Category Archives: lifestyle

How to master going Plant Based – when you have a life (Six quick tips!)

Switching to a plant based, whole foods (PBWF) diet from a “regular” one is super easy!

Said no one.

Ever.

I am a pretty determined lady, yet I will be the first to admit that changing your own and your family’s diet over night is a bit of a struggle. Not so much when it comes to the tasks at hand (find a recipe – make it – taste it) but in the acceptance and adjustment of appetite, taste and lifestyle.

I started my PBWF transformation about three months ago. At the time I was eating a 95% vegetarian diet; I had switched most dairy for plant based alternatives a long time ago and quit beef in 2015. However, I was eating chicken occasionally (when we got Chinese take out), cheese on pizza and eggs. It was a gluten heavy diet with a fair amount of processed foods. I wasn’t by any means a stranger to great vegan food and for a long time I’ve enjoyed cooking and shopping for healthy meals. To me, it was a planet-friendly diet, that didn’t compromise the comfort of my life.

Then came the health issues and I decided to go full on PBWF.

I’ve had ups and downs. Lost weight and cleared my skin. Cheated with cheese.

Either way; I have learned a lot and I want to share with you!! Here are SIX THINGS I’ve learned since going Plant Based, which I hope can help someone else in their transition to the MOST planet-, and health-friendly diet there is :)

1. Go easy on other eco/health/life goals

This is number one because it’s important.

No matter what anyone tells you, cooking from scratch with whole ingredients while reading new recipes takes time. If you are a master chef already, you’ll be good, but if you think making grilled-cheese is cooking, you’re in trouble. (Also, consider how much time you’ll spend figuring out what toppings to put on sandwiches!) Now that I have committed to guiding  my wonderful family through a transition to a PBWF lifestyle, you might be wondering how I make time. Well, I go easy on other things. Hell no there’ll be no cleaning. Do I ever work out? NO. I am not zero-wasting this thing either. This mama can’t be making her own waste-free hummus and bake crackers in order to have an after work snack. I am also not exactly the social butterfly, I like being home. (My situation is I work full time as a project manager, I have a 10 month old, a husband, a house and a blog.) No matter your lifestyle, with a new diet, there is no time for shitty commitments. Or Facebook. Let them slide.

vegan
A balanced, vegan diet. Fancy.

2. Soups are your new (best) friends

I am the kind of cook who freaks out if there are too many steps to a recipe, that’s why I love making soup. Measure, wash, chop and in the pot it goes. Try this awesome Moroccan Lentil Soup, this Minestrone, this Peanut Soup or search for a simple vegan curry. (I know many of my friends love their croc-pot which, I am sure, also makes great PBWF soups.) On a side note, why do carrots taste out-of-this-world amazing when they’ve simmered in a soup for an hour?

3. Broth, broth, broth

This tip is somewhat related to above soup tip, since vegetable broth is included in pretty much every soup. However, you can also use it to add flavor to stews, mashed potatoes, rice, lentils, cooked veggies – anything! You can make your own broth from scratch or like me (in accordance with tip number one) buy meal saving, ready-made, packaged bullion tablets from Knorr.

4. Exploring recipes is your new hobby

Forget Instyle, your new leisure reading materials are vegan cookbooks and PlantBased magazine. The Forks over Knives’ recipe app will become a dear friend as well. Downtime at work should be spent reading amazing health stories on how people survived [insert illness here] by going plant based. Anything to keep you motivated and inspired on this journey. Please note you may develop “militant vegan” type traits. (“My foot hurts” says random person, so you say “maybe you should go vegan!”)

5. Junk food is the hardest thing to quit

I had no problems quitting junk shopping a few years ago (Yay, go not made in China challenge!) but quitting junk food is not as easy. I have no magic trick that makes cheese all of a sudden taste gross. (Sorry animal activists, vegan cheese is not cheese.) I eat too many chips probably. The only tip I have when it comes to this part of it, is to create a directory of local, plant-based friendly take-out restaurants (like Chipotle, salad bars, Indian places) for when you need something quick. Then just do your best and pick something vegan. It may not be all “whole foods” but at least it’s plant based.

