“Green Halloween”

October 30th, 2007

If you’ve only just heard of the Green Halloween movement, don’t feel like you’re out of touch. It just launched this year, and its goal, as you might guess, is to make Halloween healthier for kids and the environment. Who can argue with that? This year I’ve been especially struck by the encroachment of still more Cheap Plastic Crap into Halloween parties, costumes, and decorations. Back in “the olden days” when I was a kid, we bobbed for apples and made our own costumes!

Whole Foods is a platinum sponsor of Green Halloween. So I headed over to Whole Foods expecting to see a wide range of environmentally correct Halloween items. Perhaps something from their well priced 365 Everyday Value line. Instead, I found a bunch of Very Expensive organic chocolates. Perfect for an adult Halloween party, but way out of line for trick-or-treating. The only thing I could find that was relatively affordable was a large sack of individually wrapped pretzel bags.

I looked online at fair trade chocolates and found some delicious looking options, but at $12 a bag they were simply too expensive. In my neighborhood, we can expect to run through six bags of candy on Halloween. That would be more than $80 with shipping! What’s more, the chocolates needed to be ordered really early – by October 17th! That would never do. And online shopping made no sense when I realized that my five-year-old was very excited about the prospect of buying the candy we would be giving out to trick-or-treaters.

So back to the bricks-and-mortar retailers. The shelves at Safeway and Giant were full of same-old, same-old bags of traditional chocolate treats. On a whim, I headed over to CVS. There, alone on a shelf I spied a Hershey’s Organic Chocolate bar. It was far too large for trick or treating, but it did give me hope. It gave me hope because only a company as large as Hershey has the capacity to bring organic chocolates to the trick or treating masses at a reasonable price point. In the course of researching this post, I learned that earlier this month, Hershey acquired organic candy purveyor Dagoba Chocolates, a sure sign that Hershey is taking the organic market seriously.

Wouldn’t it be great if by next Halloween we could give out organic Hershey’s Kisses, priced at a reasonable level? As for this year, I must confess that this OrganicManiac couldn’t justify the price of organic candy. Perhaps I didn’t look early enough or hard enough, but frankly, reasonably priced bags of organic Halloween candy shouldn’t be so hard to find.

So what are we giving out this year? The old traditional favorites: Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, Kit Kats, Milky Ways, and Krackle. Three big bags for $5 at Target. My kindergartner was thrilled to pick the candies out himself.

Next year I hope I can point him to a reasonably priced selection of organic Halloween candy, available at a local store.

In the meantime, Happy Halloween.

– Lynn

Copyright 2007, Organicmania

Organic Baby Food for a Penny More than Conventional!

October 29th, 2007

My last post mentioned the downward pricing pressure in the organic market. I’ve never seen better evidence of this than today, when I noticed a sale on Safeway’s O Organics line of jarred baby foods. Now through Sunday, November 11th you can purchase 10 jars of organic baby food for $6. That’s just 60 cents per 4 ounce jar, or 15 cents per ounce. Sitting right down the shelf from the O Organics is conventional Gerber baby food, priced at 59 cents per jar. Yes, that’s right – this means that you can buy organic jarred baby food for just a penny more than conventional jarred baby food.

If you prefer the name brand Earth’s Best, you can grab that on sale too – 12 jars for $9.49 – that’s just 79 cents per jar, versus it’s regular price of $1.05 per jar at Safeway.

Don’t interpret this as an ad for Safeway – I have no connection to the store other than the fact that I’ve probably spent tens of thousands of dollars there over the years!

A key reason I launched this blog was to help parents make sense of their organic purchases. And what makes better sense than buying organic when it’s just a penny a jar more than conventional baby food?

Best news – I asked the customer service rep if this sale is nationwide, and she said yes. It’s a nationwide in-store only sale. So head out to Safeway and shop, shop, shop! — Lynn

Copyright 2007, Organicmania

New York Times Lists Top 5 Organic Foods, Misses One

October 26th, 2007

This week Tara Parker-Popes’ excellent health blog on the New York Times site listed the top five organic family foods. On her list are milk, potatoes, peanut butter, ketchup and apples. Great choices to be sure, but how can one talk about organic family foods and not include something for baby? Baby’s brain and body are growing so quickly that nutritious food is a must, and baby’s developing immune, central-nervous, and hormonal systems are highly vulnerable to environmental toxins.

Today, there are more organic choices available to parents than ever before. There have been a slew of new organic product introductions in recent years. This growing organic competition means that there is finally some downward pricing pressure in the organic market, and so good deals can be found if you shop around and compare prices on baby food. Some manufacturers even offer coupons, and Big Box retailers like Target and Walmart carry organic baby food as well. While organic baby food is still more costly than conventional food, the price difference is not as great as one might expect.

