“Love Letter to the Earth is Zen Master and Peace Activist Thich Nhat Hanh’s passionate and personal call to develop an intimate relationship with the source of all life. He shares why our personal happiness is intricately tied to the happiness of our planet and offers clear and concrete practices for connecting with ourselves, each other, and the world around us.”
Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist. Nhat Hanh has published more than 100 books, including more than 40 in English. Nhat Hanh is active in the peace movement, promoting non-violent solutions to conflict and he also refrains from animal product consumption as means of non-violence towards non-human animals.
Buy Thich Nhat Hanh’s, Love Letter to the Earth, here.
In the month of June, Kaiser Permanente, one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit health care systems, announced that they will stop using upholstered furniture treated with toxic flame retardants chemicals in their hospitals, medical offices and other buildings. Kaiser Permanente has set an example for everyone, they want manufacturers to switch to more sustainable and environmentally friendly products and this will not happen unless we, the consumers, demand a change.
What are Flame retardants?
Flame retardants are compounds added to manufactured materials, such as plastics and textiles, and surface finishes and coatings that inhibit, suppress, or delay the production of flames to prevent the spread of fire.
Today, flame retardants are used predominantly in four major areas:
- Building insulation
- Polyurethane foam
- Wire and cable
The two types of flame retardants that cause concerns are; halogenated flame retardants containing chlorine or bromide bonded to carbon and organophosphorous flame retardants containing phosphorous bonded to carbon.
Video Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune
Why are Flame retardants a big deal?
The chemicals don’t break down and generally have long term effects rather than immediate effects and can build up in humans and animals. They are not bound to the foam and can settle into the dust around our homes. Flame retardants have become so pervasive they can now be found in meats, fish, and dairy products.
Flame retardants have been linked to male infertility, birth defects, cancer, reduced IQ’s and other health problems.
Children can carry an average of three times the levels of flame retardants in their bodies than the levels found in their mother. How you ask? Simply put, children spend their time putting their hands, toys, anything they seem fit in their mouths and unintentionally ingest more flame retardant chemicals from the dust.
Do they prevent fire from spreading?
Flame retardants do not increase overall fire safety. Even though they can delay ignition for a few seconds in products, they will eventually burn and produce toxic gases that cause most fire injuries and deaths.
What can we do?
Keep your home dust free. The Natural Resources Defense Council has some helpful tips on what you can do to reduce flame retardants in your home and your body.
- Vacuum carpets with a vacuum that contains a HEPA filter.
- Damp mop floors and damp dust furniture on a regular basis.
- Wash hands frequently, especially before eating. Don’t eat on your couch!
- Choose naturally flame resistant fabrics and fill such as wool, cotton or jute.
- Call manufacturers to ask about their use of flame retardants.
- Check the label before you buy upholstered furniture and if you live outside of California, don’t buy furniture that carries a TB 117 label.
- Vacuum and wipe down your car’s interior regularly.
If you’ve been following our series on post-consumer recycled products, then you have a pretty good idea about what PCR is and why it matters so much to me. What you may still be wondering is, “How do I make sure I find and buy PCR products?” And unfortunately, that question is more complex than it seems.
There is no all-encompassing database of PCR products — it just takes good, old-fashioned research to find what you’re looking for.
The Wording on Packages
Reading product packaging carefully is important. If a product says it’s made from recycled content, look for details. Does it specify whether that’s pre-consumer recycled or post-consumer recycled? (Any kind of recycled is better than nothing, but post-consumer recycling means that when someone dropped an item in the blue bin for recycling, it was actually used to make this new item you’re now contemplating purchasing. Pre-consumer recycling involves taking things like leftover scraps that weren’t initially used and finding a purpose for them.)
Do the claims apply to just the packaging, just the product, or both? How high is the percentage of recycled content, and of that, what’s the ratio of post-consumer recycled content? A product can claim to be made of “recycled content” even if only a tiny percentage contains anything recycled, but the FTC requires that the label tell you exactly how much is recycled (unless the product or package contains 100 percent recycled materials — in which case, that’s probably a pretty good item to consider purchasing!).
The Products Where PCR Thrives
It can be discouraging to find a product that touts its recycled content, only to find that it’s really not so PCR-laden at all. And it can take a while to find an item that fits the bill in all the areas that matter, like functionality, design, and sustainability. There is some good news, though: Lots of different kinds of retailers offer post-consumer recycled goods, from hardware stores and automotive centers to furniture shops and clothing boutiques.
One category I’m proud to say often leads the field in PCR is office supplies (it is what I built my business on, after all). Recycled paper has come a long way; you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a high-quality, recycled-content version and its virgin-tree counterpart.
