Archive | Top 10 Ways To Green

Eco-Cleaning Made Easy

Have you thought about switching over your traditional cleaning products but find it overwhelming thinking about cost and confused by the number of ‘eco cleaning products’ on the market? If you are still using Windex spray and traditional chemical cleaning agents for your bathroom, kitchen, floors, etc., put them away in a big box, high up where little hands can’t reach them and replace with very few products. The total cost can be under $20…in addition to pantry items that help like baking soda, olive oil, and vinegar. You will notice immediate improvements with your health from removing products that off-gas with ‘cleaning’ chemicals and fragrances.

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Pure Castile Soap

I can’t say it enough how much I love this brand. They’ve been around forever, USDA certified organic, making fair trade and wonderful organic products for 60 years.  I’ve used their classic liquid soap for a few years now – my favorite is the Peppermint Liquid Soap because the scent is like you’ve cleaned with candy canes. <smile> There are so many uses for Dr. Bronner’s soaps but it’s been a life saver for me with replacing all of my store bought traditional cleaning supplies. I use it in the bathroom, kitchen, floors (even hard wood), and to dust with (diluted in water). The price tag for this product is on the higher end in the greener stores but if you’re eliminating all other products…it’s so worth it.

The combination of ingredients from Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap are organic extra virgin coconut, organic olive, jojoba and hemp oils, with pure essential oils. Doesn’t that sound lovely to inhale and ingest while you’re cleaning rather than toxic fumes? The essential oils added to the liquid soaps are for those that still enjoy scent associated with cleaning – without the headaches that a chemical fragrance will give. You will also notice that their isn’t the action of foaming or bubbles because it doesn’t contain synthetic foaming agents. From an environmental standpoint, Dr. Bronner’s is fantastic because they are completely biodegradable and vegetable-based. So not only will you enjoy better health for your family, but the environment will also be improved from you making this switch.

Microfiber Cloths

Norwex isn’t the only company that sells microfiber cloths, but with the number of Nowex representatives in most communities, it’s easy to find someone selling these products. I was introduced to Norwex over 2 years ago by my friend Michelle and I was the mom at the meeting asking “But HOW does it clean?”  I didn’t get it. The idea that a microfiber cloth + water will clean your house is hard to wrap your mind around at first. But once you try the cloths – there’s not going back. The silver agent in the cloths traps the bacteria and dirt and these cloths will last literally years. I clean my walls, kitchen, bathroom, countertops with a dab of Dr. Bronner’s and my microfiber cloth. For my windows I use water and the microfiber window cloth (Norwex brand too).  I can’t imagine using Windex to clean glass or my windows – the thought literally makes me sick.

Norwex and Nanoparticles

I have written about Norwex products a few times, but recently did some investigation about Norwex and their rumoured link to nanoparticles after being asked by a friend about the products. I always want to write in full disclosure when recommending a company or product. I could not find anything linking Norwex to Nanoparticles. I saw a few articles from respected sites questioning if the two are related because of the antibacterial properties within the cloths. Here is the article from the Treehugger forum and an interview with Adria Vasil author of Ecoholic. Norwex has publicly stated that their products use micro-silver technology rather than nano-silver and that cloths do not leach silver while being used.

I also agree with the mind-set that while the technology is still widely untested (the world of nano-particles and micro) – I appreciate the fact I’ve been using a reusable product that has saved me money and my health with eliminating traditional cleaning products containing chemicals.

Baking Soda

I can’t believe how much baking soda I use on a daily basis. In additional to freshening up my laundry with a sprinkle, I use on tough-to-clean stains, sprinkle on my carpet before vacuuming, make paste to clean my oven, and over the last few month…I’ve been using it to wash my hair. Baking soda is such an effective odor removing product – it’s a great arsenal with household cleaning products.

Vinegar

Vinegar is great for everyday cleaning. Household cleaning recipes that contain vinegar have been around forever and the list of vinegar solutions continues to grow every year. My favorite uses for white vinegar is to kill weeds along my driveway (fill up a spray bottle and let the kids have fun), fixing CDs or DVDs when they’ve started to skip (wet a rag with vinegar and wipe the CD and dry), along with baking soda to unclog drains, and a natural fabric softener.

Olive Oil

The only way to clean stainless steel, pour olive oil on a paper towel or rag and wipe along the grain of your stainless steel appliances. This is the most effective way I’ve found to clean stainless steel. It’s not cheap, since olive oil is rather expensive, but the results are fabulous and you are polishing without chemicals.

