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 push cart to practice walking and a xylophone from Plan Toys brand because they were on sale and sustainable. Made in Thailand of sustainably sourced wood, safe paint and packaged completely without plastic! There are a few other, “non packaged” wooden toy brands at the store like Manhattan Toy Company as well.
Organic Earth’s Best baby food.
When I am too busy (or lazy if you prefer to call it that) to make baby food for August I buy organic veggies for him from Earth’s Best brand. He happens to prefer the squash, which I often find on sale for 50c. Guess the other babies aren’t that into it! The food comes in glass jars with metal lids – so very reusable and recyclable. I use them for freezing baby food I did make and things like tomato paste, herb clippings and such.
Earth’s Best (and other organic) baby formula.
At four months we started supplementing and decided that our most favorite baby had to eat organic food! Buy Buy Baby has all the brands you need. Earth’s Best (again) comes in a tin can with #5 plastic lid – recyclable. Formula does create a lot of waste though, it disappears as butter in sunshine (Swedish expression)! In other words, baby empties a can fast. But what can you do? No compromises when it comes to baby’s happy, full belly. At least we don’t use the pre-made stuff in plastic containers :)
Britax Made in USA car seats.
Ok, a car seat will never be a plastic-free, super sustainable purchase so at least let us get one that was made in USA, right?! Go with a Britax. (Ignore all the unsustainable accessories though! You’ll make it without a made in China mirror in the back seat – I promise.)
BumGenius cloth diapers.
I have a love/hate relationship with BumGenius cloth diapers.
I love them because they work, the quality is superb and they’re assembled in USA. The liner material is super easy to wipe off, spray off or just ‘dump’ the poop off of (sorry TMI!).
What I hate about them is that each diaper is individually packed in a plastic pouch, no organic materials used and the inserts are actually made in China. So not super sustainable when you look at the whole package. But reusable is good.
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!
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.
It’s extra exciting for me when I get to promote a brand that is locally made to both my American and European readers. I don’t know if it has ever happened before, but it did now, namely Britax car seats!
Made right here in Fort Mills, South Carolina for the American market and made in Germany for the European market under the name Britax Römer.
Maxi Cosi is the world’s most sold infant car seat, however I know from flipping it over in the store, that it’s actually made in China. My sister also told me that she found it to be very heavy. Based on those two facts, we decided to look at using another brand.
My boss told me that Britax is made in the USA, so that seemed like a good starting point!
Turns out that Britax is a top safety pick with its newborn inserts, cushions, easily adjusted straps, ISO-fix base (that stays in the car), and side collision protection. Of course, it is rear-facing.
In terms of weight, I don’t think it is any lighter than my sister’s Maxi Cosi! I struggle when I’m carrying baby from the car and he’s still tiny. Thank goodness we made sure the car seat fit on top of our stroller, that way we can drive the baby around when we’re out and about.
I probably don’t have to say it, but I love it when I go browsing, fearing that the market will be saturated by made in China and Taiwan options, and immediately find a good, solid brand that is NOT. It’s my favorite thing.
Unfortunately, all the Britax traveling accessories (mirrors, storage pockets, seat protectors etc.) are made in China. So are the accessories of all other carseat brands. Kind of disappointing, especially when these are need to have items, such as the sun and rain cover my husband insisted we get for the sake of protecting our little pooper from Texas’ elements. Yes guys, I’ve committed my first 2017 baby-related shopping felony ($29.99). I only made it until February!
The Britax infant car seats sell for about 400 EUR across the pond and $200 here stateside, including the ISO-fix base. It’s one of the more expensive seats in the market for sure, but considering the safety aspect and that it’s made right here (or there!) it’s worth it. I like knowing that we’ve invested in a great cruiser for our baby :)
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.
Ever wondered what goes on inside the head of a conscious consumer? Maybe you consider yourself to be one or maybe you are well aware that you’re quite the impulse shopper, buying things without really thinking it through.
No matter which group of people you belong to, let me tell you that conscious shopping is quite the process!
I consider myself an extremely conscious consumer. I may be taking it a bit too far sometimes. Anyway, I decided I should write a post about what happens inside my head when I shop. Write down all the steps, for your entertainment ;).
One purchase that I am particularly excited about is our new thermometer! Since it’s a must to have one when you have a new baby (so we read) we figured we better get one sooner rather than later. It so happened thatI had been given a Babies R’ Us $25 gift card, so I decided I’d go there first. What else would I possibly be buying at Babies R’ Us? (Also known as China-central.)
Here we go. Here are all the steps I went through at the store, picking out our PERFECT thermometer. My brain works overtime. Just to be clear, these five steps apply to all items I buy!
Step one: Check which options are not made in China.
This is a great start because it normally eliminates nine out of ten options! (Sometimes it eliminates all options, in which case we are entering the “challenge” part of the concious consumer thing). No different this time, I did the tag-check and it eliminated all but two thermometers. Great!
Step two: Contemplate the origin of manufacture for the remaining options.
After the China-check, the choice came down to a Braun in-ear thermometer “Made in Mexico” or an Exergen temporal artery thermometer “Assembled in USA”.
First I considered the transport; it’s a big deal to me how far my purchases travel. Since I’m in Texas, the Mexican one could in fact be more locally made than the US one, but my guess would be they’re about the same. (I looked up Exergen when I got home and I think it came from Massachusetts.)
What about the “assembled” in USA versus “made” in Mexico part? Well, it doesn’t actually tell us that one is more local than the other; it’s just a matter of label laws! The Mexican one can very well be made of the same imported (Asian) parts as the one assembled in USA was. Here stateside, companies must use the phrase “assembled” when foreign pieces are used as part of the product. The Mexican thermometer on the other hand, because it was exported here, may very well be labeled “made” in Mexico even if many parts were imported to Mexico before assembly. Make sense?
