Category Archives: lifestyle

Am I being green – even when I’m lazy and unmotivated AF?

Hi all.

Just a couple of hours after my last blog post confession was published, a good friend of mine texted me and said “Yes!! I am sooo in the same spot! I’m so tired of being green and looking frumpy – the world is shit anyway.” See, both she and I have been limiting our shopping for years now (in order to reduce) and we are both just ready to look cute. And new. And relevant. And hot. (Yes!)

However, fashion was just one part of our conversation; the chore of rinsing yogurt cups so they can be recycled without contamination was another.

So, she says the world is shit. And she’s not wrong. Recent studies are predicting we’re heading towards as much as 9 degrees F rise in temperature (!!) and up to 200 ft of sea level rise. That’s kind of shit. The world in all feels very turbulent right now. Personally, I think my lack of motivation has been building up for a while [see this post on my unsustainable shoes] and then re-discovering this summer (on vacation) that the general population in Scandinavia (Denmark and Sweden) hardly take any personal responsibility when it comes to sustainable living, added to it. Here in the US we totally think they’re rocking it. More on the state of things in Le Europe in my next post – #teaser.

BUT there are a lot of good initiatives out there too. Progress in renewable energy systems (to name one area) and hope for change. As a climate optimist with a son who will inherit the earth, I need to believe in the greater good and keep myself motivated. (I should regularly share more good news on the blog actually, so other’s who may feel demotivated like me get a little boost too.)

Time for a list. A pep-talk. A readjustment of expectations. Not expectations from other people, but the ones I have for myself to be this eco-champion.

I am not trying to brag or seem better than anyone (I’m not in that mindset at all believe me!) in listing what I am actually doing; I am reminding myself that I do enough, despite being lazy and unmotivated AF right now.

unpopular

  1. I compost.  The occasional banana peel goes in the trash though. Composting is easy and I love the smell of healthy soil.
  2. I eat a plant-based diet and serve my family the same. The most eco-friendly diet as it stands. Happens to also benefit my health.
  3. My kid uses cloth diapers (many of them hand-me-downs) about 50% of the time.
  4. One of two cars we own is electric, and we drive very few miles for living in a large city like Houston.
  5. I use only reusable bags (and reusable produce bags) for all shopping.
  6. I recycle (all though most of that curb-side waste is probably land-filled).
  7. All my kid’s clothes (and most toys) are second (or third) hand thanks to my sister having a couple of kids before I did. Thanks sis!
  8. We use a 100% renewable energy provider.
  9. I buy (almost only) organic food.
  10. I donate monthly to environmental groups and Democrats up for election this year like fantastic Texan Beto O’Rourke.
  11. I blog and tweet about environmental issues. YAY! This might be one of the more important things because this is spreading the eco message.
  12. Our house uses bar soap, natural body products and I don’t use make-up.
  13. I re-use a lot of containers. My husband says I’m a pack rat… (I realize that is not very sexy in this blogger world full of minimalists.)
  14. I never consume water in plastic water bottles.
  15. I have a to-go cup with me every day and refuse straws. Sometimes they happen but mistakes are inevitable.
  16. I try to only shop ethical and local brands.

When I first started looking into living greener, I was only doing number 6, 10 and 5 (partly). So thinking of it that way, I really have made huge positive changes!

Which ones of these do you do?

Now. Here’s expectations I have decided to let go of, or rather things I allow myself to do during this phase (life time?) of being more of a regular person.

  1. Throw away dirty plastic containers. Let’s be honest, since China is no longer accepting our recyclables, most of it is going to be land-filled anyway. Why bother the recycling people with sorting it all? Potato salad tub – consider yourself tossed.
  2. Buy things online that we need as a family, not knowing exactly where they’re from. Sometimes we need a tool or a battery. Our kid needed a made in China booster seat. I’ll just get these type items online. Not sweat it.
  3. Buy clothes when I feel like it. Mind you, I don’t very often! I will allow myself to browse and buy something new when I feel it’s right. I’ll always check tags for China and polyester – that’s in my blood now – but I might get that cotton tee from Turkey (or whatever).
  4. Donate and throw away things our family doesn’t need that disturbs peace at home because we don’t have enough storage. No pressure to find uses for it all or donate to the”right cause”. If I need to toss, I will toss. Freedom!
  5. Post eco things when I feel like it on Instagram. But if I feel like sharing a picture of my toe that has nothing to do with being sustainable, I will.
  6. Any other things/actions as I see fit.

Doesn’t sound so bad… right?

