Has Universal Pictures’ The Lorax forgotten the lessons learned? #Loraxwashing

My last blog post was about Universal Pictures’ The Lorax and how hope will change the world. I was actually optimistic that the new movie would inspire more people to change their worlds. I was optimistic that the movie The Lorax would reach more people with an uplifting environmental message.

But, a recent article by Mother Jones has crushed that optimism. According to the article, The Lorax has over 70 launch parties, including many not so environmentally friendly products, such as standard fuel injection engine Mazda SUV, Pottery Barn Kids, dispoable diapers and more.

Wasn’t one of the more compelling messages in Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax that conpicuous consumption will result in environmental gloom and doom UNLESS we care? Shouldn’t the good folks behind the movie care a bit more about the launch partners, consistent with the environmental message of the story? Shouldn’t the products be at least environmentally friendly, even if they are products that we don’t really need? An electric car? Disposable diapers made with reclaimed materials or some environmentally friendly concept?

Or are those good folks just like the Once-ler – caught up in making money?

Pimping products is just, well, #loraxwashing.

Lessons from The Lorax: Hope Will Change The World

I was so excited when I first learned that Universal Pictures was releasing Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. My kids and I saw the trailer in a movie theater, and they were excited too. Why? Because they were familiar with the tale, since I have repeatedly read it to them. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax is oft read environmental children’s book in our house.

And then, I was approached to be part of a compensated blog tour in support of Universal Pictures’ Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, and I was even more thrilled. Rarely do I get to participate in such activities for a variety of reasons. As an added bonus, the other blog tour participants are bloggers and people I admire and respect (see below). As a result, I am thrilled to blog about Lessons from The Lorax: Hope Will Change The World.

Now, the book The Lorax is a more than a bit gloomy. The Once-ler creates demands for his Thneed with slick marketing, and ultimately chops down the entire Truffula Forest to knit Thneeds. In the process, the Bar-ba-Loots get the Crummies because of gas and “no food in their tummies” so The Lorax, speaking for the trees, sends them away. The Swomee Swans get sore throats from the “smogulous smoke” and their singing falls silent. Again, the Lorax sends them away. The Humming Fish can’t hum because of Thneed manufacturing by-products being dumped in their ponds so the Lorax sends them off too. Eventually, no Truffula trees are left, and the Once-ler’s factory shuts down. The Lorax leaves with an ominous “UNLESS” inscribed on a pile of rocks and our bit of hope is tied to a single seed the Once-ler passes to the boy (representing the reader).

Quite a lesson. A narrative of gloom and doom. A tragic scenario of creeping doom UNLESS we mend our ways.

When my mom read The Lorax to me when I was little. I remember being so depressed – overwhelmingly depressed by the plight of the Truffula, the Bar-ba-Loots, the Swomee Swans and the Humming Fish. But my mom always gently reminded me that it was a cautionary tale, and encouraged me to do something about it if I was moved. I encourage my kids to do the same.

Much environmental journalism uses the Lorax narrative to seek to compel change. And I’m honestly not sure it works to compel change as a doomsday scenario. Most of us can’t see the potentially world ending results from our individual actions. So, it doesn’t compel us to change our ways according to most studies. Or we think our individual changes won’t amount to anything or won’t stop the doomsday from coming. So we don’t do anything at all.

We don’t heed the warning “UNLESS.” And often we don’t see the hope present in the remaining Truffula seed.

But with hope we will change the world. And that is the lesson from The Lorax I want to pass to my children. Whether you see hope in science and technological advances, or hope in sustainable design, or hope in a mere seed, that hope will change the world.

The movie The Lorax encourages hope too, and causes us to question our indulgence in all things technologically advance and artificial. The movie changes the narrative a bit (although it ultimately remains a tragedy). The town is called Thneedville, where everything is artificial and no trace of nature remains. Director Chris Renaud explains:

We came up with the idea to have Thneedville be a bit more relatable. It’s like Vegas or Disneyland or Abu Dhabi. We see ourselves in it a bit, and it is kind of fun. There are inflatable bushes and mechanical flowers and trees, and it’s a place with no real nature. Everyone seems to be happy, and they have everything they want: from giant cars to robots and other mechanical devices. But then it becomes a question about sustainability. While all this stuff is fun and great, is it in balance with the broader planet, and how do we maintain that balance?

