Big Decisions

Worried your 401(k) is fueling climate change?

3 tips to make sure your investments are also fighting climate change

Have a 401(k), savings, or checking account? Congratulations! You are now a shareholder of oil and gas companies. OK, just kidding, that's not exactly how it works, but your money isn't just sitting around twiddling its thumbs. It gets invested in a lot of different ways, including with companies responsible for climate change. You might end up owning stocks in coal, oil, or gas companies through your retirement account and, if you're banking with certain banks, they could be using your money to help finance oil or gas pipelines.


Why does it matter? We all know climate change is already happening. We are feeling the impact on our health today from extreme heat to worsening allergy seasons to the food on our plates. You can use your money to help the transition away from climate-damaging fossil fuels into clean energy that is healthier for you, your kids, and your communities. And, it's easy to do.

Here are 3 steps you can take to use your money to do good for the planet and your finances.

Step 1. Know what you own.

Fossil fuel companies like Exxon and Shell have known for decades that burning fossil fuels cause climate change and have spent those same decades sowing climate change doubt and keeping the fossil fuels flowing. And, although they have started to invest in clean energy solutions like solar and wind, they have also invested trillions of dollars in future fossil fuel projects from coal mines to pipelines and have fought against better fuel economy standards and clean air standards that protect human health. But despite all this, the world is shifting away from fossil fuels. Every nation on the planet, except the United States, has agreed to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Through this agreement, the world has pledged to reduce carbon emissions to limit global warming to 1.5C in order to protect island nations from sea level rise.

Global climate action spells financial trouble for fossil fuel companies. Renewable energy, like wind and solar, are now cheaper to install than new coal plants, and they're almost as cheap as natural gas. More car companies are committed to replacing gasoline-fueled cars with electric vehicles. For coal, oil, and gas companies that means they are worth more today than they will be when you cash out your 401(k). Economists are so worried about the carbon bubble bursting that they think it could spark the next global financial crisis.

So, how can you find out if you have fossil fuel company investments? You can call and ask your financial advisor or investment company. If they don't know or aren't sure, ask them to check and get back to you. Fossil Free Funds is a great search platform that looks at the climate impact of popular mutual funds and shows you if your money is being invested in fossil fuel companies, or companies with high carbon footprints. You can use their step-by-step guide to learn the climate impact of your investment portfolio or find fossil free options. Knowledge is power!

2. Divest from fossil fuel companies. Invest in climate solutions.

Around the world, nearly 900 institutions from universities to pension funds worth over $6 trillion have committed to pull their money from coal, tar sands, oil, and gas companies because they no longer want to be investing in climate change. With the help of celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Adrien Grenier, the global fossil fuel divestment movement has called attention to climate change and the need to move beyond fossil fuels, but as it turns out, it's also been doing a lot of good for investment portfolios. Industry and governments need to invest $90 trillion toward sustainable development over the next 15 years in order to keep to the Paris Climate Agreement, and that's a huge investment opportunity. The Clean200™ is a list of the 200 largest companies worldwide ranked by their total clean energy revenues, including revenue associated with energy efficiency themes. In the first year and a half since the Clean200 list was launched, Clean200 companies generated a total return of 32.1%. That's almost double the 15.7% return compared to its fossil fuel benchmark - the S&P 1200 Global Energy Index.

You can use Fossil Free Funds and the Clean200™ lists to find fossil free investment options or to start a conversation with your financial advisor about helping you choose investment options that cut climate change out of your investments. Green Century Funds offers fossil free mutual funds and has a helpful Guide to Fossil Fuel Free Investing and other resources to help you along your way to a fossil free future. If your 401(k) or employer-sponsored retirement company doesn't have fossil free options, ask them to add some! Millennials are leading the way on socially responsible investing and fundamentally transforming the way companies do business by demanding more ethical options, for our health and the health of the planet.

3. Switch your bank.

Many banks, like Chase and Bank of America, are providing finance for projects like the Dakota Access pipeline and tar sands development that are polluting our air and water, and ensuring decades of future carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels. As an alternative,you can open an account with a local credit union or community bank. You can often get the same services at a local bank that most bigger banks provide, plus local banks and credit unions do more to invest in their communities. On average, small and medium banks provide more than half of the lending to local small businesses in your town or city than big banks. So, when you visit your local health food store or bakery, chances are they got their start with a loan from a local bank. Green America has an easy 10-step guide to making the switch to a smaller bank and a directory to find an alternative near you!

