Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Considering Earth Day

I wanted to share this article from Maple Landmark

Classic wooden school bus ($44.95)

A lot is said about the eco-benefits of wood grown is Asia, too bad much of it is the incomplete truth. To be sure, the idea of plantation grown trees sounds like a tremendous advantage over imagined alternatives. However, there is always more to the story. For several reasons, North American hardwoods, including our own hard maple, are superior choices.

1) Plantation grown vs. Forest harvested.
Plantation trees, such as rubberwood, are easy to envision as renewable and sustainable. However, what has that done to the natural, historical ecology of that land? It has been forever supplanted. Land was cleared to grow a crop, no differently than jungle cleared in South America. The biodiversity has been eliminated.

When trees are selectively harvested in our northern temperate forests, they are culled from the natural ecosystem. Modern logging techniques allow for minimal damage to the surrounding area and the natural forest continues to thrive and regenerate as it has for thousands of years.

Limited harvests actually increase biodiversity since the large trees are less dominant and most wildlife flourish with varied vegetation.

The images of a denuded landscape are part of the history of forestry throughout the world and it still happens in pockets, especially in third world countries. Generations of experience in land stewardship has taught better ways of management. In Vermont, forest coverage is increasing and, after the heavy logging of the 1800’s, is nearing that which the colonists saw when they arrived.

2) Chemical safe
Wood products that come from other parts of the world have sometimes been found to be chemically stabilized or treated against pests and fungus. The Forest Products Lab in Madison, Wisconsin says in reference to rubberwood (parawood): "Lumber requires chemical dipping to control blue stain and borer attack."

That is not used in general application in this country with our domestic woods. Air-drying and kiln-drying are the accepted ways of removing moisture from raw lumber to be ready for further processing. Maple will take on a “sticker stain” if it is not set up properly to dry. Adding chemicals is not the answer, good mill management is the solution.

3) Transportation
Wood grown and used in manufactured goods in Asia has already traveled over 10,000 miles when it reaches the US market. Most American wood products factories are near their material source. Our main mill suppliers are within 10 miles of our shop and the trees are harvested in the local region.

If you think floating goods over the ocean is low impact transportation, you would be wrong. Ships burn some of the nastiest of fuels, especially high in sulfur. The largest of the super freighters are each said to pollute as much in a year as 50 million cars (16 of these ships equals all the world’s cars).

4) Honest dealing
This from Ethical Corporation: “And China is major importer of illegal timber from forests in Indonesia, Cameroon, Congo and Equatorial Guinea. Though accurate figures are hard to come by, the website globaltimber.org.uk says up to half of all timber imported to China in 2004 was illegal.” Corruption in the trade of commodities, such as timber, in undeveloped countries is common. Certifications can mean very little – look at the continuing incidence of lead tainted toys discovered at our docks, practically every week.

We will admit that a few years ago there was a case of timber rustling in Vermont, one neighbor got angry at another and cut a few of his maples.

5) Quality and beauty
While every attempt has been made to talk up the qualities of rubberwood, it just doesn’t match the durability and beauty of our maple. Sometimes called “Asian birch,” I’ve even heard it claimed that rubberwood was in the maple family (not even close). The high-pitched attempted to make it appear to be as-good-as, most likely means it isn’t.

Just food for thought.

Wooden fire truck ($44.95)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lunch Boxes

Arielle will be starting school soon, so the Easter Bunny thought lunch boxes would makes great Easter Baskets this year. The Easter Bunny did a Google search on "Eco-friendly lunchboxes" and found Yubo customizable lunchboxes. The Easter Bunny got very excited because these lunchboxes can be customized with just about any design - even cockatoos.

Arielle and Linnea were so happy about their new lunchboxes. They decided we would celebrate spring and have picnic lunch in the park.

So, I packed a lunch. Mmmm... Peanut butter and jelly for Arielle, "peanut butter and jelly with no peanut butter" for Linnea, applesauce, and for dessert, yogurt with sprinkles.

Everything has its own little container. This is the configuration that came with lunchbox, but extra containers are available so you can customize lunch as you need to. Everything is BPA and phthalate free. All packed up; there is plenty of room for a cloth napkin.

About the faceplates - The lunchboxes come with a faceplate, but you can choose a standard design ($6.95), a personalized design ($9.95), or upload a photo and design your own ($12.95). This is what the Easter Bunny did for Arielle's lunch box. Linnea's is one of the standard designs.

At first I thought the faceplates are simply laminated card stock that slide in and out of the holder. But, Cyndi from Yubo told me that the paper is actually a polyester, water-proof paper that they print directly on. So they do just fine with bad weather or spills. And, Arielle is thrilled to have a lunchbox featuring her favorite birds.

And, we are ready to go. The lunchboxes don't come with a thermos, but you can get an insulated drink holder ($5.95) that attaches to the side. We are using out Kleen Kanteens.

Linnea is so excited. She was in such a hurry that she put her shirt on backwards. Shhh....

Picnicking...... At first, Arielle had some difficulty opening her sandwich container. But, it was a matter of practice.

Linnea did not. She loves her BP&J with no J sandwich.

This is the icepack that fits in the bottom of the lunchbox to keep cold food cold.

Arielle got her food open. Then Arielle saw a bee and wanted to go home. Do your kids do that?

After the picnic, it is time to clean up. I slide out the faceplates and wipe up a spot of jelly with a damp cloth.

Everything snaps apart.

And fits in the dishwasher.

So, some things are great about this lunch box. I like the different configurations of containers and the ice pack. It is also easy to clean. And, it is customizable which is great and you can change the faceplates as your child's interests change at a reasonable price. You child can even make her own faceplate designs. And, it is great for preschoolers, but will also work for tweens who want their lunchbox customized with their celebrity crush-of-the-month.

Some things could be better. I wish the drink fit inside the box because with young kids every item is something else that can be lost, but the insulated holder works fine. And a shoulder strap would be nice.

It's another option to think about if you are looking for lunchboxes.