Archive | Phthalate alternatives

Plastic Free Produce Shopping

Most of us avoiding plastic at the grocery store have a sure fire way to transport groceries by now – right? Even if you forget your reusable bags and the store doesn’t provide paper, I’ve previously talked about two great alternatives: ask the produce grocer for a cardboard veggie box to keep loose items or just stack food directly into your shopping cart. But this can be tricky for certain foods: produce you purchase in bulk (potatoes, oranges/apples, etc.) and heads of lettuce. Lettuce being the trickiest of course because without that plastic produce bag, your normally wet lettuce has to touch the turn-belt (ewww) and needs to be stored in something somewhat air-tight in your fridge. Well – not anymore. I’m super excited to welcome Gogobags as the latest sponsor to Mommy Footprint and after testing her new Fresh bag – I’m very happy to share a solution for shopping and storing tricky food!

Here is a picture I took while in the grocery store of my red and green leaf lettuce in the medium sized Gogo Fresh Bag:

Sorry you don’t see more of the lettuce in this bag but the produce Manager at my local organics store was looking at me funny while taking this picture. =)  But the most important picture is the one below – I took it 4 days later of the lettuce I pulled out of my fridge:

The lettuce still looked fresh and tasted great! The Fresh bags are made from 100% cotton and I love that I can shop with the bags, they are light so they don’t add additional weight to my purchase, and then I can put them directly into the fridge to store produce. I received the medium fresh bag from GoGo Bags and it really is perfect for lettuce. It has a draw string clasp so it’s not air tight, but I think we live in a society where air tight plastic is overrated. How did our grandparents keep food fresh 60 years ago before plastic was invented? We need to get back to these ways of food storage and the cotton bags you’ll find on this site will help.

I got the opportunity to also see the GoGo Fresh Bag long and it was tempting to not buy this bag to hold carrots and celery. If you struggle with using plastic for purchasing these items and fridge storage -this is the bag for you! But for my use I only need the medium Fresh bag as lettuce is the only item I don’t feel comfortable laying on the turn belt at checkout and it gets really slimy when it’s left out in the fridge. I’m a happy girl!

My mom and I both purchased GoGo mesh produce bags and I’m really enjoying these too!  It’s a treat to go shopping and purchase 15 oranges or potatoes in bulk and have a mesh cotton bag to keep them together at the checkout line and at home. With my kids loving the organic Christmas oranges arriving in stores – here is a picture of my latest shop with GoGo produce bags!

I really like the larger mesh bags for bulk buying.  I mentioned my mom purchased these bags also – she is giving a set of 4 as a gift to a co-worker. It got me thinking that either the produce or fresh bags would make amazing teacher or co-worker gifts! Something that everyone needs, but might not know where to find. Well, you can find them online at GoGobags.ca and the owner Anahita makes the bags by hand making this small business special. Feel good about supporting a small business that is making a big impact in the world with eliminating single use plastic.

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Air Freshener Options

Regular readers of Mommy Footprint know a few things about me… I’m scent sensitive and normally can’t tolerate air born particles from air fresheners, plug-ins, perfume, cleaners, etc. You see, when a person is sensitive to chemical scent, you can smell things most people can’t, triggering headaches and other reactions. So when our friends from Urban Forest Soaps sent me air fresheners to review I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I do know lots of people that won’t give up the convenience of a spray to combat odor so I tried the air freshener/linen spray and tested on my mattress, pillows, and used as a room freshener, I was actually surprised that I didn’t get a headache. It was also nice to have a linen spray to use while my pillows were out in the sunlight getting dust mite maintenance. I won’t turn into a daily air freshener user but I’m happy to recommend this to people that need one. And if you’re thinking you don’t need to replace that big bottle of Febreeze or Plug-In – the rest of this article is for you; to remind everyone why traditional air sprays are so bad. Not just for us lot that are sensitive – but the toll they have on human health.

If you read this article and want a 100% organic solution for air freshness  – think back to how our grandparents did things: bake something with cinnamon or open a window. Want a longer term solution? I have a friend named Marisol that wasn’t going to give up her air fresheners and after listening to her reasons why, I know there’s more people that feel the same and want something easy and convenient. A good rule to follow is looking for options that release scent using essential oils. Here is a link to the sprays I was sent from Urban Forest Soap and I like they only contain two ingredients (witch hazel, organic floral water) and have a light scent that dissipates quickly. I tried the lavender and orange sprays and really liked them both. I sent them to my friend Marisol to test for me since she likes linen sprays and room deodorizers to see if I could convert her – she’s also very honest! She wasn’t a fan of the orange spray but is still happily using the lavender and has replaced using Febreeze type products to spray clothing, bedding, air, and her car. I’ll call that is a success story! It is important to note that just because a product contains essential oils – you might still find the scent or oils irritating.