Additional actions you can take:

Now that you have taken steps to get fossil fuel money out of your wallet, help us build a healthy, fossil free world. Join 350.org to bring the global movement to every city and town for a fast and just transition to renewable energy for all, stop and ban all new fossil fuel projects, and cut off the social license and finance for fossil fuels. Join (or start!) a campaign at www.gofossilfree.org

Life

Buying holiday decorations? Here's what you should know

Don't let these chemicals ruin your holiday cheer

You may need to be careful rockin' around the Christmas tree this year! Why you ask? Well, there might be some unexpected chemicals in that holly jolly decoration above your head. Holiday decorations can bring great cheer, but sometimes they can contain an unwanted surprise. Some decorations may be made with toxic chemicals - keep a look out for the ones below!
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Life

Is Your Artificial Christmas Tree Toxic?

Tips to reduce your exposure to these hazardous chemicals

Artificial Christmas trees are becoming increasingly popular for families. They're seen as being convenient since they don't shed needles and can be reused year after year. Because they can be reused, families tend to save money by choosing artificial trees over a real one. A study from the The American Christmas Tree Association (yes that is a real and reputable organization!) performed a life cycle analysis and found that one artificial tree that's reused for eight or more Christmases is more environmentally friendly than purchasing a real tree each year (1). The study also found that Christmas trees, both real and fake, accounted for a tiny part (< 0.1%) of a person's annual carbon footprint.

But are artificial Christmas trees as good for your health as they are for your wallet? The majority of artificial trees are made using a plastic called polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and lead, which is used to stabilize PVC (2). The lead in the trees break down over time and forms lead dust. These particles are released into the air and can cause health issues, especially in young children. Most people do not realize that artificial trees contain lead, and only California requires a lead warning label (2). It is estimated that there are 50 million households in the United States that own artificial trees with lead in them (3).

Don't panic! If you are an owner of an artificial Christmas tree made out of PVC, there are precautions you can take to reduce your family's exposure to lead.

  1. PVC releases more gases when it is first exposed to air. They also release gases as they degrade. A good way to reduce the amount of lead in your household is to take the tree out of the box and air it outside when you first purchase it (4).
  2. If you have used your artificial tree for many Christmases, you may want to consider purchasing a new one. PVC tends to weaken and degrade after nine years (4). Newer artificial trees do not leach as much lead as older ones.
  3. Light cords that come with your artifical tree are prone to have levels of lead that exceed the limit set by the EPA (4). It is recommended that you wash your hands immediately after touching light cords. And definitely don't let young children handle cords.

If you're currently tree-less and in the market for an artificial one, consider purchasing a tree made out of polyethylene. This plastic is safer than PVC and does not leach lead. Additionally, trees made out of polyethylene tend to be more durable than PVC trees.

While artificial PVC Christmas trees don't pose a high health risk overall to the general population, it's very possible for young children to have severe negative health effects (3). It's important to be aware of the health risks that go along with trees made out of PVC, and the ways to avoid lead exposure for yourself and your family this holiday season.


References

  1. https://www.christmastreeassociation.org/real-artificial-christmas-tree-environment/
  2. https://rtkenvironmental.com/lead/warning-hidden-health-hazard-artificial-christmas-trees/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15628192
  4. https://www.menshealth.com/health/a19548208/do-christmas-trees-make-you-sick/
Sometimes it may feel like everywhere you turn, there's some sort of junk food being advertised—whether that's cupcakes or fries or deep fried things on a stick. And more than sometimes, you have a child begging you for a sweet treat or sugary drink. It can feel like a daunting task at times to encourage and foster healthy eating. While we know there are many factors that influence a child's food choices, here's one that you may not have thought of.
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Life

Avoid These Stressful Ingredients the Next Time You Relax with a Bath Bomb

We don't need these chemicals messing with our #selfcare

December means it's time to start thinking about those stocking stuffers or Chanukah gifts for your loved ones. What's better than a bath bomb to relax and take in those sudsy, therapeutic fragrances? Bath bombs can also get your kids to bathe without putting up a fight. They're basically magic! But, have you stopped to think what else they are putting in those bombs to make those suds glisten and fizz?

What's in a Bath Bomb?

It turns out, there can be a whole range of questionable chemicals packed neatly into those appealing little bombs. It's hard to tell exactly what's in each bath bomb because the ingredients vary widely among manufacturers, but fragrances, artificial colors, boric acid, and glitter are some common ingredients.

Fragrance is never a welcome sight on the ingredient list. The FDA does not require companies to disclose ingredients used to make fragrances in products like bath bombs in order to protect company "trade secrets (1)." Many synthetic and natural fragrances also include such hormone-disrupting chemicals as phthalates, which can be absorbed through the skin and have been found to pose specific risks for pregnant women and children (2). Studies have also linked health effects of phthalates to miscarriage, gestational diabetes, reduced IQ, and ADHD with increased exposure to phthalates.

As for dyes, the evidence is limited when it comes to FDA approved dyes readily being absorbed through the skin. However, one study found that certain dyes may be absorbed after shaving (3). Also, young children often swallow water while bathing and ingestion of some of these chemicals for young children is definitely not recommended!

