Please pass on the plastic

Just another weblog

Get Rid of ALL Those Chemicals Now October 19, 2010

Filed under: healthy baby,healthy home,healthy office,healthy school — michelleodonoghue @ 2:00 am

Today the Wall Street Journal reported that governments around the world are calling for consumer product companies to reveal the lists of  chemicals that exist in their product. That’s huge—but, and its a big but—this is not mandatory yet and since it’s taken years for the people at the top to ask for this type of information–it’s going to take years for it to become public info.

What to do?  I started eliminating chemicals from our family’s everyday living 10 years ago, one product at a time. It is not only possible, but relatively easy at this point to dramatically reduce everyday exposures at home, the office, and possibly even the kids’ school.

AT HOME:  (these are not in any particular order and, at the risk of sounding repetitive, are ALL extremely important in reducing chemical exposure)

use green cleaning supplies–it is not an option to do otherwise, its a must-do for the health of your family’s lungs and brain cells. the green products out there are so capable. list to follow soon on my favorites.

–use no-VOC paint. 10 years ago there was only low-VOC, today there is no-VOC. Again, this is a must

NO Pesticides on your lawn. They do make their way into your home and the water supply.

Organic / natural skincare, shampoo/lotions/ make-up. Again–a must. Your skin absorbs everything you put onto it. it has been proven several times over that a women who is getting ready for her day, puts on more than 100 chemicals before breakfast. Eliminate parabens and sulfates and you are eliminating a huge intake of chemicals.

use house plants throughout the house–the bigger the better! they absorb the chemicals that may exist. plese check for poisonous plants as I am not familiar with these.

ONLY BUY ORGANIC MATTRESSES. that way you are not breathing in flame retardents all night long. especially important for babies and children.

organic fruit and vegetables are a must. (and hormone free meat and dairy)

no microwave popcorn and no teflon. they are both coated with chemicals that are terrible for us.


–again, set up some plants

NO plastic water bottles, both the single use and the 5 gallon containers are laden with chemicals.

–choose organic meals whenever possible

–do NOT USE ANY STYROFOAM–ever!!!!!!

only use green dry cleaners–the perc that is used in conventional dry cleaners is toxic


no idling bus policy: many school districts are adopting a no-idle policy. If yours has not done so yet, encourage the supervisor to make this a priority. Diesel fumes get into the buses and the children ride to and from school surrounded by the cancerous fumes.

encourage school to use green products. it is NOT more expensive and makes a huge difference as children tend to have their hands in their mouth all day and easily absorb the residue from the cleaners.

a large entryway carpet encourages children to brush their shoes off when they enter the building, which eliminated a lot of dirt and pesticides and chemicals from entering the classroom, where young children lay on the floor and play with toys.

no pesticides on the fields. and NO TURF! standard turf is made from recycled tires, which are hazmat–every footstep sends up loads of toxic dust into children’s lungs. there are other green turf options. After children play gym/ sports they must, must, must wash hands before eating, so that most chemicals are off hands before ingesting food. also wash cuts well.

MY favorite organization in the world, paving the way for all of us in this chemical-free movement, is grassroots environmental education. They have kits you can order for minimal amt (i think $15) that coach parents and educators on how to go chemical free at school. Their site is filled with the most pressing, relevant, cutting edge research out there and makes this mission to go chemical-free very do-able.

During the last 3 years I have touched upon alternatives for all the things mentioned above, so peruse blog for more detail, or comment, or do a little research. the info is out there and its up to the consumer to make these changes happen NOW.

more to come……


Kids’ After School Sports–Go Chemical Free As Many Ways As Possible May 7, 2010

Filed under: healthy baby,healthy school — michelleodonoghue @ 4:39 am
Tags: , ,

choose sports that are comfortable for the parents

Our 7 yr old skates at a local indoor rink where we have loved the weekly games and practices and the whole-family atmosphere.  It is sort of a joke—that the parents should be comfortable (i.e. note the beer)– but the more important thing we’ve  learned about our commitment to kids’ sports is making sure to be as chemical-free as possible…. Things like avoiding pesticides, thorough hand washing, drinking from stainless steel water bottles, healthy snacks….these ideas all play into our families commitment to our kids sports.

