The Green Mama

Green Your School in 5 Easy Steps

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Cecelia Ungari

Find me at in the middle of some project or experiment, or asleep.

The first day of school: it is a blessing and a challenge.  When your child is at home, it seems easier to be in control of their safety. Then one day your child goes off to their first day of school (think cute little back pack and a last wave as they disappear through the door) and everything changes. "My teacher said..." becomes a routine saying at home and all of the sudden your baby is demanding that you start recycling.

What can YOU do (realistically) to help (really) green your child's school?

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Peaceful Kingdom Screening and Reception

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Kari McLennan

This Thursday night, Mindful Metropolis magazine is hosting a reception and screening of the documentary Peaceful Kingdom: The Journey Home. Not familiar with Mindful Metropolis? They used to be Conscious Choice until the owners decided to shut it down at which point the employees took it over. Now it is a new and improved version of its earlier self AND they are hosting some amazing events that foster community around the issues they promote and report on.

Here is a synopsis of the movie. Find out more on their website.
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Green Mama News - Studies Question Sunscreen Safety

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Cecelia Ungari

Find me at in the middle of some project or experiment, or asleep.

Summer is here in the northern hemisphere! Chicago had its first string of hot days - the lakefront path is crowded, kids are playing in the water and the air smells of sunscreen and bbq's.  With the sun shining down and the urge to take off all but my bottom layers, comes the inevitable question - Should I put on sunscreen today or not?

I've been asked by many parents in the past few weeks "where The Green Mama stands on sunscreen." I wish I had a quick answer, but I don't. What we can provide is some background on the issues, as well as some encouragement to choose what is best for yourself and your family based on your skin and what we know of sun exposure.

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The Green Mama Eats: Find Fresh Veggies in the Heart of Chicago

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Cecelia Ungari

Find me at in the middle of some project or experiment, or asleep.

Topping The Green Mama's list of ways that families can go greener, eat healthy and save money is joining a CSA. CSAs, Community Supported Agriculture, are farms where consumers buy a share of the farm's yield for the season.  Typically you pay at the beginning of the growing season for a weekly box of fresh produce delivered to the city. At $15 to $30 for enough produce to feed your family for a week, CSA's are a great bargain. 

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Get Your Green On at the Chicago Green Festival

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Kari McLennan

I love when the Chicago Green Festival comes to town. I've gone every year (this will be the 4th) and always have a ton of fun. I get introduced to new green companies and reconnect with existing ones; eat yummy healthy food, listen to incredible speakers (one of which is our very own Cecelia Ungari), and see and touch green products that otherwise are only available on the internet. Last year I got a carabiner clip for my Kleen Kanteen - because I carried that dang bottle around all day without a place to put it!

What also makes the green festival so much fun for me is that I run into so many friends and green community acquaintances. It's a big green party. And speaking of parties, the Green Carpet Gala is this weekend, too. It's the official Green Fest kick-off party Friday night at 5:30pm at the Marmon Grand. Free local and organic food, readers' choice awards, and a live performance from Funkadesi. I'll be there so come say hello!

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LOUI SAVES THE EARTH! Chicago Author Pens Eco-Themed Children's Book

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Kari McLennan

A local author and green business owner is releasing her first children's book this weekend and the message is an important one. The book is Loui Saves the Earth and the author, and illustrator, is Alexandra Gnoske.

Loui Saves the Earth is about a young boy that has had enough of people littering the planet with trash. He takes a stand and cleans up the trash, putting everything in its proper place - divided among recycling, composting, reusing, and waste.

Alexandra (Alex) is not just a writer. She also owns Recycle Me, an organic cotton clothing company that prints positive environmental statement shirts in an environmentally responsible manner. True to her green mission, her clothing is all manufactured in the United States and Loui Saves the Earth is printed in Tennessee. (Local manufacturing is important; however, I do wish the book had been printed by a green printer using recycled paper and vegetable inks. Check out what The Green Mama has to say about green printing.)



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Supporting Slave Labor? 5 Tips To Fair Trade Your Home

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Cecelia Ungari

Find me at in the middle of some project or experiment, or asleep.

The call to "Fair Trade your home" has been gaining attention recently. Recent awareness campaigns have shed light on the abundance of inhumane work conditions many around the world deal with, that we in the developed world exploit. Often it seems like overcoming such a complicated issue is impossible for just one person or family to do, but I found out it's not such a big undertaking after all. Buying Fair Trade is a win-win proposition!

