Do you know what makes shopping local so wonderful and extra awesome?
It’s that behind almost every brand committed to fair and local manufacturing stands a woman or man with a vision to make the world better. No bullshit. This is what I find over and over with made right (here) brands.
Some are motivated by sustainability, some by employing their neighbors , some want to bring craftsmanship back. Some, like the founders of Sweedie Kids, found that with their scarf-like bibs, they could make a big impact on the life of bigger kids with disabilities.
“We care about giving, and we do that through “Sweedie Dreams”. When you purchase a Big Kid Bib, you are contributing to Sweedie Dreams because it’s not just a product, it represents our passion for serving those with special needs. For each Big Kid Bib we sell, we give $1 to an organization tied to serving those with different abilities.”
Nowadays it’s not that hard to find cute, made in USA bibs for babies, but what makes Sweedie Kids the most ethical choice is that they’re also making bibs for a market that is so often forgotten. For children who are so often forgotten.
Super absorbent, cool designs and made from Oeko-Tex certified fabrics (i.e. certified safe, sustainable, ethical materials), these bibs get the job done no matter the age of the wearer.
August has been modeling these bibs since he was about three months old. I wouldn’t go as far as saying they make drooling cool, but maybe just a tad bit more fashionable. (They’re also pretty great for when we practice drinking out of a glass. Let’s just say that not all the water ends up in baby’s tummy just yet!)
Shopping for baby this winter, I was happy to discover that most baby essentials are indeed available in a made in USA version. Something I had feared would not be the case.
And don’t worry, I know I’ve published a few posts on baby gear lately, but I am not about to become a “mommy blogger” by any means! Babies aren’t THAT interesting (just cute and completely illogical) and when I look in the mirror I still feel like I’m the hot nanny. Just kidding! There’s no mistaking these dark circles ;)
Anyway, back to baby gear! Baby “essential” gear that is; made right here. They’re essential because I actually need them for baby-life to work, and most of them are items that I wasn’t comfortable getting second hand.
Breast pump (1):
I went ahead and bought a hand/manual pump as I wasn’t planning on pumping very much, just as needed for special occasions. The Medela manual pump is made in USA, while the electric version is made mainly in USA and Switzerland but does have parts from all over the world (including China). If I can get away with using the hand pump only, not having to buy an electric one, I’ll be thrilled. I never want to buy unnecessary electronics (neither should you)!
Baby bottles (2):
If you pump, you need bottles! These Life Factory baby bottles were actually a gift from a dear friend. They are mostly glass, BPA and phalate free and made in USA of domestic and European parts. I can actually store my milk in them too, as they have a lid. I wouldn’t use these for older babies, since they’re made of glass, they’re heavy which makes it hard for baby to practice holding the bottle.
Brand #1 (3): We have quite a few Thirsties Natural all-in-one newborn diapers; they’re our “main stash” right now. They are wonderfully easy to use, they simply snap close like a disposable diaper would (velcro!) and are made of organic cotton and hemp (with poly outer for leakage protection). Thirsties also offer wipes, inserts, boosters, wet bags and more; basically all you need for cloth diapering.
Brand #2 (4): The Simplex all-in-one from Blueberry diapers has been our go-to night diaper as it has eleven(!) absorbent layers of cotton and fits extra boosters inside the liner. Super absorbent and cute.
Brand #3 (5) The Bummis is actually made in Canada, but of US fabrics… so yes, they classify as made right here – wouldn’t you agree? These are more on the plastic side of things, as they’re poly covers (or “wraps”) with loose inserts which can be replaced while the cover is used again. We’ve only tried these diapers on baby once and little one seemed to be sensitive to them… so I need to get back with you with a final review. For now, know they’re locally made.
Swaddle blanket (6):
This cute Swaddle Design’s blanket is made of super soft 100% cotton. We thought we’d be swaddling the baby when he was tiny, so a friend got us a blanket as a gift, but we ended up never doing that since he seemed so fond of his hands (and we were too tired to practice swaddling). Doesn’t mean the blanket isn’t being used! It’s large, warm and cozy so we’ve been using it in the stroller mainly.
Wet bags (7):
My favorite wet bag design is the large wet bag from Planet Wise Inc! We have two, which we use for our daily diaper routine (fill one with dirty stuff, wash, fill other while first one dries). Smelly? No way! These bags hold the “not so pleasant” smell inside miraculously well (just don’t forget to zip!). The bag in the picture is a travel version which fits only one diaper, and we keep it in the diaper bag.
Not all parents use pacifiers, and breastfeeding class advised against it, but we decided to get two pacifiers, just in case baby would like it (thanks sis for that advice!). Turns out that little one does calm himself down a lot with his little binkies – essential for sleep time! We’re using Phillips Avent, hospital grade, BPA free, made in USA “Soothies”. You can buy them anywhere, which is handy!
