Archive | August, 2010

Skip Licensed Backpacks and Check Out Ecogear To Avoid PVC

After a rare trip to the mall today, I wanted to point out something that occurred to me about licensed school supplies. I am very confident that a Nick Jr., Hannah Montana, Spiderman backpack does not exists without containing PVC. With parents being overwhelmed with information on materials to shop for with back-to-school…the topic of backpacks is easy. Unless the backpack clearly says “No PVC” it has probably been made with PVC. If the backpack is $9.99 at a big box store, it has probably been made with PVC. Also, I hate to say it, but if you want to purchase a new PVC-free backpack for children returning to school, you’re not going to find it at most malls.  But don’t get disappointed because Ecogear is here and the options are amazing!

Two items that traditionally have been the hardest to avoid with PVC are backpacks and plastic binders, but it’s not all doom and gloom because there are some affordable PVC-free backpacks on sale right now at Ecogear.  The Ecogear lineup of backpacks are PVC-free, great quality, affordable and now 25% off. Starting with younger children looking for non-licensed characters there is the Ecozoo series – very fun and made with cotton fabric.

For older kids attending school all day – I’ve received my two backpacks from the Genus and Recycle series and I’m very happy with both backpacks for my boys. The design and quality is awesome and I was extremely happy to not get off-gassed with chemical smells when opening them from the box. The Snow Leopard backpack for my 8 year old son is a great size for him. Since he is on the tall side, I would recommend it for ages 10 and up. The pack comes with straps around the front to help balance weight distribution and lots of handy pockets for gadgets, etc. The straps are padded to offer more support once the backpacks get full from heavy books and materials. These backpacks are PVC-free, made from non-toxic dyes, and have many little organizer pockets in the front and one main compartment for books and lunch.

My 6 year old son received a Palila backpack and it’s perfect for younger kids attending school all day. It has a handy side pocket for a reusable water bottle, a built in wallet (my boys love this feature!), made PVC-free with non-toxic dyes and is made from recycled bottles. All the backpack for older kids on the Ecogear site have the swagger of very cool, outdoor/adventure styled backpacks – I love this. And Ecogear is currently having a 25% discount on their site so take advantage of the savings….these backpacks are just under $30 which is a great deal! If any Canadians are trying to order from the Ecogear site, you’ll notice it only accepts US zip codes. I spoke to Ecogear and the process for Canadians wanting to order a product is to contact Angie by calling 1-800-762-4533 or email sales@ecogear-products.com. Residents within the USA can order directly on-line.

Why should we be avoiding PVC again?  It’s not only to help the environment – it’s for your children’s health. PVC is called the poison plastic and releases dioxins into the air from the time it’s produced and continues to off-gass (the reason it smells when you purchase it) and there isn’t a way to effectively dispose of this material. If you burn it – more dioxins are released, it cannot be recycled, so it will continue to exist when discarded for a very long time.  Read more about PVC from Mommy Footprint here. Also, an always incredible resource is the Environmental Working Group and they’ve written a short guide for ‘Green Back-to-School Guide for K-12‘ and there is more information on PVC.

To read more articles with back-to-school recommendations for reducing chemical exposure to BPA, PVC, and phthalates, check out the category 2010 Litterless Lunch.

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Back To School With Thermos

It’s getting close to that time – back to school is almost here! This year, more than ever, the focus for parents is packing litterless lunches. Eliminate PVC and non-recyclable materials and invest in some wonderful reusable items for lunchtime. The brand Thermos has been around for a long time and are known for their quality.  I’m very excited because I get to talk about a new water bottle from Thermos. I was surprised with how much I love their new Roho stainless steel water bottle. It takes a lot to impress me with water bottles…I’ve only ever reviewed 2 brands. The Roho style bottle is perfect for on-the-go adults and kids that attend school all day. What makes this bottle different from the many stainless steel models and brands out there? The difference is how lovely the drinking spout is and the design of the leak proof lid. Kids simply press a button and the lid bounces open – then there is a curved area for drinking and the experience is awesome. Thermos sent us a skull/roses design and my boys flipped when they saw it. It’s the ‘it’ bottle to use in our house right now. . . and that includes my husband and I. It’s refreshing for us as adults to not be sucking water out of sports cap bottles all the time – we all feel a little more grown up. These are hydration bottles made from top quality stainless steel (18/8), the bottles are dishwasher friendly, and there is a cool design for anyone in the family. If you are looking for a double walled bottle to keep liquids hot – there are lots of options on the Thermos site, just click here.

