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Archive for Back-to-School

September 17th, 2013

Green Your School Fundraising

Groovy Green Livin fundraising

The school fundraising packet just arrived. Did you get yours? I browsed through mine and ended up circling wrapping paper, ribbons and more wrapping paper. Every year I scour the fundraising packet for stainless steel or reusable options. There are generally a few eco choices buried behind the piles of wrapping paper and chocolates. Every year I promise myself that I’ll just write a check and call it a day, but then I start circling and find myself ordering reams of wrapping paper and boxes of chocolate. Just what I don’t need.

Why aren’t there eco-friendly fundraising options?

There are.

This past spring our schools partnered with NSTAR, our local gas and electric company, for a fantastic fundraising event. We were able to order a variety of CFL bulbs and/or a Smart Strip power strip. 

Now there’s another option. MightyNest, one of the Groovy Green Livin’s long-time sponsors. came up with an innovative idea for school fundraising. They launched  the MightyNest for Schools program.

For those of you unfamiliar with MightyNest they’re an online shop started by a husband and wife team. Their site is filled with useful information and natural, organic and non-toxic products all in one place. All of their products are free from known toxic ingredients such as: BPA, PVC, Phthalates, Lead, Melamine, Formaldehyde, Flame retardants, Parabens and more.

So what is MightyNest for Schools?

It’s a simple way to raise money while engaging your school community in healthy living.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Raise money for your school while buying products you’ll love! 15% of every order you place at MightyNest can be donated to an elementary or pre-school of your choosing. Your child’s school, a family member’s school or one in your community: pick the school you’d like to receive a donation from your orders.
  2. Engage your school community around healthy living! Every school in the program has a community page at schools.mightynest.com. On that page, anyone can earn points towards rewards for their school by pledging to take simple, healthy actions. There’s no purchase required to participate, just simple pledges to live a healthy lifestyle.

It’s that easy.

To celebrate the official launch of MightyNest for Schools, one lucky school will earn a $5000 bonus and as many as 50 others can each earn $250 in prizes. The school with the most points wins!

To get started simply:

  1. Look-up your school at schools.mightynest.com and join the page.
  2. Share the page with your family and friends (their purchases and actions count, too)!
  3. Share the page with your PTA.

Any other ideas for a great ‘green’ fundraiser? 

August 30th, 2013

School Supplies and My Interview with The Wall Street Journal

Groovy Green Livin School Supplies

School Supplies

School supplies are covering every square inch of my living room floor at the moment. Notebooks, protractors, crayons, colored pencils and binders are everywhere.

The tedious collection of school supplies began a few days ago when I had the sudden realization that school was about to begin and I had done nothing to prepare. The actual shopping took a few hours and now I’m knee deep in crates and boxes filled with everything my three boys will need according to the back-to-school supply lists.

This year I made the decision to attack one school supply list at a time. It was comical. Running from aisle 3B for crayons to aisle 8A for paper and then back and forth again for the next class. I’m sure there was a better way to approach this and you’d think I’d have figured it out by now, but there’s always next year.

The school supply lists are interesting. Some teachers are very explicit about what brands they want while other school supply lists are a bit more open-ended with room for interpretation.

If  a list is specific and asks for a product that could be harmful to my child or other children I  have no problem deviating from the list.  For example I always send in a safe alternative to alcohol based hand sanitizer. I generally don’t write a letter to the teacher explaining my position, but if you’re interested here’s a  sample letter to a teacher which spells out why some of the school supplies have been swapped out for safer alternatives.

The real concern is that many if not most of the school supplies are placed into a classroom “pool” for general consumption. So my sending in one lone bottle of safe hand sanitizer isn’t going to make much of a difference. I still haven’t figured out a way to tackle this.

My Interview with the Wall Street Journal

I was recently contacted by a reporter from the Wall Street Journal to talk about school supplies and whether or not I stick to school the suggested products on school supply lists.

We had a really interesting conversation about how product placement could be lurking in our children’s school supply lists. There seems to be a tremendous push by big brands to get their names out there and at the top of all of our school supply lists. For example “teachers, parents or school administrators who put Kleenex on their lists were entered into a sweepstakes that could win their school $25,000 to buy books and other supplies…”. So of course parents are swayed to buy Kleenex.

Product placement on school supply lists poses a number of issues. Requiring families to buy specific brands when there may be more economical options isn’t fair. Also, as I mention in the Wall Street Journal article, I want the option to send in non-toxic school supplies, especially when the suggested product is a product that comes in contact with food or the children’s skin. I really wish more school systems would suggest safer alternatives for some products such as hand sanitizer and wipes.

You can read the full article and find my quote HERE.

I’m wondering how you feel about all of this. How do you handle school supply lists? Do you follow them or do you deviate?

