Can I have some BPA with that?

You may have noticed that BPA free is sprouting up on many products from toothbrushes to baby bottles. What is BPA exactly? BPA stands for Bisphenol-A an organic compound found in polycarbonate plastics. Polycarbonates are plastics that are mostly clear and shatterproof like those found in water bottles and food storage containers.

Over time BPA leaches into the food/drinks that they are filled with especially if introduced to high temperatures and/or acidic contents. So that half filled plastic water bottle you left in your car on that hot, sunny day probably has BPA in it. If you microwaved your leftover spaghetti in that plastic food container you are probably eating spaghetti sprinkled with some BPA.

So what’s the big deal? Well BPA is an endocrine disruptor. That means that it can mimic and interfere with the body’s ability to regulate hormones. BPA exposure in even low doses has been found not only to cause brain and hormone development problems but research (mostly on rats) has shown that it can promote breast cancer cell growth, decrease sperm count, and other sexual problems in men. It also contributes to heart disease, diabetes, and liver problems.  And there’s more.  If you want more in depth info check out the website for the book Our Stolen Future.

Here are some tips that I found on the environmental working group’s website

1. Try to avoid plastics. Glass is a good alternative to plastic food storage and baby bottles. I bought a set of glass food storage containers at costco for about $20 and they’re not very heavy. Stainless steel water bottles are a good alternative to plastic. Some are very expensive, but places like Marshall’s, Ross, and Homegoods sell them for $5-10. Just make sure it says 100% stainless steel because some metal bottles have a plastic coating which has BPA so that defeats the purpose right? I have also bought a 3 pack of stainless steel water bottles at costco for $15.

glass food storage & stainless steel water bottle

2. If you must use plastic avoid type 7 plastics or even better make sure it has the BPA free label. Avoid putting plastic containers in the microwave or dishwasher. The heat can cause BPA to seep into your food.

avoid type 7 plastics

3. Avoid canned foods especially with young children. The metal inside canned foods is coated with an epoxy that leaches BPA into the food. Studies have found high concentrations of BPA in canned soups, pasta, and meats.  Also baby formula that are in metal cans leach BPA into the milk.  So your best bet is to buy powder formula.

Fortunately because of the determination of environmental groups and concerned citizens, the FDA and Washington have started to pay attention.  Currently Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, Wisconsin and Washington state have banned or at least restricted BPA.  SB797 a bill to ban BPA in California has passed the house but has yet to be decided by the Senate.  If you live in CA contact Senator Feinstein and/or Senator Boxer to express your concern and that you want them to  vote yes on SB797.  I have emailed Senator Feinstein before and she actually sent me a reply email!  Now that is what democracy is about!

There are some studies done that conclude that BPA is not as harmful as others have made it out to be.  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be safe than sorry especially when it comes to children.

I hope you find this helpful!  If you have any other tips please share!

Not to be taken lightly

Kasserian Ingera. I was at a science conference today and was introduced to this Masai greeting. The Masai tribe of Africa are well known as fierce warriors. You might be surprised to find out that Kasserian Ingera translates to “How are the Children?”  So instead of “How are you?” or even “Hello” they greet each other with “How are the Children?” They use this greeting even when they don’t have children or if the person they are greeting doesn’t have kids of their own. This greeting addresses the well being of all children in the tribe.

Wouldn’t it be remarkable if American culture valued it’s children to the point where the first thing they asked of friends, acquaintances, even strangers was, “How are the Children?” If someone were to ask me that question right now, I regrettably would have to answer, “Not too good.”

I received a documentary called Consuming Kids as one of my thank you gifts for pledging to my favorite listener supported radio station kpfk 90.7. This dvd brings to light the way U.S. media targets our children to be consumers from an early age. If you watch kid’s channels like Nickelodeon or Disney, it’s pretty obvious that commercials on those channels are trying to persuade kids to buy the latest, coolest toy. Nothing new. Until this day, I can still remember commercial jingles from when I was growing up. “My buddy, my buddy, my buddy and me…” “My bologna has a first name it’s O-S-C-A-R…”

Now I know that that was no accident. Consuming Kids examines how kids are purposely targeted to be lifelong consumers.  There are child marketing experts whose job is to do “whatever it takes” to figure out what makes kids tick.   Their goal is to cement their brand into children’s brains and ultimately have them loyally buy their products for life. This includes conducting focus groups where “experts” watch children interact with products and each other, putting kids through MRI machines to see which part of their brain lights up when stimuli (colors, shapes, music) are introduced, studying developmental stages of kids and tailoring commercials to make it more accessible to them. No wonder I’ve been a Coke drinker all my life and sneer at the thought of Pepsi.

