New year, new ideas. The time has come to change the name of this blog.
When I started blogging in 2014, I had just embarked on a journey to change my life by reducing my consumption. So, naturally, I wrote about what I bought, what I didn’t (made in China!) and how everyone could join in to shop local and fair.
Four years later, it seems all I talk about is vegan food, my eco-baby and how much I hate plastic. Sure, there are local products at display but “Made right (here)” just doesn’t cut it anymore.
I’m sustainable. My name is Anna. And here I am; trying a new blog name that allows a broader index of subjects.
I want to share more recipes (I have to write a post about all the wonderful things lentils can do ASAP!) and I want to be more me. When I say that I mean a bit more ramblings, fewer perfectly written articles. Though that may sound like a step in the wrong direction for someone who dreams about writing full time, I simply have less time to edit and research my blog posts with a baby/toddler in my life than I did a year ago!
I’ve also updated my About page and deleted/changed the Look Book. Who cares where I bought my clothes – right? Sustainable style is about finding YOUR STYLE and doing it ethically. Plus the Look Book had so many garments that I had bought several years ago, available then but no longer. Pointless. Of course, I’ll still write posts about clothes and brands when I buy something new :)
Welcome to “Sustainable Anna”. The Blog. The Woman. The Legend.
(Ok, that’s a joke.)
Let me know what you all think!
PS. Thank you Sandra for helping me decide on where to take the blog! Love you!
It’s 2018. We have only 10 months to focus, engage, support and get active in order to flip Congress. Yes, I am putting it out there: I absolutely despise Trump and the GOP. (Don’t waste your time commenting that I am wrong about this, if that is your opinion. There is nothing you can say that’ll change my mind.)
You might not know this about me, but I am not even eligible to vote! I am a green card holder, not a citizen, but since I live in the USA and plan to stay here for the foreseeable future, I am super-duper engaged in the political “game” some people refer to as the democracy of the United States. Power-grandpa Bernie dragged me into it.
Now, my guy for 2018 is Beto O’Rourke.
He is running against Ted scumbag Cruz and he is so awesome. Beto spent most of 2017 visiting townhalls around Texas to get to the bottom of what Texans need and think. He is not taking any money from Super PACs either. (His voice reminds me of Obama’s too! He has that presidential flare about him.)
I’m not going to write down all the policies and his stands on them, you can read up on Beto at BetoforTexas.com. (Isn’t seeing Ted squirm and get the boot enough reason to vote Beto though?!) Since I can’t vote, “all” I can do is write, tweet, talk and donate to Beto’s campaign.
The cool thing about donating is you can donate to any politician you’d like to see get a chair, no matter where you live in the country. I love Elizabeth Warren (MA) so I support her, and I gave to Senator Doug Jones’ campaign in Alabama last year. He WON. No one thought he would. (Thank you people of Alabama, especially Black communities, for voting and thanks everyone who donated to his campaign!) Beto could have the same thing happen in this “red” state. Let’s flip Texas!
So what does this have to do with a Not Made in China Challenge and leading a green life? Great question. It has everything to do with it.
Republicans are just not interested in preserving our earth at all (which is ironic since they call themselves “conservatives”). Quite the opposite in fact; the EPA has lost 700 people, Trump wants to deregulate big oil, drill everywhere and loosen organic farming standards. If he “pulls out of” NAFTA he can do more harm than good to small American made businesses who rely on imported parts (a rework is needed, yes, but not a cancellation) and his expensive “Border Wall” will harm Texas in many ways. I am not even going to mention the so called Tax bill. Basically, the current government is working against everything I believe in. They are working against economic and environmental sustainability.
In next year’s midterm election, Democrats need only 24 seats to flip the House and two to take the Senate. TWO.
Political speech over! Go support your candidates!
PS. If you’re busy and don’t want to research candidates, you can contribute by supporting Our Revolution which is a democratic group rallying for progressives in all types of elections, from school boards to senate.
I’m Anna and I’m on a Not Made in China Challenge. Today happens to be my challenge anniversary! That’s right, four years ago today I pledged to stop over-consuming, stop supporting unethical fashion brands and to buy as much (%wise) made in USA items as possible.
