August 31, 2007

summer grilling

I've been meaning to do a post about backyard grilling all summer. Uh, how did it get to be Labor Day already? Since Labor Day is still a very popular time to grill I'll go ahead and post this info.

According to the Green Guide, there are drawbacks to all grilling methods but also ways to make all of them more eco-friendly. "Even though they use non-renewable fossil fuels, gas grills burn cleaner than charcoal, and electric grills emit less carbon monoxide . . . than either charcoal or gas. Charcoal fanatics can use briquettes that don't contain fillers such as coal dust, starch, sodium nitrate, limestone and borax. "

They have good information on various types of grilling methods. In a nutshell, if you like using charcoal (which I believe is a key difference between "grilling" and "barbecuing") it might be good to switch to a product like Cowboy Charcoal (also sold as the 365 brand at Whole Foods). This is a "low-smoke charcoal out of untreated maple and oak scraps from furniture and flooring plants." Also, try not to use lighter fluid or self-starter briquettes which contain petrochemicals.

Experts seem to say that gas and electric grills are a little better for the environment. The Sierra Club says, "Three out of four U.S. households own at least one barbecue grill. Among grill owners, 48 percent fire up with charcoal, 61 percent with propane, and 7 percent with electricity." They suggest that while your little bbq may not be such a problem, the combined effect of everyone grilling starts to add up. That said, the damage done from backyard grills likely pales in comparison to other types of pollution. But it is something simple we can be mindful of and make green adjustments without spoiling our holiday fun.

I still love my Weber. I use charcoal, but I did switch to the 365 brand and am happy with it. Burns a little faster and hotter, but works well. Happy grilling!

August 30, 2007

another day, another recall

Everyday there is another recall I hear about. How do you find safe toys? The issue is incredibly complicated. What do you tell relatives and friends to give as gifts?

Today we were listening to music in the car and my son said, "Where do they make balloons? In China?" You do know that song from They Might be Giants, right?

I've said much about this in previous posts already. I'd like to point you to a great post at the Angry Chicken. She really delves into the issue and offers some refreshing solutions. A key tidbit she unearthed is that even if a toy says it is made in the U.S. or Europe, it likely has some Chinese components.

Besides, her blog is full of amazing crafts and projects. Unfortunately, I do not know how to sew.

August 29, 2007

solar at the ballgame


Today I took my kids to a baseball game at Giants Stadium. I didn't plan it, but wouldn't you know today was sponsored by PG&E. They were celebrating the partnership between the San Francisco Giants and the energy utility which has installed solar energy at the ballpark (believed to be the first major league stadium to do so).

PG&E says they installed about 590 solar panels in three locations at the park. "PG&E will connect the 120 kilowatts of power generated from the solar panels into San Francisco's power grid to help the city achieve its goal to become the greenest city in the nation. One hundred kilowatts of solar energy is enough to power the Giants' new state-of-the-art Diamond Vision scoreboard for the baseball season."

Sounds cool, but too bad the whole stadium isn't powered by its own solar, eh?

The Giants president said, "Through this partnership, we hope to raise awareness about the importance of using energy wisely and efficiently and about the need to develop and utilize renewable energy sources."

Other than that, the game wasn't all that exciting. By the 3rd inning we had made 2 trips to the bathroom. No big home runs from Barry. Lots of home runs for the other team.

August 28, 2007

a post for the ladies

Am I always the last to know this stuff? I had never thought much about feminine products. Just kept buying the same old kind. I knew people had their preferences and probably stuck with their favorite brand.

One day while in the natural foods store I took a closer look at the feminine care shelf and wondered if what they sold was all that much different. I'll save you the suspense: yes, it is different and yes, you should switch.

Most popular brands of pads and tampons use synthetic materials. The chlorine bleaching used to make the material so white contains dioxins which pollute the environment, are carcinogenic, may cause birth defects and reproductive disorders. Alternately, the brands I saw at the natural food store are 100% organic cotton with no chlorine. And the good news is the natural tampons look just like the synthetic ones and work just as well. Some popular brands to look for and try are: Seventh Generation and NatraCare.

