One of my son's favorite snacks has been recalled. Fortunately, we have not purchased any Veggie Booty for quite some time, but I know this is a popular natural, but not organic (just the soy flour is organic), snack for children. Veggie Booty is made by Robert's American Gourmet and is made of puffed corn rice with a blend of spinach, kale, carrots, parsley, broccoli, and cabbage.
If you have a bag of Veggie Booty, you should dispose of it immediately. In a letter from Rob himself, he writes, "Robert’s American Gourmet has been alerted to a recent outbreak of salmonella and the potential contamination of Veggie Booty. Due to the serious nature of the health risk, Robert’s has decided to temporarily stop the manufacture and sale of Veggie Booty ONLY until test results can positively identify the source. We stand by our snacks and hope to resume making Veggie Booty shortly." To obtain a refund, simply send the empty bag of Veggie Bootie, along with your name, address, phone number, store where you purchased the product, and the purchase price to
Robert's American Gourmet
Veggie Booty Recall
P.O. box 326
Sea Cliff, New York 11579
There are a suspected 51 cases of salmonella poisoning from Veggie Booty in 17 states. According to MSNBC, "none of the products has tested positive for salmonella, but the company acted as a precaution after the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that many of the infected people had eaten the product." Salmonella can grow on any food substances and causes fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and vomiting. It can be fatal for young children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. Long term effects can include severe arthritis.
Organic and health food are not immune to the risks of salmonella and other bacterias that enter our food supply. There is also a recall on Maranatha Organic Raw Tahini for salmonella bacteria. As long as we continue to process our food in factories and ship across the country, the chances for food borne illnesses will increase. In fact, according to the CDC, 5000 deaths a year occur in the US from food borne illnesses. The typical ingredient on your table has traveled 1500 miles to reach your home. The 100 Mile Diet is not only good for the planet, but I believe it protects consumers from food borne illnesses as well.
Don't forget, only ONE more days to leave a comment and enter our monthly drawing for a hemp Eco Child's Play bag!
30 June 2007
29 June 2007
One of the easiest (and cheapest) ways you can impact the greenness of your community is to volunteer. Wikipedia defines a volunteer as "someone who serves in a community or for the benefit of natural environment primarily because they choose to do so." Volunteering can be both informal and formal opportunities to help, and with a focus on greening your community, you can do your small part to help improve the lives of those around you. Volunteering is also a wonderful opportunity for you family to spend quality time together modeling your green values.
Finding formal volunteer opportunities is relatively easy. Typing in "volunteer" and your city's name into a search engine (you can narrow this search by adding "environment", "river", "recycling", etc.) will result in many opportunities. Also, many of these opportunities are posted in newspapers, or you can contact a local environmental agency. In my area of northern California, there are many opportunities for coastal clean up, removal of non-native species, recycling, environmental education, etc. There are also many volunteer websites and programs that can link you to local organizations based upon your interests:
Living Lands and Waters
Informal volunteering is an even easier way to make an impact on a daily basis. Simply find an area of interest and carry out your own action plan. For example, if headed to the recycling center, stop along the way and pick up recyclables you see on the side of the road. I once picked up five tires on one such trip. Or, you could volunteer to start a recycling program at a local school or assisted living facility. These locations may also benefit from a donation of CFLs. It is also easy to pull a non-native weed from the ground while on an enjoyable hike.
The possibilities for volunteering are endless and can take minimal time and effort on your part. The Volunteer Family lists multiple ideas such as,
Write letters to congress supporting legislation that helps the environment
Help clean up shore around lakes, beaches/coasts, river
Clean up litter on the street or in a park
Weed in a cemetery or park
Use more energy-efficient light bulbs
Work on a community garden or farm
Start a compost pile
As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself." By volunteering in your community, not only will you help your local environment of which people are a part, but you will help yourself as a living member of your ecosystem.
This post orignially appeared on Green Options: Tip O' the Day.
Don't forget, only two more days to leave a comment and enter our monthly drawing for a hemp Eco Child's Play bag!
28 June 2007
It has been over six months since I wrote about the Klean Kanteen stainless steel water bottle revolution (see "Finally, A Safe Sippy Cup"). Since I wrote that post, we have purchased a Klean Kanteenfor each member of the family and an additional one for my son. Toddlers do need more than one sippy cup!
