Archive | June, 2011

Finding A More Eco-friendly Life Jacket

I normally suffer from consumer paralysis – a term you’ll hear more often with parents feeling like they can’t purchase everyday items without researching them first. I definitely suffer from this and whenever I make an ‘on the fly’ type purchase without researching first, I’m never usually satisfied with my decision. Just coming off a very busy week with the kids last crazy week of school activities before they are done for the summer, I decided to purchase life jackets for my twin girls while I was in Canadian Tire. What do I know about life jackets?  Yesterday I didn’t know much…today I do. At the time I made my decision not based on price – there were cheaper life jackets there, but most of them had Microban advertised on the tag. What is Microban and why don’t I want it on a vest my kids will wear?  It’s a chemical that coats the outside of a product and is marketed as a ‘bonus’ to the life jacket because of it’s antimicrobial solution that will help combat mold, etc. I don’t want this added chemical near my kids and their skin, so I decided to pick the brand that didn’t have Microban on the label. At the time this was my only marker for making a better decision. When I got to the till and asked the person helping me, I also asked if the life jackets had PVC and flame retardants. They did not know. Why was I asking about flame retardants? Life jackets have foam inserts to make the jackets float…this is a question all parents should ask when purchasing anything for their children that has foam inside. More info here.

A few hours later I noticed a 1-888 number on the life jackets I purchased so I called it with my questions. The customer service representative put me on hold to ask their production department if they add flame retardants to the product. He got back on the line with me and said he wasn’t allowed to tell me the answer. (!!) Apparently it depends on which country you live in and the government decides if flame retardants are added to products…not the manufacturers themselves. I spent hours this morning looking through Canadian gov. websites looking for a list of products they mandate include flame retardants in order to be sold in Canada…I only came up with the obvious products we already know about: mattresses, PJs, car seats, etc. I will assume that yes, my Government would mandate flame retardants within the foam of a life jacket. Why? Because both North American governments are very behind the times and overuse flame retardants in so many products….especially the US. Also, once I got the life jackets home, the smell of PVC was evident, so I no longer needed to ask the question if they contained PVC. Also I’ve learned that all cheaply made items usually contain PVC as a material because it’s the cheapest and when it’s not used, a company will advertise this fact on the label. So long story short, the life jackets were returned today. I actually felt bad for the Canadian Tire customer service rep when she asked me “why are they being returned?’.

So this morning I took to the internet and tried to research greener life jackets. I didn’t find much on-line which is surprising. The only types I could find that looked like a greener option contained a foam called Gaia foam. This apparent eco-friendlier foam ensures that the foam in life jackets doesn’t contain PVC, halogen, and phthalate plasticizers. Looks like this foam is replacing mats made from EVA or PVC (petroleum products) in yoga mats because it’s chemical resistant, naturally resist fungus (making this material ideal for water products like pfds and workout mats that might absorb sweat), is fire resistant and self extinguishing. Hmmmm looks like car seat makers could be using Gaia foam to make booster seats and car seats for children, but I’ll save that for another article. Back to life jackets…

I called two camping equipment type stores in my area and one of the sales people at Atmostphere was amazing with product knowledge. He recommended the Stohlquist WaterWare line for PFD (personal floatation devices) and they are made without flame retardants, PVC, or Microban. After visiting the Stohlquist website, the product description confirms that these life jackets are produced PVC-free, there’s no listing for Microban, and they use Gaia foam. The people at Atmostphere told me that they don’t sell anything with Microban and the only reason they could think of needing flame retardants in a floatation device is if it was specially sold for fire evacuation. Good to know that a store focused on selling gear to get you into nature is actually selling products to protect nature. I can’t thank them enough for helping me out today…it’s rare when a store and their employees can produce more knowledge than the internet and today that was the case.

I’m very interested in the Gaia foam. If this material is eco-friendly and doesn’t need chemicals added to make it flame resistant, this would be an ideal solution for infant or children items that are currently doused in flame retardant chemicals in order to make them ‘safe’ to be sold in Canada and the US. Out of curiosity, I tweeted the following 9 twitter handles from the top infant car seat manufacturers to see if they’ve thought of alternatives with the foam used in their car seats – I can’t wait to hear their thoughts on this: @Britax, @eddiebauer, @EvenfloBaby, @babytrendonline, @MaxiCosiCarSeat, @ChiccoBaby, @Safety_1st, @GracoBaby, and @Peg_Perego. And now that I have my zinc sunscreen and eco-friendlier life jackets in hand, just need to find water proof shoes for one of my boys and this summer can officially begin!