There are other options, too. Products like the Diva Cup and The Keeper are not disposable and therefore reduce the amount of waste considerably. I have not tried this personally, but have read about people who have (check out these great posts on the Crunchy Chicken blog). Treehugger says, "A menstrual cup is convenient, cheaper, healthier, and better for the environment too. There are cups made from rubber and silicone, however it is thought that the silicone cups are better for those who might have sensitive skin or are allergy prone."

And if you're interested in a product that is reusable and washable, they make them. Luna Pads offers an array of reusable, natural products for your period.

All this new info sure has made me wonder what women have been using for centuries. Surely these little changes are still much easier than what women were using even 100 years ago, right?

August 27, 2007

seafood guide


Here is a quick tip for today. One of my favorite little tools is from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. They publish a handy seafood guide for different regions in the country detailing which seafood choices are good for you and good for the oceans. You can keep the handy pocket-sized guide in your purse to refer to when buying seafood at the grocery or in a restaurant.

The aquarium also has a full site called Seafood Watch, loaded with great information and tools to help you make wise decisions. You want to be able to find healthy fish (without too much mercury) that aren't being over-fished and are raised and caught in a natural, sustainable way.

Whew! Don't worry, the guide will help you sort it all out.

August 26, 2007

camping


We had a fun camping trip this weekend (car camping with the family). For those who don't know, car camping is a way to enjoy the outdoors but still have all kinds of conveniences and gear along with you. We find state parks that have flush toilets, fire pits, picnic tables, as well as trash and recycling bins. Truly roughing it would be backpacking or something along those lines.

We load up all our clothes, food, water and gear (pillows!) and camp for a few nights. We cook outside, sleep in a tent, hike and play. This weekend we even brought bikes for the kids to ride around the park's bike path.

Camping comfortably and efficiently has been a big learning process for me. I am slowly trying to "green" my camping experience each trip. When I first started I brought disposable plates because I wasn't sure about dish washing. Now I bring reusable table and cookware. This was the first trip I tried to bring a really eco-friendly dish soap (since the water and soap go straight into the ground under the faucet). I brought some Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap.

We also have been bringing our reusable water bottles (we like the Sigg and Kleen Kanteen) rather than plastic disposables.

There are some elements that I know need improvement but I have yet to find a great solution. One is hand wipes. I have been bringing anti-bacterial hand wipes since there is not usually soap or towels in the bathrooms. I want to be able to keep everyones' hands clean after using the toilet and before we eat. I could try to switch to some wipes that may be more earth friendly, like the EO wipes. It would probably be even better to bring our own soap and towel. Actually, the Dr. Bronner's could work for this purpose also.

I also have been looking for a better tablecloth for camping. The standard ones are made from vinyl, which do a fine job of covering up the super-dirty tables and wipe off easily but vinyl is probably made from PVC, which isn't such a great thing. Of course I could try using a durable cloth table cloth, but I do like being able to wipe down the tables. The seem to get really dirty throughout the weekend. I love the Mimi the Sardine tablecloths, which are made locally in the Bay Area. "The fabrics are produced in accordance with strict environmental laws and are Oeko-Tex certified; the coating is made from acrylic and not PVC." They also use no chlorine in the production process, and only use water soluble dyes.

One of the great scores during the trip was when we went over to a local beach and our friend found a tangled, abandoned kite that had washed up on the beach. He was able to quickly repair it and pull all the seaweed off. It flew better than any kite we've ever tried. Even our 3-year-old got it off the ground! Someone's trash, now a treasure.

If you have any good camping tips to share with me I'd love to hear them.

