Ditch the Disposables Challenge 2009

Ditch the Disposables ChallengeIt’s been one year since the first Ditch the Disposables Challenge on Crunchy Domestic Goddess which, with nearly 150 participants, was a big success. Let’s do it again and see if we can get 200 participants this time around! For two months, September and October, I’m challenging you to Ditch the Disposables!

We live in a society of convenience, where throw-away products are the norm rather than the exception. But all of the disposable products take resources and energy to produce and then, of course, get thrown away, filling up our landfills. All of this is bad news for the environment.

If you’d like to participate in this challenge, please select one or two (or more! – this can be as challenging as you want it to be) of your disposable products to ditch*, then leave a comment saying which disposable product(s) you will leave behind for two months in favor of an environmentally-friendly reusable product. I will create a list in the sidebar linking to everyone’s blog. Of course, you don’t have to have a blog to participate. I realize that many of you probably are already living without some (many?) of these disposable products, but certainly nearly all of us can find at least one NEW thing we can give up in favor of something better for the earth. If you honestly don’t use a single disposable product, leave me a comment too and I’ll still include you in the challenge and link back to you. :)

Here are some ideas to get you started…

You can make the switch from:

  • Paper napkins to cloth napkins
  • Paper towels to cloth towels or something like Skoy cloths
  • Tissues to handkerchiefs
  • Paper, plastic or Styrofoam plates to your kitchen plates
  • Disposable utensils to regular silverware
  • If you order food “to go” or have food to take home from a restaurant, bring your own container rather than accepting Styrofoam or plastic
  • Inexpensive plastic “Take & Toss” sippy cups to Thermos or Camelbak bottles or the Klean Kanteen
  • Disposable water bottles to (again) reusable bottles like Thermos, Klean Kanteen or Camelbak
  • Plastic sandwich bags or paper lunch bags to reusable containers/bags
  • Plastic straws to glass or stainless steel straws
  • Swiffers (or similar products) to a broom and dustpan or mop (or use reusable cloths like cloth diapers/terry inserts in your Swiffer)
  • Disposable dust rags to cloth rags
  • Disposable diapers to cloth diapers
  • Disposable wipes to cloth wipes (inexpensive plain washcloths work really well)
  • Disposable feminine products (tampons, pads) to reusables like DivaCup, MoonCup, Glad Rags, Luna Pads, Pretty Pads, or New Moon Pads, among others. You can even make your own pads.
  • Grocery store bags to reusable bags
  • Disposable wrapping paper or gift bags to reusable cloth gift bags
  • Single-use batteries to rechargeable batteries

Or, for the really crazy dedicated:

  • Toilet paper to cloth wipes/washcloths (for #1 or #2 too if you are really, really adventurous)

Please feel free to spread the word about the challenge on your blog by adding the button linking back to this post. If you have other ideas for disposable products people can ditch, please let me know and I’ll add them to the list. Thanks and good luck!

I’ll host a few check in posts (every other Sunday if I can remember) throughout the two months so everyone can stop by and say how they are doing, and offer support and/or tips to others as well. Together we can Ditch the Disposables!
*When I say “ditch,” please know that I don’t mean throw them away. I want you to try making a lifestyle change from a disposable product you use regularly. If you want to save your disposables until the challenge is over, that’s your prerogative. You might also consider Freecycling them or donating them to a local charitable organization. I do suggest that whichever product(s) you choose to give up, you pack away until the challenge is over, lest you be tempted to use it/them.

Also, I WILL have a few giveaways along the way to help you out with this challenge. Stay tuned! :)

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The big SIGG BPA letdown

Water bottle manufacturer SIGG has found themselves in the hot seat recently after they revealed that their bottles, which many environmentally-aware, health-conscious consumers and parents fell in love with, have actually contained bisphenol-A (BPA) all along. SIGG claims they never said their bottles were BPA-free, but only that they “did not leach BPA.”

Z Recommends was one of the first blogs to break the story with their very thorough and informative post:

“Swiss sports and children’s bottle maker SIGG has admitted what many consumer advocates have suspected for years, but never proven: That the epoxy lining used for years in SIGG bottles – which they secretly swapped out for a new liner last summer – contained the hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol-A.”