6. Find your signature meal

Last but not least, find your signature meal! Our go to is wholegrain spaghetti with vegan Bolognese: marinara sauce, onions, tomato, pea-protein and whatever veggies I feel like throwing in. We love it and baby eats it too. Dinner shouldn’t be difficult or fancy all the time, just nutrient packed.

peanut soup
Meet Peanut Soup with brown rice (cooked in broth!). Yum.

That’s my whole list of wisdom! (So far.)

As for the future, I think Carrie Underwood put it best; “I am vegan but I don’t freak out if there is some cheese on my pasta.” (Cheating with cheese, also referred to as “cheesing”. LOL.)

Even PETA agrees; don’t be the vegan who makes a plant based diet look difficult by asking the waiter to check if there’s dairy in the burger bun. Instead be the person who makes a vegan, or vegetarian, diet seem tasty, easy and inclusive. That’s how you encourage others to cut their meat, become healthier and more planet minded.

Questions?

Let me know if anyone is or have been going through the same transformation!

It’s Small Business Saturday!

Today is Small Business Saturday! A day to remember our small community shops, farmers’ markets and locally owned businesses.

Made in USA menswear

I love Thanksgiving weekend because I have four days off work and we never have any plans. See, it’s not all bad not having any family in the country and not caring about football or Black Friday sales. (Speaking of which, I hope you decided to skip the stores yesterday and instead enjoyed your day with friends, family, Mother Nature or Netflix!)

I am all about shopping small though!

Actually, the core of my Not Made in China Challenge is to shop from small, local businesses using sustainable production practices and eco-friendly materials. The efforts I make to do that supports our communities; the tax-paying entrepreneurs, makers, builders and artisans living here.

Supporting a small family business might help them afford a trip, Spanish lessons, donating to a non-profit or get health insurance when/if the GOP takes it away! That’s powerful.

Basically, small business Saturday is about just that.

It’s about “Main Street not Wall Street”. (My favorite hashtag!)

So go explore everything small this Holiday Season! It will be less stressful than the mall, you may find something  handmade and meaningful to bring home or give away and end up having interesting conversations with friendly store owners while you’re at it. You can shop small online too! Check out some great brands here and local Texas’ makers here.

Just like Earth Day is everyday – Small Business Saturday is everyday too.

Wishing you all a great continuation of this Thanksgiving weekend!

 

Crunchy parents and their kids’ wooden toys… (4 reasons I am one of them!)

Ever found yourself wondering what’s with all these green parents and their obsession with wooden toys?

Even if this has never crossed your mind, let me tell you, as a new parent I think about it quite a bit. Of course, I am also being exposed to a lot of zero waste instagram accounts with moms who somehow master ”plastic free everything” which inspires me to at least try my best when it comes to toys.

So what’s the deal with the kids’ toys? Here’s my reasons why I want wood, instead of plastic.

why wooden toys

1. Wood is renewable.

It grows, makers take it (sustainably!) and it grows back. Plastic on the other hand is a non-renewable material with questinable recycling capabilities. Plus plastic consumption supports the fossil fuel industry and over-all must go down.

2. I worry about chemical compounds in plastic.

Most wooden toys are painted and/or stained with eco-friendly, safe colors (or simply left all natural). This is part of the convincing marketing to the green parents: wooden toy + safe paint = happy campers. Plastic, especially when made in Asia, often contain phalates. This applies to toys labaled ”BPA free” as well (BPA is another chemical, which is known to be hormone disrupting and the kiddo industry knows it must be removed or they won’t sell anything). Phalates is the forgotten cousin and we don’t like him. Plus babies put EVERYTHING in their mouth which makes chemical content pretty serious.

3. I consider the impact should the toy get lost.

The wooden one would basically pose no harm, and biodegrade over time, while the plastic one will sit outside and leak toxins into the soil, maybe be eaten by an animal or photo degrade until it has become micro beads which end up in the water streams (and fish). (This could also be the toy’s faith if it ended up in landfill.)