Not only are our kids being taught at an early age to be consumers, but mainstream media is fabricating our children’s morals and beliefs. One product on the market sums it all up: BRATZ dolls.  You know those big headed dolls with huge makeup rimmed eyes wearing next to nothing outfits.

Is this how we really want our young girls to end up? The worst part is those dolls are being marketed to 4-6 year olds!! Yeah…So if we don’t start paying attention to our youth we’re going to end up with money grubbing, gold digging ME-bots who’s mantra would be, “You know it’s all about meeee!” Have you seen that show, Yay me London Tipton on Nick? Enough said.

There is so much information in this documentary that I feel ALL parents need to be aware of and would take me forever to go through it all: How media is making our children obese by promoting junk/fast food, promoting domination and violent attitudes in our young boys, how media is ultimately taking advantage of a child’s vulnerability to…dun du du dun…you guessed it again, MAKE MORE MONEY!!!

I found a link that shows Consuming Kids online. If you know me personally I’d be more than happy to lend it to you. If we make an effort to build awareness and educate ourselves and those around us our answer to, “How are the children?” would be, “They are doing just fine.”

Organic, local produce at a GREAT price, for real? For real.

This summer I have been looking for fun and interesting things to do with my son.  I’ve heard of apple picking in the fall, where you visit an apple orchard and pick your own apples.  So I thought there must be some kind of fruit picking in the summer.  I googled farms in my area and came across one that offered a tour and u pick your own watermelon.  While at the site they had this huge announcement that they were now part of the CSA.  What was a CSA I wondered?  I clicked on the link and learned that CSA stood for Community Supported Agriculture.  People in the community get the opportunity to buy local, seasonal produce directly from the farms and farms benefit by getting funding ahead of time ensuring that they will make some kind of profit from their harvest.  Read more about CSA .

I googled CSA in my area and found the Inland Empire CSA.  How it works is you subscribe to a certain amount of produce for a specified amount of time.  The choices were a full box (serves 4-6) or a half box (serves 1-3).  You choose a pickup location (usually farmer’s markets) and pickup frequency either weekly for bi-weekly.  Send in your subscription and payment and the farm emails you when you can start picking up your box.  I opted for a half box to be picked up every other week.  For first time members they have a trial for 4 weeks for $112.  So that’s $28 a week on fresh, organic fruits and vegetables or in my case since I’m picking up bi-weekly it’s $14 for 8 weeks.  Not bad!

I signed and mailed in my subscription that same day.  I loved the concept of the CSA and couldn’t wait to try it out.  Within a couple of days I got an email from the farm warmly welcoming me to the CSA.  They sent sample attachments that tell what you got in your box for the week, information about what’s going on at the farm, and recipes.  I was also invited to join the CSA community online to dialogue with other members.  The best part about the email; I was going to be able to pick up my first box that Sunday!!

The family and I drove to the farmer’s market Sunday morning to pick up our first box.  During our drive I was telling my husband that in the email it said we would be getting about 15 different fruits and veggies.  We joked what if we got 2 of each thing?  2 tomatoes, 2 carrots, 2 ears of corn…  They DID say it was for 1 or 2 people.  ha ha  Organic food IS expensive.

We easily found the farm’s booth.  I gave them my name and they handed us our box.  I couldn’t wait to see what we got, so once we got to the car I peeled open the box flaps.  I was giddy with excitement.  Who would’ve known one can get so excited over produce?  Oooh leeks!  (dig, dig)  Oooh swiss chard!  (dig, dig) Oh what is this?  Looks exactly like carrots but white.  And no it wasn’t just 2 leeks, 2 leafs of swiss chard, and 2 white carrots.  It was approximately the same size that are bunched when you see them at the market.

