Earth Hour Efforts Earn School Non-Toxic, Refillable Markers

St Peters 2Last week we took a look into the true impact of Earth Hour and the year-round events that are inspired by the global movement, headed up by WWF. The scope of the worldwide impact is matched only by the diversity of actions that are taken from country to country. Today we look back at Earth Hour last year, and an initiative that EcoSmart Products proudly helped to sponsor. The organization Act for Antarctica inspired many people, especially youth, to carry out an act for the health of the planet and the preservation of Antarctica.

Act for Antarctica is a global youth-driven campaign that aims to educate high school and elementary school students about the significance of the polar regions. We want young people to learn about Antarctica, one of the areas most affected by global warming (we’ll even send you a free book!), and then take action to protect this vulnerable ecosystem. 

Check out more information on Act for Antarctica here.

As part of the challenge, Act for Antarctica drew prizes for schools that participated in their campaign. EcoSmart Products donated its Non-Toxic, Refillable Markers and Refill Inks to St Peter’s School in Philadelphia for their action on Earth Hour. Here is an excerpt from one of the teachers about the presentation from Leah Davidson, one of the main collaborators of Act for Antarctica:

 

It was an awesome opportunity to collaborate across divisions in our school, and it provided wonderful leadership and public speaking experience for my students. They are now super committed to solving the energy crisis (and also insisted that we go the entire day Friday without turning on any lights!) Thank you very much for sharing your experience with our students. It has inspired them without a doubt.

St Peter’s , Philadelphia

 

They even sent us pictures of their students with EcoSmart’s markers and some sweet messages. Well done St Peter’s!

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Earth Hour: Is it doing anything?

Earth Hour logo created in Iran in a dried-up river bed

Earth Hour logo created in Iran in a dried-up river bed

Earth Hour, the annual power-down event, is next weekend, Saturday March 28 at 8:30-9:30pm local time. The global environmental movement began in 2007 in Australia by WWF and has been gaining traction every year since. We thought we’d take a look into whether this awareness-raising event is having any impact on reducing global use of energy. Can one hour a year make a difference? Is there any evidence that we are taking Earth Hour to heart and taking action beyond the hour? Let’s take a look.

  • Over 162 countries and territories have participated in Earth Hour
  • Over 7000 cities and towns have participated
  • 60 countries are going ‘beyond the hour’ (see some examples below)
  • 1.2 billion tweets about #EarthHour were sent for 2014
  • $61,487 was crowdfunded for Earth Hour in 2014

Many countries took Earth Hour as an opportunity to focus on their particular environmental challenge:

  • In 2014 Australia focused on saving the Great Barrier Reef with a documentary called “Lights out for the Reef”
  • China focused on smog and air pollution, with a Blue Sky campaign that reached hundreds of millions of people through corporate involvement
  • Pandas received some love when The Amazing Spiderman 2 in collaboration with Earth Hour raised $42,439 USD to help protect the endangered species
  • In Singapore, crowdfunding focused on ‘Stop the Killing’ to address wildlife crime in South East Asia. The effort raised $20,000
  • Indonesia tracked 1.5 million pledges from individuals (mostly youth) to reduce their carbon footprint
  • Madagascar ran a ‘Saving Forests and Families’ crowdfunding campaign and has been delivering thousands of high-efficiency stoves to families as a WWF ‘beyond Earth Hour’ initiative. They also launched a reforestation plan with schools planting 4,500 trees.
  • Russia raised $106,000 to help save the following critical species: Amur Leopard, Snow Leopard, Bison, Polar Bear, Siberian Tiger.
  • Greece collected 15,500 signatures to protest the construction of a new coal plant (Ptolemaida V) and to develop a vision for clean energy in Greece.
  • In Ecuador, plans were launched to reduce certain key plastic products in order to protect marine conservation, including the Galapagos Islands.

