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DIY Heart Valentines & Tableware

I love a good DIY and the key to successfully completing projects with children is to estimate enough time so the joy of crafting remains until the end. With 10 days to go until Valentines, these DIY projects are great for budgets and they’ve been tested and approved by kids!  I also think about teachers and making their life a little easier with holiday card exchanges and this Valentine heart DIY project keeps life easy for teachers because they are not personalized!  Instead they are hand sewn and a reusable decoration/card/keepsake that children will love to receive. Here is a picture of the finished project:

Reusable Valentine Instructions:

This is a great DIY if you have oodles of fabric scraps! I only needed to purchase embroidery thread and felt squares so the cost was minimal. Here is what you need: sharp needle with med sized eye hole, your choice of felt, scrap fabric, embroidery thread, lollipops.

First step is to cut out fabric and felt hearts. Remember how you cut out the perfect paper heart by folding it in half and cutting 1/2 the heart on the folded edge?  Use this same method for cutting fabric and felt so each side matches. Older children and adults can easily free hand heart cut-outs but to help younger kids, trace out the heart with pencil for them to follow. My example is this great combination of camouflage fabric and brown felt. It’s important to know your audience and picking different fabrics can really help with enticing the boy crowd into participating with this craft. We made combinations that both my sons and daughters gravitated to and the comment from my 8 year old son was “cool heart”!

Second step is to lineup the fabric heart on top of the felt heart and hand-stitch. This is a great tutorial for first time sewers. For younger kids, put them on your lap and help them stitch. You will be amazed how quickly they learn!  I purchased a few different colors of embroidery thread to give some pop to the fabric hearts: beige, red, purple, and pink.

Final step for kids is to insert a lollipop into a stitch that acts as a holder. The stitching at the back of the heart actually looks really awesome, but if you want to take this DIY one step further and finish off the back, cut out another felt heart, place against the back of the valentine and machine stitch around the outside. The machine sewing is a nice contrast against the inside stitching on the fabric heart and embroidery thread – and will hide the stitching and tie-offs.

I have to add my personal perspective on this craft. To complete our hearts we loaded up a basket with all the supplies and took them to our after school activities. Children from the hockey rink and soccer gym all came over and commented on which fabric was their favorite, wanting to help push the needle through the fabric, and commented “can you teach me to sew?” It was really lovely to see just how excited kids get with making things themselves and taking a Valentine DIY to the next level to incorporate basic sewing. I’m really excited to know how proud my kids will be to hand out these special Valentines to family and close friends.

Valentine Tableware DIY

If you are hosting a Valentine party or responsible for bringing disposable tableware to your child’s school for Valentine baking or treats, here is a great tableware DIY project! This aspect of Valentines party planning doesn’t have to be toxic for the environment with cheap plastic or styrofoam. Check out this fun, budget friendly, and earth friendly DIY project that looks unique and is fun for kids! If you are in charge of tableware, invest in cups, plates, and napkins that can be composted. Keep dyes and ink out of your compost by stamping these items with beet juice rather than using an ink pad.  Here’s how!

Take a plain plate made from compostable materials such as paper or bagasse (sugarcane) and a rubber stamp. Instead of reaching for the ink pad, purchase a beet and slice off a piece. Dab the stamp against the beet juice and use to stamp the tableware. The effect is subtle, fun, and kids understand the concept about only returning organic materials back into the earth. This DIY goes quick and the kids have lots of fun!  Keep slicing off fresh sections of the beet for more juice. ** Tip – this is also a great technique for naturally dying home made Valentines play dough **

For more tips for a Greener Valentines and unique ideas, check out the Mommy Footprint fan page or website. Have fun crafting!

 

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Who Should Shop At Thrift Stores?

It’s a question I hadn’t really pondered until it was mentioned in a Facebook discussion last week. Should only people struggling with making end’s meet shop at thrift stores? I immediately felt a little ill because in the last year I’ve started shopping for clothes and books at our local thrift store. Is this wrong for me to do?

