Archive | January, 2011

PVC is Shiny…But Not So Pretty or Happy

Looking to prevent your precious consumer dollars spent supporting PVC in clothing?  It’s tricky and if you’ve never thought of it before…it takes a some investigation & sorting to find where it lurks.  Think of shiny, sparkly decals that are stuck to your kid’s clothes or stinky items like rain gear and you’ve got a great place to start. All big box stores are famous for this so if you shop at the mall…save your breath and patience and don’t ask a salesperson if the shirt, shoe, PJs, etc. contains PVC.  They won’t know and the experience will be similar to plucking out your arm hairs. Slowly. Yes, I’ve run my usual list of questions at every retail shop in my local mall including stores like Gap, Old Navy, department stores, Please Mom, H&M, etc. and even District Managers go cross-eyed talking to me. Do I still shop there?  Very occasionally and less and less frequently as the options in eco-friendlier clothing open to consumers. What is the problem with glitter or a big decal on a kid’s shirt? You’ve got the cheapest and most toxic form of plastic sitting right under their noses. You’re also supporting over-seas production of clothing that is using toxic materials for the poor people making the clothes. You’ve got a piece of clothing that will never disappear from the earth…no matter how many times you hand it down because once it ends up in the landfill, PVC will continue to live on. And you’ve got a substance that you’ve brought into your home that will end up in the dryer (think heat on toxic plastic) and you’ve just spend your hard earned $$s on another toxic item in your home.

Why is PVC terrible for human health and the environment? I know I’ve explained PVC before, but if you are new to Mommy Footprint, it’s an important material to understand if you are trying to ‘green’ your life and make healthier lifestyle choices. Described as poison plastic from Greenpeace, this form of plastic is the most toxic of the classified plastics (coded 1 – 7) and it’s ‘recycling’ number is 3.  Please note that while called recycling or resin number (the number defining which type of plastic and item is made from with chasing arrows surrounding it) for PVC is a 3, it is NOT able to be recycled. PVC plastic is toxic from the moment it’s produced until you attempt to get rid of it (burning it or throwing it into the landfill). While it’s being produced, PVC releases harmful dioxins into the air and continues to off-gas throughout it’s life. When you first open a product that is made from PVC that is wrapped in packaging, you will notice an intense and disgusting smell – that is the scent of PVC. A terrible fact that supports the fact of what happens when PVC is burned is described on the Greenpeace website. Listen to this:

From July 9-12, 1997, at least 400 tonnes of PVC were consumed in a fire at Plastimet, Inc., Hamilton, Ontario. The facility was storing bales of “jet trimmings” from a manufacturer of automobile interiors. Analysis of soot and ash samples after the PVC fire at the plant revealed levels of dioxin 66 times higher than permitted even for industrial land. This one fire increased the annual dioxin emssions for the whole of Canada by 4 % in 1997.

What are the top places I’ve tried to eliminate PVC from the clothing I purchase?  Footwear (rubber boots in particular), umbrellas, t-shirts, and PJs. I have walked into stores and had an instant headache from the smell a few pairs of rubber boots can produce. It’s the number one product that is usually produced from PVC and it’s easy to tell because of the smell and price (PVC is a very cheap material and as a result the products produced from it are less money). The best new item for this winter season has been Bogs Footwear for my son and I.  Bogs uses natural rubber and neoprene in their boots and the breathability, comfort, and quality has been very impressive. I’m a huge fan of this company and will outfit my entire clan in their boots next winter.

Umbrellas are also impossible to find PVC-free in a mall or traditional retail store. I found two for my girls at Dandelion Kids and they do have an online store if you’re looking to purchase.  Another place I try to avoid PVC is sleep ware, but boy is that tough.  It’s very hard when trying to find cool boys’ sleep ware. Any sort of licensed PJs – you know, the kind 8 year old boys like – have a big shiny decal on the front. That and they’re made with polyester (I’ll save this rant for another day) but I’ve had luck at Lazy One a local store and I love the PJs for younger kids at Hatley (they also sell PVC- free umbrellas).