Ted seeks to win the affection of the girl of his dreams, Audrey, by finding her a real tree. And he learns about the history of Thneedville, its artificiality, and then seeks to set things right with the last Truffula seed, we get a bit more hope than we do in the book.

I’m not sure if the message will ultimately be more persuasive to effectuate significant change in our quests to consume. But I am certain that it will at least inspire conversations about nature, environmentalism, extinction and more. Most importantly, about hope. And that is a lot. More than most big screen movies today. Conversations I am more than happy to have with my kids. And conversations that can be readily adapted to encourage kids to be more involved with nature, to consume less and differently, to question marketing messages, to understand the interlocking web of our planet, to take joy in simply planting a tree.

What are the Lessons from The Lorax? This blog tour is highlighting quite a few. For example,  yesterday Jennifer Lance at Eco Child’s Play reminds us to identify and skip the Thneeds in our lives.  Tomorrow, Beth at My Plastic Free Life will tackle yet another.

I personally had a hard time settling on just one lesson. The Lorax has a lot to teach us. At first, I thought I would talk about that the lesson from The Lorax isn’t about not having what you want, it is wanting what you got (thanks to Sheryl Crow’s Soak Up The Sun for that appropriate lyric).

I settled on hope will change the world because it is the reason to keep going and being green. There is no reason to give up on being green – one seed could change the world. So, take heed of the Lorax’s warning of UNLESS. Keep hope alive and stay being green.


Book Review – Great book for kids – Curious Critters

I received a copy of the wonderful and enchanting Curious Critters as a donation for my kids’ school. I’m the President of the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) for South Shores Magnet School for the Visual and Performing Arts. Our Harvest Festival (coming up on October 30, 2011) is our biggest fundraiser. In response to a PR pitch, I said basically thanks, but I don’t usually do book reviews, but hey, would you want to donate a copy to the raffle for the PTO Harvest Festival? And the author and photographer, David FitzSimmons graciously said yes.

So I got a copy.

And it is beautiful. And lovely. And just wonderful and enchanting and charming. So I am doing a review despite saying I wouldn’t. It is that good.

Mr. FitzSimmons photographs relatively common animals – animals you might find in your backyard – against white backgrounds. (Except for the pink katydid – which is hard to find as it is a result of a condition called erythrism). This approach allows the animals to shine. You can focus on the textures, colors, and features of the animals. The presentation makes the animals seem quite exotic and interesting. It makes you realize that the world, especially the world in your backyard, is an amazing place.

Plus, the text is not only informative but fun. Really fun.

Take the story about the Ohio Crawfish –

“Do you know why I’m waving my giant claws? I’m warning you: Don’t come any closer. Snap! Snap! Snap! I catch my food with these claws. I also attack and defend myself with them. Snap! Snap! Snap! Do you want to know something really cool? If any of my legs get hurt, including my giant claws, I can grow new ones. Pretty neat, huh? Now, enough chitchat. Back off! Snap! Snap! Snap!”

Each of the 21 critters tells its story. Plus, the book includes additional natural history information for each critter and more. The information on the book indicates that it addresses all the National Research Council’s life science standards for grades K – 5.

It is a lovely, charming, enchanting book. I recommend it for any child or teacher. It would make a fabulous gift for the holidays. You can find Curious Critters on Amazon. It is scheduled for release on November 7, 2011.
And you can see more of Mr. FitzSimmons’ photography at his website.

I think it will inspire readers to care more about the natural world. And, perhaps, to go exploring to see if they can find a pink katydid.

GreenHalloween Twitter Party Extravaganza! Great Info, Fantastic Prizes!

Get ready for a awesome Twitter Party on greening your Halloween with GreenHalloween.org. That’s right – we are going to get eekofriendly on October 13, 2011 from 6 to 8 pm Pacific time!

