Flame Retardants

home-interior-decorating-80In 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:

  • Electronics
  • 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.

Image from Green Science Policy Insitute

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.
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A Guide to Buying Post-Consumer Recycled Products

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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

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Eco-Friendly Dump Truck Toy

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.

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Boise Aspen 100% Recycled Multipurpose Paper

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.

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Green Tips For You To Reduce Your Pets Pawprint

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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:   

petfoodWhen 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.)

2.)    Grooming

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                                                                               

Dogs-Friend-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.

5.)     Food

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.

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Why I Care About Post-Consumer Recycled Products — and Why I Hope You Will Too

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I personally conducted the very first public recycling event in Dallas in 1992, collecting and bagging 350 50-gallon bags of recyclables. After all that work, I had no success finding a place to accept the materials. That’s when I learned Recycling Economics 101: When we purchase products made from materials we place in bins, recycling works. When nobody is buying products made with post-consumer recycled (PCR) material, recycling fails miserably.

I founded my company, Dolphin Blue, in 1994 to offer post-consumer recycled office supplies and help close the loop — until we complete the process of purchasing products made from the things we place in the recycling bins, we’re allowing the continued increase in landfill waste, resource depletion, and loss of natural habitat for our fellow species.

Spurred to Action

I began thinking about what I could do to protect our planet when I returned to visit my birth home in Fenton, Missouri. It was between 1982 and 1987 when I started hearing stories about young women, with whom I had gone to high school, having inordinate numbers of babies with birth defects.

What was causing these defects? In the years following the Vietnam War, the valley in which I had grown up was being used as a dumping ground for both PCB-laden and dioxin-containing waste oil. The county roads were being coated with the contaminated oil, hauled from service stations’ waste motor oil bays. The haulers, hired by corrupt county officials, openly and regularly dumped the contaminated waste oils on our unpaved county roads. The dust from the roads floated freely throughout the valley.

Knowing that this type of negligent and irresponsible behavior was possible, I began formulating a way that I could somehow counter the damage being done by these ruthless practices.
After 1993’s devastating floods along the Mississippi River, I became determined that any company I ran would do business in a manner that could only function under triple bottom line principles (that is, people, planet, and profit).

The Health and Economic Sense (and Cents) of It All

While the idea of post-consumer recycled content is pretty popular now, it wasn’t always at the forefront of consumers’ minds back in the early 1990s. Needless to say, building Dolphin Blue into a successful business wasn’t easy. I persisted, though, because the cause is so dear to me. The value of reusing post-consumer materials doesn’t so much stem from the use of the materials themselves; instead, it stems more from all those raw, natural resources that are preserved because they don’t need to be mined or cut down or otherwise taken out of their habitat to create something new for humans.

Although we economically measure most everything we produce and consume in our country and world, we fail to measure the value a forest brings to our human existence. Mature disease- and insect-resistant trees, left in healthy forest settings, provide oxygen we breathe; prevent erosion, which reduces the incidence of flooding; and sequester carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that is currently at such a critical saturation point in our atmosphere that it will cause catastrophic damage if not soon reduced.

162_chromaclosesgap_2It takes as much as 95 percent less energy to produce new products from PCR materials, as opposed to using raw materials to make the same product. Saving energy means using significantly less oil, coal, or natural gas. We see all around us the environmental effects and human health effects of our continual reliance on fossil fuels. As we save energy, we reduce toxins entering the air we breathe and the water we drink.
Recovering post-consumer waste materials, then reusing these materials in production of new goods, improves human health and preserves natural resources for us, our fellow planet inhabitants, and future generations. From a financial standpoint, we can see reduction in insurance premiums and in property damage (remember Hurricane Katrina?).

Even for those who don’t champion the environment, it just makes good sense to protect it via the practice of purchasing products made with post-consumer recycled content wherever possible.

Continuing the Work

I do believe in protecting the environment, and fortunately, I’m not alone. Today, when there are recycling events, it’s not difficult to find someone to take those materials. Much has changed in the 20 years since I began my business, although we still have so much more to do. I’ll continue to work to help people — like those women I grew up with, who didn’t deserve the toxic environment their children were born into — to understand just how important post-consumer recycled content is for our health, for our economy, for our planet, and for humanity.

 

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.

 

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How CEO & Founder Tom Kemper “stepped up to the plate” on the Keystone XKL Pipeline issue

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It must have been shortly after the beginning of January 2013, when I opened my email and read a message from 350.org, announcing a Forward on Climate Rally to be held in DC on February 17, 2013.