4. Wooden toys are often made by craftsmen not factories.

Wooden toys are easy to find made in USA, hand crafted by small, family owned manufacturers. YES! Often they are educational without needing batteries and making sounds too. (Who doesn’t like quiet babies at play?)

Vintage Acre Toys puzzle
Vintage wooden puzzle – Made in Holland

Wooden toys are not hard to find! Check out these if you are in America:

And these if you’re in Europe:

Don’t get me wrong, my kid is not and will not live a ”plastic free life”.

Legos will happen. Barbies might (here’s hoping since I have so many from the 80’s and 90’s!). He will be playing with my old garage, stuffed animals (polyester), farm and weird looking plastic characters. He will surely also be given plastic toys as gifts, just as he will wish for that cool superhero-plastic-something and probably get it.

Knowing that, is why when there are wood options we go for them, to lessen the total collection of plastic! This also means when we can, we get our plastic toys used/second-hand. This doesn’t help with the chemical aspect but does lower the environmental footprint :)

Are you doing wooden toys for your kids?

PS. Always do your own homework checking a toy’s origin and content. And thanks to AmericanMadeBabyBrands.com for recommending several of the US-made brands :)

Sustainable mama + Buy Buy Baby = ? (Finding “the green” at the baby mega store.)

I shop at Buy Buy Baby. There I said it.

For those of you who are blessed enough to not know this, Buy Buy Baby is like Toys R’ Us but with baby stuff. Before “motherhood” I hated baby super stores and avoided them at all cost. After all, they sell so many things I would never buy; made in China plastic crap, gift sets no one needs, huuuge furniture pieces for tiny nurseries.

Then, there was that day, two days before baby came when we realized we needed a car seat… and so we went to get one at Buy Buy Baby. Then came the day that we needed organic formula (because baby wasn’t gaining enough weight and I didn’t like the conventional brands at my local grocery store) so, again, off we went to Buy Buy Baby.

Now, I’ve been looking around the store a bit, and sadly, YES, most items are useless, want-to-haves, made in China shit. Don’t let anyone or this post fool you into letting your guard down! However, there are also a few sustainable items for baby, a few of which I’ve gotten (list below!).

So can a green mama make do, shopping only at Buy Buy Baby? Find out.

Burt' bees organic clothes plan toys
Happy baby in organic clothing, with his new wooden cart!

Burt’s Bees 100% organic cotton clothing.

So far it’s the only brand I’ve seen that is made of only 100% organic cotton. (I don’t understand why any baby clothes would need poly fabric mixes?) I’ve gotten two pajamas and one comfy play set for August. Come to think of it, in addition to two Mamma Louise onesies, these are the only clothes we’ve bought him that wasn’t second hand!

Plan Toys wooden toys.

Even the most sustainable, minimalist mother will occasionally get gooey-eyed at items for her kid. (Yes, I’m talking about me.) I got a push cart to practice walking and a xylophone from Plan Toys brand because they were on sale and sustainable. Made in Thailand of sustainably sourced wood, safe paint and packaged completely without plastic! There are a few other, “non packaged” wooden toy brands at the store like Manhattan Toy Company as well.

Organic Earth’s Best baby food.

When I am too busy (or lazy if you prefer to call it that) to make baby food for August I buy organic veggies for him from Earth’s Best brand. He happens to prefer the squash, which I often find on sale for 50c. Guess the other babies aren’t that into it! The food comes in glass jars with metal lids – so very reusable and recyclable. I use them for freezing baby food I did make and things like tomato paste, herb clippings and such.

Earth’s Best (and other organic) baby formula.

At four months we started supplementing and decided that our most favorite baby had to eat organic food! Buy Buy Baby has all the brands you need. Earth’s Best (again) comes in a tin can with #5 plastic lid – recyclable. Formula does create a lot of waste though, it disappears as butter in sunshine (Swedish expression)! In other words, baby empties a can fast. But what can you do? No compromises when it comes to baby’s happy, full belly. At least we don’t use the pre-made stuff in plastic containers :)

Britax Made in USA car seats.

