Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Foogo Stainless Steel Products Review (Sippy Cup, Straw Bottle & Children's Thermos)

A few months a reader named Von announced the forthcoming of Foogo sippys, in the comment section of my Klean Kanteen stainless sippy review. I sent away for review samples, and was pleased to receive a nice packet of ‘foogo’ baby products right before we went to India. Here is the official review that pushes me over the line from ‘mom-concerned-about-safe-sippys’ into ‘part time mom, full time sippy kook expert.’

Finally! Another stainless steel sippy cup! After (three, four thousand?) years of begging for safe sippys there is one more option out there for us. Out of two. I mean, there are now two companies (that I know of) making stainless sippys. Two companies and plenty of information to suggest there is enough interest in the product to support two dozen companies: for example, we get more than 500 hits a month related to the keywords sippy, glass sippy, stainless sippy, safe cup, etc. [In fact, about half of those hits are specifically looking for glass sippys. Ahem. Did you hear me entrepreneurs??!! If that’s how many hits our piddly Green Parenting site gets, can you imagine the number of products you’re busily not making that would be sold if you were? Egads!]

But that’s not what I’m talking about. I am here to announce that the people who make thermoses have got themselves into the business of making baby sized ones, which I think is nice. Interesting, too, because they aren’t doing it to satisfy moms paranoid about leaching toxins into baby mouths. They just figured babies were as much in need of thermal containers as the rest of us. They worried about all the germs they discovered in plastic sippys full of milk, on hot days. Thermal sippys, they knew, wouldn’t have that problem.

So they stumbled into the green mom, non-plastic-sippy-fetish market. But that doesn’t mean their product doesn’t offer real competition to its sole competitor.


Right off the bat, I’ll say Foogo offers real advantages over Klean Kanteen. The first, most important and obvious factor to me is that they aren’t trying to alter a product made for adults or older kids into something that could be used for a baby. Instead, they are actually designing the product from the outset with a baby in mind. The retrofitting of adult products for babies seems on the very edge of offensive when you think about the $17.95 you drop for the less-than-ideally-designed KK produc, and especially if you remember that they know you're buying it because you don't want your kids drinking out of plastic and there's nothing else out there. I mean, I can see initially retrofitting the adult product. But after that. You know. Make something my kid can hold onto. Don't make me feel like you're poking me when I'm down. Right?

The second advantage of the Foogo is related to the first: it is not one product, it is a line of products including a sippy with handles, a sippy without handles, a sippy-straw flip top thing, and a thermos for kids. The regular sippys look a lot like plastic sippy cups, they’re just made of stainless steel. The larger straw-flip sippy is as tall as the KK, but – and this is key – thin enough for little hands to grasp comfortably.

All this to say: my baby doesn’t look like she has a barrel in her hands when she drinks out of either the sippy or sippy straw cup: she looks like she’s drinking out of a cup that’s just her size. Which makes sense when you dish out $15 (two dollars less than the KK) for a toddler’s drinking vessel.

The third advantage Foogo has is that it is a thermos. If it’s winter and you live in Alaska, like my old friend Derick, you can fill it with warm cider and it will not only stay warm, but it will refrain from becoming a chunk of block ice, which it would not refrain from doing in most every other sippy in the world. If you live in Houston, like my friend myself, you can assure yourself your baby girl is drinking ice water, not boiling water, at the park. No matter where you live, as the Foogo people don't mind stressing, your Foogo is more hygienic for dairy products than any other product available for the little ones.

For all these reasons, I like the Foogo. It’s true that the water that goes to the park in the KK comes back hot, and it doesn’t in a Foogo. My baby can hold the dang cup. These are good, important attributes to a sippy cup.


We talked about the half full part of the sippy cup. And I’m sad to report that there are definitely a few different half empty sides (it's not that I can't wrap up a metaphor, it's that I flunked geometry.)

Which is to say: sadly, like the Klean Kanteen, it has a lot of plastic parts. Of course, Thermos has only used the “safe” plastics -- #5, primarily. The spout on the sippy is made of Thermoplastic elastomer which is, the best that I can tell, a rubber of sorts. Many green sites (well, Treehugger) have little tidbits of info about TPE in ads for things they’re selling. TPEs are supposed to be biodegradable, and safer than plastics.

