Archive | April, 2011

Going Forward From Earth Day – 5 Tips

We know I’m not one for keeping it short, but I figure I’ve expanded on posts dear to my heart already within the article so I’ll include the link if you’d like more information. I honestly believe that at this point we are all making conscience decisions in our everyday lives and maybe that’s why Earth Day felt a little less hyped this year. If that is the case – that is awesome. If you are new to the process of ‘greening’ your life, here are 5 tips that will help you. Also remember, anything that is harmful to the environment is also toxic to human health. So if you’re not quite ready to change your lifestyle or consumerism for the planet, think about making these changes to help your family live a longer and healthier life.  Here we go!

1) Vow to never again use the self cleaning option on your oven. This convenience based option is known to kill household pets. Non-stick surfaces combined with very high heat produces a terrible toxic off-gassing that is not healthy for your household. Read more here.

2) Take an hour and review your personal care products on the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. This is the best resource for identifying cosmetics, sunscreen, personal care products that might contain toxic ingredients. This is a valuable resource to check before you go shopping for that next bottle of shampoo or item for baby. With the number of options out there today, check out how your cosmetics score and switch over to non-toxic, organic products.

3) Think about your family’s fragrance. What does this mean? When you go out in public – is there any part of you that could cause a reaction to someone sensitive to synthetic scents? I get a reaction from people that use dryer sheets or fabric softener. Think about the synthetic scents you omit in public including perfumes, deodorants, household cleaners/air fresheners, and laundry routine. For more information click here.

4) Let the outdoors in! Did you know that the inside of your home is probably filled with more toxins that the outdoors? Ban all room deodorizers and simply open a window. Let the fresh air truly ‘freshen’ your home and eliminate odors. For more information click here.

5) Consumerism…this one’s important. It’s the biggest problem with the environment and the clutter taking over our homes. You need to think about every purchase you make. Where will it end up? Where was it manufactured? What is it made from? These are the questions we should ask every time we purchase that next Easter gift, birthday gift, clothing shop, etc. If nothing else, you asking these questions will promote change. I have personally witnessed this shift in consumerism mentality. I know parents love to ask “where is this product manufactured?” I know from asking hundreds of parents that they will pay more for having something made locally and supporting a local artist or toy maker. Let’s keep this shift in how we shop going and reach every industry and let them know it’s important. We want locally manufactured goods that are safe for our families. Period. It’s no longer acceptable to produce toxic toys overseas and have our children play and wear toxic chemicals. My hope is that by this day next year, Earth Day is only symbolic of what we incorporate into our lives everyday and that we ask ourselves these questions everyday.

I read an article by Lisa Frack from EWG that made me really think about Earth Day changes and wanted to share. For more information on changes you can make that will help your health and planet, read her article called If You’ve Done One Thing, You’ve Done Something. I for one will be looking into a water filter. I also have a few idea I’ll be implementing at my kid’s school that I’ll share. What about you?

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Finding Non-Toxic Sand For Kid’s Sandbox

I received a question from Kristy routed through Twitter and it’s one that’s perfect to talk about this time of year when parents are loving the sunshine and going out to purchase new sand for sandboxes. All children love sandboxes and it’s such a wonderful activity right?  I had no idea that many brands/types of sand that you purchase for a kid’s sandbox is not only toxic, but a carcinogen! Two questions you need to ask when purchasing play sand: does the sand contain Crystalline silica or asbestos?  The ingredient crystalline silica found in most play sand can cause lung disease such as silicosis and are small enough to get trapped in lung tissue. The problem with traditional play sand is it’s not made from natural sand, but produced with quarried quartz rocks.   The Safe Sand Company makes a great point on their website with a fantastic eco consumer tip:

Ask your local supplier, FIRST, for their MSDS (Material Data Safety Sheet) report. Look for the label: “Not labeled for sale in California.” You have a right to know if someone is selling you a known carcinogen and the EPA and OSHA have done great work in protecting workers from inhaling certain kinds of dusts: eg. crystalline silica. Most sand sellers have a MSDS online so you can check and see.

Asbestos tremlite is a form of asbesto that is linked to lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure.  What some of you might not know is the state of California labels any products that contains carcinogen ingredients with this tag:

Isn’t that brilliant?  What parent is going to purchase something that has this label attached to it?  This is the tag that would come attached to any play sand sold in California that contains crystalline silica so it’s a great tip for all consumers to check MSDS sheets online to see if any product is exempt from being sold in California. Safe sand is located in the US which is great for my readers that live in the States, but they actually buy their sand from a Canadian company called Sandtastik and they make locating places to purchase non-toxic sand easy with their Store Locator tool. They make it easy for parents so we don’t have to spend hours reading ingredients or asking at the big box stores to see MSDS sheets (which would be an exercise in complete frustration at most!).  Safe Sand also recommends pea gravel as a great alternative for a child’s sandbox. It can be found at garden stores and you should look for dust-free, washed and sterilized pea gravel.

