Archive | Top 10 Ways To Green

Has The Word ‘Green’ Become Polluted?

For months now I’ve been scratching my head wondering why the green movement has stopped. Worse than stopped – reverse might be a better word for it. I’ve been asking questions like “why are people back shopping at Walmart?” and been at a loss, but I think I know the answer. The retail world and marketing minds behind them have simply started to overuse a word we used to trust. The word green meant safe, it meant Eco-friendly, and something we didn’t have to research, but with everybody now using this word is no longer has meaning. And with big box stores now offering ‘green’ selections, people just throw up their hands and start shopping back based on price.

Here are some tips to cut through greenwashing and hold stores or products accountable for their green rating:

1) What is the item made from? Make sure to cover exterior and interior of a product. I see so many products coated with a form of antibacterial coating but marketed as winkle free, or a good thing with avoiding germs. If you are looking for natural materials (100% cotton, etc.) ask that it’s in fact 100%.

2) What is inside the product? When the item you are purchasing doesn’t contain an ingredient list, this can be difficult but someone selling the product is responsible for knowing this information. Is the stuffing or inside sprayed with flame retardants?

3) Where was this item manufactured? * I have a story that is a great example of why a product might not be ‘green’ if it’s not locally made. This is a great question and why it’s not asked more often I have no idea. I ask it every time I go to the Mall. Ask the question every time you purchase something and the answers might surprise you.

4) Where can this item go when I’m finished with it? The end of a product’s life is pretty important. Once you figure out that land fills are getting to a point where they can’t take more junk, the 2nd hand stores are full of crap, and if we are back to shopping based on cost alone, my fear is we are turning away from a simplified approach to living that we’ve been moving towards over the last couple of years. Invest in quality, not quantity and you’ll learn that heirloom products in your life are important because they can be reused for a long time.

* I have an example that covers ‘green’ items that are imported. There are many items that we don’t manufacture yet in North America, however you might be surprised at how many we can! I actually felt ill when I received a price list sent to me by an overseas rep a few months ago. Because I’m the owner of Green Planet Parties, I’m often sent pitches from overseas companies and a flower felt garland caught my eye. I thought – “how cute and it’s made from felt!” But when I saw the price list my heart just dropped…the cost of the garland was $0.15. I had no idea this was how inexpensive overseas products could be. For 4 years I’ve had party decorations made locally by moms that sew so I’ve never out-sourced decorations before. Do you know how much I pay someone to make a garland?  $9.  How would a store like mine ever be able to compete with prices this low? I guess the only way is if you, the consumer, care that someone is receiving a penny to manufacture an item or not. Asking the simple question of “where is this made?” is easy, interesting, and will salvage small businesses and local artists. There is a great quote on Pinterest that captures this concept from Anne Lappe:  “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for what kind of world you want.”

If you are new to the term ‘green washing’ it simply means to market a product as ‘eco-friendly’ when it’s actually not. There have been great articles written about pink washing lately too!  This term deals with the topic of companies that put pink ribbons on their products for breast cancer awareness when the product actually contains ingredients that are linked to cancer. Pink washing again is a marketing ploy to sell products based on ‘marketing’ not the integrity of the brand.

If we continue on the journey of supporting big businesses that think they have our health and the environment’s interests at heart, I think we’re in trouble as consumers. If you are a big box business, in my opinion, you have a diluted business plan – meaning you carry everything under the sun because you want to be an all inclusive one-stop shop for everything a person needs to purchase. But by doing this, you are diluting more than just your products…but also run the risk of diluted product knowledge. If I’m shopping at the butcher shop – would I ask him/her for tips on how to garden? Or about the latest fads for my hair style? No I wouldn’t. Individual product expertise when we are talking about bringing new products into your home, this is the edge a small business has over big stores. I know of a respected organic skin care line that catered to children with sensitive skin. In order to be available at the big box stores, they had to add a new preservative to this line of skin care. Being available in the big box store actually made the small company reformulate their ingredient list. But when you drive prices down and don’t ask questions, these are the types of problems that will occur. Chemicals that are hard to detect like lead and flame retardants – you need expertise product knowledge to counter act if you are looking to bring ‘green’ items into your life.

I’m not the only person frustrated by green or pink washing. Here are some related articles for more info!