The last place to try and rid PVC in my clothing (and kid’s clothing) is simply making a decision to not purchase clothing that have any shiny or synthetic looking decals.  Once you fully understand what these ‘fun’ decals are made from…it’s actually quite easy to explain to children whey you’re not buying the licensed shirt.  We of course get loads of hand-me-downs that have these decals and embellishments,but I’m more talking about the power of consumer dollars. It seems a bit mad that we continue to spend our money on things that are toxic to our heath – doesn’t it?

Many smaller (usually online) stores that have better options with materials used to produce clothing are listed below.  I’d like to reward their efforts with my consumer dollars and a shoutout in this article.  There are so many more small stores that have made the decision to use quality materials in the production of their clothing – please feel free to post a comment to this post and let people know about your products.

Bogs Footwear – http://www.bogsfootwear.com/

Puddle Gear – http://www.puddlegear.com/products.asp

Hatley – http://www.hatleystore.com/

Barley & Birch: http://www.barleyandbirch.com/

Little Inkers: http://www.littleinkers.ca/collections.html

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Magic Erasers ~ Toxic or Eco-Friendly?

After my last post on detoxing your bathroom I was reminded of a product (thanks Raven) I’ve always dismissed in my head as toxic. I’m sure you’ve heard of cleaning erasers, the most popular brand would be Mr. Clean’s magic eraser that is marketed to help surfaces look ‘new again’! I thought this article would be straight forward seeing as Mr. Clean is a Proctor & Gamble product….and my jaded self usually deems any traditional cleaning product toxic. Well I’ve researched it and I’m surprised really, but I don’t think magic erasers are toxic. Don’t get me wrong, they are not eco-friendly but they don’t appear to be laced with loads of cleaning agents within the sponge that would be released when used.

The confusion starts when savvy mamas Google ‘magic eraser ingredients‘ and find the material safety data sheets for Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Cleaning Pads and see warnings to keep this product away from toddlers and then see the word Formaldehyde included in the only chemical ingredient listing called ‘Formaldehyde-Melamine-Sodium bisulfite copolymer’. As moms, we get upset when seeing Formaldehyde listed in ingredients because we know it’s been lurking in our kid’s personal care products (shampoo, body wash, etc.) and think of nasty products like nail polish that contain this chemical that harms human health. Well in the case of the magic eraser, the formaldehyde is used in the manufacturing & production of the melamine sponge (which is the eraser). So unlike Melamine dishware where we worry about the trace amounts of formaldehyde leaching after subjecting the dishware to cleaning, we don’t have to worry about this chemical ‘leaching’ out of the sponge. So while this product is not a toxic cleaning tool – it’s not eco-friendly because chemicals will be absorbed back into the earth when the eraser is discarded, but nothing will be ‘off-gassing’ while it’s being used which I find comforting knowing how many people I know use them.

You might have seen the ‘chemical burn’ picture via an email of a child that circulated around the internet a few years ago. The mother had taken photos of her child with terrible burns on his arms saying that he rubbed the magic eraser on his skin. I believe this has been deemed a hoax, but I would agree with the household products database that these sponges should be kept away from children. It’s not a chemical finish that is removing soap scum and marks from surfaces, its the foam’s structure of melamine resin that becomes more like sand paper when the sponge is put under water. So the outer material of the sponge works like fine sandpaper which could cause a child (or parent with sensitive skin) to react to this surface. This however is different than the supposed ‘chemical burn’ that the child in that email received by using a magic eraser. As far as I can see, adding cleaning chemicals to the sponge has not happened.