Green Halloween is a program of the non profit organization EcoMom Alliance. The concept is to make Halloween healthier and safer for our children and for the environment.  In 2010, a record one millionpieces of candy were replaced with healthier and more sustainable treat options. This year, the revolution will continue, and the Twitter party will share information on just how to do that.

Plus, of course, there are prizes.

First, to be eligible for the prizes, make sure you are following @GreenHalloween and then RSVP by leaving your Twitter handle here in the comments. Then, join us for the #GreenHalloween Twitter party on Thursday, October 13, 2011, from 6 to 8 pm. Don’t forget to use the #greenhalloween hashtag in your tweets.

We have a ton of special guests. The partners include HonestTea @HonestTea, Goodwin Heart Pine @GoodwinLumber, Kiwi magazine @KiwiMagazine, Red Tricycle, Practically Green @PracticallyGrnEndangered Species Chocolate @ESC_Chocolate, Nature’s Path @NaturesPath, Stretch Island Fruit Co. @StretchIsland, Revolution Foods @RevolutionFoods, Plum Organics @PlumOrganics, Surf Sweets @SurfSweets, Angell Bar @OrganicCandyBar, Mr. Halloweenster @MrHalloweenster, EcoMom.com @EcoMom, Celebrate Green! @CelebrateGreen, Today I Ate A Rainbow @eatingarainbow, Terra Firma Cosmetics MoMoGirl, The Damsel in the Attic @DamselInAttic and Neighborcare Health @Neighborcare. The nonprofit partner is Goodwill Industries International @GoodwillIntl. And, the event partners are Womentorz @Womentorz, LiveGreene @ShopLiveGreene, Natural Luxe @NaturalLuxe, Eat Cleaner @EatCleanerFood, EcoPartyTime @EcoPartyTime, Divine Events @AlyZDivine, Divine Moms @DivineMomz, Green Halloween Daytona Beach @GreenHalloween1, Los Angeles Costume Swap @LACostumeSwap and Anna Clark @annaclark.

And, of course, me. I’m hosting as @TheSmartMama.

The prizes are as follows:

(1) Angell Organic Candy Bar sample pack including 2 bars each Crisp, Dark and Snow; an organic cotton t-shirt and assorted stickers generously donated by Angell Bars.

(2) A copy of the book “Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family” generously donated by mother-daughter founders of @GreenHalloween and @CostumeSwapDay.

(3)  Stretch Island Fruit Co. package consisting of 2 cases of 30 fruit strips – winner can choose 1 or 2 flavors from Stretch Island Fruit Co.

(4) 1 Lunchbots Pico, a stainless steel divided lunch container from LunchBots @Lunchbot.

(5) A treat from Honest Tea valued at $64.

(6) A Kiwi magazine subscription from Kiwi magazine.

(7) A Nature’s Path Specialty Gift Basket with a value of more than $100.

(8) Revolution Foods is generously giving away a case of 50 Jammy Sammys.

If you need information on Twitter parties, please check out this informative post.

Green Halloween National Costume Swap Day #CostumeSwap Twitter Party

I love Halloween. It is my favorite holiday. Dressing up, spooky decorations, candy and treats without the family drama of Thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanukkah. Whoot!

But the costumes have sure gotten away from the homemade costumes of my youth. One year my mom my a red wing blackbird costume for me, and hand sewed individual black feathers on the wings. Another year my sister was a circus performer, and my mom made a white horse out of foamboard and attached it to my sister’s tricycle. And yes, one year my mom made my sister and me lion costumes from felt and yarn.

But now most of us buy costumes from the store, and then get rid of them. Disposable Halloween. But there is something we can do about the waste associated with disposable costumes – National Costume Swap Day!

National Costume Swap Day is a partnership of Green Halloween, Swap.com and Kiwi Magazine. This year, the official day is October 8, 2011. Host your own (register here) or find a local swap.

In honor of and to spread the word about National Costume Swap Day, we are having a Twitter party with prizes (of course) on September 27, 2011 from 6 to 7 pm Pacific (that’s 9 to 10 Eastern).  Be sure to RSVP at Green Halloween to be eligible for prizes.

