The Big Green Parenting Experiment

raising a healthy family in a toxic world

Green Promise: Benjamin Moore Aura BzzCampaign review

I was pretty excited to be selected for the Benjamin Moore Aura BzzCampaign this month. I’ve been known to paint some rooms (alright, a LOT of rooms) and I love to get creative with color. I’m just not really a neutral kind of girl. Our new house has been making me twitch since we moved in last year. There couldn’t possibly be any more tan and beige in this place. Blech. There’s nothing wrong with that… it’s just not for me. Not to mention, all of our furniture is neutral since it’s used to having a bold, vibrant wall behind it.

As I read about the product that I was about to sample, I was excited to learn about the Benjamin Moore Green Promise. Benjamin Moore promises to meet or exceed environmental standards by assuring that their products remain low or zero-VOC after the tinting process. Benjamin Moore Aura is considered a low-VOC paint. It’s no secret how much I love products that are better for the environment. Let’s do this!

So, my least favorite room of all has been the pale yellow kitchen. Now, I’m not a lover of yellow to begin with but then there’s the jaundice-like glow that is captured on every face in every photo that we’ve ever snapped in the kitchen. Enter exhibit A.

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Don’t get me wrong, she looks adorable, but her color is just a little, well… off.

We have some pretty dated, rustic, panel-esque cabinets in the kitchen which I have been planning to overhaul by painting white. And for quite some time I’ve had my heart set on vibrant apple green walls which would look so yummy with crisp white cabinets! So, now is my chance! I received my BzzCampaign kit with a coupon for one FREE gallon of Benjamin Moore Aura paint (retail $67.99 + tax!) and couldn’t wait to get started. As I flipped through the lovely color palette that they sent along with the coupon, my nerves started to get the best of me. I began to fear that the shade of green that I so loved would have the same effect as the yellow. After some contemplation and browsing the lovely color selection that Benjamin Moore has to offer, I decided to go with Thunder. It is a nice, light shade of grey (dare I say neutral) and will be a beautiful backdrop for black framed kitchen art and pops of bright apple green.

Here’s a before shot of the pale yellow kitchen. The picture actually makes it appear less horrifying than it really is. Trust me.

After picking up the paint, I was super anxious to get started. I was actually quite surprised by how strong the paint odor was. Other BzzAgent reviews had given the impression that the paint was nearly odorless. I do not agree. I actually thought that it was a bit on the harsh side for a low VOC paint. Maybe because I have been using ZERO VOC paint for so long? Fortunately the weather was on the mild side so I was able to open up a couple additional windows. (Note to self: November in Upstate New York is not the best time for painting.) I was under some time constraints with the BzzCampaign, so the painting must go on! Actually, the odor aired out very quickly and within an hour or two you couldn’t even tell that I painted.

And, the after. Much better, but now I am really anxious to paint those cabinets!

The paint itself was fantastic. I noticed right away while I was cutting in that it covered extremely well. The paint appeared much thicker than other less expensive brands that I have used. It went on smoothly and the color was just as expected. Typically I would expect to do 2 or 3 coats of cutting in, but, honestly, with this paint it isn’t even necessary. Other brands are much more watery and fall short in the coverage department. After one coat I was definitely not disappointed by this paint. I do plan to do a second coat since I still have a half-gallon of paint left. I imagine the second coat will impress me even more.

So, bottom line, this is an awesome product that Benjamin Moore has to offer. The coverage is amazing and I have never seen such a fabulous color selection. It does bear the Green Promise, which I love, although the odor is a little more harsh than I expected. This wouldn’t have even been an issue if I was painting in warmer weather and had all windows and doors open. This would not likely deter me from considering this paint in the future. Finally, there’s the price tag. The $70 price tag is pretty hard for me to swallow for paint, no matter how spectacular. I did love the results, but for a single income family the added expense is just not realistic. Of course, home improvement projects in general are not realistic right now. In a different financial state, I would probably consider using this product again.

Overall, Benjamin Moore Aura is a great product that anyone [who can afford it] should consider. I’m glad that I had a chance to try it. Thanks BzzAgent and Benjamin Moore! Job well done!

(Along with my BzzKit I received multiple coupons for $5.00 off a gallon of Benjamin Moore Aura. If you’d like to give it a try, let me know and I’ll send one your way!)

