ZapRoot: BPA Declared Baby Safe, Thanks FDA!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/v/7Y6_7XHPUzs&hl=en&fs=1]

This week from our friends at ZapRoot: The FDA needs to have their heads examined. We respond to the numerous Chinese comments. Explore the world through Google Earth’s Environment section.

[Read more...]

Green Back to School Time: What's the Most Eco-friendly Pencil?

eco-friendly pencil report cardOne benefit of my children attending a one room school house is we don’t get the ubiquitous back to school list of school supplies.  There’s no place to shop for these supplies in our little town of 200, and most families could not afford the extensive list common to suburban schools.  No matter where they live, one thing all children need for school is pencils, but what is the most eco-friendly option for these graphite writing utensils?

Pencils are made from wood, and although it is hard to imagine forests are clearcut for the little bit of wood in a pencil, they are.  Many pencil manufacturers buy their wood from Sierra Pacific Industries, which is notorious for irresponsible logging practices, such as clearcutting and use of herbicides on plantations.  Forturnately, Forest Ethics has rated pencil manufacturers on the amount of pre- and post-consumer recycled content in their products, whether they are made Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified lumber, and whether the lumber is purchased from Sierra Pacific Industries.  According to Josh Buswell-Charkow of Forest Ethics:

Parents don’t want their children using pencils which degrade California’s landscape, drinking water, or species, and the top companies on our report card show that there’s a better way. Those big companies that earned ‘F’s, however, are like the students in the back of the class with pencils in their ears and their heads in the clouds while the rest of the class leaves them behind. [Read more...]

Painting the Baby's Nursery: Get the Toxic VOCs Out

Mythic Paint Cans

I remember being eight months pregnant with my second and realizing that I absolutely must paint the baby’s room now. I know, it makes no sense, the baby will never notice and I’d have been much better off taking a nap, but I had to have that lasso border in the room or…

I dunno. Seven years later I still can’t finish the sentence because, it doesn’t make sense to me now or then but I know I needed the stinkin room painted. A few short months ago that freshly painted room sent out the last of it’s toxins. Seriously. [Read more...]

Easy Organic Gift (Convert That Non-Green Friend)

onesieI am so impressed with the folks at Kee-Ka! They sell adorable organic cotton clothing and accessories for babies/toddlers/pets with simple graphics (sweet pea, pumpkin and lion are my personal favorites). All metal closures are nickel free and they utilize fair trade manufacturing standards.

But what makes this company truly stand out is the packaging! See, when you purchase a Kee-Ka item it comes housed in this nifty little brown box crafted of recycled paper that is ready to be mailed in three simple steps. No digging for wrapping paper, no searching for tape, no “This looks like my kid wrapped it” thoughts. Nada.

[Read more...]

Save Energy and a Whole Lot More By Turning Off the T.V.

Kids and TV

© Hallgerd | Dreamstime.com

I suppose the average person would think me a bit odd. Or even extreme, as a parent. You see, I don’t allow T.V. during the week. On weekends, we might, just might watch a DVD if the weather is lousy, or we’ve had an exhausting weekend not spent watching T.V. the rest of the time.

I also try to choose DVDs that are old enough that the frenzy of licensed products has abated enough to be able to get through a visit to the store without a hundred repetitions of “No, we don’t need that.” Or, “Sure, it’s a character you know. But the cereal is crap. We can get a coloring book instead.” It’s enough to make you hate television. It really is.

If you haven’t paid much attention to the marketing onslaught aimed at your kids, well, The Kaiser Family Foundation report, “Food for Thought: Television Food Advertising to Children in the United States,” has some pretty frightening statistics that might change your mind. [Read more...]

3 Ways to Inspire a Preschooler to Be Green

Child with Earth ballI am the mother of two children, ages six and three, as well as a preschool teacher in a small, mountainous community in Northern California. Our family lives off-the-grid producing our own electricity from a micro hydro turbine in our creek. One of our family values is to live a green life, leaving behind the smallest carbon footprint as possible. Sharing our eco-values with our children is a big part of what we feel is our social responsibility as parents. For over a year now, I have been blogging about our experiences and the green products we use. Here are a few ideas I have learned over the years that have helped my kids critically view the mass marketing of goods directed at them, as well as inspire them to think critically of our daily actions in terms of how they affect the planet.

Walk the Green Talk!

Lev Vygotsky was a Russian pyschologist who believed that knowledge is socially constructed and culturally transmitted. For toddlers and preschoolers, this means that modeling green choices, as well as using language to interact with children around eco ideals, is the most effective way to inspire them. For example, my children are delighted to have their own reusable shopping bags. Inspired by the book My Bag and Me!, I got my children their own bags, which they proudly carry into the store. My three-year-0ld son puts his favorite foods in his bag at the health food store. Children will imitate what they see the adults around them doing, and given the proper tools, they can assimilate this knowledge into their own lives. On more than one occasion I’ve been accused of “walking the talk”, and it definitely pays off when my children evaluate their own lives and choices using our green family values. [Read more...]