 

photo credit: JimmyMac210 via photopin cc>

August 28th, 2013

5 Foods to Boost Back-to-School Brain Power

Groovy Green Livin Brain PowerIn need of a little extra brain power to prepare you for back-to-school?

We have a few days to go before summer vacation comes to a screeching halt so I’m in the process of savoring every last minute with my kids (with some minutes definitely better than others). I have to confess that over the summer we sometime strayed from healthy options, but we did our best. Now that a routine is back in sight it’s time to add a few foods bursting with brain power to the weekly menu.

Blueberries

Groovy Green Livin Brain

Not only are blueberries delicious, but there’s research which suggests that the flavonoids in blueberries make them a top contender for improving brain power. Flavonoids may improve memory, learning and general cognitive function, including reasoning skills, decision making, verbal comprehension and numerical ability. Blueberries may also provide protection against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Broccoli

Groovy Green Livin Brain

Broccoli is one of those foods my kids will eat without any complaints. This superfood is not only chock full of needed nutrients, but it also boasts a large amount of vitamin K  which helps enhance cognitive function and improve brain power.

Lentils

Groovy Green Livin Brain

Lentils show up often in meals at our house since they are so simple to prepare- no soaking necessary. This legume is brimming with folate, a B vitamin shown to help boost brain power. Folate also plays a role in decreasing levels of amino acids that can impair brain functioning.

Fish

Groovy Green Livin Brain

Fish generally ends up on our dinner table once or twice a week. Salmon is a family favorite with other types of fish being hit or miss. Many types of fish, including salmon, contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to improve mental alertness.  Omega-3′s are considered ‘good’ fats and are linked to improved memory and brain function. They also can reduce the risk of degenerative mental diseases such as dementia.

Water

Groovy Green Livin Brain

Turns out those 8 recommended glasses of water are truly needed. Our brain depends on proper hydration to function at its best. Years of research have found that when we’re thirsty or dehydrated, we have trouble staying focused. Dehydration can impair short-term memory function and long-term memory.

What’s your favorite brain food?

photo credits: maira.gall via photopin cc,  Darwin Bell via photopin cc , Dey via photopin BrownGuacamole via photopin , RLHyde via photopin ccMadison Guy via photopin cc

July 29th, 2013

Giveaway: Lunchbox Love Heads Back-to-School

Groovy Green Livin Lunch Box Love

Lunchbox Love Mom Panel

Right before I jumped on a plane to BlogHer in Chicago (photos and a recap or two coming soon!) I received some fantastic news- I was selected to be a member of  the Lunchbox Love Mom Panel! Woo hoo say you….but what does that mean? Well, I’m joining forces with an AMAZING team of ten smart and influential women to spread the word about a new and innovative product: Lunchbox Love – The Original Lunch Box Notes.

Groovy Green Livin Lunchbox Love

What is Lunchbox Love?

I’m a sap, what can I say? My kids are 9, 11 and 12 and they usually make their own school lunch. That’s not why I’m a sap. I’m a sap because once in a while I throw a little love note into their lunch box. Mornings are generally hectic so it doesn’t happen as often as I’d like, but I think about writing a note (that counts, right?).

Groovy Green Livin Lunchbox Love
Lunchbox Love makes it so simple. Each 12 pack of cards are pre-printed with all sorts of sayings. For example “Keep up the effort in school, You’re doing a great job!” and “Be strong.” for the younger crowd. When your child flips the card over they’ll find an interesting piece of trivia or a joke to share with friends at the lunch table. There are also two blank cards in the pack which you can use for personalized notes to your kids.

Lunchbox Love gives back

The company was founded by two life-long friends and moms, Judi Willard and Mary Fuller, who know that there is scientific evidence that shows positive thoughts and words have a positive affect on our mental and physical health. Their philosophy is that positive words can change someone’s day, a life, and eventually the world. I happen to agree.

The company is also donating a portion of their proceeds to help feed children around the world.

Lunchbox Love for tweens and teens

My kids are officially tweens and I still want to give them “I love you” notes. I’m perfecting my embarrassing mom skills. Lunchbox Love gets it and created a pack of cards specifically for the tween/teens in your life. These cards are printed with more sophisticated feel good notes with inspirational quotes on the back. My favorite is “Sometimes parents make mistakes too. I’m sorry.” 

Your chance to try Lunchbox Love notes

Since back-to-school is just around the corner for many of us Lunchbox Love Notes will be a fun addition to your child’s lunch box this year. Here’s your chance to win a 4 pack (12 cards each) of Lunchbox Love Notes.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

photo credit: ryry9379 via photopin cc

July 12th, 2013

Non-Toxic Backpacks for Elementary School Kids

Groovy Green Livin non-toxic backpacks

Non-toxic Backpacks for Elementary School Kids

After putting together a Non-Toxic Preschool Backpack Guide I realized that kids over the age of 3 or 4 probably won’t want to be seen in any of those backpacks. The leap from preschool to elementary school is big and with it comes new styles and tastes. A cute little pig on your back probably won’t cut it for most kindergartners.

