Food

Why Starting a Community Garden is Worth It

And a step by step guide on how to start one

Have you ever been walking in a neighborhood and seen a beautiful community garden growing lots of vegetables, fresh herbs, and brightly colored flowers? Are you jealous that your neighborhood doesn't have a garden like that? Luckily for you, we have created a guide on how to start a community garden in your own neighborhood! There can be some tricky aspects to building a community garden like knowing how to get permits or what kind of fencing or soil to use, but with the right team, determination, and this step by step guide, you can make it happen!

What is a community garden?

Community gardens come in a variety of forms and choosing which type of community garden you will be starting is the first step. The different types of community gardens are plot gardens, cooperative gardens, youth gardens, entrepreneurial gardens, and therapeutic gardens. Plot gardens subdivide different plots within the garden and rent the plots out to families who may not have the space in their own yard. Cooperative gardens are where the entire garden is managed as one large garden by many community members. Often these gardens donate their food to local shelters or food banks, but they can also provide food for the community members running the garden. Youth gardens, often used by schools, are where kids get to learn all about the environment and nutrition through the process of growing and sometimes cooking their own food (8). Entrepreneurial gardens are where the gardeners, young or old, learn business principles and gardening, by growing and selling the produce to farmers markets and restaurants. Lastly, therapeutic gardens use gardening and the plants to improve the physical, mental, and spiritual well being of the gardeners (9).

Any group or organization can start and run a community garden. Many schools, churches, non-profits, local governments, and even individual people have started community gardens for different reasons, meaning you have the ability to develop one too!

What are the benefits of a community garden?

Community gardens have been implemented all around the world for the different benefits they provide. They are famous for improving the health of communities, improving mental health, regenerating land, educating individuals on the environment, and bringing communities closer together.

Health Benefits- The lack of access to fresh produce can lead to numerous illnesses and chronic diseases including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and even cancer (10). In order to combat these health concerns, many communities have implemented community gardens to increase the availability of nutritious fresh produce as well as offer it to the community at a more affordable price. Many studies have shown that community gardens have the ability to increase fruit and vegetable intake as well as reduce an individual's BMI (11).

Many studies have also highlighted the beneficial mental health effects of green spaces and gardening with others. Working in a garden for a period of a few weeks has been shown to drastically reduce individuals perceived stress levels as well as an actual reduction in their stress hormone levels (13). Using nature and gardening as therapy allowed for patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and stress to recuperate and improve their mental health and wellbeing (12). We all know that getting outside makes you feel better, but it's actually been scientifically proven!

Community Benefits- Don't worry the benefits don't stop there! Community gardens are a great way to improve health, but they are also great for bringing people and the community together. People can meet their neighbors, make friends, and learn how to garden together, allowing the community to bond over growing food or bettering their neighborhood. These gardens can give people a social outlet outside of their home and work that so many people desire, letting them connect over nature, food, and their neighborhood (13). Developing and working in a community garden can also increase people's sense of pride for their community and neighborhood and it can push them to get more involved with other aspects and institutions in the community making a positive impact (14).

Benefits for the environment

Other than the tremendous benefits community gardens provide to people, they also have a positive effect on the environment. First off, gardening is a great way to teach people more about the environment and what it takes to have healthy plants and soil. For individuals with limited gardening experience and nature access, participating in a community garden could give them a new perspective on the food growing process (13). Plus it's also a great outdoor activity for kids to teach them all about growing their own food! When more people learn about the environment, the more people there are to protect it.

The other benefit to the environment is land regeneration. A lot of urban land is heavily polluted with chemicals and heavy metals from car exhaust, construction debris, trash, and air pollution. These chemicals reduce the fertility of the soil rendering it useless and toxic to organisms, wasting soil that is a precious finite resource. Instead of just letting the land degrade further or allowing more harmful development, community gardens can be placed on that land and add nature back into it. By adding native plants you don't plan to eat in the soil you are improving the soil quality, but also increasing the amount of carbon dioxide the soil can capture, reducing the amount in our atmosphere (15). So instead of just waiting for another chain store or unhealthy restaurant to be built on that empty plot, use that space for your garden, adding nature and ecosystem services to your neighborhood (1).