What I do know is that the Exergen thermometer was assembled, packaged and tested in USA, which means that this product has provided some various level jobs here. I like that. In 2015 the US trade deficit with Mexico was over $60 billion, as we imported over $296 billion’s worth in Mexican-made products. No real need for me to “add” to that number either.
Step three: Decide which item has the most eco-friendly packaging.
Here’s where I got super excited! The Exergen thermometer was packaged completely without plastic! All cardboard! Yes, plastic-free! That practically NEVER happens. The Braun on the other hand came in a clear, hard molded plastic packet. Easy peasy choice!
Step four: Consider if the products are equal when it comes to functionality.
I didn’t have a clear preference when it came to function, I figured they would both get the job done. Both also proudly showed off similar “recommended by pediatricians” statements. The in-ear thermometer did come with disposable plastic in-ear shields (not sure what to call them or if they need to be used) which seemed wasteful to me while the other one had no disposable parts. Both had a common type battery; one we can buy partly recycled and also recycle after.
Step five: Figure out which is the better deal.
Yes, price is often the last thing I consider when shopping! In this case, the Braun, the one already losing this race, was actually more expensive! It was around $55, while the Exergen cost only $35. Slam dunk!
That’s it! Selection done.
The clear winner was the Exergen. I bought it and we’re so happy with it – although we haven’t actually tested it on a baby yet (only on hubs!) ;)
Conscious consumption takes a bit of thought, but when you succeed and feel content you made the BEST possible choice for the environment and yourself, there’s NO better reward.
Now, if you made it through this entire post; are you a conscious consumer or an impulse shopper?
It’s finally time for our eco-baby to join the environmentalist community.
Hopefully he’ll be healthy, super cute and ready to take on the world; one diaper, one cry and one boob at a time.
In order to keep the blog going strong and stay inspiring while we figure out this whole “keeping the baby alive” thing, I’ve written and scheduled a few posts in advance. Hopefully you will enjoy reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them (in the middle of the night sleepless in Houston – thanks pregnancy hormones!).
I plan on getting back to blogging as soon as time allows and inspiration hits me. Also, I am sooo ready to be back in my black skinny jeans again and to model something locally made and new for the blog without a baby bump to maneuver ;)
If you want to follow along with more real time updates, made right (here) is on Instagram @made.right.here and Twitter @anna_maderight. I’d love to see you there.
If you are a nature lover or environmentalist, chances are, you’ve got something from Patagonia in your closet. And rightfully so, they make good quality, practical clothes that last a long time.
I haven’t bought any new clothes for eco-baby other than two pairs of wool socks from Smart Wool and diapers (does that count?) and, as you may have guessed since I’m bringing it up: something from Patagonia. The rest of his fashion is all second hand.
I couldn’t resist this little tee though. It’s made in USA of fair-trade, 100% organic cotton (most likely grown in India or Turkey) and has a mason jar (the symbol of zero waste living) and a great statement “Live simply” on it. I found it at the clearance rack at Whole Earth Provision in Houston for only 10 dollars, so it was a pretty good deal too!
Let’s talk Patagonia. A company that decided to donate all proceeds from their Black Friday sales to environmental organizations last year. A company that’s into preserving the environment, reducing their carbon footprint and has been ever since they started in 1973. They have a repair program in which worn clothes are revived, produce a line of sustainably dyed jeans and all their cotton garments are 100% organic (some of it grown in the USA). They also offer paid family leave and on-site childcare (to their US employees).
That said, it was just a coincidence that I bought eco-baby a Patagonia shirt. Come to think of it, neither myself nor my husband own anything from the brand so I can’t say we’re fans. Why, if they’re so eco-friendly and fair haven’t we supported them more?
Honestly, I have some issues with them. Mostly, it’s the importing from China thing.
Patagonia manufactures the majority of their garments in Asia and thereby (pretty much) all their merchandise sold in USA is imported from far away. Eco-baby’s little tee is the first thing I’ve ever run into that’s made right here (still from imported fabric!).
Why is this such an issue to me?
About 70% of crude oil pumped from our precious soil or ocean floor becomes diesel or heating oil. A large chunk of that diesel is used by shipping transports, you know those huge container ships constantly cruising our oceans with “stuff”. To limit further climate change we MUST stop importing the vast quantities of goods from the Far East that we currently do. It is completely unsustainable and harms marine life. I find it strange that an eco-company takes this lightly.
And while Patagonia may say that all their Chinese shops are fair and eco-friendly, I can’t help but wonder if they really, truly know. I haven’t yet seen a fair-trade stamp in their fluffy jackets or in their plaid shirts made in China. (The Indian fabrics and jeans are certified, but not the Chinese.) Where’s the stamp? And how do they know the factories are running on green energy?
My second issue is the heavy use of polyesters, and I am not the first one to bring up this issue with Patagonia. Fleece being a favorite of many outdoorsmen, one would think Patagonia would have come up with a 100% plant-based fleece by now, considering poly-blends are made from fossil fuel and release a ton of plastic microfibers into our waters every time they’re washed. Right?
I’m curious to see if any of these concerns of mine will be addressed by Patagonia in the future. I hope so, but cheap labor and stay-dry fabrics sure are attractive for a global company.
In the end, what I am trying to say with this post is that although a company appears to be doing things properly, going beyond what is required by consumers and is by definition “green”, there may be policies that I, on my own eco-journey, don’t agree with. And just because I don’t want to shop everything a brand has to offer, doesn’t mean I can’t buy the items that indeed are made right (here).
There is no getting away from tag-checking! Every time. Every garment. Every brand.
You can check out Patagonia’s Global Footprint HERE.