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Guide to Green Parenting
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We all know that pesticides, industrial chemicals, and certain food additives can be harmful to adults but let’s consider the impact on our children. As we know children are very different people than adults as their internal organs are still developing and maturing. Their body mass is far less than that of an adult so exposure levels that may be deemed safe for adults may not be for children. Children also play outside more where pesticides are often used on lawns and playing fields, and it is not uncommon for young ones to put things in their mouths. In the past decade alone we have seen a significant jump in autism, food allergies, asthma and certain pediatric cancers. Why should our children be left inherit the effects of environmental pollution? As parents there are steps that we can take to help make our homes and planet a better, safer and healthier place for our children.
Remember the adage, “you are what you eat”? Well keep that in mind the next time you are out shopping for yummy treats to stuff inside lunchboxes. Buying organic food, especially fresh produce, will help to reduce pesticide exposure. As parents we do our best to protect our children from the harmful toxins that we often have in our houses (insect spray, drain cleaner, detergents, cleaning products, etc.). Purchasing food from conventional or industrial farms is often ridden with equally harmful poisons such as pesticides, fertilizers, growth hormones, antibiotics, and so on. Instead of guarding our children from these harsh chemicals we are packing them into their lunches, albeit unintentionally. Choosing organic foods ensures that the foods your children are not only healthy but they are hazard-free! Organic foods also contain higher levels of nutrients such as larger doses of vitamin C, calcium. Magnesium, iron as was as contain more cancer-fighting antioxidants.

In some cases organic food can be more costly than conventional, however there are some money saving and fun approaches you can take to going organic: shop at local farmers markets, join a local food co-op, grown your own veggies.

Creating Green Bedrooms and play areas:

In recent years the toy industry has been under scrutiny for Chinese imports containing high levels of lead, lead paint in particular. Lead paint is paint containing lead, a heavy metal, used as pigment. Although lead improves paint performance, it is a dangerous substance. It is especially damaging to children under age six whose bodies are still developing. Lead causes nervous system damage, hearing loss, stunted growth, and delayed development. It can cause kidney damage and affects every organ system of the body. It also is dangerous to adults, and can cause reproductive problems for both men and women. The US does have lead paint restrictions in place, however with so many products being manufactured offshore it’s difficult to monitor. Be mindful whenever purchasing non-organic, painted, toys originating overseas, even some of the larger brands such as Fisher Price and Thomas the Tank Engine have been recalled do to lead paint contamination.

Lead paint was banned for residential use in the United States in 1978 by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, as it was once commonly used in homes and schools throughout the US. It is still important today when renovating a home of building built prior to 1978 to carefully contain any lead paint dust that might become airborne. When ingested lead paint dust is extremely toxic, especially to young children.

Even though lead paint is no longer in use, paints and finishes are still toxic to the interior environment of a home. The source of these toxins is a variety of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are commonly used to enhance the paints performance. VOCs are typically breathed is a gaseous fumes, but they can also be in solid or liquid form. A commonly used VOC is formaldehyde, which irritates the mucous membranes and can make a person irritated and uncomfortable and more importantly is thought to be a carcinogen (cancer causing agent).

Many paint companies are now offering low –VOC and non-VOC paints that are worth considering especially when painting a children’s space. Benjamin Moore, one of the largest paint producers in the US, now offers an extensive line “Aura” of low odor and low VOC paints.

Addition high VOC emitters are carpeting, flame retardants (used in mattresses), air fresheners, aerosol sprays, dry-cleaned clothing, cleaning products. If you question some of the materials that you already have in place in your home and don’t have the means to replace them, houseplants can help. Here is a partial list of purifying indoor plants:
  • Heartleaf
  • spade leaf
  • elephant ear
  • English ivy
  • spider plant
  • bamboo palm
  • snake plant
  • Gerbera Daisies (flower)
  • Chrysanthemum (flower)
For safety reasons, many toys are also made from plastic, however many of these toys aren’t as safe as we thing. Plastic plastics often contain a variety of toxic additives. For example, plasticizers like adipates and phthalates are often added to brittle plastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) to make them pliable enough for use in food packaging, children's toys and teethers, and other items. Traces of these chemicals can leach out of the plastic when it comes into contact with food. Out of these concerns, the European Union has banned the use of DEHP (di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate), the most widely used plasticizer in PVC. Some compounds leaching from polystyrene food containers have been found to interfere with hormone functions and are suspected human carcinogens. Wood toys can sometimes be a safer alternative to plastic, just watch out for the paint and any sort of wood finishing products used.

