Editor's note: This is the first of a weekly guest spot by children's media consultant Ashley. Ashley is a television and online producer and Executive Editor of Children's Media Consultant.com. She holds a B.A. from Columbia University and a M.A. concentrating in children's educational media and preschool ecology from New York University. She resides with her family in downtown New York City. You can visit her blog at childrensmediaconsultant.com.
The Green Series: Eco Kids Books
I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately on how families and children can “go green” without spending a fortune. Let’s face it: bamboo cribs, cork floors and reusable diapers aren’t for everyone. Additionally, there’s an issue about how to teach kids about the environment. Parents and caregivers are in a position to either foster an appreciation for the natural world, or, unfortunately, terrify their kids into submission (no more polar bears!).
The truth of the matter is, media can sometimes play a hindering role in eco-education, challenging families to stay indoors and watch TV rather than go outside and jump in the leaves. But not all the time. Children’s media has its role on the green bandwagon, too. So with that idea comes the first in what will hopefully be more of Children’s Media Consultant’s The Green Series.
29 September 2009
Last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (APA) issued a report declaring that children are especially at risk from the effects of climate change. This news is not startling, as young children are more susceptible to heat, toxins, etc., because their bodies are smaller and their immune systems are under development. Children are more vulnerable than adults, and now the APA is asking doctors to lead the way in modeling sustainable practices, especially in the United States.
The APA report states,
Anticipated direct health consequences of climate change include injury and death from extreme weather events and natural disasters, increases in climate-sensitive infectious diseases, increases in air pollution-related illness, and more heat-related, potentially fatal, illness.
Many parents are concerned about the presence of Bisphenol-A (BPA) in plastic baby bottles and sippy cups. Previously, we have written several posts on the subject, as the potential negative effects of this endocrine-disrupting hormone found in many plastics is alarming . Finally, there is one site parents can go to for a complete picture of BPA and children's beverage containers: Z Recommends.
Bloggers Jeremiah and Jennifer McNichols have completed the most thorough and comprehensive directory of BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups. Consisting of 25 individual posts, the Z Report recommends "Top Picks", "Promising Entrants", "Proceed with Caution", and "Brands to Avoid." There are individual posts for each company, as well. As Jeremiah explains, "The chart assesses the companies overall - for example, we are recommending avoiding companies that DO have a few BPA-free items, because their policies are inconsistent, they are strongly pro-polycarbonate, or they do not offer a non-polycarbonate bottle (even though they may have non-BPA sippys). We tried to give a broad picture of which companies are worth doing business with based on their BPA stance, and then have the company-specific pages to provide per-product information. All Top Pick companies make only BPA-free products." Z Recs' goal is to have all companies disclose on their labels exactly what kinds of plastics are used on products that come into contact with children's mouths. This sure would help consumers make wise decisions in the store, but for now, visiting The Z Report: A Directory of Bisphenol-A In Baby Bottles and Sippy Cups will help parents make sense of BPA in children's products.
When I began Eco Child's Play almost a year ago, I pledged to invest in Kiva loans with a portion of the income the blog may generate. Even with all the recent changes to Eco Child's Play, I still plan to maintain this small gesture of social responsibility. If you are not familiar with Kiva, this organization helps you empower an entrepreneur in a third world country by lending small amounts of money (as low as $25) to a specific entrepreneur, helping end global poverty one person at a time. Once you make a loan, you will receive email updates about the businesses you are supporting. A typical loan lasts 6-12 months.
Our second Eco Child's Play Kiva loan goes to Jazmin Sanchez. According to Kiva,
Jazmin owns a small restaurant in Guayaquil, Ecuador. She has operated this small business for a year now, but she spent many years learning how to run a restaurant from her mother who was in the same line of work. Jazmin used her first Mifex and Kiva loan to purchase raw materials and ingredients for her business such as rice, butter, flour eggs, and dishes. She also renovated the portion of her home she uses as the restaurant. Jazmin attends to her clients closely and they are please with the quality food and service she provides.
Even before the recent flurry of children's toy recalls, I questioned the effectiveness of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) when they failed to act on the presence of lead in children's lunchboxes. The news has only gotten worse, since I wrote about it last February. Almost everyday, I receive a new email from the CPSC listing more toy recalls, mostly for lead content. How can this be? Who is protecting our youngest consumers?
In the past two months, there have been millions of toys recalled for dangerous levels of lead content, and other products that contain smaller levels of lead, such as lunchboxes, have not been recalled. In fact, doctors warn that lead levels considered safe by the CPSC still put children at risk. According to WebMD,
Lead poisoning interferes with neural development in children and developing fetuses. High levels of lead in children can cause learning and behavior problems.
We all knew the Discovery Channel had green interests when it purchased Treehugger.com for $10 million, but now the Discovery Channel Store is featuring "eco-friendly" and "green gifts" toys for the 2007 holiday season. My family recently played with three of these products. Two of these toys (Pyramid Building Blocks and the Tolo Baby Carousel) will be featured in this post; one toy (the Hydrogen Fuel Rocket) deserves its own post, which will occur next week.