When our daughter joined soccer we were really concerned about the use of pesticides on the fields she was playing on. During some team meetings we discussed the ideas that could minimize pesticide ingestion.  The most effective actions were  hand washing (use water bottles right before the end- of- game snack and then thorough washing at home ) and removing cleats before getting into the car and the house. Also, if the players have open scrapes or cuts, make sure they are well covered before playing. There are teams who have successfully eliminated pesticides from their playing fields altogether,  and had Riley stayed on the team after that first season that would have been our priority to make sure that happened. Another thing to consider, turf fields may even be worse, as they are made out of old tires (Hazmat) and the dust and particles are constantly being released into the air as the kids play.

For some really thorough coverage of this topic check out the following websites:

Grassroots Environmental Education

Healthy Child Health World

It's been so much fun to have a family hangout every week!


We’re All In This Together February 7, 2010

A friend recently said to me, as I was rattling on and on about the importance of eliminating chemicals from our lives, that we are each entitled to our own opinion. I wasn’t quite sure how to take that so I took it as a subtle way of disagreeing with me…

In regards to politics, sushi, or a favorite form of exercise,  a different opinion than me would be ok. But, this topic—–eliminating chemicals from our lives—it’s not OK. We are all in this together. It does matter first and foremost to rid your own  home and school of toxins. But, unless all of us take / make great efforts to denounce  the 80,000 chemicals that contaminate our lives, we are all going to suffer the lousy consequences of toxins polluting our bodies.  If I stop using pesticides on my lawn but none of my neighbors do,  the water supply will stay contaminated. If I demand that diesel buses stop idling, but no other parents do, than all of our children will inhale the carcinogenic fumes. If I insist that only organic cleaning supplies enter my house but none of my relatives and neighbors join in, then toxic agents will still pervade. If I stop using plastic shower curtains but our friends don’t, then 38 poisonous chemical fumes will enter my bloodstream every time I hang out for a cup of coffee.

On that note—the one where we ALL do something– please take 3 minutes to watch this incredible video. There is a way to rid our homes/ schools/ workplaces of chemicals. It’s not complicated and the benefits are astounding for our health.  The ripple effect is truly amazing…..

Here’s to each of us having our own opinion, except for when it comes to chemicals 🙂


A smashing plastic bottle success story in 2009 January 4, 2010

an update on the pledge we (Walrath family of 6) took in Oct. 2009 to never drink from a plastic bottle again……

With the exception of one water bottle at a high school football game, WE DID IT!!!!!!  We travelled 8 out of the 10 weekends, attended countless ice hockey games, a karate tournament, a road trip, and we drank only one plastic bottle of water.

I am bragging, I have every right to do so, but mostly my point is that this is possible. We did it by planning a little bit more (fridge always stacked with stainless steel bottles or my favorite, glass aquasana bottles) and every once in a while we suffered a little bit and felt reeeally thirsty (that only happens once or twice until we remembered to never leave home without water) and we occasionally bought a glass bottle of ice tea or juice BUT overall, we just did it.

I enter 2010 so relieved that this doesn’t even have to be a part of my new year’s resolutions. Our family is done with the plastic bottle for good!


Lawn Care situation that ends with a fired landscaper March 19, 2009

Filed under: healthy home,healthy pets,healthy school,healthy water — michelleodonoghue @ 11:15 pm

terrenceJust had an incredibly frustrating landscaper situation, bringing back very bad memories of my pest control situation ( see post # 47).  As we are renting our home in CA we are using the same landscapers that the owners have used for years prior. Wen we first moved in I met with the head guy to go over what he uses on the lawns and the watering schedule. He told me they do not put anything on the lawn, definitely no chemicals. I should have known better but I trusted what he said. it was California after all–the most organic state in the nation.


Today as I brought our new puppy (sooo cute)outside to play, the boss landscaper stopped me to stay that I shouldn’t let my pets or people on lawn for 2 hours b/c they had just put weed killer down. My mouth dropped open. You did what? I told you no chemicals, blah, blah, blah i ranted on and on…..he told me he was so sorry, there were so many weeds, he must have forgotten. he told me he would tell his guys right now to stop and no more ever again.  OK, maybe this was a needed reminder. A few minuted later I peeked outside. Boss was no where in site and his guys were sprinkling something on the lawn. i ran out side to see what it was. A miracle grow weed killer and fertilizer.  i can’t write what came out of my mouth next.

i grabbed the bag he was getting his product out of (with his gloved hands and masked mouth mind you) and read the back. Here is what it said: “toxic to marine life. Hazardous to humans and domestic animals. If ingested call poison control, flush with water immediately if contact with skin….etc……the warnings went on and on.