And the list goes on! There were music festivals, documentaries, tree-planting campaigns, educational programs, clean-up campaigns, and hashtag campaigns (#maketheswitch). Countries also focused on their dried-up river beds, disappearing ice, and switch to energy-efficient light bulbs. One can easily see that the diversity and effort linked to Earth Hour (mostly through the on-going efforts of WWF) has caused grassroots efforts to address critical issues worldwide. We didn’t even find the estimated energy savings from the one-hour power down from homes and industry across the globe. But the list of on-going efforts is enough for us to say: Lights Out! Bring on #EarthHour!

 

Watch this:

Earth Hour 2015 Official Video, featuring ‘Pompeii’ by Bastille

Spring Cleaning the Non-Toxic, All-Natural Way

This year, avoid harmful chemicals and save some money with homemade and effective household cleaners. There is more research than ever about the chemicals in regular  commercial cleaning products and their link to serious ailments and diseases. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has recently tested 21 common cleaning products and identified 457 air pollutants released through regular cleaning. Of these, 24 chemicals have well-established linked to asthma, cancer and other health disorders such as birth defects and reproductive problems. Is it worth it? What are we doing to ourselves in the name of a ‘clean’ home? Always advocates of non-toxic products at EcoSmart Products, we have put together our list of favorite, basic all-natural, cheap, and effective cleaning recipes, just in time for spring cleaning.

 

All-Purpose Cleaner ecebcf4a363eeb1f_shutterstock_117715075.jpg.xxxlarge_2x

Worst ingredient: Butyl Cellosolve is a suspected carcinogen potentially damaging to bone marrow, the nervous system, the kidneys and the liver.

Natural All-Purpose Cleaner Recipe:

1 gallon hot water

1/2 cup liquid castile soap

10 drops essential oil (optional) like lavender or thyme

 

Room Deodorizerspray bottle

Worst ingredient: Formadehyde can trigger respitory problems and has links to cancer. Butane (in air some air fresheners) is a brain and nervous system toxin. Benzene, also in some air fresheners, has been linked to leukemia and nervous system damage.

Natural Room Deodorizer Recipe:

2 cups water

15 drops thyme essential oil

15 drops tea tree essential oil

10 drops oregano essential oil

 

Glass Cleaner

Worst ingredients: Glycol Ethers have links to adverse effects on the liver and kidneys.

Natural Glass Cleaner Recipe:

1 cup white vinegar

1 cup water

 

laundryLaundry Detergent

Worst ingredient: Nonylphenol ethoxylate degrades into a powerful bioaccumulating endocrine-disruptor. This chemical is banned in Europe.

Natural Laundry Detergent Recipe:

7 quarts hot water

1 cup soap granules

1/2 cup borax

1/2 cup washing soda

20 drops essential oil (optional) such as lemon or lavender

 

For a printable infographic, here are some home recipes from CFHA, the Canadian Health Food Association:

Spring-Cleaning-Recipes

Earth Day 2015: Ideas for Your School or Work

earthday clipBelieve it or not, Earth Day is around the corner, with still enough time to plan for a truly amazing and meaningful celebration! This year Earth Day is mid-week, on Wednesday April 22, 2015 – a great time to mark the occasion at your school or office. Are you in a green school or workplace that already manifests an eco culture? If so, Earth Day can be a time of reflection and celebration of these year-round efforts. It can also be a time to re-think, re-commit and renew efforts. If you are working or studying in an environment that is still trying to be a bit greener, Earth Day can be a great occasion to come together and brainstorm. Here are some ideas to help your group make this Earth Day the best one ever. Hope you have your EcoSmart non-toxic, refillable markers on hand!

Idea #1: Create a Hall of Ideas

Earth Day MuralSince you still have ample time before Earth Day on April 22, consider making a live exhibit where staff and students are invited to contribute their thoughts on an open question such as: Why is Earth Day important? What changes do you want to see for the Earth? and How will you celebrate Earth Day? The Hall of Ideas can be made out of craft paper, bulletin boards or whiteboards. Document the wall with time-lapse video or still images and consult on how to follow up on the ideas and sentiments presented.

