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Archive for Healthy Living
August 27th, 2014
The countdown has begun. Only a few days left until it’s back-to-school. How did that happen?
At dinner tonight my ten year old announced that this was his best summer ever. Overcome with emotion, I nodded in agreement. It really was the best summer ever.
Next summer has tough shoes to fill. Once the snow returns I’ll be planning and dreaming. In the meantime we’re bracing for the back-to-school frenzy that’s about to enter our care-free lives.
To help with the back-to-school transition here are a few tips to keep your family healthy and sane
Get enough sleep
A few years ago we tried transitioning to a back-to-school schedule before school began. That didn’t work. Now we dive in head first the evening before the first day of school. I’m a bit worried this year about my kids nodding off in school since our schedules are so irregular at the moment.
Do your kids get enough sleep? Here’s some interesting info from the National Institute of Health:
- Sleep Facts: School-aged children and teens need at least nine hours of sleep a night. Adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a night. I need a solid eight to feel human.
- Sleep Tips: Set a sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up the same times each day. Keep room temperature on the cool side. A TV or computer in the bedroom can be a distraction.
Pack a waste-free and healthy lunch
Children’s lunches create more than 3.5 billion pounds of garbage each year, which amounts to a crazy 18,760 pounds of trash annually from an average sized elementary school. That’s a lot of waste.
Making a lunch box zero-waste through the use of reusable products will minimize the amount of garbage kids create through their school lunch.
Check out some of my favorite waste-free products HERE.
Lunch boxes and toxic chemicals don’t belong together. Unfortunately some lunchboxes are releasing toxic dust into our children’s lunchbox food. Thankfully not all lunch boxes are toxic. HERE are a few safe lunch box choices for everyone in the family.
Make healthy choices when it comes to snacks and treats in your child’s lunch.
- Don’t buy individually packaged snacks i.e. fruit cups, single serving cookies, chips and crackers. There is a lot of wasted packaging and the cost per item is much more expensive than buying in bulk.
- We try to buy organic when we can. Remember Organic doesn’t always mean healthy. There are organic foods out there that that are processed, contain lots of sugar and are unhealthy.
Sub out toxic back-to-school supplies
If a school supply 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.
Eat brain food
It’s so simple to add a few foods bursting with brain fuel to the weekly menu. Try adding blueberries, salmon, broccoli and lentils.
Choose a safe backpack
Children’s vinyl “back‐to‐school” supplies (including backpacks) have been found to contain elevated levels of phthalates, hazardous chemicals that have been banned in toys, yet remain widespread in vinyl back‐to‐school supplies.
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.
HERE are a few safe preschool backpack suggestions and HERE are my picks for safe elementary school backpacks.
So are you ready for back-to-school?
P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin Newsletter. Receive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.
photo credit: Gerry Dincher via photopin cc
August 21st, 2014
This piece was originally published over at Moms Clean Air Force.
When my oldest son was born he was showered with all sorts of wonderful gifts from friends and family. One of our favorite presents was a bright red fleece blanket with his name monogrammed in big white letters on one of the corners.
This adorable and durable blanket stayed with my son for many years. He slept with it, rolled around on it and chewed it while teething. After many washes and years gone by, it’s now tucked away in a “save” box somewhere deep within my attic.
Today, as I continue the tradition of giving fleece blankets to many of the new babies in my life, I wonder if these blankets are truly safe.
Could there possibly be bisphenol-A (BPA) lurking in those cuddly, soft gifts?
Is There BPA in Fleece?
Fleece is made from post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic soda bottles and other discarded plastic. That’s right-fleece is made from recycled plastic!
Here’s how the question of BPA (bisphenol A) in fleece comes into play. BPA is a chemical used in the production of plastics and many other products. BPA has been linked to a variety of health problems such as reproductive disorders, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Since fleece is made from plastic components, the question of BPA in our fleece garments becomes a valid concern.
There’s good news and caution for consumers.
You don’t have to worry about baby’s fleece — or your own — when it comes to BPA. As Dr. Sarah Vogel, author of Is It Safe? BPA and the Struggle to Define the Safety of Chemicals, explains:
“BPA is not used in plastics used to make soda bottles. The kind of plastic it’s used in, polycarbonate, is too hard for that purpose and too expensive. Polycarbonates are not recycled in most municipalities as they fall into category 7 which is ‘mixed’. So they end up in landfill and BPA has been detected in landfill leachate.
The epoxy resins BPA is in are used to coat metals, like food cans. BPA has been found in recycled cardboard –most likely because of its use in carbonless paper (like cash register receipts) that is in the recycled paper mix. It would be quite challenging to remove it from the recycling process, I suspect.
