Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sparkling Green

Many people wonder if eco-friendly cleaners are as effective as their standard chemical counterparts.  In my experience, yes.

Growing up, my mother always used typical household cleaners.  Lemon scented dust spray in an aerosol can, bright blue glass cleaner, floral scented carpet powder, and scrubbing cleanser with bleach in the toilets, were standard for our Saturday morning chores.  In college when I lived in the dorm, I did not clean with any sort of product.  Honestly, nothing got dirty under the mounds of clothes my roommate and I had strewn about on the floor.

Once I moved into my first place with my future husband, I was suddenly in charge of buying household products.  I had never had that responsibility before.  For the first year, I bought what was familiar to me, what my Mom used when I was growing up.  Honestly, there wasn't much else to choose from.  Green wasn't "in" yet.  I noticed that I had started to become lightheaded when cleaning the bathroom.  Then I realized that we didn't have a window as I did in my childhood home.  I got around this by spraying the cleaners, leaving the room for a while and going back once the smell had faded.

But then, we had a little one -- a furry baby that we called Tyson.  After we brought him home, we spoiled him rotten.  He was a sweet puppy with a love of chewing on table legs.  I did a quick search online and found that plain old vinegar would stop him from chewing on our furniture.  In my search I came across a great website about raising a dog without harsh chemicals.

I morphed into an overprotective mama right away.  I did away with the rock salt we had once used to keep our walkways ice free, I stopped using the store bought cleaners and powders that promised to "clean" my home by using toxins.  I found simple recipes online that used vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, and borax.  I did this for quite a while.  These cleaners really worked, but I wanted something to really cut the grease in the kitchen or something to offer a great smell when I was done cleaning.

A few months later, I went to a nearby concert (Arlo Guthrie, and yes I am only 27 years old.  My father and his siblings LOVE him) with my extended family and they were giving out samples of this environmentally friendly all purpose cleaner, Sun and Earth.  The next morning was a Saturday, my typical cleaning day, so I went to town with the Sun and Earth All Purpose Spray Cleaner.  And I was in love.  The smell of this cleaner is AMAZING.  It smells like oranges exploded in your kitchen, but instead of a messy orange covered kitchen, you have a sweet smelling, grease free, clean kitchen.  Even the most tree-hugging person on Earth can use this cleaner.  Sun and Earth does not test on animals, it is a vegan product, gluten-free, soy-free, casein-free, no tree nuts, and no peanuts.  And on top of its amazing performance, incredible smell, natural and Earth-loving ingredients, it is reasonably priced.  Yup, it costs exactly the same as the chemical cleaners at my grocery store.  Actually, a little less than the top name brand all purpose cleaners.

Sun and Earth has a full line of cleaning products.  They offer laundry detergent, stain remover, biodegradable dryer sheets, fabric softener, floor cleaner, glass cleaner, all purpose cleaner, dish soap, dishwasher detergent packs, handsoap, and all the reusable cleaning mops, cloths, and bags that you could ever need.  You can order direct from their site if needed, but most of the stores I have been in over the past year carry Sun and Earth products.

Now I have to admit that I have bought 7th Generation and other natural cleaning products when I saw a good deal, but I keep going back to Sun and Earth products.  I think that it is the smell that keeps bringing me back.. Even my 3 year old comments on how good it smells whenever I clean.  

So take some time next time you shop to check out the natural cleaning products.  There are so many on the market now that I am hoping that the mainstream brands will suddenly become the off brands.  Only we can make this happen by using our purchasing power to show what we want stocked at our stores.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I Am Afraid of Wool

Yes, I am a wool virgin.  I fist assumed it would be scratchy.  Then I pondered how to care for wool.  I have no idea how to lanolize anything, no idea how I would wash a wool diaper cover, or dry one, and how long my kiddo could wear said diaper cover.  I don't know the difference between shorties and a soaker.  I have no idea what felted wool means or if it is very different from knitted wool.  To be completely honest, I have never used a fleece cover either.  Just a regular PUL cover.  I want to change, but I am afraid!!!  

I want a cooler option for Miss C this spring and summer.  I'd prefer a natural fiber that breathes.  They don't look scary.  In fact, they are adorable.  I am dying to get my hands on one.  But I am afraid of the investment because I am sure that somehow I will ruin it.  

Can anyone assure me that a wool diaper cover is NOT scary?  I'd love to hear about your wool experiences!

