Back to School with Microban?

This post is part of the Green Moms Carnival on Back to School. Be sure to go check out the round up post at Mindful Momma with lots of ideas on going back to school – in green style.

My take on going back to school is pretty close to my good friend Lynn at OrganicMania. You can avoid back to school shopping by remembering to repurpose and reuse. I try to limit new purchases – although the reusable lunch sacks do get pretty worn out each year. So my kids get one new item each year. And I try to purchase with purpose – we don’t even get our class lists until after school starts, so I refuse to buy anything until I know exactly what my kids actually need.

But, that doesn’t mean I haven’t looked at the back to school merchandise when shopping. And boy,  has the use of Microban technologies in school supplies proliferated this year! If you aren’t aware, Microban is a broad range of antimicrobial technologies that are designed to protect products from microbes. Microban technologies do not protect the user of the product from disease causing microorganisms (if Microban International was making such claims, it would be subject to certain regulatory requirements and would have to have proof to support the claims).  Microban technologies are built into the product during the manufacturing process.

What is actually used in the particular Microban technology in a particular product is difficult to discern. It is generally understood that Microban in plastic includes triclosan, a chemical many of us are trying to avoid. But you don’t know for sure. Microban has many different technologies it is using now, including zinc and silver technologies, so the average consumer can’t really tell what formulation is being used in any particular product.

But what is being used begs the question. Why exactly do we need Microban technologies in our binders and other school supplies? It seems like a completely unnecessary use of a chemical. If I need disease prevention, then I should be wiping down the binder and encouraging my children to wash their hands. The Microban technology added to it isn’t going to protect my child from disease – good old handwashing with warm water and soap will do that.

So why the heck are we seeing Microban technologies added to so many products? Because we seem to have a fear of microbes. A completely unnatural fear of microbes. And we think the solution is some antibacterial germ killing chemical, when all we really need to do is wash our hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, rubbing vigorously. That’s it. And it doesn’t take antibacterial soap or antibacterial products.

So how about for back to school we skip the Microban technologies and send our kids to school with some castile liquid soap?


Green Moms Carnival – Hope Springs Eternal

This post is part of this month’s Green Moms Carnival. Our topic this month is “hope or despair” and was inspired by a story of a man indicating he would use a gun to protect his food crops. You’ll have to head over to the Big Green Purse blog post on the carnival to get all the details.

At first, I was going to talk about the hope I see in my kids’ faces. They are growing up to be stewards of the environment, and that gives me hope.

But I had a bit of an epiphany right before I sat down to write this. And my epiphany grew out of the news coverage about the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex, particularly the worldwide reports of fears over radiation. I read a news article that radioactive isotopes from Fukushima Dai-ichi had reached British Columbia and realized that the terrifying fear that radiation from the plant could spread worldwide might just be a catalyst for people to realize that we are completely interconnected when it comes to the environment.

Completely interconnected. And if people realize it, that what happens overseas means consequences here, then perhaps the same people will make the connection that mercury from power plants on the United States’ East Coast can indeed pollute the Pacific Ocean, or that improper disposal of electronic waste in Africa can cause harm, or any of the myriad of other issues.

And that gives me hope. (By no means am I trying to make light of the the earthquake and tsunami, or the resulting suffering).

Hope that it isn’t too late for us all to realize that our individual actions or failures to act affect people thousands of miles away. Every single time you choose a plastic disposable bottle of water over putting water in a reusable container is a choice that will affect somebody or something. Just look at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch if you don’t think disposable plastic is an issue.

Those proud, brave, heroic workers that are trying to fix the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant should inspire all of us to do better, to be better stewards, to take better care.

And that gives me hope.

Walking upstream to eliminate environmental causes of cancer

Family walking in creek

This month’s Green Moms Carnival is focused on the environment and cancer. At first, I was so excited to post about this issue. But then I started to get overwhelmed.

Should I talk about radon? Radon is a leading cause of lung cancer. Elevated levels of radon in the home have also been linked to increasing the risk of children developing acute lymphoblastic leukemia. But, radon is easy to detect and relatively simple to remove from the home, but many people seem unaware of the risk. Seems like a great topic.

But then I thought I should talk about the link between common household pesticides and cancer. For example, did you know that use of conventional pesticides in the home and garden during pregnancy and the first year of a child’s life increases that child’s risk of developing leukemia by as much as a factor of 9? That’s pretty scary. And with so many non toxic alternatives for pest control, that seemed like an awesome topic.

Should I talk about carcinogens in our personal care products, like the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane in every parent’s staple, Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Wash?

Should I talk about one of my soapbox subjects – the irony of beauty companies sponsoring breast cancer research when most of them use ingredients that are linked to an increased risk of cancer, and often increased risk of breast cancer? Pinkwashing at its finest.