This pledge started my journey towards green living. Before that, I thought recycling, bringing bags to the grocery store and supporting World Wildlife Foundation with a bit of cash each month was the definition of being “eco friendly”. Yes, we all start somewhere. (If you’re not even doing those things, take a minute and reflect.)
Every year since I started the challenge, I’ve taken different steps to lower my carbon footprint like starting a compost, switching cars, limiting my shopping, quitting beef, to name a few and this year is no different.
More specifically, in 2017 I have:
Gone plant based for real. Hardly any cheating, guys! My husband has joined in on it too – like 90% joined in. I am so proud and impressed by his actions.
Kept up with cloth diapering our bundle of cuteness and poop. (Update post coming soon!)
Joined the Sierra Club and Planet Parenthood as a monthly donor. So easy.
Seriously revamped my bathroom/beauty routine meaning fewer, only all natural products in mostly zero waste packaging. Daily make-up no more.
I’m proud of all my efforts but going plant based has been the best decision ever. It takes a lot of thought and motivation and I did cheat during the holidays because gingerbread and cheese. However, I recognize that going vegan is a work in progress just like the not made in China challenge was (and is), so I’m not too hard on myself. I’ll get there :)
So, have I failed my Not Made in China Challenge at all?
YES. Oh my god, yes.
Keeping a baby happy and healthy takes time and thought which leads to shortcuts. There’s been take out in styrofoam, some unnecessary driving around to keep baby asleep in the car, baby things I didn’t need (erhm, sorry not sorry) and also a few items MADE IN CHINA! [Insert panic emoji here.] Namely a high chair, a robot vacuum, backsplash tile, a rain cover for the car seat, a pack and go stroller and a new pod-free coffee maker (hallelujah Ninja!).
I know, I know. I’ve gotten more China items this year than I did for the past three combined!
I guess some years you “need” things and some years you don’t. Having a new baby I think automatically classifies 2017 as a year we did need stuff. (A coffee maker and a robot vacuum fall in that baby-category! They do! Both were Christmas gifts for ourselves.) I actually think we’ve done really well acquiring very, very few things of which most were made in USA, Fair Trade or second hand. Go us.
2017. It’s been an interesting year. (Don’t get me started on Trump.) It’s been a busy year too for me; not just at home with baby but at work as well. I haven’t blogged as much as I wanted to (wrote 45 posts compared to 60 in 2016) but that’s ok. This green mama/manager/newly crowned vegan cook can’t do it all. (Hint, neither can you.)
I’m thankful for everyone reading, commenting, engaging, and sharing! Also, I am so happy and grateful that I get to inspire you and be a small part of your journey towards a greener life with less consumption, better choices, less meat and most importantly: increased awareness.
Stick around for 2018 why don’t you!? I promise to do my best to make you think, smile and learn.
Happy new year guys.
Here’s to another year on the challenge.
PS. Please, pretty please, share your small or big eco-successes you had in 2017 in the comments. That would make me and everyone reading super thrilled and pumped for the new year :)
Switching to a plant based, whole foods (PBWF) diet from a “regular” one is super easy!
Said no one.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Let me know if anyone is or have been going through the same transformation!
Today is Small Business Saturday! A day to remember our small community shops, farmers’ markets and locally owned businesses.
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!
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.
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?)
Wooden toys are not hard to find! Check out these if you are in America:
Vintage BRIO (Sweden – all the new stuff is made in China!!)
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 :)
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’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 pushcart to practice walking and a xylophone from Plan Toys brand because they were on sale ($35 and $20) 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.
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 :)
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.
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.
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.
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 :)
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.
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 :)
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.
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
The grocery store automatically prints a BPA-coated receipt and hands it to you like you want it.
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.)
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.
The oil companies work full time to make legislation that prevents solar power and electrical vehicles from taking off.
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.
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
Urge our favorite brands to manufacture HERE.
Tell our local grocer that we need more bulk bins.
Convince clothing stores that receipts and printed coupons are so 1990.
