Archive | Saving Our Animals

Compostable Dinosaur Dig – Owl Pellets!

Have you visited your local raptor recovery center? It would be a great outing over Spring Break and with our recent visit to O.W.L. with my son’s Grade 4 class, I discovered a new respect for an animal I already adore – owls. They have multiple superpowers (hearing in particular) and produce owl pellets – which are honestly one of the coolest science projects for children. They are like a dinosaur dig that you’d purchase at the toy store – you know where your child spends hours looking for the bones to complete a skeleton?  Only an owl pellet is made from all compostable materials and the different learning options for children are endless.  What is an owl pellet?  It’s a popular belief that they are owl poo (that’s what I thought). But they are actually regurgitated parts of non-digestible prey from an owl. An owl has the ability to unhinge it’s jaw (like a snake) when it wants to eat quickly. It is able to eat larger prey this way like a small crow, rat, mouse, rabbit, etc. Because owls have two stomachs, they take the nourishment of what they’ve just eaten, but then use the 2nd stomach to separate the fur, bones, and tail. Then they cough up an owl pellet (like a cat with a fur ball) in the form of a pellet. The largest pellets are roughly the size of a child’s fist, but they can be much smaller too – depends on the size of the owl. The pellet looks like a lump of mud or poo, but really it’s a ball of mostly fur and skeleton matter.

My son’s class dissected owl pellets last week and it was amazing! With 30 kids in the classroom, you would expect a few children to be whining or complaining about how ‘gross’ this project was.  Especially since after some pellets were dissected, there was a fluff of fur on desks that really resembled the prey. BUT – every single child in that classroom was totally excited and I only heard the words “COOL!” and “Look what I found” coming from desks.  My son was lucky enough to find two skulls in his pellet which was amazing because you can actually make out the eye sockets and the curved nose and front two teeth of the field mouse inside:

Each child in the classroom put newspaper on their desk with a brown paper towel for bone collection. If you are doing this project at home, also have tweezers and a ziplock back to collect the bones. A few of the children could identify the bones they dug out of the pellet – the skulls, vertebrae, and pelvis were exciting to find.

When each child was finished their dissection and collection, we simply rolled up the newspaper and pellet matter and emptied into the compost. It was just like playing with a dinosaur dig toy like you’d purchase at the store, except this one is actual bones and there is no plastic or packaging to worry about. Bones went into a ziplock bag with the child’s name so the next day they’d be able to try and piece together the skeleton. There are many printables online to help with this – here is an example of this exercise from a pellet dissection in my son’s class!

I can’t wait to find or purchase more owl pellets for all my children to experience this amazing activity!  Learning more about owls was very interesting and dissecting the pellets would be a memorable Spring Break activity.

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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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Teflon Lined Diaper Bags

A recent question from Pearl on the Mommy Footprint fan page had me interested from the moment I read it.  Thank you for asking about Teflon lined diaper bags Pearl!  I had no idea that some of the many popular diaper bag options sold are lined with Teflon. Since reading Pearl’s question, I’ve spent a few hours researching the article from the standpoint “if I was to purchase a bag with Teflon lining, how would I dispose of this material at the end of the bags life?”.  Well, I cannot find a way for an owner of a diaper bag to dispose of the Teflon after the bag’s use is over. Not only that, most articles about Teflon lined diaper bags think it’s okay to use this material since the bag won’t be licked or eaten from. I’m not a chemist or scientist but the problem with Teflon is when the material is heated. So why would you worry about that in a diaper bag? I go back to my initial argument about how you’ll dispose of the bag once it’s cracked and smelly? You cannot recycle the materials it’s made from so it’s going into the garbage. What happens to garbage? It gets incinerated. The toxic chemicals that teflon omits are called Perfluoinated Teflon Pollutants: PFOA and PFOS. You have no doubt heard of these compounds because environmentalists have been suggesting for years to not cook with Teflon frying pans because of PFOA and PFOS. Why are these chemicals such a big deal?  They are some of the worst chemicals in the environment today because once they are released they never go away. They can be found in all humans (babies still in utero), whales, and polar bears in the arctic that have never made themselves eggs using a Teflon pan. This fact shows how destructive these chemicals are to the environment and to our children! These chemicals are causing infertility, tumors, thyroid disruption and weakened immune systems.   Even if your diaper bag doesn’t end up in the incinerator – PFOA is released into the environment when produced. Like PVC, it is toxic from the time it’s produced and there is no way to dispose of it without causing further harm to the environment and human health.

It’s long been documented that DuPont who creates Teflon in their Virginia plant has had to compensate their employees for their elevated levels of rare cancers and birth defects with their children.  Let’s take a moment to remember that there is a rule when trying to decide as a consumer if a product should enter your home. If something is bad for the environment – it is bad for human health. I’ve said this many time on Mommy Footprint and if there is a material or chemical that meets this criteria, it’s Teflon. So in my mind, it doesn’t matter if a baby or mom is licking the diaper bag because it’s lined with one of the most environmentally damaging materials in use today. Do I want this material in my home, on my shoulder, or close to my baby?

A few other random checkpoints came up while I was looking at different models of diaper bags. Many models talk about a ‘foam’ or memory foam that is inside the change mat for added comfort. Here is a Mommy Footprint test. What question as consumers do we always have to ask when a product has foam and it’s going to be near our baby?  Synthetic foam is a highly flammable material so what needs to be added so it passes North American regulation?  If you answered flame retardants you have been listening!  I would mark this as another question to ask when purchasing a diaper bag with a change pad. Has the foam inside the diaper bag or change pad been treated with flame retardants?  If they cannot answer this question, you’ve got your answer.

