Making Earth Day a Family Day

Earth Day is tomorrow, April 22. Founded in 1970, Earth Day is a time to promote environmental awareness around the world.

EarthWe’re getting a jump start on our Earth celebration today and heading over to Jody’s work (Google) for lunch; then they are busing employees and their families to some local ponds to plant cottonwood seedlings and listen to educational information about the ponds. I love the idea of getting the kids excited about and involved in celebrating Earth Day while they are still young.

What about you? What are your plans for celebrating Mother Earth? Why not get the whole family involved this year? Here are some ideas to get you started. Choose one or two for Earth Day, then select another couple more to work on in the coming year:

  • Plan a meal made only of local foods or make a meat-free meal – Use this as an opportunity to talk with your kids about where your food comes from and/or why eating a meatless meal is better for the Earth
  • Plant a tree, a bush, a garden or even some herbs or flowers in a pot
  • Spend some time outside – on a hike, a walk, at the park – enjoying each other’s company, appreciating nature, and picking up any garbage you see
  • Designate an “Earth Hour” every week where you turn off your lights in the evening for one hour to save electricity
  • Encourage your kids to round up some of their toys or clothing they’ve outgrown and donate them to a local charity
  • Visit a local charity or thrift store to see how items you no longer use can benefit others
  • Visit a local recycling center to see where all of the bottles, cans, newspapers, etc. go
  • Print out an Earth Day coloring/activities book for your children and work on it together
  • Take a trip to the library and check out some books related to nature – endangered species, water, plants and flowers, etc. – or books specifically about Earth Day
  • Talk with your kids about water consumption and how turning off the water while brushing teeth helps conserve it. Encourage all family members to take shorter showers or consider filling up baths with a little less water.
  • Change your incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs to conserve energy and encourage the kids to turn off lights/TV when they aren’t in use

This is the only Earth we’ve got, let’s give her a li’l love. For more information about Earth Day, visit Earth Day 2008.

Be sure to check back here tomorrow on Earth Day for my big Earth-Mother’s Day giveaway!

Best Shot Monday – 4/21/08 – Together, but apart

I had a wonderful weekend. The weather was amazing. Hooray for spring!

First, I enjoyed a night out with my friends including dinner at a very tasty Japanese restaurant on Saturday night. Three and a half hours of good food, good company and good conversation. Oh, moms’ night out – how I need you more often! ;)

Then Sunday Jody and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. It’s amazing how much our lives have changed in seven years, though definitely in a good way. We took the kids out to The Cheesecake Factory for dinner. Things got a little chaotic between the appetizer and main course (let’s just say you could tell Julian hasn’t been out to eat much), so I took the kids outside to listen to a street busker play the saxophone (which Julian was enrapt by) until our food arrived. That did the trick. Jody called me on my cell phone when the waiter brought our meals and the kids were ready to dig in. Trying to head off any further restlessness, we rushed through dinner, which was delicious, then got a couple of pieces of cheesecake to go. (So much for the Buy Nothing challenge this weekend. Oy.)

I have a couple pictures of Julian to share from this week, one just being cute and then one enjoying his hummus.
Julian (almost 17 months) - 4/16/08 Julian, lovin’ him some hummus - 4/18/08

And then this one of Ava and Julian is my Best Shot for the week. Of course I wish they were both looking at the camera, but I also love the far off look in Julian’s eyes, while Ava looks cute as a button.

Ava and Julian - 4/16/08

Head on over to Mother May I to see what everyone else has in store for their Best Shot Monday posts.

red BSM button

Pay It Forward reminder and upcoming giveaway

Just a reminder that my Pay It Forward (PIF) – Reader Appreciation post is still open for comments. Please take a look and if you are a regular commenter, leave me a comment there if you want to be considered for some fun PIF gifts from me. You just need to promise to host a PIF on your own blog. I’m closing it to comments after Friday, April 25, so I can pick some names and get goodies mailed out. Thank you all for being such fabulous readers! :)

Also, I have a big Earth-Mother’s Day giveaway in the works to celebrate both Earth Day and Mother’s Day. You won’t want to miss it. Details will be posted this week. :)

Buying Nothing – an update

Buy Nothing Challenge - April 2008At the beginning of the month I wrote about joining the Buy Nothing challenge sponsored by Crunchy Chicken for the month of April. The rules are simple, buy only necessities to live – basically food and gas – for the month.

