Top 10 Eco-Friendly Labels to Know

Buzzwords like “natural,” “eco-friendly” and “sustainable” frequently show up on packaging, but what do they mean? If a product says “organic,” is it really?

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Labeling can get downright confusing, and U.S. marketers take advantage of the fact that many consumers make purchases based on a certain word or “green-looking” graphics. That’s why third-party testing and certification processes were developed — to create sustainable standards that consumers can trust.

This Ecolabel Index defines 449 labels (wow!) that speak to a variety of eco-conscious products or company. Below, I’ve selected 10 pretty common ones to seek out in your everyday consumer lives.

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Certified Green Restaurant® Make greener choices when you dine out. Restaurants with this seal meet standards of sustainability in resource efficiency, waste reduction and sourcing local foods.

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Certified Humane Raised and Handled  This label ensures that the farm animals raised for your eggs or meat were treated humanely (clean, safe environment; no cages or stalls; access to quality food and water; not given antibiotics or growth hormones).

Fairtrade-Logo

FAIRTRADE Used internationally, products with this label meet social, economic and environmental standards (frequently used in the coffee and chocolate industries). This system supports small-scale farmers and artisans in developing countries, treating them fairly and providing economic opportunities.

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Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-Certified Focused on responsible management of our forests, FSC guidelines assures their products (mainly paper and wood) have been derived sustainably in ways where logging does not destroy forests and the biodiversity of wildlife supported by them.

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Green-e Marketplace The Green-e logo recognizes organizations that use certified renewable energy (wind, solar, etc.) in an effort to reduce climate change. Supporting such businesses (like Aveda, Office Depot and Kendall-Jackson) reduces your own carbon footprint and supports the development of renewable energy sources.

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Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) Fabrics with this label contain between 70-95% certified organic fibers, and manufacturing processes meet environmental criteria, especially around water and energy consumption.

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Non-GMO Verified Seal No genetically modified organisms in this food, Baby!

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OEKO-TEX® Standard This label means a textile has passed testing for harmful substances, including carcinogens, formaldehyde, plasticizers, heavy metals, pesticides and allergenic dyes.

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SCS Sustainable Choice This label represents certification from SCS Global Services, which rigorously assesses companies in areas of responsible forestry, sustainable agriculture, recycled content, biodegradability and more. Products include furniture, flooring, jewelry, office supplies and household cleaners.

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USDA Certified Organic The word “organic” alone doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. This seal means the food contains no antibiotics, growth hormones, conventional pesticides or GMOs.


Get more great information about toxins from the Green Sisterhood during our Earth Month Blog Party! Check out the blogs below:

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How to Celebrate Earth Day

We’ve been celebrating this environmental holiday since 1970, but why? Who started it? Read my post, The When, What and Why of Earth Day, to discover how it all began.

Anna from Green Talk reminds us that April 22 isn’t just about saving the planet. Her post offers ways you can care for yourself on Earth Day.

Need inspiration for how to celebrate? Below is a collection of activities, recipes and green living tips for the whole family.

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Image: Depositphoto.com

Activities

Food and Drink


Tips for Starting a Greener Life

Earth Day is an excellent time to adopt a new green habit. Here is some inspiration, from small changes to eco lifestyle basics.

 This post has been shared at the Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Blog Hop.

 

Top 5 Toxins to Avoid in Baby Products

A child’s exposure to chemicals is far greater than an adult’s. Their bodies are less able to excrete chemicals, and their organs are more susceptible to damage. Yet toxins surround us in our daily lives, including a multitude of baby products. 

It’s easy to get freaked out when you discover the details of these toxins and how prevalent they are. Try to remain calm. It’s not possible to eradicate all the toxins from your child’s life. However, having an awareness of what’s out there and taking some simple steps to reduce your child’s exposure is a great start.

Here are five toxins you’d do best to limit and tips on how to do so.