5 TIPS TO "FAIR TRADE YOUR  HOME"

Some of the best ways to get rid of sweatshop items in your home and to go Fair Trade are:

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Squashing Green-Washing

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Cecelia Ungari

Find me at in the middle of some project or experiment, or asleep.

Recently a lot of friends have been asking me "Is this cleaning product, lotion/soap/cosmetic/kid toy really green?" Far from being a sustainable litmus test, I cannot help but tilt my head, analyze and give my opinion.   I'm not looking into a green crystal ball to help me see through green-hype or green-washing. I'm using some basic guidelines to help me determine if something is truly green and if I want to buy/support/share it.

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This Earth Day Support the Safe Chemicals Act

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Kari McLennan

On April 15th, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) announced legislation to overhaul the "Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976." The new bill, called the "Safe Chemicals Act," would require safety testing of all industrial chemicals, which is something the TSCA fell short on.

Currently, around 82,000 chemicals are in use in the US. Only 200 of those have been tested for safety and only 5 have been banned! Under the TSCA, the EPA can only test a chemical for safety after there is evidence of it being dangerous. This not only lacks common sense but has tragically contributed to many early deaths and illnesses. If the Safe Chemicals Act gets passed, the burden of proof that a chemical is safe falls on the manufacturer, where it should be. All uses will have to be identified and determined safe for the chemical to enter the market or continue to be used.

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Earth Day Events: Green Pregnancy 101

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Cecelia Ungari

Find me at in the middle of some project or experiment, or asleep.

Earth Day always feels a bit like an environmentalist's New Year celebration to me. It is a chance to reflect on the year's past green successes and look ahead to new year of opportunity and positive change.

In the spring, I feel full of renewed excitement and connection to the living world, almost pregnant with eco-passion. It is a time for families to come outside, to play in the sun and soil. At The Green Mama we work with to grow greener families, helping them to incorporate fun and easy green practices into their homes and lives. We teach classes, consult with individuals and small businesses, and work to support communities of engaged parents who are interested in the health of their families and the health of the planet. 

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To Flush or Not To Flush?

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Cecelia Ungari

Find me at in the middle of some project or experiment, or asleep.

With spring in Chicago I've come to expect some big rainstorms, the kind that can dump inches of water in just a few hours, flooding the streets and parks. I live by Lake Michigan and count myself lucky to witness daily this majestic, vast body of water. With all its abundance it seems like we don't need to worry about water scarcity. But water shortages are a looming reality here, and fresh water shortages and persistent droughts exist throughout the world. Can flushing my toilet make a difference in these global issues?

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Cell Phone Recycling Made Easier

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Kari McLennan

Last week was National Cell Phone Recycling Week. I was out of town so I'm just now finding out. But better late than never. So, if you're one of those people that stashes your old cell phones away in a drawer "until you figure out what to do with it," keep reading.

Cell phone recycling is part of the EPA's Plug-In to eCycling Program. They've teamed up with manufacturers and retailers to make it easier for anyone to recycle their old phones.

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Earth Day Events: Green Family Festival

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Cecelia Ungari

Find me at in the middle of some project or experiment, or asleep.

How will you be celebrating Earth Day? Founded in 1970, by WI senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day is a chance to celebrate environmental achievements and learn more about ways to get involved in the growing green movement. Whether your family is looking for ways to shave a few more pounds off your carbon footprint or you want to learn ways to get started going green, The Green Family Festival, April 17 - 18th is the place to be next weekend! 
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Zero-VOC Paint: Nursery Design

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Cecelia Ungari

Find me at in the middle of some project or experiment, or asleep.

Considering repainting your home now that spring is here? A fresh coat of paint can be transformative. Depending on what paint you use, it can also be an opportunity to avoid indoor air pollution. A few years ago it was hard to find much variety in eco-safe paints. Milk based paints, considered truly non-toxic, have limited color palettes as compared to the thousands of shades in latex paint, and aren't as simple to use as ready-to-paint gallons.

 
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A Food Revolution in School Lunches

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Kari McLennan

Has anyone been watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution? I have and I have to say that Jamie is truly inspiring. He's got so much passion and drive. I wish I had a pinky's worth of his. If you're not familiar with Jamie, he has a long career that I believe started with his simple cooking show The Naked Chef. Since then he's revolutionized the British school lunch program and is now on to America's unhealthiest city to continue the revolution.