Ok, a car seat will never be a plastic-free, super sustainable purchase so at least let us get one that was made in USA, right?! Go with a Britax. (Ignore all the unsustainable accessories though! You’ll make it without a made in China mirror in the back seat – I promise.)

BumGenius cloth diapers.

I have a love/hate relationship with BumGenius cloth diapers.

I love them because they work, the quality is superb and they’re assembled in USA. The liner material is super easy to wipe off, spray off or just ‘dump’ the poop off of (sorry TMI!).

What I hate about them is that each diaper is individually packed in a plastic pouch, no organic materials used and the inserts are actually made in China. So not super sustainable when you look at the whole package. But reusable is good.

I’ve gotten all mine second hand which makes them super green :)

Hospital grade silicone pacifiers from Philips Avent.

I’ve blogged about these pacis before; I got them because they were made in USA. Only later did I read in an all natural baby book that hospital grade silicone is the safest paci you can get for your baby!! YAY. Even better than natural rubber which can cause latex allergies.

So, yes, a green parent can get many functional things at the super store. But, no, he/she cannot make baby-life sustainable by only shopping there.

Why? Well, for an eco-friendly crib, mattress, shoes, books, plastic toys for bath time, bite/chew toys, bottles, tableware, bibs, pacifier clips, blankets, soft toys, wipes, stroller, high chair, wet bags, to name a few items, green parents need to go local, online or second hand! Plus it would be super expensive to dress a baby in only Burt’s Bees clothes from Buy Buy Baby!

Did you find something mega-eco at a mega store too? Would love to know what :)

Time to Detox and balance my life! (The green way)

Sometimes in life you just know you have to make a change. You can feel it and see the signs.

That’s what happened almost four years ago when I decided to end my relationship with over consumption and start the Not Made in China Challenge. I was falling down the rabbit hole; starting to consume more than I ever had before I moved to the States.

Now, here I am again. Making changes. This time the “signs” that I must do so are on my face.

perioral dermatitis

After having a baby, breastfeeding and not eating near as well as I was before baby, my face decided to flaunt a bit of perioral dermatitis. This is a rash like skin condition around the month and nose, found mostly in women, and dermatologists are unsure why it happens. Beauty products too harsh for the skin, hormonal changes, allergy or acne medicines may be to blame. Either way, I don’t like looking “not good” and after trying a bunch of topical remedies (that didn’t work), I came to the conclusion that only way to help my body heal is to go vegan, clean and balanced. (And I must tell you that a dermatologist I went to see, immediately gave me antibiotics! All they want to do is sell medicines! I did not take it.)

Healing comes from within.

First, when it comes to eating plant-based food, that means ZERO cheating. No sprinkles of cheese. No “fine I’ll have the chicken rather than eating rabbit food”. No coffee and no alcohol either (that’s the detox part). I’ve been cooking up a storm these past two weeks (I’m sharing many of the dishes on my instagram account @sustainableanna if you want to see the yumminess!) and my skin is improving. Tuscon spicy lentil tacos anyone?

Second, clean means a vanity clean from junk. I spent last Saturday getting rid of everything toxic. Products containing parabens, SLS, alcohols and such. I’ve been using “mostly” clean products for a while so why keep the old nasties lying around disturbing my bathroom piece? I did get a kick out of how ridiculously few pieces of make-up I own (no need to toss anything!) though. Meredith Tested inspired me further when she published a new blog post on skin care, recommending simply washing my face with raw honey (I know, not vegan!) which is calming, soothing and tastes good. Love it. (Check out Meredith’s zero waste routine here.) I also added some beautiful, all natural, vegan, American-made, compostable products to my cabinet from Meow Meow Tweet.

Make up sustainable life
A pic of the make-up I own (except my mascara and eyeliner)

Third, a balanced life is a life with inner peace. Now, I’ve never been happier than I am right now with our little love-bug-baby, a safe home and a great work-life balance, but I needed to rid more toxins out of my life. Like what?