Bite rings (or whatever they are) (9):
I wanted to include these “rings” in this post, because they are made by a company called Re-Play which, just like Green Toys Inc, make their products using only recycled milk jugs. While Green Toys focus on play, Re-Play has all the essentials for baby dinner time. I got these rings as a free gift when buying diapers from Nicky’s Diapers (where I’ve bought almost my entire stash) and decided to accept them (though I hate “free gifts”) since they’re eco-friendly and made in USA. Maybe not exactly an “essential” item, but Re-Play’s dinnerware might turn out to be :)
I’ll be honest, I thought these little jars from Earth Mama Angel Baby were made of glass with a metal lid, but they’re all plastic… that’s what you get sometimes when shopping online. Anyway, the creams inside of the jars are organic, baby safe and smell lovely. We hardly see any rash on little one since he’s cloth diapered but we use cream once in a while, and of course he likes the massage that comes with it. I used the nipple cream when I was starting out breastfeeding, a great vegan alternative to lanolin.
That’s all! A mommy blogger would have totally made this into 11 posts and probably would have tried to sell you all something through a link that she made money off of. Ha! I just want to let everyone know that “made in USA and eco-friendly” IS POSSIBLE.
PS. Babies actually don’t need that much stuff (just like I always thought). Our little one is mostly into being held, hugged, played with and talked to. No purchase necessary.
One I asked myself before we had our baby and one I am still thinking about. Hardcore environmentalists actually argue that having a baby is so bad for the environment that none of us should have any. Articles promoting not having kids have circulated the green community for a while, been enthusiastically shared and, of course, I see their point; an average American’s carbon footprint exceeds 20 tonnes each year so don’t add another one. That number is calculated with today’s consumption behavior and technology – it can most certainly decrease as these improve.
So, a baby is bad for the environment. But what if he’s the new Elon Musk or Bernie Sanders? What if he invents the best carbon trapping technology ever, one that solves our climate issues forever? Yes, this is how we (and other green parents) are justifying our actions.
On that note meet baby August, our little love bug, who turns two months today.
Now, despite the carbon footprint of a new (western) life – Is it possible to make mindful, eco-friendly, low carbon choices to soften the blow? All amidst intense emotions, new routines and a strange little person to keep alive?
For us, yes and no. We’re trying our best. Let me start by confessing some of our less successful undertakings.
Failure # 1: Trash, trash, trash
I will admit that there was not much cooking going on during the first month of baby’s life. Yes, we ate pre-made food, ordered take out (some of it packaged in Styrofoam!) and lived off of Cliff energy bars. We even had Starbucks (twice!) in their disposable cups. Honestly, I think we created more waste in that first month than we had in the previous six! I felt bad about it, but at the same time I knew it wasn’t a big deal to live like most Americans do all year, since it would be for a very short time. Either way, a green living fail.
Failure # 2: Baby gifts
Baby August has been spoiled with gifts from neighbors and colleagues, people we know but aren’t aware of our lifestyle, thus these gifts have included quite a few sweatshop-made, Asian imports. We took a few things back but kept many of them as they were usable (and we didn’t have gift receipts). Our close friends and family have been super thoughtful and only given us baby gear made in USA, second hand items, handmade crafts or brought us food. I’d say we’ve managed to stay as minimalist as one can hope, having a new baby and being surrounded by kind, generous people who want to congratulate us (and how lucky are we that people feel that way!). All in all, I wouldn’t call it a complete failure, despite some “Made in China” tags sneaking into our home.
Now on to the greener side if things.
Success story # 1: Baby’s food
Going back to the topic of food; we have continued to shop local, vegan, bulk and organic to the same extent we were before, and we have kept up with the compost. August is eating (or should I say “drinking”?) the most eco-friendly, zero waste and natural food possible: mama’s milk! I am thankful that after some practice, baby and I got the hang of breastfeeding. Green living win (and all around nutritiously awesome!)
Success story # 2: Cloth diapers
Though trash was initially piling up in the kitchen, we were (and are) mastering almost zero waste in the bathroom! I was determined to cloth diaper the baby from the very beginning and I am happy to say we started doing so after only one week. We were sent home from the hospital with a packet of Huggies newborn diapers, but about five days in, both my husband and I were ready to switch to cloth – Huggies don’t hold shit (literally) and that gets tired very fast. I definitely have to do a blog post on cloth diapers, the environment and our routine when I have more experience with it! I will tell you now that it is not hard to do if you own a washer and dryer. Cloth diapers and wipes: another green living win.