Finally, should eco-bloggers lead by that “perfect example” (also known as “It’s so EASY and FUN and budget friendly to be zero-waste-vegan!!!) or do we need to have real conversations about effort and demotivation?

Much love and ramblings, my friends!

Seasons greetings… Sustainable Anna is taking a (short!) summer break :)

It’s officially summer. Texas is hot, hotter, hottest and it’s time for all natural born northerners to get the hell out of here. Yes, that includes me.

My little family and I are heading to Scandinavia for vacation and family-visits tomorrow (yaaas!) and with that, I’ll be taking a tiny break from blogging and social media. At least, that’s my plan at this very moment :)

I have found myself checking my phone too often lately (especially when it’s slow at work) which means it’s time to get less “social” and more present. I do expect using my phone for taking photos, checking the weather forecast and texting friends to set up dates… and maybe the occasional Euro Instagram-share. (There’s no truly getting away from phones is there?)

Anyway, I wanted to wish everyone reading this a suuuper happy summer! And thanks for all the support this spring! I’ve had so much fun with “Sustainable Anna” and I am stoked because a blog-friend actually wrote me and told me she’d made the lentil “vegadeller” from my recipe! I’m a real blogger now that someone made my food.

Swedish summer

I’ll be back at the end of July. Hopefully I’ll be drafting and getting ideas for some awesome, new blog posts for fall while I am off; I am hoping to bring some positivity back to “Made in USA” (now that Donald is totally ruining that) among other topics!

Trevlig sommar!

Uh-oh. Someone bought boots made in China.

You know what guys? Internet shopping will get you.

There I was, four years since starting my not made in China challenge, thinking I was buying our toddler rain boots made in Canada, when they in fact, I was importing boots from China. I didn’t know this until they showed up at our house, of course.

Kamik is a Canadian brand with 90 something percent of its products made in North America an with that stat in mind, I assumed I was safe when I picked a pair of space themed boots for tot on the website. ”Assumed”. Kind of like when I recently assumed the nachos at Chili’s were gluten free…

Anyway, after clicking “purchase” it took several weeks for these boots to arrive. Impatiently waiting, suspecting that USPS had lost the package, I contacted Kamik and long story short, because it was taking so long, they refunded our money! So, when I finally opened the box and realized the boots were made in China, not Canada, it seemed like too much of a hassle (or craziness?!) to return the boots (and start my search over for more sustainable boots).

A mistake purchase, yes, but at least I am supporting a brand that makes most of their products here, recycles boots and uses sustainable practices!

Kamik rain boots space theme made in china

Our little man loves splashing, jumping and getting as wet as humanly possible in his new boots! He doesn’t care where they’re made, he’s just happy, so I guess I will be too – just this one time :)

More on Kamik here!

Five surprising ways a plant-based diet has improved my life!

A newly published study in Science Magazine concluded that switching to a vegan diet (from an all-inclusive one) is the single most effective way to reduce ones environmental impact*. Diet change is more powerful than for example switching to green electricity or electrifying travel, because it doesn’t just tackle greenhouse gases but also reduces ocean acidification, agricultural land use and water consumption. The study included data from 40,000 farms in 119 countries.

When I transitioned to a plant-based lifestyle (from vegetarian + sometimes fish or chicken), I did so because of climate change sure, but mostly because of the health benefits and my personal need to clear my perioral dermatitis. Little did I know that changing my family’s diet would improve my life in a bunch of other ways too! Turns out, there are a few surprising benefits to plant-based living that truly enhances quality of life. At least I think so. Read on and then tell me what you think about these five amazing changes I’ve discovered!

benefits of vegan diet

1. Bye, bye gross bacteria

Here’s something amazing and convenient that comes with plant-based living: your trash doesn’t smell. Think about how fast your trashcan goes sour and gross after you toss a Styrofoam tray in there with meat juice on it. After just one day (tops) you have to empty the whole bin. (Since, you know, meats are forbidden in the compost). There’s another benefit to this bacteria thing as well: dirty chopping boards and having the toddler “help” in the kitchen is suddenly no big deal. I know that even if we miss a spot, the “chickpea residue” (lol) will not pose a health threat to any of us. Kids can lick their fingers after helping you out without any risks. If they drop the spatula on the floor, no biggie. Plus, you can taste the bean patties when raw to check if they need more salt. This is a TRUE win.

2. Bathroom breaks are FAST

Let me put it this way; you won’t be seeing any magazines in a vegan family’s bathroom. Because every time plant-eaters consume protein they also consume FIBER, bellies and intestines are generally super happy which means no constipation. Meat is also tough on your belly flora and stays inside you much longer than plant foods do. I hate public restrooms with huge openings around the door, so if I can shorten my time in there; mega win.

