Archive for the ‘PVC’ Tag

Passing On The Recycled Hose   Leave a comment

This weekend we had to replace one of our garden hoses (although I’m planning on just cutting off the split end and keeping the part that still works fine), and I amused myself by perusing the hose shelf at the hardware store. There are lots of choices out there! Two in particular stood out to me, as my eye is generally caught by “green” claims even if it is often to dismiss them as greenwashing. The first was the hose with the “lead safe” mark on it, and the second was a hose claiming to be made from recycled materials. Oh, there was also a hose specifically stating that it was a vinyl hose. The other hoses don’t say what material they are made of, except for the rubber hoses, so I can’t say if I managed to avoid getting a PVC hose. Since I purchased the “lead safe” hose, I’m fairly certain that it is not vinyl, or at least not the part in contact with the water, since lead is sometimes an additive in PVC. The hose that concerned me the most was the recycled one. It didn’t say if that is recycled plastic or recycled rubber. If it is recycled plastic, it might be okay; but if it is recycled rubber, I want to stay far from that hose. Recycled rubber might mean tire rubber, which means trace amounts of petroleum compounds, lead, and other heavy metals. Yuck. This is foresight that kids drink from hoses, no matter what parents say (I think I remember even drinking from the hose as a teenager when I really knew better), so I want the hose that does not need to have a Proposition 65 warning on it. While I can’t do anything about bacterial growth in the hose (and wouldn’t even consider an anti-bacterial hose if someone paid me a boatload of cash to use it), I can avoid toxics. Sometimes buying recycled is not necessarily the best choice.

Posted May 9, 2011 by mayakey in gardening, shopping

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Desperately Designing Curtains   Leave a comment

It’s funny how sometimes you can know something and forget it at the same time. I know that I do not sleep well at night when it is not completely dark. However, I seemed to forget that when I prioritized our wish list in our new house, and ranked curtains for the master bedroom as “luxury” items. It took an outside view to point out the “duh” considering that we have a street light that streams into our master bedroom window making it so bright that I could probably read at the window if I tried. At my doctor’s office last week our discussion focussed mostly on what I could do for the various contributing factors to my current minor depression so that my doctor could determine if she needs to adjust my supplements. She asked me to list some things that I could do to treat/take care of myself, and I mentioned the curtain project that sort of started at Christmas. Then I mentioned the street light. Installing curtains is now assigned as my homework to be done in 1 month. After all, not sleeping well night after night for over 5 months could certainly contribute to depression!

I doubt that I am the only person who unintentionally discounts things like the effect of the street light on my well being. There are lots of things that we *know* will help us to feel/be better/healthier, like exercising and not overindulging in fat/sugar/salt, but that we deliberately do anyway. This is a whole other class of things that aren’t necessarily commonly known, and that are great indications of how we tend to not pay close attention to our bodies and minds. Things like sleeping in true dark, drinking lots of water, or even not sitting with crossed legs. The negatives effects are subtle, and unless you have a commitment to listen to and care for yourself, they go unnoticed or ignored. Sometimes I wish there was such a thing as a “subtly unhealthy” audit to help bring them to the fore.

Now that I’ve had my “duh” moment, I am scrambling to get curtains. I spent a week visualizing curtains and shades and discussing my ideas with my husband to figure out what would work best. I did some online browsing for pre-made blackout curtains, but most of them are made of PVC, and of course none of them use organic fabrics. So I’m going to follow a suggestion that I saw somewhere a while ago, and do 2 or 3 layers of a fabric like velvet. Now I need to find fabrics. The local fabric store does not sell organic fabrics, so I’ve ordered swatches from some online organic fabric vendors. I also need to find hardware to make sure that we can actually hang the double tab-top curtains that I have in my mind.

Posted January 24, 2011 by mayakey in conscious living, health, home, self-care, shopping

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Cling Wrap Alternatives   Leave a comment

At the beginning of the summer there was a comment asking about cling wrap alternatives, and I wasn’t able to give a very good response at the time. It’s been processing in the back of my mind throughout all of the goings-on this summer and I’m finally going to take a stab at posting a better response. There were two main reasons why the question was difficult for me to answer. The first was that it has been so long since I regularly used any cling wrap that I couldn’t remember how I transitioned, and the second was that I have unanswered questions myself when it comes to some of the alternatives.

Personally, my original reason for avoiding plastic wrap was waste reduction. Plastic wrap is in the category of “single use” products since it is nigh impossible to re-use most plastic wrap, and as a result there is a ton of waste products to consider. The tip of the iceberg is the little wad of plastic that fits in the palm of your hand. Then there’s the box, cutting strip, and tube. Don’t forget about the shipping container from the factory to the distributor to the retailer. Or the trimmings in the factory during the manufacture of the plastic, box, cutting strip, and tube. And then there’s all the waste that occurs during the extraction and refinement of the raw materials. Oh, and all of the energy and water required for this whole process. See what I mean about the actual plastic wrap being the tip of the iceberg?

