Archive | August, 2012

Back-to-School Eco Backpacks

I love back-to-school reviews and this article might be my favorite because I’m reviewing Ecogear packs which offer two types of back-to-school bags: cotton or long lasting nylon. I have a personal opinion on each, based from the fact we’ve been using four different designs from the Ecogear line of backpacks; larger design with our son heading into Grade 5, smaller Ecogear backpack for son heading into Grade 3, and cotton Panda design for my daughters starting Grade 1.

The largest of the Ecogear nylon backpacks are great for a child that can handle a bigger pack that will grow from mid- elementary to high school years. My oldest son has been using this backpack since Grade 3 and it just might be our favorite! The padded shoulders offer comfort, great quality zippers (they always seem to be the first thing to break) and lots of different compartments to store books, lunches, and water bottle holders on the outside of the pack. This model can be found with My Little Green Shop and it’s called the Bighorn Backpack. As I mentioned we’ve been using this backpack for the school year and summer hikes for 2 years and it’s still in great shape. I also machine washed it in cold water, delicate cycle, hang to dry and it washed up without any problems. So it’s in great shape to continue back to school with my oldest and I love it when I get years of use from an item. I really question how the cheap backpacks stand up and if they last for years?

We received a smaller Ecogear backpack for my 2nd son to review and it fits him perfectly, but he’s got a smaller frame than his older brother. I would recommend this size pack from Kindergarten until late elementary school age. It’s still got the same outdoor look that I love and it’s called Mohave Tui by Ecogear. Although they are manufactured overseas, the design and materials used in these backpacks are earth friendly for a nylon design. They do not use flame retardants and most importantly in the backpack world, they do not use PVC. We all know that PVC plastic is like poison to human health and the environment but did you also know by purchasing products not made with PVC that you’re avoiding lead?  If your backpack does not clearly state PVC-free and you’re only paying a few dollars for a backpack that smells with that yucky plastic scent… the backpack might contain lead which is a terrible chemical to surround a child with. This backpack also has the classic outdoorsy appearance that is awesome for all children, but the comfort of the padded straps and multiple pockets to store permission forms, money for field trips, lunch system, water bottles (very important that they are located on the outside of the pack in case of spills), and just a great fit for a smaller child’s build we are very happy with this backpack.

And now the most exciting discovery and I have to say GREAT sourcing by our friends at My Little Green Shop!  They brought in the Ecogear line called Panda which are backpacks made from naturally grown (not organic but pesticide free) cotton for the smaller age group made with nothing more than cotton, wooden latch, and non-toxic dyes in colors that keep both parents and children happy. Best part of these backpacks for me is I can compost them at the end of their life. Do I think they’ll last as long as the nylon packs?  Maybe not, but for the age group and cost of these packs ($22.95) you just can’t go wrong. They are sassy, organic looking, kid-friendly, and I just love sending them to school without a Princess, Dora, or cutesy design that they’ll outgrow by middle primary. My twin daughters are entering Grade 1 and while I know this age group still likes the young commercialized designs but shopping this way limits the life span of items you purchase. If you can get years of use out of a backpack – why wouldn’t you purchase a classic design? Another design component I love is that the water bottle holders are on the outside of all of these backpacks. It only takes one accident with a child not closing their water bottle properly and having in leak inside their backpack for parents to realize this feature is golden! And for some strange reason it’s a commonly missed feature on young children’s backpacks.  Not to worry with this design and check out the below picture of my girls wearing their new packs!  We put a stainless steel bottle in each pack, stainless steel lunch system, and a few books inside for this picture. They should last at least 3 years until the big homework year of Grade 4 starts!

Anything new I bring into our lives I try so hard to think about the life cycle of where the product will end up. Finding the Panda series of backpacks is like breathing a big sigh of relief knowing that when this product reaches the end of it’s life because of rips, etc., I can cut it into strips and include it with compost. Thank you to My Little Green Shop for always sourcing with this in mind!

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Plastic Ocean Pollution

It’s easy to become enraged when you see pictures of marine life that have been maimed, killed, or caught in plastic or ocean debris. It  really puts a face to this huge problem but because the problem is so big – how can we help? This article is inspired from combing the ocean’s tidal pools with my own kids today and we noticed a lot more garbage at the shoreline. Finding multiple golf balls really reminded me that education is needed with our unprotected waters. We need to think about our oceans and remember to only put things from the ocean back into them – this doesn’t include sand toys, cigarette butts, water bottles, golf balls, etc. Not only is an item like golf balls made from rubber and a plastic exterior, there can be confusion for marine life once they start breaking down.  Here is what I saw today:

What can we do? Talk to you children about this epic problem. Show them pictures if you don’t live close to water. There are all ranges of images – select age appropriate pictures and educate children that single use items and plastic is a huge problem. Understanding consumerism and the importance of making better choices for things that enter our homes. I also find general awareness of this problem forces you to rethink lifestyles. I recently learned that cigarettes contain plastic. I had no idea!  Think of how many cigarette butts find their way into the ocean? The plastic soup of our single use lifestyle is really the turning point for so many environmental issues – the ocean is no different.

What can you start doing today that will help? Most important is limiting single use plastic disposable items from your life – once you start it doesn’t seem like such a huge undertaking. The best part is with this reduction you will be taking steps to improve not only the environment but your own health!  Here are some tips.

~ Say no to drinking water in plastic and using plastic shopping bags. Grab a reusable stainless steel bottle and refill and use cloth or paper bags for shopping.

~ Use reusable tableware – say no to plastic. Refuse plastic straws, Styrofoam cups, plates, and cutlery. Are you an big coffee drinker?  Recognize that about yourself and have a reusable cup in your car. Like to use straws? Keep a stainless steel straw in your glove box or purse.

~ Food packaging is the biggest problem of all!  It’s easier to avoid putting fresh produce in plastic, but think of all the snack type foods that contains plastic packaging; cereal, crackers, yogurt, cheese, etc. Purchase these items in bulk, sourcing products like milk in glass bottles, and avoiding heavily packaged foods when shopping helps curb single item waste.

Many of us believe that our plastic waste is recycled but sadly it’s just not true. Recycling rates for plastic are poor – less than 1% of all plastic bags are actually recycled. The plastic you put into blue bins or recycle bins is not automatically disposed in a full circle where plastic is turned into another product or given new life. Most plastic ends up in the land fill, and the overrun sometimes ends up in our water and that has turned into a huge problem. Plastic is created to exist forever. Did I just say forever? Yes, so the problem of using something only once and having that packaging created to withstand the elements forever is scary. And once that plastic item becomes weathered and torn, the small pieces it breaks down to probably cause the most damage because it’s now making it’s way into our food system, animals, and soil.

When you can’t avoid using plastic – treat that item with care and try to use it for as long as possible. In my house we’ve accumulated toys, sand toys, water toys and rather than feeling guilty about having these items, I’ve taken a new approach; take really good care of them. When these toys are gone they won’t be replaced so if we can keep plastic sand toys that will last my children’s entire childhood….then mission accomplished. There isn’t an effective material to replace plastic with water play – especially floatation devices, pools, etc. so treat them with care. Ensure your plastic is removed from visiting the beach and treat it well. Use it and preserve it so it doesn’t become a single use item – stretch it’s use into years.

At every turn with talking about the environment and human health, the biggest factor is curbing consumerism and reducing items that have a short life span. When you understand that plastic was created to last forever – it becomes hard to purchase something that will only be used once, but will stay on the planet longer than your grandchildren.

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