All posts by Sustainable Anna

About Sustainable Anna

I’m Anna. I try to live sustainably and I never shop made in China.

The green blogger you need to know in the Deep South! (Earth Month special feature)

When most people talk about The South, ice tea, rich foods, hot sunny days and mosquitoes come to mind. Green living bloggers? Not so much.

No offense Southerners, but sustainability isn’t exactly your best trait. Oil lands, high consumption, fast food wrapped in plastic and running the truck’s AC constantly when parked do not sustainable make.

That said, there are always exceptions and good environmental stewards live everywhere, here too, trying to inspire change. I happen to know a woman in Louisiana doing just that. Not only did she invent the most brilliant hashtag ever #resuableisinstagrammable but she also lives green, writes a sustainability blog, bikes (a lot), picks up trash, recycles, composts and hugs trees (they all need some love!).

Meet Caitlin of Eco Cajun

Caitlin

Because it’s Earth Month and us green living bloggers are feeling the love, Caitlin and I decided to do a blog post swap – introducing each other to our respective blog audiences because we are both eco-warriors in The South!

Catlin has been blogging for almost 10 years (so impressive!) and she writes a column for a local newspaper, Times of Acadia, where she discusses environmental issues and promotes a healthy and green lifestyle.

This time, it’s my turn to write, and so I had some questions for the Eco Cajun of course…

When and why did you decide to start a green living blog?

“I originally started writing back in 2009 after getting more involved personally in my green efforts. I wanted to share what I was learning with others, and show them how simple it can be to make green changes in your life. I had bought my first stainless steel water bottle not long before (one which I still have and use today!), and had recently started using cloth grocery bags, and those were kind of the catalysts to me wanting to do more.”

What’s been one important or encouraging change you have seen around you in the south, or in family members and friends, that you know you have inspired them to make?

“I think what I get the most feedback about from family, friends and this online community is about skipping straws or investing in reusable ones! I’ve had a lot of people either say they are more conscious now about refusing straws at restaurants or tell me they purchased their own set for themselves and their families. I see more people using cloth grocery bags these days, but I don’t consider that from my influence, haha. It still makes me happy to see!”

reusable stainless steel straw

I always want to know this from fellow bloggers; Is there anything you miss in your day-to-day life since you became “green”?

“Probably impulse shopping, haha. Although I don’t miss it that much! Especially when it comes to clothing, I’ve gotten into a rhythm of shopping secondhand or eco-friendly brands online, rather than going to the mall.

Sometimes, I also wish it would be easier to dine out without having to worry about single-use containers/utensils/cups. Just recently, I picked up lunch with a coworker, and although my food came in a plastic container that I ended up recycling, I chose to skip the drink because there were only Styrofoam cups – and I was so thirsty while eating! Although it would’ve been easier to just take the cup, I stayed committed.”

(I have done that too! That’s a real struggle!)

If you could give the people reading this, one eco-friendly tip for how they can make a positive impact for Earth Month, what would it be?

“Focus more on ways to reduce your waste, rather than on recycling plastic/glass/cans. Invest in good reusable items for your home – I promise you will get used to toting them around! I’ve got a set of reusable utensils and straws in my purse at all times, and I can always be found with a reusable water bottle and/or coffee mug, haha. It does become habit, and it makes SUCH a big impact – even on an individual or family level.”

Catlin shared some exciting news earlier this month on her blog; she and her husband are expecting their first baby! She’ll be diving into cloth diapers, eco-friendly toys and second hand baby fashion soon. I am hoping Sustainable Anna (moí!) can continue to be a good resource as she plans for her little one.

There has been some talk among hardcore environmentalists about how not having kids is the best and most eco-friendly path for one to take, encouraging people to not reproduce to lower the carbon footprints of families. I asked Caitlin what her take on it was, now that she is pregnant, glowing and excited about the upcoming mini Eco Cajun.

“I think that it is true that having children increases your carbon footprint and your amount of waste. But to me, the decision of having or not having children involves a lot more than the environmental aspect. On my blog, I try to focus on the fact that you don’t have to live your life a certain way to be considered eco-friendly or zero-waste (like living off-grid, not having children, growing your own food and making your own clothing). You can make more eco-friendly or responsible decisions in aspects of your life and still have a positive impact on the environment. As I get ready to welcome our little one, it’s important for me to still focus on ways we can reduce waste, be minimalist, and shop secondhand. I am very excited to raise a little environmentalist, as well as grow our little family and keep our legacy going.”

Well said Caitlin! And I agree so much with that. Living life here on Earth can’t be 100% centered around lowering our carbon footprints, if it were, we’d all have to end it right now.

Speaking of ending it, let’s end this post by mentioning two of Caitlin’s favorite sustainable clothing brands, because we have to include some fashion :)

Amour Vert is probably my favorite eco brand – they utilize organic cotton and sustainable materials like modal, silk and linen. SSeko Designs is an ethical brand that helps empower women in Uganda!”

Thank you Eco Cajun! I love your blog and your positivity.

