Tag Archives | Organically Hatched

ImagiBRICKS™ Giant Building Blocks

I needed to purchase an older sibling gift for a special 3 year old recently and it had to be awesome because an older sibling gift should be better than the baby gift!  The baby certainly won’t notice and it helps keep the older sibling feeling important and recognized. When I spotted the ImagiBRICKS™ Giant Building Blocks on the Organically Hatched site – I knew I found the gift! My sons had these blocks when they younger (ages 5 and 7) and we got such great use from them!  The best part of toys made from a highly recyclable material is when it’s time to dispose of the item I know I haven’t stuck my friend with a lump of plastic that will be destined for the landfill. My boys played hard with these blocks – stacking, building forts, jumping, pretending to avoid boiling lava on the floor, and building stair cases; just hours and hours of fun so they were in no shape to donate when it was time to say goodbye to the blocks. The blocks went out to curbside recycling and it was great to not feel guilty about sending another broken toy to the landfill.  Gotta love a happy ending! Here is a picture of the older sibling gift of blocks in action that shows their great size and how sturdy they are:

Further lending to the green level of this product, the ImagiBRICKS™ Giant Building Blocks are manufactured in the USA, made from recycled materials, printed with non-toxic inks, and their design makes them sturdy for all types of play. The recommended age on the box is 18 months + and I would give that range a rather long leash. I’m hoping to purchase a few of these sets for Christmas presents and the children’s ages range between 2-5. The blocks come in a very large box so this is something to keep in mind if shipping long distances. I know as a green gift presenter it’s nice once in a while to have a big box to give a little kid (it just gets them so excited) if you sometimes feel self conscience that your green gifts are always one of the smaller boxes.

My thanks to Organically Hatched for having these blocks in stock and ready for quick pickup! I love that the message of supporting local is reaching mainstream this Christmas. There truly is a movement sweeping North America and it feels good to shop with small businesses that have options made on this continent!

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Litterless Lunch Solutions

I’ve been asked for my opinion on what is the best litterless lunch solution for back-to-school and with so many great options it comes down to each lunch solution being compatible with different foods a family enjoys packing. I have several lunch containers from reviews over the years so I thought I’d photograph different combos and share with pictures rather than descriptions – sometimes a visual is more helpful. I do have a few rules I stick to with packing any food for my children (and self) so I’ll list these before the pictures:

– I don’t use plastic. I don’t care if it’s BPA-free, phthalate free, recycled, etc, etc. At the end of the day, I don’t trust plastic or want it near my children’s food.

– Ditto on the plastic for water bottles. I also don’t use aluminum water bottles that have liners. I trust 18/8, stainless steel bottles and these are what I use for myself and children. On hot days, I include a couple of ice cubes (made from stainless steel ice trays) into their bottles to keep water icy cold. This is a great trick for back-to-school and keeping water delicious.

– Stainless steel is my favorite reusable material for back-to-school lunches. I like using single walled stainless steel systems for most days – I find it keeps food at just the right temperature. Ice packs, etc. normally aren’t required. To keep food hot however, double walled stainless steel is needed. All thermos systems I’ve seen that keep food hot, have a bit of plastic around the top. I tried out the Laptop Lunches system from Organically Hatched and like the size for when I pack soup or leftovers for the kids.

– With lunch bags I’m sticking with organic cotton. I wrote an article months ago about non-stick diaper bag liners and discovered some brands contain teflon. It’s really turned me off of lunch bags – no knowing what they are insulated with. I love the Graze bags…I used them all last year when sending kids with a hot lunch and needing somewhere to put a stainless steel utensil.

– I love tiffins. They are my #1 system because I’m very rushed in the morning and don’t have time to work within the set confines or spaces that other systems offer. They are air-tight, fun for the kids to use and we’ve never lost a piece because kids can’t close the system unless the containers, lid, and latch are ready to be secured. I’m also making more items from scratch for lunches so these foods tend to be larger in size and won’t fit into traditional systems. Also note that tiffin is the name for a style of system – it’s not the brand name. There are many different suppliers making tiffins, I can only vouch for and recommend the tiffins sold via Green Planet Parties.

– Encourage your school to only be using reusable products for food, snacks, and lunches. If you’ve been asked to provide plastic sandwich bags with your back-to-school supplies, supply a few cloth bags as an alternative.

Now here are some pictures!  First up, you know it’s going to be tiffins. Here are two pictures so you see how a full apple (or larger whole fruit) can go in the top container because the lid is domed. This picture also shows how you can easily partition a container to separate fruit, veggies, etc. – I use parchment paper.

This sized tiffin is recommended for preschool to all elementary school aged children for back-to-school. A light-weight system that gives plenty of options with three roomy containers.

