Friday, April 20, 2007

Little Green Munchkins

I’m not a mom, but I’m one heck of an aunt. And as an aunt it’s my duty to shower all the little munchkins in my life with gifts…of the green variety.

The following green tips are for parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and anyone else who has little people in their lives.

The Three Rs.
Are you a parent? Do you feel overwhelmed by the number of toys in your home? How about the pressure to buy them? And what do you do with the dolls, plastic contraptions, gadgets and whatnots once they lose their appeal?

Reduce: Now I know this is a toughie but can you reduce the number of toys in your home? Rather than buy new, why not check out a toy and clothing swap? My brother and sister-in-law attend one in Fort Langley , BC and it saves them a bundle. It’s also a great opportunity to recycle the toys and clothes that their kids no longer play with or have outgrown. It’s also a great opportunity to teach kids green values. They are the ones who are inheriting the planet after all.

Reuse & Recycle: Find out about a toy and clothing swap in your community. Don’t have one? If you have the energy, start your own – even if just among friends. For those with less time on your hands (such as all of you), visit the Kids Swap, Freecycle and Buy & Sell websites for all things child-related.

Healthy Toys
The media of late has turned its attention to toxicity in our bodies. Where do these toxins come from? When it comes to your kids, are they a little too close to home? You may wonder what exactly makes up the toys and clothing that your children chew on, drool over and wear.

A great deal of attention has centered on polyvinyl chloride (PVC), found in most plastic, and phthalates, which are added to plastic to make them soft – think baby soothers. Industry claims they are perfectly safe. According to the Healthy Spaces website, studies have shown that phthalates can lead to liver, kidney and reproductive system damage. Many European countries have banned these chemicals from toys. Canada has taken their lead, putting a stop to the additives from vinyl teethers, teething rings and rattles.

Alternatives – check out your local eco-friendly store for toys sans harmful chemicals. The Grassroots store in Toronto does well by me. I go there for fun and practical baby gifts.

Other links:
Worldwide Child

Pristine Planet

Wee to Three

Healthy Spaces - The Canadian Institute of Child Health (CICH) and Canadian Child Care Federation (CCCF).

Eco-Friendly Toys - Now Magazine (Toronto)

Eco-Friendly Clothes
If you are going to go with green-wear, the first order of business is to wear recycled clothes – from an older sib or a clothing swap. For those of us whose duty it is to buy gifts for the kids in our lives, I recommend organic cotton or bamboo. It’s a great gift! Not only will you give your little friend cool eco-friendly wear, you will give them a pesticide free outfit.

Fig by Twice Shy – Vancouver-based.

Rawganique – BC-based

Kate Quinn Organics – Seattle-based.

Green Babies – New York-based

Joli Bebe Boutique – Arizona-based

Shirts of Bamboo – Florida-based

All-Organic Links – For more listings.

Healthy Food
When I was a youngster my parents tended a garden in our backyard. I remember helping my mother plot out the lettuce, potatoes and carrots. Every summer we enjoyed fresh vegetables and in the late summer and early fall my brother and I would pick delicious pruning plums that grew on two of our fruit trees.

I learned at an early age that food comes from the ground, not the grocery store.

If you have a back yard - even a front yard- why not plant an organic vegetable garden. It’s an invaluable lesson for kids – even if they’re at an age when they can’t be bothered to help.

Active Living
Obesity rates in North America have skyrocketed over the past 30 years. In the late 1970s, 3% of children and youth in Canada were obese. By 2004, that number jumped to 7%.

It’s not news that kids have been spending more and more time at the computer and in front of the TV, and less time outdoors. What are the implications to this behaviour, aside from what can be measured on a weigh scale? Does it affect how we connect with one another, how we regard our environment, our mood and brain chemistry?

Taking children out for nature hikes, boating outings, camping trips, picnics and daily trips to a park will help keep them active and appreciate the outdoors. It will also provide you with a great opportunity to bond with your kids.

For more reading on this:

Kids are living under house arrest by Dennis Cauchon from USA Today.
Saving Our Kids from Nature Deficit Disorder – by Linda Sechrist from Natural Awakings
Nature Quest – by Karen Olson from Life Time Fitness
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv.

In the News

Kyoto will cost plenty, Baird warns – The Toronto Star
I’m all for being cautionary and realistic and all that, but this is a bit much.

Why are Niagara's bees dying? – The Toronto Star
It’s not just the Niagara region… 24 states and parts of Canada are losing their bees.

Future is dim for light bulb – The Toronto Star
Ontario plans to phase out the incandescent bulb.

Other News…

Green Bloggers

Ecoshock Radio

Grist Magazine

Tree Hugger

Zerofootprint Blog

BBC – The Greenroom

New York Times – Environment

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