In six months, our Klean Kanteenshave been dropped many times and have a few dents. My daughter's Klean Kanteenoften needs a little hammering on the bottom to make it sit level. I broke the lid on my Klean Kanteenwhen I dropped it on a concrete sidewalk, but we had an extra lid from switching my daughter's to a sippy cup lid. My husband feels like his Klean Kanteenhas a metallic taste, but none of our other bottles have this taste. We have cleaned it according to the suggestions with vinegar, and that did help remove the taste. Just a few days ago, I figured out how to clean the lid of the sippy cups (I can't believe it took me six months to figure it out!). The disc shaped valve comes off completely and then easily pops back on. Before I made this discover, I had been folding it back to clean underneath. My son's oldest Klean Kanteenis starting to leak a little, but I think I just need to swap the green spout to amend this problem. I actually do not mind, as the leak is helping teach him to leave his bottle upright, which will help him move beyond sippy cups all the time. Thingamababy offers a great suggestion on how to make Klean Kanteensippy cup name tag. ReusableBags.com is my favorite place to shop for water bottles.
27 June 2007
Children today are bombarded with plastic, limiting toys that do not expand their imaginations or aid their development. Not only can plastic toys be harmful to children's health, but the production of plastic toys further increases our dependence upon petroleum and leaves a greater carbon footprint than natural, wooden toys. There are many companies that produce wooden toys; however, not all of these companies provide information about the kind of wood they use or their sustainability practices. In addition, many of these companies manufacture their toys in China, where constant monitoring is required to ensure dangerous substances, such as lead, do not accidentally enter into production, such as the recent recall of Thomas the Tank Engine wooden railway toys exemplifies. Plan Toys is a company you can trust!
Plan Toys uses chemical-free rubber wood to produce their toys. These trees are at least 25 years old, and thus have stopped producing latex. Rubber wood farmers traditionally fell these trees and burn them to produce charcoal, in order to clear the land for replanting. Plan Toys increases the value of these trees by using them to produce their beautiful line of wooden toys. The wood is kiln-dried to avoid bacteria and pest infestation, thus making the rubber wood naturally preservative free and safe for children. All paints are non-toxic, the glue used is latex-based, and all corners are rounded for safety; however, some toys do contain plywood. Plan Toys insures that their "plywood complies with E1 standards, thus ensuring emissions of urea formaldehyde at levels below those acceptable to the World Health Organization (WHO)". All packaging materials are recyclable and do not contain PVC.
To read more, please visit Green Options: Green Family Values: Natural, Wooden Toys by Plan Toys.
Don't forget, only four more days to leave a comment and enter our monthly drawing for a hemp Eco Child's Play bag!
26 June 2007
This post comes courtesy of Lighter Footstep, a website dedicated to helping people live lighter, more sustainable lives...one step at a time.
A Family’s Weekly Guide to Reducing Your Impact on the Planet at Home
Written by Sonya K. Hess
Child-Raising: Three ways to lighten your impact on the planet AND economize
Children have become a fad: grocery store tabloids map celebrity-babies’ every move, note who is riding in which tricked-out stroller, and remind us where so-and-so got her baby’s $300 shoes. But fads mean money spent on a constantly changing environment of style, one that only encourages over-consumption and overuse of already precious resources. Want to bring child rearing back to earth, and save money in the process?
1. SHOP SECOND-HAND
For some parents thrift stores may be a budget necessity, but regardless of your wallet, shopping thrift stores for kids has endless benefits. First, remind yourself that your child, at least for the first two years of her life, could care less what she wears, as long as it’s weather-appropriate. Reminding yourself of this can help you to care less too. Second, children’s second-hand clothes are rarely worn out or even stained, thanks to kids’ rapid growth, so your bargains are going to look and wear like practically new clothes. Someone is out there paying full dollar for those clothes, and you stand only to benefit. Third, most small- to mid-sized cities, to say nothing of metropolitan areas, are exploding with consignment shops for children’s clothes. These stores range from mega-cheap to highly selective, so whatever your style and budget, you can find a deal. And finally, buying second hand will really add up: if the average new outfit for a child at a large chain store runs about $25 and you find it for $10, you’ve saved $15 per outfit which can easily mean close to $100 for a week’s worth of clothes. Plus, with the resale options many consignment stores offer, your kids’ outgrown clothes can go right out the door again and earn you credit or cash in the end.
