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It seems like everyone is staying home these days. Whether it's because of a mandatory order or out of an abundance of precaution, people are staying close to home and limiting travel. Social distancing is incredibly important to stop the spread of COVID-19, but staying at home means we suddenly have a lot more time on our hands. But that doesn't mean we have to be bored! There's still plenty to keep us busy as we shelter in place or practice social distancing. We've thought of some easy, outdoor-oriented activities you can do while on a walk or while getting some fresh air with your kids.

Activities for Adults

  • Do an outdoor guided meditation. These are difficult times and anxiety might be higher than normal. Meditation is proven to help lower stress and anxiety, as is going outdoors. Why not combine the two? There are a lot of free guided meditation online or on Youtube. We recommend going on a short walk, then finding somewhere to sit and meditate. Walking meditations are also a great way to stretch your legs while practicing mindfulness.
  • This is a great time to try a new hobby! Why not take up gardening? Gardening can help lower stress and anxiety, burn calories, and help you get outside more. Plus, you can also grow your own food! A meal just tastes better when the produce comes from your own backyard, right? Before you pick up your trowel, check out our guides on soil, composting, and growing veggies indoors (in case you're an apartment dweller).
  • Take a sketchbook with you on your next walk and sketch five things that make you happy. This could be a beautiful flower, a cute dog, or even just the sunny sky! This is a great way to keep you present during your walk and a way to focus on the positive.

Activities for Kids

  • Take a walk around your neighborhood or visit an open space or park for a hike and bring a pouch to collect natural objects such as flowers, rocks, leaves, sticks, and pinecones. It's a great way to have kids notice what's around them and to appreciate the beauty in what may seem like everyday objects. Then when you get home, have the kids organize the objects into alphabet letters or numbers and glue them to form nature collages. If you have older kids, use these objects to illustrate a scene from a favorite book or to make nature art.
  • We're definitely on board with getting outside for a bit of exercise, but kids sometimes it takes a bit of work to keep kids interested. Another idea for a hike or walk outside is to give your kids a camera (or your phone) and have them take pictures of things that they think are interesting or beautiful. Could be a flower, unusual shaped tree, colorful mailbox, or anything else they see. When you get home, print the pictures and have the kids make a collage. If you have older kids, have them write a story with the collage as an inspiration.
  • Another way to keep an outdoor walk interesting for kids is to bring a notebook and have them draw a map of your walk as you go. Make sure to note landmarks, unique natural features, or streets in your neighborhood. For older kids, this activity can become more challenging by having them note distance, elevation, and cardinal directions.



It seems like everyone is staying home these days. Whether it's because of a mandatory order or out of an abundance of precaution, people are staying close to home and limiting travel. Social distancing is incredibly important to stop the spread of COVID-19, but staying at home means we suddenly have a lot more time on our hands. That's why we compiled a list of our favorite environment-related tv shows and books! Half of the recommendations for kids, so everyone in the household can continue to learn about the environment!

Books

Adults



The Overstory by Richard Powers: Winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, this novel follows nine characters from drastically different walks of life and highlights their own unique relationship with trees. The Overstory tells a tale of activism, environmentalism, and resilience.


Horizon by Barry Lopez: Travel the globe with Lopez as he observes the natural world around him. With a quiet disposition and keen eye he listens to stories of researchers and locals, piecing together an understanding of human's complex connections to nature.


The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac: Figueres and Rivett-Carnac, who led negotiations for the United Nations during the 2015 Paris Agreement, discusses two scenarios: a world that meets the Paris climate targets, and a world that does not. The Future We Choose discusses how we can all tackle the climate crisis with determination and optimism.

Kids


Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers, illustrator of the bestseller The Day the Crayons Quit. This is a beautifully illustrated and heart warming book that serves as a tour through the Earth. With curiosity inducing pages on the land, sea, sky, our bodies, and animals, this book is a great jumping off point for even more in depth learning and exploration. The book's central message of being kind and taking care of the Earth is one that we full heartedly endorse, especially during uncertain times.