Like seeing stupid, dumb-ass posts on Facebook from below average IQ people. Facebook just HAD to go. I’ve been hesitant about deleting my profile for a while now, convincing myself I need it to “stay in touch with friends” and “promote my blog”. The truth is FB wasn’t driving very much traffic anyway and the people I really care about have my number. Off. It. Went. (I took the plunge and deleted the whole thing, deactivating it felt like Facebook still had some sort of hold on my personal information.)

Slowly, I am seeing my face clear up. It’s still red in areas and I still have my dermatitis but it’s moving in the right direction. It doesn’t hurt anymore. Though I am not ready for an “after picture” yet, I am feeling optimistic about this clearing for the first time in months (yes, months!) and really good inside. I lost almost all the baby weight I had left to lose in the last two weeks too. Bonus!

Why am I telling you all this?

Well, I want to promote a plant-based, healthy, toxic-free lifestyle.

It doesn’t only benefit us as humans but it helps the environment too. Go green!

AND I want to let you all know what I am up to. Making lifestyle changes takes a lot of time, time away from writing, blogging and sharing.

Are you making any lifestyle changes? Would love to hear your success stories!

What is Climate Change? 17 questions answered.

My husband just sent me this AMAZING article from the New York Times:

Climate change questions answered

I don’t normally just share an article without putting my own words to it, however this one just NEEDS TO BE READ. And shared.

Please share it. Send it on to the “doubters” (who act like this is religion to be “believed in” when in fact, it is fact).

This article covers brilliantly what climate change actually is, how it works, what the repercussions are and provides the proof behind each answer.

Of course, they also answer the question: What can we do?

Read their tips and also find lots of inspiration here on the blog. So often, after we’ve talked about switching our light bulbs and travelling less, we forget to mention a “little” problem I like to call overconsumption of goods. That’s where many my tips and posts come in handy :)

*****

Here is the direct link:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/climate/what-is-climate-change.html

30 SUPER SIMPLE eco-friendly ways to combat climate change (for the average Joe!)

Super storms Harvey and Irma have shook the nation. And with that, no one active on social media has been able to avoid articles about how climate change (in other words we) may have caused these storms.

Though we haven’t exactly caused them, the warmer water in the ocean – a result of man-made climate change – has made these storms stronger and bigger.

Some people pretend money is what is holding them back from living a greener life, however eco-bloggers have again and again proven that that is not a valid excuse. Others claim they  “don’t have the time to make an effort”. (I think what is really holding people back is they don’t want to make an effort, also known as laziness.)

A wise man once said it’s not about having time, it’s about taking time. And these resent storms may have changed people’s attitude a little, making this the time to start thinking about taking the time to kick start some new habits which prevent further climate change. We can’t take back the warming that’s already been done, but we can slow down. Hopefully setting our children up for a better starting point when they are ready to come up with awesome ways to carbon capture and make salt water into fresh water without using too much energy.

Now, without further ado,

Here are my 30 SUPER SIMPLE budget-friendly and time-friendly green habits!

1. Buy organic food when it’s sitting right in front of you at the grocery store.

2. Use reusable produce bags and check out bags (keep them in your car!).

3. Never bag produce that don’t need to be bagged – see this post for more tips.

4. REFUSE straws when you’re eating and drinking out – every time.

5. Buy recycled batteriestoilet paper, kitchen towels and trash bags.

6. Use bio-based, all natural washing liquid and dishwasher soap/detergent.

7. Switch your plastic bottled shower gel for bar soap.

8. Use cloth kitchen towels to clean messes as much as possible.

9. Switch ground beef for turkey or better yet pea protein for ALL ground beef recipes.

10. Switch beef burgers for delicious black bean burgers.

11. Order a proper amount of food at restaurants so you don’t need to-go boxes, yet don’t waste food.

12. Never get cheesecake to go.

13. Turn off the water when you brush your teeth, do dishes or wash your face.

14. Don’t buy clothes you don’t need (especially made in China). You do NOT need a new dress for every occasion. No one will remember what you wore.

