Archive | January, 2012

Who Should Shop At Thrift Stores?

It’s a question I hadn’t really pondered until it was mentioned in a Facebook discussion last week. Should only people struggling with making end’s meet shop at thrift stores? I immediately felt a little ill because in the last year I’ve started shopping for clothes and books at our local thrift store. Is this wrong for me to do?

I was going to my 2nd hand store days after reading this question and decided to walk in eyes wide open. I went solo, without kids, and once I could sit in the children’s book isle and pile up a stack of books I remembered why I’m so comfortable and why it feels good for me to shop this way. I like the fact when I look through the books I hear whisperings of where they’ve once lived. I remember when I went to look for Christmas books, I found a post-it note in the front of a book, hand-written from grandparents about why they thought the child would enjoy the book. It made me feel special that I was seeing the note and it reminded me that even these books had a story. They had already lived in multiple houses, been read to numerous children, they no longer smelled of fresh ink (which my sensitive nose appreciates), and I don’t have to worry about breaking the book in. I am recycling, I say in my head and feel proud.  I am taking something and making the decision to not purchase it new, rather to find it, contribute to a non-profit that helps other people, then when my children are finished we will donate it back to the store. A very good cycle of use I would say!

When it comes to the books, I would say I’m pleased to also see dollar savings. Because I’m donating these books back to the store after they’ve been well loved, it’s nice to pay $1, rather than the high cost of brand new books. But I would argue that point about purchasing clothes 2nd hand. I think you could probably find clothes for the same price that are brand new if you watch for deals at Walmart or other brand name shops.  But when it comes to clothes, I’m not there shopping for deals.  I simply LOVE used clothing.  I believe that new clothing can be toxic. Here are several reasons why:

~ plastic decals, appliques, and embellishments are everywhere on clothing. What do I mean? Check out your child’s t-shirt & PJ drawer and look at the front…you will find a graphic or character there. When I talk about making better choices with clothing and buying 100% cotton clothing over polyester, it’s crazy that the clothing is marked 100% cotton when there’s a huge plastic decal attached to the front of a t-shirt or PJ set. That is not 100% cotton and that decal will be subjected to high heat in the dryer, wash and is breaking down. In really cheap clothing, they are using clothing embellishments made from PVC that contain phthalates and off-gas. When you purchase clothing 2nd hand, these types of decals have been washed multiple times and there is less leaching of materials.

~ the toxic nature of producing cotton has been well documented. This is why organic clothing, especially for babies has been so popular over the last few years.  Organic options are readily available for babies and toddlers but difficult and expensive to source after these ages. I like to think that when clothing is washed over and over the pesticides are eliminated from clothing which is awesome when purchasing 2nd hand!

~ clothing that fits!  And won’t shrink!  I have really bad luck with pants and my 9 year old son. He’s on the above average size and we try on clothes at the store and everything fits him perfectly, after it’s washed they are instantly too small in the waist and leg for him. This has happened to me with every single pair of paints I’ve bought him in the last year. On my last shopping trip I got smart and visited the boy’s jeans section at the thrift store. I paid $5.99 for a pair of broken in jeans that will last him a long time. They fit awesome because they aren’t stiff and awkward, but the best part is I don’t have to worry about shrinkage!

~ if you are on a constant journey to only purchase locally manufactured clothing, it will be a difficult and expensive journey. I try really hard to source everything I can locally, especially for myself, but this is hard with 4 kids and a husband. I don’t shop at big box stores, especially Walmart and others where their business and purchasing methods are questionable…but by shopping at a Thrift store, I can say by recycling clothing, this is more earth friendly in my mind than even shopping locally because I’m not investing in anything ‘new’. Only new to us. And I’m lucky that I have 4 children that see clothing for what it is. Clothing.  There is not talk of brand labels yet which is a blessing, although I know even popular brands exist in thrift stores, you just need to invest the time to look.

~ in an article I wrote years ago, I featured a store determined to change clothing with using sustainable ink. I learned from this article how toxic ink can be and urge you to read the Little Inkers story. Whenever I can, I love to support screen printers that create prints with earth friendlier dye solutions that are free from phthalates and PVC. These designs on the clothing are also so much more original and safe! I also feel when purchasing clothes 2nd hand that many of the toxins in these dyes have been washed out, which reduces exposure. I know the focus is 2nd hand, but I love giving examples of stores doing things right so I want to introduce you to Wren Willow. This clothing store is dedicated to using environmentally friendly water based inks and no harsh chemicals AND the store owner sketches the design that is later screen printed onto the clothes ~ Wren Willow is a magical place to purchase special clothes. These clothes look different,  tell a great story, and what a better alternative to big box clothing? I’d much rather my girls wear this big strawberry than Dora any day!

