They also encourage people that know how to sew to donate homemade pads to two organizations called Pads4Girls and Birth Kit Maxi Pads. The first organization Pads4Girls sends washable pads to school age girls in Africa. The second Birth Kit Maxi Pads includes washable pads in birth kits sent to the woman of rural Uganda.  In this economy in North America isn’t it amazing that anyone can reuse a material from their home, create, and then donate to these wonderful causes with almost no cash spent?  Well done!  That would be a great project for a high school home rec class.  Teaching kids to care about the environment, a social cause, and feel good about starting a project that has such a large impact far away.

The last main product from the Lunapads site that I have to admit startles me every time I see it is called The DivaCup.  There couldn’t be a better name for the purpose of this product! <grin>  It is the replacement for a tampon that is a much healthier option (read Dioxins ~ The Last Place You Want Them for more information on tampons) and comes with nothing to throw away. Like a tampon, it is inserted to collect menstrual flow rather than absorbing it.  The DivaCup is made from soft silicone and is latex-free, BPA-free, plastic-free, and doesn’t contain dye, colors, or additives. For more information click here.  I would have to test The DivaCup personally, but people I know just rave about it and it is a safer alternative to the toxic traditional products that currently rule the market.

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