August 23, 2007

hazardous waste


Today I took a few things to our hazardous waste collection center. I love this place! They make it so easy to do the right thing. San Francisco has a drop off location for city residents, which is actually a drive-thru drop off! You pull up at the center and workers come over to your car window. You fill out a form while they take the hazardous items out of your trunk. Done. Drive away.

I brought used propane canisters from camping (they only accept small ones), fluorescent light bulbs (can't throw those in the trash - mercury!), used batteries and an old bottle of Draino that I found in our basement. The center also accepts house paint and bottles of cleaning products. If you're wondering what to do with the toxic cleaners under your sink (now that you know to clean green) take them to a hazardous waste facility.

To find a household hazardous waste facility near you, check earth911.

August 22, 2007

safe cleaning


I was happy to read about The Safe Cleaning Products Initiative. It is a national effort intended to reduce women's exposure to toxic chemicals in cleaning products, organized by a group called Women's Voices for the Earth. As you may know, many cleaning products contain dangerous ingredients (for both people and the planet). There are many products which seem to be better options (they say they are non-toxic and such). The concern seems to be that there are no rules about listing ingredients on the labels of cleaning products. Instead, many companies claim the specific ingredients are proprietary secrets.

The initiative is asking companies to list the ingredients of their cleaning products on the package, and to replace potentially hazardous chemicals with safe alternatives.

You can read the full report here, or look at the executive summary instead. I appreciated the list of 20 companies which WVE wrote to about ingredient policies. Only a handful have responded. Makes you wonder about those that don't - what do they have to hide? Unfortunately, some of the companies not answering are ones I like (such as Ecover, Method and Mrs. Meyers). In fact, I've always wondered why Method is not sold in natural/health food stores. Is it politics or ingredients?

Some of the companies that did respond are Shaklee, Seventh Generation, Biokleen (love their laundry powder!) I've never tried Shaklee products but have heard some good things about them. Interestingly, Shaklee does not disclose all their ingredients yet they do provide information on products which they do NOT use (which did put my mind at ease since it covered so many). Hopefully I can cover all the good brands in future posts.

Meanwhile, WVE has a list of things you can do to help reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals from household cleaning products. I also found this good advice from Washington Toxics Coalition:

"In recent years there has been a trend towards products marketed for their environmental qualities. They may claim to be non-toxic, environmentally safe or environmentally friendly, recycled, biodegradable, or all of the above. The claims may be true, or they may not. Remember that the production of any product places a burden on the environment. The best products are just those that are least damaging.

Be skeptical when shopping. Look for products with specific rather than general claims. For example, “90% biodegraded in 3 days” means more than just “biodegradable.” “Contains no phosphates” is more specific than “environmentally-safe.” If the product seems too good to be true, perhaps it is.

Look for contradictory claims. If the product says “non-toxic” on one side
and “vapor harmful” on the other, something is wrong. Is there such a thing as a “non-toxic” product? Any chemical is toxic if you ingest enough of it."

August 21, 2007

trashcan switcheroo


This is a small thing that for some reason I got really excited about. . .

The other day I was noticing that since we now put so little garbage in our trash can that it sometimes starts to smell (because we may only empty it once a week). At the same time our recycling is always spilling in to piles all around the bin.

Our brilliant sitter suggested we switch the cans. DUH! She's a genius. Now we have a big, huge recycling bin and a nice, tiny, garbage bin. Didn't even have to buy anything new. Switcheroo!

August 20, 2007

pollution in people


I found this cool website while researching. It has very helpful, simple, easy to understand information about certain toxins (kind of like toxin cliff notes!)

Pollution in People
is a result of a study of toxic chemicals found in 10 people living in Washington state. A group called Toxic-Free Legacy Coalition "wanted to know which chemicals were getting into our bodies, and at what levels, to better understand the potential harm posed by poor regulation of chemicals, and to develop better solutions."

They tested for six groups of chemicals:
• the plasticizing chemicals known as phthalates (PVC is just one of these)
• the flame retardants PBDEs (this is what I wrote about in yesterday's post)
• the heavy metals: lead, arsenic, and mercury
• perfluorinated chemicals like those used to make Teflon
• pesticides
• banned, but persistent, PCBs and DDT.