I worry more about the food cans. There is evidence that you can significantly reduce exposure to BPA by removing food cans from the diet, which demonstrates the importance of that route of exposure.”
I decided to look towards the top sellers of fleece products for some answers: Patagonia and L.L. Bean. Both companies confirmed that they use post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic soda bottles to make their fleece.
Patagonia has many green initiatives in place — including recycling used soda bottles, unusable manufacturing waste and worn our garments (including their own) into polyester fibers to produce many of their clothes. One of my favorite Patagonia programs is something called Common Threads where they take back old outdoor garments (including their own!) for recycling into new fibers.
Good news: Patagonia confirmed that there is no BPA in their fleece.
L.L. Bean responded similarly when asked about BPA lurking in their fleece products.
“The majority of our Trail Model Fleece program contains up to 85% recycled materials, mostly old soda bottles. Our recycled materials do not contain any BPA at all.”
L.L. Bean confirmed there’s no BPA in their fleece. But as I suspected…
“All of our kids’ sleepwear is flame retardant as required by the US Federal government — all of the fabric in our kids’ sleepwear meets federal safety requirements for children’s sleepwear.”
Although there are many more makers of fleece products out there, a confirmation from both of these fleece clothing retailers is a good indication that the majority of fleece doesn’t contain BPA.
The Environmental Impact of Fleece
Along with the good news that BPA isn’t hiding out in our fleece gear comes another concern about fleece and its impact on the environment.
A study found that microscopic plastic debris from washing clothes is accumulating in the marine environment and could be entering the food chain. Some of our synthetic clothes are made of PET or polyethylene terephthalate. PET is a member of the polyester family of polymers, which are spun to make fabric which can release up to 1,900 tiny fibers each time they’re washed! PET does not biodegrade, and these microplastics are being ingested by marine life.
Fortunately BPA in fleece products doesn’t pose a problem, however there are plenty of unregulated toxic chemicals remaining in products found on the shelves of our stores.
Take action! It’s time to put the pressure on. It’s time to take the burden away from the consumer and place it where it belongs – with retailers and industry. We need legislation in place that will strengthen the way our government regulates toxic chemicals by requiring more thorough health testing of products BEFORE these chemicals end up in the bodies of our children.
If you agree parents shouldn’t need to be detectives or have a PhD in toxicology to know that their children are safe from toxic chemicals, please head over to Moms Clean Air Force to sign HERE.
photo credit: dan.danowski via photopin cc
August 11th, 2014
Mosquito bites are running rampant in our family. Legs, arms, and any other exposed body part- mosquitoes don’t discriminate. My ankles are under attack.
Did you know that only female mosquitoes bite? They need our human blood in order to lay their eggs.
Thankfully there are a few techniques out there that really work to take the itch out of those pesky mosquito bites.
5 Ways to Stop Mosquito Bites From Itching
Mix baking soda and warm water.
- Mix together until a paste forms.
- Once you have a good consistency apply the paste directly to the bug bite.
- Leave the paste on for a few minutes and then wash off with warm water.
- Baking soda paste can be messy so try to remain still while the paste is on your skin.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apply apple cider vinegar to the mosquito bite.
- Soak a cotton ball or the tip of a Q-Tip in apple cider vinegar.
- Once saturated place directly on the mosquito bite.
- Hold in place for a few minutes to relieve itching.
Use a cold, used tea bag for mosquito bites.
- Use a tea bag for regular use.
- Cool it off. I like to place it in the refrigerator so it’s cold when applied to the mosquito bite.
- Apply to the affected area and hold for a few minutes.
Lavender Oil kicks those itchy mosquito bites.
- Dab a small amount of lavender oil directly onto a mosquito bite for instant relief from itching.
- Lavender oil is soothing and acts as a natural anti-inflammatory.
Rub a small amount of non-gel toothpaste onto a mosquito bite.
- Don’t rub it in completely. Be sure to leave a visible amount on top of the bite.
- If you can stand to leave it on overnight give it a try.
- Rinse off in the morning with water and soap. The toothpaste will dry the bite out.
What’s your favorite way to treat a mosquito bite?
HERE are a few more ways to treat itchy bug bites. If you’re looking for DEET-free bug repellent take a look HERE.Also, these 3 mosquito repelling plants are good to have around.
Please note: if the bite doesn’t seem to be going away or continues to get larger please visit your doctor.
photo credit: vipin baliga via photopin cc
August 8th, 2014
Picking out a back-to-school lunch box is underway for many families. Once the lunch box has been selected the next natural step is figuring out what goes inside. There are countless options for reusable containers, reusable napkins and water bottles. There’s one more item to add to that lunch box to make it complete: Lunchbox Love note cards.
