New EWG Healthy Home Tips for Parents a Great Tool; But It Could (and Should) Be Even Greater

latinofamilyoutsideThe Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an organization that has been at the forefront of helping protect public health and the environment. Part of their focus is to help parents protect their kids from environmental toxins, contaminants and other nasties, and to provide information and resources so that parents can make healthier choices for their little ones. Their pages for parents include tips, resources, research reports, calculators and other useful tools, and EWG also works to promote legislation (such as the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act) and to encourage citizen activism (such as insisting that the EPA reduce Americans’ exposure to rocket fuel in their water). I find them to be a valuable resource, and I often refer people to their cosmetics safety database.

Recently they’ve come out with a 1-sheet “Healthy Home Tips for Parents,” (PDF) a downloadable guide to “the most important steps you can take at home to promote your family’s environmental health.”

The list includes suggestions such as:

  • Choose better body care products.
  • Go organic & eat fresh foods.
  • Pick plastics carefully.
  • Use greener cleaners & avoid pesticides.

And you can sign up for their e-newsletter to receive more detailed tips about each item on the list.

I’m glad that EWG is promoting the positive steps for parents that they are, and they have some great suggestions, but I’m saddened and disappointed that they’re not going further. I know that change can be scary and inconvenient and confusing for some people, but when we’re talking about our children’s health and the health of our planet, I would think that EWG would offer larger measures, too. For example, in their tips, they suggest that parents “choose milk and meat without added growth hormones.” How about suggesting to parents that they not feed animals and their products to kids at all? Awareness about the environmental and health impacts of eating animals only continues to grow and evidence of the benefits of choosing a plant-based diet rather than eating animal foods only continues to strengthen.

One of their tips is to “Eat good fats.” Instead of recommending plant-based sources for omega-3 fatty acids, such as walnuts, flax seeds or flax seed oil, or certain types of seaweeds, (although they do mention that you can get omega-3s from “nuts, oils and produce”), they recommend choosing “low-mercury fish.” Low-mercury still has mercury in it.

They recommend using a HEPA-filter vacuum, but don’t suggest preventative strategies such as getting rid of carpets, which can be full of toxins and hold in all kinds of pollutants and allergens. They suggest that parents choose “snug-fitting cotton pajamas” for their kids, but don’t mention the enormous environmental impact of cotton production (such as the pesticide and water use). How about suggesting an alternative for parents such as shopping at thrift stores, so that they can find used pajamas for less cost and less environmental impact?

I realize that they’ll be providing more in-depth suggestions regarding each tip in their e-newsletters, but since many parents may only look at the single sheet tips, it’s important to include such essential information there.

EWG does some very valuable and credible work, and I’m glad they’re providing such important information to parents. I just wish that they – and many of the other non-profit groups working to make the world a better place – wouldn’t stop shy of suggesting broader and deeper actions that parents and citizens can take. Let’s offer parents and citizens a range of suggestions that shows them the ideal choices, as well as some easier stepping stones, so that they can make the best and most informed choices based on their current circumstances and willingness to enact change.

~ Marsha

Pledge to Go Cruelty-free With Your Products

I’m a week late for WWAIL (World Week for Animals in Laboratories), but it’s always a good time to choose to go cruelty-free for your health, beauty and household products. Many people don’t realize that many of the shampoos, cosmetics, cleaners, soaps and more out there — and the ingredients in them — are tested on animals. And, unlike tests for new drugs, animal tests for these kinds of products are NOT required.

I came across this little video from The American Anti-Vivisection Society (thanks, Stephanie, for the heads up) that sums it up nicely:

The tests are cruel;

The results aren’t reliable;

There are plenty of terrific cruelty-free products available to choose from (many of which are also eco-friendly).

If you’re wanting to go cruelty-free with your products, you can sign the pledge to “take the leap” to cruelty-free products and find a cruelty-free shopping guide (note that not all products on this list are vegan) that lists cosmetics, personal care products, household products and even companion animal care products.

With all the plethora of products out there, there isn’t a single reason that anyone should still be using products tested on animals.

You can also go steps further and:

  • Write to the companies that still test on animals, asking them to choose non-animal alternatives;
  • Contact your local stores and ask them to carry cruelty-free products;
  • Encourage the stores you patronize — restaurants, groceries, hardware stores, etc. — to use only cruelty-free products (such as the soaps in the public bathrooms);
  • Leave a note with hotel managers to carry cruelty-free products;
  • Tell your friends, family and colleagues about your choice and encourage them to learn more and take the pledge themselves;
  • Write letters to editors and others to inform the public about this issue.

~ Marsha

Worldchanging World-Saving Actions Must Include Humane Education and MOGO Living

Last week’s Earth Day celebration passed with the usual green this and eco that. But this year also brought more attention to how both Earth Day and the concept of green have started to lose a bit of their shine, with their cooption by multinational corporations and other companies trying to cash in on our desire to do good. There’s also the growing revelation that taking those itty bitty steps for the planet, while better than nothing, isn’t nearly enough to save us – or the earth – from ourselves.

As Worldchanging says,

“We’ll only head off disaster by taking steps — together — that are massive, societal and thorough. Most of what needs to be done involves political engagement, systems redesign, and cultural change. It can’t be done in an afternoon and then forgotten about.”