 

Idea #2: Connect with the Community

inhabitat

Courtesy of Inhabitat.com

Contact your city officials to see how your school or company can contribute to the community and make its green efforts more widely known. For example, if there is a city-wide Earth Day celebration being planned, are there possibilities for your staff or students to be of service? Alternatively, maybe your school or office could adopt a road or trail, contribute a bench, or plant a tree or garden in the city. If there is a local topic of environmental concern, perhaps your group could brainstorm for solutions and write to the City Hall.

 

Idea #3: Focus your energies on a specific theme

food wasteIt may be hard to talk about saving the environment in a general and abstract way. What does that mean? Maybe if your group has advanced in recycling efforts and creating less waste, for example, then why not shift to another area of capacity-building? Food waste in the US and Canada is at an all-time high. Maybe this year’s Earth Day efforts can center around a theme, with a goal to raise awareness and take specific action. When we view stewardship of the earth as capacity-building, then our activities can be more easily actionable.

 

 

Idea #4: Make pre-Earth Day count

Courtesy of EcoHeroKids.com

Courtesy of EcoHeroKids.com

Use this time leading up to Earth Day to run a contest, plan an event or have a campaign. Using the arts, you could choose from several contests of poetry, visual arts, writing, coloring, video or photography. You could organize a Tedx series of talks with an environmental theme, or run a campaign to find an Environmental Hero in your midst. An awards ceremony on Earth Day would be a nice culmination of the contest or campaign and would work nicely with your social media efforts.

 

Idea #5: Go big, like Festival-Big!

The ultimate proclamation of environmental stewardship can take place with an Earth Day Festival at your school or workplace. Invite local ‘green’ merchants and restaurants, as well as municipal services, to come set up a table to showcase their green products and services. Organize some capacity-building and awareness-raising workshops. There can be participant prizes donated from companies or sponsored by your group. In fact, all the ideas presented above could blend into an Earth Day Festival for a big bang.

 

Do you have any favorite Earth Day activities or ideas that you can share? We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences! Email us at info@ecosmartworld.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valentine’s Day the Non-Toxic Way

heartsWe want you to feel the love this Valentine’s Day. Why not add a twist to your usual Valentine’s routine and make it a non-toxic Valentine’s Day. Not only will it be fun to look for new ways to celebrate, but creating a non-toxic celebration will help keep you from feeling tired, foggy, headachey, and sleepy. Here are some tips to avoid toxic products that are out to kill the fun on Valentine’s day.

1. Start the day off with surprise messages to welcome the day and have your significant other (or children) look forward to the day ahead. Use non-toxic markers like EcoSmart markers to write messages on the bathroom mirror, on windows, or on whiteboards in the house. Lipstick kisses are a nice touch – let’s check in with your choice of lipwear. Does it contain lead? Here’s a list of the top 20 lipsticks with lead, and here’s a list of the best lipsticks for your chops.

2. Next up: flowers. Did you know that flower growers are the heaviest users of agricultural pesticides? So when we stop to smell the roses, we are breathing in a dose of very potent chemicals. And there’s more to consider: many fresh cut flowers are flown in from other areas or countries and wrapped in cellophane. A choice that is healthier for you and the planet would be to visit a farmer’s market for local and preferably organic flowers. Alternatively, house plants, while not a traditional Valentine’s gift, also help to set the mood. Boston ferns, Aloe and Chrysanthemums, as well as several other indoor plants on this list actually help improve your indoor air quality.

3. Chocolates and candies. There are a few problems with our traditional indulgence in sweets for Valentines Day. First of all, the sugar rush and then subsequent crash might make you feel sleepy or even moody. Feeling sluggish on Valentines is probably not the way you want to feel. As for the men, a 2009 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that men with better blood sugar levels enjoyed better sexual health. If you are looking for healthier chocolates with less refined sugar, here is a list of 18 organic and fair trade choices, like Camino and Green & Black.

4. Finally, to set the mood, you may want to consider avoiding scented candles. Studies have found that artificially-scented candles – which are usually petroleum-based – emit chemicals such as benzene and toluene into the air. So beware of your vanilla bean or ‘scents of joy’ candles as they may be unleashing sex-drive-killing toxins. Look instead for natural candles (such as beeswax or soy-based candles) and essential oils, or turn to the fireplace for your mood lighting.

