Thursday, May 15, 2008

Green & Healthy Baby Steps

I believe I have confessed here before that I don't recycle. That I'm really too busy trying to keep my own life going to be worrying about saving the planet and whatnot, and that frankly, we're just lucky if things make it in the trash can around here.

And then a couple of things happened to make me change my mind.

First, I began watching this series on Garbage Island. Basically, ocean currents take all of our crap and send it waaaaaaaay out in the middle of nowhere, where it all collects into a semi-solid mass of sludge, which is pretty horrifying.

A lot of this crap, particularly all those plastics that contain BPA (which is poisoning us, don't even think the FDA gives a crap about your kids), just doesn't ever break down. It may eventually break into a bunch of little pieces, but those little pieces just stick around forever, being eaten by wildlife or adding to the Garbage Island sludge.

These videos were basically the first major guilt trip that worked. They finally just got me thinking about it and more aware. At some point in the series, someone points out the plastic bag insanity our country is in the midst of. The thought that my Subway sandwich needs it's own plastic sleeve just to travel from the cash register to the table really IS pretty absurd.

So I've been trying to do better about plastic bag usage (refusing them whenever possible, reusing them when I must have them, and intending to remember to bring my Ikea reusable bag into the grocery store...but I'm working on that one) and I'm working on getting a recycling system down. I'll admit that some recyclables are still ending up in the trash, but I'm trying.

Luckily for me, I got two cool packages in the mail right around the time of my newfound desire to do good.

One of them was from Method. I LOVE Method cleaning products. I also love the company. Not too long ago, they sent me a really nice tote bag. Way cooler than you're imagining, people ask me where I got it all of the time. This time, they sent me bottles of their new baby shampoo and body wash, along with a book called, "The Method Guide to Detoxing Your Home". (The bag and the book are in photos on their blog, they're really nice, and the baby+kid line smells delish, as does all of their stuff.)

Among the interesting tidbits of information was this fact:

In a recent study, 287 chemicals (including pesticides, garbage waste and flame retardants) were found in the bloodstream of newborn babies. Of those 287 chemicals, 180 are known to cause cancer in people or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects in animals.

WHAT THE HELL? In NEWBORN babies? So we really are polluted with this stuff.

The book also claims that many of the household cleaners we use may contain ingredients that cause breathing difficulty, renal and organ damage in adults, and allergies, asthma, ADHD and other learning disabilities in children, because many of them contain ingredients called "endocrine or hormone disrupters" which can mimic estrogen in the body.

This is not good.

Now remember that Bisphenol A (BPA) I mentioned earlier? The poison in plastic marked with the recycle number 7? Some of the concerns with that include estrogen-mimicking behavior (can we say man boobs?), lowered sperm counts, and premature puberty in girls...and that's just the stuff they know about, the suspected list is longer.

As we all know, I'm a "don't sweat it" sort of parent. I'm not the mom freaking out over every new study. However, I have read quite a bit about this BPA stuff, and it's no longer allowed in my house.

I realized all of our plastic character plates that the boys eat off of have "do not microwave" on the back of them. I just noticed this the other day and have been microwaving on them for years. Crap. I've been poisoning my own kids.

No more. I'm replacing them all with Corelle dinnerware. You can buy it at Wal-mart (I know, evil empire) by the piece and it is very lightweight but almost impossible to break, and it's glass, which isn't poisonous so far. little kid has bounce tested several pieces, and so far, so good.

The second piece of cool mail I got was from a new company called First Juice. Their tag line is "Drink outside the box" and the product is organic fruit+vegetable juice for kids, and the best part?
...the juice comes in a bottle with a twist on top with a valve!! Now you non-parents are going "so?" but you parents are starting to realize that this means NO MORE SQUEEZED JUICE BOXES. NO MORE LOST STRAWS. NO MORE RANDOM PLASTIC STRAW WRAPPER THINGIES FLOATING AROUND YOUR HOME.

It is virtually impossible, for even little kid, e-bullest of all evil, to spill juice all over my house. The bottles and their tops are reusable. We had two flavors, two small bottles and two large bottles and we let the boys have the small bottles and then just refilled them from the large bottles.