So back to my visit to the thrift store, and by the time I finished sorting through the pile of books and feeling very comfortable and happy with my decisions to shop thrift, I decided that I’ll continue on the path of being proud of myself for shopping 2nd hand. It is a very earth friendly option with consumerism and when I purchase things for myself and children, I don’t feel the consumer guilt that normally follows shopping at a traditional store. I am recycling. I am reusing. And with spending over $4.99 on each piece I purchased (pair of jeans, 2 dresses for my twins) I realized it’s also not just about saving money. I see new clothes being blown-out on sales all the time for $5. It shows me the markups in these stores is beyond ridiculous and the price tag doesn’t dictate if a shopping trip was successful, it’s the feeling that comes with bringing something new into my home. And if the item has previously been worn, washed, and then donated, it makes me feel proud to have found it.

** For all the latest updates, conversations, and answers to many questions from parents looking for safer solutions in their home, please join our Mommy Footprint fan page. The page is updated with information daily and the questions we discuss are wonderful.

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Snow Day Indoor Activities – DIY Marble Run

As I write this post, I gaze out the window and see branches of nearby trees covered with snow. Nothing is more beautiful than the dusting of white stuff, but when you are snowed in with kids at home to entertain, thinking of activities can be a challenge. I’ve been reminded of how easy it is to romance the idea of having kids at home during snow days <grin> and how helpful it is to  have fun activities in your back pocket for when they are bouncing off the walls.  Here are two concepts I love – proven time and time again with both my daughters and sons at varied ages: marble runs and bird activities. Each of these activities can fill many hours and inspire nature and building. Bird Activities will be included in the next article: Snow Day Indoor Activities – Bird Fun.

Wooden Marble Run & DIY

Earlier this week I kept my kids home for a snow day. We played in the snow, but when it was time to come in, I had to think of something to keep all four busy. I dug out our wooden marble run and love the creative energy it creates – even for me! It’s very satisfying once you get a run built….and younger kids love watching the marbles race down the track. I also love how my Quadrilla marble run takes any size marble – but a warning, it can be frustrating for young children to build. Here is an example of our finished design.

Don’t have a marble run at home? NP!  If you have an empty cereal box and some marbles, you can make your own! With making this Made By Joel marble run, the best part is creating the toy yourself which is always the case with easy and fun DIY projects. The talented dad from Made By Joel provides easy steps for making your own and is the king of fun projects that utilize things you already have at home!  Image from the Made By Joel blog with directions here:

I haven’t tried the toilet paper marble run design – but I remember my boys loving a similar (but plastic) model at Science World so I know this would be a hit!  There are a few of these on Pinterest that would be easy to do; a magnet version and one where you cut the toilet paper rolls in half and tape the wall!  The below picture can provide some inspiration – picture credit here:

 Snow, and lots of it seems to be Mother Nature’s way of telling us to stop and play. I try to take my cues from her and hope these DIY marble runs inspire some fun indoor family time!

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Get Outside This Winter

Have some squirrely kids at home these days?  Mine are all climbing the walls and going to school full-day and having physical activities afterwards isn’t denting their energy! I’ve realized this time of year it’s extra important to get that dose of fresh air! We tend to go into hibernation mode this time of year but kids need to get outside even more. Many schools keep kids indoors if it’s raining so they get very little outside time in wet North American climates. I get a lot of inspiration from the websites I’ve listed below – they have amazing ideas for keeping kids engaged with unique activities for encouraging the outdoors! I’ve also teamed up with a new sponsor this season and it’s very exciting. A local mountain, Cypress Mountain has offered my family some excursions on their Mountain to experience this ski season. This is my favorite mountain to ski and I’m so excited to enjoy some bonding time with my children up the mountain. Can I be honest? I went up Cypress Mountain with my boys last winter and it was one of the best days of my parenting journey. I don’t know what happened… could it have been all that fresh air, the memories of skiing when I was a child?  I don’t know but some magic clicked that day and the one-on-one bonding time a had with the boys was intense. You want maximized quality time with your children?  Take them into the wilderness or up a mountain. Talking while riding up a chair lift, the comradely checking on each other while going down the slope, the exhilaration you experience while enjoying a truly beautiful sport is wonderful and it’s one I hope all parents can enjoy once with their children. If you don’t ski – I would suggest an equally great time is snow shoeing, tobogganing or tubing on a ski slope. It is carefree fun and your kids need to see this side of you, completely relaxed and loving the outdoors.

This is a picture of my sons and I on New Year’s Eve. Our first time night skiing and the city lights in the backdrop were stunning!

Two sites that offer wonderful tips on enjoying outdoor winter activities are:

Let The Kids Play – an blog that is probably aimed at more preschool aged children but their articles are so incredible, order children would benefit for the activities too!

The Grass Stain Guru
– helping parents make a resolution to impact physical and mental health for their children – PLAY MORE!


Related Articles:

Resources to Get Parents and Children Outside Enjoying Nature

Summer Fairy Garden and Fairy House

Geocaching – Eco Activity For Entire Family

 

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BPA – Are You Still Here?