2. USE CLOTH DIAPERS
It’s funny how many people I’ve talked to say something like this: “I know I should try cloth diapers just like I should try to recycle and use less gas and minimize my waste, but it just sounds so hard.” Well, I’m about to show you that it isn’t—at least no harder than trudging out to the grocery store late at night for another package of disposables because you discover you’ve used the last one.
The Economics of Cloth Diapers
If no other reason convinces you, saving money should be a no-brainer. The average child will be in diapers for over two years, and a family’s monthly disposable diaper spending averages $35-55, depending on brands bought, as well as extra supplies (wipes, etc.). Sure, you make an initial investment with cloth diapers that can run anywhere from $150-$300, but even at the high end you’ve easily spent less in total than you would on even six or seven months of disposable diapers. And if you chose to have more than one child, remember that that investment will last you through all your kids, while a family adding a child adds another $35-50 spent, per month, on what is basically garbage.
**Want to learn more about the economics of cloth diapers, including detailed breakdowns of waste production and water use for disposables vs. cloth? Check out Punkin Butt’s wonderful article entitled The Diaper Dilemma: The Environmental Cost of Diapers.
Cloth diapering really can be easy
Think for a minute: wouldn’t you calmly explain to a friend that he/she was crazy for using paper plates and cups for every meal, and show them that using a sink or dishwasher is actually pretty handy? We use paper plates at company picnics because they make things easier, but at home it just makes sense to eat your pasta out of a bowl, wash the bowl, and use it for your cereal the next morning.
Now shift those thoughts over to diapers and clothing: we all do laundry already, right? Does it sound easy to you to do one more load, especially if you know you’re saving money and easing your burden on the earth? I hope so, because that’s what cloth diapering is: a little more laundry, and a lot less money.
Options for cloth diapers
The internet is full of options for those who choose cloth, and this article will give you the basics, as well as referring you to a host of websites that can teach you even more.
Sharp diaper pins and cracked plastic pants are a thing of the past. Cloth diapers come in two basic types: “prefold” diapers (your basic thick rectangle of cotton, folded into diaper shape) with a waterproof velcro- or snap-closure cover, and “all-in-one” diapers (AIOs in the diapering world) that are cover and soaker in one, held on with Velcro, snaps, or elastic. Beyond cotton innards and waterproof coverings, there are many fleece and wool choices as well, especially nice for babies with skin sensitivities.
The prefold route: probably the most savings—you buy 4-8 diaper covers in your baby’s size, as well as 2-4 dozen cloth “prefolds,” depending on how often you’d like to do laundry. The diaper covers can be used more than once, until they are overly wet or soiled, and then a quick hand wash and line dry has them ready to go again in several hours. The inner prefolds that handle the bulk of the urine and waste get rinsed and soaked or tossed in your diaper bin until laundry time.
AIO: you’ll spend more up front for these, because you need enough to get you through all the diaper changes for a couple days (unless you want to do laundry every night). Most folks choosing all-in-ones will buy 2-3 dozen in each size necessary, and wash all of them every third day or so.
Washing cloth diapers—getting down to business
Everyone will develop their own system for washing diapers, and many types of all-in-one diapers or diaper covers may come with their own set of washing instructions. The very basics are a bucket-soak or soak-cycle in your washer, either with vinegar or baking soda, followed by a hot wash/cold rinse, and then drying on the line or in a hot dryer. Since your washing machine will be doing most of the work, the only time you spend is getting diapers to and from the machine, and if you hire a diaper service to do the washing, even this task is cut out, although it really isn’t that much of a hassle.
**Still skeptical? Skim through another article from Punkin Butt’s wonderful website, this one entitled “Punkin Butt Easy Wash System: Simple and effective instructions for how to wash cloth diapers".
Other concerns: daycare, reusable wipes, etc.
Concerned about how to integrate cloth diapers into your child’s daycare routine?
