You know what guys? Internet shopping will get you.
There I was, four years since starting my not made in China challenge, thinking I was buying our toddler rain boots made in Canada, when they in fact, I was importing boots from China. I didn’t know this until they showed up at our house, of course.
Kamik is a Canadian brand with 90 something percent of its products made in North America an with that stat in mind, I assumed I was safe when I picked a pair of space themed boots for tot on the website. ”Assumed”. Kind of like when I recently assumed the nachos at Chili’s were gluten free…
Anyway, after clicking “purchase” it took several weeks for these boots to arrive. Impatiently waiting, suspecting that USPS had lost the package, I contacted Kamik and long story short, because it was taking so long, they refunded our money! So, when I finally opened the box and realized the boots were made in China, not Canada, it seemed like too much of a hassle (or craziness?!) to return the boots (and start my search over for more sustainable boots).
A mistake purchase, yes, but at least I am supporting a brand that makes most of their products here, recycles boots and uses sustainable practices!
Our little man loves splashing, jumping and getting as wet as humanly possible in his new boots! He doesn’t care where they’re made, he’s just happy, so I guess I will be too – just this one time :)
When most people talk about The South, ice tea, rich foods, hot sunny days and mosquitoes come to mind. Green living bloggers? Not so much.
No offense Southerners, but sustainability isn’t exactly your best trait. Oil lands, high consumption, fast food wrapped in plastic and running the truck’s AC constantly when parked do not sustainable make.
That said, there are always exceptions and good environmental stewards live everywhere, here too, trying to inspire change. I happen to know a woman in Louisiana doing just that. Not only did she invent the most brilliant hashtag ever #resuableisinstagrammable but she also lives green, writes a sustainability blog, bikes (a lot), picks up trash, recycles, composts and hugs trees (they all need some love!).
Meet Caitlin of Eco Cajun
Because it’s Earth Month and us green living bloggers are feeling the love, Caitlin and I decided to do a blog post swap – introducing each other to our respective blog audiences because we are both eco-warriors in The South!
Catlin has been blogging for almost 10 years (so impressive!) and she writes a column for a local newspaper, Times of Acadia, where she discusses environmental issues and promotes a healthy and green lifestyle.
This time, it’s my turn to write, and so I had some questions for the Eco Cajun of course…
When and why did you decide to start a green living blog?
“I originally started writing back in 2009 after getting more involved personally in my green efforts. I wanted to share what I was learning with others, and show them how simple it can be to make green changes in your life. I had bought my first stainless steel water bottle not long before (one which I still have and use today!), and had recently started using cloth grocery bags, and those were kind of the catalysts to me wanting to do more.”
What’s been one important or encouraging change you have seen around you in the south, or in family members and friends, that you know you have inspired them to make?
“I think what I get the most feedback about from family, friends and this online community is about skipping straws or investing in reusable ones! I’ve had a lot of people either say they are more conscious now about refusing straws at restaurants or tell me they purchased their own set for themselves and their families. I see more people using cloth grocery bags these days, but I don’t consider that from my influence, haha. It still makes me happy to see!”
I always want to know this from fellow bloggers; Is there anything you miss in your day-to-day life since you became “green”?
“Probably impulse shopping, haha. Although I don’t miss it that much! Especially when it comes to clothing, I’ve gotten into a rhythm of shopping secondhand or eco-friendly brands online, rather than going to the mall.
Sometimes, I also wish it would be easier to dine out without having to worry about single-use containers/utensils/cups. Just recently, I picked up lunch with a coworker, and although my food came in a plastic container that I ended up recycling, I chose to skip the drink because there were only Styrofoam cups – and I was so thirsty while eating! Although it would’ve been easier to just take the cup, I stayed committed.”
(I have done that too! That’s a real struggle!)
If you could give the people reading this, one eco-friendly tip for how they can make a positive impact for Earth Month, what would it be?
“Focus more on ways to reduce your waste, rather than on recycling plastic/glass/cans. Invest in good reusable items for your home – I promise you will get used to toting them around! I’ve got a set of reusable utensils and straws in my purse at all times, and I can always be found with a reusable water bottle and/or coffee mug, haha. It does become habit, and it makes SUCH a big impact – even on an individual or family level.”
Catlin shared some exciting news earlier this month on her blog; she and her husband are expecting their first baby! She’ll be diving into cloth diapers, eco-friendly toys and second hand baby fashion soon. I am hoping Sustainable Anna (moí!) can continue to be a good resource as she plans for her little one.
