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6 Toxins in Household Cleaning Products

Toxins in Household Cleaning Products

It’s easy to assume that household and personal cleaning products are clean and safe. However, most are loaded with toxic chemicals that can have negative effects on our health and the environment.

There are no federal regulations related to safety standards when it comes to common household cleaning products. This means that manufacturers can put just about anything in these products, without any significant testing. They may claim that trace amounts of these chemicals pose no risk to our health in small doses, but with consistent exposure over time, and in combinations that haven’t been studied, it’s impossible to gauge the risks.

It’s easy to make your own cleaning products with natural, non-toxic ingredients. There are also many resources that specialize in making organic, natural cleaning products that are safe for ourselves, our pets and the planet. Fillaree is a zero waste, sustainable soap company whose core mission is to reduce household plastic waste through refill. That’s a message we can stand behind!

Toxins in household cleaning products can be avoided by switching to handmade, natural alternatives. Here are some of the worst offenders:

Ammonia

Found in glass cleaners and furniture/silver polishes, this chemical is a respiratory irritant. Also, when mixed with bleach it produces a poisonous gas. Prolonged exposure can cause cases of chronic bronchitis and asthma.

Chlorine

A common ingredient found in scouring powders, toilet cleaners and laundry detergents. It can cause respiratory issues and thyroid disruptions with long-term exposure.

Sodium Hydroxide

Also known as lye, this is found in oven cleaners and drain-unclogging liquids. It’s extremely corrosive and can cause chemical burns on skin, and damage to the mouth and throat if inhaled.

2-Butoxyethanol

This is found in kitchen, window and multipurpose cleaners. This is what gives the cleaners that sweet smell and there are no regulations that require this ingredient to be listed. However, when inhaled, it can also cause respiratory problems and even liver or kidney damage.

Phthalates

Fragranced cleaners, air fresheners, and even some toilet papers are loaded with these chemicals. Phthalates are a known endocrine disrupter, even causing low sperm counts in men. Most ingestion is inhalation, but fragranced soaps are dangerous as well since the skin absorbs the toxins directly.

Triclosan

Found in lots of dish detergents and antibacterial products. Triclosan is an antibacterial agent that can cause the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. Not only is this counterproductive for cleaning, but it’s harmful for our health in the long run.

These are just a few common toxins in household cleaning products, hidden in plain sight underneath our kitchen sinks. Instead of posing a risk to our health, start 2017 by making the switch to natural cleaning products. Shop Fillaree to see all the natural options they can offer your family and home!

This was reposted, with edits, with permission from Fillaree.

5 Reasons College Students Should Switch to a Reusable Coffee Cup

reusable coffee cup

Luckily this generation of college students is way ahead of their parents when it comes to environmental awareness. But in some ways our current culture is more dependent on using and tossing in the name of convenience, and that daily cup of coffee is no exception. Using a disposable coffee cup can take a toll on our well being, on the planet and on our wallet. Take a look at five reasons college students should switch to a reusable coffee cup:

1. You’ll be healthier

If you get to know a disposable coffee cup you’ll ditch the habit pretty quickly. Paper cups can’t hold liquid unless they are lined with polyethylene to prevent leaking. As a result, the entire interior surface of your cup is most likely made of plastic, and your hot drink is basically bathing in it. And those white plastic lids are polystyrene, made from styrene, a synthetic chemical classified as a probable human carcinogen. Toxic styrene can migrate into your coffee or tea when hot.

2. You’ll help the planet

It’s estimated that 25 billion single-use coffee cups are thrown away every year. That’s about 3 million every hour, or 70 million per day. Contrary to popular belief, disposable cups can’t be recycled. They are almost always coated with plastic, which makes the entire cup destined for the landfill. Also, manufacturing bleached paper cups requires a substantial amount of water, energy and about 20 million trees a year. And those paper sleeves add up to about 2.8 billion pounds of trash sitting in landfills every year. Compostable cups are not the answer either: they are rarely disposed of properly, and either end up in a landfill where they will not biodegrade, or end up contaminating recycling facilities.