Wooden blocks are the best toys for children! Children learn so much from block play. Wooden blocks promote open-ended, creative play, and lay the foundation for geometry and mathematical learning. Although Pyramid Building Blocks may not be as open-ended as a Standard Unit Blocks, they present their own unique challenges that fascinate children and adults alike, as these Pyramid Building Blocks are designed for children ages 5-99. The Pyramid Building Blocks consist of 67 pieces, including 18 different shapes. At first, my six-year-old daughter was completely confused by the pyramid blocks. Yet after a few days, she became an independent, expert pyramid builder, although she insists on the calling the Sphinx a "human lion". These wooden blocks are made by Haba, a high-quality German toy company. I couldn't find any information on the forestry practices used in harvesting the wood for the blocks, although the company states, "We do however put a premium on materials that can be manufactured on an ecologically beneficial basis. We use primarily indigenous maple and beech wood and water-based paints for our toys. " Haba is also socially responsible. Part of their corporate philosophy is
Only a company that is profit-oriented can secure its future. We take the word social seriously! Both in terms of social benefits for our employees and in relation to our mutually successful relationship with our partners.
Editor’s note: This is the second of a weekly guest spot by children’s media consultant Ashley. Ashley is a television and online producer and Executive Editor of Children’s Media Consultant.com. She holds a B.A. from Columbia University and a M.A. concentrating in children’s educational media and preschool ecology from New York University. She resides with her family in downtown New York City. You can visit her blog at childrensmediaconsultant.com.
Depending on who you ask, children’s television may or may not have come a long way.
New entries like “Yo Gabba Gabba” feel retro in a classic “Sesame Street” or “The Electric Company” style, but offer a more modern take on design and music. Kid’s TV beat broadcast to the punch and has already issued user-generated content in a mixed media format. Networks have caught on to the lack of diversity in children’s programming, and have debuted “Go, Diego, Go,” “Handy Manny,” and “Ni Hao Kai-Lan” featuring Hispanic and Asian-American characters and culture. And although shows have focused on literacy before (after all, that’s what “Sesame Street” has taught multiple generations since its debut in 1969), there’s a new found effort with programs like “Super Why”, “Word World”, and “Wordgirl” to teach your kids more than just the alphabet song.
I believe that the only toys worthy of children's play are ones that inspires their imagination (and are eco-friendly). Just by their nature, open-ended toys are more sustainable, as children do not rapidly outgrow them or get bored quickly. Think-ets is just such a toy, made up of many miniature trinkets with boundless possibilities for play.
Children are fascinated by miniature objects, but of course, you have to be careful around small children due to choking hazards. Think-ets contains 15 miniature objects, such as wrench, milk bottle, penguin, jack, etc. The sky's the limit on what children can do with this toy, and they can also collect them, as no two bags of Think-ets are the same. When I introduced Think-ets to my six-year-old daughter and her seven-year-old friend (even though the toy is recommended for ages 8-108+), they shunned the idea of making up a story with the objects. Instead, they were fascinated with taking turns decorating and writing in the pages of the miniature book (about .5" in size). Later that day, my daughter made up a story with the trinkets that was quite literal, but then again, she is only six!
When I first learned about lead in children's lunch boxes, I rushed to the hardware store to buy my own Home Lead Test Kit. I was concerned about my daughter's commercial character backpack (which thankfully we no longer have), and we conducted our own Eco Child's Play lead testing experiment. The results were negative, but now, I have learned that home lead test kits may not be accurate, thus neither was our experiment's results reliable.
According to Grist, home lead test kits are not reliable for children's toys: "The Consumer Product Safety Commission put 104 kits to the test and found that 56 failed to detect lead in toys, while two overachievers warned of the heavy metal where it didn't exist." How are consumers supposed to feel safe? My daughter just received a bracelet from the prize box at school, and paranoid eco-mom wants to test it for lead. Is it worth the money to buy a home lead test kit? In light of the evidence that home lead tests are not reliable, the CPSC suggests worried parents send toys off to labs to be tested. Isn't that the CPSC's job? Consumer Reports followed the CPSC's conclusions with their own tests. They report,
Our conclusion, that they can be limited but useful screening tools to identify lead in household products, is different from the Consumer Product Safety Commission's recent announcement that consumers should not use these products to find lead in their homes. Our differences lie not as much in the testing itself as in the interpretation of the data. Here’s how we came to our conclusions and why we believe parents should consider these kits as a helpful tool for screening household products.
It's almost tofu turkey time! One tradition in our home is tofu pumpkin pie. We've been making this delectable dessert for 16 years from organically homegrown, sugar pie pumpkins. It is always a crowd pleaser, even amongst our guests who usually shy away from bean curd, and of course, the kids love it! Nutritious and delicious, tofu pumpkin pie is the perfect ending to your Thanksgiving meal, even if you eat a bird.
Prepare the Pumpkin:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Of course, you can make tofu pumpkin pie from pumpkin in a can, but starting from the squash is more wholesome and fun. Cut an organic, small pumpkin in half (the sugar pie variety is best, but really any pumpkin will do). Lay the pumpkin halves face down on a cookie sheet. Next, poke holes in the skin of pumpkin with a fork, like you would to bake a potato. Bake the pumpkin for about 45 minutes, or until it is tender when poked with a fork.