The Amazing Life Cycle of Butterflies by Kay Barnham. From caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly, this book teaches kids scientific facts about butterflies through engaging and bold illustrations. Even parents might learn a thing or two about butterflies. There are also notes for parents and teachers at the end with activity and art suggestions to encourage further exploration and learning.



The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E. K. Johnston. This is a great book for teenagers about Owen Thorskard, a budding dragonslayer who lives in rural Canada. Dragons in this world are attracted to carbon emissions, so the book does encourage readers to question our fossil-fuel based society. But most importantly, for young readers, it's an exciting story about Owen and his friend Siobhan and their quest to save the world.


TV Shows

Adults



Planet Earth II: An unprecedented look at our natural world with stunning visuals. This series gives us a look into the animal kingdom from the viewpoint of the animals themselves. It's basically earth eye-candy and features an array of gorgeous shots from 40 different countries. Visit islands, deserts, and even city streets to see how animals survive and thrive on an ever-changing planet.


Nature: This PBS docu-series covers a wide array of environmental topics, from white giraffes in Kenya to humpback whales in Northern California. Many episodes are available for free on your local PBS station.



Our Planet: While this series is packed with gorgeous shots of rarely-seen animal species, Our Planet also looks at the impact climate change is having throughout the world. Each episode is a somber reminder of how human behavior has far-reaching consequences.Kids

Kids



Tumble Leaf- Fig is a curious fox that goes on adventures to learn about how things work in the world and how to solve problems. Parents will love the applied science and your kids will love the colorful and cute animation. The pace of the show isn't too fast so there's plenty of time for kids to absorb what they are learning, but the show is so fun and quirky that they won't even realize that they are learning! The friendships that Fig has with his friends are also very endearing and teach some valuable lessons. This is definitely a must see show for preschoolers and younger elementary school kids.


Ask the Storybots- These five funny creatures answer a kid's question in each episode, such as "How Do Flowers Grow?" or Why Do We Have to Recycle? Facts are cleverly explained, along with explorations on letters, numbers, and colors. The creators consult subject experts and educators when creating each episode, but songs, animated characters, and guest celebrities make each show super engaging. If you don't know it already, this will be a hit with your preschool and elementary school aged kids.



WildKratts- Real-life brothers and zoologists Chris and Martin Kratt introduce kids to wild animals and teach them about animal behavior and habitats. Each episode focuses on a different wild animal that the Kratt brothers are going to go help. The show keeps it exciting by taking an inquisitive approach and with entertaining storylines. The Kratt brothers also show their love and respect for the natural world and science and inspire kids to do the same. This is a great show for elementary school aged kids.



Continent 7: Antarctica- This is a six-episode series that follows scientists as they live and work on Antarctica. From flying planes in extreme cold weather to climate change, this series will definitely keep older kids interested while also being educational. With beautiful imagery and drama that emerges from being in such a harsh environment, it's a great show to learn about how science is done and about an important ecosystem. Adults will also learn a lot and enjoy this as well!

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Life

DIY Non-Toxic Hand Sanitizer

Stay protected with our easy, three ingredient sanitizer!

Making your own hand sanitizer is easier than you think! This DIY version is perfect for when you're feeling crafty or if (in a worse case scenario) you can't find hand sanitizer in stores. This three ingredient hand sanitizer will keep you protected from germs while you're on-the-go without any unnecessary or harmful ingredients. All you need is: rubbing alcohol, aloe vera gel, and essential oils (if you want some fragrance). Make sure to only use rubbing alcohol that's 90% alcohol or higher. According to the CDC, hand sanitizer has to be at least 60% alcohol to be effective. Our rubbing alcohol will be diluted a bit by the aloe vera, which is why a high alcohol percentage is needed!



⁠⁠We recommend using a spray bottle with this hand sanitizer. A squeeze bottle will work too but it'll be a little more runny.