Avoid Greenwashed Brands by Fashioning Change http://fashioningchange.com/blog/five-ways-to-avoid-greenwashed-brands

Why Pink Ribbons Are Fading by EcoMom Alliance: http://www.ecomomalliance.org/profiles/blogs/why-pink-ribbons-are-fading

What Does Natural Mean To You? by Organic PR: http://www.organicprpro.com/2011/07/what-does-natural-mean-to-you/

From Paige Wolf, author of Spit That Out! Sins of Greenwashing http://www.spitthatoutthebook.com/2011/09/whats-a-green-mom-to-do-an-excerpt-from-%E2%80%9Cthe-sins-of-greenwashing/

And Danika, editor of https://www.facebook.com/greenwala manages two Facebook pages on the topics of Greenwashing and Pinkwashing

 

 

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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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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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A Greener Christmas Plan

I wrote a guest post for Yummy Mummy a few weeks ago and I’m so grateful because the topic was ‘greening your Christmas’ and it helped me set a plan for this Christmas. I think these steps can help anyone, no matter where you are on your greener journey, so please take a look at these suggestions. I’ve added a few more since the Yummy Mummy article as I had an epiphany of sorts thinking about Black Friday shopping this year. If you follow me on Facebook – you’d know this stuff!

How will I get rid of it?

If you are shopping for someone in your home (kids, spouse, etc.) ask yourself this one question “how will I get rid of it?” In this article, we learned that from day 1 after purchasing anything to 6 months later, we are only still using 1% of our purchases. The Story Of Stuff video asks us to look at our consumerism and wonder if it’s possible that 99% of ‘stuff’ we purchase is trashed?  If this staggering fact is true, asking ourselves this one question every time we shop is so important. Do you want to know something scary? At the end of the summer, my household was trying to purge old toys that we’ve had for years and took them to the local thrift store. They turned away all of our toys because they simply had too many. Have we junked so many household items that the donation stores are now full?  Now what do we do with them? Before you purchase that plastic toy, fake Christmas tree, fake Christmas wreath, inflatable anything, plastic nick-knacks…ask yourself the question. In North American society we need to become responsible for our own crap. You bring it into your home and life – you are responsible for it’s disposal. I think this will be a huge trend for 2012…we see examples of a greener society and supporting local for 2011. I believe responsibility of one’s own garbage will be huge for 2012.

From The Kitchen

Did you know it’s cool to can? Harkening back to how our grandparents thanked the special people in their lives is making a comeback. Christmas baking, canning, layered ingredients & attaching the recipe in a mason jar is a wonderful and healthy way to say I love you this holiday season. It’s really the reason why I sourced these beautiful mason jar inserts. Adding a splash of ‘hip’ to a classic idea is never a bad idea and these inserts are gorgeous! Also a very cool way to make baked goods healthier is not adding synthetic food coloring to frosting, icing, etc. This is now easy with all natural food dye!

Gifts That Give Memories

Do you still remember the first time you saw The Nutcracker or first professional football/hockey game? Are you trying to encourage your child’s love for nature or a local aquarium?  Giving gifts that will give a child experiences or a memory is a magical thing. Check your local ticket master and checkout if a play, sports event, Disney On Ice, ballet, symphony, etc. is happening between Dec – Feb. I would have never thought my boys would be interested in a symphony, but it was their favorite field trip of all time from school. I think children just love something different and if they’re getting quality time from a special adult in their life – even better!

Holiday Décor

Holiday décor is a wonderful opportunity to bring the outdoors inside! Go on a pinecone, acorn, and leaf expedition around your neighborhood and see what you find. Line the middle of your table with gifts from the earth that can later be composted. Replace traditions that involve disposable décor; paper holiday crackers can be replaced by reusable felt crackers, cloth napkins & advent calendars, and earth friendly decorations crafted with reusable cotton.

Gifts Wrapped Up

Think outside the box this year with gift-wrap. Imagine the tons of waste after each family opens gifts Christmas morning and the environmental impact. Reuse what you already have or invest in reusable gift-wrap. Start traditions within your family and trade cloth Santa Sacks that can be used every year and passed down as heirloom gift-wrapping solutions. Have an old sheet of fabric not being used? Discover the art of tying knots to wrap gifts called furochic. Start early with Christmas crafts and have your children paint craft paper or use newspapers for greener gift presentation.  If you don’t have time to get crafty, source gift wrap or gift bags that have seeds embedded. Kids love the concept of giving items that friends or relatives can plant!

Toy Packaging

The plastic packaging surrounding a gift indicates the quality of the gift inside. Toys that are packaged in plastic, bound with plastic ties is a reflection of what’s inside. Talk to your family and children about how gifts are commercially packaged. Discourage gifts that are surrounded by non-recyclable, wasteful packaging. Encourage gifts that have been gently used. Shopping for gifts 2nd hand is wonderful for helping to reuse what we already have on this planet and great for staying on budget.

Shop Local

Select a few gifts on your list and make sure they are manufactured locally. Seek out companies that not only ‘design’ locally – but also look for items ‘manufactured’ local. Finding a gift that has been hand crafted is a great feeling for both the person purchasing the gift and receiving! Many locally made gifts have a wonderful story – make sure the recipient learns the story of why and how the gift was created.

Tree Debate

It’s the age-old debate: fake or real Christmas trees? Which one is better for the environment? Since learning that all fake Christmas trees are made from PVC – a toxic material that releases dioxin – my view is this: if you are currently enjoying a fake tree, by all means keep reusing! If you need to purchase a new Christmas tree, visit a local tree farm. Or switch things up this year and decorate a tree outside. Here is a full article on why fake trees are toxic.

