Archive for the 'Green Living' Category

Win a $7,500 Environmental Grant for Your School!

We only recently learned of this great contest opportunity being offered by TD Friends of the Environment Foundation and Earth Day® Canada. There is not a lot of time left to enter (deadline for entries is 5pm on October 14th!), so get your entries in for your chance to win 1 of 10 amazing green prizes

All students need to do is submit an original drawing of their favourite part of nature for the chance to have their artwork featured on a limited edition TD FEF reusable shopping bag and win a $7,500 environmental grant for their school! Simple as that! Read on for details.

How does it work?

Canadian students in grades one through eight can submit an original drawing that expresses the theme “my favourite part of nature.” Ten finalists will then be chosen by a panel of judges, and the winning entry will be chosen by an online public vote. Voting will take place between October 31 and November 11, 2011.

  1. For full information and contest rules, please visit http://www.tdfef.com/artcontest. The deadline for entries is 5 p.m. on October 14, 2011. Winners will be announced on November 16, 2011.

Grand Prize

  • $7,500 environmental grant towards the development of an outdoor classroom or a schoolyard naturalization project,
  • a digital camera, valued at approximately $250,
  • a litterless lunchbox for each student in their class.

Nine secondary winners will also each receive:

  • a $500 environmental grant for their school,
  • $25 cash
  • a litterless lunch box.
  • The drawings may also be featured in the 2012-2013 edition of Earth Day Canada’s EcoKids Calendar.

About Earth Day® Canada:

Earth Day® Canada (EDC), a national environmental charity founded in 1990, provides Canadians with the practical knowledge and tools they need to lessen their impact on the environment. In 2004 it was recognized as the top environmental education organization in North America, for its innovative year-round programs and educational resources, by the Washington-based North American Association for Environmental Education, the world’s largest association of environmental educators. In 2008 it was chosen as Canada’s “Outstanding Non-profit Organization” by the Canadian Network for Environmental Education and Communication. EDC regularly partners with thousands of organizations in all parts of Canada. http://www.earthday.ca

About TD Friends of the Environment Foundation:

Since 1990, TD FEF has provided more than $55 million in funding to over 20,000 grassroots environment and wildlife projects across Canada. In 2010, TD FEF provided more than $3.5 million in support of 970 projects. Thousands of donors give to TD FEF on a monthly basis and TD Bank Group contributes in excess of $1 million annually. TD also covers the management costs of running TD FEF, which guarantees 100 per cent of every dollar donated goes directly to funding environment and wildlife projects in the community where the donation was made. For more information on how to donate and get involved in your community, visit http://www.tdfef.com.

Earth Day® is a trade-mark of Earth Day Canada (1991) Inc., used with the permission of Earth Day Canada (1991) Inc.



Staying safe in the sun: Sunscreen Information

It is that time of year again, the time when we all start to look at purchasing sunscreen for the upcoming sunny days of summer. With all of products on the market and the abundance of information out there it can get confusing. The following are the basics on sun block/screen, and the terms you should know.

What is SPF?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The most common SPF factors are 15, 30 and 45. The SPF tells you approximately how long your sun block/screen will protect you from the sun. For example, if you normally burn after 10 minutes in the sun, multiply 10 minutes by the SPF. Therefore, an SPF15 will protect you for 150 minutes (2 hours 30 minutes) before you have to re-apply. It is important not to go exactly by the SPF calculation though. Sweating, clothing rubbing against the skin and water can all reduce the “safe time” so it is always a good idea to re-apply well before the calculated SPF time. A good rule is to apply once every hour.

What is the difference between sunscreen and sun block?

A chemical based sunscreen is known as a chemical block. These types of sunscreens do not leave a white film on the skin and rub in as a regular lotion would. The chemicals in these sunscreens filter sunlight and reduce the ultraviolet penetration to the skin. Chemical sunscreens usually contain chemical preservatives such as parabens to lengthen shelf life. It is a good idea to stay away from chemical ingredients and preservatives because they easily absorb into the skin and can cause a multitude of problems.

A sun block that is not chemical based is known as a physical block. These types of blocks contain an active natural mineral ingredient, either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. After applying, the sun block physically blocks the ultraviolet penetration to the skin and do not use any chemicals to do so. Physical blocks usually leave a whitish tinge to the skin after application and contain natural preservatives that in turn give them a shorter shelf life than their chemical based equivalents. To combat the unappealing look of the “white sunscreen” sitting on the skin, some companies turn to nano-particles.
What is broad spectrum?

