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Archive for Green Advocacy

March 25th, 2015

Earth Hour: Together We Can Change Climate Change

Earth Hour: Together We Can Change Climate Change Groovy Green Livin

Are you ready for Earth Hour? It’s happening this Saturday, March 28th from 8:30-9:30 pm in your local time zone.

What is Earth Hour?

Earth Hour started in 2007 as a lights-off event in Sydney, Australia to raise awareness about climate change. Earth Hour is a worldwide grassroots movement uniting people to protect the planet. This is the 9th year and the movement continues to grow!

Earth Hour 2015 is about getting the crowd to use #YourPower to change climate change.

Earth Hour Groovy Green Livin

 

How to participate in Earth Hour

It’s simple: turn your lights off on Saturday between 8:30-9:30 pm! Let’s be honest, that’s not always easy. We all have plans and busy schedules and this time frame might not work for you. But there is much, much more you can do to participate. The real goal behind Earth Hour is to take action beyond the hour. Think of Earth Hour as an hour of inspiration or the beginning of your journey. Do what you can do to show you care.

Watch the Empire State Building, Times Square, the Golden Gate Bridge and other iconic buildings and landmarks go dark for Earth Hour. Pretty amazing!

Here are a few ideas for honoring Earth Hour:

  • Have a candle light dinner
  • Check out the stars
  • Play a board game by candle light
  • Talk and tell stories
  • Take the dog for a walk
  • Have a romantic, early evening
  • Enter your city or neighborhood HERE to see if anything’s happening near you.

Earth Hour success stories

  • More than 250,000 Russians voiced support for better protection of their country’s seas and forests
  • Argentina used its 2013 Earth Hour campaign to help pass a Senate bill for a 3.4 million hectare Marine Protected Area in the country
  • Thousands of wood-saving stoves were distributed to families in Madagascar
  • Solar-powered lights were installed in three villages without electricity in India
  • In Paraguay, WWF used the Earth Hour platform to build public support to gain an extension of the logging moratorium, helping to reduce deforestation
  • Education programs for schools were launched in Thailand and Taiwan
  • Hundreds of thousands of LED lights were installed by girl scouts in the USA
  • More than 2123 mitigation actions submitted by Earth Hour City Challenge 2014 participating cities

But this is just the start. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes from Earth Hour 2015!

Any plans for Earth Hour this weekend?

 


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photo credit: La hora del Planeta 21 via photopin (license)

March 6th, 2015

Mom Detective: My Hunt for a Flame Retardant Free Couch

toxic flame retardant in furniture Groovy Green Livin

This piece was originally published over at Moms Clean Air Force

Change is happening. As buyers continue to demand flame retardant-free furniture, manufacturers have no other option but to listen.

It’s no secret flame retardants have been linked to cancer, birth defects, hormone disruption and other serious health problems, yet much of the furniture in the market place continues to be filled with these toxic chemicals.

There’s some good news to report.

Office Furniture and Toxic Flame Retardants

A group of companies that cumulatively spend over $520 million annually on office furniture have pledged to purchase furniture that contains no chemical flame retardants. By taking this pledge they are joining forces to demand their office furniture suppliers offer safer products without flame retardant chemicals.

This is a big shift in the right direction. With these companies taking the lead, they’re sending a strong message to all furniture companies that it’s time to end the use of toxic flame retardant chemicals.

According to the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) a small group of office furniture companies have already committed to selling flame retardant-free furniture.

CEH also released the names of the corporations and government entities that have signed the CEH Purchaser’s Pledge. The companies on this list have taken a pledge to purchase furniture made without toxic chemicals. Their commitment to purchase chemical-free furniture kicks off a national trend towards safer products made without flame retardants.

Some of the companies committing to purchase furniture made without toxic chemicals include: HDR Architecture (North America’s 2nd largest design firm, with 8,500 employees working in 200 locations worldwide), Facebook, Staples, Autodesk, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and San Francisco Department of the Environment.