I was going to my 2nd hand store days after reading this question and decided to walk in eyes wide open. I went solo, without kids, and once I could sit in the children’s book isle and pile up a stack of books I remembered why I’m so comfortable and why it feels good for me to shop this way. I like the fact when I look through the books I hear whisperings of where they’ve once lived. I remember when I went to look for Christmas books, I found a post-it note in the front of a book, hand-written from grandparents about why they thought the child would enjoy the book. It made me feel special that I was seeing the note and it reminded me that even these books had a story. They had already lived in multiple houses, been read to numerous children, they no longer smelled of fresh ink (which my sensitive nose appreciates), and I don’t have to worry about breaking the book in. I am recycling, I say in my head and feel proud.  I am taking something and making the decision to not purchase it new, rather to find it, contribute to a non-profit that helps other people, then when my children are finished we will donate it back to the store. A very good cycle of use I would say!

When it comes to the books, I would say I’m pleased to also see dollar savings. Because I’m donating these books back to the store after they’ve been well loved, it’s nice to pay $1, rather than the high cost of brand new books. But I would argue that point about purchasing clothes 2nd hand. I think you could probably find clothes for the same price that are brand new if you watch for deals at Walmart or other brand name shops.  But when it comes to clothes, I’m not there shopping for deals.  I simply LOVE used clothing.  I believe that new clothing can be toxic. Here are several reasons why:

~ plastic decals, appliques, and embellishments are everywhere on clothing. What do I mean? Check out your child’s t-shirt & PJ drawer and look at the front…you will find a graphic or character there. When I talk about making better choices with clothing and buying 100% cotton clothing over polyester, it’s crazy that the clothing is marked 100% cotton when there’s a huge plastic decal attached to the front of a t-shirt or PJ set. That is not 100% cotton and that decal will be subjected to high heat in the dryer, wash and is breaking down. In really cheap clothing, they are using clothing embellishments made from PVC that contain phthalates and off-gas. When you purchase clothing 2nd hand, these types of decals have been washed multiple times and there is less leaching of materials.

~ the toxic nature of producing cotton has been well documented. This is why organic clothing, especially for babies has been so popular over the last few years.  Organic options are readily available for babies and toddlers but difficult and expensive to source after these ages. I like to think that when clothing is washed over and over the pesticides are eliminated from clothing which is awesome when purchasing 2nd hand!

~ clothing that fits!  And won’t shrink!  I have really bad luck with pants and my 9 year old son. He’s on the above average size and we try on clothes at the store and everything fits him perfectly, after it’s washed they are instantly too small in the waist and leg for him. This has happened to me with every single pair of paints I’ve bought him in the last year. On my last shopping trip I got smart and visited the boy’s jeans section at the thrift store. I paid $5.99 for a pair of broken in jeans that will last him a long time. They fit awesome because they aren’t stiff and awkward, but the best part is I don’t have to worry about shrinkage!

~ if you are on a constant journey to only purchase locally manufactured clothing, it will be a difficult and expensive journey. I try really hard to source everything I can locally, especially for myself, but this is hard with 4 kids and a husband. I don’t shop at big box stores, especially Walmart and others where their business and purchasing methods are questionable…but by shopping at a Thrift store, I can say by recycling clothing, this is more earth friendly in my mind than even shopping locally because I’m not investing in anything ‘new’. Only new to us. And I’m lucky that I have 4 children that see clothing for what it is. Clothing.  There is not talk of brand labels yet which is a blessing, although I know even popular brands exist in thrift stores, you just need to invest the time to look.

~ in an article I wrote years ago, I featured a store determined to change clothing with using sustainable ink. I learned from this article how toxic ink can be and urge you to read the Little Inkers story. Whenever I can, I love to support screen printers that create prints with earth friendlier dye solutions that are free from phthalates and PVC. These designs on the clothing are also so much more original and safe! I also feel when purchasing clothes 2nd hand that many of the toxins in these dyes have been washed out, which reduces exposure. I know the focus is 2nd hand, but I love giving examples of stores doing things right so I want to introduce you to Wren Willow. This clothing store is dedicated to using environmentally friendly water based inks and no harsh chemicals AND the store owner sketches the design that is later screen printed onto the clothes ~ Wren Willow is a magical place to purchase special clothes. These clothes look different,  tell a great story, and what a better alternative to big box clothing? I’d much rather my girls wear this big strawberry than Dora any day!