Ask our local eateries to ditch the straws and disposable kids’ cups.
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.
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?
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 :)
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 :) )
Windbreaker needed. It’s cold, and I love 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!
Lots of clothes
A pair of shoes
A teether that goes in the freezer
Three reusable squeeze pouches for baby food
Two baby bottles (not pictured – in the sink!)
Two cans of baby food (my friend’s baby never got to!)
Mini flounder for bath time (mine from 1989!)
20+ Children’s books in Swedish and Danish
Eight baby books
13 Mini (pixi) books
Five puzzles (one not pictured)
Bib that catches food
Pear-shaped mold for playing in sand
Soft toy reindeer (which baby loves!)
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.
If you’re not buying products made from recycled materials, you’re not really recycling.
I read this statement the other day, and it stuck with me because it’s so true (and people forget).
Recycling is an energy consuming process. It is not the solution to our waste issues, our plastic oceans and high consumption of resources, but a last resort that can minimize the carbon footprint of our modern, on-the-go, lives. IF we use the materials that come out of recycling, that is.
Here’s the twist; most of USA’s plastic “recyclables” are exported to China. There, they are used to make everything from fleece jackets to stadium seats. China imports around 40% of the world’s plastic scrap, so if you buy “recycled plastic products” from China, chances are the material came from your curb. It’s a crazy world (and sadly, China is drowning in western trash).
Another twist to the plastic recycling business is that many processing centers actually don’t have the funds to recycle low grade plastics anymore, like plastic bags and produce containers (think cherry tomatoes and strawberries) so they end up in landfill or being incinerated (dioxin pollution!) anyway.
Why? Because there is NO DEMAND for the products that can be made from low grade plastic.
So yes, we must stop consuming plastic like it is “recyclable”. We need to avoid it like the plague! Plus, whenever possible, we must choose recycled products.
In a perfect world we should not be shipping off our “trash” to other countries but recycle it locally, so in an effort to get there, we should buy locally manufactured products made from recycled materials.
Of course not just plastic, the other recyclables too; paper, glass, metals, clothes.
Need ideas? Ok!
Reusable water bottles
Liberty BottleWorks make lightweight and durable bottles from recycled aluminum in Washington State. In fact, it’s the only US-made 100% recycled metal bottle in the market.
Liberty BottleWorks take pride in having a zero waste factory and allocating a portion of their sales to environmental organizations and community services.
Did you know that recycling aluminum saves a lot of waste? While 2.2 lbs of aluminum extracted from the earth creates almost 200 lbs of waste in the process, 2.2 lbs of recycled aluminum creates only 7.5.
Can an environmentalist live without using “disposable batteries”? Almost. Smoke detectors, wireless keyboards and baby gear use them though.
Energizer now has batteries made from 4% recycled batteries. I know that sounds low, but it’s a start! By voting with our dollars and buying these instead of regular batteries, hopefully that percentage will go up, up, up. (Always check where batteries are made. There is absolutely no reason to buy made in Asia, when made in USA costs the same.)
Toilet paper, kitchen towels, trash bags
We actually really like Seventh Generation’s paper products and I encourage everyone to make the switch to 100% recycled paper. Think you can’t afford anything but the bargain brand? Well, the solution to that is to use less paper, by opting for cloth napkins and cotton towels 99% of the time. We keep paper kitchen towels around for picking up the occasional dead cockroach or wiping greasy pans (then compost).
Did you know that if every household in the USA switched just one packet of eight kitchen towels to recycled paper we’d collectively save 3,400,000 trees in a year?
Seventh Generation’s large trash bags is a better choice as well, as they are made from 65% post-consumer recycled plastic. Think you can’t afford anything but the bargain brand? Well, the solution to that is to use fewer bags by creating less trash. Avoid one-time-use items and start a compost for food scraps.
Did you know that if every household in the USA replaced just one package of 14 count trash bags made from virgin plastic with 65% recycled ones, we could save 221,000 barrels of oil?
Plastic bottles (when/if we must)
If you’re buying shampoo or drinks in plastic bottles, look for the symbol that tells you part of the bottle was made from recycled plastic. Every bit of fossil fuel saving helps.