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the convertible car seat debacle

We have reached the point where we need to make the transition to a convertible car seat. Schy is a pretty tall girl and while she still has some room to grow weight-wise, she would probably be more comfortable in a non-infant car seat. I had been doing some research and was somewhat alarmed at some of my findings. It’s amazing how much more serious health and safety becomes when we are talking about the littlest people in our lives.

Based on friends and family recommendations, I decided to focus on the Britax line. We have had pretty good luck with Consumer Reports in the past, so I went there first. Out of the top ten “greater than 40lb. harness capacity” seats, Britax holds seven of these slots, including three models that are actually tied for the number one slot. Not bad. This rating includes crash protection, ease of use, rear facing fit to vehicle and forward facing fit to vehicle. After weighing these ratings, size and price, along with some other consumer reviews, I narrowed it down the Britax Marathon.

I was pretty satisfied with my choice and started to price them out. WELL, this lead me to Amazon.com, which is generaly where I start when I am comparison shopping. Naturally, I started to read reviews there, also. To my horror, one of the reviews stated that this car seat was among the most toxic on the market, along with multiple other Britax models. You have GOT to be kidding me. Seriously???

Apparently the Britax seats tested positive for high levels of bromine (associated with brominated flame retardants) and chlorine (indicating the presence of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC and plasticizers). Wow. I was in complete disbelief! We are quite anti-chemical, hence trying to rid our home of them. This just wasn’t going to fly. I was pretty devastated having already done all of my research.

I did a bit more digging and came across this list from healthystuff.org of the best and worst car seats of 2011. Sure enough, the Britax Marathon was on there, not once, not twice but THREE times! WTH?!
I then noticed that it seemed to be certain colors, mostly the blacks and greys… Jet Set, Platinum, Solstice. I searched for information regarding Azalea, which was the color that i had decided on, but couldn’t find anything. I guess that’s a good thing? Think no news is good news? *frantically biting fingernails* It really just blew my mind that there could be such high levels of toxic chemicals in these car seats where our precious angels spend so much of their time. You don’t even have to be a treehugger for that to freak you right out. I was immediately concerned for all of the friends and family that own, use and swear by this car seat everyday! Do they know what they’re exposing their children to? I tried to figure out what to do. Take a chance that the Azalea is safe? Jump ship? Abandon the Marathon?

I decided to start researching from scratch. In the process of starting over I stumbled upon this article which states that Britax and Orbit, whose seats are known for high levels of toxic chemicals, are eliminating the use of hazardous flame retardants containing bromine and chlorine by the end of 2012! Hallelujah! That is awesome!

So, guess who just ordered her Britax Marathon? This girl! What a roller coaster of an experience. The moral of the story fellow parents, treehugger or not… do your research! There is no way that I would knowingly subject my little girl to high levels of toxic chemicals for any reason. We should seriously all take the time to research anything and everything that our babies are exposed to. In a world where unexplainable diseases and disorders are running rampant, we need to be the first line of defense for our children. It may not seem like a big deal now, but who knows what effect this type of exposure could lead to years down the road. I’m not paranoid, just cautious. I’ll save the paranoia for the teenage years!

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protect your children from toxic chemicals (via nrdc)

Here’s a perfect example of that “toxic world” I’m referring to.  There is a serious need for some updating when it comes to chemical regulations.  The EPA shouldn’t have to prove that a chemical is “unreasonably dangerous” for it to be regulated.  Let the chemical companies prove that they’re NOT.  If you have children, or plan to, or have children in your life that you love, please take the time to read this and send a letter to your senators.  Follow the link below to help.

(The following is an excerpt from the NRDC newsletter.)

Take Action Now

Protect Your Children from Toxic Chemicals
The law currently regulating industrial chemicals was enacted in 1976 and is as outdated as bell bottoms. Instead of requiring chemical manufacturers to prove that their products are safe before putting them on the market, the Toxic Substances Control Act forces the Environmental Protection Agency to prove that a chemical is unreasonably dangerous before its use can be restricted or prevented, allowing thousands of harmful chemicals used in children’s products, cleaning products, toys, furniture and electronics to reach consumers without safety testing. How backwards is that?
The proposed Safe Chemicals Act would help fix this situation, putting the burden back on the chemical industry to prove its products are safe, establishing health standards for chemicals to protect children and other vulnerable groups, and strengthening the public’s right to know about the safety and use of chemicals.
Urge your senators to co-sponsor the Safe Chemicals Act.
Seriously.  It’ll only take a minute of your time and may help make a big difference.  Your children and your earth will thank you!  (So do I.)
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