Instagram @ecocajun || Ecocajun.com

 

How we created a super green baby space (in the most budget friendly way!)

It’s been 14 months since we welcomed our little August into the world.  Our lives have changed so much (for the better) and I feel like I should talk more about how we are keeping things eco and budget friendly around the house now that we are a family of three! Hence this post :)

We always knew we were the kind of parents that would have our kid sleep in his own room from quite early on. He moved out of our bedroom after about six months and it’s been great for us all. Lots of good sleep. This meant we wanted to create a nice space for him where he’d not only catch some Z’s but also play!

Decorating nurseries and kids rooms can easily get out of hand. Let’s be honest, some parents-to-be spend hundreds (maybe thousands) of dollars on rocking chairs, cribs, bedding, wall paper and decorations. Only later do they realize that their kiddo couldn’t care less, all she needed was the basics since she spends all her time in the family room anyway…

Because I don’t like buying things (hmmm) we actually ended up spending only 80 dollars in his room. In total!

I should tell you that August’s diaper station is not in his room, but in our master bathroom, so the cost for building that piece of furniture (which hubby did) is not included. I am not entirely sure how much we spent on the materials needed, maybe 100 dollars (plus time and love). If you want to read more about cost and needs for a diaper station, check out this post.

Now, here’s how we did it eco- and budget friendly:

Bed

I looked around a bit and concluded that there aren’t really any eco-friendly, affordable, must-have cribs on the market. Instead, what makes most sense for a sustainable family is to buy baby’s bed second hand. We got lucky that a friend of ours had just put hers up for sale, including a mattress (made in USA!) so we claimed that one right away. She asked for $75 but we gave her four twenties.

So what about the bedding? Well, we were gifted four blankets, my favorite being the one from SwaddleDesigns (100% cotton, made in USA) which tot sleeps on top of most nights. He does not use blankets very often, however when it’s cold in the house, we have plenty he can use; the four mentioned but also a fluffy warm blanket from when I was a baby. Chances are you will be gifted blankets, so no need to buy in advance.

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My 80’s blanket, second hand crib, reusable stickers, home-made pillow and tot.

For a mattress protector, I had a sheet that had come with our king bed, which we never used, so I cut it into four pieces – perfect size for a crib!

He also has a flat little pillow from Ikea (made in Estonia) that grandma surprised us with, accompanied by three home-made pillowcases sewn from leftover fabric she had at home. [Insert heart emoji here.]

Storage

Storage is crucial! We happened to have two dressers we weren’t really utilizing so we relocated them into baby’s room! Super handy.

For toys and various small items he throws around, he has a toy chest – also known as a diaper box! Buying boxes for baby toys is such a waste of resources and money, because we all have empty boxes at home. Decorate with wrapping paper if you can’t stand to look at the logos on them. If you always buy the same diapers, you’ll have multiple, sturdy, boxes in the same size, which can make storage look great!

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Yeeees. That’s how it’s done.

Toys

He has some of my old stuffed animals and puzzles, second hand trains and gimmicks, hand me down books from friends, and a few new wooden toys his grandma and great grandma got him. He is not bored or neglected; he is just not overwhelmed with new plastic toys.

What I have come to realize is that it’s impossible to know what he will find amusing and actually play with anyway! For example, he has a few cars but only wants to play with trains?! He likes to throw things around (a lot) so any type item works for that activity (read empty plastic containers we would recycle otherwise). He likes to walk around the house and find things in drawers too, so we keep our lower areas safe for him to play with whatever he picks up.

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Christmas gift from grandma. I love this one – so cute.

The important thing I learned was that having an infant is somewhat boring and no matter how much gear you have, the first three months of babies life aren’t going to go by any faster. Don’t get a bunch of baby chairs, swings and rattle toys – baby just wants to be with YOU. Baby gym? You mean a strap with hanging objects you tie up between two chairs?

Yes, I am that mom.

I did get him a pushcart so he could practice walking. It also came with a bunch of colorful, wooden building blocks too! He uses it in the family room so I haven’t included the cost of that. Read more about it in this blog post. (What I am also hinting at here is that babies don’t need sit-in walkers in plastic to learn how to walk. Actually, they become better crawlers without high-tech walking tools. Crawling helps develop baby’s eye to hand coordination. Yay.)

Wall art and decor

We moved baby into the previous office space where walls are white; a blank canvas, perfect for a baby room. We ended up getting some wall stickers (made in Germany) from my mom, which adds some fun and color. They stick and peel off without damage so that’s perfect. I also had an old picture of an elephant we hung (I had used the frame for other pictures over the years but the original art was still in it!)

The main piece of art in his room is a beautiful growth chart ruler, a gift from a dear friend, which we love and treasure. It’s handmade in New Hampshire by Headwaters Studio.

It’s printed on the highest grade of CARB (California Air Resources Board) compliant Baltic birch plywood with solvent-free, low/no-VOC inks.

