10 Tips for Avoiding Recalled Toys

December 3rd, 2008

Do you see what’s on that paper lying next to those cute toy trains? A recall notice for those very same trains.

Those My Little Train Toy Classics were so darn cute that I picked one up to admire it. And it was cheap too – less than $2.

But those cheap toys always give me pause. So many of them have been linked to recalls and lead paint. So I decided against purchasing one, even though I’m not prepared to spend loads of money on an all natural, organic alternative.

As I was leaving the store, I noticed a recall notice on the bulletin board near the exit. I picked up the recall notice and ran back to see if these were the same trains. After taking them all down from the display, I brought them over to the customer service desk, showed them the recall notice, and explained that they were selling recalled toys. I expected an apology, or at least an expression of concern from the store personnel…but their response didn’t satisfy me. My immediate reaction was to send out this irate Tweet to my Twitter network.

The next day I called the store manager, and asked him if he was aware of what had happened with the recalled toys the evening prior. He wasn’t. No one had yet bothered to tell him that they had recalled toys on their shelves. He assured me that there was no way I could have purchased a recalled item, because the item would not ring up at the register. He also told me that it was likely that just a lot of the item that was recalled, and that the items on the store shelf were probably fine. Well, no. I checked the Consumer Product Safety Commission website and in fact, all of these toy trains have been recalled due to a choking hazard.

It’s tempting to buy cheap toys – but it’s not worth the risk. They’re often full of toxins (just ask my friend with a toy testing gun, The Smart Mama). And even if they’re safe, they usually don’t last very long before they break.

Few of us can afford to buy all natural, organic toys all the time. So what can you do? Here are ten tips:

1. Before you buy anything, go to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and check the recall list. The notice on the toy trains came out the very day I saw them on the store shelf! (And five more alerts have come out since that one was issued!)

2. Shop consignment stores. You won’t believe the number of high quality wooden toys you can find, some still new and in the original packaging. In the DC area, I like to shop at The Purple Goose and Wiggle Room.

3. Ask your friends for their cast-offs. I have one dear friend in Florida who mails her son’s hand-me-down clothes to us. There’s no reason you can’t get cast-off toys too. (I’d like to get in line for cast-offs from the son of natural toy expert MC Milker of Not Quite Crunchy Parent!)

4. Check yard sales, especially in what my mother used to call “the high rent district.” That’s where you may find gently used, natural and organic toys.

5. Zwaggle is a great source for parents to swap gently used toys.

6. Freecycle is full of environmentally conscious people who love to recycle. These are the same people who are likely to have purchased high quality toys. Post a query requesting your child’s dream toy. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get it for free!

7. Look for discount coupons on line. Simply google the name of the toy and “coupon,” and see what turns up. And here’s an easier way you can save some money on high quality, natural toys. To save 10% off your first order at Natural Pod, just use coupon code GCM08.

But these are only temporary steps. The only way we will keep junk toys out of the store aisles is by exerting pressure on government to strengthen the regulations governing toy safety and inspections. Here’s what you can do:

8. Call or write your Congressional delegation and tell them that you want more resources devoted to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the agency tasked with ensuring the safety of our children’s toys.

9. Write to your state and local representatives too. States like Washington and Oregon are ahead of federal law it comes to protecting our kids from unsafe toys.

10. Align yourself with organizations that are lobbying the government on behalf of children’s issues. Groups such as Momsrising lobby for passage of laws that help protect kids not only from recalled toys, but from toys containing unsafe levels of chemical toxins.

How are you going to handle toy shopping this holiday season? Leave a comment and share!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008

Organic Food Savings: Are “Two-fers” A Good Deal? And More on those “Late Night” Specials at Whole Foods

July 12th, 2008

We’ve all been there: cruising the store aisles when suddenly, a great sale catches our eyes. Two for $1.50, Regularly $2 each, the sign reads. Sounds like a good deal! But is it?

Well, it’s a good deal if you are a huge fan of the canned organic beans or mustard or cereal or whatever it is that’s on sale. But what if you just want to try a new item, and figure a sale is a good time to try? Buying two may be overkill.