Editor's note: The following is a guest post written by Michelle Montoya for Baby Best Buy. Michelle is an SEO copywriter at Pole Position Marketing, and online retailer Baby Best Buy is one of the company's clients.
By protecting the environment today, you will be creating a better life for your children tomorrow. If we teach our children to love and respect the earth, they will have a better understanding and will then pass that on to their children.
Although the damage that has been done to the earth is irreversible, we can do our best to preserve it as it is by teaching our children.
While “going green” sounds like it might require an internal overhaul, it’s really not that difficult. There are many minor changes you can make in your life and in that of your children that will have a positive impact on the earth’s environment.
You may be thinking, "Oh no, not another gift guide", but I have been inspired by Z Recs, The Not Quite Crunchy Parent, and Treehugger to create an Eco Child's Play Green Kids Holiday Gift Guide. The following recommendations are highlights of our product reviews over the past year (click on the title of each recommendation to get to the full review post). All of these products have been played with by my family, thus these are not the gifts I am getting my children this winter, as these new toys have not been tested.
Some of these products are made in China, but I feel that the company that makes a product is more important than where the toy is made for safety and ethical issues. Is a toy made in Thailand any better if the company is not environmentally and socially responsible? Furthermore, if your family is avoiding Chinese products due to the country's human rights violations, then boycotting US made good may also be an ethical choice for your family.
Our friends at Z Recs have started a blog called Prizey, a directory of online giveaways related to children. This month, they are featuring an Eco Baby Giveaway! This giveaway consists of over $200 in eco-friendly baby products. To enter, you must email the folks at Prizey:
- a theme idea you'd love to see in a future PRIZEY giveaway, with one company whose products you think would be a great fit for it, and
- your mailing address (even if you've entered a past contest, because we don't store your personal info at PRIZEY)
by Midnight CST Nov. 27.
Sometimes, I am proud to live in the Golden State. If the federal government won't protect our children, as least California will try. Last month, Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law AB 1108 banning the use of phthalates in children’s products. This week, California Attorney General Jerry Brown sued 20 toy companies for selling toys with "unlawful quantities of lead" under Proposition 65.
Some of the companies being sued are: Wal-Mart, Mattel, Toys R Us, Target, Costco, Sears, KB Toys, etc. This lawsuit of course follows the millions of toys that have been recalled, most of which were manufactured in China. Attorney General Jerry Brown said, "Despite the lengthening global supply chain, every company that does business in this state must follow the law and protect consumers from lead and other toxic materials." The companies could pay a $2,500 fine for each violation, according to the lawsuit.
Image courtesy of Scripophily.
Editor’s note: This is the third of a weekly guest spot by children’s media consultant Ashley. Ashley is a television and online producer and Executive Editor of Children’s Media Consultant.com. She holds a B.A. from Columbia University and a M.A. concentrating in children’s educational media and preschool ecology from New York University. She resides with her family in downtown New York City. You can visit her blog at childrensmediaconsultant.com.
Little did I realize that when I wrote “Why Isn’t Kid’s TV More Eco-Friendly?” (which I have been researching for the better part the last three years) that it would circulate around the web with such positive feedback. Although I’ve served as a children’s television consultant for multiple programs to determine how to effectively incorporate ecology content into their preschool curricula, this is the first time I’ve been able to initiate a dialog online about the content that’s already out there (or lack thereof).
How do the media professionals and parents weigh in?
Before I begin to cook, I wanted to share some information regarding the myth of Thanksgiving that was prepared for teachers. Originally written and developed by Cathy Ross, Mary Robertson, Chuck Larsen, and Roger Fernandes for the Indian Education program at Highline School District in Tacoma, Teaching About Thanksgiving explores factual information regarding this holiday. As the authors write,
So what do we teach to our children? We usually pass on unquestioned what we all received in our own childhood classrooms. I have come to know both the truths and the myths about our "First Thanksgiving," and I feel we need to try to reach beyond the myths to some degree of historic truth.
How will you teach your children about this day of thanks, that initiated the genocide of Native Americans? Here are some highlights from Teaching About Thanksgiving:
Recreating leftovers from yesterday's feast into new meals can make them more appealing and prevent the glutinous food waste associated with large feasts. In our family, we use leftover mashed potatoes to make potato pancakes. This recipe is simple and delicious.
To make potato pancakes from leftover mashed potatoes, simply form them into a small patty, about three inches in diameter. Add a vegetable to the mix, such as corn, peas, grated carrot, or cooked kale, to boost the veggie power of the potato pancakes. Then fry the patties in oil, being careful not to flip them too often, or they will fall apart. Serve with apple sauce, and you have a great, kid-friendly meal.We don't eat a lot of fried food, as it is obviously not good for your health. This is probably why I feel the need to pack extra veggies in the potato pancakes and serve them with apple sauce.
For an interesting perspective on fried food and climate change, visit Rob Lyons' article "The Dangers of Fried Food and a Fried Planet". He writes, "Just when you thought we were all going to fry because of climate change, it looks like our taste for fried food will do us in even sooner."
