Blog Posts by Ask an Organic Mom, The Daily Green

  • Home Soda Maker Review: Greener Choices for Seltzer Addicts

    Sometimes this organic mom wants to gift her own not-entirely-organic mother a present. I try to make the gifts meaningful, but I'd be lying if I said I don't also aim for something with an underlying green theme. Nothing over the top or in her face, just something she'll enjoy but also notice is eco-friendly, even though that isn't the main point of the present.

    For her recent birthday, I had a jackpot win-win idea: a seltzer maker. I can't believe I didn't think of it before. My mom loves, loves, loves seltzer. She lives for it, drinks it constantly. Not only would having her own seltzer maker save her money, but it would also keep her from being involved with the transportation of bottles of water and help her save untold numbers of unreusable plastic bottles. Yes, she recycles. But recycling plastic #1 bottles doesn't mean everything in those bottles actually gets reused, and breaking them down is an intensive, complicated process. I personally avoid plastic whenever I can.

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  • Find Out If That Toy (or Handbag, or Anything Else) is Toxic

    I always love a great new resource. Which is why I'm excited that the excellent people at the Michigan-based Ecology Center - the minds behind and -- have just launched Here consumers will be able to check the safety of all sorts of "stuff," from pet products to jewelry to women's handbags, as well as get the continuously updated information on toys, cars and car seats their other sites are known for. The goal here is not only to let consumers know which products contain hazardous chemicals and in what levels - all tested with XRF technology - but to motivate them to put pressure on manufacturers and legislators to ban the worst chemicals from everyday products. To help consumers do this, there are action links to click on the site. Click on them!

    I sifted through some of the recently tested items on and was pleased to see that there are a number of handbags -- especially inexpensive (and cute!) numbers from H&M

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  • 4 PVC-Free Inflatable Mattress and Guest Bed Options

    Dear Organic Mom,
    Baby number one is on the way and we're going to have lots of guests once she arrives. We don't have enough room to set up a real bed with a real mattress in a guest room and - thanks to you! - we don't want to buy an inflatable bed made from PVC plastic. Do you know of any stowaway guestroom options that aren't PVC?
    -Maryanne in D.C.

    Good question. First off, congrats! Oddly I got your email the same day this topic was being discussed on my local parenting Yahoo! Group board. Something in the air? Some thoughts:

    • Aerobed makes tons of PVC versions as well as a PVC-free version, the PerformaLite Inflatable. Many people I know have these in the twin size for kid sleepovers. After poking around to try to find out what else they use to replace PVC, I came up short. But most things are better than PVC and this isn't something that people will be sleeping on night in and night out. That said, it will be in your home night in and

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  • Tips for Keeping Childhood Hobbies Safe

    My 11-year-old cousin recently redid his playroom. What was once the realm of a little boy is now a woodshop/work shop of sorts for a much more grown up guy. I'm not entirely sure what goes on in there but basically he cuts things up, smashes things, experiments, and glues and/or otherwise puts the broken items back together. When we were with him on a family beach vacation recently, he was asking around for broken appliances for his workshop. He wanted to take them apart, see how they work, and possibly fix them. Seems like a fun project for an inquisitive mind. Still, I couldn't help but ask him if he ever cuts wires. I explained that lead is often part of PVC wiring so that there might be a risk that he's tampering with lead, a neurotoxin, and possibly inhaling lead dust. He looked at me skeptically. I suggested to him that if he were going to snip lead wires and otherwise dismantle appliances that it wasn't the best idea to snack as he worked. I also talked to him about washing

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  • My Baby-Food Pressure-Cooker Experiment

    I often hear from parents wanting to know if one jarred food is better than another. Other than always suggesting families choose organic over conventional, I have no jar preferences. The boiled within an inch of whatever nutrients might be left mush in any jar is often older than the very kid parents are trying to feed. The best thing I can say about jarred food is that the empty jars can be reused as excellent first drinking glasses for children. It should come as no surprise that I'm a big advocate of homemade baby food, toddler food, kid food, teenage food, and adult food.

    "But it takes too much time," is the near constant refrain I hear from many of the people seeking my advice on what and how to feed their children. Eh - not so much. It's all about what you spend your time on. There are a lot of things I'd happily give up in order to make our food. Still, I have more than a few time (and, coincidentally, energy) cutting tricks up my sleeve I employ. I help myself always

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  • The Urban Compost Conundrum

    As an urban mom, the true missing link in all of the "green" things my family does is compost. Without a yard to have a pile in, options are fairly limited unless you live in a city that takes scraps, like San Francisco or Vancouver.

