It isn't easy being green - especially when you're urban and love Thai take out. But I'm sure gonna try.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Seeking a Safe Backpack

Backpack shopping has tuckered me out. If I were like many folks, I'd take my kid to Target, Walmart or the Gap and say, "You need a new backpack. Pick what you love. Knock yourself out." Then, I'd pay for my products, and we'd all go home happy.

But alas, I cannot shop like that.

Backpacks, you see, are often made with lead, pthalates and PVCs - all of which are toxic to our bodies, but especially to little bodies. It's hard to find one that is free of all three components.

Safe Mama has a thorough list of companies who manufacture 'safe' backpacks. She has done a great deal of research, literally calling companies one at a time.

But as you'll see from Safe Mama's list some companies just don't seem sure about their own stuff. When I called one company on the list, the man I spoke to raved about his lead safety, but he could not confirm his products were PVC-free. When Safe Mama called, she was assured the bags were indeed free of all three elements.

Another issue I've found is that many of the 'healthier' backpacks are highly expensive, stylized and skew young in design. Beatrix NYC has a line of big kid backpacks decorated with large, cartoonish animals. They are hip and cute, but at $52.00 a bag, the last thing you want to hear in a year is, "It's too babyish" or "I don't like owls anymore."

The good news is that more and more companies are producing healthier products, and there are good options out there if you're willing to poke around a bit. Jansport and High Sierra, for example, make healthy packs that should also be durable. Personally, a first filter is what the bag is made from. Polyester and nylon are less concerning to me than vinyl.

Of course if you have a picky little peanut like me, who has pretty much said "No" to every backpack I've shown her, you'll have other health issues to deal with ... like your mental health. But that's an entirely different problem. Sigh.

Happy Shopping!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Susncreens Revisited

We've been slathering ourselves in screen for a couple of weeks now. Between summer camp and the beach, we feel like we've given all our products a fair shot. We also pulled out some remaining sunscreens from last year, curious to see how they held up to our newest additions.

First, a look at our new purchases. Eco Logical has become hands down our family's favorite beach sunscreen. We love the ease of application, the lack of white residue and the nice texture. We still wish more came in the tube, and we're already on our second container. It definitely goes fast. As the summer progressed, we became less enamored with Goddess Garden. It separated, making it almost impossible to rub in. Everyone had streaky white lines down their body, and we wondered if it was actually still offering universal protection.

Last Year's Leftover Sunscreens:

Lavera Sun Sensitive Neutral Baby & Children Sun Spray (SPF 20, 200 ml for $35.00): This was my kids' favorite product for years. Unlike other natural brands, it uses a pump spray, making it a breeze to apply. It is waterproof and works instantly making it ideal for beach and pool days. But last year Lavera changes their formula. They now use nano-particles, which they claim are coated and 'safe.' The SPF numbers reflect European standards rather than American ones, which is confusing. Customer service insists their 20 is equal to an American SPF 30, but I'm still uneasy. $35.00 is steep, but this bottle honestly lasts far longer than any of the tubes we've had making it worth the price. EWG ratings are unclear. Older formulations were a "4", meaning they were not as safe as some, but newer versions seem to be rated "2" making them safe. Our biggest issue is that for the first time (in three bottles) our sunscreen changed consistency over the winter making it impossible to use the pump and difficult to remove by hand. I fear we'll need to throw out 1/3 of a bottle unused. Still, Lavera is the best spray option in natural sunscreens.

Loving Naturals (5 oz for $14.00): This SPF 30 waterproof sunscreen has a thin consistency, but leaves a white coating on the body. My kids don't mind it, but it irks me that I can't even get it off my hands once it is applied. My biggest gripe, however, is that the sunscreen contains nut oil making me fearful about using it at camp or at a public pool. There are just so many kids with severe nut allergies these days. I probably won't order this product again for that reason alone.

California Baby Everyday Moisturizer SPF 18 (4.5 oz for $20.00): I bought this sunscreen last summer and barely used it. We spent most of our summer at the beach, and the sunscreen just didn't seem strong enough. I began using this lotion on my kids for longer errands or playground visits. I love it! I just pumped and rubbed it in quickly. It doesn't leave the skin slimy or white and it goes on easily. To be clear, I don't recommend this product for the beach as it isn't strong enough.