The “Toxic 10” … everyday products to avoid…

toxcWhen making the decision to “go green” the list of “should nots” is equally as important as the “shoulds”…

I recently ran across a fabulous list of the should nots that are very much worthy of a mention.  This list comes from Healthy Child Healthy World and includes the top 10 toxic products that you DON’T need in your home. Without further ado, start checking the checklist!:

  • Air fresheners – they’re full of chemicals, synthetic fragrances and even anesthetics that can be inhaled into our lungs (ewww!)
  • Bottled water – this water is no less contaminated (and sometimes MORE contaminated) than your tap water… add the BPA content of the plastic bottles and they are simply bad news.
  • Canned goods – their epoxy resin linings often contain BPA, linked to hormone disruption, heart disease and obesity.
  • Couch cushions – avoid anything containing foam that says it meets California TB 117 because they contain toxic fire retardant (like those horrible mattresses!)  They’re linked to cancer, birth defects, and thyroid, reproductive and neurological disorders.generic bottles
  • Drain, oven and toilet bowl cleaners – they contain lye and acids that can burn skins, eyes and internal tissues.
  • Dry cleaned clothes – even though the chemical perchloroethylene (or perc) is applied elsewhere, it is linked to a number of cancers and even bringing home those clothes (and wearing them!) dramatically increases your exposure.
  • Oil-based paints and finishes – they can contain up to 300 toxic chemicals and 150 carcinogens … enough said.
  • Perfume and cologne – one formulation can contain literally hundreds of chemicals that can absorb through the skin and accumulate in the bodies.
  • Pesticides – these chemical poisons linger and contaminate the air and undoubtedly get dragged into our homes.
  • Rubber duckies! – okay, and ANYTHING that contains PVC or vinyl.  They can leach phthalates (linked to hormone distruption) and lead (a potent neurotoxicant).

Please check out Healthy Child Healthy World’s original post for more great information on all of these “toxic 10”, as well as important suggestions for substituting better options…

So, how many are still in or around your home?… I’ll bet you’re about to change that, aren’t you?!?

Spring has sprung… 10 ways to “green clean”!

sprng clnSpring is one of my favorite times of the year. Everything feels new and there is something very refreshing about sitting back and seeing things literally spring to life.  One thing that does need our assistance, however, is our home. Unfortunately there is NOTHING refreshing about a house that has been closed for months on end.

The problem is that, while we attempt to do our spring cleaning, we can actually create some heavily toxic air inside our homes and create a lot of waste.  Here are some tips on how to avoid this:

  • Open windows. Let the fresh air come in. It does wonders!
  • Buy distilled white vinegar – and lots of it.  The uses are amazing… everything from cleaning and sanitizing to disinfecting and stain removal.  Check out vinegartips.com for ideas, but whatever you do, do NOT use commercial household cleaners… they are harsh, harmful and unnecessary.
  • Buy baking soda – fantastic for cleaning but also for removing odors from rugs and carpets.  Sprinkle some on, let it sit for 30 minutes and vacuum it up… nice and simple.
  • Skip paper towels and sponges – gather old t-shirts and towels (not suitable for donation) and put them to work.  Skoy cloths are another favorite of mine, and they can all be washed and used again for later cleaning projects.sprng cln rag
  • Recycle – magazines, mail, catalogs, any needless papers, packaging….the list goes on and on.  Don’t just put them in the garbage can.  Put them in the recycling can.
  • Food cupboards – you thought you’d need it, use it, want it, but alas you did not.  Donate it to a food pantry if it hasn’t expired; otherwise make sure the packaging, cans and containers get recycled as well.
  • Donation boxes – inevitably you will find lots of things that no longer have usefulness for you but that doesn’t mean they’re not useful for someone else.  Clothing, shoes, household items, books, furniture, toys, anything and everything. Pack up these items and donate them to a charity, list them on Freecycle or Craig’s List.  But never throw away anything that still has “life” left in it.
  • Proper disposal – motor oil, paint cans, aerosols… check Earth911 to find out where these toxic products can be dropped off for proper disposal.  Same goes for electronics.  If they can’t be given away check local resources or again Earth911.
  • Consider air freshening in a less harmful way – If you MUST put the scent of spring in the air, forgo the aerosol air fresheners and instead fill a spray bottle with a combination of water and essential oils, and “spray away!”
  • Consider some “Spring Resolutions”no more antibacterial soaps (their harmful effects can be greater than their benefit), no more harsh cleaners and chemicals.  Vow to replace them with eco- and health-friendly products.  Put CFLs on your shopping list and use them for every bulb that needs replacing from here on out!  And when you buy these products, make sure they get placed in reusable bags!

Start stretching, limber up and let the green cleaning commence!

Remove pesticides from produce… the cheap, easy way!

fruits_and_vegetablesI’ve talked a lot about the pesticides and chemicals sprayed on conventionally-grown, non-organic produce.   It always seemed crazy to me that our most healthy foods often come with a load of non-healthy “additives”.   And it’s especially alarming where our children are concerned.

You can stick with the “Clean 15” list and buy non-organic, but if you’re on a budget and run across that “Dirty Dozen”, what do you do?  Well, some solutions can be especially expensive to make.  And Fit can also get quite costly.

At a Health and Nutrition session I recently attended (where I learned about all of the grossness of fast food!) I also learned about a quick, easy and cheap way to clean our produce and remove those harmful pesticides… a recipe I had never heard before.

