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!

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

Flame Retardants in TVs Need a Commercial Break

Watching your favorite shows doesn't have to involve harmful chemicals

Beth Kemler is the Mobilization Director for Safer Chemicals Healthy Families

The holiday season always feels like a great time to buy a TV- think of the Black Friday sales! Plus, watching holiday movies is always better in HD. But did you know that the plastic casings of many TVs on the market contain hazardous chemicals called organohalogen flame retardants. Of course, you don't want your TV to catch fire during a binge-watching session, but there are better ways to protect ourselves rather than flame retardants.

What's the problem with flame retardants?

While they may seem like a good idea, flame retardants actually do more harm than good. These chemicals have been linked to cancer, neurological disorders, impaired fertility, and developmental problems. They also don't stay in your TV (or other products where they're found)—they leach into the air and stick to household dust. Children and adults alike breathe them in, eat them when they touch surfaces coated with them and then handle food and even absorb them through their skin.

Studies have found them in the bodies of adults, children, and fetuses in the womb. They've even been found in breast milk and scientists suspect that the rise in flame retardants in our homes is linked to a rise in thyroid disease they've seen in indoor cats.

And when products containing flame retardant chemicals burn, the chemicals can make the smoke even more hazardous for firefighters. They can also be especially dangerous to workers and children who recycle the plastics from TVs and other electronics in facilities around the world. And these chemicals make it much harder to recycle the plastic—adding to our global plastic waste crisis. There's basically nothing good about flame retardants.



Toxic TV Binge: hazardous flame retardant chemicals uncovered in Best Buy, Amazon TVs

Despite the hazards, it's almost impossible to find a TV in the US that doesn't contain flame retardants. A recent investigation by Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, where I work, and our partner organization Toxic-Free Future found flame retardants in every TV tested. Every single TV contained organohalogens, the worst class of flame retardants. One TV even contained deca-BDE, an organohalogen flame retardant that is banned in five states.

There are other ways manufacturers can reduce fire risk without relying on these harmful chemicals. Apple, for example, has replaced brominated flame retardants with safer alternatives and, in some cases, the company "eliminated [them] altogether through the use of naturally flame retardant materials such as aluminum." Remember when your Macbook used to be made out of plastic? That's a key reason they switched from plastic to aluminum — so they didn't need toxic flame retardants.

Let manufacturers know you're ready for a change!

Here's the good news: electronics companies can replace these harmful chemicals with safer alternatives. Some companies are already using alternative chemicals or innovating to avoid these chemicals altogether. Some electronics brands, like Apple, have done this for computers, and TV brands can innovate too!

In fact, the European Union recently voted to ban these chemicals in TV plastic casings starting April 2021. If the European Union can do it, so can the US!

That's why we started a petition to Best Buy, North America's #1 electronics retailer. We're asking the company to use its power to get toxic chemicals out of the TVs it sells. If European families will be getting TVs without these toxic chemicals, American families deserve the same. And Best Buy has the power to make it happen!

In the meantime, how can you reduce your family's exposure?

Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible to avoid all organohalgen flame retardants. Since manufacturers and retailers aren't required to disclose their use of chemicals in most products, we can't recommend any alternative TVs. But research has shown that you may be able to reduce your family's exposure with frequent cleaning. Dust, vacuum and wash everyone's hands often, especially before eating. Because flame retardants end up in household dust, reducing exposure to dust can help. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter and regularly wet dust and wet mop.

The bottom line is that buying a TV shouldn't pollute your home with toxic chemicals—or exacerbate the plastic waste crisis. If you agree, please sign the petition to Best Buy!

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Sign up for our newsletter! Curated environmental health news delivered to your inbox every three weeks.
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