Back To School: Choosing Reusable Food and Drink Containers

There is a Bring-Your-Own Revolution going on in school lunch boxes.  Kids are being taught not to pollute and why we aim to reuse, recycle and reduce. Schools are advocating Litterless Lunches and some have programs where students and staff work to earn the coveted ‘eco’ certification. However, parents need to be on board.  I have seen first hand how many throw-away, single-use containers are still being packed in lunches contrary to school efforts to teach otherwise.

I understand it can be a challenge to switch gears and follow the eco path when we were brought up with plastic ‘sandwich baggies’ that always went into the trash without a thought.  But It is really easy to reuse plus it costs you oodles less in the long-run. And many reusables now are eco AND cool. My kids love to help pick out their favourite colours/design for their school lunch reusables.

The Bottom Line on Plastic Reusables:

Plastic is never a good option for food or beverage containers. Plastic contains unsavoury chemicals….bottom line and no two ways about it.  And don’t think you are necessarily doing well by buying BPA-Free. It may be ok and it may not. It is simply not worth the risk. Ever wondered what has been replacing BPA? A California father, Michael Green did and had his daughter’s pink plastic sippy cup tested. The lab results were enough to give all parents pause. The sippy cup was made from just as health-harming substances as is BPA plastic. You can read his story here.  I do love when parents advocate for the health of kids. And thanks to Mr. Green many parents are now off plastics.

Best then to choose either food-grade stainless steel, tempered glass (difficult to break) and organic fabrics.  It’s easy to do and much more worry-free. Here’s what to look for:

Water Bottles:

Choose food grade stainless or glass NOT aluminum or plastic. Aluminum is known to be made with plastic-type liners often made with BPA or BPA-like substances. So this hidden plastic as with full plastic bottles will leach a little of the chemicals into you or yours every time a sip is taken.

Stainless steel bottles are not all created equally. I love double-walled construction as they keep cold beverages cold and hot beverages hot for the good part of a day. I swoon over these particular bottles both for quality, design AND the company is an eco-do-gooder. Colours and sizes for everyone. #Love

Single-walled stainless steel construction is a less expensive and a safe option for parents who worry their kids might loose a bottle. It won’t be quite as effective however at keeping water cool through a trip to the park on a hot day or keeping hot cocoa hot while out skating in January. Perfect for school though and the price tag may be more palatable. My favourite in this single-walled category is by this Canadian company. And their insulated thermal containers are great for the smallest of students.

Glass is non-leaching so a good option but can be heavy for little kids and some parents do worry about breakage.  My favourite glass bottle is tough to break and the silicone cover comes in fun colours kids love..

Food Containers:

Food grade stainless steel containers are hot right now on back-to-school wish-lists.  Kids love the coloured lids of this fab high quality stainless gear. And never waste another penny on polluting one-time use plastic baggies by opting for organic cotton ‘baggies’ or snack packs. And you will be able to ditch plastic wrap forever as many of these containers can be used in your fridge for leftovers.

In the end reusables are good for you, the environment and your student so it’s best to get on board!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why You Don’t Want to Use StyroFoam Dishes This Summer (or Ever!)

 

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It is finally summer fair and barbeque season. Yippee! However, I am reminded how often I see food being handed out on styrofoam plates and containers and why this is should be of concern to everyone.

I have always hated the feel of styrofoam cups on my lips so I started avoiding it years ago. I have since learned it contains some serious toxic compounds which can leach out into food. So shouldn’t we all be avoiding it? The challenge is that it is still so widely used.  As it’s likely you too will run into it this season, best to know WHY and HOW  to avoid styrofoam.

What is styrofoam??

  • Styrofoam is a trademarked name for an extruded foam made from polystyrene
  • Polystyrene is a synthetic compound derived from petroleum, and contains toxic compounds such as benzene. It is a lightweight, insulating material that is used in many formats in industry…unfortunately including disposable dish ware.

Studies have shown that the styrene leaches out of the styrofoam and into our bodies when we use styrofoam cups and plates.  In fact, a study published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology found just that when the food (or drink) inside was hot. If it makes you feel any better, it was also found that styrene didn’t leach out of foam egg cartons, which are usually refrigerated. so we can assume the most harm to human health comes when the styrofoam is heated.

However the direct impact on human health shouldn’t be our only concern. Styrofoam has become an acute environmental issue. The Environmental Protection Agency released a report (1986) listing the polystyrene manufacturing process  as the fifth largest creator of hazardous waste. Fifty-seven toxic chemical byproducts are released during the manufacturing process of polystyrene, including benzene. Just think of the workers who manufacture it if nothing else.

As well, styrofoam takes 500 years to decompose. It makes up 25-30% of our world’s landfills AND has become a major source of marine pollution. And even though styrofoam is no longer manufactured with CFC (‘chlorofluorocarbon’ the famous ozone depleting chemical), it still uses hydrofluorocarbons linked to depleting the ozone layer and affecting global warming.

How to Avoid Styrofoam:

  • Look for the number 6. Polystyrene foam should be easy to spot by looking for a 6 inside the chasing arrow (aka ‘the mobius loop) symbol.  Unfortunately, polystyrene is also used in non-foam food containers, including clear-plastic clamshells and coffee-cup lids.
  • Don’t frequent restaurants or take out places that offer this type of food container.
  • BE PREPARED and take your own environmentally-friendly food and drink containers where you can to picnics, BBQs and fairs.