3. You’ll save money

Bringing a reusable coffee cup can save you money. Most coffee shops now give at least 10 cents, and many as much as 50 cents, if you bring your own cup. Most college students would love to save up to $182 a year.

4. You’ll keep your coffee hot

By using a vacuum-insulated coffee tumbler, your coffee will stay hot for hours. And, these double-walled stainless steel exteriors will not feel hot when filled with hot liquids, and will not have condensation when filled with cold liquids. Do you take your time sipping your coffee and hate using the microwave? Reusable coffee cups are the answer.

5. You’ll feel good

Busy college students and the convenience of a single-use coffee cup seem like a good fit, but the combination is incredibly unsustainable and actually pretty depressing. As we’ve seen countless times, making more mindful choices, purchasing with intention and understanding how our actions affect our community and our planet feels good. This is especially true for young college students who are learning about their place in the world and actively thinking about ways to make a difference.

More good news: many organizations, like our partners Turning Green and PLAN, are meeting with colleges across the country to educate students about waste, and encourage students to ditch disposables. In one campaign, Kill the Cup saved 267,000 cups from landfill and awarded grants to six winning colleges. Colleges need more coffee shops like Bar Nine is Los Angeles and the Eden Café in New Zealand where throwaway cups are banned. Do you know any coffee shops that don’t hand out a piece of trash with every cup of coffee? Let us know!

5 Reasons to Step Up Your Food Storage with Stainless Steel

stainless steel food storage

Plastic food storage is certainly affordable and lightweight, but research shows that plastic can often leach chemicals into our food and drinks, which can harm our health. In addition to the adverse health effects, plastics are polluting our planet at an alarming rate. Take steps to swap out old plastic containers that degrade after prolonged use, and replace them with safer stainless steel. The benefits of stainless steel will help you justify the switch:

Durable, long lasting and less wasteful

Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times. As the desire to reduce waste is becoming more common, people are increasingly choosing more dependable and durable materials that do not degrade or leach after years of use and dishwashing. The longer containers last, the happier you are, and the fewer resources are used to reach the goal of working toward a zero-waste lifestyle.

Non-toxic and non-leaching

As news about toxins in plastic food storage becomes more mainstream, people are seeking safer food-storage solutions by ditching their plastic and turing to safer alternatives like stainless steel. “As scientists become more aware of the chemicals that leech out of plastics and make their way into our bodies, they are uncovering a variety of health issues that result. This includes cancer, reproductive issues, immune system suppression and problems with childhood development just to name a few.” – One Green Planet

More hygienic

Because plastic degrades over time from use, hot water and cleaning products, the surfaces become scratched and difficult to clean effectively. Smooth, non-porous stainless steel is the ideal surface for food, with fewer opportunities for bacteria to accumulate and less risk of contamination.

Less expensive over time

Saving money is an important benefit of swapping your plastic containers for long-lasting stainless steel. There is an upfront cost, but it pays to invest in quality products that stand the test of time to save money otherwise spent replacing lower-quality items.

Completely recyclable

Stainless steel is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without loss in quality or purity. Alternatively, plastic is “downcycled” into another lower-quality plastic product that becomes one step closer to a landfill. Plastic Pollution Coalition reminds us: “Indeed, collecting plastics at curbside fosters the belief that, like paper, aluminum and glass, these will be converted into new similar objects. But this is not the case with most plastic. These products will still end up in a landfill, and therefore, they do not stem the need for more virgin petroleum product.”

Switching out your plastic food storage can take time, and if you’re still using plastic during your transition, check your plastic numbers to minimize your exposure toxins. Check out our full-range of stainless steel containers, including divided containers, insulated containers for hot and cold, and nesting sets to save storage space.

Favorite Holiday Traditions from the U Konserve Team

holiday traditions

In the spirit of the holiday season, the U Konserve team has shared our favorite holiday traditions, including the funny, heartwarming and steal-worthy below—and we’d love to hear about yours on our Facebook page or Twitter!