This holiday season, the Discovery Channel Store is offering toys that are fueled with hydrogen. Our family tested out the rocket ship, which is made by Estes Rockets. The Hydrogen Fuel Rocket is designed for children ages 10 and up (adult supervision required under 12), thus I had Eco Dad test it out. He also has more rocket experience than I.
There are quite a few set up procedures for the first launch. Water is mixed with citric acid crystals to form the solution, which is good for 100's of launches. This fuel solution needs to sit for at least 15 minutes for optimum rocket performance. Next, the launcher is assembled, including adding six "D" batteries and adding tap water to the fuel generator. Batteries are required, because the hydrogen is created though electrolysis. The electric current from the batteries is used to separate the hydrogen from the oxygen molecules in the water. The citric acid speeds up the process.
More bad news about lead: It is in 61% of name brand lipsticks! The $50 billion cosmetic industry largely regulates itself, and the FDA has not set a limit on lead levels in lipstick. Thank goodness we have the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Group to keep us informed.According to Enviroblog:
One-third of the tested lipsticks exceeded the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s limit for lead in candy -- a standard established to protect children from directly ingesting lead. Lipstick products, like candy, are directly ingested into the body. Nevertheless, the FDA has not set a limit for lead in lipstick, which makes sense when one considers the disturbing absence of FDA regulatory oversight and enforcement capacity for the personal care products industry.There's lead in candy! Who would have thought that possible? Why wouldn't lipstick also be regulated? It goes directly on your lips! How many times has your daughter asked for lipstick or has Grandma dolled her up in her favorite lip shade? It is also alarming to think that pregnant women are putting lead on their lips, since "it's a proven neurotoxin that can cause learning, language and behavioral disabilities. No amount of exposure is without harm." Lead does cross through the placenta and affect the developing fetus.I've never been one for wearing lipstick, but I have found a few alternatives for my daughter. Burt's Bees Lip Shimmers offer many colors and a cool mint flavor (see Wendy's comment below about lead in the merlot shade). Dr. Hauschka Lipsticks also offer a safe alternative for women. You can browse EWG's list of safe lipsticks here.You can download the full report on name-brand lipsticks here.Image courtesy of Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
Editor’s note: This is the fourth of a weekly guest spot by children’s media consultant Ashley. Ashley is a television and online producer and Executive Editor of Children’s Media Consultant.com. She holds a B.A. from Columbia University and a M.A. concentrating in children’s educational media and preschool ecology from New York University. She resides with her family in downtown New York City. You can visit her blog at childrensmediaconsultant.com.
But that’s just one show. ONE show amidst hundreds of others that cater to young viewers. In a time in our world where everyone — from Wal-Mart to Chevrolet — sees sustainability as an important issue for our economy and culture, it seems amazing to me that the issue is pretty much ignored on children’s television.
So when I received an email from Nickelodeon earlier this week with the subject line “Eco-Friendly Tips From Dora and Boots!,” I have to admit I opened it feeling a bit skeptical.
Since I’ve researched and studied in graduate school how preschoolers think and relate to the natural environment, I’d like to think I know a bit about what an effective, responsible and significant preschool ecology curriculum might entail. And, with the exception of “It’s a Big Big World,” there isn’t much available in the children’s media realm (at least on television — I have yet to review a few new online properties that carry this messaging) that truly deliver on what they promise.
Earlier this week, Kelli wrote a post called "Teaching Kids About Trash", in which she asked her high school sustainability class, "When you throw something away, where does it go?" "Away" is the topic of Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Motion by Loree Griffin Burns. Based on the research program of oceanographer Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer, Tracking Trash chronicles the journey of trash in our oceans (Be sure to read to the end of this post in order to learn how to win your own copy of Tracking Trash).
What do ocean currents have to do with preserving our marine environment? Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer became inspired to study this topic when his mother saw an article about hundreds of sneakers washing up on the beaches near Seattle. Dr. Ebbesmeyer wanted to discover the origin of the shoes. He stated,
Tracking toys and sneakers gives us a chance to see what the ocean does with our trash. We can see the movement of trash by the great ocean currents and we can see the disintegration of the trash over time...and we can learn from it.
I like to browse Ebay for unique, homemade wooden toys and Waldorf dolls. Like Etsy, artisans use Ebay to sell their handy work and reach a broader audience. Recently, recalled toys have been showing up on this online auction marketplace.
The plethora of recalled toys makes it difficult for consumers to know about every unsafe toy identified by the CPSC. During a recent search, KLTV 7 of Jacksonville, Texas found several recalled toys on Ebay. "It's disturbing that if someone did not know that these items had been recalled that they were being resold," said Stephanie Carlton, a concerned mother. "It's a total lack of concern for someone else's child." It does make you wonder...what happens to recalled toys once they have been pulled from the shelves?
When the weather turns cold, I want soup; however, my children are not big soup fans. There is one recipe they always eat heartily, and it resembles chicken soup. This recipe is very easy to follow and adapt to whatever vegetables you have on hand. My personal favorites to add to the pot are kale, peas, and carrots. This simple, vegan kid-friendly soup is also a great way to use up leftover rice, and it is quick to make. Of course, organic ingredients are a must!
