How to Live a Healthy Life (Book Review: National Geographic’s Green Guide Families)

Look Inside the book at Amazon.com (I don't have any affiliation w/Amazon other than the fact that I'm a customer)

Did you know that if you are good to our earth that you will also be good to yourself?  I don’t mean in an indirect way, that we’ll all have have a better place to live, etc.  I mean, if you, for example, use cleaning products that don’t pollute the earth’s water, then it just so happens that you won’t be polluting the air you breathe in your own home and the table you are eating your food off of will be safer too.  I’ve been “going green” ever since we adopted a dog in 1999 with severe respiratory problems.  I had to discontinue using those popular brand cleaning products which contained  bleach or ammonia in exchange for non-toxic, non-polluting cleaning products like vinegar and baking soda.   Because I am sensitive to chemicals and would suffer a sore throat whenever I cleaned with those toxic products, I was thrilled with the change!   When we moved into our suburban home a year later, we continued to protect our dog from harmful toxins by refusing to use artificial fertilizers and weed killers on our lawn.  Ten years later, our lawn may have  few more dandelions than the lawn next door, but it is still beautiful, and it doesn’t poison me, my dog, or my children.

Thanks to Chicago Moms Blog, I was given a copy of National Geographic’s Green Guide Families by Science Editor Catherine Zandonella.  This book’s secondary title, “The Complete Reference for Eco-friendly Parents” is, in my opinion, a misnomer.  It should be, “The Complete Reference for Healthy Families and a Healthy Planet,” because the information in this book should be of interest to all parents, not just the “eco-friendly” ones. This book makes it easy to protect your family and the earth from toxic pollutants because all the research and data is consolidated into this one easy guide.  Oh, how I wish I had this ten years ago.  Oh, how I wish I had this book when I was pregnant.  It would have saved me the countless hours I spent pouring over medical journals, magazine articles and books trying to make sure everything in our home, from the clothes we wear, to the paint we put on our walls, to the food we put in our mouths was as healthy as possible.  There is an amazing amount of information packed into this 400 page book and every parent should know what is in here, from  the hormone-disrupting toxins found in popular sunscreens( p.212) and endocrine disruptors in many baby care products (p. 208) to weighing the health risks and environmental impact of reusing carseats (p. 214).

I love that this book suggests that parents go to my favorite site for ratings on the health risks for make-up, cosmetics and sunscreen:  www.cosmeticsdatabase.com.   The guide explains ingredients such as sweeteners and preservatives in a way that is easy to reference and easy to understand.  It has ideas and guidance for healthy birthday parties, Easter, Passover, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  The book even explains how to pick a healthier toy and a healthier chocolate treat (for you and the planet).  I’m so excited about this guide that I’m going to buy one for my brother who is expecting his first child.

Jews Should be Vegetarians

Plug in "Kosher" on PETA's website to get the facts

Plug in "Kosher" on PETA's website to get the facts

I read this article a long time ago (3 years?), but I wanted to bring it some more attention. Richard H. Schwartz argues that Vegetarianism is a Jewish Value. I completely agree (though I still eat fish, I’m not that proud of it and perhaps someday I’ll stop). Indeed, even if all efforts are made to kill the animal humanely, there seems to be a “loophole” in the Kosher laws that says nothing about how an animal is kept.

PETA's Website will give you the facts

PETA's Website will give you the facts

I’m not sure Jews who keep Kosher know this or really care, but since there are no requirements regarding how an animal to be served Kosher is raised and kept, the conditions are oftentimes just as atrocious as non-Kosher meat and poultry. I’ve gone on before about how just there mere raising of cattle does tremendous damage to the earth G-d left us to care for.

Support Healthy Schools

Earth Friendly Cream Cleanser (a favorite of mine from a local company!)

Earth Friendly Cream Cleanser (a favorite of mine from a local company!)

The Healthy Schools Campaign is hosting a national summit on November 12th in D.C. to promote Green Cleaning in schools nationwide. Click here to sign your name in support and find out more about the summit. A recent Illinois law requires schools to use green cleaning products, but it is not a nationwide thing. Green cleaning is good for everyone. No strong smelling toxic chemicals for our children and teachers (and custodians) to inhale. No toxic chemicals dumped into our water system. No toxic chemicals created to pollute the earth. Oh, and no one is requiring the schools to buy prepared products. Nothing could be cheaper than baking soda, borax and vinegar (my personal favorite cleaning products) What’s not to love about keeping schools healthy places to learn? Yeah!