As a member of the Lunchbox Love Mom Panel I get first dibs on checking out their new products. Lucky me!
This summer, just in time for back-to-school, Lunchbox Love launched several new lines of note cards while keeping their popular cards and sayings of the past. Every morning it’s so simple to pick a pre-printed Lunchbox Love note and slip it into your child’s lunch box.
Each of the 12 cards per packet is pre-printed with all sorts of inspirational sayings. For example “Always be yourself!” and “Tell yourself you can do it.” 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.
Here’s a sample piece of trivia: “It’s impossible to sink in the Dead Sea“. Did you know that? I’ve actually swam in the Dead Sea and it’s true. It’s also very hard to swim in the Dead Sea. Floating works the best and it’s a blast!
My favorite new card pack is the Lunchbox Love® for Kids – Volume 68 (Jokes). There’s nothing like having a joke tucked into your lunch box. You’re instantly guaranteed to become the life of the party at the lunch table.
More Exciting Back-to-School Lunchbox Love News
The brand has a whole new look just in time for back-to-school. Lunchbox Love recently relaunched the entire website and blog and it looks great. Check it out HERE.
Disclosure: I’m a member of the Lunchbox Love® Mom Panel and am compensated for promoting the company in a variety of ways, including writing posts like this one. All opinions are my very own.
August 6th, 2014
Over the past few years I’ve been fighting hard to get toxic chemicals out of lunch boxes. Unfortunately there’s more work to do.
Lunch boxes and toxic chemicals don’t belong together. Seems like common sense, doesn’t it?
Yet a study from the Center for Health, Environment & Justice found that all the children’s lunch boxes tested contained up to 30 times the amount of toxic chemicals (chemicals known as phthalates) deemed safe by the federal government.
Those toxic lunch boxes are releasing toxic dust into our children’s food and then the food is being eaten. Not OK.
Back- to- School With Safe Lunch Boxes
Thankfully not all lunch boxes are toxic. Here are a few safe lunch box choices for everyone in the family.
Some links below are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may get a small commission if you make a purchase.
Pre-school and Elementary School
Beatrix New York Lunch Box
If you want to stick with a cute lunch box for a few more years then this is your bag! The lunch boxes are designed for ages 5 to 10 and are PVC, lead, phthalate & BPA free. Some of my favorite patterns are Alexander, Dolce & Panna, Juju and Dieter Monkey.
Kids Konserve Butterfly Go Wild Waste- Free Lunch Kit
I’ve been using the Kids Konserve Sweat-Free Ice Packs for many years and love it. This lunch kit from Kids Konserve has it all for the first day of school. Everything is BPA, Lead and Phthalate free.
Crocodile Creek Lunch Boxes
Crocodile Creek lunch boxes are child safe with lead-free linings and are PVC-free and phthalate-free. They come in a variety of designs including the the Pirate Lunchbox, Ballerina Vertical Lunchbox, and the Flower Garden Pocket Lunchbox.
Middle School, High School and Adult Lunch Boxes
PackIt Freezable Lunch Bag with Zip Closure
PackIt is a freezable lunch cooler designed to keep contents cooler, longer: up to 10 hours (depending on external temperatures). Made from food-safe, nontoxic poly canvas; PVC, BPA, phthalate, and lead free.
Laptop Lunches Bento-Ware Insulated Dual Compartment Bento Tote
I like the duel compartments in this lunch box. The bag doesn’t contain phthalates, BPA (bisphenol A), lead, or PVC.
For more safe back-to-school products take a look at my Non-toxic Preschool Backpack Guide and my list of Non-Toxic Backpacks for Elementary School Kids.
Do you have a favorite non-toxic lunch box?
photo credit: Randy Heinitz via photopin cc
Disclosure: Some links are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may get a small commission if you make a purchase. Thanks for your support!
July 31st, 2014
Tomatoes are a favorite in our home. This year we planted a few tomato plants in our garden. They were growing and thriving until the deer discovered them and decided to eat a few of the plants. There are plenty left, but I would love any suggestions on how to prevent this next year.
The remaining tomatoes aren’t quite ready to pick. We’re waiting impatiently. There’s nothing like fresh plum tomatoes straight off the vine.
Did you know that tomatoes aren’t vegetables? They are a citrus fruit.
Whether large or small, they pack a powerful punch by way of nutrients and health benefits. They are truly a super-food.
Here are the top 3 reasons to eat more tomatoes
Keep Cancer Away
The tomato’s beautiful red color comes from a phytochemical called lycopene. According to the American Cancer Society, studies have shown that risks for some types of cancer are lower in people with higher lycopene levels in their blood.