When my boys started elementary school I did a lot of research to find a safe backpack.

No Vinyl, No PVC, No Phthalates, No Lead

If you’ve been following along here for a while you know that a study by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice’s(CHEJ) found children’s vinyl “back‐to‐school” supplies (including backpacks) contained elevated levels of phthalates, hazardous chemicals that have been banned in toys, yet remain widespread in vinyl back‐to‐school supplies.

Phthalates are hazardous at low levels of exposure, disrupt hormones in our bodies, and have been linked to birth defects, infertility, early puberty, asthma, ADHD, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Not something you want in your child’s backpack!

Vinyl backpacks could also contain high levels of lead, which can wipe off onto children’s hands and ultimately end up in the child’s mouth.

Bottom Line: Don’t buy vinyl backpacks!

Here are a few non-toxic backpack options for kids in elementary school.

THE NORTH FACE Jester Daypack Groovy Green Livin non-toxic backpack

This is our families backpack of choice at the moment. My two youngest, while in elementary school have used this pack. It’s the perfect size and has a lot of different compartments for storage. The backpack comes in quite a few bright colors and a few plaid choices. I was assured by The North Face that “All our daypacks are PVC, lead and phthalate free. All our products meet global restricted substance requirements.” These are probably best for kids on the older side of elementary school.

Price: $55.00

Groovy Green Livin non-toxic backpackGarnet Hill Backpack for Ages 7 and Up 

My son started kindergarten with a blue Garnet Hill backpack. That pack lasted for a few years and he loved it. Their backpacks come in a variety of snazzy designs and all are certified PVC free. I was assured verbally that all of their children’s products pass all mandatory CPSIA testing-although I couldn’t find this information anywhere on their site. CPSIA testing lowers the amount of lead that can be in children’s products.

Price: $45

ecogear Earth Series Glacier Backpack in pink or grayGroovy Green Livin non-toxic backpack

This company makes their backpacks with planet-friendly organic cotton, PVC-free materials, recycled plastics and toxic-free dyes and components. This backpack is a perfect size for elementary school students.

Price: $25.00

Beatrix New York Big Kid Backpack (Ages 5-10) Groovy Green Livin non-toxic backpack

If you want to stick with a cute backpack for a few more years then this is your bag! The packs are designed for ages 5 to 10 and are PVC, lead, phthalate & BPA free.

Price: $51.00

SoYoung Junior Backpack & Lunch Bag

I lGroovy Green Livin non-toxic backpackove the look of this backpack. Designed with the grade-schooler in mind, this backpack has adjustable straps which allow the backpack to be carried by a 6 year old, but mom and dad can borrow it too. It comes with a fully insulated collapsible lunch bag. SoYoung’s backpacks are PVC, phthalate and lead free. Take a look at the Grey Rocket Backpack, Grey Robot Backpack and the Pink Fawn Backpack too!

Price: $50-$75 (with lunch bag)

Do you have a favorite non-toxic backpack for an elementary school child?

Disclosure:  I received no monetary compensation and all opinions expressed are my own. This post may contain affiliate links for which I will earn compensation if you make a purchase. Thank you for supporting Groovy Green Livin! I’m disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


Photo credit © Monkey Business #11889842

July 10th, 2013

Non-Toxic Preschool Backpack Guide

Groovy Green Livin non-toxic preschool backpack

Non-Toxic Preschool Backpack Guide

Our summer just began a few short weeks ago so I’m really not willing to admit that it’s almost back-to-school time. But I know that it’s a reality for many who kick off the school year in August. So time to address the inevitable.

The emails are already pouring in with back-to-school product pitches and questions from readers.

One question that keeps coming up is ‘how to find a non-toxic backpack for kids?’

I’ve decided to break this question into a few different parts since the age of your child will determine what type of backpack they’ll use. I’m focusing on your toddler and preschool age kids in this post and I’ll be back again with choices for elementary school kids. Stay tuned!

What to avoid in a preschool backpack

No Vinyl, No PVC, No Phthalates, No Lead

If you’ve been following along here for a while you know that a study by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice’s(CHEJ) found children’s vinyl “back‐to‐school” supplies (including backpacks) contained elevated levels of phthalates, hazardous chemicals that have been banned in toys, yet remain widespread in vinyl back‐to‐school supplies.

Phthalates are hazardous at low levels of exposure, disrupt hormones in our bodies, and have been linked to birth defects, infertility, early puberty, asthma, ADHD, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Not something you want in your child’s backpack!

Vinyl backpacks could also contain high levels of lead, which can wipe off onto children’s hands and ultimately end up in the child’s mouth.