A sun block/screen is broad spectrum if it protects against Ultraviolet-A (UVA) and Ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays. UVA and UVB rays together cause skin cancer, premature aging, sunburn and more, so always be sure that the sun block/screen you choose is labelled broad spectrum.
Note: The sun also emits Ultraviolet-C (UVC) rays but they are of little concern because the majority of UVC rays are filtered by the earth’s ozone layer before it reaches us (a little bit more incentive to protect the environment).

 

What is the difference between water resistant and waterproof?

Water resistant means that that the sun block/screen will retain its SPF after 40 minutes of any type of moisture exposure. Keep in mind that water exposure also includes sweating.
Waterproof means that the product will retain its SPF after 80 minutes of water exposure.

Gwen is a mom of 2, a freelancer and the owner of Nayla Natural Care, an online store which carries a wide assortment of organic, natural and eco-friendly items for you and your family.  Follow the store on Twitter: @naylanatural

This post was originally published on the Nayla Natural Care blog.

image credit: stock.xchng

Green Shopping: Local Farmers’ Markets

Now that Spring is finally here, our local farmers’ markets will be back open for business before we know it (in Ottawa, some have already opened). When we shop at a farmers’ market, we are not only buying fresh healthy foods for the family, we are also doing much more such as:

- creating a direct line of communication with someone who is involved with growing/raising/preparing the foods we are buying. You can ask specific questions about how it is grown, how long ago it was harvested/prepared…questions your grocer can’t always answer.

- supporting the local economy. The less hands that your purchases have to pass through, the more money goes back to the farmer who grew/raised/prepared it.

- saving yourself some money. Because the food is coming to you directly from the farmer, there isn’t usually a large mark up.

- creating a smaller carbon footprint. The things you buy at a farmer’s market don’t have to travel as far to get to you. It is all locally produced, and will taste better and be fresher.

- creating a sense of curiosity in your kids. When we shop at the grocery store, we tend to stick to the same types of produce week after week. If we come across a farmer selling a seasonal vegetable or fruit that has never been tried before, it may (hopefully!) open up their interest and curiosity to try something different!

Looking for a farmers’ market in your area? For those in the Ottawa area, here is a handy list. For those outside of Ottawa, simply google farmers’ markets for your area.

And when you go, don’t forget to bring your re-useable bags J

image credit: stock.xchng

Gwen is a mom of 2, a freelancer and the owner of Nayla Natural Care, an online store which carries a wide assortment of organic, natural and eco-friendly items for you and your family.  Follow the store on Twitter: @naylanatural

Earth Day Resource: EcoKids website

Earth Day takes place on April 22 each year and it is a worldwide celebration of our beautiful environment. It is celebrated in over 175 countries around the world and each country has their own unique activities and events to mark the day.

Here in Canada, we have many options when it comes to what we can do to make the day special thanks to the abundance of suggestions provided on the Earth Day Canada Website. On the site, you will find a Give It Up for Earth Day pledge, which is a fun activity to play out with the entire family (one that I think I may do with mine!). There are also ideas for larger scale projects such as cleaning up a community or starting a backyard compost program. A full list of these projects and the steps you will need to get started can be found here.

A great resource I came across on the website is EcoKids. EcoKids is geared towards teachers and their students and it provides environmental resources for the classroom. There are two parts to the site, one for teachers and the other for kids.

The teacher section requires registration and once signed up, lesson plans, printables and more will be available. The kids section is fully accessible, no log in required and contains eco themed games, eco facts, homework resources, an eco blog and so much more! The site is well done and contains so much information it may be easy for kids to become wrapped up in all of the information.

I think that any opportunity to teach our children about being gentle to our earth and our ecosystems is so important. If you are looking for a way to get your children more conscious about environmental issues, the Earth Day website and EcoKids is a great place to start!

Earth Day website: http://www.earthday.ca/pub/

EcoKids website: http://www.ecokids.ca/pub/index.cfm

Gwen is a mom of 2, a freelancer and the owner of Nayla Natural Care, an online store which carries a wide assortment of organic, natural and eco-friendly items for you and your family.  Follow the store on Twitter: @naylanatural

Image source: EcoKids Canada Website.

Eco-Friendly Gift Wrapping

In preparation for writing this blog post, a while back I asked on Twitter, “Do you have and eco-friendly option when it comes to wrapping your holiday gifts?” I received quite a few interesting answers, some may be do-able for you, check them out:

-          Children’s art (Laura from “the Mindful Merchant blogged about this idea here!)

-          Fabric

-          Recyclable gift bags

-          Re-use wrap from previous years (salvage wrapping paper after opening gifts from the previous year and save it for next year)

-          Wrap gifts in other gifts…doesn’t make sense? It’s simple! If one of your gifts is a re-useable bag for example a reusable cloth bag, a plant pot, a beautiful vase…then use these items as the “wrap”!