Residential Furniture and Toxic Flame Retardants

Back in 2013, a study of 102 couch samples (including one from Moms Clean Air Force’s Public Health Policy and Outreach Manager, Molly Rauch), were gathered from around the country and tested for the presence of flame retardant chemicals. An alarming 41% of the samples were found to contain chlorinated Tris, a carcinogenic flame retardant which was banned for use in baby pajamas in the 1970s.

Thankfully, there’s good news coming out of California. Beginning on January 1, 2015, companies that sell furniture in the state of California (manufacturers are applying this to products sold nationwide) are required to include a label that discloses if upholstered furniture products contain flame retardants. Check for the label underneath or on the back side of furniture.

These new safety regulations also allow upholstered furniture to be made without flame retardants. It’s important to note that these regulations don’t ban added flame retardants from furniture. Unfortunately, only products manufactured after January 1, 2015 will require the label, and mattresses are not required to be labeled. But again, it’s a step in the right direction.

The Chicago Tribune reported reported:

“…that major furniture retailers including Crate and Barrel, Room & Board, and Williams-Sonoma (Pottery Barn, West Elm) all say they have mostly eliminated the chemicals from their products. IKEA, La-Z-Boy, The Futon Shop, Scandinavian Designs and Wal-Mart also said they have told vendors to stop adding flame retardants to furniture.”

The nation’s largest furniture company, Wisconsin-based Ashley Furniture, reported to the Chicago Tribune it is committed to making products that don’t contain flame retardants.

This is big news. According to Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, Ashley Furniture is not only the biggest furniture retailer in the US, they’re also the biggest manufacturer, and one of the biggest in the world with nearly $4 billion in sales. We now need Ashley Furniture to take the next step by announcing a clear public time frame for phasing out these chemicals in furniture foam and fabrics.

How to find flame retardant-free furniture

With the new safety regulations in place my search for chemical-free furniture just became a bit easier. While manufacturers aren’t required to remove flame retardants from their furniture, these new requirements are a few steps closer to transparency when it comes to our furniture purchases.

Let your dollars do the talking and seek out furniture retailers and manufacturers that commit to carrying furniture without toxic flame retardants.

  • Check if the company is on the CEH list and has removed all flame retardant chemicals from their furniture.
  • Ask retailers and manufacturers if the product/model you are considering is flame retardant-free.
  • Verify that the furniture you’re planning to purchase was manufactured after January 1, 2015.
  • Let retailers who continue to use toxic flame retardants know that you won’t be purchasing their products.
  • When purchasing furniture, use the NRDC guide and verify with the store that the product is flame retardant-free.
  • Look for the new label from companies that sell furniture in the state of California which discloses if upholstered furniture products contain flame retardants.

Are you in the market for a new couch? Will you ask if there are flame retardants before buying?

 


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photo credit: Paragon Properties / Northville Woods via photopin (license)

February 12th, 2015

Join Me: Tell Congress We Have the Right to Know What’s in Our Food

Tell Congress We Have the Right to Know What's in Our Food Groovy Green Livin

Everyone has the right to know what’s in their food. It’s hard to disagree with that, right?

More than 90% of Americans believe GE (genetically engineered) foods should be labeled. Unfortunately, there are a few who don’t agree that GMOs should be labeled and they’re giving the pro labeling community a tough time.

Representatives Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and  G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) have introduced legislation dubbed the Deny Americans the Right-to-Know Act (DARK Act), which would deny consumers the right to know if there are genetically engineered ingredients in their food.

National Week of Action to Label GMOs

This week has been designated “National Week of Action to Label GMOs”. Together, we are trying to prevent another DARK Act from coming before Congress and possibly passing.

What is the DARK Act?

DARK is an acronym for the “Deny Americans the Right-to-Know” Act.  Last year the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,” officially H.R. 4432, came before the 113th Congress and is likely to appear before the 114th Congress this year in a new bill.