It really hasn’t been all that hard for me to keep from spending, since I don’t buy much outside of food as it is. There are a few things I’ve been wanting to buy, like new sun hats for the kids and a jacket for Ava, but I’m holding off for now though I may look at the consignment shops, since buying used items if you really need them is allowed.

The part I’ve found particularly challenging is staying away from takeout food, which we generally have once or twice a week. While Crunchy Chicken says going out to eat is OK, depending on where you go, etc., takeout food, because of the amount of waste produced, is off limits. It’s been a challenge for me to cook dinner every night (and I can often be found complaining about it on Twitter), but with the exception of one meal out at the start of the challenge and one trip to Taco Bell (I know, I know and I confessed it) last week, I’m proud of myself at how well I’ve done.

Not only is this challenge keeping us from producing unnecessary waste, it’s saving us money, which I’m really appreciating.

There’s still time to join in for the last two weeks of the month. Head on over to Crunchy Chicken and sign up. Or if you are feeling really adventurous, check out her Extreme Eco Throwdown challenge for the month of May. You might notice even I haven’t signed up yet. I’m still procrastinating trying to figure out what I want to commit to. ;)

Edited to add: I just remembered that I am going to spend some money this weekend. My friends and I are having a moms’ night out tomorrow (woot!) and Sunday is my anniversary (7 years), so Jody and I will probably take the kids out to eat to celebrate that day. So I’m not perfect, but I’m trying. ;)

Buying a shirt = a donation to save women’s lives. Can you do this too?

After researching and writing my recent BlogHer/Global Giving project posts about Afghan women and the people of Darfur and then reading Her Bad Mother‘s post about women and children in Nepal and Denise‘s post about the HIV/AIDS stigma in South Africa, I began racking my brain for a way that I could make a contribution to the GlobalGiving projects other than just blogging about them. I love to raise awareness for issues, but I often lack the funds to make monetary donations.

I’m going to change the worldBuy a shirt, donate to GlobalGiving
Since I can’t donate money already earmarked for living expenses, I had to find another way. After giving it some thought, I decided to donate a percentage of all sales from my two online stores
* Attached At The Hip
* Cute As A Bug
for the duration of the BlogHer campaign – from April 7 through Mother’s Day, May 11. Have you been eying a shirt from one of my stores for a while? Maybe the popular I make milk. What’s your superpower tee for yourself or a friend or an I’m going to change the world shirt for your little tree-hugger? Now is a great time to make that purchase and help support a good cause too!

Will you join me?
I’m asking those of you with online stores, Etsy shops, etc. to consider doing the same thing. Or, if you run BlogHerAds on your site, consider donating a portion of your commission from April. You could even auction something off on your blog and raise money that way. If you’d like to participate and donate a portion of your sales to one of the GlobalGiving causes to improve maternal mortality and save women and children’s lives, please leave a link to your store (or blog if you will donate part of your BlogHerAds commission) in the comments. I will keep track of the links and post about the participating bloggers/stores later in the month.

Thank you! :)

Is your child’s sunscreen doing more harm than good?

The Centers for Disease Control recently came out with some bad news for nearly all Americans who use sunscreen. A recent study shows one of the commonly used ingredients in most sunscreens (for adults, children as well as babies), a chemical called oxybenzone, has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage. In fact according to the study, 97% of Americans are contaminated with this chemical. Another study has showed oxybenzone is linked to low birth weight in baby girls whose mothers are exposed during pregnancy. Also worth noting is “oxybenzone is also a penetration enhancer, a chemical that helps other chemicals penetrate the skin.”