AND the juice is really good, completely natural, and you can't even taste the vegetables.

I know, it is hard to get excited about juice, but I am excited about this juice. It checks vegetable guilt, juice spills, recycling responsibilities and sugar/artificial preservative worries right off of my list. AND NO BPAs.

I even went out of my way the other day to stop at Babies R Us and get more. The kids love it. When Big Kid first tried it, I said, "What do you think?" and he said, "Mmmm. Deewicious awishus," with a big smile. I was so kicking myself that I didn't get it on tape, that kid could be a spokesmodel.

They also sell it at Whole Foods and some Targets.

Okay, so my point here is that we need to start taking baby steps, at the very least, with this whole "green living" thing. Also, we need to support companies that at least make an effort to be responsible with the products we trustingly buy and use on our children.

So put it on the list of things to think about. It's kind of important!


Anonymous said...

Corelle! What a great idea!

Anonymous said...

I kick myself every time I throw away a soda can. We go through a lot of those around here. I moved almost a year ago and do not know where the recycling place is and recycling would require me to clean the garage to have a storage place. Ultimately not good excuses I know.

I do, however, take my own bags to the grocery store and Target. I tried to use my own bag at another store (can't remember which at the moment) but they told me I couldn't use my own bag b/c "How will we know you bought it?" A receipt? I didn't have the energy to fight it though.

I would like to do more...soon.

Melodie said...

We tried that First Juice last week. At first I thought the valve thing was really cool, but my daughter had a really hard time sucking the juice out of it, so I ended up having to take the lid off and giving her a straw to use. She did love the juice, though.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for this post. It was just the guilt trip I needed to get my butt in gear & educate myself on this subject. Can you suggest further reading on BPA & other toxins? I know google offers a plethora of information but I'd rather stay away from scare-tactic, extremist info & read the logical, honest information available.

Rachel said...

I am far from organized, but living in Germany--where bags are not provided at grocery stores--has helped me develop a workable plan for remembering my reusable bags. As soon as I put away all my groceries (which may or may not be three days after my trip to the store...), I immidiately but the bags back in the car. I know it seems rather obvious but I was always forgetting them. The bags I have are great because they have a square bottom so they fit lots of groceries which means I can usally carry everything in the house in one trip.

Before moving here, we lived in Washington state which basically made your trash service free if you recylced so I began there. Here, it is required by law but at least they make it easy. There are separate pick-ups for refuse (regular trash), plastic, paper, and bio waste which is basically anything that can be used in a compost. Glass is the only thing I must take to a recycling center and I maybe do that once every four months and it takes less than five minutes.

I am amazed at how little actual refuse we have! Our trash can is a little smaller than the standard ones in the US and it is picked up only twice a month, however, we could easily go one month and still not fill it. Nearly everthing is recycled!

The US could certainly take some tips from Europe when it comes to making recycling simple and accessible...and while we're at it, we might find out how they offer affordable healthcare for all.

I know it isn't easy so congrats on your baby steps!

Kira said...

YIKES! I'm with you, sign me up for team green-or-getting-there.

Just watch that dastardly corelle ware when it DOES break, because it shatters into a zillion slivers. NOT fun fishing those out of small flailing children. Or large whiney crybaby husbands. I just make my kids eat out of a trough. ;)

Lacy Rose said...

I just started using Method's toilet bowl cleaner. Its called Little Bowl Blu which I thought was cute. It smells great and works good too. :)

Jacqueline said...

You can also check with your local (probably public) schools to see if they recycle paper. My special ed kids are in charge of collecting recycling from the building each week. We have a huge dumpster outside that we put it in, and members of the community drop off their paper there as well. In one week, we collect an entire huge dumpster full of junk mail, newspaper, and office paper. It's crazy! The best part is that our school gets about $90 a load for the paper. We have 4 schools in my 2 mile x 2mile square district, and they all fill up every week! That's a ton of paper (literally!)

Kara said...

My kids were just learning about the dangers in plastics at school the other day, and came home to search the kitchen for offenders. Would you believe the ONLY thing they insisted we through out was a plastic jar of babyfood prunes.

the mom said...

Ashley I'm learning too. And I'm a bad recycler!