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Father’s Day Collection of Stories

It’s Father’s Day this weekend and because I’m lucky enough to know some very artistic, resourceful, and Eco minded mamas  – I asked for stories to create a group article. My two top father’s day ideas are at the end of this article but thanks to some great ladies, there’s something for all dad’s listed in this post.  I would like to thank Lindsay, Fiona, Tracy, Annemarie, & Rebecca for being guest contributors for this special article.

First up is Lindsay, David Suzuki’s Queen of Green. She answers your questions about everyday green living with tips and recipes to make your life a little easier on the environment. It’s all about green living made easy. Lindsay has incredible DIY recipes and is an amazing resource.  I love this DIY after shave recipe…just in time for Father’s Day, this Men’s Herbal After Shave only takes 10 minutes to make and it will last about 2 months.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup distilled or sparkling mineral water
1/4 cup witch hazel (make sure it’s pure, without parabens)
2 Tablespoons vegetable glycerin
1 Tablespoon aloe juice or gel

Optional essential oils:

4 drops rosemary
3 drops clove
2 drops bergamot

Add to a bottle and mellow for 2 days. Apply after shaving.

*Note: always try a test patch and omit essential oils if you or someone in your home is sensitive to scents

 

Our next contributor is Fiona, the owner of Pip ‘n’ Milly Creations. She continues to nurture her love of handmade and specializes in creating beautifully practical, one of a kind handbags, incorporating core product values: Handmade. Well-made. Uniquely you.

After Suzanne asked about the best Father’s Day gift I had been a part of, I spent a fair bit of time pondering. I have to admit that my thoughts kept returning to a gift I had made for my father when I was a child, rather than to something amazing I had done with my own children for their dad. Perhaps it is because they have always made gifts at school and preschool that I have not had to think much about it! Whatever the case, the gift which sprang to mind was a simple embroidered felt bookmark I made when I was 7 or 8. Handmade gifts were a part of my Mum’s upbringing, but not Dad’s, so he never had quite the appreciation for handmade that we might have liked. Or so we thought. Sadly, my beloved Dad passed away 5 years ago at the age of 59. When we were able to come to terms with sorting his belongings, Mum found the bookmark in his drawer. I treasure it greatly for the memory it holds and the reminder not to judge a book by its cover.

 

Next up is Tracy, the Ops Manager at Mighty Nest that is a store devoted to helping families find safe, healthy, non-toxic products for their home and family.

Since my daughter is 10 months old this is our first Fathers Day!  We’ll actually be spending the day at airports/on airplanes on our way to vacation with his family so I don’t have any plans but I am working on a special gift – my husband loves reading to our daughter so I’m making a book just for the two of them.  It will contain pictures of them doing various activities together such as eating, sleeping, making funny faces, etc. and each page will have a caption as if it were written by my daughter – I love when my Daddy reads to me.  It makes me laugh when Daddy makes funny faces.  I don’t like green beans, just like my daddy!  Hopefully it’ll be a big hit…and hopefully I’ll finish it in time!

Next is Annemarie – the amazing mama behind yoyomama.ca, an e-newsletter for mums that aims to make their lives less yoyo-like!

I know that all mums secretly (or not so secretly) want to sleep in and have time to themselves on Mother’s Day, which goes against the grain of what the day is meant to be. But I recently read a survey where I found Dad’s also want the same time. The sleeping in I knew, the time alone, not so much! So this Father’s Day I’m going to take the girls out in the morning – if I can pry them away from the idea of making breakfast in bed for their Dad (they’re five and seven so you can imagine what breakfast in bed looks like, though they excel at presentation) – and stay out so he wakes up at home all alone and has some time to luxuriate in silence before we return bearing gifts.

My last guest post is from Rebecca who is just an absolute pleasure to know. Rebecca is the mom of two, a blogger, foodie and social media lover.

Here’s one gift idea that I did the first Father’s Day after my son was born, and again the first after my daughter: For $1.50 at Michael’s I bought an unfinished wooden frame and painted it.  I then took the children’s feet (they were still babies), painted them and stamped them on the frames.  Then I put a picture of the baby inside the frame.  Daddy now has the footprints for each of the kids and a special token from each of his first Father’s Days with them.

And me!  I’ve written about it in the past, so there ideas are not originals, but I love having them in my back pocket for ‘Father Day’ emergency gifts. They are right up most dad’s alley & very affordable!

Pick dad’s favorite sports team and purchase a new T-shirt (preferable with a white background). Have your children put hand or foot prints on the back of the t-shirt with their name and age (with fabric paint). I’ve done this gift for the last two world cup soccer tournaments and it’s been a really cool way to document the growth of my family over a 4 year period and just how much they’ve grown. And – Dad gets a great t-shirt that he’s proud to wear with his team on the front and his even more beloved team on the back.