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Phthalates

  • What is it? A group of chemicals typically used in plastics or as solvents. While some phthalates have been banned, a few common ones you might see on product labels include: BPA (Bisphenol A), DBP (dibutyl phthalate), DMP (dimethyl phthalate), and BBzP (benzyl butyl phthalate). Widely known as ‘endocrine disruptors,’ the health effects of phthalates include damage to the liver and kidneys, birth defects, asthma and early puberty.
  • Where is it found? In a myriad of children’s items including baby wipes, teethers, plastic toys, inflatables, soft lunch boxes, food and beverage containers, detergents, soaps and shampoos.
  • What are my alternatives? Choose safer toys made from natural materials like wood, cloth or natural rubber. Look for BPA-free products for teethers and other baby plastics. Try to avoid children’s soft plastic toys made before 2009 in the US (or 2006 in Europe) as they likely contain higher levels of phthalates. (This might mean refusing certain hand-me-downs.) Choose skin products that are fragrance free by searching EWG’s Skin Deep Database. Make your own baby wipes (link). Buy glass or metal bottles, sippy cups and food storage containers. Avoid plastics labeled with codes #3 and #7. Visit The Soft Landing for shopping guides on phthalate, PVC, BPA-free children’s products.

Formaldehyde

  • What is it? This colorless, flammable chemical is classified as a known human carcinogen (linked to leukemia and certain cancers) that may also trigger skin rashes in sensitive people. Once in your home, formaldehyde can emit toxic fumes for years.
  • Where is it found? It’s primarily found in furniture (usually plywood and particle board, certain glues and adhesives) and also as a preservative in liquid soaps and shampoos. (Johnson & Johnson has just removed formaldehyde from their baby shampoo.)
  • What are my alternatives? Purchase furniture made from natural woods or older, used furniture that will have already off-gassed. If you aren’t sure about a new item’s formaldehyde content, leave it outside your home or in a garage to off-gas for a week before bringing it inside. Be sure your home, especially your baby’s space, is well ventilated. Filter your air with indoor plants that naturally absorb formaldehyde toxins such as the peace lily, spider plant, Gerbera daisy, bamboo palm, pot mum and Chinese evergreen.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

  • What is it? SLS and SLES are compounds found in many hygiene products and detergents. A known skin irritant, SLS may affect the immune system, eye development and, when combined with other chemicals, may act as a potent carcinogen.
  • Where is it found? SLS and SLES are found frequently in shampoos, toothpaste, bubble bath, moisturizer, laundry detergent and other foaming beauty products.
  • What are my alternatives? Read labels and seek out SLS-free personal care products. Search EWG’s Skin Deep database for product ingredients and toxicity ratings. Or make your own baby products with these simple DIY recipes from Easy Living Mom.

Flame Retardants

  • What is it? Chemicals such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and “Tris” (TDCPP, TCPP and TCEP), a flame retardant banned from kid’s pajamas in the 1970s but still found in many baby products as recently as 2011. Toxic flame retardants accumulate in our bodies and have adverse effects including endocrine and thyroid disruption, reduced IQ, hyperactivity and impaired child development. “Tris” is connected with several types of cancer.
  • Where is it found? Unfortunately, many baby products upholstered with polyurethane foam contain flame retardants including strollers, car seats, clothing, nursing pillows, changing tables, high chairs, carpets and baby carriers.
  • What are my alternatives? Seek out products that aren’t treated with flame retardants, since you cannot be sure which chemicals were used. Many manufacturers are now developing baby products that do not use toxic flame retardants. HealthyStuff.org is a good resource that lists brands tested for safety and toxins.  Since children often encounter PBDEs by ingesting dust while on the floor, you can reduce their exposure by opting for wood floors in your home and replacing older carpet padding or furniture (prior to 2004).

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

  • What is it? A known human carcinogen, PVC is known as the “poison plastic” (usually plastics labeled as #3). The manufacture and incineration of PVC releases dioxins into our atmosphere and soil—dioxins we end up inhaling and consuming later on. These chemicals pollute our natural resources and can lead to cancer, birth defects, diabetes, endometriosis and immune system problems.
  • Where is it found? PVC is found in vinyl products such as flooring, siding, upholstery or shower curtains. It’s also common in pacifiers, toys, raincoats, shoes, building materials, artificial Christmas trees and food packaging.
  • What are my alternatives? Look for children’s products labeled “PVC-free.” Store your food in glass containers or butcher paper instead of cling wrap. Choose a real Christmas tree. Use wood, linoleum, cork or ceramic flooring instead of vinyl. Get lots more tips from this helpful PVC-free guide from the Center for Health, Environment and Justice.