How do you know if your SIGG bottle contains BPA? According to SIGG, “all SIGG bottles made since August 2008 contain our new BPA free EcoCare liner. SIGG bottles manufactured prior to August 2008 have the former water-based epoxy liner which contains trace amounts of BPA. These bottles have been thoroughly tested and showed 0% leaching of BPA.

The photo and information below (from SIGG) should help you determine which liner you have.

New SIGG EcoCare Liner Former SIGG Liner
* Dull pale yellow coating*Special powder-based co-polyester liner certified to be 100% BPA and Phthalate Free*Utilized in the manufacturing of SIGG bottles since August 2008 * Shiny copper bronze finish*Proprietary water-based epoxy liner thoroughly tested and showed absolutely no leaching of BPA*Found in SIGG bottles manufactured prior to August 2008

EcoCare Liner:

Former Liner:

In case you didn’t just do the math, SIGG is saying they have been manufacturing bottles with the new liners since August 2008. But wait, what year is it now? Oh yeah, 2009. Which means they’ve been sitting on this information for an entire year. Ouch.

Lynn from Babble discusses the problems with bisphenol-A in her post BPA: How Bad Is It? Get ready to clean out your cabinets.

It is a type of compound called an endocrine disruptor, which means it mimics or alters the effects of a particular hormone — in this case estrogen — in your body, throwing everything out of whack. It is bad for you, and your pregnancy, and your kids, and it is, almost literally, everywhere: in baby feeding items, water bottles, soda and soup cans, PVC pipes, carbon-paper-style sales receipts, dental fixtures, the water supply, even in the goddamn air. (And probably in your body: the CDC has detected BPA in 93 percent of people 6 years old and up.)

… BPA is thought to cause disorders of the neurological, cardiac, immune, and reproductive systems, with adults, children, and developing fetuses all exposed and at risk.

To say that people are upset about SIGG’s admission would be an understatement.

Alison from Green Me feels deceived and wrote an open letter to SIGG expressing her outrage.

While pregnant I drank from my SIGG bottle 4 days per week as I had a long commute to a college campus where I did not have easy access to water. When my son was born I breastfed him and carried my SIGG bottle around with me to have water on walks and at the store. Last year, when my son turned one we got him a big boy SIGG water bottle. I would not have made any of these purchases had I known your products were lined with BPA.

I am outraged…

Cool Mom Picks feels disheartened at the news. “It’s disheartening to support a brand like SIGG for making safer, BPA-free drinking bottles for kids and adults when it turns out that nope, that wasn’t the situation at all. Or as the old saying goes, ‘we was played.'”

Miriam from Tripletly Blessed said she will take the replacement bottles from SIGG and donate them because “I have no intention of supporting a company that would blatantly mislead their consumer base.” She also plans to tell others of SIGG’s betrayal. “Yes, SIGG technically did nothing wrong. They never stated that their bottles were BPA-free. However, the manner in which they marketed themselves left many people with that impression. I’m not a lawyer but I don’t see that there is really a case here, though some are suggesting it. What I am, though, is a mom and a blabbermouth. Would you like to guess what I’ll be talking about for the next few weeks and whenever I see someone with a SIGG bottle?”

Kellie from GreenHab: The Browns Go Green is feeling disappointed. “I’m feeling kind of like I did when I found out that John Edwards cheated on his wife. It isn’t the worst thing to ever happen in this world, but I still feel really disappointed because I thought SIGG to be a genuinely green company. They say ‘never trust a politician.’ I guess we shouldn’t trust companies that claim to sell green products either.”

Despite all of this, Sonja from Girl with Greencard says she will continue to use her SIGG from the early 90s. She said she has two old SIGGs, and she’s going to keep using both of them. Why? Because “test shows BPA doesn’t leak and SIGGs are pricey and I don’t use mine on a daily basis.” She said she also has no qualms about letting her 1-year-old son drink from her old SIGG bottles either.