The following prizes will be given out during the #costumeswap Twitter party on 9/27/11:

Be sure to follow Costume Swap on Twitter (@CostumeSwapDay) as well as the fabulous special guests on Twi

  1. Angell Bars sample pack with sample Angell Organic Candy Bars in different flavors, an organic cotton t-shirt and stickers valued at $45 from Angell Bars;
  2. Copy of the fabulous book Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations & Traditions for the Whole Family valued at $24.95 from Celebrate Green;
  3. A Kiwi Magazine subscription (to the US or Canada) from Kiwi Magazine;
  4. A Nature’s Path Specialty Gift Basket with a collection of products and eco–friendly items from Nature’s Path Foods; and
  5. A Revolution Foods Healthy Halloween Snack Kit with 48 organic Mashups squeezable fruit for kids with a suggested retail price of $67.

tter – Swap.com (@Swap), Kiwi Magazine (@KiwiMagazine), Green Halloween (@GreenHalloween), EcoMom Alliance (@EcoMomAlliance), Practically Green (@PracticallyGrn) and Celebrate Green (@CelebrateGreen). And, of course, follow your hostess – @TheSmartMama.

When tweeting during the party, don’t forget the hashtag – #costumeswap. If you need some information on how a Twitter party works, check out this blog post.

You know you are a green mommy blogger when . . .

Can you complete that sentence? I can. You know you are a green mommy blogger when a J. Crew ad showing a boy getting his toe nails painted leads you to wonder what is in the nail polish and whether it is a less toxic kind of nail polish as opposed to raising gender identification issues. Yes, I admit it. The J. Crew ad showing a young boy getting his toe nails painted pink raised concerns about the ingredients in the nail polish for me – not gender identification issues.

 My first reaction when seeing the ad was how happy the two of them look and how the camera captured a moment of pure glee.

My second reaction was whether the mother, Jenna Lyons, uses a less toxic nail polish like Hopscotch Kids. I hoped she wasn’t using nail polish containing toluene, formaldehyde, or dibutyle phthalate.

At no point did I even think of gender identification/confusion issues, which is the issue that is being debated. Nope, I’m a green mom at heart. (And, just for the record, I think almost any 5 year old would love to paint any part of his or her body. My own son liked yellow.)

Lucky Kids Mag – Missing the Point – Organic Onesies and Vinyl?

Okay, so I received a copy of the new Lucky Kids Magazine. And it does not purport to be a parenting magazine, but, just like its parent, Lucky Kids is a shopping magazine for kids.

So, I wasn’t expecting all that much really in terms of green or natural. I mean, a shopping magazine is really at odds with the whole going green concept. Consumerism is at odds with the going green concept.

But, well, I admit surprise. There is a cute section with etsy finds – and I love supporting the primarily small crafters. I love etsy.

The toy story section has some of my all time favorite toys – all soy crayons, Crayon Rocks, from Stubby Pencil Studio and Hanno the Gorilla – as well as some cool toys I hadn’t found before, such as handmade wings (how cool! although wondering if the plated charm passes the CPSIA . . . )

But, I was struck by the MiniSpy page, which picked out the best organic onesies and then also recommended wall decals as “the ideal way to give personality to a kid’s room.” Hmmm.

Y’all know those wall decals are almost always vinyl, right? That’s right. Vinyl, as in polyvinyl chloride plastic. Somtimes referred to as the most toxic plastic.

And, if those lovely vinyl wall decals aren’t children’s products – that is, intended for children under the age of 12, they may have lead in them. Now, before you tell me your kids won’t lick the wall decals, keep in mind that lead in a vinyl doesn’t like being in the matrix and will migrate to the surface, particularly with exposure to light, heat and/or friction. And then can come off as lead contaminated dust.

Is it enough to be a risk? I can’t say, but lead exposure is additive, so coupled with lead contaminated dust from older homes, lead in our water, lead in soils from lead’s long use as a gasoline additive, our kids get more than enough lead already. They don’t need it from wall decals.

If lead isn’t used to stabilize the vinyl, then you could have maganese, or cadmium, or some other metallic salt. Vinyl must be stabilized.

