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9 Steps to a Greener Kitchen

November 28, 2010 •  no comments.

 •  Blog, News

Written by Robyn O’Brien

When it comes to “going green”, especially in the kitchen, sometimes it can be totally overwhelming. But remember, while none of us can do everything, all of us can do something.

And sometimes, that’s all it takes to get started. To simply “Do One Thing” and with Thanksgiving behind us, now is a great time to start.

So below, I’ve put together a list of ideas of 9 Baby Steps that you can take to green your kitchen. If you want to start slowly, go for it. Pick something that you want to green this month. Then next month, choose something else. Pretty soon, you’ll be off!

Why start in the kitchen? Because as everyone knows, it’s where we live, where we feed our families, where we share our lives. It’s the heart of the home, especially during the holidays.

It doesn’t have to happen overnight. Greening your kitchen is a process and sometimes it helps to make it happen in “Baby Steps” so that you can make your kitchen a little bit greener for the holidays!

9 Baby Steps to a Greener Kitchen

  1. Conventional cleaners can contain toxic chemicals that aren’t listed on the label. Chemicals that your grandmother didn’t have in her house. Natural ingredients work just as well to get rid of germs and bacteria. Use baking soda for scouring (so cheap!) and vinegar for antibacterial action. Look for non-toxic cleaning ingredients that don’t contain harsh solvents and chemicals, fragrances, chlorine or ammonia. (Suggested Product: ECOVER).
  2. Phosphates in some dishwashing detergents can contribute to water pollution (in your dishwasher and when the water runs down the drain), so look for phosphate-free detergents. And when running your dishwasher, make sure it is full (Suggested Product: SEVENTH GENERATION)
  3. If you don’t have a stove hood, crack a window to let gas, smoke and humidity out when you are cooking. Since I tend to burn something on an almost daily basis, this is especially important in our house, as it lets the toxic indoor air out and allows fresh air in!
  4. If you microwave, consider using ceramic or glass dishes or paper towels so that the toxic chemicals in plastics don’t leach into your food or your baby bottles. (Suggested Product: MASON JARS)
  5. When it comes to ridding your house of pests, conventional products are loaded with poisons and chemicals. So make sure to use products that contain biodegradable ingredients that are not only safe for the environment, but more importantly, safe for your children and pets. (Suggested Product: ECOSMART)
  6. Take a cleaner drink. If you live in an old building with lead pipes, as most of us do, then run your tap water for a few minutes before drinking it. And never use hot tap water for food and drinks. Heat water on the stove. And remember, tap water is actually more regulated than bottled water. But if you are worried about the quality of your tap water, install a water filter. (Suggested Product: GE CONSUMER AND INDUSTRIAL REVERESE OSMOSIS WATER FILTRATION SYSTEM. Product: BRITA WATER PITCHER)
  7. Freshen up your fridge: store your leftovers in glass containers so that the chemicals found in plastics don’t leach into your food and your next meal! Product: (Suggested FRIGOVERRE GLASS FOOD STORAGE from TARGET)
  8. Nonstick coatings on pans can release toxic fumes into your kitchen and foods and are often made of plastics. Use stainless steel or cast iron when cooking to avoid these added ingredients! (Suggested Product: KITCHEN AID’S STAINLESS STEEL from TARGET)
  9. Can’t afford organic? No worries. Opt for fresh frozen or dried foods over canned foods, which can contain bisphenol-A a chemical linked to hormone disruption whose use has been banned in other countries. (Suggested Product: SAFEWAY Conventional and Organics).

Need additional ideas to get started? Please visit our friends at www.healthychild.org for inspiration.

To Label or Not to Label?

November 24, 2010 •  no comments.

 •  Blog, News

Written by Jeff Oeth as seen at www.fearlessrevolution.com

This comic is so good, I’m not sure whether I should laugh or cry. We’re not big fans of Monsanto here, and this little masterpiece perfectly illustrates the reason why. For one thing, they’re dominating the American food system with untested and potentially very dangerous genetically modified (GMO) foods. Stuff that’s been banned in many other countries because of serious health risks. But what really gets us riled up is the fact that Monsanto doesn’t want anybody to know about it. By working closely with the FDA, they’ve managed to keep GMO foods from being labeled as such. As a result, there’s no transparency and most of us are consuming the altered corn and soy products every day without even knowing it.

