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The Dark Side of Black Friday Shopping

Black Friday shopping starts today and with The National Research Federation predicting sales for 2012 will increase over this US holiday – it seems that the movement to boycott this shopping day is not working. I’ve written about Black Friday in the past (click here) but this year I asked my friend Barb from Gibsons Recycling Depot to give me a glimpse into the after effects of consumerism through the eyes of a person who is an expert on personal waste. Hopefully the message of over-consuming is not missed by those planning on shopping Black Friday deals. You see, Barb sees the ugly side of the holidays and she also sees the side of Black Friday few people know. The majority of people see this method of shopping as a way to save a few dollars and perhaps even help support the US economy. What a recycling depot sees are the tons of un-opened gifts that start arriving in the trash after the holidays. Gift wrap and discarded gifts (that were never opened from their packaging!!)  are the dark side of a recycling depot in January. Face it or not, when you are purchasing a gift based off price – you are not shopping with any sort of Eco-conscience. When you are shopping based only from cost alone – several things are happening:

- the product is probably manufactured overseas. So how does purchasing it help the US or local economy?

- the product might be unsafe with lead or phthalate levels because the cheapest materials have been used in manufacturing.

- consumers overspend. We all probably head to the Walmarts of the world with a list but we look around and start seeing items in bins for $1. Thinking we can’t possible give up a bargain like this we buy it.

- stores that offer the greatest sale discounts are big box and do not think about packaging or the huge footprint it took to transport the product into their store. Is the cost of that $1 trinket still only $1 if it will exist on earth for 100s of years after it’s been trashed? Is that item still $1 if it’s wrapped in plastic or Styrofoam that cannot be recycled? The facts are – when the toll on the earth is so great from that $1 item – it’s true cost is no longer $1.

Barb actually gave me a quote today that was amazing and I’d like to share it. She works at one of the most progressive recycling depots in Western Canada. I’ve been there, seen how much they can recycle, so it’s important to listen to someone who knows waste.

We are culturally conditioned to want to create displays of abundance. In most cultures and history there is feasts and gifts, so we must create behavioral changes where we create and satisfy those needs but without all the consumption and waste. We need to get into “creative abundance” where maybe we put photos under the tree and everyone shares memories and stories about each other, Maybe those old plastic farm animals toys become symbols of donations we have given to aid organizations in someone else’s name. I see the ghosts of Christmas past throughout the year, bags of awful plastic toys, useless products…

To put a visual along with this quote from Barb, I found a video published by our friends at The Story Of Stuff. It’s called Tis The Season To Get Trampled… and it is driving the movement to ‘Buy Nothing Do Something’ over Thanksgiving this year. I sat and watched this video with my children and their mouths just hung open. Then of course they giggled because they couldn’t believe adults act like this over stuff! Have a watch with your children and then try to justify going shopping later that evening. You might just decide to stay in and choose family over frenzy.

Barb has also given me some stats regarding Canadian waste over the holiday season. I’m posting these facts so that you can think about personal waste while starting your Christmas shopping. Will you be contributing to another person’s personal waste by your gift giving choices?  Thanks for these Barb!

Every person will throw away an average of 110lbs of waste this holiday season

3,000 tons of foil will be used

Canadians will consume 4.3 million turkeys.

2,6 billion greeting cards will be sent

27.8 million real Christmas trees will be decorated

7.3 million fake trees will be purchased

6 millions rolls of tape will be used

250,000 tons of plastic packaging will be discarded

So with the high level of greenwashing that happens from ‘green gift lists’ this year – cut through the crap and ask yourself 3 questions: where is this made? what is it made from? how do I get rid of it? If you can get a positive answer on any of these questions while your shopping – you are no longer shopping based purely off price. You are now shopping based off price and thinking like an Eco Ninja – which is way cooler. Happy Thanksgiving to my readers in the US!