Also, since the wall decals are toys or child care articles, they aren’t subject to the CPSIA’s phthalate ban. That means that hormone disrupting phthalates can be present since phthalates are used soften vinyl.

So why recommend such a product on the same page as organic onesies? Yuck.

And my next post will talk about the sunscreen recommendations . . . .

TheSmartMama to Speak on Raising Healthy and Safe Kids in the 21st Century

The Smart Mama Jennifer Taggart will participate in a lively expert panel discussion on modern parenting issues this Sunday, January 16, 2010. Please come and join us! The topic for discussion is “How to Raise a Healthy and Safe Child in the 21st Century.” The panel is presented by the Columbia University Alumni Association of Southern California and is open to all.

The panel will tackle parenting issues in this rapidly changing environment. Our modern world is full of new conveniences – but those conveniences bring with them a whole host of challenging and often avoidable perils. The expert panel will discuss modern safety regulations, exposure to hazards and toxins, educational toys that inhibit development, online safety.

Jennifer will tackle issues related to common chemical exposures and how to reduce those exposures. From use of household pesticides linked to leukemia to hormone disrupting phthalates in scented products, Jennifer will discuss what you can do.

Also joining Jennifer will be Robin Sax, bestselling author of Predators and Child Molesters: A Sex Crimes D.A. Answers 100 of the Most Asked Questions. Robin is a former Los Angeles County Prosecutor who specialized in felony cases including sex crimes and domestic violence. She is a sought after speaker on safety, crime, pop culture and the criminal justice system.

Dr. Jenn Berman will also participate in the panel. Jenn is a Marriage, Family and Child Therapist in private practice in Los Angeles. She has apppeared as a psychological expert on hundreds of television shows. She is the best selling author of SuperBaby: 12 Ways to Give Your Child a Head Start in the First 3 Years and The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy Confident Kids.

Tanya Remer Altmann, MD FAAP, will also participate. Tanya is a leading medical authority, best selling author and media spokesperson. She is a UCLA trained pediatrician, designated spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, and a child health expert. Tanya is the author of Mommy Calls: Dr. Tanya Answers Parents’ Top 101 Questions About Babies and Toddlers.

The panel will be at 1 pm at Roxbury Park Community Center in Beverly Hills, California. For more information and registration, visit the Columbia Alumni Association of Southern California’s website.

Melissa & Doug Folding Princess Castle – Review and Giveaway

Well, it is that time of year. I don’t know about your kids, but my kids are asking for everything for Christmas that they see advertised. And almost all of them are plastic and commercially branded. Not particularly inspiring for imaginative play and not particularly earth friendly.

So, when I was approached to do a review of the Melissa and Doug Folding Princess Castle, I was thrilled. (So, yes, I was sent a free castle and doll set for review in the interest of full disclosure.) My daughter has been asking for a pink plastic Barbie castle, and I much preferred non-branded wood. So I accepted. The castle arrived, and it is PERFECT. My princess loves the painted pink accents and the castle’s flexibility. It includes two removable turrets, flying buttresses, and a working drawbridge.

My daughter loves it, and plays with it almost every night. At Thanksgiving, some of my daughter’s cousins joined us, and they were just as entranced with the Folding Princess Castle. Melissa and Doug also generously sent my the Royal Family Wooden Doll Set to review. The girls, my daughter included, love these as well. You should check out all of the Melissa and Doug Toy Castles.

The drawbacks – the drawbridge is a little difficult for my 5 year old doll to manipulate because it is stiff. And, my daughter thinks the painted features on the female royal family members is “too clown like.” Also, just expressed regret that the clothes cannot be removed from the royal family. 

From an environmental perspective, I do like that the castle and dolls are all wood. And, in my XRF testing experience, I haven’t had any lead or cadmium show up for Melissa and Doug Toys. I also love that the toys aren’t branded – I can escape the Disney Princesses or Barbie or any of the others for a little bit.

My daughter is so pleased with the castle, I’ve purchased for her the Princess Castle Furniture set to add to the castle for Christmas. You can check out all of the Melissa and Doug Toy Castles and accessories.