The next most common question I get asked with back-to-school is how to transport hot food (soup, left-overs, stir-fry, etc.) with back-to-school. In order for food to stay hot you need to have a double walled system. I picked up a Laptop Lunches thermos from Organically Hatched and it’s very roomy, stainless steel, and will grow with your child because it’s not marked with commercialized characters. It’s great to have a lunch bag to accompany a thermos because normally you need a side container of fruit, cutlery, and a cloth napkin to include. I used my Graze organic cotton lunch bags for this all last year when bringing left over Shepard’s Pie for my kids or soup. I love knowing they can be composted when they are tattered and torn. Here is a picture of this system:

My last visual is for parents that love to pack multiple smaller, separate containers for back-to-school. You’ll definitely need a lunch bag to keep them all together. I know parents love the lunchbots. I’ve had them leak on me before, so I tend to gravitate to a container that has clips and a silicone ring; this usually means that it’s airtight. You can find lunchbots here and greentainers (with clips) here:


For tips on navigating through greener back-to-school shopping, check out these articles:

Limit Your Food Packaging: Make Your Own Granola Bars


Save Money & Green Back-to-School Supplies!

How To Bring Green & Healthy Values Back-to-School

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Save Money & Green Back-to-School Supplies!

I have never ordered a pre-assembled kit of back-to-school supplies. My oldest child used to feel left out when every other child in his class was given ‘the box’ on the first day of school but now he has no problem bringing his decorated shoe box with more carefully selected school supplies inside. At this stage of my parenting journey, I’m not even sure I would pay the money to have a green pre-assembled school supplies kit provided for my children because I think we often forget about reusing with back to school. For the last few years, at the end of the school year, I parked their books and supplies in a bag or box and forgot about them in a closet. This year I combed through previous years of supplies and to my delight I won’t need to purchase many new items! Check out the sets I made from mixed sets of crayons – I have four complete sets for each of my kids!

I wasn’t sure if teachers would mind if supplies weren’t new and I was reminded by a reader and teacher on the MF fanpage that a crayon color spectrum is really more important for your children than the teacher. Purchasing Crayola products goes against so much of what I believe in because they are a huge company that doesn’t have the manufacturing standards I usually support –  so it’s been a relief to realize it’s up to my kids if they only want 6 beeswax or soy crayons in art supplies that are made in North America and don’t contain petroleum. The Clementine brand I point to at the end of this article for crayons, markers, and glue are all manufactured in the US and that is important. I of course won’t be purchasing the soy or beeswax crayons this year because I’ve done a great job of rounding up crayons in my own home – reusing is always best! And I’ve made 4  complete sets! But when you need to purchase new, avoid the petroleum, plastic, and antibacterial crap on the market and become your child’s eco warrior with back-to-school shopping!

Where else can you easily up-cycle with back-to-school supplies?  You know the little interlined work books for elementary school?  I have found more than 10 of these from previous years that only have a few pages filled out . . the rest are blank! I’ve ripped out these pages and will be sending the rest of the blank books with my kids. I have blank printer labels and will be applying these to the front of the books to eliminate the name, grade, subject information my children wrote from previous years. There is a cost savings here and think of the amount of wasted paper each year?!

Other supplies that are still in great condition that we are reusing from previous years? Wooden ruler, O’bon coloured pencil crayons, pencils, duotangs (empty and reuse), scissors, and paint! Now here are some tips for purchasing new back-to-school supplies. This is a great time to talk about commercialism with back-to-school. If you want to keep rolling over school supplies each year, stay away from the licensed folders, pencil cases, backpacks, water bottles, etc. That cute little monkey design or Dora and SpongeBob print might be cute for Grade 1 but they are not babies anymore by Grade 2 and might feel embarrassed by bringing what they once loved at this age. Keep supplies classic and simple – there is a secret to longevity by doing this. I would also encourage not to bring small children back-to-school shopping with you. If it’s just going to be a tantrum or fight for the supplies they don’t understand are poor quality and toxic – let kids stay home. Bring older kids with you and explain why and how you are making decisions on what to buy. Have older children go through supplies from the previous year and save what they’ll reuse. Also have them participate with decorating the up-cycled shoe box to bring supplies in.