So was I delighted with these findings? No, not really, but I was surprised. I would have bet a lot of money there were chemical cleaning agents added to a Mr. Clean magic eraser and I don’t think this is the case. Split decision here if I would actually purchase one. I would recommend a magic eraser over spraying toxic cleaners at a permanent marker stain on a wall, but it would be a joke to call them an ‘eco-friendly’ solution and make them a permanent fixture in my home. Here is why I wouldn’t recommend simply for soap scum or every-day cleaning:

1) If a sponge only lasts a few weeks (I’ve read they breakdown quickly when used) they are not considered an earth-friendly, reusable product.
2) The foam was made by a German company (BASF) and was invented as an insulator and fire retardant. Sorry, but all I can say is gross…it makes me itchy just thinking of holding one.
3) I will never go back to cleaning with something that my kids can’t use. I wouldn’t let them hold one of these and whenever I start cleaning my bathroom, my girls especially want to help. My current cleaning system is very safe for them to participate with.

So while I’m still not a fan, I will no longer be fearful when I hear another glowing testimonial from a mother that swears a magic sponge was the only thing that could get marker off her floor or walls. But, if P&G starts spinning that these sponges are good for the environment, I might not be able to stop my eye twitch…

Related Articles:

Eco-Cleaning Made Easy

Self Cleaning Oven – Toxic For Humans or Only Birds?

Starting with the Bathroom – It’s Time For Chemical Detox

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Starting With The Bathroom ~ It’s Time To Chemical DeTox!

I’m taking a question from the audience with this article because the timing is perfect!  Angie emailed asking where a mom that has no idea how to become eco-friendly should start?  With the number of new parents finding Mommy Footprint I’m going to answer this question room-by-room starting with the bathroom for several reasons  1) more than two years after writing the article ‘Phthalates  Are Making Big News in US‘…today Canada announces they will be eliminating the same class of 6 phthalates in our country 2) I find phthalates to be very scary as they continue to lurk in every corner of a traditional bathroom because they haven’t had the media spotlight our friend ‘BPA’ has been hogging for three years 3) I’m excited to point you to an awesome online store called Saffron Rouge that is making this change easy and affordable by carrying the largest selection of organic brands (that I love) online. Even savvy organics consumers should be thrilled to discover this store because you can request free samples and can ask questions through online chat!

Okay so first – why should a person detox their bathroom?  Once you understand that becoming more eco-friendly in the bathroom isn’t just about helping our environment by not washing chemicals down the drain, but more about not letting chemicals soak into your body…it’s much easier to not want to purchase that container of shampoo for $.99 at Walmart.  Or – and I cringe typing it – the Johnson’s & Johnson’s crap for the next baby shower you attend. The movement behind removing chemicals that surround your most intimate place of refuge (the bathroom) is not about ripping off consumers – it’s about trying to help them flush the phthalates (chemical from these products) out of your body.  Are you trying to get pregnant?  Are you pregnant?  Do you have young children?  You are the consumers being targeted with detoxing your lives…but how I see it…you are the perfect candidates for this action!  I still haven’t answered poor Angie’s question and if she’s new to Mommy Footprint…she might not be used to my rambling.  Here I go Angie…

Want to start a household detox of chemicals?  I would recommend starting in the bathroom. It will be the most affordable room to start in because you will streamline what beauty products you’re using and replace with less, while purchasing quality, organic items. Never throw traditional bathroom products away just to ‘green’ your life. Put them on a top shelf because we all run out of things and it’s the perfect time to use this stuff up! To start checking the products your currently using in the bathroom, you’ll need to discover EWG Skin Deep Database. This stands for Environmental Working Group and they created a database that ranks most beauty products…from shampoo, conditioner, makeup, sunscreen, etc! You might find that some of your products are actually quite safe and eco-friendly so they can stay. The products that rank poorly should go on that top shelf. Now what? If you’re a newbie – you’re finding the site Saffron Rouge at the perfect time because US customers get free shipping over $50, Canadians get inexpensive shipping rates, and you can request free samples of products when you place an order. (Do you see what I mean about the timing of this article? It’s perfect!)  If your plan is to simply replace traditional beauty products when they run out – you can skip the EWG Skin Deep Database checking because Saffron Rouge uses the EWG as one of their tools for sourcing so the safety is already in place for the consumer.

