Tag Archives: green living

It’s Earth Month! And here’s what the eco community is up to

It’s Earth Month! All of us earthlings are celebrating our planet a little extra this month by doing different earth-friendly things we don’t normally do. It’s just that time of year; spring is here and we all want to up our game.

So what are people up to?

Renee Peters, model turned activist/model is doing a zero waste month aiming to not produce any trash and to collect what she does despite trying (like rubber bands around organic broccoli – hate that). She’s been doing it green the gorgeous way for a while, but decided she needed to really try zero waste to see if she could give up her (few) beloved packaged foods. You can join her on her challenge via Instagram @renee.elizabethpeters.

Stevie, NYC sustainability hero, has decided to do yoga EVERY DAY in April to get more in tune with her body and to better process the world around her, stress free. Now, it probably goes without saying that she is an experienced yogi so if you want to join her in her challenge listen to your body and don’t injure yourself!  She’s sharing lots of tips and cute videos on Instagram @stevieyaaaay as she goes through the challenge. PS. Shes’s stunning to watch!

Super-blogger and amazing earthling Kathryn is celebrating both Earth Month and the three year anniversary of her blog Going Zero Waste. She’ll be diving into more sustainable, zero waste skincare soon and doubling up on her activism for our planet to name a few things she’s up to. She’s always up to something good though, so I suggest you head on over to her blog to be inspired.

Nadine, a German in Canada (a kindred euro spirit!) who just had her first eco-baby, decided to get into the earthy mood by sharing stories about other greenliving bloggers who inspire her. It’s ALWAYS a good idea to search for inspiration in order to keep going in our quest for sustainability.

“I have decided I want to focus on the positive change happening across the globe in environmental awareness, education, and activism.  I want to commend those who act out positive change instead of just talking about it because they are the hope that I seek!”

It so happens that one of her inspiring features is yours truly – mega yay! I was so honored and excited about all the reasons Nadine loves my blog. Great start to Earth Month for me for sure. You should check out her blog; she’s got some great tips on zero waste living and cool, easy DIYs.

zero journey feature sustainable anna

So what am I up to?

Lately I’ve decided to be more zen in my day to day life – I think that benefits earth and us all. It doesn’t just reduce my own stress levels but colleagues, friends and family get to enjoy the laid back, funny Anna, which makes their days better! I am doing this by taking issues at work less personally, leaving at earlier hours, accepting that having sandwiches for dinner is grand (‘cos it is, let’s be honest) and by getting regular massages. (If you want the contact for a great massage therapist in League City Houston, holler at me!) This is step two, you could say, in my effort to detox my life, like I decided I would last year.

Also, I will be sharing tips here on the blog on what you can do for Earth Day April 22nd (like always ;)) and I have an exciting feature coming up on a yogi green blogger living in, wait for it, the Deep South! There’s not many of us around these parts and this chick is super cool so I am thrilled. Stay tuned.

Any plans for Earth Month?

Time to completely DESTROY my reputation as a sustainable shopper!

Have you ever thought to yourself “Man, these eco bloggers sure are missing out”?

I have. Sometimes I wonder if zero waste warriors miss devouring the contents of an unrecyclable bag of chips or drinking a coffee they hadn’t planned for. I wonder if sustainable fashion bloggers secretly want that new coat from Banana Republic. I think some of them do, while others are so addicted to their green lifestyle that they’re all good just being green.

Me, I still get mad and sad when I am out browsing at Marshalls and all the nice cardigans are made by underpaid workers in China and Bangladesh; something I have decided not to support. Basically, I sometimes feel like I am missing out on wearing what I really want to wear.

“Go buy clothes second hand!” greenies will say. Sure, but, it’s just not the same. The stores aren’t as nice and the size options and variety isn’t there. It’s great for browsing and being spontaneous but harder for when you want specific things.

Here’s the deal. I am SUPER tired of my wardrobe. I have two shirts I love at the moment, one cardigan and maybe five tops that are “ok” with a scarf. I know I sound like a western brat, but do you feel me?

I am not 100% sure why this happened all of a sudden. It could be the pregnancy that changed my body a bit so clothes don’t fit right. Or it could be the blonder hair and the bangs (yay bangs!). Or that I am a mom now and my style has changed. Or that I changed jobs. Or that I watched American Horror Story Roanoke and now want to look like Sarah Paulson’s character. Or that during pregnancy I inherited a bunch on new-to-me clothes from my sister (which made me feel brand new and gorge) and then after baby I went back to all the same old stuff I’ve been wearing since 1863.

Let’s just say, I am on the lookout for new clothes! I cleaned out my closet AND I did something completely illegal. I bought the most unethical freaking awesome shoes ever.