I do worry about my kids playing with the top so much as the button seems to be irresistible for them - but these bottles are a good price point, hold 24 oz of liquid and are readily available at Target, London Drugs, etc. If you can pickup extra tops for the bottles when you purchase them – it might be a good idea.  Also, I appreciate the fact this is a leak proof bottle. I’m not even sure why manufactures would create a product that leaks and then market it to parents that are packing lunches going into backpacks. I love leak proof food containers, bottles, anything getting packed and jostled around in a backpack come September.

Next up – what if you want to send your child to school with a hot lunch?  Left over stir-fry, soup, etc.? You need make sure you are purchasing a double walled container that is made to hold hot liquids, food, and is leak proof. You don’t have to look any further than Thermos. I’ve used Thermos for years to pack soup for on-the-go outings with toddlers and now have the flexibility of packing hot lunches for back to school with my older kids. I’m not a huge fan of commercialized products for school, but sometimes it helps children feel like friends are surrounding them for the return to school and these jars are my favorite material ~ stainless steel. My kids were very jazzed about the Spiderman and Fairies Funtainers they’ve been using this summer for transporting snacks. These containers can also keep hot lunches warm for 5 hours making them the perfect item for kids returning to school that like to eat soup. For adults bringing hot food to work…I’ve been using the Vacuum Insulated Food Jar and the Dual Purpose Food Jar and they are awesome! Again - must have items for parents returning to the work routine wanting more options other than a sandwich.

Last item is for on-the-go mamas that are flying around getting kids from school to sports to after-school activities. Thermos is selling PVC free insulated lined purses that help keep your snacks cool or warm when you are dashing all over town. I have used it all summer to transport cold water bottles on our excursions, but it’s been listening to my kids talk about it that makes me smile. I’ve overheard my older boy telling his friends “hey, do you see my mom’s purse? It’s really not a purse – it’s a cooler!” So funny to listen to…but such a handy accessory for moms. We’re all transporting stainless steel water bottles and stainless steel containers for snacks – so why not keep these items insulated? All summer long I’ve been using it and just keep my camera, keys, and cell phone in the handy pockets located in the front. All items from Thermos are PVC free which is probably the number one requirement with shopping for back to school supplies this year for parents looking to pack healthier and litterless lunches this September.

Canadian customers can use the Thermos site www.ThermosBrand.ca to check out the handy list of retail outlets selling their brand. US customers can visit www.Thermos.com and shop online.   Enjoy the quality and styles Thermos offers with your back-to-school shopping this year!

Related Articles:

Lunch Bags – Reusable and Litterless Lunch Systems
Litterless Lunch ~ Back To School With PlanetBox
Graze Organic – Ditch Plastic Sandwich Bags Forever!
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Greening Your Vacation ~ Tigh-Na-Mara

Each summer there is no guess work where we’ll be staying for our family vacation. The Tigh-Na- Mara resort on Vancouver Island has everything a family loves; a beach that stretches for miles covered with magical tidal pools, rustic cabins that provide the comforts of home, and amazing restaurant and spa facilities. The inspiration for this article is the great job Tigh-Na-Mara resort and Spa accomplish with green initiatives. It’s a tough job greening up a resort covering 22 acres of quite possibly the most beautiful land on Vancouver Island and I recognize and appreciate the effort as a returning guest. When booking your accommodations, have you ever wondered what happens to left over shampoo bottles only partially used from your hotel?  Have you inquired if composting and recycling services are available?  The answers might surprise you and would those answers effect how you felt about the resort or hotel? There is a ‘green team’ that is changing the way the Tigh-Na-Mara approaches guest services and it’s a unique aspect that I’m so proud to write about. This year wasn’t any different with new eco initiatives by Tigh-Na-Mara and learning about them really enhanced my family’s vacation.