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Mamas and a Movie

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Kari McLennan

Recently I watched an incredible documentary called My Toxic Baby by Min Sook Lee (recently nominated for a 2010 Golden Sheaf award for Best Point of View Documentary.) Ms. Lee documents her own search as a new mother for safe and affordable ways to raise her child in what seems to be a more and more toxic world. Like any mother, she wants what's best for her child and wonders what that is exactly. This is a personal story. It's really fascinating when she hires someone to test for chemicals in toys and furniture in her home. Watch the trailer.

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What's in Your Water? Bottled vs. Tap

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Cecelia Ungari

Find me at in the middle of some project or experiment, or asleep.

I'm surprised by all the plastic water bottles I see in people's hands. Sure they are marketed as convenient, pure and healthy. But its hard to believe people still buy into these myths. 

Bottled water isn't always cleaner than tap, it comes in a plastic bottle after many miles of transport, and it costs so much!! Some reports put the bottled water mark-up at 1000 times the price of tap water! Buying bottled water remains one of The Green Mama's Top 10 Green Faux Pas.



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Great Green Easter Baskets

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Kari McLennan

One way to green up your Easter celebration is to make or buy a basket that is reusable. Growing up I always had the same basket. I didn't even realize until recently that some kids get a new "ready-made" basket every year (and they are usually wrapped in cellophane). I realize this is a quick and easy solution for someone that doesn't have much time or isn't very creative. However, if you reuse the same basket every year, you don't have to think about it. And if your kids are old enough to make their own, then you just need to supply the materials and some ideas. So check out the photo gallery for ideas and click on the links for some favorites I found online complete with directions.

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The Green Mama Daily Decisions: Dish Detergent

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Cecelia Ungari

Find me at in the middle of some project or experiment, or asleep.

After years of great service, our dishwasher broke. It only took a few days for me to realize just how much I took it for granted. 

Washing dishes in a dishwasher saves water and energy. A German study found that a dishwasher uses only half the energy and one-sixth of the water, not to mention less soap. 

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Does Your Grocery Store Inspire You?

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Kari McLennan

I went to a different grocery store today than I usually do. My normal store is the Whole Foods in Lakeview. Today I decided to go to the new-ish Whole Foods in Lincoln Park because I'm on a special restrictive diet and they have more options there due to their size. If you haven't been, I recommend checking it out. It's huge.

I made sure to go when I was relaxed and had plenty of time to wander around. You don't want to be in a hurry here because it's so big. Also, depending on when you go there can be a lot of traffic and parking can be a pain. So, I have my list but I'm also keeping an open mind, looking for something to grab me. I'm looking for INSPIRATION.
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Lights out on Climate Change

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Cecelia Ungari

Find me at in the middle of some project or experiment, or asleep.

Earth Hour in Chicago - March 27th 8:30 - 9:30 pm

In Chicago buildings account for approximately 70 percent of all the green house gas emissions. The energy we use to light, heat and cool our buildings adds up (4.6 MMTCO2e). 

There are many actions we can take to conserve energy - increasing the energy efficiency in our homes and buildings, choosing food and products with less of a carbon footprint, and sharing the message with friends and family.

We've signed up to participate in Earth Hour, March 27th. For one hour, 8:30 - 9:30 pm, individuals and businesses will be turning off their lights to raise awareness. Join millions of others by turning off your lights during Earth Hour. Learn more and join the movement! 

Take the City of Chicago's $800 Savings challenge. Save even more with The Green Mama's Live Green Save Green workshops 


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Feeding Chickens Just a Day in the Life of a Student at the Academy for Global Citizenship

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Kari McLennan

A couple of weeks ago, Cecelia and I took a tour of a new Chicago Public School called the Academy for Global Citizenship. We wanted to see what this new model of schooling was all about. AGC's mission is two-fold. They want "to empower all students to positively impact the community and world beyond" and also "inspire the way society educates the lifeblood of our future by fostering systemic change." What incredible goals!

Global education was definitely evident as soon as we walked in and saw maps all along the main hallway. (The only time I saw a map in school was when I learned the states in 5th grade and in Geography class in 7th grade.) Even more impressive was that some of the teachers had been to various places around the globe to learn about those places and bring that knowledge back to the kids. Why study from books when you can learn it through the stories of someone that has been there? 

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Made in China and Organic: An Oxymoron?