There has been some talk among hardcore environmentalists about how not having kids is the best and most eco-friendly path for one to take, encouraging people to not reproduce to lower the carbon footprints of families. I asked Caitlin what her take on it was, now that she is pregnant, glowing and excited about the upcoming mini Eco Cajun.
“I think that it is true that having children increases your carbon footprint and your amount of waste. But to me, the decision of having or not having children involves a lot more than the environmental aspect. On my blog, I try to focus on the fact that you don’t have to live your life a certain way to be considered eco-friendly or zero-waste (like living off-grid, not having children, growing your own food and making your own clothing). You can make more eco-friendly or responsible decisions in aspects of your life and still have a positive impact on the environment. As I get ready to welcome our little one, it’s important for me to still focus on ways we can reduce waste, be minimalist, and shop secondhand. I am very excited to raise a little environmentalist, as well as grow our little family and keep our legacy going.”
Well said Caitlin! And I agree so much with that. Living life here on Earth can’t be 100% centered around lowering our carbon footprints, if it were, we’d all have to end it right now.
Speaking of ending it, let’s end this post by mentioning two of Caitlin’s favorite sustainable clothing brands, because we have to include some fashion :)
“Amour Vert is probably my favorite eco brand – they utilize organic cotton and sustainable materials like modal, silk and linen. SSeko Designs is an ethical brand that helps empower women in Uganda!”
Thank you Eco Cajun! I love your blog and your positivity.
It’s been 14 months since we welcomed our little boy into the world. Our lives have changed so much (for the better) and I feel like I should talk more about how we are keeping things eco and budget friendly around the house now that we are a family of three! Hence this post :)
We always knew we were the kind of parents that would have our kid sleep in his own room from quite early on. He moved out of our bedroom after about six months and it’s been great for us all. Lots of good sleep. This meant we wanted to create a nice space for him where he’d not only catch some Z’s but also play!
Decorating nurseries and kids rooms can easily get out of hand. Let’s be honest, some parents-to-be spend hundreds (maybe thousands) of dollars on rocking chairs, cribs, bedding, wall paper and decorations. Only later do they realize that their kiddo couldn’t care less, all she needed was the basics since she spends all her time in the family room anyway…
Because I don’t like buying things (hmmm) we actually ended up spending only 80 dollars in his room. In total!
I should tell you that the diaper station is not in baby’s room, but in our master bathroom, so the cost for building that piece of furniture (which hubby did) is not included. I am not entirely sure how much we spent on the materials needed, maybe 100 dollars (plus time and love). If you want to read more about cost and needs for a diaper station, check out this post.
Now, here’s how we did it eco- and budget friendly:
I looked around a bit and concluded that there aren’t really any eco-friendly, affordable, must-have cribs on the market. Instead, what makes most sense for a sustainable family is to buy baby’s bed second hand. We got lucky that a friend of ours had just put hers up for sale, including a mattress (made in USA!) so we claimed that one right away. She asked for $75 but we gave her four twenties.
So what about the bedding? Well, we were gifted four blankets, my favorite being the one from SwaddleDesigns (100% cotton, made in USA) which tot sleeps on top of most nights. He does not use blankets very often, however when it’s cold in the house, we have plenty he can use; the four mentioned but also a fluffy warm blanket from when I was a baby. Chances are you will be gifted blankets, so no need to buy in advance.
For a mattress protector, I had a sheet that had come with our king bed, which we never used, so I cut it into four pieces – perfect size for a crib!
He also has a flat little pillow from Ikea (made in Estonia) that grandma surprised us with, accompanied by three home-made pillowcases sewn from leftover fabric she had at home. [Insert heart emoji here.]
Storage is crucial! We happened to have two dressers we weren’t really utilizing so we relocated them into baby’s room! Super handy.
For toys and various small items he throws around, he has a toy chest – also known as a diaper box! Buying boxes for baby toys is such a waste of resources and money, because we all have empty boxes at home. Decorate with wrapping paper if you can’t stand to look at the logos on them. If you always buy the same diapers, you’ll have multiple, sturdy, boxes in the same size, which can make storage look great!
He has some of my old stuffed animals and puzzles, second hand trains and gimmicks, hand me down books from friends, and a few new wooden toys his grandma and great grandma got him. He is not bored or neglected; he is just not overwhelmed with new plastic toys.