Now, bonus for my readers. I get to give away a Folding Princess Castle or Folding Medieval Castle (value $99 each – you get to pick ONE). It will be a random draw from comments. In the interest of trying (though no promises) to make this for Xmas, the contest is open until 11:59 pm on December 14, 2010. Leave a comment below with which you would prefer if you won. Winner to be notified by email.

If you want a bonus entry, follow Melissa and Doug on Twitter and let me know that you did or already do in a separate comment.

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

Did you know that even today, childhood lead poisoning is considered the most preventable environmental disease among young children?

That even today, nearly a quarter of a million children in the US have blood lead levels high enough to cause significant damage to their health. And this is based upon an action level of 10 ug lead per dL of blood. Studies in the last 10 years show that blood lead levels significant lower cause permanent health problems, so the number of at risk kids is actually greater.

Children with elevated blood lead levels can suffer damage to the brain and nervous system. They can develop behavior and learning problems, such as learning disabilities, decreased intelligence, speech problems, language problems, poor muscle coordination, hyperactivity, slowed growth and other health problems.

Most of us dismiss the risk of exposure to lead. And yet. Lead exposure still occurs. In Nigeria right now, more than 400 kids have been killed from lead poisoning as a result of gold mining, and more than 30,000 people have been poisoned. A tragedy of horrific, immense proportions.

Yet lead poisoning doesn’t really occur in the United States still. Yes, it still does, even if your kids don’t lick the paint on the walls. Take a family in Tennessee living in a rental house built before 1978. They have discovered that all 3 children have elevated blood lead levels – child that is 12 has a BLL of 14, child that is 11 has a BLL of 8 and child that is 7 has a BLL of 21.7.

Or take the story of 8 month old Oskar Ryan-Garrad. He didn’t lick the walls. He didn’t eat paint chips. He didn’t suck or swallow lead contaminated toys. He simply acted like any baby and crawled around his home – a home constructed in the early 1900s. An optional blood draw found dangerously high levels of lead in his blood.

A risk assessor found lead laden dust on the windowsills of Oskar’s home, and on the floor and porch where he played. And his dad, a house painter, had lead dust on his clothes.

Monday kicked of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, and it is a great time to talk about how to reduce lead exposure. You can take some simple steps to reduce lead.

  • Wash your hands and get your kids to do so too! Easy, peasy step – washing your hands regularly with plain soap and water can reduce lead exposure. We pick up lead contaminated dust from lots of sources – washing it away means that we don’t get exposed.
  • Leave those shoes outside. We track in the bulk of the dirt in our home from outside. And with that dirt comes lead, cadmium, pesticides and more. Leaving your shoes at the door means that the dirt and the lead and other nasty stuff doesn’t come inside. One study found the checking shoes at the door can reduce exposure to lead by as much as 65%.
  • If your home was constructed before 1978, you may have lead based paint. Be careful of peeling and chipping paint – take care of it safely or at least make in inaccessible to kids. But even if your paint is in good condition, you can have lead contaminated dust. So make sure you wet wipe regularly and use a HEPA equipped vaccuum to keep dust bunnies down.
  • If your water pipes are older, you may have lead solder present, or even lead pipes. You can test your water with a simple home test kit that you mail to a laboratory. If you do have lead in your drinking water, consider a filter designed to remove lead. If you suspect lead in your water, one thing is to flush your pipes before drinking when the water sits for more than 6 hours. Just wait until you feel that slight temperature change.
  • If any adult in the home engages in an industry that results in lead exposure (construction, demolition, etc.), change your clothes and shoes before your come inside, and preferably before you get in the family car, so that you don’t bring lead contaminated dust home.
  • Skip vinyl products. Vinyl needs to be stabilized, and metallic salts are usually used to stabilize vinyl. Lead is often used. It doesn’t matter if you don’t suck on your fake leather (vinyl) purse – handling it can result in transfer from your hands to your mouth, or from your hands to your kids to their mouths, or from the purse directly to your kids hands and then their mouths.
  • Don’t give infants brass keys to soothe them. Brass can have lead added, and infants can be exposed as they mouth brass keeys.