We had only gotten through the parking lot when we saw the sign to rent ‘eco scooters’ which is something new because these scooters are powered by biofuel or there’s an electric option.  The company Eco Scooter Rentals own and operate these scooters that are located in the parking lot of Tigh-Na-Mara. Another new perk to staying at Tigh-Na-Mara is a free bus service that does pickup at the resort called Get Around Downtown encouraging resort guests to shop and enjoy downtown Parksville while reducing car emissions.

It’s not just return guests that are noticing the greener changes in the way the Tigh-Na-Mara conducts business. They received the ’4 Green Key’ rating from the Hotel Association of Canada back in March and more recently the 2010 Going Green Award from Business Excellence Awards. Staff and Management of the resort are proud of the full commitment to greening both business and guest experiences, while not compromising their excellent guest and customer service.

More changes that are significant include:
~ Overhaul of kitchen dishwashing equipment to biodegradable cleaning products
~ 80% of kitchen waste is composted
~ Switch to environmentally friendly cleaning products by housekeeping team and laundry cleaning products
~ More than 70% of all collateral produced is printed on recycled paper and several using biodegradable inks

Tigh-Na-Mara’s Grotto Spa rated #1 spa in Western Canada offers signature treatments with a focus on natural ingredients. I discovered my favorite organic skincare line last year while visiting the Spa. Sea Flora is the name of the organic skincare line made of seaweed that is sold in the Grotto Spa and I love the local support for founder Diane Bernard who comes with a magical story and business all on her own! You also see the local love in the Tigh-Na-Mara gift shop and why wouldn’t a resort on Vancouver Island support their own artists and small business owners?  The talent of artists, chemical-free soaps/skin care lines, and handmade items is abundant and inspiring all across Vancouver Island.

As you stroll the relaxing grounds of Tigh-Na-Mara you can’t help but notice the respect to the 22 acres property with abundant Arbutus and Pine trees and electric golf carts used throughout the resort for transportation. Signs of the extensive resort recycling program are everywhere and the fact kitchen food waste is composted is impressive…very few restaurants in big cities are able to maintain a program like this. Take away containers for the restaurant are made from 100% recycled paper using 35% or more post-consumer recycled paper. Tigh-Na-Mara also uses Lightning Nugget Firestarters. Have you heard of these firestarters that are produced with pitchwood rather than harmful chemicals? The nuggets are made in the US – what a great find by ‘Green Team’ member Kelly!

With so many nature based activities to mention in this one article, I’d like to mention 3 memories that will forever imprint my heart from this vacation. The first was walking through the doors of our cabin arriving on the first day and finding a geocaching map with 5 of the closest caches marked for my family to find.  The customer service on this gesture was amazing and very thoughtful of Tigh-Na-Mara staff.  Then later in the week we ventured to Cathedral Grove which is a protected forest filled with 800 year old Douglas Fir trees. The picture below is my kids exploring the roots of an upturned tree. The only word I can think of to describe the images in this forest is Epic!

And yesterday morning my family was invited to join a local biologist on Rathtrevor beach. We are now spoiled for life because all the questions we’ve ever wondered about shore-line creatures were answered in this 2 hour beach combing sessions. This offering is available for any family staying at the Tigh Na Mara and has been wildly popular. This initiative, plus weekly visits to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association located in Parksville further supports the resort’s commitment to the environment through wildlife education for guests and their children.

My thanks to Kelly, Jenn, and Alexis at the Tigh-Na-Mara for their dedication and excellence with green initiatives and helping my family get to experience many of the eco-magic the Tigh-Na-Mara offers. To keep track of the latest offerings from this fabulous resort, follow the Tigh Na Mara Facebook fan page or twitter account at @Tigh_Na_Mara.  And yes, if you’ve been patiently waiting for my answer about what the Tigh-Na-Mara does with left over shampoo…the answer is all the partially filled bottles are donated to a local Women’s Shelter. It’s a question I will now ask every hotel or resort my family stays because I’ve realized the answer is important to me.

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Summer Fairy Garden and Fairy House

I’m so happy to write about a long awaited eco-activity we’ve recently finished – building a fairy garden and fairy house. It’s been my 6 year old son urging me to help him make fairy furniture and design plans for the house which has been a very cool surprise…I always thought this would be something I’d create with my daughter’s so I’m thrilled my boys thought this was a fun idea. Creating the garden, furniture and house was so much easier thanks to the awesome tutorials at The Magic Onions. I’ve talked about this site before because it’s the ultimate resource for convincing non-crafty folk like myself that I can create some of nature’s magic with my own children.