Now that we’ve settled in and things are becoming less chaotic, we’re back to old habits of me cooking (from scratch) and the gifts have stopped coming (phew!).
My conclusion is that living green with a brand new baby can certainly be done with a little help and superman/woman type motivation. We needed about five weeks before we could get back to being “green” and each week it gets easier to maintain healthy, eco-friendly, low carbon habits. That said, no matter how much we try, August cannot produce zero carbon, just like we, you and I, are contributing to climate change every day.
I am sure there’ll be more eco-compromises as we go along, finding ourselves in new and unexpected “we have a kid” situations! But, I am ok with that, as long as I feel we are doing our very best – for us, the baby and the environment.
I don’t normally travel to Europe twice in one year due to the heavy carbon footprint of cross-Atlantic flying, but this year it just happened that way. I had lots of reasons to go for a second time (while this bump is growing and showing).
Meeting my new nephew was the main reason for the trip, however inhaling the cold, crisp air, enjoying the colors of fall, eating lots of foods I’ve been craving and taking the opportunity to collect (yes collect!) loads of hand me down goodies from family and friends for eco-baby were bonus reasons.
It’s amazing what the people we know have at home and are more than willing to part ways with. Frankly, they’re dying for someone to use their storage and basement items again. Many seem to have too many things they want to give you (maybe they over-shopped?), in which case I say let your inner minimalist guide you – it’s has to be ok to say no if you don’t want or need what’s offered. Someone else they know might need that exact thing.
I’m trying to keep baby-inventory as low as possible, but I have come to accept that eco-baby will need a few things like clothes, a car seat, a stroller, a place to sleep and diaper stuff. With this trip, the clothes part is already completely taken care of! My nephews’ 0-3 months baby collection is now mine to use, and as he grows out of 3-6 and 6-9 and so on, hopefully those clothes can be handed down to us too.
Going through all the baby clothes, I was happy and impressed to see that my sister had bought almost exclusively organic cotton items. There were also a few handmade items; a cardigan knitted by our mom and a jacket and pants set from Sewing for Seeds – a Swedish eco brand based in Stockholm, sewing small batch fashion from organic cotton or recycled fabrics.
My oldest and dearest friend had sewn a homemade baby resting pad for her daughter and told me it was one of the best accessories she had had. It allowed her to put the baby down anywhere to sleep, with no risk of her rolling over or falling down. The baby supposedly feels very safe and calm in it, as the design is meant to remind her of the tight space in the womb. She said to me “I just don’t know what to do with it now”, so I volunteered to give it a new home. Homemade things are so special! And may I add that a baby lounger like this one, costs above $150 online? Check out Dock a Tot (also made in Sweden) and you’ll get the idea.
In addition to ALL that, I found some of my old books and my mom had saved my old baby blanket and some towels too, which I also took with me. I feel so lucky to be able to revive some of the 80’s things I used when little. How retro and eco-friendly is that?!
With all these items in combination with a few things local US friends have already handed down to me, we’re now in GOOD shape.
Note. In order to reduce my carbon footprint while travelling, I carbon offset more than the calculated amount that my flight emits thru KLM’s webpage, however, there’s no real eco-friendly way to fly. Read more of my thoughts and how I do international air travel HERE.
The majority of people that tell me that they could never do a “Not Made in China Challenge” are mothers. Their kids grow like weeds and need lots of clothes and it’s impossible to not get them things (toys, gear, shoes) made in China.
Here’s the thing though. A not made in China Challenge with a zero tolerance for Chinese-made goods is impossible for all people who live in a western, digital world. Yes, one can make it a year or two with zero purchases (just look at me!) but there will come a time when a new security camera, phone, kitchen appliance, extension cord or computer is “needed” and one has to accept a sweatshop-made, imported product.
But when it comes to the mamas, I can’t help but think that if they really wanted to, they could do it. Minus the electronics mentioned above of course. Couldn’t they shop second hand? Couldn’t they just not shop SO much?
Interestingly enough, I am about to find out for myself.
I’m about to find out if the Not Made in China Challenge is indeed IMPOSSIBLE with a kid or if it’s just a matter of priorities. Being a natural born skeptic who tends to “always be right”, I can’t wait to find out what the deal is (and prove y’all wrong! Ha!).
I do foresee remote controlled cars and Legos in our future though, items made partly (or fully) in China. But apart from those two things, why wouldn’t I be able to make this work? I am super motivated!
That said, I have NO idea where baby things are made, so I may be in for a rude awakening.