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We have two chairs in his room as well, for us to sit on (or him to play on?) because we had no other place to put them when we moved the computer out of the “office” to take their place in the family room. Zero dollars spent though – again!

I feel great about his room and what else does a baby, or toddler, need anyway?

If you are getting ready to decorate a nursery or a revamp a toddler room and have specific questions on how we did it eco, let me know in the comments :)

 

It’s Earth Month! And here’s what the eco community is up to

It’s Earth Month! All of us earthlings are celebrating our planet a little extra this month by doing different earth-friendly things we don’t normally do. It’s just that time of year; spring is here and we all want to up our game.

So what are people up to?

Renee Peters, model turned activist/model is doing a zero waste month aiming to not produce any trash and to collect what she does despite trying (like rubber bands around organic broccoli – hate that). She’s been doing it green the gorgeous way for a while, but decided she needed to really try zero waste to see if she could give up her (few) beloved packaged foods. You can join her on her challenge via Instagram @renee.elizabethpeters.

Stevie, NYC sustainability hero, has decided to do yoga EVERY DAY in April to get more in tune with her body and to better process the world around her, stress free. Now, it probably goes without saying that she is an experienced yogi so if you want to join her in her challenge listen to your body and don’t injure yourself!  She’s sharing lots of tips and cute videos on Instagram @stevieyaaaay as she goes through the challenge. PS. Shes’s stunning to watch!

Super-blogger and amazing earthling Kathryn is celebrating both Earth Month and the three year anniversary of her blog Going Zero Waste. She’ll be diving into more sustainable, zero waste skincare soon and doubling up on her activism for our planet to name a few things she’s up to. She’s always up to something good though, so I suggest you head on over to her blog to be inspired.

Nadine, a German in Canada (a kindred euro spirit!) who just had her first eco-baby, decided to get into the earthy mood by sharing stories about other greenliving bloggers who inspire her. It’s ALWAYS a good idea to search for inspiration in order to keep going in our quest for sustainability.

“I have decided I want to focus on the positive change happening across the globe in environmental awareness, education, and activism.  I want to commend those who act out positive change instead of just talking about it because they are the hope that I seek!”

It so happens that one of her inspiring features is yours truly – mega yay! I was so honored and excited about all the reasons Nadine loves my blog. Great start to Earth Month for me for sure. You should check out her blog; she’s got some great tips on zero waste living and cool, easy DIYs.

zero journey feature sustainable anna

So what am I up to?

Lately I’ve decided to be more zen in my day to day life – I think that benefits earth and us all. It doesn’t just reduce my own stress levels but colleagues, friends and family get to enjoy the laid back, funny Anna, which makes their days better! I am doing this by taking issues at work less personally, leaving at earlier hours, accepting that having sandwiches for dinner is grand (‘cos it is, let’s be honest) and by getting regular massages. (If you want the contact for a great massage therapist in League City Houston, holler at me!) This is step two, you could say, in my effort to detox my life, like I decided I would last year.

Also, I will be sharing tips here on the blog on what you can do for Earth Day April 22nd (like always ;)) and I have an exciting feature coming up on a yogi green blogger living in, wait for it, the Deep South! There’s not many of us around these parts and this chick is super cool so I am thrilled. Stay tuned.

Any plans for Earth Month?

It’s time to spring in to recycling LESS! (Here’s why)

It is that time of year again when nature bursts out blooms, bikes start rolling, we shut off our lights for Earth Hour and gear up to celebrate Earth Day April 22nd. Let’s just say, spring is in the air and with that, it’s time to talk environmental issues.

On the agenda? Recycling plastic.

Oh no! Not again!? Yes, again.

Here’s why; as per January 1, 2018, China stopped importing recyclable plastic from the USA.

Maybe you missed the news, and maybe you are wondering why that is worth blogging about. Well, before this year, China took the majority of our plastic waste (16 million tons in 2016), recycled it, and turned it into plastic goods made in China. Even though most of those plastic items I am sure were unnecessary, this procedure meant that at least some our discarded plastic jugs, lids, boxes and wrappers got used for something.

When you add the fact that so many container ships sail half-empty back to Asia because of the huge trade deficit, filling containers with plastic scrap made even more sense from an environmental standpoint.

So, why did China decide to stop accepting “free” raw material? You probably think that sounds like a bad idea, especially since they already have the facilities and manufacturing equipment to recycle huge amounts of plastic.

The reason why China is saying “no more” is they are cleaning up their act and marketing themselves that way. That term includes more than implementing carbon taxes and reducing air pollution by shutting down coal plants; it includes looking good and clean. They are tired of drowning in plastic and having messy factories full of bins of materials; sometimes contaminated and always needing sorting. They want to buy newly made raw materials; neat, streamlined, no need for warehouses full of “stuff”.

I’d like to argue that the clean “green” thing to do would be to keep accepting discarded plastic for recycling and to use less virgin plastic materials in their manufacturing of goods. They’re helping us ALL recycle! (That’s good marketing too.) The decision to stop imports is upsetting the market and undoing decades of progress in handling scraps. That said, it’s not exactly fair to put the recycling responsibility on one country alone either.