Jeremiah from Z Recommends said:

Whether or not you are comfortable using a bottle that contains but does not leach BPA, for us the real story here is how a company using BPA that would have been absolutely sidelined by consumers seeking BPA-free alternatives managed to make itself a central player by carefully controlling information about its products, challenging consumer advocacy organizations when they made statements that were unproven but that the company knew to be true, and “coming clean” only when it suited its own purposes.

Alicia at The Soft Landing believes it’s an issue of proprietary versus transparency. She said, “It’s not about the ‘mere presence of BPA’ or that their studies didn’t show any leaching – it’s about the principle of trust. We as parents, consumers and advocates should demand transparency from companies who build their entire foundation on being healthy and green.”

While SIGG encourages dissatisfied customers to contact their customer service department (liners@mysigg.com) to trade in their old SIGG bottles for ones made with the BPA-free EcoCare liner, many bloggers would rather find more transparent companies to support. In case you are concerned about what will happen to the bottles that are turned in to SIGG, CEO Steve Wasik assured Lisa from Retro Housewife Goes Green that “All ‘retired’ SIGG bottles that we receive are always sent to recycling.”

Lisa from Condo Blues suggests four BPA-free water bottle alternatives.

Over at Mamanista, Candace recommends Stainless Steel BPA-free water bottles.

I also wrote a post earlier this year about several different reusable water bottles.

Lastly, Z Recommends has some additional information about possible problems with the new BPA-free SIGG liners that you should take a look at before you email to get your replacement bottle. Unfortunately, this information might turn off even more consumers.

What are your thoughts? Are you surprised? Upset? Fine with all of it? Will you trade in your old SIGG bottle for a new one or will you seek out an alternative?

I have to say the only reason I’m not fuming mad is that we never splurged to buy SIGG bottles until a few months ago when my husband Jody got one for Ava and one for himself. Thankfully, they both have the new liners. While I had been thinking about getting my own SIGG bottle in the near future, after learning all of this, I’ll stick with my BPA-free Camelbak for now, thankyouverymuch.

Related posts:
SIGG Controversy: Older SIGG Bottles Have Bisphenol A (BPA)
SIGG Bottles and BPA
Really? SIGG bottles contain BPA

Cross-posted on BlogHer

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Turning back-to-school lunches green

This post is part of the Green Moms Carnival, which, this month, is focusing on greening up your back-to-school routine.

People often think “going green” means you have to spend a lot of money. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Making school (or even work) lunches green doesn’t require a huge outlay of cash. In fact, by packing eco-friendly lunches, you are more likely to save money, your children are more likely to eat healthier foods, and you are taking care of the earth by producing less waste. It’s a win-win-win!

Time is often an important factor when it comes to packing lunches (at least it is for me). And while some of the following suggestions take time to prepare, if you do your prep work on a weekend, you will have food conveniently ready to toss into lunch containers throughout the week(s) ahead.

When shopping for school lunch foods, be mindful of greenwashing – “a term used to describe the practice of companies disingenuously spinning their products and policies as environmentally friendly.” Just because a product claims to be “natural,” contain “whole grains” or even “organic” doesn’t mean it’s healthy or what it claims to be. Read labels carefully. The more processed food is and the more ingredients it has, the less likely it is to be healthy whether it’s organic or not. I mean seriously, organic Oreos? Give me a break!

If you buy individually packaged foods, like organic fruit snacks, how green are you really being? Think about how much plastic and packaging is involved there. A great alternative is to make your own organic fruit snacks. If you can use locally-grown fruit from your own garden or farmer’s market, all the better. Package them in a reusable container like these reusable sandwich bags found in the Cool Mom Picks Back to School Guide and you have a tasty “green” snack ready to go!

Far better than buying food that contains a label is to buy label-less food, like fresh produce! Chopped fruits and vegetables, paired with a dip or nut butter, bring color, taste and healthiness to every lunchbox. Try to choose fruits and vegetables that are in season and grown locally whenever possible. You can even buy large quantities of in-season fruits or veggies and then dehydrate them to throw into lunches year-round.

Granola bars are another great snack, but when you buy them from the store they are often full of unwanted ingredients, additives and preservatives and come with excessive packaging and waste. When you make them yourself, you control what goes into them and you significantly cut down on trash or eliminate it all-together. Check out these tasty do-it-yourself granola bar recipes below. You are sure to find at least one that your kiddos will eat. Some don’t even require baking! Make a batch on the weekend and you are set for lunches for the week. Put them in a reusable container and they are good to go.