A few years ago I also became concerned about the potential for chemical leaching from plastic wrap. Some plastic wraps, including nearly all food-service wraps, are made of PVC, the “toxic plastic”. I understand that most of the plastic wraps sitting on grocery store shelves are no longer made from PVC, but even if they are made from “safer” plastics I’m not completely comfortable. Try this: go to the website for your brand of plastic wrap (for this exercise I went to the Glad website, but I’m guessing any brand will have almost the same language). Find the FAQs or information page about the cling wrap. It’ll say “blah blah… no PVC, plasticizers, phthalates or BPA… blah blah… made of polyethylene… blah blah… “The only additives are proprietary cling agents used at low concentrations which are FDA compliant”. Yeah, like I’m going to trust the FDA or a large conventional company. Have these “cling agents” been tested extensively with regards to human health concerns? Considering how few new chemicals have been tested, my guess is no, and therefore I’d prefer to avoid exposure rather than find out later that there was indeed a problem.

Here’s my list of alternatives, roughly ranked in the order of my increased comfort level.

  • Nothing. There are lots of things that really don’t need to be wrapped. That’s the best solution, when practical. I could have put this at the bottom of the list, but since there are even more foods that cannot be left with no cover or seal it goes at the top.
  • Wax paper. Wax paper and a rubber band can seal a bowl, or an item could be wrapped in wax paper like a package. BUT, what kind of wax and other additives are used? I have had little success finding that information, which makes me uncomfortable. Personally, I prefer to avoid petroleum-based waxes for potential exposure and environmental impact reasons.
  • Foil. Works when wrapping an item, and ok for covering a dish. I’m guessing that I’m not the only person who has a problem keeping the foil in place and sealed on a large bowl without having to wrap the bowl twice-over. And aluminum foil should never be used in direct contact with acidic foods. There’s also the matter of recycling. Theoretically, aluminum foil could be made of recycled aluminum and could therefore have a fraction of the energy footprint of a mined ore product. Unfortunately, not all boxes of foil say whether or how much recycled material is used. Also theoretically, used aluminum foil could be recycled. However, aluminum foil seems to be a frequent guest of the “do not recycle” list because of food contamination issues. By that I mean the food left stuck on the foil attracts pests and rots, and recycling companies don’t want to deal with that. I understand that contamination with food residue is the biggest reason for recyclable items to be landfilled by solid waste companies. Even though I always wash used foil and then fold it instead of wadding it, I have a sneaking suspicion that it gets sorted out and landfilled anyway. If I can’t get the foil clean, it just goes straight into the trash. Of course, foil can be reused; at least until it tears.
  • Resealable plastic bags. These things are just so darned useful. We put cheese in a zippered bag so that if it goes moldy nothing else will, and open sausage/hot dog packs so that we can prevent a mess. Yes, it’s plastic, and no, I still do not trust the FDA and plastic manufacturers. But these bags typically only contact part of the surface of the food, and I hope that since they don’t have to have the fancy stretch-cling properties as cling wrap, that they have fewer additives.
  • Plastic containers. I rely on my drawer of plastic containers. Tupperware, Gladware, whatever. They are made from “safe” plastics, but I always see the advice to not heat food in them to avoid concerns with leaching chemicals. Admittedly I regularly microwave my leftovers in Tupperware. Unfortunately, after several years this means the plastic has absorbed a lot of food odors and now contaminate new foods with the odors of years and years of leftovers. My current wish is to transition away from plastic food containers because of the same chemical concerns as plastic wrap. This was a goal reward for myself last year, but I unfortunately did not meet the goal, so I still dread opening my lunch most days.
  • Glass or metal containers. Pyrex or metal bowls with plastic lids, cooking pots, the glass-lidded bowl from the rice cooker, a plate covering a bowl, reused jars, etc. There are lots of options and each has its own pros/cons. Maybe there’s not a huge difference between plastic lids and plastic wrap, but the reusability factor is big.
  • Fabric. Our fridge is filled with unbleached organic cotton bags. Most of our farmer’s market haul goes into fabric bags or loose. Fabric bags don’t work for leftovers, of course, but for other stuff they’re great. They are easy to wash, organic, and repeatedly reusable. A fabric cloth can also be placed over a bowl or plate instead of a plastic lid or wrap in the microwave.

Posted September 6, 2010 by mayakey in food, home, resource use

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Bare Floors, For Now   5 comments

At the end of the week last week we finally closed on our house. And what was the first order of business? Ripping out the old carpet.