Steps to starting your garden

1. Build a team

Building a team is one of the most important steps in starting a community garden because you are going to need people to help you advocate for the project as well as design and build the garden. You want to assemble a diverse group of people that have an array of talents that can assist you through all of the steps. Gardeners, landscapers, construction workers, doctors, and really anyone in your community that wants to join will be of service. Use apps like Facebook or Nextdoor, along with flyers and letters to help spread the word about your project and that you are looking for people to help.

2. Pick a location

Picking the right location for your garden can be tricky but it's very important! You want to pick a spot that gets at least 6 hours of full sunlight, doesn't have too much traffic nearby, has good drainage, and has an available water source you can use for watering and washing your plants. Another thing to consider is how the land was used prior to your garden because it may indicate if there are any heavy metals or other contaminants in the soil. Consider buying a soil test at your local hardware store and checking for soil contaminants like lead, arsenic, and mercury. If you find that your soil is contaminated, you will have to bring in fresh soil in raised beds so your fruits and vegetables don't become contaminated as well. Once you have found a spot, you want to track down the owner and see if they will lease it to you, but don't forget to check the zoning laws prior to leasing! If you are having trouble finding the owner or getting in contact with them, call your local government and see if they can help. Your local government can also help you find a specific location to use if you are having trouble and they may even be willing to partner with you and donate the land or provide some maintenance.

3. Getting funding

Starting a community garden is very rewarding, but it is not without expenses. Some of the costs include leasing the land, getting materials like garden beds, fencing, gardening tools, irrigation, soil, compost, and seeds, and then there are costs for insurance, and maintenance. There are a lot of estimates out there on how much starting a community garden can cost with the lower estimate being at about $2,000 and the higher estimate at around $10,000 (6,7). The overall cost really depends on how much of the work you and your team do by yourselves versus hiring outside contractors and gardeners, which will drastically increase the cost.

The best ways to obtain initial funding is through sponsors, donations, and grants. Churches, schools, citizens groups, private businesses, local parks and recreation departments are all great potential sponsors and donors! Another great option is being funded by foundation grants. The American Public Gardens Association has a great resource page of the different grant programs that are available. And if you end up having trouble obtaining funding from sponsors or grants, you could try different fundraising events in your community or ask for donations from your planning team to help you get started.

During this stage you should also determine if you are going to charge fees to use and work in the garden. For most community garden types fees are definitely not necessary but if you are worried about finances and maintenance later on it may be something to consider.

4. Prep and develop the site

Once your lease starts, first things first, you need to clean your site of any litter or debris from the previous uses. Once it is all clean and you have a blank canvas, work with your team to design a layout for the garden, keeping in mind sun and shade patterns for optimal growing. In your design make sure to include where you are getting your water from and how it will reach all of the different areas. You also want to set aside a few sections for a composting area, a storage area for tools, and if you have the space maybe a few tables for people to sit at and take breaks. After the layout is set, it's time to start building! If you need extra volunteers at the beginning stages of the building and developing phase check with local schools, universities, churches, and youth organizations to see if anyone is willing to help out!

5. Create community garden guidelines

Creating community guidelines allows you to make sure everyone who works in the garden is on the same page about how to run the garden, take care of the plants, and general do's and don'ts. This is also a great time to decide whether or not the garden will be organic. It's important to make this known to every volunteer so no one sprays any of the plants or uses any materials that do not qualify as organic.

Some guidelines could include: putting all of the tools and materials away before leaving, being respectful to everyone working, don't take food without permission, don't plant personal plants without permission, a list of things to not add to the compost, and anything else you want to add to make your garden a successful and welcoming environment. Check out this link for some more examples!

6. Final steps

The bulk of the planning is done and now all that's left is to start planting and recruit more members to the garden. To really kick off the opening of the garden, have a celebration like a barbeque or potluck to highlight all of the hard work you and your team have put in and show off your beautiful garden!


