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The "Green" Side Of Parenting

Earth Day 2008 is Tuesday. What better time to discuss the "green" side of parenting?!

On The Early Show Saturday, Jeanie Pyun, editor of the new environmental Web site Sprig.com, offered advice to parents on bringing up kids in an eco-sensitive way, and one that would have them become eco-friendly themselves.

Is going green really better, healthier, for your baby or young child?

Absolutely. Just this week, the government reported that a chemical called BPA, that's used for some plastic baby bottles, may be linked to a range of hormonal problems. Canada's government is declaring BPA toxic - so that's a good example of something you don't want in contact with your baby's food. Organic foods are just better for babies and children, along with clothing and bedding. Volatile compounds in paints and household cleaners are connected to asthma and allergies. Toys - we've all heard about lead in many toys from China. Then, there's the diaper debate.

The diaper debate

The popular belief is that cloth diapers are more eco-friendly than disposable diapers, which have all that plastic. And it's true, even when you consider things such as diaper service delivery trucks, bleach, and heavy water use for cloth diapers. But there's also a big convenience factor here - and so the next best thing for the environment is to buy flushable, biodegradable, compost-able diapers, such as "G" diapers. They're just as easy to use as regular disposables, and much more eco-friendly.

Labels can mislead

You can have something that's labeled "natural" cotton, and that may just mean it hasn't been dyed. When clothing or bedding carries a USDA "organic" cotton label, it means at least 70 to 75 percent of the material is organic. With food labels, if it says "organic" on the front of the package, at least 50 percent of the ingredients have to be organic.

Hand-washing as opposed to using dishwashers, and microwaving food in plastic containers

A lot of people think that hand-washing your baby's bottles is more eco-friendly than using a dishwasher, but it's not true; hand-washing is actually inefficient compared to a full dishwasher. And while it's true that microwaving food is energy-efficient, heating your child's dinner in plastic storage containers you've used for a while isn't a good idea: Chemicals can leach into food from every scratch or abrasion in that old plastic. Regular dishes, even paper plates, are safer.

Don't be misled when it comes to personal care products for babies

People may think baby personal care products are better than those for adults, but it's not necessarily true, because babies are especially sensitive to chemicals and other common ingredients.

Is being green more difficult or time-consuming for working parents?

You can take anything too far. Being green has lots of benefits, but you have to choose the changes you want to make. If it disturbs you that chemicals in baby bottles could get into the formula, find the right kind of bottles. And you can take the idea all the way to growing your own organic foods, and cooking fresh for baby all the time - but that kind of thing really is time-consuming. Hardly anyone is perfectly green all the time, every day. It does take some extra effort. But once it becomes a habit, it's like brushing your teeth - you just do it.

Making kids green-sensitive

Many kids are disconnected from where the food on their plates comes from. So it's great for parents to take them shopping at a farmers' market, or even to a farm. You may not want to point at a cute little lamb and say, "There's dinner," but you can show them how to choose fresh, seasonal produce. Then later you can say, "You chose this, and now we're eating it!" Helping kids to see the relationship between farm and table could result in a lesson they'll absorb, which could lead to their making better decisions later.

What are some examples of green household products that are healthier for children than ordinary products?

Use lemon juice and vinegar for cleaning. Some brands include Seventh Generation and Ecover, and Mrs. Myers' cleaning brands.

What kind of impact could these kinds of things have on the big picture, environmentally>

Here's one example: Teach your kids to turn off the water while brushing their teeth - and do it yourself, too. If every American did that, we'd save over a BILLION gallons of water a day! So little things do add up for the environment.

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