When we started our house hunting we knew that we would be replacing any flooring other than tile or hardwood, so it was one of the things that we considered when deciding how much we would offer on a given house. We didn’t look at houses that were flipped so that we were less likely to be in a situation of ripping out new flooring (that would have been such a waste). The age of the flooring would have little to do with my desire to replace it.

Here are my reasons for removing the existing flooring:

  1. Carpet traps particulate matter and as a result may harbor residual concentrations of heavy metals, pesticides, or other chemicals of concern. Without knowledge of what the previous owners may have tracked into the house, I have no way of knowing what my future baby may be exposed to when crawling around the house.
  2. “Conventional” carpeting offgasses volatile organic compounds (VOCs), many of which are toxic and/or carcinogenic (guess what that new carpet smell is). I don’t really know how long carpet continues to offgass. When I did some internet research a while back for a friend I found somewhere that it takes approximately 10 years for the carpet and carpet pad to finish offgassing; and I found somewhere else that carpet and carpet pad never stop offgassing because by the time the materials of construction have stopped offgassing they have started to break down, which releases more VOCs into the air. I don’t know what the truth is and I don’t care; I prefer to just avoid “conventional” carpet altogether.
  3. Vinyl linoleum is PVC and laminate flooring may contain formaldehyde. (See my Making Scones post about PVC; I should just do a post about PVC so that linking is easier) Both of those compounds have potential indoor air issues due to offgassing. Absolutely got to go. I would like make our house as PVC-free as possible (The windows may well have vinyl frames, and that is the one source of vinyl that I don’t anticipate removing right now since the windows are otherwise good windows.)
  4. Carpet can also provide shelter for unwelcome bugs, like chiggers. I had a friend who had a chigger problem that even repeated bug bombing couldn’t eliminate. I don’t want to bug bomb the house since we will soon start a family, so the carpet has got to go.
  5. Old carpet is just gross.

Our new house, thankfully has tile on approximately 1/3 of the floor area, including the two bathrooms, so that makes our job a little easier. Number 3 above is moot since there is no linoleum or laminate flooring. And number 4 above becomes more important because the house has been vacant (of humans anyway) for two years.

When I first started pulling up the carpet, I was second guessing myself vigorously. The carpet was still in good shape, and so I worried that I was making the wrong decision. But after finding a few stains and dirty spots I regained my conviction. There is now a pile of rolled up carpet and carpet pad segments waiting for transport to the carpet recycler (more on that later). Some of the formerly carpeted rooms are now just showing the concrete slab, and some have this horrible plastic-looking fake parquet flooring that is well glued to the concrete. As much as I would like to remove it, I think that may be pushing the limits of the practically doable.

Posted July 6, 2010 by mayakey in home

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Making Scones   4 comments

I am embarking on a new journey today: regular scone making. I hope “regular” anyway. I used to buy a muffin at the farmer’s market every Saturday to eat before Mass on Sunday morning, but about a month ago I stopped getting the muffin as part of my pre-pre-pregnancy diet changes. The muffins were wrapped in basic food service PVC plastic wrap, so they had to go. (Plus it was $2 a week for something that was passable but not great or healthy.) I love scones, and they are easy to make, so they seemed like to best option when trying to start a new baking routine. (I hope the routine sticks, and I can eventually add bread, too.)

PVC is something to avoid for a multitude of reasons along the entire life cycle. It is made from vinyl choride, a known carcinogen, which means there is an elevated health risk to workers and residents near manufacturing plants. The manufacture of PVC also creates highly toxic dioxins, which deposit on plants including feed crops and food crops, and then enter into our food chain where they bioaccumulate. PVC often contains plasticizers like phthalates to make them soft and pliable (like clingy food wraps). Research on phthalates is not conclusive yet, but there are strong indications that phthalates contribute to birth defects in boys. And PVC is not recyclable. So PVC is a bad actor cradle-to-grave, and yet has become so pervasive in our society that it is pretty much impossible to avoid exposure. For years I have tried to avoid PVC, but as we prepare to start our family, that effort takes on a whole new urgency.

I know that reducing my exposure to phthalates now isn’t going to reduce my body burden significantly, which means that my baby will be born with a body burden. I figure that I can at least not make it any worse, though, hence the personal restrictions.

The send-off on this new scone making journey was successful. I made 50/50 whole wheat flour/white flour scones with chopped fresh apricots. They came out well (I had to test one while still warm from the oven of course), although at one point during the making I was a little worried. I have a tendency to make changes to recipes before I actually know what I am doing, and that’s really not a good idea. In this case I was using whole wheat flour in a white flour recipe and adding fresh fruit, but I didn’t know how to adjust the liquid amount accordingly. I look forward to more scone experiments; and maybe eventually I’ll figure out what I’m doing.

Posted May 29, 2010 by mayakey in food, frugal living, simple living

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