The west coast is now drowning in the plastic that China used to pick up. We don’t have the facilities to deal with it and let’s not forget, the biggest pushers for consuming virgin plastic are American chemical companies working against local recycling infrastructure (laughing all the way to the bank when they heard China’s big news).

It should also be noted that China is one of the top polluters when it comes to plastic in our oceans. Turns out, they don’t have the infrastructure to deal with plastic either. So what’s worse? Our “recycled yoghurt cup” being shipped to China, maybe falling into the river and flowing into the ocean or it being buried alive in an American landfill, spewing methane?

Can we all just agree as a society in whole we SUCK at taking responsibility for used plastic? (Yes.)

Now we are at the “So what can we do?” part of this blog post!

Whooop! My favorite part.

recycling plastic

1. We must STOP thinking that throwing plastic in the recycling bin is an eco-friendly thing to do. Our goal should always be to look down our recycling bin and see mostly carton, metal and glass (if accepted in your area or you might have to drive to a station to recycle) in a half-empty bin. We should leave as much packaging in the store as possible. Now, I love chips just as much as the next person, but I am not pretending that the bag will end up anywhere but landfill. I know that is where it’s going and I have to decide how much I want quinoa puffs today based on that fact. Let’s no longer pretend that an item that doesn’t get recycled, magically does (“wishcycling”). Knowing what really happens, helps us make better choices. Studies have shown that people who believe items are recycled, consume MORE. Read about plastic and its recyclability here.

2. We must purchase and support local makers who use recycled material. You can read more about recycling and get ideas for brands in this post. If you are buying Chinese, or other imported goods, look for recycled content! Our goal is to let the market know that we care about where the raw materials used in a product comes from.

3. Even though we live in a plastic polluted world, companies who use recycled plastic still have an issue getting enough of it for their production lines. Like I said, we don’t have the infrastructure in place. We can help by asking specific companies what they need and provide it directly to them. For example US based, eco-company Preserve accepts number 5 plastics (yogurt cups, hummus jars) back via their Gimme 5 program (bins available at certain Whole Foods). American Oka-B and Canadian Kamik footwear companies accept and recycle worn-out styles as well.

4. Write to your favorite politicians and inform active members in your community about this issue. Volunteer in a recycling and waste handling committee where you live if you have time :)

Those are my ideas for doing something about this issue! What are some of yours?

I am definitely not the “perfect plastic free citizen” but every action to reduce matters. Do you think about plastic when you go about your day? Have you made progress in reducing your plastic consumption this year so far? Let me know :)

Because Friday is a great day for a blog post about plaid (and peace)

In an effort to sustainably transform my outdated closet and take it in the direction I want it to go, I ordered myself another plaid shirt. How many handmade in USA, 100% cotton flannels does one woman need anyway?

I was thinking two is a good start.

I went back to Tradlands since I am still very much obsessed with and loving my first purchase from them. This one is not quite the same home run – I think these colors aren’t as great on me – but beautiful nonetheless. And soft. And well made.

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I am still getting used to rocking the no make-up look so instead of posing (looking all stylish) I went with a peace sign! Because I believe in peace: peaceful marches, a peaceful home and killing ‘em with kindness.

With the flannel, I am wearing made in USA cotton tights from Ann Taylor, which I got at the outlet for 10 dollars, and my new Indonesian not-so-eco Ecco sneakers.

Short blog post this week. Check out Tradlands if you haven’t.

Peace and weekend greetings :)

Time to completely DESTROY my reputation as a sustainable shopper!

Have you ever thought to yourself “Man, these eco bloggers sure are missing out”?

I have. Sometimes I wonder if zero waste warriors miss devouring the contents of an unrecyclable bag of chips or drinking a coffee they hadn’t planned for. I wonder if sustainable fashion bloggers secretly want that new coat from Banana Republic. I think some of them do, while others are so addicted to their green lifestyle that they’re all good just being green.

Me, I still get mad and sad when I am out browsing at Marshalls and all the nice cardigans are made by underpaid workers in China and Bangladesh; something I have decided not to support. Basically, I sometimes feel like I am missing out on wearing what I really want to wear.

“Go buy clothes second hand!” greenies will say. Sure, but, it’s just not the same. The stores aren’t as nice and the size options and variety isn’t there. It’s great for browsing and being spontaneous but harder for when you want specific things.

Here’s the deal. I am SUPER tired of my wardrobe. I have two shirts I love at the moment, one cardigan and maybe five tops that are “ok” with a scarf. I know I sound like a western brat, but do you feel me?

I am not 100% sure why this happened all of a sudden. It could be the pregnancy that changed my body a bit so clothes don’t fit right. Or it could be the blonder hair and the bangs (yay bangs!). Or that I am a mom now and my style has changed. Or that I changed jobs. Or that I watched American Horror Story Roanoke and now want to look like Sarah Paulson’s character. Or that during pregnancy I inherited a bunch on new-to-me clothes from my sister (which made me feel brand new and gorge) and then after baby I went back to all the same old stuff I’ve been wearing since 1863.

