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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!

I Tried Going Completely Plastic Free for a Day

plastic free for a day

Living zero waste is second nature to me, but my attempt to go plastic free for a day didn’t even last until noon. I knew eliminating plastic would take some thought, but figured it would be easy enough for one day. My family is used to refilling shampoo bottles, using bar soap in the kitchen and banning Ziplocs. I was up for the challenge. After all, I practically do this for a living so how hard can it be?

A simple gift (made of plastic)

My first plastic-free errand was to find a gift for a friend. We have a lovely bakery within biking distance so I sent my daughter out to pick up a paper gift certificate. When she returned with a plastic gift card in her hand, we felt defeated. More than 75 million pounds of PVC from plastic cards heads to landfills every year. What I didn’t do (but maybe should have done): returned the card. What I did do: emailed the bakery with my feedback and vowed not to get a gift card there again unless they switch to paper.

A local newspaper (wrapped in plastic)

Not soon after, our local paper landed in our driveway. If rain is forecast, every paper in our community is delivered wrapped in plastic. We usually read the news online to avoid the waste associated with delivery, but in this case we don’t even order this paper; it is delivered to every household regardless. What I did: contacted them directly to discontinue the paper. We love the paper, but we don’t love the plastic. We’ll read it online.

An organic apple (with a plastic sticker)

Then I was off to the market and what I thought would be an easy place to avoid plastic. I bring my own produce bags, use my own containers for prepared food, and purchase in glass wherever possible, but I forgot that practically every piece of produce is stickered. A Swedish supermarket has a solution: by using natural branding on all of their avocados for one year, they’ll save 135 miles of plastic 1 foot wide. I love the idea of marking produce with a laser instead of a sticker, and I also enjoy the farmers’ market for plastic-free produce. At the grocery store, however, produce with plastic stickers is pretty much unavoidable. Going plastic free for a day was becoming a challenge.

A glass bottle of milk (with a plastic cap)

Next, I realized that our delicious glass-bottled organic milk has a plastic cap and a plastic seal; both go into our recycling bin but I have a feeling that they don’t meet the recycling requirement in our town. The refillable glass bottle is a throw-back to the good old days, and an amazing improvement from plastic milk jugs, but alas the disposable cap and seal are nonetheless plastic.

A receipt (coated in plastic)

Last, as we checked out at the market, we were asked if we’d like our receipt. The cash register prints it regardless, so if we decline a receipt it goes in the recycling. Because receipts are commonly coated with plastic BPA, they not only pollute our environment, but they also contaminate paper recycling.

Our attempt to go plastic free for a day barely lasted a few hours. If you’re inspired to try it, please let us know! We’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions. Lauren Singer said that living completely waste-free is impossible, but she also said that it is possible to take huge steps toward reducing one’s waste in as little as a single day.

Reaffirm your Commitment to Protect the Planet

protect the planet

It is at the core of our mission to give back to organizations that are aligned with our vision to protect the planet and foster healthy communities. Our planet needs us now more than ever. Will you make a pledge with us for the environment? Volunteer, donate, advocate, vote and support products that inherently help our fragile planet. If you’re looking for organizations to support, here are a few of our favorites.

1% for the Planet

1% for the Planet is a global network of businesses that donates one percent of annual sales to environmental organizations. Started by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, 1% for the Planet has given over $100 million to restore and protect the environment. The network is made up of 1,200 environmentally conscious companies and brands representing industries that share the same common belief: environmental protection and good corporate citizenship are core business principles, and our joint responsibility. In 2015 we became a member of 1% for the Planet.

5 Gyres

5 Gyres is working tirelessly to eliminate plastic pollution through science and education. Every single piece of plastic that has been produced is still on the planet in some shape or form. With 300 million tons produced every year, the plastic pollution crisis is one of he most important issues we face. What can you do to help protect the planet? Refuse styrofoam, microbeads, plastic bags, plastic straws, takeout containers and plastic bottles. Pledge to eliminate single-use plastic and donate to their organization to fund research and educational programs.