So back to my visit to the thrift store, and by the time I finished sorting through the pile of books and feeling very comfortable and happy with my decisions to shop thrift, I decided that I’ll continue on the path of being proud of myself for shopping 2nd hand. It is a very earth friendly option with consumerism and when I purchase things for myself and children, I don’t feel the consumer guilt that normally follows shopping at a traditional store. I am recycling. I am reusing. And with spending over $4.99 on each piece I purchased (pair of jeans, 2 dresses for my twins) I realized it’s also not just about saving money. I see new clothes being blown-out on sales all the time for $5. It shows me the markups in these stores is beyond ridiculous and the price tag doesn’t dictate if a shopping trip was successful, it’s the feeling that comes with bringing something new into my home. And if the item has previously been worn, washed, and then donated, it makes me feel proud to have found it.

** For all the latest updates, conversations, and answers to many questions from parents looking for safer solutions in their home, please join our Mommy Footprint fan page. The page is updated with information daily and the questions we discuss are wonderful.

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Teflon Lined Diaper Bags

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does this bag contain:

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

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

Related Articles:

Antibacterial Products Heading Back To School


Car Seats and Flame Retardants


Is You’re Child’s Bed or Crib Toxic?


Self Cleaning Oven – Toxic for Humans Or Only Birds?

 

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All Natural Hair DIY Deep Conditioner

My hair and I have a love/hate relationship. If I want to describe my hair, most days it looks like unruly, long, wavy, hippie hair. I’m okay with all that. It’s the color I struggle with. I get my hair streaked once a year and enjoy how my appearance seems brighter after I have some blond put in my hair. I truly don’t think there is a way to make your hair lighter without chemicals, so I haven’t researched the slightly less alternative options.  I have also learned that damaging my hair to keep it lighter in color makes no poo methods of hair maintenance difficult. I enjoyed using baking soda and apple cider vinegar for 6 months before my hair started getting dry…brittle actually. So I got a good trim and started using Green Beaver shampoo & conditioner. This combination has been working well, but since it’s summer I’ve been looking for an all natural moisturizing treatment for a deep conditioning.  I experimented with coconut oil and olive oil and have been using Tropical Traditional Virgin Coconut Oil in the ends of my hair every few weeks to give it some extra moisture & shine. The first time I made the mistake of applying a large amount of it to my entire wet head…I looked like I was caught in an oil slick. After receiving some tips from the greenies on the Mommy Footprint fan page, I really like how my hair reacts when I apply it to the ends of my hair when it starts drying out after regular trips to the pool.

Gillian Deacon, Author of There’s Lead In Your Lipstick: Toxins In Our Everyday Body Care and How To Avoid Them, has some great tips for DIY, all natural deep conditioning treatments. Check out:

Gillian’s tips:

Make your own conditioner: slather your hair in coconut oil, wrap your hair in a towel and leave it for a few hours. For a hot oil treatment, heat extra-virgin olive oil and massage through dry hair. Wash thoroughly after 20 minutes. For a revitalizer, mash an avocado and mix with two tablespoons of honey; massage into hair and wash out after 20 minutes.

Summer can be hard on hair – between trips to the pool and sun exposure. My jar of Virgin Coconut Oil for Hair Treatment is specially made for hair treatment because it contains a higher content of protein than the other oils Tropical Traditions sells. This is an unrefined coconut oil and is made from organic coconuts. I’ve mentioned Tropical Traditions before because I’m impressed with their packaging…my coconut oil arrived in a glass jar. So skip expensive, chemically laden conditioners and try an all natural approach with deep conditioner for your hair…it not only feels great but you won’t get a headache from the smell!

Related Articles:

No Poo Anyone?

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Choosing A Safe Sunscreen

I’m just back from Shoppers Drug mart (a very large Canadian drugstore) because I wanted to try an experiment. Using only a few tips in my memory, would I be able to find a sunscreen that didn’t contain ingredients I want to avoid? I know where to shop for organic, highly recommended sunscreen brands, but I distinctly remember the feeling of hopelessness when running out of sunscreen on vacation and having to purchase sunscreen in a rush, on the fly, without any notes in front of me. I can recommend sunscreen brands all day, but this article is being written to help empower you to find sunscreen based off ingredients – not brands. Even easier for mamas with iphones, etc., you can just Google Mommy Footprint Choosing A Safe Sunscreen and you’ll have these tips at your fingertips. But I’m winging it old school tonight and I was shocked to discover that only 1 brand met my criteria and it’s not one I would ever purchase because it was 30ml for $38. But the Lise Watier Sun Smart brand didn’t’ contain any of the below ingredients to avoid. BUT – out of the 50 of so brands on the shelves I did manage to narrow down a sunscreen brand I would purchase if I was stuck and really needed something for the kids. The Ombrelle Kids 30 SPF for sensitive skin sunscreen had 10.5% mineral based active ingredient, but did have 3 parabens listed in the ingredients. The bottle was large and under $18. This is what I would have chosen if stuck. Even with the parabens, it contained the least number of ingredients on the naughty list below. =(