Let’s just say, I am on the lookout for new clothes! I cleaned out my closet AND I did something completely illegal. I bought the most unethical freaking awesome shoes ever.

Yes, I did.

Everyone knows the shoes change the outfit! I was so tired of only having winter boots, work-out sneakers (and by “work-out” this mama means weekend outings and walks with the stroller) and two pairs of ballerina shoes. I do have heels in my closet (pre 2013) and hiking shoes but I don’t wear those very often.

I did my research online; I looked at the websites of Amour Vert and dozens of other ethical, vegan, made in USA shoe stores. I didn’t find anything I liked, so I dragged my boys to the Ecco store, also known as Euro style heaven, instead.

Sneakers. Made in Indonesia. Leather. Plastic sole. [Insert panic emoji.]

I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THEM.

Black Ecco sneakers leather
My dad took this photo! So good!

I thought about naming this blog post “Sorry, not sorry” because that song kept playing in my head while I was thinking about what to write about these shoes. “Baby, I am sorry, I’m not sorry, being so bad got me feelin’ so good” most definitely describes this event. I haven’t regretted this buy for one second. I am not apologizing for not compromising and buying something ethical that wasn’t right for me either – that’s not really sustainable. I got what I wanted, and it wasn’t even made in China! Ha!

“Your shoes are so stylish” said my coworker. “Yeah, they are.”

(And comfortable I might add.)

I do think getting good quality things, that we love, has to be part of being sustainable too. It’s not like I’ll wear these to just one party (who has time for parties!?) and then toss.

So know this, friends. Living perfectly green is my goal, zero waste is a great thought, vegan, sustainable fashion is preferred, always doing my best is a must, yet I think I have the right (ooh, entitlement!) to feel like I am not always missing out.

What do you think?

Can I get a “yay” for new shoes?

PS. Not that I am trying to sell you these shoes, but Ecco isn’t the worst of companies when it comes to employee rights and environmental policies. You can read more here. Hopefully they’ll move towards using vegan leather soon!

A year later: The the ifs, ands and BUT(T)S of cloth diapering our tot

I think we can officially call ourselves a cloth diapering family now that we have been at if for a whole year. Turns out, it wasn’t nearly as hard or complicated as I thought it would be before we “did it”. The post I wrote last year, about three months in to it, still stands and you can read all the basics of cloth and my newborn baby hacks there.

So, a year later, here’s what’s up; ifs, ands and but(t)s included.

Cloth diapers made in usa

The cloth diaper stash

First, the stash of diapers. We used all-in-one organic Thirsties diapers for newborn August, but since he grew out of them (around 4 months) we’ve been using mostly BumGenius pocket diapers with Thirsties inserts (the hemp prefold or stay dry duo).

More info: Pocket diapers are like a shell/cover/non-absorbing diaper/undie with an opening/pocket, in which you slide in or stuff an insert – the absorbing part. An all-in-one on the other hand, requires no assembly. The absorbing layers are sewn into the shell/cover which saves time for busy parents but takes longer to dry after the wash.

I have a love/hate relationship with BumGenius.

I love them because they work so well, the quality is superb and they’re assembled in USA. The material is super easy to wipe off, spray off or just ‘dump’ the poop off of as well (more on this in the next section!). I also appreciate that they’re widely available in baby stores like Babies R’ Us and Buy Buy Baby. It’s nice to not have to buy everything “eco-friendly” online.

What I hate about them is that, if you buy them new, each diaper is individually packed in a plastic pouch, no organic materials are used and the inserts are actually made in China.

I got all my BumGenius second hand (eight diapers), meaning I have a super ‘green’ stash. We also have two Thirsties pocket diapers with Velcro close, one thirties all-in-one (that doesn’t fit baby real well) and one Blueberry Simplex organic all-in-one (which fits better than the Thirsties but not as well as BumGenius) which I bought new online. Total of 13 diapers.

More info: Thirties and Blueberry diapers are made in USA! Diaper sprayers, wipes, bags and accessories are also available made right here. Cloth diapering routines support small businesses!

Toddler poop is not fun

As I wrote in my last post, nothing is simpler than when baby is newborn and poop is water soluble (if breastfed). When baby starts taking a bottle and/or you introduce solids, “things” change. (Trigger warning!) You now have to dump the poop in the toilet, which is a simple thing on a good day, but an impossible thing on a bad day (read diaper completely full of goo). On the bad days (which are most days – let me tell ya) we’ve been absolutely reliant on our diaper sprayer.

A sprayer is a little handheld “shower” you hook up to the water line in the toilet which allows you to “rinse” junk off into the toilet bowl to flush. Super convenient and necessary. After the rinse, into the wet bag the stained diaper goes.

You will always need a wet bag or some sort of container for keeping wet diapers until your next laundry day. For us, two large, American made wet bags from Planet Wise still work great. We fill one, empty it into the washer and fill the other while the first one is washing/drying.