It gets a little scary when you think about all the products we use every day that are linked to cancer, doesn’t it? All the ingredients and constituents that are carcinogens (cancer causing agents) become overwhelming.

And I think you become immune to it. It seems like there is a new scary product or ingredient every day. So if everything causes cancer, then why worry about it?


It is easier to do nothing. To think that our easy care, non stick, disposable lifestyles don’t really matter. That one person’s choices do not count or matter.

It really is easier to not think about.

But we can’t. We can’t let the overwhelming information paralyze us.

And while it is certainly true that what you eat, whether you exercise, whether you get enough sleep, your genetic makeup, if you drink, if you smoke, if you take recreational drugs all play a role in your risk of cancer and certain infectious agents (like HPV), environmental factors also play a role. A role that we do not yet fully understand.

Our efforts in the war in cancer seem focused on detecting, treating and curing cancer instead of considering that the world we live in affects whether we get cancer. The Secret History of the War on Cancer
says that the end result if 10 million preventable cancer deaths in the last 30 years. Which is why pinkwashing makes me so angry. It would be a much better investment for those companies to spend money reformulating their products to eliminate known or suspected carcinogens or hormone disruptors instead of trying to sell us even more CARP we don’t need just because it is pink.

Instead, I thought I would talk about two of the books that most moved me to do more, to do better, to live a less toxic life. The first is Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and the second is Sandra Steingraber’s incredibly powerful Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment (which is now being released in an updated version, my quotes are from the 1997 edition).

Why these two books? Because they point out something very, very telling about the link between the lives we live and the cancers we get. Rachel Carson focused on the rising death rates of cancer, and was disturbed by the evidence that childhood cancer had become the most common disease killer of US children. But Rachel Carson’s concerns have been dismissed, in part because childhood cancer mortality rates have been going down. She didn’t have access to incidence data, which shows while medical improvements have dramatically decreased how many kids die from cancer, how many kids get cancer continues to increase.

Sandra Steingraber writes:

Heroic measures may be saving more children from death, but every year more children are diagnosed with cancer than the year before. Increases are most apparent for leukemia and brain tumors. At present, eight thousand children are dianosed with cancer each year; one in four hundred Americans can expect to develop cancer before the age of 15.

Cancer among children provides a particularly intimate glimpse into the possible routes of exposure to contaminants in the general environment and the possible significance for rising cancer rates among adults. The lifestyle of toddlers has not changed much over the past half century. Young children do not smoke, drink alcohol, or hold stressful jobs. Children do, however, receive a greater dose of whatever chemicals are present in the air, food, and water because, pound for pound, they breathe, eat, and drink more than adults do.

That is it. Our children are getting more cancers despite the fact that the other factors people point out – smoking, drinking, etc. – haven’t changed for them.

Granted, obesity rates are sky rocketing in our kids and I would guess that is a contributor.

Nonetheless, the Environmental Working Group’s 10 Americans study clearly, unequivocally demonstrates that our children are born polluted. Polluted from chemicals we use now, and from chemicals we banned more than 30 years ago because they persist in our environment.

Living Downstream is now coming out as a film. And I’m thrilled. I hope if brings more attention to what it means to live downstream, and how we can change our environment by walking upstream. Check out the Living Downstream website – I can’t wait for Sandra Steingraber’s essays!


I hope that these books, and the Living Downstream trailer inspire you.

You can take simple steps to reduce chemical exposures. Start with one of the simplest, and it requires no money. Just take off your shoes to reduce tracking in DDT, PCBs, and lead into your home. Then, trying switching to non toxic cleaners and personal care products. Stop using conventional pesticides.

But more than that, I hope it inspires you to do more. To work on greening your school, your daycare, your work or your church. To advocate for change. To write your elected representatives to support legislative efforts. To vote with your pocketbook.

To run for office.

To walk upstream.

Go check out the other Green Moms who posted this month on the environment and cancer by starting with Nature Moms (post will be up 3/8).

And, for full disclosure, the text links to books in the post are part of my Amazon Affiliate account. If you click and buy, I’ll probably make about $0.00025 or something miniscule like that. Just so you know.

Green Moms Carnival, World Environment Day and World Oceans Day

green moms carnivalI’m pleased to host a mini Green Moms Carnival on World Environment Day (WED) and World Oceans Day (WOD).

WED is celebrated every June 5. It was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.

This year’s theme is “Your Planet Needs You-UNited to Combat Climate Change” and is intended to spur nations to agree on a new deal at the crucial climate change convention later this year. WED’s goals generally are to:

  1. Give a human face to environmental issues;
  2. Empower people to become active agents of sustainable and equitable development;
  3. Promote an understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes towards environmental issues;
  4. Advocate partnership which will ensure all nations and peoples enjoy a safer and more prosperous future.

