Enjoy the great outdoors without the harmful chemicals
Camping is such a great way to disconnect, relax, and enjoy being with friends and family in nature. As much as we love the idea of sleeping under the stars, at the end of the day you'll probably find us fast asleep in a tent. Having a tent provides a cozy sleeping space that is private and away from any mosquitos and other critters. Whether you're looking to replace an old tent or getting one for your first camping trip, you may want to consider a flame retardant free tent. You're probably thinking "Wait... flame retardants in tents?". Yep, that's right! Most tents are coated in chemical flame retardants. Once upon a time, tents used to be made of canvas that was coated in oil or wax, but this made tents more expensive to manufacture and required more upkeep. Recent textile innovations make tents lighter and more durable, but they're often also coated in flame retardants. While this may seem like a good thing, it doesn't really make sense anymore, especially given all the health effects associated with flame retardants (cancers, infertility, disrupting hormones, and lower IQ and hyperactivity in kids.
Unsurprisingly, it turns out that camping in a flame retardant coated tent actually does increase your exposure to these harmful chemicals. A 2016 research study measured campers' exposure to flame retardants and found that after setting up their tents, they had 29 times as much of the chemicals on their hands afterwards. The study also showed the chemicals are inhaled while in the tent.
The good news is that tent manufacturers have since stepped up and have been making tents without flame retardants, and there are more and more coming on the market every year. We rounded up these well-reviewed, easy to purchase, and flame retardant free camping tents that are available now. Pick one up if you're in the market for a tent and enjoy the great outdoors!
🌱 all tents by these brands are flame retardant free. For other brands, only the models listed are flame retardant free.
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Summer has arrived! Cue the backyard BBQs, ice cream sandwiches (or DIY popsicles), and Will Smith jams. During long, hot days, water activities are basically a necessity for creating fun memories and staying cool. Unfortunately, water-related accidents are a leading cause of injury and death for young children (4). So to keep things fun this summer, let's talk about drowning prevention.
Drowning happens in seconds and often quietly (1,3). Permanent disability can result even when drowning isn't fatal (3), since any prolonged oxygen disruption injures our brains. Though it can happen to anyone, drowning is the second most common cause of death for 1-4 year olds (3). Almost 90% of these incidents occur in home pools and hot tubs5,6 (and anything that collects water, even buckets, poses a risk) (3). To keep the children in your life safe and cool, here are 5 water safety tips as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, CDC, National Safety Council, Pool Safely, and Red Cross.
1. Kids' water activities require close supervision at all times
Most drowning incidents occur unsupervised when adults briefly step away or become distracted (4). For this reason, children need vigilant supervision by a designated adult whenever they're around water (4). We can appreciate a relaxing poolside novel or margarita, but the responsible adult/Water Watcher (7) needs to be completely free of alcohol impairment and any distractions (not even Insta). Consider water supervision to be like your greatest Netflix binge – your attention is totally focused, and you don't want to miss a thing. For young children the guiding principle is "touch supervision"– being within arm's reach at all times (3). 5-9 year olds are more likely to drown at public pools (4), so designate a supervising adult even when lifeguards are present (3).
2. Modest safety measures make a massive difference
Physical safety measures are imperative, especially when delightfully curious and unintentionally stealthy toddlers attempt to swim without you! Installing the right type of fence can reduce drowning risk by over 80% – 4-sided pool fences (completely isolating the pool) are far more effective than 3-sided property line fences (3). The safest fences measure at least 4 feet high, prevent climbing, and have self-latching, self-closing gates (3,7). Door alarms and rigid pool covers are also preventive, though their effectiveness is less studied (1). Always check that the pool you use has intact anti-entrapment drain covers (mandated by federal law) to prevent suction-related accidents (7). For portable pools, check out this specific safety guidance.
3. Life jackets are way better than floaties
Sadly those super cute floaty wings aren't designed for safety, according to the CDC, and should not replace life jackets (3) (on the upside, this means less flimsy plastic!). Young children and inexperienced swimmers should wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacketwhenever near water (1,9). And, regardless of swimming ability, all children need USCG-approved life jackets if playing around lakes or the ocean (2). Life jackets are only effective if they fit well, so check the weight and size limits before using (9). Remember that nothing replaces close supervision! (To help start your life jacket search, we tracked down a more eco-friendly option.)