The website has valuable information about each of the chemicals, where you may be exposed to them, why you should be concerned, what government and industry could do, and what you can do to reduce your exposure.

Nothing like a nice, simple summary at the end of a busy day. Why can't all research be this easy?

August 19, 2007

fire retardants in furniture


I got an email from MomsRising regarding dangerous chemicals used in furniture. It intrigued me because that is one area I have not even begun to research. I know furniture has many toxic aspects, but was kind of scared to find out what exactly. I also wasn't sure there were alternatives available and as a result felt a bit hopeless about it.

MomsRising is giving hope. They have great information and a plan to help set safer standards for furniture. Of course, signing their petition would be a good thing. It specifically is asking the Governor of California to support a bill which would help make furniture safer.

From Mom's Rising:

"California furniture manufacturers are required to use potentially toxic chemicals which are bad for children, and are being found in the milk of breastfeeding mothers--the very same chemicals that were removed from children's sleepwear thirty years ago! All this in the name of fire retardancy which can be achieved without toxic chemicals. Now the chemical industry wants to put similar chemicals in bedding and pillows as well.

Assembly member Mark Leno explains, "These toxic chemicals have been shown to cause cancer, reproductive problems, learning disabilities, and thyroid disease in laboratory animals and house cats. At the same time, these chemicals are climbing the food chain in increasing concentrations and are found in fish, harbor seals in San Francisco Bay, polar bears, bird eggs, and the animal at the very top of the food chain - breast-fed human babies."

• The chemical Chlorinated Tris was removed from children's sleepwear 30 years ago after it was determined to be a mutagen.

• Today, chlorinated tris is the second most-used fire retardant in furniture, and was recently deemed by the consumer product safety commission to be "a probable human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence in animals."

• Since the 1970s, PBDEs (brominated fire retardants) have increased 40-fold in human breast milk. PBDEs have the potential to disrupt thyroid hormone balance and contribute to a variety of neurological and developmental deficits, including low intelligence and learning disabilities. Women in North America have, on average, ten times to forty times the levels PBDEs in their breast milk as do women in Europe or Asia.

• We can prevent fires without poisoning our families. Equally effective and affordable methods are available right now. Alternatives include naturally flame resistant materials like wool, metals, and woods, inherently flame resistant barriers, and alternatives including silicon, boric acid, and phosphates.

Yikes! I'm sure our house is full of horrible furniture-chemicals. I guess I'll start with the petition and then see what I can learn about what to do with what you already have, etc. I'll try not to get overwhelmed (I'm not about to run out and buy new furniture or anything) but I do like knowing what to look out for and where.

August 16, 2007

toy origins


I've heard that 80% of all toys are made in China. As I mentioned yesterday, I decided to start calling some of my favorite toy companies to learn about their manufacturing process and safety. I think there are a few considerations when finding toys. They need to be safely made (without lead is a good thing).

We also should consider the life span of the toy and what will become of it when our children tire of them. I always think of the pile of plastic floating in the Pacific, larger than the state of Texas. Is "safe" plastic from Europe better than wooden toys from China? Maybe everyone has to decide the answer for themselves. Consider both the safety for your children and also the environment.

Here is some information from the companies I called:

Melissa and Doug
:
Made in China
Melissa and Doug employees test during process in China and then test again in independent labs once product is delivered to the US. Consumers should feel confident and comfortable with Melissa and Doug products. No lead, no formaldehyde, no toxins. Not involved with recent problems in China at all.

Brio:
Made in China
Statement to come from CEO regarding safety processes.
update: K'NEX Brands, sole distributor of BRIO toy products in the United States and Canada, just sent this statement:

Brio would like to point out that all Brio products, including the wooden railways systems and toys, are very safe to play with. Brio uses a lacquer paint, free of dangerous amounts of toxic materials, including lead. This lacquer paint has been thoroughly tested for toxins in independent laboratories at ITS and SGS.