I’m a huge fan of one stop shopping so don’t only green your beauty products in the bathroom but purchase the only cleaner you need.  Yes, I’m still talking about Dr. Bronners and I’ll keep talking about it for a longggg time. It is the only cleaner I have in my house – it’s all you need and it’s so safe for your family!  This liquid soap (the cleaner) and the bar soaps (for body), body lotions, and shaving gels for men are all available here. So many of the brands available are amazing and it’s easy to narrow the scope with budgets and preferences because of the range that’s available.  So I’ve got you covered for personal care and cleaning in the bathroom. If you have a Glade Plug-in or other artificial air fresheners that plug into the wall or are sprayed in a bathroom (Febreeze, etc.) this is the rule breaker for putting on a top shelf.  These need to go immediately. They are so incredible toxic to your health, pets, children, fertility, and babies. To make a statement I would take them to the hazardous waste dept in your area,but if you don’t have time….just recycle. What is your replacement?  Open a window and put some plants into your bathroom.  Anything that is marketed to ‘air freshen’ is only masking odor with chemical fragrance ….only outside air can help ‘clean’ the air. Read more on plant suggestions and air quality tips here.

Daily products that have antibacterial ingredients should be looked at too. Did you know that washing your hands with regular bar soap is effective for fighting the flu and colds?  Some products that contain antibacterial properties also contain triclosan which is a chemical that was created for surgical scrub rooms in hospital? Children should not be using products containing triclosan or microban antibacterial protection. Two places to check in your bathroom are plastic handles (toothbrush, toilet bowl scrubber, hair brush, etc.) that are packaged with antibacterial marketing, containing microban protection. Triclosan can often be found in hand disinfectant or toothpaste. Gross I know and more information can be read here on these chemicals.

Since Angie does have children..I’m going to take this bathroom detox one step further. The bath toys sitting in your tub? Are they a soft plastic?  Chances are they contain phthalates and the chemicals that make the plastic soft are what Canada is legislating to have banned by the summer. Think of your child or baby sucking on one of those bath toys like a sponge with chemicals on it.  I’m sorry….but the image really helped me when I got rid of them a few years ago. I love bath toys because all my kids enjoyed playing in the water but the soft, plasticized bath books and bathtub toys need to go.  I’ve used the Green Toys tea set and Boon bath toys with my smaller children. Naturally finished wooden products made for the water are another great option for tubby fun for older children.

A few bonus tips for the bathroom include sanitary product recommendations for women.  Have you ever thought that bleach on a tampon is toxic and the place it’s going is super absorbent?  This was the only product I couldn’t finish using up after I researched the article about tampons and pads. The thought of the bleach just made my stomach turn. I wrote an article regarding why women should use more natural alternatives and if you ask someone that’s tried a Diva Cup or reusable pad – they love them!  Saffron Rouge carries natural personal lubricants, all-natural deodorant and highly rated sunscreens.  These products are difficult to source so spend some time and poke around their site.  You can’t beat their everyday savings and product knowledge experts that are available through on-line chat to answer your questions.  If you have any for me – please post a comment and let’s discover that a household detox is actually much easier than it used to be. Writing this article almost 3 years after first discovering phthalates and writing about them has me pleased that Canada is taking action against this chemical but at the same time I’m sad at the lack of consumer knowledge. Forward this article to the people you love and ask them to start a chemical detox. It’s not about consumerism…it’s about making healthier changes in our lives with products we need to purchase for our home. Feel the power of educating yourself and starting a chemical cleanse.

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Greener Birthday Parties for Older Kids

While the party is still fresh in my mind and I’ve embraced the fact another year has passed (all too quickly) for another one of my children, I wanted to write an article about hosting a greener party for older kids. I have to say the planning, execution, and green factor (being high!) from this party was very easy this year. Yes, it’s our 3rd year of hosting green parties for our children, including asking for donations in lieu of gifts, but there was no big meltdown (on my part) this year so I wanted to make some realistic recommendations to help parents trying to plan greener parties or celebrations.