Nuts are a great protein-filled food that can easily be packed into lunches. I just read a post by a woman on Freecycle asking for used Altoids containers. She said she uses them to pack nuts in her kids’ lunches. What a great idea! If your school has a no peanuts policy, ask if other nuts such as almonds, cashews, pecans or walnuts are acceptable.

Does your child like yogurt but you don’t like all of the waste (recyclable or not) produced by individual cups? Here’s another thing you can make at home (even in your crockpot), then scoop into your reusable container and you’re set. If you run short on time and have to buy yogurt from the store, buy it in the larger containers, then scoop out the desired amount into your child’s reusable container. Again, less waste.

If your child’s school doesn’t have the option for them to compost their leftover food (perhaps you can inquire about it and get a system started), ask them to bring home their leftovers rather than throw them into the trash so you can either save them if they are salvageable or compost them yourself. This will also allow you to gauge how much and which foods your child ate for lunch.

Along the same lines, check with your child’s school to see if they have a recycling system in place. If not, find out how you can get one started.

Michelle at What’s Cooking blog has an entire post chock full of ideas to help your child eat healthy school lunches. Some of her tips include:

  • Keep in mind that your children don’t have much time to eat…so pack foods in small portions that are easy to eat, so they have time left to play.
  • Let your child help you select a cool lead-free and reusable lunch bag or lunch box. Pick up a few reusable containers that will fit inside – this will prevent food from leaking and getting smashed, and will help you avoid using disposable items like plastic bags and foil.
  • Pack a reusable drink container instead of juice boxes, juice pouches, cans, and disposable plastic bottles.
  • Buy in bulk instead of purchasing pre-packaged items.
  • Whenever possible, pack lunches the night before.

Michelle also has some great tips for sandwich alternatives, thermos treasures, and container combinations that kids can assemble themselves.

Looking for more lunch container ideas? Check out:

  • Lunch Bots Uno and Duo
  • Kids Konserve which contains a page with a lot of information for schools, including a waste-free challenge to earn or save money for their schools. (Use code: crunchy for 15% off your Kids Konserve purchases through Sept. 30, 2009)
  • Retro Housewife put a list of cute reusable containers, utensils and cloth napkins for back-to-school waste-free lunches
  • Kellie at GreenHab has also put together a nice selection of lunch boxes

There ya have it. Turning your school lunches green is healthier, less costly and better for the earth, and probably even more fun. If you have money-saving green lunch tips or kid-friendly recipes, please post your links in the comments.

Related posts:

Cross-posted on BlogHer

Make sure you head over to Organic Mania on Monday, Aug. 10, to find out how other Green Moms are greening their back to school routine in this month’s Green Moms Carnival.

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Decluttering your house, the green way

I’ve been on a spring cleaning kick around here lately and it’s a good thing since my house is sorely in need of it. Not only will decluttering hopefully help my mood (who can stay positive looking at clutter day in and day out?), but getting rid of our superfluous stuff will be helpful when it comes time to pack it all up one day (I hope in a year or two) and move to another house.

When ridding my home of stuff we no longer want or use, I try to be as green and eco-friendly as possible. How do I do it?

  • Listing my items on Freecycle is often my first choice because it can be the fastest way to move stuff out and get it into the hands of someone else who can use it. The only rule to listing on Freecycle is that you have to give the item(s) away for free. Personally, I love it.
  • If I have a more expensive item that I don’t want to give away for free, I turn to Craigslist – it’s like a huge classified system where you can list items free of charge. As opposed to something like Ebay, Craigslist is organized by city so there’s a good chance you can find someone in your area that can come get it directly from you and pay you cash, and you avoid having to spend money on shipping and making a trip to the Post Office.
  • Our curbside recycling bin is also my best friend when cleaning house. If something isn’t accepted in the curbside bin, sometimes it can go to the local recycling center which is just a few miles away. Check with your local recycling center for more information on recycling in your area.
  • If it isn’t wanted on Freecycle, can’t be sold or can’t be recycled, and provided it’s something others can use, then it usually goes into a donation pile to be given to a local charity.
  • If all of these fail, then as a last resort it goes into the trash. I try to use the garbage can as sparingly as possible, but even I must admit that sometimes the trash is the only place for it.