Environmental Working Group

The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit with a mission to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through breakthrough research and education, they drive consumer choice and civic action. By releasing consumer guides on key issues like pesticides in produce and healthy home cleaning, EWG is an invaluable resource for people trying to live a healthy lifestyle and protect the planet. Get involved by supporting their work. You can do this by donating online, signing up to receive their newsletter, using their Skin Deep product database and shopping through their affiliate link.

Turning Green

By equipping students with knowledge, resources and tools, Turning Green works to transition students’ mindsets, habits and practices from conventional to conscious. Turning Green knows that when empowered, students create a ripple effect that impacts change on campuses and communities globally. They’ve reached students at over 2,000 campuses in 50 states and 48 countries through on-campus programs and campus leadership opportunities. If you know you’d like to get involved but are unsure of where to start you can contact them to determine the program that fits you best.

How will you protect the planet in 2017? We’d love to know how you’re giving back this year to important environmental issues. Leave a comment on our facebook page or send us a tweet to let us know!

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.

Black Friday Purchases that Change Habits

black friday

This is a tough one…we want to get our products in the hands of as many people as possible to help eliminate single-use waste, but we also want to balance that with a message of slowing down the mindless shopping frenzy that starts on Black Friday and continues through the holiday season.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you care deeply about the environment and make thoughtful decisions every day that align with these values…so keep it up. While planning and completing your holiday shopping this year, continue to be mindful of the following:

Resist buying something just because it’s on sale

Black Friday is the biggest day of the year for discount shopping. Shoppers expect great deals at deep discounts. But we often neglect to think about the true cost of our purchases, especially when they are irresistibly cheap. The average American generates 82 pounds of textile waste every year which usually ends up in landfills.

Choose more meaningful gifts

Some of the best gifts come with the most thought behind them. Experiences, hand drawn pictures, and thoughtful handwritten cards have been some of our favorite gifts over the years. Remember the theme of the season is to spend quality time with loved ones, so slow down and give them the gift of your presence. Give to non-profits in the name of your friend or family member. Make thoughtful homemade gifts that have a much lower impact on the planet. Sew, bake, get creative. See our ideas here.

Honor the cause

Choose products that lessen your overall impact on the environment. Shop from Certified B Corporations that work hard to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. And of course give the gift of reuse! Make cookies, breads, candied nuts, loose teas, herbs, olives or other holiday treats and package them in reusable containers.

To purchase with a purpose this holiday weekend, enjoy 20% off all U Konserve products, including sale items, with coupon: PURPOSE20. Starts Friday, 11/25.  Ends Monday, 11/28. Online only.

Wellness Tips for Fall as the Seasons Change

wellness

Fall can be a challenging adjustment on your health and wellness after the long, warm days of Summer sunshine. With shorter hours of daylight and cooler weather, Fall can take a toll on your physical and mental health.

However, by following a few of these wellness tips you can keep your health in check and enjoy the change in season.

Enjoy Time Outside

This is the time of year where our daylight hours seem to fly by. Make sure you are getting enough vitamin D via sunshine by taking a quick walk at lunch and spending your weekends outside. Planning a day trip or weekend getaway to go hiking or exploring with friends and family is a great way to enjoy autumn and all that it has to offer.

Avoid the “Office Germs”

Is everyone around you sick? Avoid catching the sickness that seems to be going around by making sure you:

  • Get enough sleep. As the time changes and daylight become shorter, try and get your body on a regular sleep cycle that provides you 8-10 hours of sleep per night.
  • Drink plenty of fluids like water, hot herbal teas, natural juices and smoothies.
  • Don’t over commit yourself and your family. Use this time before the holidays to slow down and spend quality time with loved ones. Instead of a night out, opt for a night in. Invite friends and family over for a potluck or game night!

Shop the Farmers Market for In-Season Veggies

Keep your health up by eating seasonal veggies like beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, kale and squash. Pumpkin is another seasonal superfood that packs a punch!