3. Serious savings

If you are like me, someone who shops at the grocery store, prefers organic and natural foods and cooks most meals at home, you’ll save money ditching animal products. Soy milk costs the same as organic cow’s milk. Legumes (beans, lentils) are much cheaper per pound than meat is. The savings add up even more when you consider legumes are often sold in a dry state. Did you know one cup dry lentils becomes almost three cups when cooked? Ca-ching! Also at restaurants, vegetarian and vegan meals cost less than that steak or seafood dinner. Every time.

4. More varied menu

How often did we really eat cauliflower steaks before going plant-based? How many fun salads did I actually make? Did we ever reap the benefits of nutritional yeast? The answer is no. Heck, I didn’t even eat squash regularly! I have invited so many new foods into my life since I started to cook vegan, which is what ultimately lead to my love affair with lentils.

5. Learning commitment by limited selections

This may not sound like an amazing benefit, but I tell you, ordering food at restaurants has never been easier. Sure, there are a few places where I can’t eat anything which is kind of inconvenient but in most places there are a few vegan options. And by a few, I mean two. Tops. This is what makes it so easy! Even at the Cheesecake factory where the menu is a thick as a bible, it takes me two seconds to flip to the “superfoods” section and pick the vegan cobb salad. Often, if a menu offers little or no options, combining two or three side dishes will do the trick.

How does those sound?! Great benefits if you ask me.

*A note from me: I am all about “do what you can” – also when it comes to diets. Every vegan meal matters, even if you are not 100% vegan. I call myself plant-based, not vegan, because cheese and leather sneakers, but most meals I cook are 100% vegan.

Are we going to clean up our PLANET or continue our toxic relationship with PLASTIC?

In case you didn’t catch it on Instagram yet: National Geographic just rolled-out an impressive campaign called “Planet or Plastic?”. Like the name indicates, this is Nat Geo’s multiyear effort to raise awareness about our global plastic trash crisis.

Three easy ways to reduce plastic waste

Not only are they featuring enlightening articles (with amazing photos) examining all aspects of this problem that we are knee-deep in, they are also encouraging people to take a pledge to reduce personal plastic waste. Considering the fact that all of us have been an active part in causing this crisis, of course we need to be part in solving it.

I am in a situation where I do consume and buy plastic. I love chips. Our kid just got a new ball and a few sets of Duplo Legos. I don’t make my own Cheerios or soy milk (surprised?!).

Because of circumstance, plastic comes in to my life. I am actually pretty ok with that. Living responsibly is about me reducing where I can. Maybe you are in a similar situation? Here are three simple things you can do to reduce your plastic consumption! I can handle all these without stress, being a full time worker bee/blogger/toddler-mom in suburbia. PS. No guilt though y’all. Just inspiration.

Americans toss 500 million

plastic straws every day.

Focus on the big four

Zero waste blogger Kathryn of Going Zero Waste often talks about the “big four” – four items that are key to effectively reducing personal waste. They are:

1) disposable plastic bags

2) disposable plastic water (and soda) bottles

3) disposable to-go mugs

4) one-time-use straws

Start your journey towards less plastic by cutting these four, and you’ll soon discover that there’s very little cost associated with doing so. Refusing straws is as simple as saying “no straw please” and you probably have a water bottle, grocery bag and travel mug at home already, so it’s only a matter of bringing them with you (more often, if not always!)

A trillion plastic bags are used

worldwide every year.

Swap shower gel for bar soap

I love this tip because bar soap is available here, there and everywhere, so you don’t’ need to buy this “eco-friendly thing” online. (Online purchases, even if plastic-free, do come with lots of packaging and miles). Whole Foods has a selection of bulk soap even. Switching to bar soap is easy and family members won’t mind the switch. If someone is worried about “germs” (which is a myth) getting one unique bar for each person works.

Nearly a million plastic beverage

bottles are sold every minute.

Be mindful at the grocery store (and in life)

Buy nut butters, jam and pasta sauce in glass jars – recycle or reuse. Pick pasta, eggs and rice in cardboard boxes – recycle or compost (after removing the tiny plastic film). Skip the produce bags or bring your own. Go for fruits without plastic wrappers. You know, the easy swaps that don’t cost you anything. Also, use trash cans. Don’t dump things randomly outside. EASY.

9 million tons of plastic waste

end up in the ocean every year.