4. Teach children swimming and water safety
Learning to swim is crucial for water safety. We all benefit from learning how to swim, and swimming lessons can prevent drowning in 1-4 year olds (3). It's never too early (or too late!) to learn – YMCA and community centers often provide affordable lessons for all ages. (We get that communal activities are probably not your jam with the current Covid-19 situation, but, at some point, formal swim lessons could be a fun family activity.) Knowing how to swim does not make us "drown proof" though, so we still need to exercise caution with kids of any swimming ability (1). Teaching children not to climb over pool fences, swim without an adult, or play near pool drains is also crucial for preventing drowning incidents (7).
5. Assess surroundings and swimming ability
Being aware of location-specific water dangers and knowing a swimmer's ability can help discern which activities are safe. Every water activity presents an assortment of fun and risk. Case in point: sprinklers are a simple joy but also an understated toe hazard (been there…). Oceans, rivers, and lakes offer wilder adventure yet can even prove dangerous for expert swimmers – rip currents are an infamous threat in oceans, and lakes and rivers can have undertows (6). Older children and adolescents are more likely to drown in these natural bodies of water (3). Since alcohol can impair your ability to assess surroundings and react appropriately, avoid drinking while swimming or supervising others (7).
Prevention first, but CPR can still save lives
We hope you'll never ever need to use CPR...ever. Prevention with the above measures can massively reduce drowning risk for everyone, but CPR is invaluable during a drowning incident and can improve the likelihood of the drowning victim's survival (3). The American Heart Association provides in-person Family and Friends CPR courses, as well as socially distanced, at-home instruction with Family and Friends CPR DVD or Adult/Child CPR training kits (includes a training manikin and DVD – fun for the whole family!).
With safe water play, we know your summer days will be full of adventure and excitement. Have fun!
Perfect for on-the-go sun protection!
Looking for the perfect sunscreen that's also travel-friendly? Check out our favorite non-toxic sunscreen sticks! 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!
They won't break, look great, and are sure to be perfect for you outdoor gatherings
Updated for Summer 2021!
Getting ready for some outdoor parties and dining this summer? We sure are! If you're looking to spruce up your outdoor dining scene, you'll quickly see that most options are made of melamine. Even though melamine dishware doesn't look like plastic, melamine can leach into food after dishes are repeatedly microwaved or used to hold both hot and acidic foods (read this to learn why you might want to skip the melamine). So if melamine is out, and easy to break options like ceramic just don't work for you (children being children, slippery surfaces, clumsy grownups!), check out these stainless steel, enamelware, and tempered glass options. We also included one pick for disposable plates that are truly compostable! These are our top picks for non-toxic outdoor dishware, serving bowls and platters, tumblers, and more. They are all light weight, hard to break, and will make your outdoor entertaining photos look on point. So pick up some of these plastic-free and melamine-free outdoor dishes and enjoy dining al fresco!
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The environmental and health impacts of conventional and electric vehicles
Thanks to the environmentalist movement and increasing innovation, electric cars are taking off! Just a few years ago you may not have seen many electric cars on the road, but because of the growing market and interest in finding a solution to the environmental damages of conventional cars, car manufacturers are making more and more electric vehicles. Now that these cars are getting more affordable, people interested in buying them are starting to wonder if they are really better for the environment compared to gasoline powered cars. Many are concerned with the batteries used in electric cars and how the electricity is generated. What if the electricity is generated from burning coal? Are electric cars really better for the environment and how about our health?
To answer this question we need to break down the environmental damages of these different types of cars and also look into how they affect our health. Conventional vehicles are known for causing serious damages to human health through particle and gas emissions (3), but are there any health impacts of electric cars?
What is the difference between electric and conventional vehicles?
Before we get into the nitty gritty of the environmental and health differences between electric and conventional (combustion) cars, we should get into the actual differences between the cars themselves. Check out the chart below to read about the different types of vehicles on the market!