It seems everyday I’m learning that something new is toxic. I’m trying to embrace this knowledge rather that losing myself in fear which would be easy to do. The US seems to be making some very important steps with chemical detection and protection for consumers. The California Proposition 65 warning labels are awesome and today, the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 was introduced, but Congress still needs help with you asking your Senators to sponsor the Safe Chemicals Act. Click here to learn more. And for Canada – we need to start leveraging some better protection ourselves to remove chemicals from all the products containing carcinogens, hormone disruptors, and more. The fact that sand for our kids sandboxes contains substances that can cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive problems just makes me shake my head.

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Eco Kids Party – Fairies & Forest Walk

It’s no secret I love fairies. I dressed up as Peter Pan last Halloween and I relate to this classic character in so many ways. Being the owner and having a creative outlet like Green Planet Parties has been a gift – the ability to reach a large audience of parents looking to make better environmental choices at their children’s birthday parties is wonderful. I’d like to share the planning and results of my twin daughters greener birthday party and the hope was to capture the magic of a fairy walk, through our nearby woods and test our woodland creativity. I’m writing about this party because when I was researching forest walk party ideas on the internet…I started to feel nervous because the elaborate and beautiful examples I was reading through were out of my budget and amount of time I  had to make some magic happen. The results from our fairy party were amazing and although many of the Green Planet Parties fairy products were integrated into the forest walk and eye-spy – I also used my imagination and borrowed items from friends which is attainable for anyone planning a fairy themed or woodland party. A very talented photographer lent her eye and captured some great pictures and her name is Tamsen Ogden. You can view the all the pictures on the updated Gallery page of Green Planet Parties located here.

The forest setup and eye-spy was the best part of my day. I had my sons to help me and it was so much fun climbing trees to string felt garland to mark the entrance way into the forest and the end of the walk. My boys loved helping attach the fairy window and fairy chimney to one of the trees in the forest.  These were the first items to spot when the girls would enter the forest. They are such cute items….with the fairies having a window box with flowers and fireplace to enjoy inside the tree.

We collected and setup ‘gifts’ that the fairies might have left in the forest to show they are happy living in the trees and to also work as an eye-spy game to keep the young guests engaged. The length of the trail or forest walk would depend on ages and time-frame…our walk lasted about 10 minutes for each guest which was perfect for 4 and 5 year olds. Every 10 feet there would be a gift left by the fairies. There was a tea-set in an abandoned tree house built into the forest, felt acorn capped ornaments hanging from branches, a beautiful fairy house borrowed from a friend, wooden bird houses hanging in branches, a bucket of wooden wands that each little girl enjoyed keeping, and my favorite – the outdoor fairy door. These outdoor fairy doors have such huge W-o-W factor because they open, are a really big size (11″ high), are handcrafted with amazing quality, and treated so they are can be used in the garden after the party as a year-round decoration. Here are some pictures of these special fairy treasures.

Once the forest was setup, we led party guests to the entrance of the trail. The girls went into the forest in sets of two and were told to look for signs or gifts from the fairies. They had to remember these items and tell the helper at the end of the trail all the things they remembered. My niece helping wrote down the items that they remembered. I loved watching the reactions of party guests finding a hidden treasure in the forest and knocking softly on the fairy door. A few eco-friendly tips for setting up the fairy walk and helped keep things on budget was picking up a new paint can from a local paint store and painting the outside of it to hold the wooden wands. I loved the effect and thought that pinning fabric around the can would be beautiful too. I also wanted an earth friendly glitter to sprinkle and lead guests to magical forest items. Earth friendly glitter doesn’t exist because traditional glitter is produced from plastic and I didn’t want to be putting that on a forest floor so I hoe-punched seed paper. I loved the effect of having something contrasting with the soil that caught their eye (pictured in the fairy door photo). I didn’t have to worry about leaving any of this material behind once the party was finished because the paper is compostable and embedded with wild flower seeds.

My girls wore silk wings that are so incredibly earthy and they loved how the wings floated behind them when they ran through the forest. After the walk they seemed pretty happy with what the fairies created. After we arrived home the fairies were busy with more surprises. The tabletop was set with more earthy fun, starting with compostable heart shaped palm leaf plates, borrowed tea cups for lemonade and ice-tea, cloth tablecloth with acorn appliques, and two toadstool cakes that were made by a local bakery and decorated with wooden toys by the birthday girls. The only party decorations really needed inside were the name banners that are such high impact for adding a festive feel to a room. Both girls picked out their own fabrics and they loved the result – Green Planet Parties banners are a wonderful keepsake and heirloom decoration that will last for many birthday celebrations.