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Cecelia Ungari

Find me at in the middle of some project or experiment, or asleep.

Is it really organic if it's made in China? A recent report from the ABC Channel 7 News I-Team suggests products that are processed in China and marketed as "organic" lack the same quality standards for food produced in the United States. The investigative report focuses on products marketed as organic within Whole Foods' 365 brand. Is this an isolated case of greenwashing? Or does this report highlight a larger issue? Should we continue to consume food that is grown halfway around the world, that is processed and packaged in manufacturing plants, and that is sold to consumers by huge corporate conglomerates? 

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The Story of Stuff: A Great Educational Tool for Kids

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Kari McLennan

If you haven't watched the 20 minute cartoon film called "The Story of Stuff," you are among only a few. It went viral after it hit the internet a couple of years back due to the simple format and powerful message. That message resonated with so many people that now there is a book! The purpose of the book is to address those parts of the issue that could not be put in the film due to the fact that it was only 20 minutes.
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The Green Mama Eats: Sushi

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Cecelia Ungari

Find me at in the middle of some project or experiment, or asleep.

For many years I avoided eating fish. I was too conscious of overfishing issues, habitat destruction in the oceans, and contamination from mercury, PBCs and other chemicals. I also heard the nutrition drumbeat calling for us to eat Omega 3s and fish-based fatty acids for our health. These days I still don't eat fish too often, but I was curious about how to go about including some of the more sustainable options into my diet. It was all awfully confusing, until I found sustainable seafood guides like Shedd Aquarium's Right Bite Card and Monterey Bay's Seafood Watch Extended program. These guides help to educate consumers, fisherman, and chefs about the issues surrounding fish consumption. 

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Garbage Disposals: Modern Convenience or Wastewater Nightmare?

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Kari McLennan

I had never lived in an apartment with a garbage disposal until we moved into our condo a few years ago. Thinking this was just one more modern day convenience that people have come to covet, I didn't think much of it. I started using it and thought it was nice to be able to rinse food off the dishes before loading them in the dishwasher. Isn't this behavior typical? We do things without giving it much thought. To me, being an environmentalist means having to think about all of my actions and what the short and long term consequences are.
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Organic Tampons: Why the Switch Could Change Your Life

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Cecelia Ungari

Find me at in the middle of some project or experiment, or asleep.

When I first switched to organic tampons over 10 years ago, I worried about the impact of the extra $2 per month on my wallet. Ultimately, I switched because the impacts on my body and our planet made it worth it to me.

A typical woman uses more than 8,500 tampons in her lifetime. (4 tampons for 6 days, 12 months a year for 30 years is 8,640.)
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Conscious Shopping at Connect - 2nd Location!

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Kari McLennan

This Friday, Connect is throwing a grand opening party for their 2nd location at 2130 N. Halsted in Lincoln Park. The existing Connect store in Wicker Park was spawned from the closing of a Nau showroom in 2008. Several smart minds got together and created a unique space that acts as a showroom for the Nau clothing line, a retail outlet for local and national sustainability-focused designers, and an event space. Of course, events are also sustainability-themed and are an avenue to give back to the community by offering a fundraising component.
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You Don't Have to be on TV to Learn These 4 Tips for Greening Your Home

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Cecelia Ungari

Find me at in the middle of some project or experiment, or asleep.

Tune in and see Stephen Brooks, the host of Save My Planet, interview The Green Mama, LLC owner and green guru Manda Aufochs Gillespie as she visits the home of Chapter One Organics' Jennifer Murphy.

We at the Green Mama encourage families to make small changes, one step at a time. The key is to have patience with yourself and not to get overwhelmed by trying to change everything all at once. Starting with simple steps that you find interesting is a great way to have fun with the process. To help, here are 4 simple steps that can save money, save your health and help save the planet!

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Eat, Learn, Buy - Family Farmed Expo is Next Weekend

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Kari McLennan

I'm so excited about the Family Farmed Expo next weekend. I haven't been able to go in the past so I'm really looking forward to it. Each year it gets bigger and this year they have an all-star line up of local celebrity chefs doing cooking demos and an incredible list of workshops.

You can meet farmers, sign up for a CSA and learn how to eat local food year-round. Visit the Farmer Pavilion to sample and purchase local produce, cheese, meats, honey, wool, soaps and other great products and check out the Local Food Court and bookstore. There is something for everyone.

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