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What You Need To Know Re: BPA-free Products

I watched a documentary back in January regarding the link to BPA and obesity. The film was called Programmed To Be Fat? and was aired on The Nature of Things with David Suzuki. Click here to view the documentary and my apologies for readers in the US that might not have access. For you, I’m going to summarize the important parts of the film, but before I do, there is something you all need to know about BPA-free products and how manufacturers might be able to get away with labeling a product as BPA-free, when in actual fact, not lessening the adverse chemical effect within the product. Let’s take the most common example of a BPA-free product: toddler sippy cups or food containers.  We have been lured into a safe cocoon by seeing the words BPA-free stamped on the packaging. Well what if manufactures are using a sister chemical to make the product called BPS?  It is true and here is the quote from Professor Fred Vom Saal from the University of Missouri as quoted from the documentary. If you are still purchasing products marketed as BPA-free thinking they are safe for your family, this is a must read:

Because people want BPA-free products, they are using BPS as a replacement for BPA. And the problem is BPA and BPS are both estrogen mimicking chemicals and there is no reason to think that BPS is going to be a lot safer than BPA.

Understanding this fact might be as important as realizing that packaging stamped with “phthalate-free” while still being made with PVC (the most dangerous & toxic plastic available) gives consumers a false sense of security. And really, as consumers are WE OKAY WITH THIS? Really, to have people making products geared to babies and children, I ask again “ARE WE OKAY WITH THIS?”  No we are not. What is the easiest way to avoid being duped by the huge companies profiting off poisoning our families?  Avoid plastic all together. In my mind, especially in the form of food, liquid storage and food packaging.  My thanks to Groovy Green Livin who shared the Huffington Post article this morning regarding BPA and alternatives – it reminded me of what I learned from the documentary. Lots of good information in the Huffington Post article, but nothing talking about using BPS in products to dupe consumers.

 

 Now that you harnessed with the information on why to ditch plastic permanently, here is a bit of information on the documentary called Programmed To Be Fat? It was a very informative look into chemical exposure and another terrific documentary on CBC!

Experts believe that it’s not just our modern day lifestyles that are making us fat, but modern day chemicals. Why? Obesity rates have almost doubled in the last 30 years and is happening not only in the US, but in all countries with a western lifestyle. Also since 1950 on, newborn babies have been born heavier. When scientists starting examining the effects of BPA and reproductive science, they kept seeing a side effect in their lab animals and test – Fat. The main problem is during development (as fetus) and the newly found obesogens. This is a term coined by Bruce Blumberg in 2005, after getting the results of a ground-breaking study of pregnant lab mice fed a marine pesticide (and more importantly a endocrine-disrupting chemical) called tributyltin. He discovered that it was also turning reproductive cells into fat cells.

The link between obesity and diabetes is well known. What’s new is the possible link to chemicals. Programmed To Be Fat tells us that 20 years ago there was approx. 30 million people worldwide with diabetes … now there are 250 million (!!).  Being fat can cause cancer.  We know all of this and despite our best efforts to change this in society it is still happening. Why is that? Bruce Blumberg and other scientists will tell you they suspect endocrine disrupting chemicals and BPA is one of these.

The most important precaution they suggest in the film is to reduce chemical exposure and focus on nutrition if you are pregnant.  What we’re doing is programming people so that they will develop obesity later on in life that will be passed on to future generations. The focus needs to be precaution since we’ve allowed these chemicals into the marketplace without proper testing.

Related Stories:

Category filled with articles re: BPA Plastics

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Baby & Children Car Seats – How to Dispose or Reuse?