And remember that even though many jurisdictions are now trying to recycle styrofoam.. it is not a good option to use in the first place. So many chemicals used in its production affecting workers and our environment. We can all do better for the sake of our health, other people, AND our environment. So get yourself some stainless or glass re-usable containers and bamboo plates.

This post was inspired by the work of SaferChemicalsHealthyFamilies who work tirelessly to inform people of hidden toxins in their consumer goods….for which we should all be thankful 🙂

 

Seriously…Plastic Beads In My Child’s ToothPaste?

Crest For MeNothing makes me crazier than huge corporations putting unsavoury ingredients in products marketed specifically for children.  There is no excuse.

I recently read an article on-line written by a mom/dental hygienist, alerting consumers about the use of plastic beads in tooth paste. The product specifically portrayed in the article was Crest’s ToothPaste For Me which promises to ‘Get The Gunk’ out for kids between 8 and 12 years old.  However, dental hygienists are finding the plastic beads are getting in and staying in…under gums. That sounds like putting ‘gunk’ into children’s mouths and I’m not ok with it.

Polyethylene does not break down, it is not biodegradable. So unless your hygienist can find and remove these beads, they will stay there. And what parent of a child wants to have their child go through having plastic microbeads fished out from under their gums?

I have to wonder why Procter and Gamble ever put plastic in any toothpaste, let alone one specifically for children? On their website, it is confirmed that the blue microbeads are added for colour. So kids are getting plastic microbeads stuck under their gums for COLOUR?

To find out if your product contains polyethylene, take a look at the Inactive Ingredients part of your toothpaste label. As well, the Skin Deep Database confirms specific Crest products reported to be using polyethylene beads.

Unfortunately my husband had just bought one of these Crest For Me toothpastes for our 8 year old.   Upset I actually owned one of these products, I called the company to voice my concern. They assured me PE is safe and is used in food packaging.  I asked if they had done any studies on kids health if plastic sits under their gums for years undetected? No surprise that I didn’t get a direct answer to that one.  Or do they know the impact is of kids having dental tools stuck up their gums to retrieve the beads? I just cringe thinking about it.

In my upset over my child having plastic beads in her toothpaste,  I didn’t even mention to P & G, how these beads are polluting our Great Lakes. Feel free to mention that point if you call.

Procter and Gamble can be reached at (800) 959-6586  or send an e-mail comment to them here

8 Things You Should Know About Common Household Plastics

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Plastics are everywhere. They are used everything from building materials to shower curtains. Mass production of plastics was born out of a desire to make cheap, durable goods. Sadly, some plastics are now known to be toxic to human health as well as damaging to the environment. Here are some facts about plastics which may make you re-think your use of them.

1) Polyvinyl Chloride is toxic. PVC is very commonly used as its cheap to manufacture and allows for plastic to be pliable. So chances are you come in contact with PVC much too often. Look for recycling code #3 and avoid where you can. PVC is commonly used in children’s backpacks, rain gear, and school supplies such as 3-ring binders. Check this very informative list that gives non-PVC options for products kids typically take to school. And good to note that a #7 recycling code is ‘everything else’. Some drinking bottles made with this #7 ‘mystery’ plastic have recently been found to contain BPA.

2) Children’s toys contain PVC. In fact, the iconic kiddie toy, the rubber ducky has become a symbol of a toys made with toxic materials.  Apparently many toys do contain at least some PVC as no alternative suitable material to PVC has been found… claim at least a few of the giant toy manufacturers. And some parents are not taking this lightly creating petitions asking for change.

3) Although ALL plastics have some degree of negative environmental impact, know that the least toxic (based on containing no PVC) commonly used plastics are believed to be low density polyethylene and polypropylene. Recycling codes #4 and #5 respectively will allow you to easily identify these.

4) Saran food wrap (a Dow Chemical product) was once made of PVC but due to health concerns is now reported to made of polyethylene which is apparently much more permeable to oxygen than it ever was, so doesn’t keep your food as fresh.  So really what’s the point of it? Best to avoid all non-biodegradable plastic wrap altogether and use good quality, re-usable food containers made without toxins. I use lined, fabric sandwich bags for my kids lunches and have been pleasantly surprised and glass or stainless for leftovers in my fridge.

5) Plastics are being used in exfoliating face and body washes.  So hard to believe that anyone ever thought it was a good idea to put microscopic plastic beads in body care products.  Now the Great Lakes and other waterways are suffering for it. And the issue persists as municipal water systems weren’t built to remove theses plastic beads.  Check your scrub products for plastics such as ‘polyethylene’. Best to choose biodegradable exfoliators.

6) Plastics are harming aquatic wildlife by ingestion and by entanglement. In fact some who have recently journeyed across oceans give haunting accounts of unspeakable amounts of plastics floating in the oceans and the apparent cost to wildlife. Best for all of us to reduce plastics use where we can. Plastics NEVER breakdown. You throw it away and it then becomes someone else’s issue.

7) Many plastics gas off when they are new causing an unhealthy mix of compounds in the air. This translates into how much better it may be to buy used than new or recycle someone else’s products Who will covet that ‘new car smell’ when it most probably means toxic gassing off?

8) Plastic beverage bottles are a huge environmental issue. PET plastic can be recycled but stats show the majority aren’t recycled but thrown away and end up in landfill.  If you reach for a plastic bottle out of convenience, think again and bring a stainless steel or glass refillable bottle with you next time.

And the good news? There are lots of alternatives to plastic products being created everyday by companies who are being innovative and thoughtful.  Ask questions of product manufacturers and seek out alternatives where they exist. Google everything you question and you may be surprised to find how many alternatives to polluting, harmful plastics are available.