What I have come to realize is that it’s impossible to know what he will find amusing and actually play with anyway! For example, he has a few cars but only wants to play with trains?! He likes to throw things around (a lot) so any type item works for that activity (read empty plastic containers we would recycle otherwise). He likes to walk around the house and find things in drawers too, so we keep our lower areas safe for him to play with whatever he picks up.
The important thing I learned was that having an infant is somewhat boring and no matter how much gear you have, the first three months of babies life aren’t going to go by any faster. Don’t get a bunch of baby chairs, swings and rattle toys – baby just wants to be with YOU. Baby gym? You mean a strap with hanging objects you tie up between two chairs?
Yes, I am that mom.
I did get him a pushcart so he could practice walking. It also came with a bunch of colorful, wooden building blocks too! He uses it in the family room so I haven’t included the cost of that. Read more about it in this blog post. (What I am also hinting at here is that babies don’t need sit-in walkers in plastic to learn how to walk. Actually, they become better crawlers without high-tech walking tools. Crawling helps develop baby’s eye to hand coordination. Yay.)
Wall art and decor
We moved baby into the previous office space where walls are white; a blank canvas, perfect for a baby room. We ended up getting some wall stickers (made in Germany) from my mom, which adds some fun and color. They stick and peel off without damage so that’s perfect. I also had an old picture of an elephant we hung (I had used the frame for other pictures over the years but the original art was still in it!)
The main piece of art in his room is a beautiful growth chart ruler, a gift from a dear friend, which we love and treasure. It’s handmade in New Hampshire by Headwaters Studio.
It’s printed on the highest grade of CARB (California Air Resources Board) compliant Baltic birch plywood with solvent-free, low/no-VOC inks.
We have two chairs in his room as well, for us to sit on (or him to play on?) because we had no other place to put them when we moved the computer out of the “office” to take their place in the family room. Zero dollars spent though – again!
I feel great about his room and what else does a baby, or toddler, need anyway?
If you are getting ready to decorate a nursery or a revamp a toddler room and have specific questions on how we did it eco, let me know in the comments :)
I think we can officially call ourselves a cloth diapering family now that we have been at if for a whole year. Turns out, it wasn’t nearly as hard or complicated as I thought it would be before we “did it”. The post I wrote last year, about three months in to it, still stands and you can read all the basics of cloth and my newborn baby hacks there.
So, a year later, here’s what’s up; ifs, ands and but(t)s included.
More info: Pocket diapers are like a shell/cover/non-absorbing diaper/undie with an opening/pocket, in which you slide in or stuff an insert – the absorbing part. An all-in-one on the other hand, requires no assembly. The absorbing layers are sewn into the shell/cover which saves time for busy parents but takes longer to dry after the wash.
I have a love/hate relationship with BumGenius.
I love them because they work so well, the quality is superb and they’re assembled in USA. The material is super easy to wipe off, spray off or just ‘dump’ the poop off of as well (more on this in the next section!). I also appreciate that they’re widely available in baby stores like Babies R’ Us and Buy Buy Baby. It’s nice to not have to buy everything “eco-friendly” online.
What I hate about them is that, if you buy them new, each diaper is individually packed in a plastic pouch, no organic materials are used and the inserts are actually made in China.
More info: Thirties and Blueberry diapers are made in USA! Diaper sprayers, wipes, bags and accessories are also available made right here. Cloth diapering routines support small businesses!
Toddler poop is not fun
As I wrote in my last post, nothing is simpler than when baby is newborn and poop is water soluble (if breastfed). When baby starts taking a bottle and/or you introduce solids, “things” change. (Trigger warning!) You now have to dump the poop in the toilet, which is a simple thing on a good day, but an impossible thing on a bad day (read diaper completely full of goo). On the bad days (which are most days – let me tell ya) we’ve been absolutely reliant on our diaper sprayer.
A sprayer is a little handheld “shower” you hook up to the water line in the toilet which allows you to “rinse” junk off into the toilet bowl to flush. Super convenient and necessary. After the rinse, into the wet bag the stained diaper goes.
You will always need a wet bag or some sort of container for keeping wet diapers until your next laundry day. For us, two large, American made wet bags from Planet Wise still work great. We fill one, empty it into the washer and fill the other while the first one is washing/drying.
