Fresh flowers and blooms that smell of doom!

Waaaay back in my previous life – about 2001 BC (Before Children!) – one of my favorite indulgences was having fresh cut flowers in our home, at all times.  It was a little OVERindulgent, but it sure brightened up the place, no matter the season.

flowers2Since having kids, this has taken a backseat to many other things that command our disposable income.  But one of my shortcomings was that I only looked for cheap flowers without any consideration of how they were grown, where they came from or how they got here… oops!

I’ve since learned that about 70% of flowers sold in the US are imported and grown using highly toxic chemicals, including pesticides, fertilizers and fungicides… doesn’t sound so pleasant to take a big “whiff” now, does it?!  This is a danger to us as consumers, workers cultivating the flower crops and florists working with them daily.  It also pollutes the land and groundwater and creates an unhealthy environmental effect.

Enter: organic flowers! These farms instead use environmental, sustainable practices (without toxins) to insure that everyone in the chain, including the environment, isn’t put at risk.  And it also simply supportverifloras local, domestic farming. Diamond Organics, California Organic Flowers and Organic Bouquet will help put you in the right direction to locate a florist that offers organic flowers or simply buy online if you want “green” blooms.  You can also look for the VeriFlora label or ask your florist if they are VeriFlora certified and you will know you are buying organic… and NOT bringing those toxins into your home or sending them to someone you actually like!

Along with this recent “enlightenment” I also discovered that I have quite a bounty of floral vases that are crowding that useless cupboard above my refrigerator (yeah, you know the one I’m talking about!).  Most of these vases are created with such a variety of glass, they can’t be recycled (hence trash!).  But before you let them hit the can, consider giving them back to a local florist!  Many will happily accept them, and honestly, I would not be one bit irritated if I knew that my flowers were arranged in a reused vase!

And if you’re lucky enough to live in Northeastern Ohio, like me (okay, so it’s not so lucky in the dead of winter!), a co-op between Green Lotus and Cleveland Blooms will actually pick them up from your doorstep(!) so they caflower-vasen be cleaned and sent back to a local florist who wants them, so you don’t even need to do the legwork!

Even though that “flower fund” has now been redirected to “Barbie” and “Planet Heroes” you can bet that, when I want to treat myself to a bouquet, I will be doing a search for organic flowers and calling Green Lotus when my blooms head for the compost pile!

Nasty, nasty chemical cleaners: the top 10 criminals

Undoubtedly, any one of us could look in a cupboard and under the sink and find bottles and cans of household cleaners that contain the harshest and most toxic of chemicals.  But do we really need them?

Don’t get me wrong… I want my house clean and germ-free too, but what if the means to that end requires us to spray, scrub and wash surfaces that we touch… that our kids touch countless times every day… with harsh chemicals? Kinda sounds like we’re defeating our purpose!

Knowing the worst household offenders is the best place to start making this change.  So here is the condensed rap sheet on those “bottled criminals”:

  • Bleach – can cause irritation & burns, and edema or coma if ingested
  • Mold & Mildew Cleaners – contents include known carcinogens and chemicals that can cause fluid in the lungs, memory loss and shortness of breath
  • Oven Cleaners – can cause irritation & burns, and effect reflexes and tissue if ingested
  • Ammonia – damaging to eyes, respiratory tract and skin
  • Air Fresheners – commonly contains formaldehyde, a known carcinogen
  • Dishwasher Detergent – contains highly concentrated/highly poisonous chlorine in a dry form
  • Laundry Products – contains elements that can cause liver damage and can irritate and/or burn skin, eyes, mucous membranes and the respiratory tract
  • Carpet & Upholstery Shampoo – contains a known carcinogen that damages the kidneys, liver and nervous system, plus irritants & burning contents
  • Toilet Bowl Cleaners – contents can damage kidneys and the liver, irritate skin and eyes, and cause edema or coma if ingested
  • Drain Cleaners – contains elements that can damage kidneys, liver & the digestive tract, and depress the nervous system

Are you scared yet?  I know I am! If you want more details and the actual chemical contents, click here, but I assure you, you won’t like what you read.  It convinced me that I really, really need to give up a bunch of these commercial cleaners!

So… what to do? I say the answer is in three little words: distilled white vinegar.  It has more uses than you can imagine — it’s safe, it’s environmental and it’s inexpensive.

