Four Questions with Jennifer Taggart
by Wendy Gabriel
Jennifer Taggart is a mom of two, an environmental and consumer product attorney, a blogger and author of Smart Mama’s Green Guide: Simple Steps to Reduce Your Child’s Toxic Chemical Exposure.
How do you make your day-to-day life a little greener?
Basically, I try to make more sustainable choices. Being green isn’t about buying green, but more about making do with what you got. That doesn’t mean that I don’t use the power of my purse to make green choices when I shop. When shopping, I prefer to buy from companies that support sustainable principles in all aspects, not just one product line. At home, we do all the basics- turn off lights and electronics, recycle, etc. My one big thing is trying to avoid disposable plastic. We use re-usable bags for shopping, including our produce bags. I buy in bulk when I can. The kids have re-usable stainless steel containers. It doesn’t always work – my husband bought a container of plastic wrap from Costco eight years ago that we are still using because I loathe it and hardly ever use it.
Your book, Smart Mama’s Green Guide: Simple Steps to Reduce Your Child’s Toxic Chemical Exposure, should be required reading for anyone who has children in their lives. What was your impetus for writing the book?
Thank you for the recommendation! I’ve gotten a fabulous response. One reader even tweeted that she tested her home for radon after reading my book, and found elevated levels. She is getting it fixed. That’s what motivates me, helping people out. But the impetus for the book was two miscarriages before the birth of my son. Those unexplained miscarriages prompted me to consider whether anything in my environment was causing or contributing to the miscarriages. Then, after having my son, I attended a weekly new mom/breastfeeding support class. Given my background and my interests, I was routinely asked questions about how much fish was safe, or how to read information from a termite company. The facilitator asked me to teach a class on going green and non-toxic for new moms, and from that, the book just flowed. I really wanted to provide a resource with easy-to-understand information for parents and caregivers.
I recently heard you on Martha Stewart radio giving some great green cleaning advice. What is one of your favorite green cleaning tips?
I have a couple. To clean your garbage disposal (or snow cone machine), make vinegar ice cubes. Just put 1 cup distilled white vinegar in an ice cube tray, fill the balance with water, and freeze. Once frozen, drop a couple down the disposal (or put in the snow cone machine), run it and voila! The vinegar helps disinfect and the ice helps remove any food stuck on the blades.
To clean your microwave, just use lemon slices. Place some in a microwave safe cup or bowl with 6 ounces or so of water. Heat on high for 3 minutes, let sit for 3 minutes (without opening the door), and then open and wipe clean. Crusted food should lift easily and your microwave will smell lemon fresh without hormone disrupting phthalates.
Finally, my favorite is Dr. Bronner’s rose liquid castile soap and baking soda. I use this combination as a soft scrub for sinks and counter tops, and also to clean my toilet. Just mix them until you get a consistency you like. I prefer to place them in a old squeeze bottle and stir with a chop stick. If you are cleaning your toilet, just squirt under the rim and let sit. After 5 minutes or so, follow up with some vinegar and left foam. Then flush.
You recently blogged about a new regulation that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued exempting various materials from the lead content limits for children’s products in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). As an expert, what kind of clothing would you tell parents to look for to ensure that their child is not getting exposed to lead?
The CPSIA has banned lead in children’s products above 300 parts per million (ppm) and in paints and coatings above 90 ppm. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that you don’t still find children’s products with lead. Most fabrics do not have lead in them and that is why the CPSC issue the exemption for certain materials, including textiles. After testing thousands of fabrics, the only fabrics I have found with let are some synthetic felts, certain leathers and some screen prints. However, you can find lead in some buttons, rhinestones and crystals, zippers, eyelets, etc. Most of those aren’t going to result in an exposure to a child, however. Lead is also sometimes used to stabilize polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic. PVC plastic must be stabilized and it is usually a metallic salt, often lead. PVC is also bad for the environment and can contain hormone disrupting phthalates. So, I always recommend that people skip PVC, which includes many fake leather items.