I was a bit surprised to learn that tomatoes that have been crushed and cooked appear to be a better source of lycopene than those eaten raw. Apparently mashing, pureeing and cooking releases more of the lycopene from the tomato, making it easier for our bodies to absorb.
Ward Off Heart Disease
A study by scientists at Tufts University found regularly eating lycopene, found in tomatoes, over many years can have a powerful positive effect on heart health. In another study a supplement of lycopene improved function of the the inner lining of blood vessels in volunteers with cardiovascular disease.
Vitamin K and lycopene, both found in tomatoes and tomato products, help prevent bone loss. A serving of tomatoes provide 18% the daily value for vitamin K, which promotes bone health. Lycopene, a potent antioxidant found predominantly in tomatoes and tomato products, helps to prevent bone loss and osteoporosis.
Time to eat those tomatoes! Stick with organic tomatoes whenever you can.
What’s your favorite way to eat tomatoes? Mine: roasted with garlic and olive oil.
photo credit: Pieter Musterd via photopin cc and arbyreed via photopin cc
July 28th, 2014
This post was created in partnership with Zipcar. I did receive compensation. All opinions are my own.
Whether you have kids in college or not, the back-to-school college buzz is hard to miss. It’s happening right now. Walk into any big box store over the next few months and I can promise you that you’ll be bombarded with all the “necessities” for dorm living coming at you in every color imaginable.
Thankfully my kids are a few years away from college. I don’t think I could handle an empty nest anytime soon. Right now I’m having enough trouble dealing with a few weeks of overnight camp.
When I was in college having a car on campus wasn’t an option. The university I went to was car friendly, but parking spots were hard to come by.
At that time college transportation options were few-buy a car, use a bike, a scooter, public transportation (which didn’t get you most places) or walk.
I ended up getting a scooter, something like the one pictured below. I hope I didn’t look like this guy when I was riding.
Having a scooter was such a cool ride. Parking was a breeze. Pull up and park at any bike rack.
Times have changed and now even scooter parking spots are hard to come by. Plus the cost of the scooter and insurance isn’t cheap.
Thankfully if you’re headed to college today there are many more sustainable options for transportation.
What is Zipcar?
Have you noticed the Zipcar symbol on cars zipping around town? For those of you aren’t familiar with Zipcar, it’s a car sharing service.
Car sharing programs like Zipcar are an important component of a sustainable transportation network on university campuses where parking is often in high demand.
Each Zipcar can meet the needs of between 40 and 60 students, faculty and staff, helping to make parking on campus a little more manageable. And at a time when campuses have been forced to ration parking spots, offering Zipcar is a great way to give people an option.
Zipping around College Campus: What is Zipcar for Universities?
This is where mom and dad with a kid or two headed off to college should really tune in.
Zipcar for Universities is all about the convenience of having a car without the hassles of having a car on campus. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
Zipcar pioneered the use of car sharing on college campuses. They first partnered with MIT and then Harvard. Now Zipcar is on over 350 colleges and university campuses across North America. It’s easy to check if your school is on the list.
Discount for You Through Zipcar’s Alliance with Ford University
Zipcar has an alliance with Ford Motor Company that enables them to offer $10 off the $35 annual membership fee for the first 100,000 new university members who sign up, plus $1 off the Zipcar hourly rate for the first 1 million hours of use on any of the new Ford vehicles at participating colleges and universities.
Here’s How Zipcar works
After paying the annual fee of $25 you’re ready to roll. Zipcar charges by the hour for use of a Zipcar. No car ownership required! No car payments, no gas payments and no costly car insurance.
Zipcar for Sustainability
Traffic on campus creates significant pollution and emissions. Many schools have programs like transit passes, bike lockers, ride sharing and others that get people to campus without a car. Zipcar gives these people access to a car on campus without needing to drive one to campus. This helps reduce the carbon footprint and increase air quality.
This combination of benefits – cost savings, convenience and fun for students along with practical and cost saving options for universities is what is driving the expansion of Zipcar on campuses across the country.
Using Zipcar while at school is an eco-friendly and financially sound option.
Using a Zipcar is simple: Grab a Zipcar near campus and use it for an hour or day. Gas and insurance included. Join Zipcar and get $10 off the first-year membership.
TO JOIN: First check if your school has a Zipcar program HERE then click HERE to join.
Have you tried Zipcar? I’d love to hear what you think.
Disclosure: I’ve been chosen as an official Zipcar influencer. I’m incredibly honored to be given this opportunity since I believe in what Zipcar is doing. This post was created in partnership with Zipcar. I did receive compensation and there are affiliate links which help support this blog. All opinions are my own.
photo credit: James Alby via photopin cc