The DARK Act would make the failed voluntary labeling system that we have had in place over the past 13 years permanent. Simply put, we have the right to know what’s in our food and the current system isn’t working. We need labeling.

How You Can Help. Let Congress Know that You Care.

There are many organizations working tirelessly to make sure GMO labeling remains on the forefront of the political landscape. As consumers, we can work alongside these organizations.

During this National Week of Action to Label GMOs we can work together to put a stop to this new version of the DARK Act.

Here’s what you can do to help: 

  • Sign THIS petition at Just Label It. You will be asked to enter your zip code. This will allow your petition to be sent directly to your members of Congress.
  • Call your Senator. This isn’t as daunting as it sounds. Use WhoIsMyRepresentative.com to determine who to call and then let them know why you care about GMO labeling.

It would also be fantastic if you shared this info with your friends and family. We need to work hard, quickly and together to make the DARK Act go away.

If labeling GMOs is important to you and your family please spend a few seconds on this. Can you help? Thank you!


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


photo credit: OccupyTheFarm: “Family Weekend At The Gill Tract Urban Farm” 4/28/2012 via photopin (license)

February 5th, 2015

Time for Dollar Stores to Stop Selling Toxic Products

 Dollar Store Products Tested Contain Hazardous Chemicals Groovy Green Livin

During one of our vacations last summer I remember making a pit stop at a local “dollar store”. The choices for shopping were few in the remote area of Maine we were travelling through. We were searching for beach toys, kick boards and other items that would help entertain our kids during our much anticipated days at the beach. We left the store with a pile of inexpensive purchases.

Now I’m cringing and kicking myself for making those purchases.

A new report released by The Campaign for Healthier Solutions found 81% of dollar store (referring to a group of discount retailers commonly called “dollar stores”) products contain hazardous chemicals.

The report,  A Day Late and a Dollar Short: Discount Retailers are Falling Behind on Safer Chemicals – includes testing results for 164 dollar store products purchased from the four largest dollar store chains in six states such as toys, jewelry, school supplies and other household items, and found over 81% (133 of 164) contained at least one hazardous chemical above levels of concern.

The chemicals of concern found in dollar store products tested for this report include: phthalates, linked to birth defects, reduced fertility, cancer, learning disabilities, diabetes, and other health issues; polyvinyl chloride plastic (PVC or vinyl), which creates hazards throughout its life cycle and has been linked to asthma and lung effects; and toxic metals such as lead, which harms brain development, leading to learning disabilities, lower IQ, and cause other serious health impacts, especially in children.

In addition, 40% of sales at Dollar stores go toward food products (not tested for this report) – much of which is highly processed with low nutritional quality, and whose packaging is another potential source of toxic chemicals including bisphenol-A (BPA), a synthetic hormone linked to breast and others cancers, reproductive problems, obesity, early puberty and heart disease.

Many communities served by dollar stores are predominantly communities of color or low-income communities
that are already disproportionately exposed to chemical hazards and health effects linked to chemical exposures.

Other Big Retailers are Listening to Consumers

Fortunately, there is a growing movement by mainstream retail and manufacturing brands – including Target and Walmart – to respond to consumer demand for safer products with publicly-available corporate policies that identify, disclose, and replace priority toxic chemicals with safer alternatives.  By failing to address toxic chemicals through comprehensive policies, Dollar chains are not only putting their customers at risk, they are exposing their businesses to the fate of companies like Mattel, which lost 18% of its value after recalling toys with lead paint, and Sigg USA, which went bankrupt after failing to disclose toxic BPA in its water bottles.