Related Articles:

Home Made & Eco Friendly Cleaning Solutions

Self Cleaning Oven – Toxic for Humans or Only Birds?

Home-Made & Natural Home Air Fresheners

No Poo Anyone?

Tips to Improve Carpet Health

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Challenging Your Neighbourhood Grocery Store

It’s Canadian Thanksgiving weekend and many parents are busy shopping for tasty dinner ideas. Lucky for me I’m attending, rather than hosting this year but listening to friends talk about shopping and prep work got me thinking about local neighbourhood grocery stores. Most communities are littered with small grocers that serve an invaluable purpose as they offer specialized items and provide high end alternatives, including organic, but these stores could also use some improvements. I’ve often said the change for any retail store will not come the first time you ask for change. It won’t happen the 2nd, or 3rd time either. But imagine a Produce Manage or butcher that receives the same suggestions multiple times per day?  How could it not ignite change?  Here’s a challenge and I’ll be approaching my own local store as well and will publish the results.  What sorts of things can you request that would improve human health and the environment? Read these suggestions:

Sell Re-usable Produce Bags

I think most grocery stores sell cloth shopping bags at check-out in case customers forget to bring our own – but what about produce bags?  I often forget to bring my reusable produce bags shopping because I make unscheduled grocery stops. The solution is a grocer that sells Carebags. I have tested these bags and think they are amazing! The key with producing a great reusable produce bag is they need to be thick enough to protect produce from touching the scale or turnbelt at the store, but thin enough so they don’t add extra weight when you’re checking out your product..so you’re not paying extra for your food. Carebags are affordable, easy to clean, and offer a great size 9″x11″. You can purchase these bags directly at the Carebags site or ask your local grocery store to sell them. Then when you forget your produce bags – you can pick up more bags rather than using cheap, non-recyclable, PVC and phthalate leaching plastic bags. Picture below from the Carebags site:

PVC-free Plastic

While we’re on the topic of PVC-free, the topic of PVC-free plastic wrap would be a great suggestion for your grocer. Small stores are always wrapping cut fruit (1/2 watermelons, packaged corn on the cob, etc.) with cling wrap. Not only produce, but all salmon and meat packed at the in-store butcher is covered in plastic wrap. Like most little ‘extras’ I would bet the plastic wrap is made from the cheapest bulk plastic wrap the store could find because they use large amounts of it. Ask your local produce manager and butcher to start using PVC-free plastic wrap and to replace the styrofoam clam shells that the meat is sold and wrapped on.

Locally Sourced Food

Have you seen the documentary Food Inc.? Watch the trailer and you’ll be hooked. Just hearing a farmer admit “If you can grow a chicken in 49 days, why would you want one you have to grow in 3 months?” It is a must-see documentary, life changing and it will change how you shop for and view your food. A bonus for me personally was it didn’t totally gross me out. I was expecting to see animals being tortured and it wouldn’t take much for me to stop eating meat all together. Well, I highly recommend watching Food Inc. and you will come away feeling empowered to make better choices with your food. The biggest thing I learned was to start sourcing my meat locally. I am trying to purchase chicken and beef at a local farm that meets a healthy criteria for meat production. What does this mean for my local grocer? I’m not buying meat from them. But that point is worth mentioning to them because if I can source my meat through a local distributor – why can’t they?

Produce Stickers

Everyone curses the dreaded little stickers that come on produce. I’ve found up to three stickers on 1 organic apple before..it’s not only annoying, but the glue attaching these stickers is rubbing off on your food. Unless the grocer is making a concentrated effort to purchase labels that are biodegradable – can they not just skip putting these labels directly onto our food? I would think the checkout person knows the difference between the types of produce available. Ask that these stickers not be put directly on our food (touching the skin) to save on ingesting glue. I was researching this topic because I remember reading a blog article about the glue used on these stickers being toxic (can’t find the article to reference this fact) but I came across gardening blogs that talked about the only recognized thing in their composter after everything else dissipated was the stickers from apples. Makes you wonder exactly what they are made from, printed with (ink), and attached with (glue).

Locally Sourced Trinkets

It seems weird to make gift type purchases at a grocery store…but when you’re heading out to a friend’s house and want to grab a quick hostess gift, it would be great for the store to not carry imported crap. A local grocer should support local artisans and locally made cards and gifts. It just feels good to source and purchase locally made gifts.