When I think or say ‘greener birthday party’ or ‘eco-friendly birthday party’ a vision of children sitting around dying play dough with vegetables as the craft, eating raw/organics and picking up garbage as the activity often comes to mind. This is a lovely concept, but more realistic for younger children. The older kids get, they are picky and want to enforce their opinions on details and activities for their party..this is why things can often get expensive.  This past weekend we hosted Angelo’s 7th birthday party at a local rec centre (no I wasn’t up to the task of having 15 hyper boys in my house with only me to entertain them) and they had a teen room that is reserved during weeknights as a teen centre. The room is equipped with a Ping Pong & Pool Table, Foosball, Air Hockey, Basketball dual game, and a Wii system. There was also a party host that took them to the gym for an hour to play floor hockey and soccer. The key…these boy party guests stayed active, active, active!  The kids left the party having exercised and played with lots of different partners in the party room with the fun activities.

So the venue rocked and was very easy for my husband and I. A few other things I found easy:

Sent the annual Evite to save on paper invitations and hurt feelings from any children that weren’t invited to the party when paper invitations are passed around a classroom.

Used Angelo’s name banner for the 2nd year…best decoration for a child’s room and birthday party from my company Green Planet Parties. Besides for the tablecloth, this is the only decoration needed in this party room – everyone loved it.

My boys are crazy for Harry Potter so rather than host a Harry Potter themed party – we used understated wizard magic with the loot bags. They were cloth camouflage bags that contained organic candy, wooden wizard wands, and grey felt beards (so everyone can be like Dumbledore) once they are home. I have to say, the last guest to leave had the best reaction ever to the loot bags. He opened the bag and took out the wand and screamed “really? You got me my very own wand?” It was just awesome….anyone that believes boys need plastic, battery operated toys to be happy is frankly mistaken.

Brought in earth friendly tableware. I used palm leaf plates, corn cups and put all party guests names on them so they only used one throughout the party, used wooden cutlery, and recycled napkins. The facility where we hosted the party doesn’t have curb-side pickup for food waste so we packed up all the food waste and compostable tableware and brought it home with us to compost.  It was very easy.

For the third year Angelo hosted a donation party and asked his friends to bring a donation rather than a gift. He is a very green little guy and sees the value in helping a charity and knows that the amount of packaging that will be saved from toys and gift wrap is important. It really helps cut down on unrecyclable plastic when you ask children not to bring gifts to a party. We left the party with just envelopes because most of the kids made their own cards. In previous years, Angelo has helped Endangered Animals because it’s a concept younger children love – helping animals. This year, Angelo decided to give 1/2 of his party donations to Cancer Research because our family lost my father-in-law last year to a courageous battle to cancer so it’s a new cause that is close to their hearts. Donation parties really help empower children because they are making decisions (sometimes for the first time) with where their money is going – it gives them confidence and makes them proud.

For the first time in a long time, I simply just enjoyed the party. I wasn’t running around like a crazy person…I had support and help and got to enjoy the 3 hours, taking pictures and playing games with the kids.

I may be the owner of Green Planet Parties, but I’m not perfect and have a few areas to improve next year.  I love the convenience of supermarket cakes…I really don’t enjoy baking and know I’m not capable of pulling off a Harry Potter cake on my own, but knowing the icing is made from loads of artificial colors and the toys on top of the cake are made with PVC, doesn’t make me feel great. The convenience is wonderful…but I’d love to find another solution. There are lots of smaller cupcake, cookie, cake pop bakers in every community that are making these items from scratch and are probably more healthy than the supermarket. One person I’ve become friends with on Twitter is Event Envy. Not only is this mompreneur witty and friendly on social media, but her cakes and cake pops are incredible! My new favorite from her site is the Ruffle Cake!

Besides for the cake ‘fail’ I also brought juice boxes to the party. We did use water pitchers with the corn cups instead of plastic water bottles, but didn’t have enough containers to serve juice. The centre had recycling facilities and took care of the juice boxes but I would eliminate these for next time.