The goodie bags were really well received from parents and party guests. It’s always so refreshing for parents to receive loot bags that don’t contain plastic and dollar store items that tend to break right away. For the girls party I integrated the outdoor fairy vibe by using Toadstool cloth goodie bags containing organic sweets, butterfly kerchiefs, twig inspired pencils, and earth friendly notepads (made from 100% post consumer recycled material).  It was wonderful to spend a few hours outside and although parties hosted at home are always lots of work, there is a big sense of pride when they are over. Parties hosted at home are probably a little darker shade of green that most parties because you’re able to utilize your own dishes, tablecloths, etc. I’m hopeful that this party is one my girls will always remember because just like them – it was unique, full of surprises, and a joy to be with!

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Think Before Using Fragrance

I recently had  Jeanne post a comment about the problem with scent in her everyday life. Do you know there’s a fairy large percentage of the population that suffer from CS or MCS (Chemical Sensitivities or Multiple Chemical Sensitivities)? If this is a new acronym for you  – it won’t be for long before you hear it discussed regularly with the number of people removing chemicals and fragrance from their lives. A person with MCS can become physically sick when exposed to synthetic chemicals, normally exposed via artificial fragrances. I think many of us will now wrinkle their nose when walking into a house after air freshener / Febreze has been sprayed or Lysol has been used to clean a small space because it’s becoming the norm to remove these toxins from homes. The amount of information about how to reduce household chemicals is starting to out-weigh the companies still trying to green-wash or convince people that ‘killing germs or odor’ is a good idea. As we all become more sensitive to airborne contaminants, imagine a person that becomes seriously debilitated from exposure to very small amounts of chemicals in the environment?  This is what happens when a person with MCS comes in contact with small amounts of these chemicals.

With three years of reducing the amount of chemicals in my own home, I’ve noticed I’m becoming more Chemically Sensitive, all the time. I am not reduced to becoming debilitated, but I’m affected enough that my heart feels for the people severely effected with these more serious symptoms. What can you do to help?  Make a decision to limit your level of fragrance. In many schools and work-places this has probably already happened in your community. I feel very strongly about scent-free schools because it’s where our children spend so many hours of their day.  Maybe this can be an Earth Day initiative your school can start working towards?!  Earth Day is a wonderful time to make suggestions and while you can explain to your employer or school principal this idea is great for the planet; the concept of scent-free will actually improve the health of children and school staff.  In my boys school I know there is Lysol that is sprayed on desks for cleaning purposes. My children come from a home that hasn’t sprayed chemical cleaners in over 2 years so I asked them if the scent of those cleaning products effects them in anyway – both answered they get a headache. I don’t think teachers spray on perfume anymore, but products like fabric sheets (heavily chemically scented) can be detected on clothing if you have a chemical sensitivity, as well as shampoo, soap, or deodorant with heavy fragrance (Axe products, etc.). By declaring a school scent-free you are not taking away individual expression – you are improving an environment for learning. I’m currently researching cleaners that have less fragrance, but meet licensing specifications for declaring a school ‘clean’ that can be used by janitorial staff…I will update when I know. For regular desk cleaning for students, I don’t know why a vinegar solution couldn’t be used.

Another example of how scent can affect a person who is chemically sensitive happens at my daughters’ pre-school. We take turns washing hand towels used by the children to dry their hands to reduce costs and waste with paper. However, many people use fabric sheets or softener and that smell is still attached to the towels when they arrive at my home for wash. The smell gives me an instant headache. I’ve been sensitive to dryer sheets for awhile (can smell them walking outside in a neighborhood with houses that use them) but I’ve noticed my level of tolerance of fragrance has recently heightened. While walking on a busy seawall last weekend with my family I could detect soap, shampoo, and hair conditioner scents as different people quickly walked by me. I didn’t get a head ache but I was curious to understand that my nose can even detect soap people have used…and I was outside! I’ll say again I’m so thankful I don’t become debilitated, but with becoming so sensitive I can really empathize with those who suffer. What about people that live in shared space like apartments? With people smoking and spraying room deodorizers, cologne, etc. and that going through shared vents, windows, etc. I cannot imagine how that would affect a person with CS. That must be why people with extreme cases are often homeless or rendered incapable of sharing space.

Jeanne forwarded me the website Think Before You Stink and it contains lots of helpful information for ways we can help. Here are four of the most important changes you can make recommended by the Think Before You Stink site:

1) Stop using perfume, cologne, body spray, and scented aftershave.

2) Use only fragrance-free laundry products, including detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets. Even better, don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets at all.

3) Stop using commercial air fresheners in your home or car.

4) Quit smoking.

I thank Jeanne for sharing her story with me and I was happy to research this article because reducing fragrances will simply improve your health.  Instantly.  If you find many of the articles out there confusing about reducing toxic exposure with beauty products, household cleaners, personal care products, etc. – just do one thing and it will help you. Use your nose when you shop. Eliminating fragrance will instantly improve your health and the health of your family.

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