Related Because Health Articles:

6 Non-Toxic Hand Sanitizers

8 Non-Toxic Hand Soaps

Roundups

6 Non-Toxic Hand Sanitizers

Tough on germs, without unnecessary yucky chemicals

Whether it's flu season or you're changing a poopy diaper on the go, hand sanitizer can be a life saver. But a lot of commercial hand sanitizers can contain fragrances and some pretty gross chemicals. To make sure you're getting the best possible product, we reviewed a ton of options and made sure they're easy to find at stores. There are options for gels, sprays, and wipes and lots of yummy smells like lavender or coconut and lemon, or just simply fragrance free if you want something simple. Try out several and stash them in places where you might need them, like the car, a favorite purse, backpack, or laptop bag. All of our non-toxic hand sanitizer recommendations are safer for you but super tough on germs!

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Roundups

8 Non-Toxic Hand Soaps

Wash your hands with our top picks

Washing your hands is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from any viruses and other sicknesses that are going around. It's also an important way to remove toxic chemicals like flame retardants that might be on your hands so that you don't accidentally ingest them when you snack or eat a meal. We would take washing hands with ANY soap over not washing your hands, but it might be nice to have some non-toxic hand soaps at home since you use them multiple times a day. Hands soaps can have harmful and unnecessary preservatives or unnecessary ingredients like synthetic fragrances or other things that irritate your skin. We also love bar soaps, but it's nice to have liquid hand soaps around, especially if you have kids. We researched and read reviews of a whole bunch of non-toxic hand soaps so that you can be sure that you are getting your hands clean without any unnecessary chemicals. They come in a variety of amazing smells or you can go fragrance free too! Pick some up today!

Also, just a quick reminder that proper hand washing involves getting into every nook and cranny of your hands, including between your fingers and around your thumbs! It should take at least 20 seconds if you're doing it right.


Updated for 2020!

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When it comes to fragrance, we always say that the safest option is to look for products that are completely fragrance free. Choosing to go fragrance-free is a great way to avoid chemicals that may be harmful to your health. Plus, does everything we own really need to smell like cotton candy?! In case you haven't heard why fragrance is so problematic, we break it down below.

What's Actually in Fragrance?

One of the big problems with fragrance is that there are so many different chemicals that can be added to a product. According to the International Fragrance Association's Transparency List, there are approximately 3,000 fragrance ingredients that can be used in consumer goods worldwide (1). And since the FDA does not require approval before a chemical goes onto the market, it's impossible to say that all of these fragrance ingredients are safe to use. The chemical that's making your house smell like clean laundry or a cinnamon apple might also secretly be toxic.

Even though there are a lot of untested chemicals, we do know that some fragrance ingredients are definitely harmful to human health. Many fragrance ingredients can be allergens that cause headaches, runny noses, sneezing, or coughing (2). Allergens are probably the reason you have to stand two feet away from that one coworker who wears a super strong perfume.

Phthalates are widely used in as a solvent or fixative in perfume, shampoo, lotion, and nail polish even though they're endocrine disrupting chemicals. Fragrance found in candles has been shown to contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like formaldehyde and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), both of which can cause short-term health effects like irritation, and long-term health effects like cancer (3, 4).

To make matters worse, companies don't even have to tell you all the ingredients they use in their fragrance! Trade secret laws keep companies from disclosing proprietary fragrance blends, but that means we don't actually know what's in our products. There could be 10 ingredients that go into the "fragrance" listed on your body lotion, or there could be 500! And if we don't know what all of these ingredients are, how do we adequately protect our health?

When in Doubt, Go With Fragrance Free

Like we mentioned before, the best bet is to purchase products that are free from all fragrance. Only look for labels that say "contains no added fragrance"... some products labeled as "unscented" may still contain fragrance as a way to hide ingredients that naturally have an unpleasant smell (2). If you really can't live without a fragranced product, go for something that only uses essential oils (although they have their own pros and cons as well).