Monday, February 22, 2010

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I am so looking forward to getting out in the warm spring air and playing in the dirt.  I have big plans this year for a raised organic fruit and veggie garden bed in the yard.  We will see if this actually happens, husband and I tend to make big plans and are not always the best at following through when it comes to home improvements.

I am also hoping to save a patch of dirt for my kids and my daycare kids so they can plant their own fruits or veggies and snack on them.  I think it could be a great learning activity and also a very simple way to introduce organic gardening.  I plan on having them start their seedlings in egg carton cutouts and we will transfer them into the ground once it is warm enough.

I am also starting to learn about composting.  I have just started my research for what system will work best for us.  It has to be very sanitary because we often have our children and my daycare children in the yard in the nice weather.  It also has to be pretty tough because we have an 80 pound lab mix who loves to dig in the trash.  I hope to buy a compost tumbler this spring and get to it.  We have a fairly large amount of lawn, so we gets lots of clippings and leaves that would be perfect for composting.

Any composting tips would be GREATLY appreciated!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Green Gal Pick: A B Sea Baby

A B Sea Baby has the most adorable baby clothing I have ever seen.  With all this snow piled up outside my door, I am longing for the summer days I get to sit lazily on the beach -- well, in my case chase two rambunctious kids down the beach.  Either way, it sounds blissful compared to this icy weather we have had lately.  A B Sea offers all natural, organic, silk baby clothing -- that's right -- silk baby clothing in colors that will remind you of long, breezy summer days by the sea.  Can you think of anything softer next to baby's skin than organic cotton blended with natural silk?  Because I cannot.

The best part about A B Sea clothing is that they are a company that cares about our earth.  They wrap and ship all orders in recycled material and their clothes are easy to care for which means using less energy.  Just wash on a gentle cycle in cold water (yay for cold water washes!) and hang dry (yay for the breeze!).

Best yet is that silk is naturally wrinkle-resistant, hypoallergenic, and weather-proof.  Which means these are great to carry along in the diaper bag for just about any outing.  A B Sea's special blend of natural silk and organic cotton is perfect for weather all year round since the material breathes in the heat and holds warmth in the cold.  Since their clothing is hypoallergenic it is safe for even the tiniest of babies.  These clothes would definitely make an amazing baby gift to an expectant mother.  They even have a registry right on the site.

This is the one I have my eye on for my little girl!  Alexis (founder along with her mom Renee) wanted to let everyone know that right now everything in the store is on sale! So click over and check out their beautiful line of clothing for newborns up to 24 months.

Planning for My Little Guy's Birthday

I am starting to plan for my little man's fourth birthday which is at the end of March.  I am so excited to have a "real" party for my boy.  All of his parties so far have been at home with just family members as guests.  We decided to have his party at a local nature center that also has a petting zoo.  This place is AMAZING.  All of their animals are rescued or injured animals that they nursed back to health and all of the money for admission goes straight to salaries and supporting the wildlife there.

I am trying to do this as eco-friendly as possible.  I want to get him some recycled or natural toys, but I find that after a certain age, there isn;t as much to choose from in the toy department.  He is too old for plain wooden toys and I am trying to stay away from plastic as much as possible.  I love Green Toys Inc.  I am going to get him the Recycling Truck from here that is made from (what else?) recycled plastic milk jugs.

I am having a tough time finding other age appropriate games and toys that are "green."  I also have to find some eco-friendly party favors to hand out.  I was thinking of small pots, dirt, and seed packets so the kids can plant their own veggies when they are home, but I don't know how that would go over with the parents.  I know I hate bringing home bags of junky plastic toys and candy, but I don't know if other parents actually like that sort of thing.  I fear I may be in the minority.

Would this be appreciated or an annoyance once you got home from a birthday party?  It is a recycled Cardboard House Kit from Green Party Goods.  Problem with these are that they are $6.99 each.  A little pricey when there are a dozen children attending.
What kind of ideas do you have for eco-friendly gifts and party favors?

New Reviews and Giveaways Coming Soon!

We have some exciting green reviews and giveaways coming up in March!  Some of our sponsors are already up on the blog, so check them out!

I will be reviewing Apple Cheeks Diapers, Goodmama Diapers, Bum Genius 3.0, Happy Heinys, Kissaluvs Marvel fitted diaper, Thirsties covers, and Nature's Love pocket diapers as well as other green products.