After a competitor’s first product recall a few months ago, Brio decided to triple check on the procedures that are in place, to make sure that everything is performed according to the already set standards. Even further testing was carried out, on all the paint used, for all our products and sent for analysis. None of the tests showed any abnormalities.

Safety is always one of our main priorities. Creating products that are safe enough for young children involves extensive research and testing.

All Brio products conform to heavy metal (toxicology) testing as under mandate by the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) for US and Canada. They meet all industry standards within EN part 3.

Every single part of a product that Brio makes, are specifically tested in a spectrometer for spectroscopic analysis. This is to identify all the chemicals and content of the materials used.

PlanToys:
Made in Thailand, in their factory in the Trang province.
PlanToys are created using advanced technology to ensure they are safe and non-toxic. They are "strongly committed to manufacturing fine-quality and safe educational toys under environment-friendly conditions. The timber we use is plantation rubberwood (Hevea Brasiliensis), which is recovered from old rubber trees after they no longer generate latex and are due for burning. We process and kiln-dry the timber, in a chemical-free environment; no wood preservatives are used whatsoever. The paint which we use to varnish Plan Toys products is non-toxic water-based paint which has been scientifically tested by independent accredited laboratories and found to be safe for children and non-polluting in natural water sources. We use natural latex glue to do the joining work on our toys. In certain cases, we need to use plywood in our production. Special care has been taken to ascertain that our plywood complies with E1 standards, thus ensuring emissions of urea formaldehyde at levels below those acceptable to the World Health Organization (WHO). We do not use PVC in our packaging. All cardboard cartons used in our packaging can be fully recycled."
In addition, PlanToys has high ratings for ethical labor standards.

Lego:
Made in Denmark, Mexico, Hungary, Czech Republic and some electronics from China
Made with ABS plastic.
"This ABS material has been specially developed for our company and is not available to others. This has important consequences: for example, no other manufacturer is able to make products with the same unique clutch power, shine properties and colour stability as LEGO Group products possess. The company's laboratories continuously test our plastics to the extreme in order to improve resistance, for example, to bite marks and scratching."

Playmobil:
Made in Germany
Uses ABS plastic. No recalls since 1982.
"Playmobil toy production is based in Europe, with the company headquarters just 15 miles away from the major production site in the heart of Germany. This allows Playmobil to track and monitor the quality of the toys at fully owned manufacturing sites. Horst Brandst├Ątter, the owner of Playmobil, states that: “I manufacture Playmobil in Europe, because I trust my team of employees who understand the brand and are experienced in the manufacturing process in order to reach supreme quality with the best technology and equipment I can provide.” Only a few parts, less than 1 percent of the complete range of toys, are sourced from high-quality, long-term Chinese production partners. Playmobil sources these components because of the substantial amount of hand labor they require. We hold these manufacturers to the same high standards as we do with our European counterparts. Playmobil is committed to investing into the highest quality resources that meet all of our high safety standards."

If you decide to call other toy companies that you like, please share the info in the comments below.

August 15, 2007

where toys are made



I intentionally didn't post about the third toy recall yesterday (I don't want to be known as the recall announcement lady). Have you noticed everyone seems to be saying we should not buy toys from China? Um, have you tried to find them made anywhere else? Not easy.

I decided to start calling my favorite toy companies directly. I learned that Brio trains are made in China. We love our wooden Brio trains and I sure don't want to get rid of them if I don't have to. The company knows customers are concerned and will be sending out information shortly.

While I was hunting down toy companies I found something super-cool. Oompa toys (one of my very favorite places to buy toys online) has started organizing their products by where they are made. I'd say they have a very smart marketing person there!

Click on "2007 Made in Europe" from the left nav bar and you'll find oodles of great toys from brands like Haba, Chelona, Selecta and more. Oompa even lets you find toys specific to the country of origin: France, Germany, Greece, Poland, Spain and The Netherlands.