References
  1. https://ifrafragrance.org/initiatives/transparency/ifra-transparency-list
  2. https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/fragrances-cosmetics
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0304389414010243
  4. https://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/chemicals-and-contaminants/polycyclic-aromatic-hydrocarbons-pahs
Life

Mardi Gras Beads Don't Belong in Your Mouth (or your kids')

Don't let these harmful chemicals ruin your celebration

Every year, over one million parade goers will fill the streets of New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday as it's also known in the Christian calendar, is a day of feasting before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is known for many things like parades, masks, costumes, and music. But for most people a central part of Mardi Gras is collecting and wearing beads, also known as throws. While collecting throws can be a fun way to celebrate, there is growing concern about the health hazards of the beads and the environmental cost of the beads.

The vast majority of beads that are handed out during Mardi Gras originate from China. Back in the day, the beads were made of glass, but now they are made of plastic. It's estimated that China manufactures 25 million pounds of beads for Mardi Gras alone (1). Despite government regulations to keep hazardous chemicals like lead in children's products to under 100ppm, over two thirds of these beads did not meet the concentration requirement (2). Researchers at the Ecology Center, who tested Mardi Gras beads, estimate that a single year's inventory of Mardi Gras beads may contain up to 900,000 pounds of hazardous flame retardants and 10,000 pounds of lead. Based on the composition of the chemicals found in the plastic beads, the researchers concluded that plastic from electronic waste was likely being recycled into producing Mardi Gras beads (2).

While exposure to lead and flame retardants is harmful to everyone's health, it's particularly dangerous for children. Even though Mardi Gras beads are not a children's product, many children collect and wear them during the parade and often put them in their mouths to chew on. Children also play with them and residues may end up on their hands, which is another way they could be potentially eating these toxic substances. It is recommended to limit the interaction your little ones have with Mardi Gras bead to prevent exposure to these toxic substances. If you have a toddler or baby who is teething, don't let them chew on the beads. And for older children, let them wear them for a short while and then consider donating them to be reused. And for everyone who touches the beads, make sure to wash hands before snacking or eating.

Aside from the health effects, there are also harmful environmental effects from Mardi Gras beads. The plastic beads end up in landfills or down storm drains, and contribute to the problem of plastic waste in our environment. In 2018, the city of New Orleans found 93,000 pounds of Mardi Gras beads in just 5 city blocks that had washed down into storm drains (4). The toxic substances, like lead and flame retardants, then leach from the beads and end up in the waterways, eventually draining into the Gulf of Mexico. These substances accumulate in fish, and in turn, put seafood lovers at risk for lead poisoning (3).

However, all this bad news doesn't mean that your kids (or you for that matter) can't accessorize with beads and have fun this Mardi Gras! A handful of companies are aware of the adverse impacts of traditional beads and have created more sustainable options. ArcGNO collects and reuses the same Mardi Gras beads each year while Atlas Beads creates handmade Mardi Gras beads from paper. Both are much better options than single use beads! Many krewes are recognizing the problem that Mardi Gras beads pose and are coming up with creative and reusable throws, such as aprons, cooking spoons, hats, and t-shirts. Some are even handing out local food items such as red beans, jambalaya mix, and coffee beans. It's great to see such creative alternatives to plastic Mardi Gras beads!

References
  1. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/toxic-truth-mardi-gras-beads-180962431/
  2. https://www.ecocenter.org/healthy-stuff/reports/ho...
  3. https://setac.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/etc.2641
  4. https://www.npr.org/2018/01/26/580933914/new-orleans-finds-93-000-pounds-of-mardi-gras-beads-in-storm-drains

First off, nice! We are super excited for you!

Now that the relationship is serious, have you started thinking a little bit more about what your life might be like together in the future? Maybe you are at the point where you are leaving a toothbrush at the other's place, or maybe it's a little more serious - like talking about moving in together. No matter how serious "serious" is for you, we've got a suggestion for making that step of the relationship a little healthier.

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