Yes, I did.

Everyone knows the shoes change the outfit! I was so tired of only having winter boots, work-out sneakers (and by “work-out” this mama means weekend outings and walks with the stroller) and two pairs of ballerina shoes. I do have heels in my closet (pre 2013) and hiking shoes but I don’t wear those very often.

I did my research online; I looked at the websites of Amour Vert and dozens of other ethical, vegan, made in USA shoe stores. I didn’t find anything I liked, so I dragged my boys to the Ecco store, also known as Euro style heaven, instead.

Sneakers. Made in Indonesia. Leather. Plastic sole. [Insert panic emoji.]

I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THEM.

Black Ecco sneakers leather
My dad took this photo! So good!

I thought about naming this blog post “Sorry, not sorry” because that song kept playing in my head while I was thinking about what to write about these shoes. “Baby, I am sorry, I’m not sorry, being so bad got me feelin’ so good” most definitely describes this event. I haven’t regretted this buy for one second. I am not apologizing for not compromising and buying something ethical that wasn’t right for me either – that’s not really sustainable. I got what I wanted, and it wasn’t even made in China! Ha!

“Your shoes are so stylish” said my coworker. “Yeah, they are.”

(And comfortable I might add.)

I do think getting good quality things, that we love, has to be part of being sustainable too. It’s not like I’ll wear these to just one party (who has time for parties!?) and then toss.

So know this, friends. Living perfectly green is my goal, zero waste is a great thought, vegan, sustainable fashion is preferred, always doing my best is a must, yet I think I have the right (ooh, entitlement!) to feel like I am not always missing out.

What do you think?

Can I get a “yay” for new shoes?

PS. Not that I am trying to sell you these shoes, but Ecco isn’t the worst of companies when it comes to employee rights and environmental policies. You can read more here. Hopefully they’ll move towards using vegan leather soon!

A year later: The the ifs, ands and BUT(T)S of cloth diapering our tot

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.

Cloth diapers made in usa

The cloth diaper stash

First, the stash of diapers. We used all-in-one organic Thirsties diapers for newborn August, but since he grew out of them (around 4 months) we’ve been using mostly BumGenius pocket diapers with Thirsties inserts (the hemp prefold or stay dry duo).

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.

I got all my BumGenius second hand (eight diapers), meaning I have a super ‘green’ stash. We also have two Thirsties pocket diapers with Velcro close, one thirties all-in-one (that doesn’t fit baby real well) and one Blueberry Simplex organic all-in-one (which fits better than the Thirsties but not as well as BumGenius) which I bought new online. Total of 13 diapers.

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 August 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!

Bye Bye made right (here) – HELLO Sustainable Anna (that’s me!)

New year, new ideas. The time has come to change the name of this blog.

When I started blogging in 2014, I had just embarked on a journey to change my life by reducing my consumption. So, naturally, I wrote about what I bought, what I didn’t (made in China!) and how everyone could join in to shop local and fair.

Four years later, it seems all I talk about is vegan food, my eco-baby and how much I hate plastic. Sure, there are local products at display but “Made right (here)” just doesn’t cut it anymore.

I’m sustainable. My name is Anna. And here I am; trying a new blog name that allows a broader index of subjects.

Sustainable Anna

I want to share more recipes (I have to write a post about all the wonderful things lentils can do ASAP!) and I want to be more me. When I say that I mean a bit more ramblings, fewer perfectly written articles. Though that may sound like a step in the wrong direction for someone who dreams about writing full time, I simply have less time to edit and research my blog posts with a baby/toddler in my life than I did a year ago!

I’ve also updated my About page and deleted/changed the Look Book. Who cares where I bought my clothes – right? Sustainable style is about finding YOUR STYLE and doing it ethically. Plus the Look Book had so many garments that I had bought several years ago, available then but no longer. Pointless. Of course, I’ll still write posts about clothes and brands when I buy something new :)

Welcome to “Sustainable Anna”. The Blog. The Woman. The Legend.

(Ok, that’s a joke.)

Let me know what you all think!

PS. Thank you Sandra for helping me decide on where to take the blog! Love you!

If you’re not buying recycled products, you’re not really recycling

If you’re not buying products made from recycled materials, you’re not really recycling.

I read this statement the other day, and it stuck with me because it’s so true (and people forget).

Recycling is an energy consuming process. It is not the solution to our waste issues, our plastic oceans and high consumption of resources, but a last resort that can minimize the carbon footprint of our modern, on-the-go, lives. IF we use the materials that come out of recycling, that is.