Environmental and health concerns of combustion vehicles
The biggest concern with conventional vehicles is what comes out of the tailpipe! Conventional vehicles are notorious for emitting tons of dangerous chemicals, some of which are carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and fine particulate matter (6). This chart breaks down the different tailpipe emissions and their environmental and health impacts.
It's pretty clear that the environmental damages go hand in hand with the health concerns associated with conventional combustion vehicles. Besides the impacts from the emissions, the lifecycle of a car has other detrimental environmental effects. Since mining is needed to source materials to manufacture a car, large amounts of land degradation and a decrease in biodiversity can be attributed to cars. New landfills have had to be created in order to dispose of old vehicles (9).
Other than the car itself, there are also emissions and health concerns that come from the gasoline needed to power conventional vehicles. There are several airborne contaminants and emissions from the machinery and vehicles used to extract, process, and transport the gasoline that can lead to similar health issues mentioned in the chart above. And besides the airborne emissions, the process of extracting oil from the Earth can be very messy and lead to water and land contamination (15). Different heavy metals are released into the air and soil affecting people who live directly in the area or allowing it to bioaccumulate in the surrounding plants and animals. Being exposed to crude oil or the heavy metals released from the extraction process can cause psychological disorders, blood disorders, reproductive and developmental issues, respiratory issues, and cancer (14).
All of these issues and negative impacts that come along with conventional cars are the reason manufacturers and engineers created the electric vehicle. But there is still the burning question: are electric vehicles really that much better?
Environmental and health concerns of electric vehicles
Many scientists have done life cycle analyses of electric vehicles, and conclude that electric vehicles, whether they are fully electric or hybrids, are better for the environment than conventional cars (6,16). This is mainly because electric vehicles have no emissions coming out of the tailpipe. Besides the difference in tailpipe emissions, the two types of cars are relatively similar in terms of how they are built and then disposed of. The metals are mined, the parts are assembled, and eventually the car gets recycled or put into a landfill (6). However, one aspect conventional cars do not have to deal with is the recycling and disposal of electric batteries.
The most common type of battery used in electric cars is a lithium-ion battery (12). This is the same type of batteries used in power tools, electronics, smartphones, and other common household products but just on a much bigger scale. Lithium batteries are made of lithium, cobalt, and nickel, all metals that are very water and energy intensive to extract, creating a concern for the long term sustainability of these batteries. The mining of cobalt also poses an ethical concern due to the lack of environmental safeguards, labor, health issues, and political uncertainty in the Dominican Republic of Congo, which supplies about 58% of the world's cobalt (10). As of right now lithium ion batteries are rarely recycled compared to other types of batteries on the market with some estimates at around a 5% or less recycling rate (13). In order for electric cars to be a completely sustainable option the rate of recycling needs to be much higher and the issues with the extraction of metals also needs to be more environmentally friendly and less of an ethical concern. Thankfully there are many organizations and government agencies working on solving these issues and working to create better recycling programs for these batteries (10).
Another concern people have with buying an electric car is about where they are getting their power from. If your car is hooked up to an electrical grid powered by coal is the car still more environmentally friendly? The answer is: absolutely! Most electric cars still emit less emissions and require less energy overall even if they are being powered by a nonrenewable energy source (6,16). As of 2020 the U.S. had a majority of its energy needs met by nonrenewable resources such as natural gas which accounted for 40% of energy use, coal at 19%, and nuclear at 20%, while renewable resources accounted for only 20% of energy use (17). But thankfully energy sources like coal have been on the decline due to the country's transition to more renewable energy sources, meaning most electric vehicles in the upcoming future will be powered by green energy reducing their overall emissions even more! (17)
Benefits to owning an electric vehicle
Besides the benefit of cleaner air and a healthier planet, there are also a lot of financial benefits to owning an electric vehicle. Studies have found that in some circumstances, electric cars are much more cost-competitive than conventional cars when considering the long-term costs of ownership (8). In many states there are financial incentives to purchase an electric vehicle and depending on where you live, those incentives could take thousands of dollars off the initial purchasing price! Check out this link and see what the incentives are in your state. Data also shows that the larger the electric car and the more it is being driven, the more cost competitive the car is (8). Meaning that if you drive a lot and have a big family to haul around, an electric car would be a perfect fit!