I noticed last year and again this year, companies are doing a lot of marketing for Microban and antibacterial products. Examples of this are pencils, scissor handles, water bottle lids (the worst of all in my opinion), and binders. Normally Microban in plastic contains Triclosan which is a chemical that does not belong in back-t0-school supplies. The original use for Triclosan, a strong chemical, was used in surgical rooms. Why would we turn a classroom into the equivalent of a hospital with antibacterial properties? Skip this chemical (look for antibacterial or Microban marketing) and if you are asked why by school administration you can reply “this is a pesticide linked to hormone disruptions, allergies, asthma, skin irritation, eczema, and thyroid problems”. I have found when you explain to teachers the reason behind limiting your children to chemical exposure – that you’re not trying to be difficult – they are very understanding. Probably the biggest product linked to antibacterial and might be on your school list is hand sanitizer. This is an important one to make eco-friendly and the easiest way is to not purchase anything and request that your child is given the opportunity to wash their hands more often. If you are more comfortable knowing he can disinfect quickly – send Cleanwell wipes or spray in your child’s back-to-school kit. Again, unleash your eco-warrior and don’t let the marketing of ‘germs’ pressure you into purchases that use endocrine disrupting chemicals that could lead to an allergy. Here is a personal story about hand sanitizer. The brands that have perfume or strong scent will trigger a reaction with a person (like me) with chemical sensitivities. A person in one of my children’s classes had just applied hand sanitizer (apricot scented) and the 2 minutes I was in the classroom delivering hot lunches, I felt dizzy and left with a headache. Please be aware of the effects of using strong chemicals – if not for yourself but other people.

I’ve also noticed some ‘non-stick’ marketing with back-to-school supplies. Does anyone need teflon on their scissors? I’m not sure what the inner coating of lunch bags that are marketed non-stick but I stay clear! Remember my article on teflon lined diaper bags? Since researching this article I’ve been wary of non-stick lined products that are marketed to clean or wipe up quickly from spills. I stick to 100% organic cotton lunch bags in place of this and love that they are machine washable. Sticking with cotton is just a great way to go with backpacks, gym bags, and sandwich bags because at the end of their life, you cut off the zipper and plastic velcro and compost. That is a great full cycle story for a product…reuse, reuse, reuse and then compost.  It’s my favourite kind of story.

The last tip is the most important for back-to-school supplies shopping. Avoid plastic. All plastic. I don’t care if it’s marked free of everything; BPA, phthalates, PVC, etc.  At the end of the day, at the end of it’s shelf life – it’s still plastic. We are experiencing the greatest problem in our history with ocean pollution and the leading cause is plastic. Our health has never been so clouded with problems: cancer, asthma, allergies, diabetes, skin sensitivities, endocrine disruption, and more. I don’t trust plastic. Studies have found that many products labeled BPA-free still released chemicals that mimic estrogen.  PVC plastic is a known poison to human health and the environment so if you are purchasing backpacks or supplies made from plastic, please ensure it’s marked PVC-free. Summon your eco-warrior and use your nose if buying plastic…don’t put anything in your cart with that strong plastic smell.  Did you know that coloured paper clips contain PVC coating? With all supplies, including litterless lunch systems, stick with plain stainless steel. Most supplies like rulers, folders, duo-tangs, and binders have non-plastic alternatives in stores. Pens and markers still appear to be the toughest plastics to avoid with back-to-school. Search out recycled plastic options to lesson your environmental impact. If you see a specific plastic request on your child’s school supplies list from the school, try substituting it with a material you are comfortable with. On my children’s list I see a plastic containers to put supplies. Every year I use a shoe box, my kids decorate it with a best memory from the summer and I’ve never received a complaint. Sometimes the supplies lists we are receiving haven’t been tweaked in many years so it’s more of a guideline. The below picture is of my oldest son’s supplies box from last year. It’s in such good shape we are using it again this year!

 

I reviewed soy crayons a few years back and loved them!  You can find Clementine Soy Crayons via Organically Hatched. These crayons are literally like using butter – they just glide. If your child is happy with streamlining their color selection to 6 – then you should be happy too! And minus the petroleum and colorants used by traditional companies! Actually, you could pickup non-toxic glue, crayons, markers, and paint all at the same time shopping here. There isn’t anything eco-friendly about the plastic surrounding the Clementine markers but they are additive free, without scent. Having discussions about what has influenced your purchases with back-to-school products is a wonderful time to educate children. I’m hoping by going through supplies from previous years and re-using what you can, the ability to afford the slightly higher prices for greener back-to-school supplies is manageable. Your children will become your voice and echo the education. My child was the one in Grade 2 last year telling his teacher that the cleaning supplies they were given to clean their desks were toxic and gave him a headache. We donated bottles of diluted Dr. Bronners for our children’s classrooms until the school switched over the Green Seal certified cleaners. A child’s voice is important and matters – give your children the wisdom and help create Eco-warrior children that inspire change!

Related Articles:

Back To School Eco Backpacks

End of School Sustainability

Teflon Lined Diaper Bags


Soccer Saturday – Getting Ready For Rain!

