Q&A: E-Waste?

  • November 7, 2012 9:24 am

Question:

Hi Alexandra,

I wanted to know if you could tell me where to recycle old electronics? Thanks.

Best,

Mandy

Answer:

Hi Mandy,

Odd to be responding to this after a week I’ve just spent without my electronics, thanks to Hurricane Sandy knocking out electricity in my New York neighborhood (oh what I would have given for a battery powered radio, which I sadly didn’t have). And on a day when all I can think about is the election and the impact who we vote for has on the environment, chemical reform policy, and so much more. But life goes on and Wednesdays are my Q&A days! So here goes.

This is a great question actually; recycling electronics properly is so important. E-waste is extremely harmful to both humans and the environment. I wonder what will happen to all of the broken electronics from the storm. Will anyone sort them out of the piles and piles of soaked furniture, construction materials, and broken bits of life?

Here is an excerpt addressing e-waste from Planet Home, a book I co-wrote with Jeffrey Hollender:

“The constant desire for new electronics has caused an abundance of electronic waste, or e-waste, which is filled with hazardous substances that aren’t easily recycled and shouldn’t be thrown away. Electronics may contain lead, mercury, and flame retardants (which are added because they generate heat that can lead to fire when housed in flammable plastic), among other dangerous materials, and extra steps are necessary to ensure they’ll be refurbished and reused or recycled. When tossed in a landfill, their toxic components leach into the groundwater; when incinerated, they pollute the air and can harm workers.”

The takeaway here? Try to use what you own for as long as you can. Don’t give in to the lure of the latest iThing every time a new gadget comes out. If your electronics are truly no longer useful to you, try to donate them to someone or to an organization that might still find them useful. If something is really done, take care to recycle it properly.

Here in New York, there are many places that collect e-waste, including the Lower East Side Ecology Center. For places near you, check out Earth911.com. Also, America Recycles Day falls on November 15th this year. Their site has information on recycling e-waste as well as many other items that need recycling. Hope this helps.

Best,

Alexandra

Q&A: Halloween Candy

  • October 17, 2012 9:27 am

Question:

Dear Alexandra,

With Halloween around the corner I just wanted to know your thoughts on Halloween candy. My kid is finally old enough to get into trick-or-treating, but I am not too keen on letting them have all that sugar, but I do not want to exclude them from the holiday festivities. Do you let your kid eat all their Halloween candy or throw it out? Do you only let them eat some of eat, and then give the rest away? I am really not sure and wanted your input.

Thanks,

Lindsey

Answer:

Hi Lindsey,

Thanks for your topical question. It’s true as Halloween is approaching, this is definitely something to think about. Not surprisingly I have been asked about this before–and yearly! Each year my approach changes, based on the age of my daughter. She is currently six. I haven’t decided yet what will happen this year, but I suspect it will be like last year. She goes to lots of Halloween parties, yanking various outfits from her dress up bin, and generally has a blast. If there is trick-or-treating or other candy giveaways involved, I swap candy with her. It’s all stuff she loves and it, unlike conventional versions, doesn’t contain lead, mercury, genetically modified high fructose corn syrup, or any number of dyes I’d rather she not eat. I’m very careful to make sure this swapping is not a hardship. I don’t want her to feel left out or weird. So I offer organic equivalents of jelly beans, kettle corn, chocolate, and more. When we went to one party last year I knew would be a candy fest, I stuffed our pockets with organic lollipops so she was able to eat something sweet as her friends did, too.

All of this said I have plenty of highly organic friends in my life who lift the rules for Halloween. It’s a very individual decision. I chose not to do this not only because I know too much, but also because Halloween has morphed into a week or sometimes a weeks-long extravaganza. I don’t want her eating conventional candy daily for several weeks. And I don’t let her eat her swapped organic candy for several weeks either. Everything in moderation.

One thing on my list for this year is making our own chocolate. We sometimes do this. It only involves coconut oil, cocoa powder, and honey. She loves the process, I’m in charge of the ingredients, and the results are delicious. I’m happy for her to eat as much of this as she wants. One of these years, I will throw a party so she can eat every single thing on offer. I just haven’t gotten around to it!

Happy Halloween.

Best,

Alexandra

Goody Bags In The New York Times

  • March 1, 2012 10:39 am

I had a great time reporting Tempest In A Goody Bag for The New York Times, out today.

What do you think of goody bags? Do you offer them? Do you like to get them? The comments have been rolling in on the New York Times site, on Facebook, and on various parenting boards I frequent. Please chime in!

Q&A: Water Filters

  • November 15, 2011 8:32 am

THE QUESTION

Hi Alexandra,

It was so great to hear you speak and meet you Sunday.  I really enjoyed your talk and I’m so glad I convinced my husband to come because he keeps talking about some of the things you said and “reminding” me! ; )

I find myself having more questions now than before though!  Can I ask your opinion on what to do about water?  We buy cases of Poland Spring bottles every month – but are thinking (with your help!) that we shouldn’t.  I’ve heard that NYC water is one of the best in the country and you mention it too, but that it is a building/piping issue that needs to be examined before consuming large amounts of it.  Our building…was built in the 80′s so it is not that old…do you think I need to get a testing kit?  Filter for the sink?  Shower?  We are in a rental, so if it is something I can screw on myself that would be easiest rather than have a plumber come and install something.  Would love to hear your thoughts whenever you have time.

Best,
Julia

THE ANSWER

Julia,

Nice meeting you, too. Thanks for the email and important question. I’m so glad you’re ready to give up the bottled water! Here in New York City, we can call 311 and the city will send you a free test kit for your water. Even if you didn’t live in NYC, it’s never a bad idea to get your water tested, even in a new-ish building. Remember that water flows through many pipes to get from the source to you–including ones outside your building. Probably all you will need is an activated carbon filter–these can be installed directly to your tap and/or come in pitcher form.

A shower head filter is lovely, too, and very screw-on-yourself-able. Hot water releases all of the impurities that might be found in your water into the air in vapor form, so it goes directly into your lungs as you shower.

Here’s some information on municipal drinking water from The Conscious Kitchen that I think will be helpful. I have separate information in the book on well water, choosing filters, and why, precisely, I dislike bottled water so much. There’s a lot more in there your husband can remind you about, too!
Municipal water, unlike bottled water, is tested and regulated. The results are public information. If you’re curious about what yours might contain, as you should be, ask your water utility company for a copy of the annual water quality report. Even if your municipal water is good, you still might want to test what flows out of our tap if you live in an older building or house. This will show you what might be coming out of your pipes–like lead–into your water. Plumbing installed before 130 tends to contain lead pipes, and lead solder is still used on newer copper pipes. Old pipes don’t automatically equal contaminated water; years of mineral deposits from water can coat the walls of lead pipes, creating a barrier of sorts…..After testing, all most tap water needs–unless there is an issue–is an activated carbon filter, such as Brita. The websites for various filters will say what substances they reduce. These usually include chlorine, lead, copper, cadmium, mercury, arsenic, and benzene, as well as some parasites like giardia, plus odors and “bad” flavor. Even though everything tested within allowable levels in my water at home, I personally still use a filter to further reduce whatever levels I have of the above, and to protect myself against what might arise in the reservoir or corrode in my pipes over time. There are many bogus filtering products on the market, so buy only certified filters.”

I drink filtered NYC tap all day long — in glass at home, and in my stainless steel water bottle on the go. Why pay for what’s free and good? Plus, drinking tap means no extra plastic bottles, no recycling, and you’re no longer involved with having something you already have flowing from your taps bottled, transported, and delivered to you every month. It’s good common sense!

Best,
Alexandra