Did you know that many stores’ registers ring up each item at the “two-fer” sale price? So you really don’t need to buy two of the sale items…it’s just a suggestion. That’s what some of OrganicMania’s field research turned up this week as I prowled the store aisles.

The only time when the two-fer or three-fers really mean what they say? On flowers and live plants, you almost always need to buy the two or three items together to get the discounted savings. Or at least that’s what some of my anonymous grocery store sources told OrganicMania!

And those late night sandwich specials at Whole Foods that I blogged about here? If you were following OrganicMania live tweets this week, you already know that Whole Foods starts reducing those prepared food-case sandwiches a bit earlier now. So starting at around 9 p.m., you can pick up sandwiches at $2 off. Then, closer to closing, come the real deals – two for one.

While we’ve been talking about the great berries on sale – organic strawberries as cheap as conventional – unfortunately not all organic berries are great deals right now. Organic local New Jersey blueberries are still quite expensive compared to conventional, as I tweeted here.

And finally, yes rocks are organic, but not something I recommend. See this tweet. All’s well that ends well.

Did you find any good deals this week? Leave a comment and share!

Looking for more Organic Food Savings Tips? Check out OrganicMania’s extensive archive of organic and green savings tips posts here.

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Organic vs. Conventional Foods? Count Your Blessings

April 24th, 2008

I consider myself a lucky blogger. There’s so much to say about organics, going green, raising kids, and trying to make sense of healthy green living. And here at OrganicMania, we’ve had some great discussions about organics versus conventional foods, like this one and this one.

As I look through some of the nearly 300 comments (!) you’ve left on OrganicMania, I’m struck by how many of us, particularly the Mothers, are struggling to make sense of our options in order to provide what’s best for our children. This morning I was struggling a bit, too, trying to choose from a myriad of possibilities for today’s post.

But my mind kept wandering back to this story in yesterday’s Washington Post about the terrible impact of rising food prices on the world’s poor. Did you know that the UN’s World Food Program being forced to cut back on feeding programs that serve 20 million children?

Diane MacEachern, Mary Hunt, and other prominent writers and bloggers are proponents of shifting some of women’s purchasing power to green purchases. I’ve been really focused on that movement and believe it can make a huge difference.

Maybe the current crisis is an opportunity to expand our focus beyond raising green kids. It’s time to look at all the world’s children as part of the human family. When we’re so focused on organics versus conventional foods, are we at risk of thinking only of our own nuclear families? Are we losing sight of the fact that more children than ever before are starving? Did you know that one child dies every five seconds from hunger-related causes? In 2008. It’s incredible, isn’t it?

So are you struggling to make sense of organics vs. conventional foods? Count your blessings. Maybe it’s time to think about what share of money to keep for the family food budget versus donating to the starving millions.

Here’s a link to donate to the UN Food Program.

Don’t like the UN? What’s your favorite hunger charity? Leave a comment and share!

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Ten Tips for Throwing a Green Party

April 20th, 2008

Hope you all had a great Earth Day weekend. I found myself at a book party for Big Green Purse author Diane MacEachern, whom I interviewed here.

Talk about pressure to be green! But it turns out I wasn’t the only one wondering how to dress. That question actually came up at the party. And according to Diane, recycled fibers are best, followed by hand-me-down or “vintage” clothing, and then organic fibers like hemp or cotton. Cotton actually takes a lot of water to grow, organic or not!

Many of the women in attendance had on very chic recycled jewelry made of buttons strung through string and other natural fibers. Apparently a lot of eco-boutiques are carrying these necklaces or – you guessed it – it’s pretty easy to make yourself.

One thing really struck me about the party. Despite the savvy of this crowd of Prius-drivers, even they complained that it’s still hard to find “green” party supplies. People were trading tips about where to find corn-based disposable, biodegradable plates and cutlery.

Here are a few tips I picked up from the Master Green Party Givers, mixed in with a couple of my own suggestions:

1. Skip the paper invitations and use an email invitation program like evite.

2. Decorate with natural materials like plants.

3. Finger food means finger food. Why use forks at all? You can serve foods like asparagus, stuffed mushrooms, cut vegetables, baked brie, cheese, mini-sandwiches, and small pastries or cookies.