I’ve been asked a few times over the last 2 months if I had seen the wording on Health Canada’s website regarding the giving or reselling of used car seats since the new car seat regulations came into force January 2012. In December 2011, Health Canada published this statement regarding updates to child car seats and requirements from car seat manufactures.  But it was the wording on the Health Canada website that had many parents of local Facebook groups concerned which is how I become involved with deciphering the language used on their website which included:  “Health Canada, which is responsible for the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA), requires that seats for sale (or giving or loaning) must meet the criteria set out by CMVSS. It is not lawful to sell, distribute or advertise a seat that doesn’t meet the current criteria of CMVSS.” But it was the next statement found here that includes “Any person who sells, distributes, or gives away products not complying with the current legislation is breaking the law in Canada. By selling or giving away an item that poses a hazard, a person could also be liable in a civil court of law” that has parents stressed about breaking the law if they gave or sold a used car seat (that wasn’t expired)! My question when I spoke with Health Canada last week was asking them “if parents have a car seat and it’s not expired, are they not allowed to resell or give it to a friend/parent/sister to use”?  I mentioned that parents are not used to being told to put something into a landfill with our green minded parenting focus. The official answer from Health Canada is they hold children’s safety first and would like to see children in car seats meeting the new regulations set forth Jan, 2012. But, since this doesn’t help the thousands of parents wondering what to do with car seats that haven’t expired and taking up space in their garage if they are finished using them, there is another option. Health Canada did say that if a parent contacts the manufacturer of the car seat with a model number and serial number and the manufacturer approves that this car seat still meets the new requirements, then it’s okay to resell or give your sister (for example) your car seat. And if your sister/friend/person that purchases the 2nd hand seat is in an accident down the road and injury occurs, you are no longer liable for being sued, etc.  – the manufacturer is now liable for the safety of that car seat. If the manufacturer doesn’t know what these updated car seat safety regulations are – here is a link as provided by Health Canada for you to send them.  Click here.  And while you are talking with the car seat manufacturer – I would recommend putting pressure on them and asking the following questions:

~ is the interior of your car seats made from recyclable material? (I did talk with Transport Canada in my research and apparently different car seat brands are better with using recyclable materials than others)
~ when will they (the manufacturer) be starting a car seat recycling program for car seats they manufacture?
~ would they consider the option of being shipped back the car seat if parents have kept the original box?

Now all of this addresses the issue of parents having car seats that have not met the expiration date. What do parents do if the car seat HAS expired? Bad news on this one. Unless you live close to a recycling depot like our friends at Gibsons Recycling Depot who take used car seats for a very inexpensive rate, and look after stripping down and recycling the car seats for you, pressure needs to be put on Environment Canada and within your own municipality for car seat recycling programs. Of course I agree that kid’s safety and car seats needs to be the number one priority, but the massive amounts of waste that results from parents dropping off car seats in the landfills is not a satisfying answer. How many car seats do your children go through over the course of their life?  Anywhere from 2-4 with many people using infant seats, rear/front facing seats, then booster seats. Why isn’t there a country wide recycling program?  And smaller car seat recycling centers that ask parents to strip down car seats (cut off straps, rip off foam, etc.) should NOT be asking parents to do this?  Why?  The foam within car seats contains flame retardant chemicals that will become air born and ingested if you are doing this without training. A parent trying to do the right thing and strip down a car seat to see if the plastic inside, etc. can be recycled should not be asked to ingest toxic chemicals – this is something that a trained professional should look after.

I loved having my talk this morning with Barb from Gibsons Recycling Depot this morning. They are a West Coast recycling depot that is truly changing the earth and encouraging consumers to be responsible for the items they bring into their life.  She agreed with my points on car seats and agrees that consumers need to speak up and ask our communities for car seat recycling programs.

I personally would have loved to have seen more interaction between Health Canada and Environment Canada regarding regulating baby products and their disposal when they reviewed car seat safety standards in 2010. When parents are being encouraged to not reuse and recycle baby and children’s products due to safety, we need to give them options to lesson the impact on the environment with the waste these actions will cause. The largest ripple effect I could see being levied by the government would be to research the car seat manufacturers that DO use recyclable pieces when making car seats and give them a green star and spread the word throughout the country and have their be a cost reduction if parents make the decision to purchase and use these car seats. Then give parents a place to dispose of their car seats. The cheapest option I could see if having parents return (ship) expired car seats back to the manufacturer to reuse the parts.