Why am I so against traditional air fresheners? They are loaded with chemicals that cause cancer, effect fertility, and can effect brain/nervous systems. A bottle of Febreeze only lists 3 ingredients on their packaging – do you know how many actually exist in this air freshener? The EWG released an article finding 89 air contaminants within a bottle of Febreze Air Effects and the chemicals of concern according to this report are scary! Here are only three of the many chemicals but it gives you an idea of how serious these chemicals are. Read the full list here:

BHT: Neurotoxicity, Endocrine disruption, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Occupational hazards

ACETALDEHYDE: Cancer, Developmental/reproductive toxicity, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs)

FRAGRANCE: Neurotoxicity, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Miscellaneous

Do you want to know what is disclosed on the exterior label of the same bottle of Febreeze tested by EWG? “Odor eliminator, water, fragrance, non-flammable natural propellant, quality control ingredients.” There aren’t regulations on the use of harmful chemicals in air fresheners so as you can see, reading labels with traditional sprays won’t help us. Another place to check for air fresheners is your workplace or school bathrooms. I can’t think of anything I’d rather not have my children inhaling every time they enter a school bathroom than those chemicals found in air fresheners (you know those pink pucks found behind the toilets?  Yeah those!). Allergies and asthma are exasperated with spraying air-born chemicals so make sure you check what is flying around day cares, dance/gymnastic studios, schools, and locker rooms where your children spend large amounts of time. And for those that need something to spray  – Tricia from Urban Forest Soaps has you covered!

This article is being written just at the crest of Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Don’t get forget there is a lot of marketing for synthetic scents to spread the smells of Christmas (cinnamon, candy canes, and trees) around your house. Make sure they are the real thing rather than off-gassing with chemicals. Try this great DIY recipe for the stove top with cinnamon sticks and orange – it will fill your house with scent, without the chemicals. While your reading this article – scroll down further and read a story about my first encounter with a women using Febreeze around my children. My kids were shocked by my reaction but we all laugh about it now.

Related Articles:

Natural Tips to Improve Bedroom Air Quality

Think Before Using Fragrance

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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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Back-to-School Eco Backpacks

I love back-to-school reviews and this article might be my favorite because I’m reviewing Ecogear packs which offer two types of back-to-school bags: cotton or long lasting nylon. I have a personal opinion on each, based from the fact we’ve been using four different designs from the Ecogear line of backpacks; larger design with our son heading into Grade 5, smaller Ecogear backpack for son heading into Grade 3, and cotton Panda design for my daughters starting Grade 1.

The largest of the Ecogear nylon backpacks are great for a child that can handle a bigger pack that will grow from mid- elementary to high school years. My oldest son has been using this backpack since Grade 3 and it just might be our favorite! The padded shoulders offer comfort, great quality zippers (they always seem to be the first thing to break) and lots of different compartments to store books, lunches, and water bottle holders on the outside of the pack. This model can be found with My Little Green Shop and it’s called the Bighorn Backpack. As I mentioned we’ve been using this backpack for the school year and summer hikes for 2 years and it’s still in great shape. I also machine washed it in cold water, delicate cycle, hang to dry and it washed up without any problems. So it’s in great shape to continue back to school with my oldest and I love it when I get years of use from an item. I really question how the cheap backpacks stand up and if they last for years?

We received a smaller Ecogear backpack for my 2nd son to review and it fits him perfectly, but he’s got a smaller frame than his older brother. I would recommend this size pack from Kindergarten until late elementary school age. It’s still got the same outdoor look that I love and it’s called Mohave Tui by Ecogear. Although they are manufactured overseas, the design and materials used in these backpacks are earth friendly for a nylon design. They do not use flame retardants and most importantly in the backpack world, they do not use PVC. We all know that PVC plastic is like poison to human health and the environment but did you also know by purchasing products not made with PVC that you’re avoiding lead?  If your backpack does not clearly state PVC-free and you’re only paying a few dollars for a backpack that smells with that yucky plastic scent… the backpack might contain lead which is a terrible chemical to surround a child with. This backpack also has the classic outdoorsy appearance that is awesome for all children, but the comfort of the padded straps and multiple pockets to store permission forms, money for field trips, lunch system, water bottles (very important that they are located on the outside of the pack in case of spills), and just a great fit for a smaller child’s build we are very happy with this backpack.

And now the most exciting discovery and I have to say GREAT sourcing by our friends at My Little Green Shop!  They brought in the Ecogear line called Panda which are backpacks made from naturally grown (not organic but pesticide free) cotton for the smaller age group made with nothing more than cotton, wooden latch, and non-toxic dyes in colors that keep both parents and children happy. Best part of these backpacks for me is I can compost them at the end of their life. Do I think they’ll last as long as the nylon packs?  Maybe not, but for the age group and cost of these packs ($22.95) you just can’t go wrong. They are sassy, organic looking, kid-friendly, and I just love sending them to school without a Princess, Dora, or cutesy design that they’ll outgrow by middle primary. My twin daughters are entering Grade 1 and while I know this age group still likes the young commercialized designs but shopping this way limits the life span of items you purchase. If you can get years of use out of a backpack – why wouldn’t you purchase a classic design? Another design component I love is that the water bottle holders are on the outside of all of these backpacks. It only takes one accident with a child not closing their water bottle properly and having in leak inside their backpack for parents to realize this feature is golden! And for some strange reason it’s a commonly missed feature on young children’s backpacks.  Not to worry with this design and check out the below picture of my girls wearing their new packs!  We put a stainless steel bottle in each pack, stainless steel lunch system, and a few books inside for this picture. They should last at least 3 years until the big homework year of Grade 4 starts!

Anything new I bring into our lives I try so hard to think about the life cycle of where the product will end up. Finding the Panda series of backpacks is like breathing a big sigh of relief knowing that when this product reaches the end of it’s life because of rips, etc., I can cut it into strips and include it with compost. Thank you to My Little Green Shop for always sourcing with this in mind!

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