Here’s the twist; most of USA’s plastic “recyclables” are exported to China. There, they are used to make everything from fleece jackets to stadium seats. China imports around 40% of the world’s plastic scrap, so if you buy “recycled plastic products” from China, chances are the material came from your curb. It’s a crazy world (and sadly, China is drowning in western trash).

Another twist to the plastic recycling business is that many processing centers actually don’t have the funds to recycle low grade plastics anymore, like plastic bags and produce containers (think cherry tomatoes and strawberries) so they end up in landfill or being incinerated (dioxin pollution!) anyway.

Why? Because there is NO DEMAND for the products that can be made from low grade plastic.

So yes, we must stop consuming plastic like it is “recyclable”. We need to avoid it like the plague! Plus, whenever possible, we must choose recycled products.

In a perfect world we should not be shipping off our “trash” to other countries but recycle it locally, so in an effort to get there, we should buy locally manufactured products made from recycled materials.

Of course not just plastic, the other recyclables too; paper, glass, metals, clothes.

Need ideas? Ok!

Reusable water bottles

Liberty BottleWorks make lightweight and durable bottles from recycled aluminum in Washington State. In fact, it’s the only US-made 100% recycled metal bottle in the market.

Liberty BottleWorks take pride in having a zero waste factory and allocating a portion of their sales to environmental organizations and community services.

Did you know that recycling aluminum saves a lot of waste? While 2.2 lbs of aluminum extracted from the earth creates almost 200 lbs of waste in the process, 2.2 lbs of recycled aluminum creates only 7.5.

Batteries

Can an environmentalist live without using “disposable batteries”? Almost. Smoke detectors, wireless keyboards and baby gear use them though.

Energizer now has batteries made from 4% recycled batteries. I know that sounds low, but it’s a start! By voting with our dollars and buying these instead of regular batteries, hopefully that percentage will go up, up, up. (Always check where batteries are made. There is absolutely no reason to buy made in Asia, when made in USA costs the same.)

Toilet paper, kitchen towels, trash bags

We actually really like Seventh Generation’s paper products and I encourage everyone to make the switch to 100% recycled paper. Think you can’t afford anything but the bargain brand? Well, the solution to that is to use less paper, by opting for cloth napkins and cotton towels 99% of the time. We keep paper kitchen towels around for picking up the occasional dead cockroach or wiping greasy pans (then compost).

Did you know that if every household in the USA switched just one packet of eight kitchen towels to recycled paper we’d collectively save 3,400,000 trees in a year?

Seventh Generation’s large trash bags is a better choice as well, as they are made from 65% post-consumer recycled plastic. Think you can’t afford anything but the bargain brand? Well, the solution to that is to use fewer bags by creating less trash. Avoid one-time-use items and start a compost for food scraps.

Did you know that if every household in the USA replaced just one package of 14 count trash bags made from virgin plastic with 65% recycled ones, we could save 221,000 barrels of oil?

Plastic bottles (when/if we must)

If you’re buying shampoo or drinks in plastic bottles, look for the symbol that tells you part of the bottle was made from recycled plastic. Every bit of fossil fuel saving helps.

recycling USA recycled material

For the kids

Green Toys Inc. have a bunch of different products likes buckets, water toys, kitchen play sets, cars, airplanes and an awesome green recycling truck. All their toys are non-toxic, safe, BPA- and phalate-free, and made in USA from curbside collected recyclables.

Re-Play make their products using only recycled milk jugs. While Green Toys focus on play, Re-Play has all the essentials for baby dinner time.  Eco-friendly and made in USA.

Did you know that for every pound of recycled milk jugs used to make products, enough energy is saved to power a TV for three weeks straight?

Cookware

SCANPAN utilizes 100% recycled aluminum – aluminum that might previously have served as beer cans, bicycle frames or something else. These pans are made in Denmark though (from aluminum consumed over there naturally!).

Did you know that 75% of the world’s produced aluminum is still being used, over and over, thanks to recycling efforts?

There are countless products using recycled materials! We just need to make it a habit to read labels so we can pick them out from the rest. Remember, if you’re not buying products made from recycled materials, you’re not really recycling.

Got a favorite “recycling” brand? Please share it in the comments! :)

Read more about recycling and material’s recyclability here, at Going Zero Waste.

 

My ultimate guide: The WHY and the HOW of cloth diapering a newborn

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.)

how to use and wash cloth diapers
Brand new baby – brand new diaper

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.

Buying ’em

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).

Using ’em

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.

Cloth diaper velcro open close
Doesn’t this picture make it look so simple?

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.

Washing ’em

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.

Cloth diapers and the environment
Love the different designs from Thirsties!

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 based polypropylene, 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.)

What’s next?

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!

That’s it. But please, read Meredith’s post too.