Ask Parents What They Want

I would think a local, small grocer would sell items that are used daily – stuff families are always running out of. Examples of this? Laundry soap, milk, bread. My husband is constantly getting the phone call on his way home to pickup the same items because we go through so much with our 4 children. A local grocery should be aware of this and stock healthy alternatives in these items. Don’t just carry regular laundry soap or dryer sheets. Why? Because every family I know has someone sensitive to fragrance and the phthalates traditional companies contain. Why not stock soap nuts, wool dryer balls, or more organic solutions that are convenient and eco-friendly. Don’t know what parents want? Ask them! Hold a contest or simply ask people by walking around your store and find out what items a parent would like a healthier alternative. Parents are great for helping source great products because we have become advocates for our children’s wellness.

Helpful Links

For all you readers that participate in social media, here are some related links and companies to follow:

Carebags Twitter ID @Carebags
Carebags Facebook Fan Page

Soapnuts Twitter ID @buysoapnuts

BaaLLS Twitter ID Get BaLLS

Mommy Footprint: PVC Plastic ~ The poison Plastic In Your Home

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Home-Made & Natural Home Air Fresheners

I’ve always had a problem with traditional household air fresheners – glade plug-ins, fabreeze, etc. for a few different reasons. Before I knew they were toxic, I felt confused by their purpose because they would smell good for the first few minutes of entering some one’s home but within an hour I’d have a headache. These days, most people know these ‘air deodorizers’ are simply masking our home’s odors and in the process blowing phthalates and VOCs like benzene and formaldehyde chemicals throughout our house and into our bodies. Most air fresheners on the market contain levels of chemicals that are considered too high to be safe for humans and so the focus for this article is to promote hand-made air fresheners so you can trust the ingredient list. With the amount of green washing with ‘all-natural’ products on the market isn’t it nice to be in control of an ingredient list?

It is funny to learn the most effective way to removing odours from your home is opening a window. This must be why our grandparents look at us and shake their heads.  I also found an awesome stove-top recipe from the Cleaning Naked site that I love because it’s super inexpensive and the fastest way to create a completely natural room deodorizer – without any chemicals! Plus it takes less than 2 minutes to prepare and create which works well in this busy house!

Put 1/2 cup water in a small pan
Add cut up 1/2 lemon (or orange)
Add cinnamon sticks (approx. 4-8 sticks)
Bring to boil and let simmer

The aroma is amazing and you receive a rewarding scent like you’ve been baking all day. It’s the same cozy smell and the cinnamon is wonderful and warm.

Another reason I liked this natural, home made air freshener recipe is because most home-made air freshener recipes call for essential oils and they are quite expensive. I purchased my cinnamon sticks – about 20 of them for just over $1. We always have an orange (can be substituted in the recipe for the lemon) or lemon ready to go bad in the fridge…so it’s worked great for us.

For once I’ve managed a quick, short post so I wanted to add a funny story that recently happened with me and Fabreeze – just so you truly understand how much I dislike this product. My four kids and I took our dog to get groomed. While we were standing in the lobby, 2 dogs that were finished with their grooming walked into the waiting area and pooped and peed in front of where my kids were standing. My kids thought it was funny and I just moved them away from the waste. A groomer comes running out of the back room with a bottle of Fabreeze in her hand – poised and ready to shoot directly next to my head. Just like slow motion I screeched and blocked her from spraying the air freshener where me and my kids were standing. She looked at me like I was crazy (and my sons hid their faces in their hands with embarrassment) but I had no problem explaining simple facts to her. Like the fact if she’d blasted the Fabreeze anywhere need me, I would have had a headache for the entire day and because it’s so toxic I didn’t want it anywhere near my kids. I told her I preferred the smell of the poop and pee rather than being doused with chemicals. She had never heard of this before and actually thanked me for pointing it out. My sons can laugh about it now, but I know their crazy mother and her ‘toxin alerts’ are hard on them at times. I just want to point out that seeing that can pointed and ready to spray evoked such a strong reaction as a mom wanting to protect my kids. I think all parents would react this way – it’s just altering how we look at products after learning they are filled with chemicals – rather than ingredient you actually want sprayed around your home.

Related Articles:

Natural Tips to Improve Bedroom Air Quality

Protect Your Family From Phthalates In Your Home

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Natural Tips to Improve Bedroom Air Quality

I recently had a wonderful phone call with ‘Mama Maven‘, otherwise known as Tanis Frame and like most green minded mamas – an instant connection formed. Tanis’ passion is to empower parents with knowledge and is hired to speak to schools or parent groups and share her quality knowledge with topics like healthy home, baby carrier info and diapering alternatives. She can also be contacted to speak in a smaller, more intimate setting with groups of friends – very cool for a group of ladies joining the new world of parenting.