Starting and organizing a community garden is going to be a lot of hard work, but it will also be very rewarding and allow you to connect with your community on a deeper level. You have the opportunity to bring fresh fruits and vegetables into your community, teach others how to garden, and create a beautiful space for others to admire and use. Instead of letting another chain store come into your community, take that space back and use it for good!


Sources

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1353829200000137?casa_token=4JIdEvYYuYkAAAAA:uWNmgSXLTu7tweuBoDQNWoXpwP_5B_j9RtamlE4knf17boviz07WUKlNaxLkkfjo4OWLa-c
  2. https://www.seewhatgrows.org/start-community-garden-neighborhood/
  3. https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/kindergarden/CHILD/COM/COMMUN.HTM
  4. https://www.brunswickcompanies.com/commercial-insurance/community-garden-insurance/
  5. https://blog.ioby.org/how-to-turn-a-vacant-lot-into-a-community-garden-a-primer/
  6. https://howtostartanllc.com/business-ideas/community-garden#:~:text=A%20community%20garden's%20startup%20costs,cost%20as%20much%20as%20%2430%2C000.
  7. https://www.seewhatgrows.org/3607-2/
  8. https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/how-to-organize-a-community-garden
  9. https://www.urbanharvest.org/gardens/types-of-community-gardens/
  10. Ver Ploeg, M., Breneman, V., Farrigan, T., Hamrick, K., Hopkins, D., Kaufman, P., Lin, B.-H., Nord, M., Smith, T. A., Williams, R., Kinnison, K., Olander, C., Singh, A., & Tuckermanty, E. (2009). Access to Affordable and Nutritious Food: Measuring and Understanding Food Deserts and Their Consequences: Report to Congress (No. 2238-2019–2924). AgEcon Search. https://doi.org/10.22004/ag.econ.292130.
  11. Kunpeuk, W., Spence, W., Phulkerd, S., Suphanchaimat, R., & Pitayarangsarit, S. (2020). The impact of gardening on nutrition and physical health outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Health Promotion International, 35(2), 397–408. https://doi.org/10.1093/heapro/daz027.
  12. Vujcic, M., Tomicevic-Dubljevic, J., Grbic, M., Lecic-Tosevski, D., Vukovic, O., & Toskovic, O. (2017). Nature based solution for improving mental health and well-being in urban areas. Environmental Research, 158, 385–392. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2017.06.030
  13. Alaimo, K., Beavers, A., Crawford, C., Snyder, E., & Litt, J. (2016). Amplifying Health Through Community Gardens: A Framework for Advancing Multicomponent, Behaviorally Based Neighborhood Interventions. Current Environmental Health Reports, 3. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40572-016-0105-0
  14. Firth, C., Maye, D., & Pearson, D. (2011). Developing "community" in community gardens. Local Environment, 16(6), 555–568. https://doi.org/10.1080/13549839.2011.586025
  15. Li, G., Sun, G.-X., Ren, Y., Luo, X.-S., & Zhu, Y.-G. (2018). Urban soil and human health: A review. European Journal of Soil Science, 69(1), 196–215. https://doi.org/10.1111/ejss.12518

Reusable water bottles are key when you need hydration on the go, especially when we've been doing so many outdoor activities. We love stainless steel and glass bottles because they keep water tasting fresh without leeching harmful chemicals and can be easily washed in the dishwasher. But reusable water bottles for kids can be trickier to find. You need something strong enough to withstand occasional drops from clumsy hands and be leak-proof enough to confidently carry around in a tote bag. That's why we rounded up our favorite non-toxic kids water bottles! These bottles are all durable and come in a ton of different patterns. Bonus: they all have straws!


a) Muchkin Cool Cat Stainless Steel straw cup

b) Thermos Funtainer

c) Takeya Kids Insulated Water Bottle w/Straw Lid

d) Pura Kiki with straw

e) Snug Flask for Kids - Vacuum Insulated Water Bottle with Straw

f) Klean Kanteen Kids Single Wall Stainless Steel Sport Bottle with Klean Coat

g) Hydroflask Straw bottle kids

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Women are the superheroes of our society, and just like in true superhero-fashion they carry out their work swiftly and efficiently without anyone realizing just how much they do to make sure everyone stays safe and life keeps running! They manage to juggle a variety of tasks everyday and their hard work is often under-appreciated. In lower income countries, women are the ones to grow and produce food, obtain water, cook, clean, bring up children, and take care of the household. However, even though women are awesome, they face unequal health risks compared to men and climate change will only make things worse. Read on to learn more about how climate change impacts women's health specifically.