Look for sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium as the only active ingredient. I prefer zinc vs. titanium because Gwen from Nayla told me that zinc stops UVA1 and UVA2 while titanium only reflects UVA2. Both of these ingredients are known as physical blocks rather than chemical blocks which stops harmful rays at the skin level, rather than having them penetrate the skin. Another tip from Gwen is that Zinc is a counter irritant that is ideal for people with sensitive skin (another bonus for Zinc) which is why this ingredient is used in diaper creams. While we are talking about diaper creams I received an interesting opinion from the pharmacist I was working with tonight at the drugstore. I was explaining to her the scenario of being ‘stuck’ for a sunscreen and wanting a zinc, non-chemical brand when shopping in a big box store. She pointed out that diaper cream could work for this purpose. I went and looked at some brands and with zinc being listed as the only ingredient – she’s right! If you needed something to cover small parts (neck, face, ears) for a smaller child or baby, a zinc based diaper cream would go on very thick but would be an excellent block of harmful rays.

Parabens – may mimic estrogen; therefore this preservative is really not ideal for women or children. Paraben chemicals can also can trigger inflammation for people with sensitive skin. The ingredient may have a butyl, ethyl, mthyl, and propyl at the beginning of the word paraben (e.g. butylparaben) – so just look for the word paraben. If it’s embedding within a word on the ingredient list – this sunscreen contains parabens.

SPF numbers – just stick with SPF 30 and 30+ sunscreens. A perfect example of the greenwashing out there is Coppertone 90 SPF for Babies. First of all – babies aren’t supposed to use sunscreen and the 30 level of SPF protection is just as effective as inflated numbers since these super high numbers give sunscreen users a false feeling of protection causing them to reapply less.

Avoid 3 ingredients octinoxate, oxybenzone, and avobenzone.

Oxybenzone is also known as Benzophenone-3 and is known to cause estrogenic activity; these chemicals are also linked to development of the brain and reproductive organs. This is a chemical that you usually see listed in the ‘old-school type’ brands of sunscreen – watch for this ingredient.

The sunscreen that the pharmacist recommended to me had octinoxate in the active ingredients. When octinoxate is in a sunscreen that contains avobenzone, they destabilize each other causing the skin damage. Octinoxate even on it’s own is not a stable chemical block and it does not filter UVA rays. The side effects of octinoxate is it can product estrogen like effects and should not be used by women or children.

Avobenzone can produce free radicals in your body because it’s a chemical that absorbs ultraviolet radiation energy. Also in sunlight, avobenzone degrades and becomes ineffective within 1 hour. To summarize, while ingredient reading – stay clear from octinoxate, oxybenzone, and avobenzone.

Just by ingredient reading and sticking to titanium or zinc based sunscreen brands and avoiding parabens, octinoxate, oxybenzone and avobenzone I was able to quickly shortlist all of the sunscreens (which will save you and the nice sales person helping you a lot of time). Words like mineral based sunscreen, physical block sunscreen, nanoparticle free sunscreen, and zinc based sunscreen will also assist you with finding a safer brand for your family.

My best tips would also include not relying solely on sunscreen for your sun protection needs. If you have a baby – don’t use sunscreen. Instead use sun shirts, hats, and possibly a UV protectant tent at the beach. I still put sun suits and shirts on my children so that we only need limited sunscreen on their neck, ears, and face which helps prevent using massive amounts of sunscreen. Also, shopping online for sunscreen is a great way to find safer sunscreens since you have the information at your finger tips for top rated brands. So far this season I’ve used Badger sunscreen and Green Beaver – I’m very happy with both brands. To read my review on Green Beaver sunscreen click here.

Hang in there parents! There have never been a larger selection of safer sunscreen brands out there – we just need to continue to weed out the chemical filled brands and this can be done by ingredient reading. If you have any questions on sunscreen or personal care products, simply post on the Mommy Footprint Fan Page.

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