Simple, Vegan Kid-Friendly Soup:
Saute 1 onion in 3 Tablespoons of oil (you can use butter for added flavor if you aren't vegan). Add to the cooked onion:
- 5 cups water
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. black pepper
- 1/4 tsp. celery seed
- 1/4 cup dried TVP
- 1 tsp. soy sauce (I prefer Bragg's Liquid Aminos)
- Vegetables of your choice (kale, carrots, and peas)
It has become predictable, with every approaching holiday, the green blogosphere erupts in eco-advice. Recently, I have received several emails asking for suggestions on how to reduce waste during this sometimes glutinous holiday. All the shopping bags, gift wrapping, decorating, etc. adds up to a tremendous amounts of packaging waste, which makes it challenging to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Here are a few suggestions for greening your Christmas celebrations. These suggestions also apply to other winter holidays.
- Wrap Presents in Fabric and Forgo the Box: If you feel the need to wrap presents, which does create some wonder in children's eyes, try wrapping presents in fabric. Fabric is reusable and less likely to be tossed in a landfill after the presents are opened. You can find less expensive fabric that has already been cut into "fat quarters" at fabric stores, as well as thrift stores. Left over fabric wrapping "paper" is great for later kid crafts and quilting. Furthermore, if offered a box from a retailer to place your present in before wrapping, decline this extra packaging. The more we reduce, the less waste we create.
Editor’s note: This is the last of a weekly guest spot by children’s media consultant Ashley. Ashley is a television and online producer and Executive Editor of Children’s Media Consultant.com. She holds a B.A. from Columbia University and a M.A. concentrating in children’s educational media and preschool ecology from New York University. She resides with her family in downtown New York City. You can visit her blog at childrensmediaconsultant.com.
What an eco-friendly week for children’s media. Just when I thought “why isn’t kid’s TV more eco-friendly?,” other types of content delivery have stepped up to the plate to teach kids about environmental issues and green living choices.
Scholastic and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined forces to release “The Magic School Bus Gets Cleaned Up,” a new book from the “Magic School Bus” series that explores the ways people can protect themselves (including their lungs) from air pollution. Scholastic’s traveling Magic School Bus, a traveling interactive science experience for kids, has also added a new, more sustainable filter which has already reduced its diesel particulate by up to 90 percent.
Laurie David, the producer of An Inconvenient Truth, and Cambria Gordon have written an extensive resource for parents and children, "to know the truth about this problem and what they can do to help solve it." The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming helps readers understand the causes of our climate crisis and offers suggestions for change in a very kid-friendly format. The book is also constructed from 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper and printed with soy inks.
The way The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming is written appeals to the short attention span of children. The book is divided into four chapters:
- It's Getting Hot in Here
- Weird, Wacky Weather
- Extinction Stinks
- What You Can Do to Stop Global Warming
Diane, who blogs at The Mommy Spot, won our free giveaway of Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Motion by Loree Griffin Burns. Diane asked her child, “When you throw something away, where does it go?” This is the comment Diane left in response to the question:
I’d really like to win a copy. I asked my son what he thought, and he just said “no”. See, he’s only 18 months. “No” is his favorite word. Somehow, though, I think he managed to hit the nail on the head!
Out of the mouth of babes, the truth is revealed. We should all say, "No" to waste, refuse, trash, etc. Imagine a day when everything is reused or recycled and trash does not exist...is it possible?
I have a sweet tooth, but it is a very picky sweet tooth. I love chocolate, but I hate candy, and I am particular about my cookies. One thing I adore is chocolate chip cookies, especially a little spoonful of dough when mixing up the batter, and with vegan cookie dough, you don't have to worry about getting sick from eating raw egg. This is another great recipe, like last Friday's Vegan Kid-Friendly Soup, modified from The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook. Of course, always use organically-grown ingredients.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 cup unbleached white flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
Sift flour with the baking powder and salt (I sometimes skip the sifting).
- 1 cup Sucanat (or use 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar)
- 1/2 cup oil (or melted butter if you aren't vegan)
- 1/4 cup water or soymilk
- 1 tsp. vanilla
In a separate bowl, stir together the Sucanat (sugar) and oil (butter). Add water (soymilk) and vanilla to this "wet" mixture and blend well. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
Tomorrow is the release date for a movie on climate change called Everything's Cool, an official selection from the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. This documentary examines the chasm that has developed between scientific knowledge about climate change and the lack of political action on the part of the US government. Featuring renowned scientists and journalists, Everything's Cool is directed by Daniel B. Gold and Judith Helfand. This film has not been rated, but it would be an excellent catalyst for discussion with junior high and high school students, as well as adults who still do not recognize the need for immediate action to curb the effects of global warming.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/PUkda2Zb8Wk" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Everything's Cool has been called "A Profile in Courage" by the Ashland Daily Tidings, as the film features activists including Step It Up's Bill McKibben, Pulitzer Prize winner Ross Gelbspan, The Weather Channel's Dr. Heidi Cullen, the "bad boys of environmentalism" Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, and White House whistleblower Rick Piltz. Bill McKibben and Ross Gelbspan are two of my personal heroes, and I think that exposing young adults to such role models is important. Everything's Cool makes these activists accessible by revealing their human feelings and showing how individuals can have an impact beyond "changing a light bulb."