These are all brands that I have purchased myself and have had months of everyday use. These diapers have really been put to the test and I am so excited to share my experiences with you!

Make sure that you are a follower here, on Twitter, and on Facebook so that you get the newest updates and qualify for every entry into the giveaways!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Etsy Finds of the Week!

I am an Etsy lover!  It makes me think that I can do the things that these talented people can do.  It lets me think that I live in a different time, when life was a slower pace, and shopping malls didn't exist at every major intersection.  So, each week I choose a few Etsy finds and feature the shops that I love!

I am saving my pennies to buy myself one of these adorable handmade signs from The Homespun Raven.  I think it would work perfectly in the room I use for daycare.  It isn't too childish, but it is an actual learning tool.  Perfect for a room that functions as a classroom each day and a family room by night.

I also really love this laundry sign.  Though I can't see the diapers making it into the washer very often if this was the case here!

There are lots of seasonal signs, custom family signs, and everyday signs that are beautifully made.  Tracy at The Homespun Raven has kindly offered our readers a 10% discount on any orders placed through her site when using the discount code BLOG, so head over and check out her site and her Etsy shop!

Monday, February 15, 2010

How do you shop green?

I was out over the weekend and I noticed that most stores already have their Spring clothes out.  I was window shopping all of the adorable baby clothes and I started wondering when more eco-friendly clothes with a decent price tag would be available to the masses.  Target and Walmart already have some very affordable children's and baby clothing that is organic and I love that, but I don't always see it on sale there.  I have to really search and even then it is only a few t-shirts or onesies.  When will the big children's stores catch on?

We are fortunate to have a lot of hand me down clothing for my kids from family and friends, but we always need a few nicer outfits.  I tend to check out our local children's resale shop first because they have a very large selection with a lot of items that are brand new and still have tags on them.  The dressier clothes are generally in perfect condition, under $5 for the entire outfit, and just as adorable as the $45 outfit I can find at the mall.

I have yet to find an inexpensive baby or children's line that offers organic clothing consistently.  I have a hard time plunking down $15+ for a t-shirt that my children will get food on the first time they wear it.

This adorable dress by Zah Organics is just $19 which I think is a pretty good deal considering it is certified 100% Organic cotton and uses only low impact dyes. 

So, where do you buy your baby or children's clothing?  Do you know of an organic or eco-friendly retailer with affordable prices?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Green Community

Sorry for the lag in posting yesterday.  We were all under the weather with a nasty 24 hour stomach bug.  Once we were over that, we had to dig ourselves out of the 2 feet of snow that we were hit with.  All in all, an exhausting day.  Now, back to regularly scheduled programming...

I think our small town is a pretty green place to live.  We have great access to public transportation, they offer a points based recycling program through RecycleBank as well as using the money they save on landfill fees towards keeping our property taxes low, they host community clean up day twice a year where they take all the items that cannot be disposed of in regular trash or recycling pickup and dispose of them properly, and they recently built a playground where most of the equipment was made from recycled consumer products.

But I feel like there is so much more our town and county can do to be eco-friendly.  I am just at a loss as to where to start and who to turn to for help.  I cane across and I feel like maybe this site may be able to help me to know what questions to ask, but who am I supposed to ask?

Have you ever started something green in your community?  How did you go about it?  I would love to hear your success stories and ideas on how to help communities big and small become more eco-friendly!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Being Green When Dealing With Snow

As another massive storm approaches the Northeast, I was thinking of all the chemicals and toxins used to deal with snow and ice.  Rock salt, chemical deicers, and even snow blowers are terrible for the soil, water supply, and air.  Rock salt and chemical deicers kill vegetation, ruin the soil, and contaminate our water.  Snow blowers emit carbon emissions. 

So what is an eco-friendly way to get rid of snow and ice?  A trusty shovel and an able body.  Or you can try a new Wovel.  It claims to be an easier and more effective way to shovel and I have to say that I would love to try one of these!  They actually look fun!  If you are more of a gadget person, try looking into an electric snow blower.  No emissions and if you have solar or wind energy they have very little impact!

Deodorant in the Dryer

I recently borrowed my husband's gym bag as a makeshift diaper bag for a long day out. A bit of apple juice was accidentally spilled inside so I emptied it out, checked the pockets, and threw it into the washing machine. In a rush to get to bed, I tossed it into the dryer and headed upstairs.

