August 2009 - Our Daily Green

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sugar Consumption Green

A recent media release from the American Heart Association recommends that people cut intake of added sugars. The August 24, 2009 statement published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association gives consumers more detailed guidance by recommending an upper limit on added-sugars intake, recommending no more than 100 calories/daily for women and 150 for men from sugar...

for more info?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Controlling food allergies

Could the recent increase in food allergies be related to genetically modified foods? Read more...

Food allergy awareness in schools
(originally published on Examiner.com)

Our Daily Green is affiliated with The Allergy Kit.

Cleveland Green Parenting Examiner

In any given classroom of 25 students, one of them is likely to have a food allergy. Food allergies are on the rise. With school beginning, parents often receive lists of approved snacks to send into the classroom so a life threatening allergy is not triggered. Lunchrooms have peanut butter free tables and students carry Epi-pens. Clearly food allergies can be quite serious.
photo by: thadz /stock.xchng
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 3 million children now have food allergies. Peanut allergies have doubled and kids seem to be taking longer to outgrow milk and egg allergies.
The most commonly listed foods that trigger allergic reactions are milk, eggs, peanuts/nuts, fish/shellfish, and wheat, as well as assorted additives, dyes and sulphites.  
The cause of food allergies is not completely known, but there is quite a bit of research being conducted in this area. Part of the problem is that food supplies are modified everywhere along the chain.
As renowned nutrition writer Michael Pollan explains in a 2007 NY Times article,  Unhappy Meals, 
 "... cow’s milk did not start out as a nutritious food for humans; in fact, it made them sick until humans who lived around cows evolved the ability to digest lactose as adults. ...“Health” is, among other things, the byproduct of being involved in these sorts of relationships in a food chain — when the health of one link of the food chain is disturbed, it can affect all the creatures in it. When the soil is sick or in some way deficient, so will be the grasses that grow in that soil and the cattle that eat the grasses and the people who drink the milk."
In other words, the adaptations (both natural and man made) that occur along the food chain could be the very reason allergies develop. Genetically modified crops are both directly and indirectly in the food supply, either through the plant supply or the animals that eat such plants. Genetic engineering may one day make food more nutritious and abundant, but it also could introduce allergens into foods where none existed before. Companies are supposed to test whether their genetically engineered foods contain any new proteins that behave like allergens.
There are certain criteria that we look at—such as heat stability, enzyme stability, and whether it’s related to a known allergen—that tell us if a protein is likely to provoke an allergic reaction,” says Mount Sinai’s Hugh Sampson.  "That process, if carried out carefully, should exclude almost all allergens, though nobody can say for sure that a new protein won’t be a problem.” 
Ohio has now joined a growing list of states to enact legislation calling for the creation of food allergy management guidelines for schools. A provision of the state budget bill calls on the board of education of each city, local and vocational school district, along with the governing authority of each charter school, to establish a written food allergy management policy. The provision states that the policy is to be developed in consultation with parents, school nurses, other school employees, school volunteers, students, and community members.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

School Fundraising Green

With school starting in many districts around the greater Cleveland area, parents are not only preparing for reading and writing but also for the inevitable onslaught of school fundraisers their children will bring home to sell.

One company, TerraCycle has a developed a unique fundraiser through that involves recycling common lunch box wrappers, such as cookie, energy bars, or juice pouches...

to read more...

Fundraising for schools with trash

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Healthy School Lunches Green

(this article originally was published on the Examiner, Healthy school lunches and the child nutrition act)

One of the most challenging things a parent has to do is nourish their offspring. Encouraging them to eat their vegetables and clean their plate is a parental refrain for the ages. Then the children go to school and have an array of vending machine products, like soda, processed snack foods and candy to choose from. Sound familiar?
Cash strapped districts are reluctant to lose a profitable fundraiser. Annual income from contracts between schools and vendors varies, with some schools raising as much as $100,000 a year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures' Health Policy Tracking Service.
A legislative bill before Congress and the Senate has been sent to committees:
Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act of 2009 - Amends the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish science-based nutrition standards for foods served in schools other than foods served under the school lunch or breakfast programs.Applies such standards to all food sold outside such programs anywhere on school campuses during the school day, with the possible limited exemption of food sold at school fundraisers. 
Requires the Secretary to: (1) consider the recommendations of authoritative scientific organizations and evidence concerning the relationship between diet and health when establishing the standards; and (2) review the standards as soon as practicable after the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services publish a new edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Currently, both the House and the Senate have sent the bills to committees. The past two sessions have seen those bills die. Concerned parents have an opportunity to make their voices heard as three local elected politicians sit on the committees that will determine the fate of the Child Nutrition Act.
In the Senate,  Ohio Senator  Sherrod Brown is a co-sponsor of the bill. In the House, two local representatives sit on the committee, Representative Marcia Fudge, 11th district  and Representative Dennis Kucinich, 10th district.  Contact them to share concerns and opinions about this important act.
For more info: The bill has been been referred to committee. Congress will next meet on September 8, 2009. To read the full bill and follow its status in the legislature, click here. For a complete list of committee members, click here.  The complimentary Senate bill has also been sent to committee.