How women are more vulnerable

Certain cultural and religiously based gender roles place women and girls at higher risk of developing health risks. For example, women suffer from higher rates of anemia and malnutrition compared to men globally (5). In countries with deep-rooted gender norms, women eat last after all the men and boys have been fed and consume the least amount of food (8). Women are usually also the first to sacrifice their own food to ensure their families have enough in periods of crisis (8). All of this contributes to calorie deficiency, chronic energy deficiency, and poor health in women, making them more vulnerable to climate catastrophes (13).

Women are also more economically vulnerable due to lower social and political status in countries with strong gender roles (12). They often don't share the same rights as their male counterparts when it comes to things like social status, land ownership, educational opportunities, and health outcomes as it relates to reproductive and sexual health (12). Since women are responsible for household food and water collection in these countries--both time consuming and physically demanding tasks--they often don't have the time or opportunity to earn an income or continue their education or participate in local governance (12,13). In general, women in these societies have lower average literacy and education levels and even if they are able to secure a job are still regarded as secondary income earners and are the first to be laid off (13). This economic and social insecurity highlights the fact that women are more likely to slip into and live in poverty, inhibiting their ability to adequately provide self-protection and improve their socioeconomic condition (13).

In many societies, women are also in charge of caregiving responsibilities, which could prevent them from leaving certain areas outside their immediate environment (12). This would impede their ability to mobilize in case of emergency or climate disaster (12). Women are also at higher risk of violence during and after disasters (12,13).

It's clear to see from this that women face a number of challenges due to just their gender identity and often suffer more than men from poverty, hunger, malnutrition, economic crises, violence, and disaster related problems (13). Climate change-related disasters have the potential to make things worse.

Climate Change will make things worse

Climate change can impact people's health through a variety of mechanisms—heat, poor air quality, extreme weather events, reduced water quality, decreased food security, and vector-borne diseases, just to name a few (5). Since women have distinct physiologic and health needs throughout their life cycle, especially during periods like pregnancy, this places them at a greater risk of climate change impacts and sensitivities (2,5).

Since climate change can lead to increased temperatures and sea level rise, this contributes to heat waves and saltwater intrusion in rural coastal areas (2, 6). Saltwater intrusion happens when seawater encroaches into fresh groundwater supplies and increases the salt content of people's drinking water (7). This is an issue because people can't drink salt water and it can't be used to irrigate crops, so this could contribute to water scarcity and food insecurity (7). In addition, both saltwater intrusion and heat waves increase the potential risk for pregnant women of developing preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, or delivering preterm (2,6).

Since women often eat last in their families in certain countries, climate-driven food insecurity would worsen their already limited nutritional intake (5,8). This would negatively impact women's health during menstruation, pregnancy, and nursing—all periods of time when women have increased nutritional needs physiologically (2,5). Since women produce around 60-80% of all food in low-income countries and are the main food producers and providers in the world, climate change-related agricultural issues and food scarcity wouldn't just be a health issue but an economic one as well (2,3,5). Women's livelihoods as smallholder farmers would be at risk from climate-related crop failure, which would increase their risk of falling into poverty (5).

During climate-related disasters like floods, storms, droughts, and heat waves, women suffer more mortality cases compared to men and are at a greater risk of experiencing physical, sexual, and domestic violence afterwards (2,5). This mortality difference is most striking when compared to women's socio-economic status in the country, since women have the worst mortality outcomes in countries where they have very low social, economic, and political status (10).

This combination of low social and economic status and socially constructed gender roles contribute to the increased climate change-related health risks women have compared to men (9,13). However, we can do things to change this.