Heather Sanders’ article “Cloth Diapered Children and Day Care Providers” can be found at http://www.thediaperhyena.com/daycare_clothdiapering.htm. She covers a range of issues, from introducing cloth diapering to your daycare provider to the more complex legal and health-code issues associated with diapering and daycare centers.
Just like the washcloths we use in the shower, wipes for baby’s bottom can easily be made from cloth and used endlessly—my mother still has a pile in her rag bag that get used in the garage, twenty-some years after the fact! Many cloth diapering websites sell their own special styles of flannel or terry reusable wipes; you can make your own or simply buy thin baby washcloths or second-hand washcloths to do the job. Count on getting about two dozen to make life easier.
Ready to get started?
The Internet will be your best friend as you collect your cloth diapering supplies. The websites listed below are only a guide to get started, as many others abound and a simple web search will turn up enough sites for you to compare prices and options. Ebay is also a great way to find new and used diaper covers and brand new prefold diapers for less money than many online stores. If you are lucky enough to live near a children’s supply store that stocks cloth diapering materials, visit them and support your local business. Many carry used diaper covers as well.
3. TOYS—Simplifying the Playroom
Nowhere is marketing to children more apparent than in the toy department. Aside from limiting your children’s exposure to television (most pediatricians recommend NO screen time for children under 2-3 years of age) you can exercise a certain amount of control over how many toys your child has, and what types of toys you allow into your home. Here are some things to think about:
Plastics vs. natural materials
Recent research has shown the potential risks plastics pose to our bodily health, and this risk is increased for children because their bodies are so much smaller and because they spend much more time as babies with things in their mouths. Why not eliminate the risk of toxic leachates from plastics and give your baby wooden or cloth toys? Plastics are also petroleum products of one sort or another, and so in addition to the fossil-fuel energy it took to produce the toy, the toy itself is using up precious resources, and won’t biodegrade quickly (as wood and natural-fiber cloths do) when finally thrown away.
“Characters” vs. open-ended toys
Marketing is a factor again here. I don’t assume that we can indefinitely shield our children from all toy marketing, movies, and the like. Most parents don’t even want to do this. But at an early age, you probably noticed that babies derive just as much pleasure from playing with your car keys or a wooden spoon as the action-figure they’re given to knaw on. Rather than toys that have just one use, provide your growing children with tools for creativity: blocks, puzzles, materials for forts and other creative play, and of course the great outdoors are your child’s best playthings. These toys will likely be durable as well, reducing what you end up spending and throwing away over the course of childhood. And just like clothes, many quality toys are available second-hand.
25 June 2007
More Thoughts on the Thomas the Tank Engine Lead Paint Recall: Children Around the World Should Be Protected
The recall of Thomas the Tank Engine toys, as well as other recent recalls, reminds us that our children will never be safe until children are safe globally from harmful products in their toys. A recent opinion article in the New York Times by Christian Warren speaks to this issue. "The Little Engine That Could Poison" reminds us that the important lessons to be learned from these recalls is not only about the protection our own children, but "regulating environmental poisons in the global economy".
With the majority of products consumers purchase being manufactured overseas, the incidence of "accidental" contamination will continue. As Warren writes, "It is important to do what we can to prevent the import of dangerous toys. But it is at least as important to help our international partners curtail the use of lead and other toxic substances in their own markets. Lax product safety and environmental regulation overseas undoubtedly lowers manufacturing costs there, but it also perpetuates the risk to our children and guarantees harmful exposure to both workers and children in countries that continue using lead as blithely as we once did." Lead is very dangerous stuff that causes irreversible damage in humans.
No family anywhere in the world should have to suffer from the effects of this known poison, especially in an effort to produce cheap products for the world market. As a world power, we need to do something to extinguish this hazard globally. We have some protection in this country, despite President Bush slashing of the Consumer Product Safety Commission budget by 10%, yet our children are still exposed to lead in their toys. Who knows how many children throughout the world play with lead tainted toys?
24 June 2007
Two years ago, my daughter received a magnetic princess dress up doll similar to Melissa and Doug's Princess Elise Magnetic Dress-Up Doll. The magnetic parts adhere to the doll easily and are durable, compared to paper doll clothing. Not only are the magnetic backed wooden parts long lasting, but they are much easier for little hands to manipulate and thus do not cause the frustration. I remember being in tears as a child when my paper dolls tore, and these paper dolls required adult assistance to play with at a young age.