I personally found the strong wording on the Health Canada website frustrating because at every level of our parenting journey, we are asked to be accountable for everything to do with our children’s safety. These are not things we are taught or educated on before we give birth to our beautiful children. Of course we want them to be safe, but when you are juggling trying to feed them healthy meals, reduce their chemical exposure, find products that don’t contain toxic ingredients, etc., being responsible for one more thing like car seat safety just doesn’t seem fair. And it doesn’t seem fair to our environment to take the easy way out and ditch them in the land fill. I’m thankful that Health Canada took the time to answer all my questions and although they do recommend using new car seats that meet all new safety requirements, I’m thankful they agreed to give parents the option to call the manufacturer to check if not-yet-expired car seats meet specifications so they can be reused or sold.  Thank you for putting the responsibility of car seat safety back to those who have the expertise…the car seat manufacturers!  But there is a ton of work to be done and without the public’s encouragement back to car seat manufacturers, this problem won’t change. Tell your car seat manufacturer that having a method to dispose of your car seat when it’s expired is important to you. Take action and call!  And if the car seat manufacturer doesn’t know if a) car seats they manufacture meets the new specification set forth here or b) can’t answer if their car seats are made from recyclable materials – we need to know who these companies are!  Post the brand to my fan page: Mommy Footprint and let’s find out which companies are ready to help buffer the environmental  impact with car seat recycling!

I’ve tried to break down my discussions with Heath Canada in easy to understand wording, but I’d like to include Heath Canada specific recommendations on car seats so that their voice is documented. Here were my initial questions:

Q1) What is Health Canada telling parents to do with car seats that have not expired and who want to sell them or give them to someone else?

Look for the date of manufacture printed on your car seat. If you own a car seat or booster seats made before January 1, 2012, you can still safely use it. However, under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act you may not be able to advertise, sell or give it (including lending) away because it may not meet the latest requirements set out by Health Canada and Transport Canada. For more information, go to: www.tc.gc.ca/eng/roadsafety/safedrivers-childsafety-faq-1131.htm.

Q2) How can parents meet the criteria set out by Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards in order to sell or give their car seats to someone else before they are set to expire?

For car seats manufactured prior to January 1, 2012, parents and caregivers should contact the manufacturer to find out whether or not their specific model is compliant with the new requirements. Any seat with a manufacturing date of January 1, 2012, or later will meet the new requirements.

Q3) Is Health Canada telling parents that car seats for which they are no longer needed and are not expired have to go into the landfill? If so, what should parents do with car seats that are sitting in the garage? Is there a place where parents can bring their old car seats to be safely recycled?

Consumers should contact their municipal recycling program to see if they accept car seats.

There is no necessity to replace a child seat that hasn’t expired unless the child seat was in a car that was involved in a collision. Even if your child wasn’t in the child seat when the accident occurred, the child seat could be damaged. The previous standards have provided a high level of safety for children for many years and will continue to provide protection throughout the useful life of a child restraint.

I know that many of my readers are from the US so I called the Transport office for the United States and the rules for car seat reselling or giving away is very simple – if the car seat is over 6 years old, it’s considered expired and should not be resold or given to a friend. If the car seat is under 6 years old, there are no regulations on resell or giving away. There isn’t a Government supported program for car seat recycling. Again, it’s a topic that needs to be addressed with manufacturers.

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Pesticide Free Lawn!

It’s been a long time since we’ve run a contest but an opportunity to network with David Suzuki’s, Queen of Green Lindsay Coulter and the Canadian Cancer Society has me waving my hands in the air! Do you garden pesticide-free and are proud of it?  Five contest winners will be mailed a lawn sign. Sounds simple, but the ripple effect of  informing people that your lawn and garden is treated without chemicals is super effective with these signs. And the best part is the artwork makes the connection that pesticides are connected to cancer.  There isn’t a more simple way to educate that pesticides are bad for human health …especially for children and pets.