This 2013 Non-Toxic Shopping Guide [PDF] from Women’s Voices for the Earth offers additional tips and resources for buying baby products, cosmetics, toys, clothing and more.

Get more great information about toxins from the Green Sisterhood during our Earth Month Blog Party! Check out the blogs below:

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This post has been shared at Small Footprint Friday, Natural Living Monday, Babies and Beyond, Wellness Wednesday and Natural Family Friday.

 

Soap Nuts for Sustainable Household Cleaning

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I have been curious about soap nuts for a while, and, since trying them, I have to say they are possibly the most sustainable cleaning choice you can make. Derived from a plant, these organic berries are easy to grow, non-toxic, odorless, compostable and reusable in household cleaning.

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What Are Soap Nuts?

Soap nuts come from the Sapindus genus of trees and bushes, native to temperate and tropical regions around the world. The soap nut, which is actually the shell of a de-seeded berry, contains saponin, a natural cleaner that has been used for centuries.

Their primary function is a laundry detergent. Toss 5-6 nuts in a small cloth bag into the washing machine, and you’re all set. NOTE: You will not see suds in your laundry, which is perfectly fine by me since suds are typically the product of compounds like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), a toxin considered the #1 cause of childhood poisonings.

Soap nuts, on the other hand, are hypoallergenic, odorless, non-static and non-polluting. Because of their lack of suds, they work great in HE washing machines and require less water for rinsing. And they still get your clothes clean.

I have been using Sinfully Wholesome Wildcrafted Nepalese Soap Nuts, which are certified organic. The berries are de-seeded by hand and sun dried before being packaged—I love this part—in a Lokta paper bag, an eco-friendly paper from the bark of a laurel bush that quickly regenerates like bamboo. There is no unnecessary packaging; everything about this product can be reused and recycled.

How To Use Soap Nuts

In the laundry, you can reuse a bagful (5-6 nuts) about 5-6 times before they lose their effectiveness. However, then you can steep the used nuts overnight in hot water and use the liquid as a household cleaner. I can’t wait to try this! They replace multiple products since the soap nuts cleaner can be used for windows, floors, counters, appliances, dishes and more.

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Sustainable Baby Steps provides details and recipes for using soap nuts in various forms from dishwashing liquid and shampoo to pet cleaner and bug repellant.

I didn’t notice any decline in laundry cleanliness when I switched from my usual eco-friendly detergent, and the bonus is that Sinfully Wholesome soap nuts are cheaper. I have their 500-gram bag (regularly $24.95, currently on sale), which is good for 150-200 loads of laundry or, in my case, about a year’s supply. What a deal!

My one issue is remembering to remove the soap nuts bag from the washer. More than once it has ended up in the dryer, which hasn’t done my clothing any harm. It’s simply a matter of creating a new habit, and this is one definitely worth developing.

 This post was shared at Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Blog Hop and Thank Goodness Its Monday.

 

April’s Top 5 Eco Crafts

Welcome to my monthly installment of eco-friendly arts and craft projects gathered from around the Internet. While some projects require adult supervision, they are a fun, educational and green hobby for your kids.

This month’s collection focuses on crafts for Earth Day, plus make-your-own Easter baskets. Enjoy!

  1. Food Jar Terrarium from Our Big Earth

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  2. Printable Tree Planting Tag from Chickabug Blog

    craft-tree-planting-tag

  3. Plantable Paper from Alpha Mom

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  4. Upcycled Mobiles from Plum Pudding

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  5. Recycled Paper Easter Basket from Roots of Simplicity

    craft-paper-easter-basket

    See more ideas for making your own Easter baskets at Crafting a Green World.

