How does YOUR sunscreen rate for safety (and chemicals!)?

sunshnNow that the countdown to the final days of school has reached “10 days and counting” all my kids can talk about is all the fun we’ll have this summer and our annual beach vacation!

But any parent knows that fun in the sun also means extra caution to make sure our precious little ones (ourselves included!) don’t get fried during “sun fun”, so if you haven’t bought it already, sunscreen is sure to be a purchase in the very near future.

The concern with sunscreen is the presence of some nasty chemicals that we really don’t want to apply to our bodies daily, or even “frequently” for that matter, since they absorb into our skin and accumulate. Many are believed to cause hormone disruption, cell damage and allergies, amongst other things. They include vitamin A (retinyl palmitate), Oxybenzone, Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, Mexoryl, Avobenzone… augh!… just a bunch of things that we could really do without!sunscrn

So instead of laboring over labels and trying (sometimes in vane) to decipher the ingredients… (drumroll, please….)  Environmental Working Group has released its 2010 list and ratings of over 500 sunscreen products.  Believe me, it is much easier to find one on the “best” list and just know you have a good product to keep you safe from the sun AND the nasty chemicals.

You can also look-up the products you have been using to see how they rate.  Sadly, all of ours were in the “caution” category so Mom Goes Green will be doing her research too.  Fortunately, EWG has done most of the work for us, so the answers are just a few clicks away.

Now check it out, slather on the good stuff and GO PLAY… summer is almost here!

Simple gardening tip: “plant native” for a truly green garden

Every spring my family and I spend a weekend cleaning the yard (an activity that can be made fun if you just try!) and planting flowers to make everything nice and cheery.

xeriscapeI’ve never given much thought to what I plant other than selecting what I think is “cute” and my “color choice” for the season, but I’ve also made some poor selections when they’ve required a lot of water to keep them bright, cheery… and alive!

Whether you’re planting flowers, trees, shrubbery or an entire lawn, make sure that your choices are native to your area. Despite having favorites that you’d like to see in your own yard, it’s wiser to choose something that will naturally thrive without watering and excess water use, and will eliminate your need for nasty fertilizers and pesticides.

This concept even has its own term, known as xeriscaping… (make sure you throw that one into a sentence today, to impress your family and friends! And oooh… I need to make an addition to my A to Z list, don’t I?).  Check out for lists of native plantflowrs by state, local nurseries and organizations too!  All of them can help you make the smartest choices.  Eartheasy also has great tricks, tips and ideas that get as green as they come.

Remember that vinegar and water is a great natural weed killer too.  Just be sure to have good aim and a quality sprayer because vinegar is NOT selective and will destroy whatever it comes in contact with.

You may not think you have a green thumb, but with a little effort you CAN have the “greenest” garden on the block!

Simple green tip: Weeds hate the “taste” of vinegar!

Now that Spring has finally arrived, we’ve been eagerly watching all of the bulbs we planted sprout into beautiful blooms… however, sprouting right along with them?  Yes, weeds!

vinegarWant to control them environmentally and safely without harsh chemicals? Then here are two simple items for your shopping list:  distilled white vinegar and a sprayer bottle.

If you’re like me, you may already have a sprayer bottle or have kept one around just waiting to be reused, so your list may contain one, simple item… vinegar, because (just like my kids) weeds hate the taste of vinegar!

All you need to do is fill the bottle with vinegar and spray the nasty culprits! It works best with young weeds and, for those tough hardy buggers, it may take more than one application but I assure you, it works!

However, this also comes with a warning… vinegar is NOT selective. It will kill whatever you spray.  You need to be cautious not to let it come in contact with prized flowers or plants, so make sure your bottle has a very controlled sprayer and not a wide range mist.  For weedzthis reason also, vinegar is best for gardens, flower beds, sidewalks, driveways and around paver stones, but isn’t recommended for lawns since it will take your grass right along with the weeds!

Ahh… vinegar! Is there anything it doesn’t do?!?  Okay, well yea… there are “things”, but the list of what it DOES do just got longer… and you can now add “weed warrior” to that list!

Simple conservation tip: Put your “greywater” to work…

Greywater may be a new term to you… once again, this one was recently a new one for me too!

buckt grnGreywater is defined as the “waste water generated from bathing, showering, dishwashing and laundry”.  Initial thoughts might sound something like “well… ick.”  Sure, I certainly don’t recommend you grab a glass(!), but there are plenty of household uses for this water (as long as you aren’t using harsh cleansers and detergents).

Think about watering your indoor plants, outdoor plants and shrubbery, or washing your car.  This water is ideal.

All you need to do is add a handled bucket to your shower, scoop out a bucket or watering can full from your bath, or add the bucket to your utility tub when your washer is draining.  Plants will actually thrive from the content of this water and your car happens not to care if the water has a bit of added body wash or laundry detergent.

Considering this greywater accounts for somewhere between 50%-80% of residential water waste, conserving and using it will certainly amount to a lot more than just “a drop in the bucket”.

Another (not so) funny story about my “tree obsession”…

CBR002294So, here we go… again.  If you’re a regular reader, you know that I don’t cut down trees, don’t like trees being cut down and detest when anyone needlessly DOES cut them down.  Unfortunately, we are squarely located between two families that looove to cut down trees.  And unfortunately, the other day was ANOTHER one of THOSE days.

Scenario: Me. My son.  Getting ready to take him to preschool.  Doorbell rings.  At my door, a man from a tree service.

Tree Killer: Hi, ma’am.  We need to cut down a large tree in your neighbor’s back yard and we wanted to ask if we can anchor to one of your trees for the removal.
Me: No.tree stmp
Tree Killer: No?
Me: No. I don’t want you to cut down the tree.
Tree Killer: Okay, well, the tree is coming down anyhow and your cooperation will really help us assure that it safely lands in the right place.
Me: No stopping it, huh?
Tree Killer: Umm, no.
Me: (few deep breaths, few moments of thought) Well, if you have to.  If it’s a safety issue, then I suppose.  But I swear, if you hurt my tree, my tree and I will sue you.
Tree Killer: (baffled look) I assure you, ma’am. Your trees will be fine.
Me: They better be.

Did that make me sound insane? Maybe. Did I care? No.  But really… can you imagine that court document:  Mom Goes Green & Mrs. Maple vs. Tree Killer.  Kind of funny to imagine? Well… yea!

But sincerely, I am that passionate about trees.  They serve so, so many purposes.  And I know some people may think I’m crazy, but too bad.  (Do you happen to know that trees can actually improve your life too?) Someone once sent me a comment (in response to an earlier “tree post”) that said maybe I should “worry about something important for a change”.  Well, buddy, trees are important.  Cut them all down and let’s just see what happens.  On second thought, that’s an experiment I don’t want to endorse.  It has disaster written all over it.