We’ve learned that anything that makes your life easy with quick convenience is usually not healthy for the environment or human health. The examples are too numerous to mention: self cleaning ovens, air deodorizers, dryer sheets, plastic in the kitchen, non-stick pans, convenience foods, & more!  Fast acting weed killer, chemical bug deterrents, lawn fertilizers are simply a convenient option for lawn & garden care (and are not healthy). As we look towards Spring and lawn care, think of greening the outdoors and show off to your neighbors that you’re taking this step!

There are some great all natural lawn treatment tips listed below. Enter for a chance to win a sign by posting a comment on both (extra entry) Facebook fan pages: Mommy Footprint and Queen Of Green. Lindsay will be mailing out 5 signs to contest winners and the contest is open until February 18th for North American residents. Here’s how they look on my front grass:

Need some scary facts to ditch the pesticides this year?  Here are some information from the article by Cathy Vakil MD from the Suzuki Foundation site and her research with 104 studies looking at a number of different cancers & Pesticides:

~ Most of these found a link between pesticide exposure and cancer.

~ Increases in Non-Hodgkin lymphoma were found in farmers, pesticide production workers and golf course superintendents, and one study in children found elevated rates of the cancer when pesticides were used in the home and when parents had occupational exposure.

~ Other studies showed that exposure to pesticides in early childhood, prenatally and even pre-conception may increase risk of leukemia.

~ All the studies on brain and kidney cancer showed increased risk with pesticide exposure even in the children of exposed workers.

~ All eight papers on prostate cancer showed elevated incidence in workers who were exposed to pesticides, with one showing higher rates in exposed workers with a family history of prostate cancer.

How can you adopt some better strategies for maintaining your grass and garden without chemicals? Best tips include:

~ Bring on the vinegar!  We put white vinegar in a spray bottle and the kids have lots of fun squirting the weeds. Not as effective as chemical weed killer, but safe and fun because the kids can help. We also pull out our weeds manually!  Really helps with stress and I love it when the kids help me and we talk about all the bugs under the weeds we’ve pulled. There are ‘grips’ or ‘arms’ that can also be purchased to assist with pulling out stubborn weeds from lawn or garden.

~ Ladybugs are great for gardens!  You can purchase refrigerated ladybugs from garden stores so they are still. Put them in your kid’s hands and when they warm up, they fly into the garden. A really great activity for Earth Day month or preparing your pesticide free garden!

~ Find a suggested deterrent for the bug or pest assaulting your garden. I personally love slugs, but if they are impacting your garden, leave out 1/2 a citrus fruit.  Check out the Fine Gardening site for a natural deterrent for the bug giving you a hard time. . . . awesome information in this article!! Remember to first research bugs that are actually assisting your garden’s health (lady bugs, spiders, etc.) since you don’t want to get rid of them!

~ Slugs and snails can be deterred by using crushed egg shells or coffee grounds!  Great tip for those of you with overflowing compost buckets or bins. Up-cycle this waste into your garden instead!

~ Mix Dr. Bronners liquid with water and spray on diseased plants.  Another great reason for using Dr. Bronners!!  It’s our only cleaner here and now it can be used outdoors too – so awesome!

~ Do your research if purchasing all natural lawn care treatments advertised as ‘organic’ . There is a ton of ‘greenwashing’ out there on this topic and needs to be researched with a garden expert. Take the time to talk to your local garden shop and treat your lawn safely. Toxic exposure on a lawn or garden effects more than just your family – birds and backyard visitors can be also be harmed so help make your neighborhood a safer place to grow and play!