Getting back to formaldehyde, another one if its many hiding places is also in plastic. Many of those cute super heo dishes that we use to serve our children on are constructed out of melamine resin or melamine formaldehyde (also shortened to melamine) is a hard, thermosetting plastic material made from melamine and formaldehyde by polymerization. Melamine is not microwave safe as it gets very hot when heated, however it still has toxic potential nonetheless. Due to the fact that melamine can’t be heated it also can’t be recycled either.

Ever wonder what’s inside those cute and cuddly stuffed animals that your children go to bed with every night? Chances are they are stuffed with some sort of cotton batting. Thousands of conventional farmers and farm-hands die every year from pesticides used on cotton farms. There is a small percentage of green toy manufacturers that are now using Organic cotton. Organic Cotton is grown without chemical fertilizers, insecticide or pesticide. Organic agriculture uses methods that are ecological, economical, and socially sustainable and denies the use of agrochemicals and artificial fertilizers. Instead, organic agriculture uses crop rotation, the growing of different crops than cotton in alternative years. The use of insecticides is prohibited; organic agriculture uses natural enemies to suppress harmful insects. The production of organic cotton is more expensive than the production of conventional cotton. Although toxic pollution from synthetic chemicals is eliminated, other pollution-like problems may remain, particularly run-off and additional use of fossil fuels. Organic cotton is produced in organic agricultural systems that produce food and fiber according to clearly established standards. Organic agriculture prohibits the use of toxic and persistent chemical pesticides and fertilizers, as well as genetically modified organisms. It seeks to build biologically diverse agricultural systems, replenish and maintain soil fertility, and promote a healthy environment.

The same cotton that is used to stuff Mr. Teddy is also used for our children’s bed sheets, pajamas and clothes. There are several vendors who are now selling organic bedding and clothes, which are also worth considering.

Many of you are not going to run out and purchase all new toys for your kids, but these are good facts to keep in mind the next time you visit the “local” toy shop.

The Best Green Toy Brands

Green Toys - Green Toys Inc. makes an awesome line of classic children’s toys constructed from recycled plastic and other environmentally friendly materials. This helps reduce fossil fuel use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improving the overall health and happiness of the planet.
Plan Toys - PlanToys practices the "Three R's" of green living: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. PlanToys' manufacturing processes are designed to reduce waste and save energy. They reuse materials, and have introduced innovative methods to recycle paper and other products. PlanToys is always looking for new ways to improve and preserve our environment.
Melissa & Doug - From puzzles to puppets, plush to play food, magnetic activities, music and more, Melissa & Doug® is one of the leading designers and manufacturers of educational toys and children's products. Started in 1988 in their garage, Melissa & Doug® has something for everyone, with nearly 800 unique and exciting products for children of all ages.


Organize Book and Toy Exchanges:

However if you are looking to save some money in the toy department and take advantage of the existing toys that are over following in your home, here is a fun tip. Nowadays kids have more toys than ever before, the word “playroom” is now common architectural lexicon. As we know today’s must have toy will most likely become next week’s dust collector. Have a pile of toys that are too babyish for your second-grader…host a neighborhood toy exchange. The kids will have so much fun trading their toys and books with each other, books and clothes work well for this too! This is a great learning opportunity for your children.

Other ideas for getting your kids involved in becoming green:
  • Allow them to help cook dinner with the veggies used from your own garden
  • Get them involved in recycling, have them sort out the paper and plastic
  • Make your own play-doh – there are many different recipes online
  • Make your own chemical free glues
  • Encourage them to color on both sides of the paper
  • Teach them the importance of turning off lights and when the leave a room
  • Show them how to pack their lunches in reusable containers
  • Teach them to turn off the tap while teeth brushing, and take shorter showers and cooler baths
Once the whole family gets involved, becoming a green parent will become easier and even fun. Expressing your environmental concerns and teaching your children about conservation is giving them invaluable life lessons that will stay with them forever.


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