‘Tis the season…

Chance Claxton, Co-Founder

“Going to the ballet in San Francisco. This year we are mixing it up, foregoing the Nutcracker and going to the Smuin Ballet.”

Lynn Julian, Co-Founder

“Decorating the house with my kids and baking Christmas cookies.”

 

Courtney Timblin, Operations Manager

“Being home in Wisconsin with snow on the ground making Christmas Cookies with my mom while listening to Neil Diamond or Dolly Paton and Kenny Rodgers Christmas albums.”

Wendy Murphy, Marketing Director

“We are transitioning traditions. Grace Cathedral used to be a yearly favorite, but these past few years it has been replaced by Christmas Eve mass in our town. We always go on a big hike on Christmas Eve or Christmas day with friends and family.”

Liz Haney, Customer Service Relations

“Going to my Grandparents house on Christmas morning and spending the day with them and the rest of our family.”

Debra Paul, Salesperson

“Spending time with my dearest friends and children that I met supporting the rainforest. We celebrate and appreciate each other deeply.”

Wishing you a healthy and peaceful holiday and new year. We’re grateful to have supportive customers committed to reducing waste.  From our UKonserve family to yours, Happy Holidays!

Waste-Free Christmas with U Konserve

waste-free christmas

There’s still time to give healthy and waste-free Christmas gifts for everyone on your list. Give the gift of homemade granola, cookies, hot cocoa or other wholesome goodies in our reusable containers, all while giving the gift of reducing waste.

According to the EPA, the volume of household waste in the United States generally increases 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day—about 1 million extra tons. Take part in decreasing that number by giving one of our favorite holiday recipe ideas!

Waste-Free Gift Ideas

  • Homemade Granola in a Round Container

Homemade granola is a simple gift packed full of flavors. The Very Best Granola recipe from Cookie + Kate combines whole grains, unrefined oil and no refined sugar. Once finished, pack in a Large Round Container and tie with a recycled bow or reusable string. This recipe makes 6 cups, enough to fill 3 large round containers.

  • Hot Cocoa in an Insulated Food Jar

Surprise friends, teachers, and neighbors with this simple, gluten-free and vegan Mason Jar Peppermint Hot Cocoa Mix for the holidays. Combine sugar, cocoa powder, and crushed candy canes in a 12 oz or 16 oz insulated food jar, and the double-walled jar is part of the gift!

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 tablespoons candy cane pieces
Make the Hot Cocoa Mix
  1. Measure the cocoa powder, sugar and candy cane pieces in an 8 oz glass measuring cup.
  2. Shake the jar until the ingredients are combined.
  3. Store in a cool, dark place until all the cocoa mix has been used.

Simply tie the cocoa’s instructions to the food jar with reused ribbon or twine, and this homemade gift is good to go!

  1. Heat 6 oz regular (or non-dairy) milk until warm.
  2. Measure 2 teaspoons of mix.
  3. Stir until the mix dissolves into the milk.
  4. Top with marshmallows, garnish with a candy cane and enjoy immediately.
  • Marzipan Energy Bites in a Square Container

Sweet treats packed in our Large To-Go Containers are ideal for hostess gifts, holiday potlucks or last minute gift ideas. Try nutritionist Lauren O’Connor’s delicious recipe for Marzipan energy bites. They require about 30 minutes total to make and pack up!

And remember, available in any denomination, Gift Certificates are the ultimate green gift.

If you’re short on time before the holidays hit, don’t stress. Instead, consider one of these time-saving ideas. Find our products at these locations or shop online and choose expedited shipping options to get your gifts on time.

Enjoy a Green Christmas this Holiday Season

green christmas

A green Christmas might not be on everyone’s wish list. After all, nothing says Christmas quite like a soft snowfall and blanket of white on the ground and trees. But an environmentally friendly Christmas is something that everyone can embrace. Ensuring that your holiday season is eco-protecting doesn’t have to mean shunning traditions; it just means tweaking them in order to protect the planet.