I had the guy call his boss to come back, he never did. I called him myself and asked how could this happen after we had just had this conversation. He said its just fertilizer, its fine. And that’s when he lost his job. 

on to my organic landscaper hunt… the meantime, never trust people who tell you it is natural. Your health and the health of your pets and children depends on it. I just don’t think that word holds much meaning to people yet.


#45–Right back at ya. October 12, 2008

Filed under: healthy school,no more plastic — michelleodonoghue @ 5:07 pm
Tags: ,

My first blogpost from California……

The other day I asked Patrick’s teacher how we could celebrate his 4 year old birthday, coming up in a few weeks. We had already ordered Pokemon birthday supplies,(all paper goods) which we were ecstatic about using, and I figured add in some mini cupcakes and we were good to go…..

Well, not quite. In this school they have this amazingly impressive, green, HEALTHY system down. They already have re-usable snack- ware (pokemon not invited), and the snack (everyday) should consist of a carbohydrate, a dairy, and a fruit or veggie–even on birthdays! Music to my ears,and surprisingly fine with Patrick. This is what the kids are used to and he is just fine to go along or the ride (consolation to all the bleeding hearts out there: Patrick will get to use pokemon supplies for his out of school bday party, but I am fully expecting to get questioned by someone on that!).

So, next I ask the teacher about bringing in homemade pumpkin bread and organic frozen yogurt tubes, a favorite in our house.  She said “well, that would be ok this time, BUT we are trying to go PLASTIC-FREE in this school.”

Enough said, right back at ya.


#38- Back to School Basics-No Bus Idling September 2, 2008

Filed under: healthy home,healthy school — michelleodonoghue @ 11:19 am
Tags: , , ,

One of the things that first got me started on this idea of chemical – free living was an article I read that discussed the amount of pollutants the average school-age child was subjected to in a day. It was something like 200 chemicals in the day, beginning with the most noxious as they got onto the school bus in the morning. As buses sit and idle at the bus stop, diesel fumes enter through the windows and doors. Diesel fumes are laden with chemicals, some known carcinogens. The first studies on this, performed by Yale scientists who noticed something a little “off” in children as they entered their school day, tested blood levels as children entered school and when they got home. The chemical levels in the children’s blood was sky high at these times of day as they inhaled diesel fumes on the way to and from school. Picture this: school pick up, all buses lined up front to back, engines running (sometimes 30 minutes or more as they wait for the chidren), windows open to keep bus cool, school doors open as people coming in and out, and diesel fumes everywhere—-in buses, in building, in lungs. There is NO safe level of diesel fumes in children’s bloodstreams (or adults).

There is a really easy quick- fix to this (the expensive, messy, not -even -great option is to change out all of the diesel engines to regular gasoline–still lousy for environment– but hopefully we’ll be running on electric or hydrogen soon enough anyway! )If your bus company and school district insists on a no-idling policy, buses must turn off their engines at bus stops and in front of school buildings and at bus stops. Once all children are loaded the engines may be turned back on. Home they go, lungs diesel-free. Small, tasteful signs that say “this is an idle-free zone” are all that is needed on school grounds. Buses keep a small sign velcroed to dashboard that says “we are idle-free”. Just in case bus companies need convincing, in this time of impossibly high gas prices, this saves the bus companies HUGE amounts of money in fuel.

(BTW, in cold weather, the policy allows for 5 minutes at a time of running the bus. Important to make sure school doors and windows are closed, the fumes can get in everywhere.)

We have worked on this policy at our school. As with any change, there are always some logistics involved. We needed to set up a new entry and dismissal policy, so that all buses could line up, children walked to bus “stop” and then all buses turn engines on once children are loaded. Believe it or not, the worst offenders in the no-idling policy are parents. They just “run” into school for 20 minutes while they leave their massive SUV’s hanging out in the parking lot.

For some great material on this and very practical way to deal with your school administration, bus companies, and parents, go to The people running this are experts in implementing green, child-safe change. Their website has lots of info about this topic and so many others and sells a$15 binder that spells out the idling policies and many more healthy changes in a really manageable format.

If your child has asthma, a no-idling policy could dramatically improve his/her day as it removes so many potential triggers into their lungs.