The way forward

Thankfully, organizations are aware of this disparity and have been researching how to mitigate it. By empowering women to participate in decision making at all levels and providing proper access to information and education, we can help develop and improve women's livelihoods and create lasting social change (13). Increasing women's social and economic opportunities will allow them to not only develop more social network connections and have greater autonomy and independence, but also contribute to overall better health outcomes.

While both men and women will be vulnerable to changing environmental conditions, the drivers and effects of climate change are not gender neutral (3). To help address this, women should be included at all levels of decision making so as to contribute to the process of assessing vulnerabilities and capacities and promoting equality (2,5,13).



References

  1. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2542-5196(20)30001-2
  2. https://books.google.com/books?id=JDAnEAAAQBAJ&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&printsec=frontcover&pg=PA1&dq=climate+change+women+health&hl=en#v=onepage&q=climate%20change%20women%20health&f=false
  3. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=7pr8xyafPi0C&oi=fnd&pg=PA55&dq=climate+change+women+health&ots=bT1kAckdWt&sig=9UuuKEYOw6TQKP0GICEQ0apiC-w#v=onepage&q=climate%20change%20women%20health&f=false
  4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2018.02.021
  5. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002603
  6. https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/full/10.1289/ehp.1002804
  7. https://www.usgs.gov/mission-areas/water-resources/science/saltwater-intrusion?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects
  8. https://wfpusa.org/women-are-hungrier-infographic/#:~:text=Rooted%20Gender%20Norms-,Deep%2DRooted%20Gender%20Norms,ensure%20their%20families%20have%20enough.
  9. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60854-6
  10. https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/144781/9789241508186_eng.pdf
  11. https://doi.org/10.1029/2018GH000163
  12. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mohammed-Baten/publication/295861981_Gender_issue_in_climate_change_discourse_theory_versus_reality/links/585a2e0408aeffd7c4fda7a2/Gender-issue-in-climate-change-discourse-theory-versus-reality.pdf
  13. https://doi.org/10.11634/216796221504315

Roundups

11 Non-Toxic Deodorants

Natural deodorants that actually work

Switching from a traditional antiperspirant to a non-toxic deodorant can be a little tricky. We have found that patience and a little experimentation are what it takes for a successful switch. In order to find deodorants without synthetic fragrances, aluminum, or other harmful chemicals, we scoured ingredient lists, tried a ton of products, and read reviews to find the 11 best non-toxic, natural deodorants.

Whether you have sensitive skin, want something with a pleasant smell, or want something unscented, we think there is something for everyone on this list! Not all deodorants work well for everyone, and some people prefer different application types. For some people, baking soda irritates the skin, and for others it doesn't. So, if the first one you try isn't working for you, try another one! There are baking soda free natural deodorants and there are some brands that have plastic free deodorant options too! Also, remember, these are deodorants, not antiperspirants, so the focus is on keeping you from smelling more than it is on keeping you from sweating, since sweating an important natural detox mechanism. So give one of these natural deodorants a try and be rest assured that they are better for your health!

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Life

What are Period Care Products Made Of?

What you need to know about some concerning ingredients

Because Health: Although being on your period can be a pain (sometimes literally- thanks cramps...), we know period products have got us covered. Even during tricky situations like swimming, athletics, or even wearing white pants, period products like pads, tampons, and menstrual cups are there for us. While they can be a life saver during our period, there's still so much we don't know about the ingredients that are used in these products, or how these exposures might impact our health. There's way too much mystery surrounding a product that we use daily, for hours at a time, that come into contact with some of the most absorbent and sensitive parts of the body, which is why Women's Voices for the Earth (WVE) decided to look at this topic further. Keep reading to hear from WVE about what's in period care products, what regulations are needed, and some safer options that are available now.

What's In Period Care Products?

Most pads and tampons are much more than a simple piece of cotton. Generally, products are made to be super absorbant, comfortable, easy to use, and can have other properties like "odor-absorbing" or some products even provide a scent.