Deck the Halls

Christmas trees are arguably one of the most important aspects of a traditional Christmas experience. But have you thought about how the cutting of trees or purchasing of their plastic alternatives negatively impacts the environment? To make this custom greener, try decorating your outside trees. Lights, popcorn garlands, and ornaments made out of birdseed and nuts are all easy and eco-friendly. You’ll still get to enjoy the magical sight of a lit tree, and as a bonus, you’ll be feeding the animals who may be needing a bit of help finding food during the colder months.

If your heart is set on having a tree indoors try purchasing a live tree that can be planted outdoors afterward. As well as helping out the planet, you’ll also avoid the never-ending task of sweeping up the shedding pine needles.

Waste Less

Christmas is becoming more and more focused on consumerism, and it’s easy to fall prey to the idea that more is better. Reject the pressure to go over the top in your spending, whether it be gifts, wrapping paper or food. Purchase recycled wrapping paper, use paper saved from previous years, or better yet, wrap gifts in cloth or nothing at all. Buying neutral patterns will allow you to reuse paper for other celebrations as well. When planning your holiday meals and snacks, focus on quality over quantity and use some of these tips for holiday gatherings.

Give Back

If your life is good and you’re blessed, pay it forward. Giving-themed holiday parties are a great way to celebrate with your family and friends. Instead of having your guests bring the typical over-indulgent hostess gifts, like bottles of wine or chocolates, ask them to bring books, warm clothing or small toys, and then donate these to your local shelter. By sharing your resources, you’re minimizing the impact on the environment while maximizing the positive effect on those who receive your donations.

These small changes can start a global change. Switch from a “gimme” mindset to becoming an ambassador for the environment and its inhabitants. ‘Tis the season for goodwill to all. Make it the best possible green Christmas for you, your community and the environment.

Sustainable Stocking Stuffers for the Holidays

sustainable stocking stuffer

The holidays are a joyous season, but unfortunately they can wreak havoc on the environment. If you’re trying to reduce your environmental footprint, then you’ll want to make sure to have an eco-friendly Christmas.

With a little planning, it’s possible to purchase eco-friendly gifts and sustainable stocking stuffers for everyone on your list. Here are our top 8 picks for this holiday season:

1. Reusable Bulk Bags

Eliminate plastic bags once and for all with these reusable bulk bags from Flip & Tumble. Made from 100% cotton with a zip top, these bags are perfect for bulk items, travel or organizing around your home. From the store to the farmer’s market, this is a gift that will be used year-round.

2. Sustainable Bee’s Wrap

This natural food wrap from Bee’s Wrap eliminates the need for plastic wrap and baggies. These beeswax wraps are reusable, biodegradable, compostable, and perfect for covering bowls or wrapping foods. Bring a wrap along as a host/hostess gift to holiday parties.

3. Fair-Trade Lotion

This organic and certified fair trade lotion from Dr. Bronner’s is a perfect addition to any sustainable stocking. Nourish and hydrate skin with organic jojoba oil to heal, organic coconut oil to moisturize, and organic hemp and avocado oils to keep skin smooth. Made from essential oils instead of conventional fragrance, and not tested on animals.

4. Zero-Waste Laundry Detergent

Perfect for the traveler, this zero-waste laundry detergent from The Simply Co. is organic and all natural! Founder Lauren Singer lives a zero-waste lifestyle and hasn’t sent any trash to a landfill since 2012, which she documents in her blog, Trash is for Tossers. The best part of this three-ingredient simple detergent: no packaging heads to the landfill.

5. Handcrafted Beeswax Candles

Enjoy the natural honey fragrance infused straight from the hive to the wax. Place these votive candles from Big Dipper Wax Works into recycled glass jars for the perfect upcycled gift or stocking stuffer.

6. Fair-Trade Chocolate

Chocolate makes the perfect addition to any gift. We love this fair trade, organic chocolate from Alter Eco. Their sustainable practices and eco-friendly packaging are guilt free.

7. Organic Loose-Leaf Tea

Packed in a reusable and recyclable stainless steel tin, this organic tea from Desta fits easily into any stocking. This premium tea line supports sustainable farming and fair trade. Desta believes that providing organic and biodynamic teas are important for their customers’ health and their deep commitment to protect the planet.