Even if I know the garbage can is my last option for stuff, I still feel bad about throwing it out. I hate to think about it ending up in a landfill and staying there forever, but then I also have to be realistic and not completely beat myself up over it. It’s a good reminder to make wise choices when buying things and think:

  • Do I really need this?
  • Is it good enough quality that it will last for years or will it break after a year and have to be replaced?
  • Should I save my money for a little while longer and buy a better quality item that will last me longer?
  • What will I do with it when I no longer need it (or when it breaks)?

Of course this is a bit harder when you have kids (and toys) and it’s not always practical to go through this list every time you buy something, but it’s a good practice to get into and will help to avoid unnecessary purchases in the future. It can also help you avoid buying cheap, plastic toys that might as well go directly from the assembly line to the landfill for as long as they are usable. But don’t get me started about those. ;oP

As for my decluttering today, I cleaned out and reorganized the pantry/laundry room. I should’ve taken before and after pictures, if not to post on my blog, then for my own satisfaction. ;) I still have a bit more work to do in there and Jody is going to put up another shelf, but already it feels so. much. better.

I also worked a bit in my kitchen today to clear off one of my countertops. My countertops end up being a breeding ground for kid artwork and my/Jody’s paperwork. Does this happen to anyone else?? I’m trying to get a system in place so that we can avoid future paper explosions on the counter, but some more reorganizing and implementing a filing system (as well as having a desk to use) is definitely in order first. Anyone have a cute rolltop desk they want to sell me or give me? C’mon, Freecycle, baby. ;)

Getting kids on the bottle – water bottle, that is

Just as it is important that we as adults drink our water from refillable, reusable water bottles, it is equally important that our children do as well. The habits and values we instill in them when they are young are the habits and values they are likely to carry with them throughout their lives and eventually pass on to their children.

If you are already drinking from a reusable water bottle yourself, you are on the right track towards teaching your children good habits by leading by example. Educating your kids about why you’ve chosen the reusable route is important too. I think children as young as 3 or 4 are already receptive to having simple conversations about why living green is a good choice for their family and the earth. Getting the kids involved and excited about using a reusable water bottle can be as easy as letting them help pick one out and giving them the “job” of remembering it (and reminding all other family members to bring theirs) whenever you go somewhere.

Just as there is a wide variety of water bottles on the market for adults, there are just as many water bottles and sippy cups marketed to children. What appeals to one child, may not appeal to the next (or to the parent), so it can be a wise and money-saving decision to research your bottles and cups before you buy.

An important thing to remember when looking for a water bottle for your child is that you want it to be BPA-free. Go Green Design writes about Bisphenol A in The Problem with Plastic.

During the first few years of life, when babies’ cells continue to undergo “programming,” exposure to certain toxic chemicals can disrupt the delicate process. Bisphenol A, a compound in hard, clear polycarbonate plastics that mimics the effects of estrogen, has raised particular concern because it interferes with hormone levels and cell signaling systems. Several dozen scientists issued a review of 700 studies on BPA warning that the levels most people are exposed to put them at elevated risk of uterine fibroids, endometriosis, breast cancer, decreased sperm counts, and prostate cancer. Infants, the report said, are most vulnerable to BPA.

While the above is specifically with regard to baby bottles, it certainly applies to toddlers and children as well.

Now onto a few different water bottle types.

Thermos makes both a straw bottle and sippy cup. Victoria from Vdog and Little Man commented to me that the “sippy has a lot of parts for the spout – membranes, etc., but it is LOVED by every kid I know.” And the straw cup “leaks horribly when turned on it’s side or upside down, so parental monitoring with that one is required (once ended up at home with a soaked tush and carseat!).”

Psychmamma also wrote about her experiences with the Thermos Foogo and the 16 oz. BPA-free Camelbak bottle.