15. Don’t buy home decorations you don’t need (especially made in China) including Christmas and Halloween junk.

16. Shop toys and baby items second hand. Babies and young kids don’t know where their things come from.

17. Buy eggs from locally pasture-raised hens (packed in cardboard not Styrofoam).

18. Vote for politicians who care about the environment and support a future based on only renewable energy.

19. Support an environmental charity via a monthly auto-draft. Most organizations let you start as low as $5 per month if funds are tight. Set it up once, then forget :)

20. Stop buying soda, reduce the amount you buy or get a soda stream to make your own.

21. Follow my blog and instagram @sustainableanna for more tips :)

22. Stop buying bottled water at the store for your family to just “drink at home”.

23. Order chicken or veggies instead of steak at restaurants.

24. Bring a reusable water bottle and/or coffee mug from home with you every day!

25. Wash and reuse aluminum foil. No reason not to!

26. Switch your dairy yoghurt for coconut yoghurt.

27. Recycle!

28. Skip one phone upgrade, for example go from the I-phone 5 straight to the 7.

29. Avoid buying, wearing and washing polyester clothing  (or get a fiber-catcher.)

30. Switch your make-up remover and body lotion (plastic bottles) to coconut oil (glass).

There are more things you can do, like go vegan, go zero waste, buy an electric car, stop travelling, bike more, get solar panels, yada, yada, yada. But today I am not asking you to change anything major in your life for the eco-cause. My goal is not to scare you off. That’s why I love that this list is about simplicity.

Doing (some of) these super simple, minimal effort things, actually mean you care about plastic free oceans, clean air, climate change and preventing future EVEN BIGGER storms.

It doesn’t have to be expensive, time-consuming or hard! And you’ll feel great getting started :)

Harvey who?

Conscious consumers, sure, but where the F is the industry?

I once got into a fight with the CEO of the company where I work over the question if the industry or the consumers are responsible for the current environmental destruction in this world. He said consumers like me (and I quote) are and I told him he was dead wrong; industry leaders like him are. (No, didn’t get fired, though some colleagues feared for my survival, and I’m pretty sure I’m on the black list.)

If I had to put a number on it I’d say the industry carries 75% of the responsibility and we only 25. At best, I’d accept a 50/50. Here’s why.

THE PROBLEM

Heading home from work, super late and hungry, I might stop at a coffee shop or gas station for human fuel. Pretty fast, I will discover that there is 1. No tasty vegan food (and no, kale chips don’t count) and 2. Everything is wrapped in or packed in plastic. Not minimalistic style plastic either – huge boxes, double wrap. Should conscious consumers skip the snack because the industry only provides us with bad eco-choices?

There are countless situations like this, where consumers “have no choice” but to swallow the plastic wrap. Like, for example, when

  1. The grocery store automatically prints a BPA-coated receipt and hands it to you like you want it.
  2. The airline serves you and millions of other travelers factory farmed beef on a one-time-use plastic plate. (I’m pretty sure  that what isn’t consumed on the flight is thrown out, so there’s no point in “zero wasting” this one, unless you emailed before and told them not to make a meal for you.)
  3. The municipality where you live decide not to invest in safe bike lanes, side walks and public transport so you can safely skip the car.
  4. The oil companies work full time to make legislation that prevents solar power and electrical vehicles from taking off.
  5. There are no organic strawberries at the store, but you promised to make strawberry cake so you have to buy conventional ones (in a plastic container).

Tell me CEO,  how are these eco-disasters my responsibility?

A few years ago we didn’t know we wanted tablets. Apple invented the I-pad, and suddenly consumers decided they needed one. Industry took the lead, consumers blindly followed suddenly not even remembering how life was before there were I-pads.

If only the industry would be as inventive when it comes to environmentally sustainable practices as it is when it comes to launching new products, the world would look quite different (excluding you Elon Musk!). Consumers all over would automatically buy the eco-friendly choice that was presented to them.

ACTION

Since I doubt that the industry will start acting all “eco” on their own (I just saw that Snapple now comes in a plastic bottle instead of glass! Snapple!!!) we, the conscious consumers, must again act and invest our enthusiasm and energy. This time into generating emails, tweets, posts and making calls. We must

  1. Urge our favorite brands to manufacture HERE.
  2. Tell our local grocer that we need more bulk bins.
  3. Convince clothing stores that receipts and printed coupons are so 1990.
  4. Ask our local eateries to ditch the straws and disposable kids’ cups.
  5. Go to the town hall meeting, demand better infrastructure.

