Food

5 Ways Zero Waste is Also Good For Your Health

Good for the planet and good for you

So, maybe you've heard of the zero waste movement that's been gaining traction. Or, maybe you've seen the Instagrammers showing that they have only made a small jar of trash in the last four years (props to you Laura Singer!). Whether you've heard of this or not, it seems like most people can agree that trying to create less trash (and support a circular economy, which is typically the motivation for those going zero waste) is good for the planet. It's a mind frame shift that helps everyone think about durability, what products we actually need, and how we can treat the items we do have better, which often times translates into decisions that are better for our health as well. While going completely trash free might not be right for you today, it doesn't mean we all can't try to follow some of the easier changes the lifestyle promotes. Making less trash is typically seen as a way to protect the future of our planet, but a lot of these little habit changes are also great for your personal health. So, what are some ways that zero waste is also good for your health?


1) Less packaging



This is probably the biggest one. And one that you'll probably start thinking about now because just from reading this you'll be more aware of how much unnecessary packaging there is in the world. A big part of going zero waste is trying to cut down on the number of items that you buy that can't either be composted, reused, or recycled. By being more aware of packaging and how to dispose of it, like knowing styrofoam goes in the trash, you are not only helping the planet but you are also escaping some packaging types that are worst for your health (again styrofoam!).

Looking for options that have less packaging not only creates less waste but is also usually healthier. Think about what's in your kitchen cupboard right now. Many times that food packaging isn't as innocent as it looks. While it might seem like just an aluminum can, did you know most aluminum cans are lined with BPA to keep the food from reacting with the metal? Or, that shiny cardboard isn't just cardboard. It's usually lined with PFAS to make it oil- and water-resistant so that the food inside doesn't seep out?

And don't forget about the number of plastic bottles and cups you avoid. Bringing a reusable water bottle is a great way to stay hydrated, avoid plastic chemicals, and reduce waste.

2) Healthier Snacks



Instead of prepackaged snacks or drinks on the go, if you are trying to reduce waste you'll often go for fresher, healthier, unpackaged options like nuts (or chocolate chips) from the bulk section, fruit from the farmers market, or pop your own popcorn. We talked to Anne-Marie Bonneau, better known as the Zero Waste Chef, who put it pretty simply. "I could make crackers or cookies, but that is a lot of work every time you want a snack. So, often times I turn to something like an apple [instead]." It's true though, you could spend time making package-free versions of some of your favorite snacks (and we have put together a list of some of our favorite DIY versions), but for those times you're feeling lazy, if you shopped healthfully and for foods without packaging, then when you want a snack, chances are you'll grab a piece of fruit or some cut up veggies instead. Some days you'll miss the plastic pack of gummy bears or bag of chips, but other days you'll feel like you're rocking the whole healthy thing and be pretty happy.

3) Bring your own



Another way the zero waste mindset helps us live a little healthier is the mindset of always packing your own reusables. "Before leaving the house, make sure you are prepared with a tote, produce bags, and a jar so you can avoid every day single-use plastics that really add up! [With] this easy habit change, you can avoid so much unwanted plastic and trash, " Says Stevie Van Horn (@stevieyaaaay). Maybe for you it's bringing your own reusable bag,or carrying a travel mug around so when you stop for coffee you aren't getting a single-use to-go cup. No matter what it is, all of these easy changes are better for you, too. Most of these are because you are cutting down on the amount of plastic that your food and drinks come into contact with on a daily basis, which means less BPA and phthalates.

4) Healthier food storage



Think back to your lunches as a school kid. How often did you have a PB&J in a sandwich baggie, with a cut up apple wrapped in plastic wrap and a foil pack of cookies or chips? Probably pretty often. That was a great school lunch. But, what do all of those things have in common? At the end, you would throw all of that packaging away. For those going zero-waste, they could pack the same lunch today without any trash, and it would be so much healthier. Instead of wrapping every item in plastic which could get into the food or on your hands, today it would probably have a reusable sandwich bag, a beeswax wrap, and a stainless steel container. Not only would it be zero waste and healthier, but all of those would also last for a long time before ever having to add refills to the shopping list. The same can be said for packing leftovers from dinner to go in the fridge or packing your own grown-up lunch. Instead of reaching for a plastic bag or some plastic wrap to cover a bowl, grab a glass jar, a stainless steel tiffin, or even some beeswax wraps.

5) More DIY



Okay, we know not everyone has time to DIY everything, but some of the easiest DIYs out there are easier than going to the store, can save you some money, and greatly improve your health. For us, those DIYs are about cleaning. You can clean pretty much your whole home with a cloth, baking soda, vinegar, and Castille soap. Not only does this dramatically cut down on waste, but it also cuts out a ton of potentially dangerous chemicals. Pick up a few glass spray bottles and you will be set without having to throw away any more plastic bottles, paper towels, or wipes.