Anonymous said...

hey, for cheap and eco-friendly shopping bags, run over to your local wal-mart. they sell these black bags that are made with AT LEAST 2 two-liter soda bottles and they are only $1 each! and they are good sized.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info! I'd love to start recycling more too. We don't have a community recycling program where we live, but we do recycle our aluminum cans. Depending on how many we take in, we get about $10-$40 dollars for them. Who can't use a little extra cash these days?


Life, Love And Lola said...

Way to be GREEN Ashley! Good for you!

Unknown said...

And here I thought I was finally getting a little muscle definition in my chest. Phooey.

Maddness of Me said...

When I first started to read this post, I sucked air into my lungs and thought I would choke.

It's a good thing I kept reading.

I'm so glad to hear you have been converted. Every little bit helps, and you are already doing more than so many people that make me cry every day.

Here in Michigan we have 10 cent returns on all carbonated beverage containers. I wish every state did this because it does help. If there is anyone who doesn't care about how fast 10 cents adds up, there are plenty of people wandering around picking up discards.

When people whine about how they hate their front loader washers, I get sad. Get over it. Don't be a pig. They use WAY less water and that is what is important. It's easy for people in good old MI to take water for granted, but I still turn the shower off (I have an easy control lever) while I'm soaping up or shaving my legs.

I will probably comment to this post with more tips.

If you can help just one person to change Ashley... you should be very proud.

Just when I thought I couldn't love you any more, I do.

Anonymous said...

I've been preaching the gospel about Garbage Island on the OBBC. No one cared though. It's disgusting and disturbing, isn't it?

Good job starting to "go green." We're putting way too many chemicals back into the environment and it's poisoning our water and air supply.

jenn said...

We recycle what we can, although our small town doesn't have the best recycling center, and I do use reusable grocery bags. Where I fall waaay short is cleaning products. AND they give me wicked asthma. Gee, could this be the universe tapping me on the shoulder like Oprah talks about??

Maddness of Me said...

I noticed the other day that Scott's has come out with an organic version of lawn fertilizer.

This is a good thing. It is at Lowe's (ok Wal-Mart too but I won't set foot in that hell).

In the past it has been difficult to find organic grass food, I had to buy it online.

American's use lawn pesticides lavishly and it has run off into our water supply and into our bodies.

caveat: I haven't checked to make sure the Scott's is truly 100% organic yet.

Maddness of Me said...

Many people draw the line at composting. That's fine.

But I assure anyone that it isn't as difficult as it looks. And, once you do, you will be hooked.

Plow & Hearth has a great composter.

Slacker Mama said...

You know, we are just about out of every cleaning supply we use. When I replace them, I am planning on going greener with that.

I have the reusable grocery bags from the Teets (my grocery store), but I need a few generic ones so I'm not embarassed to bring them into other stores (like Target). Besides...some of those reusable bags are *damn* cute!

Slacker Mama said...

Oh...and I'm totally convinced my Target check-out people get some sort of commission based on the number of bags they hand out. I swear, they put *one* item in a bag. It's ree-diculous!

Maddness of Me said...

As this is being read, there is probably a girl somewhere sitting at her desk eating a Lein Cuisine for lunch.

And, her workplace probably has NO recycle program for that plastic bowl she nuked it in.

She will probably throw it in her desk trash can.


Then for dessert she might have a Jello sugar free pudding. And, she will throw that in her can too. Then she might wash it down with a bottled water and throw that in her can.

If you want to put that plastic grocery bag to good use, why not bring it to work and take home those plastic items (and anything else recyclable) and put them in your recycle bin at home (hopefully your town has a recycle program, if not - get on THAT!).

Anonymous said...

The Target reusable bags are super cute and don't have Target written all over them (they do have the little bullseyes)...even some Target employees don't recognize them.

If I had seen them first (before the grocery store ones), I would only have those. They also come in 3 sizes, one that zips and fits in your purse (great for bookstores), one that is like the grocery kind, and one that is taller that folds up (perfect for all Target purchases). They range in price from .99 to 1.49.

Fluffy Windover said...