Consider Boise Aspen 100: perfectly new, safe, nontoxic, environmentally responsible, 100 percent post-consumer recycled copy and printer paper. In addition to the recycled element, the paper is whitened without the use of chlorinated compounds or chlorine bleach, eliminating some rather caustic and harmful chemical processes. Those kind of additional environmental and human health benefits that aren’t always obvious are often an added bonus when you make a PCR purchase.
Certifications Worth Seeking
When looking to buy products, it can be helpful to see if they’ve been certified by a third party in environmental responsibility. Not all of these necessarily concern PCR, but they can be a good place to start:
Green Seal: Green Seal, a certification that’s been around since 1989, considers the total environmental impact of a product and works to reduce that impact while maintaining the same performance and quality you would expect.
Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) or Processed Chlorine Free (PCF): The Chlorine Free Products Association is an independent, not-for-profit accreditation and standard-setting organization for evaluating chlorine-free products. Only papers made with 100 percent post-consumer recycled fiber can be PCF.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC): FSC certification ensures that products come from well-managed forests that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits.
Green-e: An independent certification and verification program for renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission reductions.
CarbonNeutral: For this certification, a company, brand, or product must accurately measure its carbon footprint, then commit to a reduction strategy and carbon offset program to prove their activities will not result in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions that affect climate change.
Doing Our Part
We know it isn’t always easy to find PCR products, and that’s why we do the work for you — asking companies tough questions, verifying certifications, and making sure that everything we offer on DolphinBlue.com is environmentally responsible. On each product, we’ll tell you the percentage of PCR content and clearly explain what that means.
We don’t know any other companies that go to the lengths we do to both verify facts and educate consumers on this issue, but we know it’s worth it. Every time you buy something containing PCR materials, you’re helping to close the loop — reducing our reliance on virgin resources and bolstering the market for recyclables so that more products in the future can make use of PCR content.
We all win when we recycle, and we win more completely when we purchase PCR products, preserving our planet for future generations.
Tom Kemper is the founder of Dolphin Blue, a company founded in 1993 on the belief that we can all be responsible in what we use. Dolphin Blue sells the most environmentally responsible home, family, pet, office, and business products available.
Is your pet eco-friendly? It seems like a lot of pet owners overlook their pets when transitioning from their own typical purchases to more environmentally friendly products. We search for ways to reduce our own carbon footprints and completely overlook our pet’s carbon footprint. In fact, a pet’s carbon footprint is about twice the size of an SUV! So how can we help reduce our pet’s pawprint? Here are some tips:
1.) Ditch the plastic bowls:
When buying pet bowls, opt for purchasing stainless steel or ceramic bowls, the bowls themselves won’t leach harmful chemicals into your pet’s food or water. It will last longer than your typical plastic bowl so you’ll reduce unnecessary waste going to landfills. (Fact: Plastic can take up to at least 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill.)
Look for grooming products that are made with organic natural ingredients instead of buying products that can harm the environment once they get into our water or soil.
3.) Poop and Scoop
Probably one of the tasks many pet owners tend to avoid, picking up after their pets. It’s not the most enjoyable tasks but it has to be done. What exactly do you use to pick up your pets waste? Plastic bags you get at the store?
Many pet stores have started to sell biodegradable poo bags. Choose these over regular plastic bags.
You can also scoop your pets waste and begin composting it. Don’t mix your pets waste with a compost pile you have for your garden, start a new compost pile just for your pet waste. Canada’s Office of Urban Agriculture has a site with an easy step-by-step photo guide on making a dog waste composter in your back yard.
4.) Eco-friendly Products
Buy environmentally friendly products. There is now a wide variation of toys, apparel, beds and much more of pet supplies that are sustainable and eco-friendly. Buying pet toys at the dollar store can come with risks. A lot of pet toys do not go through testing to see if the chemicals used to produce the toy are safe for your pet. Fabrics and cushions are treated with flame retardant chemicals and are not bounded to the foam or fabrics, they end up settled into the dust in our homes and are ingested through hand to mouth contact; this can harm not only our pets but pet owners as well.
If you’re interested in buying eco-friendly and sustainable products, check out what we here at Dolphin Blue can offer you and your pet. Don’t forget to recycle all the packaging that comes with it when you purchase toys, food, apparel, etc.
Purchase organic and natural food for your pets or go the extra mile and make your own pet food. Search online or throughout pet supply stores for natural and organic foods, they’re easier for your pet’s stomach. They’re also great pet food recipes online for you to try out.
Owning a pet comes with great responsibility. You are not just taking care of an animal; you are taking care of a companion that will be there for you no matter what. Nurture and love your pet.