Some of the options available among jarred foods include: Earth’s Best, Gerber Organics, Healthy Times and Organic Baby. In the DC metro area, where I shop, the best prices are on Gerber Organics. However, for just a few more cents, you can get far more interesting food combinations with Organic Baby, available at Mom’s Organic Market.

A relatively new category is frozen organic baby food. Although not as widely available as jarred organic baby food, and somewhat more expensive, this is a very convenient way to provide healthy organic food for baby. Brands available include: include: Baby Cubes & More, TastyBaby and Plum Organics. Like so much else with the organic movement, there is more choice available in California, but many of these products will soon be available nationwide.

But perhaps the best – and least expensive – way to give baby a wide variety of organics is to give him pureed or steamed organic food or biodynamic foods. An easy way to do this with very young babies is to purchase small trays, similar to ice cube trays, which can be used to store small portions of pureed foods. Follow the guidelines your pediatrician provides regarding food introduction.

And remember, the habits you instill today in baby’s diet will lay the foundation for a lifetime of good health.

– Lynn

Copyright 2007, Organicmania

Parents® Magazine Just Doesn’t Get It

October 16th, 2007

They really don’t get it. The editors over at Parents® Magazine must not understand the angst that real parents feel about the spate of recent toy recalls involving lead paint and myriad other defects. How else can they justify their November cover story on “52 Hot Holiday Toys?” The article promotes more of the same Expensive Plastic Crap (as opposed to Cheap Plastic Crap) that has been marketed to parents for years.

I love Parents, I really do. It’s one of the few parenting magazines I still subscribe to after 5 plus years of the Mommy gig. So when my new issue arrived Tuesday, I opened it eagerly, and to be honest, I was shocked by what I read. I really thought the article would at least include some eco-friendly toys. Perhaps a few organic stuffed cotton animals? Some hand crafted wooden toys? Something without plastic or paint?? C’mon! Parents are screaming for non-traditional toys this holiday season. I’ll even confess that in my sleep deprived state I may have missed the promotion of eco-friendly toys (DH is out of town and darling baby is teething all night long). But if Parents is promoting eco-friendly items somewhere in this issue, they’re sure not making them stand out from the rest of the editorial and advertising content.

Actually, to be kind, I think the editors probably do get it. I saw the cute pictures of them with their adorable offspring. It must be the advertising chieftains who don’t get it, or if they do, they were afraid to do something different this holiday season.

So dear readers, what say you? Please leave a comment sharing your favorite sources for eco-friendly toys, and then I’ll do a compilation post combining my research (to come) with your suggestions.

UPDATE 11/9/07 – The Parent Bloggers Network is leading a great effort with Consumers Union to protest the seemingly never-ending saga of toy recalls. They are looking for 30,000 volunteers to visit stores nationwide. Visit Consumers Union to find out what you can do to make a difference.

– Lynn

Copyright 2007, Organicmania

Just Say No to Cheap Plastic Crap

October 15th, 2007

Today is Blog Action Day, and bloggers throughout the world are uniting to discuss the environment.

I’m asking you to join me in the campaign to Just Say No to Cheap Plastic Crap. If you’re a parent, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s the little plastic snakes, tops, rings and other assorted JUNK that show up inside your home once your child starts attending birthday parties and school fairs.

I don’t know a single parent who likes this stuff. Not a one. In just one hour Sunday, I had two parents approach me to complain about Cheap Plastic Crap. Brian bemoaned the fact that he hates the goody bags that his kids haul back from birthday parties and Liz told me that she feels like her “second job” is picking up all the Cheap Plastic Crap littering her playroom.

But picking up all the Cheap Plastic Crap only extends the battle against this stuff. Because where does it go once it leaves your house? It’s not recyclable, so it goes to landfills, where it leaches plastic toxins into the earth.

The best way to prevent the encroachment of Cheap Plastic Crap into your playrooms and ultimately into our landfills, is to Just Say No. But what to offer your little darlings instead of Cheap Plastic Crap? Here are 10 ideas for little replacement trinkets to give out as prizes at school carnivals and to stuff into goody bags (if you must). Now go do it. Join the Campaign to Just Say No to Cheap Plastic Crap. Leave a comment here on OrganicMania saying you’re onboard!