Happy safe shopping . . . until the next recall anyway.

August 14, 2007

hospitals go green!

I had always thought getting bad plastics out of hospitals was a lost cause. But I was wrong! I read on USA Today.com that many hospitals are starting to use safer plastics in the neonatal care units, because the babies are very susceptible to the effects of the toxins. Specifically, many hospitals are starting to use products which do not use DEHP, or di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, in the plastic used in intravenous tubing, blood bags and other products . DEHP can leach a hormone-like chemical linked to reproductive problems.

As far as I can humbly tell, the new products are still made of PVC. I don't know how toxic they remain. PVC is incredibly toxic, especially during production and then again when incinerated. Both times it releases high levels of dioxins which are strong carcinogens. I am not sure if that has changed. The new PVC products without the DEHP weigh much less and are saving hospitals money—an added bonus. I am guessing they pay for waste disposal by weight?

I am glad to see hospitals on the green bandwagon - looking at lots of ways they can be greener. The article refers to a group called Health Care Without Harm. They are "an international coalition of hospitals and health care systems, medical professionals, community groups, health-affected constituencies, labor unions, environmental and environmental health organizations and religious groups." Their mission is to "transform the health care sector worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment." Docs go green!

For a list of the top 10 green hospitals in the US see the list from The Green Guide.

August 13, 2007

the lunch bag


It makes sense that to pack earth-friendly lunches for your kids, you'd try to make as little trash as possible. There is a huge selection available for the actual lunch box/bag, depending on your needs and preferences. One important consideration is to be sure the lunch bag does not contain lead or PVC.

One of my favorite resources happens to have a huge variety of lead-free lunch bags. Reusablebags.com sells various bags (like those from Mimi the Sardine and Basura Bags) as well as alternatives like bento-boxes and steel carriers. My son's school actually requests that students carry lunch in a basket, so that makes our choice pretty easy. We did use an insulated backback lunch bag from Fleurville for a long time and liked it.

Sending your child with a cloth napkin rather than paper is a pretty easy thing to do, too. Just don't send your fanciest ones! Using non-disposable utensils is a good idea. Stainless steel or even bamboo are some options. And rather than a juice box, use a drink holder that doesn't get thrown away. Sigg or Kleen Kanteen bottles are popular choices for a safe, reusable cup.

Speaking of juice boxes - the Basura Bags are made from colorful recycled juice containers to form cool, one-of-a-kind styles. Every day, children from the local schools collect over 50,000 used drink containers, called doy packs, then sell them to a women's co-op in the Philippines. The bags are sanitized and the women sew them together into attractive, durable bags. How cool!

Now, if only the lunch bags would pack themselves.

August 12, 2007

wee generation


Wee Generation is a unique collaborative partnership between Seventh Generation, Healthy Child Healthy World, and Babystyle. Together they hope to create the ultimate green diaper bag, and they need your help.

The Wee Generation website says,

"Take off your booties, roll up your sleeves, and help us design what we hope will become the world's first and only Cradle to Cradle Certified eco-baby bag. Tell us your stories — we want the good, the bad and the stinky! Share your parent-on-the-go memories, bag dilemmas and ideas on features of the perfect bag, or comment on diaper bag moments that have already been posted."

It is a very interesting project. Designing a green bag is more difficult than it sounds! The designers involved (IDEO and William McDonough) are incredibly talented, so I am excited to see what they come up with. As a designer myself, I am really enjoying the slideshows of their design process on the website.

And of course there is a sweepstakes for you if you sign up. You can win a green nursery, one of the green diaper bags, or a green baby-t.

August 9, 2007

NOT fatboy!


I have not done much research about green furniture. I am sure I'll find that almost all furniture products contain lots of naughty things that are off-gassing in our homes. Maybe I'm stalling because ignorance is bliss.