Monday, August 17, 2009

ZeroLandfill Green

ZeroLandfill Cleveland harvest dates

ZeroLandfill is an award winning beneficial reuse program held seasonally that supports the supply needs of local artists and arts educators while reducing pressure on local landfill capacity. Since 2006, the ZeroLandfill project team has assisted the architectural and interior design community in identifying, diverting from local landfills, and re-purposing back into the community thousands of pounds of specification samples that hold value for other audiences. As a community of practice, ZeroLandfill projects inspired by the NE Ohio experience are at work in a number of cities across the country this year.

Posted using ShareThis

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sun Safety Green

Sun safety for a great Cleveland forecast

With a wonderfully rare Cleveland forecast of sunny skies for the upcoming weekend, as exhilarating as sunshine can be, it also can pose a true threat without proper protection. Most parents feel safe slathering on the sunscreen, but sunscreen can also pose a unique set of concerns. Considering that anything that is put on the skin will eventually wind up in the body, it pays to be conscientious when choosing a sunscreen.

On average, children get three times more sun exposure than adults. About 80% of lifetime exposure occurs before the age of 18. Using high SPF 15+ products during the first 18 years of life can dramatically lower the risk of certain types of skin cancer.

Recent research suggests that many common sunscreen ingredients are not particularly safe. Samuel S. Epstein, author of Toxic Beauty , warns that ingredients such as benzophenone are a "hormone disrupter" which mimics natural hormones produced by the endocrine system. It is also an allergen, causing allergic reactions, and a "penetration enhancer," which penetrates the skin, and is absorbed into the bloodstream and invades body wide organs. Octyl-methoxycinnamate is also a hormone disrupter and penetration enhancer which has been detected in breast milk. Oxybenzone, another hormone disrupter, has also been detected in breast milk. Parabens are still other hormone disrupters.

This is unsettling news to parents who want to enjoy the outdoors but also protect their children. Fortunately, there are many new products available for consumers to choose from. Obviously the above ingredients need to be avoided. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide remain safe sunscreen ingredients.

broccoli as sunscreenAdditionally, researchers at Johns Hopkins have learned that an extract from broccoli, called sulforaphane has sunblocking properties. Sulforaphane has the effect of activating cells' production of what are known as "phase 2 enzymes." One such enzyme, glutathione S-transferase, has been shown to neutralize the DNA-damaging compounds produced by the skin produces when struck by ultraviolet radiation. If children won’t eat broccoli, they may just be able to wear it.

Other safe sunscreens utilize soy. SoyScreen owes its sunburn-preventing properties to ferulic acid, an antioxidant in rice, oats and other plants. To keep the antioxidant from dissolving in water, researchers bound it to soy oil using lipase enzymes and heat in an environmentally friendly process called biocatalysis.

Lastly, there is always sun shielding clothing, which is self explanatory. This clothing made from textiles that shield the skin from the dangerous UVA/UVB rays. With careful choices and diligence, it is possible to soak up the sun in a safe manner. Have a wonderful weekend!

For more info: Saffron Rouge has published a Black list and a Green list of both unsafe and safe ingredients in cosmetics. This is a handy resource for any green consumer.

Men's Sunblock Shirt

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pick Your Own Green

Picking some fun at local farms


My first article for The Examiner as the local green parenting expert.

As summer comes into her full glory, local produce is in abundance. One of the best ways to encourage healthy eating is to engage children in the hunting and gathering process. Luckily, this region has a myriad of pick your own fruit and vegetable farms. It is a wonderful opportunity for children to learn that raspberries do not come in cardboard boxes of individually cellophane wrapped gelatinous sheets of blue colored leather, but rather are brilliant crimson fruit on a vibrant green plant.

There are many advantages to self picking produce. Clearly from an environmental standpoint, there is no packaging or fuel to ship the produce halfway around the world. Many of the local farms practice organic gardening, so there is no concern about pesticide residue. From a taste standpoint, nothing will ever be remembered by a child so much as the first bite of something they pick themselves, from plant to mouth in less than a minute is unforgettable.

Many of the local farms cater to families and have hay rides to the fields, activities and classes for all ages. The events go all summer well into the fall harvest season. Pick your own farms aren't just for pumpkins, but also sweet corn, green beans, peas, tomatoes. Any fruit or vegetable that grows locally can be hand picked. It's a valuable experience for young people to see where food really comes from, not simply a package on the supermarket shelf.

It nurtures a respect for the entire food chain and circle of life. Instilling appreciation at an early age will create ownership for the planet that is their home.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Electronic Gadget Green

Last fall, I watched in horror as 60 Minutes reported about the toxic wasteland our obsession with the newest, obsoletely planned gadgets creates in China and other NIMBY (not in my back yard) places. I vowed not to upgrade anything that didn't require upgrading, the story upset me that much.