It’s Time for the Sale of Toxic Products at Dollar Stores to End

Toxic chemicals in products on the shelves of our stores is unacceptable. The Campaign for Healthier Solutions is asking for change, including:

  • Discount Retailers immediately remove children’s products found to contain regulated phthalates and lead from store shelves; and adopt comprehensive corporate chemical management policies to identify, disclose, and remove hazardous chemicals from their supply chains and from all products in their stores, beginning with their house brands.
  •  Local, State, and Federal Governments ensure that discount retailers comply with all relevant laws and regulations; and adopt public policies (such as Maine’s Kid-Safe Products Law and Washington’s Children’s Safe Products Act) that require manufacturers and retailers to disclose hazardous chemicals in products, research alternatives, and remove hazardous chemicals when alternatives are available, effective, and safer.

Here’s how you can get involved:

  •  Families and Communities let Dollar store chains know that we want safer products, and join local and national efforts advocating for nontoxic products.

I’m hoping that one of the many dollar store chains will will seize the opportunity to become a leader in providing safer products in the competitive discount retail sector. Which one do you think it will be? 

Thank you to The Campaign for Healthier Solutions for providing the information for this post. To read the full report click HERE.


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photo credit: baby girl shoppin’ via photopin (license)

December 18th, 2014

Hey Kroger: It’s Time to Take the Toxins Out

Kroger Take the Toxins Out Groovy Green Livin

Have you heard of Kroger? We don’t have Kroger in the Boston area, but I know it’s the primary grocery store in many of your cities and towns.

Kroger  is the largest grocery chain in the United States and one of the largest worldwide. They have over 3,500 stores and sales of over $98 billion.

I’ve been working with Safer Chemicals Healthy Families and many others on a campaign called Mind the Store for almost a year. Remember when I went into Walgreens and asked them to take steps to remove toxic chemicals from products they sell? I’ve also traveled to Washington DCtwice- to fight for safer products.

That same day that I headed into Walgreens I joined forces with many others. As part of the Mind the Store campaign we asked the nation’s top 10 retailers (including Walgreens and Kroger) to avoid carrying what are being calling the Hazardous 100+ toxic chemicals. These toxic chemicals have been linked to cancerinfertilitylearning and developmental disabilities, behavioral problems,obesity, diabetes, and asthma.

Other big retailers like Walmart and Target have developed plans to screen out over 1,000 chemicals in products on their store shelves.

But not Kroger. Kroger has continued to be largely unresponsive to the campaign. It’s time to turn up some heat this holiday season.

Kroger still doesn’t have a comprehensive policy to screen out and eliminate toxic chemicals in their products. They have the power and a fundamental moral responsibility to ensure products on their store shelves, especially food, are safe and free of hormone-disrupting chemicals.

We have a BIG problem in our country. Toxins are basically unregulated and can make their way onto the shelves of our stores without our knowledge. That’s why we’ve been asking retailers to take the lead and create their own policies to insure safer products on the shelves of their stores.

If Target and Walmart can do it, so can Kroger! There’s a bit of good news: Kroger has taken some initial steps to eliminate certain chemicals like BPA in canned food. That’s a promising first step.

It’s time to tell Kroger they need to ensure packaged foods and other products they sell are safe, especially for children and pregnant women.

As many of us are getting ready for our big holiday meals for Christmas,Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, dangerous chemicals may be lurking in our favorite dishes.

Studies have shown toxic chemicals like phthalates, chemicals that have been linked to birth defects in baby boys and asthma in children, can migrate out of food packaging and get into the food we eat.

It’s not just toxic chemicals in food packaging.  Many consumer products contain chemicals that have been linked with chronic diseases and health conditions, including cancer, reduced fertility, learning and developmental disabilities, behavioral problems, obesity, and diabetes, chemicals that are getting into our bodies.

A recent study found children’s Halloween trick-or-treat bags laced with dangerous flame retardants sold at Kroger.  Kroger has reported selling over 150 products with hazardous chemicals harmful to children to the state of Washington under an innovative state law.  For example they reported selling tableware with formaldehyde, parabens in skin care products, and phthalates in children’s clothing.