So here is everything I got in my box:  leeks, chard, the white carrots I later found out are parsnips, garlic, yellow & red onions, cucumbers, zucchini, peaches, cilantro, grapefruit, oranges, beets, radishes, tomatoes, yellow string beans, avocados, tomatillos, and 2 ears of corn (corn is really hard to grow organic thus the 2 🙂

Whenever I buy oranges at the market they ALWAYS seem to be dried out or sour, basically YUCK!  So I don’t really buy oranges.  When I saw the oranges in the box I was thinking, “Oh great, oranges.”  To my surprise they were not dried out or sour in fact they were exactly the opposite:  juicy, sweet, DELICIOUS.  I made a stuffed zucchini with the zucchini, tomatoes, garlic and yellow onion from the box mixed with potatoes and sharp cheese.  The freshness of the vegetables really made a difference.  Everything tasted clean and crisp.   My husband who doesn’t prefer ‘healthy’ food kept asking for more!  Now that is success.

I should have taken a picture of my first dish using my CSA produce.  I will be posting more about my experiences with the CSA with pictures soon!  So far I LOVE the Inland Empire CSA and I urge you to give them a try!

What ISN’T made in China?

So I have been driving myself crazy looking for a gift for my mom to bring back to the Philippines for my brother’s girlfriend.  She was so sweet and bought me a few tote bags from the Philippines so I wanted to get her something that she would really like and would actually use. Since she’s in the Philippines I wanted to get her something she couldn’t get there so something local a.k.a. made in the USA.

I already knew this was going to be a challenge.  Hardly anything is made in the USA anymore.  It’s either made in China or some 3rd world country in southeast Asia, pretty much anywhere but here.  Why is that?  Two words.  CHEAP LABOR.  Many companies have been outsourcing their labor to 3rd world countries because the cost of living in these places are low and many people are eager to work.  There is HUGE debate surrounding this topic.  On one side outsourcing creates jobs in these countries and essentially helps a workforce who hardly had any jobs to begin with and on the other side outsourcing is exploitation, companies are taking advantage of people who are less fortunate to make a profit.  I found a great debate started by a small business entrepreneur if you want to learn more about this issue.

For me personally, I don’t TOTALLY disagree with outsourcing.  In a perfect world though I would prefer it didn’t happen.  In my opinion outsourcing feeds on a colonial mentality.  Companies seek out people who are at a disadvantage, bribe them with riches & a dream of a better life, make a profit off of their backs, and leave them out in the cold if cheaper labor is to be found elsewhere.  I’m not saying ALL companies are like this, but from what I’ve seen, read, and heard about a majority are.  I feel that we should leave other countries alone already!  Many things we (as a nation) do seems to keep others oppressed whether intentional or not.  It’s so deeply rooted that we don’t even realize it anymore. In my best sarcastic tone, “We’re helping others by giving them work while companies/corporations make thousands, millions, even billions off of them?  It’s not our fault their cost of living is much lower than ours.”  Come on are you for real?!?

So I’m trying to buy from socially responsible companies i.e. they treat their workers fairly, give them a fair wage/benefits, hire locally.  But before that I’m trying to shed myself of the consumerism bullshit I’ve been fed to pretty much since I was born (aka stop buying shit I don’t really need).  This is really hard for me because I LOVE shopping and I was raised where shopping was a favorite past time, but I’m slowly getting better.

Back to my brother’s girlfriend and my quest for something made in the US.  I remembered that I once bought these knee high socks awhile back at a store called American Apparel.  They advertise that they are vertically integrated.  Back then I had no idea or interest as to what that meant.  I just wanted those damn knee highs.  In essence vertically integrated means that they design, make, and advertise all of their products locally reducing their carbon footprint.  They help sustain the economy by providing work at fair pay with benefits.  WOW!

