Category Archives: nature

EnviroParents w/ UPDATE

by Stacey

My Fussbucket partner Kristin recently watched Al Gore’s movie on global warming called “An Inconvenient Truth.” Since then this whole business about the frightening state of the environment has been bugging her. Makes me think they were on to something with the title of the movie.

She’s decided she wants to start a Green Parenting Group and has proposed the idea on a parenting listserve here in Seattle. This is from her post:

I haven’t been a big environmentalist, but I am getting motivated to take
responsibility for my family’s impact. I also want to look at what I’m
teaching my kids about consumption and their interconnection with
everyone (and everything) else. Since I’m so new to this whole thing,
I’d love to meet up with other families working through these projects

I think this is a great idea. If it takes off, I’m hoping Kristin will report back here on her progress and give us some words of wisdom. In the meantime, I remembered this article from the NY Times last month on smart ways to eat organic without breaking the bank.

The key is to be strategic in your organic purchases. Opting for organic produce, for instance, doesn’t necessarily have a big impact, depending on what you eat. According to the Environmental Working Group, commercially-farmed fruits and vegetables vary in their levels of pesticide residue. Some vegetables, like broccoli, asparagus and onions, as well as foods with peels, such as avocados, bananas and oranges, have relatively low levels compared to other fruits and vegetables.

So how do you make your organic choices count? Pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene, whose new book “Raising Baby Green” explains how to raise a child in an environmentally-friendly way, has identified a few “strategic” organic foods that he says can make the biggest impact on the family diet, the article says.

1. Milk: “When you choose a glass of conventional milk, you are buying into a whole chemical system of agriculture,’’ says Dr. Greene. People who switch to organic milk typically do so because they are concerned about the antibiotics, artificial hormones and pesticides used in the commercial dairy industry. One recent United States Department of Agriculture survey found certain pesticides in about 30 percent of conventional milk samples and low levels in only one organic sample. The level is relatively low compared to some other foods, but many kids consume milk in large quantities.

This reminds me of the time I was in the grocery store before I had kids and the woman in front of me had a cart filled to the brim. I watched as she unloaded her stuff and was increasingly horrified to see not one, not two, but three gallons of milk on the conveyor belt. I asked her about it and she said her kids drank milk all the time. I considered suggesting she buy herself a cow instead.

2. Potatoes: Potatoes are a staple of the American diet — one survey found they account for 30 percent of our overall vegetable consumption. A simple switch to organic potatoes has the potential to have a big impact because commercially-farmed potatoes are some of the most pesticide-contaminated vegetables. A 2006 U.S.D.A. test found 81 percent of potatoes tested still contained pesticides after being washed and peeled, and the potato has one of the the highest pesticide contents of 43 fruits and vegetables tested, according to the Environmental Working Group.

Yuck. I didn’t know this. They look so innocent all dirt-covered and funny-shaped. Okay, organic potatoes it is.

3. Peanut butter: More acres are devoted to growing peanuts than any other fruits, vegetable or nut, according to the U.S.D.A. More than 99 percent of peanut farms use conventional farming practices, including the use of fungicide to treat mold, a common problem in peanut crops. Given that some kids eat peanut butter almost every day, this seems like a simple and practical switch. Commercial food firms now offer organic brands in the regular grocery store, but my daughter loves to go to the health food store and grind her own peanut butter.

We’re lucky not to have the dreaded peanut allergy in our house (although the jury is still out on Sascha). But every school I know of has at least one kid who is allergic. Growing up, my brother ate peanut butter sandwiches everyday for about seven years. These days, Sage is lucky if he gets one a week because he can’t bring it to school in his lunch.

4. Ketchup: For some families, ketchup accounts for a large part of the household vegetable intake. About 75 percent of tomato consumption is in the form of processed tomatoes, including juice, tomato paste and ketchup. Notably, recent research has shown organic ketchup has about double the antioxidants of conventional ketchup.

Ketchup? What are we Ronald Reagan? Frankly, I’m more disturbed by this: “For some families, ketchup accounts for a large part of the household vegetable intake,” than I am about this: “Recent research has shown organic ketchup has about double the antioxidants of conventional ketchup.” But whatever. Eat organic ketchup.