WOD doesn’t seem to receive as much press as WED, but it is just as important. WOD is June 8, 2009, and its theme is “one ocean, one climate, one future.” Keep it in mind and wear blue on June 8 to celebrate WOD.

So, what do the Green Moms say about WED and WOD?

Lynn from OrganicMania urges us to take the opportunity on WED to plant a tree, and gives us lots of options. Jenn at Mother Nature Network echoes Lynn (which makes sense, since the UNEP’s goal is to plant a tree for every person by the end of this year) and also urges us to plant a tree.

And Mary at In Women We Trust has a whole list of ideas. Lots of ideas. And of course, reminds us to plant a tree. I need to follow her advice about my road rage. Trust me, I say “carp” a lot when I drive. I use to say much worse things, but then my son started repeating them so now I just say carp. CARP. But, yes Mary, I’ll remind myself to count to ten and remind myself that the carp need me.

Beth (my plastic hero) over at FakePlasticFish has identified everything you can do for WOD. And if you do one thing, STOP USING PLASTIC BAGS of any sort, from grocery to produce to snack. Just don’t use them. Ever. Need to know why? Check out the Great Pacific Plastic Garbage Patch to start.

You can find out more about the Green Moms Carnival and our schedule for the year. A hot topic is coming up  for our full June Green Moms Carnival – eco-confessions and eco-guilt. The green moms come clean, and discuss the problems we have with going and staying green, and how we are definitely not perfect. Don’t forget to check it out on June 24 over at The Green Parent. And feel free to contribute too.

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Green Moms and Belief – Faith in a Greener, Healthier, Safer Future

green moms carnivalI am the proud host of this month’s Green Moms Carnival with a topic I recommended – the phrase “I believe” and the opportunity to let our minds run wild with what that phrase means to each of us.  If you aren’t familiar with our monthly Green Moms Carnival, it was all started by Lynn at OrganicMania, who rounded up all of us for this amazing monthly event of green mamas and women of the earth and anyone else who is interested to turn our collective voices to a particular topic. 


This month’s topic is the two simple words – I believe.  The idea came from a series of essays I stumbled across, with each writer given the opportunity to explore those very simple and ultimately very powerful two words. 


Think about it – what do you believe? In this month’s Green Moms Carnival, each green mom was asked to reflect on those two words.  And, this amazing group of women took that phrase and ran with it, to some of the most amazing and inspring collection of blogs.  Most of them found it a hard subject to tackle, but I found their thoughts truly inspirational.


Michelle’s post over at Green Phone Booth entitled True Believer sent shivers down my spine.  It galvinized me to be a better person.  She still believes in us, and that we can turn it around, despite the bad news. 


Karen at Best of Mother Earth belives in parenting, prevention, choice, voice and more.


Lynn at OrganicMania believes not only in the power of the Green Moms Carnival, but also in the power of doing. 


Beth over at FakePlasticFish believes that while she doesn’t know all of the answers, she believes in the power of the Internet to spread ideas.  She also articulates one of my beliefs – that plastic represents both the best of human ingenuity and the worst of human arrogance.  You really should check out FakePlasticFish, especially if you are looking to eliminate plastic from your life.  Her efforts help me keep the faith that we can get rid of disposable plastic.


Erin over at The Conscious Shopper believes that enviornmentalism is not just a movement of the white and affluent, but that it should be clean, green and fair for everyone.  And she tackles some important aspects, from promoting affordable public transportation to promiting health benefits.


Maryanne Conlin at The Not Quite Crunchy Parent believes in the green lining of this storm of bad news.  Just like you mother always said – look on the bright green side of things!


Katy over at Non-Toxic Kids shares her beliefs, particularly in the power of hope.  And of the value of sleep.


Diane at the Big Green Purse believes in the the power of the Big Green Purse.  She reminds us that women can be the world’s most powerful economic and environmetnal force if we just shift our spending. 


And Anna at Green Talk believes that green makes cents.  Many people believe that going green is more expensive – but that really isn’t true.  She focus on simple solutions for energy savings, reduce waste and consuming less.  And that is really the case – I believe that being green is not about buying green, but about living green, which means making do with what you got, re-using, re-purposing, using less – and more simple, and generaly much less expensive, lifestyle.


Mary Clare at In Women We Trust sums up her green belief in one sentence – she believes that women are the will, corporations are the way and sustainable standards will keep us all honest.  How she gets to that deceptively simple statement is an interesting read.