8. Reusable Containers

There are many thoughtful gifts to help reduce single-use baggies and containers. Give bento boxessmall containers or reusable snack bags, along with a bamboo utensil and stainless steel straws. And everyone should always carry a reusable water bottle and an insulated coffee tumbler!

Looking for more waste-free holiday tips? Check out our Pinterest page for more of our favorite ideas!

Head Back to School with the U•Konserve Team!

With back-to-school just around the corner, we decided to go behind the scenes at U•Konserve and interview the team for their top waste-free lunch tips! Below we hear from co-founders Lynn and Chance as well as the head of the marketing team, Wendy.

1. How do you get your family into the back-to-school routine after summer vacation?

LJ: It is hard! Try to get them to a regular sleep schedule a few days before the first school day. We have traditions like a special breakfast on the first day which is fun. We also do calendar…sit down and look at upcoming months, fill in school events, picture day, fall break ideas, trips and other fun things, so they have things to look forward to.

CC: Pray that my daughter will get out of bed in time to make it to school.

WM: I think a clutter-free room helps clear the mind, so we try to donate outgrown clothes and books, fix broken items, recycle old papers, and make sure everyone has a tidy work surface free of distractions. We try to eke out every last bit of summer, so going to bed early doesn’t happen in our house until the night before the first day of school.

2. What are your favorite waste-free lunch tips?

LJ: Of course, fun products! Our products make it easy to pack a huge assortment of yummy snacks and foods.

CC: For me, the most impactful tips are all on our fact page. The facts speak to how much trash is going into the world which could easily be remedied by using our products.

WM: My kids come home for lunch, but pack waste-free all the time for after-school outings, trips, and daily leftovers that get eaten as soon as everyone comes in the door after school. Remember to take reusable items with you because even a quick trip to town can involve a run in with the dreaded disposable bag, cup, utensil or straw!

3. What are your kid’s favorite U•Konserve products for their lunch boxes?

LJ: The Insulated food jar for sure because they get excited when they get something homemade rather than the usual sandwich.  The new family favorite though is the big mini because it is the perfect size for so many things! Fig Newtons, goldfish, grapes, berries, cashews, peanut butter for dipping apples in…

CC: Round nesting trios, lunch tote, sweat-free ice pack.

WM: Even though my kids eat lunch at home, they always bring one or two leak-proof round containers to school for a hearty snack like hummus wraps, pasta salad or cut fruit.

4. Any tips for parents just adopting the waste-free lifestyle?

LJ: Don’t worry, they WILL bring it all home!

CC: Invest in quality, durable products that you know will last the school year and ideally much longer. Talk to your kids about reuse and why it is important that they bring these items back home every day and do not lose them.

WM: Try to replace (or eliminate) one thing at a time, so you don’t get overwhelmed. Sometimes it helps to just stop buying a disposable product like paper towels, Ziploc baggies or anything in a plastic bottle, and you’ll soon start to find alternatives that you like. Don’t forget to seek out bulk options, and stores that let you refill shampoo, lotion and soap bottles. And, don’t be discouraged when you mess up because it takes a while for it to become routine.

5. Do you and your kids have any favorite brands for back to school?

CC: Topo backpacks, converse high tops, and Brandy Melville! Yikes

WM: My teenage daughter is researching makeup on ewg.org. My teenage son is obsessed with sustainable brands for backpacks and clothing like Topo Designs, Timbuk2, and Patagonia.

How is your family gearing up for back-to-school?  Leave a comment below or comment/tag us on social media and let us know!

Back-to-School with Stainless Steel Lunch Containers

stainless steel lunch containers

Back-to-school means back to packing lunches! Save time, energy and have fun with the kids by packing waste-free lunches in stainless steel lunch containers. You’ll eat healthier by packing homemade, non-packaged foods. Practice healthy portion control and pack balanced meals full of your kid’s favorite foods.