We were lucky enough to inherit our diaper sprayer from a friend who’s kids are out of diapers. She wasn’t using it anymore and it works great. Another green win.
So what about wipes? For good days, reusable wipes; for bad days, disposables. I have found that I use his cotton, reusable wipes for everything but wiping his butt lately! Wiping baby hands, nose and face, blowing my own nose, wiping down the vanity. You name it. We are a Kleenex free home :)
More info: Our Samsung washer had a sanitize cycle which I use to wash dipers, inserts, wipes, wet bags, stained clothes, poopy clothes and reusable change pads. This cycle keeps everything looking and smelling like new, no special procedures needed. In other words, I cannot advice on needs to strain, get smells out, sun dry etc. I use Allen’s Naturally for all diaper loads.
Dealing with disposables
You may have noticed that we have way fever diapers for baby now than we did when he was a newborn. That’s because our boy goes to daycare now where cloth diapers are not allowed, meaning we need fever reusable diapers at home to sustain a comfortable laundry routine of washing every two to three days.
More info: I do send a medium size wet bag to school with August every day, for teachers to put any dirty clothes in. The option was a new-every-day-ziploc bag!
Will you fall off your chair if I also tell you that baby sleeps in a disposable?! He does. Our little man sleeps 7 pm to 5:30 am (most nights) and since parents love (and need) sleep and Netflix we can’t have him waking up due to feeling wet! When he was newborn and breastfed he woke up all the time anyway to eat, so changing the cloth diaper wasn’t an inconvenience. In fact, changing the diaper helps make the newborn more alert so he can stay awake longer while nursing, filling his little tummy more. (This further proves my point that cloth for a newborn is a no brainer and every new parent should do it.)
More info: Super Absorbent Polymers (“SAPs”) are what keeps a disposable diaper feeling dry so much longer than a cloth diaper does. Plant based disposable diapers have them, regular disposable diapers have them. It is unclear if sufficient testing has been done to ensure that SAPs are non-toxic and safe for babies.
Not that I am in the business of recommending a disposable diaper brand, but we are using only Babyganics if anyone is wondering. They’re pretty much the only ones we’ve tried; they’re partly plant based (yada, yada, yada) and they work super well. Thanks to their essential oil blend, at least he never has diaper rash, which saves money, time, jars and tubes.
More info: Scientists have found that cloth diapers are not as warm as disposable diapers are. Up to a 5 degree butt temperature difference. The cooler the diaper, the better for boy babies’ testicular development.
Diapers and the environment
In my previous diaper post you can read all about how cloth versus disposables add up when it comes to pollution and resources. Spoiler alert: cloth wins.
So let me say this again: Any routine that involves reusables is a good routine.
I feel really warm and fuzzy about how much we are using reusables. Even though we go through quite a few disposables at daycare and nighttime, we are constantly using and washing the cloth diapers. Every time I pull diapers out of the dryer to fold and put back, I feel thankful for my washer and dryer and proud of how many diapers we are saving from landfill. That’s what it’s about: how many diapers we don’t consume and keep away from trash. We are not failures just because we can’t be 100% cloth. We are parents making it work.
Every saved diaper counts!
If you have any questions about cloth diapers or adding more reusable items to your baby’s routine, ask away!
I was brought up eating meat like most children are.
The first time I went fishing with my dad, a friend of his and my sister, I started crying when we caught the first fish. I couldn’t believe we were going to kill it and that I had contributed to its death. It broke my heart. The little mermaid was my favorite movie after all. I was told I was a party-pooper.
The first time I fried bacon at my mom’s house I almost fainted. The memory is so vivid. What was puttering in the pan looked incredibly gross to me. I kept telling myself that it wasn’t and that no one else faints when frying bacon! I did eat bacon when someone else cooked it. I got through it, resting on a chair during the frying and of course was later told I was being ridiculous. “It’s bacon.”
So I toughened up.
10 years later I had learned to distance myself from what I was cooking and dealing with enough to even roll meatballs. I became a pretty good cook.
Most people eat meat because most people eat meat. I don’t judge my parents (or any other parents) for raising omnivore kids; society shapes us and our actions. Nevertheless, now a mom myself I’ve given this a lot of thought and come to the conclusion that I’m not really okey with us serving flesh to children.
A child’s natural instinct is to love animals. To play with them and cuddle them. Young children, who hasn’t been taught differently yet, don’t differentiate between a dog and a pig – who’s the friend and who’s dinner – they’re both worthy of the same love. Who wants Babe to be eaten anyway? Raise you hand!