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Nursing Buckwheat Pillow via Organically Hatched

I’ve had babies on my mind. It’s not a huge secret I could very easily be talked into having one more baby.  I also like to keep informed on what’s evolving in baby products so I can write and I have lots of nieces having babies. I love to peek on baby registries to see if I can spot green washing or products to talk with them about…I very rarely make purchases on the big box store registries.  One of the latest products to catch my attention was an ‘organic’ crib mattress my niece purchased. It’s sad that big box stores can market a crib mattress as organic when it’s made from organic cotton on top – but what about the flame retardants inside the mattress?  Unless there is wool or natural latex in the mattress, we know that the flame retardant element is probably synthetic.  This got me thinking about other products for baby that contain a ‘stuffing’ or batting interior. After spending weeks thinking of a gift that would be really special for my niece, I started researching a sustainable breast feeding pillow.  A truly organic option. And it gets better. Thanks to Organically Hatched, I found a breast feeding pillow that is beautiful (incredible fabric and design), manufactured in Canada, stuffed with buckwheat, and something that a baby truly needs!  Whatever method you decide to feed your baby, a nursing pillow with great support will save your back and baby spends a lot of time snuggled into the pillow and later napping when they get older. Here are some images of the Mayukori Organic Buckwheat Nursing Pillow – isn’t it lovely?

 

The fabric of these Mayukori pillows are so hip. For mamas that don’t know the gender of the baby they are having, I think the above fabric is perfect. I love chocolate brown mixed with pretty much any color!  Because the filling of the pillow is buckwheat – the pillows are hypoallergenic and naturally dust mite resistant!

Next I’m coveting the everyday organic buckwheat pillows from Organically Hatched for the kids. It’s that time again where pillows need to be replaced in our house and I will be trying buckwheat options next for their pillow interior. And these pillows being made in Canada and filled with buckwheat from an organic Canadian farm is a pretty great story. I also like the subtle fabric selections…a style my boys would be happy with.  Pillows are filled to maximum capacity, then you remove the access hulls to achieve your proper ergonomic fit. Very cool – the kids would like customizing their pillows too!  This is also how these pillows are washed; pillow stuffing is removed then the case is washed, then buckwheat is added back into the pillow. Thanks for having these great options Organically Hatched – another great store that can answer your questions regarding products safe for baby!

Related Articles:

Is Your Child’s Crib or Bed Toxic?

Tips To Immediately Remove Toxins In Your Bedroom

Natural Tips To Improve Bedroom Air Quality

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Soccer Saturday – Getting Ready For Rain!

I’ve spent this weekend either at the skating rink or soccer field and for me it’s the best way to spend a weekend! The soccer field was damp and it rained lightly and funny enough it wasn’t my boys who were actually playing soccer that made me start thinking about rain gear. It was their little fans (their younger sisters) who were standing and watching in the wet weather that encouraged me to take some inventory of appropriate rain gear for my kids. Since it’s just going to get colder and well, more wet – I started to research options for umbrella, boots, and rainwear. Two of my favourite online retailers came up in my searches so I’m thrilled to save you some time with researching. Also, before I talk about PVC-free gear for staying dry on the soccer sidelines – I wanted to mention an awesome product that we’ve used for 2 soccer seasons and they are always a hit with coaches and other parents when it’s our turn to bring oranges for the team. The 3-tier Family Tiffin from Green Planet Parties is the perfect eco-solution for transporting food and carting away the waste to later compost, recycle, or trash. This large, stackable, stainless steel tiffin is great for a families on the go – just load up your layers in the morning and you have snacks for the entire day. I love being able to load up two layers of sandwiches in only one layer of the tiffin! Another layer with a couple of types of fruits and the 3rd layer for dry stock and veggies. Please note – these pictures are from the Green Planet Parties site – not pictures I’ve taken with my camera. These tiffins are currently on sale and a great investment!


Next up on the agenda for ‘soccer Saturday’ is rainwear and both of the online retail shops I’m featuring have amazing product knowledge and great gear! Puddle Gear is owned by Alex…one eco-savvy mama! This line of PVC and phthalate free, water proof, breathable rain gear that she carries is timeless because the designs are styled to last many years. The quality is European standard (made in Europe by Abeko) and check out the waterproof mitts while you’re on the site – perfect for everyday wear,  skating or skiing. Puddle Gear jackets, mittens, full suits or pants are amazing quality, high end, and a wonderful investment made for puddle jumping this time of year!

Next our friends at Organically Hatched have the answer for PVC-free rain boots, PVC-free umbrellas and cute jackets for preschool or park days.  Water proof and PVC-free umbrellas sized for my girls would have been the perfect ticket yesterday while they watched big brothers play back-to-back soccer games. Umbrellas seem to be the ultimate in accessories to keep kids happy – they love them! Designed for the younger crowd, the Hatley rainwear at Organically Hatched is adorable – from matching boots, raincoats, and umbrellas – you cannot go wrong.  I’m pretty sure Hatley manufactures it’s products overseas which makes sense from the point point but I love the company’s dedication to PVC and phthalate free rain gear that children will love.

Rain gear that is breathable and high quality is a wonderful investment because without using PVC, the material is breathable and more comfortable for children. Once you’ve purchased rain gear that works – get outside an play. Have fun in nature and enjoy the best season of the year!

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