Monday, March 30, 2009

Going Green, Living Fresh

It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the critical state of our environment and to wonder what we, as individuals, can do to really make a difference. But greening your life and raising a healthier family is easier than you think - and more affordable!

Thanks to green living expert Sara Snow, you can transform your home and your life by taking small, simple steps. Sara Snow's Fresh Living: The Essential Room-by-Room Guide to a Greener, Healthier Family and Home is hot off the presses and packed with great, practical information for anyone who would like be a darker shade of green. Sara's own story and upbringing is inspiration enough and certainly will be welcomed by holistic mamas everywhere who hope that their children will embrace a healthy lifestyle in adulthood. Sara is a testament to just such hope and a passion for green living was clearly cultivated over her lifetime.

Taking you on a journey through your home, Sara provides not only simple steps you can take today but also a solid explanation as to why such change matters. From optimizing your refrigerator's energy use to seeking out low-pesticide produce, transforming your kitchen into a green haven is a wonderful first step. Then it's on to tackling the bathroom, the bedroom (even including tips on greening your intimate life), the living room, and beyond. While this is a broad and basic guide for living green, there is something for even green living pros to learn in more detailed sections describing food labeling, rainwater harvesting, or socially responsible investing.

Living a green life is a journey for most of us and we take it one step at a time. Sara Snow's Fresh Living allows us the space to make these incremental changes and provides us with helpful guidance along the way. Kudos for such a practical, hands-on guide from one of our favorite green experts!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Organic From the Seed Up

You know that we have truly entered a new era when the First Lady is planting an organic vegetable garden at the White House. How could we not be excited about that?! Still, we don't know if her plantings will be organic from seed - an often overlooked issue. In fact, less than five percent of all organic food products grown in this country are actually started from organic seeds according to an informative video from Seeds of Change.

So, does it really matter if our food starts as organic seeds? Well, yes, if we are truly committed to the organic lifestyle as well as to sustainability. Seed crops take longer to grow than food crops, meaning that their susceptibility to pests is an even greater concern. This opens the door for longer-term use of chemicals to reduce crops loss and damage, along with great danger to the environment and human health. Conventionally raised seeds are also bred with conventional farming in mind. Thus the quality and vigor of the seeds is impacted by the nature of their origin. As the Institute for Responsible Technology points out, the breeding of these seeds to withstand weather extremes and to pack a denser nutritional content are vital reasons to consider organic seeds in addition to the ecological impact of conventional seed production.

Organizations such as the Organic Seed Alliance support the ethical development and stewardship of seed, protecting heirloom crops and sustainable breeding methods. Companies such as Seeds of Change and High Mowing Seeds offer a great variety of organic seeds and are dedicated to preserving biodiversity and sustainability. A number of companies signing on to the Safe Seed Pledge are also promising to offer gardeners non-GMO seeds and plants.

Spring has finally sprung and it's time for us all to break ground on this year's plantings. Let's get started by making a commitment to growing organic from the seed up for a healthier and more sustainable future!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bathtime Hazards

Bath time vigilance is a cornerstone of parents - we have all heard of mishaps and/or tragedies involving bathing. But a recent report by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics introduces a new level of awareness about the safety of tubtime. The No More Toxic Tub report reveals the result of independent testing of 48 popular bath products from widely used companies such as Johnson & Johnson, CVS, Bath and Body Works, and Baby Magic to discover that 61 percent contained both formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane.

Both formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane are known carcinogens, according to the report. The Material Safety Data Sheet for formaldehyde notes that it is a potential cancer hazard and may cause an allergic skin reaction or have "adverse reproductive and fetal effects in animals". Similarly, 1,4-dioxane shows potential carcinogenic effects and the possibility of organ damage with long-term exposure.

Parents far too often trust in the safety of available products, although outrage is surely building. Without regulation and enforcement, chemical manufacturers will continue to promote unsafe products at the expense of our children. You can make a difference! Choose products with natural ingredients and support companies who are committed to reducing the toxic load on our children. Want to do more? Write or call your representative and speak out. Without pressure, Congress is not likely to take action.

Monday, March 9, 2009

What is Clean Coal?

In a rare moment of peace while trying to catch up on some news, I caught an intriguing and clever ad. Although I rarely pay much attention to ads, this one definitely caught my eye. The ad was created by the Reality Campaign, a project whose organizational members include the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation, to expose the truth about "clean coal."

Although admittedly ignorant on the issue, I remember wincing the first time President Obama uttered the words "clean coal" on the campaign trail. It did indeed appear to be an oxymoron. The problem with burning coal is, according to the Reality Campaign, that it is anything but clean. In fact, coal burning is "a leading source of global warming pollution" and "CO2 emissions from U.S. coal-based electricity are greater than emissions from all the cars and trucks in America. "

So what's all the hype? Apparently, it's more spin than anything else. The notion that coal processing technology has improved still doesn't change the fact that coal burning plants are a major environmental hazard. Even the theory of carbon-capture technology, which suggests that "cleaner" coal with fewer emissions is possible, is not widely accepted as an honest and achievable goal. But the effort to put a positive spin on a deeply-embedded industry is more a reflection of our resistance to real and significant change. It's time to take a bolder step and rethink energy from truly green, clean, and renewable sources. If there is any time that radical change seems possible, it's now!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Allergies: The Silent Epidemic

A silent epidemic is sweeping through our children's generation: food allergies. According to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network approximately 1 in 13 young children in the US has a food allergy and more than 11.4 million Americans (children and adults combined) suffer food allergies (more than the number inflicted with cancer).

As the parent of two children with food allergies, I know how tough this road can be to navigate. From school snacks and birthday parties to simple family outings, danger may be lurking around any corner. And much to the frustration of many parents, these allergies are not taken with the level of seriousness they deserve. The common refrain of "Oh, it's just a little taste" or "We wanted him/her to feel 'normal'" are frightening red flags for parents of allergic kids.

Many have theorized about the rise in food allergies - a dramatic increase from generations past. Authors Dr. Doris Rapp and Dr. Anthony Kane propose a "toxic load theory" which outlines how collective exposure to toxins and stress can push the allergic child too far resulting in an allergic reaction. Others have questioned the role of genetically-modified foods (GMOs), the rise of pesticides in our produce, and the popularity of processed foodstuffs - all of which could also contribute to the toxin exposure of an allergic child.

What's more, food allergies can manifest not only in physical reactions (i.e., hives, eczema, anaphylaxis) but also behavioral ones. Dr. Benjamin Feingold, founder of the Feingold Diet, notes that as many as 50 percent of his hyperactive patients have benefited from diets free of artificial colorings and flavorings.

Thankfully, there are also an increasing array of resources available to parents, as well as networks to empower them to meet these challenges. One such resource is A. Anderson's new book Flourishing with Food Allergies: Social, Emotional, and Practical Guidance for Families with Young Children. Ms. Anderson's book highlights the journeys of 15 families dealing with food allergies, while also providing a wealth of information about how to make educated school choices, how to survive social situations, and offering links to in-depth studies on allergies and children. Anderson also includes action plans for parents who want to get involved and contact government officials to help address this growing concern.

Given the rise of allergies and the state of our food supply, it's high time to take note and start making changes for future generations. Until we acknowledge this silent epidemic, however, we cannot begin to confront it.