We were lucky enough to inherit our diaper sprayer from a friend who’s kids are out of diapers. She wasn’t using it anymore and it works great. Another green win.

So what about wipes? For good days, reusable wipes; for bad days, disposables. I have found that I use his cotton, reusable wipes for everything but wiping his butt lately! Wiping baby hands, nose and face, blowing my own nose, wiping down the vanity. You name it. We are a Kleenex free home :)

More info: Our Samsung washer had a sanitize cycle which I use to wash dipers, inserts, wipes, wet bags, stained clothes, poopy clothes and reusable change pads. This cycle keeps everything looking and smelling like new, no special procedures needed. In other words, I cannot advice on needs to strain, get smells out, sun dry etc. I use Allen’s Naturally for all diaper loads.

Dealing with disposables

You may have noticed that we have way fever diapers for baby now than we did when he was a newborn. That’s because August goes to daycare now where cloth diapers are not allowed, meaning we need fever reusable diapers at home to sustain a comfortable laundry routine of washing every two to three days.

More info: I do send a medium size wet bag to school with August every day, for teachers to put any dirty clothes in. The option was a new-every-day-ziploc bag!

Will you fall off your chair if I also tell you that baby sleeps in a disposable?! He does. Our little man sleeps 7 pm to 5:30 am (most nights) and since parents love (and need) sleep and Netflix we can’t have him waking up due to feeling wet! When he was newborn and breastfed he woke up all the time anyway to eat, so changing the cloth diaper wasn’t an inconvenience. In fact, changing the diaper helps make the newborn more alert so he can stay awake longer while nursing, filling his little tummy more. (This further proves my point that cloth for a newborn is a no brainer and every new parent should do it.)

More info: Super Absorbent Polymers (“SAPs”) are what keeps a disposable diaper feeling dry so much longer than a cloth diaper does. Plant based disposable diapers have them, regular disposable diapers have them.  It is unclear if sufficient testing has been done to ensure that SAPs are non-toxic and safe for babies.

Not that I am in the business of recommending a disposable diaper brand, but we are using only Babyganics if anyone is wondering. They’re pretty much the only ones we’ve tried; they’re partly plant based (yada, yada, yada) and they work super well. Thanks to their essential oil blend, at least he never has diaper rash, which saves money, time, jars and tubes.

More info: Scientists have found that cloth diapers are not as warm as disposable diapers are. Up to a 5 degree butt temperature difference. The cooler the diaper, the better for boy babies’ testicular development.

Diapers and the environment

In my previous diaper post you can read all about how cloth versus disposables add up when it comes to pollution and resources. Spoiler alert: cloth wins.

So let me say this again: Any routine that involves reusables is a good routine.

I feel really warm and fuzzy about how much we are using reusables. Even though we go through quite a few disposables at daycare and nighttime, we are constantly using and washing the cloth diapers. Every time I pull diapers out of the dryer to fold and put back, I feel thankful for my washer and dryer and proud of how many diapers we are saving from landfill. That’s what it’s about: how many diapers we don’t consume and keep away from trash. We are not failures just because we can’t be 100% cloth. We are parents making it work.

Every saved diaper counts!

If you have any questions about cloth diapers or adding more reusable items to your baby’s routine, ask away!

Gluten-free, vegan, full-of-seeds Swedish crispy bread (my first ever blog recipe!)

Last week was crazy busy and I didn’t have time to compose anything fantastic for the blog, hence no posting. Busyness is still going strong, mainly at work (not that I would ever blog during work hours!) so let me just share a quick post of my very favorite recipe for vegan, gluten-free, crunchy, fantastic crispbread – which I keep making over and over again.

First, what is crispbread? It’s what you get when you translate “Knäckebröd” say the Swedes. Actually, it is a sort of large cracker which is served as a bread; it can take any toppings you like and is packed with fiber. This crispbread is made up of mostly seeds, instead of wheat flour, which makes it super nutrient packed! Let’s just mention pumpkin seeds with their 32% protein (by weight) and flax seeds which has vital Omega 3 fatty acids for veganistas.

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This recipe is low waste as well; I can get all the seeds and the almond meal in bulk. I do get the arrowroot in plastic and the oil in a glass bottle which I can recycle.

What you need:

  • 4 parts pumpkin seeds (I use a mix of raw and roasted-salted)
  • 2 parts sunflower seeds (raw)
  • 1 part flax seeds (raw)
  • 2 parts flour (I use 50/50 arrowroot flour and almond meal)
  • 1 part canola oil*
  • 4 parts boiling water
  • A sprinkle of sea salt as you see fit (needed if you’re using only raw seeds)

1 part is defined as 1 deciliter (dl), 1/3 cup or 1/2 cup. It’s not so much the amount, but the ratio. I use a total of 7 dl of seeds and it makes two 14.5″ x 11″ (37 x 27 cm) pan’s worth. This batch size (in dl) lasts me about a week; I love snacking on this bread and hubby always offers to help finish it.