If you look at the bottom of the comic strip, you’ll see that it was drawn in 1999. You’d think that in the last 11 years, in the rise of the information age, we would have become a bit more conscious of Monsanto and their monopoly. Unfortunately we still ask very little of our food producers in terms of what we get for our dollars. But there is hope. Word is getting out about the health risks of bovine growth hormone (rBGH) and it’s all but pushed out of the milk supply. Now they’re terrified of the same thing happening to GMOs. They’ll do just about anything to keep the public quiet about it.

Imagine if the foods you purchased had a label on it, similar to a tobacco warning, that told you if what you’re about to eat contains GMOs. Maybe you’re okay with that, but at least you’d know. And by having that label there, you would want to learn the difference between GMO and non-GMO. As we like to say, you would become an empowered consumer. You would have a new voice, and the market would respond accordingly.

Until we have GMO labeling on our food, there are a couple things we can do. The easiest way to avoid GMOs is by looking for certified organic products. You can also use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide and download their free iPhone app to help make more informed choices.

To learn more about the risks of genetically modified food, you can also visit the Non GMO Project at www.nongmoproject.org

Submitted by Jeff Oeth as originally seen at www.fearlessrevolution.com

A Heart Full of Gratitude

November 23, 2010 •  one comment.

 •  Blog, News, Uncategorized

Written by Robyn O’Brien

The fact of the matter is that I never wanted to do this. I mean who really wants to have to a child with life-threatening food allergies? And what about families who have a child with autism, cancer or diabetes? Did they really say “Sign me up!”?

Not at all.

Yet, when reality threw me to the ground four years ago when the health of our children came under attack, I had two choices: to either lay there or to get up. And with four small children, I had no choice but to get up. And in the years since, it hasn’t always been pretty. But today, I am so enormously grateful for the health hardships that we’ve endured that my heart floods with emotions just thinking about it.

Because as our oldest child once said, “Mom, we’re lucky that Tory got food allergies or we wouldn’t have learned about all of the chemicals in the food.”

Yes, child. You are right. And those are wise words out of the mouths of a babe.

With 1 in 3 children in the United States now dealing with allergies, autism, ADHD or asthma, our family isn’t alone. This generation of children is not particularly healthy. Any mom can tell you that. With obesity, diabetes and other conditions impacting our families, parents are on the frontlines, fighting to defend the health of our children. And we’re doing everything that we can to make things better.

And while we can’t all do everything, we can all do something. And that ‘something’ will obviously differ from home to home and family to family. But the inspiring part is that we’re getting down to the business of making things right, of reducing our children’s exposure to chemicals in our food supply and environments, in the hopes that exercising precaution will help prevent disease down the road.

And as we head into Thanksgiving, I find myself flooded with gratitude for those that are working so tirelessly to restore the health of our children. Their work is heroic. Their efforts will have lasting impact. Because, though we may forget it at times when sitting in countless carpool lines or on the sidelines of soccer fields, the truth is that the children are our future.

So this Thanksgiving, I give thanks for those defending the health of our children. For those defending it as if the future of our country depends on it. Because…well, it does.

When Courage and Conscience Collide

November 20, 2010 •  3 comments.

 •  Blog, Uncategorized

Written by Robyn O’Brien and originally appeared in the Denver Post

I was raised on capitalism and the Wall Street Journal.

As a child, my family celebrated the birth of Reaganomics the way one would have celebrated the birth of a child. There was prosperity to be had by all — if only we believed.

My father, like so many of his era, fully supported deregulation and the notion of trickle down economics. If we loosen the regulatory purse strings that government tightly controls, we will all prosper. The system works.

As a family, we were fortunate, and we were conservative to the core. I was genetically conservative, the way that someone is genetically programmed to have brown hair or blue eyes.

And I trusted that the political values that my family had instilled in me would serve me well. I believed in the system.

And then one of my children got sick. With a blood condition that no one could pronounce and a pediatric mandate requiring immediate enrollment at a children’s hospital. And I awoke.