-          Re-usable boxes

Considering that wrapping paper is thrown out right after the gift is opened, then it’s a great idea to use some of the ideas above. If these options are not for you, then try the following:

-          Purchase only gift wrap that is recyclable

-          Collect all gift wrap once gifts are opened and make sure you set it aside to put out on recycling day

-          Save boxes, bags, bows, ribbons that can be used at a later date

Happy holidays!

Gwen

*image credit: stock.xchng

Energy Efficient Holiday Lights

image credit: flickr

That festive time of year has arrived. The time when many of us are running around preparing for holiday celebrations. For some of us, a big part of those preparations include decorating our homes both inside and out. But when it comes to lighting, what is best? Which type is more energy efficient than the other? (the answers: LED! and LED! Read on…)

When it comes to lighting, they are not all created equally. First off, you want to make sure that you purchase LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights. Be sure that the packaging says this. LED bulbs will save you 80-90% on your electricity bill according to the light manufacturer NOMA.

LED lights are also safer than traditional bulbs because they run cooler which means there is less risk for fire and less risk for burns when it comes to small children and pets.

The last positive point about LED lighting is their life span. On average, these bulbs last 200,000 hours. Incandescent last 2000. So no comparison needed in that department!

So in conclusion, you may have to spend a little bit more to purchase LED lighting to decorate your home, but the investment is obviously a worthy one. In fact, to save a little bit on your purchase, check with your local Canadian Tire store because they have a program running where they will take your old inefficient lighting in exchange for a discount off a new energy efficient set. Not bad! Happy decorating!

For more reading on Incandescent Lighting vs. LED lighting, click here.

Gwen

**Additional note: Check in your community for light return drop offs/savings – stores such as Home Depot often do an exchange – your old lights for a coupon towards new LED lights.

Better Hand Sanitizers

It is that time of year again…the time of year when we must be extra diligent in keeping our hands clean in order to avoid the dreaded cold and flu. In my opinion, good old fashion soap and water is the best choice, but in case you are out and cannot wash your hands properly, there are some great natural products on the market that will keep those germs off your hands.

CleanWell

CleanWell Hand Sanitizers are my personal favourite. I always carry one on me when out. Each spray is proven to kill 99.99% of germs. CleanWell is made from natural essential oils and a patented formulation of naturally antimicrobial plant oils including oregano and thyme.  CleanWell is 100% biodegradable.

Clean George

Clean George Hand Sanitizers are made from great natural and moisturizing ingredients such as tea tree and manuka oils, which are known to be a natural antibacterial. All ingredients are organic.

EO Hand Sanitizer

EO Hand Sanitizers come in gel form, much like the alcohol-based sanitizers you are used to, but this formulation contains all natural and organic ingredients and will also keep your hands nice and soft.

You will notice that I did not mention any of the alcohol-based sanitizers out there. If you do not have access to one of the natural sanitizers I mentioned above and you need to get your hands clean, than by all means use it. Although they are not the best choice, they will get the job done. What is the problem with alcohol based cleaners? Here are a few points to consider:

  • If used on very young children, there is the risk that they will put their hands in their mouths. There have been a few cases where children have gotten very sick from doing this
  • If used a lot, they can dry your hands out and may not be the best choice for sensitive skin
  • Some contain triclosan
  • They are not eco-friendly/biodegradable

Image Sources: Nayla Natural Care website, Trees and Tots website, EO website.

A Green Halloween

Have an Eco-Friendly Halloween

Halloween is just around the corner! Oh where does the time go? But since we still have a little bit time to plan before the day arrives, here are some tips on making your Halloween a little bit more eco-friendly.

Halloween Costume

Just before back to school gear has been cleared from store shelves, racks of Halloween costumes are brought out. But do we really need to buy a new costume for our children each year? Absolutely not! There are ways to save and to recycle. Here are a few ideas:

  • Use hand me downs

I have 2 kids. Each Halloween my little one has always worn a costume belonging to her older sibling from a previous year. The little one has no objections at this point so this idea has been going great for us. We will see how long this lasts ;)

  • Put together a costume

You can put together really fun and creative costumes using things that are just lying around your home. Here are some ideas.

  • Create a costume exchange with other parents

Honestly, I did not think of this one until I saw it over on the Kids in the Capital blog. Check out their great post. Eco-friendly, cheap, easy and it takes barely any time.