For the kids
Green Toys Inc. have a bunch of different products likes buckets, water toys, kitchen play sets, cars, airplanes and an awesome green recycling truck. All their toys are non-toxic, safe, BPA- and phalate-free, and made in USA from curbside collected recyclables.
Re-Play make their products using only recycled milk jugs. While Green Toys focus on play, Re-Play has all the essentials for baby dinner time. Eco-friendly and made in USA.
Did you know that for every pound of recycled milk jugs used to make products, enough energy is saved to power a TV for three weeks straight?
SCANPAN utilizes 100% recycled aluminum – aluminum that might previously have served as beer cans, bicycle frames or something else. These pans are made in Denmark though (from aluminum consumed over there naturally!).
Did you know that 75% of the world’s produced aluminum is still being used, over and over, thanks to recycling efforts?
There are countless products using recycled materials! We just need to make it a habit to read labels so we can pick them out from the rest. Remember, if you’re not buying products made from recycled materials, you’re not really recycling.
Got a favorite “recycling” brand? Please share it in the comments! :)
For all the moms and dads who successfully cloth diapered, the ones that might with future kiddos and all the others who decided not to, I hope this will be an interesting post!
When you decide to use cloth or reusable diapers for your baby, the first thing people will say to you is how hard it is going to be. How much work you’ll have washing them. How they’d never do it. How brave you are. Most of the folks telling you this have either never attempted to cloth diaper their kids OR are the kind of people that think bringing bags to the grocery store is lots of work. I took it with a grain of salt.
The eco-community, on the other hand, sang a different tune and was a great inspiration to me before I even had my cloth diaper baby. Blogger Meredith simply said “You need to find a way to use them, wash them and dry them”. Great advice as it turned out. (Read her take on diapering here.)
There are many reasons to go with reusable diapers such as saving money, that they’re so darn cute and the fact that they’re easier on the environment than disposables are. As an environmentalist you may think the third reason was my biggest motivator to do this (and more on why it is eco-better later in the post!), but the truth is, it was “all of the above” as well as the “do to others what you’d want done to yourself” thing. I cannot, I swear to god, think of anything worse than for two (or more) years straight wear petroluem-based, toxic, sweaty, itchy, disposable undergarments.
Now, we went with all made in USA diapers and wipes for eco-baby (more brands here) because made right here is my thing!
We’ve been using Thirstes’ all-in-one natural diapers (easy, organic and stylish) and Blueberry Simplex (super absorbent) all-in-one. I’ve gotten pretty much everything I needed at Nicki’s Diapers, but there are plenty of websites.
PRO TIP: Buy a few diapers you believe in, in advance, try them on baby when she gets here and then order more of the brand/style that works for you. (We needed the newborn sizing for our baby, because he was small, not all babies do.)
I knew I wasn’t comfortable buying diapers second hand for my son, but I did feel comfortable accepting hand-me-dows from a friend who’s daughter had used cloth for about a year. It might be silly, but it felt different when I knew who’d been washing and using the diapers. So, I have a stash of BumGenius pocket diapers (made in USA of imported parts) in a larger size for later.
You’ll need about 22-25 diapers to comfortably maintain a routine of washing every other day. An organic, made in USA diaper costs about $20, though there are sales, bundles and tons of other, imported, cheaper options out there.
PRO TIP: If your budget requires you to later sell your diapers, to get some of that cash back, know that baby poo can stain natural materials like cotton and hemp (even though diaper is clean!) whereas synthetics wash completely clean and white again (without bleach).
How to use diapers might seem self-explanatory to some, but it’s not for a new parent looking into cloth. Here’s the deal; there are lots of options for diaper styles. All-in-one, pocket diapers, wraps. I read this blog post from Homegrown Heaven and found it helpful.
You’ll need wipes and inserts too. Inserts, or boosters, help with absorbency and you’ll need them for night time. Again, organic cotton works great.