Happy New Year! I wanted to start the New Year with going back to basics on forms of chemical exposure. I’m starting with BPA because after so many years it still receives so much media attention. Did you know that researching BPA was one of my reasons for starting Mommy Footprint 4 years ago? I had four children under the age of five and our world revolved around sippy cups, lunch containers and cooking utensils. The hype back at this time was water & baby bottles and discovering they contained BPA. Some countries like Canada banned the use of BPA in baby products, but have done little to ban it from other sources, aluminum cans for example.  If you want to think about BPA in the most simple of ways and then brain dump the info (my favorite thing to do) so that you can move your focus onto the next class of chemicals to reduce from your life, do two things:

Do not purchase or use plastic to drink or eat from. It’s very simple…there so many great options on the market now: stainless steel and glass are the best in my opinion because they are dishwasher safe and besides from small amounts of nickel that leach from stainless steel, they are stable materials to reuse. With kids think stainless steel because if dropped on the floor it bounces rather than glass that will of course break.  Everywhere I go, I still see toddlers drinking from plastic sippy cups.  The argument from parents would be that these cups were marketed as BPA-free. I don’t trust it because I’ve read reports that products have been tested that are sold as BPA-free and still contained BPA!  You are also never supposed to dishwash plastic because the high temperatures will break down the plastic composite and busy parents love the convenience of dishwashing.  At the bottom of this article, I will link to my articles about using melamine dishware, Tupperware products and why I don’t use them. I also don’t use food grade silicone in my kitchen – the research isn’t there for me yet that this material is stable enough to handle freezing and hot temperatures.  And yes, I’m making this longer than it needs to be….if you want to avoid BPA – don’t drink or eat from plastic. (Tips on doing this are listed at the bottom of the article)

The 2nd way to avoid BPA – don’t drink or eat from cans. Could it really be this simple?  Well it’s really not if you think about all the different purposes we use cans such as pop, tomato sauce, beans, convenience alphagettis, canned soup, aluminum water bottles, etc. Aluminum is toxic to humans so all cans need to be lined with a material to separate the liquid or food from touching the can – this is where BPA enters our food system. All cans are lined with an epoxy liner that contains BPA which is why levels of BPA are high in teenagers.  Think about all the coke, convenience food they eat. So before you cook or drink out of that can ask yourself two questions: ” can I make this from scratch rather than using a can?” (tomato sauce, soup, etc.) and “is there an alternative to how this food or drink is packaged?” (tomato sauce packaged in glass bottles, beer in glass, etc.) Science has recently suggested that BPA is linked to diabetes. What if our love for canned beer and coke have helped increase rates of diabetes?  So not just the sugary liquid is hurting our health by the way it’s packaged!!

Why do we need to avoid BPA? Even low dose exposure has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, and because of the estrogen-like properties of BPA it’s also linked to breast & prostate cancer, early puberty, behavior problems, and reproduction issues.  Exposure to BPA doesn’t seem to just effect you while in the moment, unfortunately it’s a chemical that is found in our fetuses so the real cause for concern is how it effect babies with such small systems to process and flush a chemical such as BPA.  So for many people if you have older children this might need be the chemical at the top of the list to focus on for 2012 and how to reduce it. A chemical to be aware of for sure – but when stacked up to lead exposure, flame retardants, and PFC (non-stick)..there are definitely more toxic chemicals that exist with human health. With flame retardants being referred to as the asbestos of our generation…I feel like the education for the general public needs to advance away from BPA. Yes it’s a toxic chemical that effects human health but adults flush this chemical quite quickly from our systems. And this is why I write this article to start 2012. I see BPA mis-quoted all the time in social media when trying to avoid chemical exposure. In writing this article, if you are eliminating the two steps listed above with plastic contact to food/water and canned food you are eliminating much of your contamination from BPA. With the chemical being produced in the billions of tons each year, it’s already in our water system so exposure cannot be totally eliminated. But here at Mommy Footprint we like to control our own destiny, so this is my recommendation for those concerns with this chemical. Ditching water system jugs that are coded a 7, not reading newspapers and switching to receiving your news online (BPA is in newspaper print) and not taking printed receipts (receipt paper contains BPA) will also help you, but there are not as easy to eliminate as step 1 and 2 outlined above.

Here are more article and all of the articles I’ve written over the years on BPA can be found in this category: BPA Plastics

Below are some great reads to get your caught up on food and liquid preparation without BPA. Want to get caught up in the world of BPA exposure – these articles should do it!

BPA in Dental Sealant?
http://mommyfootprint.com/holistic-dentistry-mercury/

BPA Alternative with Ice Cube Trays:
http://mommyfootprint.com/mommy-footprint-chemical-free-ice-cubes/

Finding Food in Glass Jars: http://mommyfootprint.com/finding-food-in-glass-jars/

Plastic & Melamine: http://mommyfootprint.com/pssst-plastic-melamine-can-we-talk/

Tupperware & BPA: http://mommyfootprint.com/tupperware-bpa-2-years-later/

Alternatives To Freezing Food in Plastic: http://mommyfootprint.com/alternatives-to-freezing-food-in-plastic/

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