Etcetera, etcetera. AND, of course, we must continue to vote with our dollars, by buying everything made right (here). Our 25% (or 50, whatever) does make a difference – I’ve blogged about us taking charge and changing the market, the industry (and the world) for three years.

It’s time for the industry to wake up, take responsibility and act.

We need to help them get started.

Who are you emailing today?

Six reasons why I’m on a Not Made in China Challenge

Things have changed in this world of ours since I started the Not Made in China Challenge in 2014. Most of these changes are good.

For starters, India and China are investing billions in renewable energy – wind, solar, hydro – more than any other nations. In addition to this, China is shutting down its last coal plant in Beijing in an effort to clear the air (switching to natural gas) for millions of Chinese living in the region. Developing countries all over the world are going from no electricity to solar powered life – skipping the burning of fuels all together. Good news.

Meanwhile Donald (aka the worst president ever) is leaving the Paris Climate Agreement and talking about bringing jobs back in the coal industry as part of his plan to “put America first”. Although coal is never going to happen (sorry Donny boy!), the fact that he’s pro the most polluting technology we have and doesn’t believe in climate change, is bad news.

So, does it still make sense, as a sustainable shopper, to be on a Not Made in China Challenge?

YES!

Of course I would say that – hello blog – but there are great reasons for it too. Here’s why I am on this challenge, and keeping at it in 2017 and beyond.

The President is all talk

We know by now that all the campaign promises made by the Republican candidate were just false. He is not doing anything to bring jobs back here, he is not even ensuring that his beloved pipelines are to be made with American steel. He may have come up with the “Made in America Week” which is a great initiative, but so far, NOTHING has been done to ensure more items are, or remain “made right here”. (Also leaving the Paris Climate Agreement and not investing in renewables would most likely create fewer jobs for Americans down the line.) He talked the talk, but as usual, it’s still up to us consumers to walk the walk. And as far as that goes, no policies have been put in place that would make it easier or more affordable for Americans to choose “Made in USA”.

The core of my Not Made in China Challenge is to support small businesses that use sustainable production practices and eco-friendly materials. That effort supports our local communities; the tax-paying entrepreneurs, makers, builders and artisans living here. (Supporting a small business might mean a family can afford health insurance when/if GOP takes it away!) Basically this challenge is about “Main Street not Wall Street”.

Environmental questions remain

Even though China is switching things up in the energy market, honoring the Paris Climate Agreement and talking about implementing a carbon tax (YES!), small rural factories are still powered by burning coal. Not only by pulling electricity from the coal fired grid, but many actually run their own, tiny furnaces which have no filters, no air cleaning catalyst (NOx being an issue) and low efficiency.

There’s also more to a healthy planet than a low carbon air. China, India and several other countries are still polluting their groundwater and surrounding oceans by uncontrolled wastewater from manufacturing. (So is America, I know, I know, but I find it easier to spot the businesses here who do that, like Georgia Pacific.)

The force is not with the workforce

I have yet to see a certified fair-trade item come out of China. What’s going on with decent wages and healthy workplaces? Not much, I’m afraid.

This is of course also true for many other places; India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam, Mexico, neighboring Latin American countries and even, dare I say it, we’ve got some sketchy California sweatshops too. Best to stay away from them all unless we’re talking about certified fair-trade, organic and/or small business/artisan style items we can trust. If it’s too cheap to be true (aka in the West as “A GREAT deal”) – someone suffered to make it.

The trade deficit

Our ginormous trade deficit with China isn’t shrinking. In fact, what we export most to the Chinese is AIR. Yep, empty containers are constantly heading across the ocean to pick up more “stuff” for bored Americans. How much are we talking? The trade deficit with China was almost FOUR BILLION DOLLARS in 2015, and it grows every year.

The issue here is that Chinese business men (and women!) are investing more than ever in the USA, buying land, real estate and factories as we speak. Basically China could soon “own the USA” thanks to you shopping at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Transport hasn’t gone “clean”

There has not been any breakthroughs when it comes to shipping transport. Large container ships are still burning through barrel after barrel of fossil fuel shipping the above mentioned “stuff” and empty containers back and forth. Container ships remain a threat to marine mammals by interruption of sound waves and migration paths as well.

Honestly, it’s the easy way to shop less

Since most everything is imported, reading labels and tags so I can avoid “Made in China” means I can’t buy anything. I feel like this issue is so often forgotten when we talk about Climate Change and the environment. We can elect all the climate friendly politicians for Congress we want, but it won’t matter if we continue down this path of OVER-CONSUMPTION.

I’m not saying that a Not Made in China Challenge fits all, different rules work for different people. This works for me, and I am sure it would work for most suburban Americans with access to Target. 

So I’m staying on the challenge – I am thriving at it actually. Sure as hell doesn’t mean I don’t respect China and their efforts to act on climate change.

Buy less, buy local.

Main Street, not Wall Street.

PS: To find out more about what this challenge means to me, read my entire blog! (it’s fun I promise!) Or maybe start with reading my “About” page :)

 

Vacation, vacation, vacation: dealing with the aftermath (+ back to blogging!)

It’s been a bit quiet on the blog lately because 1. Vacation in Europe with baby and 2. Vacation in Europe without wifi. Yes, there are still places without it! (I did manage to publish one blog post about my new eco-friendly bag which I photographed i Denmark. Check it out here if you missed it :) )

Now, when it comes to vacationing, or traveling if you will, dealing with the guilt of flying is always hard. This activity, which I always try to undertake responsibly (have a great reason to go, travel zero waste) and rarely, is certainly the most unsustainable thing I do. One return trip to Sweden in economy class adds 1.28 metric tons of carbon to my yearly carbon footprint which is a lot. So what to do?

The easy and obvious thing to do is to carbon compensate, which I can do directly thru KLM’s website when buying the ticket (more on that in this post from last year) and/or by planting trees at Stand for Trees. This trip I realized that I could actually “compensate more” by collecting items abroad for baby August to bring home with me. That’s only previously used items – otherwise no point!

You’d be amazed what friends and family are hiding away in closets and are dying to get rid of. Because the people “donating” to me are my closest friends, not only do they have things I want, like and need, but also aren’t offended when I say no (aka “why’d you buy that?”). Most importantly they feel great about giving, they don’t have to spend money to spoil our baby, and together we prevent waste and reduce new material being purchased.

In addition to friends’ used (perfectly awesome) stuff, I also got my hands on a few of my own childhood items (sorting boxes at dad’s) which thrills me so.

The CO footprint of each and every thing I collected probably can’t be found on google, however I know it takes lots of energy, oil, resources and chemicals to produce just one new plastic cup. 

I like lists, so here is one of everything we brought home with us for baby August’s current and future endeavors!

  1. Lots of clothes 
  2. A pair of shoes
  3. A teether that goes in the freezer
  4. Three reusable squeeze pouches for baby food
  5. 10+ Spoons
  6. Four Plates
  7. Eight Bowls
  8. Three Cups
  9. Two baby bottles (not pictured – in the sink!)
  10. Two cans of baby food (my friend’s baby never got to!)
  11. A reflector
  12. Mini flounder for bath time (mine from 1989!)
  13. 20+ Children’s books in Swedish and Danish
  14. Eight baby books
  15. 13 Mini (pixi) books
  16. Five puzzles (one not pictured)
  17. Bib that catches food
  18. Pear-shaped mold for playing in sand
  19. Soft toy reindeer (which baby loves!)  

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Long list right? All of these things aren’t need-to-haves perhaps, but most are! How much carbon would I emit if I were to buy all of these items new?

I’m not sure, but not having to do so makes me feel better about those long fossil fuel burning flights we took. And, it IS more fun to have previously loved things :)

Now, vacation is over, I’m back to blogging (some fun posts coming up!), enjoying my last few weeks of maternity leave and, of course, living it green in Texas.