Unlike the Klean Kanteen, however, if you leave water in the Foogo for more than a few hours it starts tasting like plastic. Or TPE. Maybe it’s not a toxic leachy taste as much as an environmentally safe rubber taste: but it’s a bad taste. Especially this happens in the straw container, maybe it’s whatever plastic the straw is that causes it.

Sadly, I say, because I really like the Foogo. Since I do like it, we just keep up on changing out the water. I spend time hoping that “no known hazards” in the #5 plastic means “no hazards” instead of, “Oh, no. Yep. Ooops. There it is. Hazards.” If we’re going out into the searing heat, or if BabyG demands the Foogo, we opt for the KK.

The last annoying thing about the Foogo is this: if you buy a KK you get extra parts in case that little plastic thing that keeps sippys from leaking gets lost in the dishwater. Maybe those extra parts are the extra two dollars. I would pay them because in the life of a toddler’s possession, a tiny round slab of plastic stands a slim chance of lasting longer than two or three months. All parents will need a spare little piece of plastic, why not include a couple spares, like the KK people do?

Mind Blowing Conclusion:

My mom once met a slightly paranoid man who went around muttering all sorts of nutty things, her favorite being: “Everybody wants to go to heaven, kid, but nobody wants to die to get there.” In this land of inventors and entrepreneurs, I can't help noticing everybody wants to make a million bucks, but nobody will listen to the plaintive call of neurotic, maybe…but with reason!...and determined mothers across the planet that says: make me a plastic-free sippy. Day after day on this website the dozens of safer sippy hits coming in tells me somebody oughta.

Really I don’t get why the KK people didn’t figure out a different top. If people are shelling out $5 more for a stainless steel water bottle over a #5 plastic one, why not make stainless steel tops. Or those TPE, environmentally sound rubber tops? The Thermos people, I’m not sure they realized our part of the market exists. It seems to me they could tweak their tops pretty easily and make something more satisfying.

But. Sigh. Both options are better than all bisphenol A plastic. Or all ‘safe’ plastic, even, so far as I’m concerned.

Here is my expert advice on sippy cups: if you have a baby less than 2, go for a Foogo. Baby will be able to hold the cup. Change out the water every couple hours or so. If your baby is over two, and if they’re not jealous of their friends with straw flip containers, go for the Klean Kanteen. Both products are, for different reasons and in their own ways, and in the immortal words of Mary Hume, “almost perfect…but not quite.”

At the Greension we don’t use the plain thermos container so much because we picked up lots of stainless steel tiffins in India, and that’s what most of BabyG's snacks are stored in. They’re less bulky -- but I like the Foogo thermos and think one day it'll come in handy. Right now she’s not so much into soups, she’s more a Cheddar Bunny, Grape, and non-chicken Nugget kind of girl.

Despite our hesitations, we also do use the sippys every day. At least, we did until the little plastic part on the lid of the regular sippy fell off and got lost. I’ll send away for a replacement, but for now that sippy is nothing more than a freewheeling fount of water. Until it broke, BabyG loved it. She also loves the straw-sippy, which we still use every day.

Did I mention that in this land of inventors and entrepreneurs, I can't help noticing everybody wants to make a million bucks, but nobody will listen to the plaintive call of neurotic, maybe…but with reason!...and determined mothers across the planet that says: make me a plastic-free sippy. Day after day on this website the dozens of safer sippy hits coming in tells me somebody oughta.

Friday, August 24, 2007

I LOVE it when GOOD is EASY: A Tryptic


Last few days I've been searching the web dressed in black because Laura at Lines of Lattitude turned me onto this:

>If Google had a black screen, taking in account the huge number of
>page views, according to calculations, 750 mega watts/hour per year
>would be saved...[a guy therefore]created a black version of the Google search engine, called Blackle, with the exact same functions as the white version,
>but with lower energy consumption: spread the word-

I LOVE it when good is EASY. And when it makes me look hip and mysterious. So much so, actually, I darkend the whole computer yesterday. I use the Opera web browser and I chose a black skin for it, which turns out, is easier on the old eyeballs. Most of the places I write are still off white,but the surrounding areas aren't.