Our magnetic doll has been repeatedly played with and hardly rests on a shelf at all. Melissa and Doug's Princess Elise Magnetic Dress-Up Dollcomes with 24 pieces and is low priced ($7.50). There is a stand for the doll; however, we mostly play with our doll lying flat. The stand is useful when you have more than one doll to interact with each other in dramatic play. Melissa and Doug's Princess Elise Magnetic Dress-Up Dollis recommended for children three-years old and older; however, with close supervision, younger children can enjoy this wooden toy. Some of the pieces, such as the shoes and crowns, pose choking hazards, but a parent could remove these items to allow a younger child to play with the doll independently.
23 June 2007
After discovering my children had the most toxic car seats evaluated by the Ecology Center, I purchased two Evenflo Big Kid Deluxe Booster Car Seats. These booster seats were lower on the list of toxicity and available locally, so it was an immediate solution to our toxic car seat problem. After one 20 minute car ride with the Evenflo Big Kid Deluxe Booster Car Seats, I developed a headache and my lungs felt weird. I am not a very chemically sensitive person, but the fumes off these seats were unbearable. I returned the Evenflo Big Kid Deluxe Booster Car Seats, much to my daughter's disappointment, as she liked the little lights above the shoulders she could turn on to read books in the car. I also felt that my almost three-year old son was too small for the seat, as he did not appear to be securely held. I did not want to purchase another five point harness seat, as he would only be able to to use it for a few more months, and he had already outgrown his old, toxic one.
Disappointed, I went back to Healthycar.org and revisited the list. I decided to order the Britax Parkway Booster Car Seat for my children. A friend let my children sit in her Britax Parkway Booster Car Seat, as I was concerned my daughter would not tolerate the wrap around sides around the neck and head that provide side impact protection.
We have been using our Britax Parkway Booster Car Seatfor two weeks now, and we love them! The extra support around the neck and head is perfect for sleeping in the car, and my son is held snuggly in this car seat. The seats had a faint odor when first out of the box, but this odor was not detectable at all in the car. The Britax Parkway Booster Car Seatreceived a toxicity rating of 0.5 compared the 5 rating of our old seats. It was worth the extra expense ($84.00 a piece on sale) to have the peace of mind that my children are not breathing in toxic fumes in the car (well not as much). In addition, I truly believe the Britax Parkway Booster Car Seatis a safer car seat, as described by the product description: "The Britax Parkway belt-positioning booster has been designed for increased safety incorporating deep torso and adjustable height head support. True Side Impact Protection, developed by Britax engineers, has been confirmed through rigorous side impact sled testing to better contain a child in dangerous side-impact crashes. The seat shape correctly positions the lap belt over your childs pelvis while the shoulder belt guide keeps the vehicle belt comfortably away from his/her neck."
I find it interesting that the Britax company could have one of the least toxic car seats in the booster department, but this same company ranks highly in the convertible car seat model. I hope that one of these days our children will truly be protected from toxic products. I am so tired of learning about lead and other harmful substances in products designed for children. It just doesn't make sense.
22 June 2007
Yesterday, we spent the day frolicking at the river, so I forgot to wish all of you a Happy Summer Solstice! This day has become a day of World Peace and Prayer, so I offer you this blessing:
I pray for peace in my being
To create peace with all beings,
Because peace is healing the planet,
Our Mother Earth.
I pray for peace in my being
To create peace with all beings,
Because peace is healing the planet,
Our Mother Earth.
21 June 2007
Many of the products used to clean are homes create unhealthy indoor air quality for our families. Making your own cleaning products not only saves you money, improves your indoor air quality, makes your home less toxic, but it is simple and easy.
There are many natural window cleaners available at coops and natural food stores; however, these products can be expensive, and in my experience, their performance leaves much to be desired. It is very simple to make your own window cleaning solution with vinegar and water. This homemade window solution is very effective and inexpensive.
