Story: Safe Eating

by Cat on August 24, 2010

I try my best at buying safe products and foods for my family.  But more often than not, as soon as I’m standing in the aisles of the grocery store I go blank…  Call it information overload or mommy brain but everything gets a little overwhelming.  I love that Designing Mom Erin has condensed information down for us in this piece,  listing safe plastics, foods, sippy cups et all in one place.  Feel free to forward this on to your other mommy friends!  
by Designing Mom “Green” contributor Erin

Last night, I was reading through news sites online and came across this article: Female Infants Growing Breasts: Another Disaster from Hormones in Milk Production. This piece discusses how there are babies between four and fifteen months in China that are growing breasts because they have such high levels of estrogen circulating in their bodies from the formula they are given. You can read the article for the details, but I think its a good reminder that eating and living organically is not a left- or right- wing thing, an urban vs. rural thing or an upper class vs working class thing: it needs to be how we all live. For those of us with little ones at home, it becomes even more important because since their bodies are smaller and their immune systems less mature, smaller amounts of hormones and chemicals effect them.

The hormones that they discuss in the article are a type of “endocrine disruptor.” Our endocrine system is, very briefly, the parts of our bodies that make the hormones that regulate everything from our growth, appetite, and mood to our fertility, sleep and metabolism. An “endocrine disruptor” is a hormone or chemical that comes from outside of the body that disrupts the way our endocrine systems function. Some of the most commonly discussed endocrine disruptors include BPA, PBDEs, DDT, PCBs, pthalates, growth hormone (rBST/BGH) and dioxins. Here are some of the things that you can easily do to limit your exposure to these and other chemicals:

1. Buy organic food whenever possible. The higher on the food chain that you eat (in other words, the further away from plants, ie meat) the more important it is to eat it organically. Many endocrine disruptors are fat-soluble which means that as an animal consumes food that is made with certain chemicals or is given growth hormones, the chemicals are stored in the animal’s fat and we then consume those chemicals in greater concentration. (Remember the term “bio-accumulation” from biology class?)

Here is a list of the most important produce to buy organically.

2. Throw out all of your plastic Tupperware. Be super careful with the plastics that come into contact with your food/mouth. BPA has been all over the news – the state of California passed a bill banning it from all food and drink containers. BPA is in hard #7 polycarbonate plastics and has been linked to obesity, cancer, infertility, etc. It crosses the placenta, which means that if you ingest it while pregnant, your developing fetus does too. Plastic is not stable, which means that its molecular composition changes – in the case of plastic, BPA and other plasticizers such as pthalates are released into your food. Extreme temperature changes such as freezing and microwaving increase the rate at which these chemicals leach into your food. Certain plastics are better than others, but the easiest thing is to switch to glass or silicone to store your food in. When microwaving, put a paper towel or wax paper over the dish rather than plastic wrap.

For more info on BPA, here is a recent article from Newsweek.

At my house, we use Pyrex and Mason jars to store food in the freezer/fridge. I froze my homemade baby food in silicone ice cube trays such as these from Tovolo. For my son’s lunches, I send him with Laptop Lunches, which is made of safe plastic. For baby bottles, I have used Born Free (just 3 years ago when my son was a baby this was one of the only non-glass BPA free bottles, now look) and Adiri. We use Earthlust and Thermos for sippy cups. For teethers and pacifiers, we have bought Born Free, Lifefactory and Green Sprouts. (Bottles shown from left to right: Born Free, Lifefactory, Green to Grow, Think Baby, Earthlust, Thermos)

3. Don’t Buy Teflon pans. Teflon, when heated to extremely high temperatures (over 600 degrees, a range that people don’t really cook at), can turn into a gas that can kill birds and make people sick. It has also been said that Teflon can be linked to infertility and cancer. I think the truth of the matter is that cooking with Teflon is probably not that bad for us since the PFOAs linked to cancer and infertility don’t escape the pan after the manufacturing phase is finished. Teflon becomes a health risk when it builds in the environment during manufacturing and enters our food and water sources. Just to be careful, never cook with Teflon pans that has scratches or dents. To be SUPER careful, use an alternative nonstick such as cast iron, Green Pan (one line of Green Pan can be found at Target), Scan Pan CTX or Cusinart’s GreenGourmet line. By buying pans without PFOAs, we are sending a message that we do not want these chemicals in our environments and our bodies.

4. Eat fresh food – avoid canned foods. Back to BPA: it is in the lining of food cans. The thing about BPA is that it it great at keeping the food, especially acidic foods like tomatoes, from corroding the can and many food companies say they haven’t found an adequate alternative. The best thing is to eat fresh foods, food stored in glass or food containers with labels that state “BPA free.”

For more information about a bill trying to end BPA in food cans, click here.