Boric acid also has some side effects that you may not want to risk. It can be absorbed through the mucous membranes and has been linked to hormone disruption and developmental and reproductive toxicity (4). And then there is glitter, which is just more plastic that can end up in our lakes, rivers, and streams.

Alternatives and DIY Recipes

While there may be harmful ingredients in some bath bombs, you don't have to give them up! It's easy to avoid these ingredients with just a little extra effort. You can choose to purchase "fragrance-free" or "phthalate-free" bath bombs, but making your own bath bomb is super easy. Here are also some DIY recipes to try at home.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • ½ cup citric acid
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ cup finely ground sea salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons almond oil (or apricot oil)
  • ½ teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon of witch hazel
  • 1 teaspoon beet root powder
  • wild orange essential oil
  • rose essential oil

Directions

  • Blend all dry ingredients in a bowl.
  • Blend wet ingredients in another bowl.
  • Combine all ingredients.
  • Place in mold of choice or just form a ball about 1-2 inches in diameter.
  • Allow the bath bombs to dry for approximately 1-2 days.
  • To use, place bath bomb in the bath.
  • To store, place in airtight container. Storing in a refrigerator can allow the bath bombs to keep for about 3 weeks (5).


References

1.https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/fragrances-cosmetics

2.https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp73-c1.pdf
3.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23127598
4.https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Boric-acid#section=Health-Hazardhttps://draxe.com/health/are-bath-bombs-safe/
5.https://draxe.com/beauty/diy-bath-bomb-recipe/
6. https://homemadeforelle.com/bath-bombs-for-kids/#Ingredients
Life

The Hidden Risk in Store-Bought Slime

Avoid this hazardous ingredient with our own DIY slime recipe

Slime seems to be the hottest new toy for kids. They love that it's a tactile toy they can squeeze and smash. But before you rush out to buy a new tub of gooey slime on your next shopping trip, have you ever wondered what's actually in it? Turns out, there's a not-so-kid-friendly ingredient lurking in many slime products sold in stores, as well as in some DIY kits and recipes.

What's So Bad About Boron?

Boron is a chemical commonly used in many brands of slime, DIY kits, and some DIY recipes to give it that rubbery texture. While it may feel fun, it's actually not great for our health. Boron is an acute eye, respiratory tract, and nasal irritant and is harmful if swallowed (1). If ingested, it can also cause nausea and vomiting (2). Long-term exposure to boron can also cause negative reproductive health effects (3, 4). The problems with boron don't stop once you throw slime away either. It turns out that boron lasts a long time in the environment and has hazardous effects on aquatic life (5).

To make matters worse, there's a lot more boron in slime than there should be. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) recently tested different brands of slime and found concentrations as high as 4700 parts per million (ppm) of boron, (6) which is more than fifteen times the allowable level for toys sold in the European Union (300 ppm for sticky/liquid toys) (6). Canada, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates have even instituted policies limiting or banning boron in children's toys (6).

Safe Slime

Luckily, it's easy to make your own boron-free slime. We like this recipe for full-proof slime that substitutes boron/borax (a boron compound that's found in a lot of other slime recipes) with cornstarch and school glue. We guarantee your kids will still have hours of fun with this non-toxic slime!

Fluffy Volcano Slime

  1. Pour 1/4 cup white school glue and a 1/2 cup of cornstarch in a bowl
  2. Add 3 drops of food coloring (optional)
  3. Mix well
  4. Knead it with your hands for 10 minutes
  5. Heat it in the microwave for 20 seconds
  6. Let it cool, then knead it for another 10 minutes (7)

References

2. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-09/documents/health_effects_support_document_for_boron.pdf

3. https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@term+@DOCNO+328

4. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-09/documents/health_effects_support_document_for_boron.pdf

5. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Boron

6. https://uspirg.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/WEB_USP_Toyland-Report_Nov18_2-1.pdf

7. https://www.cnet.com/how-to/make-slime-without-borax/

Roundups

15 Non-Toxic Toys for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Fun, healthy, safe, and great for those budding imaginations

Updated for 2019!

You can pat yourself on the back for bringing these non-toxic toys into your home or gifting them to friends. These are the highest rated, healthiest toys for your growing little one. Not only did we make sure that the materials are safe, but we made sure parents like you love these toys. All the toys here are great for revving up their imagination and creativity and are made to last. If you're looking for something for a newborn or a baby under 1, here are our top picks for best non-toxic newborn toys.

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Roundups

15 Non-Toxic Toys for Newborns

healthy, safe toys for 0-1 years old

Updated for 2019!

Even before they can talk, babies know how to play. Sure, they will play with whatever is in front of them, but having their own toys is way more fun, and saves things like your watch from being covered in slobber. Here are some of the highest rated, healthiest toys out there, but be sure to check out our roundup of toy brands, too. If you're looking for something for someone a bit older, here are our picks for best non-toxic toys for toddlers.

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