I went into the basement this morning to wash a load of diapers and the basement smelled really nice -- which is odd because we live in a 100 year old house and nothing about our basement is nice. It is dark, damp, and smells musty. I start washing the diapers and wonder why it smells so good down there. I remove my husbands bag from the dryer and I am hit with an overpowering smell. The black bag is covered in some sort of white wax. And then it see it -- the empty stick of men's deodorant. Ugh.

The entire inside of the dryer is coated with melted deodorant. I have already wiped it out with dish soap and water, scrubbed it with a Magic Eraser, and thrown some wet towels in there on high to re-melt the deodorant. I think I got all of it out, but it still smells like a man's armpit (a clean armpit, but still an armpit).

I am air drying the diapers because I am afraid to ruin them. But I can't air dry all the laundry because I do not have enough room to hang it all.

Please tell me that some of you have done equally dumb things before!

Monday, February 8, 2010

How do you like this weather?

I live in New Jersey and, as most of you know, we got a ton of snow this weekend.  We came in at about 2 feet which isn't too bad, but I don't drive in the snow anymore (I totaled my car in the snow going 12 miles per hour when I was younger and I practically have panic attacks at the thought of driving in the snow now).

We made it through the weekend but only because I stocked up on new activities for the kids last week.  I hit up the local dollar store and bought stickers, stamps, a giant coloring book (I think the pages were bigger than my daughter), brownie mix for some baking fun, and we recorded a few family movies to watch.

I will do just about anything to avoid playing Don't Break the Ice with my son.  Don't get me wrong, I love games and I love to play them with my son but that game is awful.  It takes 5 minutes and a few pinched fingers to set it up only to have him "break the ice" on his first turn (and he ALWAYS goes first).  Ugh.

But now I am through my bag of tricks, the kids are hyper from being stuck inside all weekend, and I have my daycare here bright and early this morning (who will also probably be hyper from being stuck inside all weekend).  So today I have a dance party planned and hopefully that will keep all the kids from climbing the walls today, or at least until naptime.

What do you do to keep the kids occupied when bad weather keeps you indoors?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

I am a cloth diaper junkie

I am addicted to the fluff. It is a true sickness. It started when my daughter was 3 months old. I needed to save money and wanted to stop throwing away a dozen toxic, chemical filled diapers each day. So I bought ten cheap diapers off of eBay and regretted it immediately. They were leaky and poorly made. I almost nixed the idea of cloth diapering all together.

But I took the advice of a friend and tried a quality (and pricier) diaper. I was in love. So I started researching different kinds and found the possibilities to be almost endless on what kind of cloth diaper you could dream up.

After a year of using cloth diapers, I have found that I am a fan of pocket diapers with snaps and aplix (cloth diaper speak for velcro). I personally prefer snaps because they seem to hold up better, but like almost any other dad, my husband prefers the ease of velcro and will not touch a diaper with snaps.

Keep checking back because very soon I will be doing cloth diaper reviews!

What is holdng you back?

A previous version of myself thought it was too hard to be green everyday. I thought that dragging my recycling to the curb once a week and not littering was enough to help save the earth. I had no idea how unhealthy my daily life was for myself, my dog, and my husband.

When I was pregnant with my son in 2005, I started looking at EVERYTHING differently. I was disgusted by litter on the roads, infuriated by people who didn't recycle, and upset at the thought of what the earth would look like when my son was an adult. I was ashamed that we had just bought a small SUV and that we didn't do eco-friendly renovations to our home the previous year. I pushed past the guilt and anger and I decided to adopt a greener lifestyle by making small changes in my everyday life.

The first thing I did was start looking around my home. I looked at the products I was using to clean my home. As I read the ingredients (for the first time ever), I was horrified. No wonder I had to open the window in the bathroom or I became lightheaded when cleaning! It was toxic. I was "cleaning" my home by pouring poisons all over it. I did a quick internet search and found hundreds of easy, cheap cleaning alternatives. I now use vinegar, lemon juice, and regular dish soap and water for most of my household cleaning.

So, what is holding me back from continuing my green journey? Money. Ah, yes. We are not a wealthy family. We are typical young family who has a tight budget. I would love to eat all organic, wear all bamboo clothing, and live in a green dream home, but it is simply not in the cards, er wallet, right now. So we make small changes and hope that someday we can make the large changes we dream of.

What things do you do that are green in your everyday life? What is holding oyu back from doing the larger things to help the earth and your health?