Related Articles:

Eco-Cleaning Made Easy

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Holiday Shopping & Making Magic Fund

It just doesn’t feel like the holidays if you can’t give back. This year, for me personally, the need to really enjoy the holiday spirit of helping others has been at the forefront of my holiday planning – but where do you start? Many recent news stories were very inspiring; one in particular was published in the The Vancouver Sun a few months ago by a inner city school teacher asking for help.  It doesn’t matter where you live, read the article she wrote – it will move you. Click here.  The teacher named Carrie inspired a fund to be started by the paper that published her story; The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund launched a special fundraising project called Adopt-a-School. This project identifies schools and their specific needs throughout Metro Vancouver. It’s special in the fact you can go to the site and look at individual needs within a school so even a single family can identify something to donate (shin guards, winter coats in particular sizes, mitten, socks, etc.). This site allows you to feel like you can make a difference at a grass root level. The most needed item identified by all the schools of course is money so they can assess and fix their most outstanding needs. The great thing about donating the money via Adopt-a-School is they will match all $$s that are contributed so the money is being doubled at the time it’s contributed – very cool!

Through Mommy Footprint and Green Planet Parties, I connect and work with many very dedicated and passionate small business owners. After MF reader Ti linked me to the Adopt-A-School site (thanks Ti!), I emailed a few of these businesses to see if they wanted to join efforts to help this fund. They are all BC business owners, but their sites are online and setup to ship anywhere in North America.  Please give them a click or little shout-out as they are donating a portion of their sales over the next week. We even have a name – Making Magic Fund. We are a total of 13 BC small businesses owners joining together to help children. Between December 5-11th if you shop at these stores – proceeds will be donated to help schools, which help children, and that helps families. Even if you’re not local, a quote I read from the amazing letter written by Carrie has stayed with me:

Think about what you vote for, speak for, and speak up against. Are you willing to put your time and/or your money towards affecting change? Will you advocate for a child that is not your own?

Here is a list of businesses that are under the Making Magic Fund. Please shop and support this cause – it’s inspired from the heartfelt plea of a teacher and has inspired a movement for helping other schools in need.  Take a peek at these sites and feel good shopping with a small business that is giving back this holiday season. I also have and would shop at these stores and think it’s wonderful that their focus is supporting safe products for our children and home. Thank you to all the businesses involved and for their enthusiasm and energy to make this happen!

Apricot Culotte:  an e-boutique specialized in previously loved baby clothes that we bring in from France. We also carry end of season brand new designer baby clothes including some very nice French organic brands.

Bamboobino: an adorable line of children’s clothes and accessories made from soft, eco-friendly bamboo.

Bumblebee Toys: offers a unique collection of natural toys, crafts and playthings to inspire the imagination and nourish the senses.

dandelion KIDS: modern kids shop that stocks hip baby clothes, stylish duds for boys and girls plus cool, unique gifts for the next baby shower or kids birthday party.

Fill Your Own: offers an array of carbon-neutral, non-toxic and reusable products ideal for both kids and adults.

Giving Gifts: carries gifts that give – fair trade, eco friendly and fun gifts for babies, kids, adults and pets.

Green Planet Parties: where it’s possible to shop for eco-friendly party supplies in one place! Supporting locally manufactured decorations & goodies!

Kippo Kids: proud to offer you a quality mix of products that include a good selection of eco-friendly, handmade, organic, and Made in Canada items.

Maxwell Designs: leading Canadian designer of beautiful purses, the best diaper bags in Canada, and many accessories.

My Little Green Shop: is a hip e-boutique that provides a wide range of safe, non-toxic products for babies, children and mamas. We are careful that the products we carry meet our standards of what’s safe and eco-friendly.

Onyx Containers: food storage containers that are of the highest quality, manufactured in responsible conditions and available at affordable prices.

Puddlegear: toddler and baby raingear- children can play outside feeling warm, unrestricted and dry in their PVC and Phthalate free rainwear – certified by oko – tex.

Today I Ate A Rainbow: passionate about creating tools to help parents and caregivers raise healthy kids!

We are all like-minded small business owners championing for one cause – such a cool array of products!  This is our logo (designed for us by the talented Marina Duque)! If talking about this special project, you are welcome to use the logo. We hope it will be a logo that will become recognized and used annually to help those who need it.

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