Worldchanging has created a list of 10 “big, difficult, world-changing concepts” essential for helping create the just, compassionate, sustainable world we want (and need). Here’s their list:

1.    Eliminate nuclear weapons.
2.    Stabilize the bottom billion.
3.    Create a globally transparent society.
4.    Be prepared, globally.
5.    Empower women.
6.    Enable a future forward diet.
7.    Document all life.
8.    Negotiate an effective climate treaty.
9.    Build bright green cities.
10.    Build no new highways.

If you check out the full post, you can see their explanations about the problems that each of these concepts solves and why it’s important.

All of the above are admiral, desirable elements of a humane world. But, one essential concept that’s missing from the top of their list is:

1.    Integrate comprehensive humane education and MOGO living into all areas of our lives.

If we’re taught from a young age to live with integrity, compassion and wisdom; if we’re given the tools and knowledge to put our deepest values into action; if we learn to pay attention to the impact of our choices and to do the most good and least harm for all people, animals and the planet; if we’re encouraged to think critically and creatively and to find solutions that work for all; if we’re inspired to look at the world through a lens of interconnectedness; if we’re empowered to make positive personal choices and to transform systems, we can create a truly humane world.

We’re going to have a challenging time accomplishing all that other stuff on their list if we don’t collectively have the passion, the skills and the integrity to create that world, and those are things that have to be nurtured and taught.

~ Marsha

Take Calculated Steps to Reduce Your Eco/Carbon/Water Footprints

Most of us pursuing a MOGO life pay attention to the impact of our choices on people, animals and the planet. We have some vague idea of our ecological footprint  — the amount of land, water and other resources it takes to support us, and the amount of waste that we generate. But, have you ever calculated your footprint? There are a slew of “eco” calculators, and of course, they can only give you a general idea of how your choices affect the environment and its inhabitants, but they’re still a helpful and fun tool that you can use yourself and share with others. Here are 4 popular ones that I’ve found:

~ Marsha

MOGO Blogroll: Fake Plastic Fish

Do you find yourself haunted by the amount of plastic in your life? Has it become a nemesis? Perhaps it’s the addiction you can’t shake, promising yourself that this is the last piece of Tupperware, that next time you’ll remember to bring your reusable bags to the store, that you’re really going to switch to refillable pens….

Recently I discovered a cool blog called Fake Plastic Fish.  The founder, Beth Terry, uses her blog to chronicle her efforts to stop buying new plastic and to educate and inspire others to reduce their own plastics use. In addition to plastics-related news stories and an ongoing tally and analysis of her plastics use, Terry also has a great list of the plastic-free changes she’s made. Last year she also led the “Take Back the Filter” campaign to convince Clorox (which owns Brita in the U.S.) to start recycling some of its water filter cartridges.

FPF also has a plethora of useful websites and other resources, and Terry uses really clear categories for tagging her posts. I also like that Terry shows an awareness of the impacts of plastics not just on people and the planet, but on animals, too.

The Big Green Purse blog recently did an interesting interview with Terry about her blog and about plastics.

I felt pretty proud of my plastics use…until I looked around FPF. It’s definitely a good tool to help me remember that I can always to more to do less with plastics.

~ Marsha

20 Years After the Exxon Valdez: A Great Time to Kick the Oil Habit

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, reportedly the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Nearly 11 million gallons of oil poured from a gash in the ship’s hull, spreading  out into one of the most pristine and delicate areas of the U.S.: Prince William Sound. The spill eventually covered more than 1,200 miles of coastline, killed millions of animals and devastated numerous communities.

Nature has written an article about the spill, reflecting on the disaster and examining the impact that lingers today, and you’ll find plenty of other media coverage.

People, animals and the planet are still feeling the impact of that spill. What a great reminder that our actions can have enormous and long-lasting consequences. What a great time to pay attention to all the choices we make that involve the use of oil — not just for transportation, but for our food, the products we buy, and so on.

Today, make a list of  all the connections you can think of that your life has to oil. Then brainstorm ways that you can reduce your impact, such as:

  • walking or biking whenever you can
  • eating a plant-based diet
  • using natural alternatives to petroleum products
  • choosing renewable energy options
  • writing your editor, legislators and other people in authority to encourage them to create systems that are sustainable and restorative.

Why support something that can cause enormous suffering and destruction (Iraq War, anyone?), when we can create and use the humane alternatives available to us now, and continue to work for better future alternatives?

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of USGS.

What’s Your Water Footprint?

Sometimes it can be challenging to really get a good sense of how much water we use, especially when we don’t think about all the water it takes to grow our food, create the products we use, and so on. Good Magazine has a great chart that maps out your potential water use and impact throughout the day, from what you eat to how much you use to shower, and do laundry and dishes. The chart also offers a few suggested water savers and notes the amount of water savings.

This is a great tool to use for sparking discussions with loved ones and colleagues about  water use and/or the hidden impacts of our choices.

There’s also a great little online water footprint calculator from H20 Conserve that helps you estimate your water footprint and gives suggestions for reducing your water use. A friend told me about this tool, and she says that her college students are “fascinated with it.”

~ Marsha

(Thanks, Cool People Care, for the heads up about the chart.)