Category Archives: Green Living

‘Toxic Free’: Browsing Through a Book

I stopped at the library this afternoon to pick up “Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Kids,” recommended by several friends. As baby was fairly well-behaved at the moment, I browsed through the new books for a few minutes and picked up a couple other titles.

One was a baby sign language book — I’d been thinking that would be neat to learn more about. (Note, I do take everything I read with a grain of salt.)

The other was called “Toxic Free: How to Protect Your Health and Home From the Chemicals That are Making You Sick.” Just yesterday I was reading some about BPA and learned it’s not only in bottles and cans, but toilet paper and napkins, and our main contact with it is probably in receipts and tickets. So this was along one of my current brainwaves.

On the whole, the book is too extreme for me. The author writes that one day, she went through and threw out everything in her home that contained toxic chemicals. “When I was done,” she says, “all that was left was four bare walls, a concrete floor with dried paint spatters all over it … and a roll-away bed frame with a pile of cotton thermal blankets for a mattress.”

Even if I wanted to do that, I think I’d quickly find myself a divorced woman. Just mentioning to my husband that maybe we could switch to cloth napkins was over the line for him.

I don’t know much about toxic chemicals, but I definitely believe they are in everyday things that we don’t even dream of. BPA began to be used inside cans in the 1960s, back when doctors probably smoked while they were delivering babies. My daughter’s pacifier is BPA-free — the sucky part, anyway. Apparently that may not be the case for the hard plastic parts of it. And yes, our parents are living to ripe old ages having consumed any number of poisonous chemicals, but I don’t think that means we need to keep doing it. I would like to take small steps of smarter choices.

On that note, here are a few items from the book that I found interesting:

  • The only bottled water she considers safe is sold in glass bottles.
  • Toothpastes can contain formaldehyde and plastics.
  • Baking soda can be used as a natural deodorant. (Not sure I’m willing to try.)
  • Most major dish manufacturers still use glazes with lead in them.
  • “If you do need to use plastic, choose food storage products made from polypropylene, which has a very low toxicity. The ‘disposable’ storage containers are made from polypropylene and can be reused many times.”
  • Do not microwave foods in plastic containers.
  • Nylon, polyester and acrylic fabrics are plastics made from petrochemicals.
  • Polyester-cotton and permanent-press cotton is coated with a substance that contains formaldehyde — that includes a lot of bedsheets, and could be a cause of insomnia.
  • CFL bulbs contain mercury, as you know if you’ve had to deal with cleaning one up. LEDs contain arsenic and lead, but they are very difficult to break.
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Filed under Green Living, Home Maintenance, Scary Chemicals in the News

The Intrigue of ‘Real Food’

A friend who saw my request for vegetable recipes (thanks!) recommended the blog 100 Days Of Real Food.

I have to confess that I haven’t even looked at the recipes yet — the concept of the blog as a whole has me too distracted.

The blogger and her family are committed, to perhaps oversimplify it, to eliminating processed foods from their diet. Their personal rules throw out refined grains, refined sweeteners (including sugar), deep-fried and fast foods, and any packaged item with more than five ingredients listed. The goal is to focus on “whole” foods.

I haven’t read too much about their reasoning, assuming health would trump anything else. What could be better for our bodies than foods the way they’re (pesticide-free) grown naturally? There’s always another chemical being determined to cause cancer; I’m certain there are things we eat every day we don’t yet know about that contain chemicals or are processed in a way that is a serious hazard to our health. Take the recent pink slime controversy, for example. I’m pretty sure eating ammonia can’t be good for you.

They point out that “real” or “whole” foods are not the same as “natural” or “organic” foods. “Natural” and “organic” foods can still be processed and refined. Also, “real”/”whole” foods are not necessarily low-fat or low-cal. I like that. It makes sense. It lines up with what people have done for millenia. (That’s kind of my gold-standard as I learn to care for a baby —  a mom in the Middle Ages didn’t have a watch telling her to feed her baby every three hours, but civilization kept going. For my husband, “If it’s so serious, why don’t they call it meningitis?”)