Going Green for the Family Dog

choclab.jpg© Mtomczak | Dreamstime.com

While accompanying me on a trip to the more scary storage area of our house, my three-year-old spied an old “yard art” statue of a Rottweiler that belonged to my spouse. (The movers would not accept a bribe to, uh, lose a few items during the move).

Later that evening, she remarked to my husband, “Daddy, we need a real dog, not a plastic dog.” Between this plea and having to stop and ask to pet every, every, single dog we encounter in public, I set about the task of getting my spouse to agree to add a new member to the family.

It was not easy. He was heartbroken after losing his last dog, and pretty set against a puppy. This does not mean no — it just means choosing your moment wisely.

“Oh, I’ve got a dog for you. Chocolate Lab. I’ll spay her and everything,” my brother, a vet, offered. We were out for a family dinner. My husband was deep into his second beer. I gauged my opportunity. The moment looked right, or my husband looked a bit drunk. Either way, works for me. [Read more...]

Toby and Rei Organic Kids' Clothing and Accessories

Toby and Rei organic elephant teeI love discovering new companies that feature eco-friendly clothing for kids, and the market for green children’s gear is growing in both supply and demand. I recently was led to Toby and Rei: eco friendly clothes + accessories for you and baby. This Massachusetts based company, founded by designers Alanna Mallon and Kate Browning, features adorable t-shirts and lunch bags made from organically grown cotton, among many other green products for your child.

100% Organic Kids Graphic Tee

The elephant graphic tee is my favorite shirt! I’ve always had an affinity for elephants. The elephant tee is hand sketched and printed on American Apparel’s 100% organic cotton t-shirt. These sweatshop free shirts made in LA are then dyed at Red Fish-Blue Fish Dyeworks in NH “in the most environmentally friendly way possible without harsh fixing agents or formaldehyde.” This is a hip green tee for your child! [Read more...]

Book Review (1 of 7): Gaia Girls – Enter the Earth

Gaia Girls Enter the Earth coverFinding fiction to enjoy has aways been a challenge for me. Thankfully, that issue didn’t arise while I was reading the first book of Lee Welles’ Gaia Girls series titled Enter the Earth. (Full disclosure: Lee Welles writes for this blog, but I was assigned to review her books before she came on board.) The premise of her series, listed as for ages 9 and up, is as follows:

What would you do if you could hear the Earth asking for help? In the Gaia Girls book series, that is what happens to four girls, each from a different region of the world. They are approached by Gaia, the living organism of the Earth. Each is endowed with powers over one of the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. They must learn to use their powers to help Gaia survive the effects of modern humanity.

The first book centers around a girl named Elizabeth Angier and one very eventful summer at her family farm in New York state. She and the family’s undeniably lovable dog Maizey take on a big business factory farming operation that is trying to buy up all the farms in her town. On top of that, her best friend is moving not only out of town but out of state to Florida. Just as her troubles start to reach their boiling point, Elizabeth is greeted by an eager otter named Gaia who will change her world forever.

[Read more...]

Getting Less to Give More: The New Birthday Party

yes cake, no presentsAs the holiday season approached, my husband and I experienced more than the usual anxiety. It wasn’t a matter of what to buy, for us, it was important to consider what not to buy and the many reasons why:

We wanted to avoid the crush of gifts that create an association in a child’s mind that the holiday is all about her and what she gets. Our little family has some solid traditions in sharing meals and occasions with friends and family and we wanted that focus to continue since that is the most important part of celebrations for us.

Additionally, with 90 percent of toys coming to our country from China, and 82 percent of the toy recalls involving these imported items, every new bit of inexpensive plastic is as much of a concern as it is a gift. [Read more...]

Notes From A Teacher

palmglobe.jpgToday was the first day of the first time I’m teaching Advanced Environmental Sustainability.  I’ve had three semesters of what we call EES–Exploring Environmental Sustainability, a class I proposed and designed myself two years ago.  I was nervous and excited–nervous because I’m team teaching this class with our Environmental Studies teacher and I’ve never teamed before, and excited because all the kids were returners who had done well the first time around.

Our new class is going to focus on one area of sustainability–energy.  We’re going to look at energy resources, how consumer choices, public policy, and politics influence our energy consumption, how building construction interacts with energy, and how energy use can contribute to pollution.  Today, we just had a review.  It has been a year since a few of my kids had taken our intro class, so we wanted to see what they would remember.  Once we got going, it turns out they remembered a lot.  They were able to name several renewable and non-renewable resources, describe greenhouse gases and how they contribute to climate change, and talk about where we get most of our energy from.  They knew several of the plusses and minuses to each type of energy and where some of it comes from.

[Read more...]