I never thought I’d “go vegan”. I quit (most) meat due to environmental reasons but had never before “Cowspiracy”, seen any reason to do that or to be vegetarian either; the vegetarians I knew did not appear healthy with diets based on sugar, carbs, dairy and popcorn. I finally went 100% plant based due to health reasons and now as an adult knowing it was the right thing to do with the information I had at hand. Honestly though, I still struggle with truly finding empathy for the billions of animals that are being killed every year and understanding the actual horror of slaughter. Society has shaped me to be a hypocrite, no doubt. Maybe you feel the same way.
However, when I ask myself the hard questions and really take the time to consider them, the only answer I can come up with is the ethical one. Would I be okey with killing a pig myself to eat it? No. Is it fair to take baby cows away from their mothers at birth so I can consume dairy? No. Should beings of earth be tortured for profit? No. Do I support an ocean depleted of sea creatures? No. Yet, there is a brain-heart-disconnect. I wish to not give my child the same.
When he is old enough to understand that chicken nuggets are fluffy 7 week old chicks with breading, he can make the decision if he want to eat them. Babies don’t understand what meat is and if they did they’d say “What the fuck mom!? Are we eating Nemo/Babe/Sebastian/Donald!? Why??” Parents don’t have an answer. Anyone looking forward to explaining where sausage comes from?
Because most people eat meat and society has taught us that protein, calcium and iron must come from animals, some publications and folks believe that a plant based kid is malnourished. I don’t believe that at all; in fact it I know it is not true.
I am not an expert or a nutritionist (though in this day and age that doesn’t guarantee anything either!) but I’ve read a good book on optimizing baby’s nutrition and I follow several blogs on plant based family living. Common sense tells me that the “regular” American kid who is brought up on Mac and cheese, nuggets, pb&j, hot dogs and the occasional fruit and carrot is not a well-nourished kid. Yet, society appears to be fine with that diet!?! Ever read the kids menu at a restaurant? Nothing but fat, animal protein and white bread.
B12 is the only vitamin a vegan truly must add to their diet. Animals get it added to their food or they absorb it while consuming bacteria (dirt) if they roam free. So we basically need to do the same: supplement in food or eat dirt! (That’s a joke, we supplement.) Baby will take vitamin D and B12 (after he quits formula all together, which has it) and he just started loving our unsweetened, organic, fortified soy milk with calcium and B12.
As with all Utopian scenarios or ideals, our kid’s diet won’t be perfect. I won’t be that parent who denies my child birthday cake or pizza at a party because it has milk in/on it. He will eat the occasional pancake made with eggs and ice cream I’m sure. (Meat might happen on some occasion as well. I don’t know.) I do think that animal products like dairy and eggs are easier to explain to a child. I know there is A LOT of killing and suffering in these industries as well (maybe more) and it’s not healthy foods, but if people ate cheese only a few times a year we wouldn’t have the money to fund an industry of abuse and exploitation. We’d get the cheese from a local farmer who had a few grazing cows to maintain open landscape. (That’s land meant to be open not former rain forest mind you.) Idealistic and Utopian – I know – but explainable to my kid and makes life SO MUCH EASIER.
Daycare has worked with us and knows “He doesn’t get the meat”. In fact it was recently reveled that some of the teachers had had a taste of baby’s lunch box because it looks so delicious every day! They told my husband “he eats such good food!”
I don’t judge anyone’s eating habits (except the constant use of straws in people’s drinks, but that’s another subject) and I don’t blame myself or my parents for eating the way I did for 34 years.
Read this post with an open mind and remember:
Most people eat meat because most people eat meat.
Aside from culture and society’s dietary norms: Did Anna just drink the vegan kool-aid or what do you really think about it?
A final note. I am aware of rural communities and tribes who raise and consume animals for survival, who teach children respect and the circle of life. I love the Alaska homestead shows and “Naked and Afraid” where hunting equals survival; an only source for protein and fat. Just like I know there are Americans living in “food deserts” with only McDonald’s and gas station food available; they can’t go get the lentils and the multivitamins. I’m writing about me and the BILLIONS of other people who shop at the grocery store every week. What do we really think?
[Picture from Veganstreet.com – go support them in their efforts to educate!]
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 :)
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 :)
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!)
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!