It was so heart warming to me that one of my son’s was so determined to get this project off the ground. We had so much fun and I’m proud that all of the materials for the garden came from our yard or nearby forests…nothing needed to be purchased and borrowing a glue gun from my friend became another fun highlight for my kids (glue guns make crafting so much fun!). Our garden doesn’t come close to the artistic design that The Magic Onion achieves with her blog but check out the pictures at the end of this article – I think we did pretty good and even managed to create a new item that is the perfect accent for any fairy’s garden (hint: think acorns and hemp string).

I loved the idea of finding a wine barrel for the garden, but we used an over sized planter currently not being used. Whatever you use, make sure it’s large enough because your children will want to play with the garden when it’s completed. Also, have potting soil and make sure the container/planter/barrel has a hole in the bottom for drainage purposes because you’ll need to water your garden to keep the moss and flowers alive.

We didn’t draw out our our fairy garden before hand – but I do recommend it. Having your child map out on a sheet of paper where everything will go is a very magical step in the process and a great keep-sake. We filled up our planter with potting soil and dirt, pulled out a small flowering plant with roots intact from our main garden and replanted it in our fairy garden. Angelo found a plastic container to use for our fairy pond, then we put marbles around it with a path. Now came the fun – fairy doors, fairy furniture, and the fairy house! I followed all the instructions from The Magic Onions except for the one piece of decor within the fairy garden that was dreamed up by my sweet boy Angelo – lantern lights to hang high above the garden to light the way for fairies and gnomes. Angelo is always picking up acorns wherever we go – they are a staple item collected for his nature box. We used some hemp string and tied approx. 6 acorns together and attached to taller branches. These became our fairy lanterns ~ funny what ideas you start to imagine when you believe that fairies really do exist.

We really enjoyed making fairy furniture from the tutorials at The Magic Onions: fairy bath tub, fairy dining table, and our favourite the fairy’s washing line! This is the drying line where fairies leave their extra set of wings or dresses after they’ve been dampened by the morning dew. If you have tiny clothes pegs – that is best.  For the clothing line – I used the annoying ties that you need to unwind when receiving a new toy. You know those grey ties that you fight with to ‘release’ the toy after your child unwraps it?  Well my mom pointed out a few summers ago that she loves using them for tying back plants in the garden. I started saving them too because they do come in handy. They worked perfectly to tie around two sticks to create our clothing line. Here are our pictures:

After our fairy garden was complete we sat back and enjoyed our accomplishment for only a few days before Angelo decided that a house needed to be built. Thankfully, our wonderful friend Patti had many examples from her own adventures so we followed the fantastic model of no gluing, no tying to get our log house built. We simply cut approx. 20 sticks to the same size and built 4 walls (with a gap for a door) by pushing the sticks down into the soil of our fairy garden. Our roof and fairy door was made from tree bark; easy to break and mold into the shape needed for both.  I love that Angelo went into the yard and was so excited that he found the perfect door knob for the fairy door – a dandelion top that hadn’t blossomed yet. It was perfect for a knob and we used the glue gun to attach it to the door. Very easy to build and our garden is almost complete. We used all materials that were already on-hand or found on a forest floor. The last surprise will be the little ladies and goodies I have arriving from The Enchanted Cupboard. I’ve long been a fan of artist and mom Beccijo who hand paints wooden treasures and has truly captured the magic of fairies and mermaids in her lovely Etsy shop.

Here are the final pictures from our fairy garden and house. So fun and hopefully a summer memory that my kids will always remember – I know I will.

Related Articles:

Fairy Doors, Fairy Dust, The Makings For A Magical Party Game

The Fairy Ring ~ Etsy Wooden Fairy Dolls

Celebrate Your Little Girl’s Love For Fairies – Make A Toadstool!