Hope you’ll join me in telling Kroger it’s time to be a leader-it’s time to take the toxins out!


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


 

photo credit: Nicholas Eckhart via photopin cc

November 11th, 2014

Salon Workers are Exposed to Nasty Toxic Chemicals

Groovy Green Livin Salon Workers

Salons can be a pretty hazardous place to work given that many harmful chemicals can be found in salon products. I’m always reminded of this every time I walk into a salon for a haircut. The overwhelming smell from the products literally stops me in my tracks. Imagine the predominantly female workforce in hair and nail salons who are exposed to these chemicals for many hours at a time on a daily basis.

Women’s Voices of the Earth has once again done some amazing work. They’ve just released a new report showing how these nasty chemicals in salon products harm the health of women working in salons.

This new report, Beauty and its Beast: Unmasking the impact of toxic chemicals on salon workers,  is the the first ever to document how toxic chemicals lurking in hair sprays, permanent waves, acrylic nail application and other salon products are harming the health of women who work in salons.

Groovy Green Livin Salon Workers

The report finds that salon workers are at an increased risk of cancer, miscarriages, neurological disorders, immune disorders, asthma, dermatitis and more.

The creation of safer products, better laws, and the use of best practices in salons can significantly reduce the health problems experienced by women working in salons.

Congress can pass the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act to ensure salon products are fully labeled and safe for salon worker health.

What the Report Shows

  • Harmful and irritating chemicals such as acetone, toluene, ammonia, and methyl methacrylate are commonly found in salon air.
  • Cancer-causing formaldehyde can be released from hair straighteners and flat iron sprays when used with high heat.
  • Hairdressers and cosmetologists may be more likely to give birth to low birth weight babies, especially when their work involves using hairspray and permanent waves.
  • Studies have found increased risks of several types of cancer in hairdressers.
  • Nail salon workers have greater risk of immune disorders such as lupus and primary biliary cirrhosis.

Salon Workers Head to D.C. with Report in Hand

With the report as ammunition, Women’s Voices for the Earth is bringing salon workers to Washington DC this week to lobby Congress to pass the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act. They’ll be telling their stories to lawmakers, federal agencies like the FDA, and the media about how their health has been harmed by toxic chemicals.

Everyone has the right to a safe workplace. But as long as companies continue to use harmful chemicals like cancer-causing formaldehyde (found in hair straighteners), styrene (found in hair extension and wig glue), and p-phenylenediamine (found in hair dyes) salon worker’s health will continue to be threatened.

What’s the Solution for Salon Workers?

Women working in salons shouldn’t have choose between their health and their livelihoods. We can support these courageous women by asking our own Congressional representatives to pass the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act HERE.

While we’re waiting for our government to act, salon workers and owners can take the following immediate actions:

  • Wear gloves
  • Use less toxic products
  • Improve salon ventilation systems
  • Don’t offer toxic salon services such as a Brazilian Blowout

Take a look at my picks for safe shampoos, nail polish and body lotion.

Salon workers deserve better. Don’t you agree?

 


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photo credit: spo0nman via photopin cc

November 3rd, 2014

Mom Detective on the Soccer Field: Is Artificial Turf Toxic?

Groovy Green Livin Artificial Turf

This post was originally published at Moms Clean Air Force

It’s another gray, rainy day in New England and in a few short hours I’ll be driving a car filled with energetic young children to one of their four weekly soccer practices on a synthetic turf field. Unless thunder and lightening kick in their practice will go on, rain or even snow notwithstanding. The reason being an artificial turf field is almost always ready for play regardless of the weather.

For this reason and more the demand for artificial turf fields has grown to the point where more than “8,000 multi-use synthetic turf sports fields can be found throughout North American schools, colleges, parks and professional sports stadiums. About half of all NFL teams currently play their games on synthetic turf and, since 2003, over 70 FIFA U-17 and U-20 World Cup matches have been played on synthetic turf soccer fields.