A favorite gift that both my father-in-law, my dad, and my husband have all loved receiving in the past are Shutterfly photo books. This company has the easiest and most attractive design layouts on the market and you don’t have to be a ‘techie’ to figure it out. You simply select a design background, upload pictures, then give the photos captions that dad will enjoy. You may be thinking its too late to order and receive a photo book by Father’s Day. Well you are correct.  BUT – you can still make the book, order it, and send dad a link to the album where he can view all the wonderful pictures and captions and enjoy online for Sunday. He’ll be so excited to receive the photo book later in the month to enjoy for many years on his coffee table.

Thank you to all the guests that took the time to share their Father’s Day memories, ideas, and even a recipe! I hope you enjoy your Father’s Day this weekend and remember to relax and just enjoy the moments.

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Amber Beads – A Natural Teething Solution

Many parents look back and wish they made different choices with their children or babies. For me, I reflect quite often at the amount of Infant Tylenol I gave my twin daughters. I’m sure it became almost a placebo – where I believed if they had Tylenol in their systems we would all sleep better and I was always told by my family Dr. to give Tylenol for pain. Well fast forward a few years later and I realize that infant Tylenol (along with a lot of recall scares) is filled with a chemical in the preservative that I now avoid – parabens.  Two parabens in the Dye-Free Tylenol are called butylparaben and propylparaben.  In addition to these chemicals, the other infant Tylenol liquid drops contain red dye, blue dye, high fructose corn syrup, and sorbitol solution, to name a few. So we’ve clarified that Infant Tylenol is not to be taken lightly, which I didn’t fully understand with my girls. A product that I’ve seen gain momentum with parents wanting holistic methods to treat their children are called Baltic Amber Teething Necklaces.  Amber is a natural painkiller and has been used for centuries to treat and soothe teething babies. I know I would have tried this product for my children if I had been aware of it so I want to share. The beads caught my eye with my sponsor My Little Green Shop and my only reservation about putting a necklace on a sleeping baby was also eliminated because they have a bracelet/anklet version of  Amber beads that can be placed on a sleeping baby. This was my toughest hour with cranky, teething twins, so the anklet design would have been an amazing investment.

How do they work?  As mentioned, amber is a natural pain reliever and is a resin fossilized from prehistoric pine trees. When amber beads are worn against the skin, the warmth from the skin releases healing oils through the resin, which gets absorbed into the bloodstream.  The anti-inflammatory properties are greatly recognized in homeopathic medicine and are a wonderful solution for moms looking for natural solutions for teething. Of course we know a wash cloth in the freezer or frozen banana is a great tip for fussy teething infants, but you can’t do that at night. These are the hours I found most difficult with my twins because I knew they would wake up very unhappy, with only breast milk to help sooth them. A natural remedy in my arsenal for helping ease teething pain would have been wonderful.

I don’t have babies anymore, so I passed testing of the Baltic Baby Amber Teething Anklet for this review to my friend Tannis and her little boy who has been showing signs of irritability and discomfort from teething. Tannis is a regular mom, rates herself a 7 on the ‘green meter’, and is trying to make healthier choices with her family. She was a perfect candidate to try these beads from My Little Green Shop and the review has been positive. Here are Tannis’ thoughts on the bracelet:

When the beads first arrived he had the red cheeks, chewing on everything and we had a bad few nights of waking every hour. His first tooth finally popped thru 10 days ago so obviously that was what it was. It was just a few days after that we started the bracelet. He’s had no teething symptoms other than drooling and red cheeks. Today I felt and his 2nd tooth has broken thru the skin! He hasn’t woken at night or anything!! Seeing as he had such discomfort with the first tooth I can only assume that this bracelet works!!   Evan has had a few fussy moments here and there but no waking at night crying or anything… I’m usually so skeptical about these types of remedies but I think the bracelet really works.

Thank you Tannis for helping review this product! I know when I used Tylenol to ease teething discomfort for my kids, there was never a night I was convinced it worked. It was the only product I knew about and recommended from my Doctor.  I now know there are options and they don’t always come in the form of a bottle or pill – they come from years of tested remedies that are slowly finding their way into families across North America. I hope you learn from my journey and question many of the traditional ideas we are given from family, Doctors, and friends and find chemical-free alternatives that can help our children.