To make homemade window cleaner, combine 3 teaspoons of vinegar to one quart of warm water. Pour the solution into a reusable spray bottle, and you have the safest, best window cleaner for your home. To prevent streaking, do not clean your windows while the sun is on them and use crumpled newspaper to wipe them dry. The newspaper can still be recycled after cleaning your windows. It is hard to break the paper towel habit when it comes to cleaning windows, but once you do, you will be pleasantly surprised by the results.
Vinegar is very inexpensive. A gallon of organic vinegar costs about $12.00 (non-organic vinegar costs about $3.00 a gallon) and will last you for many years of window cleaning. You will find many other uses for vinegar beyond cooking , such as killing weeds and rinsing laundry, as you explore this amazing liquid. It is also relatively easy to make your own vinegar from juice, then you would have a truly homemade window cleaner!
This post was included on Green Options Tip O' the Day, which contains many great simple ways to make your life greener!
20 June 2007
With environmental issues on the forefront of many peoples minds these days, there has been an increase of children's literature on the subject. My Body My House is one such book that focuses on the choices we make in our home that affect our body's health. Written by Lisa Beres and illustrated by Juila Woolf, My Body My House addresses "sick building syndrome", suspected as being responsible for almost half of the illnesses in this country.
My Body My House begins with a man living in a healthy home, surrounded by trees, heated with wood, and providing a garden with fresh vegetables. Soon, the Body (man) begins to notice his neighbors and feel the need to "keep up with the Jones's". He begins to remodel his home, wanting to do so cheaply and not concerned with the toxicity of the buidling materials. He replaces hardwood floors with carpeting, seals the windows, uses insecticides to kill bugs, etc. The House continues to warn the Body he is creating an unhealthy environment, but the Body continues to remodel. "'But you don't understand,' the House started to gush. 'My air now contains pollution and dust. You've added new things. I'm no longer the same. Look in the mirror, only YOU are to blame.'" The Body continues to become ill from the indoor air quality, until he eventually opens a window, breathes in fresh air, and discovers the error of his ways. "He reached his arms out and hugged his dear friend. 'Don't worry, wise House, these problems I'll mend!' Then he skipped out the door, not a minute to spare, spotting all of his friends as he leaped in the air. Butterflies, trees, birds, bugs-everyone. And the Body now realized we are woven in one."
My almost six-year old daughter enjoyed My Body My House; however, there were a few aspects of the book she said she would have changed. First, the text does not follow a consistent rhyming pattern. Some lines rhyme, some do not. When reading orally, a rhythm begins to develop on some passages, only to be abruptly changed a few lines later. In addition, it bothered her that the character was referred to as the Body throughout the book. I understand the author's choice of the Body to reinforce the parallels between our homes and our bodies; however, this choice created an awkard storytelling experience. The goal of the story to educate parents and children about the relationship of our homes to our health and the environment is good, yet the awkardness of the text makes me think this book will not stand the test of time as a great environmental children's book. The illustrations match the light, whimisical text well.
If you would like to read more of this review, please visit Green Options: Green Family Values: My Body My House Review.
19 June 2007
Sadly, strawberry season is beginning to wane here in northern California; however, the news is not all bad as the raspberries and cherries are ripening in my garden. This delicious recipe for Organic Strawberry Almond Cream Cheese Tart came from my friend Laura. Our town hosts a good old-fashioned pie auction every spring to raise money for our community council. Laura made this tart one year, and it sold for almost $200 at the pie auction. Fortunately, a friend bought it, so I was able to try a piece and begged Laura for the recipe. This Organic Strawberry Almond Cream Cheese Tart is amazing, with just the right combinations of ingredients. The tart is light, using very little sugar and fresh strawberries. My tarts never turn out as beautiful as Laura's high priced one, but the taste is one I look forward to every strawberry season. This recipe is modified from one published in Cooking Light magazine.
Of course, bakers should use organic ingredients to make this recipe pesticide free! I use organic Sucanat , which stands for Sugar Cane Natural, for all my baking. Sucant is Fair Trade certified from Costa Rica and is made by crushing sugar cane, extracting and heating the juice, then hand paddling the juice until it dries into porous granules. Unlike refined sugars, Sucanat retains many vitamins and minerals present in sugar cane, such as iron, calcium, vitamin B6, potassium, and chromium.
To obtain the full recipe, please visit Green Options Weekend Grub: Organic Strawberry Almond Cream Cheese Tart.