4. Go organic! Of course! This includes the alcohol. You can find great organic beers on sale like this one and of course even better is biodynamic wine.

5. Re-usable cups are important. No one likes plastic (least of all your green friends). But even the biodegradable ones are still kind of plastic-y, so why not use real glass or durable re-usable plastic (if you already have them at home)?

6. Cloth napkins are always elegant, but they take on new meaning at a green party. They don’t need to be fancy. You can even use handkerchiefs or odds and ends from a variety of sets.

7. Biodegradable plates are good for the environment, and they feel sturdy, too. They’re actually much nicer to hold than regular paper plates.

8. If you must use cutlery, opt for your everyday stainless. You can wash it. It’s better than plastic that gets thrown away.

9. There’s no need for party favors. People don’t need more stuff, least of all the greenies. If you do want to give something away, a nice reusable bag is always appreciated.

10. And as Diane pointed out, you can compost the left-over party food!

–Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008

Green Savings Tip for School Lunch

April 2nd, 2008

When it comes to school lunches, finding healthy, organic foods that won’t break the bank and that are packaged sustainably can be quite a chore.

Juice packs are all the rage with kids. But did you ever look at the pile of juice boxes and plastic straws left over after lunch? What a waste of packaging and natural resources! Not to mention the expense of those little boxes! They’re certainly not cheap.

It’s not a good idea to save money by compromising on non-organic juice, particularly if it’s apple juice your child is drinking. Apples are heavily laden with pesticides, and childrens’ bodies are very sensitive to the chemical load of pesticides.

juice.jpg

What to do? You can save money and reduce waste by purchasing a large container of organic apple juice and a re-usable juice box or thermos. Plus, you can dilute the apple juice with water to make it an even healthier treat for your child. Diluting with water also makes that large bottle last longer, making it less expensive. Works for me!

And just to make it even easier for you….here’s a link to a printable coupon for 75 cents off a large bottle of Santa Cruz organic juice. If there’s a Whole Foods near you, check out their house brand of 365 Organics – they’re considerably cheaper than the name brands, although with this Santa Cruz coupon, you’ll need to compare prices at your local store.

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008

A Great Excuse to Try Some Organic Beer

March 29th, 2008

OK, so you’ve decided to switch off the lights at 8 p.m. in honor of Earth Hour. What then?

How about kicking back with some great Organic Pale Ale? DH just returned from Whole Foods, tickled to death that he scored this fantastic LaMar Street Organic Pale Ale on sale for $5.99 a six pack. Actually, he bought a case, so there was another discount, which made it $5.69 a six pack. We’ve seen comparable organic beers at $9 or $10 a six pack, so this is a great deal. A legitimate excuse to try some organic beer.

beer.jpg

I just found a site that has a bunch of posts about saving money at the grocers. Not too many on organics, but a few… you can check out Crystal over at Money Saving Mom.

Have fun!

–Lynn

And The Best Way to Raise a Healthy Eater…

March 26th, 2008

A while back I blogged about “10 Tips for Raising Healthy Eaters — Even Away From Home.” Much to my chagrin, it occurred to me later that I had actually forgotten the most important tip.

making-eggs.jpg

Involve your kids in cooking. Teach them to cook. Or if that’s not your forte, sign them up for cooking lessons.

The sooner kids learn that food is a creative process – that it’s something you make, not something you get from a box – the sooner they’ll start to really appreciate food. This means they’ll naturally gravitate towards real, healthy food, as opposed to processed foods. (And yes, there’s plenty of processed organic food nowadays too!)

Have you taught your kids to cook? I can’t wait till they can do all the cooking! Works for me!

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

“It’s Not Organic, But It’s Made in Vermont”

March 16th, 2008

“What does that mean?” I asked DH who returned from a jaunt to Whole Foods where he was tasked with picking up some organic, fair trade chocolates.

“I don’t know! I’m in OrganicManiac Hell!,” he sighed in exasperation. “Doesn’t ‘Made in Vermont’ mean its good”?