American Apparel pretty much defines ‘hipster’.  A lot of the clothes are unisex, no labels, hardly any graphics.  Kind of reminiscent of the 80’s but with a modern twist.  A place to buy basics (tshirts, tanks, socks, etc) if that’s not your style.  It is pricier than say Forever 21 but still affordable.  They sell men’s, women’s and kid’s clothes.  Their marketing/ad campaign is somewhat of a controversy and I’m still on the fence if I would recommend shopping there, but they do have a good thing going as far as socially responsible labor practices.

At last the search was over.   Although I may have spent a little more than I wanted, it felt good to know that my money went to supporting a system that benefits WORKERS of the good old USA.

shoes that fit

The other day my girlfriends and I were strolling at the village.  My friend makes handmade cards, so we went into a stamping store.  As they were looking around, I overheard an adorable senior couple and the sales clerk ping pong thank you’s as they handed over a bulging backpack.  I then looked down in front of me and saw a pile of the same backpacks with purple tags attached to them.  I took a look at one of the tags and it read, “Shoes that fit for School: help school children in need in your community.”

Now the village is a predominantly middle / upper-middle class community so my suspicions kicked in (they usually do whenever it comes to donations.  I am sometimes weary of groups who ask for donations after hearing of well known groups who collect major bucks from people and pennies on the dollar actually help those that the money was intended for.  For example: http://socialistworker.org/2005-2/562/562_04_RedCross.shtml.  It was even reported by mainstream media!   http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/07/29/eveningnews/main516700.shtml

So the sales clerk noticed me looking at the backpacks and went on to tell me about the Shoes that Fit organization.  The organization works with schools in and around the surrounding area to identify children who are in need.  More specifically teachers and/or principals suggest which students this program could benefit.  The community then donates the shoes.  In this case, a backpack is checked out by a donor and they buy a pair of shoes, socks, and school supplies for the student on the tag.  The tag includes the student’s name, shoe size, age, and grade.  Once the backpack is filled with goods the donor returns it and it is picked up by a volunteer of the organization to be dropped off at the child’s school.  The school then delivers is to the child.  So 100% of what is bought goes directly to the student.  The organization is volunteer/donation run.  Now that is a charity I can trust!

My backpack is for a 1st grade girl.   Since I have a son I thought it would be fun to shop for a little girl.  So far I got her shoes, socks, a stainless steel water bottle, lotion, and hand sanitizer.  I just need to get her school supplies and then I’ll be ready for drop off.

shoes that fit backpack

If you live in the Inland Empire and you want to participate, visit any of the participating locations and check out a backpack.  http://www.shoesthatfit.org/node/2091 Backpacks have to be returned by August 14th so there isn’t much time left.  If you aren’t able to participate in this event but would still like to donate visit the shoes that fit website: http://www.shoesthatfit.org/Get-Involved/How-You-Can-Help

$16 for organic chicken!

You may have noticed that organic foods are popping up everywhere.  Is this some food ‘fad’ trying to get us consumers to pay more for our food or is there some real health benefits to eating organic?  If you were to ask me that question about a year ago, I would have scoffed at the thought of paying more for organic foods.  What harm is a little pesticide going to do?  I’ve been eating non-organic foods my whole life and I’m healthy.

Then I watched a documentary called Food Inc.  This documentary exposes how food production has changed its priorities from providing people with quality food to producing as much food in as little time possible in order to do what?  You guessed it make more money.  Watching this movie really changed my views on what I eat and where to get it.  I highly recommend you watch it if you get a chance.  If you have netflix search Food Inc. and you can watch it instantly!

So yeah $16 for organic chicken is worth it.  It really was a matter of changing priorities for me.  What was more important?  Feeding my family quality food that not only tastes better but is much healthier or buying a bunch of frozen processed food?  Plus I love the fact that my money is going to farmers who actually care about people and who in their own right are standing up for all of us by not falling victim to the big business of food production.  So next time you’re at the market, take a look at the organic section.  My favorite places to shop which are wallet friendly are Trader Joe’s http://www.traderjoes.com/stores/index.asp and Henry’s Marketplace http://www.henrysmarkets.com.  The meats/poultry have the most expensive price difference but fruits and vegetables can range from zero to 2 dollars.  Think it over…the quality and taste may have you coming back for more!