Obviously, breastfed babies are happiest and healthiest; however, sometimes families have to use infant formulas to nourish their young ones. A new report issued by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) makes recommendations for feeding babies safely and avoiding Bisphenol-A (BPA). BPA is a hormone disruptor that can harm brain development and may affect behavior. Many families have switched to BPA-free bottles and sippy cups; however, infant formula containers pose a higher risk to children than baby bottles when it comes to BPA leaching.
Back in October, I wrote about the risk of BPA leaching into food and infant formula stored in tin/steel cans. Steel cans are lined with plastic containing BPA to prevent contamination from the can to the food/formula. EWG found that,
1 out of every 16 infants fed ready-to-eat liquid formula are exposed to BPA at doses exceeding those that caused increased aggression and significant changes in testosterone levels in laboratory animals.
When I was a child, my family would search high and low for clothing that was unique and fashionable, which simply wasn't available. Parents today have many opportunities to fashion their children in beautiful clothing. Zazou.eu is one such company, offering "Colorful, trendy, funny, retro, stylish and often sustainable."
Do you know who the Zazou were? During World War II, the Zazou were a subculture in France comprised of young people that dressed garishly and danced wildly (hmmm...sounds like a subculture I was a part of in my youth). The Zazous were inspired by Jazz and Swing music. Of course, like any subculture, the Nazis and Fascists detested the Zazous and had a slogan, “Scalp the Zazous!”
My sister is due to have a baby next week, and I have been trying to think of the best, natural, newborn baby advice. My sister's labor will be quite different than mine, as both of my children were born at home in water, and she will be giving birth in a hospital. My midwives had prepared a list of things needed for a home birth, and one item on the list was organic olive oil.
I have read many books on natural childbirth, such as Ina May's Guide to Childbirth and Special Delivery. When I saw olive oil on my midwives' list, I assumed it was for massaging the perineum to prevent tearing during labor. After my first child was born; however, I discovered the real reason every newborn's parent should have olive oil on hand.
A newborn baby's first stools are called meconium. Meconium is a dark, tar-like substance created in the baby's digestive system in utero from ingesting amniotic fluid, epithelial cells, etc. In fact, the term meconium is derived from the term meconium-arion, meaning "opium-like", because of its thick, dark appearance.
One of the challenges of living a natural lifestyle with children is to allow them the pleasures of childhood while maintaining green principles. Holiday candy is especially challenging, as children are drawn to the candy canes ubiquitously placed near checkout stands at stores. After searching far and wide on the Internet, I found a natural candy cane made by Pure Fun, a Canadian company. Actually, I am surprised more natural food companies haven't jumped on the candy cane bandwagon.
Pure Fun was started by Luna Roth, inspired by her daughter. "What do you do when your persistent daughter tries to convert you to an organic and healthier lifestyle?" Pure Fun uses all natural, kosher, vegan, gluten-free, fair trade ingredients in all of their candies. Furthermore, their cane sugar is "green cut" by hand and the leftover stalks are used to fuel boilers and generate electricity on earth-friendly farms. Most of their products are organic. In fact, when I ordered our candy canes from the Allergy Grocer, I had ordered organic ones; however, what arrived was not organic, but "all natural." Of course, my daughter wouldn't let me return them, so we are enjoying them nonetheless.
Do you have a room in your house where unpleasant odors live, such as near a cloth or landfill (disposable) diaper pail? I was recently given a Brethe Air Revitalizer by Homedics to test out. This product uses "vortex cleaning action technology" to neutralize air. Not sure what that means, but it uses water and natural botanical solutions to freshen the air.
To use the Brethe Air Revitalizer, you simply add water and a few drops of "non-toxic and biodegradable botanical solutions", then plug the appliance into an outlet. Ingredients are not listed on the botanical solution, but I think that you could simply use essential oils when the solution ran out. The Brethe Air Revitalizer traps and eliminates 99% of odor-causing bacteria, but is it worth the electricity it uses?
Although PCB use has been largely banned in the United States since 1977, this persistent organic pollutant is still present in our environment. A recent report by the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, a multidisciplinary organization created in response to the landmark report From Neurons to Neighborhoods : The Science of Early Childhood Development, found that prenatal exposure to PCBs disrupts " brain plasticity during sensitive periods of development." Particularly, children's abilities to recognize sounds at different frequencies is impaired.
700,000 tons of PCBs were manufactured by Monsanto, makers of Roundup and genetically-engineered "frankenfoods", between 1929-1977. Despite the fact that PCBs have not been made for thirty years in the US, environmental exposure is common because PCBs resist degradation. According to "The PCB in Me: Environmental PCB's and Human Health Risks",
Individuals may suffer exposure through the use of old fluorescent lighting fixtures, electrical devices, and appliances that were made at least 30 years ago. Food borne exposure is common when eating fish, especially sport fish caught in contaminated lakes or rivers, as well as some meats and dairy products.2 Other sources of exposure include hazardous waste sites, contaminated well water, and workplace exposure during repair and maintenance of PCB transformers, fluorescent lights, and other old electrical devices.2 An example of a common source of non-occupational exposure is a leaking power transformer on an electrical pole on a residential street.