Boy in the sunNo FDA regulations
The last time the Food and Drug Administration reviewed the safety of oxybenzone was in the 1970s. It republished its evaluation in 1978, and announced plans to develop comprehensive standards for sunscreen safety and effectiveness. However, it’s been 30 years now and the Agency has yet to issue final regulations. “Instead, it encourages manufacturers to follow draft guidelines that the Agency has delayed finalizing at the behest of the sunscreen industry. As a result, sunscreen manufacturers in the U.S. are free to market products containing ingredients like oxybenzone that have not been proven safe for people.”

No special safety standards for children
What really frustrates me is that many sunscreens are marketed specifically for babies or children, and one might expect that because of this they are somehow “safer,” yet they contain the same chemicals as those sunscreens made for adults. There are no special safety standards for babies/children’s products.

Additional cautions must be employed when considering the effects of oxybenzone on children. The surface area of a child’s skin relative to body weight is greater than adults. As a result, the potential dose of a chemical following dermal exposure is likely to be about 1.4 times greater in children than in adults (SCCNFP 2001). In addition, children are less able than adults to detoxify and excrete chemicals, and children’s developing organ systems are more vulnerable to damage from chemical exposures, and more sensitive to low levels of hormonally active compounds (NAS 1993; Janjua 2004). Children also have more years of future life in which to develop disease triggered by early exposure to chemicals (NAS 1993). Despite these well-documented concerns regarding children’s sensitivity to harmful substances, no special protections exist regarding ingredients in personal care products marketed for babies and children.

What does this all mean? Is YOUR child’s sunscreen safe?
If you haven’t yet familiarized yourself with the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database web site, I highly suggest you do so. Products from skin care to baby care, from make up to hair care and oral care (and more) are ranked on their hazard level.

Skin Deep lists 607 skincare products containing oxybenzone. Please check the list to find out if yours or your children’s is on it. Again, I’m frustrated and disturbed that one of the worst sunscreens on the list is one specifically for babies – Walgreens Baby Sunblock.

California Baby sunscreenSo what IS safe?
Here is a link to a list of the sunscreen best bets for kids.
I was relieved to find the brand and type we have been using since Ava was about 9 months old – *California Baby SPF 30+ Sunscreen Lotion Everyday/Year Round – is on the list (the California Baby Sunblock Stick is also on the list and might be easier to apply. I’ll be looking into getting some of that, especially since we’re nearly out of the lotion.). I’m thankful that many of the mommies I know (which is where I got the recommendation for California Baby in the first place) do their homework when it comes to safe baby/child skincare products.
*You can purchase California Baby sunscreen and other products at health food stores like Whole Foods and Vitamin Cottage and apparently Target carries it too, or order directly from the California Baby website.

Avoid these ingredients:

  • Oxybenzone – In sunlight, can produce allergy- and cancer-causing chemicals
  • DMDM Hydantoin – Allergen and irritant that can form cancer-causing contaminants
  • Triethanolamine – Allergen and irritant that can form cancer-causing contaminants

Safe Sun Tips

  • Minimize sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the greatest amount of ultraviolet light exists.
  • Wear Hats. Each inch of hat brim can lower your lifetime risk of skin cancer by 10%. A hat brim of four inches or greater is recommended.
  • Wear protective eyewear. Sunglasses with UV-blocking filters are very important.

Final thoughts
It’s frustrating when the groups that are supposed to be looking out for our health and that of our children let us down, but it’s things like these that reaffirm my belief of questioning authority. The best piece of advice I have is to arm yourself with information and trust your instincts. If dousing yourself or your child in chemicals doesn’t feel right to you, don’t do it. Find another way. In this information age where so much is available to us at the click of a mouse, it can be easy to find healthier and safer alternatives. Knowledge is power.

For more information, please check out: Is Your Sunscreen Safe?

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