10 Ways to Just Say No to Cheap Plastic Crap
1. Run a book exchange. Ask everyone to bring old books from home, and mix it up. Everyone leaves with a new book.
2. Bake cookies and use those as prizes. If you’re running a school fair, this is a two-fer, because the baked goods always seem to end up being sold for half-off in the last hour of the school fair.
3. If your kids are old enough, teach them why Cheap Plastic Tchotchkes (you may not want to say crap in front of your kids!) are bad for the environment. Your kids will probably have tons of ideas for things you can give away.
4. Coins. Foreign coins, and cool US coins like the dollar coins and US state quarters are popular with kids.
5. Similarly, US and foreign commemorative stamps and first day covers make great prizes.
6. Wooden toys for goody bags. Admittedly, these can be expensive, but there are parents who spend $5 or more on goody bags. Why not give away something like one awesome wooden racing car instead of a bunch of mass produced plastic junk? You can get handcrafted wooden mini-cars for $5 each at Vermont Wooden Toys.

7. Customized wooden nickels for school fairs. These are really cool. Maple Land Mark, another fine Vermont toy maker, will customize wooden nickels for your school or organization. You can get 250 of these for under a quarter!
8. Postcards. These don’t have to be new. In fact, old ones with writing can be more interesting to kids. They can read the messages and play imaginary games about the postcard’s people and places.
9. Maps. Not the fancy, laminated maps which aren’t recyclable. Think instead of the free paper maps given out by tourist boards.
10. Origami kits are fun and unique. Just look for kits with simple packaging – or make your own – so that you don’t end up with a lot of plastic lamination along with your paper!

Have fun! And let me know if these tips work for you or if there are people out there who will fight for the right to keep their Cheap Plastic Crap!
– Lynn

3/31/08 Update: Looking for more eco-friendly birthday party favors? Check out these great ideas from Enviromom!

Copyright 2007, OrganicMania

Welcome to OrganicMania!

October 11th, 2007

It’s a bit daunting to write this first post. There’s so much to discuss about organics and healthy living that it’s hard to know where to start. So I think I’ll go back to thoughts of a woman who inspired me to start this blog, an incredibly courageous mother who is raising two young children and fighting inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), all while blogging as “WhyMommy” at Toddler Planet.

This blog post is my attempt to help raise awareness of this rare disease that has now struck two of my friends. IBC does not manifest as a lump. It is often mistaken for an infection. Sadly, many women seek medical advice later than they should because they don’t recognize the signs of IBC. Every woman needs to know about early detection of IBC to ensure she lives a long, healthy life. Following is a post from Toddler Planet about IBC. Please read this and pass it along to someone you love.

Do let me know if you have suggestions for the blog as well….I’d love the input!  (And if you’d like to learn more about why I started OrganicMania, please read the About page).

“Inflammatory breast cancer is the rarest and most deadly of the breast cancers. It strikes young women as often as older women, breastfeeding mothers as often as grandmothers, and women with and without a history of breast cancer in their family. It does not always form a lump in the breast. Instead, it forms in sheets and nests in the lymphatic system of the skin, appearing only after it clogs the lymph system with cancer, causing the skin to swell and turn red as if in anger.

Sometimes, it appears first as a mark like a bug bite, or a bruise that just won’t heal. Sometimes, the texture of the skin changes first, becoming tough, hard, or with little dimples like an orange peel. Sometimes, it feels thick to the touch, or hot, or just … different.

Inflammatory breast cancer is often misdiagnosed as mastitis, especially in nursing women. The important thing to know is, if you are diagnosed with mastitis and it doesn’t clear up with 10 days of antibiotics, SOMETHING ELSE may be wrong. Please, please go back to your OB/GYN or other health care professional and talk to her again. Ask her for tests to rule out inflammatory breast cancer. Tell her that you’re worried, that something just isn’t right. Insist on futher tests and a skin and/or core biopsy. Because each week that you delay is a week that this cancer will grow and expand and be just that much harder to eradicate.

Survival rates for women diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer are grim. Only 25 to 50 percent of women will survive five years. Believe it or not, this is a HUGE improvement over the survival statistics of just a few years ago — when only 1-2% could expect to be alive five years after diagnosis. Even with chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation, 90% of women will suffer a recurrence. This is a lifelong battle for those that are diagnosed, and it is a very difficult disease to battle, as it’s one of the few cancers that are obvious on the surface of the body; as it marches across a woman’s breast, it is very hard to watch.

For more information, please visit:

Edited 9/26 to add: There is new hope — just today — for HER-2 positive cancers. We need this research. This is saving lives.”

This post is dedicated to Sam and Susan. Keep up the good fight!

– Lynn