Friday, March 21, 2014

Let’s make Seed Bombs: A fun-filled flower planting activity for all ages

by Lynne Walter, Associate Director

Spring has officially arrived!  And there is no better time than now to get outside with your friends and family to do some gardening and planting.  A simple and easy activity you can do together is to make and plant seed bombs!  This is also a great take-home activity for kids ages 3 and up--ready-made for classrooms, birthday parties, and festivals.

Photo by NCDOT via flckr
Seed bombs are made of clay, organic compost, and flower seeds.  They were inspired by guerrilla gardeners, who plant beautiful things in less-then-beautiful places.  Seed bombs are designed to be easy to plant and to automatically fertilize the beautiful flowers that grow from them, attracting pollinators like butterflies, honeybees, and even hummingbirds.

How Do We Do This
First, you will need to gather your supplies:
  • Clay (you can use potters clay or clay dug right from your backyard)
  • Organic compost (worm castings are a great choice)
  • Flower seeds (a wildflower mix with native flowers from the Southeast will work well)
  • Medium-sized waterproof container (for mixing)
  • Big wooden or plastic spoon
  • Water (in a watering can or water bottle)
  • Flat tray or cookie sheet
  • Sandwich bags
  • Paper towels
  • Hand wipes
  • Tablecloth that can get dirty or some newspaper
Once you have all your supplies, head out into the beautiful spring weather to make your seed bombs.  Set up the supplies on a table covered by the tablecloth or newspaper:
  • Mix together the clay, organic compost, and flower seeds in the medium-sized waterproof container:
    • 5 parts clay
    • 1 part organic compost
    • 1 part flower seeds
  • Add enough water to the mix so that is gets muddy, but not soupy
  • Make seed bomb mud balls (about 2 inches in diameter)
  • Put the seed bombs on the tray to dry for a few minutes
  • Put the seed bombs in the sandwich bags and place them in a cool, dry place for 24 - 48 hours
  • Once you're ready to use your seed bombs, simply take them out of the bag and throw them where you want to plant them.
  • You can also crush them up by hand and plant them this way, too.
  • Give them a little water and watch them grow!
Volunteer Shannon making seed bombs at a Toxic Free NC event

Have other questions about organic gardening?  Check out Toxic Free NC for more information, helpful hints, and workshops.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Duke & UNC vying for Most Toxic Products!

It’s March, and in North Carolina, that means one thing… MARCH MADNESS!!! This March, Toxic Free NC is teaming up with to look into the hazardous chemicals in our favorite University Themed products. We found some pretty nasty stuff in our favorite fan gear from UNC and Duke - that’s why we’re releasing our March Badness report today.

Check out our results and choose who should advance to the Shameful Sixteen. Don’t delay - Duke is on the bubble! The MTP brackets lay out the toxicity rating of common gear fans buy to support their team from t-shirts, lunch bags and foldable chairs to flags and banners. We were disappointed that a lot of the items available at the nations Top Ten Retailers were full of toxics! For example, the Michigan State University Seat Cushion we bought at Kroger, the University of North Carolina Lunch Bag and University of Central Florida Car Mat (both from Walmart) contained both lead and phthalates. We think the only unhealthy things college basketball fans should be exposed to are beer, pizza and Krzyzewskiville.

Yet, this popular college gear contains phthalates banned by Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) and levels of lead that exceed CPSC regulation in children’s products.  The seat cushion you sit on, the jersey you wear and that koozie that keeps your drink cool might contain harmful chemicals that are linked to asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, liver toxicity, and cancer.

Many of the chemicals we found in the study contain chemicals of concern identified as Hazardous 100+ chemicals. and our partners in the Mind the Store Campaign are asking the Top Ten Retailers to stop playing dirty by getting toxic chemicals out of the product on their store shelves. Join us in asking them to clean up their act.

If you’re interested in finding out where Duke, UNC and the top teams from around the nation stand in terms of toxic gear, check out’s ranking here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The no good, horrible, very bad chemicals bill

Photo by Sashafatcat via flickr
by Fawn Pattison, Senior Advocate

Last week was a big week for toxic chemicals reform.

First, the Good: Wal-Mart announced its new Sustainable Chemistry Implementation Guide. It's great news that the nation's largest retailer is taking concrete steps to make good on its pledge to provide full information to consumers, and reduce high-priority toxic chemicals in many of the products they sell. I sincerely hope that the other top retailers across the nation will soon follow suit (hello Target? Walgreens? are you listening?).

But then, the Bad. The no good, horrible, very bad: The chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), has released a draft bill to "reform" the outdated and ineffective Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). I don't want to mince words or hide my feelings: The “Chemicals in Commerce Act” is very bad. Horrible. No good.

What's so bad about it?

It seems hard to fathom, but the Chemicals in Commerce Act would actually take us backwards from the current federal toxics law, TSCA. TSCA is the notorious toxics law that has allowed more than 80,000 chemicals into commerce, with very little scrutiny. How could it get worse than that?

Here’s how: the Chemicals in Commerce Act would shut down all the progress being made in the states on toxic chemicals. It would end the states’ ability to restrict a chemical in any way if EPA has taken action. It would even impose new secrecy, preventing states from collecting and sharing information about toxic ingredients in products as soon as EPA takes the first steps to evaluate a chemical.

Maybe some of these state programs would seem less necessary if Congress were considering a sweeping, robust federal system of chemical evaluation and regulation that worked swiftly to put public health and the environment first. But they’re not. The Chemicals in Commerce Act actually weakens the approach taken in TSCA, giving undue consideration to the cost of developing new, safer chemicals over the benefits to our health that could be derived from restricting the hazardous old ones.

I'd like to suggest an edit to this sentence from the bill summary: "This is a commerce bill, not just a chemical safety bill." The Chemicals in Commerce Act has nothing to do with chemical safety. It has everything to do with shutting down scrutiny of old-generation chemicals and ending the debate over the Toxic Substances Control Act.

And where does this leave North Carolina? If legislation like the Chemicals in Commerce Act were enacted, our state would no longer have the authority to even consider legislation like the NC Toxic Free Kids Act, or other recent bills to protect our kids’ health from notorious toxic products. Our state legislators ought to take notice.

US House members, especially those serving on the Energy and Commerce Committee, need to hear from their constituents that we value our health above the profits of a handful of corporate chemical giants. From North Carolina, Representatives G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) and Renee Ellmers (R-NC) serve on the committee and will be hearing lots about this proposed legislation in the weeks to come. Make sure they hear from you!

Walmart recognizes the need to get the most hazardous chemicals out of consumer products. Why doesn't Congress?