Yet there is still so much we don't know about the ingredients that are used in these products, or how these exposures might impact our health. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers menstrual products "medical devices" so manufacturers of these products are not required to disclose their ingredients.

Independent, testing from various organizations, media sources and governing bodies from around the world has found numerous chemicals of concern in these products, particularly in chemical additives such as fragrances, lubricants, lotions, odor-absorbing compounds and even antibacterial compounds that are often added to menstrual products by manufacturers. Chemicals linked to allergies, irritation, cancer, endocrine disruption and birth defects have all been found hiding in period care products. In fact, as recently as 2020, phthalates (chemicals widely flagged as harmful) were found in every single sample (of the total 43 pads, panty liners and tampons tested) that were tested!

Once you realize how many questionable chemicals are in so many period products, It's not surprising to learn that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received hundreds of adverse health reports regarding tampons and pads. They describe genital irritation, rashes, chemical burns, allergic reactions (including anaphylactic shock), toxic shock syndrome and other symptoms as a result of exposure to a menstrual pad, pantyliner or tampon.

What Are the Health Impacts of Chemicals in Period Care Products

These reports and tests have raised important questions about the potential health impacts of these exposures. While a few studies have attempted to assess and measure potential risks of these products, all have indicated that there is more work to be done to better understand the impacts these products may have. What's more, the route of exposure to chemicals from menstrual products is both unique and poorly understood. Chemicals absorbed through the vagina are easily and effectively distributed throughout the body, without being metabolized. In order to better understand the health impacts of chemical exposures from menstrual products — at the very least — we need to know what is in them.

People deserve to know what's in the products they are using! This information is vital to make informed decisions about our health, and what we're putting on and in our bodies. We have come to expect disclosure of ingredients in foods and cosmetics because of the direct interaction of these products with our bodies. We should expect no less from menstrual products.

New Regulations for Menstrual Care

Because of public demand, many companies that make period products have started voluntarily disclosing some ingredients. In addition, many new companies have built ingredient disclosure into their policies and practices, understanding the importance of transparency and safety. However, voluntary disclosure remains problematic as it is inconsistent, is not universal, and these products are not always available or accessible to everyone.

New Right to Know Regulations

Important changes toward transparency are already in the works! In 2019, New York became the first state in the nation to require manufacturers of period care products to disclose ingredients. This new law will go into effect October 2021 require any menstrual products sold in the state to contain a "plain and conspicuous" list of all ingredients, in order of predominance. This must be printed on, or affixed to, the package. There's no doubt that this will have national impact, as it will open up new information about these products than ever before.

On the federal level, Congresswoman Grace Meng, is reintroducing her bill, the Menstrual Products Right to Know Act, which will require disclosure of ingredients in menstrual products, including tampons, pads, menstrual cups and period underwear — providing vital ingredient information for people across the nation.

Safer Period Products Available Right Now

Even though there's a lot of work to be done related to the chemicals found in period products, we're already starting to see positive changes. An increasing amount of non-toxic options available for period products and ways to report negative health impacts means individuals can immediately take to protect their health.

- Choose unscented products where available, especially in tampons and pads.

- Choose chlorine-free bleach or unbleached tampons and pads.

- Organic products are also a good option as they are typically free (or nearly free) of fragrances and pesticides, and often have fewer additives, dyes or bleaches.

- If you are having allergic symptoms, switch brands, and then tell the company why you did by calling the 800 number on the label.

- Report any symptoms possibly resulting from these products to the FDA by calling 1-800-332-1088 or filling out a consumer report form.

- Look for period underwear that is made out of 100% cotton and doesn't use silver

- To learn more about these issues visit womensvoices.org

Roundups

The 10 Best Non-Toxic Facial Sunscreens

Everyday coverage that protects against wrinkles and spots but won't clog pores

Updated for 2021!