Victoria also commented that she personally likes “the playtex straw cups because they have few parts, and the straw is covered when closed, and they are made out of polypropylene #5 (not #7 the ‘bad’ plastic).” However, she notes that the water can take on a plastic-y taste when left in the bottle overnight and says she changes the water very frequently in the #5 cups “to be on the safe side.”

A Little Greener Everyday wrote a review of the CynerGreen CGKidz 350ml Bottles.

Other popular children’s water bottles include the SIGG and KleanKanteen.

Beyond using your refillable water bottle at home and on outings, don’t forget about school lunches. For school-aged children, you can incorporate having a reusable water bottle with having an entire reusable lunch system. There are a lot of fun lunch kits available. Non-toxic Kids writes about the Kids Konserve waste-free lunch kits that includes a stainless steel water bottle. Really Natural writes about the BPA-free Laptop Lunch System that includes a BPA-free water bottle. There are many other waste-free lunch systems on the market as well.

Do your kids use reusable water bottles and/or sippy cups? What are their favorites?

Related links:

Cross-posted on BlogHer

Trick-or-Treat : Halloween Candy Alternatives

This post was especially popular last year, so after a few updates and changes, I’m recycling it this year.

Candy aisleHalloween is right around the corner, but in light of my recent discoveries about damaging effects of artificial colors and flavors (and petroleum and coal tar) in candy, I haven’t been feeling very excited about a holiday that promotes candy consumption.

Consider this:

Americans spend a whopping $950 million on Halloween candy every year. So it’s not surprising that a 2006 Mayo Clinic article estimates that 1 in 3 American children are now considered seriously overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. That’s a staggering 25 million children who are at high risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, bone and joint problems, exercise induced asthma, disturbed sleep patterns, premature maturity, liver/gallbladder disease and depression. — Go Green

So the idea of handing out “treats” that are laden with sugar (or worse, high fructose corn syrup AKA HFCS) AND chemicals was less than appealing to me. But what is a good alternative that won’t get my house egged the next day?

Using several different web sites, I’ve compiled a list of some alternative Halloween treats. (Please be aware that some of these may be choking hazards for small children.)

Non-food options:

  • Temporary tattoos
  • Stickers
  • Playdoh
  • Pencils
  • Small pads of paper
  • Fancy erasers
  • Pencil toppers
  • Crayons
  • Coins (pennies, nickels, dimes)
  • False teeth
  • Superballs
  • “Slime”
  • Kazoos or other small musical instruments
  • Tiny decks of cards
  • Origami paper & instructions
  • Bubbles

Healthier food options (buy organic and/or fair-trade if you can afford it):

  • Natural non-HFCS candy
  • Granola bars
  • Cereal bars
  • Pretzels
  • Glee gum
  • Packets of instant hot chocolate
  • Raisins
  • Fruit leathers
  • Prepackaged trail mix
  • Prepackaged cookies

Things to avoid:

  • Avoid costume jewelry, especially glossy, fake painted pearls and toys from vending machines, both of which may contain lead
  • Avoid cheap plastic toys that are just going to end up in the trash and go off to the landfills

Last year I passed out cereal bars to the older kids and stickers to the younger kids and I didn’t hear any complaints. In fact, the younger kids were often quite excited about the stickers.

Now what about for your OWN kids?

What do you do if your kids go trick-or-treating and come home with a bag full of stuff you’d rather they not eat? While my kids at 4 yrs old and almost 2 are still too young (in my book) for door-to-door trick-or-treating, we went to a Halloween parade yesterday (the kids dress up and walk down Main street) and the local merchants passed out candy after the parade was done. Last year I decided to buy some natural candies – suckers, cookies, fruit leathers, etc., to trade Ava for once she was done trick-or-treating. She was happy with that. This year, however, I didn’t stock up on the natural candies first because I recalled that we got so little candy from the excursion and I’m not going to sweat it. She and Julian have had a piece of candy yesterday and one today and I think that’s fine. Everything in moderation.

On Halloween night this year, I think we’re going to go to a Halloween carnival at our rec center. There are a lot of games for the kids to play, prizes, and fun. It beats going out in cold in the dark if you ask me and I think the kids will enjoy it more. :)

What will you pass out this year? Will your kids go trick-or-treating?

Related posts:

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