5. Apples: Apples are the second most commonly eaten fresh fruit, after bananas, and they are also used in the second most popular juice, after oranges, according to Dr. Greene. But apples are also one of the most pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables. The good news is that organic apples are easy to find in regular grocery stores.

Yay, apples! For a complete list of Dr. Greene’s strategic organic choices, visit Organic Rx on his website.

Now for an amusing and unrelated segway: Greenpeace wants to name a whale and has gone to great lengths to dream up a long list of 29 earth/crunchy names (Paz, Manami, Libertad, etc.) for people to vote on.

The 30th name? Mr. Splashy Pants, with 65 percent of the vote and garnering 16 times the votes of the leading next contender. “Based on the earnestness of the rest of the site, this appears to be an unintended consequence of enviro culture clashing with popular culture,” writes my friend Jon at the National Resources Defense Council, who I thank for the tip. “Run,” he advises, “Cast your votes.”

UPDATE: Check out Kristin’s new blog – “Going Green Family.”  It’s got tips on going green for the holidays and easy ways to make your home more eco-friendly.



Filed under consumer culture, education, family, kids, life, nature, nutrition, parenting

The Open Post

by Stacey

Last week I read numerous blog posts skewering Bill Maher for criticizing women who breastfeed their babies in public. On his show Real Time with Bill Maher, he said the following:

Look, there’s no principle at work here other than being too lazy to either plan ahead or cover up. It’s not fighting for a right. It’s fighting for the spotlight you surely will get when you go all “Janet Jackson” on everyone. [laughter] And get to drink in the “oohs” and “aahs” from the other customers because “You made a baby!” Something a dog can do.

What an ass. (The part about breastfeeding comes at the end of this video of the segment, “New Rules.”)

My question is, Why go there Bill? We like your liberal politics. Breastfeeding mothers aren’t the enemy. Why piss us off?

And by the way, you’re an idiot. You wouldn’t be sitting there on television spouting off at the mouth if some woman however many years ago hadn’t wiped your ass everyday and fed you whatever the hell it was you ate way back then so you could grow up to be a functioning human being. Unless you were an orphan, show some respect. You know not what you speak.

Whew! Okay what’s up with you all? What do you think of Bill Maher? And what else is on your mind these days?

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nature deficit disorder

by kristin

when i was a little kid, i spent a lot of time outside with my friends. unsupervised. we made witches’ potions out of dirt and juniper berries, jumped out of trees and roamed the woods and canyons near our house. i walked to the bus stop a mile away from home and held my own with the big kids waiting there. we went on excursions to the haunted house nearby, throwing rocks into the yard and hoping someone terrifying would appear. once i fell into a river on a bike and managed to pull the bike back to shore all by myself. when i look back on my childhood, i’m stunned by all the freedom i had to explore the world, all the power i was given to make real decisions about my day. sure, some of my choices weren’t so great, like the times i lay in the road playing chicken with approaching cars. but i survived them all and i’m better for it.

and then i look at my own kids, my hothouse flowers. when we are outside, it’s in highly groomed “natural” spaces like parks or backyards. i hover over the girls constantly, babbling about safety and scanning the environment for predators, bullies and dangerous playground equipment. i control when we go, how long we are there, what they can do and when we will leave. their explorations are limited to digging in the sandbox, chasing some crows and finding a bug or two. at night, after they are safely tucked away in their beds, i read (ok, skim) books like last child in the woods: saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. i lament all the ways my kids are being deprived and renew my commitment to give them some nature.

which is absurd.

and just the way it is for many kids today, especially those living in urban environments. this micromanaging seems to be part of parenting in today’s world. i can’t imagine saying goodbye to a six-year-old sadie as she heads off on her bike for a day of self-generated adventure. i can hardly imagine letting her walk to the corner store as a teenager, and by then, there will probably be a GPS chip implanted in her shoulder. it’s easy to blame this scenario on the media’s relentless reporting of rare and terrible stories about bad things happening to children. but that seems too simplistic somehow.

i can’t figure out why things have things changed so much a scant thirty years later. maybe we’re subconsciously preparing our children to live in a bio-dome on mars with tape recordings of birdsongs and mechanical beetles climbing up plastic trees. if that’s the case, my kids will be right at home.

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