Our best beauty tip? Wear sunscreen on your face every single day, all year round! Basically all dermatologists agree that wearing sunscreen is important to protect your skin from sun damage and keeps wrinkles and spots at bay. But, we know that it's not easy to find the right facial sunscreen for your skin type. And of course it's even harder to find facial sunscreens without any chemical sunscreens. So we dug through all that is out there to find non-toxic facial sunscreens without harmful chemicals that are well-reviewed, easy to find, and are all SPF 30 or higher. All of these facial sunscreens are mineral sunscreens, so they're healthier for you and are reef safe too, if you happen to be by the ocean. Many of our options also come in tinted versions, so they provide light coverage as well. So what are you waiting for? Check out these non-toxic facial sunscreens and pick one up!

P.S. We also have a roundup of our favorite non-toxic all purpose and sport sunscreens, and non-toxic baby sunscreens!

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Food

Canned Coffee is Convenient, But What About BPA?

Why they should be a treat instead of part of your daily routine

Now that we're all working from home, it's easy to get bored of our everyday homemade coffee routine. Sometimes we just want something different to wake us up in the morning or even a quick pick me up in the afternoon! That's where canned coffee comes into play. It's quick, convenient, and comes in a ton of flavors. But that convenience might come at a cost; there's been concerns surrounding the use of BPA in the lining of canned products. So, does canned coffee pose a risk to health? We looked at the research to find out.

The Problem With BPA in Cans

BPA, or bisphenol A, is a synthetic chemical that acts like estrogen in our bodies and it has been known to screw with important hormones like testosterone and thyroid hormones. Some of the common health problems associated with BPA include breast cancer, reduced sperm production, obesity, reproductive issues, disruption of brain development and function, and damaging effects to the liver (1). To make matters worse, there is more and more scientific evidence that even very low doses of BPA exposure can be harmful, especially for pregnant women and babies. Low doses of BPA exposure have been tied to abnormal liver function, chronic inflammation of the prostate, cysts on the thyroid and pituitary gland, and many more serious health effects during the early stages of life (5).

Even though BPA is definitely not a chemical we want to be exposed to, it's found basically everywhere, including our food. One common place to find BPA is the internal lining of canned foods or beverages. BPA can help prevent corrosion between the metal and the food or drink inside a can, but over time (or if stored under the wrong conditions like high temperatures), it can start to leach out and get into the food or drink (2). Even cans that say BPA free can have nasty BPA alternatives that have been shown to have similar hormone disrupting effects (7).

Studies have shown that canned soft drinks, beers, and energy drinks all had small traces of BPA in them. Beer was found with the highest concentration of BPA, followed by energy drinks. Soft drinks were found to have the lowest concentration of BPA. In order to find out where BPA in these drinks was coming from, researchers compared the canned drinks to the same drinks packaged in glass bottles. They found very little to no traces of BPA in the glass bottled drinks, which means that the source of BPA in the canned drinks was definitely coming from the cans themselves (2,3,4).

Even if there are only small traces of leachable BPA, it can still be harmful if we are consuming canned products on a regular basis.

Is Canned Coffee Safe?

With the recent increase in popularity of cold brew and other canned coffee drinks, there have not been extensive studies on BPA levels in canned coffee. However, one study of canned coffee drinks in Asia, where they have been popular for longer, did find that BPA was leaching into the coffee from the can. Interestingly, they also found that the more caffeine was in the coffee, the more BPA leached from the can into the drink. Meaning the more caffeine, the more BPA! (4,6) Now before you think you can get away with only drinking decaf canned coffee, keep in mind that caffeine only increases the leaching from the can, but it can still happen without it (6).

Even though the levels of BPA found in canned coffee were relatively small, because BPA is all around us in so many common products, we should try to limit our exposure as much as we can. This means that it's probably okay to drink a canned coffee every once in a while, but best practice is to not drink them every day. But if you're in the middle of a road trip and are desperate for some energy, don't get too stressed about grabbing a canned coffee!

Canned Coffee Alternatives

If you're starting to get worried about what coffee to buy when you're out and about or when you want something more than just plain coffee, don't stress! We thought of some easy and fun alternatives for your canned coffee fix that might make you forget all about it!