 

 

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Choosing A Safe Sunscreen

I’m just back from Shoppers Drug mart (a very large Canadian drugstore) because I wanted to try an experiment. Using only a few tips in my memory, would I be able to find a sunscreen that didn’t contain ingredients I want to avoid? I know where to shop for organic, highly recommended sunscreen brands, but I distinctly remember the feeling of hopelessness when running out of sunscreen on vacation and having to purchase sunscreen in a rush, on the fly, without any notes in front of me. I can recommend sunscreen brands all day, but this article is being written to help empower you to find sunscreen based off ingredients – not brands. Even easier for mamas with iphones, etc., you can just Google Mommy Footprint Choosing A Safe Sunscreen and you’ll have these tips at your fingertips. But I’m winging it old school tonight and I was shocked to discover that only 1 brand met my criteria and it’s not one I would ever purchase because it was 30ml for $38. But the Lise Watier Sun Smart brand didn’t’ contain any of the below ingredients to avoid. BUT – out of the 50 of so brands on the shelves I did manage to narrow down a sunscreen brand I would purchase if I was stuck and really needed something for the kids. The Ombrelle Kids 30 SPF for sensitive skin sunscreen had 10.5% mineral based active ingredient, but did have 3 parabens listed in the ingredients. The bottle was large and under $18. This is what I would have chosen if stuck. Even with the parabens, it contained the least number of ingredients on the naughty list below. =(

Look for sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium as the only active ingredient. I prefer zinc vs. titanium because Gwen from Nayla told me that zinc stops UVA1 and UVA2 while titanium only reflects UVA2. Both of these ingredients are known as physical blocks rather than chemical blocks which stops harmful rays at the skin level, rather than having them penetrate the skin. Another tip from Gwen is that Zinc is a counter irritant that is ideal for people with sensitive skin (another bonus for Zinc) which is why this ingredient is used in diaper creams. While we are talking about diaper creams I received an interesting opinion from the pharmacist I was working with tonight at the drugstore. I was explaining to her the scenario of being ‘stuck’ for a sunscreen and wanting a zinc, non-chemical brand when shopping in a big box store. She pointed out that diaper cream could work for this purpose. I went and looked at some brands and with zinc being listed as the only ingredient – she’s right! If you needed something to cover small parts (neck, face, ears) for a smaller child or baby, a zinc based diaper cream would go on very thick but would be an excellent block of harmful rays.

Parabens – may mimic estrogen; therefore this preservative is really not ideal for women or children. Paraben chemicals can also can trigger inflammation for people with sensitive skin. The ingredient may have a butyl, ethyl, mthyl, and propyl at the beginning of the word paraben (e.g. butylparaben) – so just look for the word paraben. If it’s embedding within a word on the ingredient list – this sunscreen contains parabens.

SPF numbers – just stick with SPF 30 and 30+ sunscreens. A perfect example of the greenwashing out there is Coppertone 90 SPF for Babies. First of all – babies aren’t supposed to use sunscreen and the 30 level of SPF protection is just as effective as inflated numbers since these super high numbers give sunscreen users a false feeling of protection causing them to reapply less.

Avoid 3 ingredients octinoxate, oxybenzone, and avobenzone.

Oxybenzone is also known as Benzophenone-3 and is known to cause estrogenic activity; these chemicals are also linked to development of the brain and reproductive organs. This is a chemical that you usually see listed in the ‘old-school type’ brands of sunscreen – watch for this ingredient.

The sunscreen that the pharmacist recommended to me had octinoxate in the active ingredients. When octinoxate is in a sunscreen that contains avobenzone, they destabilize each other causing the skin damage. Octinoxate even on it’s own is not a stable chemical block and it does not filter UVA rays. The side effects of octinoxate is it can product estrogen like effects and should not be used by women or children.

Avobenzone can produce free radicals in your body because it’s a chemical that absorbs ultraviolet radiation energy. Also in sunlight, avobenzone degrades and becomes ineffective within 1 hour. To summarize, while ingredient reading – stay clear from octinoxate, oxybenzone, and avobenzone.

Just by ingredient reading and sticking to titanium or zinc based sunscreen brands and avoiding parabens, octinoxate, oxybenzone and avobenzone I was able to quickly shortlist all of the sunscreens (which will save you and the nice sales person helping you a lot of time). Words like mineral based sunscreen, physical block sunscreen, nanoparticle free sunscreen, and zinc based sunscreen will also assist you with finding a safer brand for your family.

My best tips would also include not relying solely on sunscreen for your sun protection needs. If you have a baby – don’t use sunscreen. Instead use sun shirts, hats, and possibly a UV protectant tent at the beach. I still put sun suits and shirts on my children so that we only need limited sunscreen on their neck, ears, and face which helps prevent using massive amounts of sunscreen. Also, shopping online for sunscreen is a great way to find safer sunscreens since you have the information at your finger tips for top rated brands. So far this season I’ve used Badger sunscreen and Green Beaver – I’m very happy with both brands. To read my review on Green Beaver sunscreen click here.

Hang in there parents! There have never been a larger selection of safer sunscreen brands out there – we just need to continue to weed out the chemical filled brands and this can be done by ingredient reading. If you have any questions on sunscreen or personal care products, simply post on the Mommy Footprint Fan Page.

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