I learned I am eligible for a free upgrade on my cell phone.

The temptation is huge. My phone is text challenged, or perhaps the operator is? Those shiny whistles and bells really are tempting me. I consider the ramifications of upgrading my phone as I wonder... what will happen to my old one?

I believe I've found a doubly green solution.

Their mission statement:

Gazelle wants to change the world – one cell phone, one laptop, one iPod at a time. It is our purpose – and our promise – to provide a practical, rewarding way for people to finally rid themselves of all those old cell phones, digital cameras, and gaming systems that they no longer use, but can't seem to find a way to let go of. Too often when people think of recycling, they rush straight to smashing things into bits for parts. We believe that reuse should always come first. If your GPS unit still works, why not keep it in circulation AND get paid for it? If reusing isn't in the cards, then let us recycle that vintage camcorder. We think of it as ReCommerce. Yeah, we're green.Green for you with dollars in your pocket. Green for the environment with fewer electronics being trashed. It's good to Gazelle. That's our promise.

This site will buy/sell your old electronic devices. They will even mail you a postage paid envelope. It operates much the way Ebay does. The average customer sends in 2 items per box. I bet every reader here has an electronic gadget they either have stuffed into a drawer or thrown out. (gasp). Today, I'm challenging my readers to find their old unused electronics and do something worthwhile with them. Perhaps organize a fundraiser? Perhaps donate? Do something useful that doesn't hurt the environment with them. Get cash, even.

Let me know if you decide to embrace this challenge, I'm excited to learn the results!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lunch Packing Green

sustainable shopping bagSummer vacation is officially over as signaled by the need to pack my child a sack lunch for band camp today. Lunch packing is a universally accepted way to economize, but it also can be a great way to reduce and reuse without adding trampling our environment in the process.

When I was growing up, my mother never met a piece of aluminum foil or resealable bag she couldn't wash and reuse. When I stocked my first apartment, I joked that I was amazed to learn aluminum foil came on rolls! Personally, I'm not a huge fan of even using those items in the first place. I do have a ready supply of resealable containers, including a collection empty delicatessen containers, that I pack food in. I do not buy individually packaged snacks, but rather measure an appropriate serving into one of my reusable containers.

I invested in a few decent insulated containers as well. When my daughter's princess thermos was too babyish for her to use, I covered it with contact paper to a more neutral appearance. There was nothing wrong with the thermos, just the design on it. This is a challenge I issue to all my readers. Before disposing of a perfectly good household item simply as a fashion choice, consider how to change it to something that will be used.

All these items can be washed and reused time and time again. The insulated lunch boxes lasted over 4 years, although this year they will need to be replaced.

One last hint/request. Never, ever, ever use juice boxes. The composition of juice boxes makes them virtually impossible to recycle:

Juice boxes are typically made up of six layers of paper (24%), polyethylene (70%), and aluminum foil (6%). The paper provides stiffness and strength and gives the package its brick shape. Polyethylene serves two purposes. On the inner most layer, it forms the seal that makes the package liquid tight. On the exterior, it provides a protective coating that keeps the package dry and provides a printing surface for nutritional and marketing information. The aluminum foil forms a barrier against light and oxygen, eliminating the need for refrigeration or preservatives to prevent spoilage. The straws are made of plastic and wrapped in cellophone. Multipacks contain six or more juice boxes, and are often wrapped in a cardboard sleeve that displays the name of the product and other specifications, then shrink-wrapped in plastic.

Give me a thermos or reusable sports bottle.

Greensmart is one company that has made a true commitment to the environment. They manufacture all their products from recycled materials.

Packing a lunch that doesn't pack our landfills is a challenge to embrace as we get ready to go back to school.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Programmable Thermostat Green

As I sit on vacation, looking out at the ocean, I succumb to the temptation to post a green lifestyle hint. Perhaps my enjoyment of the offerings of our earth is the motivation to wanting to preserve our majestic planet. Nonetheless, as I wandered around our vacation rental, I was pleased to see the programmable thermostats.

If you haven't installed one, now is the time. A programmable thermostat ensures that your home will only be heated or cooled when you are there to need it. We set our thermostat to shift several times daily based on our patterns. We lower the temperature at night in the winter, when we're covered with warm blankets and lower it during the day when we're not home. We only raise it when we're home. In the summer, we follow the opposite pattern when cooling the home. We raise it when we're not home, and raise it when we're sleeping and not moving around getting heated. We also make a habit of drawing the shades so the sun works in harmony with our temperature controls and we utilize ceiling fans to keep the air moving efficiently.

Our programmable thermostat saves us a great deal of money on utilities as well as takes less from the environment to run our furnace or air conditioner. It's a simple investment that pays in several shades of green.

Now back to my regularly scheduled ocean views. Stay comfortable!