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Lunch Bags – Reusable and Litterless Lunch Systems

Lunch Bags have transformed from the concept of traditional brown bags into functional and stylish lunch systems. We received our camouflage ACME Lunch Bag from the online store Every Little Bit and I’m so happy with my testing of my first ever lunch bag. Additional features to the ACME lunch bag is it’s roomy compartment with adjustable strap and ice pack.  The size of the ACME brand is big enough for an adult sized stainless steel water bottle and several reusable containers. The bag comes with an ice pack that fits into an inside pocket so anyone sending meats, yogurt, salad, etc. can rest easily that it’s cold enough to sit all day before eating. Every Little Bit does have a girlie color in the ACME brand lunch bag (although I love green camo for both boys and girls) in a fun Berry color, both with the great price point of $20.95.

Researching littlerless lunch systems has long been a favorite topic at Mommy Footprint. I talk to parents wherever I go and ask what their favourite system of packing lunches for kids that are in school all day. What I’ve learned is that everyone has a different system or preference to how lunches work – both parents and children. It’s interesting how some parents really like packing food in separate containers, while others find that a system that’s attached via a tiffin or lunchbox style works the best for their household. After hearing from several parents they enjoy using lunch bags – I turned my search to find an eco-friendly option and the ACME bags are a fantastic product. More things to love than their design and size is they are PVC and lead free.  This year, PVC- free products are a must with kids returning to school!  We need to start an uprising within our parent groups about how toxic and terrible PVC is for our children’s health and our planet. If the term PVC is new to you – it is the worst kind of plastic that is produced and is coded #3. It produces toxic dioxins when it’s made, off-gasses chemicals for it’s life-span, then never leaves our planet because there isn’t a way of disposing of it that doesn’t cause more harm to the environment; PVC doesn’t break down in a landfill or if it’s burned in an incinerator it again releases more carcinogenic dioxins into the air.  Not a pretty description of a plastic that is in probably most of your children’s toys and many back-to-school products that are pushed by the big box stores. Make PVC-free a focus with your back-to-school shopping this year – if not for the environment – then for the health of your kids. Okay…back to the awesome ACME Lunch Bags

I used my ACME lunch bag on my recent Geocaching family adventure and the shoulder strap was perfect to adjust to my body size. This strap can adjust back to fit a child too. The non-toxic freezer pack kept our stainless steel water bottles super cold during our geocaching outing in very hot weather. The interior lining of this bag is insulated for hot or cold food and beverages and is 100% made in the USA. It just gets better for this bag  - it can be thrown in to the washing machine for occasional cleaning and the insulated interior makes it easy for daily wipes with a damp cloth to pickup crumbs or spills.  A lot of positives and this product receives a high ‘Eco-rating’ from Every Little Bit and a high ‘Mommy Footprint’ rating for price point, quality, and back-to-school must have for those looking for Lunch Bags.  A great size for children attending full day school or adults working too!

Lunch Sacks by Ore on the Every Little Bit site are a great size for preschool kids or younger children needing snacks packed. There is a design to delight any child from Dia de los Murtos for boys (skulls) to Butterfly designs with lots of other fun themes – there is design for anyone. Sized for a snack and small water bottle – these would be most exciting for a little person entering the world of school this September. These cotton lunch sacks are laminated so they clean up easy in the wash and is non-toxic and lead free. With the lower ‘Eco Rating’ from Every Little Bit I’m guessing these bags are made overseas – the handy little tool on the Every Little Bit site measures if a product is simply a better option to traditional products or would be welcomed by they crunchiest of green people! But I love the fact they are made PVC-free with a variety of designs that would promote a 3 or 4 year old to embrace using a litterless lunch system.

For the size, quality, price point and the fact it’s made in the US – I think the ACME lunch bags are an awesome back-to-school option for parents looking for this system for packing litterless lunches in September. If you are confused whether a product is PVC-free I would love to tell you to flip over the product and look for the recycling code number 3 – but most products (in my experience) that are made with PVC aren’t coded. Instead stick your head inside the backpack, lunch sack, pencil case, etc. and smell. If you smell the yucky plastic smell – it’s likely been made with cheap plastic.  Don’t purchase these product. Also, look for supplies that are marked PVC-free on the package. It’s a big marketing factor for companies and because it costs more to develop products without PVC, these companies want you to know they are PVC-free and will mark that somewhere visible.

I hope you are finding helpful information with this series of healthier back-to-school lunch options that promote litterless lunches. Here are some related articles:

Litterless Lunch ~ Back To School With PlanetBox

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