I was heavily engaged in a physical health battle with Lyme Disease, unable to travel, and was quite frustrated because I longed to be there with all the others who would say “NO” to the Keystone XL pipeline. This has been an issue that grabbed my attention early on, simply because the extraction process is so very destructive, in a place where the land, under which the tar sands oil is deposited, is so delicate and sensitive. Many people opposing the construction of the KXL pipeline were willing to be arrested, and were arrested, to evidence their committed opposition to its completion. Additionally, most economists and scientists who are highly knowledgeable in the science and economics of this type fossil fuel extraction, production, and transport, are all in agreement that the amount of energy needed to successfully extract, produce, transport, refine, and capture the energy through burning this nasty and toxic crude, far exceeds the energy that this very toxic tar sands oil will yield. So, you might ask, “why would someone go to all this trouble to garner such a small return, or, no return on their investment?”

Good question. Some say, “Because Canada needs jobs”.

Since I wasn’t able to travel to DC last February, I began to consider what I would have spent, had I been able to fly to DC to attend the rally. Well, there’d be:

  • Airfare
  • Lodging for 2-3 nights
  • Breakfast x 3
  • Lunch x 3
  • Dinner x 3
  • Cab fare
  • Miscellaneous expenses

Before all is said and done, I’d have spent somewhere between $2500.00 and $3500.00.

I thought some more, and the idea came to me…

since I couldn’t go, I should take the money I’d have spent, and send some students who otherwise would not have been able to afford the cost to attend the rally, sending them in my place!

I called a friend knowing she just might have a way to reach Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, one of the organizations co-sponsoring the DC rally. Margie came up with an email address which would connect me with Mr. McKibben.

I composed an introduction email to McKibben, sharing my thoughts on sending some students to the rally in DC. I asked him if he knew how we might find students from Texas who had expressed an interest in attending the February 17 rally, yet needed financial assistance.

He assured me he would talk with the 350.org staff about finding some Texas students who I would fund. He also stated he would have a staff member contact me shortly, to arrange at least four students attending.

Soon thereafter, my office received that call, ultimately making arrangements to send six Texas college students to DC for the rally.

After putting more thought into our plan, it occurred to me, why not send a camera person to follow the students, and have the students report back to us, sharing with us their DC Rally experience? With some great video footage, we could multiply the intended outcome of the rally, using the power of video and the internet to increase awareness of issues regarding the KXL.

I made a couple calls to find a camera crew in Dallas area colleges and I found two such students at UT/Arlington. Those two students became an eventual crew made up of Elliott Gilbert II and Rustin Rodgers. Elliott and Rustin have continually worked on not just the film for the documentary, they’ve also been so diligent in setting up screenings to create awareness among those who know little or nothing about the KXL pipeline issue.

Many versions of this documentary had been submitted to us for consideration, and, while we kept saying, “needs more this, needs more that, and where’s the part that evokes a call to action?“, Elliott and Rustin continued going back to do more filming and editing. They also, like most kids in college, kept coming back for more money!

Here we are today, fifteen to twenty edited films later, with a documentary entitled “Cry Heard ‘round the World” telling the story of the largest climate change rally in history, and why that rally was formed to shut down the continued assault by Big Oil and other proponents of the disastrous practice of extracting oil from the Alberta Tar Sands in Western Canada.

We DO NOT need any more extraction of oil, particularly tar sands crude that requires more BTUs of energy to extract it, than it’s extraction will yield, not to mention the fact that this toxic tar sands crude will emit 82% more air pollutants and greenhouse gases in the completion process than conventional crude!

We DO NOT need a dangerous pipeline traversing the United States from north to south, through a stretch of land – including federal and state government park lands, peoples’ personal property (taken through eminent domain, not by US corporations, but by foreign multinational corporations) and farmlands — that is required to transport this dirty crude oil across our country, so we can send it to China, for production of more cheap, unsustainable, and poorly-manufactured goods — produced by US multinational corporations, whose executive officers reap ever-higher annual incomes in the multi-millions of dollars, higher corporate profits, and of course, who pay little to NO income taxes and no corporate taxes.

Enough is enough!

NO Keystone XL pipeline!

NO tar sands crude!

Carbon dioxide gas in our atmosphere at 400 parts per million puts us way past the danger zone. We’ve surpassed 350 ppm, the agreed safe limit of CO2 and the level continues rising.

We must all work together, doing whatever we can to do our part in reducing the current carbon dioxide increase trend. Not only for those of us now here on Earth, we must decrease the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere for our children, and, their children.

We must take the money being spent on KXL and redirect it to investment in renewables!

We must begin doing so now.

We must take action.

Please write your Congressperson and your Senator. Do so today, please. For your children and their children’s future.

Click here  for the contact information for your elected representatives.

Watch Cry Heard ‘Round the World Documentary below:

Please share the documentary after you’ve watched it.

Thank you.

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