During our phone call, she suggested additional tips for naturally removing contaminants and improving bedroom air quality and I’m happy I can share. My thanks to Tanis, who with a background in toxicology and children’s environmental health is an amazing resource for information and it’s always fun to learn tips that are inexpensive and easy to source.

Tips to Instantly Improve Household Air Quality

Fresh Air!   Could it be that simple? Inside our home is where many chemicals off-gassing resides, particularly formaldehyde and benzene. Released from furniture, carpets, cleaning products, along with phthalates and flame retardants in bedding and dust, these toxins tend to collect in our homes and the air we breathe.  So get outside and spend time outdoors and bring the fresh air in and open your windows and flush through fresh air. Enjoy the benefits of quick recirculation and refreshing of the air you’re breathing. An instant process to remove odours and think of it as nature’s air freshener. One of the quickest ways to create a toxic environment for children is to spray air fresheners and febreeze in the air. Read more on masking odours with chemicals here.

Bring in Plants! Not only do plants freshen the air we breathe, but also the planet and our indoor spaces. Tanis mentioned a study by Nasa about how plants remove assorted chemicals in different amounts. It is SO interesting!  The common philodendron, spider plant, devil’s ivy, and Boston fern naturally remove formaldehyde from the air.  Peace lilies, chrysanthemums, and gerbera daisies are said to filter out benzene and trichloroethylene.  Mama Maven’s personal favourite is the Snake Plant because it’s not only a top air purifier, it grow quickly, is inexpensive, and it’s very difficult to kill. (Big bonus for parents that don’t have time to manage finicky plants.) Another great plant is the Spider Plant because it hangs out of reach and the “babies” can be rooted in water and planted over the course of the year.

Added note from Suzanne… Certain plants recommended are considered poisonous houseplants so you need to keep up, away from pets and children (e.g. Snake Plant). Here is a list of Poisonous Houseplants from the Blog Houseplant Care Tips **

Added note from Suzanne… I read the Houseplant chapter of Adria Vasil’s latest Ecoholic book, called Ecoholic Home and she agrees with plants improving air purification and recommends “15 leafy creatures in a 2,000 square foot home should do the trick” for encouraging absorption of certain VOCs like formaldehyde and benzene. A great read if you are looking for extensive and quality research on greening and creating a healthier home.

Related Articles:

Tips To Immediately Reduce Toxins Your Bedroom

Polyester PJs and Flame Retardants

Are Cosmetics Killing Us?

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Please Read Before Shopping Black Friday Sales 2009

I’m Canadian so it’s not my Thanksgiving weekend, but the media buzz about black Friday shopping had me intrigued so I researched this event more. After getting the scoop on this American sale bonanza week/day/weekend, I have some advice for shoppers.  Watch this video – it will keep you focused and help control binge purchasing.  What is wrong with incredible deals with this stressed economy?  Nothing, but the excess spending on ‘stuff’ is what the marketing heads have hyped surrounding this shopping day and the big stores are banking on you buying with the ‘gotta have this now’ mindset and having a very profitable day.  And don’t get me wrong – nobody loves a deal more than me.  Saving money feels good to everyone, but keep a clear vision of what you need and what are impulse buys.  Most ‘stuff’ is not recyclable and many plastics and electronics are not recycled in North America – we ship lots of it to India and Asia and further pollute and give cancer to the people there left to ‘deal’ with this problem of too much stuff. Or in North America we put these items that cannot be recycled into the incinerator to be burned where the most toxic material of man-made substances are released in the form of dioxins that pollute our bodies and the environment.

And believe me – stores are discounting their crappy ‘stuff’ on sale days with massive marketing to help us forgot for one day that we really don’t need their ‘stuff’ because we already have enough of our own. If you don’t have time to watch the 20 minute video about the Story Of Stuff, just remember one important fact.  From day 1 after purchasing anything to 6 months later, we are only still using 1% of our purchases. Is it possible that 99% of ‘stuff’ we purchase is trashed?  It’s scary but true. Just something to think about, but I don’t want to dampen any aspect of American Thanksgiving…. just encourage people to think about shopping habits in our society and ways they can improve. Happy Thanksgiving to the many US Mommy Footprint readers!

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