Just like The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming, A Hot Planet Needs Cool Kids is a book explaining climate change and what children can do about it. It is exciting to see children's authors addressing the topic in an accessible, age-appropriate manner. It is also encouraging to see the information about climate change presented along with inspiration for change, hopefully preventing children from experiencing the environmental depression I sometimes feel.
One difference between these books is the publishers. The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming is published by Scholastic, a major publisher of children's books whom I have criticized in the past. In contrast, A Hot Planet Needs Cool Kids is the first publication of the independent company Green Goat Books. According to Green Goat Books,
We strive through planet friendly, progressive, and challenging books to support the development of progressive kids, so that the next generation will be prepared and motivated to care for our planet and the many forms of life that live on it.
Tonight, my family attended a community Solstice celebration, which included a potluck feast. What to do with nothing in the kitchen but rotten bananas...Make organic banana bread with flax seeds! Nothing smells better than banana bread baking in the oven. This recipe does call for eggs, which I use only for baking and are a recent addition to my vegetarian diet. I have successfully used Egg Replacer in the past, but this recipe does turn out better with organic eggs.
We have an abundance of mistletoe growing in the oak trees on our property, so when I saw tiny bags of the plant for sale in our local coop, I balked at the price ($4.95). I think I should go in the mistletoe business! I don't have much affinity for this plant, as it is a parasite and smothers some of my trees; however, my herbalist friend has taught me new respect for mistletoe when she made a bough with my daughter to hang over our door.
From kissing under mistletoe to placing a sprig in a baby's crib, the legends of mistletoe are great. According to Candlegrove.com:
Mistletoe was used by the Druid priesthood in a very special ceremony held around this time...five days after the New Moon following winter solstice, to be precise. The Druid priests would cut mistletoe from a holy oak tree with a golden sickle. The branches had to be caught before they touched the ground.
I do a lot of laundry; I mean a lot of laundry! My mother always jokes that the washing machine never turns off at my house. Furthermore, we have a greywater system on our house, so I am particular about the laundry soap we use. Recently, I was given dropps Liquid Laundry Pacs to try.
I buy in bulk, and laundry detergent is no exception. A humongous jug of liquid laundry detergent sits atop my front-loading washing machine, and inevitably, dribbles of soap spill everywhere when I use it. dropps eliminates this mess! These convenient little packets are just tossed into your washing machine with no measuring or spills. They are lightweight and easy to use. A 20 load package of dropps weighs 10 ounces, whereas the equivalent amount in a liquid laundry detergent weighs 80 ounces. Furthermore, dropps is concentrated in addition to the lightweight packaging, thus "saving water, plastic, trees, and fuel."
2007 will go down in history as the year when toy safety was no longer assumed by parents in the United States. Gone are the days when parents blindly selected any toy from the shelf of a big box store and thought their child was protected from lead and other heavy metals. This year has been plagued by recall after recall, and unfortunately, children have been injured by these unsafe toys. The following is a summary of recent news on toy safety to end our year.
On December 19, 2007, the US House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill lowering the allowable lead levels in toys, as well as mandated independent toy testing. Funding for the Consumer Product Safety Commission would also be increased through this bill. The senate will not take action until 2008 on the issue. According to the Daily Grist,
The current draft of the Senate bill would do many of the same things the House-passed version does, but would also allow state attorneys general to sue to enforce federal product-safety laws, protect employees who report safety law violations, increase the civil penalty cap to $100 million, and give industry less time to comply with the lower lead standards...Meanwhile, presidential candidate Barack Obama went even further yesterday by calling for a ban on the import of all toys from China.
I was first introduced to Irish Soda Bread from my Irish friend. I was impressed with its flavor and rustic looks. I found a simple recipe in one of my cookbooks, and I love to make it for parties to impress my friends. This recipe is super easy and quick to make. Of course organic ingredients are the best to use for flavor and your health!
Irish Soda Bread
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
If you have a baking stone, place it in the oven and heat it for and extra 10 minutes beyond preheating. Otherwise, you can lightly oil or butter a cookie sheet.
- 1 cup unbleached white flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup wheat bran
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
Yesterday, Eco Child's Play turned one year old! (To read our very first blog post, click here) This year has been an exciting one, as we have grown and expanded both our content beyond just toys and our voice to include more writers. What will the next year bring? Stay tuned...(or leave a suggestion!)
Image courtesy of Monkeemoos.
One challenge of working in a rural school is the well water! About two months ago, my school failed its safe drinking water test. While we awaited for a new water tank, UV filter, etc., we became dependent upon hand sanitizer and wipes to keep the children's hands clean. Most commercial hand sanitizers contain a large amount of alcohol, which can cause accidental alcohol poisoning or intoxication in children, besides these products are unpleasant to smell. Since my son was in the hospital in August, I have carried around EO Hand Sanitizer in my purse. Although this product is made with organic lavender and smells wonderful, it leaves a film on my hands that I can't stand. Recently, I discovered CleanWell Hand Sanitizer and Wipes.