However you celebrate Valentines Day, we hope these few tips will get you on your way to a cleaner, healthier day, in the mood for love and presence in the moment. Happy Valentines!

lipstick

 

 

 

Photo credit for hearts here and lipstick here.

 

 

Fragrance-Free Schools and Offices: EcoSmart’s Markers Help Clear the Air

No-Fragrance-SignA friend of mine wears a personal air filtration system around her neck. She suffers from multiple chemical sensitivities and is triggered by any number of fragrances. If someone walks in the room with heavily scented shampoo, perfume, or even lip gloss, or if someone uses smelly chemical products like dry-erase markers for the whiteboard, she can no longer function at her best. Brain fog, shortness of breath and headaches set in. Many schools and workplaces have identified fragrance as an impediment to better indoor air quality and have launched a fragrance-free or scent smart program. At EcoSmart Products we know the importance of offering non-toxic, low-odor products for classrooms, and our markers are helping schools go fragrance-free. Here are simple tips to help your school clear the air.

Tip #1: Send out a memo or newsletter about why it is important to go fragrance-free at your school or workplace. Getting people on board with the program is the best strategy for success. Give examples of products that carry a heavy scent, such as certain laundry detergents and popular grooming products like hair gel, hairspray and aftershave. Provide a list of  alternative products that you know to be unscented and easily available. Ask that personal products be checked for the words ‘parfum’ or ‘fragrance’ listed as an ingredient.

Tip #2: Consult with the custodians or cleaning staff about cleaning products that contain harsh ingredients like ammonia and bleach. Other smelly products like air fresheners, pot pourri and the dreaded pink soap in bathroom soap dispensers can just be omitted. There are many eco certified cleaning products that are effective and better for our health.

Tip #3: Consult with staff about which products regularly used around the office and classrooms contain potentially harmful chemicals and affect ideal indoor air quality. Smelly permanent markers or dry-erase markers for the whiteboard can be replaced with non-toxic, low-odor ones (EcoSmart’s markers are based in a denatured alcohol rather than harsh solvents like xylene and toluene). Art supplies such as paints, clays and glues can create a cocktail of noxious VOC chemicals, especially in enclosed areas like a classroom.

scent freeTip #4: Make it a fun project for everyone! Have groups of students or staff make signs that remind everyone of the fragrance-free policy, such as: “Welcome to our Scent Smart School/Office”. Create a campaign for the most creative ways to remind people to use non-toxic, fragrance-free products. 

It won’t be long before your school or workplace has an established fragrance-free space, a place for everyone to breathe a breath of fresh air!

 

 

 

 

One Powerful Idea from Generation X: Tales for An Accelerated Culture

GenerationXIn 1991 Douglas Coupland released his eventual-best-seller, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, and it blew my mind. I’d never read anything quite like it. Coupland was describing the inner workings of the generation that came after the baby boomers, thereby popularizing the term ‘Generation X’ (and their ‘McJobs’) in an irreverent and quirky way. Those who belong to, and are more familiar with, the term ‘Generation Y’, your namesake is the spin off. The book reads as a novel, peppered with footnotes to help us understand the twenty-something lifestyle and culture:

  • black holes - an X generation subgroup best known for their possession of almost entirely black wardrobes. 
  • air family - describes the false sense of community experienced among coworkers in an office environment. 
  • café minimalism - to espouse a philosophy of minimalism without actually putting into practice any of its tenets.

This profoundly different kind of book made some cutting edge observations about the mainstream culture of the day, but there was mostly one concept that made a lasting impression on me, a thought that hadn’t bothered me or even crossed my mind during my youth in the late eighties. It was the concept that once things are thrown out, they will last for varying periods of time in a landfill. Never actually breaking down, but always out of sight. I was an avid skier, so this new term stopped me in my tracks, so to speak:

  • dumpster clocking - the tendency when looking at objects to guesstimate the amount of time they will take to eventually decompose: “Ski boots are the worst. Solid plastic. They’ll be around till the sun goes supernova.”

