On my post the other day about insulated lunch bags, reader Sabrina left an interesting comment. She said, “I have a concern about all of these products using PET. Doesn’t it contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals?” She then referred me to a link at Healthy Child Healthy World that digs into the issue of whether or not PET bottles are releasing endocrine disruptors.
The research on how PET may leach various phthalates is in the early stages and is inconclusive, but that’s beside the point. What Sabrina actually got me thinking about is safety vs. green living, and how they don’t always go hand-in-hand.
Sometimes better safety and green living co-exist easily. Take green cleaning products. Not only is it safer to make homemade cleaners because you cut out chemicals that can hurt your kids, but it’s eco-friendly as well. Homemade green cleaners are green because they cut down on massive amounts of packaging and don’t release harmful toxins into our air, soil or water.
Not everything is so cut and dry though. For example…
Child car seats are basically big hunks of plastic. Plastic, as we all know, is made with non-renewable oil. Additionally, I’ve never seen even one car seat (as of yet) made with organic fabrics and few are made with child-safe dyes. Car seats are about as opposite of eco-friendly as you can get. Yet, obviously car seats are 100% safer than tying your baby down with a nice recycled box and some organic hemp rope – know what I mean?
Or take the lunch bag situation I mention above. Plastic coated lunch bags, vinyl, recycled plastic and other materials may contain more chemicals than an old fashioned organic cotton lunch sack, making them less green. But on the flip side, if you’re talking safety, organic cotton is a horrid insulator. Even with an ice pack melting all over your organic bag, you’re going to run into food safety issues, because clearly the bag lacks insulation.
We could even bring ice pop molds into the mix. You’ve got silicone molds, which I’m a fan of, but some people think aren’t safe. Or you could go with plastic molds, that may contain chemicals, but they will massively reduce your household waste over packaged ice pops. Do you go with the plastic ice pop molds to avoid waste or say to heck with it and buy the packaged ice pops?
I’ve owned lots of items that aren’t eco-friendly, but that are necessary. For example, my son’s two car seats, child safety products like door latches and non-eco-friendly band-aids (because good luck finding the greener kind at your local store). We’ve owned bike helmets and non-organic sports safety gear (like pads and such) and non-eco backpacks because the less eco one fit my son better.
Overall, it can be a little bit of a mess if you live in today’s world and you’re striving to be safe and green. You can’t always choose both.
What to do?
I can only speak for myself, but I try not to dwell too much on what I’m doing wrong in the world of green. That’s a recipe for mental anguish that I don’t need. If we need something for safety reasons, and it’s not available in an eco-friendly version, I’ll still bring it into my house if it’s necessary.
Sometimes I feel guilty sure, but then I remind myself that we haven’t brought a grocery store plastic bag or roll of paper towels into this house in years and years. We always use reusable water bottles and we drink plain old tap water vs. using bottled or a plastic, non-recyclable filter. We don’t buy a bunch of consumer junk we don’t need and we buy used before new when we can. We use green cleaners and PVC-free shower curtains and glass dishes over plastic. I don’t have the greenest car on the market, but I did get the most efficient I could and I keep driving to a minimum. If we can’t afford the greenest sunscreen – well, we do the best we can.
It’s the green actions you DO manage that make the biggest impact. Little things add up. In the end, I want safe and I want green. If I can only have safety, I deal with it and hopefully make green amends in another area of my world.
What do you think? Is it hard to choose between safe vs. green at times? Tell me in the comments and take the poll below…