18 June 2007
With climate change on everyone’s minds, purchasing carbon credits offers a means to alleviate some of our green guilt. Terms like ”carbon neutral”, “carbon credits”, “carbon offsets” etc. are thrown around the green community to describe ways we can absolve our carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change. The average American contributes over 20 tons of carbon a year, and the family vacation is a part of this equation.
Because we live off the grid and run biodiesel (B99) in our truck, I’ve never been too concerned with purchasing carbon credits; however, this summer, my family will be taking a flight across the United States to visit family. According to the CarbonNeutral Company, “Airline flights are among the fastest growing sources of global warming gases.” There are many websites that provide carbon calculators to help you figure out how much carbon your vacation will emit. For example, the flight calculator at Conservation.org figures our trip will contribute 4.4 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, which we can offset for a $44.00 donation.
To read more, please visit our post on GNM Parents.
16 June 2007
Sunday is Father's Day, and just like Mother's Day, it originated out of tragedy. The modern American celebration of Father's Day began in 1908, when 361 men were killed in a mine explosion in Monongah, West Virginia. Father's Day is celebrated around the world (on different days) to honor and commemorate the importance of male figures in family life.
Traditionally in this country, gifts are given by children to their fathers, but does Dad really need another Jerry Garcia silk tie? According the The Green Guide, more than half of dads say they've never received a "good" gift, and the average cost of a Father's Day gift is $89.00. There are plenty of green, eco gifts available to buy Dad. Instead of supporting the overconsumerism in this country spawned by holidays, how about showing Dad you love him with a truly sustainable gift. These gifts don't require you to buy Dad anything, but to spend time with him.
To read more, please visit Green Options: Green Family Values: Eco Gifts for a Green Father's Day Means Not Buying Anything!
15 June 2007
Whiffy Bean Bags are homemade, natural toys filled with aromatic herbs. Over 50 different herbs and essential oils are used in various combinations for Whiffy Bean Bags, and you can request your own combination too! We sampled the dried lavender and chamomile bag, as well as the calming blend of herbs. Both combinations smell wonderful to me, but my daughter felt they were a little strong.
Bean bags are great fun for young children and are perfect for learning to catch. We practiced throwing our Whiffy Bean Bags high into the air and catching them as they fell. We practiced repeating the words "up" and "down" for my son, who is a late talker, as we played with our Whiffy Bean Bags.
Whiffy Bean Bags cost $4.50, and you can custom choose your fabric and herbal blends. The fabrics we sampled were made of some synthetic fibers; however, I think you could request natural blends for your custom herbal bean bag. Whiffy Bean Bags also makes a variety of other products, such as key chains and a See It filled with scented beads that helps children's manual dexterity.
14 June 2007
Once again, we are left to wonder why manufacturers of children's products include lead in the materials. 1.5 million Thomas the Tank Engine products are being recalled due to lead in the surface paint. These wooden railway train products were sold between 2005 and 2007 and manufactured in China. You can visit the CPSC website to learn more information. Consumers are advised to take the toys away from their children immediately and contact RC2 Corp (parent company of Learning Curve) for a replacement. Unlike the Small World Toys recall we participated in earlier this year, you must return the recalled toys to RC2 and fill out a form.
We have several of the recalled trains; however, they were purchased before 2005 when my daughter was a toddler. One of the problems with toy recalls, besides the fact that there are too many of them-unsafe products should not be on the market in the first place, is that most small toys are not registered. Parents are good about filling out registration cards for car seats and other big ticket items, but a $10 wooden train does not even come with a registration card. Parents must rely on news reports, friends, and families to find out about recalls of this nature. Thank you Dad for telling my mainstream media avoiding family about this recall of Thomas the Tank Engine toys.
13 June 2007
The Environmental Working Group has released a petition to Congress in support of organic farming. Only shopping in coops and natural food stores, I forget that organic produce is still not abundantly available throughout the country. According to EWG, only 3% of fruit, 2% of vegetables, and 0.02% of corn available in grocery stores is organic.
The EWG petition asks Congress to increase funding for organic farms as it rewrites the farm bill:
*Give organic farmers their fair share of my tax dollars for research on how to grow organic food.
