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Living Green in 2012

Jon Wittle

“What's in this book could change the trajectory of children's health.” Those words were spoken by former U.S. Surgeon General Julius Richmond, M.D., in 2007, shortly after the release of Raising Baby Green, the best-selling book written by Alan Greene, M.D., a pediatrician in Danville, CA, and one of the first (and most prominent) voices in the green-baby movement. So we asked the aptly named doctor to pick the top natural and eco-friendly ideas, breakthroughs, services, and products for everyday families. (You know who you are: You want to do right by your kids, but you're not ready to use a spruce as a loofah.) 

1. Rated G (for green): Set in a swaying 3-D underwater world, the animated hit Bubble Guppies on Nick Jr. encourages kids to be active (the characters regularly ask viewers to “Get up and dance!” or “Go outside!”) and learn about bettering their world. The “Boy Meets Squirrel” episode may be the best programming I've seen about recycling and the environment.

2. Parenting.com Facebook readers say they spend money on "green" food, followed by cleaning supplies, skin care, and clothing.  

3Baby-bottle backtrackIn my universe, this was one of the most dramatic announcements of the past year: Last October a coalition of companies that produce bisphenol-A (BPA) asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to eliminate rules that allow the chemical to be used in baby bottles and sippy cups. Think about that: The manufacturers of BPA want the FDA to ban BPA. Just five years ago, BPA was found in most baby bottles; now it's almost impossible to find. This is great news, but there's more work to be done. Next stop: removing it from canned goods.
4 A really smart plugHome appliances, televisions, lights left on overnight to keep monsters at bay: Families use a lot of energy. So I'm happy that smart plugs are becoming more common. Smart plugs go into regular home outlets and show you where your real energy costs are so you can adjust your usage accordingly. The Thinkeco modlet ($50; themodlet.com) is an easy plug-and-play option.
5Cool your nest The world's first learning thermostat is my favorite new gadget. In a typical home, the thermostat controls about 50 percent of the energy bill. Keeping it programmed just right could save your family hundreds of dollars—and lots of wasted energy. Enter Nest: a thermostat that learns your schedule (when you're asleep or away from home) and programs itself. You can even change the settings from your smartphone. Simple to use, with a sleek, modern design, Nest may do for heating and cooling what the iPod did for music. ($249; nest.com)
6Save the planet in the checkout line Reusable grocery bags are finally becoming mainstream. And they're worth it! Of the more than 10 million pieces of garbage picked up on ocean beaches on Coastal Cleanup Day 2009, more than 1.1 million were plastic bags (second only to cigarette butts). Families are big contributors: The average household accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store. Kicking the single-use-bag habit together can make a big impact. Check out ChicoBag's line of Vita shopping bags, as well as its Produce Stand line, which eliminates the need for single-use, disposable produce bags (chicobag.com). Envirosax (shown above, left and center) are an inexpensive, eye-catching option (envirosax.com).
1.1 millionplastic bags wasted yearly in the U.S.A.
7So long, Food PyramidThe USDA's iconic triangular g

3. Baby-bottle back track: In my universe, this was one of the most dramatic announcements of the past year: Last October a coalition of companies that produce bisphenol-A (BPA) asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to eliminate rules that allow the chemical to be used in baby bottles and sippy cups. Think about that: The manufacturers of BPA want the FDA to ban BPA. Just five years ago, BPA was found in most baby bottles; now it's almost impossible to find. This is great news, but there's more work to be done. Next stop: removing it from canned goods.

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