Another bonus is that because the electric car market has grown so much over the years many of the electric car models are in the same exact price range as conventional cars and because you won't have to buy gas, that's just extra savings! Gas prices are only going to go up as there is less and less gas to be drilled, so as time goes on electric cars will be astronomically cheaper than conventional vehicles to maintain and use (8). And speaking of cheaper, the prices of electric car batteries are expected to continue to decrease rapidly in the next few years. This means that the most expensive aspect of an electric car will be more affordable than ever, making electric cars a great option! (10)
Plus, the availability of charging stations is increasing while at the same time the batteries are lasting longer and longer. The average electric car can go over 200 miles on a full charge which means you should easily be able to make it to another charging station or do your weekly routine without a problem. If you are concerned your area is lacking enough charging stations, check out maps in your area to see where the nearest charging stations are to make sure it won't be too much of a hassle for you.
So what should you do?
If you are in the market for a new car, think about getting an electric one. Whether you are buying a new or a slightly used electric car it will save you a lot of money down the road and is also a healthier option for you, the people around you, and the world!
It would be great if we could all go out and buy an electric car, but we get that buying a new car isn't an option for a lot of people. But just because you can't buy the newest Tesla model, doesn't mean there aren't things you can do to minimize your emissions.
- Drive less!
- Take public transportation or ride a bike to work even just one day a week
- Be efficient with your driving. Do all errands in one day instead of spreading it out
- Carpool to work or school
- Get a smog check so your car is running efficiently and not releasing extra emissions
- Ma, H., Balthasar, F., Tait, N., Riera-Palou, X., & Harrison, A. (2012). A new comparison between the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of battery electric vehicles and internal combustion vehicles. Energy Policy, 44, 160–173. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2012.01.034
- Electric Vehicle Basics. (n.d.). Energy.Gov. Retrieved May 15, 2021, from https://www.energy.gov/eere/electricvehicles/electric-vehicle-basics
- Manisalidis, I., Stavropoulou, E., Stavropoulos, A., & Bezirtzoglou, E. (2020). Environmental and Health Impacts of Air Pollution: A Review. Frontiers in Public Health, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2020.00014
- Weldon, P., Morrissey, P., & O'Mahony, M. (2018). Long-term cost of ownership comparative analysis between electric vehicles and internal combustion engine vehicles. Sustainable Cities and Society, 39, 578–591. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scs.2018.02.024
- Simmons, D. R. (n.d.). ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND RENEWABLE ENERGY U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY. 8.
- Iclodean, C., Varga, B., Burnete, N., Cimerdean, D., & Jurchiş, B. (2017). Comparison of Different Battery Types for Electric Vehicles. IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering, 252, 012058. https://doi.org/10.1088/1757-899X/252/1/012058
- Sonoc, A., Jeswiet, J., & Soo, V. K. (2015). Opportunities to Improve Recycling of Automotive Lithium Ion Batteries. Procedia CIRP, 29, 752–757. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.procir.2015.02.039
- Ramirez, M. I., Arevalo, A. P., Sotomayor, S., & Bailon-Moscoso, N. (2017). Contamination by oil crude extraction – Refinement and their effects on human health. Environmental Pollution, 231, 415–425. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2017.08.017
- Johnston, J. E., Lim, E., & Roh, H. (2019). Impact of upstream oil extraction and environmental public health: A review of the evidence. Science of The Total Environment, 657, 187–199. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.11.483
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!
- Swap out the canned coffee for coffee in a glass bottle or tetrapaks whenever possible.
- Find some fun new ways to make coffee at home like using a Chemex or a nice French press!
- Go get a coffee at your local coffee shop. Support small businesses if you can!
- 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.
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)
Headed to some white sand beaches, or snow-capped mountains sometime soon? Maybe it's just a quick business trip. No matter what, flying is almost inevitable these days. While air travel in general has been proven to be pretty safe, we have a few tips to make jetting off for that weekend vacay a little healthier. And nope, it's not about staying hydrated (okay, one of them is) or putting on a face mask, although both of those might make you feel better when you arrive, too.
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