Make this holiday truly memorable by shopping in a way that feels good. Big box shopping can be cheaper, but does it give you a good feeling like supporting a smaller store or business? Are there areas you can green and the effect will ripple?  Think of your child’s classroom – most holiday gift or card exchanges are very environmentally unfriendly. Select plantable cards and organic candy canes so allergies aren’t a problem. Keeping things unique, magical, fun, and green is easy this year!

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Think Before Using Fragrance

I recently had  Jeanne post a comment about the problem with scent in her everyday life. Do you know there’s a fairy large percentage of the population that suffer from CS or MCS (Chemical Sensitivities or Multiple Chemical Sensitivities)? If this is a new acronym for you  – it won’t be for long before you hear it discussed regularly with the number of people removing chemicals and fragrance from their lives. A person with MCS can become physically sick when exposed to synthetic chemicals, normally exposed via artificial fragrances. I think many of us will now wrinkle their nose when walking into a house after air freshener / Febreze has been sprayed or Lysol has been used to clean a small space because it’s becoming the norm to remove these toxins from homes. The amount of information about how to reduce household chemicals is starting to out-weigh the companies still trying to green-wash or convince people that ‘killing germs or odor’ is a good idea. As we all become more sensitive to airborne contaminants, imagine a person that becomes seriously debilitated from exposure to very small amounts of chemicals in the environment?  This is what happens when a person with MCS comes in contact with small amounts of these chemicals.

With three years of reducing the amount of chemicals in my own home, I’ve noticed I’m becoming more Chemically Sensitive, all the time. I am not reduced to becoming debilitated, but I’m affected enough that my heart feels for the people severely effected with these more serious symptoms. What can you do to help?  Make a decision to limit your level of fragrance. In many schools and work-places this has probably already happened in your community. I feel very strongly about scent-free schools because it’s where our children spend so many hours of their day.  Maybe this can be an Earth Day initiative your school can start working towards?!  Earth Day is a wonderful time to make suggestions and while you can explain to your employer or school principal this idea is great for the planet; the concept of scent-free will actually improve the health of children and school staff.  In my boys school I know there is Lysol that is sprayed on desks for cleaning purposes. My children come from a home that hasn’t sprayed chemical cleaners in over 2 years so I asked them if the scent of those cleaning products effects them in anyway – both answered they get a headache. I don’t think teachers spray on perfume anymore, but products like fabric sheets (heavily chemically scented) can be detected on clothing if you have a chemical sensitivity, as well as shampoo, soap, or deodorant with heavy fragrance (Axe products, etc.). By declaring a school scent-free you are not taking away individual expression – you are improving an environment for learning. I’m currently researching cleaners that have less fragrance, but meet licensing specifications for declaring a school ‘clean’ that can be used by janitorial staff…I will update when I know. For regular desk cleaning for students, I don’t know why a vinegar solution couldn’t be used.

Another example of how scent can affect a person who is chemically sensitive happens at my daughters’ pre-school. We take turns washing hand towels used by the children to dry their hands to reduce costs and waste with paper. However, many people use fabric sheets or softener and that smell is still attached to the towels when they arrive at my home for wash. The smell gives me an instant headache. I’ve been sensitive to dryer sheets for awhile (can smell them walking outside in a neighborhood with houses that use them) but I’ve noticed my level of tolerance of fragrance has recently heightened. While walking on a busy seawall last weekend with my family I could detect soap, shampoo, and hair conditioner scents as different people quickly walked by me. I didn’t get a head ache but I was curious to understand that my nose can even detect soap people have used…and I was outside! I’ll say again I’m so thankful I don’t become debilitated, but with becoming so sensitive I can really empathize with those who suffer. What about people that live in shared space like apartments? With people smoking and spraying room deodorizers, cologne, etc. and that going through shared vents, windows, etc. I cannot imagine how that would affect a person with CS. That must be why people with extreme cases are often homeless or rendered incapable of sharing space.

Jeanne forwarded me the website Think Before You Stink and it contains lots of helpful information for ways we can help. Here are four of the most important changes you can make recommended by the Think Before You Stink site:

1) Stop using perfume, cologne, body spray, and scented aftershave.

2) Use only fragrance-free laundry products, including detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets. Even better, don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets at all.

3) Stop using commercial air fresheners in your home or car.

4) Quit smoking.

I thank Jeanne for sharing her story with me and I was happy to research this article because reducing fragrances will simply improve your health.  Instantly.  If you find many of the articles out there confusing about reducing toxic exposure with beauty products, household cleaners, personal care products, etc. – just do one thing and it will help you. Use your nose when you shop. Eliminating fragrance will instantly improve your health and the health of your family.

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