What a brand image for the state! Kind of like “Paris fashion,” perhaps?

So I checked out the label on the Lake Champlain bunny he brought home. He’s right – it’s not organic, but there are no hydrogenated oils or corn syrup, and no preservatives.

Maybe it’s true – if it’s made in Vermont, it has to be good!

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

A Community Goes Green – Watch Bethesda Green

March 14th, 2008

Green initiatives are popping up all around the world, as people try to do something meaningful to slow global warming, reverse pollution, and make the environment cleaner and safer for generations to come. You’ve seen it with the Eco-Moms, Portland’s Green Groups, and now, the kick-off of Bethesda Green, an ambitious project to make Bethesda, Maryland a model green community.

In what may be the first effort of this type, business, government, community, and non-profit leaders are coming together to develop programs that will reduce Bethesda’s carbon footprint, increase its recycling rate, and reduce landfill waste and pollution. And this is just the first phase of the project! In the second phase, Bethesda Green aims to encourage smart growth and green development and to green its business community.

Championed by a local business leader and a county councilman, Bethesda Green is being defined by its community members. Expectations were that 75 people would show up for the kick-off, but nearly 400 folks arrived – from retirees to students to Moms to business owners to community and civic leaders.

This is such a new concept that no one is sure exactly how things will unfold, but the goal is to make Bethesda a model green community.

Thinking about a similar green initiative in your community? Here are six tips to help you get started:

1. Don’t mandate – encourage.
2. Find like-minded leaders in your community and form a small steering committee to help set things in motion.
3. Be open-minded. Everyone has a stake in this. This means business and government and non-profits and students and private citizens.
4. Get some help from professional organizers, at least for the initial phases. Bethesda contracted with the Livability Project* and the Sustainable Business Network of Washington.
5. Make it fun. Plan interesting events to educate and entertain.
6. Put as much on the web as you can. Identify best web practices to facilitate cooperation and communication.

Resources:

Bethesda Green Website (Soon to be relaunched)

Bethesda Green Blog (Soon to be relaunched)

Local media coverage – Washington Business Journal, Bethesda Gazette, more Gazette coverage

Launch Kick-off Remarks by Seth Goldman of Honest Tea, the visionary behind Bethesda Green

Have you been involved in similar initiatives? What do you think about Bethesda Green? Leave a comment and share! Continue reading »

10 Tips for Greening an Eco-Friendly St. Patrick’s Day

March 11th, 2008

The “green” holiday is becoming anything but green. Back in the “olden days” when I was a kid, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day was simple. You put on some green clothing, perhaps a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” button, and made sure to down some beer that night. If you truly had the Luck of the Irish, you got to watch or march in a fabulous St. Patrick’s Day parade, like the one in New York City where I marched for years.

st-pattys-photo.jpg

But like everything else in our consumerist society, we’re being prompted to buy more “stuff” to celebrate properly. I’ve admitted to loving the tacky, tacky side of Christmas, replete with blow-up inflatables and lighting, but decorating for the holidays is a longstanding tradition. Do we really need more inflatables barely three months later? This year, St. Patrick’s Day inflatables have popped up on suburban lawns, biding their time till they end up in our landfills. (Check it out here). And more and more, the retailers are offering special Cheap Plastic Crap for St. Patrick’s Day. Cheap Plastic Crap is bad enough in kid’s goody bags. Do we really want to encourage it on St. Patrick’s Day too?

Here are 10 tips for celebrating a truly green, eco-friendly St. Patrick’s Day. Have fun! Luck o’ the Irish to you!
1. Wear Green

2. March or Watch a St. Patrick’s Day Parade

3. Enjoy Some Irish Spirits

4. Sing Irish Songs

5. Visit an Irish Pub or Restaurant

6. Bake and Decorate Some Green Cookies or Cupcakes

7. Try Some Corned Beef and Cabbage

8. Say No to Cheap Plastic Crap for St. Patty’s Day

9. Say No to St. Patty’s Lawn Decorations

10. Smile and Say Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Have fun!

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania