Food

How to Get the Most Nutritious Bang for your Buck AND Fight Climate Change

Climate change is messing with your food. Here's how you can bite back.

Ugh. We're just gonna say it - Climate change sucks. It's messing with the weather, it's messing with our allergies, and now… our food too?!

All of that extra CO2 we're putting into the air is making plants grow really fast and forcing them to turn that carbon into sugary carbs and fibers instead of healthy vitamins and minerals. While a little bit of extra CO2 can help plants grow faster, too much zaps the nutrients out of healthy leafy greens, high protein rice, and vitamin-packed fruits. How? Plants need time to grow and build up healthy minerals and nutrients.


Too much CO2 too fast forces them to carb load. The same happens when it gets too warm and dry. When temps go up a little or plants get a little less water, fruits and vegetables stress out and build up their defenses with nutrients and vitamins. But, places like Iowa where a lot of corn and soybeans are grown are getting way too dry, and other places like Florida, a major source of oranges and other fruits and veggies, are getting too wet. For us, that means corn and soybeans will have more sugar and less protein, and those oranges will have more sugar and less Vitamin C and antioxidants. All of that extra heat and rain also weakens plant defenses, making them more susceptible to disease and disruption. On top of all that, hurricanes, wildfires, and pests made worse by climate change have been destroying entire fields of crops in recent years, and that's made healthy options more expensive for you and your family.

But, you don't have to just sit back and take it. Here are some ways you can get the most nutritious bang for your buck AND fight climate change at the same time:

1) Buy Organic When Possible

You might know that organic has no harmful pesticide residues, which is good for your health, but did you know that buying organic is also healthy for the planet? Organic farming practices keep soil healthier and turn the ground into nutrient factories that absorb water and carbon by reusing all of the parts of the plants we can't eat. All of that good nutrition gets absorbed by plants and ends up in the fruits and vegetables we eat. Sustainable farming avoids using man-made fertilizers and pesticides that kill natural organisms like bees, worms, and good bacteria that keep the soil healthy. Sustainable farming also reduces toxic runoff farther downstream, like the kind that has created dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and killed off shrimp and fish populations. The bottomline is buying organic means healthier food on our plate and a lower carbon footprint for our planet.

Check out our post What Does Organic Really Mean? to help make sense of the organic labels and check out our favorite tip for how to prioritize organic produce to help you pick pesticide-free fruits and vegetables.

2) Buy Local

What if there was a way to fight climate change, eat more nutritious and tastier food, while also saving money? Buying local seasonal items is this magical triple win! Buying local has a lower carbon footprint than foods that traveled by ship, train, or truck to get to your plate. And local produce is also packed with more vitamins, minerals, and nutrients than fruits and vegetables that were picked weeks ago and had to travel to get to you. Once picked off a tree, vine, or out of the ground, fruits and vegetables can't get more vitamins and minerals from the soil and the nutrients start to break down soon after. Produce that is imported is often picked before it is ripe so that it doesn't spoil by the time customers buy it. To ripen produce when it gets to the shelves, grocers often treat them with ethylene. While ethylene is not toxic (fruits and vegetables produce them naturally as they ripen), the commercial ethylene gas that grocers use is made from fossil fuels like methane and crude oil, most often extracted by fracking methods that are harmful to health and the environment.

CSA's (community supported agriculture), co-op's (cooperatively-owned grocer or agriculture) and farmers markets are a great way to find seasonal fruits and veggies delivered at peak nutrition. Many CSA's and co-ops are locally run by volunteers and use membership fees to offset costs. If you are concerned that these options may be out of your budget, some CSA's and co-ops offer income-based membership rates or have slots reserved for low-income or SNAP recipients. Hitting up farmers markets is a great way to get to know local small farmers and discover new varieties of vegetables that are in season. Gaining an organic certification can be expensive for small farmers, so even if they don't have an official seal, they may still grow foods organically. The best way to know is to ask and get to know your local farmers.

Check out this video, Food Revolution: CSA, Farmer's Market, or Co-op, to help you weigh the pros and cons of each local option.

3) Plant a Garden at Home

We all love a little more green in our lives - strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, and herbs grow well in containers, so whether you have a yard, balcony, or sunny windowsill – you can grow some of your own food. If you're feeling a bit adventurous, you can also try growing vegetables from scraps which will not only give you free veggies, but will help reduce plant waste. Before you start, we recommend testing for lead in your soil if you'll be planting in the ground. Pick up a soil test kit for lead online or at a local hardware or gardening store, and check out this guide on safe planting containers. Even growing a couple of herbs is an especially fun activity to do with kids and a great way to get them excited about healthy cooking and eating.

Check out Good Housekeeping's How to Start an Organic Garden in 9 Easy Steps and Mother Earth News: A Crop-by-Crop Guide to Growing Organic Vegetables and Fruits to help you pick some plants to get started.

4) Reduce Waste and Compost

According to the United Nations, 1/3 of all food produced around the world is wasted. From farm to landfill, when that food waste breaks down it produces as much greenhouse gas emissions as all of the cars, trucks, and buses traveling on roads around the world. Planning meals before shopping and using your produce efficiently can cut down on your food waste. If you're buying in bulk and in season, you can always freeze some for smoothies and soups later on and use scraps to make vegetable stock. For lots of great tips and for recipes to help you make the most of your produce, check out Food Waste Feast.

And, finally, compost what's left (or not edible) along with coffee grounds, eggshells, yard waste, and newspaper. Composting turns all of that waste into nutrient-rich soil for plants. You can compost at home or find a local drop-off site near you. Over 90 cities like Portland, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., now offer curbside compost pick up along with other waste collection. New York City even uses food waste to create enough biogas to heat 5,200 homes and has reduced the city's annual greenhouse gas emissions by 90,000 tons. If your city or town doesn't offer compost collection, call them up and ask them to start! Here's a great guide from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance to help you make the case: Yes! In My Backyard: A Home Composting Guide for Local Government.


Yes, climate change is impacting our food, but we can all take steps along the way to fight climate change while making our food healthier.

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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