The idea sounds great, but of course it is totally foreign to my eating and buying habits. And, as the friend who recommended the blog pointed out, “real” food is not as budget-friendly as processed food. If I really believe it’s so wise, though, shouldn’t it be worth the overhaul? Or at least a partial overhaul? Especially with a brand-new little life in my hands?

(Sip of Diet Coke.)

I’m kind of at a standstill.

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Filed under Green Living, Links of Interest, Personal, Scary Chemicals in the News

Vegetables For Beginners?

I don’t eat my vegetables.

We did eat some when I was growing up. Most suppers included one of The Big Three: corn, peas, or green beans. I’m not much of a bean fan and my husband doesn’t care for peas, so that makes our Big Three now The Big One — and corn is arguably a starch rather than a vegetable. (And the same veggie every day makes us tired of corn, understandably.)

Which leaves with The Big Zero.

Sometimes we’ll have spinach salads. Sometimes I buy a bag of baby carrots — but both get boring fast. Other caveat: Husband doesn’t like peppers, and I don’t consider them a loss from our cuisine.

But within the next four to five months, we’ll have another solid food consumer in our home. We’ll start her on veggies — and then not eat them ourselves.

I don’t want my daughter to grow up like her mother. I want her to know what kale is. I don’t want her to regard stir-fry veggies as filler to round out the meat bits. For me, I want to be healthier and have a more diverse cuisine.

But I don’t believe I like vegetables. A lot of it might be lack of experience.

I’ve done a little reading about veggie-eating tips, but nothing sounds super-promising to me. Maybe if some of you would like to share your favorite veggie recipes, that would inspire me.

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Filed under Feeding Babies, Green Living, Personal, Recipes

‘Sell By’ Doesn’t Mean ‘Throw Out By’

It’s a pretty regular occurrence in my fridge that there’s a bag of spinach or carton of eggs that’s not used up by its “sell by” date.  I remember being told that it was okay to use eggs after that date, but … is it really? What about the spinach?

I never really did find out about the spinach — which is especially irksome as it’s the title photo of the following article — but did learn some more about how long things keep.

(I learned it from a Google search.) Here is a Business Week slideshow and article.)

  • “Sell By” is a date for sellers and selling, though it helps you gauge an item’s age.
  • If your fridge is cold enough, milk can last 2-5 days beyond sell-by.
  • Meat should be used or frozen within two days of when you brought it home, regardless of the sell-by date, because most of us don’t keep our fridges cold enough.
  • Ground meats should only stay in the freezer for three months. (Wow!)
  • This article suggests cereal should be used within six months of purchase. I know the boxes are dated generally a year out, though…
  • Eggs can be used 3-5 WEEKS beyond sell-by. Though that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re super-fresh.

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Filed under Cleaning Up, Green Living, Home Maintenance

Scary Chemicals: Help Me With Dishwasher Detergents

Whenever possible, I like to use natural products. For one, they’re better for the earth. But second, God knows what the chemicals in the products we use every day are doing to us. Every week there’s a new study about something causing cancer.

I already use Seventh Generation laundry detergent (although my mom says she’s found it leaves her whites dingy), Seventh Generation dish soap, and the Menards natural toilet and bathroom cleaners.

But one place I’m having trouble is with dishwashing detergents. I used to use the Seventh Generation, but it just wasn’t getting things clean enough. Upon a recommendation, I started using the Cascade Complete pacs, and those work really well (when we keep salt in the water softener…). BUT, they are not natural. Does anyone have recommendations? I’m getting to the end of a bag of Cascade tabs and would like to try something new.

(Also, I’m looking for a good natural stain remover, now that Baby has joined our family.)

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Filed under Cleaning Up, Green Living, Scary Chemicals in the News