There it was. The power of a sentence in a book, read as a youth. I can’t remember the plot of the novel or the characters of Generation X, but this idea of waste sitting in a landfill forever made sense to me, in the way that an image is worth a thousand words.

That is why, when the owner of EcoSmart Products explained to me that his company distributes recycled aluminum dry-erase markers that are refillable, I got it. Everyone uses dry-erase markers. All those hard plastic markers die a quick death and then lie in landfills as if they were millions of mini ski boots. Educators call this a ‘text to self’ connection. Coupland called it dumpster clocking.

ski boot and marker

Green Schools and Sustainable Companies: Can we agree that green practices are best practices?

2014As 2014 dons its pjs and gets ready to lay itself to rest, we look back on the year and reflect: are we further along the sustainability continuum than at the beginning of the year? Are the terms ‘green’, ‘eco’ and ‘sustainable’, which seem to grace every mission statement and company description, becoming more redundant and less necessary? Has our first-hand experience not shown that what is ultimately good for the school or company is also good for the planet? At the close of 2014, it just may be time for us all to agree that a school or company’s green practices are also synonymous with its best practices. At EcoSmart Products we work with so many institutions, supplying them with non-toxic, refillable markers. A few months ago we tweeted that we look forward to the day when a ‘green school’ will just be called a ‘school’. This was one of our most retweeted and favorited tweets of 2014.

Coherence is the feeling you get when everything together makes sense.Like when your fitness trainer is actually in good shape. Walking into a school or company that espouses an eco culture, but then seeing products lying around that are wasteful, toxic or inefficient is like seeing a ‘Go Green’ bumper sticker on a Hummer. The products that adorn a classroom or boardroom speak to coherence or incoherence. To be sure, sustainability is a complex, multi-faceted concept that takes focus, coordination and systematic planning. It involves doing more with less, inspiring innovation, creating long-term goals and honoring diversity. But as 2015 begins to stir to life, we celebrate redundant terms and coherent work spaces along the road to sustainability.

MH900423101

 

EcoSmart's non-toxic, refillable markers and refill ink. ecosmartworld.com

EcoSmart’s non-toxic, refillable markers and refill ink. ecosmartworld.com

 

 

 

5 Ways to Buy Green Holiday Gifts

gift 2There’s still time for some last-minute shopping for Christmas gifts, but don’t let the crowds make you opt for any old gifts at the big box stores. Celebrate the holidays this year with unique and eco-friendly gifts for everyone on your list. This guide to 5 Ways to Buy Green Holiday Gifts offers straight-forward suggestions for thinking outside the box when choosing gifts for the home, school or office. These simple tips will help you find the best in reusable, non-toxic, organic, and sustainable products and will tweak your regular buying patterns into ones that will make an impact on family and friends, as well as Mother Earth. This holiday season, look for:

Tip # 1.  Natural products rather than ones made of chemicals:

For beauty and health products, you may want to head to the health food store rather than the perfumery or drug store. Synthethic-based compounds, which are derived from petroleum, make up the majority of our cosmetics and fragrances. Not only are these substances resource-intensive, but they have also been linked to cancer, hormone disruptions, allergic reactions and other harmful effects. Try natural perfumes made of essential oils or beauty products for both men and women that are made of organic ingredients. What is especially important is to look for products that are phthalate-, paraben- and sulfate-free.

Tip # 2.  Long lasting products instead of “single use” products:

A gift is nicer if it is quality-made and eco-friendly. Steering clear of disposable or one-time use items will help reduce the amount of waste sent to the landfills, and take a step closer to a greener culture. Reusable items such as mugs, drinking containers, lunch boxes, refillable markers, bags and other items made out of durable materials make for great gifts, as long as they are PVC-, BPA- and lead-free.