Laura's socially responsible leadership doesn't stop there. She also turned me onto the New American Dream's webiste, and it's campaign to reduce carbon consumption by having people pledge to change one thing about their lives every month -- last month they shopped locally, this month they'll drive less, next month they'll "Junk Your Junk Mail", then they'll help "Break the Botled Water Habit", etc. etc. I like little one step at a time things that don't overwhelm me but that keep me on track. I hope I've mentioned how much I LOVE it when GOOD is easy.

If you make the pledge by clicking on the little icon below this paragraph it is possible you will earn GreenDaddy...the man so devoted this website that he posted a picure of his armpit (our most looked at greenparenting photo, by the way) in his quest to find a deoderant strong enough for bicyclers in Houston's August heat... a brand new bike. Because the C3 people are having a spread-the-word kind of contest.

Carbon Conscious Consumer Logo


This last thing is GOOD and it is EASY depending on what you LOVE.

And since I've already been busy telling you how to be, I thought I'd actually point your eyes towards the little (unpaid, PSA) ad I put on the right side of the site a couple days ago. Click on it and see how the National Wildlife Federation has a campaign to get something like 10 or 20 thousand backyards certified as wildlife habitats, and what you can do to make yours one.

The process acutally isn't too difficult...I imagine many readers' yards already qualify, though we're only about halfway there. We might not get it done this year, but I'll definately keep the guidelines in mind and work towards them as our yard grows.

But you more naturally greenthumbed people can probably already certify, or just make a few changes to do it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Life Changing, Love Inducing, All Powerful Toddler Naming Contest

Our friend Chuck sent us this terrifying picture of my baby to confirm my last post's assertion that BabyG is more aptly TodderG.

Speaking of which: I never liked the name BabyG and am finding TodderG intolerable. I'm not sure I can ever write the word again it's so bad.

I therfore hereby and because of announce:
direct from MaGreen, GreenDaddy & the todder formerly known as BabyG:
the one and only, the first ever, never again, higly unique and extraordinary:


Rules are: in the comments, you suggest one to fourteen possible blogland names for the toddler pictured above (or anywhere below). Hopefully the names will either adhere to the general rules of nomenclanture at Green Parenting, or completely revision them. I have already considered and discarded the following three options: ToddlerG, GreenToddler & Sprout. I like people knowing I'm talking about a toddler right off, but not so much I need toddler in the name. I like Sprout because it's the name of the Jolly Green Giant's little friend, and it's a little green thing. But that's also why I don't like it.

THE WINNER will receive a bottle of MaGreen's Famous, Handmixed, Non-Toxic, Sweet-Smelling All-Purpose Cleaner.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Notes On BabyG

Who is, by the way, no longer a baby. She is a full blown, prancing, squawking, bluffing, bossing bundle of toddlerhood. And toddlerhood is an incredible thing – I realize now that the old doctors and aunties who write books about how to be parents were not even slightly exaggerating when they talked about the extraordinary smarty-pantsedness of these little tykes. In fact, I swear to moss and emeralds and all things pretty and green that if you put your ear to my baby girl’s ear the same way you’d put your ear to a seashell, you will actually hear the gurgling and bubbling of rapidly developing human brain. (Unfortunately you won’t be able to test this fact since my baby would bite, claw, climb, stuff an elbow inside of, yank the hair above, or kiss your ear long before it reached her ear for verification.)