 

Why Time-Outs Don’t Work

My husband and I seem to be one of the few parents I know who do not use time-outs in their discipline. For us, time-outs feel too punitive, a display of power where the parent “wins” but the child doesn’t necessarily learn anything about amending his behavior. 

I think it began in pregnancy when I stumbled upon the eight principles of attachment parenting. In theory, the “Respond with Sensitivity” principle spoke to me as the respectful way I wanted to raise our daughter. In practice, it was a lot harder to maintain in high-stress situations. But it worked well through the typically tough toddler years and remains an excellent guideline for our parenting.

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Holding Sofie, hugging her, speaking to her calmly, trying to understand the needs behind her behavior… all contributed to relatively few toddler tantrums and a sense of safety where she can now express her seven-year-old feelings and needs. Often, we do find it better to take some space when an emotional situation arises—Sofie often does this herself until she calms down, but it is not doled out as a punishment.

The problem I have with time-outs is that they send your child away at a time when she likely needs you most. To the child’s immature mind, such action compounds the feeling that they are “bad.” Generally, a young child has acted out because it’s developmentally appropriate to do so. Unaccustomed to strong feelings, they are exploring ways to handle them; they are testing their independence, their safety, your love.  They are not acting out of intentional mean-spiritedness that we often associate with hitting, biting, throwing and screaming.


Fear-Based Parenting

Childhood educator and communication expert Sarah MacLaughlin says it better than me when she associates time-outs with fear-based parenting.

“We yell at the four year-old to pull it together, or we separate him in a time-out until he can behave better. Both yelling and time-out are fear-based punishments—the former creates fear of a parent’s anger and the latter brings fear of the withdrawal of a parent’s attention, closeness, and love. (Ironically, a child who has lost control of their emotions and behavior will regulate much more quickly and efficiently with a calm adult near them, rather than being sent away and isolated.)”

“Punishments of any kind are fear based, and often consequences are just thinly veiled punishments. Don’t we want children to be intrinsically motivated to behave well, to have understanding of why they are being guided to behave in certain ways and not in others? Children who are motivated by fear learn to be sneaky to avoid punishment. When we use fear, the ultimate goal of discipline ‘to teach’ is completely lost.

Sarah’s book, What Not to Say: Tools for Talking With Young Children, guides parents through communication struggles with children ages one through six.

I agree with a lot of what Sarah has to say—although I am not always able to follow through on it. Too many times I’ve lost my cool or said, “Good job!” in a distracted manner rather than really observing what Sofie is sharing with me… Because too much praise is also a parenting no-no. This book will tell you why and offer alternative words for you. See Sarah’s infographic below for a few examples.

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Resources for Parents

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I wish I’d had this book from the beginning. What Not to Say is an award-winning resource for your parenting toolbox that will help you think twice about knee-jerk responses and steer you toward words that offer your child empathy instead of guilt.

EPC-what-not-to-sayYou can get Sarah’s book as part of a mini eBook collection from my affiliate partner, Mindful Nurturing. The collection, entitled Parenting the Early Years, is just $19.97 and also includes: The Colic Solution, Twin Manibreasto, Oxytocin Parenting—Womb Through the Terrible Twos, The Natural Parent’s Guide to Babywearing, and a one-year subscription to Juno, a natural family magazine. That’s a retail value of $67 – yours for only $19.97.

Parenting isn’t taught in school, and doesn’t always come naturally to us. What a relief to be able to rely on resources from experts who can help us navigate these emotional waters of early childhood!

Get 5 Parenting Books and 1 Magazine for $19.97!

Click here to visit Mindful Nurturing for product details. Scroll down to click on “The Early Years” and read about the six included items. You can buy the Early Years mini collection from that page or through the link below.

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Interested in More?

Parenting the Early Years is part of the Essential Parenting Collection, which consists of four more mini collections: Mindful Guidance, Child Development, Resources for Parents, and Pregnancy and Birth. Visit Mindful Nurturing to get information about one of these other eBook bundles or to preview the full collection (a $751 value for $49.97).

 

Photo credit: roseannadana via photopin cc.

This post has been shared on Natural Family Today and Natural Living Monday.