* Help more farmers make the transition to organic farming.
* Level the playing field for the organic industry by devoting a fair share of resources to organic pest control and crop nourishment.
Please sign this petition to give organic farmers a fair chance in the US food market.
Since we are talking about food, the Telegraph reported yesterday that "Global Food Abundance No Longer Guaranteed". Corn inventories in this country have fallen to the lowest levels ever, and we are not alone as global shortages and price increases are occurring.
12 June 2007
Hello Helloby Dan Zanes and illustrated by Donald Saaf is based on Dan Zane's excellent children's song by the same name. The text/lyrics are very optimistic, speaking of the potential of each day and ending with a multicultural image and words for hello: konnichiwa, namaste, hallo, bonjour, etc. Hello Hellocomes with a cd, featuring five Dan Zane's songs. The lyrics and musical notation for each song is included in the back of the book. I truly love this song and book! "Every day brings more than the day before, open any door and say hello hello hello. It's the same bright sun shines on everyone...." Hello Hellosends the message to love life and its inhabitants, while the whimsical illustrations with fold out pages delight young children.
11 June 2007
One of my favorite things to do at the park as a child was swing on the tire swing. There was something about the shape of the tire and the way it swung that appealed to me. Our backyard was not big enough for a tire swing, but I always enjoyed tire swings at my friends' houses. Recently, the Green Guide provided safety information about tire swings. I have always wondered about the safety of recycled tires in children's swings and playground surfaces.
80% of tires are now recycled (not as tire swings!), compared to only 17% in 1990. At extremely high temperatures, tires off gas toxic benzene and toluene; however, older tires are not likely to off gas at cooler temperatures. Tires can also be breeding grounds for mosquitoes if water pools in them. The Green Guide offers the following tips for recycled tire swing safety:
*Light truck tires work well, but bigger, heavy truck tires used on semis can cause harm. Avoid steel-belted radials, which can pose cutting hazards.
*Drill drainage holes in the bottom of the tire.
*Use a rot-proof nylon rope to hang the tire from a sturdy limb on a hardwood tree such as oak or ash rather than a softer-limbed evergreen. Or, in a playground, check that the tire swing is hung from chains securely bolted to an overhead support with no obstacles within swinging distance.
*Pad the ground beneath the swing with wood chips, bark or recycled-tire rubber tiles (see below).
*For elaborate and amusing handcrafted tire swings in a variety of shapes including airplanes and kangaroos, see Abundant Earth .
*To ensure safety, inspect swing sets regularly and always supervise children on playground equipment.
We previously featured a recycled horse tire swing from Magic Cabin, although you don't need to buy an expensive tire swing to provide your child with outdoor fun. If you feel adventurous, Dave's Garden offers a pattern to make your own recycled pony tire swing from a recycled tire.
10 June 2007
For my daughter's first birthday, we gave her Melissa and Doug's Deluxe Wooden Fold and Go Dollhouse. The recommended age rating is three years old, but we felt we could watch her closely and hide away small parts until she was older. Five years later, she still plays with her Melissa and Doug's Deluxe Wooden Fold and Go Dollhouse, although she does wish for a bigger dollhouse. Melissa and Doug's Deluxe Wooden Fold and Go Dollhouseis perfect for little spaces like our cabin. It is compact, yet it comes with ample wooden furniture and two wooden figurines.
Over time, we added Melissa and Doug's Family Doll Setto extend the pretend play, as well as more wooden doll house furniture. I still remember my daughter in the early stages of talking and toilet learning playing with the dolls on the wooden potty. She would say, "Peepee in potty," then wash the doll's hands. She did this over and over again. Now that she is almost six, she has painted the rooms, finger knitted rugs and blankets, etc.
Parents often think of dollhouses as gender specific toys; however, I have noticed that boys love dollhouses too. Our Melissa and Doug's Deluxe Wooden Fold and Go Dollhouse was the first toy one of my daughter's little male friends would play with at our house. My son also enjoys our dollhouse. The large doll house at our preschool is very popular with the male students too. Melissa and Doug's Deluxe Wooden Fold and Go Dollhouseis affordable, at about $30.00, and compact, allowing every little child a chance to have a dollhouse.