  1. Swap out the canned coffee for coffee in a glass bottle or tetrapaks whenever possible.
  2. Find some fun new ways to make coffee at home like using a Chemex or a nice French press!
  3. Go get a coffee at your local coffee shop. Support small businesses if you can!
  4. If you like canned coffee because of the flavors, try making your own caramel or mocha sauce at home. It's pretty easy and it saves money! For something icy and refreshing, we are partial to muddling some fresh mint with some cold brew.


References

vom Saal, F. S., & Vandenberg, L. N. (2021). Update on the Health Effects of Bisphenol A: Overwhelming Evidence of Harm. Endocrinology, 162(bqaa171). https://doi.org/10.1210/endocr/bqaa171 (1)

Cao, X.-L., Corriveau, J., & Popovic, S. (2010). Sources of Low Concentrations of Bisphenol A in Canned Beverage Products. Journal of Food Protection, 73(8), 1548–1551. https://doi.org/10.4315/0362-028X-73.8.1548 (2)

Determination of BPA, BPB, BPF, BADGE and BFDGE in canned energy drinks by molecularly imprinted polymer cleaning up and UPLC with fluorescence detection. (2017). Food Chemistry, 220, 406–412. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.10.005 (3)

Kang, J.-H., & Kondo, F. (2002). Bisphenol A migration from cans containing coffee and caffeine. Food Additives and Contaminants, 19(9), 886–890. https://doi.org/10.1080/02652030210147278 (4)

Prins, G. S., Patisaul, H. B., Belcher, S. M., & Vandenberg, L. N. (2019). CLARITY-BPA academic laboratory studies identify consistent low-dose Bisphenol A effects on multiple organ systems. Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology, 125(S3), 14–31. https://doi.org/10.1111/bcpt.13125 (5)

Kang, J.-H., & Kondo, F. (2002). Bisphenol A migration from cans containing coffee and caffeine. Food Additives and Contaminants, 19(9), 886–890. https://doi.org/10.1080/02652030210147278 (6)

Pelch, K., Wignall, J. A., Goldstone, A. E., Ross, P. K., Blain, R. B., Shapiro, A. J., Holmgren, S. D., Hsieh, J.-H., Svoboda, D., Auerbach, S. S., Parham, F. M., Masten, S. A., Walker, V., Rooney, A., & Thayer, K. A. (2019). A scoping review of the health and toxicological activity of bisphenol A (BPA) structural analogues and functional alternatives. Toxicology, 424, 152235. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tox.2019.06.006 (7)

Updated for 2021!

We updated our sunscreen roundup for 2021 with the 10 best reviewed, non-toxic mineral sunscreens we could find. As always, we make sure that our picks are easy to find online and in stores.

Sunscreen in our minds is synonymous with summer and being outside! But there are so many choices, it's hard to know if what you're getting is something that actually works and that you will like. Not to mention that there are some questionable chemicals in sunscreens that are definitely horrible for coral reefs and might be endocrine disruptors that are absorbed through your skin and have been found to circulate in your blood. We'd prefer to stick with mineral sunscreens that basically act like a physical barrier to harmful UV rays.

These picks are great as everyday body and sport sunscreens. We always have one by the door so that every family member loads up before leaving the house. So look for one of our top 10 picks for non-toxic sunscreens the next time your tube is empty. Many of these brands have plenty of options in stick formats, with and without tints, and come in a variety of formulations for everyday wear, sweaty sports and beach days. Any of these are 10 options are safe for kids and babies too, but if you're looking for a specific baby or toddler sunscreen, be sure to check out our best 13 non-toxic baby sunscreen options. We also have a roundup of facial sunscreens that are formulated especially for everyday coverage that protects against wrinkles and spots but won't clog pores.



a) All Good Sport Sunscreen SPF 30
b) Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen SPF 30
c) Badger Clear Zinc Regular and Sport Sunscreen SPF 30
d) Blue Lizard Sensitive Sunscreen
e) EleVen On-the-Defense Sunscreen SPF 30
f) Block Island Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30
g) Jason Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 Broad Spectrum
h) Juice Beauty SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen
i) Thinksport Safe Sunscreen SPF 50
j) Two Peas Organics SPF 30 Unscented Mineral Sunscreen



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