If you happen to have other seeds at home (sesame, poppy, chia etc.) feel free to substitute as you like!

What you do:

  1. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl
  2. Pour in the oil and boiling water
  3. Set the oven to 305F (150C)
  4. Stir, and let batter sit for 15 minutes (it will go from watery to sticky!)
  5. Spread out on parchment paper** on the pan as thin as you like (the thinner the better and crunchier!)
  6. Bake for around 1 hour and 15 minutes
  7. Let cool on a rack (it cools super fast)
  8. Break apart and enjoy!

That’s it!

If anyone tries to make this seedy crispbread please let me know how it turned out! And since this is my first recipe ever I’d love to hear if my instructions and information is sufficient. Stepping into unknown territory here.

Now, go make yourself some crispbread :)

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This bread was a bit too thick but a nice picture nonetheless :)

* You can play around with the ratio of water to oil to reduce oil consumption. I’ve made it before using about half of what is in the recipe. Try it and see how you like it.

** A waste reduction tip is to save the paper for next time. I use mine over and over. No problems what so ever. I have also used the same sheets for other oven-baked breads.

How quitting Facebook made me a better and more successful blogger

As part of my efforts to detox my life, I quit Facebook last year.

I didn’t have a blog account, just a regular, personal Facebook page, where I would share my blog posts and a select few other updates. I was worried about leaving it behind, as it did drive some traffic to the blog. (And by “some” I mean like 15 views per post, not 200.) Still, I decided that a few blog views wasn’t enough to justify me “being on Facebook”.

What I have found since I left, is that it has made me a better blogger. Maybe you haven’t noticed, maybe you have; it has made it easier to write honest, more personal posts with my own thoughts and, sometimes, strong opinions. Turns out, I was experiencing negativity and judgment from Facebook “friends”!

Who here can say that your friends from high school actually LIKE you and want you to succeed? Aha. That’s what I thought; two friends do. The rest of them remember how [insert personality trait here] you were, and kind of resent how confident you are now. Also, how keen would you be to show them pictures of yourself with a skin rash all over your face? Right.

Another part that I realized had even more of a negative effect on me was that good friends didn’t support me. They knew I wanted to build a successful blog (most bloggers do!) yet they rarely (or never) shared a single post or even took the time to give me a thumbs up.

Many of my posts dealt/deal with climate change, protecting our environment and being more aware of our actions here in the rich part of the world, which I would think are posts worthy of liking, thus it must be they either 1. Found me so annoying that even spreading good messages was appalling or 2. They were afraid of being judged by their “friends” for being stewards of the environment or 3. Just thought it was too much work to help a friend out (which kind of implies that we are not friends) or 4. Never actually had time to read or even push like (or sad emoji or whatever) 5. Had no idea I was blogging.

Whatever their reasons were, I realized that constantly sharing blog posts and not getting much of a response from people I hold dear had been affecting me negatively. (That might sound silly, to base your value on other’s opinions/engagement, but I think we need to admit that this is what social media does to (most of) us.)

I can also share that quitting Facebook has made me a more successful blogger! I define success as being proud of what I write, getting a text or two about the content I just published, increasing traffic (compared to previous month) and gaining a few followers. I run a very small blog and I don’t have hopes of becoming the next “big thing” but I want to spread the good word, help earth and help people feel better – obviously I need somebody to read ;) Happiness is success!

The few (spectacular) friends that used to follow and support my blog on Facebook have signed up to follow the blog via email and/or we follow each other on Instagram – which works so much better and is a much more positive space.

Ultimately, leaving Facebook behind allowed me to become “Sustainable Anna” which in turn has made me super excited about blogging again! (Pretty darn fantastic, if you ask me, that I feel that way about blogging almost four years, a pregnancy and a baby later.) In order to live a balanced life in which I can be good to earth and people, I need to be good to me.

To all of you who read, follow and keep this a positive space – thank you! I always welcome your comments, opinions and questions – stirring up conversation is why bloggers blog! We don’t always have all the answers, but we like to think that we do ;)

I would love to know if anyone else has cut the chords with social media in any way, shape or form and what happened after. Or maybe you just need a push to push that “delete” button? Also, do you think a blogger should stay on a social media platform that impacts their personal life negatively just for the potential to, maybe, “reach” people that wouldn’t normally read a green living blog? Let me know.

Xoxo Anna

Thoughts and ramblings about raising plant based children

I was brought up eating meat like most children are.

The first time I went fishing with my dad, a friend of his and my sister, I started crying when we caught the first fish. I couldn’t believe we were going to kill it and that I had contributed to its death. It broke my heart. The little mermaid was my favorite movie after all. I was told I was a party-pooper.

The first time I fried bacon at my mom’s house I almost fainted. The memory is so vivid. What was puttering in the pan looked incredibly gross to me. I kept telling myself that it wasn’t and that no one else faints when frying bacon! I did eat bacon when someone else cooked it. I got through it, resting on a chair during the frying and of course was later told I was being ridiculous. “It’s bacon.”