All you need is fine-grain sea salt and water!sea slt

  • First, wash the fruit or vegetable with water.
  • Prepare the solution in a large bowl by mixing one teaspoon of sea salt to each cup of water and stir it to dissolve the salt.
  • Soak your produce for all of TWO minutes.  (For sturdier produce, you can give it an extra scrub with a vegetable brush if it makes you feel better!)
  • Rinse the produce under fresh water, pat to dry or dry on a clean towel and voila!… clean produce!

It’s best to do this right before you plan to use or eat the fruits or vegetables, to help maintain freshness and because it’s quick and easy, it won’t add a bunch of extra time.

There you have it.  Now walk away and be sure to add sea salt to your grocery list!  Healthy produce, HAPPY MOM!!!

(The issue doesn’t end here… please read the FULL story.)

A green gift basket for the earth.

Inevitably, if you have children in school, there’s bound to be a fundraising event that means your child brings home the “ever-popular-request-for-donations”.

think-greenLast week our daughter’s school had their annual Spring Fest to raise money to support their land lab.  This area in front of their school has gardens, walking paths, trees and a pond and it’s an amazing little “earth” educational site for our kids.

So, guess what I received prior to the event?  You guessed it… that “ever-popular-request-for-donations”!  They were going to hold raffles to win gift baskets and needed families to donate items.  So, a few seconds of wearing my thinking-cap made me realize that this was an opportunity to make a green statement.

Our family put together a basket that included reusable bags, CFLs, a stainless steel reusable water bottle and green cleaners.  Instead of using an actual basket, we put it all inside a cardboard box wrapped it in brown paper and included shredded paper (all recyclable) for a little extra flair!  I think it looked pretty cute!mgg_basket

We completed our mission by including a paper that explained everything in the box and why they are important.  We were really proud of our creativity that really didn’t require any creativity at all.  To us they’re “no brainers”, but they sent a wonderful message and hopefully made an impact for everyone that took a look.

The next time you receive that “request”, consider the statement you can make too. And a basket like this would also make a great gift!

Little did I know my friend, Jasmina, would win the basket (and she’s already a fellow “eco-mama!), but it was rewarding to see all the other families interested in winning some “green” too!

April 27: National Healthy Schools Day

(Mom Goes Green is EXHAUSTED from chaperoning a Girl Scout Brownies weekend camping trip… {where do they get that energy and the ability to function on such little sleep?!?} so today’s post is by guest writer Janelle Sorensen.  Today is National Healthy Schools Day… enjoy the great info!)

When my husband and I first toured schools to find the one we wanted to enroll our daughter in, I’m sure I was silently voted one of the strangest parents ever. Why do I feel I was secretly endowed with this title? Because every room and hallway we were taken through, I sniffed. A lot. And, according to my husband, I wasn’t terribly discreet.

kids-playingI didn’t have a cold or postnasal drip. And, I’m not part bloodhound. I was simply concerned about the indoor air quality. My daughter was (and still is) prone to respiratory illnesses and I wanted to be sure the school she would be attending would support and protect her growing lungs (in addition to her brain). For many air quality issues, your nose knows, so I was using the easiest tool I had to gauge how healthy the environment was.

While air quality is a significant issue in schools (the EPA estimates that at least half of our nation’s 120,000 schools have problems), parents are also increasingly concerned about other school health issues like nutrition and the use of toxic pesticides. Many schools are making the switch to healthier and more sustainable practices like green cleaning, least toxic pest management, and even school gardening. What they’re finding is that greening their school improves the health and performance of students and personnel, saves money (from using less energy, buying fewer products, and having fewer worker injuries among other things), and also helps protect the planet. It’s truly win, win, win.

To highlight the issue, the Healthy Schools Network coordinates National Healthy Schools Day.  This year, over three dozen events will be held across the country (and more in Canada) on April 27th to promote and celebrate healthy school environments.

What can you do? Healthy Schools Network recommends simple activities such as:

  • Adopting Guiding Principles of School Environmental Quality as a policy for your School
  • Distributing information related to Green Cleaning or Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
  • Writing a letter or visiting your Principal or Facility Director to ask about cleaning products or pest control products
  • Walking around your school: looking for water stains, cracks in outside walls, broken windows or steps, and overflowing dumpsters that are health & safety problems that need attention. Use this checklist.
  • Writing a Letter to the Editor of your local paper on the importance of a healthy school to all children and personnel

You can also help support the efforts of states trying to pass policies requiring schools to use safer cleaners. (Or, initiate your own effort!) There are good bills pending in Connecticut, Minnesota, California, Massachusetts, and Oregon. According to Claire Barnett, Executive Director of the Healthy Schools Network, the key pieces to promote on green cleaning in schools are:CB106473

  • Not being fooled by ‘green washing’ claims—commercial products must be third-party certified as green (to verify claims)
  • Understanding that green products are cost-neutral and they work
  • Learning that “Clean doesn’t have an odor.”

She encourages parents and personnel to tune into one of the archived webinars on green cleaning (like the first module for general audiences) at www.cleaningforhealthyschools.org.

The fact of the matter is that whether you’re concerned about the quality of food, cleaning chemicals, recycling, or energy use – schools need our help and support. Instead of complaining about what’s wrong, it’s time to help do what’s right – for our children, our schools, and our planet.

What are you going to do? There are so many ideas and resources. Find your passion and get active on April 27th – National Healthy Schools Day.

Additional Resources:

(Thanks, Janelle!  Visit Healthy Child Healthy World for more great resources and information! — MGG)