Lastly, a covering of scotch guard or antibacterial coating or protection on a diaper bag might be marketed as an amazing feature. Yes, children poo, throw-up, and more around a diaper bag, but doesn’t it make more sense to create a product that is washable rather than coated with chemicals to ‘protect’ against germs?  Scotchgard has the same effect on the environment as Teflon by distributing PFOA into the environment with devastating consequences.  We also know that products that are marketed as containing an antimicrobial agent – you are looking at nanoparticles that are largely unknown for health effects and destroying healthy and bad germs that it comes into contact with. I would recommend always avoiding these marketing tactics because chemicals that belong in hospitals for their strong level of antibac properties can contain triclosan and the concern over the rise in bacterial resistance in our children.

So thank you Pearl for asking me a question that in your heart you already knew the answer.  I felt very emotional researching this topic because once again products geared to mothers, breast feeding mothers, and babies often contain chemicals that are extremely toxic to nature and health. I always like to give examples of where I would shop or point someone looking for safer alternatives in wet bags or diaper bags. Let me introduce an amazing woman that creates hand-sewn, one of a kind creations and bags…

Pip’ n’ Milly Creations is Fiona’s store and she makes diaper bags with lots of functional pockets from natural materials that are washable.  I love that you can pick your own fabrics and work with an artist to create a hand-crafted work of art for a diaper bag!  Working with an artist that can make you a diaper bag ensures you know the materials being used. A really easy cheat sheet when researching diaper bags to narrow down synthetic materials is to ask:

Does this bag contain:

~ flame retardants in the foam?
~ teflon in the liner?
~ PVC in the liner?
~ antibacterial or scotchgard on outer fabric?

If a company cannot answer these questions, you are not purchasing a chemical free diaper bag. Diaper bags cost a lot of money!  Make it an important aspect of planning a baby shower or wish list for gifts and research the key items…not only for the effects that product will have on baby, but on the world they are inheriting!

Related Articles:

Antibacterial Products Heading Back To School


Car Seats and Flame Retardants


Is You’re Child’s Bed or Crib Toxic?


Self Cleaning Oven – Toxic for Humans Or Only Birds?

 

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Wildlife Pencils Produced From Recycled Newspapers

I love learning about companies that take a concept or product used in everyday life and create something magical and more eco-friendly for home life, school, or the office.  The company O’BON has produced ‘the greatest pencil on earth’ and made it very child friendly with fresh designs that help educate kids about the environment and helping animals.  These products have newly arrived to Canada and Green Planet Parties is proud to be carrying 3 of their products in the Crafty Fun section of their site.  

O’BON is truly special because they’ve produced a pencil made from recycled newspapers surrounding the graphite stick.   2-3 times stronger than traditional wood pencils, parents can teach their kids that no trees were cut to produce these pencils.  Now add the fact the pencils are perfect for children because they are instantly drawn to the Wildlife series designs.  Check out these beautiful pictures courtesy of the Green Planet Parties site that showcase the fun animal print designs and great packaging:

I’ve been on the hunt for a year now to source color pencil crayons for my kids.  Well looky looky.  Not only do the 12 pencil crayons included in this pack work with incredible quality, they showcase an animal at the top and then carry the design and colors of the animal on the outside of the crayon and actual pencil color. 

Both of these products have been such a hit in my house ~ ages 3-7 I’m proud to share.  Nothing but good stuff here, from the message of helping our animals to teaching our children that unlike wood pencils, no trees were cut to produce them.  Also interesting, the O’BON pencils don’t have the metal piece that joins the eraser to most traditional pencils  This further eliminates waste because when is the last time you thought to remove this piece to recycle?

The price-point of the pencils and pencil crayons is also worth a shout-out because it’s so amazing!  The 2 pack pencil sets are under $2 (perfect to complete birthday party goodie bags) and the pencil crayon colored set of 12 is $8.95.  Both items are available to order online at Green Planet Parties, plus a 3rd item carried in the Wildlife series called the Animal Fact Book & Wildlife Pencils.  Perfect for your upcoming spring party or special treat for some craft table magic.

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Eagle Cam Eco-Activity

With Earth Day approaching, I’ve started hoarding eco-activities and lessons for the month of April that I can participate with my kids.  I was told about the Hancock Wildlife Foundation web site by an amazing preschool teacher and what an exciting activity it is for children to catch a ‘bird’s eye view (couldn’t resist) of eagles interacting courtesy of live eagle cams.  The Hancock Wildlife Foundation that has setup these cams was founded by biologist David Hancock.  The mission statement or goal of this foundation has such an important message with promoting the conservation of wildlife and its habitats through science, education, and stewardship.  The fact that Bald Eagles are endangered is also a great conversation to have with your children about the importance of protecting our environment and the animals that live within it.

The Hancock Foundation has installed various live wildlife cams and it’s amazing to study these proud, beautiful eagles; it’s fascinating to watch them so close in their nest tending to their eggs, nest and each other.  Check out these live streaming videos!  The forum on this site is also packed with information, pictures, and live cams of other animals from Africa to Vancouver Island.  A great computer activity if you are looking for a break from the Nick Jr. or Lego web sites and with April just beginning, it’s the perfect month to celebrate more earth friendly web sites for kids.

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