Recycle This!

ABT Electronics, a store well-known for its excellent customer service (I have purchased almost all of my appliances there and have been satisfied every time!) is providing a recycling service to the public. Thank you Abt!  I haven’t used this service yet, I’ve been bringing all my batteries to the Walgreens photo counter for recycling.  Here is the information:

Hours: 2:00-7:00 pm daily (closed Sundays & Mondays)

Abt Electronics, Glenview

Abt Electronics’ new recycling center. . Bring your recyclables to the freestanding building located just west of Abt’s main building.

Free to recycle:

cardboard

styrofoam and polystyrene packing materials

cell phones

batteries

All Sony electronics are free to recycle

They charge the following fees to help offset storage, handling, and transportation costs:

· All computers, fax machines, VCRs, and DVD players: $5

· TVs under 32 inches: $10

· TVs over 32 inches: $30

· Air conditioners: $15

· Refrigerators: $29

Abt promises all equipment and materials are recycled properly

My New “Gas Game”

pedal pusher

Personally, I’m happy that gas prices are high because people are finally looking to public transportation, working closer to home, biking and walking places. Although the earth is surely benefiting from a lesser consumption of fossil fuels, I hate that the oil companies are enjoying record profits. If gas prices have to be so high, I’d like it to be because the profits are going to researching cleaner alternative fuels or to improving and expanding the public transportation system.

Anyway, I have a new game I play with myself when I am in the car. I try to keep my miles per gallon as high as possible. My small wagon is equipped with a gadget that tells me exactly the miles per gallon I am getting moment by moment. With another hit of a button, it tells me what the average is based on the last time I filled the tank. I watch these numbers constantly. My goal is to keep the average above 20 miles per gallon. As of yesterday, it was over 22! How do I do this? Well, I have completely changed my driving habits. Through trial and error, I have learned that the best way to keep up the miles per gallon is to use my cruise control. On cruise control, I can get anywhere between 30-55 miles per gallon (that is, while I am in cruise control). The biggest gas guzzling times are, obviously, when I am coming off a stop and pressing on the gas. At those times, I get 5-10 miles per gallon. I used to “put the petal to the metal” off a stop light to see whether I could beat the car next to me. I have totally stopped doing that now. That’s just dumb b/c it wastes gas. Another way I save gas is I go the speed limit. I no longer care that it feels like I’m crawling at 25 or 30 mph. If that is the speed limit, that is what I do. I’m not in a hurry, I’m saving money.

I’d like to formally issue a challenge to Gadget Man (and to you out there). What’s the best average you can do? What are you doing to improve your gas mileage? At the very least, I urge Gadget Man to stop driving with the air conditioning on and the windows open — this kills me! The second thing he could do is to ease up on the gas pedal. I get nauseous from all the harsh stopping and starting whenever he drives. I wish you all luck in your own gas game.

Earth Friendly Cleaner in Skokie

Yeah!!!! A “green” dry cleaners (though I think technically, the process is wet cleaning) is now in my hometown of Skokie! Armens Cleaners promises to clean clothes without the harsh chemicals of dry cleaning. The dangers of dry cleaner chemicals are well-known. For that reason, I try to avoid buying anything needing dry cleaning. Luckily, Gadget Man doesn’t have to wear a suit to work, so we don’t have to get anything cleaned too often. Once in a while, I will need to get a dress or a shirt laundered professionally. Fearing the dangers of traditional dry cleaners, I have always wanted to try the Greener Cleaner, another environmentally safe cleaners, but it is in the city. There was just no way I was going to drive so far for that, though I have thought about it. Finally, a “green” cleaner is local. I brought two garments in for a test cleaning. One, a silk blouse, came back perfect. Another, a stained dress, came back even better — sans stain! If you live nearby, give them your business. I want them to stick around.

Earth Hour is Tonight!

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Turn off your lights from 8-9 in honor of the WWF Earth Hour. Gadget Man is out of town, and the kids should be fast asleep by 8, so I’ll be sitting alone in the dark for the hour. I guess I’ll read a book by candlelight.