Plastic Wrapped Bananas: Guest Post

I’ve decided to take a little break from blogging (read more about the reasons why), but wanted to continue to provide interesting and insightful content on my blog in the meantime. I asked for help and my tribe answered my call, so for a while I will have guest posts from various bloggers interspersed with posts by me when I am moved to write. Thank you for your understanding. — Amy (CDG)

Today’s guest post comes from Amy who blogs at An Aussie Mum’s Guide to Eco Friendly Babies.

Plastic Wrapped Bananas. Yes, I’m Serious!

Despite so many people attempting to make a difference for the better, some companies have other ideas. Del Monte have bought out a range of plastic wrapped bananas — to save the environment. Say what? Yes, they claim that the plastic wrapping on the bananas in plastic is “...Designed to provide significant carbon footprint savings by reducing the frequency of deliveries and the amount of waste going to landfill. The packaging is also recyclable.

Looking at the company website suggests the packaged bananas are going into vending machines and convenience stores and will potentially make it easier for people to grab a healthy snack on the go. Surely, there is a better option than non-biodegradable plastic? Even here is Australia, where life is a little slower and so much of the land is still pristine, we are succumbing to the mantra of ‘buy, use, discard’. You can buy ‘healthy’ apple slices from McDonalds- packaged in plastic and dipped in some foul tasting substance to stop browning. Wouldn’t it be cheaper (and eco-friendlier) just to use a whole, unpackaged, untreated apple? There is also the prevalence of cut and packaged vegetables in the supermarkets- celery, carrots, gourmet tomatoes, Asian vegetable mixes and pre-made salads. Are people so inept in the kitchen these days they can’t slice celery? Is there some sort of social benefit to saying “Look, these are upper-class Tomatoes- they come in a packet!”

It’s not just food. If you buy a toaster, you get a whole bunch of Styrofoam, plastic, tie-wires, bubble wrap, warranty cards, brochures for other products (want to buy a coffee machine with that toaster?) and instructions that are 18 pages long because they are in 7 different languages. Retailers receive deliveries that are in boxes three times the needed size and packed with plastic and puffed rice, and usually yet another copy of this months deals (you know, the ones that were sent in the mail, and with the last four orders). The bank who offers e-statements to save paper sends you a quarterly offer for insurance that you already have. In a world where email is so quick and easy, where technology is so advanced, why can’t we start using it for something good? We could email statements, bills, special offers and all the other rubbish that comes through the mail. We can come up with biodegradable, renewal, ecologically sound packaging, or just use some sense and pack smaller and transport less.

Can a single person make a difference? I like to believe so. We can email companies like Del Monte, asking them to come up with a better solution. We can tell suppliers that unless they pack smarter, we will no longer buy from them. We can pressure our schools and encourage our workplaces to adopt ‘nude food’ policies. We can slice our own celery and not buy food with unnecessary wrapping, packagings and labels. We can reduce, reuse, recycle and above all, teach our kids to do the same. After all, it may be one of our kids who eventually heads up a company like Del Monte and finally makes a change… for the better.

Photo credit: Friends Eat

Amy is a working mum of two from Australia. Between her kids (who are nine years apart) she’s been working in the natural health industry, which has opened her eyes to the down side of many aspects of modern life. Since having a new baby she started a journey to find a more natural, holistic way of living. Amy wants to share what she finds with other mums who are looking to change their way of thinking and have happier, healthier, more eco-friendly lives! She blogs at An Aussie Mum’s Guide to Eco Friendly Babies.

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Growing meat in a lab to solve the global food crisis?!

Thanks to a scientist in South Carolina, we may soon have something more disturbing to worry about than the recent deregulation of genetically modified alfalfa and the genetically modified fruits and veggies that are increasingly common in the average American’s diet.

drumroll please

Meat that has been created in a laboratory!

Vladimir Mironov — a scientist working for the past 10 years on bioengineering “cultured” meat — thinks meat made in a lab could solve the future world food crisis that’s resulting from diminished land to grow meat the “old-fashioned way.”

Or. Hmmm. I have an idea that could help solve the food crisis. Let’s just stop eating so much meat! Or we could start eating bugs, which are apparently “good to eat and better for the environment.” Um, yeah. Let’s just stick to eating less meat.

Nicolas Genovese — a visiting scholar in cancer cell biology working under a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals three-year grant to run Dr. Mironov’s meat-growing lab — said, “There’s a yuck factor when people find out meat is grown in a lab. They don’t like to associate technology with food. But there are a lot of products that we eat today that are considered natural that are produced in a similar manner.” Genovese references yogurt as well as wine and beer production.

I’m not sure how one can compare yogurt, which is bacterial fermentation of milk — not to mention something I can make in my own kitchen — with bioengineered meat currently created in a lab.

On one hand, we have milk and cultured yeast, which can easily be made into yogurt in your crock pot in your own home — something I’ve done on several occasions. On the other hand, we have meat that comes from a once living, breathing animal. Yet instead of getting it from an animal, we’re talking about creating it in a “carnery.” If Mironov gets his way, he envisions “football field-sized buildings filled with large bioreactors, or bioreactors the size of a coffee machine in grocery stores, to manufacture what he calls ‘charlem’ — ‘Charleston engineered meat.'”

How are these AT ALL the same?

There’s so much that concerns me about all of this, but especially Mironov’s statement, “Genetically modified food is already normal practice and nobody dies.”

Nobody dies. Is that all that matters — that nobody dies? And who’s to say GM food isn’t killing us slowly? How long have we been guinea pigs eating GM foods? Are there any long-term health studies? Considering it has only been available in the United States since the 1990s, I would venture to guess no, though please correct me if I’m wrong.

Linda Johnson — a naturopathic doctor in New Mexico — speaks to the possible issues of consuming GMO food. She points out:

90% of all corn planted in the U.S. is genetically modified. This corn seed is specially made by Monsanto and engineered to ward off root worm by producing its own pesticide, which you then consume.

So you say you don’t eat corn? If you eat animals that eat corn and they managed to force this food on them, you are eating GM food. Specific animal studies showed that when rats were fed this corn, they developed many reactions that included anemia, increased blood sugar levels, kidney inflammation, blood pressure issues, increased white blood cells and more.

It’s very likely these health problems are affecting humans as well. Since the FDA doesn’t think GM food need to be examined for humans to eat safely, it’s been on the market for a long time.

Johnson adds, “European countries feel there is something wrong with this manipulation of food and they don’t allow it in their countries.
… It is not known what the long-term ramifications of eating food daily that has been genetically modified. What are the damaging effects of a newborn ingesting nothing but formula made with GM ingredients? No one knows.”

So why do we allow it here in the United States?

What are your thoughts about lab meat? Would you eat it? Would you feed it to your kids? Do you think it’s the answer to the global food crisis? Are there positives to this I’m missing? Enlighten me, please.

Related articles:

Photo credit: Yo My Got

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Last Minute Green Holiday Gifts

I have to admit I’m freaking out a little bit that there are only 10 days until Christmas! I felt like I had so much time and suddenly Christmas is right around the corner! I think I’m pretty set on gifts for the kids, but still need to mail a few packages and figure out what I’m getting for my husband.

For those of you who are still wracking your brains, check out the suggestions below. You’re sure to find a green idea or two to help you on your merry way. :)

Last Minute Green Gifts

Now for some Eco-friendly Gift Wrap Ideas

Do you have tips for other last minute green gifts or eco-friendly wrapping ideas? Please share them in the comments. :)

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation. See what the other ambassadors have to say about One Million Acts of Green: Green and Clean MomGreen Your Décor and Condo Blues.

Photo via Perspicacious.org: Paper bag gift wrap

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Nothing says Merry Christmas quite like Lead Poisoning

When you think of the holiday season, what comes to mind?

Family? Friends? Christmas trees? Decorations? Presents? Candles? Food? Mistletoe?
How about lead, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and other toxins?

In Danika Carter’s post All I want for Christmas is Lead-free Decorations, she points out that most artificial Christmas trees are made from PVC (vinyl) and the many problems associated with PVC.

• It off gasses
• contains phthalates
• breaks down in heat and sun
• contains lead which becomes lead dust and spreads throughout your home
• Doesn’t biodegrade and is difficult to recycle

This is one of the reasons we are opting for a real tree this year (which we are finally going to get tomorrow – can’t wait!). :)

Danika also points out that reports have shown that “the cords on most holiday lights contain lead at higher levels that what is allowable for toys.” A Michigan-based group called The Ecology Center tested 68 light sets and found four out of five of those sets contained detectable levels of lead.

While most people don’t stick electrical cords in their mouths, they do touch them with their hands (and then touch food or their faces?) and all of the twisting and turning the cords while wrapping them around the tree or — in my house, the banister — can lead to lead dust in the air.

Lead is a potent poison that can affect individuals at any age. Children with developing bodies are especially vulnerable because their rapidly developing nervous systems are particularly sensitive to the effects of lead. Exposure to lead can have a wide range of effects on a child’s development and behavior. Even when exposed to small amounts of lead levels, children may appear inattentive, hyperactive and irritable. Children with greater lead levels may also have problems with learning and reading, delayed growth and hearing loss. At high levels, lead can cause permanent brain damage and even death.

To avoid possible lead contamination, it is advised that people either wear gloves when handling holiday lights or wash their hands afterward. I’m not sure what you can do about the possible lead dust in the air other than avoid strands of lights that contain lead in the first place. Or just don’t decorate at all. Yeah, bah humbug and all of that. :P

Actually, Alicia from The Soft Landing had some tips for safer holiday lights. “As we discussed in a recent article, locating PVC-free and lead-free light strings proved impossible, so your best bet is to focused on tracking down RoHS compliant products. We found Environmental Lights to be an invaluable source of well-researched options and SAFbaby also confirmed that Ikea offers safer light strands as well.”

Also, word to the wise… Definitely don’t let your 6-month-old sit on the floor surrounded by lights (which she grabs with her hot little hands) so you can take some cute pictures. Uh, yeah, I totally did that when Ava was a baby. Crappy parent award right here! Holla! Ugh.

There is more information available from HealthyStuff.org about the Lead and Holiday Lights studies.

Are you concerned about lead exposure from your tree and/or lights? What changes might you try to make to avoid it?

I’m rethinking my decision to wrap our banister in lights and garland this year. Sure it looks pretty, but when my kids touch it nearly every time they come down the stairs, that ain’t cool, people. That ain’t cool. Maybe I’ll have them wear gloves in the house? Or not. :P Next year I think we will only have lights on the tree in the house. Any other lighted decorations will be outside only. At least that will minimize our exposure a bit. I’m also trying to have my kids wash their hands whenever they handle any lights and cords this year (which is so much better than throwing them into a pile of lights, don’t you think?). ;) Live and learn and then learn some more.

While we’re on the subject of the holidays and learning, don’t forget that you can give your Facebook friends The Gift of Green this holiday season by checking out the One Million Acts of Green Facebook Application. The app allows you to pledge to complete an act of green and posts a cute e-card to your Facebook friend’s wall, perhaps inspiring them to complete an Act of Green too! No worries about lead with One Million Acts of Green. Just good clean, green fun. :)

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation. See what the other ambassadors have to say about One Million Acts of Green: Green and Clean MomGreen Your Décor and Condo Blues.