Bottom Line: Don’t buy vinyl backpacks!

Here are a few non-toxic preschool backpack suggestions

Groovy Green Livin Non-Toxic Preschool Backpack
Green Sprouts Safari Friends Backpack These adorable backpacks are PVC and BPA free. There are four designs to choose from, a yellow lion, blue hippo, red monkey and green alligator.  So cute and perfect for a toddler or someone just entering preschool.

Price: $17.00

Groovy Green Livin Non-Toxic Preschool Backpack
Crocodile Creek Pocket Backpack I really love these backpacks. There are so many great designs to choose from and they’re the perfect size for younger children. Their backpacks are made of high-quality polyester and are BPA-free, PVC-free and phthalate-free.

Price: $27.00

Beatrix New York Little Kid Backpack Groovy Green Livin Non-Toxic Preschool BackpackAnother awesome line of pint-sized backpacks! Each preschool backpack is embroidered with a forest creature. The packs are designed for ages 2 to 5 and are PVC free, lead free, phthalate free & BPA free.

Price: $42.00

Groovy Green Livin Non-Toxic Preschool Backpack
Dabbawalla Backpacks These sweet little backpacks are sized and designed for preschoolers, with adjustable straps and a sturdy handle. They’re made from Eco-sponge neoprene, a durable fabric that is limestone -based. It has been tested in an independent lab and exceeds CPSIA standards for safety and is free of lead, PVC, BPA and Phthalates.

Price: $38.00

EcoZoo Kid’s Backpack Groovy Green Livin Non-Toxic Preschool BackpackYour preschooler won’t want to put this bag down. Made out of natural cotton this backpack comes in the shape of a puppy, panda, pig and more. It’s made from natural cotton and the company uses toxic free dyes to color the material. They’re BPA and Phthalate-free.

Price: $25.00

Do you have a favorite non-toxic backpack for a toddler or preschooler?

Photo credit: © BestPhotoStudio #2588431

Disclosure:  I received no monetary compensation and all opinions expressed are my own. This post may contain affiliate links for which I will earn compensation if you make a purchase. Thank you for supporting Groovy Green Livin! I’m disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

May 1st, 2013

Why We Walked to School

Groovy Green Livin walked to school

We walked to school today. To some of you that may not sound like a big deal. Walking or biking to school may be a part of your daily routine. But for us it’s not a regular occurrence. Today was walk or bike to school day in our community, a day where the big yellow bus didn’t take our kids to school.

Way back when someone had the not-so-brilliant idea to create little pockets of housing around town without sidewalks. We happen to live in an area where there are sidewalks, but once you reach the tip of the neighborhood you’re dumped onto a main thoroughfare without sidewalks and without a safe way to school. Big bummer.

So today we joined together with a few neighbors and met up with kids from all over to walk and bike to school together.

My oldest decided to bike to school. I walked to school with my younger two.

Groovy Green Livin Bike walked to school

Why walk or bike to school?

  • It’s fun. And that it was. I had a chance to walk and talk with my kids and others for a mile walk. Usually we’re rushing around trying to get out in the morning so this was a great way to start the day.
  • We used our feet instead of a car or bus. When families decide to lace up their sneakers or strap on their bike helmets to get to school  instead of riding in a car or bus, they help reduce the amount of air pollutants emitted.
  • In 2009, 203,000 children ages 15 and younger were injured in motor vehicles crashes; 15,000 of those injured were pedestrians (NHTSA, 2011). Teaching children how to look both ways and walk or bike with caution was a big component of the walk. We had our own police escort with flashing lights. Very fancy.

We clearly weren’t the only ones who decided to walk or bike to school today.

Groovy Green Livin Walked to School

Why we should ride or walk to school more often

A Danish study this past year looked at nearly 20,000 Danish kids between the ages of 5 and 19. It found that kids who cycled or walked to school, rather than traveling by car or public transportation, performed measurably better on tasks demanding concentration, such as solving puzzles, and that the effects lasted for up to four hours after they got to school.

And then there’s the benefit of physical fitness. Being active before sitting in a classroom all day is priceless. Learning to incorporate fitness into your daily routine is a precious life skill.

We are active as a family, but I’m determined to make walking or biking to school happen more often. Logistically it’s not that easy, but it’s doable and it’s a necessity.

Do you or your kids walk or bike every day?

In honor of  not-so Wordless Wednesday I’ve linked up with Better in Bulk, Dagmar’s MomsenseLive and Love Out LoudProject Alicia,  From PDX with Love and I Thought I Knew Mama.

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. I like to make noise and stir the pot especially when an issue hits home and effects the health of our families. Join me as I make some noise and share along the way tips for living a green and healthy life. Read more.

Click HERE to contact Lori

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Lori on ABC World News

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