Proof? In just the last few days I taught her to kick! Kick! Kick! in the pool. She's mastered the difference between her arm and her elbow. We’ve taught her to sleep without breastfeeding, to carry her potty to the toilet after she’s gone (she’s not ready to dump…) A chasing game I improvised the other day has been transformed, by her, into this: she: pulling a little ball toy behind her; Mommy or Daddy: follows her while pushing the ‘popper’ toy. Sounds harmless but it means hours of minutes ‘chasing’ the baby from room to room, in a circular fashion. The whole time we have to shout: Weeeee! Weeeee! Weeeee! And if we stop, she drops her toys and shrieks! (The twos are coming on strong)

More charmingly, I taught her to open her eyes and to close her eyes last night, in hopes it’d help when it was bedtime. Only it backfired, because she makes this hilarious effort at closing the eyes. Instead of just letting her eyelids fall normally, she expends all this effort and ends up in this fluttering eyelid state. (It reminds me of that exercise where you sit in a pretend chair, and your muscles shake and buckle, and your body’s saying: don’t tell me you’ve gone and forgotten how to sit down on the floor, because if this is the best you can do, we’re in a hell of a lot of trouble…)

Living the Three Quarters Life

Yesterday, I switched to a three quarters full-time schedule for my job. I negotiated this arrangement eight months ago, but the switch depended on a new person joining the office staff and training that person to take over some of my responsibilities.

At first when I wrote out my new schedule to share with my co-workers, I felt disappointed. After all the patience and bureaucratic legwork it took to make the part-time switch, I realized that thirty hours is not dramatically different than forty hours. I will still go to work five days per week and during most of the daylight hours I will be sitting at a desk staring at a computer screen. Instead of starting work at eight, I am to start at ten the first three days of the week. Thursdays, I will leave at one so I can take a course towards my doctoral degree. Fridays, I will work a full day.

But those two hours yesterday morning were precious and wonderful. I left the house when I normally would in the morning, but instead of going to my office I wrote in the library. The whole day I felt more cheerful and energetic. My work and family life felt more balanced. It is not that I spent more time with MaGreen and BabyG, but when I got home, instead of crashing on the couch and slogging through the evening, we all went to the university outdoor swimming pool. BabyG seemed to enjoy the pool. She climbed up the small slide and slid down it about twenty times in a row. Even though the absolute quantity of time I spent with my family did not change, I think the quality of the time was better.

In order to arrange this three-quarter schedule, I had to give up a quarter of my pay, which was used to cover part of the new staff person’s salary. We could not be able to pull this off oeconomically if MaGreen did not manage our finances as carefully as she does. She keeps track of our expenses using a computer program Quicken. She spent several days earlier this summer switching us to an internet bank, turning off our landline, setting up a good Skype account, and doing various other things to save us money. Also, even though my total income will decrease, our taxes will be lower so the cut in my take home pay is less than the total cut in my gross pay.

I hope I continue to feel good about the three quarters life and that it also helps MaGreen and BabyG feel a good balance in their lives too.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Material Differences

During our trip to India, I tried to pay attention to the material conditions that my family there live in and the way they choose to consume. Last year, the state of Gujarat, where my family is from, grew at a 10 percent rate. That is equivalent to China’s growth rate.

So the material conditions and choices I want to describe are those of middle-class Indians in one of India’s most prosperous states. The very poor in India consume a fraction of the resources used by people in the US, but what about the rising middle-class? Is the Indian middle-class copying American behavior? For example, George W. Bush defended his decision not to sign the Kyoto agreement by saying, "Kyoto would have wrecked our economy. I couldn't in good faith have signed Kyoto," and claimed that the treaty didn't require other "big polluters" such as India and China to cut emissions. Indians were quick to point out that pollution rates per capita for India are extremely low. But even environmentalists in the US shake their heads and lament the thousands of new cars on the roads in Asia canceling out the virtues of those who buy hybrids in America.

What I saw was that the middle-class in India go to great lengths to conserve energy and resources. We ought to consider carefully how middle-class Indians live and actually compare, in a detailed way, their lifestyles with those of people in the US before we come to conclusions about what respective initiatives are needed by each nation. I wrote out a list of sustainable practices and design choices that I noticed in the homes I visited in Gujarat:

  • Multiple overhead fans strategically placed over seating areas that rotate at extremely fast speeds
  • Window air-conditioning units in specific rooms that are kept closed when the unit is in use, so that people gather in an air-conditioned part of the house rather than air-condition the entire home
  • Easy to open shutters that let breezes in
  • Marble or tile flooring that stays cool in the heat
  • Reupholstering of old furniture rather than purchasing new
  • Lines strung in the balcony for drying clothes
  • Long rows of switches that can turn off each light, appliance, plug, or electrical device so that nothing is left running on standby
  • Western-style, sit-down toilets with a knob that controls water coming from the pipes so you can flush using just the right amount of water rather than always having to empty the entire tank.
  • Bidets rather than toilet paper, so less trees cut and less water required to flush
  • Solar water heaters or small, gas water heaters that make hot bathing water on demand rather than the huge contraptions we have in the US that keep a big tank of water hot all day and night
  • Buckets in the bathroom for “dhol” baths
  • Rooftops that collect rainwater and channel it into wells, which prevents flooding, replenishes aquifers, and averts salination in seaside areas
  • Pressure cookers with stacked containers inside of them, which make the most of the energy used by their gas stoves
  • Wall-mounted water purifiers rather than bottled water
  • Numerous stainless steel canisters for efficient storage of dry snacks, lentils, grains, and rice instead of disposable containers
  • Scooters for small commutes and running errands

  • My relatives in India live in comfort. They have refrigerators, air-conditioning, washing machines, microwaves, gas stoves, hot water for baths, good drinking water, well-appointed living spaces, and their own transportation. And yet, they use a fraction of the resources that people in the US do. (My cousin said he would share his utility bills with me so I can back up my claim with some numbers in the near future.) When middle-class Indians – the so-called biggest polluters according to Bush – have gone to such efforts, how can we in the US demand “equal” commitments to reductions in emissions. The burden is on those of us in United States and Europe.

    Saturday, August 11, 2007

    Car Seats in Asia?

    Before we went to Thailand and India, we made an appointment with a specialist in pediatric travel medicine at the children’s hospital. After a long wait, the doctor told us that BabyG didn’t need any shots or extra vaccinations beyond what she already had, but then the doctor read off a long list of precautions we should take:

    *Dress the baby in long sleeves and pants
    *Apply insect repellent on all exposed skin daily
    *Apply permethrin to the baby’s clothes (another kind of insect repellent)
    *Avoid rural areas and contact with animals
    *Give the baby mefloquine to prevent malaria (based on BabyG’s weight, she recommended a quarter of the regular tablet)
    *Use a car seat.

    “The number one cause of child mortality in foreign countries is motor vehicle crashes,” she said.

    The bill for talking to this specialist, even though she didn’t give BabyG any medicines, was over one hundred dollars. I remember thinking, we better heed her advice since it cost us so much. MaGreen bought Ultrathon insect repellent, which worked very well. We soaked the clothes in permethrin instead of spraying it on, since it repels insects longer that way. The house started to reek of poison while we did this, so we shifted the operation outside. Apparently, once the permethrin has bonded to the fibers in the clothing, it is not known to be toxic to humans. We even packed a mosquito net.

    But a car seat? How could we carry BabyG’s huge Britax car seat around Asia? In my previous trips to India, I had never seen anyone use a car seat. Even my brother and sister-in-law, who are very safety conscious doctors, didn’t use one with their son while in Asia. But the doctor’s words rang in our ears. Number one cause of child mortality. After all of our preparations and expenses, what kind of parents would we be if BabyG got hurt because we didn’t put her in a car seat? People wanted to take Britney Spears’ kid away from her because she got caught by the paparazzi not using one. So we bought a $40 portable car seat off the web. The user reviews were mixed, but the manufacturer said it could fit into backpacks and weighed less than 4 pounds.

    In Thailand, none of the taxis we encountered had seat belts in the back seat. They seemed to have been cut out. The tuk-tuks, which are like rikshaws, were built without seat belts. And sometimes tuk-tuks were the only mode of transport available. When we went to Khao Yai National Park, we specially arranged in advance for a taxi that did have seat belts. After a long and difficult instillation, we managed to get BabyG in the car seat on the way there. But on the way back, she absolutely refused to sit in it.

    In India, my cousin’s van was also built without seatbelts and by that time we were resigned to holding BabyG in our lap or letting her sit on the floor. According to one of my uncles, fatalities from crashes in India happen for completely different reasons than they do in the US.