However, I am trying to find a low, soft reading chair for the kids' play area. Something like a bean bag chair, but cooler. Modern. It needs to fit into a funny little corner about 41" x 31". Would be great if the chair could accommodate adult and some snugly kids for a book.

One that I found is called the Fatboy. It looks more stylish than the bean bag chairs I remember from the 60s and 70s. But I think I was lucky they mentioned what the chair is filled with. They use tiny EPS cylindrical pieces (Expanded Polystyrene Packaging.)

Wikipedia says that EPS is used in lots of packaging material. It is similar to, but not the same as, styrofoam. It is rated as plastic #6. It is not easily recycled. Not to mention that it is also highly flammable.

The company says the fatboy is made from, "Depending on the product, Fatboy® is made from either a Nylon or Polyester fabric and has a PVC coating to make them water resistant and stain resistant. The fatboy is filled with virgin polystyrene beads."

Yikes! I don't know if I should be more appalled by the virgin polystyrene or the PVC coating! I wonder if I would be this alarmed if I knew what was in all the furniture I already own.

But being a mom going green, I just can't knowingly buy something so blatantly bad for my family and the planet. I'm going to continue my search. I will try to find out the ingredients of all the products I consider and will share any good options I find. If you have any ideas please send them my way!

August 8, 2007

more about lead and kids

You knew this was coming, right? The situation with lead in toys is so outrageous and unacceptable that moms everywhere are signing a petition to Congress and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) stating that "Testing children's products for toxic chemicals must be a priority. No more toxic toys and children's products!"

Of course the issue is complicated, but signing the petition is one small thing we can do to show our collective voices.

The petition is being collected by a group called MomsRising. "MomsRising has a goal of bringing millions of people, who all share a common concern about the need to build a more family-friendly America, together as a non-partisan force for 2008 and beyond. This grassroots, online effort is mobilizing mothers, and all who have mothers, across America as a cohesive force for change. Started this May 2006, MomsRising already had nearly 90,000 citizen members, as well as more than seventy-five (and growing!) aligned national organizations, working together to create positive solutions for the future."

Today on the Mom's Rising blog, Amy Tiemann wrote about the lead issue. There is a great podcast from NPR about it and some disturbing facts, like, "How ironic is it that lead paint is banned, but the toys themselves can be made of lead?"

And if for some reason you haven't heard about the latest recall, check Mattel's website. Thomas trains were also recalled recently,

And, to wrap up with a tie-in to yesterday's lunch theme, don't forget to be sure your child's lunchbag does not contain lead. I wrote about this back in April in my post, "lead for lunch." I have not seen official recalls on these and yes, I found that our insulated lunch bag contained lead by testing it myself.

August 7, 2007

school lunch


It may still be summer, but the start of school is quickly approaching. I thought it might be fun to do a series with some options for greener lunches.

Whatever the lunch is packed in (box, bag or basket) the food needs some kind of protection. Instead of plastic ziplock bags, I like using Natural Value's unbleached, natural, waxed paper bags. I pack sandwiches, baby carrots, sliced apples, or even pretzels and dried fruit in them. If they don't get too messy they can be reused a few times.

The box says they are "Non-toxic when incinerated, landfill safe and will not contaminate ground water." I'm still checking to see if they can be composted (I think so).

When looking for the product online I found a link on the greenguide about these bags. They say they, "prefer using reusable containers whenever possible, but a waxed paper sandwich bag might just come out ahead of its all-plastic cousin in a life cycle analysis."

I'll have more tips on containers and packs as we get closer to school starting. If you have favorite tricks for greening the lunch box, let me know.

p.s. This is mom go green's 100 post! Hooray! Maybe I should start categorizing my entries? Yikes.

August 6, 2007

three cups of tea


I read Three Cups of Tea a few months ago and I can't stop thinking about it. Maybe you've already read it (it's been on the NYT bestseller list for 26 weeks now).