5. Think about how you clean your food and kitchen. Many of the things that we use to clean our food, our kitchen and the rest of our houses actually bring chemicals in that aren’t very good for us. Chlorine bleach, when it gets warm, releases dioxins which are carcinogenic. An easy alternative in hydrogen peroxide. Many of the fragrances and other ingredients put in cleaners can aggravate asthma, especially when sprayed. There are now plenty of companies that offer “green” alternatives, the most common being Seventh Generation, Biokleen, and Ecover. I am a big fan of Biokleen’s Produce Wash and Seventh Generation’s disinfecting line. Of course, there are many people that swear that the only things you need to clean your house are lemons, vinegar, baking soda, castile soap and borax. Here’s a link to an old Real Simple article about All-Natural Cleaning Solutions.

These are just some tips related to foods and eating. I know this is a design-related blog, but we are all moms first, and as parents, we want to take care of our families and ourselves. Luckily, there are many alternatives now, at all price points, that are attractive and healthy.

For more information:

Healthy Child Healthy World

Avoid These ‘Dirty Dozen’ Toxic Chemicals

NYTimes: Cancer From the Kitchen?

NYTimes: New Alarm Bells About Chemicals and Cancer

NYTimes: Chemicals in Our Food, Our Bodies

Pesticides, ADHD, and Personal Health: Why We Can’t Always Control What Happens to Our Brains and Bodies


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Father’s Day Fotos: Three’s Company

by Cat on June 18, 2010

above: Designing Mom Erin’s lovable trio at play.


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Shop: Piece

by Cat on May 3, 2010

by Designing Mom Erin of Piece

I began writing for Designing Moms with so many great ideas about sharing my passion for green design and then almost immediately became super busy with some projects I’ve been working on. One of those projects is opening up a shop on Big Cartel. I translated sketches into organic cotton that I then cut out and appliqued onto items of clothing. So far, the site only has onesies, but I am working on kids’ t-shirts and then I will move onto adults. It all would have been much faster if I had used Big Cartel’s templates, but as a designer, I want everything to be custom – I want to design all the components. Luckily for me, I have a husband who can turn my photoshop layouts into a working webpage. The poor guy – the only free time he has had after the kids go to sleep has been eaten up by my projects. But now he feels just as invested in the project as I do. So here it is:

Let me know what you think and pass the link on to those who are looking for something a little different for their little ones than the regular blue with ducks or pink with butterflies.


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Decorate: Jellyfish Nursery

by Cat on March 10, 2010

by Designing Mom Erin

above: one of Erin’s visions for a client’s nursery

On favorite clients: Before having Caleb, I worked for a very large architecture firm in San Francisco but now I am trying to expand my person client base. Families are often a most satisfying client, because so many different needs have to be taken into consideration in order to have the outcome be successful. If the client does not feel comfort in the end result or live their daily life as a family, it doesn’t matter how pretty it is.

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Story: A Greener Life

by Cat on February 25, 2010

by Designing Mom Contributor Erin

One of the questions I was asked to explore as the “green” mom on this blog is how to get your kids involved. From my experience, it is often our children who are coming home demanding more of us and motivating us parents to recycle more, think about the earth, consider composting. But before that, there has to be something within the child that causes them to care in the first place. Before any of us commit to changing the way we do things there has to be something inside of us that causes us to care, otherwise no matter how much statistical data on carbon emissions or consumer consumption is thrown our way, we won’t have any real impetus to act.

So what is it that thing, that motivation, and where does it come from? I’ve thought about this a lot and the only real conclusion I’ve been able to draw, is that the motivation can only come from a true love of what we are protecting and that for most of us, this love is developed when we are children. I think growing up on the West Coast makes it easy to feel connected to nature. In Seattle where I grew up, I woke every morning to trees, Lake Washington and the mountains beyond. The geography became a part of who I am to such a degree that I don’t feel at ease when I am far from the water for too long. Our family vacations were often centered around experiencing nature-trips to the rain forest in Costa Rica, Glacier Bay in Alaska, the Great Barrier Reef, Bandhavgrah National Park to see the tigers in India and many trips around the Pacific Northwest to the beaches, rain forests and mountains within a couple hours’ drive. So rather than these locations being nebulous ideas, they were tangible places that I became attached to through experience. Because of the world we live in, I have also seen first hand the effects of clear cutting, over development, poverty, pollution and exploitation on these places. Without these memories, I don’t know if I would care as much.

It doesn’t take trips around the world to make this message personal, though. At least I hope not, since I doubt I will be able to provide my children with those same vacations. For us, now living in the Bay Area, it means day trips to Muir woods, a weekend at Lake Tahoe and lots of time spent at many of the beaches on the bay and up and down the coasts. Hopefully, our talks about bugs and birds and fish will turn into conversations about finite resources, conservation and protecting what we love. I thought this would be a good topic to begin our “green” postings because this is really the start to any “green” discussion: How do we make decisions, in our daily lives, that express the value we place in our environment and our health, as individuals, as a family, as a planet?

I’d love to read about what some of your favorite memories in nature are and how your attitude towards the environment was effected by the way you were raised, either positively or negatively.

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