    Most of the time, in India, motor vehicles are rarely driving over twenty-five miles per hour, so collisions between small vehicles at high speeds, where a seat belt would really help, don’t happen frequently, he said. Sometimes cars get trapped between large trucks on the two-lane roads, he added, and then a seatbelt will help no one.

    As you can imagine, I didn’t find this analysis very reassuring! And yet, we all survived – praise the Green Goddesses -- and BabyG enjoyed the break from car seats as you can see in the pictures. (When we passed cows on the road, she mooed with glee.)

    Thursday, August 02, 2007

    Travelling with Cloth Diapers

    At eighteen months, BabyG was, for the most part, potty trained. She consistently told us when she needed to go to the bathroom by saying pee pee, making the pssss sound, picking up her little potty, or grunting while squatting. She would try to take her diaper off and sit on the potty without assistance, but we usually needed to help her out. When she was done, she stood up, tried to pick up the potty, and walked it over to the toilet, but I helped out because I didn't want any spillage. We thought that maybe we wouldn't even need to take diapers when travelling to India and Thailand, but BabyG did occasionally wet a diaper (but always did #2 in the potty).

    It was, of course, really difficult for BabyG and MaGreen on the fourteen hour plane trip from the US to Asia. During the first half of the flight, BabyG went through all of the diapers in the handbag and MaGreen used the maxipads from the airplane lavatory to line the diaper cover. BabyG seemed to sense the diaper situation at that point and during the second half of the flight she actually used the airplane toilet with her mommy's help.

    When MaGreen and BabyG walked out of the airport terminal in Bangkok, both had this look on their faces, like they were trying their hardest not to cry. When BabyG got sight of me, she did start to cry. Not a full throttle, but bewildered and weak. We gave the diapers to the hotel laundry service and they charged $1.50 per diaper! So when BabyG wet a few diapers over the next couple of days while sightseeing in Bangkok, I promptly soaked them in the sink before they started to stink and tried to dry them in the window. They didn't dry well in the window so MaGreen found a spot on the roof near the hotel's solar water heaters.

    During the flight to India, BabyG wet a few more diapers and we decided to wash the whole batch in my aunt's washing machine. Until recently, none of my family members in India had washing machines. They don't have dryers. All the lines strung in the balcony and all the bars across the windows were hung with our laundry.

    I like the picture above. There are BabyG's diapers, slowly drying despite the monsoon rains. It rained for three straight days when we arrived. It's so cloudy, the energy-sipping, tube light seems brighter than the natural light. My cousin's wife is there quietly arranging things. She has a degree in statistics. She says that it's difficult to find part-time work in India and concentrates on raising two children and running the household, which she does very gracefully. As we toured the state of Gujarat, I noticed the laundry hanging from all the homes, nearly every balcony festooned, some with saris billowing out. BabyG returned to her Elimination Communication ways and it was over a week before we needed the diapers washed again. We were staying at a house where a young maid did the wash by hand and I saw her make a face at the diapers but she washed them.

    So we travelled to the other side of the planet using cloth diapers. In case you were wondering, it can be done. It wasn't especially hard. I washed them myself by hand, sometimes we had access to a washing machine, and other times a professional washer woman did the work. And they dried, even during the monsoon. I feel good about not leaving a trail of soiled plastic across Asia.

    Wednesday, August 01, 2007

    How the Sun Shines on the Soda Men

    Two young male workers unload bottles from a Coca Cola delivery truck in Bangkok. Their shirts are a brighter red than the truck. The taller one is broad-shouldered and the veins of his forearms are thick. The shorter one has a Buddhist amulet around his neck. They are proud. They step out of the shade and pose for me in the full sunlight. They stare at the camera, but just underneath their serious looks are smirks. I want the picture to document how they collect used glass bottles while delivering full ones ready for consumption. In Thailand, as in India, soda bottles almost never go into the garbage. They are not melted down or remade. They go back to the bottling plant and are used again in their original form. You must drink your Cokes where you buy them. No sipping while strolling down the streets. No casual toss and clink of bottle against bottle in the garbage bin. I want the picture to be about recycling in Asia, but the picture is about something else. It is about Thai men who want the world to see how vital they are. I think they want their country to be seen shining, attractive, and modern.