Yes, this is probably the weirdest pregnancy announcement you’ll read this week! But I am excited to finally share the news of our new family member coming this spring. There’ll undoubtedly be some maternity wear on the blog, as well as more things “baby” (though I’ll be careful not to bore you!). Hopefully I’ll get to expand my list of kids gear and fashions too, with lots of cool, ethical, eco-friendly, made in USA brands.
I’m ending with a picture of me and the invisible little one (minus cheesy baby balloons) to really nail this announcement thing.
I know I don’t put a lot of kids stuff on the blog, simply because I very rarely shop for kids or babies. I am also a firm believer that parents make sure their kids have what they need, so I doubt I need to get them anything for that reason; no random kids’ presents from me coming your way!
Anyway, I came across this amazing lady snooping around some of the pages I follow on Facebook, who has her own sewing workshop in Dallas, “MammaLouise sews”. I immediately contacted her and asked if I could feature her custom-made kids clothes on the blog; and she said yes! This small company of only one dedicated seamstress (Louise) stands for all the things I love in “not fast fashion”; eco-friendly, sustainably made, custom and great quality. Here’s what she had to say:
How did you start your business and why? *** When I was about 10 years old I had a wonderful teacher in textiles, who inspired me a lot. She taught me all the basics of sewing, and when I got my first baby 4 years ago my interest for sewing came back. When he was almost 1 year old, I bought a new overlock sewing machine, which quickly became my best friend! In the beginning I just made hats, bibs and pants, but when my second baby arrived 2 years ago I started to make everything. Now my kids only wear my own designs and it’s so fun!
These two kiddos of yours – Are they the inspiration for your collections? *** YES! I want to make cute clothes that they can play around in and I test every single design on them first. My idea is that the customer chooses everything how they’d like it, and I “only” stitch it all together. In that way each item is unique and hopefully I end up with a satisfied customer.
Where do you buy your fabrics and how do you decide which ones to use?*** Most of the fabrics I have are from Sweden and Europe. I also let my customers design their own fabric (if it’s possible to get it printed) if they place an order with me to make clothes from that same fabric. I have a lot of custom fabrics that I have designed and printed, which are unique for MammaLouise. The custom fabrics are GOTS-certified.
What does it mean that fabrics are OEKO-TEX® (like you mention on your webpage) or GOTS-certified?*** OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 is an independent test and certification system for all types of textiles tested for harmful substances – from threads and fabrics to the ready-to-use items that you can buy in the shops.
Only textile products that contain a minimum of 70% organic fibers can become GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified. All chemical inputs such as dyestuffs and auxiliaries used must meet certain environmental and toxicological criteria. The choice of accessories is limited in accordance with ecological aspects as well.
These standards really mean that the fabrics are safe for the little ones and eco-friendly.
Your adorable baby clothes are made to order: how does it work and what’s the waiting time?*** It depends on how much I have to do and how big of an order you place, but I try to be ready to ship within one week.
What’s your favorite thing to make?*** Hard question! Since I have two little boys; I like to make dresses in very pink or girly colors. But, I LOVE what I do, so everything is fun to make!
What are some of your own favorite eco-friendly brands for children’s clothes and accessories?*** Everything that is eco-friendly is GREAT but since my kids only use clothes made by me, I don’t have any favorite brands except my own; MammaLouise :)
If you are interested in having some custom clothes made for your babies; contact Louise directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out (and LIKE) her Facebook page for more cute pictures and information! She just needs to know what size and what you like, and you can work it out from there. Super convenient!
Prices range from $15 to about $40 dollars depending on what you are looking for. That is so affordable! Isn’t it amazing how a place like Carters or Target will charge almost the same for a bulk order, non-organic, made in China or Vietnam outfit? Imagine the profits they make! Here’s an opportunity to instead, get something very special with that unique European flare (we all want!), without breaking the bank. Yay.
Baby Ella is not only beautiful, chubby and the happiest baby I know, she is also an expert poser. Posing in her “Pug Life onesie” that is, which auntie got her for Christmas. Why Pug Life? See, her mom’s got a pug. (A pug that is most definitely enjoying less attention since baby Ella made the scene in late July).
It might have been the case, that Ella’s mom really wanted something different Christmas morning, like a made in China binky with an animal attached. Sorry, I only give Anna-proof gifts (her words – not mine). So as you probably know, there is something in it for me (and our economy) to go with a pug life outfit instead.
Morado Designs, out of Vermont, make handmade baby gifts using US-sourced organic cotton and simple, colorful prints. Looking to shop online, quite a few styles are sold out (like all of their baby blankets), so the strategy would be to get what you want, when you see it. I also fell for the adorable box, no need for gift wraps.
Supporting companies that make things right, that is how I roll, and it makes it so much easier to be me when I find some things that are cute as hell, just like Ella deserves. Yay.