PRO TIP: For a simple wipes-solution, use 1.5 cups filtered water, 2 tablespoons of coconut oil (liquid) and a splash of organic baby soap for scent. Moisten wipes and keep in an airtight container. Keep coconut oil around for dry skin and rashes too.
You’ll also need a wet bag or some sort of container for keeping wet diapers until your next laundry day. For us, two large wet bags from Planet Wise work great. We fill one, empty it into the washer (no touch!) and fill the other while the first one is drying.
PRO TIP: Cloth diapers add inches to the length of your baby’s torso (fluffy butt!) meaning she’ll grow out of those onesies faster than her buddies in disposables will. Look for long and lean instead of short and wide clothes.
Before I started doing this, I read a lot online about washing diapers. Everyone seemed to make it a big deal; you need to “strip them”, have them out in the sun to dry, yada yada yada. No, it’s simple. First, cold rinse cycle to get all the junk out. Second, hot wash with detergent and an extra rinse (to make sure all suds from detergent is gone!). Third, throw them in the dryer on low heat or hang try. DONE!
You do need a detergent without any type of softener in it. Softeners will make the diapers less absorbent, which we don’t want. I have been using Allen’s Naturally in my Samsung, front loaded, HE washer, and occasionally I add their special “Stink Out” liquid to make sure the diapers don’t smell. Apparently, regular, powder Tide works great for diapers too (a good choice if you don’t obsess about biodegradable detergents). Don’t go cheap on the amount of detergent, use plenty, get them clean, extra rinse.
PRO TIP: Don’t wait to start cloth diapering. The washing routine will NEVER be simpler than when baby only eats milk and poo is water-soluble and doesn’t need flushing in the toilet.
All-in-one diapers have lots of layers and fabric, so they do need an hour at least in my dryer. We have a few (less eco-friendly) synthetic ones that dry super fast.
Diapers and the environment
Some parents may feel judged because they didn’t do the eco-thing and use reusables but they shouldn’t. Our society promotes a use and toss lifestyle so don’t feel bad about using disposables if your kids are done with diapers already. Some other parents may feel defensive and tell you that the water used in the wash is WORSE for Mother Earth than filling landfill with their kids’ poopy diapers. This is simply not true.
When it comes to water, my HE (High Efficiency) front loaded washer from Samsung uses 13 gallons of water for a FULL load (two days worth of diapers are not exactly that but I do add a rinse cycle). If you wash diapers every other day for a year, that adds up to about 2,400 gallons of water. Basically the same amount of water is takes to produce cotton for one pair of jeans or produce one pound of steak. The water use with today’s washers is negligible in our water intensive society. A baby will go thru about 6000-8000 disposable diapers before he is potty trained, while 30-50 reusables will do the same job. How much water is used to produce 8000 disposable diapers? I have no idea, but I know the amount is nowhere near zero.
Some might argue that there are eco-friendly disposables (oxymoron!) now like Honest, Babyganics and Seventh Generation on the market and I agree they are a better choice than the leading big-box brands. However, even if these “eco-friendly diapers” use FSC stamped cellulose as the base material, they still contain oil basedpolypropylene, glues, polyester, polyurethane, ink and are packed in plastic wrap. Diapers are not recyclable because of their mix of materials and will always be landfilled.
Landfills are already full of diapers that won’t biodegrade (500+ years) and their contents (poo!) contaminates our lands and rivers. (Landfills are responsible for about 20% of our country’s methane emissions.)
When our baby starts childcare at six months, we will have to provide disposables for him to wear, simply because care centers in Texas won’t accept reusables. I will go with something plant-based, and I’m sure it will be just fine.
At that time, baby will also start eating solid foods, meaning poop will change (ugh!) and I’ll have to figure that situation out and write an update to this post! We do already have a (second hand) sprayer for getting contents into the toilet (oh my, this is getting serious!) we just haven’t used it yet.
Finally, let me say that any routine that involves reusables is a good routine. No time to wash that one day that got crazy? Use a disposable. Traveling and no washers at the hotel? Use a disposable. (This happened to us!) The world will not end, and we are not failures just because we can’t be 100% cloth. Every saved diaper counts!