Now that we’re talking about plastic AGAIN (sorry not sorry!), it may be a good thing to actually share some information of what plastic is and how it’s made! Nat Geo is taking care of that with this informative video, a part of the Planet or Plastic campaign.

You can read a LOT more on nationalgeographic.com/environment/planetorplastic and remember to take the pledge to do your best to reduce one-time-use plastic. Honestly, there are so many brilliant articles to read that you can easily spend a whole afternoon just learning and taking your awareness rating to new heights.

More of my personal stories with plastic waste, recycling and such in these Sustainable Anna blog posts and pages:

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

If you’re not buying recycled products, you’re not really recycling

Five easy ways to reduce grocery store waste – without planning ahead!

My Zero Waste page

Quotes, video and picture above from Nat Geo.

 

 

Defining Sustainability / Just because it’s eco-friendly doesn’t mean it’s sustainable (or does it?)

Sustainability. The buzzword of our time. We throw it around and look for it on companies’ websites and products. Sustainable fashion. Sustainable agriculture. Sustainable growth. Heck, I even call myself “sustainable”. But what does it actually mean? And what do I mean when I say it?

sustainable

First, let’s get the cat out of the bag; being sustainable means something different to every single one of us.

I think most of us agree that renewable energy (wind, solar) is “sustainable energy” because we won’t run out of its sources, it creates jobs and it doesn’t harm the environment long term. (In other words, checks all the boxes!) However, a very-soon-to-retire oilfield worker, supporting their family by working for a fossil fuel company, who knows nothing else, might not agree that the solar power boom is sustainable development – for him.

There are three parts to sustainability:

PEOPLE
ENVIRONMENT
ECONOMY

You’ve probably heard of the “Zero Waste movement” which mostly is about living with as low carbon footprint as possible and sending (almost) nothing to landfill. The people who live zero waste are amazing and put a lot of effort into maintaining their lifestyle. To them, prepping meals, cleaning supplies and beauty products from scratch with ingredients bought without packaging is the sustainable thing to do.

To me, buying ready-made, organic, local, small business [insert item here] is the sustainable choice. Sure, that creates packaging waste and I don’t know if the maker composted their scraps but with that purchase, I am supporting a business I’d like to see thrive and that action is sustainable to me.

I recently saw a post in the eco community that said, “We should all cook more at home because restaurants create a lot of waste”. Despite that being true, I am not comfortable with us not supporting local eateries for that reason. Just because something is “eco-friendly” doesn’t mean it’s sustainable.

All though we all think differently when it comes to making the best, most sustainable choice, a common definition could be that “Living sustainably is to live true to one’s values and to act in accordance with how one wishes the future should look like”.

If I want a future where crops are grown naturally and organically, I must buy organic food.

If I want the air to be clean and safe for all beings on earth, I need to lower my personal emissions and vote for politicians who align with me on this topic.

If I want to see my local community flourish, I must shop small and locally made products.

If I want factory farming to be banned, I must eat more plants (less animal products).

If I want more fish than plastic in the ocean, I have to stop eating them and reduce the plastic waste I create that may end up in their habitat.

There are more hopes and dreams I could mention (I have so many!), and I can’t master them all 100% but this is where I am coming from when I say, “I want to live sustainably”. Maybe, “Because I have the privilege, I want to live responsibly” defines it better. (“Responsible Anna” – what a boring blog title!!)

Last but not least, we must remember that because defining sustainability is subjective we also have different opportunities to act. Personally, I can afford to donate to organizations, shop locally made, lease a Tesla, while I feel I don’t have the time it takes  to live a zero waste life, which can be very time consuming. Someone else may have lots of time on their hands and less funds, opting to be sustainable by making their own clothes and growing their own food. Many might fall somewhere in-between. Some people have very little privilege with neither time nor money and for them sustainability is probably something completely different, like working hard to create a more prosperous future for their children, being a good person in their community or simply just getting by.

There is no “one size fits all”. There is no “right answer”. Luckily, by many of us taking a different approach to sustainability (or responsibility!), we can get A LOT done. Don’t you think?

Note: I wanted to write this post because I felt it was time to share some thoughts. A blogger I follow did a poll on Instagram asking people if they felt inspired or guilty seeing eco-friendliness posts (specifically zero waste) and a staggering 50% chose the “guilty box”, which sure is not the intention when someone is sharing “sustainable” tips and tricks. Renee, the mentioned blogger, followed up with a wonderful article about privilege, zero waste and her take on inspiring change outside the “green living bubble”. Link to read it in full HERE.

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.

IMG_4512
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!

fullsizeoutput_30da
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.

fullsizeoutput_30d7

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?

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!