Alline at A Passion for Green Business believes that we can have it all.  And perhaps on 6 hours a day or less of working.  In her blog, she reminds us that buying it all isn’t the solution to happiness, but perhaps building relationships and socializing is.


Christine at MoreGreenMoms believes also in the power of doing, and believes that we all should support the Kid Safe Chemicals Act.


So, what do you believe?  Do you believe in a greener future?  Do you have faith in the green movement?  Do you believe that we can make a difference?


Let us know what you believe.  Follow us on Twitter (hey, we won the Shorty Award for Best Green Content, woot!).  And, check out next month’s carnival hosted by Jenn at Tiny Choices.

green moomsA bounty of gratitude for green moms & moms of Earth

circle of handsThis post is part of the Green Moms Carnival.  The Green Moms Carnival is a group of truly wonderful women – passionate, opinionated, thoughtful, intelligent – looking to change the world, or at least a little part of it, for the better.  Every month, we pick a topic and blog about it.  November’s theme is gratitude and 3 favorite green things.  Karen at Best of Mother Earth is the host this month -I urge you to head over to her summary post rounding up this month’s posts. 

Every month I have been giddy and excited to address the topic.  Last month’s greening the holidays?  I think I wrote it in 5 minutes flat I was so excited.  (If you are inclined, check out October’s roundup.)  But this time, it had been difficult.  Painful.  Not because I am not grateful – but because I am grateful for so much, and have had a difficult time expressing it in a meaningful way.  I’m grateful for everything from the typical stuff – grateful for my husband, 2 healthy kids, a family that is only slightly dysfunctional, and the slightly less typical – the hope present in this month’s election, the sense that the green movement is moving mainstream – to just being alive, the glory of the sun, the sound of an owl hooting. 

But I haven’t been able to express my thoughts.  And I really haven’t had the necessary silence to be reflective.  We’re in full swing of the hustle, bustle holidays.  2 kids, 2 different schools, 2 harvest festivals, 2 Halloween parades, costumes, prepping for Thanksgiving with 45, Xmas shopping, etc.  Plus work has been crazy.  Finding the silence to reflect is always difficult.  

But this morning, as I finally got a little time to myself, and listened to the rain pitter patter in the early morning (as my husband dealt with burying the 2 fish from the Harvest festival that passed away in the middle of the night as the children cried their broken hearts), I decided that I had procrastinated enough and needed to get this post done.  And it finally hit me – what I was feeling most grateful about this month.  I am grateful for the community of women and the traditions we pass along and share. 

I feel extremely grateful and lucky for the traditions handed down, mother to daughter.  As I look forward to celebrating the holidays with my daughter, and my mom and my grandma (who celebrated her 90th birthday this year), it is the traditions that we have shared – the recipes for cooking, for cleaning, and for crafts and decor – that are the most meaningful.  I couldn’t make the traditional clam chowder for Christmas Eve without my mom’s recipe.  My son and daughter couldn’t make the popcorn balls without my grandma’s recipe.  I share with my children (my son too) the tradition of making dried apple shrunken heads for Halloween, corn bread stuffing for Thanksgiving, gingerbread houses and paper Xmas tree garlands and hope that they too will treasure the memories and pass them along. 

Our family traditions are slightly twisted.  My grandmother converted to Judaism when she married my grandfather just before WWII.  My mom married a Christian, so we celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas.  Christmas Eve meant a party with everybody who didn’t have a place to go – our Jewish friends and my dad’s elderly clients without family nearby.  That is my favorite tradition handed down – inviting everybody to share the bounty of the holidays.  So, we open our doors at Thanksgiving – anybody and everybody is welcome at our house. 

And that welcoming (and sense of coming home) is how I feel about the other members of the Green Moms Carnival.  To the other founders of the Green Moms Carnival, I am extremely grateful to have met you, whether in person or online only.  I feel such a deep connection to each of you – a kindred of spirit and sense of purpose.  I marvel at the sense of community we have as we try to green the world.  I imagine our hands stretching across the world, just as I imagine the hands of mothers and daughters stretching across time.  

I feel extremely grateful for the traditions shared – woman to woman – with old friends and new.  As we debate the merits of recycled plastic garbage bags versus reusing paper versus skipping bags, I smile because it seems like only between us does every contemplated purchase, every action, have such significance.  Jess’ (now at the new Green Phone Booth) vinyl wall decals versus painting.  Anna’s (of Green Talk) concern over recycled rubber.  Beth’s (of Fake Plastic Fish) stance against creating markets for recycled plastic instead of just avoiding it in the first place.  I treasure the tips on cleaning methods, successful composting, crafty solutions.  You are my favorite green thing! 

Next month’s Green Moms Carnival is hosted by Diane of Green Big Purse.