I'll let Amazon provide the synopsis more succinctly than I ever could:

"Some failures lead to phenomenal successes, and this American nurse's unsuccessful attempt to climb K2, the world's second tallest mountain, is one of them. Dangerously ill when he finished his climb in 1993, Mortenson was sheltered for seven weeks by the small Pakistani village of Korphe; in return, he promised to build the impoverished town's first school, a project that grew into the Central Asia Institute, which has since constructed more than 50 schools across rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. Coauthor Relin recounts Mortenson's efforts in fascinating detail, presenting compelling portraits of the village elders, con artists, philanthropists, mujahideen, Taliban officials, ambitious school girls and upright Muslims Mortenson met along the way. As the book moves into the post-9/11 world, Mortenson and Relin argue that the United States must fight Islamic extremism in the region through collaborative efforts to alleviate poverty and improve access to education, especially for girls. Captivating and suspenseful, with engrossing accounts of both hostilities and unlikely friendships, this book will win many readers' hearts."

It isn't about the environment or about being a mom, even. So what does it have to do with mom go green? For one, it gave me great insight to living in a remote area of a third world country. Glimpsing daily life in those remote mountain villages made me realize how wasteful our culture is with both resources and "things." The book is also so inspiring since it tells the story of what one person can accomplish with perseverance and determination. The story is true, recent, and so relevant to our world at this moment.

I also love the lesson that maybe the solutions to big problems are not direct. I mean, who would have thought that building schools for girls could help curb terrorism. The indirect effects of the schools on the culture are fascinating.

And so how does this book relate to mom go green? Because it makes me appreciate all the resources that I have available in my daily life. It inspires me to conserve them and be grateful. I am hopeful that individuals can make a difference wherever they have a strong will to do so.

Hey, I'm not asking you to change the world--just to read the book! It is really wonderful. To buy the book it is great if you click through the books' website first, which will bring you to Amazon. By doing this Amazon gives lots of money to the non-profit supporting the schools. Thousands have been collected already and it only costs $1 per month for a student to attend the schools!

If you want to support Greg Mortenson's continued efforts you can donate to The Central Asia Institute.

August 5, 2007

water saving heroes


While out and about this weekend, I spotted this new ad campaign at the San Francisco Caltrain station. I thought it was very clever! I like how it makes regular people into super-heros and totally avoids the stereotypically crunchy environmental style.

The campaign was produced by "partnership of Bay Area water agencies and organizations committed to water conservation."

The ads direct viewers to a website which contains tips about saving water as well as rebate information from local utilities. Check it out: www.watersavinghero.com

August 2, 2007

new green (but blue!) resource


My friend, Laura, sent me a tip about a cool new website full of great eco-information. The site is called blue egg.

It is still in beta, but already has lots of great stuff. I love the "Eco Genius Challenge" on the home page:

"QUESTION: When fresh local produce is unavailable, what is the most environmentally friendly alternative? " Click here to answer.

And this next one was so apropos, since I was debating this very question at the store the other day:

"Got milk - in carton or jug?
Which milk container is better for the environment: plastic or paperboard?"

Thank goodness I made the right choice! Click here to find out.

August 1, 2007

more lead in toys from china

I was reading one of my favorite blogs this evening, Gift of Green, before settling down to write my own post. I'm glad I did because she has alerted us all to yet another recall of lead paint on toys from China. Please read her post and check the recall list.

Buying items from China is frequently a topic of conversations I hear with parents these days. I know avoiding toys from China is a good idea, but sometimes it seems you cannot NOT buy an item from China.

I agree with Diane at Big Green Purse (thanks for pointing to her, Gift of Green!) that it will take lots of consumer pressure on businesses to change things.

I will try to start a list of toys and companies that are making products in countries with stricter regulations. I recognize that is not a guarantee for safety, but it is somewhere to start. If you have a favorite, please share.

And to be fair, there are many recalls on children's products each year. Check this list from ConsumerAffairs.com to be safe.