We might not be able to go from our normal routine to making no trash right away, but we can all definitely make one or two changes that will help save the planet, improve our health, and in general maybe make our lives easier. We'd suggest making one change at a time, but over time, trying to work in a couple more until it's all second nature.

Life

Buying holiday decorations? Here's what you should know

Don't let these chemicals ruin your holiday cheer

You may need to be careful rockin' around the Christmas tree this year! Why you ask? Well, there might be some unexpected chemicals in that holly jolly decoration above your head. Holiday decorations can bring great cheer, but sometimes they can contain an unwanted surprise. Some decorations may be made with toxic chemicals - keep a look out for the ones below!
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Life

Is Your Artificial Christmas Tree Toxic?

Tips to reduce your exposure to these hazardous chemicals

Artificial Christmas trees are becoming increasingly popular for families. They're seen as being convenient since they don't shed needles and can be reused year after year. Because they can be reused, families tend to save money by choosing artificial trees over a real one. A study from the The American Christmas Tree Association (yes that is a real and reputable organization!) performed a life cycle analysis and found that one artificial tree that's reused for eight or more Christmases is more environmentally friendly than purchasing a real tree each year (1). The study also found that Christmas trees, both real and fake, accounted for a tiny part (< 0.1%) of a person's annual carbon footprint.

But are artificial Christmas trees as good for your health as they are for your wallet? The majority of artificial trees are made using a plastic called polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and lead, which is used to stabilize PVC (2). The lead in the trees break down over time and forms lead dust. These particles are released into the air and can cause health issues, especially in young children. Most people do not realize that artificial trees contain lead, and only California requires a lead warning label (2). It is estimated that there are 50 million households in the United States that own artificial trees with lead in them (3).

Don't panic! If you are an owner of an artificial Christmas tree made out of PVC, there are precautions you can take to reduce your family's exposure to lead.

  1. PVC releases more gases when it is first exposed to air. They also release gases as they degrade. A good way to reduce the amount of lead in your household is to take the tree out of the box and air it outside when you first purchase it (4).
  2. If you have used your artificial tree for many Christmases, you may want to consider purchasing a new one. PVC tends to weaken and degrade after nine years (4). Newer artificial trees do not leach as much lead as older ones.
  3. Light cords that come with your artifical tree are prone to have levels of lead that exceed the limit set by the EPA (4). It is recommended that you wash your hands immediately after touching light cords. And definitely don't let young children handle cords.

If you're currently tree-less and in the market for an artificial one, consider purchasing a tree made out of polyethylene. This plastic is safer than PVC and does not leach lead. Additionally, trees made out of polyethylene tend to be more durable than PVC trees.

While artificial PVC Christmas trees don't pose a high health risk overall to the general population, it's very possible for young children to have severe negative health effects (3). It's important to be aware of the health risks that go along with trees made out of PVC, and the ways to avoid lead exposure for yourself and your family this holiday season.


References

  1. https://www.christmastreeassociation.org/real-artificial-christmas-tree-environment/
  2. https://rtkenvironmental.com/lead/warning-hidden-health-hazard-artificial-christmas-trees/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15628192
  4. https://www.menshealth.com/health/a19548208/do-christmas-trees-make-you-sick/
Sometimes it may feel like everywhere you turn, there's some sort of junk food being advertised—whether that's cupcakes or fries or deep fried things on a stick. And more than sometimes, you have a child begging you for a sweet treat or sugary drink. It can feel like a daunting task at times to encourage and foster healthy eating. While we know there are many factors that influence a child's food choices, here's one that you may not have thought of.
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Life

Avoid These Stressful Ingredients the Next Time You Relax with a Bath Bomb

We don't need these chemicals messing with our #selfcare

December means it's time to start thinking about those stocking stuffers or Chanukah gifts for your loved ones. What's better than a bath bomb to relax and take in those sudsy, therapeutic fragrances? Bath bombs can also get your kids to bathe without putting up a fight. They're basically magic! But, have you stopped to think what else they are putting in those bombs to make those suds glisten and fizz?

What's in a Bath Bomb?

It turns out, there can be a whole range of questionable chemicals packed neatly into those appealing little bombs. It's hard to tell exactly what's in each bath bomb because the ingredients vary widely among manufacturers, but fragrances, artificial colors, boric acid, and glitter are some common ingredients.

Fragrance is never a welcome sight on the ingredient list. The FDA does not require companies to disclose ingredients used to make fragrances in products like bath bombs in order to protect company "trade secrets (1)." Many synthetic and natural fragrances also include such hormone-disrupting chemicals as phthalates, which can be absorbed through the skin and have been found to pose specific risks for pregnant women and children (2). Studies have also linked health effects of phthalates to miscarriage, gestational diabetes, reduced IQ, and ADHD with increased exposure to phthalates.

As for dyes, the evidence is limited when it comes to FDA approved dyes readily being absorbed through the skin. However, one study found that certain dyes may be absorbed after shaving (3). Also, young children often swallow water while bathing and ingestion of some of these chemicals for young children is definitely not recommended!