Ohhh just remembered I used beeswax candles on the birthday cake rather than petroleum based.  Maybe I just earned a point back?  <smile>

I wanted to write a post that anyone can follow regarding hosting greener birthday parties for children of any age. It’s still very possible (easy in fact) and doesn’t need to be this incredibly stressful occasion for parents. It should be enjoyable and fun….it is a party after-all!  Hmmmm next party is for my 4 year old twin daughters so everything might change trying to balance the ‘princess’ wishes they’ve been talking about.  That’s okay…I have a few ideas of my own how to keep their party green, fun, and girlie!  Wish me luck.

New, locally handmade items are arriving for Green Planet Parties. Join us on Facebook via the Fan Page so you don’t miss any of these new additions.

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Pssst Plastic & Melamine – Can We Talk?

I guess it truly doesn’t matter how many times I write or acknowledge in my head that certain every-day actions are not healthy, if it’s convenient and saves me time, I seem to fall into the ‘convenience’ trap. And this is one reason I struggle and dislike plastic so much. After all plastic was created to save us time and money since this material was so much cheaper than glass and more ‘durable’ (doesn’t break as easily). Plastic is a man-made material that has been polluting our bodies since it’s creation because of untested chemicals and regulations, but still we are all addicted to using it. The alternatives are so much more expensive, heavy, and not as durable with breakage, etc.  Right?  So why do we need to break the habits of purchasing and using so much plastic?  We are hurting ourselves….and in some cases killing ourselves with all of these man-made ‘convenience’ based chemicals. I believe that even though you can purchase BPA-free plastic that unless the plastic is cared for properly, chemicals will leach out.  It doesn’t matter who you ask – if you purchase plastic sippy cups, bottles, cups, bowls, plates, colanders, food/liquid containers, ice cube trays, etc., about how to care for a plastic item they will tell you not to put it in the dishwasher or microwave. Why is that?  Because the material of plastic is not strong enough to not ‘breakdown’ in these machines; therefore, chemicals will leach through cracks, scratches, etc. My weakness since becoming a mom is always trying to purchase items that are dishwasher friendly because I love the time the dishwasher saves me and I readily know this about myself.  What are materials that are dishwasher safe and don’t leach? Stainless steel, glass, enamelware, and glassware (Corelle) are good places to start.  So although I’ve been pretty good over the last 2 years of ridding my kitchen of most plastic there are a few items that won’t be coming on my journey into 2011. I finally have enough glass and stainless steel cups that my IKEA plastic tumblers are being retired to the back of my kitchen cupboard. Yes, they are BPA free – but they are beat-up and worn making them very poor candidates for the dishwasher. I will not miss you, although you have served me very well over the years.  All my pans, storage / freezing containers are stainless steel, bake ware is glass, and utensils are stainless steel so I’m almost plastic-free. I also, of course, have stainless steel ice-cube trays and popsicle molds because I’ve always been uncomfortable freezing in plastic.

So what is my message in this article?  Try to not heat food or liquid in plastic or clean plastic in the dishwasher. . . the convenience is great but heating plastic at high temperatures is not healthy for your family. And while we are on this topic, I noticed that Melamine dishware being advertised for babies and young children over the holidays. The same rules go for Melamine as plastic since this synthetic polymer is created with formaldehyde. Although these Melamine dishes can be marketed as ‘BPA-free’ ….I don’t think parents want formaldehyde leaching into their children’s food either as Melamine by itself cannot be consumed.  Follow the rules of using these materials and you’re probably okay. But in a world of tempting convenience I always smile towards the trends that were around before the age of plastic.  It’s taken over 2 years to get to the point where I can retire my plastic kitchenware so don’t feel overwhelmed if this is one of your goals. Little by little….it can be done.

Happy New Year everyone!  I look forward to sharing more ‘greener’ journeys together in 2011. You are welcome to email me questions or post comments to the Mommy Footprint Facebook fan page.

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