Autumn is an ideal season to spend some time in the kitchen preparing your favorite nourishing foods. Hot foods such as soups and casseroles are easy to prepare and are seasonal comfort foods. Enjoy our favorite hot dishes with ideas from our Pinterest board!

 

Cast a Vote for the Environment this Election Day

environment

Every election season usually brings plenty of discussion about the environment (we hope), and usually a few environmental ballot measures as well. This election highlights some new proposals that, if passed, we hope could become common practices throughout the nation.

California’s Prop 67: Plastic Bag Ban

In 2014, California passed a law to phase out single-use plastic bags, but plastic bag companies are trying to overturn this law. Every year Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags. These bags are difficult to recycle and often pollute waterways, fill up landfills and harm wildlife. Plastic bags are also harmful to humans since the chemicals found in plastic leach into our soil and water. Spread the word with hashtag #YesOn67 and vote YES on Prop 67 to protect California’s plastic bag ban.

Oregon’s Measure 99: Outdoor School

The proposed outdoor school lottery fund initiative creates a pathway for all Oregon students to attend a week-long outdoor education program by separating out specific funds from the Oregon State lottery system. A yes vote on Measure 99 would help students develop critical skills in leadership, scientific study and environmental policy.

Outside California or Oregon?

You can still vote for the environment! Support candidates whose platforms:

  • Vote for renewable, clean energy sources, policies and incentives.
  • Stand up to oil companies who put local communities and waterways at risk.
  • Dismiss the fossil fuel industry and enforce policies that defend the public’s right to clean air.
  • Support public land and stand against the transfer of public land to state-owned or private entities.

For more information and a comprehensive guide to the issues in the upcoming election, visit Patagonia’s #voteourplanet page.  Here you’ll find guides and resources by issue and state. Their mission is to keep voters informed on the current issues impacting our environment and country.

The Benefits of a Plastic-Free Kitchen

plastic-free

From storing last night’s leftovers to shopping at the grocery store, plastic is everywhere, especially in your kitchen. It is important to understand that some plastics contain a hazardous mix of chemicals, such as:

  • Phthalates, which affect the reproductive system
  • BPA (bisphenol-A), which disrupts the endocrine system by mimicking the female hormone estrogen

As you may be aware, these chemicals can leach into whatever food or beverage you put in them, in amounts that vary depending on your use. For instance, if you microwave plastic containers or bottles, or put hot liquids or foods into them, BPA leaches into your food or drink 55 times faster than when used cold. There is also evidence that chemicals leach from plastic faster when the container is:

  • Old or scratched
  • Frequently put in a dishwasher
  • Washed with harsh detergents

Knowing those facts, you’re probably wondering what steps you can take to transition out of using plastic in your kitchen. Here are a few tips:

Skip Plastic Wrap and Baggies

Plastic wrap and baggies are usually a go-to when saving leftovers. But plastic wrap can leech into your food, and every year 100 billion plastic bags are thrown away in America. Make a transition to reusable food wraps made of beeswax or LDPE #4, a low-density, recyclable plastic. Our food kozies and snack bags are a perfect option, or you can try to DIY with this step-by-step guide.

Save Leftovers in Glass or Stainless Steel

At first, it may seem hard not to use plastic for food storage, but switching to glass or stainless steel is a much healthier option for you and your family. Some helpful tips include:

  • Save glass jars and searching second-hand stores for glass containers in good condition.
  • Purchase stainless steel reusable food containers for takeout and leftovers.
  • Buy glass containers to cook, bake and for storing leftovers.

Skip Plastic When Food Shopping

From produce bags to check out, plastic is everywhere when grocery shopping. Do your best to skip the plastic by purchasing food in bulk in reusable bags, skipping fruits and veggies wrapped in plastic, and bringing reusable jars and containers for other loose items.

Cutting the plastic out of your kitchen may seem overwhelming, but by following these 3 small steps you’ll be able to easily transition to a plastic-free kitchen!

Looking for more ideas on how to live plastic free? Check out our infographics: Top 10 Tips for a Healthy Kitchen and Safer Kitchen Guide, created in partnership with EWG’s Healthy Child Healthy World.