    In New York, these are my options:

    1. Compost in a worm bin.

    2. Save my scraps in the fridge or freezer to carry to the only farmers' market that does accept scraps. This doesn't smell too good.

    3. Save my scraps in the fridge or freezer to drive or have someone else drive out of the city once a week to someplace where I can compost. Smelly and not efficient.

    4. Use an electric indoor composter.

    None of these options are ideal and all can stink up a tiny apartment, no matter how well ventilated, or how well you're caring for your compost.

    Our family eats a lot of fruits and vegetables, and consequently our garbage used to be filled with tons of chard ends, wilted outer

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  • Does Buying Renewable Energy Give You License to Be an Energy Hog?

    air conditioner

    A hot mama recently emailed to ask about her air conditioning. She had gone out of her way to pay extra every month for wind and other green power alternatives from her electric company. She wanted to know if buying green power meant she could run her air conditioning willy nilly and as much and as long as she wanted, and the lowest temperature possible, especially considering she already had the following on practically full-time in her babe's nursery: air purifier, white noise machine, lullabies, and nightlight. She was considering installing solar panels if buying green energy wasn't cutting it. I commend her for her forward (wishful) thinking. And, after a recent few particularly hot nights where I live, I must admit I wondered just the same thing (I also pay for wind power). Eager to get to the bottom of this for all the hot green mamas around, I emailed my very own Daily Green editor Dan Shapley. We have an interesting relationship -- he defers to me for, say, safe

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  • BPA in SIGG Bottles — What's a Parent to Do?

    You've written about SIGG as being a good brand bottle to use in the past. What are you going to do now that they've admitted to using BPA in their bottles? I'm not sure what to do with the ones I have.
    Sally (mom of three)

    Dear Sally,

    sigg water bottle

    Thanks for the question. Crazy, right? But not entirely unexpected. It's been known for a while now that SIGG goes after any consumer group (EWG, OCA etc.) that infers their "proprietary" liner content contains BPA. They have also released reports proving that there are undetectable levels of BPA in their bottles. Why would they test for it and release reports about it if it weren't in there? Consumers who prefer total transparency and want to avoid plastic have long preferred stainless steel bottles to SIGG's lined-with-a-secret aluminum.

    As of last week, SIGG says what's in there now (since August 2008 on the manufacturing side though this doesn't necessarily mean what has been on your store's shelf since

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  • How to Find Out if Your Beach Is Safe for Swimming

    A perfect August question arrived via email earlier this week:

    Dear Organic Mom,

    How can I tell if the water I swim in at the beach or the random swimming hole we found this past weekend when hiking is safe to swim in? Especially with kids.

    - Jackie

    Good question. We're also swimming so much these hot days, it's something I think about often. My general rule of thumb is to use common sense, to enjoy the water, and to always rinse off post dunk with soap and water. Be especially careful if you have cuts. Clean your swimwear and towels. If you don't feel well after a day at the beach, don't automatically chalk it up to eating too many fried clams plus ice cream. It could be the water and might be worth a call to your doctor.

    The NRDC publishes extensive information on beach pollution on its Website. This includes ocean, bay and Great Lakes beaches. The organization puts out annual Testing the Waters reports, which are worth a peek pre-vacation or hike.

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  • Back To School 2009: A Guide to Green Goods

    I do not want to be writing this column! It's only mid-August! I'm holding on tight to the summer I have left. But for (organized) moms and dads everywhere, these are the days to get the back to school gear in order. I'm not big on stuff, but since a little shopping is inevitable, make sure to vote with your dollars for the greenest gear possible. Thankfully, eco-versions of everything from knee-highs to lunchboxes to art supplies exist and even abound. Some of the items on my radar:

    SHOES kids shoes

    I'm a monumental fan of hand-me-downs, but second hand shoes can be a little tricky when it comes to kids. Nothing could be greener or cuter than Simple Shoes. Their newest toddler shoes are very flexible, beyond comfortable, and will feature frequently in my 3.5-year-old's fall footwear rotation. I like the gray, she prefers pink. That they're washable suede from an eco-certified tannery, lined with certified organic cotton fleece, and have recycled soda bottle laces and soles made of

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