Suddenly, everywhere I turned, there were sick children. Children with diabetes, children with cancer, children with obesity, children with asthma and children with allergies. What had happened?

As headlines in the paper warned me of environmental dangers, I began to pay attention. What was in the food? Was organics a left-leaning thing? And what about the plastics and the baby bottles and the vaccines? Should I worry? Doesn’t our system protect us from these dangers?

And without realizing it, an internal battle had silently begun.

I lay awake at night after conversations with my father, who had dismissed my concerns and growing awareness of our system’s shortcomings. Had a generation of grandfathers failed to recognize the health risks associated with capitalism’s profits, unintentionally jeopardizing the well being of their grandchildren?

I had been raised to support the system, to believe in it, to never question it, and certainly to never speak out. Activism was something that “radicals” did, certainly not conservative, soccer moms.

But I couldn’t shake the internal dialogue. Armed with an MBA in finance and my four children, I began to investigate the expanding role that corporations had taken in the system in which I was raised to believe. And I was stunned.

There were insecticidal toxins in crops to increase profitability for the world’s largest agrichemical corporation — a company whose former employees included Donald Rumsfeld and Clarence Thomas. There were petroleum-based chemicals in my children’s toys and shampoos that were a product of an oil corporation that had recruited me in business school. How had this happened? Had we forsaken our physical health for financial wealth?

As I struggled with the responsibility that I felt for betraying my own children, I realized that it was my responsibility to act. But the internal battle raged on — as the call from my conscience collided with the familiar comfort of conformity — and I was paralyzed.

But with sick children, paralysis was not an option.

I realized that I had to find the courage, on behalf of my children and others, to speak out against the very system in which my family believed.

And I reluctantly stepped forward.

With the words of another crusader in hand, I found my voice: “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls”.

It is with that hope, and holding the hands of my four children, that I took a stand.

It is our turn to engage, to help our fathers re-create the world that their grandchildren deserve. We must not be daunted by the enormity of the task at hand.

If we dare to dream that it is possible to affect this change for our children, we will be inspired by hope and find the courage and capacity to act. Together.

It is not too late. And “remember, during those times of doubt and frustration, that there is nothing naïve about your impulse to change the world.”

For the sake of our children, we have to.

This article first appeared in the Denver Post.

The Perfect Storm = Epidemics Galore, The Proof is in the Population

November 17, 2010 •  one comment.

 •  Blog, News

Submitted By Julie McGinnis, MS, RD of The Gluten Free Bistro

I am always amazed to find out how certain shifts in our environment and culture affect our health. Over the past twenty years a lot has changed and we are seeing the results in each (sicker) generation of children. The poor health of each generation can be partly to blame on a weakened immune system and rising rates of obesity. The perfect storm is here and we now have epidemic increases in food allergies, asthma, ADHD, diabetes, and autism. The statistics are staggering:

  • 400% increase in food allergies
  • 300% increase in asthma
  • 400% increase in ADHD
  • 400% increase in celiac disease
  • 1,500 to 6,000 increase in autism
  • 45% of children will be insulin dependent within ten years


One major shift is the increase in working mothers over the decades. Women have been forced to make decisions about their children that have caused a decline in health. Given only three months off for maternity leave has more than likely been the cause of the decline in breastfeeding. In the US, 75% of mothers start out breastfeeding, but only 13% meet the recommendations for six months of exclusive breastfeeding, and less than quarter are still breastfeeding at one year. Breast feeding is the perfect food for infants and provides them with exactly what they need to grow and thrive. The decline in breastfeeding is just one, in a long list, of reasons we have a weakened immune system.

When breastfeeding is discontinued formula is given as a substitute. An ingredient used in most non-organic formulas is soybean oil. Today, according to the USDA, 93% of soy, 93% of cotton, and 86% of corn grown in the U.S. were GMO (genetically modified). A GMO plant has been genetically altered using genetic engineering techniques, and is commonly found in crops such as corn, soybeans, cotton and canola. In general, these plants are modified to promote a “natural” resistance to pests and drought. This can be beneficial to farmers and allow for less work and expense on crops.

In 30 other countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production of GMOs, because they are not considered proven safe. In the U.S. on the other hand, the FDA approved commercial production of GMOs based on studies conducted by the companies who created them and profit from their sale. Many health-conscious shoppers find the lack of rigorous, independent, scientific examination on the impact of consuming GM foods to be cause for concern.

For an excellent research summary: “GM Crops–Just the Science.” This plain-English overview includes nearly 150 citations with a focus on the peer-reviewed science on GMOs found on www.nongmoproject.org. Animal studies researching the effects of GMO foods when eaten over periods of time have found them to be toxic, allergenic, inflammatory, disruptive to organ function, cancerous and they present risks to human and animal health, the environment, farmers, food security, and export markets. (nongmoproject.org)

Another shift has been the increase in cesarean rates. Why is this important you ask? Passing through the birth canal or a natural birth allows the baby to receive is first inoculation of good bacteria (probiotics) from the mother. Babies in the womb have zero good bacteria in their intestines and by passing through the birth canal get their first dose to colonize their guts. Being born via cesarean does not allow this process to take place. The baby can receive this good bacteria or probiotics from breast milk but given the depleted food sources we consume most of the population is deficient. Recent studies reaffirm earlier World Health Organization recommendations about optimal cesarean section rates. The best outcomes for mothers and babies appear to occur with cesarean section rates of 5% to 10%. Rates above 15% seem to do more harm than good (Althabe and Belizan 2006). In 2007 the rate of cesareans was at 31.8%, and about one mother in three now gives birth via cesarean section, a record level for the United States. So, with the decline in breast feeding and the rise in c-sections it seems that the 70% of our immune system in our GI tract is not being set up for success. It is easier to understand now why each generation’s immune system is weaker than the previous.

In addition to the shifts in the culture there has also been a shift in the environment. In 2009, tests conducted by five laboratories in the U.S., Canada and Europe found up to 232 toxic chemicals in the 10 umbilical cord blood samples. Besides BPA, substances detected for the first time in U.S. newborns included a toxic flame retardant chemical called tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA) that permeates computer circuit boards, synthetic fragrances (Galaxolide and Tonalide) used in common cosmetics and detergents, and perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA, or C4), a member of the notorious Teflon chemical family used to make non-stick and grease-, stain- and water-resistant coatings for cookware, textiles, food packaging and other consumer products.

Additionally, laboratory tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Rachel’s Network have detected bisphenol A (BPA) for the first time in the umbilical cord blood of U.S. newborns. The tests identified the plastics chemical in 9 of 10 cord blood samples from babies of African American, Asian and Hispanic descent. The findings provide hard evidence that U.S. infants are contaminated with BPA beginning in the womb.

EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment. http://www.ewg.org

So, toxic exposure is beginning in the womb and then the one-two punch of a c-section and little or no long term breast feeding is a combination that seems to have landed us with many serious epidemics in our laps. We are further weakened by our environment and the food we eat is filled with nutrient stripped products that are high in sugar and artificial dyes, sweeteners and preservatives.

Tap water is filled with toxins and the air is filled with heavy metals and electromagnetic radiation. Our immune systems can only take so much and when the toxic burden reaches capacity we end up with the epidemic rates in inflammatory conditions like allergies and asthma and the combination has also lead to the rise in autism.

Vaccines are also tied into the decline in immune health and we have the most vaccines on the schedule now than ever before. Vaccines contain toxins like formaldehyde and aluminum and trace amounts of mercury. When these toxins are injected into a baby or child’s blood stream one could assume that they must have some implications. At this point along with everything else that has been mentioned the proof is in the population.

This generation of children is suffering and something has to be done on a large scale to turn things around. Perhaps going back to basics and growing and storing our own food and living off the grid for awhile could start to shift something back. In the meantime, filter the water you drink and bathe in, eat as much organic food as possible, do not consume GMO foods, use chemical-free body care products and cleaning supplies, get outside and exercise and be sure you are getting enough essential fatty acids and vitamin D.

Our children are the future and we must improve and protect their health.

Submitted By Julie McGinnis, MS, RD of The Gluten Free Bistro