Face Paints/Makeup

There are many face paints on the market and if this is the route you decide to go, be sure that you purchase a paint that is non-toxic and heavy metal free. The Environmental Working Group put out a report on the dangers of unsafe Halloween face paints. It is quite lengthy, but if you are interested, you can view the .pdf file by clicking here.

Some safe paint/makeup on the market are:

  • Lyra face/body Paint or Lyra Face painting pencils – These products are non-toxic, free of parabens, lead free and are washed off easily using just soap and water
  • Piggy Paint is the nail polish of choice in our home. They are water based and non-toxic. They have no offensive or strong odours like traditional nail polishes do. They are free of formaldehyde, toluene, phthalates, Bisphenol A, ethyl acetate and acetone AND they offer this cool Halloween themed set called “Ghouls Just Wanna to Have Fun”.

 

Happy Halloween! Have fun and be safe!

Image Source: Piggy Paint website: www.piggypaint.com

By Gwen

Teflon Alternatives – let those non-stick pans slip away

Chances are you have some sort of non-stick cookware in your home. A frying pan, a cake pan, a cookie sheet…but do you know what makes these items non-stick? This is a tough topic to cover in such a small space because of all the controversy and abundance of information surrounding it, but the following are the basics along with some links where you can get more information.

What is Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)? PTFE has many applications, but one of its main uses is in the manufacturing of Teflon, a coating to make cookware non-stick. PTFE begins to break down when it reaches a temperature of 260 °C (500 °F) and this is where the problems begin. Once PTFE begins to break down/off gas, this poses a problem to both humans and animals, birds especially. In birds, it can be lethal and in humans, it can cause flu-like symptoms (known as “Teflon flu”).

What is Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)? PFOAs can be found in carpets, microwave popcorn bags and even foods. It is said that all of us have some trace of it in our bodies. PFOA’s are used to make fluoro-polymers, which are used to make Teflon. It has been found to be a carcinogen to animals and when it comes to humans, studies have found that PFOA’s are linked to birth defects, infertility and a whole lot more. DuPont, one of the largest users of this chemical has agreed to eliminate almost all use of it by 2015.

What are the alternatives to Teflon coated cooking ware? 

1. Use cast iron or stainless steel cookware

2. Use Earth Chef Cookware. Now we are not affiliated with Earth Chef in any way, we just really like their products (and own quite a few of them!) 

Earth Chef Products:

  • are earth-friendly
  • cannot be overheated
  • are naturally non-stick
  • do not release any toxic fumes
  • are free of nasty PFOA and PTFE
  • are all non-toxic to humans and animals

For our Canadian friends, you can buy Earth Chef products at Zellers, The Bay and Home Outfitters. For our American and International friends, you must contact the manufacturer BergHOFF Worldwide to find out where you can find them in your area.

Where can you find more information? The following links will provide more information on these chemicals:

Image Sources: Earth Chef Website

Note: This article was originally published in the February 2010 Nayla Natural Care Newsletter

Choosing an Eco-Friendly and Safe Backpack

When it comes time to buy your child a new backpack, there are some important things to consider. If your child had to make the decision on his/her own, the top things they would think of would be the colour and what design or character is on the backpack! However, as a parent there are a few other things that you should take into consideration when choosing that all important backpack. For example, do you know that some contain no no’s such as BPA, Phthalates, PVC and lead? In this post, I have given you my picks for the safest and most eco-friendly backpacks out there. All of them also happen to be quite cute!

Little/Big Eco-Packs by Beatrix NY

 

These backpacks are made from nylon that has been manufactured with recycled plastic water bottles and trimmed with naturally biodegradable canvas. Each pack removes four 16oz. plastic bottles from the environment. How cool is that? They come in three different designs. Beatrix NY also offers backpacks that are not made from recycled water bottle nylon but are 100% free of BPA, PVC, lead and Phthalates.

Where to find in Ontario: Belly Laughs

 

Crocodile Creek

 

Crocodile Creek backpacks are PVC, Phthalate, Vinyl free and BPA free and come in 11 designs. Crocodile Creek also offers matching lunch packs.

Where to find in Ontario: Gingerbread Monkeys

 

 

Skip Hop Zoo Packs

 

How cute is that bee?! Skip Hop packs are BPA, PVC and Phthalate free. They come in eight different designs and like the others, you can get the matching lunch bag.

Where to find in Ontario: Hello Sunshine and across Canada at Chapters Online

Since these packs are made from superior materials, they are a bit pricier than mainstream packs. If these don’t fit your budget but you still would like to make the best choice when it come to eco-friendliness and health, make sure that the pack you choose is free from the following: BPA, Phthalates, PVC and Lead.

Image Sources: Canadian Beatrix NY, Crocodile Creek and Skip Hop websites

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