Now, hit me with ALL your questions!!

Baby ESSENTIALS made in USA? You bet!

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.

Here’s what:

Made in USA baby items
Yes, all made in America baby gear!

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.

I’m not new to the brand though, I have had my Life Factory water bottle for a few years and I absolutely love it.

Cloth diapers (3-5):

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.

Pacifier (8):

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 :)

Wipes  (10):

In the picture I’ve got a made in USA organic bamboo organic cotton wipe from Bottom Bumpers, which I find to be a bit too thick for wiping bums but great for spit-up and spills. For regular diaper time, I prefer the Geffen Baby organic cotton hemp wipes and I also have some no-name, organic cotton, made in Europe terry wipes I bought when I visited Sweden. If you’re making the effort of cloth diapering, using reusable wipes is a must.

Diaper cream and nipple cream (11):

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.

 

A car seat that’s made right here. AND made right there.

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 :)

Five easy ways to reduce grocery store waste – without planning ahead!

Ever found yourself at the grocery store or market completely unprepared? 

“It’s just so hard to remember the reusable bags when I go to the store! And sometimes I have them in my car but leave them out there and don’t remember until I’m almost done!”

I’ve heard this statement a few times. I am not really sure why it’s a big deal to go get the bags in the car, but apparently it is. Probably because the kids are DONE with shopping at that point, and the freezer section items are already in cart (do enlighten me, lazy bunch!)

Let’s leave the car-bags scenario off the table for now and consider if you’ve come to the grocery store completely unprepared: no reusable (shopping and produce) bags to be seen. Maybe you just stopped on your way home from work or an outing. How annoying!

But, are there ways you can reduce your waste output anyway? 

Yes!

Here’s my quick guide to bringing home less packaging, waste and fewer plastic bags, even when you are completely unprepared.

1. Most produce don’t need a bag!

Pineapple, melon, kiwi, carrots, potatoes, oranges, onions, avocados, eggplant; anything protected by a peel does not need a bag, so skip the produce bag altogether. Tomatoes, cucumber and bell peppers (most veggies) actually have a protective layer and the dirt you bring upon them from riding the cart is minimal compared to what they’ve already been through before you picked them up. However, I get that it can seem strange to let them go bare. Start with produce with peels and work up the courage to never bag anything – except tiny things like mushrooms and berries that could literally fall through the bottom of the cart if you don’t. (Reuse any bags you do take!)

While you are in the produce department, ask if you can have the lid of a banana box – you’ll use this to pack in later.

Zero waste plastic free grocery shopping
“We don’t want plastic covers – we want to ride bare!”

2. Go for paper cartons, glass containers or metal cans

Rice, beans, eggs, sugar, flour, baking soda and other items will provide you with the choice between paper cartons and plastic packaging like bags or styrofoam (yuck!). Always go for carton, it’s recyclable (and/or compostable).

So is glass and metal, which makes these two materials good choices as well when selecting items like sauces, oils, PB and jams. Of course, you have to remember to recycle them!

3. Place the things you don’t absolutely need on hold

I’m sure you’ve got a few items on your list (or on your mind) that you planned on buying this time, which you could actually do without another couple of days. Leave them at the store until your next shopping trip, one when you hopefully remember your reusable produce, bread, bulkbin and check out bags. 

4. If all else fails – Skip the dairy

If your cart is filling up with plastic anyway, maybe you need some pre-made foods to get you through the week ( NO judging here!) you might feel bad about all the waste you’re creating. Lessen the blow by skipping the dairy aisle! Yes, dairy is a waste nightmare: a farm with 2,500 dairy cows produces the same amount of waste as a city of 411,000 people. There are many good alternatives to diary, just a browse away (in the dairy section).

5. Be alert at check out

No time to snooze! Tell the crew to not use any plastic bags, you have a banana box in your cart! Big, bulky items like juice jugs, six packs of beer, paper towels and such, can go straight in the cart since you’ll be driving the cart to your car.

In order to encourage stores to stop printing receipts remember to say “no thank you” to receipts and printed coupons too. Did you know that the material that makes receipts “shiny” to the touch is actually BPA – a dangerous plastic coating PROVEN to be hormone disrupting? Knowing that, you don’t want to touch that receipt anyway, on a waste saving mission or not. 

(If your favorite foods in the whole world come in plastic or simply has too much packing, email the maker. Tell them to rethink their packaging: reduce or switch. If we all reach out when we see bad eco-habits, we can make a change!)

Do you have any other tips and tricks for the unprepared when it comes to avoiding waste at the grocery store? Let me know!

Is green living even possible with a baby in the house?

It’s a good question. Right?

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.

img_0337
One month old August!

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.