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Giving kids the gift of experiences, not just stuff

Something I’ve been hearing more and more about over the past few years is that people — specifically parents — are asking friends and relatives to refrain from buying things for their children for the holidays or birthdays, but instead they are asking for experiences. This can mean something like passes to the local zoo, museum, or aquarium; dance, karate or gymnastic classes; piano or art lessons; a family pass to the recreation center; tickets to a play, concert or movie: or pretty much anything else you can dream up. The point is to give the children experiences rather than just stuff.

I like this idea a lot, especially because my children already have a lot of “stuff.” Experiences can be so much more valuable, yet setting aside the money for classes, lessons, etc. is often overlooked in the family budget. Not only are the experiences fun for your kids, but they are usually just as enjoyable for you as parents too. Just look at the expression on the little boy’s face in the picture above! I love watching my kids experiencing something new, magical or just plain fun. The amazement on their faces is priceless. In fact, we are going to see The Nutcracker this weekend and, although Ava has already been a few times, this will be Julian’s first time and I know both of their faces are just going to light up during the show. :)

I’m not saying that “stuff” can’t be memorable too. I’m sure we can all recall a particular toy from our childhood that we wanted more than anything and once we got it, we were the happiest kid on the planet. ;) I’m just saying if you are feeling overwhelmed by the clutter and amount of stuff your kids already have, asking for the gift of an experience might be something to consider and something you won’t likely regret.

While we’re on the subject of clutter-free gifts, you can give your friends The Gift of Green this holiday season by checking out the One Million Acts of Green Facebook Application. The app allows you to pledge to complete an act of green like Planting a Tree (you could even plant your own Christmas tree like Lisa from Condo Blues is going to do!) and posts a cute e-card to your Facebook friend’s wall, perhaps inspiring them to complete an Act of Green too!

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation. See what the other ambassadors have to say about One Million Acts of Green: Green and Clean MomGreen Your Décor and Condo Blues.

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Preparing (or not) for the holiday season

I’m having a hard time believing that tomorrow is December 1st. After my sister’s passing at the end of October, November was literally a blur for me and it’s amazing my husband and I were able to get it together enough to get Julian something for his fourth birthday which we celebrated in Michigan last week. Now we have to focus on Christmas — getting a tree (or not), making our own ornaments (or not), decorating the front of the house (or not), buying presents (or not).

After much discussion online last year (was it on my blog or on Facebook?) about the merits of a real Christmas tree versus an artificial tree (lots of good information on the subject here), we’ve decided to ditch the pre-lit artificial tree we acquired on Craigslist a few years ago, and buy our first real tree. I’ve toyed with the idea of buying a tree with a rootball so we can plant it afterwards, but I’m not there yet — maybe if we lived on a few acres.

I have no idea what I’m going to do for presents for the kids this year. I want to keep it simple.

I didn’t partake in Black Friday or Cyber Monday and just don’t feel motivated to do any shopping until I know what I am looking for. Otherwise I feel like I’ll just wander aimlessly around the stores, which really might not be such a bad thing after all.

Tell me what you are buying for your kids this year. Did you score any good deals online or in the stores? I want Christmas this year to be simple, yet I also want it to be magical (I don’t ask for much, do I? *wink*). Do you have any ideas for simple, magical gifts for a 4 and 6 year old? What about a 30-something year old man? ;)

Speaking of gifts, I’m still hoping you all will do me a favor and give the Earth a gift by checking out One Million Acts of Green. We are nowhere reaching the goal of a million acts of green completed in the United States yet. You can Give The Gift of Green by checking out the One Million Acts of Green Facebook Application, which allows you to pledge to complete an act of green like Turning Off Your Computer When Not In Use or Run Your Dishwasher Only When It’s Full or Turn Off Your Lights When Not In Use and posts a cute, humorous e-card to your Facebook friend’s wall.

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation. See what the other ambassadors have to say about One Million Acts of Green: Green and Clean Mom, Green Your Décor and Condo Blues.

Don’t miss a single CDG post, subscribe to my blog.