So I toughened up.

10 years later I had learned to distance myself from what I was cooking and dealing with enough to even roll meatballs. I became a pretty good cook.

Most people eat meat because most people eat meat. I don’t judge my parents (or any other parents) for raising omnivore kids; society shapes us and our actions. Nevertheless, now a mom myself I’ve given this a lot of thought and come to the conclusion that I’m not really okey with us serving flesh to children.

A child’s natural instinct is to love animals. To play with them and cuddle them. Young children, who hasn’t been taught differently yet, don’t differentiate between a dog and a pig – who’s the friend and who’s dinner – they’re both worthy of the same love. Who wants Babe to be eaten anyway? Raise you hand!

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Borrowed this picture from Veganstreet.com 

I never thought I’d “go vegan”. I quit (most) meat due to environmental reasons but had never before “Cowspiracy”, seen any reason to do that or to be vegetarian either; the vegetarians I knew did not appear healthy with diets based on sugar, carbs, dairy and popcorn. I finally went 100% plant based due to health reasons and now as an adult knowing it was the right thing to do with the information I had at hand. Honestly though, I still struggle with truly finding empathy for the billions of animals that are being killed every year and understanding the actual horror of slaughter. Society has shaped me to be a hypocrite, no doubt. Maybe you feel the same way.

However, when I ask myself the hard questions and really take the time to consider them, the only answer I can come up with is the ethical one. Would I be okey with killing a pig myself to eat it? No. Is it fair to take baby cows away from their mothers at birth so I can consume dairy? No. Should beings of earth be tortured for profit? No. Do I support an ocean depleted of sea creatures? No. Yet, there is a brain-heart-disconnect. I wish to not give my child the same.

When he is old enough to understand that chicken nuggets are fluffy 7 week old chicks with breading, he can make the decision if he want to eat them. Babies don’t understand what meat is and if they did they’d say “What the fuck mom!? Are we eating Nemo/Babe/Sebastian/Donald!? Why??” Parents don’t have an answer. Anyone looking forward to explaining where sausage comes from?

Because most people eat meat and society has taught us that protein, calcium and iron must come from animals, some publications and folks believe that a plant based kid is malnourished. I don’t believe that at all; in fact it I know it is not true.

I am not an expert or a nutritionist (though in this day and age that doesn’t guarantee anything either!) but I’ve read a good book on optimizing baby’s nutrition and I follow several blogs on plant based family living. Common sense tells me that the “regular” American kid who is brought up on Mac and cheese, nuggets, pb&j, hot dogs and the occasional fruit and carrot is not a well-nourished kid. Yet, society appears to be fine with that diet!?! Ever read the kids menu at a restaurant? Nothing but fat, animal protein and white bread.

B12 is the only vitamin a vegan truly must add to their diet. Animals get it added to their food or they absorb it while consuming bacteria (dirt) if they roam free. So we basically need to do the same: supplement in food or eat dirt! (That’s a joke, we supplement.) Baby will take vitamin D and B12 (after he quits formula all together, which has it) and he just started loving our unsweetened, organic, fortified soy milk with calcium and B12.

As with all Utopian scenarios or ideals, our kid’s diet won’t be perfect. I won’t be that parent who denies my child birthday cake or pizza at a party because it has milk in/on it. He will eat the occasional pancake made with eggs and ice cream I’m sure. (Meat might happen on some occasion as well. I don’t know.) I do think that animal products like dairy and eggs are easier to explain to a child. I know there is A LOT of killing and suffering in these industries as well (maybe more) and it’s not healthy foods, but if people ate cheese only a few times a year we wouldn’t have the money to fund an industry of abuse and exploitation. We’d get the cheese from a local farmer who had a few grazing cows to maintain open landscape. (That’s land meant to be open not former rain forest mind you.) Idealistic and Utopian – I know – but explainable to my kid and makes life SO MUCH EASIER.

Daycare has worked with us and knows “August doesn’t get the meat”. In fact it was recently reveled that some of the teachers had had a taste of baby’s lunch box because it looks so delicious every day! They told my husband “he eats such good food!”

I don’t judge anyone’s eating habits (except the constant use of straws in people’s drinks, but that’s another subject) and I don’t blame myself or my parents for eating the way I did for 34 years.

Read this post with an open mind and remember:

Most people eat meat because most people eat meat.

Aside from culture and society’s dietary norms: Did Anna just drink the vegan kool-aid or what do you really think about it?

A final note. I am aware of rural communities and tribes who raise and consume animals for survival, who teach children respect and the circle of life. I love the Alaska homestead shows and “Naked and Afraid” where hunting equals survival; an only source for protein and fat. Just like I know there are Americans living in “food deserts” with only McDonald’s and gas station food available; they can’t go get the lentils and the multivitamins. I’m writing about me and the BILLIONS of other people who shop at the grocery store every week. What do we really think?

[Picture from Veganstreet.com – go support them in their efforts to educate!]