Artificial turf was originally invented by Monsanto in the early 1960’s and has taken several forms since then, with the most recent being “crumb rubber”. This type of artificial turf, which contains tiny black crumbs of rubber made from old car tires, can contain zinc, benzene, carbon black and lead, among other toxic substances.  As many parents well know, these “black crumbs” travel home in our children’s shoes, uniforms and hair and ultimately end up on the floor of our cars and homes.

Now we’re learning those black crumbs may be doing more harm than good. Soccer coach Amy Griffin began doing her own investigation  when two of her goalkeepers from the University of Washington were diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She compiled a list of 38 American soccer players — 34 of them goalies who have been diagnosed with cancer. Ethan Zohn, a former professional soccer player, winner of the reality-television series “Survivor”, co-founder of Grassroot Soccer and a Hodgkins lymphoma survivor has had similar findings. He’s compiled a list of 50 or so goalkeepers who’ve battled cancer.

“Since I’ve been public about my cancer journey, lots of soccer players that have or had cancer have reached out to me via social media etc. I noticed a weird similarity…many were keepers. Then Amy Griffin, the coach at University of Washington reached out because she noticed the same trend. Not all were the same age, but most were young adults, between 15-39.”

Both lists are not scientifically based, but the sheer number of players (especially goalkeepers) diagnosed with cancer is something that can’t be ignored and they raise concerns about the potential risks of playing on artificial turf.

Zohn started playing soccer when he was 6 years old and really began playing on turf when he was out of college. He freely admits that “the likelihood that playing on crumb rubber turf caused my cancer is very slim”, but goes on to add “kids growing up on artificial turf today with long term repetitive exposure is different.”

When asked why he thinks goalkeepers were taking the brunt of the diagnoses, Zohn responded with this:

“A dedicated goalkeeper trains differently than the others. We are in constant contact with the ground in many different ways. Some training sessions are 90 minutes of just diving to save low balls. We sit, stretch, dive, roll in it. We are down low and breathing the air, injesting rubber, it gets in our cuts, eyes, mouth, nose. On hot days the temp is 10 degrees hotter on turf. Add some water and you boil the stuff. “

As parents we should not have to sleuth around the playground making sure equipment and fields are free from toxic chemicals, nor should we have to tell our children that they can’t play a sport outside because it could make them sick.

If there are potential health hazards they need to be regulated before our children are playing and rolling around on them. It’s time to take the burden away from parents and place it where it belongs – with industry. Our government need to regulate toxic chemicals by requiring a more thorough health testing of products BEFORE known carcinogens end up in our children’s playgrounds, fields and ultimately in their bodies.

What can we do about artificial turf?

Last weekend I was sitting on the sidelines at my son’s soccer game when a group of concerned parents began discussing the dangers of artificial turf fields . While I was angry that there needed to be a discussion, it was refreshing to hear that parents were taking this seriously. The discussion led to the 20 million dollar question: “What can we do?”

Here are a few suggestions for concerned parents and children:

  • Wash your hands immediately after playing on a turf field. Showering is probably the best idea.
  • Encourage your children to take off their cleats and socks outside your home, so as not to track in the “black crumbs”.
  • Advocate for team benches on the sidelines so the players don’t have to sit directly on the artificial turf.
  • Request that goalkeeper training take place on the natural grass, not on the turf.
  • Encourage discussion in your city or town about the safety of these fields. Be present and vocal if your community is contemplating installing an artificial turf field or playground.

Our current chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, is badly broken. It allows chemicals onto the market without adequate safety testing. It’s time to change that.

TELL YOUR SENATORS: PROTECT OUR FAMILIES FROM TOXIC CHEMICALS

 Do your kids play sports on an artificial turf field?

 


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


 

photo credit: Bronski Beat via photopin cc

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, mom of three and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. Come along with me as I work hard to make the world a little safer for each of us.

Click HERE to contact Lori

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