We already know that it can clean a clogged drain like a champ, but did you also know it can: cut grease, brighten your laundry, remove mineral deposits and stains, clean tarnished metals, remove carpet stains, clean the floor, remove stains from clothing and (what we all want)… kill germs and sanitize! will give you 75 ways to use and formulate vinegar for everyday cleaning and 20 tips for using vinegar with your laundry!  I’m impressed!

The only other thing that comes to mind is “do they sell vinegar in barrels” (!?!).

Breaking the drug (in the toilet) habit

I rarely (and I do mean rarely) ever take medications, pain relievers, antibiotics or anything FOR anything. That’s just me, but that’s not everyone.

I love my in-laws dearly, but they literally have a ‘lazy-susan’ of medications in a huge cupboard.  Some are undoubtedly necessary, but I guarantee that many are expired and of no use to anyone.  The problem with this is what many people typically do with their expired or unused medications.

Ahh, the flush-factor.  Bad habit.

Many people just dump them in the toilet and flush them.  While this may seem to be a likely option (over throwing them in the trash and having them found by animals or [shudder] children, or sending them to trash dumps and having them absorb into the ground) they’re creating another danger.  They’re being found in our tap water, in increasing amounts, because most water treatment plants are unable to filter them out.  Tests are turning up antibiotics, birth control hormones, anti-depressants and all kinds of nasty stuff.

Add to the problem – there aren’t a lot of options just yet.  I’ve heard about grinding them up, putting them in coffee grounds or kitty litter in a sealed container and putting them in the trash, but that just adds trash in non-biodegradable containers to landfills!

So, let me make a few recommendations:

  • Contact your local pharmacy.  More and more of them are accepting old and unused medications and properly disposing of them. I’d like to see more of them step up too.
  • Check Earth 911. Enter “unused medications” in their “Start recycling” search.
  • Consider a donation of unused and unexpired meds to The Starfish Project.  They will go to help HIV-positive individuals in Nigeria.  They accept a variety of antibiotics, antivirals, and tons of non-ARV medications, and pay your shipping costs too.

I guess we just need to consider whatever we can do to keep them out of rivers, lakes and our water supply.  They’ll find their way “back to us”… in our foods, drinking water, etc.

I doubt Mr. Fish and Mrs. Duck need our old birth control… I know our kids don’t!

The “Magical Kingdom” is not so magical after all

Oh, Mickey should NOT be happy!

We could probably look around the home of just about any parent we know and find some things, multiple things… uum, PILES of THINGS bought to us by Disney.  Last year, net income of the Walt Disney Company was valued at $3.83 billion (yea, that’s billion with a “b”!).

However, I just learned that while they avoid all toxic chemicals in the Animal Kingdom of Disney World, they are using over 80 varieties of very toxic cleaners and only a dozen green cleaners in the rest of their facilities (including parks, hotels and restaurants).

I know the “go green” movement can be a slow process, but as pointed out by CHEJ, they’ve obviously put some serious thought into their consideration of what comes in contact with the animals, but what about those areas where our children “bathe, eat and play”?

A reply letter from Disney said that they are “in compliance”, but we know that sometimes compliance is a fairly lax guideline and that seems like a fairly weak stance.  And it’s especially bothersome when you consider how susceptible children are to these toxic chemicals… and isn’t Disney World all about kids (okay, us “big kids” too!)?

If you’ve spent some major cashola at Disney World or just on a mountain of Disney products, you can go here to ask them to change their ways and reconsider their practices.

I think we’ve all “purchased” the right to higher expectations.

Knock, knock…FDA?! Are you awake?

The scenario:  Sunday morning.  Breakfast table.  Family eating.  Kids giggling.  Coffee drinking.  Newspaper reading.  (cute little picture, huh?)

Then, a small snippet in the newspaper gives me a bigger jolt than my coffee.  The Canadian government has banned BPA in baby bottles because it is deemed toxic.  Well, round of applause for Canada, but what in the heck are they looking at that the US refuses to see?

I’ve mentioned my fear of BPA (bisphenol A) so many times, but it continues to rattle me.  The FDA needs a vigorous shaking to wake up and ‘taste’ the danger. Of course, the chemical industry maintains that bottles contain little BPA and are safe for use – sure they want us to believe that… what else would we expect them to say.

But Canada based this decision on 150 (150!!!) worldwide studies.  How much more evidence do we need?  Well, would you believe the FDA says they are awaiting word from yet another scientific panel expected to deliver an independent risk assessment later this month.

Wow.  So do you really think they’ll change their tune after assessment 151…!?!  Don’t count on it.

(*Don’t wait for “studies”. If you are looking for BPA-free baby bottles, check here.  It’s a great list!)