I'm a Method "advocate" as well and got that book. It TOTALLY freaked me out and I had a meltdown about all the chemicals in plastic, and carpeting, and paint, etc. etc. We already are a pretty green household but now I'm getting rid of all our plastic shit and we are using milk-based paint for the nursery, and phosphate-free dishwasher soap... it's a new thing to obsess about.

Unknown said...

I have to admit- I too, am bad at this stuff.
I do recycle, when it's easy, and the bin isn't full, and I am just not being lazy- but I am definitely trying to get better.
It's disgusting how many plastic water bottles we use in this house.. really sad.
I have started buying gallons of H2O and re-filling them, though!

I'll have to try that juice and check out the other stuff.
Thanks for the info.

Anonymous said...

SO great to see others offering alternatives to plastic. This message is part info-bit and shameless plug for my store, Free Market Organics,
which was primarily started to offer people a safe place to shop where they needn't read labels or stress out. Everything has been researched and screened beyond the FDA's wildest dreams.

First off, I have read that Eden Foods and Trader Joe's no longer line their cans with BPA. While it is ofcourse better to source your food locally and fresh and freeze or can it, once in a while we like to save a little time so there are two brand options. If you would like to find a local farm or coop in your area that can offer your local organic produce check out Local Harvest:

Secondly, I care deeply about all of this stuff and have heavily researched BPA. I even called the scientist who discovered the issues with the chemical 10 years ago for advice. This is why I openned Free Market Organics: to open a one stop shop for people wanting to buy the safest goods on the market that sit closest to their skin and food.
we carry all glass food storage containers:
glass baby bottles:
stainless steel water bottles and sippy's:
organic bamboo utensils and prepware:
petroleum-free skin care screened by the Cosmetic Safety Database:
certified organic clothing, undergarments and essentials from newborn on up to mom and dad:

Lastly, avoid any water bottle or sippy that is lined with secret ingredients. Like Sigg- is lined with Epoxy. One ingredient in epoxy is Bisphenol A. They won't tell you this but they will tell you they test for leaching BPA, but they don't test for it properly. IF they did, I'd be carrying their bottle and geting rico with everyone else.

Best wishes to you and all of your families!

Amelia Royko Maurer
Free Market Organics

jr said...

I just finished watching the 12 vids
dang, how the heck does all that stuff get INTO the ocean! I walk on the beach every day and now carry a 'plastic' dog poop baggie with me and fill it with trash as I steps.

Anonymous said...

Oh Ashley, be still my beating heart.

So glad you've come over to the dark side. Want some more crunchy reusable bag shopping, check out I have lots of goodies from them.

You should get a tiny little folding bag for your purse--you could put your Subway sammie in it.

Anonymous said...

My little guy LOVES First Juice. It was a lifesaver the last time we flew! The bottles reuse nicely once or twice, too.

wendy said...

All the awfulness in the majority of cleaning products was almost a good excuse to stop. . . way to go method and all you other greenies. Guess we'll keep scrubbing!

Unknown said...

Some great tips here!

Amelia, I'm off to check out your store right now. Nice to know about the almighty Sigg bottles, I almost bought some.

Jonah, I got a reusable folding bag at Target tonight! I love it, folds up small and fits a ton of stuff for only $.99!

I like hearing everyone's thoughts on this, I think it's great so many people are starting to finally "get it" (me being one of them)

AFRo said...

I have to throw this in because I feel like it's a step in the right direction.

Tonight I had to buy dishwasher detergent. I went to my isle and picked up the biggest bottle of Cascade that they had and as I was walking away, this "other" brand caught my eye.

It was $3 cheaper for the same amount. Here's the kicker... it's Palmolive Eco+

It claims to be better for lakes and streams because it is phosphate free. So, I did my one step today to save the world tomorrow.

Steve Hengsperger said...

Don't mean to burst your bubble on green cleaners but here are some interesting facts.

Green cleaners promise that they contain natural (instead of synthetic) agents, break down quickly in the environment, or pose less of a toxic threat to humans and ecosystems. But critics caution that just because the ingredients in green cleaners are plant-based or natural doesn't necessarily mean they're safe.