Removable dividers transform stainless steel lunch containers into bento-style solutions with multiple functions, giving you two containers in one. Here are a few of our favorite go-to bento lunches:

Four of a Kind

Pack your four-section divided container with:

  • Rainbow Roll
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Blueberries
  • Crackers of your choice

Pack a side of hummus or dipping sauce in a reusable mini container.

Twice as Nice

Pack your two-section divided container with:

  • Apple & Walnut Salad – Combine mixed greens with 4 slices of apple, a tablespoon of gorgonzola cheese, and a handful of walnuts. Pack a dressing of choice on top of the salad or on the side in a mini container.
  • Turkey and Avocado Sandwich – Cut a slice of bread diagonally, spread hummus on one side, add half of a sliced avocado, turkey, cheese of your choice and mixed greens or lettuce.

Fruit & Veggie Delight

  • Leftover Wrap – Combine any leftovers in your fridge with any veggies in a wrap and slice into bite size pieces. Add brown rice or quinoa for more protein.
  • Fruit Slices – Cut up your favorite piece of fruit into slices and enjoy alongside your leftover wrap!

Interested in more ideas for back-to-school lunches? Head over to our Pinterest Page to see our favorites. Also check out our Cost Comparison and save $372 every school year by forgoing a disposable lunch.

Food for Thought…

If every person in New York City uses one less plastic bag for a year, 200 tons of carbon dioxide would be eliminated. We’re grateful to so many of our stores for sharing our waste-free mission and supporting environmental causes. Get back-to-school off to a sustainable start and commit to eliminating all single-use plastic baggies—an easy goal with our reusable options. Find them online or at a store in your community.

 

The Harm In Plastic Packaging

plastic packaging

Each year, millions of tons of plastic packaging get thrown away worldwide with only half of it getting recycled. In many cases, it’s hard to reduce the packaging that products get shipped in without risking damage to the products. Delicate glass products and sensitive electronic equipment, for example, must be packaged in protective containers, most often made from expanded polystyrene (known as Styrofoam).

Unfortunately, these plastics can take thousands of years to decompose, and are often not included in standard curb-collection recycling programs. Since it blows in the wind and floats in the water, polystyrene litter can travel great distances from where it originates.

The environmental result from packaging delicate products in polystyrene is dramatic, polluting both woodland and water, and posing a significant hazard to wildlife. With these facts in mind, we’ve come up with a few suggestions on how you can cut down on plastic packaging waste:

Skip Online Shopping

It is so easy to buy anything from groceries to clothing online.  But do you ever think twice when you open the box and see packing peanuts and bubble wrap used for one item? As e-commerce grows so will the waste.  What can you do about it?  Purchase what you can in-store or try buying online and picking up in-store. If you need to order online, try and buy multiple items that can ship in the same package, take your packaging materials to your local shipping store to be reused, or purchase used items (like Bea Johnson from the Zero Waste Home) and ask the sender to use non-plastic packaging.

Rethink How You Purchase Electronics

Ever notice when picking up a new USB or memory card the amount of plastic packaging used can be more than five times the size of the actual item?  Or all of the styrofoam casing around your new TV?  All of that single-use plastic goes right into the trash once opened. Be conscious of buying what you need and purchasing items with the least amount of packaging.

Find Natural Alternatives

US-based company Ecovative is rethinking sustainable packaging. Their product is made primarily of mycelium, the root part of mushroom colonies. By using recycled agricultural waste, the mycelium grows into a customizable mould and then dries to inhibit further growth. The resulting material is durable, renewable, and naturally fire resistant. Store it for lengthy periods of time without any adverse effects. 

Unlike polystyrene, this mycelium-based packaging can be safely disposed of through composting. It will completely decompose in a matter of months when exposed to nature. It even provides nourishment for existing plant life as it breaks down, helping the natural environment rather than polluting it. 

Every step you take to cut down on plastic packaging helps.  Looking for more information on how to cut plastic out of more areas of your life?  Take a look at this guide from our friends at My Plastic Free Life for more tips and advice.