Tip # 3.  Foster a green thumb or love of the outdoors:

We simply spend too much time indoors. Encourage the great outdoors with gifts that celebrate nature and our stewardship of the earth. A stainless steel composter, a season’s pass to the local parks, outdoor gear and sports equipment are all great ideas for the outdoor enthusiast. Or, bring a bit of nature indoors with indoor plants (Boston ferns are beautiful, hearty, and help purify the air!). Accessories for the garden or patio, such as chimes, planters, a bird bath or outdoor candles and lanterns will also delight those who love the outdoors.

Tip # 4.  Services, or non-material gifts:

For those who would be appreciative of a non-material gift, giving a donation or service in lieu of a material gift is one of the best ways to reduce our impact during the gift-giving holidays. Consider giving the gift of an experience (the theatre, a local restaurant, a certificate for the farmer’s market or local artisan shop), or a donation to a favorite environmental or humanitarian charity. No gift wrap and ribbons necessary.

Tip 5.  Products made from more sustainable materials:

Bamboo is quickly becoming the sustainable material of choice when it comes to wooden items (think bowls, serving platters and serving utensils) and cotton items (think pjs, bathrobes, blankets and bedding). Organic cotton items avoid all the chemicals used in traditional cotton crops. Avoid PVC (the ‘poison plastic’) by looking for toys made of natural materials like wood, cotton and wool, with non-toxic dyes, paints and finishes. This will protect children, especially those who put toys in their mouths, and give them a few non-plastic toys under the tree.

This holiday season, show off your eco pride by giving gifts a little ‘outside the box’. Whether the presents you give this season are reuseable, sustainable, outdoorsy, or non-material, your choice of a uniquely eco-friendly gift will help us all go a bit greener for Christmas.

 

EcoSmart Products distributes non-toxic, refillable markers for the whiteboard, saving waste, money and toxins.

 

Image courtesy of: http://www.pinterest.com/ecoartware/diy-gift-wrap-eco-friendly/

Refillable Markers: An Important Step in Going Green in Schools and Offices

drawing light bulb

Bright idea: Refillable markers for the whiteboard

During my university days, refillable coffee cups hit the campus in a big way. It was a product that made sense. Using a refillable mug for our daily java would reduce unnecessary waste and save valuable resources. It seems passe now to point out the benefits of reuseable mugs, but this generation is going green by rethinking a wide range of everyday office products and school supplies. Case in point: refillable markers are quickly replacing the regular plastic dry-erase markers for the whiteboard. In today’s green schools and offices, EcoSmart’s refillable markers are the environmentally-responsible choice for writing on whiteboards. If the pen is mightier than the sword, then this eco-friendly product is writing with a powerful message. Small products can make a significant impact.

One EcoSmart marker and its Refill Ink bottle will save dozens of plastic markers from hitting the landfills, where they would not biodegrade in the foreseeable or even distant future. The accumulation of markers saved in one school or company amounts to hundreds of disposable markers per year. One ESL school calculates that it saved 1,500 pounds of markers over two years (press release here). But the benefit of EcoSmart’s markers extends beyond its ability to be refilled over and over again. The marker itself is made out of recycled aluminum and can be recycled at the end of its exceptionally long life. Another feature not to be overlooked is that the ink in EcoSmart markers is non-toxic, free of solvents such as xylene and toluene that can cause nausea, dizziness, brain fog or trigger asthma.How to Refill

In a school or work environment where efforts are being made to reduce, reuse and recycle (are there any who would not stake this claim?), the products being used in that space matter. They complete a story, the story of the values and aspirations of the people of that place. And it seems clear: a recycled, refillable, non-toxic pen is definitely mightier than the sword.

Here’s a video on How to Refill Your EcoSmart Markers:

 

.“We love finding ways to be more responsible with the companies and products we support and we were excited to find [EcoSmart Products].

-D. Harvey, business owner

“EcoSmart markers just keep on writing and writing and writing…”

-G. Spear, teacher

EcoSmart's markers are refillable, made of recycled aluminum and use non-toxic ink at a fraction of the cost compared to disposable markers.

EcoSmart’s markers are refillable, made of recycled aluminum and use non-toxic ink at a fraction of the cost compared to disposable markers. www.ecosmartworld.com