CleanWell products are all natural and kill 99.99% of germs naturally with a combination of plant oils called "Ingenium". The active ingredient on the labels of both the CleanWell Hand Sanitizer and Wipes is thyme oil. The company was founded by a concerned father whose son was born with an immune system disorder. CleanWell Sanitizer is a spray, which mists a light layer of the product on your skin. There is no strange residue left on your hands, and it leaves your skin soft. My son, who has super sensitive skin, has not had any negative reactions to CleanWell products. Of course, CleanWell's products are not tested on animals. The Hand Wipes are strong and large, and in fact, I think you could clean several children's hands with them before tossing them. You can read CleanWell's excellent blog by clicking here.
First world countries are addicted to their disposable, aka "landfill" diapers. According to Planet Trash, "Americans alone go through around 18 billion disposable diapers a year." A Canadian company wants to turn all those dirty diapers into a cost-effective, diesel fuel.
Using the process of pyrolysis to convert diapers to diesel, a facility is going to be built in Montreal. Pyrolysis, also known as thermal cracking, involves heating the dirty diapers in a closed environment that lacks oxygen. This closed system does not produce any emissions. Luciano Piciacchia, an engineer and vice-president with Amec's Quebec office, explains,
Then you're bringing it to the next level which is breaking the carbon chains down ... and (in the end) they will resemble the fuels which are what we're going to end up producing.
The company plans to begin collecting soiled diapers from area hospitals. "One of the beauties of the diaper is that it is going to be a very consistent input," compared to trying to make fuel from other kinds municipal waste.
Like many girls her age, my daughter loves Disney princesses; however, this eco-mom does not. Besides the lack of multiculturalism and the message of young women depending upon princes to rescue them, it is the "junk toy" quality of Disney products that keeps them out of our home. When my daughter saw that FLOR made modular carpet tiles from recycled content with Disney princesses on them, she thought her letter to Disney had worked and convinced the company to go green. Who am I to burst her bubble and tell her that FLOR Carpet Tiles are actually made by InterfaceFLOR.
InterfaceFLOR has created Mission Zero, a company pledge "to completely eliminate the negative impact our company may have on the environment by 2020." The company further explains its commitment to sustainability:
- Our intention is to put back more than we take out
- Our intention is to eliminate waste and harmful emissions, whilst maximising our use of renewable energy
- We aim to recycle waste materials and reuse our products
- Our company culture fully integrates the principles of sustainability
Six years ago, when my daughter was a baby, there was very little available in organic, affordable clothing for children. Thankfully, that has changed. A new company called Happy Green Bee is offering organic, fair trade, sustainably produced cotton clothing for infants and toddlers. The company was founded by mother, conservationist, and Burt's Bees founder Roxanne Quimby.
Happy Green Bee clothing comes in bright, colorful patterns. Not only is their clothing line cheerful, comfortable, and playful, but it is also ecologically responsible. Founder Roxanne Quimby explains,
We created Happy Green Bee so that a child can be a child, first and foremost. By using organic cotton, a comfortable and practical fabric, and simple bee-striped patterns, children feel as comfortable as they look, while their parents take a small step in making a big difference in the environment their children will live in.
This is a recipe to impress! In fact, any time I use phyllo dough, my friends and family rave about the results. Like baklava, this recipe uses honey and walnuts to make a sweet treat. As always, organic ingredients produce the best results for your health, taste, and the environment. It is challenging to find organic phyllo dough, but you can get it from the Fillo Factory! If your phyllo dough is frozen, be sure to defrost it thoroughly. It takes great patience to separate each piece of flaky dough, so this recipe is not one to attempt when you are in rush.
Greek Walnut Pie
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
To make the pie filling, combine in a medium-sized bowl, then set aside:
- 1 cup honey
- 1 Tablespoon whole wheat flour
- 1 Tablespoon melted butter
- 2 eggs or 3 Tablespoons of soymilk mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of arrowroot powder
- 3/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cups chopped walnuts
It is exciting to see the recent explosion of children's books on earth friendly topics. You Can Save the Planet: 50 Ways You Can Make a Difference by Jacquie Wines is a new book intended to empower children, and it reminds me of the older 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth (published in 1990). Both books contain valuable information and unique tips for children to understand climate change.
Could you name 50 ways children can save the planet? I don't think I could brainstorm such a comprehensive list as in You Can Save the Planet, and these tips are good for the whole family (adults included). Some of the suggestions are specific and simple, like No. 46: Don't Pick Wild Plants. Other tips are large and ambiguous, such as No. 39: Save Our Oceans. I think that all of the tips are useful for starting discussions with children of all ages, although the book is recommended for ages nine and up. There is only one tip that I question: No. 49: Go to the Zoo.
I have to admit it, I succumbed to the Baby Einstein marketing gimic and bought some classical music cds for my first babe. I have never watched the Baby Einstein dvds, but I hear they are strange: your child watching another child play. Of course, the marketing of Baby Einstein is genius, appealing to every parent's desire to have a smart child, however, pre[K] now, an early childhood education advocacy group, has given the makers of Baby Einstein the stooge award for 2007.
In a very close contest, the makers of Baby Einstein and similar "early" learning products take home the Pre-K Stooge award. Pre-K Now will present them with a wealth of reports and other resources to help them learn about the science behind early childhood development and high-quality pre-k.