Although green cleaners may purport to list all ingredients, the market is largely unregulated -- which means consumers still must be wary of what's in the bottle. Even cleaning products labeled "natural" may contain some fraction of synthetic chemicals. Or they may contain natural ingredients consumers would rather avoid, such as petroleum distillates, some of which can cause cancer. And just because a cleaning product is biodegradable and made from plant-based sources doesn't mean that it is without potential adverse effects on health.

Plant-based ingredients included in some green cleaners include limonene (a citrus-based oil), pine oil, and the foaming agent coconut diethanolamide -- all of which can cause allergic dermatitis. And a recent study of natural and nontoxic consumer products found the suspected cancer-causing chemical 1,4-dioxane in roughly half of 100 tested products -- including several dishwashing liquids with words such as "Earth friendly" and "eco" in their brand names.

On a similar note, Organic foods often have just as many pesticides as regular produce. The only difference is organic pesticides have to come from natural sources - like plants, minerals or bacteria - but it doesn't mean they're any safer or healthier. Organic pesticides include things like Potassium Sulfate, Pyrethrums, Bacillus, Sulfur and many other toxic compounds.

Feel like you've been taken?

Unknown said...

That is interesting Steve, but I guess you have to go with what you feel may be the least of all evils. Or I could just stop cleaning entirely, which also sounds pretty good.


Queen In My House of Blue said...

great post!!

Anonymous said...

It sounds like we're about in the same place. I've been reading up on BPA's this week, and sent my dh a link last night so he could "get it" when I showed him the $igg bottles I wanted. Interesting about their liners-I was just going to ask here if anyone knew of any cheaper safe water bottles. I just checked out the ones on the previous commenter's site...I wish they had fun kid's bottles-my daughter has already picked the Sigg she wants (I was going to have to save up for the darn things). I don't know WHAT to get now! Oh well-it makes things harder, but I'm too scared to use any of the plastics anymore. I just threw out DD's water bottle she uses by her bed-the cap was all chewed up-ack! I threw out all of our kid dishes, too and going to glass.

Unknown said...

I agree Ashley-

We are always dealing with the lesser of 2 evils.

To find a safer bottle then SIGG and keep your kid's interest, get a stainless steel one and have her decorate it with stickers. Not only does she get to pick out the stickers, she gets to decorate the bottle! I can help you find a source in your area if you like. Otherwise, I have one left until mid-june.

To find the safest foods- buy at a local foods coop, or join a local CSA. Again, you can find yours:

Steve, if you are going to point out the weakness of green cleaners and organic foods, I think it's only just to fill out the whole picture.

Otherwise you appear to be intentionally confusing or scaring people with information based on not much information when there is SO much good info out there! And offering alternatives is always a nice bookend to scary news, especially when you might be addressing new Mom's who are trying to find the safest goods in a very confusing consumer world.

About organics:

The Organic Crop Improvement Association is the strictest certification body around that decides what organic farms can use for crop control.

The chemicals approved by the OCIA
for usage on Certified Organic Farms are chosen for many reasons, some of which include their impact
on the surrounding environment (animals, plants), their ability to break down (our water,air,soil), and the quantity used (direct impact on health of producers and consumers).

The way these chemicals are used is just as important as their composition.

Another very important part of organic certification is how the food is processed and transported. If you process a certified organic carrot in non-organic kitchen, that carrot is no longer organic.

And guess what- non of the recalled food in the recent news has been organic in origin! Certified organic is the safe bet, and even more so - sourced local and near you.

Organic standards vary according to the certifying body creating them, but all must abide by the rules of the USDA, which as lax as they've become in order to appease conventional giants wanting a piece of the organic pie, they still TOWER over conventional standards in terms of ethics, safety, quality and impact on the environment.

For a more extensive comparison go here:

For green cleaners I suggest everyone find their's with either Debra's List or the Green Pages. Both screen to a fault.

For cosmetics - both of the above are great and of course the Cosmetic Safety Database is the BEST!

Hope this offers...something.

Kind Regards,


Steve Hengsperger said...

Just felt compelled to point out that there are still pesticides on organics, I'm not a chemist, but to me there is no real difference between sythetic or natural chemicals. Some break down and are friendlier to the environment but in the end I don't think they are good for us to be consuming.
I also believe you have some of your facts wrong, the 3 people that died in 2006 were eating triple washed bagged organic spinach tainted with E Coli.