Boric acid also has some side effects that you may not want to risk. It can be absorbed through the mucous membranes and has been linked to hormone disruption and developmental and reproductive toxicity (4). And then there is glitter, which is just more plastic that can end up in our lakes, rivers, and streams.

Alternatives and DIY Recipes

While there may be harmful ingredients in some bath bombs, you don't have to give them up! It's easy to avoid these ingredients with just a little extra effort. You can choose to purchase "fragrance-free" or "phthalate-free" bath bombs, but making your own bath bomb is super easy. Here are also some DIY recipes to try at home.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • ½ cup citric acid
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ cup finely ground sea salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons almond oil (or apricot oil)
  • ½ teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon of witch hazel
  • 1 teaspoon beet root powder
  • wild orange essential oil
  • rose essential oil

Directions

  • Blend all dry ingredients in a bowl.
  • Blend wet ingredients in another bowl.
  • Combine all ingredients.
  • Place in mold of choice or just form a ball about 1-2 inches in diameter.
  • Allow the bath bombs to dry for approximately 1-2 days.
  • To use, place bath bomb in the bath.
  • To store, place in airtight container. Storing in a refrigerator can allow the bath bombs to keep for about 3 weeks (5).


References

1.https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/fragrances-cosmetics

2.https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp73-c1.pdf
3.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23127598
4.https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Boric-acid#section=Health-Hazardhttps://draxe.com/health/are-bath-bombs-safe/
5.https://draxe.com/beauty/diy-bath-bomb-recipe/
6. https://homemadeforelle.com/bath-bombs-for-kids/#Ingredients
Life

The Hidden Risk in Store-Bought Slime

Avoid this hazardous ingredient with our own DIY slime recipe

Slime seems to be the hottest new toy for kids. They love that it's a tactile toy they can squeeze and smash. But before you rush out to buy a new tub of gooey slime on your next shopping trip, have you ever wondered what's actually in it? Turns out, there's a not-so-kid-friendly ingredient lurking in many slime products sold in stores, as well as in some DIY kits and recipes.

What's So Bad About Boron?

Boron is a chemical commonly used in many brands of slime, DIY kits, and some DIY recipes to give it that rubbery texture. While it may feel fun, it's actually not great for our health. Boron is an acute eye, respiratory tract, and nasal irritant and is harmful if swallowed (1). If ingested, it can also cause nausea and vomiting (2). Long-term exposure to boron can also cause negative reproductive health effects (3, 4). The problems with boron don't stop once you throw slime away either. It turns out that boron lasts a long time in the environment and has hazardous effects on aquatic life (5).

To make matters worse, there's a lot more boron in slime than there should be. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) recently tested different brands of slime and found concentrations as high as 4700 parts per million (ppm) of boron, (6) which is more than fifteen times the allowable level for toys sold in the European Union (300 ppm for sticky/liquid toys) (6). Canada, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates have even instituted policies limiting or banning boron in children's toys (6).

Safe Slime

Luckily, it's easy to make your own boron-free slime. We like this recipe for full-proof slime that substitutes boron/borax (a boron compound that's found in a lot of other slime recipes) with cornstarch and school glue. We guarantee your kids will still have hours of fun with this non-toxic slime!

Fluffy Volcano Slime

  1. Pour 1/4 cup white school glue and a 1/2 cup of cornstarch in a bowl
  2. Add 3 drops of food coloring (optional)
  3. Mix well
  4. Knead it with your hands for 10 minutes
  5. Heat it in the microwave for 20 seconds
  6. Let it cool, then knead it for another 10 minutes (7)

References

2. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-09/documents/health_effects_support_document_for_boron.pdf

3. https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@term+@DOCNO+328

4. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-09/documents/health_effects_support_document_for_boron.pdf

5. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Boron

6. https://uspirg.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/WEB_USP_Toyland-Report_Nov18_2-1.pdf

7. https://www.cnet.com/how-to/make-slime-without-borax/

Roundups

15 Non-Toxic Toys for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Fun, healthy, safe, and great for those budding imaginations

Updated for 2019!

You can pat yourself on the back for bringing these non-toxic toys into your home or gifting them to friends. These are the highest rated, healthiest toys for your growing little one. Not only did we make sure that the materials are safe, but we made sure parents like you love these toys. All the toys here are great for revving up their imagination and creativity and are made to last. If you're looking for something for a newborn or a baby under 1, here are our top picks for best non-toxic newborn toys.

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Roundups

15 Non-Toxic Toys for Newborns

healthy, safe toys for 0-1 years old

Updated for 2019!

Even before they can talk, babies know how to play. Sure, they will play with whatever is in front of them, but having their own toys is way more fun, and saves things like your watch from being covered in slobber. Here are some of the highest rated, healthiest toys out there, but be sure to check out our roundup of toy brands, too. If you're looking for something for someone a bit older, here are our picks for best non-toxic toys for toddlers.

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